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.

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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.

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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. :)

If you’re interested in switching, you might enjoy an earlier post: Switching From XP to Linux – Should You? or even James House’s 8 Things I Learned When Switching to Ubuntu Linux.

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14 Responses to this article

 
db April 17, 2008 Reply

Good points, but it sounds like a commercial.
Linux is getting easier to use, it finds more kinds of hardware better than it did 18 months ago.

My money’s still on the PC/ X86 OS
and until Linux lets you install PC software as easily as say, 32bit on a 64bit window system, I don’t see a vast migration anytime soon.
But take heart, I haven’t seen any new innovations in PC software in a some time, so there’s a window for Linux developers to catch up, and who knows, surpass Windows.

 
Jenn April 17, 2008 Reply

This might be interesting, it’s about a grandmother using Ubuntu: http://www.knightwise.com/content/view/154/9/

 
UbuntuLinuxHelp April 18, 2008 Reply

@db – I had to smile (in a friendly way) when I read this “…and until Linux lets you install PC software as easily as say, 32bit on a 64bit window system…” Have you tried it lately? In many cases you just use the package manager (synaptic) to select the application and it’s all done automatically. Sometimes there’s a downloaded file and you just double click to install. Other users even opt to use the command line, and the install is automatic. :)
I agree in that Linux is quickly catching up in the desktop market, and I have no doubt that the release of Ubuntu Linux 8.04 (later this month) will be a huge success. Thanks for the input. Cheers! :)

 
UbuntuLinuxHelp April 18, 2008 Reply

@Jenn – That was an interesting read. Thanks.

 
Adam Trickett April 18, 2008 Reply

I’ve been saying this for years. At long last people are starting to believe me. Linux is easier to configure and for someone with no Windows history it is perfect – there is no relearning to do either!

http://www.iredale.net/p/by-topic/unix/desktop

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp April 18, 2008 Reply

@Adam Trickett – I like your posts in the link and some of your conclusions like “…my experience with my father and other inexperienced computer users convinces me that the modern desktop software is not obvious but that with basic training it is very easy to use…”. It’s certainly something I agree with. ;)

 
John July 25, 2008 Reply

Interesting comments. I’m not sure where you (and your Dad) is based.I live in the UK and I’ve played with Linux over the years from memory SuSE 5, Mandrake 3,
Red Hat (?) Mandriva (2 versions about 2 years apart). Recently Ubuntu Fiesty and Hardy. This is being typed on a £300 laptop that came with Vista preloaded. I put Mint on it and everything just worked. WiFi, printer…everything.While I can’t compete with your Dad for seniority at 56 I feel I’m at the elder end of Linux users (at least here in the UK)>

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp July 31, 2008 Reply

@John – We’re in Canada. Thanks for the comment. And, for reminding me about Mint. I took a quick look at it a while back and was VERY impressed. But as the days went by and I got busy with stuff, I forgot to go back and revisit Mint. I will this weekend! Thanks and have a good one! :)

 
Enrico Neri October 15, 2008 Reply

I agree with Adam:
“Linux is easier to configure and for someone with no Windows history it is perfect – there is no relearning to do either!”

User don’t care if it’s linux or whatever, it just doesn’t have to freeze or do strange things.

fact is, only linux behave well.
so, yes, LINUX is good for our elderly.
long live Linux

 
allan November 28, 2008 Reply

I am also an older user who would like to try linux. I have been using windows for years and have just installed Ubuntu 8.10 on my old computer. I find it rather difficult. It is easy enough to install but, as for getting a modem to work, that is another matter. I have tried with an internal modem with a cd that contains a linux driver and also an external modem. Both have failed to work. The only way I can get on the net is to use the modem in my XP machine with intenet sharing turned on.
Yesterday, I tried to copy and paste some text into Open Office Writer and it was painfully slow.
I use OO on windows and it performs perfectly. Things I am finding difficult at the moment are the simple tasks that can be performed with ease in windows.
For instance, how do I format a floppy? Why doesn’t my music cd play when I put it in the drive? How do I change the resolution of the desktop? Until linux makes these winple tasks much easier to do with having to revert to the terminal, which most people of my age would not understand and have no interest in learning, Linux will not replace windows. (Unfortunately.) I will persevere with this system for a while longer but, unless I can find somewhere where I can post a question about any problem and get a constructive answer in ten words or less, I may have to give up and go back to windows.

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp November 30, 2008 Reply

@allan – Thanks for the input. Maybe the following will help: Check your hardware. (Maybe there is an issue with the modem or it’s driver. Maybe there is not enough memory or processing power for Open Office to be so slow). Right-click on the icon for the floppy and select format. Music… did you install the codecs? A lot of media has restricted formats, this should get you going: http://ubuntulinuxhelp.com/how-to-play-most-restricted-media-formats-in-ubuntu/
Hopefully these will help you. I remember when I first used Linux, it was a bit confusing until I got used to it. Incidentally, I also found Windows confusing when I first started using it. I will probably find the next OS confusing too – Until I get used to it.

 
edd February 16, 2009 Reply

I agree with you, definately, and now with the use of netbooks, and remixed distro’s it’s getting even easier.

 
johnny hoodoo April 28, 2009 Reply

My Dad who is 70 yrs old uses Linux Mint.He was fed up with windows being slow to load,freezing and also that he had to spend much of the time running anti-virus scans,spyware scans and defragmenting the file system.Also the cost of add on software such as Word,Adobe photo shop etc were leaving him skint (with low or no funds).I firstly installed Slackware as I always have an install Dvd of that nearby.He liked it but found the update of the system or installation of packages difficult.I switched him to Linux Mint two years ago and He hasn’t looked back.He knows when his system has updates and knows how to install extra packages using the package manager (Debian’s Synaptic I think).He cant believe that he doesn’t need to run an anti virus all the time.I suppose He has had it easy with me installing Linux in the first place and being just a phone call away when he gets stuck.He was also lucky in that all his hardware just worked.I know this isn’t always the case and certain peripherals wont work such as printers or wireless cards if you are unlucky but a bit of research will find you Linux compatible hardware.He simply would not even consider using windows.He actually thinks that it is some sort of con.
Personally I don’t care what you use if it works for you.My kids have windows partition’s on their computers because they need it for things like Itunes or certain games.This seems to be a good use of windows if you have paid for a license even reluctantly when purchasing a new computer.When my Dad bought his PC two years ago He actually laughed at the guy who was doing the build when he quoted him “it will be an extra £80 with XP or £100 with Vista…He replied “Nah your ok son.My laddie is putting Mint on mine for nothing.Had it on my old broke PC and Im having it on this new one….Brilliant.

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp April 30, 2009 Reply

@johnny hoodoo – That’s nice to read! My dad is about the same. He’s now a dedicated Ubuntu user, who’s getting the hang of “sudo aptitude install” and other commands. It’s nice to see (for me at least) how some of the Linux usability myths are dispelled with real-life examples!

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