Suitability question

Warren Block wblock at
Thu Dec 18 23:53:47 UTC 2008

On Thu, 18 Dec 2008, Patrick Baldwin wrote:

> Usually I'm asking questions for work related things.  This one is 
> more personal. My father has this tendency to end up wrecking his 
> computer if he uses the Internet much.  Computers are basically magic 
> boxes to him, so education is of limited usefulness here.
> I'm thinking I might be best of trying to built him a really 
> locked-down, high security box, almost an Internet appliance.  All he 
> really does is use the Web, and a little light word processing.
> What do people think of FreeBSD as the base OS for this idea?

A FreeBSD-based XFCE system has worked well for relatives.  Firefox for 
web, Thunderbird for email, other stuff installed but they don't use it.

Problems encountered:

Proprietary stuff like Flash, Acrobat Reader, Microsoft-only 
"extensions" can prevent using certain web sites.  Flashblock helps, 
doing it again I'll use evince for PDF support.

Unintended user modifications, like dragging a Thunderbird bar off the 
screen.  Naturally, not only did they not know they were doing that, 
they swore they didn't do it.  Hard to debug over the phone when they 
must use dialup and have only one phone line.

"I can't believe it's not Windows" syndrome: the ISP sent a "you have a 
Windows-only virus" email; I didn't think to have them save it for humor 
value.  The same ISP has broken DHCP which provides the wrong addresses 
for DNS servers.  Works somehow on Windows, had to be manually set on 

It might be nice to have a login script that restores user settings 
each time.

With a broadband connection, it would be pretty easy to support.

-Warren Block * Rapid City, South Dakota USA

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