A true test of Ubuntu: Setting it up for the parents in 2 hours

August 11th, 2010 Comments Off

So yesterday I got a desperate call from the folks — Windows got gunked with adware, viruses and other forms of badness and dad couldn’t use it to work from home anymore. So, after work i got on a train and headed back to the ‘rents for some quality computer troubleshooting family time.

My instinct is usually to throw such a computer out the window and start over from scratch with a more…. Free… Operating system. I gave a go at cleaning it anyway and spent 30 minutes playing the usual hide and seek game with the malware. I got rid of most of it, including all the annoying popups, but things like control panel applets still wouldn’t open. I also got the worst headache of my life and wanted to shoot myself in the foot.

So I decided to go with what my gut told me from the getgo. Whipped out a usb key, backed up the important data, pulled out he livecd and got ready to start from scratch.

Lets see just what we’re getting into:

  • Mom has an iPhone. She likes to buy music on iTunes and must have her contacts, music and photos synced with the desktop.
  • Mom also needs Google Chrome as thats what she has used to get her aol mail for years.
  • Dad has a blackberry. He just wants everything, including contacts, backed up and his phone to charge over usb.
  • Both mom and dad need to be able to print and scan from the big HP multiwhatever thing that’s on their desk.

Install worked wonderfully. It’s quiet satisfying to tell the partitioning tool to “use the whole disk and wipe out any old operating systems”. 15 minutes later we’re in the desktop and I start the install, configure, google for help cycle.

Chrome is easy, a one click install and IO can drag the icon to the desktop for high”findability”.

Next, printing. This was completely automatic and ‘just worked’ out of the box. Awesome.

Next, iPhone. I hate these things. Anyway, first thought was to plug it in then try rhythm box. No dice. A quick google turns up that the device first needs to be unlocked before i can plug it in. Easy enough. Plugged it in again and now RB shows the phone, nice. I select all the files on the phone and drag them to the ‘music’ folder, it starts copying. Cool. I do the same thing to see what happens, and i get an endless cycle of popup dialogs asking me about overwriting files. Not good. Bug filed for poor User Experience.

F-spot also automatically showed up and offered to backup all the photos. Worked perfectly.

Ok, mom taken care of, blackberry time. Some quick googling found me this¬†barrysync thing, which seemed simple enough. A quick apt-get later and ive got a really dinky looking app sitting on my screen which says no devices found, bummer. I did a bunch of googling, no dice. In desperation i went for the windows option — a reboot. Upon return to the land of the living the app actually found the device! Click ‘backup’ and 15 seconds later everything is backed up. I think.

All in all Ubuntu was able to meet the needs of my parents on day one with virtually no pain or terminal work whatsoever. ¬†We’ll see how long they stay happy.