Linux distro Choices: REDUX

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Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:53 pm

Since the last post I made about it got ignored/consigned to the circular file, I need to ask this again.

Let's say your 70 year old mother hates Microsoft/Outlook/Office for all the usual reasons. Does ANYONE know of a linux distro that they'd turn their own mother onto. (It's been many moons since I rolled my distro, but I'm willing to do it for her. all the other family conveniatly vanish.)

Are there any distros that a complete *nix novice could use to accomplish her "check news, check email, watch stock seminars, Office apps, etc.. I don't mind doing all the legwork, but if it's too hard for her to learn, or sh just hates it, I'm back to square one


Will appreciate any and all suggestions. All she does is Outlook, Exchange, and watch stock videos online.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:46 pm

Mint Cinnamon is my go-to distro at the moment. You'll probably want to install Evolution if she really wants something like Outlook for email and calendar but otherwise it should do those things without help.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:16 am

bthylafh wrote:Mint Cinnamon is my go-to distro at the moment.

Yeah, that would be a reasonable choice. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is also worth considering.

bthylafh wrote:You'll probably want to install Evolution if she really wants something like Outlook for email and calendar but otherwise it should do those things without help.

Ack... has Evolution gotten any better? Last time I tried it (probably about 3 years ago) it was pretty flaky. If she doesn't need the calendar functionality, I'd say Thunderbird is the way to go for e-mail.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:31 am

Many old folks just don't wanna have anything to do with computers. My grandma's like that too. I think, no matter how easy it is, it will never be second nature to her. And as for ease of use, Linux has always been known to have a steeper learning curve, catering to the geeks and tinkerers, so good luck making it easier for your mom or grandma.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:40 am

For web, e-mail, and office applications, Linux is no more difficult to use than Windows. As long as there's a geek/tinkerer type around during initial installation to make sure things like printer drivers get set up correctly, I don't see why a non-techie type can't use it for basic tasks.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 1:45 am

For what it's worth, when my mom visited a few months I set up a laptop with Fedora so she could do the basic stuff. Flash did not play well with her games, but I consider that a win for security...

Any mainstream distro is going to work out about the same, really distro choice amounts to little more than choosing one's favorite color. The only ones worth avoiding are the enterprise products like RHEL as their default repos tend to be woefully lacking in software an end-user might want. There are a couple of 'old people Linux' distros floating around with a customized UI but they're proprietary spins that come bundled with overpriced hardware and best avoided.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:13 am

just brew it! wrote:geek/tinkerer
I had forgotten how bad it could be. I'm bringing up a PC-BSD 10 Virtual Machine at the moment (mostly to play with ZFS (mostly because of that bit-rot thread a few days back)). PC-BSD makes Linux seem as easy to use as Linux makes Windows seem easy to use.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:19 am

Ubuntu LTS, Xubuntu LTS, OpenSUSE, or Chrome OS.

Ubuntu for newer computers with supported graphics, and passwords being based around sudo is nice.

Xubuntu for older computers with open source graphics drivers.

OpenSUSE has really nice desktops. KDE is the flagship DE, but the others get some love as well. It has longer release cycles, so it's fairly stable in that regard.

Chrome OS is pretty limited, but it's a good kind of limited. Plus, Chrome is going to be needed for Flash videos anyway. Don't mess with the Adobe Flash plugin; it's been abandon.

RHEL/CentOS 7 may be better, and they should in corporate many of the features of more recent Fedora releases. I haven't spent a large amount of time with them, however. I would be concerned with having to have a user password and a root password for her. Users in Fedora can be setup as "Administrators", sudo replaces su, but it remains to be seen if this feature made the cut.

RHEL/CentOS can also run the RPM Fusion repos if the EPEL repo is installed, which provide many third-party software packages.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:19 am

NovusBogus wrote:There are a couple of 'old people Linux' distros floating around with a customized UI but they're proprietary spins that come bundled with overpriced hardware and best avoided.

My 80-something MiL received one of these from her 90-something "boyfriend". I turned it on and put her e-mail credentials in it; she hasn't called for support once. I fielded near-weekly support calls from her when running W7 on an HP laptop (and still get regular calls about the TV & TiVo).
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:14 am

just brew it! wrote:Ack... has Evolution gotten any better? Last time I tried it (probably about 3 years ago) it was pretty flaky. If she doesn't need the calendar functionality, I'd say Thunderbird is the way to go for e-mail.


I don't use it myself (too heavy), but OP mentioned Exchange and IIRC Evolution has the best support for an Exchange server, although (again IIRC) it depends on the Exchange admin having set up web services.

edit: it appears that with some extra packages Evolution will speak MAPI and will not require Web Services: http://www.petenetlive.com/KB/Article/0000378.htm
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:56 am

bthylafh wrote:I don't use it myself (too heavy), but OP mentioned Exchange and IIRC Evolution has the best support for an Exchange server, although (again IIRC) it depends on the Exchange admin having set up web services.

I'd probably be more inclined to see if the e-mail server she's using supports POP or IMAP.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:04 pm

I'd go with JBI, Evolution only if required for calendar or talking to an Exchange server and be prepared for pain, Thunderbird if it is just email on a POP or IMAP.

Ubuntu 14.04LTS, turn on the classic and turn off Unity. Tell them it is a new version of Windows and that the Office apps now have new names. Setup a shortcut to Chrome and Thunderbird on the desktop labelling them "Internet" and "Email" and turn on auto-updates. Relax with a cold beer safe in the knowledge that you won't have to do a thing until the next LTS is out.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:17 pm

I'm probably nearing a dozen of these Linux setups for computer illiterate friends and family. It was PCLinuxOS back in the day, Fedora LXDE for a while after that, and at this point I'm using Linux Mint Xfce.

I tend to think desktop environment is more important than the distro. Nobody I'm doing this work for cares about the eye-candy in a mainstream DE - whatever it is, I'll configure it to look as much like Windows as I can anyway (for familiarity). If it can do that well, and has no other major shortcomings, the deciding factor is speed. LXDE and Xfce both are configurable enough for everything to be in a familiar spot (I even screenshotted a WinXP taskbar at one point and used that and the start button as a skin in LXDE :)), and they're both blazing fast. Their speed has gotten compliments all on its own, and at least once has kept an old system in use that wouldn't have been much good with Gnome or KDE, much less Windows.

If anyone has the resources to make everything everywhere Just Work (or as close as we're going to get), it's Canonical (Ubuntu). Personally I can't stand Canonical or Ubuntu (not invented here syndrome and bloat, respectively), but Linux Mint seems to keep most of Ubuntu's good points and discard most of its bad ones. It's also available with Xfce, which saves some trouble. I've done 4 or 5 Mint Xfce installs now (including two on my own computers), and everything has Just Worked to an impressive degree. I haven't even found downsides of any note. Full disclosure, my most-used machine is Arch with Openbox, but that's really a different OS with different goals entirely. My gaming machine is Mint Xfce, though.

Whenever I have had problems with these Linux installs of late, it has been with printers (daft things). Both a Lexmark and a Brother have failed to work, to an extent that that machine is still dual-booting for the sake of printing only. I've even tried LiveCDs of different distros, but with no luck. I will say that HP printers have always been bulletproof for me (n ~= 5). It takes extra drivers, but Mint makes the process painless. The difference is that HP drivers actually work, while with other brands it seems to be 50/50.

Post-install, I do make a quick pass through all config exposed to GUI, but that's really just attention to detail. The real process is to make sure all needed programs are installed (FF, OpenOffice, browser plugins, and ask the user about anything else that might be needed), set the panels up to look like Windows in position and content, and make desktop icons for the used programs. It might be good to make a desktop icon for shutdown and point it out to the user, because Mint isn't great about exposing that (not that any recent OS is :wink:). I also try to arrange for the user to attempt some basic use while I'm still around, so I can answer any questions or sort out any remaining issues.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Tue Jul 08, 2014 5:58 am

deepblueq wrote:I tend to think desktop environment is more important than the distro. Nobody I'm doing this work for cares about the eye-candy in a mainstream DE - whatever it is, I'll configure it to look as much like Windows as I can anyway (for familiarity). If it can do that well, and has no other major shortcomings, the deciding factor is speed. LXDE and Xfce both are configurable enough for everything to be in a familiar spot (I even screenshotted a WinXP taskbar at one point and used that and the start button as a skin in LXDE :)), and they're both blazing fast. Their speed has gotten compliments all on its own, and at least once has kept an old system in use that wouldn't have been much good with Gnome or KDE, much less Windows.

I would also look at length of support for security updates. Though less of a concern than on Windows, it is still good to get something that is going to stay patched for more than a few months. Some distros just turn over too quickly, IMO.

deepblueq wrote:If anyone has the resources to make everything everywhere Just Work (or as close as we're going to get), it's Canonical (Ubuntu). Personally I can't stand Canonical or Ubuntu (not invented here syndrome and bloat, respectively), but Linux Mint seems to keep most of Ubuntu's good points and discard most of its bad ones. It's also available with Xfce, which saves some trouble. I've done 4 or 5 Mint Xfce installs now (including two on my own computers), and everything has Just Worked to an impressive degree. I haven't even found downsides of any note. Full disclosure, my most-used machine is Arch with Openbox, but that's really a different OS with different goals entirely. My gaming machine is Mint Xfce, though.

More or less agree with your assessment of Canonical/Ubuntu, though it hasn't quite driven me to ditch them yet (I've come close a couple of times though). I would like to point out that Ubuntu does have an XFCE flavor (Xubuntu), so you *can* actually bypass installing Unity (avoiding the baggage that comes with it) and go straight to XFCE, even with Ubuntu. I generally use Kubuntu on my desktops these days; for VMs and older/slower systems I tend to use Lubuntu (Ubuntu's LXDE flavor) or vanilla Debian + LXDE.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:57 am

I put my 80 something aunt on zorin, using gmail.
It's just about as plain as can be. Will easily surf, mail, facebook, all that's needed.
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Re: Linux distro Choices: REDUX

Postposted on Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:09 am

I'll toss in a vote for Ubuntu LTS - the 14 release is solid and stable, and while some don't like the Unity interface, for a "70 year old mother" you can't get much easier than a row of big icons that you click to open all of your programs.

just brew it! wrote:If she doesn't need the calendar functionality, I'd say Thunderbird is the way to go for e-mail.


Don't forget about Mozilla Lightning!
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