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UserLinux: Taking "Grandma" as the Use Case

UserLinux: Taking "Grandma" as the Use Case

Grandma doesn't know much about computers, but she really enjoys collecting pictures of the family, and keeping in touch via e-mail. In fact, she is so comfortable now with e-mail, that she doesn't call each time to make sure we got it. Her "Web surfing" consists of placing an occasional order at harryanddavid.com. Oh, and she does use Word for Windows to write a newsletter for her church group. She does not use any advanced features of Word, so switching her to OpenOffice is not a problem.

Grandma's computer is an old 486 with 12MB memory running Windows 95. It takes forever to start, and hangs frequently, resulting in calls to Kristin, her niece and family computer expert. Kristin is an engineer at a small company that has Debian installed on a few of their computers. She is the one who wrote those handy little cards for Grandma - how to start the computer, how to print a picture, etc.

Kristin is considering replacing Grandma's computer with another "hand-me-down", a Pentium II with 64MB memory. She would really like an alternative to the Windows/Intel upgrade treadmill, but having struggled 3 days to install Debian on this old Pentium, she is thinking maybe the only solution is still a new computer with Windows pre-installed.

Kristin's boyfriend works at a computer store in Tucson that has a lot of old computers that won't run the latest version of Windows. He is watching Kristin's experiment with great interest, thinking of repeating it on a larger scale, using computers that would otherwise go to the dumpster.

Grandma needs a computer which is stable and secure and allows her to send and receive email, print pictures, and visit a few Web sites. We need to cut the number of "service calls", because Kristin lives 100 miles from Grandma.

More specifically, this computer should have:

  1. Low cost. If we can use a hand-me-down, that would be great.
  2. Easy setup. Kristin has no problem using a command-line install program like the one that comes with Red Hat, but she doesn't have time to locate and study all the scattered docs on Linux install programs. She also has no time to search for missing files, or debug a package that has files with incompatible versions, or which installs files in the wrong place. Also, she has no time to research the huge number of available programs. Where choices must be made, she needs a simple, unbiased summary of the top recommendations in each category. It should take her no more than 5 minutes to decide between Gnome and KDE. Hints: She doesn't care about the licensing issues, and Grandma is already familiar with Windows, so she will probably chose one with that look and feel.
  3. A rock-solid OS that doesn't crash or hang. The Windows 95, 98 series is out. Windows XP is good enough.
  4. Simple procedures to do the few things Grandma needs, including recovery when a program hangs.
  5. Enough power to start in less than a minute and load a document in less than 30 seconds.
  6. Good security. No chance anyone can hack into her computer from the Internet. Virus protection, minimum spam, and absolutely no pornography.
  7. Remote administration, so Kristin can log in over a phone line and correct occasional problems. We need a simple command like 'rpm –Va' to verify the entire installation.



[This first appeared in the UserLinux Wiki at http://cgi.userlinux.com/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?Grandma, January 2, 2004]

 

More Stories By Dave MacQuigg

Dave MacQuigg is an IC Design Engineer with a new mission - to develop a simple, open-source platform for circuit designers to use all the tools they need for design entry, simulation, and analysis. His chosen language for this platform is Python, because he wants to make it easy for non-programmers to jump in and fix problems or add features as the needs arise. He is also teaching a circuit-design laboratory at the University of Arizona http://apache.ece.arizona.edu/~edatools/

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