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Windows on the Desktop?

Started: 2003-12-11 19:20:56

Submitted: 2003-12-11 20:06:42

Visibility: World-readable

I'm sitting in the back of Fleming Law room 103, listening to a presentation of the glories of mortal geeks doing contracting from Uptime Group, Inc. Shortly after walking in the room (after sitting in the wrong room at first) the conversation digressed from the presentation into the merits of Linux on the desktop. (Whenever anyone asks "Is Linux ready for the desktop?" I have to ask, "Is Windows ready for the desktop?") This reminded me of a running computing issue in my parents' household. Now that I've finally gotten Nimitz (almost) up and running, the question arises about what to do about my mother's computing needs.

Astute readers may recall that Gem and I acquired MacOS X for my mother's iMac for her birthday. In the middle of November, I headed over to my parents' house and attempted to upgrade her. I was successful in installing the MacOS 9.2 upgrade (the first step, since she was running the ancient MacOS 8.4; the upgrade involved updating the Mac equivalent to the BIOS), but as I was configuring its network access (and getting annoyed that it wasn't giving me the option to use a DHCP server) when the screen started flickering. I was a little concerned by this and attempted to speed through the process when the entire system died. I hit the power button and nothing happened. I poked through the manual and Mom's iMacs for Dummies and found nothing worthwhile. The problem failed to correct itself. Willy's magic touch wasn't sufficient to resurrect the computer, so Mom took her iMac to CompUSA and paid US$120 for the privilege of having them look at it. Apparently something catastrophic happened and it'd cost hundreds of dollars to replace the relevant boards. A new eMac starts at US$800, and new Wintel machines are even cheaper. The thought of properly configuring an XP Home machine for my mother so it doesn't shout "ROOT ME! ROOT ME!" as loud as possible makes my head hurt.

All my mother wants to do with her computer is everything everyone's mother, aunt, and grandmother wants to do with their computers:

  1. E-mail
  2. Web
  3. Web processing, at least once a month
  4. Some obscure little application for which no good Linux equivalent exists

For (1) and (2), I'd set my mother up with Mozilla regardless of the platform. Word and OpenOffice would work equally well for (3), except for the fact that all of my mother's existing documents are in some obscure Mac Works format that I've never seen elsewhere. My mother set up a address database into which she entered everyone she sends Christmas cards to. I'm sufficiently confident we could walk into Best Buy and walk out with a US$25 box to do the job for Windows (if we couldn't find some suitable shareware/freeware application), but I haven't looked yet at her requirements and what Linux applications might be suitable for it.

I'm tempted to set my mother up with a login on the newly-resurrected Nimitz to see how she does for a couple of weeks. I'm still a little dubious about my ability to extract my mother's data from the zip files I dumped onto Defiant; ideally, I'd like to get my hands on the iMac's IDE hard drive, plug it into Ziyal, and mount it. To run my iPod, I even have Mac partition scheme and HFS+ support in my kernel.

(Memo to self: Check out OpenVPN. The author is local, so I'm told, and frequently shows up to Hacking Society.)

(Other memo to self: Read the book I got a BLUG last month and review it. Free books are good.)