Advice, old people and computers

tuezday1(9)December 9, 2005

About 7 years ago, I gave my mom and old Mac so she could email her friends, and set her up on AOL. Easy right? Wrong. After about 6 months I couldn't take it anymore and bought her WebTv.

This worked, kept her happy and me sane. Now the WebTv isn't suiting her anymore and it's a really old version. Over the years she's lost her fear of the internet and now needs things like cookies so she can buy her own airplane tickets online. She's always wanted a printer but her options were limited with WebTv to a couple of printers it supports.

She's decided she wants a laptop. Okay, this works but my sanity is slipping as I write this. The how much RAM do I need and what's this and what's that spec questions have started.

Do any of you know of a good book, program or something else, that explains the basics well enough for her to understand? She won't just take my word for anything, I have to explain why I think she needs certain options and doesn't need others.

She's planning on taking a course on using a computer, but after she gets one. In the meantime, I get to field questions. GRRRRRR

And she wants to know about CD burners, DVD burners, digital camera's (can't wait for this one),


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komi(z7/8 DC)

seems like she's interested in reading up. How about pcworld?

Here is a link that might be useful: pc world laptop page

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 8:30AM
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shannon_widmer(z3 ND)

I feel your pain. The same things happened to me: old Mac to mom, questions out the wazoo. I talked her into getting a PC because I thought she could take some community classes. Still questions out the wazoo. I bought "Windows XP for Dummies" for her for Christmas. Hopefully this will ease my sanity.

I agree with Komi, PC World is a good place to start. Once she buys a computer, I would suggest either the "for Dummies" or "for Idiots" book, depending on whether you want to call your mother a Dummy or an Idiot. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 9:33AM
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ladybug_guam(z11 Guam)

Same here with my father-in-law!
Of course, his son, my DH, according to Dad, knows s***t about computers, and it doesn't help that my DH plays dumb!
So, I gave up on sending him anything with some kind of video attch, because he'll complain about how long it takes to download. DH told him this, so now, Dad is p**st at me...and, yes, shannon, I send him "for Dummies" AND "for Idiots" books... still, he wants an explanation for this or that.... If you have parents, for God sakes don't buy them or suggest anything remotely close to the word PC...
Ana :(

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:01AM
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shannon_widmer(z3 ND)

I hear you Ana! I have a feeling the book I got for my mom will only give me a temporary reprieve. I wonder if there is a computer boot camp for the hopelessly technologically challenged?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:39AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I guess I'm blessed. The parents never did figure out how to set the time on the VCR and don't want to know. Anything beyond that is not even in the realm of possibilities in their minds.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:08PM
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Hahah RTFM! Read The ******* Manual!

My Mom, who isn't that old and has been using a computer since '86, is still confused. I think some people never get it. Unfortunately, I seem to have inherited more than my Mother's graces, as occasionally I will be clicking on IE with no response ... DH This isn't working ... he comes over--click click--"Seems to be working fine to me!" Argh! (No I didn't move the mouse between clicks ... sigh)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:30PM
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Thanks for the link Ki, I'll send it to her.

My mom's biggest problem was with the GUI. She'd accidentally close out a window and then freak because she wanted it back. She used to think a "home" page had to do with cooking, cleaning and other domestic issues. She couldn't get the lingo right so half the time we weren't even speaking the same language. Turning it off and on was an issue.

Just shoot me now.

I'd forgotten about the For Dummies books but way back when I bought a couple of Mac's For Dummies books. The way David Pogue explains how to use a computer and different programs just ruins you. And he's funny. I used to wish he'd write about PC's but he'd probably loose his sense of humor like the rest of us. Spiteful things that PC's can be.

Kevin I distinctly remember my mom telling me at some point, I remember it like yesterday, that at her age (60's at the time), she'd never need a computer in her lifetime. Now at 74, the old dog wants to learn a new trick. I also distinctly remember telling her that sooner or later....

I wonder how long it will take her to learn to navigate Cheap Tickets etc?

Yup, just shoot me now.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:44PM
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Do you look for the same specs, capabilities etc., when buying a laptop that you do for a desktop computer?

Is there anything I need to keep in mind, as far as the difference between the two is concerned?

I've never paid any attention to laptops, I just assume they are the same as a desktop computer.

Hey if anyone is interested Costco has a 21" LCD for 349.99.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:58PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

Laura, are you asking for real? I thought some of those issues were discussed over at pcworld. Bottom line - it depends on how you are going to use it.

To get the same perfomance etc out of a laptop, you will end up with a higher $ and a heavy laptop.

If you are travelling a lot with it, you probably want to go lighter, and look for solid construction - I find the casing/hinge, and the cursor are the first things to go on a laptop.

If you are using it primarily at one location in the house, one with a good dock is helpful - you can keep all the peripherals attached to the dock so you don't need to replug in so many things every time you want to wifi.

I just ordered a panasonic, which is a very popular brand in japan - they just don't sell many laptoops in the US. The reasons for my selection - weight under 3 lbs, 12" screen (not 10 or 14, like the other brands' light products), built in cdrw/dvd (slow, but at least it's built in and the weight is still under 3 lbs), shock-mounted HDD, magnesium alloy case, decent battery life, minimally acceptable ports etc.

I made some compromises, but weight, screensize, built-in cdrom were the primary requirements.

Of course, it hasn't arrived yet....

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 3:21PM
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Sorry, I only skimmed the first page of the PCworld info and just glanced at page 2.

I guess I was looking for the common mistakes or misconceptions people have about laptops, that only a user would know about. As you mentioned, weight is a factor in a laptop. That is not something I would think about when buying one, but you can bet that before long I'd wish I had thought about it. Five pounds doesn't seem like a lot of weight, but I'd be willing to bet 5 pounds versus 3 makes a big difference when you are dragging them through an airport.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 3:50PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

more like 6.5 lbs plus spare battery plus adaptor, plus 2" of paper..... NOT doing that again.

laptops generally have limited slots for things - pc card, USB (but you can expand those yourself), etc., so, for eg, if you want an external mouse and an external keyboard, make sure you can plug both in at once, as well as your camera and external monitor etc.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 4:04PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

by the way, laptop screens are difficult for some people, and that's something she should check. There are various types of screens too - for eg, the super bright TFT displays, which many people love but I hate.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 5:34PM
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The only reason she wants a laptop is so she can "hide" it when not in use. A LCD screen and tower under her desk might work. She hates having anything out of place and computers have no business cluttering up her world. I suspect, other than a printer, she thinks she will have this nice, neat little computer that she can "hide" in a drawer. Ha.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 6:38PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

well a laptop could be hidden in a drawer - for a neat person, it's definitely a good way to go.

also something to consider - the imacs which incorporate the computer into the screen assembly, and comes with a li'l camera.

Here is a link that might be useful: iMacs

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 6:54PM
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Old People and computers ! Ha ! they don't have to be old.... like me.... to be phobic about them . I have 2 step daughters probably around your age that are hopeless .So is my HB . Gin

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 8:57PM
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Rofl...Let's talk about Alberta who is 90something and obviously computer savy. My folks have some problems with their computer, but they know how to ask questions to get it fixed and they aren't above reading about it (dad's 83 and mom is 74).

I would suggest perhaps getting her one of those inexpensive computer armoires so she can close the door on the tower, etc. and keep it out of sight. Not only might the screen be an issue, but I find that the keyboard on a laptop takes some getting used to, although I guess you could plug into a conventional keyboard....but for anyone who has arthritis or fat fingers, a laptop's keyboard really stinks!

Keep your chin up, you'll get there....Your mother sounds like my mother-in-law who took classes and STILL can't open an attachement. Everytime I go down there I clean spam off the stupid thing...she saves over 300 pieces of mail she has never opened, mostly for body parts she doesn't have. MOAN....

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:29PM
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albertan(Florida (10))

Hey, watch it there!! I'm one of the "old people" and have had my lil ole webtv for about five years and am happy with it. No virus possible--no expensive breakdowns, and I am having a great time with it. It took almost fifteen minutes to learn to operate it, I have added a printer and have made umpteen friends out there. What more can I want? And the price couldn't be better!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 9:00PM
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ladybug_guam(z11 Guam)

My Mom wants nothing to do about computers. She says, "if you want to know how am I doing, call me, send me a card or letter, but none of this E-mail....and by the way....what happened to A thru D mail?"
We just roll our eyes and say a little prayer of thanks... don't want to go trying to teach Mom about... 'well, Mom, when you want to turn the PC off, you have to press Start... Ha!
Ana :)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 11:18AM
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HTML, does that stand for Hot Tempered Male Loser ? :) Gin

    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 2:01PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

Watch when you buy the laptop that it has a serial port. I got a new one and it doesn't have that or a floppy drive. Unfortunately, most of my programs use things like that and I've had a nasty time moving my stuff onto this one. I get a laptop so we can use it on the boat with a navigation system. No serial port so our old GPS won't work. Buy new GPS. Install old Nav program. Won't recognize USB port, asks for serial port. I am now shopping for new NAV program. Total cost? MOre than you want to know. Yes I'm an old person. I need to be in order to be able to afford all of the Barbie Doll clothes these beasts need.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 7:21PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

yes, make sure it has all the ports you need.

I just got the panasonic - feather light! I love it! It can be hidden in half a drawer!

But it doesn't have a parallel port so I will have to actually *think* about how to get my printer connected. And I'll probably want to hook up an external keyboard....which will have to be a USB one...

and now I need software. (The untamed feline is already here though - should be fun checking that out.)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 11:03AM
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A floppy. What's a floppy? I never bothered with floppy disks, as they have always been too unstable. Went from Zips to CD's. With CD's just costing pennies, there is no point in using anything else.

Since my mom is basically starting out fresh, I was just going to find a computer with USB and ethernet ports.

Do you know that the wire they now use to wire your house and phone jacks is the same cable as ethernet cat5 wire? That just tells me go with ethernet as much as possible.

You can buy serial/parallel to USB or ethernet adapters.

Hey Ki, if your printer is relatively new it should have both serial and ethernet or USB ports. Mine does anyway and it's at least 2 years old.

Dottie, have you tried updating your drivers? It's insane you've had to replace everything.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 5:05PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

what makes you think my printer is new? I think it's 6 years old now.

just have to go on a spending spree for various parts and things, including everything I put on the waitlist until the new computer.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 9:20PM
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You can find laser printers now for under $100. I saw one recently for 77. Mine was 250 or so just 2+ years ago and it was about the cheapest I could find. It's still going strong, so I can't complain.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 11:41PM
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komi(z7/8 DC)

I have no reason to buy another laser printer. Doesn't matter how much the price has come down - a cable would still cost significantly less, dontcha think?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 11:56PM
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Cables can be expensive--that's where they get you. $65 printer and $20 cable, sold separately. But yes, $20 cable is still less money.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 12:02AM
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Oh, yeah cables are less expensive.

Lately all the gadgets I've bought have come with cables, multiple cables to cover all scenarios. I've got a few that I have no earthly idea what they are even for. I've got cables and wires coming out the wazoo. I hate wires. You know, wireless is an oxymoron. My "wireless" battery eating mouse, has two cables. One for it's sensor to connect to the computer, and the other is for an AC adapter. And even those gadgets that run off the power of a second gadget have at least one cable. If they plug directly into an outlet, I still need to run an Ethernet cable. Then I run out of outlets and need to start plugging in power strips, more wires.

I hate this mess of wires I have here.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 1:23AM
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Also if you are vision impaired and need that extra boost. DSI-Keyboards carries Large Print Keyboards. It's a standard size keyboard with big font.

Here is a link that might be useful: Custom Keyboards

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 11:44AM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

This has to desperate spam!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 10:44PM
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