Thursday, 6 April 2017

GrannyOS and how to add a remote image backup/restore capability to Windows

I have two ageing relatives (one over 80 and the other is nearly 100) and I wanted to set up a notebook for each of them where I could use Skype and video-conferencing to chat with them and help them with such things as email, internet banking, internet shopping, etc.

Neither of them know how to use a computer or a smart phone, but these days you really need to use the internet for pretty much everything.

It is a shame that the aged and infirm are the ones that would benefit the most from the internet, and yet they are the ones that are excluded from it because, as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'.

Internet advantages for the elderly/infirm

  • Online banking - Internet-only savings accounts often give higher rates of interest than standard accounts
  • No need to visit the bank or Post Office on foot
  • Internet shopping (inc. voucher codes, best prices, etc.)
  • Cheapest deals for energy, insurance, etc.
  • Order groceries from supermarket online for delivery (esp. heavy items)
  • Use of email often means it is not necessary to buy postage stamps and walk to the post box to post a letter (if you have mobility issues).
  • Communication - most grandkids prefer to communicate via facebook, twitter or even email rather than phone granny. Granny can catch up with the latest news on their family members.
  • Video conferencing (Skype)
  • YouTube (for entertainment and education)
  • Search Engines - find information, health care advice, etc. (incl. find and contact old friends)
  • Get news in text form with pictures and video (radio/TV is often difficult for people with hearing problems)

Internet disadvantages

  • Danger from hackers and phishing attacks, etc.
  • Viruses
  • Exposure to pornography
  • Windows may 'go wrong'

So, my idea is that I can use TeamViewer to 'drive' their notebooks remotely. I can show them how to use YouTube, set up an email account for them and help them with internet banking, etc. We can also video-chat via Skype or TeamViewer.

First Steps

I decided to use Windows 10 rather than linux because I am most familiar with Windows and it has good free software and drivers available. I also have a few old notebooks kicking around.

I set up TeamViewer so that I could remotely log-in to their notebooks at any time (as long as it was switched on). This can be done by using the TeamViewer Advanced option and logging in using their Windows Username and Password. I can also run Skype for them so I can start a video session and check they are OK if I have not heard from them for a while and they don't answer the phone.

I also need to be able to restore their Windows OS if anything went wrong and I needed to do this remotely (if Windows was running).

So, I set this up by using an old CloneZilla tutorial of mine from my RMPrepUSB website (Tutorial 89).

However, I made some modifications so that, as long as the system is booted to Windows and even if not logged in, I can now perform a remote, completely unattended backup or restore (see the CloneZillaBackupAuto.zip file mentioned near the end of the Tutorial).

If the notebook will only boot to the grub4dos menu and not Windows, they can simply press F4 to perform a Windows Restore.

If the notebook will not even boot to grub4dos, they can insert a USB flash drive which I will provide for emergencies, and this will automatically restore the Windows OS by auto-running a CloneZilla restore.

How robust will this setup will prove to be? - only time will tell...

P.S. I also made a version that supports two backups. One for a factory image and another backup for a user image.

Next Steps?

The next steps will be to find a good free AV package that protects them, but that still allows me to remote in, etc.

I also need to set up Skype for them and an email address, etc. and AdBlock + other protection measures, set up Desktop shortcuts, etc. etc.

I started a thread on reboot.pro for 'GrannyOS' here.

Any ideas welcome!