Would you install GNU/Linux on your grandmother's computer?

Short URL: http://fsmsh.com/2186

Fri, 2007-04-06 08:30 -- admin
Definitely yes. In fact, that's already the case/it will soon be the case/it would be the case if I had a choice
63% (72 votes)
Probably, yes. But I am not 100% sure just yet.
19% (22 votes)
No, I would much rather buy her a Mac with OS X
9% (10 votes)
No, I would much rather install Windows XP or WIndows Vista for her
5% (6 votes)
Other (please write a comment)
4% (5 votes)
Total votes: 115


admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

So, would you install a GNU/Linux distro for your grandmother (or other computer illiterate person (...not that we intend to suggest that grandmothers aren't computer literate. We're sure there are plenty of computer savvy grandmothers out there. In fact there would be more and more every day. Please post a comment if you are tech-savvy granny.)) if you could? What distro would it be if you did? Why wouldn't you install it if you couldn't? Let us know your thoughts.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on


I'm a mac user here and I LOVE Ubuntu linux :) As much as I enjoy Free software and GNU/Linux, I find Mac OS X much more stable, secure, and user friendly than (most) distros of linux. However, any Windows PC that ever comes my way,
it's linuxed in the hour.


P.S. Under VMware & Parallels, I have over 6 linux virtual machines.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I am new to gnu/linux and I just installed SuSE on my desktop pc. The install went great, no complaints there. I was cruising along until I tried to install a program. My computer is used by myself ,my 22 year old son ,etc. I have used mswindows since getting my first computer 10 or so years ago. I love the idea of free open software. I think wikipedia is a great success of the internet and it gets better with the more contributors and users. The thing is, I am not a IT person. While I love to learn new things,the only thing I have ever done in the command line is format. I would love to use programs like scribus for my small contracting business as well as alot of the other programs available for linux.My son likes to surf the net and go to sites like utube,myspace etc.He tried to download and install flashplayer and then we saw the real difference, installs. While I anderstand there is a learning curve of something new and unfamiliar,I am having problems. Why cant linux be an os for the masses? I like that you can customise your system, etc. but I have to be able to install programs. I'll keep playing around until I can get installs down on linux but this is not something I could do in a time crunch. Another thing I've noticed is there are as many distributions as there are christian church denominations. Cant anybody agree on anything? I googled easy linux program install and then I saw that this will definitely be a learning proccess. No installsheild or wizards. While I would like to see what is being installed and where etc I dont know that as of yet I will be able to install programs.This could be a problem for Grandma.I would like to be able to use freeware and proprietary software. If linux wanted to attract more people and not just the technically able,some user interface for installs would be a necessity for Grandma. Grandma has no knowledge of the command line. What are the easiest distros for installing programs? This could be a good place to start until I could get more familiar with gnu/linux.How about an EASYlinux for grandma and beginners.Though I have had no problems as of yet with anything but installing software. Not trying to be lazy, but these things take some time to learn. Until some agreement can be made on whether linux is going to be for knowledgable computer user and for the unsavvy Grandma will have to wait.

Dave Guard's picture

"I am new to gnu/linux and I just installed SuSE on my desktop pc...The thing is, I am not a IT person."

Great! you don't have to be.

"Why cant linux be an os for the masses?"

Linux is a kernel used by a whole bunch of OSes based on GNU and Linux. There are some distros that are designed for server use, some that designed for use on very small computers, some that are designed for use in extreme conditions and others that are designed for beginners on the desktop/laptop. GNU/Linux is for everyone not just the masses.

"Another thing I've noticed is there are as many distributions as there are christian church denominations. Cant anybody agree on anything?"

The makers of the various distributions do agree... to disagree. They don't try and force anyone to do things "their way". They are quite happy doing things their own way. This is called freedom. Think about cars or cereal or icecream flavours? Why should everyone be stuck with only a couple of choices. There are over 6 billion people on this planet. They all have their own individual needs and tastes. Designing one system to suit everyone would be impossible. Choosing the right one for you is easy: if you are a beginner and you don't want to use have to use the command line and you want it to be easy to install applications then you should use the most popular distro there is at the moment - Ubuntu.

"If linux wanted to attract more people and not just the technically able,some user interface for installs would be a necessity for Grandma. Grandma has no knowledge of the command line."

Grandma doesn't need to use the command line and neither do you. There are distros that are designed especially for beginners like Ubuntu. You shouldn't need the command line for Ubuntu at all. And, even if you do, it should only be a matter of cutting and pasting code straight off the Ubuntu website into your command line and hitting enter. If you can press Ctrl and C (copy) and Ctrl + V (paste) or use a mouse to copy and paste then you can use the command line too. You really don't need to know your way around at all. Trust me, I don't. I just follow the instructions I'm given by the guys who do know their way around. And it works.

"What are the easiest distros for installing programs?"

Installing applications is very easy on Ubuntu (and quite a few other other distros too); it's, in fact, easier than with Windows. You don't even need install wizards, you just open a program called Synaptic Package Manager from the System->Administration menu, check a box next to the name of the application you want to install, and hit the Apply button. Then you have to hit okay once or twice and it downloads and installs the application for you, into the right locations and adds an entry in your menu. That's right! you don't even have to go looking on the net for the software to download. My 8 year old was shown how to do it once and now he installs applications (mainly games) on his own without a problem.

"Until some agreement can be made on whether linux is going to be for knowledgable computer user and for the unsavvy Grandma will have to wait."

GNU/Linux is for everyone: hardcore techies, complete newbies, and everyone in between including grannies. If granny can use a computer she can use GNU/Linux.

If you managed to install SUSE then you will find Ubuntu just as easy if not easier and I would really urge you to try it. You can download the LiveCD and check it out. You can then use it as an install CD. If you can't download it they will send you one for free.

If you want to see how easy it is to use Synaptic Package Manager look here.

If you want to get flash going using Ubuntu you can install Automatix2 available here. The instructions are very straight forward and can be found here. Simply find the instructions for your version of Ubuntu and follow them. It is simply a matter of copying and pasting and hitting Enter.

I hope this helps.

cloggy_2's picture
Submitted by cloggy_2 on

Well, I wouldn't mind installing a GNU/Linux distro on the pc of my 79 year old mother. The viruses and other malware that have been plaguing Windows, have totally scared her away from the net, which is a damn shame if you ask me. A good, stable Linux distro might convince her otherwise.


undefined's picture
Submitted by undefined on

i wouldn't do anything.

1. i've had too many family members ask my personal, technical opinion and then total disregard it. "if the advice is free, then freely disregard it," seems to be the mindset.

2. if my relatives are going to have computer problems (and inevitably they do), then they are going to have to blame themselves and whatever software they chose, not me and the software i chose.

3. i only install software that the user requests, and i haven't had anybody yet request Linux. i wouldn't even install a particular version of Windows without their insistence, because otherwise something will inevitably go wrong and i will be the scapegoat.

4. only if i'm readily able to fix any problems that might occur (hardware or software), would i even consider installing my operating system preference. because even if it was hardware that broke, if i chose the operating system, then i would be blamed. the only redemption to "forcing" my software decision on a family member is to quickly resolve the problem, and unless the computer resides in my own house, i can't guarantee that (because even remote access can't fix a hardware problem, and my software decision would still be blamed).

so, it's not just Linux, but i won't even install a specific version of Windows (i prefer the slim and simple Windows 2000 over XP or Vista as it's currently indistinguishable from them on a general user level except for cosmetic details) except at the user's insistence. the user has to make the decision, and live with the negative consequences of it (and with a system as complex as a computer, there's always some negative).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It sounds like you need a new family. But I can relate.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Would you install it for "computer illiterate [people]"?

Laurie Langham's picture

Granny left us in 1985, which was before the PC really took off.

Would I have inflicted Vista on the poor old dear when there is free software available?

Most certainly not!

Being a pensioner, she would have loved the price of GNU/Linux.

She would soon have worked out how to use Thunderbird when she realised that she could drop a line to all her rels in the 'Old Country' and it would get there straight away, instead of waiting weeks for it to get there on the 'steamer'.

She would have loved using Firefox to check out pictures of her hometown in Stratford as well as being able to buy things online from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price.

Granny would have loved GNU/Linux and I would have been the first to make sure she never got stiffed by M$, even if she did have that sort of money to waste on a second-rate OS.

guydjohnston's picture

I chose the second option. I expect if I installed gNewSense on my parents' computer, they could use it quite happily. They don't use it a huge amount, and they're only uses for it are really reading and sending emails, browsing the web and typing with a word processor. However, one thing they wouldn't particularly like would be having the learn the differeces in the applications from those they use on their Windows XP system at the moment, even though they're pretty small.

I'll probably install gNewSense for them when that Windows system starts to mess up and becomes pretty much unusable, as it inevitably will do at some point. I expect they'd be quite supportive of the ideals of the free software movement, particularly the refreshing change of not being called a "pirate" for sharing something useful with other people.

GNU - free as in freedom

Tyler's picture
Submitted by Tyler on

If I lived close enough to my parents or grandmother, I'd be happy to install Ubuntu or Mepis for them. As it is, being several time zones away they would not have anybody to help them out should something come up, so unfortunately it's not going to happen just yet.


Corfy's picture
Submitted by Corfy on

I'd set up a K/Ubuntu computer in a heartbeat if I thought my grandmother (or my mother, for that matter) would use it. But they have no interest in using computers, even for simple email.

Then again, this week is my grandmother's 92nd birthday... maybe I will give her a computer as a birthday present.

My step-father uses a computer for simple email (he has a free Juno account for his email, which I don't think will work with Linux) and for simple word processing (basically, a typewriter with a spell check, although I was able to talk him into using OpenOffice.org Writer instead of MS Word when he lost Word a couple of years ago). That is the extent of his knowledge of computers, and that is all he needs or wants to know.

I was a die-hard Windows user for many years (I picked up an upgrade copy of XP within a couple of days of it's release), but I eventually got fed up with Windows and Microsoft and switched to Linux instead. Now I am extremely happy with Kubuntu.

seaeagle's picture
Submitted by seaeagle on

I probably would, but I would make sure it is a system which is easy to set up and install software on. Maybe something like Freespire with CNR.

I would also ensure that I have remote access to her PC in case she does need help with something.


Nothing's Too Sacred : : : Soar Like An Eagle

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

i would go out of my way to install linux on anybodies computer. it's the least i could do for fellow human being.

Andrew Min's picture

Definitely NOT *buntu. All the multimedia codecs don't work out of the box, etc. I love Kubuntu, but not for a new Linux user.

Also, not GNOME based. GNOME doesn't look enough like Windows to be productive. KDE is a much better choice for someone who just wants to know how to use Linux.

Freespire might be a good choice. Installs a ton right out of the box. Plus, looks more like Windows than other KDE-based distros.

kuriharu's picture
Submitted by kuriharu (not verified) on

Hell no!

I use Ubuntu daily, but I wouldn't curse my grandmother with it. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to upgrade just one or two packages only to have the distribution actually break.

XP isn't perfect, but it works much better than Ubuntu or Fedora Core.

Laurie Langham's picture

What on Earth can you be doing to Ubuntu to repeatedly "have the distribution actually break" when you try to upgrade packages. I haven't heard of anyone having problems of this nature. Have you posted this on the Ubuntu Wiki?

I recently had the dubious pleasure of re-acquainting myself with XP, and it was even more awful than I seem to remember it. If your Ubuntu isn't running rings around the likes of XP then you must have an unusual problem that requires further examination.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

if your whole distro explodes when updating packages, you must be doing something wrong... are you sure your harddrive isn't in about ten million little pieces?

richard_s's picture
Submitted by richard_s on

My parents were computer-illiterate until I moved to another country, and they had to choose between (a) spending a fortune on international phone-calls (b) becoming computer literate and using Skype, GTalk and all similar stuff.

I would really prefer to install Ubuntu. I use Linux exclusively, I dislike Windows' interface and design philosophy. What is more, my father seems to enjoy more using Gnome on my laptop than Windows XP on his desktop.

However, I just asked myself the question: what will happen if something breaks? As I am abroad, I cannot just come and fix it. Also, if the computer is down, I don't have any comfortable way of communicating with my parents. As far as I know, my parents don't have a chance of finding a Linux literate “computer guy". What is worse, all their friends use Windows---so If they used Linux, they wouldn't have the possibility of learning something from them. So, eventually I just installed XP :-(

However, there's some hope. When my parents reach the level of being able to ask for help in the Internet, I may suggest them to try Linux.

Adam J's picture
Submitted by Adam J (not verified) on

I would do my grandmother's computer in a heartbeat. In fact, I am talking to my aunt about it right now and my father already uses Ubuntu at home.
All he does is browse the web and webmail. For him, it was a no brainer. He had Windows ME and it was crashing all the time.
I showed him Synaptic and how to add and update as needed and he has figured the rest out by himself.
Since I installed Ubuntu, he has only emailed once or twice with questions and by the time I got around to calling him, he had already figured it out.
I am so proud of that old man!


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

In fact, I would install Linux in anyone's computer if he/she never heard the word Windows.

Linux is easy for someone who never used Windows.

setdosa's picture
Submitted by setdosa on

I have installed Ubuntu Linux for my mom who was not that familiar with computers then but have since greatly adapted. It shows that Linux desktop is as intuitive if not more as any other out there.

She has ripped CDs, downloaded songs and copies them on to her pocket music player using Amarok, voice chats with me through Skype. We video conference through gnome meeting, to name a few. And iny complaints) there are any problems I just remotely login to her computer and fix it from here. The first time was fun. She could'nt figure out how I did it. I told her that I am going to the "school of magic" part time. :)

irsmart's picture
Submitted by irsmart on

It's free!

I'd install Ubuntu or maybe Mandrivia and make a separate account for her, disabling features that she doesn't need.

psychoscorpic's picture

Linux is getting more & more User-friendly. Still got a bit to go before it's an Out-Of-Box experience for novices, especially without broadband.

barneysbull's picture

I HAVE started to instal Linux on my grannys computer, but she insists that in return I accompany her to church for the next four weeks in penance - plus I must contribute at least £50 per week to the offeretory box! Some deal this!!

Joe Klemmer's picture

See the link at http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/6562 to see what one Grandma thought of Linux back in January of 2003.

Just imagine how she feels today.

Paradise; can it be all I heard it was?
I close my eyes and maybe I'm already there.

veroicon's picture
Submitted by veroicon on

I've tried installing Linux for my mother and my husband. The problem there is they use the computer too much and they expect everything to work easily. I'm not available enough to fix everything. I try to convey that the answers are usually out there somewhere, but its amazing how much learning we take for granted - eg. the command line, elementary scripting, editing /etc files

My grandmother only used the computer to order groceries online. I should be able to get that to work. Anything else would be a bonus.

But do they use Linux in the hereafter?