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Safe Computing For the Elderly?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the we'll-all-need-something-like-this-eventually dept.


wingspan asks: "My 80-year old mother is insisting on using this new fangled thing called the Internet for banking and brokerage. I researched ways for her to perform those activities safely. The typical suggestions, from organizations such as BITS [pdf], include installing anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, anti-adware, browser toolbar, and a personal firewall. The suggestions also include not clicking on links, verifying security certificates (If it has a cert, it must be a good site!), making sure the address begins with 'https://' regularly updating the security software and patching all other software, and regularly changing passwords. Personally, I think the technical suggestions are too Windows-centric, too costly, and leave too much of an attack surface. The non-technical suggestions are simply too much to ask of the elderly. What do you think? Is it possible for an elderly person to safely perform Internet banking and brokerage? If so, what system should they have, how should it be configured and maintained, and how much of the security should depend with the elderly user?"

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Get her on Linux (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928578)

I've had great success getting technically incompetent people to avoid the evils of the Internet by introducing them to Linux.

They hate the bootup sequence text and the weird program names, so they quit using computers altogether and get back to using ATMs.

This may or may not be what you are trying to accomplish with your grandma.

Re:Get her on Linux (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928632)

To get your grandma up and running without any trouble, just update your repositories:

deb [] grandparents human

Then run your updates:

sudo apt-get update perspective-on-life

And finally, install the required old person packages (debian sarge includes a larger list, see here for more):

sudo apt-get install falseteeth slippers cardigan

Once you have done this, logout of your grandma and when you bring her back online she will be ready for action.

Re:Get her on Linux (1)

binford2k (142561) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929210)

Once you have done this, logout of your grandma

It was going great until this line. I have to go wash my brain out with soap now.

Re:Get her on Linux (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929566)

It was going great until this line. I have to go wash my brain out with soap now.

I was doing great with it - brain resisted horrible thoughts (*praises brain with beer*) until you pointed them out. I nearly fall off my chair laughing though.

Re:Get her on Linux (4, Funny)

finkployd (12902) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930598)

Once you have done this, logout of your grandma

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner in the "most disturbing thing ever uttered on slashdot" category.


Re:Get her on Linux (2, Interesting)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928898)

I actually think there is some sense in introducing someone who hasn't used a computer before to Linux. With Windows, especially on an OEM machine full of crapware, the user is constantly bombarded with popups and warnings. This was too much for my girlfriend's elderly grandma to handle. She had no clue what these things meant and didn't know how to react to them. On the command line, on the other hand, nothing happens unless you type something and hit return. It might be cryptic, but you're in control, and you are forced to pro-actively learn what you are doing, instead of simply reacting to the stuff the computer throws at you. If your mind is not used to GUIs then the command line is simple: type a command and the computer does something.

Re:Get her on Linux (1)

xiong.chiamiov (871823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16931814)

He said Linux, not command line. Remember that there are people like me who use Linux, but haven't a clue with a CLI.

Re:Get her on Linux (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929526)

get back to using ATMs.

They feel comfortable with their average ATM because it runs Windows and bluescreens as often as their Internet banking does!

In all seriousness, Linux is a good way to keep old people out of trouble. They are scared of computers and all their "tech savvy" friends are scared of Linux. You can lock it down so they can't bollocks it and let em rip.

But there's no way to keep the elderly safe on computers. They (in general, I have seen one or two exceptions) aren't cluey enough into this new techno-fandangle to understand the risks of being online. If you can't understand the risks you can't take steps to mitigate them or look out for new and unknown problems.

My granny is a spritely 85 and still gets about on her own two feet almost everywhere. She's a fit old bat... She had a VCE before most other people did. She can even program it... but give here a computer and she goes to pieces. She's constantly amazed at the things we can do with our laptops when we go over to visit (photo manpulation, music, movies, word processing, email, teleconferencing, etc), but there's too much new information to absorb to learn how to operate it without inadvertantly handing out your details to some phisher on the Interdoodle. Trying to explain that there are bad people on there who try their hardest to trick you just about causer her head to explode, because there's so many ways they can get at you with a computer.

Re:Get her on Linux (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929630)

"They hate the bootup sequence text and the weird program names, so they quit using computers altogether and get back to using ATMs."

I know. People have died just trying to pronounce "Ubuntu".

Sad (3, Insightful)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928598)

A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

Re:Sad (3, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928808)

> A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.
> Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens. Eventually - if you live long enough - you'll start to make bad decisions. It doesn't happen, or we shouldn't talk about it?

Getting back on topic, I guess you could provide a shortcut to a browser with no address bar, pointing to a homepage which is a local html file with links to the banking (etc) sites so that there's no ability to be phished into typing the wrong address. Email could be set up with a whitelist of friends - all other email being dumped. Email filters could additionally dump emails containing any URL/some pretty broad set of words ("banking", "log in", "logon" etc). You could subscribe to a service, such as Gmail, that does anti-phishing by default.

Re:Sad (4, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929108)

"As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens."

Sometimes true, however I once had opportunity over several weeks to play a Monk in his late eighties at chess, a game at which I have some talent. I've never been so completelly destroyed in chess so many times in a row, his abilities were fearsome.

Yet he seemed absent minded, it was all very puzzling.

Re:Sad (4, Interesting)

EinZweiDrei (955497) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929326)

Chess skill is largely a basis of pattern recognition and experience, prodigies aside. One can be brilliant at chess by sheer dint of having played thousands and thousands of games and be mediocre at everything else in life. Adrian de Groot [] famously [in the chess world, at least] found that Grandmasters are far better than amateurs at memorizing real gameplay positions on a board, but are just as poor as amateurs with nonsense positions [three white bishops all on black squares, kings adjacent, general random piece placement]. This has led heavily to the adoption of the 'pattern recognition' mode of thought.

Your monk, then, may have just been very, very, experienced, in spite of his old age, and thus fearsome. Hell, look at Viktor Kortchnoi [] .

That said, though, I absolutely believe there are some very, very, sharp elderly men and women out there. As well as some very, very, strong ones, to dispel another myth. The key is using what you have -- intelligence, strength -- and never giving it a chance to slip into senility.

Re:Sad (3, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929704)

interesting stuff.

The Monk in question had been left at the monestary as a baby and raised there. Chess was, and remains, a major entertainment in that monestary. We're probably talking over 70 years of constant chess playing.

What struck me as odd at the time was that I didn't seem to be able to come up with a single long term strategy that he didn't block several moves before I got to a checkmate. I got a few checks, but usually before I realised something horrible was happening elsewhere on the board.

Hmmm (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929486)

"As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens. Eventually - if you live long enough - you'll start to make bad decisions."

It's not clear you lose mental faculties; certain your body gets older. But the idea that people become senile as a normal part of aging is false.

As for old people making bad decisions, so does everyone. And if I was betting, I'm betting that 21 year olds make more bad decisions than 80 year olds.

Re:Hmmm (1)

be951 (772934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930472)

It's not clear you lose mental faculties...

Agreed. It seems to be a "use it or lose" proposition. Old people who stay mentally and physically active -- particularly when the activities include learning new things -- tend to live longer and be less susceptible to diminished memory and reasoning capacity.

On a related note, I'm very concerned for the younger generations. Many amoung them seem to be suffering diminished physical and mental capacity already due to inactivity.

Re:Hmmm (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16934702)

I don't know a lot of 21 year olds who decide to leave the stove on all day after making tea. I do, however, know three 80+ year olds who have done it this year.

Totally anecdotal, and therefore useless, but it illustrates the point: 21 year olds make bad decisions due to lack of experience. 80 year olds make bad decisions because their brains are failing.

Old people point at the miscues of youth as a distraction technique, but aging cannot be stopped by winning an argument using logical fallacies. It just keeps on coming. Go ahead and fool yourself into believing that you won't be hit, but you will.

Re:Sad (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16934668)

This has nothing to do with loss of mental faculties. The elderly are from a different era, and in general they have little training on computers and no desire to learn more about them.

My mother was a brillant woman who did the accounts for an insurance form with pen and paper. She used a computer at work when she had to, so she knew the basics. Then she retired and I told her to get a computer to stay in touch and shop from home. A year later I visited and that computer was an unholy mess, infested with adware and zombified by worms and viruses. And that was all from just leaving it turned on all the time -- she never actually used it because she hated the thing.

The elderly need help with computers. Hell, I'm going to need help using and maintaining the androids my grandchildren insist that I buy.

Re:Sad (1)

Tinfoil (109794) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929288)

A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

Oh dear God, no!

My grandmother/grandfather both have a hard time in simply shutting down Windows properly. Even after adding 5 icons all lined up on one side of the screen that are labeled 'SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER'. This after I sat with them for the better part of the day trying to explain how to connect to the internet (setup behind a router, there is no 'connect' icon, just double click FireFox) and how to reply to an email.

I'm certain that there are people out there in their age bracket that are quite proficient at using a "computer television machine" but I'd be willing to bet that a good portion do need the added protection that the subby is trying to give them.

Now, get off my lawn.

Mercy or pity (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932610)

Have mercy, or at least pity, on them an shell out for a Macintosh. At least put Ubuntu or Kubuntu on the machine along with a few short cut icons and bookmarks. The MS Windows interface is overly complex and counter intuitive.

I see very old people do their banking without trouble all the time on the Fedora and Ubuntu machines set up as public stations at one site. That locale gets a lot of very old and very young visitors. Interestingly, there are several continuing students who are able to do their homework on for their classes on MS Office without trouble they only have to turn in a file or a print out, not the application they used.

Re:Mercy or pity (1)

Tinfoil (109794) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932858)

Now I would set them up with Ubuntu or a Mac (they're footing the bill on it, though!) but back then Ubuntu was but a glimmer in Shuttleworth's eye and OS 9 on Mac was .... *shudder*

Re:Mercy or pity (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16934762)

The MS Windows interface is overly complex and counter intuitive.

Oh, bullshit. Nothing on a computer is intuitive, never mind counter intuitive. Stop spouting crap like this.

Re:Sad (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16931714)

In this case it would seem to be very true. If this woman can do her own banking and investing she doesn't sound like she is impaired to me.
Frankly most people are a security risk on the Internet. Being young doesn't mean you are not an idiot.

Elderly people can't figure out the Internet.
African Americans are criminals.
Hispanics are illegal aliens.
Jews are cheap.
Christians are intolerant.
Muslims are terrorists.
All great examples of prejudice.

Re:Sad (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932620)

A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

I love my grandfather, but I cringe whenever he makes a new technology purchase.

It took me a week to teach him how to use his DVR.


Safe is safe enough. (1)

Havenwar (867124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928614)

Use upgraded antivirus, adware and spyware blockers and a good firewall. Beyond that the main concern is to never fall for phising attacks - ie you have to teach them that their bank/broker will NEVER send them a mail asking for them to log in or any such thing. Teach them to just say no to links in emails. This is a particular problem for many inexperienced users who tend to blindly trust the email headers.

Odds of more exotic attacks are slim enough to be ignored for every day users and really isn't a concern. If they move enough money to be specifically targeted, then they have enough money to have a personal computer security expert look over the system regularly.

Re:Safe is safe enough. (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928654)

I would add to this: only use bookmarks to navigate the web instead of typing in addresses. Especially if the person has never used a keyboard before(or hasn't in a long while) and may have a bit of trouble reading the address bar accurately. One mistaken keystroke could send you right to a phisher/camper's site. Plus, if you only navigate to known trustworthy sites, your chances of getting spyware/virus etc. are greatly reduced.

Re:Safe is safe enough. (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929832)

I work with a few 70+ year old contract employees, and I've had success with making things easy for them, in that they're always ecstatic when I show them what they can do and make it easy. I agree that just having them go to bookmarks would be a tremendous help. Another idea is to put shortcuts on the desktop with clear descriptions, which is what I often do for them (though only so far for directory locations). And take the time to show them the steps and make sure they can do it.

Also, let them know that if anything is difficult or otherwise unpleasant, let you know. This is because you probably know a trick that obviates that problem, but didn't know to tell them before. It's hard to anticipate everything they might find useful.

Oh, and increasing the text size would be a great idea if you didn't already think of it.

Teach, and encourage. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928870)

Agreed; the problem is that things that seem like trivial "user training issues" can be very difficult to teach people with memory problems. This is an issue both when dealing with the elderly, and also with the learning disabled; you have to build systems that can deal with people who may not learn and retain information quite as quickly as a 'normal' person would.

I think the key here is to teach all the important basics about not clicking on links in emails, but also try to design the system so that it reinforces these lessons and helps remind them if they start to forget.

For starters, get them an email client that can disable HTML, and turn that off. If they can't click on a link in an email and have their browser pop open, then it's a lot harder to get roped in by a phishing attack -- if they have to copy/paste it, at least there's a better chance they'll realize something is amiss. Might also want to think about literally putting a sticker on the computer that says something like "Only open banking sites from bookmarks, never links!" (okay, I'm sure someone else can come up with some catchier one-liners for warning text than I can). I feel like if everyone had a sign on the top of their screen reminding them of the dangers of phishing, maybe they'd think about it more and maybe avoid trouble once in a while.

The other thing that might be instructive would be to take them online and show them some samples of phishing emails and 419 scams and general spam, so that they know what they're probably going to receive in their Inbox, sooner or later, and how hard it is to separate from "legitimate" seeming emails. Maybe forward them an example one yourself (warn them first, and defang the links obviously); it's easy to talk about scamming or phishing in the abstract, but it suddenly becomes more real when you have one in your email box.

Any success with this project is going to require a combination of technological and user-training solutions; neither one is going to be enough on its own. The system has to help reinforce the lessons, preferably by making the "right way" of doing things also the easiest and most obvious way, and making the "wrong way" harder.

Re:Teach, and encourage. (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929546)

Only open banking sites from bookmarks, never links!

Bookmarks good, links bad?

Meeeeeh! [] ;-)

Never used a computer? (5, Insightful)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928676)

First of all, go with something *you* are comfortable with, because you're going to be the first person she calls in the event of an emergency.

Otherwise, considering going Apple. Sure some will decry the proprietary aspects, but it's an *easy* system to use, and with Applecare she will have a years worth of tech support from someone who is inside the US of A if you're not availabe.

My 76 yo Mom has a Powerbook for her internet related stuff, and a Winbook, because she was a long time Windows user and her embroidery stuff runs only on Windows (it's tied to a Bernina, who offers no Mac port of their software).

I think if she hadn't been into the sewing thing we could have gone straight Mac. She understands too, that if she needs to go on the internet for any reason with the WB, she uses "that other account you set up for me" (i.e. non-Admin), cause it's safer.

FWIW, the PB has been just fine for 3 years, the WB has had problems within 3 months of purchase, YMMV.

Good luck, whatever you do.

Mac may not be the way to go (1)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929722)

You raise some good points, but, depending on their level of tech-savvy, Mac may not be the way to go.

If the person in question is really, completely, clueless at computers, an Xubuntu box is the way to go.
Think about it: the person is so clueless that they won't use the menus; you make a shortcut on the desktop to Firefox, and rename it to "Go Online", another shortcut to Writer, and that's about it.
This has one great advantage over a mini: cost! Grab your old P3 from the basement, dust off the 128 megs of RAM, toss in an old CRT, add Xubuntu (or, if you've got a little more RAM, K/Ubuntu), and you've got a box that will suit their needs completely for practically nothing.

If, OTOH, they are going to want to be installing their own software, or doing something else "high-tech", then, yeah, go for the Mini.

Linux is for the completely inept or the 1337, everyone else should use Mac.

Re:Mac may not be the way to go (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930024)

Last I checked a Mac does that far more effectively with the Doc. Even can make icons & text larger as needed rather nicely. Not to mention if they decide to dig around and I dunno...get to know their computer more they won't be breaking anything. With a Linux box they are guaranteed to never explore one bit and are far more likely to be calling about the most asinine, "web" stuff. Just because they are old doesn't mean they are 2 year olds.

Re:Mac may not be the way to go (1)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930830)

Last I checked a Mac does that far more effectively with the Doc. Even can make icons & text larger as needed rather nicely.

Linux does a fine job. The doc menu or the desktop are just different ways of accomplishing the same thing, and a few seconds of configing my Ubuntu desktop, and I can enlarge icons/test.

get to know their computer more they won't be breaking anything

Last time I checked, Mac allowed a user to delete their own files, which is really the worst you can do in Linux without being root.

With a Linux box they are guaranteed to never explore one bit
That's quite a statement, but let's assume, for a moment, that it's true. Most people don't want to explore their computer. They want their email, word processing, perhaps a bit of photo management, and that's about it. My grandmother (88) doesn't want to explore her computer; she wants to read the stupid joke emails her friends send her.
Seriously, do you think that most people (non-slashdotters) want to resize their swap partition? How about set up an proxy? Recompile their kernel?

We shouldn't be trying to make people tech savvy unless they want to become so themselves. In which case, they should probably go with a Mac.

Re:Mac may not be the way to go (1)

xiong.chiamiov (871823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932558)

One thing regarding the dock: until you hover over the icon, it's just a picture. For me, as well as most people, pictures work best. But my Dad is text-oriented; he can't find things by pictures. He has to have the text underneath the shortcut for him to find it.

Re:Mac may not be the way to go (1)

Tim99 (984437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16934828)

I am a volunteer teacher for new internet users aged between 55 and 87.

Windows is generally a disaster for them. This is not a reflection on their abilities or intelligence, Windows just seems to alien for many of these users. We teach them to use an antivirus programme like AVG, and AdAware/Spybot - the difficulty is for them to keep these programmes up to date, and to use the system without clicking on 'nasty' websites or opening inappropriate mail.

We have found the Apple Mac to be better for many users. We recommend setting up an Administrator account which is not used for logging in. A Standard account is set up which the user automatically logs in to. We can configure the account with the "Simple Finder" option, and can limit the Applications that this account can run.

The user is told to Log out when they have finished their session, and the Software Update programme can be configured to run daily. The user is told to enter the Admin Account details and password only when prompted by Software Update.

In three years we have had no significant problems. Whilst Ubuntu could be set up to do something similar we are worried by potential problems in the installation of multimedia.


The main reason for old people is to irritate young people.

Re:Never used a computer? (2, Insightful)

Thornae (53316) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929972)

Seconded, with a proviso: Make sure the people she's getting tech support from are patient and nice.

My mum's got a Mini, and is totally happy with it (and has now converted my Dad, a longtime Wintel user).
When she first got it, though, she spent a lot of time on the phone to the Mac shop (and me). The Mac people were totally understanding and patient with her, never told her to just ring Apple, and now she's doing great.

However, there are two main Mac outfits in our little town, and the other one* is staffed almost entirely by the sort of elitist snobs who give Mac users a bad name (you know, the ones who sneer at you for asking questions). Seriously, I've never heard a single good story about their service or support, and if she'd gone there, chances are she would've given up on computers completely.

So, basically, check out where they'll be getting tech support from. Small outfits are more likely to be friendly, and not fob you off to generic Apple support (which is still pretty good) - and you'll be supporting local business.

*Adelaide people, I'm talking about NextByte. Avoid.

OpenBSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16928698)

I found that it installed on Grandma faster, less hassles thanks to older hardware, and she was safer than anything. She's surfing the web safer, providing a decent firewall, and she's quite happy playing solitaire when not online. I did notice that she gets revved up when running nethack - gotta talk to Theo about that one.

Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (2, Interesting)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928728)

Since she isnt gonna install applications but only browse the Internet, she doesnt need to understand how her OS works. So i would say go for a Ubuntu with icons to the few programs she will use on the desktop (Browser, Mail client, Text editor). Once this is done, you re safe from every threat except phising. As someone else said before you will have to teach her about the danger of links in e-mail, and that they shouldn t trust their email.

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (3, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929414)

So i would say go for a Ubuntu

She wants to use it for banking. Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else. Maybe Firefox will work, but that's not guaranteed.

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (1)

rbochan (827946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930336)

Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else.

That's true, but I won't use those "services", and I've taken my banking elsewhere, and I let them know why. Banks _hate_ to lose customers.
Sure, you can think "fuck him, he's an elitist asshole linux hippie", but it's got to start somewhere.

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (1)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 7 years ago | (#16931016)

BB&T is another bank who's website that seems to work fine with Opera, and presumeably firefox as well.

Monopoly (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932994)

I've taken my banking elsewhere

Not everybody has that luxury. Often, only one bank has ATMs in a given city. This was the case in Terre Haute, Indiana, during the four years that I went to school there.

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (0)

Shawn is an Asshole (845769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930440)

Bank of America and Juniper both work well with Firefox, Opera, Konqueor, and Safari. What banks have broken websites?

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (1)

markwalling (863035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930816)

First Niagara in new york. that and a hoorible funds availability policy... (they held a payroll check for 10 days) made me switch.

Re:Ubuntu + Explanations about phising (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930868)

It has been years since I have run into a banking website that was IE only. Either way, prudence dictates that you test it first obviously.


So, run IE on Linux for banking, FF for the rest (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16933660)

She wants to use it for banking. Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else. Maybe Firefox will work, but that's not guaranteed.

IE runs pretty darn well under Wine, along with most of the ActiveX controls and other nonsense the banks seem to want. However, it tends not to run the illegitimate malware crap.

Set her up with Firefox for general internet and IE for specific banking stuff.

One word: (1)

Mensa Babe (675349) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928730)

Apple Macintosh.

I bought a MacBook for my mother's birthday. She has never had any problem whatsoever and this is the first time she uses Mac OS X. My brother has bought her a Windows laptop (Toshiba) before but it was too hard to teach her the security expertise required to safely operate it connected to the Internet. Needless to say we decided to do what Slashdotters advised us to do - that is buy her a new Linux notebook (Assus). Well, let's just say that we had to find something else *cough*copyandpaste*cough*. So I bought her a MacBook. Now she can safely do anything she wants and as a bonus she can watch DVDs on a nice 17" screen. (She also told me that finally the software don't look like sh*t.) And she's probably right saying that she was sick of us telling her that she needs to learn this, read that, buy a book on this etc. She wanted to just use the dam*n thing and that's what she's doing now. So this was the best thing I could have possibly done. $3.299,00 is nothing compared to the time (and therefore - money) I have saved thanks to Apple, Inc.

Re:One word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16929150)


Good flavor, not too strong.

Nice subtle misspellings - Assus, priceless! I also really liked the use of the 'mother' character to voice some of the more preposterous ideas.

Overall, I'll give it a 6, but keep trying.

I think we can expect some really fine trolls in the future from this obvious troll uid.

Re:One word: (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929936)

You do realize "Apple Macintosh" is TWO word, or am I giving you too much credit?

Re:One word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16932232)

I hope you don't write commercials for a living because that one sucked reeeally bad.

Windows hates the elderly (2, Insightful)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928858)

I'm amazed at how user-hostile Windows is when confronted with someone who has never seen a computer. My girlfriend's elderly grandmother just got a computer for the first time. It's an interesting situation cause she has never used one before in any way or form. I was on the phone with her trying to help her out and when I'd say "click OK", I had to explain that she had to move the cursor over the box that said OK and press the button on the mouse. Now imagine that kind of user confronted with a popup saying "Google Desktop is attempting to connect to the Internet. Allow? Keep Blocking?" It totally freaked her out, and explaining firewalls and how the Internet works was futile. It's like a completely different planet for her. I don't know if Linux or Mac OS X would be any better, but I wonder. What's a good system for someone who hasn't touched a computer before? What would this system need to be like?

ZX81 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16929268)

Get her a Sinclair ZX81.

Yeah. "Windows" is the problem. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16929738)

They're not children. It's new (but not necessary), they've a life time of perspective on the merits of caution, and the perils of reckless ignorance. My grandparents got a computer for Christmas a few years back, I do the tech support. You know what the majority of my calls were? "No, really it's ok. It's nearly impossible for you to screw it up so bad I can't fix it easily." Now there more of a focused nature about doing specific tasks. They're almost 80, grandpa installed his own ram upgrade (without me in attendence). Maintains his own virus protection, and updates. He's also the only person who reads the EULAs who's not writing articles on them. Grandma saves her geneology to a thumbdrive, and burns CD slideshows of grandkid pictures. They were terrified that they'd break it and then they'd have a broken computer. It took a while to overcome the inertia. But all it really took is patiently outlining what they should expect in the throws of a given problem, letting them ask for clarification, and not making them feel guilty about it when the did. For me it was a joy, but I like my grandparents. The only problem they ever had was when one of my uncles talked them into having a PC shop monkey upgrade them to XP, which he promptly fucked up. It offten takes someone who imagines they know better to make a true mess of a situation.

As for the person who asked the question. If it's a gift and you're doing the support, go with what you're comfortable supporting and which meets their needs. Their needs at this stage of the game being pretty modest in all likelyhood. Between making a homepage with all the links they need, properly installed configured antivirus suits, setup firewalls, and user accounts. (Including them in the decision making process, of course.) A little bit of hands on tutoring with some follow up coaching is all it will take. I'm convinced my faith in their good sense and expecation that this would be something they could both do and enjoy added years to my grandfather's life. It's clear as his time draws to a close; having something to do, new experiences, and learning opportunities was part of what kept them both (but him in particular) going as all their friends and peers began to die. When I got them that computer I thought I was just getting them a toy, or a luxury item to amuse and entertain. In reality I was buying them time, time which I got to spend better knowing them. One of the smartest fucking things I ever did.

Re:Yeah. "Windows" is the problem. (2, Insightful)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930270)

"No, really it's ok. It's nearly impossible for you to screw it up so bad I can't fix it easily."

That is probably the best advice that you can offer someone. Most people are so worried about breaking it that they won't do anything to it. Explaining that it's always fixable goes a long way to improving anyone's ability.

Re:Windows hates the elderly (1)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930164)

Linux and OSX ARE no better when confronted with the scenario you outline. If the user has trouble moving the mouse and clicking OK then all modern operating systems are going to cause problems for them. Software firewalls, to work effectively, are going to ask users these kinds of questions as well, no matter what OS they are on.

Re:Windows hates the elderly (1)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 7 years ago | (#16931844)

But they are also no worse, and have a lot of advantages in other areas. I would be much more comfortable giving a completely inexperienced user Linux than Windows. I'm not saying I'd give them Gentoo or LFS, but Kubuntu is quite nice to work with in my limited experience.

Three small steps (1)

ribuck (943217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16928874)

Do this for her: Install Firefox, set up a browser bookmark for her bank's HTTPS address, and configure her email so that URLs in email phishing messages are non-clickable.

If she can figure out how to make her URLs clickable again, she's probably smart enough to learn about secure surfing. If not, at least she's less likely to be phished.

One Laptop Per Granny? (1)

Marcion (876801) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929000)

Make a system running some Linux distro in a little box with no legacy ports available. Have three giant icons for the browser, simple word processor and email, do not give them the root password.

Re:One Laptop Per Granny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16930420)

Yeah agreed,This is what I did for an elderly person,She had used a computer before however for simple word processing,win95 I think.

I put her on Linux cause it was free,all the computer fixers kept putting unlicenced copies of win32 on her machine,she brought it to me,I had to tell her I could not fix it without the install CDROM

She keeps telling me Linux is in a different language...She supprises me with nearly every email.
She has/is designing a 2007 calander for press print(professional style ofcourse) using Open Office and

Big Dialup Icon,Big Web Browser Icon,she was away.

what about training / courses ? (1)

witte (681163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929002)

Everybody wants to get on the internet and netbank, surf, mail, shop.
Imho the idea that this ought to be simple and easy for everybody is false.

Time for a bad analogy.

If I want to drive a car on the highway, i first need to :
- learn how to drive a car
- learn how to behave in traffic
Furthermore I need to have an understanding of what i'm doing in order to be able to predict the outcome of my actions.

Why is this accepted for driving a car, but not for computing and using internet? (It looks like a TV set, but it something entirely different. People watching TV don't risk identity theft, for one thing.) Internet can be a powerful tool... but powertools can cause accidents when not used properly.

Given the current situation, maybe some people are better off not owning a computer or connecting it to the net. Some elderly will do fine, some just can't wrap their head around it.
(disclaimer : i some across computer-illiterates of all ages, not just elderly.)

Ok, i must have gotten about three bad analogies in there. Let's call it a night.

Re:what about training / courses ? (1)

binford2k (142561) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929186)


Perhaps if there were fake road signs everywhere pointing people to fake banks your analogy would hold up.

Re:what about training / courses ? (1)

ewl1217 (922107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929444)

Just why does everybody make a car analogy... When cars crash, people can die. When computers crash, nobody dies*.

*excepting the exploding laptop batteries, but that's another story...

Re:what about training / courses ? (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929658)

what about training / courses

The University I studied at had just that twice a week for older people. They took a bunch of computer illiterate elderly people and churned out a bunch of computer illiterate elderly people who knew a bunch of Windowsy buzzwords. It's not that the course was bad or that the people in the course were stupid. It's that there's too much to learn. Computing isn't simple. Many of us on /. have grown up with computers and have been able to learn them at our own pace since we were a few years old.

The car analogy is pretty good, and I stick by it. You need a license to use a car on a public road. Not just to say you have a license, but for the safety of other motorists and yourself. Why not the same for the Internet? The Internet is a public place and if more people had the understand and willingness to protect their computers there's be less script kiddies and worms floating about and we could all focus on the important things. A license to use the Internet would signify the understanding and allow enforcing the willingness.

Re:what about training / courses ? (1)

witte (681163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929978)

I agree, except for the license bit :
Licenses = regulation.
That would be doubleplus not good for internet.

Imagine what bureaucrats would do to our precious internet.
The Horror, the horror.

Not really about the elderly (3, Insightful)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929146)

I don't think this is specifically about the elderly. It is about anyone who isn't internet-savvy. The elderly, because of their lack of exposure to computers, may form a substantial group of such users, but the same would be true of new users in the developing world etc.

Not really about ease of use. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16930274)

Get them WebTV or an iOpener.

Re:Not really about ease of use. (1)

markwalling (863035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930546)

i'll agree with the ac. we gave my grandmother our old webtv (my parents insisted their C64 was good enough until i bought a Win 3.1 computer at a garage sale in 1998), and after pretty much forcing her to try it, she started to like it. her kids always used email, and my uncle would print out the emails from a week and snail mail them to her.

she has alzheimers(sp) now, but she can still navigate it fairly well. she has a hard time with the handheld remote, but she can still use the keyboard fairly well.

iMac or Mac Mini (2, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929156)

Get them an iMac or a Mac Mini with a 24 or 30 inch screen from Dell.

Set the system up to auto-update.

If they have vision problems there are settings on the Mac to help.

You might consider getting an additional keypad - for instance you can get one from x-keys [] and set it up with all the things they normally want to do - opening and closing the web brower for instance, you could even set it up for different keys to open different sites. Then clearly label the keys.

Re:iMac or Mac Mini (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929474)

I bought my 76 year old dad an iMac G5 20" just as the G5s were being phased out so it was at a significant discount. He had never used a computer before but was interested in starting. He had no knowledge of Windows although some of his friends have. Turns out that they like the Mac too and are thinking about getting one next time.

My wife's grandmother was put onto Windows before we could do anything about it and now she won't consider anything else so I recently donated my last PC to her (all Mac now!) with the original copy of XP Home upgraded to SP2, AVG Free, Firefox and Thunderbird (which she has been using for a while under 98) and also TightVNC Server. She has an ADSL router modem and since the IP address changes frequently I have put a link on her desktop to a site which will tell her what the IP address of her machine is. If she has trouble, she can phone me and read out that number and I can VNC in and see what the problem is and fix it. I also set her own account up as a non-admin user and kept the password for admin to myself so her well meaning friends can't mess with the machine. This works well enough. She has a legit copy of Office2K which is really all she wanted and she can use Firefox and Thunderbird for web and e-mail. She called me once when she first got the machine because stuff had moved from 98 and I was able to remotely show her how to do what she wanted. Since then, not a peep.

My dad with his Mac, well, he is very pleased and I dare say he is having an easier time with it so for a fresh start, get a Mac.

Re:iMac or Mac Mini (1)

Shawn is an Asshole (845769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930626)

She has an ADSL router modem and since the IP address changes frequently I have put a link on her desktop to a site which will tell her what the IP address of her machine is.

You know that there are services like DynDNS [] that provide free domains? There are programs available to automatically update the domain when the ip changes. This way you could have something like and it will always work.

Re:iMac or Mac Mini (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930720)

Yeah, I know, I use it all the time for my own system. Just thought it would make her feel more secure to have to invite me to access her machine rather than think I could connect to it any time I liked. Also gives her more of a sense of self determination with her computer.

Re:iMac or Mac Mini (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16930540)

Why would you want to cheapen the Mac expericence by using a Dell monitor?

Isn't that... (1)

breakitdown (816727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929172)

an oxymoron?

linux embedded pacemaker.. (1)

losec (642631) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929214)

that is Safe Computing For the Elderly.

2 ways (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929348)

There are two ways to keep Granny safe on the internet;

(1) If you can get her a static IP address, get her a generic PC and install your favourite distribution of Linux. Customise it for her with a few simple desktop icons. Know the root password so you can login remotely and perform maintenance (or just eject the CD-ROM and scare the shit out of her -- I used to do that all the time in the office where I work).

(2) In all other cases, get her an Apple Mac.

Re:2 ways (1)

oojah (113006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929480)

You don't need a static IP for what you describe - using a service like [] is a perfectly reasonable alternative.



Re:2 ways (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932760)

Well, maybe ..... my ADSL router actually has support for built in. But there are other benefits which go along with a static IP address. It's usually a business-grade thing -- and that means no ports blocked, no transparent proxies, no usage limits and only 20:1 contention. Some residential-grade services have much worse contention ratios, up to 200:1. I wouldn't live without a static IP address; but then again, I just like "industrial" stuff!

my grandma uses wget (1)

cucucu (953756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929542)

My grandma uses wget. She egreps the output for <a\s+href and does wget in the link she chose. This way, instead of blindly clicking on the anchor, she picks the URL she wants and she is not phished.

Oh, yes, once grandpa modified her hosts file, transfered funds from her savings account run away with his 20 something bride.

Just Install Ubuntu (1)

ewl1217 (922107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929560)

Seriously, that's it. Put big (and I mean BIG) shortcuts with generic names on the desktop for all the programs they need. Just Internet, E-Mail, Music, and so on will do. Explain to them never to trust e-mail from people they don't know and that their bank wont e-mail them. Have all their favorite websites bookmarked, or better yet have desktop shortcuts. You can set up an SSH server for updates, and they wont even need to know about it. They presumably won't need to play games or anything, so drivers aren't a worry, but you'll have to install extra codecs and plug-ins (MP3, Java, Flash, possibly Windows Media). If you really want to do things right, set up the VNC server in GNOME (can't remember the name at the moment) so that you can connect and show them how to do things if necessary. That's it, end of story. I don't know why everybody makes things so hard.

Banking (1)

bano (410) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929642)

Banking it not safe for elderly people, online or offline.
Ofcourse unless your name if John Coyote Mutombwe Esq. and you are executing the will of their late oil baron long lost relative and need $45k to get the inheritance out of Nigeria.

Rote (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929754)

I've found that time and repetition work very well, regardless of OS or application. Spend the time with them as they use it. I've found 2 common causes of their problems are 1) not remembering what to do in each case, and 2) what to do in a new situation. In both cases, being able to quickly ask for and receive help works best.

Ghost the drive... (0)

8Complex (10701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929830)

Simply ghost the drive after a full (clean) install, and have her save the important files to a specific directory that you can have task scheduler back up once/day or on bootup if she turns the machine off when she's not using it (my mother leaves hers on all the time).

If she screws something up, nuke the main drive/partition, throw the original image back over it, and everything is good again. Unless she gets something *extremely* militant, it should work perfectly.

Get her a mac. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16929910)

Echoing many of the above posts, just get her a Mac. Don't get me wrong, I'm not much of a Mac person myself and I like Linux, but as much fun as getting and configuring a nice Ubuntu box for Grandma might be for you, and as much nerd cred it might get you to be able to tell all your LUG buddies about how you've got Granny on FOSS, it'll be just as much of a PITA for her and you in the long run. One thing Mac is light-years ahead of the competition on is usability and support to someone who has never seen a computer before, which means no panicking midnight calls to you.

Security Suggestions too Windows-centric? (1)

ThePepe (775625) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930098)

Gee do you think theres a reason for that?

Re:Security Suggestions too Windows-centric? (1)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 7 years ago | (#16931204)

Maybe it has something to do with Windows being on 90% of the computers out there.

Seriously. If you honestly think that you don't need to worry about security because you have a Mac or you run Linux, seek help. You're too stupid to own a computer. The reason there aren't more than a handful of viruses that target Linux isn't because it's innately more secure, it's because it doesn't run on many desktops. Once it starts seeing a decent market share (and that's only a matter of time), you'll start seeing viruses that target it. And believe me, many of the vectors that Windows-based viruses use to attack their targets are equally applicable to Linux or OS/X. No system is immune, and you're a hazard to everybody else on the Internet if you fool yourself into thinking it won't happen to you.

Don't get a Mac... yet (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930104)

I'd love to say "get a Mac", but I have to say there is one gaping hole on the Mac side that seriously needs closing. That hole is Safari, which doesn't _currently_ have a phishing monitor. They say it's coming for Leopard though. If this is the case, in a couple of months I might just day "get a Mac".

There's an easy fix for that.... (2, Insightful)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930566)

You can download it at

But in all seriousness, not liking Safari is no reason not to get a Mac. Since I don't have 10.4 at home so I can't use the newest Safari anyhow (and old Safari really sucks) I use Firefox almost exclusively on my emac.

Safe from others, and safe from herself. (1)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930120)

I've spent quite some time teaching basic computer/Internet usage to a wide variety of people; some as young as 5, some in their 90s. At some point you realize that there are actually two issues with regards to Internet safety. The first is securing your machine from malicious attacks (viruses, spyware, malware, etc). The second is securing yourself from social attacks by others.

You will probably find a lot of information on the first kind of safety - this is what most tech people will talk about when speaking of Internet security. There are a lot of people much smarter than I am that could tell you a lot of great ways to secure yourself. My basic advice to people was always:
    - If you have high-speed Internet, buy a router with some basic firewall abilities (typically between $50 and $80 CDN)
    - invest in some antivirus software. Run it at least once a week. If you have a thick client email application, configure your antivirus application to check your mail as it comes in.
    - Install a spyware application. Tell her to run it once a month.
    - If it's an option, buy a Mac. I would avoid installing linux simply because when Edna from the bridge club comes by to help her do something, Edna probably won't know anything about Linux, but she may know some of the more mainstream OSs/applications.
    - Install a browser other than IE. Do your best to prevent her from accidentally using IE.
    - Do not let her use Outlook or Outlook express. By itself it's not responsible for Internet security, but it is inherently more susceptible to problems than other thick clients.
    - if at all possible, partition her drive into a data partition and an OS/Apps partition. That way you can easily reinstall everything if yo have to with only minimal data loss.

That's all that's really needed. The harder part of Internet security is actually getting the individual to act in a secure manner. Start by explaining that communicating over the Internet is just like communicating in real life. Make her feel that this is an extension of what she has been doing for the last 80 years, not some new fangled thing that has just started. That will make her feel a little more comfortable with what she is doing. With every suggestion, relate it to something that she already understands. Some basic guidelines:

    - There are places that you can safely go all of the time, and there are places that you should probably never go to (insert name of seedy part of town here).
    - There are people that you can trust on the Internet, and there are lots of people that you cannot trust.
    - Never ever every give anyone money just because they ask for it. Only give money to people in exchange for services or products that *YOU* asked for (not that they think you need). Obviously some room for charity here, but do reinforce this point. The elderly are the target of most of the scams that try to take money for no good reason (Think "I'm a Nigerian prince that needs to borrow..."). My wife works at a bank and stops about one old lady every six weeks from emptying her bank account so that she can give it to someone in Nigeria/Egypt/Publishers Clearing House, etc.
    - When providing information to people, it's always better to go to them then to have them come to you. If someone from Bank of America wants you to log into your account to check something, open up your browser and type in [] , never click on a link that they provided. Yes, there is a difference. No, you probably won't be able to tell. Relate this to the idea that when your bank calls you for financial information it is always a better idea to call them right back than to provide information directly. She should initiate all transactions.
    - When asked to fill out a web form, always ask these three questions:
          * Who am I providing this information to?
          * Why do they want it?
          * Would I feel comfortable providing this information over the phone?
        Most people are shocked when they think about how much information they willingly provide in contest entry forms (paper or Internet) that they would never provide to someone like Blockbuster. It's fine to give out any type of information as long as it's the right type of info to the right person.
    - Whenever you are asked to enter personal information that you don't feel comfortable giving (credit card numbers, SIN/SSN, etc.) always look for the HTTPS. Tell her that the S means "safe" or "secure." Something to make her feel good. "S means Safe. If there's no S, it may not be Safe." Yeah - it's not technically accurate, but it's easy to understand.
    - People that you don't know will email you. You don't have to respond. You should never open an attachment from someone that you don't know. (Don't take candy from strangers)
    - Look at all attachments before opening them. Even if it comes from someone you trust, if the email looks strange, or if the attachment looks strange, don't open it. Call or email to verify. EXE, BAT and COM are never acceptable files to open. Even if your friend tells you it's really funny.
    - Lastly, please make sure to tell her that the Internet is a big community with all kinds of people. There is porn on the Internet, but you don't have to look. There are criminals on the Internet, but you don't have to talk to them. There are jerks on the Internet, but you don't have to fight with them. Given time you will encounter all of this - know that and be prepared. A lot of elderly people will get really upset when they realize that this box sitting in their living room is basically a conduit to the entire world. They don't think of that at first. Please reinforce that there are good things and bad things out there, and she should be warned in advance.

Some special considerations with regards to the elderly.
    - auto-update and auto-run security applications are great. I love that my computer gets scanned for viruses every Thursday at 4 am. However, it's only good if the machine is turned on. A lot of people turn their machines on only when they are about to use it. Consider this when configuring software.
    - similar to above, I would actually give your Mom a schedule of standard maintenance. You'll find that with some instruction and a written maintenance schedule, most people will be able to take care of their own security, and they will learn along the way. I used to tell the old guys it was like standard car maintenance. The ladies preferred the analogy of housekeeping; getting things in order and sweeping out the dust and bugs. (Note: If your mom is not the sort of person that can keep to this type of schedule, then make the schedule correspond to regular visits to her house. She'll be happy to know that you'll come by on the third Thursday of every month to help her out.)
    - as mentioned above, the elderly are the targets of most phishing scams. Warn your Mom in advance and she'll be fine.

Visually impaired? (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930140)

My 95 year old grandmother has been visually impaired for over a decade. She had trouble finding good software to improve her computer experience and ended up spending several hundred dollars on something called ZoomText. [] Which I found to be a complete and total rip off. It's better than Window's built in stuff, but it's not worth more than $50.

However! Apple has done a pretty good job of including such features, and honestly I think they might be better. She'll still need a huge damn screen, but OS X has some pretty slick Accessibility options that should be able to help her get around.

The biggest problem I know of for people being introduced to the internet at this stage is clicking on things they shouldn't. Install Firefox and AdBlocker Pro (or plus?) and have it use one of the online maintained blocking lists. Additionally walk her through all her sites and block anything that needs to be blocked. I also use FlashBlock. Make sure she knows both are installed and tell her how to use them. Old people hate having anything hidden from them according to what someone else thinks will be their benefit - especially if this lady is prepaired to do internet banking at 80.

Remote Management! Apple provides remote management software but it's not free and requires a Mac to do the remoting, where Microsoft's is free and there is an MS client for both Windows and OS X, and a 3rd party version for *NIX. However I have used VNC (RealVNC to be exact) for OS X which functions and allows the user to see what you're doing. But I've had problems keeping the server side running on OS X. Might just be me. The nice thing is you can remote to her computer from any platform.

As far as securing it, that's a matter of restricting web access and monitoring mail. And once you're on a Mac the only real issues to watch for are phishing.

I'd get her a 20" iMac. It includes a camera and she could video chat with her grandkids. It would make visits to Grandma's a bit more enjoyable as well (:

Macs are great but that's not all.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16930202)

I know of one person in his 80s with a Macintosh and I get calls maybe two or three times a month max, mostly dealing with internet issues (he has dialup) and the prtinter (everybody has printer issues or a laser printer.)

So for the most part he does fine, the system runs clean except the stuff he tries to install on it (repeatedly, I don't know how many times he downloads real player in a month).

Of course he does share the plight of all of us (Windows Mac and Linux combined) and that is of overwhelming spam and phishing emails (especially if the person does much e-commerce). He is shrewed enough tnot to fall into that but there is that aspect that will be a conern when getting a newbie onot the internet.

Warn about email scams. (1)

Kris_B_04 (883011) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930224)

No matter what kind of system you get her, don't forget to warn her about email scams.
It took me a long time to convince my parents that there is no child in Indonesia getting the money they DID send, that there is no one trying to escape to the United States needing their money and always check for the validity of charities asking for help.
Also, the identity thefts... well, you get the point. LOL

My dad is an educated man. He has a pharmacological degree and that took many years of college and he still fell for some of those scams. Even after my "lectures" I still worry that he may end up doing something stupid and losing his entire retirement or something.

I'm certain you've already thought of this... but if anyone has any ideas how to knock some sense into someone who is from "Father knows best" ... anyway, I guess that becomes a whole other topic....



KISS (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16930850)

Keep it simple as possible. If all she wants to do is the internet, set her up with something like MSN TV [] or maybe even a Wii [] once the browser comes out and if it supports SSL. Also, some cable companies offer web browsing through their digital cable box, and I'm sure that there's some linux distro out there that runs in a very small storage footprint (256MB or less) that can be run in a set top box configuration.

Bottom line, if she just wants to surf the internet, get her something that just surfs.

Re:KISS (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932414)

It's too bad that those browser do not work with many plugins / web sites.

Wii Browser is Opera (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16934568)

Wii Browser is an Opera product, so it works on sites that Opera's Presto engine works on. And keep in mind the topic: Which site that a granny would visit would require a plug-in, other than possibly YouTube?

Open DNS + Firewall + Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16931878)

Use Ubuntu, reducing spyware and virus threats, install firestarter/shorewall/etc for a firewall, and use Open DNS to block phishing. Most problems are then blocked.

byzantineOS (1)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932004)

runs from a cd in ram and is just Mozilla, not much else.
ByzantineOS on Sourceforge []
works with most computers with a lan connection.

linux on windows vm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16932048)

just get her the vmware secure browser device..
every time she wants to use the internet.. boot that up..
she won't get infected.. and even if she does.. you can recover with a click from a snapshot.

then when not online.. she can have all of the features she wants from windows..

I only write about this.. because most linux is not driver ready for a new machine.
windows is.. though I do like linux.. it's just a fact.

but supporting linux.. it's more secure for internet.. so why not use both worlds at once for anyone.. even grandma..

PC's for Dummies (1)

srobert (4099) | more than 7 years ago | (#16932798)

Get your elderly user to take a look at the book "PC's for Dummies". Several of you spoke of scenarios in which you attempted to explain some computer or internet-related concept, only to find that your grandfather was so lacking in fundamental knowledge that your explanation made no sense to him at all. This book was written with this type of user in mind. I began using PC's later in life than most of you. "PC's for Dummies" explained many things that authors of other, allegedly, beginner level books assumed I already knew.

White List (1)

tmh - The Mad Hacker (962953) | more than 7 years ago | (#16933004)

I all she wants to do is access a few money sites, you could always set up a whitelist so she can't access anything else! Of course, then when her friends send her links to cute kitty pictures that she can't access, she might get cranky...oh yeah, those aren't usually links, they're usually 80MB attachments. Should be fine. :-)

Ask hard question (1)

Budenny (888916) | more than 7 years ago | (#16935000)

Ask the hard question: what exactly is it about banking and brokering ONLINE that is so attractive and necessary? This is what should worry you, the motivation about finance sites. Some people lose all sense of danger as they age.

To give a real Internet appliance, do a minimal install of Debian with Windowmaker. Large icons in top right for web, mail, word processor, maybe photo app. People with previous computer phobias react astonishingly well to this setup, comments like, of course I can use THAT are normal. Not a fashionable choice, not what everyone else has, but its a real appliance, and it will be super fast. Ephipany will be better than firefox. Evolution or Kmail are nice because they do addresses, calendar, notes and so on. Evolution in particular can give new users a sense of it helping them organize their lives. Abiword is better than OO. If shopping is an issue, set up the shopping sites in the toolbar bookmarks under 'shopping'.

Strongly discourage banking and brokering unless there is some real extraordinary reason why phone calls to a known person will not do. How many transactions? What's the problem this solves, exactly?

But even with an appliance, its only safer, its not safe.
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