Computer For Grandparents?

#1
I've recently convinced my grandparents (both ~80 years old) to try using a computer. Neither has used a computer for more than a few minutes before (I'm not sure if they know how to use a mouse at all) and I'm wondering what your recommendations would be for a new system for them. It would be mainly used for email (text and pictures), basic browsing (news, movie times, etc), and anything else I can convince them to use. I was thinking about each of the following categories:

-Hardware: To keep the cost low, I would probably put together the computer myself. This means that they wouldn't get tech support, but to be honest I doubt that they would use it.
-OS: While my first instinct is to just use Windows XP (the standard consumer OS these days), are there any EXTREMELY simple OSs (maybe linux-based)? Keep in mind that my grandparents don't have any concepts of computer usage and would be using it almost exclusively as an internet portal.
-Mouse/keyboard: Is a standard optical mouse and keyboard best? Is there any advantage to alternate controls (trackballs, etc.)?
-Internet connection: Is dial-up still an option these days? I hate to have them paying more for cable internet (they already get cable TV) but the inconvenience of dial-up might give them a bad impression of the 'net.
-Software: I'll definitely be installing the Google Pack to get basic anti-virus/spyware and desktop search. Office probably isn't worth getting since they'll be doing little to no document-writing, but I'm considering installing OpenOffice so they could at least open a document if I sent it to them.
-Email: I'm guessing that Gmail would be one of the easiest - do you think that web-based email is more or less complicated than an email client program?

Please let me know your recommendations! :grinning:

-Chris
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#2
Hey Chris....

So long as you're doing the configuration, this is what I'd personally recommend:

Install them Fedora Core 5 or SUSE 10.1 - make sure to use KDE and not GNOME, GNOME is better, but KDE is like Mac OS: dumbed down, pretty, and easy to use.

Get a 19" LCD (or 17" if 19" is too expensive) because you're going to have to pick a really low resolution to make sure they can read everything.

The rest of the hardware just get a $60 Sempron (maybe x64? up to you), the cheapest mobo with built-in audio and video, 512MB DDR ram (two 256 sticks - it's cheap), a 300Watt cheapo power supply.. maybe a 40GB SATA or IDE drive (both really cheap today)

DON'T grab the Google Pack, it's garbage. First, Linux doesn't need AV, but even if it were Windows, I'd jump off the Sears Tower before installing Norton AntiVirus - but don't worry, they're safe.

OpenOffice on Linux is a given, just install the bare minimums..

If they're subscribed to Cable TV, you should be able to upgrade to Cable TV & Internet for 5-10 USD extra a month - exactly how much a dial-up plan would cost you :smile:

For email Gmail is nice.... but I'd still suggest Yahoo! as it's more "stable" and definitely faster load times... don't bother putting them thunderbird or anything, just make Firefox's homepage the email inbox and they should be good to go....

Apart from the monitor the entire PC should be under 200 USD as listed above, (standard kb and mouse BTW, nothing is easier.. but get big and comfortable kb!), the monitor at 19" is 200 USD for an LCD, but you could get away with a used 19" or 20" CRT at 80-120 USD.
 
#3
Thanks for the suggestions! I only have a couple of questions/comments:

Install them Fedora Core 5 or SUSE 10.1 - make sure to use KDE and not GNOME, GNOME is better, but KDE is like Mac OS: dumbed down, pretty, and easy to use.
I don't personally have a whole lot of Linux experience (I've only played around with a few CD distros) - how hard would these be to set up? I'd like to try building the system with Linux - should be a learning experience for me as well as my grandparents!

Get a 19" LCD (or 17" if 19" is too expensive) because you're going to have to pick a really low resolution to make sure they can read everything.
The rest of the hardware just get a $60 Sempron (maybe x64? up to you), the cheapest mobo with built-in audio and video, 512MB DDR ram (two 256 sticks - it's cheap), a 300Watt cheapo power supply.. maybe a 40GB SATA or IDE drive (both really cheap today)
Thanks - this is exactly what I was thinking too.

DON'T grab the Google Pack, it's garbage. First, Linux doesn't need AV, but even if it were Windows, I'd jump off the Sears Tower before installing Norton AntiVirus - but don't worry, they're safe.
OpenOffice on Linux is a given, just install the bare minimums..
The only problems I've had with Norton AV are the subscription cost and the crappy email scanning that blocks encrypted messages. What are the other issues with it?

If they're subscribed to Cable TV, you should be able to upgrade to Cable TV & Internet for 5-10 USD extra a month - exactly how much a dial-up plan would cost you
I'll have to check this for their area - I know for my house (with Comcast) we have to pay quite a bit more than that for internet. Unfortunately there's no alternative for our area, so we live with it...

For email Gmail is nice.... but I'd still suggest Yahoo! as it's more "stable" and definitely faster load times... don't bother putting them thunderbird or anything, just make Firefox's homepage the email inbox and they should be good to go....
I'm an old Yahoo! user myself, so I'd have no reservations about setting them up with that. I agree that an email client is a complication.

Apart from the monitor the entire PC should be under 200 USD as listed above, (standard kb and mouse BTW, nothing is easier.. but get big and comfortable kb!), the monitor at 19" is 200 USD for an LCD, but you could get away with a used 19" or 20" CRT at 80-120 USD.
I'm aiming for the $300-$600 range, so this looks like it should be perfect.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#4
Great!
It looks like Linux is the only issue?

I suggested Fedora because it is simply the very easiest to setup, learn, and use.
By default setup will install Gnome, but the setup interface is VERY easy to use, just uncheck Gnome, check KDE, and you're set :grinning:
(and remember our Linux section of the forums :tongueout:)

(oh, and Norton uses Rootkits that make your PC vulnerable, it uses too much memory, and updates only on Wednesdays - !!!!!!!!)
 
#5
Great!
It looks like Linux is the only issue?
I suggested Fedora because it is simply the very easiest to setup, learn, and use.
By default setup will install Gnome, but the setup interface is VERY easy to use, just uncheck Gnome, check KDE, and you're set
(and remember our Linux section of the forums )
Great - I should be putting the system together sometime in the next couple of weeks, after the plan gets approved by the budget department (i.e. my parents, who are financing "Operation Internet"). I'll let you know what issues I run into!

(oh, and Norton uses Rootkits that make your PC vulnerable, it uses too much memory, and updates only on Wednesdays - !!!!!!!!)
I've been out of the loop with the Norton rootkit issues - I'll have to get myself up to speed on that. Memory usage has been a noticable problem, but to be honest I never realized the updates were only on Wednesday! While this is leaning dangerously off-topic, which AV would you recommend instead (for my own use)?
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#6
NOD32. No questions asked. Tiny (4-100kb) updates up to 26 times a day. Best heuristics ever. Light. Powerful. Deadly.

(and, on NST, no one will ban you for being off topic, so no worries, hakuna mattata :grinning:)
 

Sarge

Active Member
#7
I'm old NOD32 user and Guru is right about it. :grinning:
 
#8
i found out while upgrading to vista on my stepdad's media center pc, it wouldn't upgrade unless norton was installed. that made it take about half an hour longer than it should have =P.