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Configuring a Windows PC For a Senior Citizen?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the keeping-it-simple dept.

Windows 823

An anonymous reader writes "I would like to know if there are any resources on the Web or elsewhere describing how to configure a Windows PC for an older parent not living in the same household. Assume little computer familiarity or aptitude. Some stuff is obvious, like using only a few large icons for favorite Web sites, or an icon perhaps for composing email and another for checking email. Other considerations are eliminating nuisance messages from Windows update and antivirus/firewall. What works and what doesn't? Can anyone who has worked/volunteered at a senior center offer some insights?"

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Install Ubuntu (5, Insightful)

Peeloo (760936) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221241)

I've had the same problem with my parents for years, going back home each Christmas to reformat windows and spending the week getting the configuration back to normal. For the last 3 years they've used Ubuntu, with some problem with the printer the first few months, but now I'm just spending a few minutes pushing the "Upgrade Version" button instead of a total reformat. They can check their mail/internet and you don't have to worry about virus/firewall, win-win :)

Re:Install Ubuntu (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221249)

Exactly. Why the fuck would you install winders?

Make it easy for yourself d00d.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221287)

Strongly agree. This is the approach I took with technically-deficient people, and it works great.

Windows is the worst choice for this set up. It literally breaks by itself, and remains by an astronomical margin the main target of crackers, spam, phishing, viruses, etc. Trying to keep it going is a lot of work.

The one (and only IMO) major advantage it has is the availability of options (software, hardware), and if this isn't important - which it isn't, in the set up you're describing - then look to the alternatives.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Insightful)

silanea (1241518) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221291)

Second that. My mother had avoided any and all contact with computers up until a year ago. I slapped Ubuntu on my old notebook, gave her a crash course in "doing things with that machine" and happiness ensued. She does ask me things from time to time, but so far she hasn't been able to break anything.

Particularly the update management comes in handy: On Windows every program has its own confusing and annoying way of locating updates. On Linux you get one window asking you for one click.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Informative)

austin987 (1233720) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221337)

Agree with parent. While many /.'ers are probably using some version of linux already, it's really a good solution for parents, etc. A few years ago, my mother's PC died after a bunch of virii and finally a hard drive failure. I built a new one and told her I was tired of fixing all those problems, and she was going to try something new. Installed Ubuntu (Dapper or Edgy IIRC), made sure her e-mail/favorite websites worked and gave it to her. Aside from having to explain how to install updates, she hasn't had a problem to date.

On a similar note, I gave my grandmother an old laptop and stripped out most of the ubuntu install, and filled it with lots of games. Locked down her account so she can't screw anything up, removed all shortcuts except games. She has bad insomnia, and enjoys playing the card games/mahjong at night. Works well for her, aside from her occasionally unplugging it instead of shutting it down properly (I'm going to set it to mount / as read only to prevent this when I go there for holidays).

Long story short, seriously consider using Ubuntu, the learning curve for it is much easier than teaching them to avoid spyware/virii.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221561)

my mother's PC died after a bunch of virii

The plural of virus is viruses

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221683)

My platypii died of a virus, you insensitive clod!

Re:Install Ubuntu with / ro (2, Informative)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221581)

(I'm going to set it to mount / as read only to prevent this when I go there for holidays)

I don't know if thats such a good idea. I know where you're coming from, so hard power offs won't corrupt the filesystem (thanks goodness for ext3/journaling), but what if mahjong or whatever writes or wishes to write data like saves, high scores or something to the hard drive? You might crash your mom's card games like that, and even worse if some important daemon critically relies on logging or (warning: !myareaofexpertise) GNOME/X11 configurations write temporary data to the disk?

I think it would be less risky to just mount the filesystem as read-write and let journaling have its way. Fsck runs automatically in Ubuntu every $COUPLEOF mounts anyways, so in the kind of rare case you would have to reinstall, its just a card game. I also have insomnia and while I play games like Halo and whatnot, if I only played a cheesy card game like that, I wouldn't lose any sleep (haha) over losing a few high scores.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221699)

I know Fanboy Homos will get crazy and crucify me for what I will say but this is was my experience:
Like a good fanboy linux advocate, I installed Ubuntu on all my elderly relatives computers, my grand-dad, dad and mom, they all live on different houses, and hours of plane travel from me.
So, I even installed VNC so I could manage their GUI desktops if necessary. I showed them the pretty Gnome GUI and the pretty browsers and how to use e-mail, so they were pretty happy.
But, then it started: they couldn't access their preferred websites, because flash didn't install properly. So, I had to teach a 80 year's old how to untar and copy a library over to the mozilla directory, which was a pretty gruesome experience.
Well, Ubuntu was such a piece of crap for them that they started to call me screaming they need their good windows computers back because their friends were going to websites and they couldn't do the same.
So, as result, my elderly relatives found a Windows tech guy, the guy installed XP on their machines, and they were happy again.
I had to pay for their installations, but wasn't able to avoid being banished from family forever, thanks to the fanboyish failure machine: Ubuntu.
This Xmas, the windows tech guy will be seating at their Xmas dinner table while I will be eating Macaroni and Cheese from my microwave, alone at my house.
So, my advice to this guy asking about his elderly relative: Do not follow the fanboys here as they don't have real families and WoW NPCs really like when their kids or grandkids install Ubuntu on their PCs, but real people don't.
Do like this: Find a store selling LEGIT Windows XP copies. Buy one, install it, activate automatic updates. Install a good AUTOMATIC anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware. Install Firefox and all the plugins. MAKE SURE THAT FIREFOX WORKS!!!!! (stupid FOSS...) Then activate Remote Desktop so you can fix the machine remotely. And, voila, you got a happy relative with a happy computer.
And you can have happy Xmases forever, without have to being cursed because of the homo-fanboy F*ckuntu...

Re:Install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221779)

Works well for her, aside from her occasionally unplugging it instead of shutting it down properly (I'm going to set it to mount / as read only to prevent this when I go there for holidays).

Ubuntu can stop someone from unplugging their computer?!? Sweet!

If you can get it to do my laundry, I'll definitely switch!

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221341)

I run Ubuntu and recommend Linux distros to others based on their needs. Ubuntu with VirtualBox hosting XP is quick and easy to set up...

That being said, just getting a static IP for the parent's Windows box so you can remote in for periodic maintenance would also be a decent way to go.

More on topic, I think the AARP maintains an advisory board for technology issues. There was a /learntech area to their .org last time I checked, not sure if there is info for implementors.

Re:Install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221373)

No static IP necessary, just use dyndns ( http://www.dyndns.com/) to be able to resolve the currently assigned IP. ssh -X and start synaptic .. hasn't failed me yet (quite important as my mum lives at the other end of europe).

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

jackharrer (972403) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221595)

I suggest something like logmein or ntrconnect. One of them works on Linux, don't really remember which one.

Re:Install Ubuntu (5, Insightful)

msormune (808119) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221383)

A Week? Really? :) Why did you format it in the first place? Why did you setup a restore image in the first place created on the Windows clean installation?

And the last time I did Upgrade Version on Ubuntu, it took an hour just to download the new files.

I have really no problem your post and have used Ubuntu desktop with success in the past, but it just irks me how much GNU/Linux people bend the truth when pushing their agenda. Or maybe they really just don't know any better than just to "format and reinstall" on Windows.

Re:Install Ubuntu (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221467)

And the last time I did Upgrade Version on Ubuntu, it took an hour just to download the new files.

Perhaps, but did you have to intervene while it did that? How long the computer takes to do its stuff is less important: the question is how long the human job takes, and that is indeed only a few minutes.

Re:Install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221559)

Why a week ? Maybe because he needs to not only reinstall windows (that doesn't take a week indeed) but also all applications, and then need to reconfigurate them the way it was ? All this while being careful not to erase any precious data.

Re:Install Ubuntu (3, Informative)

Lachlan Hunt (1021263) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221571)

From my experience, the format and reinstall approach is the quick and easy way to deal with a machine that has become filled with lots of junky software that's no longer used, infected with mallicious software, and, in general, has things that just randomly don't work.

However, given proper maintenance, a decent anti-virus program, regular defragging, and not letting anyone use IE or Outlook at all, it's entirely possible to keep an XP machine running well for a few years.

But personally, I'd recommend getting a Mac. They're so much easier to use and maintain than Windows. I switched about a year ago and haven't looked back. Prior to that, I tried various Linux distros, including Ubuntu, but always ended up giving up and reverting to Windows.

Re:Install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221679)

A Week? Really? :) Why did you format it in the first place? Why did you setup a restore image in the first place created on the Windows clean installation? And the last time I did Upgrade Version on Ubuntu, it took an hour just to download the new files. I have really no problem your post and have used Ubuntu desktop with success in the past, but it just irks me how much GNU/Linux people bend my truth when pushing their agenda. Or maybe they really just don't know any better than just to "format and reinstall" on Windows.

FTFY

Re:Install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221713)

Why did[n't] you setup a restore image in the first place created on the Windows clean installation?

This is beyond me, too. But still, restoring from a perfectly well-preserved image gives you all the hassle of manually doing all the upgrades and software installs you have deleted by using that outdated image. (With Debian-based distros, it's mainly a matter of properly using dpkg --get-selections and --set-selections.)

On a personal note, I don't even know how exactly to create a usable (and small) restore image with Windows, therefore I'd be bound to do this step with a Linux live CD. And because I don't want to use different operating systems for all these tasks, I prefer to use Linux from the very beginning. ;)

And the last time I did Upgrade Version on Ubuntu, it took an hour just to download the new files.

Sorry for your extremely slow connection. If that's the problem, I'd opt for burning live CDs on another PC and install Linux from there every time a new version is out (half a year if Ubuntu is concerned). Settings and data can still be preserved without much hassle; and installation takes about 10 minutes.

I have really no problem your post and have used Ubuntu desktop with success in the past, but it just irks me how much GNU/Linux people bend the truth when pushing their agenda. Or maybe they really just don't know any better than just to "format and reinstall" on Windows.

If you ask me, indeed, I don't know the great tricks of administering Windows anymore (stopped using and it about five years ago; and I was mostly a Win 98 kind of guy). But I'm under the strong impression that in general it's much easier to maintain a secure Linux box than a secure Windows box for other, computer-illiterate, people. Of course, a very experienced Windows admin could handle this much better than I or maybe the GP. That being said, I think it was not that much of bending the truth, but rather the GP's specific viewpoint. Windows looks so hard to manage from an apt-get-used mind that I don't see bad intent in GP's viewpoint.

Re:Install Ubuntu (4, Interesting)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221417)

Another vote for Ubuntu. I wrote [linux.com] about my experiences of moving my mother over to Linux at the beginning of the year. It's gone swimmingly and I'm writing the follow-up now. What possible advantage could there be in setting up a non-expert, non-gamer with Windows? For one thing, Windows XP seems to go wrong in places when you attempt to set a large font.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

Weh (219305) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221477)

sorry, I don't mind ubuntu at all but windows is not all that hard to administer if you set it up right, especially if it's only a single pc. Just install it on a virtual machine on a linux host if necessary so you can restore it from time to time if need be.

Apart from that, the main advantage of windows is that all the "popular" apps and peripherals in the senior citizen crowd (think of, web-browsing, photo viewing, photo-printing, web-cams etc.) are much more readily available for windows than for linux.

Re:Install Ubuntu (2, Informative)

silanea (1241518) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221625)

[...] Just install it on a virtual machine on a linux host if necessary so you can restore it from time to time if need be. [...]

Maintaining two full-blown operating systems instead of one just because one of them is apt to break in ignorant hands is not exactly what I'd call solving a problem.

[...] Apart from that, the main advantage of windows is that all the "popular" apps and peripherals in the senior citizen crowd (think of, web-browsing, photo viewing, photo-printing, web-cams etc.) are much more readily available for windows than for linux.

Huh?! First off, I am not aware of any desktop-oriented Linux distribution that ships without a preinstalled web browser, mail client and office suite. Secondly, the times when printing or using web cams under Linux was reserved for kernel hackers are long gone. The initial installation is still not as simple and accessible as it should be, but day-to-day usability is, at least in my experience, better than the hog-pog mix of HP printer applets, Epson scan software and Creative web cam managers.

The major benefit of an environment like GNOME or KDE is that (ideally) all the software you use follows the same paradigms and guidelines, so you always know where to point your mouse for certain things. And for the rather basic use to be expected of sensior citizens I doubt you couldn't just do with what one of these desktops has to offer.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221639)

"popular" apps and peripherals in the senior citizen crowd (think of, web-browsing, photo viewing, photo-printing, web-cams etc.) are much more readily available for windows than for linux.

FireFox [mozilla.com]
kview [unimelb.edu.au]
PhotoPrint [blackfiveservices.co.uk]
icam [optera.net]

I'll give that the webcam is a little bit gray area. But maybe MORE SELECTION for windows, but I wouldn't say not readily available.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

SnEptUne (1264814) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221715)

I personally prefer gwenview [sourceforge.net]

Linux of Mac (4, Insightful)

robinjo (15698) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221527)

Really, do not install Windows for your older parents. They will just get in trouble with it. Get them a Mac or some really user friendly Linux distro, like Ubuntu.

The #1 problem with Windows is not usability, but malware. As older people don't probably have any clue about security, it's best to let them use an OS, that will keep them out of trouble.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221539)

Not just for parents, I've been upgrading all my less computer literate friends to ubuntu and the formerly frequent tech support calls have all but disappeared. Only hitch was getting Photoshop CS2 working under wine for one friend, but that worked out in the end. Only friend left with windows is a hardcore gamer who knows enough to maintain it himself. I never realised how much time I spent on fixing friends windows boxen until recently.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

Sparrowhawk7 (1361853) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221603)

Also highly recommend Ubuntu especially Xubuntu for seniors, for its simpler menu structure and less cluttered interface. Whilst placing icons for all commonly used applications in the launcher and sensible preconfiguration of the browser bookmark toolbar is good. A little basic training goes a long way. For older folks, care with fonts selection and colours can help greatly (esp for men). I have performed eleven Xubuntu installs for over sixties and they have required minimal post install support. I always get a kick out seeing the confidence and new lease of life that accompanies it, when they start receiving and sending email / photos etc from their family who previously did not have time to write. The mental, emotional and self esteem benefits of a well setup Xubuntu system for a senior can change lives. If its a friend or relative, the world you will open up for them, will enhance your life as well. I have had many attempts at configuring Windows for the same job, but eventually the virii & malware inevitably take them down. The last of those eleven was a Vista install that had become fatally infested after only being connected to the net for two days. The elderly lady owner was not only delighted with Xubuntu (prev Win98 user) but was amazed at how fast her new computer was compared to when it ran Vista.

Re:Install Ubuntu (4, Interesting)

tloh (451585) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221605)

For those of us with parents who don't read English, Ubuntu has been a double blessing. The native language version of the Linux based OS is so much more available in the US than a legitimate (non-pirated) native language version of Windows.

Re:Install Ubuntu (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221615)

There isn't many people who hate Windows more than I do. I came to hate it working for years as a support engineer. It was taking too much of my time, even though my primary job was Linux servers and firewalls. So I left the salaried work to make my living doing only what I want - and that's Linux support. And I agree with you - Linux is a better solution for all our parents.

Your claim that you needed a full week to setup a Windows machine so it is safe and usable is simply a bullshit, however. Takes a bit of time but not more than half a day to do it, all annoying balloons disabled included.

Even upgrades not a problem (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221717)

My father is 89 and has now been running Ubuntu for 3 years, after the last Mac blew up. He mentioned casually to me the other day that he had upgraded it from 8.04 to 8.10.

Install mac os-x (5, Informative)

localoptimum (993261) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221267)

My father has his own business with two employees - him and his wife. He wasted years of his life (and lots of money) messing about with XP. He came to me in despair one evening, he'd had enough. I told him to try a mac (linux was not very friendly 3 years ago). Now he runs his business himself with zero IT problems and he owns about 5 macs. He still has no idea how computers work, but it doesn't stop him getting the job done.

Re:Install mac os-x (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221309)

Why does he have five Macs with two employees? Are you sure his lack of IT problems isn't related to him having three computers on reserve?

Re:Install mac os-x (1)

sproot (1029676) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221381)

One server, two desktops, two laptops?
3 new employees?

I have about 5 PCs/laptops/notebooks myself, why not?

Re:Install mac os-x (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221543)

Is that all? I have three laptops and three desktops in my living room alone.

Re:Install mac os-x (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221647)

Maybe he's got backup machines? I cringe every time I see a business rely on _one_ machine.

Re:Install mac os-x (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221725)

I was going to tell you to tear up and burn your geek card, but it is the season of goodwill - so just hand it in on the way out.

From my own experience... (5, Informative)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221271)

Unless you can get them to understand the basics of security(which means teaching them how to use a decent virus scanner, a firewall, something like Revo Uninstaller and maybe Process Explorer) your fighting a losing battle.

The problem will not be large icons and the magnifier set up, but keeping all the crap, malware, data farming toolbar add-ons and such off the machine. If you cannot keep this stuff off, you will be doing a serious maintenance every six months or so anyways.

With my own mother, I think alot of that crap she ends up with are from simply mis-clicking links, or possibly on notification windows. Hard to configure against stuff like that. You can no-script them to death, but then they have to know enough about it to let the safe stuff through.

I have just resigned myself to cleaning up my mothers machine once a year at the holidays.

I'd second this... (1)

wanax (46819) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221485)

My grandpa used PC's since the early 80s. He taught us all how to work with a computer. As he got older and his eyesight deteriorated, he had a major problem keeping xp malware off his computer. It wasn't that he didn't know what to do, but he wasn't sure what he was clicking. But even with the VASTLY improved vista support for font sizing, it was not much help. He had already rejected OSX as being too much change.. but he had the same response to Vista.

This is a problem that windows will most likely never solve.. how to keep the initial adopters who are not experts understanding what is going on.. And continue expansion.

Doing Computers for Friends and Family (5, Funny)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221285)

You're doomed. Just give them your telephone number and book out 3 hours per week of your time for the rest of your life.

BIG ICON BIG FONT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221293)

the 1st and the most request i get from senior is: "i can't see can i get bigger words and icon?"

Something like the eeepc linux distro would be a good idea (with all that big big icon)

Re:BIG ICON BIG FONT (2, Informative)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221433)

the 1st and the most request i get from senior is: "i can't see can i get bigger words and icon?"

Something like the eeepc linux distro would be a good idea (with all that big big icon)

Easy solution. run the computer at a lower resolution. Works for all OSs and apps.

Second suggestion, use the zoom option in Compiz, or if you use Windows, use a third party add on that gives this feature.

The simplified desktop idea is ok until you start up an app, when you go right back to little writing and little icons.

Re:BIG ICON BIG FONT (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221501)

Or just force X11 into thinking it has a higher DPI monitor, and it will scale things accordingly... Running a lower resolution is a bad idea since it will make things pixelated and thus harder to read.

Re:BIG ICON BIG FONT (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221671)

This is very easy to do without losing real-estate on Windows. DO NOT change the screen resolution or things go fuzzy.
1. Display Properties/Appearance/Font Size and while you're there click the Effects button and select large icons. Cleartype for LCD screens. Switch everything else off!
2. Click the Advanced button and choose a dark grey for the desktop. This means that the icon font will be displayed white over dark grey even though there is a custom pic on the desktop. Choose Icons to set them up too if Large Icons isn't big enough. You can also set the Title Bar and Menu font size if you need to.
3. My Computer Properties/Advanced TAB/Performance Settings/Adjust for best performance/. I recommend that you re-click the following:
Smooth Edges of Screen Fonts
Use Common Tasks in Folders (leaves the left hand task list)
Use Visual Styles on Windows and Buttons (eye candy)
The result of this is a highly readable desktop and a real increase in performance.without the loss of real estate and eye candy.
---------------
For Outlook Express and Internet Explorer (uggh), you can set the default font size to large or largest. This only helps with some text on web pages though. It's a real pity that no-one has made a plugin to force older 800x600 pages to fill the screen on modern resolutions.

Ubuntu saves lives (0, Troll)

Dik Zak (974638) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221301)

I installed Windows for my father. He comitted suicide about a year ago. My mom is using Ubuntu and she's still fine.

Re:Ubuntu saves lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221329)

Yup, I once had a friend that tried OS/X. Two weeks later, *BAM*, herpes.

Re:Ubuntu saves lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221469)

OMFG. Win.

perhaps there is a reason ? (0, Flamebait)

naeone (1430095) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221307)

you got to love the fan boi approach ignore the question then spout your fan boi ism i am interested in the answer as well but to help out the reason windows is used is all my mothers friends use windows and i am relaying on them to encourage her to learn and perhaps teach along the way.

Re:perhaps there is a reason ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221355)

You wrote a long, run-on sentence with no capitalisation or punctuation, but then used a full-stop at the end. Am I the only one who found that funny?

Re:perhaps there is a reason ? (1)

naeone (1430095) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221745)

it (the /. system ) ignored my line breaks, which is my own cheap version of punctuation. glad to see pedants still at large thought

Re:perhaps there is a reason ? (4, Insightful)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221449)

The responses of "Use Ubuntu instead" are not all based on fanboi-ism. Most are probably based on the fact that the question as asked is not a solvable problem. In that case, "You can't but, I've used another OS to accomplish this very thing for my parents and it's worked very well" seems like helpful advice to me.

Done this before (5, Insightful)

dmneoblade (848781) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221313)

Make sure you give the computer with remote administration capabilities pre-setup and tested. Be prepared to be called with questions, and remote desktop can save you a LOT of time when grandma discovers popups. Or when something inevitably goes wrong.

If you really want to stick to MS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221317)

...for a senior, you'd want to look at the various Accessibility Options [microsoft.com] .

Also install SteadyState [microsoft.com] as soon as you're sure about the machine's final setup. :D

Easy... (4, Insightful)

800DeadCCs (996359) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221327)

DON'T!!!

I've done some tech support for people in my mother's building (and since then, re-affirmed my oath to NOT FUCKING do that ever again!),
You may as well surf all the virus/trojan loaded sites before you give it to them and save them the trouble.
And save yourself the trouble of having to explain why all their pictures are gone, or why they're victims of ID theft and not able to do anything about it.

Many people are going to shout "UBUNTU!!! They can just do the updates themselves."
Yeah, and then you're gonna be over there figuring out what happened when they do a version upgrade and it not just breaks, but shatters to pieces.

I got my mom a mini-mac. The only issues I've had to fix are getting an old version of photoshop running on it, and telling her that "no, you don't have to pay for Open Office, that's a donation button, like on PBS."

Disclaimers: I use ubuntu on my systems; no problems, I like it. I am not a mac fanboi. I know not every senior is technically inept; I've seen plenty who do amazing things on their systems, I've also seen some who shouldn't be allowed to own a toaster.

Don't use Microsoft (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221339)

Their products have obscure behaviour and are only suitable for experts. Even for them, system administration and maintenance is a chore. Either get a Mac, with has low administration need on the first hand, or install Linux, which is ideally suited to remote administration. Best distro for this is possibly Ubuntu.

No surprises (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221345)

1) Don't make the assumption that older folks can't grasp computing concepts. You'll know their abilities better than the /. horde, but even so...

The other stuff puts the machine in a kiosk mode. It reduces the functionality of the machine, but can make remote troubleshooting easier.

2) Get their comfort level up so that they don't worry about "breaking" the machine.

3) Have some method of restoring a known state to the machine. There are even ways to do this automatically on boot. I actually did this by running Windows in a VM on a Linux host. There's plenty documentation online on the procedure.

4) Set up a non-admin account that auto-logins. Lock the desktop. Set applications to save to home directory rather than desktop.

5) Set up some remote admin capability.

KLL

Steady state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221357)

Why not install Steady state and point my documents or maybe the entire user folder to a usb flash drive. Then the machine will be clean every time they reboot it.

If they're senile you're all set (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221363)

Just install a really cool screen saver and a comfortable chair.

While we're here (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221385)

My parents have never driven a car, and i plan on buying them one for christmas.

As well as never driving, they tell me they have no intention of learning but they fully intend to take it for a spin on christmas morning to go an see my brother who lives 50 miles away.

Can someone recommend me a good car to buy them? preferably one which will work for it's entire lifetime with no maintenance or refuelling, and is instantly drivable by someone who does not know how to drive?

Re:While we're here (5, Funny)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221519)

A taxi.

Re:While we're here (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221693)

fuck you.

Re:While we're here (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221757)

My parents have never driven a car, and i plan on buying them one for christmas. As well as never driving, they tell me they have no intention of learning but they fully intend to take it for a spin on christmas morning to go an see my brother who lives 50 miles away. Can someone recommend me a good car to buy them? preferably one which will work for it's entire lifetime with no maintenance or refuelling, and is instantly drivable by someone who does not know how to drive?

Yes.. A taxi.

Three ways to do (1)

burni (930725) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221387)

a.)
- educate them so they can install things on their own
- educate them "where" to save their files
- educate them to buy an external HDD (ntfs has a nice mount to directory feature(DESKTOP/MYFILES)
- educate them that for an application based question, they need to find a solution on their own.
(this worked great for my mom, and her knowledge has grown since I started this)

b.)
- close the access to the PC that they are working as a normal user, no install etc..
- install firewall antivirus

c.)
- install windows, make a binary image of the partitioning and the installation
( http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_Boot_Record )
dd if=/dev/hdaX of=/themasterbackup/backup.img

- install an antivirus & firewall
- say them where to save their files
- give them full access to anything

Anytime they got major problems backup their files remotely
(LiveBootCD+Linux/FreeBSD+SSH+preconfigured)
and fire up the old configuration(from an only in the case of a restoration to use external hdd)

But all in all the most important things is, educate them not write down their email adress anywhere in the internet

The most obvious things not mentioned anywhere, autoupdates+NO.I.E.+NO.O.L., FIREWALL
And the the very best is learning to say "NO" and "NO, I have no time to do this".

The OS Question: WindowsXP

Re:Three ways to do (1)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221735)

(I stripped the annoying code tags for readability):

a.) educate ...blah blah... educate ...blah blah... educate ...

You're already looking at a high total cost of ownership since the article specifically says "seniors", and that would be phone airtime, sit-down time "educating" over and over, and many hours of support.

b.) close access to some PC and make them a non-admin and install A/V

Yes, non-escalated privileges are essential but doing so in Vista means getting the "My screen just went black and says continue or cancel" twice a day, and A/V and a firewall in either means the call will be for either a virus alert (think Avast), a firewall question, or... hell why install Windows, anyways? High senior TCO...

c. back up the hard drive partition

YES, this is a necessity, although you forgot backing up the MBR as well (dd if=/dev/hda ...), because its possible for even elderly folk to mess up an MBR via either a new virus, clickity-clickity, or the bad senior habit of unplugging a machine rather than powering it off.

say them where to save their files

Oh boy, shortcuts labeled "SAVE HERE MOM" far surpass telling them where in C:\ to save, saving you phone airtime and thus TCO.

give them full access to anything

Um, didn't you just say they should be a normal (i.e. non-super) user?! That is just asking for the clickity-clickity malware I see on many senior workstations.

LiveBootCD+Linux/FreeBSD+SSH+preconfigured

Okay, in addition to not spending too much time on this initially and getting further suckered in to a lifetime sentence of family support, but do you honestly expect them to boot the thing (possibly changing BIOS settings *shiver*) and watch the text fly past the screen in peace? God help you if you run into a problem!

And the the very best is learning to say "NO" and "NO, I have no time to do this".

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD luck with that, given your above posts.

The OS Question: WindowsXP

I'm not even going to touch that one with a 50 foot stick, my friend. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to spend the time I saved from a very low (thanks to Linux) Senior Total Cost of Ownership on some precious sleep.

Footnotes:
STCO: Senior Total Cost of Ownership is the amount of physical time, money, and phone airtime spent configuring/supporting a senior computer, significantly lowered by using a Mac or Linux.

Plan for routine catastrophic disaster! (2, Insightful)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221389)

Older people generally have either no sensitivity to malware, or are extremely oversensitive on the subject. If you can make clean re-installs easy for them you'll be doing them a great service.

Linux.... (2, Interesting)

mrphoton (1349555) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221393)

I know this is not the answer you are looking for but I have to say...... install linux (and gnome). It's accessibility software is far better than windows. I once introduced an undergrad with _ very_ limited vision to linux, I turned on inverted desktop colors. His reaction was amazing, he could see screen for the first time ever. I then showed him the gnome-magnifier and kmouth. It was as if the world had changed for him. The next day he came to the office with a fully installed copy of Ubuntu (installed without any help). Personally, I don't like reading long documents and text I have written, I find kmouth an invaluable aid and would find it very hard to go back to windows or any other computer without such a tool. I know windows has some of these tools, but for linux they are so configurable (using the gui), you can arrive at a desktop which is relay suited to you and your disability.

VM with web updates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221401)

Give them a virtual machine so you can update it over the web. There are a bunch of solutions for this out there. If you use the free stuff available at you can even install it on a USB key and send it to them. Then when you want to push an update, you can do it from your house.

http://downloads.moka5.com.s3.amazonaws.com/1.6.1/18722/MokaFive-Creator-Win.exe

You basically just create a new 'LivePC' and package and upload it to the lab. You have to register on their site to upload it.

Once you upload it, you can subscribe to it from Players.

http://www.mokafive.com/solutions/player.php

You can download the USB install and then put it on there and mail it to them. Then you update it in the Creator and your old folks will get it.

Someone made an environment for kids.... perhaps there could be a cool one for older adults.

http://mokafive.typepad.com/mokafive_blog/2007/10/ladybug-for-kid.html

Be patient. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221415)

That is it. It may well be unfamiliar, but they're not idiots. If you're patient with them, configure the accessibility options as needed, it will take care of itself. Before his death, my 80 yo grandfather installed ram by himself. My 83 yo grandmother does her geneology, and mining claim research and digital photograph, as well as buring CDs of what she wants to save, and keeping in touch. I am convinced that the computer(s) have enriched and added years to their lives. I very rarely get tech support calls anymore fwiw.

Buy 'em a Mac (4, Informative)

igb (28052) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221425)

My father had a succession of Windows boxes. Hopeless: he's not naive, having used systems back to Wordstar on CP/M in the late seventies, but they kept on getting screwed up. My mother got fed up with the email breaking, so I slung Linux (Redhat 7 or something) on an old laptop: she loved it, and nothing seemed to break. But she wanted Office to interwork with newsletters she was helping on. So, although at the time I had little to no Mac experience, I got her to buy an iBook G4. It just worked. Dad bought one. It just worked. I switched my house over later, building on their good experience. A lot of their friends are making the same switch. Windows just doesn't work unattended, or at least the effort required to make it run unattended is beyond most people.

Re:Buy 'em a Mac (2, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221631)

My father had a succession of Windows boxes. Hopeless: he's not naive, having used systems back to Wordstar on CP/M in the late seventies, but they kept on getting screwed up. My mother got fed up with the email breaking, so I slung Linux (Redhat 7 or something) on an old laptop: she loved it, and nothing seemed to break. But she wanted Office to interwork with newsletters she was helping on. So, although at the time I had little to no Mac experience, I got her to buy an iBook G4. It just worked. Dad bought one. It just worked. I switched my house over later, building on their good experience. A lot of their friends are making the same switch. Windows just doesn't work unattended, or at least the effort required to make it run unattended is beyond most people.

Seconded if there's a local apple store.

If things do become a problem, the genius gets the call, NOT YOU!

It CAN be done! Ignore the negative nellies! (2)

nonpracticinghedonis (645945) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221437)

My biggest issue with a 92-year-old using Vista was how to turn off the computer. He had problems clicking on the shutdown command. I put a batch file on the desktop and got past that hurdle. Other than that, he picked up what I taught him through constant repetition. Getting a senior up to speed takes time BUT IT IS WORTH IT. Once you give a senior the chance to see the world, you've given them a new lease on life.

Remote admin! (1)

Saphati (698453) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221453)

* Remote Admin * Skype The most important thing you can put on that computer is the ability to control it remotely to fix what they break. Even better, use one where you can both interact at the same time so you can show them what to do without having to go there. The build in Remote Desktop Connection is not good because you both can't work together. Try using RAdmin. It works great. Also add Skype! So you can talk with them hands free while you are helping them.

Remote support saves the day (1)

CubDriver (1438191) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221457)

I use Logmein.com pcanywhere or even Windows built in remote control software to support tons of computers. My 89 year old dad is really sharp, but often he just forgets what to click and has to be shown. Even though he is only a few miles away, it is nice to just be able to get on his computer with him and say "see,this thingy right here"

It can be done (2, Informative)

jregel (39009) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221475)

My father is 81 and uses a Windows XP machine daily. His primary use is email, the web and some basic office stuff (writing and the occasional spreadsheet using Microsoft Works). He sometimes downloads photos from his digital camera and prints them out. My parents bought a Kodak mini photo printer just for that.

He runs as a limited user, has Firefox for the web and Thunderbird for email. I've set up a static IP and installed VNC, configuring the router to only accept incoming traffic from my external IP. We use Microsoft OneCare for AV protection and I can monitor that from my wife's Vista PC (same OneCare "circle").

I rarely have to get involved in administering his computer. Windows Update does the majority of stuff, and I have a quick look at his machine every couple of months, although I do have the VNC access for other times.

It can be done! The biggest issue for me is that his eyesight isn't brilliant and he likes to run at 800x600 on a 17" (CRT) monitor. I'd like to get him a bigger monitor so he doesn't have to scroll, but a lot of LCD monitors look bad in non-native resolutions. Any ideas?

Re:It can be done (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221535)

Samsung 19s (one of which I bought for my wife) and, probably, their larger ones did the best job of non-native resolution.

All-in-all, though, just get a Mac mini (as I type this from a Fedora box).

Re:It can be done (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221565)

You could get him a 21" or 24" CRT, they are dirt cheap...
On the other hand, running a low resolution is exactly the wrong way to have large text, you end up with large pixelated text...

Also on unix that won't even work if you have a semi decent monitor (which your old crt may not be) because it knows what size the text *should* be based on the size of the monitor (text size is measured in points, which are a real physical measurement and not related to pixels)... but if you force it to think the monitor has a higher dpi than it really does, then it will scale things up to what it thinks is the appropriate size... Useless if you're trying to do any precision design work, but fine for someone with weak eyesight.

Why does he need XP for what he does? it sounds like linux would be more than suitable for his needs, he would still have thunderbird and firefox, and you wouldn't need the onecare tools wasting resources, and you'd have ssh built in for remote admin which will be faster and almost certainly more secure than vnc...

I've setup Windows for my grandparents. (2, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221487)

I used a combination of the task scheduler and options within the programs to automatically update Spybot and AVG and to automatically run a scan. I set Spybot to scan on boot (this is the only annoyance I haven't figured out how to hide). They eat at noon like clockwork, so I set AVG to automatically scan then.

They use Thunderbird for email. Initially I setup Outlook Express thinking the "normal" Windows way would be easier in the end, even though I used Thunderbird myself. Nope, to many headaches. Firefox and Thunderbird appear to work great for them. I have a 19" monitor running at 1024x768 which seems to be ok, but I'm on the lookout for needing to lower the resolution or increase the text size, so far so good.

Something I have found, they love Frozen Bubble.

The only thing I have to do is from time to time do a "big" upgrade when AVG releases an update that can't be done automatically, about once a year, or clean up after a younger cousin, not after my grandparents. I used to have it locked down automatically logging in with a user rights account to keep my little cousins from screwing it up, but Lexmark made that difficult and Granny couldn't remember a password. Lexmark drivers required admin rights just to use the printer. I figured out which folders to blow wide open, but Lexmark kept finding another way to make it difficult, and of course their answer for bad driver writing was to contact Microsoft. I finally found it was easier leave the thing auto logging in as Admin (I hate that) and educating/threatening my other relatives. After 10 years of educating them they've finally stopped installing spyware on my grandparents system, and seriously slowed down installing it on their own systems.

Re:I've setup Windows for my grandparents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221633)

Lexmark drivers required admin rights just to use the printer.

Adds Lexmark to boycott list
Oh, ah, yes, I'm one of the two people who run Windows as a limited user...

Re:I've setup Windows for my grandparents. (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221667)

They've been on my personal boycott list for years, but I didn't buy that printer for them, nor select it. UMax is on it worse than them, is UMax even still around?

Configuring Windows XP (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221489)

From a security standpoint I would repeat the advices that I given [mckeay.net] on the Network Security Blog:

- The **most** effective thing is using a "non-standard" environment [blogspot.com] . You can take a look at my post titled "Windows XP High Security Configuration [blogspot.com] ". Applying the listed security measures will prevent 99.99% of the malware from running!
- don't let them run as admin!
- if possible, use Vista (again, because XP is much more widely spread, most malware currently targets XP)
- don't use mainstream programs! Use FoxitPDF reader, not Adobe Reader. Use Firefox (or Opera) instead of IE.
- Use software restriction policies to set where programs can be run from.
- Keep the PC up to date! Run Windows Update regularly and use something like the Secunia PSI to check for vulnerable software!
- Use a hosts file to block sites in combination with OpenDNS.
- Configure the firewall to block all incoming connections if possible
- Disable Autorun (http://hype-free.blogspot.com/2008/09/autorun-malware.html)
- And, lastly, just for defense in depth, use an AV. Here are my configuration guides for Avast (http://hype-free.blogspot.com/2008/10/installing-avast.html) and AVG8 (http://hype-free.blogspot.com/2008/10/installing-avg-8.html). Probably I should also do one for Avira, but last time I've tested them, they were very ad-loaded (admittedly this was several years ago).

If you use these methods, the chance of the computers getting malware is almost nil.

My Problem was Other Relatives. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221497)

I set up a PC with XP, using FOSS to replace expensive or insecure software wherever possible. A local technician did the final snagging, mostly setting up proper seperate accounts and tweaking the setup for poor eyesight. I then took a partimage snapshot of the system, so I could get it back to its current state if a virus or trojan got in.

But then along comes a do-gooding relative and installs a cracked version of Office, which wont be receiving security updates or any upgrades in the future. This will make my job alot harder is a few years time when parents start asking why they cant open the latest docx files.

The best thing I can do now, is bite my tongue and make sure I get a new image of the system, so I can at least get it back to its current state if it needs a reinstall.

I'd jump on the Mac bandwagon. (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221507)

This is one of the areas where steering them to purchase a Mac is a good thing. Yes, an iMac may seem pricy, but with AppleCare, the relative can get questions answered at a Genius Bar or via the Apple line and not have to keep bugging you. Linux is also good, but one advantage of Macs is that the older person can ask more than just you, as a lot more people run Macs than Linux boxes. Another factor is that the older person will be keeping the machine a lot longer than the usual 2-3 years a normal PC is used.

Another advantage is that Macs run almost all popular software. Say the relative wants to watch a Flash movie or find a podcast, Macs happily do this with few issues. For word processing, iWork is easy to install and use and does most of the basics.

Security-wise, ensuring the computer is behind a hardware firewall/router will keep the port scanners off the box, and setting OS X's firewall to "Allow only essential services" will do the rest. A basic lecture of not downloading stuff from the Web and running it should minimize the chance of Trojans, perhaps coupled with a decent A/V program. Give them an account with administrative rights so they can run Software Update and you are pretty much done.

For loss of data, backups are quite easy with OS X. Plug in an external hard disk, configure Time Machine, walk away. For further protection, there is always Mozy which can back up the entire machine with unlimited storage for around $6 a month.

This is just my personal opinion, so take for what its worth, but an iMac with an external hard disk (for Time Machine), a decent hardware firewall/router, and having all these plugged into a good UPS should get an older person up and running on the Internet and greatly decrease any chance of 2am "tech support" calls.

OS X isn't perfect, but in this case of getting a user set up and as independent as possible, it might be one of the better solutions available.

Re:I'd jump on the Mac bandwagon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221697)

As a 'silver' Mac user I would agree.

Watching my two sons fight XP and Vista's menagerie of virus, trojans etc I am just keen to keep clear of them all.

There also appear to be a lot of old folks mac support groups which are very helpful - which rather proves your point.

avoiding Windows... (2)

sagman (465807) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221513)

will be tough but I speak from experience with a couple of nonagenerians (grandmother and great aunt) and a couple of septagenerians (aunts both) -- they will do things in Windows... things that will be difficult for you to figure out on the telephone. You need to be able to get to their desktop if you're going to have a chance at all (e.g. some flavor of VNC). The most important thing I learned during the many hours I've spent over the years supporting family members: mouse usage basically becomes a random variable with seniors as their motor control declines. So a) they have no idea where and what they clicked and b) they will frequently do things that produce inexplicable results. An example: a family member called one day to describe a gray screen covering about 90% of the display. Turned out that my grandmother had (somehow) unlocked the toolbar in Windows and dragged it all the way to the top of the screen, rendering the machine useless. Try figuring that out on the telephone. I've never found a tool that would allow me to freeze the desktop and menu items so that they didn't get scrambled... just plan on periodically having a UI puzzle on your hands. Having remote desktop access will help but the only problem there is that you may not be trusted to take remote control, i.e. privacy is an issue. Sigh. Seniors really need only a couple of apps: web, email, and Solitare. Windows is overkill and will be the pebble in your shoe.

Not Windows, not so easy (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221515)

Several years ago, my mother got herself a computer. I lived abroad, so she did that all by herself. When I came back, I fell into the trap of doing computer maintenance for family, and finally I got tired and told my mom I'd install Mandrake on her machine. She said okay as long as it worked like Windows. Sure I said, you'll see...

So I went buy a mandrake CD, installed it, gave a small course on how to do things on the machine, and told her how she didn't have to worry about viruses and spyware anymore, etc... The first thing she said to me was : "but my CD with the program to remove red eyes from photos doesn't work on it. And neither does my cliparts utility, and the fun online postcard programs my friends sent me by email." and I thought, shit, I didn't think about that. So I tried to get her to use Gimp and other open-source utilities, but it wasn't "the same", it wasn't "her programs".

So eventually I told her, look, it's either Linux with no worries, or Windows with all your toys, but you worry about security and backups yourself. She chose Windows, never once called me for support anymore, and that was it.

My mom is 70 and now owns 3 computers, including an EeePC that she keeps in her purse all the time. So the moral of that story is, unless your "senior citizens" (also called old persons in non-politically-correct circles incidentally) is mentally deficient or just not interested enough, don't take them for idiots and tell them that, yes, computers are a pain, and you've never had one, and yeah it'll be a tough learning curve, but you're perfectly able to do it. And don't let them use their age as an excuse for laziness.

App for senior users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221521)

Have a look at http://www.eldy.eu

Re:App for senior users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221587)

Have a look at http://www.eldy.eu

I've just taken a look, it *does* seem useful. Although the grammar is a bit f'ed up (as in engrish).

You've got to be kidding (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221563)

1. Don't.
2. Really. Just don't.

Don't do it unless you want to take on the job of cleaning the shit out every time you go over there. If you want to visit frequently and they like you visiting frequently, and spending your time fixing their damn computer, fine. But, uh, no.

Note that even Ubuntu isn't immune - I commend to you this story from Liam On Linux [livejournal.com] .

VNC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221575)

I recommend a VNC server listening on a high port for remotely fixing stuff. I did this with my home computers for my family when I went to uni and it saved me a lot of work. You can be talking to her over the phone any saying 'okay then you do this, *click* then you do this *click*.' Handy.

Re:VNC (1)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221611)

Yeah, I did this to my dad a few years ago and since then he has resorted to writing everything down on pen and paper because he thinks all computers can have that done to them easily (nevermind he couldn't prove that to himself).

Bad, BAD idea for seniors!

Use web based email and firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221597)

My dad, now 77, has been happily using Yahoo email for over 10 years. I set everything to auto-update and the antivirus, spybot etc to run at set times.

It's that easy.

dont spoil them! (4, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221599)

just give them a PC with no OS on it and an OpenBSD CDrom and Theo's phone number :D

Don't install win, ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221623)

Assume little computer familiarity or aptitude.

If we assume little computer familiarity or aptitude, then that also means no preconcieved notions of how to use a computer. In which case, do not ever (as many comments have already noted) install windows. You'll end up fighting the loosing battle against viruses, malware, bots, etc.

Instead, since they are a "clean slate" simply install a linux distro. Pick your favorite easy to use one and put it on the machine. As they have little familiarity, everything (linux or win) will be both new and a learning experience. Might as well have them learn to use a Ubuntu (or Linux-Mint or whatever) system instead of a windows one, and avoid all the virus/malware/bots etc.

Plus you will avoid the "re-install win every 3 months to clean up the computer" problem.

Since no one is answering the question, i'll try (2, Interesting)

ZP-Blight (827688) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221645)

The original question was about Windows, not mac/linux, so here's my windows answer:

1. Partition the hard disk into two parts, drive-C: should be about 20gb and the rest goes to drive-D:
2. Do a clean install.
3. Install a VNC app (or enable remote desktop).
4. Setup an application based firewall and pre-approve all applications the end-user may need.
5. Setup icons on the desktop for the most important apps (and shortcuts to important folders such as my documents/my pictures/etc...)
6. This is probably the most important, after everything is working correctly, create an image of partition-C:. Once you have an image of the OS parition if the OS starts to degrade, you always have a solid starting point that doesn't require 4 hours to install (takes about 30min to restore a 20gb image on even slower machines)

Use VNC to help remotely so that you won't have to visit for every little fix.

There are other things you can do, but this is the crux of it.

Re:Since no one is answering the question, i'll tr (1)

aviwollman (899764) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221773)

and create a account which is not administrator which logs on automatically.

Give them Linux (2, Interesting)

dalesc (66212) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221737)

I'm very serious. I have parents in Canada. A PC each, Dad on Windows XP, Mum on OpenSuse Linux. Dad is always calling with problems with virus warnings, scare-ware pop-ups and hangs. A recent virus scan found over 400 suspect infections of which around 20 could be regarded as extremely undesirable. And this is with a regularly updated AVG.

The worst problem from Mum is she can't figure out how to put a picture in her newsletter or she's accidentally hidden an email folder.

Remote admin to the Linux machine is a whole lot easier and quicker with SSH than Remote Desktop.

My mother-in-law, who is only a few miles away also uses OpenSuse. I update her system ever year or so and she never has any problems.

I don't give them the root password.

It's way to easy on Windows to fool the unwary into doing something stupid.

Re:Give them Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221789)

"It's way to easy on Windows to fool the unwary into doing something stupid."

Hm, hang on, haven't you fooled them into doing something stupid already if they are running Windows?

Sorry but have to agree.... (2, Interesting)

bigpistol (1311191) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221741)

...with all the comments about not using Windows. I know the original question was how to setup Windows but why pay to give yourself lots of extra work? If the person does not know much about computers there will be no learning curve from Windows to Linux, no need to make sure firewalls/AV are updated, even if you do use AV for Linux it can be updated silently and emails sent to the grand kid admin :)

My brother used windows for years and eventually after he phoned complaining about lots of pop up pr0n (Which he didnt mind at first....sigh) and finding over 400 occurrences of various virii I installed Ubuntu. There was the initial "Where's this/where's that" but once he got familiar with the main menu he was sorted. Now I hardly ever hear from him...

Mandriva and PCLINUXOS (1)

cenc (1310167) | more than 4 years ago | (#26221743)

I have done several installs of Mandriva and PCLINUXOS for friends over 60. Most are still chugging along, virus free and hassle free. Now when they buy new notebooks with windows installed they come to me to remove them, with "I can not find my KDE icon".

My grandpa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221751)

hi,

My grandparents have come to Israel (were we live) from Bulgaria. At one time my grandfather asked for a PC he can play chess and card games with.

I gave him an old PC I no longer use with Windows and Fedora Linux Dual boot (It was some old distribution) and a set of card games and gnu chess...

(My grandpa never used PC in his life and was exposed equally to both OSs)

here is what happened.
1. After brief adaptation period He started using Linux solo.
2. The linux box switched to Bulgarian somehow (so now I cannot use it anymore) - Please note an 80 years old with very limited English could do it! (My grandfather speaks fluent Greek, Bulgarian and Hebrew and can also speak Russian and Spanish... He never got around to learn English....)
3. He played on all card games and gnuchess I installed and even managed to install more games by himself.(following instructions he found in Bulgarian Linux websites....)
4. He completely abandoned windows and plays games and music on Linux all the time.

This is what I learned from the experiment
1. Linux may be more user-friendly if you come with 0 prior knowledge.
2. Linux is probably better suited if your native language is not English.
3. (Off course all those are based on one person not an academic study, so take it with a grain of salt. but still... )
4. If you give your grandpa a Linux box, at some point you would also have to give one to your grandma.... :-)

On setting up a PC for the elderly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26221781)

The most important thing before starting on this sort of a mission is not to take the needs of class of user lightly. With that in mind, I'll tell you what's worked in my family for many years of trouble-free Windows computing.

First, ascertain the needs of the user. Do they need to:

1. Browse the web?
2. Check email? If so, is it web-based? POP/SMTP? IMAP?
3. Instant message/Skype/VoIP?
4. Print b&w or color?
5. Use an office suite?
6. Watch movies, listen to music, etc?

This will determine which software you'll install. Now I'll go into the items above and pitfalls I've encountered.

Item #1: I use Firefox with adblock plus, IEview, flash, shockwave, Java, and google toolbar. I've added automatic updates to the list. Firefox puts up (annoying to computer newbies) messages about add-on updates and browser updates. If its possible to make these completely notification silent then aim for it. I must confess I haven't done the research when I setup this system a few years ago because it was easier to teach them how to ignore these messages. It is important to tell them to ignore any pop-ups that adblock doesn't catch and a few other little items related to safe browsing habits.

Item #2: I insist on using a desktop mail client such are Outlook with gmail or google apps because it integrates well with their PIM needs and there are no passwords to remember. You could achieve the same thing with Thunderbird. I prefer POP3/SMTP with gmail because even if my target user does something completely foolish (for example, delete all their mail), then gmail still has an archieved copy that can easily be copied over from IMAP. A quick teaching session on how to read, reply, print, make attachments, and delete email is in order.

Item #3: I have created instant messaging accounts on the relevant services for them. I usually lock down the accounts so they can't be added by any joe schmoe and pre-seed their contact list with family and friends. I know it takes time but it saves a lot of problems later. Lastly, safe IM habits need to be taught. I always tell them that NEVER open any links or save any files that may be sent to them over IM unless they call the person sending things over and confirm its clean.

Item #4: This is simple. Just install the printer. Teach them how to monitor toner or ink levels. Also teach them how to change toner/ink cartridges and add paper. Also, you should thoroughly examine the printer for how it opens and closes, where the paper jams could be, etc.

Item #5: This is pretty easy as well. Just make sure you establish a good way for them to save their files in an organized fashion.

Item #6: This can be difficult. Make sure to install a good codec pack like K-Lite Mega Codec pack, a good player (Media Player Classic or VLC), and setup the default actions for Music CDs, DVDs, etc.

The above is the easy part.

The way to make sure this all works is addressing the maintenance issues. In no particular order.

1. I have told my users to leave their computers running 24/7 and I make sure to allow the monitor, hard drives, etc to power down after a short amount of time of idling.

2. Virus scanning. Get a virus scanner that allows silent updating. Set a nightly schedule for a full sweep of the hard drive. Or do a "quick scan" nightly if the scanner has a good realtime on-access scanner and do a full sweep around 10-11pm at night once or twice a week. I use McAfee Viruscan Enterprise. You can use the Corporate version of Symantec AV or one of the dozens of free scanners. Just make sure you're familiar with the software. I suggest not installing one of those security suites because the software puts its tentacles into everything and makes the configuration difficult to control.

3. Malware scanning. Install Spybot Search & Destroy. Use the Immuninze option to generate a blacklist for the system HOST file. Then install Malwarebyes Anti-Malware. Buy a copy (I'm not affiliated with them) for its realtime scanning, scheduling of nightly scans, and nightly database updates. One of the problems with this software is it prompts users to hit "OK" when the author releases upgrades. I wish it could be made silent. Anyway, my suggestion is to set this up for nightly scanning and updating of the entire drive. This will make spyware/malware infections a thing of the past.

4. Firewall. Use the built in Windows Firewall. It does what it needs to for a desktop machine sitting behind a router and/or cable modem. I wouldn't bother getting a full fledge firewall due to the complication involved. If you must get a firewall, then Comodo offers a free personal firewall which can be setup easily. The problem is it needs user input for updates and occasionally puts up cryptic messages on whether a program should be allowed access to the internet. This can confuse users but I have a solution for you below.

5. Defrag. I bought Perfect Disk by Raxco. I've set it to run a scheduled defrag once a week on the entire drive after the virus scan and malware scan.

6. Garbage cleanup. CCleaner is an excellent utility that can serve to wipe up the message of temporary files on the system. It can be put into full auto-mode on any frequency you wish. I usually run this nightly. It has a white-list of cookies which is useful so your user's passwords don't get wiped out whenever the program runs.

7. Backup. This is very important! I've bought Acronis TrueImage but I'm sure you can do this with Ghost or something else. Buy a second hard drive (either USB or internal) and run a weekly backup with a nightly differential. I usually keep 2 weeks of backups going at any one time. This isn't the best Slashdot approved system of offsite backups but it can be a lifesaver with most of the dumb moments bound to hit your user. The key here is to deny access to the backup drive from your user's account when browsing the drive through other apps (i.e. explorer) but allowing Acronis to run at a permission level where it can access the backup drive. This way access can only be done through Acronis. Burn an Acronis bootcd and make sure you can restore your scheduled archives (this is something most people never test). Put a big label on this disk just in case you need to guide your user through a restore.

8. DynDNS & Remote Desktop. Setting this up really helps your ability to support a user. User DynDNS to pick a hostname and run an IP address updating client on the machine. Allow Remote Desktop access. Also, make sure you've setup the correct port forwarding and opened holes in the firewall to allow this access. Test it to make sure it works. You can also use VNC as a replacement for Remote Desktop.

9. Microsoft Update. Make sure you've setup Microsoft Update to download and install critical updates via its nightly scheduling service. It won't pull the non-critical updates but you can do this easily once a month by logging in via Remote Desktop.

10. Software updating. Also, install a free software update scanning tool such are the scanner from a site like http://www.filehippo.com./ [www.filehippo.com] This tool scans the installed applications and will get you a list of things that require an update. This makes your job of staying on top of Flash, Java, Firefox, etc updates much easier.

11. Security update scanner. Secunia makes a free security scanning product called PSI. This can be a life saver as it scans any vulnerable pieces of software on your system and provides fixes.

Items 10 & 11 are for your use when doing maintenance of the system. Having them installed makes your life much easier.

That should cover it. Its a pretty complicated and I would suggest installing it on a test machine so you can test it for a couple of weeks to make sure everything works as expected. Then you can easily resetup it up on your parents machine with all the fixes. Once the machine is setup and you've put in all the email, IM, and other account details you should mak a complete backup of the configuration using acronis. Then burn the config onto two sets of DVDs. Keep one with you and leave one at the user's house. This is the ultimate last ditch way to fix any problem.

This setup has worked flawlessly for years. I only have to login once in a while to update software and the rest works all on its own. This setup works great in both XP SP3 and Vista SP1.

Good luck and let me know if you need any other pointers.

- H.R.
"chaos is the score upon which reality is written"

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