The Grandmother Paradox

Barry Roberts blr at
Wed Apr 23 09:43:05 MDT 2008

Dennis Muhlestein wrote:
>> 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
>> situation?
> Here's my .02
> Keep her on Windows 98 and purchase a linksys (or whatever) 
> firewall/router to set between her machine and the Internet.  As long 
> as you train her not to run email attachments I think she'll be fine 
> without protection on the machine itself.
> I've tried to get Grandmas (or others) to run Linux in a similar 
> situation but my experience has been:
> 1) You become their support person and whether or not you like to do 
> that, you're stuck with it forever.
Sounds like it's too late to worry about that.
> 2) When older people are used to something, change is hard.  She's 
> been using 98.  No matter how much better (and I don't think anyone 
> will argue that pretty much any linux distro is better than Windows 
> 98), She'll want to know who to do things that she was doing the 98 
> way and it will be difficult to teach and accomplish.
> 3) Nobody else knows how to use the machine either.  At least in my 
> case, my Grandparents have lots of children/grandchildren/friends etc 
> whom all have a bit of computer advise when they visit.  They mess 
> with settings/hardware and everything else.  At least with Windows, 
> they all can keep the machine on the Internet and functioning (all be 
> it they do a pretty bad job of it sometimes).  With Linux, they're 
> bound to break things.  See #1
This can be a plus.  My mother-in-law was constantly thinking her 
computer was broken because her grandkids would change settings or their 
games would disable networking.  Now she has Linux and she doesn't have 
the root password.  Her grandkids leave it alone and it just works for her.

If you can upgrade her memory (check DI), do it.

I would add that if you keep her on Windows, discourage use of Internet 
Exploder.  Even with hardware firewall and AV software, it's just an 
exploit waiting to happen, and I don't think you'll get any security 
updates for whatever the latest version is that runs on 98 (5.5?).  
Delete all IE icons, and make firefox the default.

I've had vector linux running ok on 128 MB machines.  But OOo and 
firefox were not exactly speedy.


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