Andrew Brown has an interesting piece in the Guardian…
It seems a terrible shame to throw away perfectly good old computers just because they won’t run a modern version of Windows. What we need is a Granny Linux, something that is safe from both malice at one end of the modem cable and bafflement at the other.
I think I may have found it, in the form of Xubuntu (xubuntu.org), a version of Ubuntu Linux that runs on small and old computers.
Malice is not a real problem. Linux has been pretty secure against hackers for years now. The trouble is that until recently it was just as secure against normal users.
Even now the only form of Unix that’s really sensible for untechnical people is Apple’s Mac OS X, and with a reasonable budget I wouldn’t hesitate to get a Mac mini as Granny’s internet appliance.
But an old machine, which would otherwise run Windows 98, costs essentially nothing, and is quite likely to run one of the Debian-type Linuxes.
The easiest of these to install is probably Ubuntu, but the common versions of it demand quite modern hardware.
The only one that will run, or even install, on 64MB of memory seems to be Xubuntu, which uses the XFCE desktop. It does not look much like Windows and, until recently, could not put icons on the desktop. Instead, they lived on a taskbar.
But that’s no disadvantage for a Granny Linux. After all, how many icons does a typewriter have?
A Granny computer will only be asked to do two things, so it should have at most three icons - one to read and write email, one to write letters and one to look at the web.
This is in fact 50% more icons than the ideal Granny desktop. That would only have two icons: one to read letters, and one to write them. Whether Granny printed or emailed the letters would be a later decision.
I expect he will get lots of irate emails from grandmothers, but he makes an interesting point about Xubuntu.
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