Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mombuntu - Ubuntu For Your Mom!

image You might be wondering why I am suggesting an Linux distro for your mom. Well Linux is no longer the stronghold of geeks. Distros like Ubuntu have made using

Linux as simple as using Windows. Here are reasons why Ubuntu will be perfect for your mom, who's needs are basic.

The reasons are:

1. Ubuntu is one of the easiest OS to master: Your mom will be soon at ease with the new environment.

2. Security: With Windows there is always the constant threat of viruses, Trojans and malware. This coupled with the fact that online transaction is a daily necessity, if users are not careful hackers may get access to sensitive information like bank passwords. With Linux there is almost '0' threat of any virus related problem.

3. Simplicity: As a Windows user I used to always roll my eyes when ever Mac users used to quack about 'Mac's simplicity' as one of its virtues. However since using Ubuntu I now crave for the same clean and simple desktop on Windows.

4. Hardware: Ubuntu can run nice with as little as 256 MB worth RAM. Also after installing drivers for video cards Compiz makes Ubuntu 100 times cooler than Vista.

5. Games: Your mom doesn't play Crysis, does she? However she definitely plays minesweeper and other such games. Ubuntu has many such small games and many more games can be downloaded for free.

Here are steps to make your mom's transition to Ubuntu as painless as possible and create Mombuntu in the process.

1. Create icons on the desktop with titles like "Internet" (for the web browser), "Word" (for Open Office), "E-mail", etc. Install Envy, it is a one click approach to install drivers for Graphics card from nVidia and ATI. Bless the guy who made Envy.

2. Install VLC. VLC is the worlds best video player. It can play any damn file format you throw at it, it even plays .iso files. .iso is the file which nero burns on CDs.

3. Ubuntu by default doesn't play proprietary video, audio formats like MP3, Avi, and pretty much every format you are used to, I don't know why but that's the way it is. To get the necessary codecs to play these type of file formats browse to one of your MP3 songs and try playing it with Rhythmbox or Totem. A new box will come up telling you that the required codecs are not available and that it can search the internet for them. Click yes. After some time you will find three codec packs. Tick mark all and wait for the installer to do its work. Now Ubuntu will play any kind of media you throw at it.

4. Mail Notifier: Install mail notifier for you Ubuntu. If you use Gmail I'd highly recommend you to use CheckGmail it is the best mail notifier on any OS. Its even better than the official Gmail notifier for Windows (Use Synaptic to install it. System-> Administration-> Synaptic). You can setup Evolution to check your mail too.

5. Set up all messenger accounts in Pidgin. Its the best chat app. Pidgin houses all chat programs like MSN messenger, Gtalk, Yahoo and ICQ under one roof. Remove the top panel if your mom has been using accustomed to Windows. Set the application menu in the lower panel.

6. Now Open Office is a nice alternative to MS Office however the default format is .odf so if your mom tries sending some document to some one on a Windows PC, the guy at other end won't be able to read them. So rather than explaining your mom the difference between .doc and .odf do this: Open Open Office, next click on 'Tools' and then click on 'Options'. Next click on Load/Save options and then change the default setting to .doc.

You might want to install Abiword it is a light weight alternative to Open Office. Don't forget to change the default file format to .doc.

7. Install Wine and add those Windows apps which are indispensable.

8. Make Ubuntu auto login by doing this:

System -> Administration -> Login Screen Setup ->Security Tab and then check mark on the 'Enable Automatic Login' box.

9. Get her an account at Ubuntu Forums and tell her to email you or post a thread on the site. Adding few geeks as friend will speed things up. Add them as friend and get their email address. Add them in contacts with 'Ubuntu Help' as the name. Make her send her problems to that email address :-P

10. Keep automatic system updates on.

That's it you have created your own Mombuntu. A perfect gift for Mother's day!

If you have any suggestion, please add them in the comments.


  1. The reason Ubuntu ( and for that matter most Linux distributions )
    do not play audio and video formats like WMV, WMA, MP3, and such out of the box is that in order to make a licensed and thus "legal" ( depending in what country you live ) decoder for playback developers must pay a licensing fee, and for people that get paid little to nothing which is more often than not when it comes to GNU/Linux operating systems paying fees that can be in the 10s of thousands to millions is imposable.

  2. 1) I agree, icons on the desktop. But Envy? Your mom needs the latest and greatest drivers that are newer in Ubuntu? I don't think so...

    2, 3) Yeah, that's a legal problem, not that they're refusing to include them. To get around you can check out

    4) Depends on your mom I suppose.

    The rest, look good too. You would want to show her the new shut down way though and the (much cleaner and more organized) Applications menu also.

  3. @vadim peretokin
    I suggested Envy mainly for Compiz.
    Everyone loves eyecandy :)

  4. But you don't need it. System - Administration - Hardware Drivers does it :)

    (in fact, it gives you an automatic notification when you install to enable them if you can)

  5. If mom knows how to use messenger I supose that's not necesary to change apps names to 'internet' and so on.

    I've a nephew, 4 yo, working perfectly with a KDE4 installation; knows how to use internet (konq or firefox), use bookmarks, add plasmoids, move them, resize them and switch off the computer!. I don't think that's necesary to do all you recomend but sit down, explain the basic and leave people work out the rest. That simple.

  6. I can verify: it is true. I switched my mom to GNU/Linux, and she loves it.

    BTW - For number 5, solitaire is the only one that matters :)

  7. I installed Ubuntu for my mom. She doesn't know how to program the VCR but she sure know how to play AisleRiot Soliatire now. :)

  8. I strongly recommend Envy - the newer drivers are frequently less buggy than the "official" Ubuntu ones. For example, on my laptop, when I first installed Heron, I couldn't close it without the screen going blank and never waking up until reboot. Install Envy, update my Nvidia drivers, and now everything works like a champ.

    In the Windows world, updated drivers focus on features and performance. In the Linux world, they seem to focus more on bug fixes. You want bug fixes.

  9. Save yourself some hassle with those mp3 files and other patented stuff - just install ubuntu-restricted-extras. Installs java plugin, flash, dvd playback, a bunch of codecs and some ms fonts (although I prefer "ttf-liberation").

  10. Only problem is, what happens when Mom goes to the software store and buys that great new application that syncs with her electronic sewing machine (don't laugh, my mom did just that.) Or when she goes to the store and buys that money management program (insert your favorite crapware here.)

    She'll end up calling me, and I'll have to drive an hour to install something for her, or in the case of the electronic sewing machine app, tell her that it doesn't work with linux. Sorry, love my Mom, but I'm not driving an hour every weekend there and an hour back to get stuff working. It's silly. If she runs windows with AVG and a firewall, she's plenty safe. She doesn't surf sites (like the porn sites) that are cluttered with viruses. She doesn't download anything. She emails, surfs, and sews. She needs windows for the sewing thing though.

    I wish that she could use Ubuntu, though. Then I wouldn't have to field the BSOD calls, *sigh*.

  11. Oh, and how could I forget iTunes. She definitely needs iTunes to get her country music fix and to sync it with her iPod.

  12. Hi! :-)

    The only thing I can't see, in this marvelous intro, is a file-sharing application (p2p, torrent client).

    My own mom, has a strong need for file sharing! :-)

  13. "Mom" (85) has been using Ubuntu for over two years, "Nothing ever goes wrong anymore!" And, it was made to look just like her old Windows desktop.

  14. @dOdBoi
    Amarok is the best music player. Songbird looks almost like iTunes. And if you are so desperate iTunes can be made to run on Ubuntu using Wine!
    Also there are many other softwares which allow you to sync your iPod.
    Your mom isn't alone! :)

  15. @Anonymous
    Ubuntu comes with an easy to use yet powerful application called Transmission. Your mom might like it. Also using Wine she can use Utorrent.
    It works equally well in Linux.

  16. File sharing is a live and well with Ubuntu. You can use Amule and Frostwire to cover most p2p clients. You can get Ares and Shareaza to work with Wine, if you are a real file junkie. Torrents work well and there are many clients. My favourite is Deluge. You can also get files from usenet, using Pan or Knode. Your biggest problem will be where to store all of the files and bandwidth throttling, rather than Linux deficiencies.
    Ubuntu is great. I use it. But it isn't the most newbie friendly. There is the issue of restricted drivers and codecs which has been mentioned, but also it does not come with all of the tools that many distros offer for doing simple tasks. Instead, Ubuntu relies on Gnome or KDE supply their tools.
    In contrast, Mint, SimplyMEPIS, Mandriva and PCLOS come with many tools that simplify tasks such as setting up hardware, re-writing grub, and configuring the computer. I am not suggesting users use other distros, just that Ubuntu is not the most user friendly distro out there.
    Many people see Ubuntu as an entry level distro, but this only leads to the kinds of problems mentioned and confusion on the part of newbies. If people viewed Ubuntu as an intermediate level distro then this would avoid some unnecessary confusion.

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  19. Bkagm, run momdebian instead. My mom has succesfully run Debian over two years now. And she knows bnothing about computers, but no problems at all.


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