Skip to main content

Switching the Parents to Ubuntu...?

I spent a half hour or so recently on the phone walking my Mom through a technical issue. Tentatively, I diagnosed her issue as a hard drive failure. She brought it over on her last visit and sure enough, the Dell XPS 450 from circa 1999 sounds like a bad coin-operated laundry at full capacity.

I was aghast to discover she's running Windows 98. Ugh. Also, her recovery disk is just that--for recovery. I don't believe I'll be able to re-install Win98 on a new hard drive. That, coupled with the end of Microsoft (and Dell) support for Win98, got me thinking about Linux. (and she's not intense about her computing needs...and she doesn't want to spend much money...)

I've been reading good things about switching one's parents to Ubuntu. Any thoughts out there?


Unknown said…
Be sure to "try before you buy". It's really helpful to give them the Ubuntu Live CD so they can get a feel for what you're getting them into. Once they've tested the waters they should be at least willing to try things out.

I've been experimenting with my parents main PC and one of my brother's workstations on this. I recommend you go with the dual boot option and make Ubuntu be the default OS -- with a 20 second boot selection timeout. That way if they really do need Windows (and from time to time they will), they can get to it.

I think that Ubuntu is a better OS for most users because it's so much more consistent at the UI layer. My parents really liked the fact that the printer now runs "on its own" -- meaning that they don't need the intrusive wizards. Also my Mom really likes the way the digital camera now syncs up.

A big boon for me is the fact that remote admin (and backup of key files) is a snap. All you have to do is setup the rebuilt system so either a VPN or an SSH connection can get through. True, you can do this with Windows, but it isn't as elegant. Sometimes a quick ssh session is all it takes. I rarely need a full blown remote desktop interaction.

The only thing I would recommend is that you don't do anything drastic like upgrade the version remotely. I upgraded my folks from dapper to edgy over ssh. Turned out to not be a good idea. :-( Major changes should be done at the console. Over the Turkey day weekend I was at home and was able to fix the four things that got broken and they're now back in business.
Anonymous said…
This topic actually was the inspiration for a "persuasive presentation" class I'm in this week...

I agree - if you look at your options for supporting a typical email, web, and digital photo user who has circa 1999 hardware, Ubuntu is the way to go. You really can't run XP on it, and even if you could you'd have the same malware issues to deal with. There's a real cost there, even if you use free stuff like Avast and Spybot S&D. The cost is in diligence - if the user slips up and misses updates for a couple days, the havoc begins...

Using the Ubuntu distro with some careful initial tweaking will get you closer to the low-maintenance applicance that these kinds of users really need.

So the point of my presentation was to avoid buying new hardware - whether updated PC hardware for XP/Vista or a Mac - and at least try out Ubuntu first. With Live CD and/or some re-partitioning this can be test driven at very low risk.
Jeff Hunsaker said…
Very insightful comments. Thank you. I'm going to pull the trigger on this with my Mom and also at home for a secondary workstation (circa 1999). For Mom, I'm strongly considering the Ubuntu paid support option. I'm not too keen on dropping the coin but given my current workload and responsibilities, it will likely pay for itself.

I'll outline my plans and progress here.

Popular posts from this blog

Get Your Team Foundation Server Hate On!

[Google ranking skyrockets... ;-)] I'm a big fan of TFS/VSTS. However, there are a good pocket of folks who take issue with the way TFS handles or implements a certain feature. Well this is your chance to vent! I'm planning a presentation around the "Top 10 TFS/VSTS Hates and How to Alleviate Them"...or something along those lines. But I need your help. Post a comment below detailing your dislike. If it's legitimate, I'll highlight it in the presentation and [hopefully] provide an alternative, resolution, or work-around. Thanks in advance! Update 7/19/2008: Version Control and Microsoft

Rollback a Ooops in TFS with TFPT Rollback

Rhut roe, Raggie. You just checked in a merge operation affecting 100's of files in TFS against the wrong branch. Ooops. Well, you can simply roll it back, right? Select the folder in Source Control Explorer and...hey, where's the Rollback? Rollback isn't supported in TFS natively. However, it is supported within the Power Tools leveraging the command-line TFPT.exe utility. It's fairly straightforward to revert back to a previous version--with one caveot. First, download and install the Team Foundation Power Tools 2008 on your workstation. Before proceeding, let's create a workspace dedicated to the rollback. To "true up" the workspace, the rollback operation will peform a Get Latest for every file in your current workspace. This can consume hours (and many GB) with a broad workspace mapping. To work around this, I create a temporary workspace targeted at just the area of source I need to roll back. So let's drill down on our scenario... I'm worki

Installing the .Net Framework 3.0 SP1 on Windows 2003 Server

I'm building an [automated] build server requiring the .Net 2.0 and 3.0 runtime. Unfortunately, at my client, they leverage a proxy server. The standard .Net 3.0 SP1 framework redist is really just a bootstrapper. Logged in as a local admin on the box, I didn't have the opportunity to authenticate the installation EXE with my domain credentials. So, the install kept timing out. Finally, I found this helpful post from Aaron Ruckman on how to download the very elusive, full framework package. It's here , BTW (x86). I finally get the full installation EXE downloaded to a fileshare, re-run the install and wham--" XPSEPSC: XPS must be installed..." Excuse you? This isn't an XPS's a VM. I found a few MSDN posts here and here outlining the problem. I'm still not clear on what XPSEPSC does (Google yielded little) but you can download it here (x86) . After installing XPSEPSC, the framework installed without issue. Update : Somewhat related, there i