So I asked my Mom if she would be willing to use my computer, and I would set her up with a system that was a lot faster and just as easy as what she was using, and I would help her with it. She agreed.
I already had Xubuntu 11.10 installed on that system, so getting an account for her on that one was no big deal, but Linux Mint 12 had just been released, so I decided to install it and create an account for her there as well. It worked out quite well. But other systems are even more responsive and sprightly than Mint, if all you intend to do with them is browse the Web.
Xubuntu 11.10 is one of those systems. So after a month or two of using Mint 12 occasionally (not more than a few times a week), I set Mom up with Xubuntu and had her run it for a few weeks. Like Mint, that experiment also worked out fine.
That got me thinking: if Mint and Xubuntu worked out, then it is not the operating system that matters for Mom. What matters is a consistent interface to what she needs to access, namely the Web browser. I have had her use Firefox in all of the cases mentioned.
Lubuntu 11.10 comes equipped with Chromium rather than Firefox, but that is an easy issue to handle. Simply load Firefox from the package manager and install it on the system, then make sure that an easy to find Firefox icon is available. I try to put application icons that are needed right on the Tool Bar or Task Bar, and that is precisely what I did in this case, and then I tried to get rid of as many other distractions as possible, so that logging in, accessing Firefox, and clicking the X to close the browser, then clicking on Logout or Shutdown were the only other considerations. Making a clean system with those characteristics is easy with Lubuntu, so that is what I did.
My Mom has now been using Lubuntu 11.10 for a few weeks with the same degree of success as with the other systems. She can get stuck pretty easily, because she only knows what she has been shown, but she follows directions well. My oldest sister, a recently retired school teacher, gave my Mom very good instructions on how to get the computer to access Hotmail, so I simply modified those instructions to access Hotmail by logging into Lubuntu instead of Windows XP.
This sets the stage for when I am no longer staying with Mom. I can install Lubuntu, or some other really light system, such as antiX, Puppy, or Peppermint OS, create some simple instructions, and put it on that aging Dell Latitude D610. Now I know that it will work.
Speaking of the Latitude, I owned a D600, gave it to my son, and he still runs PCLinuxOS on it, has run sidux, PCLinuxOS, SimplyMEPIS, Kubuntu, and Fedora on it. He installed Fedora on it, overwriting sidux, PCLinuxOS, and SimplyMEPIS, but I brought him a PCLinuxOS, and he installed it in place of the others. I gave him enough information to manage the system using synaptic, the PCLinuxOS package manager, and he does that.
Given all of those systems that work on the D600, and the fact that I've tried other distros Live on the D610 and D620, I think that we'll be able to set something up. Meanwhile, as long as I am staying with Mom, she is more than welcome to use my Lenovo, running Lubuntu 11.10 (or soon, 12.04).