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Desktop Adapted for Dad

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Linux

Work had some old desktop PCs going spare and I set one up for my father. Mostly because I didn't want to have to remote admin a Windows machine I decided to install Debian on it.

At Easter in 2005 I gave my 69-year-old father his first computer. I had carefully installed and configured the software especially for him. I had taken care to consider his needs, and had attempted to second guess any problems he may have. I wrote my experience down in an article Desktop Adapted Dad (1), and which I recently presented to my Linux User Group. This short article is a summary of some of the steps I took to optimise my father's computer and some of the observations I made.

My father had never used a computer when I gave him his. He had never worked in an office environment or used a typewriter. Like many people his age his eyesight is not perfect even when corrected, and his glasses are bifocal which does make using a VDU more awkward than normal.

My plan for the computer was to configure it with the smallest set of software necessary to make it function correctly, to greatly simplify the desktop, and to select a visual design that would be clear and unambiguous.

We took the computer to him and showed him how to connect to the Internet, send and receive email, and how to drive the desktop. We spent several days with him, and during this time I continued to adjust the settings to suit his needs.

My first surprise was that what I thought was big and clear, was not anywhere near big or clear enough.

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