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Moms Go Linux, And Other Windependence Winners 410

An anonymous reader writes "There's an entertaining article over at entitled "Why Aren't All Our Moms Running Linux?", one of the winners of their recent wIndependence Day essay contest. From the introduction: 'Why aren't all our moms running Linux? This is a serious question, so don't laugh. I used to get phone calls about once a week, on average; it's my mom, telling me that "my computer is running out of virtual memory" or "my email keeps beeping at me" or "I can't read this document" or (the best one) "my computer is *broken*." I knew that, at the time, she was of course not running Linux. Then, one day, listening to yet another complaint, it hit me. Why aren't all our moms running Linux on their computers?" Maybe it's the cuddly Penguin logo? ;-)" They're adding the winning entries to the site week by week - I wonder how many are from Slashdot readers.
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Moms Go Linux, And Other Windependence Winners

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  • Hoyle card and board games...

    Linux needs a super scrabble game then we'll get all the moms.
    • it's a funny comment, but it's (sadly) damned true too. There are still quite a few apps out there that are not supported under Linux. So, until this changes, why doesn't my mom run linux is an argument that can't be won. And yes, I know, there are many different apps out there that will do what she wants, but it isn't the *One* (in this case Hoyle) that she wants.

    • On another forum someone made a good point about finding edutainment for his preschool age children. I think it's both the greatest strength and weakness that Linux will always be strongest in the areas of interest to we developers. I know the idea of building the next big scrabble game appeals far less to me than the next big dungeon crawl.

      My solution, get Tux his own sing along coding cd. From what I've seen of friends with kids, their offspring will have listened to the thing so many times the parents will be singing "a is for array", hacking the kernel, and writing scrabble games before we know it.
    • Board games [] under Linux work, so that's one less reason.
  • by Quicksilver31337 ( 541929 ) <`kariudo' `at' `'> on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:05PM (#3879394) Journal
    My mom all of a sudden asked why her computer was running better than usual and looked cooler, when I went to investigate i discovered that i had left it booted in Linux rather then windows.
  • Mom and the Penguin (Score:4, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:12PM (#3879417)
    Maybe it's the cuddly Penguin logo?

    Boy this makes no sense! I find Linux to have a steep learning curve, and I've been using computers since the 60's. Yes, I finally got mom on a computer, but there is no way I could support her on Linux.

    But the big issue is why in the world does this story have a megaphone icon rather than the cuddly Penguin logo?

    • That's the thing. It's more about what you're comfortable with, not your (steriotypical) mother. The last version of Windows I used regularly was Win95, so there's no way I can support somebody using Win2k/XP.

      So you set her up with whatever you think you can support and she won't notice the difference.

    • by Znork ( 31774 )
      In my experience the 'support' factor goes down when installing Linux for them. If she's used to Word, Excel, email and web browsing she'll do just fine with a modern Linux.

      Set it up, tell her not to login as root, fix her up with a good desktop config for what she wants to do, and an easy way to restore the config to default, and she just cant mess it up (which is a factor that makes 'mom' types more comfortable with their computers, in my experience).

      You'll probably get a few calls after powerdowns about fsck and such, but ext3 usually handles it without any manual recovery (and you could probably hack the initscripts to blaze through an fsck -y anyway).

      For a novice desktop user there is no steep learning curve. It's not until you get to 'power-windows-user' that you get a more serious learning curve.
  • by $carab ( 464226 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:14PM (#3879424) Journal
    As a Linux user wanting to spread The Word, I tried to get my parents interested in Linux and Open Source Software. I showed them Mandrake [] - all the cute little icons and the cool games and screensavers. Since they dont do much other than web-surfing (mainly reading email thru a web interface), it seemed like a natural choice.

    Then, I made the mistake of showing my mother a Gentoo Linux [] install - a screenfull of bizzare and verbose gcc flags scrolling across a text console. She became frightened and intimidated. I tried to explain to her that all I did was type 2 words, "emerge gnome", and that it was nothing to be scared of - and I tried to explain the process. Now, shes afraid to try Linux - and everyone I try to recommend Linux to gets scared off by her proclamations of how "difficult" it is.

    *sigh* Oh well.....who was it that said "GUIs are like diapers - everyone grows out of them eventually".
    • Show her DOS. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dadragon ( 177695 )
      If she's running Windows {3.1, 95, 98, ME} then show her a DOS window or put her into dos by hitting F8 when it starts up.

      Then show her Linux. Let her decide which is easier.
    • Sounds a bit like a troll to me...

      I suppose though, some people are scared by techy stuff. I'm fortunate in that my mother, severely non-technical as she is, isn't afraid to play about with stuff and see how it works. I was terribly impressed when she sorted her neighbour's car, with a little prompting over the phone. And she changed out the hard drive in her PC at home by herself, too. Not bad really.

    • It only took four calls to get that installed. And now that he has MS Flight Combat Simulator, all hope of installing Linux on my parents' overpowered machine have gone up with the proverbial blue smoke.
    • wow, it seems that most of the home users out there are, in fact, your mom. it always amazes me how computers are "scary" - what's it gonna do, eat you?

      at some point it will probably become obvious that, just like everything else, a computer is something you have to learn to use, regardless of how great the UI is. And I know that UIs - all UIs - have a long way to go in the useability and intuitiveness departments.

      Seriously, people don't expect to immediately be good at driving, cooking, sex, or playing a musical instrument; but somehow you are supposed to be able to use a computer the first time you plop down in front of it, and if not - it's the developers' fault.

    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @08:24AM (#3881064)
      This is a fairly common mistake that annoys me a bit. There are a lot of linux/unix people who pop up an xterm and show people how to do things. Yes, that's the easiest way to do it, it's the fastest way to do it, vi and bash are rarely broken and you can back out of the changes because you know what changes you made. That's how I do it. That's probably how you do it. And for anyone doing it every day on dozens of machines it's the most natural thing in the world.

      But that's _not_ how to show newbies how to do it.

      Never, _ever_ pop up an xterm while demoing. Use the GUI tools. These days they can do pretty much everything a newbie needs to do and they're not intimidating in the same way.
    • Mistake! Mistake! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Balinares ( 316703 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @09:08AM (#3881124)
      Never ever show Gentoo/Slackware/Debian to your family and tell them "That's Linux".

      From their point of view (it's very important to try to see things from their point of view), that 'Linux' thing is like Windows: one single thing, set in stone. It is not obvious to them that there as many kinds of Linux as there are types of needs to fulfill.

      If you're gonna evangelize your family, FIRST tell them that your Linux is geeky because you wanted it so, but that if you were to install them a Linux of their own on their computer, you'd choose an easy-to-use version. Success stories with, say, Mandrake, abound: I switched my girlfriend from Windows to Mandrake and she's very happy with it.
      Do NOT try to convince them to use your Slackware/Gentoo/Debian. You'll scare them off.

      On the other hand, it can go a long way if you make them an account on your machine, add plenty of links on the desktop so that they never have so see a command-line, and then let them play around with KDE, PySol (a *great* solitaire game that many moms seem to love), Konqueror (or Mozilla, or Opera), Open Office, etc. It also helps to use the Redmond theme at the beginning, so that they feel 'at home'. Also be sure to tell them that the system is secure, and they CAN'T mess it up even if they tried to. You can even try to explain them the concept of privilege separation, if you feel able to put it in simple words.

      It worked pretty fine for me. My family knows that 1) my computer is geeky because I wanted it so, but Linux is much more versatile than that; 2) The desktop (KDE) is pretty fine and sleek, and easy to use; and 3) There are lotsa nice apps.

      Result: my dad is gonna get a new computer soon, and he told me he wants to remove the mandatory preinstalled XP, and put a 98 (that's what he's used to) AND a Linux.

      This said, there's still a major usability issue with Linux, the way I see it: there's still no easy way to install new software. When my girlfriend wanted to install the Psi instant manager, I couldn't get her to install it herself. It was too complicated to hunt for the right lib RPMs and everything.

      We must design a non-centralized, click-and-install way to package Linux software. And no, RPM doesn't cut it: if you try to install some stuff that wasn't packaged for your distro, or you don't have the right lib installed, or whatever, it'll often fail. Portage and apt-get don't cut it either: they're centralized things, and there's thus no easy way for the amateur software developper to, say, offer his software for download on his Web page. Well, you can put .deb files for download, but then you'll still be stuck with the dependancy problem.

      I've started working on it, but it's an extremely tricky problem, because, due to the nature of Linux, we can make no assumption about what libs are installed. Anyone wants to contribute ideas?
  • I put Mandrake on my grandmas a while ago. It works great for her needs...web, e-mail, word processing, printer support, and a load of games that come with kde/gnome/etc that are great for the kids when they come over...
  • by oGMo ( 379 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:15PM (#3879428)

    I set up a box for my mom to use. She's a teacher, she types papers, prints them out; occasionally browses the web; and checks email about once a week (now that she can). The box runs Linux.

    For awhile, I had her running KDE [], but the box was as Celery 400 or so with 128MB of RAM, and KDE 2.x is a dog for performance. So I switched her over to ROX [] (RiscOS On X) and sawfish [] with a pretty theme (much like one I use []).

    She has icons for printing, trash, logging in, and OpenOffice [], in addition to folders for her documents and public_html (which I explained to her was the place to put documents she wanted to share, so my Windows-using dad had a way to get at them). It works great. She loves it. I can modify it remotely. It doesn't break. It runs Linux.

  • After all, what do moms like to do more than decorate, re-decorate, un-decorate, and re-decorate again their houses? Then there's the endless re-organizing, bed-making, cloth-folding, cloth-ironing, vacuuming, etc etc etc.

    It makes perfect sense that moms would like Linux. After, what other OS can they re-decorate the GUI as much in? What other OS could they order and re-order things in so much?
  • by thesolo ( 131008 ) <> on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:24PM (#3879450) Homepage
    I decided a little while ago that I was tired of calls from my mom (and my sisters) with Windows problems, so I backed up their stuff, and gave them all Linux instead. SuSE 8.0 with KDE3.

    I started off with the Redmond theme & window decorations, so that they would at least feel a little comfortable. I removed the Console from the kicker, and put up a minimum icon set on the Desktop:
    • Web Browser (Mozilla)
    • Word Processor (
    • Spreadsheets (again, OpenOffice)
    • MineSweeper (Kmine)
    • Email (KMail or Evolution, my one sister is used to MS Outlook from Work).
    • Folder link to their documents.
    • XMMS.

    I taught them how to log in, and they were pretty much set from there. They had access to everything they needed on the desktop, and had no problem figuring it out. Since I configured everything for them, they didn't have to worry about the guts of the OS, and since they really only browse the web and check email, they don't need to install software or anything else. Eventually I moved their window decorations away from the Redmond theme, so that they wouldn't confuse it for Windows; I still think it was a good beginner decision though.

    Basically it came down to me asking "Why DO they need Windows?" one night, when my one sister asked me if she should buy XP. First I shuddered at the thought of her using XP, then I realized she really doesn't NEED it! And when I told her that her own copy of SuSE 8.0 would only cost $40, she was thrilled. (Yes, I had her buy a copy, I wanted to support SuSE. Besides, they each liked the idea of having a manual just in case). Let's face it though, for a lot of people, Linux does exactly what they need it to do. We just need to make it even easier so that they can set it up for themselves. And we as a community are getting there.

    In the mean time, give your Mom Linux, and save yourself and her a headache :)
    • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Sunday July 14, 2002 @05:21AM (#3880810)
      Sad thing is, when your mom and sisters decide they want to do more with their computer than you have set up for them, you're going to get called again. They're not going to be able to go to the store and buy the progs or games they want.

      I'm not shooting down what you said in your post. I'm just saying that there is a big limitation to that strategy that others should consider. Of course, I wish you luck.
  • Actually, his article makes sense. Linux does make sense for the user who can't do anything other than basic office tasks on their computer, as well as for the serious computer professional. The real hurdles to linux on the desktop are the modestly proficient users (such as myself). We can install and remove programs, update drivers, and do basic to advanced hardware ugrades. What we are *not* is programmers or IT guys/gals.

    The biggest problem for linux among this group is the loss of power/control on switching over to linux. I tried Suse 8.0 w/ KDE 3.0 in the last half of June. While I could do basic office tasks, it was unnerving not knowing exactly what was going on with my OS -- yes I read the books, yes I'm smart, but I'm not a programmer/IT professional. Tried to install Mozilla and spent two hours feeling like a total tool. In the end, having to run to or some other site anytime I wanted to do something other than word process or surf got to me. I backed-up the handful of documents I'd created, reformatted, and went back to 98se.

    Not sure what the solution is. But that's my two cents on the problem.
  • by oliphaunt ( 124016 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:32PM (#3879478) Homepage
    'Why aren't all our moms running Linux? This is a serious question, so don't laugh.

    MY mom isn't running linux because she doesn't trust me to put my shoes on the right feet, much less to set up an OS on her computer.

    Me: can i use your computer to check my email?
    my Mom: It's not a toy. Don't break anything. Did you clean your room like i asked you to?

  • Cliche time (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cheetah86 ( 136854 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:33PM (#3879486) Homepage
    Soon everyone and their mother will be using linux...
  • Without AOL client software, a lot of moms (and dads for that matter) aren't going to be able to get online. Many many people use AOL as their ISP, and switching to Linux would require switching this too. Hell, one of my friends doesn't use them as an ISP (they have a Cable connection) but he says his parents insist on firing up AOL anyways to use as a web browser!
  • I want you all to know that my mom DOES use linux. I setup the sytstem for her, and she doesn't have much of a choice ;)

    I don't think she has any issues with it particularly related to linux either. All she does is use Mozilla and OpenOffice, so the differences are minimal. Except for the crashing. None of that.
  • by m0nkyman ( 7101 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @09:47PM (#3879515) Homepage Journal
    would you prefer to have a two hour telephone support call from your mom, or a 10 minute SSH session to fix your mom's computer long distance. ask yourself that question before you ask yourself why your Mom is using Windows.
    • Neither!

      I'd prefer to install Windows XP on my mom's computer and use Remote Assistance to show her how I fix the problem so that she can do it herself next time. Remote Desktop Connection, and Remote Assistance make the latest versions of Windows much easier to support from a distance than Linux and they seem to be as stable as linux.

      My parents currently run about 50 programs that are not available on Linux. Even if they were available, they use windows at work so it dosen't make sense for them to switch operating systems and applications all of the time.

      I still have linux and bsd boxen around, but I have switched *back* to windows after being a unix and OS/2 die hard since suffering from windows 95's crashes.
    • Have you heard of WinVNC? A lot more useful when dealing with GUI's, because you can see exactly what the remote monitor is showing. I arranged some perl bits on her machine to A) relay her current IP (she has cable/dhcp) to me, and B) launch the vncserver. Then I can connect and fix her problem. :)

  • My parents called me up a few months ago and asked me to find a new computer for them - their old Pentium 100 running Win95 finally died.

    I told them that I could put together a system for them, but that it would not include Windows and they seemed to be open to that idea. Basically all they need to do is email, web surfing and some word processing so I figured that Linux was ready.

    I put Lycoris on their new box and delivered it to them a month ago - so far it's working fine for them.

    Now, of course they want to hook up their digital camera and an all-in-one scanner/printer, so there could be some challenges ahead.

    However, if your computer-challenged parent just needs to connect to the net, send email, surf and do some simple word processing, I don't see why they can't use Linux at this point.

    --don't panic
    • As is mine (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FreeUser ( 11483 )
      Now, of course they want to hook up their digital camera and an all-in-one scanner/printer, so there could be some challenges ahead.

      Their scanner may or may not work, but their digital camera should be just fine. It is important that they know not to go buying hardware until they are certain it works with Linux...they wouldn't buy a Mac scanner and expect it to work with windows (indeed, they wouldn't by an older, used scanner and expect it to work with the current crop of windows XP would they ... one thing about Free Software is that 5 year old peripheral will still be supported, years after Microsoft has dumped all support of it on their OS).


      Also, if you find they want to hook up an ieee1394 video camera, that will work as well (ieee1384 drivers, dvgrab or, better yet, kino).

      My mom is also running GNU/Linux (and loves it ... in fact she has come to detest her Windows box at work). She uses openoffice, mozilla, kmail, xmms, and isn't afraind to type a few commands I wrote down for her at the command line when she wants to watch a movie using mplayer.

      Most of our parents who dealt with computers at all prior to 1995 had to contend with DOS at one time or another, so if they are made aware that the occasional criptic command is available if they need it (but not required if they prefer using a GUI), and you're willing to sit down with them, show them how it works, and write down the command they need to use, all but the illiterate of the illiterate will be fairly comfortable with that.

      Add to that the lack of worms, viruses, crashes, and unpredictable, erratic behavior that so plagues microsoft platforms and you end up with a very happy camper indeed.

      Being able to fix any issues in 5 minutes via an ssh link, rather than spending an hour on the phone talking them through a cranky winddows gui to fix their video (or whatever) doesn't hurt either. In fact, I haven't had a call for help in almost a year...because her system just plains works, day in and day out.
  • "...So, I am here to finally tell the moms of the world: you can trash the default operating system, replace it with Linux, and have the full power and reach of your computer, finally, in your hands..."

    But this is a bad thing. Many people don't want "the full power and reach of your computer". They want to email their friends, surf the web, do a little word processing, play MP3s, take the red-eye out of their digital photos. Giving them the full power of the computer doesn't give them any of this. They want a machine that does a few things well, not one that makes eveything possible.

    These applications are of course made possible because underneath is the full power of the computer. But most users only care about a few specific applications. Linux is a very, very good OS if you care about accessing the core features of the computer; having real control over it. It isn't (yet) the best choice if you want to do just a few things well, partly because it doesn't yet have the range of applications and partly because it still doesn't have a consumer UI.

    A consumer UI is not just about how easy it is to do some things (some of the Linux desktops like KDE are getting closer to this goal). Its also about not being able to do some things. A good consumer OS should do a lot of the underlying information management that Linux exposes. Consumers don't want to have to understand the implications of - for example - a UNIX-style filesystem layout in order to get their work done.

  • If your Mom runs, say, Windows 98, what happens when she needs something fixed? She calls you. You drive over to her house. You muck about with your computer while she asks you when you're finally going to graduate from college or how long it's going to be until she has grandkids.

    A Linux install and SSH saves both of you time and effort. For example:

    Mom: "Something's wrong. I got an instant message link in my e-mail and it won't work."

    You (typing in background): "Got it. It's already fixed!"

    Mom: "So when are you --"

    You: "Oops! Pizza's here gottago loveya bye!"

    I'm gonna get my Mom using Linux this year.
    • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @10:30PM (#3879631) Homepage
      A Linux install and SSH saves both of you time and effort. For example:

      You: ok mom. i need you to bring up a shell so i can grab your IP.

      Mom: a what? mean like that C:> prompt?

      You: yeah mom. just click...etc.

      Mom: is that a right click? where am i clicking again? oh..on the icon down at the bottom? Which mouse button should I use?

      ...two hours later...

      You: ok. now that you have a terminal up. i need you to type in ifconfig.

      Mom: what's "effconfig?" should I be typing that by the squiggly line? here. lemme...oops. i clicked on something else. hang on....(hand to phone) It's in the cabinet, dear. No, the other side! I'll HELP YOU IN A MINUTE!! I'M ON THE PHONE!!! (phone back to ear)...ok. now what did you need me to type?

      You: ifconfig. I-F-C-O-N-F-I-G.

      Mom: ok...what was after that first I?

      You: F

      Mom: ok...F. oh poo! I just typed a G. how do i cancel this? oh wait..wait...hey. what's this uppy arrow plus H mean?

      You: (your mom hears the sound of a gunshot)

      Mom: honey? honey, are you there? what about my email? honey?
      • You: Okay, mom, click on that picture I showed you

        Mom: Okay, a number came up

        You: Can you read it to me?

        Mom: 122 period 123 period 124 period 125

        Doesn't everyone know of a web page that shows you your IP? Alternatively, if you run a web server, you can just check the log file.

        For the PHP challenged:

        $ip= getenv("REMOTE_ADDR"); echo "$ip";

      • /sbin/ifconfig|grep "inet addr">/tmp/ipoutput
        gdialog --textbox /tmp/ipoutput 5 70
        rm /tmp/ipoutput

        # End of script

        Then you say "Mom just read what it says on the screen......"

        Of course if her problem is getting online in the first place then this will be less than helpful. Be sure you set that up correctly!

        Oh yeah, install gdialog while you're at it.

        I know; I know; it's very quick and verrrry dirty but I'm not going to play with sed to make it look pretty just so I get an extra karma point. :-)

        ps. The lameness filter screws it up if I put in the #!/bin/bash like I'm supposed to. Grrrrr!
        • Why even do that much?

          Use one of those nice temp dns services, and you just ssh to or something like that. Check out and see what they offer.

          Set up a script on the linux box that updates the dyndns entry every time it connects, and you don't even have to ask mom to read anything off the screen. And you don't ahve to worry about your own typos when she reads the numbers out either.
  • Situation: Mom needed computer w/net access. Mac would have been nice as that's what she's always used and knows. But the only Macs I had were 68040 based machines. Problem: Mom uses AOL (arrgh), and AOL's webmail client (which she likes, don't ask me why) uses funky java stuff which the old Mac OS browsers can't handle. Solution: Mom got an old Toshiba PII/166 laptop running Mandrake. I set it up to boot directly into the GUI (Gnome), dial PacBell, launch Netscape, and open the AOL webmail page. On the lower tool bar is a plunger icon-pressing it shuts down the machine. That's all the thing does, and she just barely manages to use it. Most recent problem: Netscape froze up, for whatever reason. Her solution: unplug computer, close lid. 2 days later she calls, "it's stuck, and every time I turn it back on it's still on the same page! What do I do?" What happened-everytime she closed the lid it happily went into sleep mode, and conserved battery power... Concepts such as cntrl-alt-backspace or cntrl-alt-delete are WAY too dificult for her, let alone opening a terminal window, finding the Netscape process, and a nice kill -9.
  • I've been using Linux since 1991. I've written device drivers under linux and I've adminstered mission critical and e-commerce system based on linux machines. I also have a doctoral degree in computer science...

    and even *I* don't feel like using linux anymore.

    Your answer boils down to a single, simple answer... Linux is far too complicated.

    Oh don't believe me? here's my list of top pet peeves...

    1. APM support never became fully function or free of administration issues so lets not even talk about ACPI functionality. So all of you with laptops probably have at least as many suspend/power management problems as I have.
    2. I find the configuration and implementation of linux's network interface a complicated and bug ridden process. For instance why after coming out of suspend does my wireless MiniPCI interface not come back up until I restart the PCMCIA subsystem?
    3. hardware support... HAHAHAHAHA! try building in kernel support for just about anything. Look at the "help" and all you will find is tons, and tons, and tons of options or caveats all different depending on your hardware. You'll find lots of links to "if you want this you will also need to get tools from yada.yada.yada...". And this is even assuming you *know* what hardware you actually have. "Some laptops have buggy BIOS. enable this if you laptop crashes instead of suspending". That's great advice. Which laptops have this problem; exactly? And, even if you know, the thought of "crashing" isn't going to induce any positive perspectives of linux anytime soon.
    If you give me enough time I can certainly come up with an almost endless list and I haven't even begun to touch upon topics such as lack of marketing presence or issues concerning the horrible integration of highly disjointed projects. (How many sound "architectures" do we have, at least two. How many printing systems? how many pcmcia projects? How many web browsers?) I'll agree to arguments that each project has its benefits but your mother won't care. Even I'm past caring. I'm more interested in something that works with out consuming hours of my week adminstering the machine's operating system.

    It boils down to this... I buy a machine and I can put Windows XP on it and it takes me a *total* of two hours after which *everything* on the machine functions and I didn't have to know or choose any options at all. I can choose from a selection of thousands of fully functional software application and all the latest games and entertainment.

    If I put linux on the machine it takes me three months to get the MiniPCI wireless network card working at all and after half a year I still don't have support for the modem in the machine [Dell Inspiron 4100].

    I figure this post will generate all sorts of "ACPI does work if you do..." or "your PCMCIA doesn't come up because this script on your machine is broken..." or "It works on my machine." But this will only prove my point...

    Answer: Your mother doesn't use linux because its too complicated.

  • for the same reason most people aren't running linux...

    AOL hasn't put out an instructional video on how to run it.

    Laugh or call me a troll all you want, but the there's really no one to teach it to them (at simple fact of the matter is that most moms aren't going to get off their duffs and use linux because they don't want to have to learn it, and least not hold their hands all the way through it).

    For a lot of linux users, the computer is the means and the end. The same can't be said for our mammas.
    • is the day i pack them off to the local Lizard Ranch (aka retirement home). I despise AOL with a passion. Between the credit card fraud they inflict on their customers (aka billing after an account is canceled), their cynical marketing of AOL as a child safe isp when in fact AOL is the one of the largest child molester in existance. Any self respecting geek should forbid family members from using AOL.
  • My plan is: Each time my mom calls with a tech question for her PC, I time the call, and ask her to put $(minutes) into a cookie jar. When she has $1300, I'll tell her to use it to get an LCD iMac.
  • by mlas ( 165698 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @10:30PM (#3879632) Homepage
    The original essay cited above ends with our protagonist having installed Debian for his Mom. I say, so what?

    If you want some real insight into why Mom isn't using Linux, first of all he should have made Mom do the install. He says:

    I felt like a chicken pecking my way through all the defaults until I finally had all the packages copied over (took about twenty minutes of installing to get to the point of a login prompt). A few more commands brought down security updates, the X Window System, as well as a few applications I knew my mom would need.

    Twenty minutes? How long would it have taken Mom? Pecking chicken? How many of those "pecks" were to answer arcane config questions that Mom wouldn't know the answer to? Command prompt? Please.

    This right here is the first reason Mom isn't using Linux.

    And even granting him that Mom might be happy on the new OS, I need to hear about her experiences in the new environment to have any opinion. Did she get any strange error messages? What happens when her friends give her programs she can't use? Can she find online help written in plain language to solve her own problems? (even today, these are questions that should be asked of any OS.) For a pro-Mom-on-Linux article, so strange that it ended without Mom using Linux! I hope there's a follow-up I'm missing, because that would contain the real answers to the title's question.
  • More likely your mother is "complaining" about her computer just to spend time with her son/daughter. And using your abilities as a technical guru as a way to breach conversations and contact with you. I know plenty of parents that do that.

    While it's great to think your mom will stop calling when they get Linux on their machine, that will never happen. They'll just think of something else to call you about. You can't get rid of mothers, they love you.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) <ememalb@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday July 13, 2002 @10:30PM (#3879636) Homepage Journal
    So far I have read about 40 comments saying:

    "My Mom *does* run linux....cause I set it up for her."

    Exactly. She didn't do it, you did. And until that changes, the why doesn't my mom run linux argument won't change either.

    remember, this is a tech site, so of course your mom might run linux, if she is tech savvy or has a son or daughter that is and sets it up for them. Can you say that the majority of moms out there have tech savvy children? Probably not, and 's the issue.
    • by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Saturday July 13, 2002 @10:42PM (#3879667) Homepage Journal

      "My Mom *does* run linux....cause I set it up for her."

      Do you prefer:

      "My Mom runs Windows... because the manufacturer set it up for her."

      I mean, that's the only real difference here, that one OS comes pre-installed by the manufacturers, and one OS comes pre-installed by the kin.

      To Mom, it's the same. It's not like Mom sat there flawlessly installing Windows XP or what have you.

      So if you're willing to put in Linux, go for it.

      (My Mom ran Windows, and had to reinstall, and just accepted that, after the reinstall, her printer and modem wouldn't work right. So I don't see "had to install" as a good step for any beginner!)
    • Bogus augument.

      I had to set up windows for her too. Hell I had to reinstall windows on many many friends computers too.

      Oh and my dad took his laptop to best buy and had them install XP for him.

      Normal people dont install windows, I guess windows is not ready for the desktop. :-)
    • And Moms that run Windows also installed/configured it? I think not. I think my mom's head would explode if I asked her to figure out fdisk...
    • by oGMo ( 379 )
      Exactly. She didn't do it, you did. And until that changes, the why doesn't my mom run linux argument won't change either.

      You assume that she would be using a computer at all if I hadn't set one up for her. She only uses it because I made it do exactly what she wants, and she has someone to complain to when it stops doing what she wants. If I'm the one setting it up anyway, why should I use anything else? I'm sure that goes for lots of people here.

      I know plenty of families who also go out, buy a computer, and use it as an expensive paperweight, simply because they don't really know how to use it or make it work for them. If I set up Linux for these people, does it "not count" because they didn't set it up?

      Can you say that the majority of moms out there have tech savvy children? Probably not, and 's the issue.

      OK, first the issue was that I was tech-savvy, now the issue is that lots of people aren't?

      In any case, people should be tech savvy. Hello, you're all living in a technological world, and it's just going to keep getting more technological (barring natural disaster or war). Ignorance is not OK, folks. Just because you don't know how do use a computer doesn't mean you can't learn. It especially does not mean that you shouldn't have to learn.

    • Can you say that the majority of moms out there have tech savvy children?

      Probably, kids are the ones that don't seem to have too much trouble with these obtuse, convoluted, mysterious and completely impossible to make any sense of, computer thingies.

  • by yorgasor ( 109984 ) <> on Saturday July 13, 2002 @10:39PM (#3879656) Homepage
    My mom is probably the least computer inclined person I've ever met. I have to tell her over and over how to do things, explaining them as simply as I possibly can. She doesn't deal well with change. I started her with a dual-boot system using mandrake, and she really liked all the games that came with it.

    Then around Christmas, she got some nasty virus and I had to reload her system. This time I decided she wasn't going to get any more virii, so I installed linux as the primary OS, and installed win4lin that she could use within linux as a crutch if she needed one. She previously did all of her email from netscape 4, so it was easy to switch her to netscape 6 on linux. I frequently evangelize all the benefits of linux, and warn her of the nasty things MS is trying to do to their customers, this helps keep the positive idea of her running linux.

    The funny thing is, she's had a lot fewer problems now. Her computer works more consistantly, and I haven't gotten a call for help for months. It was a little rocky at first as she tried to adapt to the changes, but I was able to log in remotely to inspect her system and diagnose any problems. Try doing that with Windows.

    All in all, she's quite happy with her system. She can use all the programs she's used to, her computer is a lot more stable, and she doesn't have to worry about virii.

  • Remote support (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alien Being ( 18488 )
    When my friend told me he was ready to get his first computer (he's 50), I set him up with Windows. I'm heavily biased towards *nix, but at the time, we were interested in an online racing game that was Windows only. Vnc for windows came in real handy for showing him how to navigate usenet, manage email, etc.

    After about 10 months, his computer was infected with spyware, broken media players, fubar registry entries and the like.

    I reinstalled his Windows, added Mandrake 8.2 and showed him the ropes via x0rfbserver the same way i had done with Windows. No big deal. He had Windows. Now he's got both. He uses Linux.

    Without the remote desktop function it would have been a nightmare to give good instructions for either OS.

  • It helps that she and her partner live in the same house, of course, but almost all the support queries come when he reboots into Windows 3.1 (to run WordPerfect for a book he's finishing off).

    They use Mozilla for both web browsing and email, and AbiWord for simple word-processing. That all runs just fast enough with GNOME, on an old 166Mhz Cyrix box with 64MB of memory. This setup does 95% of what they want, and if I can get the printer working it will probably be 98%.


  • My mom uses linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jjshoe ( 410772 )
    My mom learned how to use linux much like the way many people learned how to swim.

    someone threw me into the pool, and it was either swim, or sink. and since im still here typing...

    the point is my father did his bi weekly toast of windows and never botherd to put it back on. he runs redhat 7.2 on his dual proccesor p3 machine. he's got 10 uw-scsi2 drives in a software raid.

    do you want to guess who 'breaks' the machine more? my mother or my father? same person as always, my father, the unix systems administration man. now i know there are some key differences but still....

    my mother checks her email(netscape 6.2) she helps us kids with our resumes (soffice 5.2) she does powerpoint presentations (soffice again) she prints with the hp printer(812). browses the web with a cable connection quite efficently. my mother is by no means a pro. i dont think she (even if she had permission to) could install an rpm not to mention she NEVER touches the console.(before i forget she uses gnome)

    the two big things that stick out in my mind.. the only time she has a problem is when the cable service cuts out.. (cable co problem) and she has never, ever said "Linux doesnt work for me because it doesnt look as pretty as windows"

    linux works for my mother and thats all she cares about.

    enough cop outs about the way it looks, most old people care about functionality, they want to do this this and this, they dont care how, as long as its simple and stable. My father just happens to have it setup that way.

    so all your windows users are going ha! she has to have it setup this way! now how many of your parents and grandparents ask you to show them how to do this that and the other thing? all of them! so why not just make the process more stable?

  • In fact, my entire family "runs" Linux, because I maintain the machines. The computers in my house also run Windows partitions, but they are expendable and when they break, I fix them when I get a round tuit -- which usually takes a few weeks. My family doesn't seem to care too much, because they use Linux for all the important stuff anyway.

    The trick to having your mom run Linux is to maintain her machine yourself. Of course, it depends on what your mom wants to run. My family isn't really big on the popular computer games, so CrossOver [] covers almost all of our Windows needs anyway. YRMV.

    • I told my wife: "Windows is something they torture me with at work and I'm not putting up with it here. You want Windows? That's fine but when it breaks I'm not fixing it." To her credit, she is intelligent enough to grasp the concept of things like "spyware", "EULA", "copy prevention" and be offended by them. It really wasn't a hard sell. We run Debian now.

      She complained about the spams we've been getting lately so I added Spamassassin to the machine. That won a few points for me too.
  • What kind of a dumb question is this? If your mom claims her computer is 'broken' on a Windows machine, how do you think she's going to understand the more complicated world of Linux?
    • When it breaks, she won't be fixing it in either case. Since we're knowledgable and will be setting it up for them then lets opt for the system that may well be harder to set up but breaks less once it is.
  • on iBooks and WLAN, no string attached, and the base station do ADSL to the ISP. Though sometimes apps do suddenly quit themselves, the iBooks were never rebooted (except during those upgrade moments).

    The tech support issues with Windoze are too big a workload for me as a free consultant, Linux on the other hand is too user-unfriendly for a layman. I have tried to give them Gnome on Linux, but they did end up only able to use Netscape and not even a decent mail app with consistency UI is availbale, you could call them stupid but they are old! So Linux is out of the question.

    Now they are happy to use the Macs and are able to use quite a few apps and even to produce their own travel documentaries on video (only that their iBooks can't burn DVDs :-(

    We are all impressed on what the Macs are capable to bring to these old folks when they hardly known what a CPU is and can't make sense of the difference between a harddisk and their favorite Pink Floyd CD (because I have the CD saved to MP3 on their hd, and that confused them so much :-))

    Not to mention I don't have to troubleshoot over the phone with a 90 years old fustrated woman.

    Not that the Macs are perfect, there are still a lot of room to improve especially on speech recognition and user-friendliness, but current, if you need stability plus user-friendliness (perhaps also multilingual 'coz my dad and mom also use Chinese), Mac (OS X, NOT OS9! )is almost the only choice.

    Sic? What sic?

  • I will often see Linux posts go something like this:

    "My Mom/Grandma/Dad/Uncle now uses Linux, I set it all up for her/him, and she has icons for this, this and this"

    Great, you are obviously capable of setting up a nice Linux setup, but your Mom is now dependant on you for everything regarding the way things are set up, all the way down to the software installed. Now, I wouldn't expect most inexperienced users to be tinkering with their setups - most shouldn't. But putting a user down in front of their machine and giving them virtually no control over anything, is a bit bothersome to me.

    Having someone rely on you for every single configuration issue is not what I would consider polite, or something that will improve the fortunes of Linux or whatever.

    You may use Linux because it works for you. Giving someone a Linux setup that they haven't the most basic understanding of is just boosting your own ego. "Look at MY platform. Even MY MOM can use it."

    God forbid she want to install a simple Solitare program on her own.

    Install a new piece of hardware (Inexperienced users may not be tweaking their config files, but they _do_ love their peripherals).

    Or anything else.

    They shouldn't have to rely on someone else for everything. Lots of inexperienced users figure things out on their own, sometimes with hillarious or disasterous results, but they do, because they want to learn, or at least be able to have a mesure of control over their own system.
  • She has an old iMac running MacOS 9.1. It works, it's stable, and it's virus-free (she gloats about that to her Wintel friends all the time). She's a reasonably competent user and wonders why anyone ever uses Windows. She hates it.

    And she is seriously considering a flat-panel iMac because she thinks they look cool and she likes OS X.

    So she's got no interest at all in running Linux, but she's not a Windows drone by any means. And at least MacOS X is a Unix at heart. She won't be hanging around the CLI like I do, but she'll be a Unix user soon enough.
  • My Mom's running the [discontinued] Gateway Connected Touchpad [], which runs some Linux distro (Midori, I think) and then an AOL client on top of that. So not only is she running Linux, she's running it on a Transmeta CPU.

    I had no interest in trying to support a Windows PeeCee from 800 miles away, so I spent the bucks on the [overpriced] touchpad. I think it was worth it, because the damn thing just works, day after day, and I don't have to worry about Outlook viruses, IE security holes, or *shudder* Windows Update.

  • There is no way that anyone with the computing skills of your mom (i.e., none) can hope to get Linux into a state where they can do anything they consider useful with it.

    Not without copious outside assistance and an assurance that if they type the wrong thing they'll only destroy their own computer.

  • Honestly, the lack of certain kinds of software for Linux has kept me from setting it up on my parents' PC.

    1. My mom, like most mothers I know, is very interested in creating greeting cards and thank-you notes on a color inkjet printer. I have yet to see a single greeting-card maker program for Linux. (Did anyone ever write one of these yet? Maybe sort of a Broderbund "Print Shop" clone, even?) Even if a free open-source card-maker is available, what kind of card artwork comes with it? For under $25, you can buy one of several Windows-based greeting card programs that come with a CD full of commercially-designed cards from respected companies like Hallmark or American Greetings. I'm not sure some Linux guru is going to be able to match that artistic quality in his/her spare time as a freeware project....

    2. My folks also do a lot of family research. So far, I haven't seen a single package better than Broderbund's "Family Tree Maker" for their needs. Again, this puppy isn't available in a Linux version. I'm sure Linux has a number of geneology packages for it - but honestly, I don't think any are as user-friendly or comprehensive as "Family Tree Maker".

    3. There's a real lack of children's educational software for Linux. I have yet to see any commercial Linux offerings from any of the people who own the rights to the characters children like and relate to. (Disney learning titles, Dr. Seuss, the Bernstein Bears, Sesame Street, etc.) My parents want their youngest child to be able to play learning games on their PC sometimes, and expect it to handle whatever discount title they pick up at the local Best Buy store.

    StarOffice and KDE/Gnome + internet apps are a teriffic "core" -- but until some of these other software gaps get filled, Linux isn't ready for many "family PCs".
  • I found my mother had no problems using Linux, but it was difficult for her to get things like DSL service, non-technical books at various levels, and peripherals.

    So, she now has a Mac running OSX. It's roughly as stable as Linux. It's about as easy to use as Gnome or KDE (not worse but not better either), and a lot nicer than Windows. If there is one thing that's worse it's that my mother finds a lot less software for the Mac that she likes than for Linux.

    On the other hand, she can now go out and buy a piece of hardware or software, asking for something that is "Mac OSX compatible" and she can get books that are aimed at non-technical users. Also, the Apple brand name stands for pretty consistently decent hardware, whereas with PCs, finding good hardware is a gamble even if you buy a brand name.

    So, consider getting your mother a Macintosh. Technically, it is really no better and no worse than Linux, but Apple's market presence and the support infrastructure around it makes it useful for non-technical users. As long as they remain mostly UNIX/Linux-compatible and don't do something really stupid in their relationship with the open source community, I think they are a decent choice.

  • by feldsteins ( 313201 ) <> on Sunday July 14, 2002 @12:52AM (#3880197) Homepage
    Let's all admit right off the bat that Linux has very little desktop presence.

    Let's further admit right up front that it's slow penetration into this area isn't due to price.

    We might discuss reasons like the evil business practices of Microsoft. We all know how they have in the past used every legal and some illigal means of preventing OEMs from bundling competitors software. I think we all understand the implications for Linux in regards to those business practices.

    But still. Don't you think there is another reason why Linux has very little presence on the deskop? It's just plain not fit for consumer...well, consumer consumption. It's just not good enough in that regard. At least not yet.

    Having arrived at this conclusion, I ask myself "why?" One very important answer comes to mind: Linux developers and users (and there's hardly a difference, really) don't want it to become a consumer-ized product. They want, rather, the consumer to become a Linux-nerd. Think I'm exaggerating? A prime example can be had in a comment just a few inches above this one - "GUIs are like diapers - everyone outgrows them eventually."

    It is this sentiment that is preventing Linux from moving into the deskop market. Gates' sly dealings with OEMs notwithstanding...I think it's time to admit some of the problem is Linux itself. And the responsibility for that lies squarely at the feet of it's developers.

    I've made this prediction time and time again in these forums and here I go one more time - "One day someone will make a Linux distro that truly is consumer-oriented. That distro will be universally hated by the existing Linux community."

    Linux will be forever a server OS and a geek-toy until and unless this changes.
    • don't want it to become a consumer-ized product. They want, rather, the consumer to become a Linux-nerd

      the former is true for a lot of people - for the same ones, the latter is not (basically, these are the people who like linux, and could care less about "the consumer")

      That distro will be universally hated by the existing Linux community.

      that's very true, and for that reason most of those people will use a different distro, same reason I don't use Mandrake now; I don't quite see the revelation here.

      Linux will be forever a server OS and a geek-toy until and unless this changes.

      Why is it that an OS that most people use only for web, email and playing Yahoo games is somehow the "real" OS, while what I (and many others) use for software development (for example) is a "toy"?

  • Let's see. My money's on the devil.
  • If the Linux crowd ever gets usability right, it will be be because some hardass buyer at Wal-Mart HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas tells Red Hat's sales rep "If you want to sell this thing through Wal-Mart, you have to make it work out of the box for our customers."

    This is quite possible, especially for a pre-installed system sold through a mass-market retailer. You know what the hardware is, and add-ons will be USB or FireWire. Few users will ever open the box. That's all you really have to support in those low-end Linux boxes.

  • Maybe it's because Linux is harder to use and much less useful for most people than windows.
  • "Why Linux isn't ready for the desktop" by Ilan Volow

    Case in point:

    I was at a restaurant with some of my lug members. I won't name names, the city, or any specifics (so I don't have to pay the price of my criticism at next week's meeting). In my home town, there is a very, very big linux distribution company. Everyone has heard of its distribution and many, many people use it. There are a number of programmers who work at this company who are also lug members, and at the restaurant, I got into a discussion with one of them about the distribution's installer and why I thought its UI was so poorly designed (after the conversation, I found out he wrote most of it. Boy, I felt stupid). Now, this installer is revered by many to be easy enough for your grandmother to use, but I counted a good 15 or 20 usability errors.

    As a little bit of background, I as studying to be a UI designer (and a damned good one at that). I can give you the professional opinion that many of these errors involve simple, "duh" kind of stuff. The problems were things like ambiguously labeled check boxes and radio buttons. Or widgets laid out in ways that users do not naturally progress in. In some of the worst cases, the widget layout conveyed information so badly that it could confuse a user into not being able to start up in X (very important for newbies and secretaries). The most annoying error was a modal dialog that obscured information outside the dialog that was pertinant to making choices inside the dialog. The only way to refer to the information outside the dialog was to close the dialog, look at the information, and then re-enter it. All these problems are things that would be easy to change (just modifying/adding 300 lines of code at max). And making these changes would not involve creating stupid talking paperclip avatars or wizards that insult the intelligence of power-users and inhibit their progress. Making these changes would simply add greater clarity to performing the procedures involved in installation, and would allow both power user and grandma to navigate more efficiently and effectively. Real Ease-Of-Use (as opposed to Microsoft Ease-of-Use) is not about wiping the user's ass, it's about not kicking it. But despite the ease of changing the UI code and the benefits it would bring, I seriously doubt this linux distribution company will ever see these problems as problems and make the necessary changes. And I'm certain the programmer I talked to probably wouldn't, either. And probably no one in the linux community will step forward and make the changes, since they all think this distribution's installer is the greatest thing since sliced bread just because it's graphical. And because they can use their linux expertise to get around the most confusing parts of this installer's UI.

    Back to my conversation with the guy who wrote the installer, when I mentioned several of the problems I listed above, he still couldn't understand what was wrong with it. "You don't think it's pretty enough?" he asked. I think that moment, more than anything else, defines why Linux just isn't making as much progress on the desktop as it should be.

  • Linux for moms (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'd say Linux is perfect for moms. Why?

    1. You can setup a Linux installation for them. They don't have to install it themselves. Remove all icons and put a few icons on the desktop/panel. That's all they'll use.

    2. Moms and dads (and grandmothers) don't install software. They just use what's installed already. So they won't get in trouble with RPMs and ./configure && make install.

    3. The permissions ensure that they can't mess with the system, so the computer will never break (unless they find out how to use the root password to get into a console and do rm -Rf /, but I doubt they will even try).

    All the common "Linux is not ready for the desktop"-arguments do not apply here. Mom doesn't use the Control Panel, she doesn't care about the resolution, she doesn't install software, etc.

    I put my parents behind Linux. All they do is browse the Internet anyway. So I made a password-less account for them and when they doubleclick on their icon in gdm, Galeon and sawfish launch automatically. If I put them in Windows, they will get confused by the start menu and the icons on the desktop and the tray.
  • I set up Linux for my parents, and it's worked really well. Just one thing, though: use a journalling filesystem (tune2fs -j and edit fstab is all it takes).

    You really don't want to have to explain 'Enter root password' and ask which device is the problem after a power failure (yes, it's not hard, but it gives a bad impression).

  • Apple truly does make their machines and OS extremely easy to use for a beginner. An OSX user never has to see the console or a command line. The hardware is of generally very good quality (my old powertbook has been running for three years now without one problem ever.).

Reactor error - core dumped!