Linux is Good for the Elderly 04/15/08
Some time ago, my father switched to Linux (Ubuntu). I think in some of the contributing factor to his switching was my excitement. I remember when I first tried Linux, it was an earlier version of Red Hat (with the blue install screens). At that time it was a real pain in the behind, and I found it horrible. I gave up and didn’t return until Fedora, at which point I was hooked. Fedora knocked my socks off as it was a smooth sleek OS and far more stable than Windows was then. A few years later I tried Gentoo, but the configuration (at that time) was fiddly, tough and hardly any hardware worked properly. (That’s all changed now, Gentoo rocks!). And finally I came to Ubuntu. I found it to be a great desktop/end user solution for me. Audio was of a better quality than Windows (I still use an older Win2000 PC and play with XP on occasion), video appeared much richer and I’m still hooked on the sheer freedom and functionality of Linux! It allows me to reach heights I never could in Windows.
I don’t know any other older people who use Linux, so I recently asked my father (he’s in his eighties and has been using Linux for about 6 years now) how he felt about Linux and what were some of his opinions. I asked if he could share his thoughts with the Linux community. These are his words, emailed yesterday.
There appears to be much ongoing development of Linux OS in its various flavours or versions such as Debian, Red Hat, Fedora, Mint and Ubuntu to name a few. I do not find that much is said with respect to senior or older computer users in terms of getting them to at least try using Linux. Older users are generally more set in the choice of the OS that they use. This is mainly because they generally only had Windows available to them when they became computer users. Since then they have endured all the various windows developments. Because of habit they probably live with the bugs, blue screens and security problems as being normal.
I have not personally seen any concerted movement by Linux users to try getting older users to give Linux a trial run or to convert to Linux of whatever version they feel is best suited for their computer use. Generally speaking Linux appears to be the OS for the younger or professional computer users.
Why should older users change to Linux? Primarily because of cost. Obtaining and loading Linux is without cost. Similarly when up dates are issued there is no additional cost to install the updates. Cost has been mentioned first because many seniors are on a fixed income and do not have the finances to continually update their OS with newer versions of windows as and when they are published.
Is it difficult to use Linux? If you are familiar with using windows you may be surprised at how similar Linux is to windows. Aside from seeing different file names and finding some items on menus located in different places on your screen, in use it has no major difference from windows use.
How or where can you find and install a Linux/version of your choice? Since I use Linux/Ubuntu references will be with respect to the Ubuntu version. Finding and installing could not be more simple. Just direct your browser to – ubuntu.com – at that web page you will find all the directions you need to easily install all that is required in order to have an operating Linux Ubuntu OS. This includes a Word Processor, Data Base, Spread sheet, Graphics and Games. All of these may be automatically installed but can be deleted if you have no use for them in your system. The installation is computer driven it finds all required files for whatever version you have elected to install. And you can install more advanced software (open source) later, at no cost.
What if I have a problem and cannot solve it? Since Linux is open source there are millions of users who are extremely well versed in Linux use and I have found that there is always someone who has the answer to your problem and provides a solution to your difficulty.
I was surprised at some of his comments. Especially the perception that Linux appears “…for the younger or professional computer users…” and that he found Linux easy to use! I do remember though, when he first switched, there were an awful lot of “Where is this” and “How do I do that” questions. But he took the time to become familiar with the interface. Evidently if an individual in his eighties enjoys using Linux, I’m sure others would as well. And I agree with his suggestion to give it a try.