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Good Linux Distributions for Newbies

I will be setting up a computer for people who have very little experience using computers and I want to limit their ability to break things. I'm thinking Linux is the way to go but I don't know what distribution to use. I don't know anything about their hardware other than it is an old laptop. I don't have a lot of experience with Linux, but I would think that without sudo there is not a lot of things you can break.

  • What would be a good Linux dist that has everything out of the box? (flash, vnc, office, etc)
  • How should I set up the user account to avoid giving them too much power, yet still allowing the computer to be useable for daily tasks? (Will they be able to update software?)
  • I also want to be able to control the machine remotely since I won't have physical access after I set it up, so I am looking into ssh, vnc, (or a better alternative?). Any suggestions, tips in that area would be helpful.
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marked as duplicate by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, Sathya Jul 31 '11 at 1:57

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Note that you might get better answers on – Let_Me_Be Jul 30 '11 at 20:02
"I will be setting up a computer for people who have very little experience using computers ...I'm thinking Linux is the way to go" That is extremely cruel. For one thing their computer is going to be different from every other "computer illiterate" person they might speak to, since the rest would use Windows. – barlop Jul 30 '11 at 20:11
@barlop Some may say it is cruel to make a person use Windows. – styfle Jul 30 '11 at 21:11
@styfle i'd put it to you that most people fixing computers are windows users, and experienced at it, have seen linux and are more comfortable with windows, and better at fixing windows. I don't think they're being cruel to themselves by using windows, they're comfortable and in charge themselves! Anyhow, I gave a reason why it's cruel to install linux on the computer of a computer-illiterate person. – barlop Jul 30 '11 at 21:27
@barlop Show me someone who can actually fix Windows. The official "fix" for 99% of Windows problems is reinstall. – Let_Me_Be Jul 30 '11 at 22:19

Any major desktop distribution will do. The most user-friendly are openSuSe and Ubuntu. Debian and Fedora are more suited for enterprise environments.

Standard user account will be just fine. Most current distributions provide a way to update the system even with user privileges.

I personally consider ssh to be enough, but if you want to assist the users on their desktop remotely, you should look into automatically starting vnc, when they log in.

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I would use VNC for remote assistance. Is it possible to easily determine if the computer is being used when you login via SSH? I wouldn't want to reboot the system if someone is using it. – styfle Jul 30 '11 at 21:21
@styfle ps ax | grep X will tell you if there are any X sessions running. – new123456 Jul 30 '11 at 21:46

I have four kids, from 6 to 12 yo, and they use the computer mostly for games and homework. I installed ubuntu on their computer a few months back. It was very easy for them to catch on, considering that the OS they use in school run on windows.

I set it up that the OS updates itself with the necessary software and security updates without their intervention. They know how to install/uninstall software through the software center. I am not worried about their pc getting malware, but I do check in from time to time.

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