[svlug] Linux for my mom?

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Thu Oct 2 17:23:06 PDT 2003

on Thu, Oct 02, 2003 at 01:32:26PM -0700, William R Ward (bill at wards.net) wrote:
> My mom's been running Windoze 98 on her PC and is always calling me
> with complaints that things aren't working.  She's probably got all
> kinds of viruses and who knows what else wrong with the system and I
> am tired of supporting it.  So I'm thinking of giving her Linux.
> But she is clueless, and can barely function in Windoze.  I've been
> using Linux so long that I'm not sure just how easy to use it can be
> for a newbie.

What's her current ISP?  If it's AOL (my parental units are
suckers^Wusers), there's conversion issues here as well.  Pretty much
anyone else, excepting MSN, should be pretty easy to set up for you,
though official support is often lacking.

> Is it worth trying?  

*If* she is willing to try it, then yes.  If she isn't, no.

> If so, which distro is the easiest for newbies to cope with?  

Given her current starting point:  legacy MS Windows.

Given that she wants to change, in order, I'd look at:

  - Mac OS X.  Face it, this is the operating system for people who
    don't know what "operating system" means.

  - A personally tuned Debian install.

  - Lindows.  They've addressed this problem already.  $50 for a digital
    package (no media), plus andother $50/year for their package update
    tool.  Or you can cut over to standard Debian.
  - Xandros.  Less experience with this, but it's a bit more grown up
    than Lindows.

You don't state what your update / maintenance access is, but if the
system is to be maintained remotely by you (as I suspect), I'd avoid RPM
systems like the plaugue they are.  Particularly as you identify
yourself as a Debian person yourself.

> I'm a Debian person myself, but I suspect that RH9 or Mandrake might
> be more user friendly for someone in her situation.

After initial installation, hell sets in.  If you're lucky.  Sometimes
it starts before.  Mandrake's on awfully shaky ground ATM.

> Or maybe LindowsOS?

Not a bad pick IMO.

> Basically she only uses it for email, and she is somewhat comfortable
> with Netscape/Mozilla.  So from that point of view it doesn't matter
> what OS she is on.

A basic Debain install, KDE (hate it myself, but...), Firebird.  For
mail:  evolution, sylpheed, or kmail.

> I need to have it automatically dial into her PPP and automatically
> disconnect when she's idle, and I am not sure how to do that in Linux
> anymore, since I've been on DSL and cable for so long.

KDE gives you kppp, which sits on the panel and indicates connection
status.  I believe it can be set to disconnection on timeout (say 20
minutes idle).

> Also I need it to update itself when security patches come out, since
> I can't expect her to do it.

I cron an "apt-get update; apt-get -duy dist-upgrade" nightly on my own
systems.  You'll probably want to ssh in manually and apply updates.
Running apt-get autoclean regualarly will keep your /var partition

> Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?



Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   At the sound of the toner, boycott Lexmark:  trade restraint via DMCA.
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