View Full Version : Converting mother from Windows to Linux
27th January 2005, 04:04 PM
I live ~80 miles from my mum, and serve as her Windows XP technical support whenever I happen to go visit. With all of the security problems plaguing Windows at the moment, and her concerns about the security of her business data on her computer, I'm considering converting her to Linux. Red Hat and Fedora are the only distros that I've had experience with, so I'm thinking that Fedora Core 3 would be the best choice. I'd like to switch her over so that she has fewer Internet nasties to worry about, and so that I can ssh in to fix any problems without having to drive the 80 miles home (yes I am aware of Windows Remote Desktop :o) ).
Now I think that I can sort out everything that she needs to do on the computer via these conversions:
Check email using Thunderbird --- FC3 comes with Thunderbird
Browse the Web with Firefox --- FC3 comes with Firefox
Write the occasional simple letter to business people --- OpenOffice Writer
Use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of finances --- OpenOffice Calc
But I anticipate a few stumbling blocks, hence this post. Can anyone help with the following?:
She has a Lexmark X1185 combo printer and scanner --- will both functions work under FC3?
She has to serve my brother's WinXP box with an Internet connection. This is currently done with Windows ICS. --- how is it done in FC3?
Her ISP gives her a dynamic IP address --- what are my options for ssh'ing into her FC3 box?
Many thanks for any help!
27th January 2005, 04:38 PM
For the Lexmark, take a look at this guide (http://users.netwit.net.au/~pursang/lex.html) if you have problems (may not be needed in FC3).
As for using FC3 as a gateway/firewall for a network, see this howto document (http://www.stanford.edu/~fenn/linux/). The particular section you're interested in is "Configure linux for packet forwarding".
As for the last part, you can create a small script to check the current IP address, and email you when it changes (easiest and cheapest way). If you have a domain registered somewhere, see if they have a dynamic DNS service. They will usually provide you with the script to update a DNS entry (for example: a subdomain called mother.mydomain.org). Whenever her IP address changes, the DNS entry will be updated. You just:
27th January 2005, 04:39 PM
27th January 2005, 05:06 PM
Thanks for this. It looks like the printer won't be so bad, but I'm not so sure about scanning.
Now about port forwarding -- it looks hideously complicated to set up by manually altering config files and iptables. Could I do it by just installing and playing with firestarter?
And I'm afraid that I wouldn't know where to start with writing a script to check the IP address and emailing me when it changes. I know a bit of Perl, but nothing about shell scripting, nor how to get the script to run automatically regularly.
28th January 2005, 03:32 AM
3. Get a "freebie" pseudo domain from DynDNS.org and use one of their suggested clients for keeping DynDNS updated with her dyamic IP. This will allow you to ssh in (NOT AS ROOT - you'll want to turn that off) without having to worry about it.
Have you asked your mom if this approach is okay with her? I know you're the built-in tech support, but it is her computer. Talk with her and get her to ask questions about what you're doing. The exercise isn't necessarily replacing her OS, but to give her a decent enough computing environment that she feels comfortable with and doesn't have as many problems as Windows does.
28th January 2005, 06:01 PM
1. i'd be surprised if that worked.
2. buy a $30 router, you should probably do this even if she doesn't convert to linux - provides basic security and connection sharing, and it means you don't need to leave a pc on all the time.
3. use dyndns.org to give you a pseudo-static ip, and forward port 22 to your mum's box. your router will probably come with support for this, so you don't even have to run any software.
28th January 2005, 10:40 PM
A router might be a bit difficult -- The connection to my brother's computer is currently a long (~20m) cross-over cable, wired up all around the roof-space, and straight into her computer. So I can't easily replace it with a non-cross-over cable. Is there a simple way to "uncross" it (at one end?), so that I can shove it (and a connection from hers) into a router? I've got a nice ADSL router here, and I'm fine with that sort of thing.
I'll take a look at DynDNS.org, thanks.
Oh, and about asking her about it -- she trusts me implicitly and will do whatever I think is in her best interests! :)
28th January 2005, 10:55 PM
Two crossover Ethernet cables == a regular cable. You may not need it though; some router boxes will accept either.
28th January 2005, 11:42 PM
Yeah, I figured that -- but how would I connect them together?
29th January 2005, 12:02 AM
Using an RJ45 Female-Female Coupler (http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=612313&pfp=srch1). They are usually available wherever Ethernet cables are sold.
11th February 2005, 02:29 PM
or even better, get one of those wireless kits that have the router and two wireless nics ( if you can afford it and your area is not already overpopulated with neibours who have done the same. ) You would resolve the cabling issues in the house, maintain your internet sharing with security and I run that right now with fedora core 3 out of the box (if it came with one) Even if you had to hard wire your moms PC to the router, XP loves wireless if the software is right.
Just a a far fetched thought...
11th February 2005, 02:44 PM
You better think about very simple things mom might do - like printing envelopes and labels. A person who uses Windows only for email can switch to Linux. But a person who relies of Quicken and Turbo-Tax may not be able to.
11th February 2005, 03:45 PM
Even if you had to hard wire your moms PC to the router, XP loves wireless if the software is right.
Just a a far fetched thought...
Actually, I think that is the best solution suggested so far. I think it's always a good idea to have a separate router/"firewall" and it's easy to find cheap ones that have wireless and regular ethernet RJ45's on the front of them. I'd connect the Linux machine straight to that (especially if she's worried about security--wireless still isn't as trustworthy) and use the wireless for the Windows machine. And keep iptables running on the Linux machine. If the functions of the scanner/printer don't work, what are the chances of hooking it up to the WinXP machine and using it via cups or some such? That's what I do for my cheap printers.
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