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Simple, lightweight Linux

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January 14, 2010 5:52:05 PM

Hi. My grandma has a pretty old Dell laptop. It has a celeron and 512MB ram. Not exactly a powerhouse, but it's good enough for internet and e-mail. I don't know anything about Linux about how heavy it is. I'm a Linux noob to be honest.

My grandma has difficulty dealing with XP. There are just too many icons and options and other stuff in the screen. Even with a clean desktop, the whole windows interface with the start menu and all is just a bit too much for her. She never touched a computer in her life, and now there are all these endless options. To us, it's a natural thing. For her, it's alien technology. I spent half an hour to explain what the close, minimize and maximize buttons do, and she still doesn't really get it.

I've seen some Linux installs on netbooks that were really really simple. Just a few big icons for the few programs that were on there. It was devided in tabs. Under "Internet" there was Firefox, E-mail, Skype etc. Under "office", there were office programs. I'm looking for something like that, as simple as possible. The less the better. Is there a downloadable Linux distribution that's like that? Or a program that I can install on Windows that's like that?
a b 5 Linux
January 14, 2010 6:53:24 PM

The interface you're describing sounds like the customized xandros Linux distribution found on ASUS EEE netbooks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xandros

The full xandros uses KDE and doesn't have the tab interface.

Xandros doesn't have a very good reputation in the Linux world.

Fedora running sugar for the OLPC also has a simplified interface give that a try first.

http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora

http://spins.fedoraproject.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_%28desktop_environme...

Linux is very customizable but you'll probably have to do some tweaking to get the exact interface you want.

Good luck :) 
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January 14, 2010 10:03:13 PM

I'm sorry. If I understand you correctly, the user interface is a seperate part of the linux install?

Like I said, I'm a total noobie.

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January 15, 2010 12:43:22 AM

Ah wait, now I get it. Hehe.
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a b 5 Linux
January 15, 2010 2:02:39 AM

Linux gives you the option to use a variety of GUI's, you'll probably want to try out the 3 major ones, Gnome, KDE and XFCE but there's many more.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNOME

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KDE

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XFCE

XFCE is the fastest and most lightweight

There's a lot more here http://xwinman.org/

On Linux the GUI is optional and you're free to install different GUIs, window managers or themes and customize it any way you want.

I'm not sure how good aquatic sugar is because I've never tried it but it looks promising.

It should be reasonably easy to get fedora and install sugar or aquatic sugar on top or just use one of the default GUIs.

Ubuntu is good too but I'm not sure how good it is with sugar. A while back Fedora with sugar was the official OLPC operating system so it was pretty well integrated at that time.

Wikipedia and google have plenty of screenshots that you'll want to check out.

The tabbed interface is proprietary on the EEE PC I'm not sure if there's an open alternative.

Even xandros itself uses the standard KDE interface.

Keep the questions coming.

Good luck :) 
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a b 5 Linux
January 16, 2010 10:28:20 PM

May I make an alternative suggestion. The Ubuntu netbook remix is WAAAAaaaay better than that xandros crud on the EeePC. I think it might be just what you are looking for and would run fine on that HW, it's really just an eee with a big screen.

The best bit is that the interface is the default and all the Ubuntu goodies can be had behind the scenes.
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January 20, 2010 12:33:42 PM

OK, my 2cents.
Linux Mint runs fine on my netbook and you can set the menu so she can only see the favorites you select. Desktop is clean by default, you can easily set programs to run on startup (rightclick menu) and most codecs are built in (I didn't have to install flash).
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a b 5 Linux
January 20, 2010 5:38:15 PM

Does your netbook have only a celeron cpu and 512Mb of ram? Media viewing was not listed as a requirement by the OP.
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a b 5 Linux
January 21, 2010 6:46:03 AM

Well we can presume so, at some point.
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a b 5 Linux
January 21, 2010 5:26:22 PM

And the repository, at some point, can provide.
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January 23, 2010 8:42:13 AM

My grandparents uses Gentoo Linux. I built the system on my computer. I use Gentoo linux for many years, together it took me a few hours to setup it, however my computer worked it on 2 days to compile everything. I set C optimizations to -Os so Gentoo optimized nearly everything for size which is usually faster on older CPUs and also the applications are smaller so it uses somewhat less memory.
It is also and intel celeron, it has 64+128+256=448MB ram. I bought a Geforce 2 MX400 video card. It is incredible: my gradma has a 22" new LCD display and she use 1920x1200 resultion. Google Earth works perfectly but if both Google Earth and Firefox runnig it is a bit slow as it run out of memory. I gave her a webcam and they use Skype to phone her friends.
I isntaled XFCE desktop environment as it is easy to use and it use less memory and runs faster than a Gnome or a KDE. You can also try LXDE, I think is uses less resources and also user friendly. I also installed notecase it easy to use and good to write a recipe book.
They also like the weather forecast panel applet. I installed Stellarium it is also interesting. Comiz Fusion also works well (on 1920x1200 resultion) but Google Earth is a but slower so I turned it off. They don't like games and never play even solitare or mineswapper, but use Firefox or GoogleEarth all the time.
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January 29, 2010 11:42:21 PM

All she does is checking her mail, viewing digital photo's and surfing the web every now and then. That's it.

Thanks for the suggestions fella's! Lots of stuff for me to look into.
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February 1, 2010 2:47:45 PM

If you want the simplistic interface, I strongly recommend, as someone has already mentioned, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, as it's more or less the same as Xandros but better (and easier to obtain to my view). It has the big chunky icons and tabs, and I recommend that you uninstall any applications she is unlikely to use.

Maybe Xubuntu with massive icons would be sufficient too, especially since it's an older PC.
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a b 5 Linux
February 3, 2010 5:47:11 PM

Xandros = Utter junk. It's the Microsoft Bob of the Linux world.
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