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Lumpis Linux: A Windows User’s Dream if I Ever Did See One

I’ve been friends with Nicholas Knight for 33 years. We met at Fort Lewis, Washington where we were both stationed. Even back then Nick was involved with computers, helping set up and administer the new computer system the US Army was adopting for their personnel centers. Me, being a dumb ol’ combat engineer…well, I didn’t breathe the rarefied air that Nick did.

After the army, we visited each other from time to time. Our families even took a cruise together in 1999. Nick was working for AOL, tending their servers and watching the dot com bubble turn billionaires into millionaires and millionaires into working class stiffs. Fortunately, Nick hung on and came out of it relatively unscathed.

Since both of us had become divorced over the years, we really hadn’t kept in touch. So imagine my surprise when I got an email from him last September, telling me that he had gotten a job with AMD and was moving to Austin.

Then I got a call from him two weeks ago and he didn’t sound happy.

“Kenny, if I have to fix my dad’s computer one more time I’m gonna lose it.”

Nick’s dad had moved in with him when he was no longer able to live unassisted. Nick would not let him go to a home.

This wasn’t the first time he had problems with his dad and his dad’s computer. It’s been a running gun battle between the two for quite a while. Nick is a Linux guy, but even with his dual degrees and six figure job, he can’t talk his dad into switching from Windows. He has put every safeguard on the computer he could and his dad still finds a way to mess it up. Mostly it’s from “games of chance” sites that he seems to enjoy visiting.

“Kenny, is there any way you can bring a Linux box with you? Nothing fancy. An old single core with two gigs of RAM is fine. I told my dad that his computer hardware is shot and I was going to have another one brought over.”

There wasn’t a thing wrong with his dad’s computer. He was just sick of having to straighten it out every week.

So I got there. We had a beer and played catch up for all the time that had passed for us. I had met Nick’s dad, who is 84 years old, a few years ago and he remembered me. Eventually, I went to the car and brought the computer into the house, where I found both Nicks in the home office.

Nick’s dad watched as we pulled the old Windows Vista computer out and started to hook up the new one.

He wasn’t to be trifled with.

“What the hell are you saying that you have to whisper?”

We were both under the desk and we looked at each other for a second.

“Dad it’s nothing. There’s just no sense in talking out loud when we’re only a foot apart.”

“That’s fine by me, but don’t go tryin’ to put that Lumpis or whatever you call it on there. If that’s what you brought, you can just take it out right now.”

I winked at Nick. We crawled out from behind the desk and he sat at the computer to turn it on. His dad stood right beside him, making sure “Lumpis” wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity. Taking a cue from Nick, I had grabbed a ZorinOS machine that was ready to go. With a bit of cosmetic magic and the renaming of a few shortcuts, anybody would be hard pressed to tell it was Linux…at first glance anyway.

As the computer started, I glanced at Nick who was holding his breath as the machine booted. When the desktop loaded, he stood and moved away to let his dad sit down. There on the desktop was the familiar blue “e” icon labeled “Internet” and a Yahoo smiley labeled “email.”

I went to get another beer as Nick saw to it that his dad was happy. By the time I left, he was. He complained that the menu looked more fancy and that the pages were a bit bright for him, but beyond that, he had no idea he was running Linux.

Was that underhanded and dishonest? Probably. But my buddy Nick won’t be running full antivirus scans twice a day and reinstalling every 4 to 6 months when the system gets kludged up.

As far as I know, that doesn’t happen with Lumpis.


  1. Chris Guiver Chris Guiver January 2, 2014

    Would be interested in Nick’s Dad goes with it over weeks & months…..

    Chris g.

  2. Fred L. Finster Fred L. Finster January 2, 2014

    Ken, thanks for the Humor and succinct previous posts. Agree Chris G – would like to know follow up on Nicks Dads use of Lumpish Linux. Can you post the blue E Internet Icon and the yellow Yahoo email icons and the text configuration files as attachments to try out on ZorinOS or other base Linux distributions. Your writing is beautiful prose. Enjoyed the “Grains of Sand” post too. You gave the customer what he expected and was used to seeing on the screen, which is what your previous Linux support posts suggested for hand holding until the customer / User was comfortable. No throwing a Linux distro on there and let the customer stumble along by himself

  3. Mike Mike January 2, 2014

    It would be interesting to know what distros can be easily (i.e. out of the box) themed to appear similar to Windows 7.

    I know a few people who would likely switch to Linux if they had the comfort of a familiar interface.

  4. Ken Starks Ken Starks Post author | January 3, 2014

    Fred, thank you. You humble me.

    Below is the link for the icon files and menus I used for the GnoMenu in ZorinOS 6.4 (LTS). You don’t have to edit any text files. The GnoMenu allows you to edit application names and icons within the menu configuration.

    A word though. Nick had already told me that his dad didn’t do anything but use a browser on his machine. That made the deception much simpler. Nick Jr. had already switched his dad to Chrome but used the explorer icon to make him more comfortable. But no amount of cosmetic surgery is going to fool most users into thinking it’s Windows. but with these manipulations, you can surely make it look like Windows.

    I hope this help.

  5. Uncle Geek Uncle Geek January 3, 2014

    No, you can’t make it be Windows, but the interface can be similar enough that it’s acceptable. My wife’s Win7 laptop–running as a regular user, not administrator–began locking up while she was using it. In spite of my setting up automatic saves and encouraging her to save (documents and spreadsheets) frequently, she’d still lose some work. You married men know this isn’t good.

    In a quick moment between projects, I set up a folding table and a laptop I was using to play with Zorin, telling her I’d fix her computer when life slowed down and her computer was still there if she needed it. (Don’t tell her I actually forgot I was supposed to fix her computer–she thinks getting her started on Zorin–which she calls Linux–was the plan.) In about three weeks, she asked when I was going to put the Linux computer on her computer desk and get rid of the old one.

    I had promised I’d put Win7 on the Zorin computer if she needed it. She hasn’t, so far. Right now, she’s pounding the keyboard writing a batch of reports the state department of education requires for special education students, editing and inserting pictures where they’re required. She’s utterly miserable that she’s working this hard during her Christmas break, but she’s not complaining about the computer and it’s not locking up.

    Confession/disclaimer/whatever–the Zorin computer was a premium I got for a donation to Reglue. Ken has heard updates to the ongoing story of my wife and the computer until he’s probably sick of it. I’ve been using Linux for fifteen years, give or take, but it was as a geek/hobby-user, not my daily driver. Setting this one up for my wife to use was intended to be temporary and I expected to get her back on Win7. In spite of what I’ve been reading and seeing for years, I didn’t have confidence she could and would do what she needed in Linux.

    Oh, and Ken–I’ve always heard you can go to **** for lying, same as for stealing.

  6. Abdel Abdel January 3, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this excellent story. I enjoyed it so much.

  7. CW CW January 3, 2014

    I believe it was about 10 years ago that someone asked Linus Torvalds about making Linux look more like Windows and had said someone had put a desktop together that looked so much like Windows that the user was saving his work before printing.

  8. Gyffes Gyffes January 3, 2014

    Zorin is fine, but Tails actually has a “shall we disguise ourself as WinXP?” option that’s FREAKY accurate. Check it out: I run it from a tiny USB that barely sticks out the machine and you think it’s XP.

    Back to this tale, however… this is the exact scenario wherein “Chromebook” becomes the answer. Of course, having said that, moving my grandfather from Win to Mac reduced my support calls substantially, and when he did call (“I can’t print!” came the plaintive cry), by the time I called back 20 min later, he’d usually resolved the issue.

    But if cost is an issue and privacy isn’t, Chromebook to the rescue.

  9. Eggie G. Eggie G. January 3, 2014

    Awesome story Sir!….I too have moved me Mum from Windows 7 to Linux Mint. She was reluctant at first, but after losing a lot of her work and not being able to recover it. She threw caution to the wind and asked me what version of “Windows” I was using that didn’t give me any trouble whatsoever…(she was referring to Ubuntu!) after installing Linux Mint for her and pointing out that this wasn’t Windows and that there was no Internet Explorer, or Microsoft Office, she gritted her teeth and tried to muddle her way through things for a bit, it was when she couldn’t save documents in LibreOffice that she wanted to go back to Windows…so I walked her through EVERYTHING in the space of two weeks….after that?…..well she’s been on Linux Mint since version 10….they’re now on version 16! ..gotta love that dude!…and once again…great story!!!

  10. Orionds Orionds January 5, 2014


    Nice to read all your experiences. There are lots like this.

    Have a look at and the statistics for desktop use. 2013 shows a very dramatic jump for the Linux desktop if you look at the monthly trend from January to December.

    December is the high mark at 1.73%. The first quarter of 2014 should be very interesting as the demise of XP becomes imminent.

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