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[tlug] Self-introduction

Thomas writes:

 > That is, where the computer comes in. In the good old days a
 > mechanical typewriter would do just fine, but today everybody has
 > to ise computers for everything, so that Big Brother can be
 > watching.

If you're serious about caring about "Big Brother", in principle you
definitely do want to get away from Windows because Windows 10
(currently in beta, I think, to be released later this year?)
apparently is much more intrusive about sending reports back to
Microsoft than any previous version.  I wonder if it will work at all
offline, and it seems likely to be rather annoying to configure that

I worked in a situation where I was handling a bit of personal data
accessible only via Windows (including contributions to an NPO by
about 800 people, as well as income information for about 50 full-time
and part-time staff), and I just appropriated an old Windows XP laptop
that was lying around and turned off the network.  That worked fine,
except for the occasional virus infection when I took short cuts by
using USB sticks that I got from work colleagues instead of virgin
ones. :-)  You'd need to ask somebody more Windows-oriented than me
about the prospects for that kind of offline use (for whatever reason)
in future versions of Windows.

To put that in plain English: if you are concerned about computer
effects on privacy, get another computer and turn off its network.

 > I need: a wordprocessing tool → for years now I have been using
 > LibreOffice / a mailer / a browser / a whole lot of dictionaries (I
 > will come to this again).
 > When I press the key "A", I would like to get an "A" on my screen,
 > if printed on paper and be able to send (mail!) that "A" to whoever
 > has requested it.

On the whole, are you satisfied with LibreOffice and the other Linux
software you have used?  Do you have specific requirements other than
those listed so far you need to have satisfied?

 > As long as the tool(s) = computer can give me that, I am not much
 > interested in the inner workings of the machine and I am not really
 > warming up to the idea of learning a whole new language
 > ("computer") just in order to use that tool.

Linux for the personal computer does not offer "zero-configuration"
installation, and probably never will.  Perhaps you are aware that
Google's Android is actually a Linux derivative, and a of lot hardware
that you just plug in and maybe configure with a web browser (routers
and Google ChromeCast) have Linux inside, but it's non-trivial to
connect with it.  Of course Android is just as bad as a personal
computer for providing personal information to the vendors and most
likely governments.  But it does offer the kind of "switch it on and
get to work" zero-configuration experience you want.

Why can't corporate distributions like Red Hat and Ubuntu give you
that?  Because the advantage of personal computers vs. the devices
just mentioned is configurability in hardware and software.  Red Hat
and Ubuntu don't make money selling Linux distributions.  They make
Linux distributions so they can make money consulting, especially to
large companies.  Of course "zeroconf" is useful in that role to their
consulting, but they can't get away from the fundamental contradiction
that their reason for existing is providing configuration services --
their clients need systems tuned to client needs.

 > For many years now I am more or less desperately trying to get away
 > from Microsoft products, but Linux is definitely NOT facilitating
 > this process.

I don't think that's a useful way to look at it.  I'm sure that Linux
*can* provide the features you need.  The problem is that for some
reason the application vendors are not developing them.  That's
important for forecasting whether Linux will provide them while you
are still working.  If the answer is "unlikely", Darren's question
"why" becomes all the more important.

 > My first encounter was with something called "Linguas OS = Linux
 > for translators" (ubuntu based).  When I found that, 7-8 years ago,
 > I first was very excited having finally found something just for
 > me.
 > It quickly turned out, however, that I could not make it work .. AT
 > ALL!

I think you're exaggerating.  Surely you could boot it.  It's OK to
use them as expletives ("four letter words"), but you need to provide
accurate statements as well.  If they're the only thing you write,
such exaggerations obscure the real problem as well as your actual
level of skill with the systems you're using.  Help us help you!

 > One after the other. The well advertised "Linux just works^TM is
 > something, I have not yet experienced over all these
 > years. Sometimes I am really asking myself, why I still keep
 > trying.

Darren asked that too.  It's not a question of *you* (even if you've
been told that elsewhere, it just isn't true).  If you wanted to or
needed to, you could learn to use Linux.  But apparently you don't
need or want to learn Linux.  So the problem is that *your
requirements* are not well served by Linux.  The task we face is to
figure out how Linux fails, and if we can help you set up a Linux-
based system that does what you need.

 > And/or, when I ask stupid questions like whether Linux needs
 > antivirus software

I don't see anything "stupid" about that!  At present Linux doesn't
need protection against the kinds of viruses that turn thousands of
Windows machines into 'bots every day, but that's more a matter that
the user types, the "biodiversity" inherent in open source, and the
number of hosts available make it a less attractive target than it is
of the OS itself.  But you don't need root to send spam from a Linux
system, and if you have login access to a user account on a host, it's
much easier to get root if you need it to set up a "black" server or
something.  The risks are present even if they haven't manifested
themselves broadly on personal workstations yet.  Ask anybody who runs
a mailing list or a bugtracker or a wiki about defending against spam!

It's a question more Linux users should be asking themselves....  Not
too seriously yet, but if the bad guys ever turn their attention to
us, I doubt that there are many Linux users who could defend
themselves against the kind of sustained attack that led to the
antivirus subindustry in Windows.

Plain English: "Linux doesn't have a virus problem" is a mantra any
moron can memorize, but I doubt there are all that many fanboys who
can tell why it there's no problem now, and under what conditions a
problem could arise.  You know more than you think you do. :-)

 > (ALL translation agencies usually ask for Windows files).

Do they ask for *Windows* files, or for *Word* files?  It's true that
Word doesn't offer WYSIWYG portably (there are differences in font
rendering on the Mac that result in differences in line and page
breaks), but perhaps that would be a more usable alternative now than
it was a few years ago.  Word now reads .odf quite well in my limited
experience, so you could use your existing LibreOffice files too, I
believe.  Mac might be a better alternative now than it was then, and
in my experience all Linux applications also work on Mac.

 > And I also need some stuff, Linux apparently does not offer, like
 > proper dictionaries etc.

What do you mean by "proper" dictionary?  Jim Breen's EDICT family has
long been as good as any of the EJ/JE dictionaries I've spent money on
or inherited, except in some specialized fields like mathematics and
economics (there are specialties where it's very good).

 > Right now, my "production machines" are: at home = new computer
 > running Windows8.1, my little acupuncture clinic = Optiplex 620
 > still running WinXP (I get blackmailed from the translation
 > agencies, telling me, they will not send me any new work, unless I
 > "upgrade" my system).  Besides that I have a notebook PC running
 > Win7; two notebooks from my kids running kubuntu 14.04, 64-bit and
 > xubuntu 14.04, 32-bit (Tuxtrans) respectively.  Since "Mint" is the
 > flavor that appeals to me most, I installed Mint 17.1 Cinnamon,
 > 64-bit on the Optiplex 745, which used to be my production machine
 > at home.  So, this is not exactly an "experimental machine".

I'm sorry, but since you have yet to succeed in configuring a Linux
machine that does enough of what you need it to do, anything based on
Linux that you try to use for work *must* be considered "experimental"
at this point, or you're risking a real disaster that costs you
clients.  You are going to need to maintain a separate production
machine that "just works" for the time being, and from what you say
your Optiplex/XP's days are numbered.

All you've told us so far is how Linux has failed to work for you, but
that you want to get away from Microsoft systems (and your kids have
apparently succeeded in that).  You really need to tell us more about
your motivation for persisting in using Linux.  Otherwise, we're going
to have to tell you what *we* would do in your place, and that's a
mistake because we all (or almost all) use Linux because we want to.

 > With your permission, I would like to ask a number of probably stupid
 > questions AND would appreciate answers in plain English

You're welcome to ask questions.  The only really stupid questions are
the ones that go unasked.

That said, if you really want to use Linux, you're going to have to
meet us in the middle.  Configuring a computer and diagnosing problems
by email requires precise language.  "Middle" can be a lot closer to
you than to where some of us are, but your posts so far aren't very
useful to me in figuring out why your Cinnamon system "crashed" and so
on -- they're long on information that really doesn't much matter
("xubuntu 14.04, 32-bit (Tuxtrans)"), and short on what matters to
getting your system in usable shape.  I suspect everybody else feels
that way too.

Welcome to TLUG, and I hope we can help you to configure your system.
I wouldn't mind if we managed to kindle some interest in Linux itself,
but that's not a requirement.

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