old computer for mother

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old computer for mother

Postby Red-guy » 2007-05-20 04:29

OK, probably been asked and answered to death now...but I wish to get direct questions/answers .....

I am trying to setup a computer for my mother. She knows nothing about computers and lives four thousands miles from me...so I wish to install an OS that she can use and will give her little trouble. Now I know many will suggest Debian...but as I use Debian everyday in my work and home, I think it needs to be a little more "user-friendly" for mom. :-)

I have a 400Mhz computer lying around with 256 RAM and 5 gig drive...
I thought it would be a nice choice for her..she can e-mail, write, surf the net and chat
...etc.:-)

So, obviously, it has to be small, easy and versatile. I was thinking BeaFanactiX...but what would you suggest?
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Postby rickh » 2007-05-20 04:41

I like BeaFanatIX, or DeLi, but I don't see how she could have problems with an Etch install, as long as you're going to do the setup. Do a minimal install, give her the smallest possible Gnome desktop, Email, Epiphany, Gnome Office. and that's all. Once it's set up, the problems are over, and as you're presumably aware, nothing is more stable.

I have put such an installation on a 6 GB hard drive, 256 MB memory, and it was very responsive. Faster than any Win98 PC.
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Postby Red-guy » 2007-05-20 05:03

I have put such an installation on a 6 GB hard drive, 256 MB memory, and it was very responsive.


Oh, how much space was left over...we are talking about 5 gigs here....and Bea had the easy for her to re-install if issues arrived.
However, etch does allow for a separate /home so she does not lose her files. :-)
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Postby rickh » 2007-05-20 05:12

how much space was left over
By the time I was done, / was actually using less than 2 GB. I only gave them 1.5 GB for /home, but if I did it again, I'd double that. For a 5 GB drive, I'd allocate 2 GB / ... 500 MB /swap ... 2.5 GB /home. Make sure you pretty much disable logging. Nothing else in / will really grow after the initial setup.
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Postby Red-guy » 2007-05-20 05:20

OK I think I shall give it a test try...see how streamlined I can make it for her...easier is better....and, as always...easy to me is not to her.:-D
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Postby rickh » 2007-05-20 05:32

I trust you're aware that when it comes time to install Gnome, you install gnome-core. Then you have to figure out what other pieces of Gnome you need.
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Postby garrincha » 2007-05-20 11:49

Suggestion: do a minimal Debian Etch netinstall first without choosing any options in the taskel, and then apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade before apt-get install xorg iceweasel icedove abiword etc...all of these will install between 500 MB to 1 GB in your root (/) directory. So you're left with at least 4 GB of free space for /home directory - plenty of space to play around with unless you're planning to download G worth of videos! :)

Oh, btw if you install gnome-core (not gnome) you'll at most be installing up to 1GB. I just did a test install of gnome-core on one drive with iceweasel, epiphany, rxvt-unicode, and mplayer all of which comprised approx 700MB used space in the / directory.
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Postby rbochan » 2007-05-20 12:03

This is a few years old now, but the ideas behind it are sound. I set up an aging parent with a Linux machine back then and she's still using Linux today, though I moved her over to Debian for ease of administration and maintenance.
Actually, her set up is what I've based my custom Debian desktop installs (for clients) on. These days, I've got it all scripted and simple... base install, run the script, reboot... done. Total install space is about 1.3-1.6 gig.
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Postby Bulkley » 2007-05-20 16:01

Here's a suggestion: set your mother up with an e-mail account at some on-line setup such as Hotmail or Yahoo and teach her how to use it. That way, you can maintain it. As well, think about setting up an ssh access in her machine for the same reason.
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Re: old computer for mother

Postby <(DmC)> » 2007-05-23 08:03

Red-guy wrote:I am trying to setup a computer for my mother. She knows nothing about computers and lives four thousands miles from me...so I wish to install an OS that she can use and will give her little trouble. Now I know many will suggest Debian...but as I use Debian everyday in my work and home, I think it needs to be a little more "user-friendly" for mom. :-)

yo, i don't really have any additional suggestions, but i will soon face the same task because my mother is using windoze and i can't stand the thought of that any longer.
personally i have never really used gnome or kde, but it sounds like it should work fine. fortunately, i don't need to worry about size that much as i have an 80gig hdd for her.
well, Red-guy, let us know how it goes and i shall post again when i start killing windoze to introduce debian on my mother's pc.
so long
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Postby Pobega » 2007-05-23 08:20

The easiest thing to do in my opinion would be to put Debian testing on her machine, and make a weekly anacron job for apt-get dist-upgrade, so that your mom doesn't fall far behind in updates. Most Debian breakage happens when you upgrade 5~6 versions of a program (Stable to stable), so long as your mother stays with testing she should have an easy time (And don't forget to open SSH access in case you have to fix something).
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Postby AgenT » 2007-05-23 12:27

Instead of GNOME/KDE, maybe XFCE would suffice? I hear it is less taxing on hardware than the other two desktop environments.
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Postby Red-guy » 2007-05-25 06:14

Thanks! :-)
I am going to try a basic install this weekend on the computer. I will be trying the basic install with Gnome -core...epiphany, Abiword, and gaim (so we can talk). I setup a webmail account already for her. I don't know what audio player ...probably beep. (SHE LOVES MUSIC!)
Oh, and working on the ssh aspect too. :-)

In any event, I will take all the "free" advice you feel like providing.:-)
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Postby nopposan » 2007-05-29 00:30

AgenT said:
Instead of GNOME/KDE, maybe XFCE would suffice? I hear it is less taxing on hardware than the other two desktop environments.


I agree. However, I've never tried Gnome on a machine with less than 512 mb so I'm curious how it goes.

rbochan said:
These days, I've got it all scripted and simple... base install, run the script, reboot... done. Total install space is about 1.3-1.6 gig.


Maybe you could teach me a thing or two, rbochan. I'm going to be setting up a "trailing edge" computer for our neighbor; I'm using it with Kubuntu Edgy right now, but I'd prefer to give her Debian as she won't be able to tweak and isn't computer savvy at all. Also, I'm still planning the laptop renovation & rental enterprise. So far I've installed Linux on four different laptops. Pulled one from the trash and made it usable with Debian and Xfce4; sold it instead of renting, but that's just because I don't have time right now to get the rentals going.

I'll be monitoring how this goes. Good luck.
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Postby plugwash » 2007-05-29 01:43

testing with auto-updates seems like a recipie for things to break when you aren't arround to fix them.

id stick on stable with auto upgrade (i wouldn't use auto dist-upgrade, stable shouldn't need it anyway and if it does then it is likely to be an unusual situation that you should check out). When you need to do a major version upgrade you can either do it in person or do it over ssh like you would a colocated server.

as others have said you really do want remote access in place.
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