Back in 2008 or so, my relatives did the really nice thing of buying my Grandma the cheapest possible Walmart computer they could find. You know the sort of Windows eMachine that comes preinstalled with spyware?
Of course, my relatives live about 6 hours away from her and all of the "on site support" fell to me. In the first 2 years of my Grandma getting this computer I must have gone over more than 10 times to fix all sorts of stupid issues that were pretty much inherent to the machine.
I grew sick of this and one day I went over, backed up the few important files on the machine and installed linux mint. That was in 2010, it is now 2019 and I have gone over to fix my Grandmas computer twice since. Once to help her set up a printer, and another time when she accidentally cleared her cookies and couldn't figure out how to log back into anything.
The strange thing is that my Grandma never commented on the Mint interface and as far as I can tell she never noticed that I completely changed the operating system ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After that, I had a realization - yes, the system ran for 4 years without any maintenance, but it also received no updates and no patches whatsoever during that time, because linux does not do that by default(or at least Mint didn't). And then the only issues my windows-using family have is 90% of the time due to....windows updates. Things are not where they used to be, some application changed so it's now different, they had something open and the computer restarted itself....the usual. And while that is a problem....at least their machines are always patched and up to date. That Mint installation was running in the same state that it was in the day I set it up, and after just few years it couldn't even be updated any more(to my best effort). That's pretty bad too.
Also I think Ubuntu suffers the same problem, if you wait long enough. I'm pretty sure I have an Ubuntu install that I waited too long to upgrade.
It is enough to make me serious consider switching to FreeBSD, except I don't think the 3D (game engine) library I want to use is supported.
dpkg --get-selections | cut -f1 > ~/installed_pkgs.log
cat installed_pkgs.log | xargs sudo apt install
It give something to start with but still requires human intervention from someone who knows how to navigate in this mess.
Deleting older versions of packages that people may still be relying on seems like a very obvious no-go in a dependency management system. Any idea why this happens regardless? Is it just a matter of costs? Or is there more nuance to it that I'm missing?
Visible behaviour and functionality is changed or removed without user involvement, choice or recourse, turning every update into a game of Russian Roulette. Even LTS builds don't mean no breakage of behaviours users rely on.
From the developer's POV maintaining security/bugfix-only forks of every feature branch rapidly becomes intractable as a project gains complexity / matures. Meanwhile, for startups, "move fast and break things" is the creed. So as we demand more from our software overall, this situation can only get worse, not better.
The temptation for modern users to say "you know what? it's MY bloody computer, not yours; my problems are actually more important to me than whatever you think you're solving" and unplug from the update streams is overwhelming.
I would maintain a local apt repository for that situation.
If you're provisioning machines on a regular basis it's a different story, but if it's your own personal machine that you're reinstalling maybe every couple years this seems like the most straightforward approach.
Also: Use LVM and snapshot before updating to save yourself a lot of headaches.
If she's like mine she's going to tell you everything is fine and when you visit her in a few months you'll see it isn't working.
I once helped my grandma, on the phone, navigate through a VCR to record a star trek episode. Everything was going well but I came home to an empty VHS.
"I told you it was fine so you wouldn't worry."
I miss my grandma more than that episode of star trek.
Or even get the legendary confusion of them never having turned the machine on in the first place.
Generally, after years of experience doing exactly this, I've found it is a lot easier to dictate a literal sequence of characters over the phone than coordinate a complex visual action with only confused verbal feedback.
Of course, with terminal stuff, you have even further options in, say, sending an email with an attached bash file for them to download and click, or if this continues, set up a script for them (and ad an icon for it in their start menu) that ssh's them into a handy aws or digital ocean instance so you can then ssh into their machine from the comfort of your own home and do it yourself.
This might be a bit too much to expect grandma to perfectly type, but "sudo apt-get update" and "sudo apt-get upgrade" to update her system is certainly easier then trying to describe what to click on a graphical UI.
Which one? It's entirely possible that it is (or that it's not 'supported', but you could easily compile it there anyway).
I've only been using it for a little while on a couple systems, but seems nice enough. (Mint or regular Debian for years otherwise.)
I've been using Linux for almost 2 decades and I've abandoned numerous projects over the years because the community was so unhelpful. The most recent was an Asterisk box for a home VoIP server back around 2012, before that it was a MythTV box in 2008.
The main problem is that until it gets better it ends up alienating a lot of people because the standard support from the community is "did you RTFM?"
I ditched ubuntu in the deepest hole I could find because every 6 months was a nightmare, and I replaced it with linux mint which seemed to actually work.
Then I had to deal with such system upgrade and this was a real pain, so instead I replaced linux mint with linux mint debian edition and things went well for a while.
Then came the system upgrade time again, it was not as painful as with regular mint but it was still a pain to manage.
My grandma managed to deal with her everyday use of the computer but there is no way she could manage the mint system upgrade part by herself. So the computer lived for a while with only the non system upgrade until I switched her to manjaro which allows her to have a roling release and deal with system upgrades herself.
The Gnome software center makes it easy to find and install apps too, reminds me of click n run from Linspire.
The topics can vary from "the nature of choice" to something like what GP posted.
Same, except for my 70 year old parents. I switched them from Windows to Ubuntu MATE. All I had to do was simply rename the Firefox icon to "Internet" and they were good to go.
However for most non-PC people they want to click a browser icon. That is easy and stable.
I switched my parents over to OSX years ago and have had to do almost no tech support at all. I really like Linux, but I still would argue that the OS that "just works" the most is still OSX.
But anyhow, back on topic, it really depends on your hardware.
On well supported hardware for Linux I have my parents since many years on Fedora. I even just swapped the drive from an old Lenovo netbook to a newer Fujitsu laptop without any issues in between
Which does not change the fact that they are still problems - no matter how unfair it is and how little the Linux-Community is to blame for it.
I used Linux on many different machines - and sadly I can confirm lots of problems with hardware.
If you cannot expect a generic PC to run Linux, `$currentYear is the year of the Linux Desktop` will continue to be little more than hyperbole. That's a big problem if we're looking for widespread adoption.
Windows tends to self destruct via forced updates over time. So far I have not had a single windows installation that didn't require a reinstall after a certain amount of time has passed. The type of failure is different but it's significantly worse.
This is coming from someone who uses Arch Linux, a bleeding edge distro that isn't known for it's stability (well it's pretty stable so far).
The only reason this isn't the case in Linux/MacOS most likely is simply due to the lack of crapware targeting these platforms though (because the reward profile significantly favors targeting Windows more).
You can see this in action with Android vs iOS too (no flamewar here folks). Android tends to get bogged down quite easily if active maintenance isn't done due to the proliferation of nefarious background workers.
But the story ends with OS X.
As far as I understand, non-standard or non-x86 aren't really mainstream. Windows for ARM-like devices is nowhere close to being ready for prime time.
EDIT: also just want to say I'm not anti-Linux, I'm just being realistic. I understand Linux's history and how it has some disadvantages (and advantages). I'm just saying at the end of the day, my interest is a reliable machine, regardless of how I get there.
OPs point is that if you're comparing Linux to macOS, you need to also compare the hardware accordingly - just as you buy a Mac to run macOS on, you need to buy hardware that's guaranteed to work well with Linux. And such Linux hardware is still going to cost less than a MacBook or a Mac Mini.
WiFi working has always been ups and downs, specially bad at the beggining when Canonical decided to exchange the closed source driver by an open source one, even thought it wasn't feature complete. I had to spend 3 months using LAN cable until the drive was actually working.
The Radeon on the Brazos APU is a DirectX 11 class GPU, but after AMD dropped fxglr, I lost video hardware acceleration, and the OpenGL feature level has been droped to a lower version.
So much for buying a laptop with Linux support out of the box.
My work laptop is also much more stable. On windows 10, the intel driver will always blue screen when i had no more ram left. I never had one crash on Fedora.
It does require to look at hardware support first, but that's the same way than checking hardware quality before buying. I always buy things that meet my requirements, on computer hardware, one is Linux support, I don't see this as an issue.
I experienced some standby/resume issues a few times along my years with linux, sometimes the fix was simply to upgrade/downgrade the kernel, sometimes using a different distro did the trick, sometimes it was a matter of configuring things correctly and sadly sometimes the hardware manufacturer was hostile to linux.
I run Ubuntu on a 2015 and 2017 Lenovo ThinkPad (T450 and T470s) and a desktop I built myself. Interestingly it runs the best on my custom desktop.
I use Ubuntu due to i3. The advantages a solid tiling window manager give me outweigh the drawbacks. But if OSX had a tiling window manager on par with i3 I'd drop Ubuntu in a heartbeat.
EDIT: and just to add, when I run Windows on these machines I don't have any of these problems: suspend works, USB and wifi work, etc. In my experience Windows's main problem is that it still crashes pretty regularly.
ubuntu is notoriously buggy and lenovo thinkpads are more and more hostile to linux since 5-6 years.
Try something like manjaro instead of ubuntu and see if you still experience the same issues.
It's Ideapads that have often the problems.
I can still dual-boot to the Win10 it came with, but it's been a month or two between typically.
No, that would be a software problem; as in driver-related. And as others noted, it's still a problem either way.
Actually the Gigabyte Brix variant because I didn't want to buy the WiFi/bluetooth card separately. But it's the exact same mainboard.
ChromiumOS is perfect for it. It's distributed by Neverware as CloudReady OS.
- use LTS. You don't need every 6-mo release.
- don't install packages from random ppas, if you don't know what they are doing to your system. Of course, do not install anything not managed by repositories, that would break your system (If I had a dime for every person that installed hplip/nvidia driver/etc from HP/Nvidia/etc site and just overwritten their apt-managed system files. It worked... until upgrade).
My parents also use Ubuntu; they are using it since 6.06, on the current hardware since 12.04. Upgrading them between LTS releases is non-event, aside the UI changes.
Edit: I meant to ask what people are using that's more stable. Fedora you need to reinstall every few months, Debian has some 'rules to not break Debian' that seem to make it special purpose, centos hates my GPU, trisquel gets very rare updates. I know that all of this is solvable, but Ubuntu seems simpler to set and forget.
Gnome is buggy though. I love it but I sure wish it ran better
I have two main issues with OSX: it only works on overpriced hardware with no repairability and some things are hidden or very difficult to find when possible (sort of the civilized version of GNOME's way of removing settings and features and thinking the user is dumb).
I would never in a million years subject my parents to Linux on the desktop unless there is some kind of support system that is not entirely dependent on me.
Since about 2010 my entire family is on Mac and support calls have also pretty much ended. When I read some of these other threads, it seems like it's accepted that parents/grandparents do nothing else than just open up a web browser.
That hasn't been my experience at all.
They buy printers, scanners, use apps from the app store, try to connect new and strange cameras, card readers, external screens (try simply connecting an external 4K screen to a random Linux computer, I guarantee you'll get a few surprises).
My dad's recently got into 3D printing (keep in mind he's a consumer, not an expert) and Fusion 360 would not even have run on Windows. He would not have been able to figure out FreeCAD either.
They got one of these cheap Walmart computers in 2002 or so. After one too many disasters (computer slow due to antivirus sw, Windows update failed, etc), I switched them to Linux for a few years. But that was a problem due to hardware compatibility, especially with their printer.
I ended up having an iMac to give them in 2007 (after I'd switched from FreeBSD to Mac, and decided I could not stand the Mac UI & switched back to FreeBSD on another whitebox). They've been on Mac ever since, now on a Mini we bought them a few years ago. Pretty much no support calls since then. A few times a year I make sure they're doing sw updates and haven't installed dodgy Chrome extensions or toolbars, but that's about it.
Many people have their first linux experience with ubuntu which is a shame seeing how this distribution is riddled with problems that are not being addressed because the distro is going to be binned in 6 months anyway and devs have to work on the next release.
I agree with you, daily usage is mostly a web browser / email client but there's also all the uncommon stuff and exotic hardware except my experience is that 70-80% of time you plug it and it just works, 10% of time it requires some web searching and meddling with installing/configuring somethins and 10% of time it will not work (85% of those are apple devices).
There's also one important thing to take into account, in 2010 Mac were repairable and serviceable, since 2012 repairability of Mac is abysmal and consistently get the worst score on fixit. The long list of Apple engineering failures adds to the idea that getting Mac just to be able to run OSX is not as good as it was in 2010.
My first experience with Linux was in the university computer lab. I just needed to quickly send an email. I logged in, and I couldn't figure out how to do anything. Not even log out. After asking a random other student for help, a group of people came to my aid. Turns out the desktop environment was actually broken, because the IT staff had configured it wrong. One of the other students figured out how to open a shell without using any menus and he logged me out. I decided not to use those computers again.
My second experience with Linux was on a remote terminal at my job. It was awful. Nothing worked correctly. I now realize that whoever had set up my account had done a bad copy/paste/edit job from somebody else's dotfiles, but at the time I just assumed that's how Linux was. I figured the misconfigured tcsh shell with broken autocomplete
that they gave me was normal, because I had never seen anything different before. The oddly configured, licenseless RHEL desktop they gave me reinforced the idea that everything is hard on Linux.
I had an incredibly negative opinion of Linux at this point. Every interaction had shown me that Linux was a confusing mess of garbage. Then I installed Ubuntu on my desktop. It was easy and everything worked million times better. Later, I tried Fedora and CentOS and the same was true there. At that point, I realized that Linux wasn't broken and hard to use by default. It was IT staff that was ruining it.
And if it did, Macs can easily be a better value with their better longevity and resale value.
My mid-2013 Retina MBP was a very nice system, used it lots every day. When the battery went, it's now a big deal; it's not replacing a battery, it's replacing the entire top case, trackpad, keyboard... and battery. That combination was never in stock when I visited Apple stores, and I don't live near one.
A local shop that does Apple-authorized work had to bring in that "part" - really, half a laptop, and change it out. Days later, the charging circuit failed on the main board, and it's become a doorstop with a new top case/battery. I couldn't even pay for a RAM upgrade (soldered on) when replacing the board, so I just didn't. Bought a ThinkPad that I can open and add things, and put the Mac's SSD in it.
Every time I came to visit, I would make sure to check the status of the packages, and run the software updater if any updates were available.
The only 'problem' I experienced was confusion from my uncles, when they tried to use her laptop, when they came to visit. But I wouldn't really rate that a problem, since they just gave up and didn't ruin anything.
So: my father is now on his third Linux machine in 16 years (two laptops and now a NUC hiding behind a 24" monitor). Normal updates are handled automatically; I do a major upgrade once a year. rsnapshot backs up to an external disk three times a day. Every so often he tells me that he wants to do something new, and asks if it's possible; the answer is always yes.
My mother is on her fifth computer in that time. She's always unhappy with it, but refuses to change, because she's afraid that Linux will be incompatible with the new service-du-jour that her friends are always adopting.
In my dad's case, major barriers to adoption are a) EVER rendering an MS Office document noticeably incorrectly, on either end; b) DRM'd video components like Comcast's Xfinity streaming services; c) a feeling that he doesn't really have control over it and can't just search for any software he wants and be able to use it, or can't Google a concern and find reasonably-basic instructions to get something to happen.
Those are all fairly legitimate concerns, I guess I'm just bothered by the way he treats all of these as direct failures of the OS rather than applying a little more flexibility -- if not to his computing habits in general, at least to his interpretation of the situation.
An attitude of "switch to Linux and if you can't do anything that you used to do then it's something else's fault" while possibly fair is exceptionally unhelpful.
I'm not trying to say that this is a solution to the problems entailed, and I'm not even saying that he should be obliged to go through the inconvenience of using a different OS if it doesn't fulfill all of his needs. There's just an air around the tone that's frustrating.
In general I would hope that performance, security, and system longevity would count for something, but I guess it's like telling someone to eat their vegetables. People are happier to just deal with a constant background malaise they can acclimate to and then ignore than they are to have the centralized in-the-moment friction of "to do thing X, switch to a separate VM/laptop/etc." And I mean, I get that.
So the conclusion is probably that Linux is not stable enough for a potential user until there is very little risk that that user's inertia will ever be broken. This works pretty much fine for my mom since she just needs basic word processing, a scanner, and a web browser. Not as much for my dad.
1 - https://www.softmaker.com/en/softmaker-office
That stance, in turn, is driven by business considerations that would probably be a huge tangent to discuss here. But it's important to keep in mind that this isn't just how things have always been; it's a relatively new trend, and trends can reverse.
Taxes, documents, spreadsheets, Netflix and other media, everything is accessible from a browser.
He's 76 now so yes, linux is a very good option for them.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
From the children/grandchildren perspective, nothing has changed as it has Facebook and instagram integration, so we dont have to post on it directly.
On the iPhone they have some UI accommodations that might help with this sort of thing. I needed them for when I would try to do something with Waze while my wife is driving. There is nothing to brace your arm with i her Jeep from the passenger side and it’s quite a stretch, so my hand is bobbing all over the place. Those are times I wish Siri could do more UI interaction, like “press ok.”
I haven’t looked for that kind of equivalent mouse interaction motor control accommodation on macOS.
I think leaving the configuration in config files or a separate app (like tweak tool) is much better for novices and power users.
These days she doesn't buy a computer unless it will "run that minty thing".
I pretty much don't have any tech support calls from her anymore, I think a couple in 5 years and one of those was her knocking the video cable out with a hoover.
I just install Mint based on LTS and forget about it.
I've since calmed down and don't "preach" it anymore because of the "support calls" as I don't have a ton of free time and energy I had 10 years ago but I can totally relate to OP. Once I set a laptop up with Ubuntu and install apps that people need, they go without asking for help for _years_. Only issues people used to call me for were when they had to access documents that Ubuntu wasn't able to deal with properly like MS Office docs or old CDs with auto-play apps. Better broadband speeds almost completely fixed that problem on it's own.
I’m not an Apple fanboy by any means, but the reality is that a lot of people don’t need a PC or Laptop of any sort, they just need an iPad!
That being said, yeah, all family members in the Momputer class of usership have been upgraded to ChromeOS devices. They, to a one, love them, too.
With a Chromebook, you put it in front of them, set it up, show them, and if it breaks, you can ship them a new one from Amazon, remind them where they have written down their password, get them to sign back in, and done.
Combine with the usual DuckDuckGo, Apple Maps/OpenStreetMap, Posteo, uBlock Origin, and friends, and you have a pretty good maintenance-free privacy solution.
The first thing they did on my absence was having a local PC store install XP again on it, because they couldn't use any of the software for their devices.
Nowadays they just use Windows and I am confident any local PC store will take care of their issues, instead of having me deal with them.
I provide very little tech support for my family since then. I'm no longer convinced that I really know what's best for them.
Additionally any dude at the local PC store can help with configuration issues during warranty.
Or when their network goes tits up and the calldesk from the network provider only has support scripts for Windows or macOS.
But if you already ton't help them cleaning Windows and instead sending them to a store then sure let them continuing use Windows.
I am a Linux user and Free software supporter but I would never try to switch someone that is happy with his system, I am lazy and I hate taking responsibility for the system. (as an example a friend of mine fixed someone PC by reinstalling Windows but the sound would not work because of missing drivers (he did not had internet do find drivers) and he was suspecting of stealing the sound card or breaking the sound somehow... so yeah if you don't care send them to a store)
Actually, yes my parents do buy stuff on their own, or by talking with friends of theirs, to whom Linux is that strange thing that some "university guys" use.
And to make it clear, it isn't a random PC store that does dirty tricks, just like many random car repair shops happen to do, rather something proper.
1 you were already wasting your time when visiting the parents on fixing the computer
2 the parents were transitioned to the Linux cmpatible applications like Firefox,Chrome, VLC,
3 all the parents workflows were accounted for and were met by Linux
4 the switch is done to Ubuntu LTS and not some exotic distribution
5 training is done on how to accomplish the new workflows
If the conditions above do not apply then you should not attempt this, send them to a repair shop to format and reinstall their OS.
For some workflows that most parents do Linux is good enough, my parents only use the browser,FB and YT apps(on a tablet).
But keep in mind that there are people that will have no idea that you changed the software, I was called by a neighbor to check why his laptop has no longer sound, somehow he muted Windows without knowing(maybe he hit some keyboard shortcut). With this low skilled people there is o retraining cost because their skill is already close to zero
Whether this is a good idea or not is a separate question. Personally, I help my friends and family when I can.
I haven't had to do tech support for my parents on this, but I find that the best and easiest way to do streaming media is via a set-top box like Roku or Fire TV. The interface is simple and you'd probably rather be watching on your TV than your monitor anyway.
I got in from work on Friday and got handed an ipad that wouldn't connect to the wifi and a laptop that has some weird malware.
I love my family but after a hard days programming dealing with that stuff is tiresome.
Also, it's not just parents or grand parents. It's also siblings, in-laws, and their respective close circles.
The one thing that prevent me to do that is that they use their computer for work. While I'm certain that I wouldn't have any problem doing their job with Linux, they ask me "can you absolutely guarantee that I'll be able to open and edit any Word document and that it'll look the same when I send it? Or that I won't have any problem with video conferencing?"
Well... No. I'm fairly certain, but I can't take the responsability in case I'm wrong
There is no alternative to Windows If they need Microsoft office for work... Or a VM just to run that shitty application.
Same applies to video conferencing software. If he is forced to use a specific tool, he'll probably be be plain out of luck. Most can't host the conferences from Linux.
Thankfully, most people don't need word or one specific brand of video conferencing software... So using Linux would still be an option to a lot of people
> that shitty application
I don't like Word and thankfully, don't need it myself. I'm perfectly fine with word.office.com and google docs, as I neither need nor want the advanced features.
I also don't mind if the document has an occasionally entirely different layout and sometimes even an entirely broken one.
If you are forced to use the doc/docx formats and need to share these files with other people, you'll be forced to use Microsoft Office and by extension Windows. There is no viable alternative.
all alternatives only work if you only need to produce PDFs and don't need to collaboratively edit said doc/docx
and exactly the same applies to the video conferencing tools. If you can choose your own, appear.in works fine from linux for example.
If you need to use Ciscos or SAPs (for example) video conferencing tools, you'll be plain out of luck on linux, unless you're fine just joining other peoples sessions (never hosting one yourself)
1) Sit down with your folks and talk trough their daily usage of their computer (Please be not so arrogant to think you already know it all)
As technologists this all comes easy to us and it is easy to forget what everyday computer usage means.
So far they seem happy with it; hopefully more laptops ship with Ubuntu or similar in the future.
With that setup is not so easy to nuke things over. (But a backup is still important :D)
They worked their way to LibreOffice, but regarding spell- and grammar-checking LibreOffice really sucks. As my dad does professional writing it was just not enough.
Chrome for Netflix and Spotify only, and Office 2007 because it's better than LibreOffice for their parents.
And an easier solution, don't install WINE!