Linux Containers Authors: Lori MacVittie, Kevin Benedict, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

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/

Comments (14) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
curse 01/10/04 01:13:43 PM EST

as Microsoft force you to upgrade, so does the linux dists, as hard as it is to run win XP on an old computer, as hard it is to run the latest Mandrake/RedHat/Suse/Debian/slack/whatever linux dist, perhaps go and look at an older dist. RedHat 5 or something from the same time. It'll have all the features your GrandMa need

hgh9mrp 01/08/04 08:21:16 AM EST

The use case of "Grandma" is a good one, but Grandma's prior knowledge as a Windows user has already made her computer literate. UserLinux should take a good look at Sun's Java Desktop System, Knoppix, and MandrakeMove for three good examples of easy-to-install-and-use Linux distributions that will all run (a little slow - more horsepower is always better) on the specified system requirements.

James Stewart 01/08/04 05:02:32 AM EST

Grandma is perfect. If it's good for her it's good for everyone. The biggest problem with computers is that they're designed for computer users...

Don't forget the user who doesn't know where to click to close panels or the timing for double clicks etc etc.

Personally I'd adore instant startup and NO rebooting - life's too short...

Johnny Wantsbetter 01/08/04 03:52:29 AM EST

If you ask me, this sounds like your children's Grandma. But, if anyone bothered to ask her, she would probably like EVERYTHING to look the same as what she is using now because in essence you are not really doing anything for her. You are only making life easier for Kristin.

One day, the most important thing is the business user and licensing issues and the next day it's Grandma. The same user interface for powerusers and grandmas. Another Fairy Tale - gimme a break!

All this Use Case means is watering down everything to make it look like 10 year old M$. Now if you make look like Apple 2010 instead of Microsoft 1990, maybe even Grandma would want to switch.

Craig 01/07/04 11:21:33 PM EST

Why doesn't "easy to use" come into it? Like, my grandma hasn't used any sort of computer... so a simplified interface is needed too.

wawadave 01/07/04 10:36:21 PM EST

i have been trying linux on a home built pc and i,m still learning many new things. i have found haveig a second running computer comes in handy to use linux google for troble shooting problems.
have a nice day

Bob Jones 01/07/04 08:22:55 PM EST

I bought a Linare PC from Amazon.com for $199 as a second PC for my home...

I upgraded with extra 256 MB RAM for faster speed.
Its excellent for the good old and for young kids :-)



James LaRue 01/07/04 05:26:08 PM EST

An upgrade of RAM and Knoppix sounds good to me. But here's a blast from the past: GeoWorks. It became "New Deal Office" at some point, and I'm not sure of its exact status these days. But it fits the criteria. It actually ran on a 486, with 2 megs. It's fully graphical, has a full office suite, Internet access, premptive multitasking, etc. Wonderful fonts, great printing, a breeze to set up. Brand new, I think the whole deal cost $70 or so. I used it for years, and loved it.

sgtrock 01/07/04 02:13:16 PM EST

Knoppix with almost any WM except Gnome or KDE will work just fine on either box. 64 MB is just too small to meet the startup times for apps, tho. Throw some RAM in that old P2!

winjimmy 01/07/04 01:41:12 PM EST

I'd rather see Grandma keep her 486. Maybe upgrade the RAM a bit, though. Why can't she? Why can't Linux work on old machines like that? Maybe she should stick with Win 95: it does what she needs, she's not on broadband so security's not a huge issue. The Linux community seems to be supporting, at least tacitly, the hardware upgrade treadmill M$ started - but without getting the benefits M$ got from vendors. Seems rather silly to me. C'mon, take the challenge! Add 32 MB RAM to Grandma's machine and get Linux on there, you dolt!

chemicalscum 01/07/04 09:41:34 AM EST

"Knoppix will do everything grandma wants, but 64MB won't cut it. 128 will."
Install Knoppix and apt-get xfce4

should work in 64 MB

Tony 01/07/04 09:20:37 AM EST

quote"" rock-solid OS that doesn't crash or hang. The Windows 95, 98 series is out. Windows XP is good enough. ""

I wouldn't bet my cheese on that.
Xp does a lot of crashing, but my win98-lite on my old pentium hadn't a crash for a year. yeah, a year !

pericles 01/07/04 08:59:49 AM EST

I haven't used it in a while but she should check out Lycoris. It doesn't come with a lot of apps but the basic stuff - image viewer, browser, ssh server are there. There might be a gimp binary for this distro if the basic image viewer doesn't cut it. The folks at http://www.lycoris.org are quite friendly and helpful.

As with the previous post, 128Mb of RAM is better than 64Mb but you can drop about $30 for a stick of 256Mb.

Doug Bostrom 01/07/04 08:41:38 AM EST

Knoppix will do everything grandma wants, but 64MB won't cut it. 128 will.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining senso...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, discussed how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technologi...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, will discuss the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docke...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Embotics, the cloud automation company, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Embotics is the cloud automation company for IT organizations and service providers that need to improve provisioning or enable self-service capabilities. With a relentless focus on delivering a premier user experience and unmatched customer support, Embotics is the fas...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...