The Grandmother Paradox

Steve Morrey lists at
Wed Apr 23 03:17:15 MDT 2008

One of my clients, who also happens to be a grandmother, has recently
decided she wants to get on the internet for the very first time (this is
not a joke).

Unfortunately she has an extremely old machine.
Here are the specs.
Pentium II 400Mhz, 64MB RAM, 8GB HD, Win 98 (not SE)

This computer runs like a champ and it's in pristine condition, I was
thoroughly impressed.
However it has no NIC card.

Only a small handfull of NICs sold locally will support Win98 classic,
although many/most do support 98/SE.
Additionally I hesitate placing this machine on the internet, there is no
way it will run anything akin to Norton or McAfee without slowing to a
crawl, and without something to help out, it'll probably be compromised in
30 minutes or less.

All the poor woman uses the machine for is playing games like hearts and
solitaire, some simple book-keeping, a little word processing, and now web
and email,  since the grand-kids are all off to college now and never write.

My initial thoughts were to upgrade her to some version or another of Linux
for instance Xubuntu.
However on closer examination it appears that none of the desktop distro's
will support a configuration this low.

That seems a shame, to me, Ubuntu and it's ilk are finally to the point
where I can feel comfortable recommending them to less computer savvy users,
but now the system requirements have ballooned.

The mini-distro's on the other hand all seem to smack of "not yet ready for
grandma", either having odd default window managers, obscure package
management schemes etc.
I could teach this lady Ubuntu in a day or maybe two, but if she we to move
to something say DSL, it would probably be weeks or more before she could
get handle on it.

Her computer is perfectly serviceable as-is,  I see no reason to recommend
to her that she scrap it just so she can get one that "does the internet",
and on her budget it would probably be unfeasible to do so anyways.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a good light weight, easy to use, easy
to configure, easy to manage, desktop oriented OS for someone in the

Thanks in advance!


p.s.  Why is it that no OS that could be run by grandma, could run on
grandma's machine?

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