Spec Script: The Trivia Geek's Wacky Linux Adventures

It's pretty much an open secret that I am one of the least technical

contributing writers on the TR staff, so what I'm about to propose is

an attempt to A) turn my problem into a solution and B) correct the

problem. For years, the CNET mothership has talked about unloading the

last of our crappy Compaq Armada laptops from five years ago by holding

a firesale. If they ever get on the stick with this little project, I

could have me a serviceable notebook for around $25.

Just one problem, CNET is all into the...whatcha callit...compliance, so the laptop would have no operating system. So I'm thinking, rather than (ahem) acquiring

a free Windows license, I could try my hand at Linux. But since I'm the

techno-newbie when it comes to Linux, I'd need some help. That's where

my adoring public comes in.

The Trivia Geek's Wacky Adventures in Linux would be

an article series/blog where I document my Linux learning curve with

the notebook, as guided by advice and contributions from the TR

community. I'd probably incorporate the TechRepublic Wiki somehow, so users could help me build a step-by-step guide to repeating my successes (assuming I have any).

However, before I go and pitch this as a 2006 editorial project, I need

to know that the local user base would actually be interested and

willing to play along. Apotheon, Jaqui and jmgarvin, I'm looking in your direction.

Also, I'd have some pretty ambitious technical goals for this project

(some of which may be impossible), and I don't know if our local

experts are up for the challenge, especially if they're using me as a

proxy penguin. These goals would include:

  • Using an entirely free distro of Linux, requiring absolutely no outlay of cash for any reason, not even for disks
  • Getting the notebook up and running efficiently without upgrading

    its five-years-out-of-date hardware (I'd post the specs once I got my

    hands on a machine)
  • Ability to connect to a Windows-based home or office network

    without any intermediary server. Plug straight into the router, CAT5

    and go.
  • Ability to run OpenOffice or an equivalent word processor that can open MSWord files that I use for my work
  • Ability to run an Internet browser that can handle Outlook Web Access clients, so I can log into my work mail from home
  • With the help of an over-the-counter USB wireless transceiver, connect to home and office Wi-Fi networks
  • Full end-user security lockdown of the notebook, including a free virus scanner and firewall
  • A GUI interface that keeps me out of the command prompt realm 95%

    of the time, can run all the above-mentioned apps, and won't crush the

    performance of the weakling processor

This would be a tall order for anybody, but I'm so wet behind the ears

you can water the lawn when I listen really hard. If you folks think

you can get me to this level of Linux competence--and would be willing

to make a comical show of it--now's the time to sound off.