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Is Ubuntu ready for Gran’Ma?

January 24, 2010

I am building two computers this weekend.  One is for my son to use temporarily at an apartment where he’ll be living until the end of the semester.  It’s an old IBM model 50 ThinkStation;  a P4 with 1.5 gb RAM running Ubuntu 9.10.  Runs surprisingly well for being a rather modest computer.  He is already experienced in using Ubuntu so it’ll be easy for him.

The other is for my mom, who now has broadband (good-bye dial-up, we won’t miss ye).  Her old computer was * no way * ready for that challenge, so I am building her a new one.  It’s only about the size of a 2-slice toaster, with an Intel Atom processor, DVD burner, 2 gb of RAM, and a 350 gb hard drive.  It is very energy efficient and darn near silent in operation. 

Since I cannot easily travel to Seattle to keep a Windows machine running, again I am loading it with Ubuntu 9.10.  I think she’s been using either Windows ‘98 or XP so there would be a learning curve no matter what (current) operating system I put in front of her.  I’ll let you know what she thinks of it after she’s had it for a little while.  Meanwhile, any of you Linux people know an Ubuntu manual I can print out and include in the box?  I’m shipping it out tomorrow Wednesday.

  • h/t to fellow Seattlite Dana Hunter who gave us some advice on broadband options in that city.

  • I risk fanboi wrath in saying this, but Win7, Mac, and Ubuntu are very similar from the user’s perspective.  If you were coming from ‘98, anyway.
  • The computer started with a $170 bare bones box from TigerDirect.  It included the case, power supply, motherboard with processor and ram.  The DVD burner was $25 and I found a 350 gb Seagate 7000 Barracuda rpm hard drive in my miscellaneous parts bin.  The hard drive was EIDE but SATA would be better if for no other reason than SATA cables are better suited to a tiny box.
  • The Ubuntu installation went without a hitch and everything worked.  I partitioned 100gb for /, 4gb for swap, and the rest for /home.  It isn’t super-fast but it runs Open Office, Firefox, and Gimp easily.  It would be a different matter if she wanted to install Wine and try to run Modern Warfare 2.
  • Here’s a picture of the motherboard.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 24, 2010 at 22:17 | #1

    Sounds like a good idea. I agree that when its a learning curve how much does the OS matter? I would prefer a family member had something that was secure like OSX or Linux.

  2. January 25, 2010 at 00:47 | #2

    I put Ubuntu on my sister’s home system about a year ago. They’re still using it. I gave them a crash course on site, and they seem to be doing OK. I don’t know of any good manuals in PDF form, unfortunately. As long as you don’t change the administrative functions, it’s pretty hard to break. The main hazard I can think of is if your mother downloads a lot of video, she may run out of disk space, but most folks just look at YouTubes these days.

  3. Jim
    January 25, 2010 at 06:45 | #3

    It’s probably too late for your mothers computer but you might want to give Linux Mint a try someday. It comes with everything you need to play multimedia already installed and some really nice administrative tools. The Gnome menu has been beautifully reworked and it is compatible with Ubuntu repositories. Mint is the first distro that actually made me like Gnome, I was a KDE only guy until then.

  4. EdK
    January 25, 2010 at 22:53 | #4

    The next LTS release of Ubuntu will contain a detailed user manual in PDF format.

    In lieu of that upcoming manual, here’s a link for the free Ubuntu Pocketguide.


  5. January 26, 2010 at 23:40 | #5

    EdK, hanks for the link!  That will be useful. I will send a copy to the person who often helps my mother out.  He’s an old (I mean, really old) Windows hand who recently switched to Mac but has never used Linux.

    Jim – I can certainly think of a machine I’d like to try out Mint on.  (Yeah, we have too many computers around here…)

    Cujo359 – good to hear about your sister.  Maybe there is hope.

    Anyway, the computer is packaged up and going out tomorrow.  This should be interesting, and I’ll let you all know how it turns out.

  6. January 31, 2010 at 02:27 | #6

    Hmm.  Maybe with a manual, maybe I’ll attempt this thing…

    Glad the info on broadband helped!  Let me know if anything else is needed – I’m able to follow directions well enough to be of some use when it comes to troubleshooting.

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