Computer for parents
October 10, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

What's the best, fastest way to set up a computer to do nothing but surf the internet?

My parents have a new-ish dell computer in their kitchen. They use it to check their email, surf the internet, and watch hulu and netflix. It's currently running Windows 7, and it gets slow sometimes. What's the best custom operating system or setup to make it a lean, mean, websurfing machine?

Note: THIS HAS TO BE DEAD SIMPLE TO USE! My parents can navigate their websites and webapps, but that's pretty much it. Thoughts?
posted by nickhb to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This might be worth a look - Eldy
posted by algal bloom nightmare at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2012

FYI - if you want to watch netflix, your options are windows and mac. Nothing else (e.g.linux) is supported.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:19 AM on October 10, 2012

Normally I would say Linux, locked down, with only the icons needed on the desktop. But that won't work for Netflix. Assuming you don't want to buy a Mac, you are probably stuck with Windows. The Eldy thing mentioned above looks like it is a custom desktop, which won't address any underlying instability which is slowing the machine down. I'd probably max out the RAM on the Windows box and hope for the best. Also, you might create a user account that doesn't allow them to download anything other than updates for already installed apps.
posted by COD at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2012

Install Android. It has a Netflix app, e-mail, plenty of browsers to choose from (set them to request desktop versions of sites), is designed to take mouse and keyboard input, and is hard to break.

This is not a joke. This is real advice.
posted by jsturgill at 9:40 AM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you don't mind an upgrade, you might like to give Windows 8 a go. The Metro interface might be a help as the tiles are quite nice for keeping things simple, but the best bit is that once you've got a web browser and mail client set up, you can use the Refresh and Reset functions to keep the system clean and responsive.

The fast-on-low-power-hardware design is still present in 8, and I've successfully provided laptop clients for users that prioritise ease-of-use. Alongside this, the upgrade cost is cheap.

If you didn't have the NetFlix issue, I'd have suggested Ubuntu and icons for Firefox and Thunderbird on the desktop, or maybe Chrome OS (as Chromium).

jsturgill's advice to try Android is an interesting one, but there seems to be a lot of conjecture over whether the NetFlix app will work or not, so this may not be as rock-solid as it would appear on first blush.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 10:07 AM on October 10, 2012

Yeah, definitely try it out in a non-destructive way natively before going whole hog. Give it a shot in a virtual machine if native won't work. If I didn't have to work today, I'd try it for you and report back.
posted by jsturgill at 10:24 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you haven't checked out a Chromebook, you might want to. Cheap, fast, basic laptop. All they need is a Google account.
posted by General Tonic at 11:16 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Couldn't you just set a browser to launch on startup, and configure it to always go into "kiosk" (fullscreen, no UI) mode? It's not an unbreakable solution, but it's certainly easy...
posted by aramaic at 11:45 AM on October 10, 2012

Create a new user account for them, make it a limited user (not in the adminsitrators group). Set an antivirus like Security Essentials. Set updates to install automatically. Delete any icons you don't want them to use. Wipe hands, enjoy weekend.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2012

May be overkill but something like Faronics Deep Freeze plus external or cloud storage for files/configuration.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:12 PM on October 10, 2012

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