Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ubuntu - Linux for Moms?'s Michael Reed describes his experience migrating his mother to Ubuntu:
The challenge was to not only build a working system, but also to maintain consistency with her old system. This meant migrating her data across, finding comparable equivalents for all of her Windows applications, and adjusting the desktop layout to one that was similar to that of Windows.
It's an interesting article (well, I think it is, anyway), and Reed describes well both the challenges involved and how truly easy Ubuntu is for a novice, non-power user to use. He concludes:

So, is Ubuntu Linux ready for this type of installation? Yes, provided they have someone with some Linux expertise at hand to help them.

I overestimated the difficulties that switching over to Linux would cause. I had planned to occasionally boot mum into the new Ubuntu setup for the first couple of weeks, gradually building up the amount of time she spent in Ubuntu. However, the transition to Linux was so problem-free that we both agreed that I should make the new system the default after the first two days.

My mother likes her new setup, but I don't think she understands how big a change her computer has been through. This is partly the result of my effort to maintain a layout that was comparable to her old one.

This a point worth emphasizing: one can't throw a novice, non-power Windows user into the relatively easy GNOME-based Ubuntu waters and expect them to start blissfully swimming away. You must give them some guidance and do what you can in order to make the transition as easy as possible. . . and fergodsakes, don't make them do anything requiring a command line, it scares people and makes them curl, crying, into a little defensive ball. Transparency is key. I recently acquired a not-too-old Dell PC loaded with a very screwed-up (virii, malware, etc.) WinXP installation. For fun, I decided to load it with Ubuntu and set it up in the guest bedroom so that visitors would have access to their own PC. I set up the desktop with large, easy-to-see icons denoting such things as "Internet Browser," "Word Processor," etc. and when I had people over I gave them specific tasks to accomplish. Nothing complicated, just things a normal user would do on a machine that wasn't theirs, such as "log on (the guest account name and password are printed on labels attached to the machine), and check your Gmail account, play a movie, load a document from a thumbdrive, edit it and print it," things like that. Without fail, all of my guests, all of whom are XP users, were able to do these things simply and easily.

I briefly thought about setting up a Ubuntu-loaded machine as my parents' primary PC, but dismissed the notion when I realized that The Parents of Garm are comfortable with using their mature XP machine for their normal tasks: surfing, email, word processing, occasional photo editing. Besides, their machine is reliable and as secure as a Windows XP machine can get, since I'm the family sysadmin who did the initial set-up and check/maintain it often. I was also *this close* to setting up The Paternal Grandmother of Garm (who is so computer illiterate, and I say that with love, that she "turns the computer off" by pressing the monito's power button) with a self-refurbished little Dell loaded with Ubuntu. Unfortunately, a family member unknowingly foiled my plans when they bought her a brand-new deal. . . thankfully loaded with XP instead of Vista, which I don't trust, security-wise, quite yet.

Oh well, guess I'll have to find another guinea pig in my quest to slowly migrate people over to Linux-based systems.

As an aside, I much prefer to use KDE-based Kubuntu as my primary OS; in my view, it's far more suitable for the power user, what with the multitude of configuration tools offered by KDE; besides, the vast majority of my preferred applications are KDE apps. However, GNOME-based Ubuntu, is, in my opinion, easily the best Linux OS for Linux novices. It's simple, quick, secure, and has good standard applications. Of course, there are many applications for both distributions that can be installed, for free, with just a couple of clicks. Both distributions can be had on LiveCD's, by the way, so if you're interested in trying them, you can just boot from CD and try them out without modifying your existing system. The LiveCD's are located in the distros' respective download areas on their websites and are the default download. Try 'em out. I swear you won't turn into this guy:Of course, if you're a woman who starts using K/Ubuntu and turn into, or are already using K/Ubuntu and look like this girl (mildly NSFW), please email me at GarmHowlingPublisher (at) gmail (dot) com, as I have a proposal for you.

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