A Clean Slate

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http://popey.com – I’m back-filling my blog with a few posts which cover the work I’ve done on Mumbuntu. So there will be a flurry of posts over the next day or so. Normal slack scheduled blog posts will be resumed shortly Friday 12th Feb Today I went to Mums to look at the computer. She doesn’t have an Internet connection at home, which is another thing I need to evaluate for her. So I took a few USB dongles with me so that I could get online if I needed to, and see what the 3G reception was like, in case we decide that 3G is preferable to wired broadband for her. I mentioned in my previous introductory blog post about Mumbuntu that I don’t like the idea of other people ‘helping’ support my Mum in her computing endeavours. This is at least in part because I think most people are clueless about net security, viruses and the “right” way to operate a computer. Having someone who is experienced with XP help my Mum is clearly potentially useful, but it could lead to her being given duff advice. I’m sure some people reading this will say “it’s her computer, let her decide”, and that’s a valid point, if you’re not the person who has to pick up the pieces after someone suggests to install the latest crapware. The computer from my brother is a case in point… I had a poke about on the Compaq Evo desktop PC to see what state the Windows XP installation was in. This was supposed to have been ‘cleaned’ but I guess different IT professionals have diverse ideas about what ‘clean’ means. I removed an old out of date anti-virus package and installed Microsoft Security Essentials, then kicked off a scan. It found numerous viruses, trojans and other malware. Some of this was in the form of nasty applications like Antivirus 2009 (a well known trojan and fake AV product) whilst others were embedded in fake media files that someone had downloaded via P2P. There were also lots of ‘helper’ applications and drivers for printers, mp3 players and digital cameras she didn’t own. I started cleaning up but rapidly realised this was a tiresome activity, and I’d probably be better of wiping it and reinstalling the OS, or a different one. I explained to Mum that it would need to be reinstalled and I’d need to take it away to do that. This is no loss to her as she’s not used it yet, so there’s no data there. We had a bit of a chat about my stance in terms of Windows and how I’d prefer her to run Ubuntu. I explained that as she had no experience baggage, it would make little or no difference to her whether she learned how to use Windows or Ubuntu. I also pointed out that it’s easier (for me) to support, lower cost and flexible. She’d been told that Ubuntu will have some compatibility problems, and given I know what camera and printer she has, that’s very likely. However her main ‘use cases’ for the computer involve basic web browing, email and some family tree work. No doubt these requirements will change over time, and I hope that Ubuntu can keep up with those needs as time goes on. So I know that Ubuntu isn’t perfect, but in my mind it’s a lot better than XP and cheaper and less resource intensive than either Windows Vista or 7. One thing that came up during our chat was training. I can certainly show her the basics to get up and running, but she’s keen to learn, and as she’s retired has plenty of time to devote to it. She has a meeting today with someone local who does computer training courses for seniors, which could be useful for her. However the chances are very high that the training will be both Windows based, and Windows focussed which won’t help at all if she’s running Ubuntu. Canonical have an Ubuntu Desktop Training course, but I can’t see any upcoming in the UK. I also wonder how well she’d fare on that course given she may be missing some very fundamental skills. The course structure seems to indicate that “computer literacy is assumed and is a pre-requisite”. Perhaps I could get her up to speed with the pre-reqs, then put her on that course… if they had one running. I note also that the course uses 8.04 which, whilst it’s a little old now (seems funny to say that) could be a good starting point. Another option is to teach her everything myself. I have a potential plan for this. More on that in a later post. Just a reminder that I’ll be tagging all my posts on this subject with ‘mumbuntu‘. So if you’re interested in them but not the other posts in my blog then you can subscribe to the mumbuntu only feed. (Distributions)