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Thread: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

  1. #1
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    Default Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    I plan to update all the operating systems in my mother's ancient PC during the month of November. Her PC is an old Dell Dimensions 2100, with a 900 MHz CPU and 512MB of RAM.

    While I live in Europe, my mother lives in Canada, so I don't visit often. In October she is moving from one province in Canada to another, and hence when I visit in November I have a week to setup her PC in her new place, setup her internet connection in the new place, and update all the OS on her PC. Currently her PC has 3 boot partitions :
    • WinME (no longer bootable as it is virus infected and it has been removed from grub boot menu by me)
    • WinXP (mother told me earlier this week that it is now incredibly slow - possibly virus infected)
    • openSUSE-11.1 with KDE3 (which still runs very very well)
    Plus her PC has a 4th data partition (and also the standard Linux swap, and separation of / and /home into different partitions).

    I currently maintain her openSUSE-11.1 from Europe, using nx, vnc, and ssh. I setup her router some time back to allow access. I've been doing this remote mainenance for a number of years now.

    Last week my wife and I shipped our used 80GB external hard drive to my mother from Europe (about 10 euros to ship). This external drive is cigarette pack size. The intent is she plug it in to her PC when it is booted to Linux, and I'll then take over her PC from Europe, and backup all data to the external hard drive. Then she removes the external drive, and carrys it with her during the move. That way if her PC gets damaged in the move (by the movers), her data is all backed up.

    I'm thinking of reformatting her PC hard drive completely, and putting a dual boot with
    • winXP in one boot partition, and
    • openSUSE-11.3 KDE4 on the other partition, and
    • a 3rd partition for data (FAT32 formatted)

    Her PC has old Intel graphic hardware so I'm a bit worried about Linux graphic compatibility. I'm also a bit worried that she will struggle with KDE4 (after her having used KDE3 for years) but we will see. She is pretty adaptable and I can align/label the desktop icons to make the KDE4 desktop look close to the KDE3 desktop. I considered installing LXDE on my mother's desktop, but LXDE is missing a feature that my mother REALLY likes, which is being able to easily drag and drop items on to the desktop. LXDE is complex for that, and NOT 84-year old mother friendly there. Thats unfortunate, as LXDE is much faster (than KDE4) when there is only 512MB of RAM.

    I'm a bit puzzled how to setup her WinXP. My wife normally handles that, but my wife failed to setup her PC during the last 2 visits so we could remotely access my mother's PC via the WinXP remote desktop. I don't think I can rely on my wife to dig up an answer here. The problem was even though the router was properly setup, the ZoneAlarm Firewall my wife put on the PC (on WinXP) blocked our dynamic IP access. We don't have a static IP and using DynDNS.com Free Domain Name Services does NOT help in a case like this. Teaching my mother how to edit the WinXP ZoneAlarm access-menu's each time our IP address changes did not work - the winXP ZoneAlarm menus are simply too complex for an 84-year old. I asked my wife to try and locate a different free firewall for WinXP that provides the superior user friendliness of the openSUSE firewall in this specific area but she has not - and I don't expect she will find anything.

    Now remotely accessing the Linux boot partition from a continent away has never been a problem so I have no worries there with Linux.

    I also need to setup printer, scanner, webcam, ... etc ... the usual stuff.

    What makes this critical is it MUST work reliably when I have finished, as my being a continent away means if it breaks, I can not get there to fix it, and no one else in the family knows how (to fix PCs at this level).

    We also may leave our old Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo 7400M laptop with either my mother or my sister, so that if my mother's desktop finally dies, there is the laptop as a backup. Which means I also have to setup that laptop for remote access.

    So it looks like I have an interesting time ahead planning everything.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Looks like a real challenge.

    Just one comment:
    You may consider teamviewer for remote access to the windows xp (it can be
    set up to start automatically with windows). Our helpdesk uses it at work,
    the linux version (it uses wine internally it is not really native) works
    flawless with connections from linux to windows and is fast (the linux
    version is a beta version but I did not notice any instability until now
    when helping others on windows machines including xp, vista and win 7 in our
    family).
    For private users it is free of charge.

    http://www.teamviewer.com


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Very enlightening. Could you keep us informed as to your progress? I for one, could use details in order to help distant friends, and I am sure there are others in a similar situation.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Wow, the mother with the best IT support in the world, I'm sure.

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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Quote Originally Posted by martin_helm View Post
    Just one comment:
    You may consider teamviewer for remote access to the windows xp
    Thanks for that suggestion. I note this on the teamviewer website:

    Works behind firewalls

    The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses. If you use TeamViewer you don't have to worry about firewalls: TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.
    Thats a MAJOR advantage and hence I'll push my wife to look into this as a priority item !

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Another cross-platform (Java based) remote app is yuuguu. Free for personal use.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Quote Originally Posted by ken_yap View Post
    Another cross-platform (Java based) remote app is yuuguu. Free for personal use.
    Thanks, I'll take a look at that : yuuguu web site

    ... of course having remote control software is not the issue with WinXP ... the issue is the Zone Alarm firewall on my mother's PC blocks our access. This is not a problem for someone more computer literate than my mother, but it is a problem for my mother and her PC. Given the suceptibility of MS-Windows to virus, we do not like the option of switching OFF the firewall. Teamviewer made a claim about functionality behind firewalls (that I plan to check out) , I note yugguu makes no such claim ... so thats a consideration. Still, all suggestions are worth considering as I still have time to prepare (early Nov being over a couple of months away).

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    I think yuuguu works in a similar way to Skype, either by UDP hole punching or a relay. As such it should work behind a firewall. I've used it to remotely access a desktop where both of us were behind NAT router/firewalls.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    ken yap wrote:

    >
    > I think yuuguu works in a similar way to Skype, either by UDP hole
    > punching or a relay. As such it should work behind a firewall. I've used
    > it to remotely access a desktop where both of us were behind NAT
    > router/firewalls.
    >
    >

    That yuuguu sounds interesting, next time I have to give one of my windows
    relatives support I will give it a try to see how it works.
    (I mentioned elsewhere that I started to refuse to help windows users, but
    the reality is sometimes ... let's say different if these people are friends
    or belong to the family, maybe some time in the future I can convert them to
    something that works).


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Planning for OS update to my 84-year old mothers PC

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Helm
    Looks like a real challenge.

    You may consider teamviewer for remote access to the windows xp
    Hi
    +1 for teamviewer, my MIL is running 11.3 Gnome on her notebook as well
    as XP Pro. Have yet to use it except to login remotely as a test. It
    also have VOIP as well...

    It has spent more time running linux than XP to date as well....

    --
    Cheers Malcolm (Linux Counter #276890)
    openSUSE 11.3 (x86_64) Kernel 2.6.34-12-default
    up 9 days 23:29, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.03, 0.00
    GPU GeForce 8600 GTS Silent - Driver Version: 256.44


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