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My mother had an old Compaq desktop computer running Windows 98, which she used for occasional Web browsing and playing cards. Recently, a relative brought up a newer computer; it ran Windows XP.

Unfortunately, the hard drive failed soon afterward, forcing me to reinstall the operating system. Not having the original Windows disc or product key led me to consider Ubuntu Linux. Will it work for mom?

  1. Is the hardware compatible? (Check the history of this question for the full specifications.)

  2. Would Ubuntu/Xubuntu suffice, or would I be better off buying a new copy of Windows?

  3. Is her card game (Hoyle Card Games 3) likely to run on Wine? I believe the minimum system requirement is Windows 95.

  4. Failing Wine compatibility, is running Windows 98 on VirtualBox an option on such an old computer?

  5. Are there any equally good card games for Linux? She plays mainly Bridge, Poker, and Solitaire.

  6. Is there any "Large Fonts" option for those with poor vision?

  7. Is it possible to use a serial mouse?

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Ubuntu; invest $200 for your hardware, not your mum's machine :) – bohdan_trotsenko Jan 8 '11 at 22:28
In the future please split up your questions, you'll likely get better results. – Jorge Castro Jan 8 '11 at 23:40
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Yes, Ubuntu is certainly the way to go. And not just because your in a situation. I believe it would probably be better in a number of ways.

  1. All the hardware except the mouse should work perfectly, even the printer and scanner.

  2. Ubuntu should work fine on 512MB of ram, the processor is sufficient too. But not for VirtualBox, that needs a much more powerful machine. But it doesn't look like you need it anyway.

  3. 4 & 5 - Card games is something there are a lot of in the Software Center. Especially poker, solitaire and bridge. The windows game will probably work, but it'd be best to try the native games first.

  4. Yes, large font themes are available by default. Check the System > Preferences > Appearance program to set the computer to high visibility and increasing font sizes.

  5. There is a way, but get a usb mouse as soon as possible. serial mice are a almost impossible to get working without serious work.

  6. Install the package ubuntu-netbook-launcher this is a UI which displays nice large icons on the desktop which my mum really likes. You may have to make a start up item so it launches on login and you should pre-fill the favourites with useful things like firefox.

  7. Set your mum up on gtalk with empathy and make sure you two are friends. That way she can ask you for help, but more importantly she can share her desktop with you and you can fix issues even if the any ssh/router configuration gets toasted.

share|improve this answer
ACK to all. Support by gtalk will not help when the machine won't boot ;) – Takkat Jan 8 '11 at 9:46
Doctor Owens is in the house. Personally I would go with Lubuntu 10.04 less need for possible hardware upgrades (ram) I'm sure that the doc would recommend going on a healthy diet rather than having surgery :) . Just a second opinion although I Doff my cap to Martin's experience. Ps wine has a windows 95 compatibility setting and even a windows 2.0? setting didn't even know it existed. – Allan Jan 8 '11 at 10:39
Thanks for your answer. I managed to find the Windows XP disc and product key, but if we have any more problems with XP, I will definitely consider Ubuntu! – PleaseStand Jan 10 '11 at 1:22
ok, but the sooner you make the switch, the sooner you'll not have to deal with issues. – Martin Owens -doctormo- Jan 10 '11 at 4:34

As most is said by Martin Owens there's only my bit on VirtualBox:

On a 512 MB machine with single core(?) CPU I would not even want to try out Windows in a Virtual Box. Maybe it can be started, but don't expect anything, especially not Windows to run with acceptable speed. In addition you would also need to buy a Windows license for the virtual machine.

For a launcher-like experience as mentioned by Martin Owens also have a look at Docky.

share|improve this answer
Yeah, VBox can run pretty slow even with 1GB of RAM and a dual-core CPU. – Nathan Osman Jan 8 '11 at 23:22
@George Edison: or, put it this way: Windows in VBox runs slow if at all when short of RAM ;) – Takkat Jan 9 '11 at 9:23
Agreed; wine would be better in this case – Conor Rynne Jul 8 '11 at 14:48

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