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Innovation

Linux to your grandma this Christmas

What starts as a BBC feature about a children's show presenter becomes a detective story and then A Christmas Carol, all thanks to Linux.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

It's really just another demonstration of what Linux can do.

It started with a BBC story and quickly became an Internet detective piece.

(If you recognize this picture you're either a middle-aged Brit or a trivia expert. The lady at the center is the entry point for what follows. She is shown in her mid-1960s heyday hosting the BBC children's show Blue Peter.)

According to the BBC former children's presenter  Valerie Singleton (center at right), now running a Web site of discounts for seniors, got together with a small computer store chain recently to offer a PC for older folks who've never touched one before.

On start-up users could first see a video from Ms. Singleton, demonstrating the basics, then face six big buttons for applications that are all built-in.

A BBC reviewer called it both patronizing and expensive, but the 80 year-old computing newbie he brought with him appreciated the gentle learning curve. We all know so much, even kids know so much, about computing, that going back to a time when it was all new is hard to conceive. But for some that's reality.

Then came the detective work. I wanted to verify what the BBC was saying, after all.

  • Singleton's Discount Age makes no mention of the offer on its home page -- you have to go inside.
  • The man credited by the BBC as the designer makes no mention of the offer on his own blog -- he's drinking in sorrow over turning 42.
  • The computer store is a billboard site.
  • The help site referenced in the story makes no mention of the offer.
  • There is a Linux called Simplicity, which released a new version last month, but it's apparently no relation to what Singleton is trying to do.  (Simplicity Linux focuses on making old hardware useful.)

Turns out all this is a sales channel. Valerie Singleton, her site, the computer store, the designer, they're all acting as a channel for Eldy, an Italian outfit which offers a Linux interface based upon Linux Mint, focused on the needs of old newbies.

Which means our detective story has become A Christmas Carol.

Let's say you have a grandma, or grandpa, here in the U.S., who has never used a computer, claims not to care, but whom you know is just blustering because they don't know the first thing of what to do.

Check out Eldy. They have a nice slide show on their home page demonstrating the features and benefits of the software.

Then, if you like, download Eldy to whatever hardware you have, load it on an old laptop, and spring it on them for your Christmas visit, sitting by their side as they learn it.

They won't have Ms. Singleton, but your American grandma likely doesn't know Valerie Singleton from Adam's Off Ox.

Once grandma gets the hang of things, they can turn off the Eldy interface and have a solid, basic Linux to work with. They'll be programming rings around you by Easter.

Who says Santa Claus has to have a long, white beard, or that he only cares about the needs of children? We're all children -- you, me, Valerie Singleton, and your grandma -- inside.

Help one this Christmas.

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