Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

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Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:29 pm

I've been thinking about building a budget PC for my parents to replace their old Pentium 4 and I've spec'd out a nice machine for about $400. The only catch is the OS. They're running Windows 98 now and I'm thinking about Ubuntu rather than shell out the money for Windows 7. Neither one of them is computer literate, but all they really do is web surf and send/check their email. I'm not that familiar with Linux as I currently run Vista, but do you think Ubuntu would be a good choice here or should I stick to Windows 7?

Thanks in advance for your advice,
Rob
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:34 pm

I think installing Ubuntu is fine for your parents. If you say they are computer illiterate then you are going to have to show them how to do everything anyways. For surfing the web and e-mail Ubuntu is perfect.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:38 pm

the only person that can answer that is you. It depends on how much time and effort you want to put into teaching thems something very foreign.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:19 pm

If you yourself are not very well versed with Ubuntu, then I would not suggest Ubuntu. I myself dual boot Windows and Ubuntu on multiple machines. Ubuntu works ok for 95% of the regular web related activities but there are some things that I have had a lot of trouble with:

a) I have never been able to configure skype on ubuntu to be able to do voice calls on any machine.
b) Flash plugin on linux is very crash prone.
c) Installing Ubuntu and then ensuring everything is in order can be a very long process if you are unlucky. Sometimes drivers work out-of-the-box for everything. Somtimes, you are left searching for a fix all over the internet. For example, on of my machines wifi is working but it keeps dropping connections. I have tried most of the fixes recommended on Ubuntu forums but nothing worked. On other machines, wifi worked great out of the box.
d) One of my webcams never worked with Ubuntu while others "just worked".

Ubuntu is very nice and the community is helpful. But sometimes things just dont work. If you do install Ubuntu, and if you are lucky, everything will work like a dream. But sometimes you are not so lucky. So overall I am not sure if its a good idea to install Ubuntu on your parents primary machine. OTOH maybe you can do an install of Ubuntu first and see if it works. Ubuntu is free anyway so you dont lose any money. If it doesnt work out for you, you can switch to Win 7.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:25 am

<Mod hat on>You managed to double post and start 2 topics - I've merged them together. <Mod hat off>

Ubuntu is perfectly fine for doing the sort of things your parents want to do and the Unix privilege separation model will protect them a lot better than the standard Windows setup. If you add the ssh server package then you can ssh in and run stuff remotely to fix just about anything remotely. The big question here is whether you are comfortable supporting them and from your description of how little you are familiar with Ubuntu I'm not convinced that is the case yet. Maybe the thing to do is to spend more time yourself playing with Ubuntu before offering it to your parents?
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:55 am

Hi Rewertz,

as has been said already, you really can't go wrong with testing a 'Live CD' out on your new system. As your parents are using Windows 98 they would still see a big difference with going to Windows 7. Of course it is up to you but Ubuntu out the box will give you a good performance and provide a lot of software that is accessible right away, such as Firefox 3.5 and Open Office. The new software store is also really easy to use and will allow your parents to install to their hearts content. A good thing is once the system is running it should just remain stable.... But if you really want an easy to use Linux desktop system I think Linux Mint is even easier, it comes with Flash pre installed, provides DVD playback out the box and has all common audio and video codecs installed. You will not have to have the worry of installing and maintaining firewall, antivirus and anti spyware software either.

http://linuxmint.com/

Linux mint is built upon Ubuntu and so uses the same software... therefore if you download an Ubuntu package it will work with Mint. It also has an interface that resembles Windows so your parents will be more familiar, and if it isn't for you or then you loose nothing only the cost of a blank CD or a few minutes to make a bootable USB image. The latest version is based upon Ubuntu 9.10 and is in release candidate stage now and has gotten a lot of very positive feedback. I would recommend this to you as it will update to the final version in the next week or so and all the tutorials on sites like this for Ubuntu 9.10 should work. One more tip for you is when you buy hardware for your new system think about going the Intel route if you are planning to use Ubuntu it is more stable in my experience. Oh and Nvidia works very well too.

http://www.linuxmint.com/edition.php?id=44

Hope it helps

p.s. One more thought.... a Pentium 4 is still a powerful computer for Ubuntu if you have about 512MB of RAM Ubuntu will not be slow on this system and you can check it out via installing from inside Windows or Live CD mode and see if you can save yourself $400
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:26 am

I agree with most of what's been said so far. If you're going to install Ubuntu for non-computer-literate parents, you need to ask yourself whether you are willing to learn Linux, since you will be their front line tech support.

But let's take a step back here for a moment. What is the reason for the upgrade -- is it mainly to get them off of Win98? Or is the P4 box starting to show signs of old age (hardware instability)? Or does it have a pitiful amount of RAM? A P4 is still adequate for surfing the web and checking e-mail (assuming sufficient RAM); if the existing hardware is still solid, you have a few options which will cost you less than a new build, and will probably provide adequate performance for what they're using their PC for:

Alternative 1: Just upgrade them to an OEM copy of XP or Windows 7, on the existing hardware. I know you said you didn't want to "shell out" for a new OS, but this is still cheaper than an entire new build.

Alternative 2: If you're willing to learn Linux well enough to support them, just load Linux on their existing hardware. Zero cost.

Of course, if their RAM is really low, loading a more modern OS is probably not an option. How much RAM have they got?
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:55 am

I have provided Ubuntu machines to several folks in similar circumstances. The dire warnings about support are overblown in my experience. I find folks have as much of a problem or more with Windows and the support requirements there can be worse.

The latest effort was to ditch a W95 machine to 'upgrade' a friend to a hand-me-down PIII with 512 MB memory. Ubuntu installed and everything worked. His 'word processor' is much improved and he can actually save stuff to USB flash drives instead of floppies now! ;-)

The 'Grandpa' had a glitch with a Windows system and it was easiest to just replace it with Ubuntu. That needed a TIFF plugin for firefox and a few specials but, again, nothing any worse than trying to get Windows re-installed and no support issues of any significance for more than a year now. He actually did his own release upgrade without telling me - sometimes it'd help if it wasn't so easy to do things so I wouldn't get surprises.

Linux Mint is a good idea from what I hear but I have yet to give it a go to see. It is so easy to add the medibuntu repository and install the extras that there isn't much incentive.

If there is a lot invested in Windows or you have some hardware that is problematic (rather rare in my experience), then Windows but otherwise Ubuntu is definitely worth a shot.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:06 pm

bryanl wrote:I have provided Ubuntu machines to several folks in similar circumstances. The dire warnings about support are overblown in my experience. I find folks have as much of a problem or more with Windows and the support requirements there can be worse.

Agreed. But if he already understands Windows but does not understand Linux, there will be a learning curve before he can answer questions and provide support. The issue isn't really his parents; they will have a learning curve either way, since they're switching from Win98 to something that was actually released this millennium. :wink:
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:27 pm

Just buy -- not build -- them a new $400 system with Windows 7; something like this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883103231.

1. Less time and work for you
2. Same cost
3. They get an OS that is somewhat similar to what they were using
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:01 pm

I don't know that Windows 7 and Windows 98 are that similar.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:53 pm

grantmeaname wrote:I don't know that Windows 7 and Windows 98 are that similar.

Yeah... they're probably about as similar as Ubuntu Linux and Windows 98...
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:11 pm

Its not like its going to cost you a great deal to try *nix. You could always try that first and then migrate to something else if that doesn't work out.

I liked debian better, but flavors are irrelevant probably here.

What are you going to do if they use websites that require IE?
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:34 pm

cass wrote:Its not like its going to cost you a great deal to try *nix. You could always try that first and then migrate to something else if that doesn't work out.

I liked debian better, but flavors are irrelevant probably here.

Debian is good, but I would hesitate to install it on a workstation which is going to be used by a non-technical person. I would also hesitate to recommend that a Linux newbie install Debian as their first Linux distro. That's two strikes against it in this case.

What are you going to do if they use websites that require IE?

There aren't very many of those left these days, but yes I suppose it is still a concern.

That said, what version of IE is Win98 stuck at? They're probably about as likely to have compatibility issues with the ancient version of IE they're using now as they are with Firefox.
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Re: Should I install Ubuntu on my parents' PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 30, 2009 2:47 am

rewertz wrote:I've been thinking about building a budget PC for my parents to replace their old Pentium 4 and I've spec'd out a nice machine for about $400. The only catch is the OS. They're running Windows 98 now and I'm thinking about Ubuntu rather than shell out the money for Windows 7. Neither one of them is computer literate, but all they really do is web surf and send/check their email. I'm not that familiar with Linux as I currently run Vista, but do you think Ubuntu would be a good choice here or should I stick to Windows 7?

Thanks in advance for your advice,
Rob


(1) Learn Linux yourself first! Install VirtualBox on your Windows box and set up a virtual machine to install Linux on that. Alternatively, if you have a spare machine sitting around, use that. Just remember to treat Linux as a completely new thing, and not carry the various Windows habits/thinking over to it. (People who do that often find they have a very hard time adapting.)

(2) Look at everything that your parents do on their PC. I'm saying you must be covering everything in great detail. (including the websites they visit). Then you must look at Linux and see if it have direct 1-to-1 alternatives for your parents. You do this because you want the transition to be smooth as possible, with minimal surprises.

I have moved my parents to Linux...Its pretty painless when you do things in a logical, well-planned fashion. (If you blindly dive in, its messy and difficult!)
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