Home | Blog | Software | Reviews and Features | Forum | Help | Donate | About us
topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • December 07, 2016, 02:46:53 AM
  • Proudly celebrating 10 years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Author Topic: Linux vs. Vista for an absolute beginner? (+related Vista/hardware query)  (Read 10012 times)

tomos

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 10,325
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Two and a half questions ... sort of :)

1) How would Linux ("Linpus" it's called) be for an absolute beginner (more or less) as compared to Vista

2) Would the specs of laptop below be comfortable with Vista (VHB) for basic use ?

3) there's also the aspect that I'll get called on if there's a problem - while I might cope with Vista, I've never used Linux so have no idea how that might be


they want to buy this - they dont even know (or understand) about the Linux option yet
-
Acer Extensa 5230E-581G16 CM585 1GB 160GB 15.4" WXGA non-glare TFT
Celeron-M 585 2.16GHz
1024MB Speicher
160GB Festplatte
DVD+/-RW DL
Intel GMA X4500HD (IGP) max.1759MB shared memory
USB 2.0/Modem/Gb LAN/WLAN 802.11bg
PCMCIA Typ II und ExpressCard/54 Slot
Card Reader
15.4" WXGA non-glare TFT (1280x800)
Windows Vista Home Basic
-
Seems like a good deal for just over €400 but I'm afraid Vista might be too much for this machine?
so another option would be
-
Acer Extensa 5230-571G16_Linux
15,4 Zoll WXGA Notebook
Intel Celeron M575 2,0GHz,
1GB RAM,
160GB HDD,
Intel GMA 4500MHD,
DVD +/-RW DL,
Linux (Linpus)
-
for €70 cheaper

Considering I'm the person who'll be helping them out in times of trouble but also with learning word-processing and internets
and keeping in mind I'm no expert in windows but generally just research if there's a problem.
:-\ There's also Acer's very poor reputation for service and more importantly repair but I couldnt find any other similar size laptop at that price

Any opinions ?
- better to go for the Vista or the Linpus Linus ?
Damn, they've a flash site so I cant link to the page - how stupid. This page is as near as I can get if you want to look - it's the Extensa 5230)
thanks!
Tom

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,044
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
My absolute beginners prefer Linux.

My non-technophiles who have used Windows (XP or earlier) don't like Vista, but don't particularly like Linux either. A bit of an unlearning curve for them either way.

Easier to manage security aspects on Linux because the number of threats is so much lower (beginners/tenchophobes generally aren't the best at updating AVs etc and get fed up with the intrusions).

I'd say go with what you know unless you are interested in learning what you don't. Otherwise I'd go for Linux except for those who will have exposure to Windows progs elsewhere that they might like to use but can't. Powerpoint is better than the OO equiv, but my user who doesn't like that does not want to give up lots of Linux progs and does not want to switch to Windows, though would be happy(ish) with dual boot option. I'm the one who would least like to give up Windows completely because I have so many little apps that I don't want to give up; beginners don't really care as long as the computer will do what they want.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 36,408
    • View Profile
    • Mouser's Software Zone on DonationCoder.com
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
I think you are wise to focus on the issue of how YOU are going to help them when they run into trouble.  I'd be hesitant setting anyone up on a computer that used an OS i didn't know if i was going to be doing support for them. That suggests setting them up with the OS that *you* are most comfortable with.

f0dder

  • Charter Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 9,029
  • [Well, THAT escalated quickly!]
    • View Profile
    • f0dder's place
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
For absolute computer-newbies with limited needs, both linux and windows would be fine (as long as hardware is properly supported) - however, if you don't have enough linux knowledge to support them, linux might not be a wise choice. The linux "community" is not newbie-friendly, and too often you'll get replies like "rtfm" (hah, if there was any decent docs) or "you have the source, fix it". Frequently, too technical terms are also used. Add to the top of that that most "normal" people run windows, which could result in your non-techs getting exposure to (and wanting to run) windows-only applications.

The specs sound pretty OK for Vista, btw. RAM might be a bit in the low end, but I don't suppose they're going to be heavy users. Run the thing through vLite and they should be OK :)
- carpe noctem

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
3) there's also the aspect that I'll get called on if there's a problem - while I might cope with Vista, I've never used Linux so have no idea how that might be

End of discussion. Spare yourself a lot of grief. Have them go with Vista. 8)

The specs sound pretty OK for Vista, btw. RAM might be a bit in the low end, but I don't suppose they're going to be heavy users. Run the thing through vLite and they should be OK :)

+1 with f0dder on that. :Thmbsup:



mrainey

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
    • View Profile
    • Website
    • Donate to Member
Quote
"you have the source, fix it"

 ;D
Software For Metalworking
http://closetolerancesoftware.com

Lutz_

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 229
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Currently you can get better spec'd Acer aptops for $400 at Bestbuy and Newegg for example.  I bought one two weeks ago - bigger hard drive, 2GB memory ( a single stick), core duo pentium, draft-N-wireless, etc......
And of course go with the OS that you know best yourself.

mrainey

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 436
    • View Profile
    • Website
    • Donate to Member
I recently bought an Acer Aspire One netbook, and I made sure to get one with XP installed.  It worked just great right out of the box.  It's stable and almost as fast as my standard laptop.

On the very active Aspire forum, I'd say 90+ percent of the problem reports are coming from people who are using some variation of Linux.

Not saying there's a connection ...

http://www.aspireone....com/forum/index.php

Software For Metalworking
http://closetolerancesoftware.com

MilesAhead

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2009
  • **
  • Posts: 7,285
    • View Profile
    • Miles Ahead Software
    • Donate to Member
Generally my experience has been that Windows breaks and fixes easier.. and installs stuff easier.  Linux is harder to install stuff, rarely breaks, but if it does, it may require a lot more knowledge to fix.  So, if your newbies are going to run a fixed set of programs and that's all, then Linux probably won't break once set up.  Just use one of the journaling file systems and make sure it has battery backup(in the case of desktop PCs that is.)  If you are going to let the newbies try installing packages on whim, forget it!!  You'll be ripping your hair out!!

Either way if you can image their partitions and lock them away then a fix will be proportional to the time required to lay the backup image back on. ;)

« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 05:31:57 PM by MilesAhead »

Paul Keith

  • Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 1,982
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
IMO, I don't get why you don't just put XP with specs like those.

If I were an absolute beginner, I'd probably start with having an OS that has a folder in the desktop titled help with .txt or .rtf (set to open with wordpad) on it with basic stuff. Even better if there's video files.

I really feel that the .chm files or whatever people call it is just containing too small to read texts that has a hard to get documentation because it relies on searching and trees.

My ideal OS would probably be a Linux distro based on Ubuntu like Linux Mint on a Gnome set up with a pre-configured XP on Virtualbox with basic instructions on how to move files between each other and a guide as to how to explain the slicing of RAM when running virtualized environment as well as to check how much RAM your current programs are eating up before activating XP.

Then I'd probably try to have all Linux documentation help set as bookmarks under Firefox in a folder called help. Even better if you can be allowed to set up extensions for it and just set it up as a speed dialled homepage. I'd also make sure if there's duplicate programs on it, that there is a .txt file somewhere that explains what one does better than the other.

Dormouse

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,044
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
On the very active Aspire forum, I'd say 90+ percent of the problem reports are coming from people who are using some variation of Linux.

Not saying there's a connection ...
It might be that their implementation of Linux isn't what it ought to be - the reports I've seen of Linux installations on netbooks makes them sound a bit idiosyncratic, and that's the last thing you want with Linux where you're much better off being with a bigger crowd if your not technically adept.

OTOH, 90%+ users will probably be coming from Windows - and Linux doesn't work the same.

cranioscopical

  • Friend of the Site
  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 4,367
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Boy!  I've seldom seen a unanimous response like this to a question here (or anywhere else).
All good, sound advice with partisan leanings set aside in favour of informed common sense based on the situation described.

 :up:  :up:  :up:

tomos

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • ***
  • Posts: 10,325
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Boy!  I've seldom seen a unanimous response like this to a question here (or anywhere else).
All good, sound advice with partisan leanings set aside in favour of informed common sense based on the situation described.

 :up:  :up:  :up:


hear hear -
I've been away for the day and just just passing through now - it's great to get such a bunch of good & helpful responses -
thanks all :Thmbsup:

so, the verdict is clear in favour of windows - makes good sense to me -
btw, I'd prefer XP but cant get it with that laptop here
@Lutz_ unfortunately newegg etc isnt an option for me here in germany ;)

Tom

f0dder

  • Charter Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 9,029
  • [Well, THAT escalated quickly!]
    • View Profile
    • f0dder's place
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Quote
IMO, I don't get why you don't just put XP with specs like those.
Probably because Vista comes standard with laptops today, and XP is usually an extra expense? Besides, Vista isn't as bad as a lot of people claim (after all, I'm still running it after my 30-day immersion experiment).

Quote
I really feel that the .chm files or whatever people call it is just containing too small to read texts that has a hard to get documentation because it relies on searching and trees.
Too small to read? depends on the font size used. And if the index tree is done properly, it's much easier to use than Ctrl+F'ing through a large text document (and besides, you still have full-text search with .chm - win/win).

Quote
My ideal OS would probably be a Linux distro based on Ubuntu like Linux Mint on a Gnome set up with a pre-configured XP on Virtualbox with basic instructions on how to move files between each other and a guide as to how to explain the slicing of RAM when running virtualized environment as well as to check how much RAM your current programs are eating up before activating XP.
For absolute beginners? O_o - bad idea. I wouldn't dare anything like that with non-powerusers. Even people that have been using computers for 10+ years but never took it beyond what they need for the office would be confused by this kind of setup.
- carpe noctem

MilesAhead

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2009
  • **
  • Posts: 7,285
    • View Profile
    • Miles Ahead Software
    • Donate to Member
Hmmmmmm, when you think of it, for absolute beginners to enjoy using the machine your should probably get them a Mac.  Anything Dos, Windows, OS/2 or Linux based, they will have to Learn lots of stuff to use it well.  I remember when I got my first PC running Dos 3.1 I got bored typing "dir <enter>" and watching file names scroll up, very quickly.  It had a word processor so that's what made it useful until I started doing programs with GWBasic.  But most people don't really want to become programmers or system administrators.

You can get more PC for the buck but the "price" is learning curve.

Darwin

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 6,984
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
The specs sound pretty OK for Vista, btw. RAM might be a bit in the low end, but I don't suppose they're going to be heavy users. Run the thing through vLite and they should be OK :)

DDR2 RAM is ridiculously cheap anyway... My two bits are to go with Vista and install a second stick of RAM, preferably 2GB. Vista Sp-1 is sweet with 3GB RAM...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Paul Keith

  • Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 1,982
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Probably because Vista comes standard with laptops today, and XP is usually an extra expense? Besides, Vista isn't as bad as a lot of people claim (after all, I'm still running it after my 30-day immersion experiment).

True but you're still left with an underpowered PC compared to XP with those specs.

Quote
Too small to read? depends on the font size used. And if the index tree is done properly, it's much easier to use than Ctrl+F'ing through a large text document (and besides, you still have full-text search with .chm - win/win).

See, that's the thing. You don't make large text documents. You create a .txt for each specific option. Often times proper folder hierarchy goes a long way. The only time you need .chm files is if you want to bleed your eyes out learning the ins and outs of the program and even then, rarely are they as useful as a book specifically for it. These are newbies we are talking about. Most of them won't have a problem with Linux if they all just rtfm or in this case rtf.chm. Of course this doesn't happen often enough though.

Often times they just want to find a small option located in a small .txt file where it gives them a clue as to what they should do. Win-win situation would still to have small .txt files there since they're light on memory anyways and have .chm for people who prefer it that way.

Quote
For absolute beginners? O_o - bad idea. I wouldn't dare anything like that with non-powerusers. Even people that have been using computers for 10+ years but never took it beyond what they need for the office would be confused by this kind of setup.

I think it would be even worse if you're on Linux and then you need a Windows program and wine can't emulate it well. Also remember that the Ubuntu model is much simpler to learn than XP. It both has a GUI installation guide from LiveCD and an actual LiveCD. You're also not bound to get infected by viruses because you tried connecting to the internet before installing an AV ESPECIALLY with newbies who don't know how prone to viruses Windows machine are.

I think it would only confuse them because there's a myth that people can't switch programs but it's actually not true. Often times, people just don't explore and the options aren't handed to them via clear .txts folders on the desktop kind of stuff.

Ubuntu/Mint though has some of the friendliest user interfaces especially when tweaked. Out of the box, the problem often does not come from the OS themselves but understanding how OpenOffice file formatting works in conjunction with MS Office file format.

File managers though, Nautilus is as easy but slower than Explorer. I'd personally install PCMan file manager for simplicity. File hierarchy, Linux for casual users is much easier to get because it's all in the user folder often and there's a software repository. Internet browsing still, Linux is on par especially later on when you can remove IE where the only flaw is flash slowdown.

Now combine this with virtualbox and people can start comparing two OS's side by side and learn the ins and outs of both to an average extent that when they do need to use a PC with another OS, they're not screwed. (This would also be my criticism with people using Macs primarily from an OS newbie standpoint)

All in all, Linux allows these people the freedom to learn some complex power-user habits without screwing them up while it allows people a good introduction to how Windows works and it's actually easier in the long run to go from complicated to less complicated than reverse so these users also aren't screwed out of their money by buying an OS.

f0dder

  • Charter Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 9,029
  • [Well, THAT escalated quickly!]
    • View Profile
    • f0dder's place
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Quote
True but you're still left with an underpowered PC compared to XP with those specs.
Dunno about that, really. I don't find Vista to be very CPU-draining, and x4500HD is (more than!) enough for running Aero pleasantly. The only thing a bit on the low end is the RAM, but that isn't a problem either - I'd even say it's a non-issue for people who aren't going to run anything heavy. I do appreciate 2GB in my laptop, but then again that's used for Eclipse, VS2008, SQL Server 2005 et cetera - a bit more than casual web browsing and some text editing ;)

Quote
See, that's the thing. You don't make large text documents. You create a .txt for each specific option. Often times proper folder hierarchy goes a long way. The only time you need .chm files is if you want to bleed your eyes out learning the ins and outs of the program and even then, rarely are they as useful as a book specifically for it. These are newbies we are talking about. Most of them won't have a problem with Linux if they all just rtfm or in this case rtf.chm. Of course this doesn't happen often enough though.
Navigating folder hierarchy, opening text files, and using filemanager "find in files" to look for a topic is easier than HtmlHelp? O_o

As for RTFM, that's really not something I'd expect being helpful for newbie on linux. The documentation there is often pretty bad, and definitely written with power users programmers in mind.

Quote
I think it would be even worse if you're on Linux and then you need a Windows program and wine can't emulate it well. Also remember that the Ubuntu model is much simpler to learn than XP. It both has a GUI installation guide from LiveCD and an actual LiveCD. You're also not bound to get infected by viruses because you tried connecting to the internet before installing an AV ESPECIALLY with newbies who don't know how prone to viruses Windows machine are.

1) if you need to run windows programs on linux, you have failed and might as well run windows.
2) newbies won't be installing the OS themselves.
3) limited user account on XP or Vista (with UAC love), windows' own firewall enabled, and "virus what me worry?". If tomos adds a free AV and firefox w/adblockplus to the mix, even better.

Yeah sure, linux has come a long way and the recent distros are relatively friendly, as long as you only need to do bog-standard stuff. I wager that, knowing their needs, I could put my mother or grandmother on linux - partially because they don't need much stuff, and more importantly because I'm familiar enough with linux to troubleshoot. But I'd still go for Windows, because it's less hassle and there's a lot more people with windows experience to help out.

Considering that tomos says he doesn't have linux experience at all, I'd say the choice is a no-brainer.
- carpe noctem

Paul Keith

  • Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 1,982
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Dunno about that, really. I don't find Vista to be very CPU-draining, and x4500HD is (more than!) enough for running Aero pleasantly. The only thing a bit on the low end is the RAM, but that isn't a problem either - I'd even say it's a non-issue for people who aren't going to run anything heavy. I do appreciate 2GB in my laptop, but then again that's used for Eclipse, VS2008, SQL Server 2005 et cetera - a bit more than casual web browsing and some text editing ;)

Yes, but then you're starting to define the user now rather than optimize it for the user.

Quote
Navigating folder hierarchy, opening text files, and using filemanager "find in files" to look for a topic is easier than HtmlHelp? O_o

As for RTFM, that's really not something I'd expect being helpful for newbie on linux. The documentation there is often pretty bad, and definitely written with power users programmers in mind.

Yes, it is actually. I find the right folder hierarchy is much easier for a new OS user to grasp than oh ok, tree-lines, small fonts, possible bad documentation that goes on and on, constant searches. It's like a test of willingness to grasp an OS and even though Linux's documentation is bad, if you've got a newbie that's willing to go through hell, than they can still gleam something from it.

That's the problem though. They don't. They just want to find stuff. At their pace and at their time. That's why find in files doesn't matter. It's like a real world book. The average person doesn't highlight books, they read books.

All you really need is a good fast basic finder like Everything (if you're on Windows) and that's it. Even better if they can quickly grasp the concept of launchers like FARR/Launchy/Gnome Do + RocketDock or whatever dock is used. (Gnome has a cool drawer panel applet though and Tomboy is good for Table of Contents)

Here's an example:

I have in my desktop a folder called Weekly Review and underneath it a folder called Personal Information Manager of Text and underneath it a folder called Tweaks and underneath it a folder called Browser and there contains titles/headers of instructions I found over the internet.

Seems like a lot of click for a power user but to me it isn't. Why? Terminology may be iffy but it works for me because I often don't use help files to read stuff. I often am in a help file to find a snippet of well...help. That's what most newbie users often use help for anyways. Anything more complicated...hello irc or forums and just ask.

Quote
1) if you need to run windows programs on linux, you have failed and might as well run windows.
2) newbies won't be installing the OS themselves.
3) limited user account on XP or Vista (with UAC love), windows' own firewall enabled, and "virus what me worry?". If tomos adds a free AV and firefox w/adblockplus to the mix, even better.

Yeah sure, linux has come a long way and the recent distros are relatively friendly, as long as you only need to do bog-standard stuff. I wager that, knowing their needs, I could put my mother or grandmother on linux - partially because they don't need much stuff, and more importantly because I'm familiar enough with linux to troubleshoot. But I'd still go for Windows, because it's less hassle and there's a lot more people with windows experience to help out.

Considering that tomos says he doesn't have linux experience at all, I'd say the choice is a no-brainer.

No. What he said was he fears he might get called. Do you really expect any newbie to not call him anyways when Windows start running slow because they failed to keep updating their antiviruses?

If you need to run applications on windows, it doesn't mean you don't also run applications on Linux. That's just flawed thinking for a power user to assume that of a newbie. Some of the user-friendliest free applications are easier to set up on Linux as long as a person doesn't have a pre-defined expectation from an old Windows way of working.

For ex.

Tomboy is still the most user friendly wiki for a casual user.
BasKet Notepads, among the most user friendly mindmapping outliners for any OS.
PCMan File Manger, one of the most casual file managers for any casual user who just wants to browse folders.

Newbies might not install the OS themselves but I guarantee you, they will be calling you lots of times when Windows get hit bad with viruses. Linux is also bad there but that's why I prefer Mint. Because of it's original problem of having to disable updates in Celena because users using Cassandra updated badly, they have an improved upgrade manager that's more user friendly than even Windows Updates to a newbie user.

Also it's just bad pedagogy to not teach a person how to reformat because they will constantly call you back on it. In Windows, it's easy but in Linux, it's really easy.

As for what to worry? How about not regularly updating antiviruses? How about using IE? How about a failed Windows updates again? How about not having a separate user folder? How about not having a LiveCD?

Linux might not be perfect but it has beat Windows on many things. Oh and if you're going to annoy a newbie with LUA, won't it be better to introduce them to Linux's sudo anyways? It's basically the same manner of learning anyway except in the future newbies would less likely find ways to disable LUA out of frustration.

zridling

  • Friend of the Site
  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 3,292
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I've reluctantly provided "support" for family and friends over the years and every time I hate myself, if for no other reason I underestimate their willingness to learn anything about their computer and its software. Unless you're up to it, I beg you to decouple your support for someone else's computer.

That said, there's one true fact: whatever OS they start with, they will likely stay with, and it will take a monumental mind shift to switch. If they want to continue running cheaper, older hardware over time, then I strongly recommend Linux. Mac won't allow that, nor will Windows (I'm presuming no one wants to run an 8-year OS anymore [XP]). With Linux comes thousands of free, open source software apps that also will not cost them one dime. Otherwise, they will consistently be frustrated by their system's lack of power. And if they're only going to be using it to do mainly cloud computer anyway, then Linux is set for that right off the bat with so many programs ready to go at installation and updated as often as daily.

If cost is not a factor and they can afford the proprietary overhead that comes with Windows, then go that direction. I don't recommend Macs because once you go that route, you're usually so locked in that you can't use anything else.

f0dder

  • Charter Honorary Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 9,029
  • [Well, THAT escalated quickly!]
    • View Profile
    • f0dder's place
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Paul Keith: I disagree with pretty much everything you've written, but... deadhorse.gif :)
- carpe noctem

Paul Keith

  • Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 1,982
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
ahh the irony of reading this on March 2011...

I'm kind of sad that I couldn't get more out of your comment f0dder. You usually are more detailed than this.

Anyways, nowadays Mint has a Welcome Message that's a lil bit better but as it's the case with web links - too darn slow/have to open the browser/right at the beginning of boot which makes it more tempting to close.

There's also a Study Linux tab on Ailurus. It's crude and is mostly liniks but the cool part is that the Tip of the Day can be set so that everytime Ubuntu restarts, you get a random tip (I forgot how to set it to on though) and there's also an option to submit a tip but I haven't tried it.

Of course the irony of this thread is that Windows 7 kind of shifted the discussion away from everything. There are even some weird people now who consider XP a "dinosaur". Kind of sad considering how much less of a leap 7 was compared to Win98 to XP but I guess that's how the ball rolls.

iphigenie

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,169
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
There are newbie friendly distributions (as in the community having the time and patience), and newbie friendly places like linuxquestions. Someone mentioned Mint but to me it is more a distro for people already familiar with windows. Some I would consider: PCLinuxOS, Salix, Trisquel, Pardus...

The big barriers are unfamiliarity (if you dont use the stuff often it feels unknown and intimidating) and the fear of breaking something.

On gnulinux it is harder to break things as a newbie, that is a huge thing to be able to tell a user. Heck, to give them total peace of mind you could get them started on a liveCD version with a local partition only for /home (and some backup). Then you can tell the user that there is no way they can break anything no matter what they try. Then when they are a little less scared of it, install it fully. There are some excellent liveCDs out there in most distributions, and many distributions have a way to create a custom liveCD from an install.

If you go the gnulinux route:
- play with the distribution yourself
- check the distribution's irc channel and forum - ask if it is ok to put some newbies on it, what their advice would be, and see if the tone of answers is adequate :)

for the future user:
- install some form of instant messenging and/or voice contact -
- install some form of remote desktop/vnc setup so you can help remotely,
- for both of the above, train it through with them a few times. In order for this to become an easy reflex, schedule a daily share even if it is for nothing except a quick chat. If they do it rarely then figuring out the screen sharing will add to the stress when a problem hits, so it has to be familiar and regular.
- get them set up on the distribution forum and a general forum like linuxquestions. Set up their profile information, a good signature, and a post in the "introductions" thread (if there is one) with them, so they have done the first steps
- set up an easy irc client and program both a private channel (this is for the "get them used to it" phase as I mention above for chat and screen sharing) and the main distribution channel (or newbie channel)
- set up something like delicious or diigo with a bunch of useful bookmarks

« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 05:38:30 AM by iphigenie »