Fedora for Parents

2020-30-12 update: This is updated for Fedora 33. On the plate for summer 2021 -- switching my parents' computer to OpenBSD. Also, I realize the instructions at the end of the post aren't very useful for anybody else. They are simple and specific to my needs. But I'll still leave them up as a public blog post since they show how easy it can be to set up a secure open source OS. Contrast this to Windows!

My parents know very little about computers. My parents also use Fedora, a Linux distro targeted at power users. That might strike you as odd, but there are good reasons.

First, a reason not to not use Fedora: my parents will never encounter the things that supposedly make Fedora "unfriendly." It doesn't matter that Fedora makes it harder to install proprietary software or lacks a really simple installer. These tasks are beyond my parents no matter how simple an operating system makes them. I will be doing the set-up. What matters for my parents is what comes after set-up, and it's here where Fedora shines.

My parents use a computer to browse the web. Fedora comes with the latest version of Firefox, and usually provides updates to newer versions. When my parents ran Debian, various sites complained that they didn't have a recent version of Firefox (since Debian included its own dated fork of Firefox called Iceweasel). And when they ran Windows, my cousin came over and installed all kinds of shitware advertised on pirate stream sites. And somebody downloaded a "recipe.exe" program. Probably not my cousin.

Importantly, Fedora also has a clean, up-to-date implementation of GNOME 3. GNOME 3 is simple, elegant, and efficient. And it's great for new users. There are no icons and panels and launchers for my parents to accidentally delete. There are no pointless knobs or bells and whistles to worry about. And GNOME 3 comes with simple apps to accomplish everything from playing music to looking at maps to getting the local weather. These tools are too simple for a lot of people, but they're great for my parents.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is to store my notes on the steps I took when I installed Fedora 22 on their rig. This should save me some time when I install Fedora 23 when I go home for Christmas.

Basic set-up

  1. On the first boot, run dnf upgrade. (Don't put this off -- there were 85 upgrades just two days after Fedora 22 came out.)

  2. Install firewall-config and configure firewall. Then systemctl enable firewalld && systemctl start firewalld in case it isn't on by default.

  3. Transfer over backed-up files (visible home folders and Firefox bookmarks).

  4. Install the software that's needed: dnf install dnf-automatic gnome-tweaks

  5. Enable automatic updates by following the instructions. Basically, systemctl enable dnf-automatic-install.timer && systemctl start dnf-automatic-install.timer. Edit the configuration file so that updates are applied automatically. But also, DNF's automatic tools won't automaticlaly reboot to fully install the updates, so create a cronjob to reboot the computer periodically. Do this by editing /etc/crontab/ directly instead of using crontab -e as root.

  6. Install video codecs so browser videos work.

Configure GNOME and Firefox

  1. In Firefox...

    1. Import bookmarks

    2. Change settings so that no history is saved

    3. Set Google as the homepage

    4. Disable sharing crash/diagnostic info

    5. Install uBlock

    6. Disable pocket.

    7. Set up Firefox Sync.

  2. In Gnome Settings...

    1. Under Users, enable automatic login and use the cat avatar.

    2. Under Universal Access, turn on large text.

    3. Under Privacy, disable screen lock.

    4. Under Search, disable most options.

    5. Under Printers, make sure the printer is configured. This should be automatic for my parents' Brother HL-L2395DW.

  3. In Nautilus, enter preferences and check "Sort folders before files."

  4. In gnome-tweaks, enable minimize and maximize buttons in window title bar and switch workspaces from Dynamic to one static workspace.

  5. Set up Rhythmbox. That means turning off the side pane and importing pa's MP3s.

  6. Install the "soft brightness" extension.

  7. Change GNOME 3 sidebar to display (in this order) Firefox, Rhythmbox, Weather, Files.

Finally

  1. Install the scanner driver for the Brother HL-L2395DW. You can get an RPM from the Brother website.