Monday, January 30, 2012

The experiment with Mom!

I read these stories all the time about "Joe Sixpack", or about some "mythical, typical user". I am convinced that while there may be some common attributes found in a casual computer user, there is no one, single "typical user" out there.

My mother is an intelligent woman, someone who reads every day of her life, remains active, and while she is traditional and conservative in her approach to life, in no way does that limit or label her as "closed minded", unwilling to change, or any other stereotypes you may think of, or possibly have even experienced in the past.

No, my mother is smart, witty, with a good sense of humor, and she's in better health than people ten to fifteen years younger than her.

Many years ago, my mother worked in the local school system, first in Accounts Payable at the School Board office, then in the counseling office at the Junior High School. She had to use a minimal amount of computer access in order to do her job. She was able to pick up the skills and do an adequate job with them, given the time and expertise needed to perform her job.

When I moved in with my mother, I found that she had a laptop computer and she was able to use it for really basic things, like reading Email and searching news sites. What she knows tends to be limited, for the most part, to what she has been shown. Very gradually, she is learning that there are not too many harmful things that happen when you click on a Web page - EXCEPT when someone is asking you to fill in information about yourself or others. She knows not to do that!

With that in mind, I set out to see if my mom could use a Linux system in place of Windows XP. I was almost certain she could because:

1) All she accesses are sites on Internet Explorer, such as Hotmail, Bing, MyMSN, or From there, she accesses other things. It's all Web based.

2) So far, I have seen no evidence of Word Processor use. So if she wants to use a Word Processor, learning Abiword, KWord, Libre Office, or something else will be no different than learning Microsoft Word.

Therefore, I have had my mother using Linux Mint 12 for over a month. She's had very few questions and no big problems. When she wants to do something like reserve a ticket somewhere or buy something, she asks for my help so that she won't mistakenly go to the wrong place.

So she's done pretty well with Mint.

My next experiment is to see if she can handle Xubuntu. If that's a yes, then it may even become Lubuntu, a really light system that is very suitable for people who use the Internet and very little else.

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