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Wednesday, 30 October 2013 21:48

Ubuntu Linux continues to pass the grandma test


Ubuntu Linux has been described as so simple your grandmother could use it. That continues to ring true as one user of social news site Reddit found this week, with his grandmother now swearing off Windows for life.

Way back in 2008 - over five years ago now - Canonical documented an experiment involving theoretical grandmothers that demonstrated two things. First, it was possible to make a computing environment easy enough for anyone's grandmother - simple login, clear and logical menus, and a minimum of training required to "do stuff" like read email, browse the web, and look at photographs. Second, Ubuntu was a natural fit for such an environment.

Back in those years I was a Red Hat Linux user and switched to Ubuntu as I heard more and more about it; this included the claim that it was allegedly so easy even your proverbial grandma could use it.

Fast forward five years and a lot has advanced. Ubuntu is continuing to see two releases per year, Windows 7 and then Windows 8 and even now Windows 8.1 has been released which, like MacOS X, seeks to unify the experience between desktops and tablets in their own ways. Technology has moved on. However, one thing hasn't changed, it seems.

Yes, if you want an operating system that grandma can use, it's still Ubuntu Linux you want.

This was the experience described this week on popular social network and news aggregator site Reddit, albeit not in any dedicated Linux forum but in the "tales of tech support" where beleagured IT professionals lament the competence of the users they must deal with, exasperatedly wondering how these same users manage to dress themselves and drive to work each day.

In that subreddit along came Redditor faultyk with a rare good news story.

He posted that he has played tech support for his Nana since high school, some years ago, having since completed University and being employed as an engineer. While his Nana has always tried her best to understand computers she struggled for varying reasons, the biggest of which was severe arthritis.

Her Windows Vista computer had slowed down to the point where it was unusable and faultyk's Nana and Pop decided it was time to purchase a new computer. Off they went to the local JB Hi Fi where the "young person" at the store recommended a brand new Hewlett Packard desktop running Windows 8.

Alas, while the hardware may have been fine, the Windows 8 experience was too much change too quickly. Faultyk's grandparents weren't happy with Windows 8 at all.

Faultyk offered to install Ubuntu 12.04 - an "LTS", or "long term support" - release of Ubuntu on the old Vista computer, and run his grandparents through how to use it. He said this would be a trial, and if they did not like it he would work with them to determine some other ways to make Windows 8 more familiar and comfortable.

Yet, despite giving his grandparents only a one hour rundown of Ubuntu, faultyk received a mere one phone call in the following eight days about the computer. It wasn't a "how do I" call, nor a "I hate this" call, but instead a call to say how well everything had gone.

Faultyk's grandmother Nana had, by herself, figured out how to change the wallpaper, how to make the font size larger, how to install card games, and had completely adjusted to using Thunderbird for e-mail. She had one slight moment of trying to find the delete button in Thunderbird but she worked it out and reports she will never use a Windows machine again if it can be helped.

Faultyk reports he was in no way seeking to start any debate over Linux vs Windows 8 or other operating systems, but merely reported his experiences with an elderly lady who didn't take well to the adjustment of WIndows 8 and found Ubuntu to be a dream.

Yet, it's news that Canonical couldn't pay for - this is the real-world practical application of how non-IT folk find Ubuntu Linux accessible in achieving their computing objectives. Contrast this with a video of another person's father trying out Windows 8 pre-release for the first time.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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