View Full Version : Linux distro for Mom?

25th December 2004, 08:57 PM
I'm thinking about switching my parents' computer to Linux. My mom is completely computer illiterate though. All she ever does is read and reply to e-mail with Outlook Express, write letters with Word, and lightly use the internet (mostly online banking at Suntrust, which I can use Mozilla and Firefox for!). She's been having problems looking at pictures e-mailed to her because of IE's stupid "Are you sure you're doing something OK?" yellow bar thing and all of the security risks she hears about, I mentioned it the idea of switching.

The only Linux distro I've ever used is Fedora 2/3. I played with Yellow Dog on my Mac a year or two ago, but wasn't ready to learn Linux (I use FC3 exclusively now at home). I've got FC2 installed on their machine already (grub boots to Windows tho...) so I could modify FC2 I suppose.

But, I haven't used other distros (Knoppix for 5 minutes?) and I don't have extra computers lieing around nor time to try a bunch out. What would people here reccommend? It doesn't seem like FC2 would be too difficult, if properly configured, but what about Novell's Linux? Sun's? Xandros?

Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated! I'm home for 4 days next week and would like to give something a run. Thanks!!

25th December 2004, 09:12 PM
I would say fedora but your mom will want everything to be there such as music and dvd player so I would recommend mandrake 10.1 . Its very user friendly and it also kind of looks like windoz. Suse is user friendly too but I have never used it so I cant recommend it.

25th December 2004, 09:14 PM
I don't know. If you say she's computer illiterate and you want to install an operating system that's not for the computer illiterate, I don't think that will work out too well. You might find yourself over there a lot setting up and showing her how to do things. She'll be polite and go along with it, but after awhile she'll want Windows back.

25th December 2004, 09:23 PM
I think she could handle it if I showed it to her.

Thanks imdeemvp, I'll check out Mandrake. I'll look for a Torrent tonight.

Has anyone seen Lycroris ( http://lycoris.com/products/desktoplx/ ) before? I had a demo that came with a magazine once, but it failed to install (maybe a bad CD?). The web demo looks promising (Windoze-ish, Mom-friendly)

25th December 2004, 09:56 PM
Yes, I've seen the Lycoris tour and I'd think that would be a very good option - colorful and aimed at Windows users. It does cost a few bucks apparently, but so does Mandrake and SuSE.

OHO! Can be downloaded for free?!! ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/distributions/lycoris/

25th December 2004, 10:28 PM
Mandrake 10.1 offers a free download.

26th December 2004, 12:32 AM
You want to put your mom on Linux.
What does your mom want?

26th December 2004, 12:40 AM
She wants to know her computer is secure.

Then, like she wants to do e-mail, word processing, and occasional internet. She'll print from time-to-time. Some sort of .PDF viewer.

I just installed FC3 here and I'm going to try and set something up for her. While I've got some time home I'm gonna see if she feels comfortable using it.

The Lycoris distro looks pretty good but I don't like that it isn't free...

26th December 2004, 06:01 AM
What you're paying for with Lycoris, or any of the other "paid" distributions, is the support of the company selling it, as well as a thoroughly tested integration of the software. In some cases, like a "remote" install like you're doing, that might give your Mom that extra security blanket when you're not available to deal with an issue.

I like the idea of introducing her to it on your laptop. One of the big things to show her is that she can't "break it" - most new users are scared to do anything that even remotely appears dangerous to them. For some very weird and nebulous definition of "dangerous." (I never have figured that one out.)

26th December 2004, 06:18 AM
I've used Mandrake (7.0.2 upto 10.1), Fedora Core 1,2, & 3, and played briefly with Xandros, Libranet, and Yoper. Any one of these distros recent versions would be fine for a new user (except maybe fedora Core 3. It's still needs to have a few things ironed out and stabilized)
as far as putting someone who is "computer illiterate" on linux, I don't see the problem. I've known a number of computer illiterates who are quite happy with their linux installs. especially since they haven't gotten a virus, BSOD, spyware, etc, etc, etc.....
BTW currently running Fedora Core 2 and 3 on seperate machines.

26th December 2004, 07:55 AM
I would sugest Kurumin, but that's somekind of portuguese version :( but... why not knoppix? I think it's pretty easy do deal with... And i don't think you'l have problems with security... it's linux! :D
Just configure it yourself (easy!) and let your mom play around...

26th December 2004, 08:11 AM
Then, like she wants to do e-mail, word processing, and occasional internet. She'll print from time-to-time. Some sort of .PDF viewer.
Printing is a problem for linux when using jet-ink based printer. From my observation and test, printing in Linux is slower than Windows. I don't know if there is a method to enhance the speed.

Shadow Skill
26th December 2004, 08:20 AM
I know the page alignment seems to be off when printing in Linux, its kind of annoying I never have been able to figure out how to adjust the page alignment.

26th December 2004, 09:58 AM
Ubuntu maybe.
It's a straight desktop distro.

26th December 2004, 11:05 AM
I would recommend Fedora Core 3. Since you already have experience with Fedora Core, you can easily setup and configure a system that is usable for your mom. If you want to try something else, you'll probably have to need some time to learn it too, so that's no good for your mom. Also, check whether all hardware on her pc works with linux, such as printers and/or scanners. If the hardware is capable of running Fedora Core 3, just install it. Do your post-install stuff, and everything should be fine. Just put some large icons on your desktop, but not with names like Mozilla Firefox, Evolution, gPDF, but choose names like Web Browser, E-mail, PDF Viewer and so on.

26th December 2004, 04:19 PM
Thanks for all of the advice. Taking cscheng's reccomendations, I think I'll stick with FC3. I've been using FC2/3 everyday since May so I know it pretty well. I make an account on my computer "for her" with things like big icons with obvious names, just like I had set up for her when I upgraded Windows to XP for them in March.

The more I think about it, the less I think it's going to be a hard transisition. She's not so used to XP that a change will be hard. As long as the programs she's using (Evolution, Firefox) are obvious enough to figure out, like the New button makes a new e-mail, she should be okay.

The only thing I could see as a problem, is word processing. Not that it'll be hard to use AbiWord or OpenOffice Writer, but if she needs to send something to someone as a .DOC, she'll have to export it. I should write down and print off instructions :)

Thanks again all!

26th December 2004, 04:47 PM
I think your decision to go with FC3 is a good one. I have several family members that are completely computer un-savvy, and I have them using FC3. Mandrake 10.1 is very nice, but since you'll be tech support for the computer, FC3 will be the way to go. Evolution and Firefox are easy for everyone to use. Printing is not a problem. As for .doc files, have your mom use Openoffice, and let her save the files in openoffice format and send them to people. The other people can install openoffice if they want to read the files. After all, I doubt too many people go out and spend $400 on MS Office - but everyone can get Openoffice.

26th December 2004, 07:34 PM
I would go with Fedora Core 3 or the latest ubuntu, and here's why:

GNOME 2.8 is user friendly. Once installed and set up, the spatial file browser, the epiphany web browser and the consistency of the desktop will make your mom more productive. You mother will need some office suite, I would recommend openoffice.org as it's provided in Core 3 for this, as there is at least some integration with the rest of the desktop.

People who don't know computers _hate_ files. Files are confusing. Files have names and extensions and all other stuff that people just don't get. The less your mother has to worry about files, the better. Set up some folders like she would find in other systems, and add emblems to them so they're visually different, this makes it easier to navigate the dreaded file-system. Make "Documents" "Music" "Pictures" and so forth in the home dir and put a link on the desktop itself.

The only thing people who don't like computers hate more than dealing with files and folders is dealing with applications, most people don't care if it's called rhythmbox or xmms, if it's called writer or abiword, they want "music player" and "word processor". Go through the menu files in /usr/share/applications and edit the menu entry files. Remove stuff she will never open from the menu (PDF reader, Image viewer) and edit the names of stuff so that the Openoffice.org Writer is called simply "Writer" or similar.

And most importantly, make sure you can ssh in to the computer and fix stuff remotely if anything should go wrong.

26th December 2004, 09:34 PM
The only thing I could see as a problem, is word processing. Not that it'll be hard to use AbiWord or OpenOffice Writer, but if she needs to send something to someone as a .DOC, she'll have to export it. I should write down and print off instructions
you can also set OpenOffice to save files in doc format by default. Hower the drawback is each Microsoft Word version are different (from 95 to 2003) thus causing compatibily issue. I support the advice to stick with OpenOffice format due to its small size compared to doc format.

11th January 2005, 10:22 PM
I will suggest Ubuntu for a easy instalation. But why not use Windows (like 98 sec edition) with Firefox/Thunderbird versions ?? Guyz here are really fanatic over people needs. You have to install a SO that fit needs.

11th January 2005, 10:37 PM
isso a cara! :)
Mas me parece que ele t buscando algo fiavel... eheh
(now translated) :D
That's right but i think he's looking for something reliable... eheh

12th January 2005, 01:29 AM
isso a cara! :)
Mas me parece que ele t buscando algo fiavel... eheh
(now translated) :D
That's right but i think he's looking for something reliable... eheh

I know that linux is more realiable but for most people transition could be bothering at start.

You seems a brazilian talking this expression: isso ai cara? That's it guy? L0L

Shadow Skill
12th January 2005, 01:37 AM
Windows 98? At least put 2k on the machine if you were going to do that, and really it defeats the purpose of the initial question posed at the opening of the thread.

12th January 2005, 01:42 AM
I'm playing with Ubuntu on VMWare tonight and tomorrow and we'll see how user-friendly I think it is before I make the transition to the parents. I set up an FC3 account for her alongside XP and told her to play with it until I came home next, and when I was walking her through things she didn't seem too threatened.

Besides, Windows 98 == Blue Screen(s) of Death

12th January 2005, 01:51 AM
Windows 98? At least put 2k on the machine if you were going to do that, and really it defeats the purpose of the initial question posed at the opening of the thread.

I said a desktop system because if you read about security most fails you will find in NT system specially without doing Service Packs. If you use Windows 98 sec edition, just for desktop without sharing I think is most secure than 2K (if you don't config standard aspects of security - telnet ). Same case of linux, if you don't know how to configure could be insecure.

12th January 2005, 02:51 AM
If you are afraid your mom will spot you while you are configuring stuff, and then she'll want windows back, just configure everything _before_ then give her a totally configured desktop.
If changing the look and feel is not a issue you can use fedora or ubuntu, else if a windows-ish desktop is preferred, go for kde (mandrake, suse, etc).

12th January 2005, 03:04 AM
Good points piedamaro. When I showed her FC3, I had it set up like the default FC2, with one bar on the bottom. Of cource, I took away the desktop pager (she'll never use it) and other things so it resembled Windows. She's not a Windows expert/Linux newb, she's computer-newb, still. She never won't be until she uses one everyday. So, as long as the basic concepts on windows and buttons are there, she can figure it out (hopefully). If she can't, there's VNC ;)

12th January 2005, 07:47 PM
Linaire = Fedora in a WindowsXP wrapper
MEPIS = Ready to roll
Vidalinux = Gentoo based, and is unbelievably awesome once its installed... long install time however.

Just thought'd i'd suggest the non-obvious :)

12th January 2005, 08:39 PM
Ubunto would probably be good....so would Xandros

12th January 2005, 10:04 PM
You can set OpenOffice to save as a word doc, the only person who would know is you.


12th January 2005, 10:18 PM
well.. just like the famous grandmother test, suppose there were 2 grandmothers completely illiterate to both wind0ze and linux, and you tried to teach her more in linux than in wind0ze, there isn't really a problem here since she is just new to computers.. but if she's thinkin of the fact of having a more secure computer to use, and chooses linux, just be patient enough to teach her.. nothing to lose here.. besides.. it's one cool grandmother who knows more in navigating linux as compared to the youngest user of wind0ze.. :D

17th January 2005, 05:18 PM
I insalled Suse Linux 9.1 alternativly to windows on my other PC for my roommate who just happens to do all the wrong things in windows and gets virus's like mad. I knew computer virus's are not as rampart in Linux and I didn't really like the idea of pirating Windows, so I had to go with a free and easy solution and Suse 9.1 fit the bill nicely. Actually I liked it so much, I wanted to duel boot it on my Athlon 64, but I ran into a driver issue with my on board network card which I can't find a driver for..

So I am downloading Fedora Core 3 64-bit as we speak. I haven't tried Fedora before, but I have tried Red Hat 6.1 which was good at the time, but I couldn't install programs to it.. Well not with out a severe learning curve anyway. I'm hoping that Fedora has an easy way of installing programs much like Suse's Yast. Does Yum work the same way? Man, I sure hope so!

Well anyway for me to recomend Fedora would be a blind one as I hadn't tried it yet, but I know Suse 9.1 is pretty much fool proof. I found it very simple to install, customize and yes install programs to.

One thing I do got to say that I do like about Fedora so far is the fact I can download it as a DVD install. I really like this because otherwise I had no choice but to do the ftp install with Suse. I would surely have been biting my nails as my DSL connection likes to disconnect at random. I should mention the fact that Fedora is available as a torrent is very convenient for people with unstable net connections like myself.

To be honest, I think you could flip a coin in choosing between Fedora and Suse and no matter what the result is, you'll have a solid easy to use choice. :)

17th January 2005, 06:44 PM
I'm a mom, and I'm trying to figure out how to get my 27-year-old son to switch from XP to FC3! That's what I use at home. I've installed the latest Xandros on the work computer, which will soon be used by a lot of semi-literate volunteers, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. There are still a few gaps in Linux in general that get in the way of ordinary users; printing is one, although there's a fairly good commercial program (can't remember the name just now - that's what happens when you get old) that makes our work printer (Canon i850) useable. Haven't got a web cam or scanner working in Xandros yet, but I'm sure I will soon. The one program I keep XP around for is Noteworthy Composer, which is almost useable with Wine but not quite.

I think the average mom could get along well with FC3 or Xandros if the printer was set up properly.

17th January 2005, 06:48 PM
it's nice to see a mom to use linux and convert the kid :)
If you have the heart to switch, it wont be difficult :)

17th January 2005, 06:50 PM
For mom?
if she that illeterate try notepad linux.
requirment 1X a4 pad + drawing implement.

17th January 2005, 07:03 PM
I do offer Mandrake 10.1. It is very ex-Windoze-users oriented and doesn't differ a lot from your favorite FC :-) Take a try.