Rory Cellan-Jones

Computing for older users: Patronising or practical?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 11 Nov 09, 08:55 GMT

What connects Italian vegans, Valerie Singleton, and Linux Mint? Well they're all involved in a firm whose business is bringing computing to older users.

Whether or not Simplicity Computing succeeds will be a big test of two things - the appetite of older people to get online and the attractiveness of open source software as a means of dealing with digital exclusion.

Yesterday we took 80-year-old Betty Parsons for her first encounter with a computer. She climbed the stairs at the home of Nigel Houghton, who's masterminding the Simplicity venture, and sat herself down in front of the machine. When it's switched on for the first time, up pops Valerie Singleton - co-founder of the business launching Simplicity - and starts explaining what to do next, much like Microsoft's talking paperclip.

It's very basic - how to use a mouse, how to navigate your way around the simple front page and so on - but it needs to be. It's instructive watching someone using a mouse for the first time. Betty found it a real struggle - and that must be a big hurdle which some people will not clear.

Simplicity runs on the Linux Mint free operating system, and Liam Proven, who's designed the whole set-up, tracked down a company called Vegan Solutions - yes those Italian vegans - which had already produced a software package aimed at older users. He's worked with the Italians to adapt their Eldy software for British use.

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So the home page is deliberately stripped down to essentials: six buttons leading to e-mail, web browsing, chat, documents, your personal profile - and more video tutorials by Val Singleton. There are no long menus with bewildering choices and wherever you are in the system, there's another button marked Square One, which takes you back to... well, you can guess.

Liam Proven told me that he was "platform-agnostic" but had chosen a Linux operating system for three reasons:

"Firstly, it means a fairly big price saving because Linux is free, so £70 to £80 is saved on what is meant to be a low-priced computer. Secondly, it's extremely secure so there's no need for anti-virus, and thirdly it runs very much better and faster than Windows on a more limited machine."

But there's a couple of questions to be asked about Simplicity. It's not all that cheap - systems range from £299 without screen or keyboard to £525 for a complete system. Then there are some people who will undoubtedly feel patronised by the very idea of a computer for older users - one woman got in touch with me this morning to express her annoyance - and others will ask why they shouldn't be taught to use Windows like just about everybody else.

When I visited a UK Online centre the other day, a group of older users of varying degrees of computing skill were using the desktops to surf the web and send e-mails, occasionally asking for help from a volunteer. The computers were all running Windows XP and it set me wondering whether this is still the first operating system most novices see when they come to one of these places.

UK Online pointed out that every centre operates independently, obtaining its funding from various sources and choosing what hardware and software to buy. But yes, it appears they almost exclusively use Windows - and mostly XP. A spokesman said: "Many choose Microsoft as it is the leading system used in the workplace or on PCs bought in retail stores and therefore the one customers often wish to learn."

They are also almost all using Internet Explorer to browse the internet - 86% of the computers are on various versions of IE, with just 10% on Firefox - so if you're learning about computers in a UK Online centre, you'll almost certainly be plunged into a Windows world.

So Simplicity is swimming against the tide, and may find some resistance, not from older customers, but from sons and daughters who'd rather see their parents learn the same system as themselves. But Betty Parsons certainly liked the look of it - though getting to grips with that mouse will still be a challenge - and the company says its stand was besieged by eager customers when it showed off a pilot system at an exhibition recently.

There's no reason - except for inertia - why we should all have to start our computing journey using the same system. Indeed, if Simplicity proves a hit, it may encourage others to look at their software and ask why it is so difficult for a first-time user to grasp. Oh, and one more thing - Val Singleton or a talking paperclip? No contest.


  • Comment number 1.

    Who cares what operating system is used ??!! The best OS is the one that works best for each user.
    Besides, as the (wrinkly) user becomes more web proficient, he/she/it will explore other OS & software.
    Oldies aren't all afraid of IT: It's amazing how effective a whack with a sonic screwdriver has on a recalcitrant PC.....

  • Comment number 2.

    I find it quite ironic that a linux based operating system is being used to simplify the whole computing experience. Linux is usually banded about as an option only for the extremely computer literate. This just goes to show how powerful it is and hopefully will open the eyes of others to it's use - a lot of people could save a lot of money using it!

  • Comment number 3.

    This is a great idea to encourage any older user who may be fearful of computers. However please please let's not be ageist or assume that anyone over 30 is'nt able to deal with modern technology. Computers have been around quite a long time and some of us have been using them for a long time now. Whilst the younger you are the more adept you may be I for one am still fascinated by most new developments.

  • Comment number 4.

    I personally think this could be a good idea. My own Mother (who would surly not like to be thought of as elderly at 64) until last year was interested in using a computer but was put off by seeing the likes of myself click here, drag that, open this etc etc. It all seems so very complicated.

    It might seem funny to use everyday computer users, but truth is if you have never used a mouse, opened a document and tried to attach a photo to an email it is a very new experience. It also can be nerve racking to try and do when everyone else seems to be able to do it and 'looks down' on those who cannot in disbelief (much like a teenager perplexed that Granddad find's it hard to text on a mobile.)

    So a simple no clutter UI and straight to the point operation is all good. What I do not understand is the price here. From £299 - £525 for a complete system. I could get a Windows machine for less, and even get a cheap second hand mess about and see how you get along system from Ebay for under £100. So my worry is that those who are older and keen to 'get online' will be taken advantage off parting with substantial sums of money for something like this, which being based on Linux will mean that some things will not run or be harder to get to work.

    For example you are using the Simplicity Computer and your Grandson in Australia emails you to say we can talk online and see each other on webcam. Ohh sounds a good idea until you find getting a webcam, setting it up to run with Linux and then getting something that will work with MSN Live to do all this puts the spanner more in the works than if was a Windows based machine. (And I suspect many Linux lovers will now tell me how easy this actually is – but was not for me.)

    Of course using Linux is no bad thing, it is free, it is much less likely to get clogged up with malware and the like - But as I know from using it, it is not all plan sailing. So in the end I think a good idea but won't be seeing these sold in the likes of PC World alongside the standard lines of PC's in other words I don’t see any of the Dragons investing in this should it have turned up in the Den.

  • Comment number 5.

    1. Does anyone know where SimplicITy is on the internet so I can get hold of this Operating System - or a contact telephone number ?!

    2. I am a web developer and like to make things as accessible as possible, how does this OS use the internet? Just a skinned Mozilla/Firefox, if so how will we tell the browser to display large font etc ?

    I do like the idea of this computer except its on a OS that "few general users know" (justmyview). If something goes wrong you "may" need to get a specialist in and not your Grandkids to fix it for you ?!

    My only concern is expandability, yes he claims that there are microsoft compatible programs on the system, but the issue with Linux is drivers are hard to come by and may not be fully compatible with printers, scanners, digital cameras, web cams etc....

    For example Skype was first released in 2003, and the first linux application was released in 2008. This would leave the "old people" behind again ....

  • Comment number 6.

    The Linux system is now the basis of many domestic devices, phones, DVD players, SatNAVs etc etc. Linux is at heart a techies' system, but the gory details can easily be hidden from computer-naive end users.

    However, teaching (older) people a unique system has one major drawback. When they do need help, advice or support, their friends and neighbours will have little or no experience of the system they are using.

    Hopefully anyone who uses these new systems will quickly lose their fears, strip off the sugar coating and get down to using native Linux. It now has a graphical interface considerably simpler than that offered by other operating systems, and is MUCH lighter on its feet.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think this solution is a great idea and should be applauded. All too often am I contact by a family member or friend to say their (Windows) machine is running slower and slower. I've replaced a number of machines with Ubuntu and so far, I've had no further complaints, probably because they've managed not to install spyware, adware or other 'free' utilities.
    I also get these people forgetting how to achieve something because they don't do it often enough, or its really over-complicated for what they want. This product seems to address that by putting a straightforward front end on top of the confusing menus meaning that the core tasks are there at hand. If that goes some way to eliminate the fear-factor so many seem to suffer, then that is nothing but a good thing.
    I'm just surprised at how much their charging!

  • Comment number 8.

    @ No. 5 (SAM)


    Q2: I can only presume that this being based on Linux's Mint distro will use 'skinned' versions of common software such as Firfox and not have actually written anything special (to save time and cost) and as such will likely just have code to make the browser's interface be larger, and yet the webpage being viewed as normal. In this I mean, int he clip whilst the browser looekd different (huge back button etc) the BBC Weather page shown was not blown up massivly.

  • Comment number 9.

    I used to volunteer with the National Trust; I was the youngest in our group by about forty years. It really challenged some of my preconceptions about older people, especially in terms of computers. One of my fellow volunteers, a retiree of about seventy, told me how much she'd been using her computer since her husband passed away. She used MSN to stay in touch with her children and grandchildren across the world; easier and cheaper than a phone call, with a much higher chance of actually being able to get hold of them!

    I think unless libraries and other resources switch to Simplicity, Windows would be the better option. Maybe a stripped down version, but something that their friends and relatives can offer help with, and something compatible with new software!

  • Comment number 10.

    I do think it is very patronising to promote this for over 60s or older people. Would be better to just say an easier system (if that is what is really is) for anyone who might have difficulties starting to use a computer. I am 71 and frequently have to help much younger people, some under 20, in my jobs in public libraries and an FE college. I find there are many older people well able to use computers, but granted, there are some who have not bothered to learn new skills. This only encourages ageism and gives the wrong impression of older people.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think the pricing is all wrong and it would have been far better to use second-hand machines which have been refurbished as there are some really good spec machines which end up in landfills. Linux can run on some really old machines so I don't see a problem with that. However when you can pop into any of the main supermarkets and pick up a 15" laptop for £399 running Windows 7 then I think the business is aiming at the well off pensioner like Betty.

    My mum started using computers in her 70's and I never knew until she told me what she was doing using Windows printing etc I was floored. yes we all seem to underestimate what older folk can do. However look at the number of pensioners using mobile phones and you can see that they will grasp technology with both hands.

  • Comment number 12.

    I wouldn't say that this is patronising. Anything that helps people to keep in touch with technology can only be a good thing, especially in contemporary society where the computer is pretty much an indispensable part of life, both working and social. If it's simply a matter of not running before you can walk then that sounds pretty sensible to me. After all, we can all get a bit daunted by computers every now and again, even those of us who like to think of ourselves as pretty computer literate. Imagine what it's like using a computer for the first time? I can see this OS being equally as useful to very young school kids as well as older people.

  • Comment number 13.

    2: The above link was fully accessible from the "Related Internet Links" on here....

    Anyway, it`s good idea i suppose but it`s a shame about the price.
    My own aging mother(61) lives over 400 miles away and i think the only Operating System i could even consider leaving her to the mercy of for the very first time would be a properly installed & configured Linux based system.
    She`s actually visiting soon so i plan on giving her an appropriately configured *buntu based system on a spare laptop i have.I`ll give her a crash course during the week she`s here and i`ll set up some kind of remote assistance for when she returns home.
    Even if she did have some major crash & burn, that prevented networking, it would only be a 3 day round trip for the laptop to be sent back.Far quicker than PCWorld although mabey not quite as pleasant to look at as Valerie Singleton.
    I myself was a relatively new computer user when i began using Linux so i`m sure i`ll have my old little mum up & running in no time at all.

  • Comment number 14.

    Linux is a poor choice both for the reasons already given and because voice software etc. tend to be written for windows. (I am currently using auto-click mouse software and occasionally use SR.) Also, I agree that marketing this as for older people only will antagonise some of the elderly.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am what many might call an older person. I have worked in and with IT since the 1970s. A whole working lifetime with computers - and I not alone, there are thousands of us!
    Nowadays, younger people, who don't know me, start to talk slowly and - in - a - loud - voice when mentioning computer technology. I am thoroughly sick and tired of being patronised.
    (My daughter has similar idiotic stuff to overcome - her school started special sessions on Computing for Girls.)
    It is truly depressing to read such articles and to see the ageist comments here.

  • Comment number 16.

    Perhaps the reason for the high price is to ensure that all the hardware is compatible with Linux. Some users have said that setting up webcams is a nightmare, but it's simple if the system is supplied with one that works, just as installing Linux on a laptop can be a nightmare, but using a laptop designed for Linux is a breeze.

  • Comment number 17.

    Overpriced, and I'd be a little concerned that application complexity will still be an issue beyond the nice menu screens. Ultimately, it's basically an adaptation from what's been around for a couple of years on £200 Linux based netbooks, which we've long realised would be good on the desktop for a great many people. So although only a start in terms of the target market (and and expensive one at that, for "free" software) this is definitely a step in the right direction, and I really hope it takes off.

  • Comment number 18.

    An interesting system which I may well make some sales but I think there is actually a much wider market for people of all ages who prefer simplicity, reliability and security. The after sales support will be crucial as the usual suspects offering branded support on the high street will presumably not want to get involved...

  • Comment number 19.

    This isn't in the least patronising. So many services are now delivered on the Internet, and so many new opportunities are available on it, yet a very large minority of the population has never been introduced to computing. In my early thirties, I do not know many people older than I who have had formal IT education.

    A system like this does not have to be purely an initiation into computing. Many people won't want to learn any more, and why should they? Something like this can reduce digital exclusion for such individuals.

  • Comment number 20.

    I have evaluated a variety of existing and prototype systems and devices with a range of potential users from school children to older people. The clear conclusion from these results is that we all find current personal computer systems unnecessarily complex.

    Some studies suggest that this may be the reason for the success of: social network web sites - just type some text and click Share; iPhone apps - one app and object at a time with a few simple actions; the One Laptop per Child XO laptop - divided into simple activities.

    So the Simplicity interface may just be the face of things to come. Maybe we'll all be using devices with much simpler interfaces in future.

  • Comment number 21.

    Post #15

    Nobody is accusing all 'older' people of not having a clue where to start with computers. There will be those who are extremely competent just as there will be those who will be completely flummoxed. It's just a fact that IN GENERAL far more 'older' people will be underconfident around computers than will be 'younger' people. I don't see why this software, or in fact this very debate, is offensive. If you know your way around a computer then clearly you don't need this OS. If you are using a computer for the first time then a simplified OS might help you get your head round it before being overwhelmed by the technicalities. I don't see this as ageist - just sensible, especially if you take the example of the lady in the article, who was struggling to even grasp the mechanics of using a mouse. But, I am agreeing with you Frost-Fire - let's not tar everyone with the same brush.

  • Comment number 22.

    1. It may seem patronising to some people, but in my experience (I used to work for UKOnline and taught many over-60s) what is needed is a sympathetic teacher. This is often not a child or grandchild - they click and drag with such speed that NO ONE can follow what they are doing. It sounds like Val Singleton's tutorials will fit that bill.

    2. I am surprised at the high cost, given that it is using Linux. When netbooks first came on the market (£200 and less) they nearly all used Linux which lowered the price by about £50 compared to MS systems. To really sell this, I would think they need to aim for serious bulk sales and thus bring the cost down.

    3. I am surprised about Sam's comment above as he is a web developer. Linux is now very much mainstream, it is no longer a system for geeks. As far as I know the German government has gone for Linux in a big way. Recent large systems installed in this country also include Linux networks. Linux is simply quicker, uses less storage and is all round more efficient. There is no problem getting drivers or installing them. I have recently bought a colour laser printer and it has a Linux driver.

    4. I am disappointed that UKOnline is still using IE. It is well known that IE does not conform to international standards and is more vulnerable to attacks. I know no one in the computing world who uses IE. The preferred browsers are Firefox, and many are now moving from there to Opera.

    5. Many younger people think that they are "the computer generation". I graduated in 1973 with a Computer Science degree - they have been around for a long time folks. I have a photograph of my daughter at 8 months old playing with our first home computer (purchased, not a home-made lash up), that was in 1978.

    6. My favourite elderly story was of a lady in her late 70s who I had taught. She had struggled with using the mouse and the keyboard (arthritis in her hands did not help!).

    Shortly after she had finished the class I met her and she told me she had just sent a letter to her sister. Not in itself a major achievement, until you think of their circumstances. Her sister was deaf so they could not speak on the telephone; when my student wrote to her sister, someone had to read the letter out as her sister had very poor sight. Thus all private, sisterly communication was impossible except when they met. After the class though, she had been able to set the font large enough for her sister to read the letter herself - their first really private letter in years.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think there is a market for a system that makes computing dead simple for straight forward uses - what ever the age of the person using the thing.

    Outside my office/studio environment, where I am drowning in IT, I would love a machine that I turned on and pressed the big "email" button.

    Oh, look - Google Chrome

  • Comment number 24.

    I started learning about computers at school on an Acorn, an OS which soon became redeundant in the real world. Learning on an OS so radically different to what I'd actually have to use meany I learnt no useful computer skills at all in school, despite years of IT lessons everything I know came from being let loose on Windows and Linux machines later. I don't think this scheme sounds any use at all for people who want to learn about computers in a way that enables them to use computers other than their own.

    On the other hand, how old is "older"? If someone is retired and will therefore never have to worry about being able to use workplace computers (or not retired and in one of the few jobs that doesn't require their use) and just wants one at home they can use it sounds ideal. It's an option that I think should be available. I especially agree that not needing to worry about viruses is a good thing for less than confident users as both viruses and antivirus software can cause very awkward problems.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm a 62 year old who's being using PCs for many years, but I think this is an excellent idea. I can't wait for someone to do the same with the remotes for my DVD recorders. Now that would be a leap forward!

  • Comment number 26.

    Targeting the older generation is both patronising and an unnecessary self-imposed marketing restriction. I have a nephew in his early 20's who has learning disabilities and Aspergers though he can read and would improve with motivaton and practice. Both parents died recently within a few months of each other. He has deteriorated is virtually housebound due to paranoia but likes listening to internet music played over the phone and Wikipedia articles about wrestling.
    This looks a godsend -if we can replace Valerie with Ladyhawke.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's based on Linux and Eldy.

    Eldy is available in English as a free download. It is a Java based application and runs under Windows or Linux.

    It should be perfectly possible to set up something similar yourself if you have enough technical ability without having to buy a pre-installed computer. I will try Eldy out on Mother to see if she can get on with it.

  • Comment number 28.

    A lot of brains become more active with age - mine has gradually become more and more active as I have learnt more and more things. But I am only 65, so perhaps I don't count. Are we talking about 95 year old people here?
    I built my computer and have taught myself so much from manuals and computer magazines, and also from the Internet. I love sorting out crashes and blue screens, which, sadly, hardly ever happen now, and I love delving into the Registry when something needs to be put right in there etc. I cannot see why anyone would want a special computer just because of his/her age - there is nothing difficult about any computer as far as I can see. It's fun learning - and mistakes are just another aid to learning.

  • Comment number 29.

    you can pretty safely assume it's running either the gecko or webkit rendering engines as it'll probably be based on mozilla or khtml, so testing in firefox or konqueror / safari will do the trick.

    regarding compatibility, yes this can be an issue. i've just had to watch the video on my windows vm because my ubuntu 9.10 machine doesn't like the flash implementation of iplayer on the bbc website (probably an amd_64 / flash issue). however, as the simplicITy machines are all made to the same spec, the company will hopefully have been able to control the hardware environment to tailor the software & provide maximum compatibility. Sam's example of skype makes a fair point, but it's no longer a real issue. look at the 'new features' of windows 7, and then ask yourself "which of these haven't already been available on linux for some time already?". the open source community is moving more towards leading the way rather than trying to catch up with the pack.

    just to echo the pricing debate; it does seem a little overpriced for a basic box with a free o/s loaded on it, but i guess the price has to cover the costs involved in modifying the o/s to what they want to release.

    i've been toying with the idea of getting my family on linux for a while (especially my mother who has poor eyesight & would benefit from the accessibility features that compiz-fusion can offer) but i don't think they're ready to learn to use a new system just yet, nor do they have the time to spend looking for workarounds for stuff that works as they're used to on windows.

    i have to wonder what licence they've released it under though, can i download it for free..? (if not, why not?)

    and finally, to those who feel that the system is patronising to older people:

    you don't have to use it if you don't want to, so don't put off those who might find it beneficial. let people use the tools they find most comfortable and let them choose to learn in the way they want to.

  • Comment number 30.

    Invariably the problems people new to modern computers have is the vast number of options. Do I single click, double click, right click on something?

    Add to this the various issues that exist around the human machine interface, i.e. some cannot get along with mice, but prefer trackballs, others want to do everything from the keyboard.

    Its less an OS battle, and more about making applications usable without having to have had years of experience in the previous versions.

    Hands up all those who've encountered the question, 'you asked me to press the enter key, but there is no enter key on my keyboard' - something so simple but difficult for novices.

  • Comment number 31.

    You reported that Betty had a problem with a mouse. Years and years ago I used a dedicated computer which had one of the easiest ever versatile systems - programmable soft keys. The keyboard had 6 coloured keys, at the bottom of every page there were the same 6 keys with labels which changed depending on the application and where you were. You just pressed the appropriate coloured key. Filling in forms was done with the same keys, pressing the appropriate key moved the cursor to the right box. This may be easier for some people to use, especially if they have something like Parkinson's or have had a stroke. Just a thought that rodents do not necessarily rule the computer world.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm quite impressed by the setup here -- it looks quite good, although I am surprised at the price. I am also intrigued by the motivation for the simplistic design. Is it to make things less complicated and therefore less confusing, or is it to make it easier for visually impaired users to use it? I went down a very similar route for my grandfather. He is 89, and used Windows 2000 successfully for several years. However, the computer had become too slow and the interface too small for him to use comfortably. I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix on his desktop, we bought a 21 inch monitor, and everything was light!

    The Netbook Remix interface is similar to the one used in Simplicity in that it removes the idea of navigational menus (which he found difficult, because he couldn't see well enough to use them properly), but it doesn't reduce the options quite as far as Simplicity.

    A couple of other changes (e.g. using Evolution rather than Firefox for the simpler interface, setting up SSH on the computer so I could log into it remotely and fix any problems), and everything is going swimmingly.

    I think Linux is superior to Windows in these circumstances because it is infinitely configurable (and, of course, infinitely cheap...).

  • Comment number 33.

    Shame this thread has turned into another Linux vs Windows.....376 comments and counting after Rory's recent flirtation with Ubuntu.

    Whilst I think this system is generally a good idea, the price is way too high. Both Linux Mint and the desktop Eldy can be downloaded for free from their respective websites. Load them onto a modest bit of second-hand kit (no need for quad-core or loads of RAM) and they will work fine and it will come in a lot less than £525, even with monitor (under £100), mouse (under £10), keyboard (£10) and speakers (£10).

    And just to indulge in a quick bit of Linux promotion - what would a new user like the lady in the video do if an XP machine had a virus or was displaying a pop-up advising her to pay for this software as only it can get rid of the virus on the machine? No such worries with Linux.

  • Comment number 34.

    I too started computing at the age of 80 like Betty - by going to courses at my local library. i too had trouble using the mouse but one of my sons had me playing games, especially Solitaire, and I soon was competent and saving to buy my own computer. 18 months later and I am giving Powerpoint presentations with my slides of plants as I am an enthusiastic gardener, blogging on many sites, emailing round the world,writing my poetry on Word, and get over 8000 points on Solitaire as well as doing research on many subjects on the internet. Gardening keeps my old body healthy but computing looks after the mind. This new system seems a bit pricy for most eighty-year-olds - cheaper to find a helpful friend.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm not personally convinced that older people need a special system. However since nobody is forcing older people to go down this route I think it isn't a problem. If there are people out there who feel that their age is creating a barrier to them doing something they want to then it is quite right that they have the option of getting a system tailored to what they feel their needs are.

    "... others will ask why they shouldn't be taught to use Windows like just about everybody else" - This is like saying because my grandparents were taught to use a sliderule rather than a calculator why shouldn't my children be taught to use a sliderule instead of a calculator. If somebody wants to learn to use a sliderule then by all means they should have the opportunity, if somebody wants to learn to use a calculator they should have the opportunity, if somebody just wants to do some logarithms then they can be taught to use whichever is available.

    One advantage the linux ecosystem brings is a wide selection of accessibility aides (inbuilt support for braille terminals etc.) at no extra cost - something that is probably of greater importance among the older population.

    Somebody asked about licences. As far as I can tell they are just putting a theme on Linux Mint and distributing it as Linux Mint - So GPL kernel and mostly GPL userland. The Eldy application seems to be the other main component - its website doesn't state clearly what licence it is released under but downloading the tarball and reading license_en.txt it is clear that eldy is not released under the GPL but under "2.1 Licence: ... limited, personal, non-commercial, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, non-assignable, free of charge license to download, install and use the ELDY Software on Your computer, phone or PDA for the sole purpose of personally using the applications provided by Vegan solutions srl and any other applications that may be explicitly provided by Vegan solutions srl ."
    Simplicity have presumably entered into a commercial licensing arrangement with Vegan Solutions but I expect that those who receive their copy via this resale route will have no greater rights to modify or redistribute.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'd support studentforever's point about soft keys being easier for some users than a mouse. Ironically, the people most likely to know which shortcut keys to use tend to be the expert users, not the target group for this system. Also having a multitude of different ways to do one thing can be bewildering for people unused to computers - eg understanding that 'copy' can be control-C or selected from the edit menu or reached by clicking over an icon on its own or selected from a right-click menu. But it's important for a simple system like this to be operable with minimal use of the mouse.

    Is it patronising? I think it's important to stress that this is aimed at people who are new to personal computing, to acknowledge that plenty of people in their 70s, 80s, and beyond are comfortable using PCs and the Internet, and also that older people's computing preferences and needs are likely to change. In the UK at least, most people reaching retirement age now will be familiar with personal computing and many will have used it in employment. But I've seen highly intelligent elderly people struggle with PCs because they're confused by all those icons, and by technical-sounding error messages, and I'm sure there's a market there for Simplicity - even if it's a niche market

  • Comment number 37.

    Once again R C-J has shown his lack of technology credentials and has not done his research. The jist of the article is two fold:

    1. simplicITy Computers are marketing PCs with Mint Linux pre-installed, there are much cheaper options than this, though fair play for using Linux and avoiding the Microsoft tax. The Linux/MS and Firefox/IE debates have been covered in other threads.

    2. Eldy is a java application which runs on Linux or Windows, in fact when fired up it runs in fullscreen mode so you can't see which OS you are running. The Linux/MS and Firefox/IE debates don't apply here. The debate here is whether it is useful or patronising. I suspect many elderly people will object to being targeted in this way, on the other I might finally get my mum online to see how useful the internet can be.

  • Comment number 38.

    It is good to see that people are finding alternative solutions to digital exclusion. I hope SimplicITy's implementation of eldy is robust. I got the impression when I tried eldy that it will benefit from a bigger user-base and the consequent feedback to drive development ..... maybe simplicITy will provide that?

    With regard to cost; there are organisations out there taking a different approach to fighting digital exclusion, for example Bristol Wireless which is reducing costs by taking full advantage of computers that can be recycled and customising the installation of software to match the capabilities of the hardware.
    The current distributions of Linux are not all Geeks operating systems, Mark Shuttleworth et al have done a lot to make usability a priority with Ubuntu and derivatives such as LinuxMint

  • Comment number 39.

    This is all very good news for all the internet scammers out there because they all know how to trick you into sending your banking and personal details. I'm now 57 and I've been using computers since the Amstrad days, do remmeber that? We used the instruction book as a door stop, it was that confusing, we shouted hurrah when Windows 3.1 came out. From then on we all kept up with changes as they happened, then when the internet come on line it was a god send for us, it made work a lot easier. But for people who've never been near a PC untill now and over 75 will find the whole thing very alien, all those icons and links to take in! I just have to think of my father, he is so trusting he can't belive that there people out there who would go out of their way to con them!

  • Comment number 40.

    I think it is time to think about how computer dependent society has become. What about people who refuse to use computers? Nothing wrong with that. Or are they to be forced to use a computer? The benefits of computers has been programmed into people however the distinct disadvantages have not been advertised. The multiplication of bureaucracy for instance has not been mentioned nor the multiplication of form filling as a consequence and the resultant increase in paper consumed. The inevitable rip off from the printer side of computing. A bath full of printer ink is the same cost as an expensive house and the criminally wasteful design of printers which are designed to fail and become part of the landfill. The costs to our planet may be becoming prohibitive... The power usage for instance is too high for what the machine does for the user and perhaps the money spent on that power might be better spent on something more useful like heating in the winter... It is not all rosey regarding how long these machines last before they become redundant, burned out, and yet another liability. So if people don't want to use computers what is wrong with that?

  • Comment number 41.

    Yes, the mouse can be a conceptual and physical obstacle, but touch-screen technology is pretty affordable now.

    I set my mother (75) up with a touch-screen all-in-one PC, which was less expensive than this system; with large desktop icons, the touch-screen aspect was an instant success and helps make the computer more accessible for her.

  • Comment number 42.

    Liam Proven is to be congratulated on producing Simplicity. I have many years experience of using a computer for photograph processing, video and music editing, internet browsing and word processing on a Mac but still find my occasional trips on a Windows PC traumatic compared with the intuitive programmes on the virus-free Apple.
    Rory Cellan-Jones suggests that Simplicity may not be cheap but does not compare like with like.
    Buy the cheapest PC of comparable spec, load it with the similar programmes, and of course anti-virus which needs constant up date and you will be lucky to get away with £525. Add in the ongoing costs of updating the anti-virus and the hassle of a Windows system and Simplicity lives up to its name.
    I shall probably try out Simplicity when I am older but at 74 will stick to my Mac for a while.

  • Comment number 43.

    There are plenty of left hand drive cars in the uk, but I wouldn't teach someone to drive in one.
    To correct one point:
    they have just discovered the first active macbotnet so the myth of mac invulnerabity can be finally laid to rest. Ironically a recent study found that the majority of windows malware now targetted the user, whereas the main thrust of Linux and mac malware targeted the security holes. Not surpising since most windows machines have anti malware software installed but the Linux/Mac communities still think the earth is flat. Very French. (apologies to our Gallic cousins).
    My brother bought a lovely MacBook and then found his Sony eReader software wasn't available nor that for his mp4 player. Luckily he could install Windows XP on it. Most of the time he had windows running. He mainly used OSX to browse the Internet. That's one expensive browser. Very pretty though!

  • Comment number 44.

    I've looked at the company's website and I think it is an insult to older people's intelligence. Their "What you get" section has no technical details like memory, speed, size, weight. And for that price! Unbelievable.
    If this is an indication of their general thinking, I wont bother. I run a university course for and about the older generation, and there is no question that we are perfectly capable of learning computing even if we didnt grow up digital natives.
    The approach might have been useful if it focussed on the things that might really matter to many older people, e.g. audio help, voice recognition, etc. In any case, everyone would appreciate simpler computing, not just older people. Most computers are packed with features that the vast majority of users ignore.
    Anita Pincas [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 45.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 46.

    Dear Rory

    I spotted this product on The Inquirer

    and was delighted when I heard your news article about it on Radio 4 this evening - except when YET AGAIN you failed to mention the 'L' word. You are quite happy in this blog to mention the fact that SimplicITy is running Linux Mint but not on the radio it seems where it might be heard by a great many more people than will look at this web site.

    Why is that?

    You were quite happy to mention that it was running 'Free Software' but listeners would not know WHICH free software it was. If it had been MICROSOFT or WINDOWS 7 it would have been mentioned but since it is a competitor I can only assume that there is some unwritten agreement that you will never mention LINUX on the radio or TV (however unfair or untrue that comment might be).

    It does not matter if elderly people use Firefox or IE - the browsing experience is almost identical. It is also not all that different to use Write under Linux Mint as it is to use Word under Windows 7 (in fact Write is closer to Office 2003 than Office 2007 is and Office 2003 is likely to be used in many of the UK Online PCs which are still running the obsolete Windows XP). Many users now use Mozilla Thunderbird on Windows anyway rather than the Outlook Express and many more still will migrate over as Outlook Express has been removed from Windows 7.

    The tide is beginning to turn. Most of the latest smart phones are running Linux not Windows (Mobile) and Linux is starting to gain popularity on the desktop as well - especially in the wake of the launch of Windows 7 (or Vista SP2 as it should have been without the need to charge consumers more). So it is more and more likely that users will experience LINUX (the word you never mention on the radio) so why not in SimplicITy.

    In the end, this is not about operating systems but about empowering the elderly and I wholeheartedly agree with MOST of the radio broadcast - as opposed to the article above which has the usual Windows bias.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'm currently an interaction designer developing accessible technology for older adults.

    I like the idea of using custom software, but worry along with Rory about support, and upgrading of hardware.

    Before as part of my degree I used a user centred design process to find out about my users. This took me away from making an easier commputer, and ended out making a new device that made social networking more accessible. The design process is at . I have been developing it as part of university project I would like any feedback about using a dedicated device for a specific purpose.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is all very well tinkering with a screen or two on top of Linux, but I don't like the mouse/keyboard input devices as they generally are a bit of a pain to learn and teach. If is all very well getting a former TV presenter telling the potential user that this lump of plastic is called a mouse - but why on earth does it still have to have three buttons (or two buttons and a wheel that is also a button!). Very few mice actually label the buttons as buttons!

    Just give me a machine I can order about and it does what I want quickly and efficiently with the minimum of fuss. (But don't let it answer back!) Unless and until the voice input systems actually work without the need to adapt one's mode of communication to that of the computer this will always remain a barrier. (Better still let my computer read my thoughts and do what I command it to do without me having to tell it!)

    My mouse finger has over the last twenty five years (from a Mac 128k onwards) developed various bursa from time to time, mainly on the knuckles of adjacent fingers actually - (the one that just dangles over the wheel or the right button), but I just have to put up with it. It gets so bad from time to time that I switch to (my natural) left-handed mousing for a while to give my right hand a rest. (Have you ever tried to buy a left-handed camcorder or digital camera?)

  • Comment number 49.

    but worry along with Rory about support, and upgrading of hardware.

    I'm pretty sure that there's an assumption built into the design that this product's audience are not going to be modifying the hardware. This is an appliance - you buy it, it works, that's it.

  • Comment number 50.

    An interesting experiment in social inclusion but at what price? I listened to the World service discussion between Richard Ingrams and Valerie Singleton. Are 'older' people who have happy and successful 'offline' lives being made to feel inadequate by not having always-on broadband to their sitting room? These people may feel that their personal information is better kept personal, and that their continued happiness will not be dependent on DSL service levels and their anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-malware/spyware software working while avoiding financial scams, personal data theft, behavioural advertising and chatroom entrapment. By inisting that we all need the internet in order to lead full and happy lives we are perhaps inadvertently crushing diversity in our society. We also risk further marginalisation of people with considerable life experience, by telling them again that they and their experiences are irrelevant.

    An interesting experiment, but also a comment on how we see one sector of our society.

  • Comment number 51.

    Secondly, it's extremely secure so there's no need for anti-virus

    Any technical person who says this is immediately untrustworthy in my opinion.

    Anti-virus is ALWAYS needed, even more so if the computer is for someone who clearly wont know how to maintain it themselves. A destructive virus could appear tomorow for Linux and all the good intentions in the world will not protect a user like this from it. Even worse they will have no idea how to get rid of it or even how to detect it.

    And in the end it's basically a simplified home page and nothing more. I wrote that for my parents in about 2 minutes with links to hotmail, facebook, amazon, the bbc and youtube (which pretty much satisfies all their needs). The other link is one to a folder that I put videos in for them to see how to do things like attach pictures to emails because I record what i'm doing as I'm showing them.

    Quite why any of this would double the price of an underpowered laptop supposedly not needing OS licences is beyond me.

  • Comment number 52.

    The BBC should follow this up by promoting eldy not an expensive derivative of it:

    I've been watching the videos on the Italian site:
    Over there they've been touring the cities with a promotional caravan demonstrating the system and giving away the disks. Now if Val Singleton had put her name behind that...

    I fear all this good publicity will be wasted.

  • Comment number 53.

    I am very surprised that none of the comments here mention the major barrier I've encountered while providing computing for older relatives: using bigger screens to make content easier to read. XP (and mac OSX) are fine platforms for any user, providing that trouble is taken to ensure that they can see where things are happening: tiny cellphone screens, netbooks and other devices with teeny weeny fonts are highly exclusionary for a lot of older people.

    As for the comments about supportability: I've known Liam for (mumble) and even employed him on the odd occasion - I'd expect this to be a fit-and-forget solution. Besides, as the Linux types keep on reminding us (without evidence, but hey...) the whole thing is supported by a planet full of caring sharing altruistic...

    ...OK, I'll get my coat.

  • Comment number 54.

    Re Comment 51 - hackerjack

    Firstly - I have worked with both Linux/Unix and Windows for nearly twenty years - and written kernel level drivers for both so I am no amateur to this.

    Needing virus scanners is a Microsoft/Windows centric way of thinking.

    Unix/Linux was crafted from the ground up as a multi-user operating system so two of the fundamental design criteria of the system are user security and sand-boxing. On most Unix/Linux systems, normal users are NOT ALLOWED to install applications or modify ANY FILES other than the ones in their own /home/[user] directory (which is directly analogous to C:\USERS\[User] on Windows 7) - /export/home/[user] on some other Unix systems like OpenSolaris ( )

    Unlike Windows, Unix/Linux systems do not have a registry. System level settings are held in the /etc directory and cannot be modified by normal users. Users own settings are held in hidden (filenames prefixed by a '.' e.g. .mozilla) subdirectries or single files in the users own directory e.g. /home/person/.mozilla rather than in the registry (as per Windows). This means that if you back up your own /home/[user] directory then you also backup all of your personal settings.

    In order to modify system settings or install any applications, Unix/Linux users needs to become "root" (which is equivalent to the "Administrator" user on Windows systems). There is an inherent danger in running as root so most Unix/Linux users spent as little time with root privileges as possible to minimize that danger.

    Windows was originally crafted as a multi-application but not multi-user system so users are used to having the freedom of being able to modify any files that they want which includes application files and system settings. A large majority of Windows programs still rely on this behaviour and will not function in a locked down/sandboxed environment like the Linux/Unix one. Unfortunately this high-privilege behaviour extends to many critical system files and users applications (such as Internet Explorer) making them key targets for hackers.

    Most viruses/trojans rely on "buffer overrun" or similar exploits where some data is sent to (say) Internet Explorer where it overflows some internal buffer - but the data sent is actually a specially crafted message which contains some executable code which has "overflowed" just into the right place over some part of the IE program itself so it will run instead of the IE code.

    In the Windows world, the user typically has file permissions to modify critical parts of the system such as files such as C:\Windows (e.g. the registry files held centrally in C:\Windows\System32\Config) or other applications in C:\Program Files so this malicious code can write to areas it needs to to install the virus.

    On Linux/Unix, a typical user only has permission to write to his/her own files under /home/[user] and NOWHERE ELSE as all other areas are out of bounds. Many systems also do not allow normal users to even read many critical files. A buffer overflow bug in these cases will only be able to affect the users own files at worst. This is also the case with other system processes (e.g. such as the MySQL database daemon (equivalent to the SQL Server Windows Service) which runs under its own user ID and can only read/write to its own files. This is also the case with the Apache Web Server (equivalent to Internet Information Server IIS on Windows) which also runs under its own user. In this way each process and part of the system is SANDBOXED and can only write to files that it owns.

    Most Linux system have at least 3 partitions on a disk (e.g. my laptop has)

    /dev/sda1 - Root partition - mounted as "/"
    /dev/sda2 - Swap partition - Linux systems have swap partition rather than file
    /dev/sda3 - Home partition - mounted as "/home"

    rather than the one partition (drive in Windows speak - e.g. C:) that most Windows system have (I am running Ubuntu 9.10 and upgraded without any problems thank you very much :) )

    There are extra security layers (e.g. AppArmor or SELinux) which also control under what circumstances applications can access the network or read/write files. If you really want a secure system you can put directories which need to be written to (/tmp and /var) on (say) /home/tmp and /home/var and make the root partition read only to ALL processes (including root). This means that NOBODY can change ANY system settings (including viruses) unless the system is booted with a live CD and the file which controls mounting disks (/etc/fstab on Linux) is changed. It is actually possible to run usable working computers like this with Linux - but not with Windows.

    Unix/Linux relies in WHITE LIST security - i.e. a known list of applications which are ALLOWED to do particular things. An unknown application does not fall into this pattern is blocked.

    Windows (and the virus scanner approach) relies on BLACK BOX security - i.e. a list of known rogue applications which are to be blocked by the system. The man problem with this is it can only protect you from KNOWN threats. A hacker can always create a new virus/trojan which is NOT known by the system and defeat the scanner - so virus scanners give an APPEARANCE of security - they do not really protect you.

    By contrast, the Linux/Unix community fixes any flows that they find as soon as they are discovered and users then update their system. This is a MUCH better approach than trying to paper over cracks in security by virus scanners - which does not work anyway! This is why many Windows users boast that Linux is less secure since Linux systems have loads of security updates - in reality this means that they are actually fixing the faults rather than just notifying all the virus scanners around the world of yet another program that knows about KNOWN exploits!

    Virtually all Unix/Linux systems have a firewall built into the kernel (called NetFilter - ) and most Linux systems have this turned on by default (including Mint). As with Windows, this helps to protect from attacks on the system/

    This is not to say that Linux/Unix boxes are invulnerable - no system is - and Apache/PHP is a particular bugbear on Linux systems. If a rogue process can become root (called a rootkit) then they CAN wreck havoc but these are extremely rare and tend to be fixed almost as soon as they are discovered.

    This is why Linux systems do not need virus scanners. If Windows used white list security and locked down EVERYTHING except C:\USERS\[user] to normal users - meaning that users had to login as Administrator to install applications but were also not allowed to run these applications as Administrator (to stop users running as Administrator all the time) then rogue Windows programs would be a lot less common. It is an inherent problem with the structure/architecture of Windows systems and is very unlikely to be fixed soon/if-at-all unless Microsoft brings out a new operating system which is fundamentally incompatible with Windows but can (say) run Windows programs under an emulator. This is what Apple did with OS/X (which is also based on Unix - a BSD variant called "Darwin"). Unfortunately Apple then allowed normal users enhanced privileges which is why partly why OS/X systems are now slightly more vulnerable than Linux/Other Unix systems.

    The bit about more systems out there = less secure is true to some extent but bear in mind that the vast majority of web servers are Linux/Unix/BSD systems running Apache rather than Windows/IIS means that Unix boxes have had a long time to wake up to security threats.

    Bottom line - virus scanners give an ILLUSION of security and are based on covering over the cracks (security flaws) in systems. It is much better (as Linux systems do) to actually fix the flaws and also have an architecture which is more inherently secure.

  • Comment number 55.

    In post #54 I meant to say BLACK LIST rather than BLACK BOX.

  • Comment number 56.

    Like mike (yesterday afternoon) I remember the Amstrad computers. But I've encountered people who were comfortable with Locoscript (used by Amstrad) and with WordPerfect for DOS, because these were logical steps on from a typewriter and paper, but who found anything with windows and dialogue boxes a step too far and couldn't cope with them; this seems to be the market that Simplicity/Eldy is going for. As I said in a previous post, I think it's a niche but I'm sure that the market exists

  • Comment number 57.

    I volunteer at a local Computer centre where I work with people of all ages. Most of my time is spent teaching Microsoft Office. However some time is allocated to complete beginners some of which are extremely elderly. I have yet to find a student (of any age) that could not absorb careful and sympathetic teaching. ALL our students go away with at least the ability to use Email and do simple web searches. Obviously once the basics are there the rest comes from (lots of) practice. Many of our "more mature" students have gone through every course we offer. One final point, is it just me who thinks these Simplicity computers are blooming expensive?

  • Comment number 58.

    'There's no reason - except for inertia - why we should all have to start our computing journey using the same system.'

    And some of us here are old enough to have 'started our computer journey' years before there was such a thing as Windows - my first computer use even pre-dates the genesis of Unix by a handful of years.

    I think this whole 'computing for older people' notion is tosh, and patronising tosh at that. Unfortunately, however, too many people - younger as well as older - somehow still believe that 'computers are difficult' or that they're 'not computer-minded' - whatever that may mean! Still, I suppose that if it turns out to help someone, it'll have been some use.

  • Comment number 59.

    'If Windows used white list security and locked down EVERYTHING except C:\USERS\[user] to normal users - meaning that users had to login as Administrator to install applications but were also not allowed to run these applications as Administrator (to stop users running as Administrator all the time) then rogue Windows programs would be a lot less common.'

    Absolutely true - but that would work only if people stopped writing Windows programs that have to be run with administrator privileges in order to work properly.

    Bad operating systems do nothing to prevent people from writing bad code, and such software - even expensive commercial packages - is all too common in the Windows world.

  • Comment number 60.

    Why on earth does a system using an open-source and free OS, running a variant of a free application (ELDY), cost so much?

    Rather than give money to this company, I'd encourage people to source an old computer which would probably otherwise end up in landfill and to download the software themselves.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think this IS patronising. My grandmother on my mums side is in her 80s and has used computers for years she took a course with my mum in the eighties to learn how to use them! Infact my grandad who is now deceased used computers very well until alsymers kicked in. Infact alot of my familys computers used to be hand me downs from my grandad cause he bought a new pc every 2 years... Not all old people are ignorant of computers and the ones that are ignorant and want to learn are better off learning Windows or Mac.

  • Comment number 62.

    54. At 11:52am on 12 Nov 2009, UseLinuxNotWindows wrote
    a comprehensive argument for using Linux which convinced me to give it a go! However the installation instructions for bUbuntu are a bit too techie for me (incomprehensible actually - a big problem with Linnies).
    i have a netbook with Win7 1GB ram and 250GB HDD so there should be plenty of room for a dual-boot. There are USB sockets and a cardreader, i have no CD/DVD writer.
    Could UseLinuxNotWindows please translate the instructions into plain English for my setup (bUbuntu on SD card if possible). i could then help others, assuming it works ok! Also what do you think of Jolicloub?

  • Comment number 63.

    there are good and bad points to this i'm afraid,the good points being that eldy is easy to use and has been around for a little while now,so would be good for the first time older user as it is simplified for them.
    also eldy can be put to use on most debian/ubuntu linux machines,and is easily installed with some help for a new linux user.
    now for the bad points,the cost of the units supplied by simplicITy (not to be confused with simplicity linux,which is a totally different linux distribution)is quite expensive for what you are getting,the actual hardware cost for their base system is only around £150 retail,less for trade,so that is a hefty profit considering you are aiming at a target market for the over 50's,and linux mint is free..
    also they are quite vague on the specs of the machine on their web site,and they don't like answering the phone,and when they do there is never anybody to tell you anything about the specs,they just want a name and address...
    i say no more.......

  • Comment number 64.

    I am 74 years old and my computer is essential to my lifestyle.I use live messenger and email to contact my friends, order groceries from supermarkets, use internet banking, book holidays, watch sport games and comment in discussions on Facebook and twitter. Just because one is older does not mean we can't learn new things. This was done by Naturally Speaking when you just dictate to the computer and it print it out

  • Comment number 65.

    @ comment 16
    There is no reason for the price of the base units being so high,as for their base system,the cpu is only a AMD sempron 1250/1280 le,running at 2.0ghz,only single core,if you can find them,they are only around £22 retail.
    The last sempron i installed in a system was a few years ago now,and there is really no reason to use them now on a system of that price.
    All operating system's use multi-core as normal now,so to use a low end cpu and charge this sort of money is just not right.
    If they were to charge say £199 it may be better,but £300 is just too much.
    To put into context,i have just built for a client a intel atom duel core system,2gig ram,80 gig h/d and a linux OS,and supply 1 year support for this..
    I only charged him £209...
    I don't really need to say more do i.
    If the price was right i would applaud them,but at the moment,it seems it's just not right

  • Comment number 66.

    I realise you asked UseLinuxNotWindows but I would like to offer some suggestions.
    As far as I can tell bUbuntu ( ) is a French repackaging of Ubuntu 9.04 (rather than the current 9.10) and its website is in French. If you would like plain English then you could either give google-translate a go ( ) or you could try installing normal Ubuntu ( ) or the Netbook remix.
    Straightforward instructions are available to:
    a) install from windows without a CD,
    b) install from a USB stick

    Straightforward but more technical instructions to install from windows can be found

  • Comment number 67.

    The comment from Peneverdant ref touch screens made a lot of sense. This takes away the lack of mouse control caused by arthritic hands. Also, if you were to check out the comments made on this subject I guess there are more people who are NOT impressed with "Simplicity" than those in favour of it. Can't blame them for wanting to make money, just seems sad that they want to do it like this.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    If at first you don't succeed - post, post again. I fell foul of the censors since I made a couple of what I thought were innocuous comments about the current most used PC operating system if you see what I mean. Apologies to the censors and the BBC but I still don't understand why the post was blocked :(

    Shlyder (#62) - apologies for not responding earlier (work and all that). T_Beermonster (#66) has kindly answered the main points I think but I will add a bit as well.

    There are three (fairly easy) ways of dual booting between Windows 7 and Ubuntu:

    1) Shrinking the Windows C: drive to create space for two more partitions (drives in Windows-speak) - Ubuntu Root and Ubuntu Swap (Linux has a swap partition (drive) rather than a swap file like Windows). (good walk through)

    2) Creating a a large (e.g. 10GB) file within the Windows partition (e.g. C: drive) and installing both the Ubuntu file system and Ubuntu swap within this. This is what the Wubi ( ) installer does. - select HQ

    3) Install Ubuntu file system and Ubuntu swap onto a USB stick and boot from this.

    You don't need to download Ubuntu by Bittorrent -

    Canonical Server:
    32-bit Ubuntu 9.10: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    64-bit Ubuntu 9.10: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    Netbook Remix: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Warning - these image files are CD image files - about 690MB - so a BIG download.

    Netbooks normally have an Intel Atom processor which is 32 bit only so you want the 32-bit image or the Netbook Remix :)

    If your Netbook has a decent sized screen (i.e. about 1024x768 or bigger) then the standard 32 bit Ubuntu is probably better than the Netbook Remix. My I have an old Dell Latitude C610 (Pentium III 1GHz, 512MB RAM, 40GB hard disk, 1024x768) and this runs 9.10 fine as long as you don't have fancy screen effects turned on.

    One other thing. Ubuntu Linux has a different way of storing data on disk from Windows called EXT. If you pick EXT3 rather than EXT4 then you can install a special driver called EXT2IFS on Windows 7 that will allow you to open/view/modify the Linux 'drives' (partitions/USB sticks) under Windows (should you want to). EXT4 is NOT supported (yet).

    Download: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Sorry if I have overloaded you with techie speak.
    These guides might help as well. (more techie but very comprehensive)

    You might enjoy a free magazine ( ) called 'Full Circle' as well.

    This months is here [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 70.

    OK - now I understand.
    Posts may not contain direct links to:

    EXE files
    ISO images
    PDF documents

    On Ubuntu download page ( )look for

    'ubuntu-9.10-desktop-i386.iso' (32 bit ISO)
    'ubuntu-9.10-desktop-amd64.iso' (64 bit ISO) and
    'ubuntu-9.10-netbook-remix-i386.iso' (Netbook Remix)

    and click on the one you want to download it.

    Download PAGE for EXT2IFS is here

    Current edition of 'Full Circle' is here
    Click on the picture at the bottom of the page to download/view it (9M PDF file)

  • Comment number 71.

    To respond to a few posts above - the Eldy software (which IS the Square One etc) is freely available from the website, to suit current Microsoft OSes too. I currently have tested it on XP, Vista and 7, as well as Mint (which I have promoted for a while). There is no need to buy another PC, these are not specialized in any way and as some readers have pointed out - overpriced. I would like to know if Wessex computers pass anything on to the developer of Mint - an Irishman who has done sterling work for little reward! (I looked on the sponsors list today and did not see their name)

    Anyway, if you have an old PC - download the program and give the result to Mum (or Nan) - worth a look.

    It would be nice if people looked after the elderly instead of trying to make money out of them for a service many of us gladly would give (our time).

  • Comment number 72.

    Many thanks to both Beermonster and UseLinuxNotWindows
    for your efforts - (i did mean ubuntu! oops)
    i will check out wubi etc and if anything still works
    after i attempt it, i will let you know ...

    btw, the *help/ubuntu.....fromusbstick* page
    was the incomprehensible one (to me).

    Thanks again - anything free and accessible has got to be a good thing for anyone on a limited income/pension - and perhaps the challenge to the brain is actually a cunning plan to maintain mental agility? - (joking!)

  • Comment number 73.

    For shlder (#72) - you're welcome :)

    Here are a few more links that might help you

    If you want to get a bit more involved - why not join your local Linux User Group (LUG)

    The very fact that you are interested in operating systems and the advantages/disadvantages between Windows 7 and Linux shows that you probably have as many 'marbles' as I do (Joke :) ).

    As for booting from a USB stick - this is hard(er) stuff - I'm not surprised that you did not find it easy!

    I am not sure whether you want to:

    a) Install Ubuntu from a USB stick to the hard disk of your Netbook
    b) Install Ubuntu onto a USB stick so that the Netbook will book from the USB stick (when plugged in) - this is a very good way of trying out Ubuntu without endangering your Windows 7 partition (drive) - that is if you want to keep it!

    Both are possible without too much of a problem.

    For (a) just:

    1) Download WUBI from here ( ) - click on button :)
    2) Download one of the the Ubuntu ISOs (as discussed previously)
    3) Copy both wubi.exe and the ISO file to your USB drive.
    4) Run wubi.exe from the USB drive and follow the instructions.
    5) Pick the default install.
    6) When installed, you will be able to dual boot between Windows 7 or Ubuntu by picking the one you want from a menu.
    7) If you want to remove Ubuntu - just use the standard Add/Remove programs within Windows to uninstall it!

    For (b) have a look at these guides.

    IMHO if the schools/other government services all used Linux instead of commercial operating systems:

    1) We would save millions of £££'s each year in licensing costs which could go into funding more teachers, better hospitals etc
    2) We could use PC's for longer before they needed upgrading - i.e. only upgrade PCs when we WANT to upgrade them - not when an external company tells us to.
    3) There would be far fewer problems due to worms/viruses/trojans.
    4) Children would concentrate on learning general computing principles rather than learning specific commercial packages which will be obsolete when they grow up.
    5) Anyone could take copies of ANY of the software packages home (quite legally) without pirating software or having to pay lots to money.

    All of these things apply to software for more 'mature and experienced' members of our community like yourself as well :)

    Join our community (e.g. )! You will find that (in general) we are a friendly bunch and willing to help.

    You might be interested to know that Stephen Fry is a big supporter of GNU/Linux as well -

  • Comment number 74.

    For slyder - addendum to #73

    For installing Ubuntu as dual boot with Windows using WUBI - if you have downloaded wubi.exe and the ISO image to THAT LAPTOP then you do not need to copy them unto a USB stick to install them. Just run wubi.exe from the hard disk :)

  • Comment number 75.

    UK Public Sector IT spending is approx. £12,000,000,000 per year.,1000000308,39201339,00.htm

    This is peanuts compared to the cost of bailing out RBS, but to me its a lot of money.

    If we suppose a large scale switch to Free or Open Source Software could trim this figure by 2% then that would save M£240 (The Tories think that switching to FOSS and imposing project cost caps could save £600 million ).
    That would be about £4 in the pocket of every man woman and child in the UK.
    Or about £8 in the pocket of every income tax payer.
    Or £22 of extra spending for each person between the ages of 5 and 19 (school age)
    Or 280 extra air ambulances (current UK total 30 helicopters provided by Charities 2 helicopters and 2 fixed wing aircraft funded by the Scottish Ambulance Service )

  • Comment number 76.

    re #73, 74, 75 - ULNW and Beermonster ...
    i agree with EVERYTHING you say, but you are being a bit too good to me -
    by the time i check out all those links you have been (seriously)
    kind enough to provide, i will have expired!
    i just want to click and install as dual boot, then play with it ...
    so your revelation about wubi doing just that (without *usb-creator*)
    is v. good news.
    i do not want to dump Win7 yet, it works pretty good after using Win98se for 10 years (ok you can laugh, but would YOU switch to XP, SP1/2/3, Vista??? ...)-
    it was you ULNW who made a convincing case for the online security advantages of the Linux approach - the question is: how to get it without trashing the system or getting brain damage.
    so just one more request - this is easy for you! - do i get UNR9.10 for
    the new PackardBell Atom N280 1024x600 Win7 Netbook? is that it?
    or something else might be better?
    i like your concept - you guys are much more helpful than commercial helplines (help?lines?), and i would be more than willing to spread the message,
    i just need a slight nudge more to go in exactly the right direction -
    so really appreciate your interest and advice ... thanks.

  • Comment number 77.

    At the risk of dragging this blog topic even further from its original intent:
    Would I switch to XP? From windows 98 - yes. From any of the 2.6 kernel series linux distros - no.
    Would I switch to Vista - not even from windows 3.11 or Yggdrasil linux.

    for the netbook you list (which I believe has Intel GMA950 graphics) I'd say that a netbook specific distro is your best bet since a standard distro tends to have default layouts best suited to taller screens (not necessarily larger screens but taller than 600 pixels). UNR is a good choice and has the advantage of the wubi installer. You may also wish to consider Moblin - a distro started by Intel aimed specifically at atom powered netbooks

  • Comment number 78.

    shlyder - T_Beermonster is right in comment #77. UNR (Ubuntu Netbook Remix) is a very good choice for that Packard Bell Netbook. There is more about it here

    and you can download the Ubuntu 9.10 UNR from here

    and then use the wubi.exe program to install it (dual boot with Windows). This will allow you to try out Linux without completely abandoning Windows. If (in the future) you are quite happy to stick with Linux and want a full install (to make better use of the hard disk + slightly faster than a WUBI install) then you could create a bootable USB drive and do a clean install of Ubuntu (wiping out Windows)

    My laptop (Lenovo 3000 N200 - upgraded to 4GB RAM + 500GB hard disk) came with Vista so as I have to do *some* Windows development, I converted this to a VirtualBox installation (called a virtual machine - VM). This allows me to run Vista 'in a box' as though it was just another Ubuntu program.

    There is no way that I would ever use Vista (or Windows 7) as my main operating system but that is my personal opinion. I have used Linux as my primary operating system for nearly five years now and find Windows very restricting and unstable compared to Linux.

    Your Netbook is not really powerful enough to run (say) Ubuntu under VirtualBox on Windows 7 and certainly does not have enough RAM for the task. Running as a dual boot WUBI install will allow you to see how much faster Linux is than Windows on the same hardware.

    If your Netbook is a Packard Bell MZ35-200 then you should install Ubuntu 9.04 rather than 9.10 as there are some issues with the newer version

    (Download 'ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix-i386.img')

    The main thing is to have a go. Please let us know how you have got on.

  • Comment number 79.

    #77 and #78 - thanks again for your efforts and infinite patience!
    assuming i go UNR/wubi dual boot, do you think 9.04 or 9.10 on this
    PackardBell Dot_S Atom N280? (it's not a MZ35... unless that's a different regional code for Dot_S ... never simple is it).
    and #77 - i had encountered mention of Moblin on my voyage of attempted discovery but did not realise it was Intel-inspired for Atom which sounds like promising credentials in theory, perhaps?
    i also hit on Jolicloud to complicate a bit more, but it is only alpha,
    i am not too keen on being guinea-pig at this point, but if you have any further thoughts on these they would be very welcome before i take the plunge.
    we WILL get there ! Thanks for your help.

  • Comment number 80.

    Hi slyder (re: #79)

    I assume that your laptop is this one

    with an Intel Atom 1.6 GHz(?), 1GB RAM and a 160GB hard disk

    My suggestion is to go with the Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix (UNR) and WUB
    Download 'wubi.exe' from here

    to a directory on your hard disk. Have a good look through the guide here

    1) Run wubi.exe
    2) Select Installation Drive = C:
    3) Select Language = "English (GB)"
    4) Select Installation Size = 16GB (if you can afford the space, otherwise 8GB)
    5) Select Desktop Environment = "Ubuntu Netbook Remix"
    6) Select Username = "shlyder" (or whatever you want)
    7) Type the password for your user into BOTH password boxes (don't forget this!)
    8) Click on [Install]

    WUBI will download the ~ 700MB ISO file (might take a while!) then install it. Installation is fully automatic. You SHOULD end up with a dual boot system (using the Windows boot loader as a menu) which allows you to choose between Windows and Ubuntu.

    Having said all that, some people have had problems using WUBI with Windows 7 as Microsoft have changed the standard way in which they set up the hard disk.

    This probably gives the wrong impression of installing Ubuntu. Making any system dual boot is not trivial and WUBI makes this as easy as it can. If you had an Ubuntu system and then wanted to install Windows 7 to make it dual boot this process would be much harder as Windows generally assumes that it is the only operating system and ignores/disables the others.

    It is MUCH easier to do a clean install of ANY operating system (whether Windows, Linux, OS/X, Solaris...)

    A better way of doing this (with Windows 7) is probably to shrink your existing C: drive in Windows 7 and then do a NORMAL (not WUBI) install of UNR by making two new partitions - EXT3 (for Linux files) and SWAP (for Linux swap)

    Grab UNetBootin ( ) and download the UNR ISO image manually then follow this guide:

    Confused? I'm not surprised but then you are attempting to do something that many system administrators find confusing let along techie aware 'mature computer users'.

    I suggest TRYING WUBI first and if that does not work then uninstall WUBI/Ubuntu and then try this second approach.

    Best wishes...

  • Comment number 81.

    Hi Shlyder - had a rethink about #80

    Don't bother with Wubi - I don't think it's going to work. Download unetbootin and the ISO image and follow the dual boot guide (2nd approach).

    It is more complicated to do but safer and more likely that you will succeed. Print out this page BEFORE YOU START and make sure that you can boot from the Ubuntu USB stick so if there are problems then you can use this as a recovery system.

    Even better, boot Ubuntu from the USB stick and try it out from there. This will give you an idea of whether you want to go any further.

    This guide might be more useful - can resize Windows C: from the Ubuntu installer as well. Do NOT touch the 100MB recovery partition (if you have one).

    Finally - copy up all of your documents/data to another memory stick or portable hard drive before you start ANY installations. There is always a danger when messing around with disk partitions that you will break things so ALWAYS backup important things first.

  • Comment number 82.

    Thanks UNLW going way beyond the call of duty again ...
    my hopes were raised by lovely step by step 1) to 8) in your #80 -
    back to earth with #81 - but you are right - i would rather play safe.
    just to be clear first about the hardware - it is not exactly the ones you linked to at P-B or Ama...on.
    it is the DOT_S.UK/025 which does not seem to exist on the B-B site!!!! it does seem to be the latest P-B Atom-powered (N280) Netbook with most up-to-date specs: the N280 is a single-core 32-bit at 1.66GHz (so up from the N270 1.6GHz -ok, that is amusing) but it runs on 667MHz FSB which is 25% up from the N270 Atom, also has new improved chipset, and maybe different type memory module - i wanted to install another Gig but since aren't aware (despite their great sounding online *Configurator*, where you just enter your 22 digit product S/N to get specific upgrade info ... which you don't actually get), i will have to wait... just using 4GB Ramboost on SDHC card - can't tell if it makes any difference - but maybe i should take it out before trying UNR?

    despite apparently being oblivious of this model, i didn't get it from some back-street grey importer - it is sold by a large national high-street retail chain (begins with C, ends with t, ome in the middle).

    more important probably is that HDD is 250GB according to the Box sticker, system info shows 202GB free out of 220GB (so probably has hidden recovery partition) and i would let Linux use 100GB to give it a fair crack - it is NTFS tho' - aha - is that OK?
    if you have any final words of advice or warnings i am all ears grateful for your input to say the least - but there just might be some issue you might spot in all the above - no worries about crucial data to back up - there isn't any yet, except i do want to keep Win7 (it is Starter Edition btw), for now at least, otherwise i could be cut off from the outside world!!!
    cheers - you might get an mbe for this!

  • Comment number 83.

    Hi Shlyder - re #82

    As you say fantastic sized hard disk for a netbook - most are 160GB or less. I would suggest tackling this in two steps:

    a) Create a bootable USB stick containing Ubuntu 9.10 UNR - try it out
    b) When you are ready - install Ubuntu 9.10 UNR from the bootable USB stick

    For (a)

    1) Follow through this tutorial (see web links below) but substitute the Ubuntu 9.10 UNR ISO for the standard Ubuntu ISO - you can use the link I suggested - you do not need to use Bittorrent.

    At this point you should have a USB stick which will act like a Live CD - i.e. you can boot from it and try out Ubuntu - you can also install Ubuntu onto your hard disk from here.

    IMPORTANT - get this working FIRST!
    You will get a feel of what Ubuntu UNR is like as well.

    b) Install Ubuntu on your system (as dual boot) -

    You should be able to shrink your Windows partition (C: drive) down and install Ubuntu UNR all from the bootable USB stick copy of UNR. (install of Ubuntu 9.10) (demo of Ubuntu UNR)

    When you install Ubunti pick EXT3 rather than EXT4. This will allow you to install EXT2IFS ( ) on Windows which will allow you to 'see' the Linux files from Windows - map the partition as (say) drive E:). You can also map Windows C: as (say) /media/windows (under Ubuntu) which will allow you to 'see' your Windows files from Linux.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi shlyder re #82

    You do not have any other choice other than NTFS for Windows 7 :)

    What you are aiming to do is to split up your hard disk into four partitions (drives in Windows terms - it has two partitions at the moment) i.e.

    1 [ 100MB - NTFS - Recovery Partition - mount as /media/recovery under Ubuntu ]
    2 [ 120GB - NTFS - Windows C: drive - mount as /media/windows under Ubuntu ]
    3 [ 99GB - EXT3 - Linux root "/" partition - seen as E: under Windows/EXT2IFS ]
    4 [ 1GB - SWAP - Linux swap partition - not seen under Windows ]

    In order to do this you need to shrink (2) down from about 220GB to about 100GB and then create two new partitions for Ubuntu (3 and 4).

  • Comment number 85.

    Hi shlyder - addendum to #84

    Note that Ubuntu runs MUCH slower from a live CD or USB stick than from the hard disk.

    When you come to install Ubuntu:

    1) Shrink C: down to 120GB from within Windows 7

    2) Boot Ubuntu NBR from the USB stick - run without installing
    3) You can try out Ubuntu NBR now but bear in mind it will be SLOW from USB
    4) Select [System] - [ Install Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 ]
    5) Select 'English' then click on [Forward]
    6) Click on the UK and select 'United Kingdom Time' then click on [Forward]
    7) Click on 'Specify Partitions Manually' and click on [Forward]
    8) Click on your Windows partition (about 120GB) to select it
    9) Click on [Change] to get the properties
    10) Change 'Use As' to 'NTFS' (if available - if not click on [Cancel])
    11) Change 'Mount Point' to /media/windows
    12) Do NOT click the 'Format' tick box!
    13) Click on [OK] to save the settings
    14) Add recovery as well if you want to mounted as /media/recovery
    15) Click on [Add] to add a new partition - this will be SWAP
    16) Set the size to 2048 megabytes - (good rule of thumb is 2x memory size)
    17) Set 'Use As' to 'swap area'
    18) Click on [OK] to save it.
    19) Click on [Add] to add a new partition - this will be the Linux file system
    20) Do not change the size - should add up to remaining disk
    21) Set 'Use As' to 'EXT3 journalling file system'
    22) Set 'Mount Point' to '/'
    23) Click on [OK] to save
    24) MAKE SURE that only the "/" is set to format then click on [Forward]
    25) Fill in the details - I would also suggest 'Log in automatically'
    26) Click on [Forward]
    27) Click on [Install] - should install Ubuntu NBR

    On reboot you should have a menu from which you can rubn either Windows or Ubuntu
    Share and enjoy :)

  • Comment number 86.

    thanks ULNW - the step-by-step in #85 is the kind of stuff i like to see!
    i have been pondering the wisdom of running from USB to check out and it makes good sense to troubleshoot possible hardware issues -
    e.g. if my touchpad (they used to be called trackpads i thought) won't work - will i be able to exit UNR/NBR using the keyboard. i tried to find keyboard shortcuts - apparently it is CtrlAltDel (so not new to me except it says: (in text terminal) hope i can find one...).
    there is a lot of info available at:
    *Linux Shortcuts and Commands
    Part 5 of the Linux Newbie Administrator Guide
    5.1 Linux essential keyboard shortcuts and sanity commands*
    such as *On newer systems you may need to press TabTab. THIS SHORTCUT IS GREAT, it can truely save you lots of time* - i couldn't see what it actually does tho'!
    Meanwhile, back on Earth, your link to pctipsbox is interesting and useful (it might be a bit out of date - it says Ubuntu will use FAT32? i'm not bothered i don't intend to try to share or transfer files between the two systems, i.e. keeps things simple as possible) - anyway i will study more and make myself a full list of what to do, although you have provided much of that already, i have to make sure i have got my head around it all. brilliant work though - big thanks - forewarned is forearmed.

  • Comment number 87.

    Hi shlyder

    There is no need to have a FAT32 partition these days to share files between Linux and Windows. Linux can 'mount' Windows file systems using the NTFS-3G driver ( ) which is built into Ubuntu (for instance) and Windows can view Linux partitions as 'drives' using EXT2IFS (as long as you do not use EXT4).

    How this works in practice is (say):

    1) You keep all of your documents in c:\users\shlyder on drive C: in Windows 7 (which corresponds to (say) /dev/sda2 on Linux)

    2) Linux does not have drives (like C:, D: etc). Instead partitions are mounted on particular directories e.g.

    /dev/sda4 = "/"
    /dev/sda2 = "/media/windows"

    This means if you are looking in /media/windows (and directories below this) then you are looking in partition 4 (/dev/sda4) whereas other files/directories are help on partition 2 (/dev/sda2)

    3) In Linux if you mount /dev/sda2 as /media/windows then

    (Linux) /media/windows/users/shlyder = (Windows) c:\users\shlyder

    If you create a file /media/windows/users/shlyder/Documents/fred.txt under Linux, reboot under Windows then you will see this as c:\users\Documents\fred.txt

    We can be even more clever than this though :)

    In Linux, users have a HOME directory (e.g. /home/shlyder ) which is analogous to your documents directory under Windows 7 (e.g. c:\users\shlyder)

    Linux has an idea of a symbolic link which has existed in Unix/Linux for YEARS way before .lnk files started to appear in Windows 95. If you have a directory called /home/media/video and you run the following command

    shylder@mylaptop:~$ ln -s /home/media/video /home/shylder/Videos

    you will see what APPEARS to be a directory under /home/shylder called /home/shylder/Videos which actually points to /home/media/video so if you create a file called /home/shlyder/Videos/MyCat.mpg it is actually held as /home/media/video/MyCat.mpg

    Ubuntu has a set of standard subdirectories e.g.


    and dome others.

    If we open a terminal and run the following commands:

    shylder@mylaptop:~$ rm -Rf Documents (remove the Documents directory)
    shylder@mylaptop:~$ ln -s /media/windows/users/shylder/Documents Documents

    then your Documents directory (folder) is now a symbolic link which points to c:\users\shlyder\Documents (in Windows terms) - i.e. you will be storing files in a common place between Windows and Linux!

    You can also do the same think with Videos and Pictures i.e.

    shylder@mylaptop:~$ rm -Rf Videos
    shylder@mylaptop:~$ ln -s "/media/windows/users/shlyder/My Videos" Videos
    shylder@mylaptop:~$ rm -Rf Pictures
    shylder@mylaptop:~$ ln -s "/media/windows/users/shlyder/My Pictures" Pictures

    This is how I set up dual boot systems but obviously this is a personal preference.

    You could also do the opposite - i.e. map /dev/sda4 as E: on Windows using EXT2IFS

    (Windows) E: = (Linux) "/"

    If you move your "My Documents" to (say) e:\home\shlyder\Documents then

    (Windows) e:\home\shlyder\Documents = (Linux) /home/shlyder/Documents

    so you would actually be holding your documents on your Linux partition rather than your Windows partition but have accomplished the same thing.

    Before your eyes glaze over completely I will stop here. Please, please get a bootable USB stick with Ubuntu NBR 9.10 working first and try this out. If and when you are ready then you can go through the process of making your system dual boot.

  • Comment number 88.

    thanks #87. At 10:10am on 19 Nov 2009, UseLinuxNotWindows - i think you know too much!!!
    i was relieved to get to the final paragraph - that is the sensible first step, for me,
    but i have to come clean now and admit that i haven't yet got the blank usb-stick due to the terrible weather - i am going into town today tho'
    to get one, so you should get a progress report soon ... slowly slowly catchee ...
    at this point i had a funny turn and went to and downloaded
    ubuntu-9.10-netbook-remix-i386 (i had suddenly realised i had to start somewhere and would go nowhere without this ...) this was about 2 hours ago - it seems to have completed at 347,712KB which is less than what you suggested if i recall - anyway if that is complete, it is A Gigantic Leap for me towards a new/parallel universe - if anyone else is watching contemplating the same thing - i suggest connect to mains power and turn off the not-so-clever power-saving functions (they are the ones that switch off the screen when you are watching streaming video if you are not tenderly nudging the mouse at prescribed intervals - maybe Win8 or 9 will figure out *user* behaviour?).
    you know: *we could run this business much better without the xxx customers*!!
    grrrr - right, off to get the stick - wish me luck ...

  • Comment number 89.

    Hi Shlyder (re #88)

    I have a download of ubuntu-9.10-netbook-remix-i386.iso and it is 697,156KB in size so yes it looks like you will need to download again (unfortunately).

    You also need unetbootin-windows-latest.exe

    With the two of these you will be able to create a bootable USB stick. Follow the instructions from here

    Note that you will probably need ANOTHER USB stick as well since you will not (easily) be able to use the USB stick for storing data once you have put Ubuntu on it (unless you reformat it as FAT32 again).

    As you say this is a smaller step into a bigger world. I would strongly suggest joining the Ubuntu Forums

    The vast majority of people there are polite and helpful although like any big community there are always a tiny few who could show better manners - do not let that put you off.

    The Ubuntu Guide is also excellent (and completely free)

    If you really don't get on with Ubuntu (unlikely!) then there is always:


    and many others. There is a fairly comprehensive list here

    With Linux you are never short of choices! If you want to see a little of why I prefer Linux to Windows have a look at these (and believe me I have used both Windows and Linux for many years)

    You have taken a first small step into a much bigger world. Whether you try Linux and then stick with it, keep your system as dual boot or even go back to Windows - the point is you now know that you have a CHOICE.

  • Comment number 90.

    ok #89 i have returned with the Stick ...
    i thought now i had file and Stick, it was just a small step to the new,
    but will have to go back and check - that file took about two hours - so what you have got will take about four hours - it's ok, the box can do it without me watching it.
    there is some kind of checksum thing somewhere to check if your download is ready to rock and roll - must find it again i think!
    i suppose we are choosing to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard - there are things we know, and things we know we don't know, and things we don't know that we don't know ...
    i am beginning to see what they were talking about -
    but there is no turning back - i bought the Stick -
    (now he says i need two Sticks - doh!).

  • Comment number 91.

    calling ULNW - this message is coming from planet Ubuntu on my netbook -
    running from the Stick, i am over the Moon! - it is connecting through my high-gain wi-fi dongle with no drivers added, and using wireless optical mouse ditto, unfortunately the stupid touchpad works out the box as well.

    this is great - once you have jumped through the hoops and gone over the hurdles, it keeps you fit even in old age.
    i don't know what all the fuss was about ... i only got the full download on the fourth attempt this p.m. - if at first you don't tear your hair out .... but brilliant job mate -

  • Comment number 92.

    well now i have got on the Linux waggon myself, i would like to comment on the original subject of *Computing for older users: Patronising or practical?*

    The article is about a software package aimed at older users. He's worked with the Italians to adapt their Eldy software for British use.
    From what i can see, a simple OS could be very useful to many younger users - call it Youngy.
    we should all be in favour of equal opportunities ... if the heading of the article had been *Computing for people of all ages below average intelligence* the writer would have been lynched, it is just not pc to say that nowadays ... but the description indisputably applies to about 50percent of the population, (hope you can work that out).
    So, yeah, the article and the product are sickeningly patronising, and the morphing of *older users* in the title to *the elderly* in the IP address is even worse...

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi shlyder - fantastic news! (re #91)

    I would suggest running on the USB stick for a bit and get used to the system. You will then have some idea as to whether you want to:

    1) Move over completely to Ubuntu (and perhaps reformat your hard disk)
    2) Dual boot Windows 7 with Ubuntu (via the GRUB2 menu) or
    3) Just use Ubuntu from USB and see how it goes.

    I agree about your comment on #93 as well. Either someone is capable of doing something on a computer or they are not. It does not matter what age they are - and if they cannot do something they can always learn.

    My previous advise stands - I would suggest creating yourself a login on the Ubuntu forums and then if you get stuck you can post a message for help.

    Take care and I am genuinely pleased that you have got this working - very well done!

  • Comment number 94.

    hi #93 - Ubu works just fine from the stick - e.g. Firefox or CalcSpreadsheet feels the same (or faster) as GooChrome or WorksSheet under Seven on HDD.
    Main difference is about 60seconds to boot NBR from Stick, compared to 30secs for Seven from the HDD - am i bothered? - No! (but see below...)
    The thing is, i set HDD to "spin down when possible", so now it stays silent, the cooling fan just idles and it is all quiet as a mouse - it wasn't deafening before .. but now it is perfick!
    Even better - you can fn+F4 to put straight to sleep instead of full ShutDown, return in 10 hours, press On button and all is as-was within 2 seconds! On W-Seven doing comparable was taking 30seconds to awake... no contest!
    So i will stick to the Stick for now:
    performance exceeds all expectations,
    near-silent running,
    wake-up in a flash,
    and you can get fully acclimatised without tackling traumas such as shrinking Win and getting new partitions and boot menu and file-sharing issues.
    Yes, i will check out those forums - it is clear that a bit of help and encouragement can make the difference between going for it and giving up ..
    so thanks for that - i think your work here is complete ... for now!

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi shlyder (re #94)

    One last thing before I leave you completely to your world of discovery. I would suggest adding Medibuntu to your list of software repositories (servers holding software that you can pick/choose from via Synaptic)

    What you need to do is:

    1) Open a Firefox and browse to the above link
    2) Part way down the page is a section labelled 'Adding the Repository'
    3) Select ALL the text in the grey box below using the mouse then hold down the control (CTRL) key and press C (CTRL-C = Copy)
    4) Leave Firefox open but open 'Terminal' (under Accessories), then select [Edit]-[Paste] (Menu) or press [SHIFT]+[CTRL]+v (Paste - in terminal)
    5) You will probably need to press the [ENTER] key at this point.
    6) Ubuntu will prompt you for your password - enter this and press [ENTER]
    7) When it has finished you can type 'exit' [ENTER] to close the terminal.
    8) Open 'Synaptic Package Manager' in [Administration] (you will need to enter your password as it requires root access)
    9) Click on [Settings]-[Repositories] then select all the tick boxes except 'Source Code' and CD-ROM
    10) Click on [Close] then click [Reload] (toolbar) to load thje software lists
    11) Click on the [Search] button and enter 'ubuntu-restricted-extras' then [Search]
    12) Right-Click on ubuntu-restricted-extras and select 'Mark for installation'
    15) Click on [Search] select enter 'mplayer'
    16) Mark 'mplayer' and 'mozilla-mplayer' for installation
    17) If you will ever play DVDs on your laptop then search and mark 'libdvdcss2'
    18) Search for 'acroread' and mark 'acroread' and 'acroread-fonts'
    19) Click on [Apply] (toolbar)
    20) Wait whilst Synaptic downloads and installs the software (on your USB stick)

    At this point you will be able to play back any MP3, MPEG, AVI files and other commercial media files on the internet as well as Adobe Flash based pages such as BBC iPlayer or ITV Player.

    If you want to install other software then just have a hunt for it within Synaptic.
    Happy Hacking and it has been a pleasure to help you :)

  • Comment number 96.

    Hi Shlyder - (re #95)

    Missed one last thing - add 'non-free-codecs' from Synaptic as well (by the way - 'non-free' refers to the fact that the source code is not available - not to the fact that they cost you money!)

    It might also be worth you having a look at SAMBA although it does require a bit more technical knowledge

    As to how fast your laptop starts up - Windows 7 might get to the desktop slightly faster than Ubuntu does BUT it then takes a while to finish loading services (programs that run in the background - called 'daemons' in Linux). When Ubuntu gets to the desktop then everything is ready to use (except perhaps your wireless network connection which is started after the desktop is loaded).

    Suspend/Resume is excellent under Ubuntu 9.10 :)

    You might want to have a play with Empathy and/or Skype on Ubuntu so that you can use your webcam and talk/see other users

    For Empathy install


    You MIGHT need to follow the tutorial below as well.

    For Skype just install 'skype' :)
    Finally if you just want to have a play with your webcam locally - try installing 'cheese' (Cheese Webcam Booth)

    As before - happy hacking and a please to 'talk' to you/help you :)

  • Comment number 97.

    wow ULNW #95/#96 - reading my mind?!
    i have been ennjoying the absence of Flash by default in Fox3,
    but i was wondering about iplayer etc, so that explains that ...
    don't recall setting a password anywhere though ...
    but i will want to get Flashblock first, assuming it is available for Fox3 under Ubuntu, it was one of the best things about Fox2.
    Flash ads next to what you are reading is the fast route to madness,
    they don't geddit - if i figure out what they are plugging, it alienates me forever.
    It is like someone walking in your front door and ramming their irrelevant useless product in your face, and they won't go away... viruses are not the only problem.
    Anyway, in case anyone else is contemplating trying this open-source stuff, another plus i should mention is that my wi-fi connection is acquired and maintained quicker and better under Ubuntu without any tweaking by me!
    Oh, and the general feeling of Liberation from the MegaDollars Corp machine! Priceless!
    Thanks UNLW!

  • Comment number 98.

    Hi shlyder (re: #97)

    I promise that I will leave you in peace after this post ;)

    Virtually all the add-ons that are available on Windows are available on Linux, OS/X, FreeBSD etc as Mozilla add-ons were DESIGNED to be cross-platform as opposed to Microsoft software which is designed to run on Windows only (except for Office and IE on OS/X)

    Thunderbird is available in the repository as well. I tend to remove Evolution and replace it with Thunderbird (for home use) although Evolution is useful in a corporate environment as an Outlook replacement for connecting to Microsoft Exchange (Microsoft's own email) servers.

    Flash Block is here

    Just click on the Add to Firefox as normal.

    To install Thunderbird (which is very similar to the old Outlook Express in XP but MUCH BETTER in my humble opinion) just install via Synaptic as described previously or indeed the 'easier' interface 'Ubuntu Software Centre'.

    Thunderbird is wonderful as a front end to Google Mail and Google Calendar (which I use). The Lightning (Calendar) add-on to Thunderbird is excellent as well.

    Search for 'thunderbird' and 'lightning' and install them from Synaptic.

    About Thunderbird (but add it from Synaptic)

    About Lightning (but add it from Synaptic)

    Add-ons for Google Mail (add from the page)

    Finally - you can add Google's repository to Ubuntu so that you can install Picassa

    Google Earth is also available from Synaptic (if you have added Medibuntu).

    This page is very useful as well (vast wealth of stuff - mentioned it before)

    Finally, in CERTAIN cases, it is possible to run Windows programs under Ubuntu if you are really forced to. I have used it in a couple of cases myself.

    Cedega: (payware)
    Crossover Linux: (payware)

    You can install standard WINE from Synaptic. Personally I would stick with the Linux applications :)

    There is a VAST amount of software available for Linux available from within Synaptic - e.g.

    Rosegarden (Music Editing)

    Hydrogen (Drum Machine)

    GNUCash (like Microsoft Money)

    AVIDemux (Video Editing )

    Audacity (Sound Editing)

    MythTV (complete Multimedia Centre - much better than Microsoft Media Center!)

    Welcome to OUR community :) and I hope after a few weeks/months of happy usage you can spread the news to other people :)

  • Comment number 99.

    Hi Shlyder (re #98)

    These is a bug in FlashBlock with Firefox 3.5.x on Linux but not Firefox 3.5.x on Windows. The recommended work around is to use the previous version 1.5.10 (for now) which seems to work fine. This bug just seems to stop FlashBlock unblocking YouTube on Linux/Firefox 3.5.x.

  • Comment number 100.

    A bit late I know, but I've only just read the article. I'm not tecnically minded, but can do basic functions on my computer. My 76 year old mother wanted to get a laptop that she could use without having to ask for help all the time. She had never used a computer, or even a keyboard. She has just invested in Simplicity computer. She was able to set the whole thing up for herself and install the wifi with the help of the amazing helpline who told her where to find every key! I live 2 hundred miles away and it's great that she can have a tutorial when she feels like it and doesn't need to consult children or granchildren for help. So actually it's not patronising at all as she can be totally independent. It does everything she wants and more. Yes, it was expensive, but that may be because of the small numbers involved and the fact that it it works straight from the box. My mother was emailing and surfing the web within hours, all by herself. She couldn't care less what the operating system is. This scheme has given her access to a whole new world. If eventually she finds it limiting, then we'll deal with it then. For now she's delighted with her achievements. Not all older people want to "be set up" or "started off" on a cheap or second-hand or older machine by their children or grandchildren. Now that really is patronising!


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