Ubuntu 12.04: Parentally Precise

I have rather nice little story to share with you all.

My mother in law, Sue, has what can be best described as a dog-earred mess of a laptop. A reasonably modern Lenovo Thinkpad with Windows Vista, it was painfully slow to use, crammed with all manner of bloatware and pre-installed rubbish that came with the machine and the applications she installed, and likely hiding some spyware, viruses and other uglyness.

Now, I am not a fan of Windows at the best of times, but this was beyond software preferences: the machine was barely usable. Sue though, being the trooper she is, gritted her teeth and just got on with it, going about her business as usual.

Recently here in the USA it was Mothers Day and I had an interesting idea. We had an old Dell Inspiron that has been kicking around for the last four years or so, and I decided to install Ubuntu 12.04 on there for her as a surprise.

So, I downloaded the ISO, put it on a USB stick and the installation went flawlessly. Ubuntu 12.04 detected all of the hardware perfectly, and I rebooted. I was a little curious to see how Unity was going to fare on a machine that to my knowledge is at least four years old, possibly five or six years old, and it was slick and fast. Now, I am not being generous here…the performance is genuinely snappy; I was really quite impressed. Nice work, Unity team. :-)

On mothers day I met up with Sue and her husband and my brother in law (Erica was out of the country) and I gave her the laptop. Naturally, she was overjoyed, but whereas I planned on sitting down with her after dinner to show her how Ubuntu works, we ultimately didn’t get a chance to and she took the machine home with her. As such, all I did was tell her the password for logging in and then she was pretty much on her own with the option of calling me if she got stuck.

Now, Sue is very much a computer novice. She has no outside interest in computers…for her it is a tool, pure and simple. I was a little nervous how she would get on.

A few days later I heard back from her and she was absolutely overjoyed. She was browsing around the machine, installing software, accessing websites in Firefox, creating and saving documents in Libreoffice, and the last I heard from a few hours ago…signing up to Ubuntu One so she can ensure her files are backed up to the cloud.

As just one cog in this Ubuntu and wider Open Source and Free Software machine, I am really proud that we as a community could deliver this experience to her. I am confident that a few years back the experience would not have been so smooth and consistant, and it is fantastic to see Free Software thrilling regular people who just want get things done with their computers, safely and enjoyably. Thanks to everyone who contribute to make this little success story happen. :-)

  • Samuel Orr

    Not bad Jono! Keep up the good work spreading free software. :) -vbrummond

  • https://launchpad.net/~navneethc Navneeth

    That’s the second ‘My-mother-in-law-can-use-Ubuntu-without-complaining’ post that I’ve read in two days! How often does that happen!

    So, I downloaded the ISO…

    Do you mean to say that you didn’t already have the ISO handy?! 😮

  • http://marc-andre.cc Marc-André Appel

    Does a father-in-law count, too? Also computer novice, mine had enough of Windows with its viruses, etc, and now he’s on Ubuntu since 10.04 :). Of course, my mother-in-law profits from the installation as well ;).

  • Emiel Kollof

    I have sort of the same story, but my wife just couldn’t get on with unity. So I put cinnamon on there and sanity was restored. Yay for choice.

  • Jaynos

    What a nice story :-)

  • Jaynos

    What a nice story :-)

  • Jonathan Carter

    I installed Feisty (7.04) on my mother’s machine in 2007. When I got back to South Africa in December 2011 the only thing that has gone wrong in all that time was that she accidentally created a new panel in gnome and wasn’t sure how to delete it. Besides that, reading her email, listening to some music/video and browsing the web just happilly kept on working.

    While I was there I upgraded her machine to 11.10, so at least she’s on a supported system again, and it has an easy upgrade path to 12.04 and further LTSs :)

    And at least now she can’t accidentally create new panels, so the only problem she had is pretty much solved :)

  • http://twitter.com/microamplifier microamp

    Beautiful story indeed. I had a similar experience not too long ago. 

    My girlfriend one day told me she was thinking of buying a new laptop because the one she was currently using was running painfully slow. So, I installed Lubuntu on her laptop for her to play around with for next few days, and she immediately liked it very much. Actually, I was actually very impressed with its performance too. She had been a long time XP user, so I knew LXDE would make more sense than the others. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4SUVNVXGRKMLWA6GJTC32YBYHY Ivan P. Friely

    You gave your mother-in-law something you were going to throw out? Doesn’t seem like much of a gift.

  • Anonymous

     I never said I was going to throw it out. Also, recycling computers is a pretty common and good thing.

  • Viktor Rabe

    Oh my God! I’m going to install Ubuntu on my Grandma’s notebook this very instance!

    No, wait … she’s perfectly capable of using Windows 7 and hasn’t f*cked up the machine. How’s that possible!?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4SUVNVXGRKMLWA6GJTC32YBYHY Ivan P. Friely

    What you did is not recycling, though, that is dumping your discarded hardware on your Mother-in-Law. When you buy her a new computer you can call that a gift.

  • Anonymous

    Well, thanks for your concern. Fortunately, she loves it. :-)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4SUVNVXGRKMLWA6GJTC32YBYHY Ivan P. Friely

    Or she is too polite to call you out for being cheap d-;