How to: Create a Linux Box for Your Mom (50 Resources)

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Mom checking her email by Flickr/charleskremenakFor most computer literate children, a request from mom to get her set up on “this web thing” is met with panic and a feeling of drudgery. Are you about to expose your sweet mother to spam, phishing, viruses, or worse? Or perhaps more frightening, sign your life away as a 24/7 tech support center?

Perhaps, but there’s a better way.

By setting your mom up on a Linux machine, you can give her a safe, lean computing experience that will let her do all of the things she wants to do without giving you a nervous breakdown. Here, we’ve compiled over 50 of the best resources to help you get your mom on Linux without a whole lot of trouble. Systems & Environments With these systems and environments, you can get your mom set up with low maintenance and friendly interfaces.

  1. SimplyMEPIS: SimplyMEPIS is low-maintenance and great for Linux beginners.
  2. Linspire: Linspire is the “World’s Easiest Desktop Linux,” with a familiar look and feel for Windows users.
  3. Mandriva: Mandriva Linux was specifically designed to offer ease of use for new users.
  4. Ubuntu: One of the most popular Linux distributions, Ubuntu is stable and easy to use.
  5. KDE: The K Desktop Environment is easy to use, and offers basic desktop functions.
  6. Ximian Desktop: Ximian offers a simple layout, with large icons that are great for elderly users.
  7. Lycoris: This distribution looks a lot like windows, and offers great ease of use.
  8. SuSE: With SuSE, you’ll got lots of popular open source software like OpenOffice, Kaffeine, and more.
  9. GNOME: In this desktop environment, you’ll find an extremely usable GUI.

Tools & Applications

1991 Linux Logo by Flickr/methodshopPut these tools to work to give your mom the functionality she wants while still keeping things safe and simple.

  1. Fluxbox: This X window manager makes it easy to customize the view of your mom’s machine.
  2. Rfbdrake: Set up rfbdrake to create a pathway for remote support.
  3. IEs4Linux: With this handy tool, you can make MSN groups and other Internet Explorer applications play properly for your game-addicted mom. Note: IEs4Linux may be discontinued soon.
  4. IceWM: This window manager’s goal is to stay out of the user’s way while offering speed and simplicity.
  5. OpenAntiVirus: Although a Linux machine isn’t likely to run into virus problems, this antivirus program is better safe than sorry.
  6. Wine: Wine makes it easy to run Windows software and applications on your Linux box.
  7. Firestarter: For an easy, simple firewall, consider Firestarter.
  8. phpGACL: Keep your mom safe by implementing this access control list for applications.
  9. CrossOver Office: With CrossOver, you can run lots of Windows-based applications.
  10. CNR: This tool makes it easy for your mom to install applications, even if she’s clueless about putting things on her computer.
  11. KDE Crystal: KDE Crystal offers an icon set with recognizable images, which is great for remote support so you can tell your mom exactly what to press.
  12. Guarddog: Guarddog is an ideal firewall for novices because it offers a goal-oriented, non-technical GUI.
  13. Blackbox: Blackbox offers a clean, light environment for a Linux system.
  14. IPCop: Create a more secure home network with this simple firewall designed for novice users.
  15. vncserver: Utilize vncserver to run remote support on your mom’s Linux machine.
  16. OpenOffice: With OpenOffice, your mom will be able to do all of the word processing she wants.
  17. Evolution: This personal information manager offers email, addresses, tasks, and more in an interface much like Microsoft Outlook.
  18. KMail: Set your mom up on KMail for email with excellent spam filtering, cryptographic support, and more.
  19. Kate: With this lightweight editor, your mom can do simple word processing with automatic backup.
  20. Ekiga With Ekiga, formerly Gnomemeeting, your mom can video chat with you.
  21. MailWasher Pro: With this program, you can make sure that spam email will never hit your mom’s inbox.
  22. Abiword: Give your mom simple word processing with AbiWord.
  23. Kopete: Use Kopete to get your mom set up on chat programs like AIM, ICQ, and IRC.
  24. Evince: Adobe Reader is discontinued for Linux, but Evince is a great lightweight replacement.
  25. Pidgin: Pidgin, formerly known as Gaim, makes it easy for your mom to log into a number of different messaging systems at once.
  26. Konqueror: With Konqueror, your mom can browse the web safely.
  27. Thunderbird: Use Thunderbird to offer your mom a clean email interface.
  28. Firefox: Get your mom set up on the wildly popular Firefox for safe and easy web browsing.
  29. GIMP: Give your mom GIMP for Photoshop functionality.
  30. No-Script: Use No-Script to make your mom’s Firefox browsing safe from harmful Javascript and Flash.

Guides & Articles

Grandma on a computer by Flickr/mhofstrandFor even more help, check out these guides and articles that will walk you through creating a Linux box for your mom.

  1. Ubuntu for your grandmother: One helpful grandchild walks his grandmother through creating a Ubuntu laptop in this article.
  2. Post Installation Configuration Basic Help: Get help with basic hardware and network configuration here.
  3. Is Linux ready for mom?: This article discusses some of the trials and advantages of Linux for novice users.
  4. Windows to Linux: A Beginner’s Guide: Let your mom check out this article to get familiarized with Linux when coming from a Windows environment.
  5. Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Linux Home System: Follow this guide to keep your mom’s computer safe.
  6. Setting up Linux for Mom and Dad: See how one person set up a parent version of Mandrake Linux in this article.
  7. Desktop Adapted for Dad (DAD): This writer gave his father a computer with carefully installed and configured software.
  8. Moving a Beginner to Linux: Learn how to make the switch with this article.
  9. The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy-and Their Open Source Alternatives: In this resource, you’re sure to find lots of programs that will help your mom convert.
  10. Linux distro for mom?: In this thread, you’ll find lots of excellent advice for creating a Linux setup for a computer illiterate mom.
  11. Beginner’s Introduction to the KDE Desktop: This guide offers a look at KDE for non-techies.

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