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Which Linux For Non-Techie Windows Users? 766

obarthelemy writes "Having at last gotten Linux to run satisfactorily on my own PCs, I'd now like to start transitioning friends and family from XP to Linux instead of Windows 7. The catch is that these guys don't understand or care much about computers, so the transition has to be as seamless and painless as possible. Actually, they won't care for new things; even the upcoming upgrade to Windows 7 would be a pain and a bother, which is a great opportunity for Linux. I'm not too concerned about software (most of them only need browser, IM, VLC, mail and a Powerpoint viewer for all those fascinating attachments). What I'm concerned about is OS look-and-feel and interface — system bar on the bottom with clock, trash, info on the right, menu on the left, menu items similar to those of Windows. Is it better to shoot for a very targeted distro? Which would you recommend? Are there themes/skins for mainstream distributions instead? I've been looking around the web, and it's hard to gauge which distros are well-done and reasonably active."
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Which Linux For Non-Techie Windows Users?

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  • Try OpenSUSE (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:25PM (#31211382)
    11.2 is very polished and nice and YaST makes it easy to get things done if you are unfamiliar with how Linux configuration files work or are located. It can install software almost as easily as Ubuntu, but in my opinion, does more things "right" than Ubuntu does. It has almost everything you would need and good overall integration. If you install it, I recommend you do it via the install DVD rather than the live CD.
    • Re:Try OpenSUSE (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:31PM (#31211450)
      Additional info: [] for some screen shots. Also, to clarify my previous post; YaST is similar, but more powerful than Microsoft's control panel. If you configure (And you should) the Packman repository (A repository is a collection of install packages that you set up by adding the URL to a window or the file directly, and you can do it easily in YaST), you should be able to isntall almost anything you want right from YaST's package management window without having to search on many web pages.

      There are lots of good documents here: []

      • by DrYak ( 748999 )

        If you configure (And you should) the Packman repository

        I second that. Packman is a must have repository.
        Given weird IP laws, there is a lot of stuff which Novell isn't allowed to ship inside openSUSE (MP3 support, DVD support, etc...). Packman is *the* place to get all the stuff one needs (in addition to providing a nice location for some more up-to-date software and software which weren't available in the main repo).

        Though one gotcha with openSUSE 11.2 : the latest opensource drivers for ATI and nVidia aren't included out-of-the-box (no nouveau at all, and the

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Threni ( 635302 )

      I considered Suse but noticed that Ubuntu not only looked easier, but had which seems to be the place to search for info or ask for answers, and didn't see anything as popular for Suse or other distros. Also, Ubuntu seems to be by fair the most popular, which makes it easier to check if this or that game/gfx card/piece of hardware works. And it's less nerdy to get obvious `this shouldn't be hard` stuff done, like installing software.

    • I agree. SUSE is the way to go. Some points I like: first distro I tried where wifi worked without a big hassle. For those who want to use motherboard raid, it recognizes it and you don't have to endure people telling you it is fakeraid and all the other bullshit. That is, you can set up your drives as YOU want from the installer. No separate 'alternate' installer where raid installation doesn't work anyway, even if using kernel based software raid. The wifi and raid bullshit turned me off of Ubuntu. They k
    • See what you think of PcLinux []. It's built on Debian, so it's not too "fringey". Here [] are some screenshots. It compares nicely to the Windows XP User Interface, but not so closely as to be confused with Windows. The descriptions of programs are fairly easy for newbies to understand, and even the front end for synaptic should make it pretty simple for them to add on programs if they want to.
    • YaST, YaST, and YaST (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:47PM (#31211662) Homepage Journal

      Windows users expect a familiar control panel to configure their box.

      openSUSE puts out great, polished desktops. Their KDE 4 desktop is perhaps unmatched by any other distro, but YaST is what will really appeal to non-technical Windows users.

      It should be noted that you may need to install a restricted formats package to get Flash, DVDs, MP3s, codecs, etc, and possibly a proprietary video driver. But there are 1-click installers that make this process very simple. After those two steps, you should be in pretty good shape.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Noughmad ( 1044096 )
        Most Windows users never configure their box. In most cases it only has to be done no more than once, and then it's usually done by a geek relative.
    • If you want to give them KDE, OpenSUSE is a good choice, since it has nice KDE integration of OpenOffice and Firefox. And OpenSUSE in general has good quality packaging and regular releases.
  • Prepare for all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:29PM (#31211414) Homepage

    Before you begin, ask the people you want to help if they are willing to try something else than MS software. They are probably quite familiar with Windows, Office, Outlook, and Media Player, and will have a hard time learning something new. That also means you will be asked a LOT of questions, mostly things that you can not even come up with because they are so logical to you. So: know what you get into before you begin!

    • Re:Prepare for all (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tsa ( 15680 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:34PM (#31211490) Homepage

      Sorry for replying to myself, but if you have to ask this question on /. you'd better not start the whole 'converting business' because you will probably get more questions and remarks than you can handle. First try to find a Linux distribution that looks extremely user-friendly to you, get to know it thoroughly, and then ask people if they want to try it as an alternative to Windows.

      • Re:Prepare for all (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:56PM (#31211760) Homepage Journal

        if you have to ask this question on /. you'd better not start

        Every single Ask Slashdot story gets a response like this, and it's always a jackass thing to say. The whole reason Ask Slashdot exists is to allow technically competent people to share their expertise, and help others get up to speed. "RTFM n00b" responses like this are a major contributor to the negative geek stereotypes we all claim to hate, and in this specific case, a major barrier to Linux use. If you like seeing yourself as a member of a small, impenetrable elite possessed of special and arcane knowledge, go right ahead, but don't expect the rest of us to play along.

        • Re:Prepare for all (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chees0rz ( 1194661 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:26PM (#31212076)

          if you have to ask this question on /. you'd better not start

          Every single Ask Slashdot story gets a response like this, and it's always a jackass thing to say.

          I think you misinterpreted his meaning, in this case. The GP was giving the advice that- if this ask /.er has to ask, then somebody better bring up the question- "Are you familiar w/ Linux yourself?"

          Being a newb with Linux is a difficult enough step, and sometimes hard work. Supporting someone is even more difficult. This advice was buried in his maybe, somewhat, possibly, loaded question- Whatever answer comes up here, make sure you damn well get experience with the distro you choose before recommending others to use it. You are the tech support.

      • but if you have to ask this question on /. you'd better not start

        I think that could be said for most AskSlashdot questions. Seriously, there are questions that if you really need ask then you arent prepared for the answer.

      • Re:Prepare for all (Score:5, Informative)

        by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:19PM (#31212022) Journal

        >>>>you'd better not start the whole 'converting business' because you will probably get more questions and remarks than you can handle

        +1 insightful.

        I ran into this exact same problem. I gave my brother a new Windows/vista 7 desktop and an older Ubuntu Linux laptop (he gave me $350 in return), and you're right. I was not prepared for the number of questions I am now getting from him.

        - WINDOWS 7 (vista 6.1) ----- Nary a problem. He did ask me to install RealPlayer but it only took 5 minutes and now he's gone two months without asking any questions.

        - UBUNTU LINUX ----- Oh my god. Problem after problem after problem. "Where's the start menu?" "How come I can't find the calculator?" "Why won't my MS Word docs work on this laptop?" "I tried to play a game, but it refused to work." "I tried to watch CNN but the video refuses to run (it needed MS media player)." I'm starting to wish I had installed XP instead of Linux on this laptop, because it's idiot-friendly and my brother knows Windows.

        This is not going to be a popular post.
        I'm sorry. I can't change what I have observed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TerranFury ( 726743 )

          Completely with you. There was a time when I would have considered installing Linux on my older parents' computer, but I wouldn't think seriously about it nowadays. In fact, I've even given up on Linux on the desktop myself!

          I'd been running Kubuntu on my laptop for some time... Frustrated by a dog-slow Flash player (which wouldn't fullscreen properly), and extremely flaky wifi, I switched to XP Pro. Should have done it ages ago. It runs Flash fullscreen at native (very high) LCD resolution, plays games,

    • Re:Prepare for all (Score:4, Interesting)

      by elfprince13 ( 1521333 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:14PM (#31211970) Homepage
      My *mother* switched painlessly to Ubuntu. The first step is training them to use Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, and VLC on their Windows machine. After a month or so of smooth sailing, install Ubuntu and show them where the new menu locations are.
  • Ubuntu (Score:5, Informative)

    by InsertWittyNameHere ( 1438813 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:29PM (#31211416)
    Give them Ubuntu. Out of the box it's similar in look and feel to windows. If you want it to look like OS X then install AWN and Compiz (or if their system is old/slow turn on Metacity instead of Compiz) and the advanced effects thing (I forget what its called but it lets you make those squishy windows and the cube for switching between workspaces and lots of other effects.
    • I would suggest Kubuntu as an alternative. The KDE UI is much closer to Windows than Gnome is, and it retains the other user-friendly aspects of Ubuntu (including the parts that Ubuntu inherits from Debian, obviously). I also think it looks more polished, but obviously that's just my opinion.
      I started using Kubuntu on my laptop and my media PC a year or two ago and think it's great. I'd be running it on my workstation at home if I didn't have the need for some Windows-only apps.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Urza9814 ( 883915 )

      I would have to say that, while Ubuntu is a good choice, I wouldn't do straight Ubuntu - I'd pick Kubuntu. Out of the box, Gnome doesn't look anything like Windows - it looks closer to OS X than anything. KDE is going to be a lot more like Windows.

  • Having recently paid for Windows 7 Professional, I can tell you that Linux offers you so many benefits that it is hard to see how Microsoft will be able to compete in the near future.

    For example:

    • you can install Linux even when there are multiple hard drives in your computer (you can only install Windows 7 if there is one and only one hard drive installed)
    • you can choose to have your entire Linux partition encrypted - no need to buy Windows 7 Ultimate, or install truecrypt later
    • Linux will support RAID -
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mikkelm ( 1000451 )

      I'm not sure what kind of experience lead you to believe that Windows 7 can only install with a single drive present, but it is very much not true.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by schnikies79 ( 788746 )

      Wow, good job at being full of shit.

      I installed Windows 7 on my HTPC, on Thursday and it has 5 hard drives. it didn't complain.

      Raid 0,1 and 0+1 are normally set up in the bios, not the os. As long as 7 has the drivers, any version will install on a raid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xtravar ( 725372 )

      I'm as big of a Linux advocate as anyone, but even I'm not delusional enough to think those advantages are going to sway the public.

      • It's going to be even harder than that, since they are all blatant lies.

        Either that or the GP couldn't figure out how to configure an extremely easy to install OS, which doesn't lend confidence to his technical expertise on the matter.

    • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:45PM (#31211628) Homepage Journal

      you can install Linux even when there are multiple hard drives in your computer (you can only install Windows 7 if there is one and only one hard drive installed)

      Er, what? Every version of Windows I've installed (back to 95 on floppy disks) supported multiple hard drives. The 9x series would format all of the installed drives prior to installing Windows itself, but that was fixed for the NT-based versions.

      Linux will support RAID - 0, 1, 1+0, etc - Windows 7 only supports RAID 0, and RAID 1 for those who buy Professional or Ultimate, and cannot do RAID 1+0

      Do you really want your OS taking on the overhead of RAID? Desktop motherboards with hardware RAID 0/1/0+1 are easy to find and cheap. How many desktop users actually have the four hard drives necessary (at a bare minimum) for 0+1 anyway?

      Linux will not magically create a 100MB partition that you cannot erase and is essential to the operating system, unlike Windows 7 that will refuse to boot after removing the 100MB magic partition using Knoppix and cannot repair even with the original installation disks

      100MB is about 1/100th of a percent of a common 1TB hard drive, right? Who cares? Why were you trying to remove it?

      There are lots of things to like about Linux and hate about Windows (and vice-versa), but I don't think any of the things you mention are significant for the average desktop user of either.

      • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:58PM (#31212408) Homepage Journal

        Do you really want your OS taking on the overhead of RAID?

        Yes, it's well-debugged, very low CPU (especially in a multi-core world), and it's portable across controllers.

        Desktop motherboards with hardware RAID 0/1/0+1 are easy to find and cheap.

        Because most of them just pass the job onto an OS driver.

        How many desktop users actually have the four hard drives necessary (at a bare minimum) for 0+1 anyway?

        RAID-1 is the major win for availability. It even improves your average seek time.

    • Linux will not magically create a 100MB partition that you cannot erase and is essential to the operating system, unlike Windows 7 that will refuse to boot after removing the 100MB magic partition using Knoppix and cannot repair even with the original installation disks

      Oh noes! My operating system created a 100mb system partition on my 1tb drive! I needed that space so I deleted it and now it doesnt work! Microsoft sucks!

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:30PM (#31211434)

    It took me about 15 minutes to show them how to navigate around (compared to their old Windows XP machine that just gave up the ghost). The only thing I needed to set up for them was flash video so they can use youtube. The system keeps itself updated automatically and they'd already been using Openoffice under Windows.

    They've got a brand new Asus notebook and Ubuntu found all the hardware bits by itself (including wifi and bluetooth). Haven't gotten a "support request" in months. I left a bootable Vista partition just in case they decide they want to get back on the Windows merry-go-round, but so far they haven't seen any need.


  • ER... Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveQat ( 186457 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:31PM (#31211452) Homepage

    I realize Slashdot is probably the wrong place to ask this question, but why bother transitioning them? If Windows works for them, and they're happy, you're just asking for a LOT of headaches with tech support, questions, and problems. Let them continue to use Windows in peace, unless there's some kind of real pressing issue that leads you to recommend them switching.

    • Re:ER... Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:38PM (#31211540)

      I agree. What's wrong with Windows 7? My dad switched from XP to 7 and was ready to go after a 15-minute walkthrough. He hasn't called to ask about anything. I tried switching him to Ubuntu but he was calling all the time to ask questions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'm considering something similar because frankly, XP3 catches weird things all the time (and while cleaning windows viruses has a homey retro feel, I don't want to do it all the time) and their hardware isn't really up to running vista or W7. But.. Then they're very used to windows and it'll while the product is free (and good) I'm not signing up to educate/support people for all eternity. Not trying to be obnoxious, but we can't prop up XP forever and not everyone, especially people who consider their com
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 )

        Windows 7 will run on just about anything. You don't have to worry about hardware unless the computer is 10 years old. It ran better than XP on my 6 year old laptop.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by indrora ( 1541419 )

        Actually I have to place a nice "Windows 7 did its job amazingly" note here.

        I ran windows 7 on a machine with the following specs:
        384MB of RAM
        1Ghz Pentium 3/4 (cant remember which)
        4MB graphics card
        (see [] )
        It got a 1.0 on the scale, and I had to hack together some win2k drivers for it to work, but by god it worked and it had better boot times than Linux does on the same machine(a heavily stripped down Xubuntu), down to playing a few mildly graphics intensive gam

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 )

      Well, just because they are used to windows doesn't mean it is working well for them or that they do not need constant help with it. XP is beginning to look dated and has always been a security problem. We all know Vista is crap, so if they're using that, switching to anything would be a reasonable upgrade. And if they are good enough with Windows that they don't need help with it, switching to Ubuntu (or Mint, even better) should not be difficult and will provide some peace of mind in terms of security.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Manip ( 656104 )

        Windows XP is secure if configured correctly, and Vista hasn't been crap since its first Service Pack. Your entire post feels like a throw back from several years ago.

        Also, I wouldn't switch users away from Windows. It is cheap enough, with great software support, to make it worth while to keep working around any problems you encounter.

    • Point them to the best places to get good deals on Windows, Office, and decent anti-virus and backup. The $300-400 they would spend, or extra $200-300 on a new computer with all four items, will be far less than the time they lose transitioning to Linux.

      If they don't have any money to spend, at least have them invest $50 in a hard drive so they can switch back if they need to.

      Until Microsoft totally loses their mind and locks the entire user experience with DRM, there will not be enough momentum in the user

    • Re:ER... Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:56PM (#31212380)

      Seriously,....I'm an Ubuntu zealot, but I have learned my lesson "nation building" with tech stuff. You are never really done, people call for help and questions years later.

      If they don't like windows they just need to pony up a little more cash, get a Mac and get rid of the hassles.

  • Mandriva Linux (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RudyHartmann ( 1032120 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:32PM (#31211458)
    Mandriva Linux. Especially if you get the Powerpack. It has all the extras built right into the DVD so you don't have to go out and find it. I would also recommend getting the 32-bit version since it's more stable. I also site this article in Linux magazine: []
  • Linus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrShaggy ( 683273 ) <chris DOT anderson AT hush DOT com> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:33PM (#31211476) Journal

    The man himself uses ubuntu.

    I also enjoyed Fedora Core.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      To the question "Which Linux for Non-Techie Windows Users?", let's go with what Linus would use. That he uses a Linux distro that could work at all is coincidence.

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:36PM (#31211508)

    Here's why:

    The latest incarnation of KDE [] looks great. You must be warned though that the system your folks must be using has to be "powerful" enough. Here "powerful" is subjective.

    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:35PM (#31212160)

      * It has more of the little tools which people expect and use.
      * The tools are better integrated with one another. Gnome tools are standalone.
      * It's faster (lower latency menus, windows etc).
      * It works more reliably. The taskbar for example works, horizontally or vertically.
      * It is more like windows XP like than Gnome.
      * It's easier to customize/configure than Gnome.

      Overall, KDE (3.5, haven't upgraded) just works well. The problem is the application namespace. The "K" thing. Seriously. Get rid of it. I don't need to know that I'm using Kontact, Knode, Karm Kaddressbook or or Kmail. Hide all that bollocks at the filesystem level.


  • Well, there's a Chinese distribution that I believe is made to look like whatever Windows look and feel you want right out of the box []. I'm pretty sure it supports English [] so don't let the Chinese characters scare you away.

    Vixta [] does a good job of looking like Vista.

    Of course, these pale in comparison to the standard Ubuntu [] as far as support goes. Screw the Windows look and feel, that'd be my recommendation. Depending on how much time you want to sink into customizing this for them, there are tu []
  • I prefer Fedora (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:38PM (#31211544) Homepage

    Speaking for myself, I prefer Fedora Linux. [] I find the look and feel is set up to be pretty close to Windows, enough so that sometimes people who look over my shoulder and see me using it assume I'm running Windows. If your family is moving from Windows, this might be a good choice.

    Actually, my wife really likes Fedora, and she's a definite non-geek. It's easy enough for her to use, which (for her) is mostly email, web, text processor, and a few other minor apps.

    I used to run Linux at work for several years, and ran Fedora. It's got the tools that replicate the functionality of Windows. (Unfortunately, I've been asked to move to Windows, at least for work. [] Ironically, I find Windows very confusing to use - Linux just seems so much easier to use.)

  • Mint (Score:4, Informative)

    by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:38PM (#31211546)
    I'd say Mint is a good choice, though I'm certainly biased from using it for years now. It is easy to install, comes with everything most users need, and is Ubuntu-based, meaning anything you don't find should be easy to add. The included software manager makes it super easy to pick and choose optional software. At least give this one a look, as it has become quite popular, according to and some other linux reviewers.
  • Linux Mint (Score:2, Informative)

    I'm personally a big fan of Linux Mint. It builds off of Ubuntu, but it comes already setup with a number of proprietary items that other distros don't want to include, such as flash , mp3 and NVidia support. It has the familiar Windows-like setup you mentioned and it's easy to maintain with the mint-update tool, which lets the user know when there are updates to install. (I know other distros have similar utilities, but Mint's never seemed to break anything on an update.) It also has a number of other

    • I'm going to second Mint, and if you want a Windows-like desktop stick to the default Gnome build. It's like Ubuntu with all the stuff you know you're really going to want preinstalled. I don't have anything against KDE, but Gnome is more Windows-like if you're worried about a smaller learning curve.

      It builds on the excellent Debian / Ubuntu base, and adds a little extra testing and polish, and of course doesn't stick closely to the purist "no proprietary software" that can frustrate people who don't want

  • Quick nod to PCLinuxOS here. Out of the box simple, straight-forward, Windows-ish enough that even those relatives who have made the transition from Win2k/XP had minimal issues/adjustment time to get comfortable - seamless and painless, as the OP requires. Has a great built-in assortment of apps [covers all the bases outlined above] and just plain works and very well at that, even on somewhat older hardware. Gets my vote.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:41PM (#31211574) Homepage Journal

    What I'm concerned about is OS look-and-feel and interface -- system bar on the bottom with clock, trash, info on the right, menu on the left, menu items similar to those of Windows.

    All you have to do to get this with Ubuntu is to move the task list from the bottom panel to the top, delete the bottom panel, and move the top panel to the bottom. With a little research you could probably do this from the console (or by extension, a script) with the gconftool-2 command. The menu items are already sufficiently similar to Windows.

    Making it act like OSX is slightly harder, but not really difficult. Add the AWN testing team PPA (some of the mac features like pinning an app to the dock as a launcher require the new AWN) and install avant-window-navigator-trunk and all the plugins ending in -trunk, remove the gnome-panel from the list of required applications (again, via gconf) and configure Compiz to include the functionality of Expose and Spaces, which is quite simple.

    For both Windows and OSX-looks, there are numerous available GTK+2 themes which will provide the appearance of your choice. OSX has three or four different widget sets; you get to pick one that looks like any of them (or variations thereof) and all the GTK+2 apps will look the same, something Apple hasn't been able to manage. Windows-look is much the same; you can find Windows 95/NT4, Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or various other appearances. Making the gnome-panel look like the Windows taskbar is a simple matter of using the right background image, which you ought to be able to download easily enough.

    I use an OSX-look; The visual effects of Compiz are slower than the effects on OSX ever since Xgl was killed off. But the rest of the OS is generally more responsive, so the final effect is fairly positive. With that said, you might consider just getting them used to Ubuntu's look. The only big drawback to it is that having two taskbars wastes screen real estate. That's why I'm using AWN with auto-hide; it's very smart in the current release. Also, this is the first version of AWN which doesn't simply disappear when compiz dies, which makes it a valid tool for the average user, who probably doesn't want to have to hit Alt+F2 and run Compiz. Instead, you can give them a menu option. This is still better than what happens on Windows or the Mac when an element of the GUI system dies.

  • I'ts really very pointy-clicky.

  • If I can ever be bothered installing and fighting (it literally is) Linux again I would probably give this distro a shot.

    Maybe others can lend their experience with it since I can't.
  • What I'm concerned about is OS look-and-feel and interface — system bar on the bottom with clock, trash, info on the right, menu on the left ...

    Any distro running GNOME, KDE or XFCE (that is, almost any distro by default) can be easily configured in this manner.

    ... menu items similar to those of Windows.

    For the love of God, no. This is one of the areas where Linux by and large kills Windows in terms of usability. It won't take long for them to appreciate the (mostly) logical grouping of programs in, for instance, Ubuntu's applications menu. The Windows Start menu is a nightmare by comparison.

    Are there themes/skins for mainstream distributions instead?

    Sure, but I wouldn't recommend them. Whilst I'm all for easing the transition, there's nothing wro

  • by CBung ( 1572609 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:46PM (#31211642)
    I transitioned a friend to ubuntu recently, he was sick and tired of getting viruses and the like. He is extremely satisfied so far. He recently asked me if iTunes works for linux, because his girlfriend has an ipod. She likes to use the itunes store, so the usual amarok/rhythmbox solution doesnt work. Unfortunately if you look at the wine application page for iTunes the rating is trash. Setting him up with virtualbox is just too extreme, he does not have a windows cd around. The biggest thing is check what software they use regularly, and make sure it works first in wine or has a decent alternative. Otherwise they will just be disappointed.
    • "He was so sick and tired of getting viruses"

      His fault, not the computer's fault.
      • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:13PM (#31212530)

        His fault, not the computer's fault.

        His fault, because he had the audacity to click on a link in an e-mail, or visit a malformed web page? Or because the flash plugin he was using was slightly out of date and didn't bother letting him know it was time to update? Or because he didn't realize that != There are thousands of ways a computer can get infected with malware. Many are poor judgement on the user's part, but hell, many are no fault of the user at all - at least, not in a sane world. My definition of a sane world does not include getting your computer compromised simply by viewing a web page.

        Linux has the advantage of an inherently superior security model (permissions-based security was ALWAYS the standard), where Windows has the problem of supporting legacy apps from a model that allowed total permissions from ANY process. And of course, there's the fact that Linux (on the desktop) is a much smaller target.

        Blaming users is a copout. Lay the blame squarely where it deserves to go: programmers / managers who were thinking far too much about cool whiz-bang features and not enough about hardening their software from malicious attacks.

  • Any distro will do, provided you are familiar with it and it works with the hardware. My now 60-years-old parents were using gentoo once, completely oblivious of the complexity of that system. You may even tell them that this is a new version of Windows (my favorite one, I show and explain newbies all the killer features of a linux distro (packet management, middle-click-paste etc. and tell them in a week or so, that this was linux all the time).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since your needs are pretty simple, there are a few options that you can take:

    1. Ubuntu. This is the rightfully obligatory distribution for home and small business users. Despite the politics going on around the GNOME community, it is a very simple window manager that gives most users a great balance between usability and productivity. However, KDE gives you many more options, especially if you are going to be doing the installation for them, but at the extra cost of potentially being a bit behind. (Kubuntu u
  • by zmooc ( 33175 )

    Definately Ubuntu. I use Debian myself, but I have recommended Ubuntu to several n00bs after bad experiences with other distros. Generally Ubuntu Just Works and they don't have to bother you for help; n00bs can install it themselves, keep it up-to-date themselves, they can install the software they want and plug in all their peripherals without fiddling with drivers and settings. Other distro's generally just don't have the critical n00b-userbase mass it takes to deliver user-friendly quality all-over on a

  • I use Linux ALL the time as my main OS and would never consider using Windows again, nor the Mac, having been burned far too often by both of them.

    That being said, I use the free MS PowerPoint viewer via Wine to be able to properly view PowerPoint attachments.

    OpenOffice has never been able to play those properly, but the free viewer plus Wine combo work absolutely perfectly.

    In essence, I suppose what I'm saying is that for closed formats like PP, MS still does it best.

  • Out of the box it has all the features you describe. Flash, Java, A/V codecs all pre-installed along with the usual plethora of software. The only manual steps would be to install drivers (nvidia, some wifi; you'll be prompted by a notification balloon) and if you're in the US, edit /etc/apt/sources.list and change the ubuntu repos to a local mirror. They're set by default to the main servers which apparently are connected to the net via the AT&T EDGE network... The MintMenu [] is a very good replacement f
  • My 8yr old daughter uses Ubuntu without issue. I use mainly CentOS, but am impressed by Linux Mint. All have Windows-ish interfaces with start bar and icons. She bounces between XP on her laptop and Ubuntu on her desktop, and doesn't have any issues; she even tells me what dfferences there are between them.

  • ...or they will scream "Oh noes! OMG!! The COMMAND LINE will eat my brain!!!" and freeze up. Just install Ubuntu and let them think you've upgraded them to Windows 7. Then they'll gripe a bit about the changes and settle down to use it.

  • "Having at last gotten Linux to run satisfactorily on my own PCs" - so you struggled and you want to foist it on others? Leave them using Windows. Hell, be nice and buy them Windows 7! Either that or get them a pretty looking distro (Ubuntu) and some unsupported hardware and have them build a driver from source, or better still recompile a kernel, then offer 'stick with this or go back to Windows'. Tl:dr: Ubuntu... for two weeks until they get pissed off and hate you for it
  • Very nice and polished os which new comers will like very much. Not nasty looking like Ubuntu. I know I know its just eye candy but just like ass and titties its sells. My gf has no problems navigating and using it as shes as computer hater and doesn't use computers much. I've also ran OpenSUSE 11 before the last two versions of Mint and this was also a very nice and polished os. Now having sung the praises of Mint I have to say that in the Mint 8 version compared to 7 there are some weird notebook relate
  • Inevitably, they will have question and/or problems. Using the same distro will allow you research issues on your own system and it will be easier should you want to walk them through things remotely. In addition, it will foster a sense that you're all in this together. If you use something different, your efforts will be increased and you'll have to constantly answer questions like, "Why do you use something different than what you recommended."
  • Haven't found anything friendlier than Ubuntu, which seems easier than even MS windows to install. It does have a few problems though, i don't like grub having half a million kernal versions on startup, and its can be a pain getting the best resolution out of usually screens. The X configutor changed completely between 9.04 and 9.10, and i'm still trying to get it to work at few resolution on my laptop. But it seems generally stabler and more user friendly than Windows to me.


    Linux [] Feed @ Feed Disti []

  • What I'm concerned about is OS look-and-feel and interface -- system bar on the bottom with clock, trash, info on the right, menu on the left, menu items similar to those of Windows.

    In this case, a good choice would be Linux Mint. [] As a whole, it's a rather well-designed system (their motto: "from freedom came elegance."). And it's handy that it comes with the drivers and plugins that Ubuntu leaves to a separate download for (I assume) license or patent reasons.

  • A pain and a bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by brad-x ( 566807 ) <> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:32PM (#31212742) Homepage

    Windows 7 preserves almost all the metaphors and usage traits people are used to from XP, and introduces new convenience features. I think a transition to Windows 7 from XP would be a much smoother process than an introduction to a new platform.

    Is there a good reason to switch the family to Linux, other than for ideological reasons?

  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:54PM (#31215512) Homepage
    That's all there is to it. Ubuntu is easy. You have to put all the proprietary multimedia stuff on yourself, but that's pretty much a matter of installing one package from synaptic: ubuntu-restricted-extras.

    Brown is ugly, so change the wallpaper. Honestly. Why people act like this is a showstopper beats me.

    Last and far from least, put the panel where they're used to it, with the trash over there and the Start over here. And you're all set.

    I set up laptops recently for my brother-in-law and his niece, both of them Windows users of the type who don't know a browser from a desktop. I figured I'd have no end of support, but that would still be better than the even bigger infinity of sorting their machines out after their daily virus infections.

    In over six months, they've had no problems. None. There was one question: how to make the panel transparent because they were using different wallpaper.

    They're not the type to use forums for questions, but if they were, the ubuntu forums are the most informative and friendliest to noobs of the lot.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.