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Moving my mother over to Linux

By Michael Reed on February 06, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

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To save money, I cobbled together a computer for my mother out of cast-offs left over from my own upgrades. She doesn't need a cutting-edge computer because she's not a power user, but she does need a reliable machine to run a few basic applications and to access the Internet. I moved my mother from Windows to Ubuntu Linux, and the experience was a surprisingly smooth one.

The machine I gave her sports a 2.2GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 512MB of RAM, and Nvidia MX440 graphics card with 64MB of RAM. It's not a cutting-edge gaming rig, but it's an adequate machine for her needs, which include email, Web browsing, music and video playback, photo management, and word processing.

The challenge was to not only build a working system, but also to maintain consistency with her old system. This meant migrating her data across, finding comparable equivalents for all of her Windows applications, and adjusting the desktop layout to one that was similar to that of Windows.

Installing Ubuntu

I began by installing Ubuntu as her operating system. Although I'm a KDE man, I chose a GNOME-based distro because GNOME targets non-expert and business users. Ubuntu tries to make the install process as straightforward as possible, but I had to remove support for IPv6 and reinstate IPv4 to complete the process.

To make sure that my mother would be dealing with user interface concepts that she was already familiar with, I had to rearrange the Ubuntu desktop a little. I started by removing the panel from across the top of the screen. I then added a launch and shutdown menu in the bottom left corner, followed by some application quick-launch icons, a task switcher, and finally, a control panel and clock area. I also added attractive CPU and network monitors, which automatically configured themselves.

The Nautilus file manager looks a bit bland to me, but offers an intuitive user interface. File management is something that I'm trying to move my mum away from in general, but at times, it is unavoidable. The instant previews in Nautilus thumbnails went down well with her, although thumbnailing can be a bit slow in folders that have hundreds of images in them.

For instant search, I removed Tracker Search and installed Google Desktop Search in an attempt to balance features and performance and provide the boon of an already familiar interface.

Email and web access

Having settled on Thunderbird as the email application, I transferred all of my mum's Outlook Express messages into a form that could be used in Ubuntu. Closed, proprietary software works against the user here, as the format that Outlook Express uses to store its files is not well understood by third parties. The solution involved first installing Mozilla Thunderbird onto Windows. Thunderbird, when run from within Windows, can access Outlook Express mail files. Once set in motion, the import procedure took about half an hour to complete. Rebooting into Ubuntu, I located Thunderbird's mail files and replaced them with the files from the Windows version. Once transferred, everything worked beautifully in Thunderbird.

Thanks to some of my mother's friends, she gets a lot of spam. The built-in spam-handling features of Thunderbird have been a godsend. The junk mail filter is accurate, and because it's part of the Thunderbird GUI, it's convenient to use.

Ubuntu comes with Firefox, which my mum was already using on Windows. Firefox runs well under Ubuntu.

Media management and word processing

When I migrated mum, I wanted to get her away from directly managing her files. For the non-expert, an index of content, along with modern concepts such as tagging, can be easier to use than the hierarchical file system.

F-Spot is Ubuntu's default photo management utility. Its user interface is a success because, within a few minutes of loading up the software, my mother was talking about the stories behind her photographs. In other words, she was soon interacting with her content rather than being concerned with the mechanics of the software.

A problem did crop up however: after a couple of days, F-Spot refused to show photos in full-screen mode. This turned out to be due to a clash between Compiz and F-Spot, and I resolved it disabling the option "legacy fullscreen workarounds" in the Compiz settings manager. Both Ubuntu and F-Spot developers are aware of this problem.

One feature I failed to find under Ubuntu is a facility to check for duplicate files. When backing up my mother's photos, I had maintained some redundancy. In the end, I used a command-line utility called fdupes to locate and delete the duplicates.

On Windows, my mother had been using Winamp. I was keen to get her onto something oriented around a music database, such as Rhythmbox, rather than force her to rely on manual file management.

One problem with Rhythmbox is that its import music feature doesn't copy files to a new location. Instead, it remembers where they are. I consider this to be an example of inconsistent functionality, as all of the default GNOME applications should work in the same way, if at all possible. As a result of this issue and the fact that the old FAT32 Windows partitions are password-protected by default, after a reboot, music began to gradually disappear from the database. When I manually copied the files across to the Linux partition and then imported them into Rhythmbox, things worked as expected.

Rhythmbox has a clean interface and my mum is starting to readjust to a database-driven music system. Another success.

From time to time, my mother needs to write a letter. Although Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice.org, I installed the Abiword word processor for her. AbiWord launches much more quickly and gives her all of the basic word processing facilities.

Speed

I worried that, as Ubuntu 7.10 is a recent release, it might seem slow compared to Windows on the same hardware. I'm happy to report that the speed ranges from acceptable to extremely good, although first-time application launching is slower than I would have liked. An additional gigabyte of RAM will be the next upgrade for this machine.

Somewhat surprisingly, even on a fairly modest computer such as this one, 3-D Compiz desktop effects don't have much of an impact upon performance.

The GNOME approach to crafting the user experience shines here. Instead of loads of flashy, superficially impressive effects, the default settings tend toward the typical GNOME reserve. At first, one might not even notice that 3-D effects have been enabled. But upon continued use, you begin to notice that menus smoothly fade into place and that windows have drop shadows and swish out of view. These default settings enhance what was already there without getting in the way. As a result, with maternal approval, I've left 3-D effects switched on.

What went wrong?

Ubuntu still has a few rough edges that, armed with some previous Linux experience, I was able to bumble my way through, but which might have blocked a novice. While some of these problems, which for a typical Linux enthusiast would amount to a temporary frustration and 10 minutes spent in a search engine, might be insurmountable to the average computer user.

I know that improving the handling of screen configuration is high on Canonical's to-do list. During boot-up and shutdown, Ubuntu selected a screen mode that resulted in the monitor shutting off. I've been able to resolve this by editing some GRUB configuration files.

Once inside X, the GNOME screen configuration utility reports, erroneously, that the monitor is operating at a refresh rate of 57Hz.

During start-up, the system occasionally likes to do a check of its filesystem. Unfortunately, during the check, the screen is blank, apart from a flashing cursor in the in corner. There should be some indication of what's going on, as it looks as though the computer has crashed during start-up. A novice might be tempted to reset the machine, which would result in another apparent crash.

Conclusion

So, is Ubuntu Linux ready for this type of installation? Yes, provided they have someone with some Linux expertise at hand to help them.

I overestimated the difficulties that switching over to Linux would cause. I had planned to occasionally boot mum into the new Ubuntu setup for the first couple of weeks, gradually building up the amount of time she spent in Ubuntu. However, the transition to Linux was so problem-free that we both agreed that I should make the new system the default after the first two days.

My mother likes her new setup, but I don't think she understands how big a change her computer has been through. This is partly the result of my effort to maintain a layout that was comparable to her old one.

I've been impressed by GNOME, but I won't be switching over to it myself. I want KDE's elaborate features and I'm not intimidated by the sometimes complex set of options it offers.

This little project has been a success. Having proved what I already knew, I now feel even more angry when I notice the familiar Windows interface running on a reception desk or in an office -- particularly in the case of nonprofit and government organisations who are spending someone else's money.

Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture, and gender. He's a also a musician, bicyclist, and comedy writer.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.63.229.209] on February 06, 2008 10:19 PM
I did the same thing to my parents a few years ago. After about a one month learning curve, they were far more happy than they were with windows.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.169.195.237] on February 12, 2008 02:22 PM
Destroying Windows, 1 mom at a time

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Re: Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.14.222.187] on February 13, 2008 07:19 PM
Several years ago I received an old computer from my Dad. His office had delegated it to the closet since it ran so slow compared to newer machines. I'm still using it. The only changes I made were to add a larger hard drive, an old Creative Labs sound card I had laying around, an el cheapo TV card (the cheapest one I found a few years ago- Hauppage not sure of the model anymore; it just works perfect), and I replaced the CD drive a year or two ago when the original died. I left the original 10G HD in place and added a 70G hard drive out of a dead computer. Believe it or not, this very minimal system works perfectly. It is slow to start almost all applications, but once they are started, you really don't notice the difference. This computer was resurrected from the trash bin into a working and useful system.

Specs:
CPU: 500MHz Celeron
RAM: 128 M
Integrated Video; won't run Compiz, but drives a 20" CRT monitor wonderfully.

I was using it as a file server, but now it is used more for TV watching than anything else. It is too slow to record, but viewing is perfect.
I now get all the old computers and put linux on them and then donate them to people that can't afford new ones.

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novice

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.168.135.185] on March 08, 2008 11:52 PM
how do you load linux onto an old hp. it wont recognise the cd i put in.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.229.57.56] on February 06, 2008 10:42 PM
My sister and her boyfriend, and my sister's best friend, are all happy with the Kubuntu I installed on their respective machines. The Best Friend's daughter LOVES the penguin themed games (her favorite animal). They love the look and the stability.

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Penguin themed games

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.126.228.159] on February 07, 2008 12:44 PM
By any chance are you referring to TuxMath or TuxTyping? I'm currently the main dev for both, which were mostly dormant for a long time but are now being actively developed. There are much more current builds at the website (www.tux4kids.com) and in Debian's unstable and testing branches than in the most recent Ubuntu.

Cheers,
David Bruce

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 220.240.139.159] on February 07, 2008 12:25 AM
Excellent work there! Like you said though, to move the average Windows user over to it, it will need to have the same look and feel. The experience must be similar or it just won't work. It wasn't the OS that made your mother comfortable, it was all the work you put in to match what she already had. If 2008 is to be the year of Linux on the desktop, this is what needs to happen.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.102.227.18] on February 07, 2008 12:43 AM
I'd love to install meh some KDE, but I'm afraid of all the nasty things I've heard about it. I don't want to use the alpha right now.

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KDE 3 vs. KDE 4

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.240.235.122] on February 07, 2008 03:18 PM
"I don't want to use the alpha right now."

Don't use the alpha, then. Use KDE 3: it's mature and probably works a lot better than the whiz-bang new stuff. I can't see myself using KDE 4 until the developers concentrate on delivering a stable product for the masses.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.134.142.146] on February 07, 2008 12:57 AM
One also assumes you were using dsl/cable for internet. Probably a wired connection? Dial up is a pain to configure unless you have a hardware modem. Otherwise good story.

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Re: Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.19.101.234] on February 07, 2008 01:42 AM
Currently, using the AMR/CNR with the alsa driver works fine with the free version of slmodemd. I wrote the first post after yours. In the case of my mom machine, I used this setup until few months ago, when she subscribed an adsl. The unique deficiency I found is to not hear the dial and connexion noises.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.19.101.234] on February 07, 2008 01:33 AM
I already did it three years ago. By that time I installed the Conectiva 10, the first with the kernel 2.6. Last Christmas eve, I upgraded it to Fedora 8, both using KDE. I can't support a system using GNOME as I always used KDE. My mom is 75 years old and lives 500 milles from me. Her machine must be robust!

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Moving Sister over to Linux - Ubuntu is NOT ready for PRIME TIME yet...!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.69.85.120] on February 07, 2008 03:48 AM
Told her to buy a 1420n (this was early, before the price discounts), just after they went on sale for the 1st time.
She did that, and we loaded Automatix on and she was happy with the results.

When the upgrade came along to 7.10... I did that finally over Christmas during the family dinner (everyone comes from a long ways away to this and heck it gets pretty boring at my other sisters, as she has banned me from using her Windows computers because they got a virus just after I left once... and they blamed it on me (go figure with 4 kids using it going to all kinds of sites that I took a look at a history of), it was not I who did it, but she is the expert (always has been since we were kids that she knew everything and could never be wrong). So, I told my other sister to bring her laptop, as she wanted to do something to get some app or something, and I figured I would try the Ubuntu upgrade (the updates she had not been doing to a while first, then I did the upgrade). Finished the upgrade, and some things did not work right.

So - the other day I got it when visiting, brought it home (a few hours drive away)... and downloaded the Ubuntu 7.10 DVD from the Dell site (the Intel Graphics version), and instantly Compiz was not working? Checked here and there and discovered that Ubuntu 7.10 has problems with the Intel Graphics drivers or the chipset... REALLY with DELL in the picture and HUGE for them, I would figured that they would have had this FIXED before DELL released the 7.10 DVD for the 1420n? Also, Automatix seems to have less stuff... like no REAL PLAYER for example (and they have lumped together the Win32 codecs and the DVD non-free stuff, aka illegal in the US, into the same feature selection, that I would not select..). I would use the Win32 codecs as we have WIndows (retail version) that she owns and she has PAID for the use of those codecs already, so that I would like to have on her system... but she would not use the DVD player software (that I have learned that DELL is selling on every system since the 7.10 version came out anyway, but DELL has no way for a DELL Ubuntu customer to even BUY this DVD player software at all (very strange)?

The Mozilla browser with the DELL Ubuntu 7.10 DVD install, can not play any videos on the BBC News Site at all (viewing this site with the Opera Browser is NOT PROBLEM at all), and so once again, other than being a real RAM hog, it seems that Mozilla really does not have their act in place yet on having it easy to get the Real Player plug-in working either , and there is not .deb file for real player in the Ubuntu repositories for Real Player that I find really strange. Oh - once Real Plyer is installed, you gotta manually edit the about:config to get rtsp to be viewable as well? Come on folks, this is basic user stuff, if you want to rule the desktop this stuff just needs to WORK OUT OF THE BOX or be easy to install and enabled when you install the .deb files!!! And the help on the FORUM is all confused and I have been working for days to get the BBC news videos working to no avail... everything else is working (except of course the Ubuntu 7.10 problem with the Intel Graphics Chipset and driver so that you can't run Compiz... if you do get it going then you can't watch any videos it seems, and this is listed as an unfixed problem on the DELL user forum site).

Gwenview is in the Repositories (it is good that Kubuntu will be using it as the default graphics viewer this spring with the release of 8.4...), BUT with Ubuntu you still gotta hunt down the KIPI plugins in Synaptic Admin area, and KNOW as a newbie would NEVER know, that they were there in the first place... why the Ubuntu Gwenview deb does not put the Kipi plugins as a dependency is a mystery.

Oh - I tried to run that same laptop, in testing, on an external VGA projector and it just was not a good experience either. So, I took my old trusty Dell Latitude (really old) and used that instead with an older Ubuntu on it and that was ok except that I could not adjust the brighness to the external vga connector it seems).

So - Ubuntu still need work... I would figure that the Xorg stuff would be fixed before they started to play with Compiz, but that is the way with LINUX distros where the geeks like to play with the new stuff, before they have the old stuff running perfectly at all.

Hopefully, Ubuntu will address core issues that are talked about on all the forums, that need fixing really baddddly, before the LTS version this spring.

Oh - and their edubuntu stuff, really stinks at detecting graphics and needed resolutions on some older VGA LCD screens like the NEC LCD1545v (get nothing but an out of range error on several VGA LCD's other than that one too)! Very strange!

Ubuntu is not mature, and the Dell upgrade should have been seamless (so some geeks at Ubuntu really don't got the picture yet, that as the very least that they need the DELL hardware to be FULLY compatible with NO PROBLEMS before their mothers allow them outside to play with anything else. It they don't then they need to be sent to bed without supper!

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Re: Moving Sister over to Linux - Ubuntu is NOT ready for PRIME TIME yet...!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.240.235.122] on February 07, 2008 03:25 PM
Agreed that Ubuntu could focus on the basics a bit more, but by using Automatix you've effectively ensuring that "all bets are off", making a nonsense out of your "Ubuntu is not mature" claims, regardless of any element of truth there might be in them. See here for a critique of Automatix: http://mjg59.livejournal.com/77440.html

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Problems were BEFORE Automatix install... and there is a real problem with Intel Graphics on 1420n

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.69.85.120] on February 07, 2008 06:13 PM
All issues were indeed real. And the Automatix team is being written about as the Ubuntu folks are working closer with them these days. And so, with GoUbuntu in play, I don't see why Ubuntu is not doing what K12LTSP is doing... and putting the scripts in the ROOT home folder to install - real player, Flash, and a bunch more stuff... without having to hunt and peck to get this stuff loaded.

THere is not one Ubuntu Install help that I have followed that gets it all right. If you know of one, then point me to it, but test it yourself first.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.19.34.181] on February 07, 2008 04:18 AM
Best news: if she has problems, you can always just come up from the basement to help her!

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.6.6.10] on February 07, 2008 08:46 AM
I moved my sister over to Linux with a duel boot system, should have just wiped windows she hasn't used it since

I then moved some "mates" (you know the type that phone only when there computer stop working) over to Linux and the times I have to go fix stuff has all but dried to a trickle - all in all a lot less stressful if you are perceived as a helpful "expert"

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.69.122.10] on February 07, 2008 08:47 AM
Remove the vga=xxx statement from your mothers grub.conf to get text progress appear during fsck.
Somehow, usplash does not like non-text-mode consoles on some systems.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 145.18.246.26] on February 07, 2008 10:00 AM
Just in case you would want to install MS Core Fonts (maybe you already have):
http://ubuntu.wordpress.com/2005/09/09/installing-microsoft-fonts/

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.96.178.2] on February 07, 2008 12:48 PM
I'm 28 and both my father and my girlfriend are using Ubuntu and are happy with it. My father liked Ubuntu so much he even asked me to install it on his office PC.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: tomws on February 07, 2008 01:30 PM

...I now feel even more angry when I notice the familiar Windows interface running on a reception desk or in an office -- particularly in the case of nonprofit and government organisations who are spending someone else's money.



I'm betting it's the same there in the UK as here in the US: MS cuts prices significantly for non-profits and governments. In some cases, depending upon the organization, they can even get the software free or nearly free. This is, of course, an excellent way to lock customers in to an OS platform.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.215.105.194] on February 07, 2008 01:31 PM
I moved my mom and step dads computer to CentOS and my wife is on Ubuntu and I am using Fedora. I would never go back to Windows even if someone gave it to me.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.19.23.63] on February 07, 2008 01:36 PM
>On Windows, my mother had been using Winamp. I was keen to get her onto something oriented around a music >database, such as Rhythmbox, rather than force her to rely on manual file management.

Winamp 5.x has a music database (if you are using classic skins however, you must import the files from the library).

>One problem with Rhythmbox is that its import music feature doesn't copy files to a new location. Instead, it remembers >where they are. I consider this to be an example of inconsistent functionality, as all of the default GNOME applications >should work in the same way, if at all possible. As a result of this issue and the fact that the old FAT32 Windows >partitions are password-protected by default, after a reboot, music began to gradually disappear from the database. When >I manually copied the files across to the Linux partition and then imported them into Rhythmbox, things worked as >expected.

The only music program I've used that copies/moves files around is Amarok, but only if you ask it nicely.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.109.242.155] on February 07, 2008 01:39 PM
I have been experimenting with Xubuntu which I find has better speed than Gnome and is less intimidating than KDE. If I can get the same menu structure as GNOME I will be very happy.
Excellent article by the way.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.145.227.198] on February 07, 2008 03:21 PM
"Ubuntu tries to make the install process as straightforward as possible, but I had to remove support for IPv6 and reinstate IPv4 to complete the process."

Could you elaborate on why you "had to" remove support for IPv6. What was the problem?

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.44.219.58] on February 07, 2008 03:41 PM
I installed a dual boot on my sister in laws desktop 2 years ago using Mepis. (dual boot because her husband uses XP) but the children love the education programs on linux. for the dial up connection I picked up a used hardware modem for 3 dollars. Since that time the windows side won't even boot but the linux is still working fine.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.156.7.250] on February 07, 2008 04:52 PM
My 79 year old father has been using Linux (currently Fedora 6) for the last three years. What's the big deal? His needs are few and it just plan works for him. Recently he tried Vista on a friends new system - after about 15 minutes, he had his friend over to see "How a real computer should work".

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.192.83.83] on February 07, 2008 04:58 PM

I gave my mom a cheap PC and have settled on OpenSUSE for her. I just run updates every few months. Virtually no support issues at all. Took a look at gOS for her, but seems like an OS for kids. I offer Mac OS X or anything and she's more concerned with having to learn something new. She's getting along with Linux apps great.

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BLACK SCREEN with cursor during boot

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.172.251.37] on February 07, 2008 05:21 PM
"During start-up, the system occasionally likes to do a check of its filesystem. Unfortunately, during the check, the screen is blank, apart from a flashing cursor in the in corner. There should be some indication of what's going on, as it looks as though the computer has crashed during start-up."

No, it's a known problem in Ubuntu 7.10. You wrote:

"During boot-up and shutdown, Ubuntu selected a screen mode that resulted in the monitor shutting off. I've been able to resolve this by editing some GRUB configuration files."

I can only guess, but most probably you've added the "vga=" parameter to the kernel line in GRUB's menu.lst file. This results in an attempt to use the so-called framebuffer. Unfortunately in Ubuntu 7.10 all framefuffer drivers have been disabled (blacklisted) because of the interference with power management. Yes, it shouldn't happedned but it did.

You may want to follow a rather simple procedure to enable the "vesafb" framebuffer driver and get the "vga=" working as expected:
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/initramfs-tools/+bug/129910
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/initramfs-tools/+bug/129910/comments/283

You may also refer to my detailed guide on the Ubuntu forums:
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=622018

Good luck!

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Always good

Posted by: TK on February 07, 2008 05:26 PM
It's always good to see non-power users take to Linux. It flies in the face of detractors who say Linux is not ready for prime time. Yes, like you say, it has rough edges, but so does Windows (just look at the mess Vista is STILL in). Good stuff!

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.237.174.94] on February 07, 2008 06:39 PM
My kids and wife are certainly not power users. But we've been using MEPIS and Ubuntu for 90% of our computing for the last three years and no problems. The only thing we use windows for is playing back encrypted wma files from the public library.

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Filesystem check on startup? Do it on shutdown instead.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.110.137.65] on February 07, 2008 08:11 PM
Regarding your problems with filesystem checking on startup, you can use AutoFsck to do this on shutdown instead. (See https://wiki.ubuntu.com/AutoFsck/Doc)

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.238.250.152] on February 07, 2008 09:10 PM
Non-profits do sometimes get M$ stuff for free - the theatre I used to work for got almost $10K "worth" of XP/Office/etc a few years ago. Unfortunately, it works so badly on the donated Pentium IIIs that we're now looking at Ubuntu seriously for a summer switch!

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Something that's always annoyed me ...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 142.166.23.194] on February 07, 2008 09:25 PM
... in reviews about moving people to linux from Windows is the bit that always manages to creep in about how you "really need an experienced user to hold their hands for a while." Well seriously, name me ONE operating system that you could drop on ANYBODY for the first time and not need to do this very same thing!

Put Windows in front of someone who never used it before and see how they do. Put OSX in front of someone who's never used it before and see how they fare. Same with linux.

Now, in MY experience, you can put anyone who's had some computer experience and put them in front of any GUI-based OS and they will figure it out, eventually. When my in-laws visit, who can barely find their way around XP, which was a struggle after being Mac OS9 owners for years, they can use my linux desktop (KDE or Gnome ... I use both) with zero problems.

Needing to give guidance in using a new operating system is common to ANY OS switch, not just Win/Mac to linux.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.95.238.136] on February 08, 2008 12:33 AM
I tried this with my mother and I failed cause of only one thing: PowerPoint presentation. Making them and showing them. It sucks cause everybody learns about program like this: Click third button in second menu and than choose this and that and HERE you go.

Mothers have to be trained in logical thinking. No more Click this click that. Just ask:"What do you wanna do?"

For now I have given up with her but my female non-tech friend asked me if she could try this thingy (Ubuntu on my computer) on hers computer. I know there will be glitches but Im sure in succeses.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.231.75.188] on February 08, 2008 12:38 AM
I did the same for my wife and daughter. They took to ubuntu like a duck to water and it required no training. I have been watching linux distros for a number of years now and always thought that it was too messy, ulgy and complicated for all but a power user. I am so proud of the ubuntu team for finally getting it right. I have been using it for the last two versions and its been just great.

they finally got it right and I would install ubuntu and open office in any corporate environment without being afraid of being thrown out on my ear.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.202.88.241] on February 08, 2008 03:50 AM
It was easy moving my mother to Linux as her total experience with Windows would have added up to less than 24hrs. The ironic thing is that I had to install Linux on the laptop as wireless networking was too unstable in Windows.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.200.14.113] on February 08, 2008 05:29 PM
Already done this. Five years ago to Fedora, and when she moved to a laptop recently, it was a Dell with Ubuntu, and one very happy customer, as well as a happy support guy. Stuff works, it's reliable and the laptop was quite cheap.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.53.187.183] on February 08, 2008 06:24 PM
see here for solution to your blank boot-screen (read down a ways, not right at the top of the thread)

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Mothers Do Not Move Over To Linux Like This.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 130.76.64.17] on February 08, 2008 07:36 PM
The way most Moms would move over to Linux would be buying a new system with Linux pre-installed. The great majority of Windows users can't install Windows, so how do you expect Mom to install another operating system?

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 200.89.108.212] on February 08, 2008 10:58 PM
The truth is, I'm a little surprised by the simplicity of this article. I'm sure that almost all regular readers of linux.com would be able to write the exact same thing. Perhaps it is unfair, but articles like this are the reason why I generally do not refer to linux.com for linux news.

I hope the quality is turned up a notch and we can move past whether or not Ubuntu is suitable for our grandmothers and mothers.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Sid Boyce on February 09, 2008 10:20 PM
Been there, done that a number of times also, including an 80-year-old who never used a keyboard before. Had to show him what the keys did - backspace, space bar etc. He does all the usual stuff like wordprocessing, digital camera, listening to music, burning CD's/DVD's with music and photos, skype, IM, etc. His younger daughter has given up on her XP laptop and now uses her own account on his PC. The older daughter who also uses it when she visits has asked me to install Linux on her new Vista laptop. I also have a 68+ year-old newbie using Linux mostly for digital camera work and burning CD's/DVD's - can't get him to make his mind up about an ISP, all the ones he wants to use like Sky are not Linux friendly and I suspect he's unwilling to go to further expense as he's already paying Sky more than 40 UK pounds per month for TV.
The problem with the occasional fdisk on boot up, presuming it's ext3, "tune2fs -c -1 /dev/sda?" should fix that.
BTW the above and others are all on openSUSE 10.x and I also have one using SimplyMEPIS.

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Moving my mother over to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.103.30.73] on February 12, 2008 02:08 PM
I've done the same thing with my brother recently. He was (and still do in his job) using windows and had absolutely no experience with Linux. He even don't speak english so i installed Ubuntu in greek show him the menu for 5 minutes (he actually understood it himself) and off he went. After 3 months he just called me once because there was something flashing in the screen (the updates icon!!!) and he was afraid to click on it (bad windows experience). Installed the updates told him to do the same thing the next time he sees that icon and... end of story. He actually discovers things alone (like playing music, videos etc. Obviously he was and still is quite amazed by the fact that there is no AV software and no need for one. Moral of the story? if my brother can learn so quickly a new OS then i think everybody can. Of course i must add that i did the installation myself but then again i did the windows installation myself!

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Moving whole family to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.195.135.88] on February 15, 2008 05:16 PM
Seven years ago, I weaned my wife and offspring off windows. we started with older red hat editions with dual boot configs. At first, the gaps were apparent between polished windows apps and fledging desktop equivalents.

The main thing to preserve was emails. Evolution worked well on Red Hat, Fedora Core 5,6,7. Now we're running Ubuntu.
The last thing I did was to create partitions ... one for boot, one for root, one for swap, and the remainder of the disk for /home

Next time, when I leave a major distro, I won't have to worry so much about moving the data off the disks and putting it back on.
The kids got Mac laptops in middle school for a year, so they got another innoculation from the Windows world. Now they're able to function without Windows quite handily. It's only my son who dual boots Ubuntu and XP... to play his video games.

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