Using Linux to Create Holiday Cheer

Wednesday Dec 10th 2008 by Matt Hartley
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That unused laptop in the corner can be revamped for someone in need this holiday season.

I do not believe anyone needs to be reminded that this holiday season is going to be substantially tighter economically than anything celebrated in the recent past. Realizing this, it may be time to dig deep in order to see what each of us are truly made of. Not just being able to weather through tough economic times, but also being able to do so utilizing our wits instead of our credit cards.

And with that theme in place, this article will examine the benefits of making room for open source solutions this holiday season in the place of dropping a ton of money – cash that many of us may not have this year in the first place.

Video games galore

Right now, you are likely scrambling around with the idea of finding the next latest and greatest video game system for the kids to have this Christmas. But let's be honest here, considering the cost, isn’t that money perhaps better spent elsewhere?

I believe so and I also think that by utilizing your existing computer system, chances are you already have access to what you need to build a really great gaming rig, with the right open source videos games. Enter PlayDeb for Ubuntu. Whether you download each game individually or opt to give the "gift of plenty" all at once, there are more games here than most people would likely have ever imagined.

From Second Life to a number of very well done first person shooters, even 3D strategy games, just about anything you might conceive of is available here – at no cost whatsoever.

Clearly, using Linux distributions like Ubuntu demonstrates that gaming does not rely on you purchasing expensive hardware for family amusement.

Assuming you can get past the fact that there is a world outside of World Of Warcraft, you will soon discover that gaming in Linux is not without its benefits.

Give the gift of fulfillment

If gaming is not really an interest for your loved ones, consider giving the gift of Internet access that is not tethered to a desk in the den.

Even if that means spending a little money on a new compatible USB WiFi dongle, the years of computing life the recipient will gain from their seemingly "new" notebook will make it completely worth it.

Also make sure to not only be available for immediate questions, but also ensure that the software install is the right choice for the loved one receiving the newly revamped notebook. And yes, in some cases, this means installing WINE for those troublesome legacy Windows applications that we all love to hate.

At risk of seeming like I am stacking the deck with this comment, consider the "switch" I made with my wife recently. She is a die-hard Mac user, had no interested in using Linux as it just did not "feel right" to her.

Yet since this last summer before we moved into our new home, her new iMac has remained packed away. Fast forward a few months, to this very day she uses my old notebook installed with an Ubuntu derivative as if she had been a Linux user for years!

This particular Linux install has provided my wife with everything she needs. Imagine what you can do with someone who does not have a platform preference?

Remember, the key is to be available, patient and if possible – a few steps ahead should the distro's updates do anything to put the current installation into jeopardy.

Now stop for a minute and imagine the joy you might be able to bring to others with nothing more than old hardware and some of your spare time? Even to complete strangers!

Computing for the less fortunate

Consider for a moment the joy you can bring a less fortunate family this holiday season by providing them with an off-lease or even totally used PC preloaded with Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuSE or PCLinuxOS.

You would potentially be in a position to provide students, who likely go to school with others that have computers at home, a chance to compete on an equal playing field thanks to now having computer access. Even better, imagine the surprise if the person you donated a Linux pre-installed PC showed an aptitude for using a Linux system as if they had been using it for years!

You might very well get someone on their way to a worthwhile career someday, assuming you stick around to answer questions as they come up.

For the adults in the family, having access to a PC means being able to connect to a low cost external modem for dial-up Internet or, if possible, DSL, as there are a number of great deals going on right now.

This can translate into resumes being submitted, job postings being reviewed and in some cases, new talents being discovered through blogging.

After all, I know a number of people who are finding themselves without work right now that have taken on the idea of blogging about themselves and their abilities. Two of them have actually found work this way. The others are making a little extra to supplement their unemployment income from various ad and affiliate programs.

In the end, that low powered PC you have sitting in the corner of your office being used to entertain the cat, could very well change someone's life. The only thing missing is your motivation and a little open source magic.

You are that family described above

Based on sheer volume of readership at this publication, the odds are better than fair that some of you may very well be among those finding yourselves laid off during these turbulent times. If this is the case, then this article, despite it coming across as over-simplistic to those of you already in IT, should allow serve as a guide for making the best out of what you already have.

This holiday season, instead of taking out the last little bit you have left on your credit cards to buy the kids that new gaming system or Vista notebook – stop. Instead think for a moment about using the existing hardware you already own and bundle it with something most families seem to be missing out on these days – your time.

This might result in a highly customized desktop Linux gaming rig with painted designs that the whole family contributed to, a PC with nothing more than hours of learning behind it or a once defunct notebook that has been brought back to life with a $25 USB Wi-Fi dongle and few hours of your time.

In any case, it is through efforts like this that fantastic holiday memories are made of – not the latest gaming box that is being advertised on the television.

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