[svlug] Linux for my mom?

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Fri Oct 3 10:04:36 PDT 2003

William R Ward 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.
>Is it worth trying?  If so, which distro is the easiest for newbies to
>cope with?  I'm a Debian person myself, but I suspect that RH9 or
>Mandrake might be more user friendly for someone in her situation.
>Or maybe LindowsOS?
>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.
>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.
>Also I need it to update itself when security patches come out, since
>I can't expect her to do it.
>Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?
My thoughts.

I have used RedHat (5.2 thru 9), SuSE (6.2 thru 8.2), Xandros (a fairly 
new copy), Lycoris (Update 2 + all beta. Haven't tried their Update 3 
yet) among others. We've  been looking at all these distros as 
candidates to introduce Linux on the Desktop at SFSU. Lycoris seems to 
be the most "Windows XP like" in its interface and look and feel. Its a 
bit slow at places, and might need some more tweaking in initial setup, 
but well worth the trouble, as it emulates Windows XP really well in its 
appearance. This approach would be of great importance for people who 
don't like sudden transitions.

Xandros has a clean interface, but is looks like a Linux Desktop. The 
Crossover plugin allows you to install MS Office, Internet Explorer, and 
other common Windows applications. In our setting where students need to 
use MS Office for a lot of their assignments, this might be an 
interesting option. Why students need to use MS Office is another story 

Redhat and SuSE, other than issues about updates, patches, RPM 
(in)compatibilities, etc. are targeted towards "power users" in a sense 
(I use SuSE on my laptop). The Desktops look nice, but for a Windows 
user, its a significant change. My wife has been using RedHat's 
bluecurve interface for over three months now, and finds it quite user 
friendly. The only problem pops up is when she has to run a Windows App.


Dr. Sameer Verma, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor of Information Systems
San Francisco State University
San Francisco CA 94132 USA

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