I’m testing a nutritional supplement, recommended to me by both Old Jules and the Mandala Lady. The official name is serratiopeptidase but it’s more commonly known as “serrapeptase”. It’s a body enzyme that fades from production beginning around age 20. The primary noticeable effect of the enzyme is reducing scar tissue, but it appears to affect all scar tissue in the body, even what you can’t see inside your joints and such as fibroids and other little nasties. Further, I noticed it offers a very broad-based boost to the metabolism itself. It appears synergistic with other supplements, typically making them work a little better. However, for many folks it may take 3-5 days to get rocking and rolling smoothly. I’ll update after I’ve used it for awhile.
Because of my computer ministry clients’ needs, I’m running Win7 on my desktop. I don’t like it, but the writing tools are better and it’s a whole lot easier to test software before I recommend it to people. It’s also easier to learn the new tricks I need to rescue systems with real troubles, since the bad guys keep changing their game.
My old favorite browser, Opera, has changed a lot. The newest implementation has shifted over to the WebKit engine so it acts a lot like Chrome. It’s really not up to full production use just yet, but version 16 is a start. However, they also split out their mail client and it’s better than ever. Just look for Opera Mail client, currently for Windows only. If you’ve ever used the older bundled mail client with Opera, installing the new one will automatically pick up your configurations, accounts and mail storage from the older version. Folks, I love this mail client.
But I’m still running Debian 6 on my laptop. I don’t get to use it much, but it’s still much better on that hardware than anything else. Most of them time I drag it along on service calls in case I need to set up a home router or download stuff specially for their machine. More than once I’ve helped someone cobble together a quick webpage as the best way to display a collection of photos or something on their system. I find it easier to use my own familiar software for that than to use Notepad or have to install something they won’t use on their system. I frankly hate how MS Word and Libre Office create webpages, loading them with too much unnecessary crap code.
If you want to try something that makes clean code without having to write it all out yourself, try Amaya. It’s free and runs on all platforms. It’s just a tad cranky to learn, but it’s about as good as you can get with a WYSIWYG editor for webpage code.
For those of you who still like the idea of ripping off YouTube music videos, the simplest path is to use a single tool. However, you get to choose from two versions: Slimbrowser based on the IE engine (Trident) and using many of the same kinds of settings, or Slimboat Browser based on the WebKit engine. Both display a button on YouTube pages (usually upper right) allowing you to download directly. You get to select from the various quality versions and formats, plus you have an option to transcode directly into MP3 format. The first time you do, the browser will probably download a codec for it. It will pull down the video in your chosen format then produce an MP3 from it, leaving you both in the same folder. Both of these come from Flashpeak and I have little idea about the company behind it. And to be honest, I really can’t find much use for either browser aside from snagging music from YouTube.
This is nothing more than my gibbering mind dreaming up vague probabilities. I can’t account for whence some of it comes, but take full responsibility for the idiocy.
Linux will soon be almost entirely a corporate product. It will remain Open Source, but will fragment severely between a handful of big players, with only a very thin scattering of independent projects. The newer generations aren’t volunteering to code and the older is getting too old to carry it all. So the bulk of development will pass to those few businesses that stand to make money keeping things alive; they will host the developers who will be devoted almost entirely to their corporate needs.
The desktop will remain alive for some years to come. Some types of work can only be done that way and it involves way more folks than the big CEOs want to believe. Because the serious need for millions of work stations will continue, the hardware will continue in production. Linux will become more standardized in terms of the desktop interface — that is, in the sense that almost no one will use anything except what comes on the corporate work stations. Linux will probably grow in numbers quietly among business and government offices. Microsoft had better wake up and bring back their desktop with serious support.
The NSA won’t go away, but they will be severely weakened, as will most similar agencies. Exposure means people will make it a whole lot harder real soon. Protocols and means of transmission more resistant to such efforts will proliferate and the surveillance industry will be weakened badly for quite some time.
More and more Internet endpoints will be dominated by local mesh networks. These will be quite independent (at least potentially) and serve to mask an awful lot of users. In urban areas, the mesh networks will take over and some ISPs will struggle to survive as a business. Those who survive will figure out why they are losing customers and start delivering services instead of working so hard to deliver customers to the marketers and governments.
As the Network Civilization arises, many old business will drop off the Net. Old models of making a profit will sputter out rather suddenly and only those entrepreneurs keeping up with the changes will make any money. It really isn’t that hard to extrapolate and innovate when you realize what simply will not work any more, and what it takes for people to give up their money. They surely will, but not for the same things as previous generations.
In a year or two we can all reread this and laugh.
First, take a look at this little gem.
Back when MS user interface (UI) designers actually studied how humans used computers, they came up with the classic Windows desktop interface. It worked so well, other OSes copied it. That’s because it’s one of the best balanced compromises between what a computer can do and what people tend to do by reflex. You can’t imagine how much work went into it and how many man-hours of study and testing were involved. It’s still the best paradigm for a desktop interface. It may not be true in future generations, but for as long as people use desktop computers, I’m quite certain the original UI research was not flawed. There’s nothing wrong with a cellphone interface for cellphones and tablets, but not on the desktop.
So because MS steadfastly refuses to hear what their paying customers are saying, here’s a few fixes.
1. Spotted in the comments on a ZDNet article:
For a simple “start button” at no expense, create a quick launch toolbar and point it to ProgramData> Microsoft> Windows> Start Menu. Inside that folder is a Programs folder with most if not all of the shortcuts there. If one is not there, just put it there.
You will have an arrow on the taskbar instead of the Start Orb, but it works just as well and is actually less confusing for the average user.
2. IObit Start Menu looks good.
3. Pokki takes a different approach that might be better for some.
4. Classic Shell is what I would be more likely to use.
The one real problem no one seems to be able to fix is the serious networking problems in Win8: It keeps dropping connections, wireless and wired. I’m waiting to see how that comes out.
God said I had the choice, but I’d be a fool for saying “no.”
Warning to regular readers: There will be an increase in the number of posts regarding computer ministry issues. The reason is I sense a shift in calling to be ready for more calls from people who need my help. Already I have gained the confidence of at least one client who didn’t like the way MS tech support did things. I suppose it’s because I always make it a point to explain what I’m doing and how it works, insofar as I can get them to understand. And I really do go to great lengths to find ways to explain how computers work in layman’s terms. It’s all about the people, not the computers, for me.
Naturally, I’ll be posting a lot about Windows because that’s what most people use. I think I’ll add a new feature of anecdotes on the work I’m doing.
For example, I just discovered that Vista by default does not limit the cache on Internet Explorer. Client bought it six years ago and wondered why his hard drive was so full, when the files he knew about didn’t take up more than 5% of the drive space. When he had a problem with some malware, I came to help and as part of the process decided to run an intensive virus scanner (boots and runs from CD). I had already tried MS’s Windows Defender Offline boot CD (I keep a copy of both 32-bit and 64-bit with me), and it found the Trojan, but not the payload. The client is pretty savvy, being in the technology field professionally, but not a computer geek. He was game to experiment because I admitted I’m not a real technician, just a power user somewhere down the road in front of him. So we left the scanner running … and running.
It’s now been over 48 hours, and it has been chugging away at his IE cache for all but two of those hours. Over 5 million files in his cache and still scanning. Chances are the malware is somewhere in that cache; it’s where I usually find the one affecting his computer. Later today we are cutting it off and I’m going to run one of the many LiveCD distros of Linux on his computer. I’ll mount his hard drive and delete the cache, which Vista hides:
C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\systemprofile\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\
(Edit: In some cases there are even more intervening folders, such as AppData\Local, etc.)
There are subfolders in there with random-sequence names. Together they take up some 90% of his hard drive. Then I’ll copy over a different kind of scanner which can run from the Rescue Console of Windows, if necessary (Vipre Resuce). It scans with a different set of heuristics, and should find stuff the other scanner might have missed. With the cache emptied, it shouldn’t taken nearly as long.
If this sort of thing entertains or informs you, look for a new title tag: CM (for computer ministry). The nickname I gave my computer ministry is CentOK-CM = Central Oklahoma Computer Ministry. Computer tech support ministry is not the sort of thing that shows up in books too well; it’s obsolete in a matter of months most of the time.
The world is a mean and ugly place. That truth is a major element in my prophetic message, but it’s also a practical reality we experience every day. While the virtual world of the Internet reflects some elements of our daily existence, it differs radically from life in meat space.
In our daily existence we live under God’s command to provide boundaries, to restrict human behavior in certain ways. God revealed an awful lot of useful guidance on human nature and behavior and how to balance between too much and too little protection. The Internet is virtually impossible to handle that way. That’s not to say God’s Laws don’t reach there, but the nature of the thing requires we find new and completely different ways to approach our duty to Him.
It requires I use my meat space pastoral presence to help those who approach the Net where no part of that restraint works. I can teach you in person, and I often write about it here and elsewhere. The most I can do is present a moral reference point so Net uses can refer back to it. As with God’s Laws on social behavior, I can shortcut an awful lot of silly crap by cutting to the heart of how we get it wrong on a very fundamental level. That’s what I try to do in my posts on Internet security. I don’t have time or resources to chase down every threat. Instead, I offer broad warnings that shortcut most of those threats.
In my computer ministry here in meat space, I tell folks they need to avoid using Windows if at all possible. I stand ready to teach Linux or other operating systems because they are stronger against all threats. By no means do I claim it solves every problem, just the worst of those problems inherent in computer use and the Internet itself. It’s a tall order to learn Linux or BSD, so I don’t push it hard. With most people, I try to offer the most common defenses for Windows. Then, I try to tailor my instructions to the individual client. I don’t tell them all the same thing because some of them simply are not equipped to understand much. In my mind, I prepare myself to answer more service calls for them, because they will most certainly have more trouble. There are other factors in how much trouble they’ll have, but you get the picture.
That’s the way it is with our fallen world. Real people trying to make their way through a broken world based on what they can handle. I try to offer my best estimate of their needs in terms of pastoral care for their computer use. I’m a Computer Pastor, if you will, which is completely different from being a pastor with a ministry presence on the Net.
It’s not as if the Net is some howling storm of demons seeking to enter your computer, but sometimes it seems that way. The threat is very real, yet totally virtual. Far stronger than the best computer technology is a personal resolve to do what’s right for your own place in the world and on the Net. I can’t give you that, only help you find it for yourself.
One of the things I tell my clients is that the single greatest threat is seeking entertainment on the Net. It can be done safely, but it’s the one sort of human activity most fraught with pitfalls because it is the single greatest character weakness in users as a whole. Netizens seeking entertainment are more likely to do something stupid than folks who tend to avoid seeking entertainment. It requires an awful lot more savvy to do it without getting into trouble. It is the one activity most likely to draw the most ill-prepared specimens of humanity, and the one element of the Internet most likely to get users into trouble.
So here we have an autistic lad seeking only a single song, and ends up in prison. He fell for a trap set by the FBI. That’s a bold accusation I make, but there is more than enough evidence. It’s been known for quite some time among computer security folks that various law enforcement agencies are like slavering demons eagerly seeking souls to devour and will break any and all laws, and try to break Internet protocols in the process. They will package underage pornography under innocent labels on the various download and peer-to-peer services and track who downloads those files. That many of their arrestees had no intention of breaking the law is never permitted into court evidence. I say this as someone who once worked in law enforcement: Cops have become some of the filthiest lying thugs on this earth, and the courts are backing them up.
It’s pretty hard for most people to learn the hard-bitten cynicism of an ex-police sergeant. Most genuine geeks and nerds have it in regards to the Internet, having learned it directly from the Net. They invest a lot more into their use of the Net, so it’s their home ground and they are privileged warrior class in the virtual world. Most users are slightly wary, but common sense will always be far short of the truth.
So it’s up to me to write pastoral posts and try to warn people. It’s why I write posts outlining how to get your music safely and legally, in ways the entertainment industry doesn’t like but can’t prevent. If it’s digitized, it is by nature free for all, but that doesn’t mean you grab the first thing that looks like what you seek. There are people out there who lividly hate you and delight in destroying lives for profit and their own entertainment. Yes, they are just that evil.
You might take an interest in Andrew’s case or the foundation in his name working to prevent future entrapments. It’s between you and God how you respond. The least you can do is pray for Andrew.
Responded to a computer ministry service call today. The Win7 box was suffering from three types of advertising malware, one of which hijacked some function in the Google Toolbar and caused intermittent Net access problems.
Do you know you can tell a lot about someone from what kind of malware they get on their computers? I assure you, the way the malware acts tells you all you need to know about someone’s surfing habits. This particular client had some generic drive-by installs. Some of the computers I work on are loaded with serious nasty stuff from surfing porn sites. Even video and music download sites have their own signature malware. But I mind my own business.
Honestly folks, use some common sense. The first rule of computer vice: Don’t run Windows on the Internet. At the very least, learn how to use virtual machines so you can delete the system that got trashed by malware and viruses. Then you can still keep your real system pretty clean, so long as you scan everything you download. VMWare is free, but each Windows virtual machine is still subject to licensing unless you know how to get around that issue.
Yes, I do know, but I don’t have room to post all the various tricks and details here on my blog. Most of them aren’t naughty tricks, just industry insider knowledge, taking advantage of what Windows and the big computer manufacturers already have set up. For Win7, it’s all about SLIC, certificates, the built-in utility called “slmgr” and generic manufacturer keys. Also, you can find basic generic retail ISO images provided by MS. They still require activation, and any cracking or hacking you do can be obtained separately. Try places like MyDigitalLife Forums. If you are restoring a system that came with Win7, this is all totally legit and is the only use I have for it.
As things get uglier with various governments using different tricks to control how we use the Net, it’s a good idea to decide soon just how important it is for you. If you gotta have the Net, it’s time to get serious about learning as much as you can. Ask me questions any time. It’s not like the world is coming to an end, but we shall all likely have to make some big adjustments soon.
I still get people asking me if I am somehow trying to prepare for Apocalypse or something — not at all. For example, my workouts at the gym are therapeutic, not aimed at developing or training for anything. Major body movements, not too many sets, high repetitions (12-20 per set), not too much rest time between exercises — this generally prevents arthritis from flaring up while maximizing whatever it is you already have. I’m big enough, thank you. I’m simply obeying what I feel certain is God’s command for me.
The late crop blackberries for this summer are now ripening and they are delicious. I have all the jam I need, but I still can’t resist stopping to pick a handful on my long bike rides. These days I have to use a fully upright position. My shoulders and elbows can’t take the pressure of riding head-down the way most serious cyclists do.
However, my human intuition says, to the degree we are likely to have trouble here in the US, it will be tied to financial and banking stuff. While there are any number of plans to provoke riots and implement martial law or other forms of oppression, I suspect the real pain and sorrow is tied to banking. A few insiders insist the coming January looks really nasty, but I can’t tell you what they know or don’t know.
Spent something close to 10 hours on a single computer this past week.
The issue at hand was a collection of Trojans and related malware. In the mess, I was unable to salvage anything from the file system. Even booting from a LiveCD did not offer much access to the files the client lost. We couldn’t even access the factory recovery partition. None of the standard Win7 tools were sufficient to recover things. So what we had was a major corruption of the file system itself, because everything reports that the harddrive was just peachy itself.
It all broke down when I had to use Windows Defender Offline. For once Vipre Rescue didn’t do it for me. The problem came when Defender removed Alureon.J and the file system finally tanked.
In the process I discovered someone had in the past installed a VNC application so he could fix the computer remotely, but he passed away and the thing was still there. Inevitably, those things prevent updates. I don’t doubt the guy was careful enough to secure the connection properly, but they always seem to prevent a system updating. Once it was uninstalled, the sucker tried to suddenly update everything.
It seemed the infection vector was a Linksys E900 wifi router one of the client’s family members installed. This relative didn’t live there, just wanted it for his convenience when he visited. He used the “Wifi Protected Setup” protocol, which is about as secure as stripping naked in a bad neighborhood in broad daylight. The client’s computer was “protected” by McAfee. Win7 even told her to remove the wifi router, but she thought it was just complaining about nothing.
The system stopped booting, so I first ran the Bootup Repair routine and got back in far enough to begin cleaning up. We got one tool to remove one pair of nasties, but we never could get her preferred Trend Micro Titanium to install because Alureon blocked it. So I tried Microsoft Security Essentials and it installed, and then recommended it’s Offline cleanup tool. But removing Alureon took a bite out of the file system and it simply could not recover with the tools available to me.
So we “nuked it from orbit” by reinstalling from scratch with a DVD I had. The client lost all their files.
Lessons learned: McAfee isn’t any good. VNC might be a good way for secure remote assistance, but if you aren’t careful, it can block updates. Malware can come through a badly configured router. One of the system error messages I got indicated the router was acting as a file system and fed into the damage. I didn’t pursue fixing the router, just removed it. Always keep your own copies of the OS installer you deal with, because a corrupt file system can ruin the factory provided recovery partition.
Teach folks how to use Windows Backup and a good external drive; they should come bundled with a new computer. Unfortunately, most of the backup software on external disks really suck. They are highly annoying and want to dominate what little time you have for using a computer. You need to be able to unplug it so viruses don’t infest your backups, too, and most of them whine if they aren’t plugged in 24/7. But Windows’ own backup tools are a bit hard to learn for average users, so most folks don’t mess with it.
Nobody has to tell me I could have done better, but I can’t afford some of the nifty tools other folks use. I work for donations, which sometimes means for free. I’m not a serious technician, just someone down the road ahead of most folks. Still, I put more effort into it than almost every computer shop I’ve seen. Windows 7 has some very good tools built in and I rather like working on it, but some things can’t be fixed that easily. I still think Linux works better, but this is a very bad time to learn it because no sane people are involved in interface development. XFCE is the most sane, and it’s still too radical and too limited to easily replace Windows in most people’s minds. I use it, but I don’t recommend it to your average home user. Taming the other graphical interfaces is simply way too much work because the defaults are user-hostile.
Meanwhile, I keep praying ReactOS gets good enough for general use, because common computer users are used to that, and it’s time they got a break.
I’m testing the use of Corel Lightening for posting to my blog. I have no idea how this will look and I’m almost certain I’ll have to edit things before it’s right. Okay, it didn’t post any text at all, just the title. I had to copy the contents over. Busted!
I still have my Linux laptop because it’s not a productivity tool. I use it for network diagnostics and fixing other people’s computers. You can’t get serious writing tools for Linux. The latest version of LibreOffice actually breaks my Word documents, automatically adding formatting that I can’t remove or correct when I open them in Word. The defaults are not at all sane, and correcting them is an arcane science. If you need to jump back and forth between the two office suites, I recommend you stay with the 3.x series or use the other development branch, which is still called OpenOffice.
Linux is still the superior OS for networking and security. It all depends on what you need most.
Meanwhile, I notice a lot of grammar assistance hammers too hard and long on passive voice. Look, it’s part of the English grammar and usage. Sometimes it is the only way to correctly put across that subtle shade of meaning. Yes, most people use it way too much, particularly British journalists, but it’s not inherently wrong. You can overdo the active voice, too. Oh, and for most people, MS Office 97 is still the superior grammar checking tool. It’s actually more intelligent than the later versions of MS Office.
For quite some time now our mobile home park management have been coming by on Monday mornings to carry away junk that we can’t fit into the trash carts. So we finally get it all ready and out on the curb. Nobody has seen maintenance all day. What I have seen are scavengers picking through the stuff. They can have it.
This is not a fiction series. I needed a way to signal to readers the prophetic approach to computer technology or any other means to the end of God’s Message. It could as easily be about the various cutting tools I use for firewood, or my bicycle, etc.
Background: There are four competing desktop interfaces dominating the field in Linux right now. KDE 4 is all the worst of KDE 3 but not nearly so useful. It’s got a jillion settings possible and no sane defaults. Nothing about it is designed for ordinary people trying to get work done. The developers are part of the majority who despise common ordinary computer users. GNOME 3 hates them in the opposite way, by taking away every possible option and hiding basic functions behind the most bizarre keystroke and mouse combinations. Ubuntu’s version, called Unity, is just as bad. LXDE reminds me of the worst days during the development of GNOME way back when. So far as I know, it’s the only current desktop capable of crashing catastrophically and biting holes in your file system on its way down.
So that leaves us with XFCE. It’s a little short on features, but it’s workable for most situations.
But the folks at OpenSUSE can ruin anything. They make XFCE look just like LXDE and I don’t know of any way to simply remove the idiotic SUSE defaults and let XFCE do what it does best. Then there’s a thousand little things like Lynx. Those of us who love Lynx know how to make it do what we want. SUSE has done their best to remove critical features, like disabling the option to use an LSS file to set color options. Stupid. If we don’t want it, we know exactly how to cut it out, so stop making arrogant and bad decisions for us, developers. There are good points with SUSE, but they are overwhelmed by inexcusable anti-user decisions.
After choking on this for awhile, I decided to try Scientific Linux 6 again on the laptop, but stayed with the 32-bit version this time. Everything worked as I hoped, adding a couple of extra package repositories (ATrpms and EPEL) to get the stuff RHEL doesn’t offer on the basic system. It works they way I work. Unless you have more than 4GB of RAM or run server operations, you don’t need the 64-bit version. I’ve got Word 97 working beautifully under Wine and there is some hope someone I know will come up with a version of WordPerfect that runs with it. Right now, about the only versions reliable at all are 7 (NT enabled) through about 11 under Wine.
Mint with MATE is tolerable. However, far too many of what should be MATE applications are still pulled from GNOME 3 and those suffer the basic arrogance of GNOME developers. Also, way too much depends on the anti-user decisions made upstream by Ubuntu. Probably the most hateful thing is the convoluted path to adding backports available from various PPAs (Personal Package Archives, where some enterprising packager keeps up with some particular package or related group of packages and upgrades them on various versions of Ubuntu). So if you really have to have the latest version of something, you can’t easily build it yourself the Debian way, and there is no simple, user-friendly method of adding the extra goodies. Even SUSE gets this part right, with their one-click install.
Other distros describe themselves in ways that tell me they have no interest in my needs. Those most likely to be user friendly are frankly few if you understand “user” as not exactly a techie or fanboy. So for now I still cannot recommend any Linux distro to non-techie users. If you are willing to learn, it will most certainly give you more options than Windows in terms of control over your system. However, Windows remains much easier and more reliable in the sense of fewer hassles getting things the way you probably like them. However, after Windows 7, it’s apparently going downhill fast. You may want to consider whether you wish to face what’s coming. If you feel the need to jump, I still recommend RHEL and clones (CentOS, Stella and Scientific Linux). Maybe somewhere in the near future, someone will wake up and realize there are an awful lot of users who refuse to use a cellphone interface on their systems because they have work to do.
The mission comes first in all things.
I still use Linux. There is only one real reason anyone would choose Linux over Windows: control. MS will never yield the level of control we users would like. The nifty little secrets are out there on the Net, but it often requires arcane knowledge to work through some of the truly Orwellian obfuscations for items many Linux users do routinely. The reason is simple: MS makes money by delivering you, the user, to their business partners. They retain this power to make money because they allow some governments complete and open access through back doors to the system. That criminals also find and use those back doors is simply the cost of doing business. Unfortunately, the cost is usually born by you, the user.
The only reason to keep using Windows is the wealth of tools for which Linux and Open Source do not offer a replacement. So you like LibreOffice? Fine, but they do not have a valid grammar checker and the interface will always have serious glitches not present in any other office suite. That’s because people who really love Open Source will tolerate those glitches and the developers ignore everyone else. Sometimes it’s just a careless UI design and layout. You have to run through an extra three or four actions to get the same results as you would with, say MS Office (any version).
So here’s the deal: Which new features added to MS Office since Office 97 do you use? I don’t use any of them, either. Some of the defaults have actually gotten annoying. Did you know you can run some of those older versions on Linux using Wine? That’s a sort of emulator, allowing you to get a sometimes workable replication of Windows for some software. At various times using different versions of Wine, I’ve run Office 97, 2000 and 2003. I’m willing to bet one of those will serve most of your needs. Later versions do sometimes work, as well, but really grab a lot of system resources in the process. You can get copies of the older versions cheap or free, if you know who to ask.
So the real issue comes down to which system offers the least painful options. I’ve been playing with Linux Mint because they offer releases with long term support. It’s a step in the right direction, in part because they understand the real need for keeping the older style UIs. So you can use MATE, which is the current version of GNOME 2, so to speak. Or you can use Cinnamon, which is GNOME 3 made somewhat sane. I prefer the former. At any rate, I’ve got Word 2000 working on it and that’s good enough for my grammar checking needs.
However, I still can’t recommend Mint to Windows users unless you have the time to do some serious homework. It still is too much like Ubuntu where far too many defaults are not aimed at the most common user needs. Too often those defaults are really hard to change. Mint folks aren’t nearly so forthcoming on offering simple fixes as I have seen with Ubuntu. There are some Mint users posting their fixes on blogs and such, but too often they are aimed at elitist ends. That is, it’s one elitist Linux user helping another elitist, while nobody bothers to help those of us with more common user needs. Far too many things which should rightly be almost automated are made intentionally obscure and difficult. You have to manually update FlashPlayer, for example. That’s not simple and I’ve yet to find simple directions for it; I can do it the hard way, but I don’t recommend it.
Unless you really need the latest and greatest, I still recommend Scientific Linux/CentOS 6 for most users as the shortest and least painful path to migration. I’ve already written that up (see the links on this page regarding RHEL). You can get Wine and it will run at least one version of MS Office. There is a provision for most of the arcane hardware drivers somewhere in the system which supports the users of RHEL and clones. There is often a way to get some of the latest and greatest when you really must have it. Best of all, it is exceptionally secure, more so than most types of Linux, because the security stuff is turned on by default and quite sane. I will probably keep it on my laptop.
Feel free to ask my advice.