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Great Linux Desktop Experiment

I plan to give my family netbooks this year, and I would like some recommendations for how best to configure the machines for:

  1. Linux Newbies (primarily Windows users)
  2. Remote Administration via SSH & to remote dynamic IPs
  3. Identical installs on 5 identical machines
  4. Easy recovery ifwhen they break them
  5. Recommended applications to install (Flash, etc...)
  6. Copying settings/cookies/bookmarks from current machines to the netbooks, post install & setup

My goal for them is to provide them with machines for web surfing, music listening, internet audio & video, IM & Video Chat. My goal for me is to not have to support Windows any longer.

For #1 I am wondering if there are specific editions (of ubuntu or other distros) recommended for Windows users new to linux. Should I install a theme that is Windows (OS X?) like or would that make things worse since it won't be exactly like they are used to. Maybe a clean break from the old is best to get them to try new things.

For #2 I am planning to setup SSH on the netbooks & administration accounts for myself so I can SSH from home and fix/install/update their machines. One requirement for this is that the netbooks should update a dynamic IP service with their current IP so I can find them no matter what network they are on (if possible).

#3, Is it worth it to setup some sort of automated/mirrored install for 5 devices, or should I just power through separate installs.

#4, Should I setup some sort of kiosk mode so that with every reboot the system undoes any damage they have done and is back to a known good state? How would I handle letting them save some changes, but not others?

#6, I plan to set them all up at my home, then take them to theirs. Once there is there any way that I can plug up a USB cable to their current machines and copy things like bookmarks over to the new machines automatically?

Any advice or suggestions welcome.


locked by Marco Ceppi Mar 28 '11 at 18:16

Hi Rob, the SE system doesn't lend itself well to multiple questions per post, I recommend splitting each one of your questions up so that people can tackle each of them individually and then you can use the set of them to solve your overall problem. – Jorge Castro Nov 12 '10 at 20:31

1) Linux Mint or Ubuntu 10.10. I would not change the standart-theme. Dont use a "windows"-style theme, keep it simple!

3) I would prefer separate installs. It takes to much time, keeping them mirrored.

4) Its hard to damage ubuntu's installation. just dont allow scripts.

5) flash, audio-video codes. Thunderbird for Mails, ADBLOCK PLUS for firefox. Bling bling effects with compiz, screenlets, gloobus ... :)

6) You can export their firefoxbookmarks and import them on their netbooks. Thunderbirdprofiles-folders could also be copied and imported.


IMHO on a couple of the topics

1) When I have tried to switch folks with low level skills, I have found it easier to just make a clean break, personalize their desktop, install a few visual goodies and teach them the new stuff as they are ready. I usually start with an LTS if we are within a year of release (last couple were 10.04)

2) I don't use DynDns on a regular basis, but did set it up once to test installation and how it worked and remember both aspects being very pleasing.

3) If they are truly identical, I would be tempted to give Clonezilla a try. Again I don't use it on a regular basis, but the few times I've tried it (with ATA-USB adapters) I remember thinking it was really cool.

5) I always run the "Lucid first run script" from the webupd8 and get all the important stuff I'll need.


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