[linux-elitists] Update--distribution for your mother?

Adam Kessel adam@bostoncoop.net
Sun Aug 17 07:30:09 PDT 2003

Here's a discussion that's happened here before, but things change
quickly, so I thought I would solicit input to see if there's any newer
wisdom up there.

I'm going this week to install Linux for my mother.  Actually,
technically it's for my father, but everyone has a story about
"installing Linux for their mother" and how esay it was once it was set
up for them.  

I've only ever used Debian and have probably Debianized dozens of friends
and family thus far.  I'm a little concerned, though, about all the
'unstable' systems I'm leaving in my wake.  The stable packages for the
desktop are getting too ancient.  While I know there are backports of
crucial software (Mozilla 1.x (x>0), OpenOffice), I find myself
inevitably having to pull more and more things out of unstable until
finally it's just easier to upgrade everything.  The problem is, of
course, that these systems are not as stable and reliable as I'd like
people to think GNU/Linux is, and also my non-tech-savvy friends/family
don't upgrade and ultimately end up booting into the MS partition when
things don't work.  

I recently downloaded Red Hat 9 and Mandrake 9.1 and did fresh installs
of each to see if either would be better for "your mother's computer."
Both of the installations were quite easy, and I tried playing around
with them for a while but couldn't really figure out what the differences
would be in useability over the long haul.  

Google reveals little in the way of a real hands-on comparison--most of
the reviews comment on how nice the opening screen looks when you boot
up, etc.. (one review said Mandrake's ability to choose "which security
level you want" was great and wasn't something you found in most
distributions...)! I'm looking for advice from someone with extensive
real world experience on more than one distribution helping non-technical
desktop users.  

So what would you recommend for your mother's computer?  An additional
factor in that they have no broadband access, and also decent but not
cutting edge hardware.
Adam Kessel
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