This post doesn’t apply to all parents, obviously. But if you’ve been living out of the house for a couple of decades or more, you might find this situation familiar. (Or, if you’re younger, you might substitute “grandparents” for “parents.”)
Computers and parents don’t always mix well. They’re going to have problems. They’re going to get viruses. They’re going to call you while you’re eating dinner so that you can explain how to log into Skype. Troubleshooting issues over the phone is difficult and frustrating for both you and them. Using remote desktop software is easier, but explaining how to set it up on their end — over the phone — can be as difficult as solving the original issue over the phone.
Getting them set up with the right computer and the right OS can make many of their issues disappear. If their issues disappear, it means less work for you. However, it’s best if you do this right from the beginning. Switching your parents to a new platform isn’t easy. They don’t like change. They want their “Start” button to say “Start” and they want it in the exact location where it has always been.
The majority of parents probably use Windows. While Windows (7) is a great OS, there are alternatives that may be better for an inexperienced user. Keep in mind that I am not offering a biased opinion. I am currently using a PC that I built, running Windows 7, but I have experience with many other platforms.
A Mac is probably a great computer for your parents. It may be more expensive than a PC, but the resale value is great and it will likely be much easier for your parents to use.
- The Menu Bar is always at the top. It’s easy for them to remember and locate.
- The Mac App Store makes it easy for them to find and download software.
- Viruses are less common than on Windows. Less viruses mean less work for you.
- If something goes wrong, there’s someone they can call that isn’t you: Apple.
Even if you’re a PC fanboy, you can’t deny that paying $99 for Apple’s One to One program, which teaches your parents how to use their computer, would save you a lot of time and many headaches. They’d likely be doing things with ease that they never would have imagined doing on their PC.
PC with Ubuntu Linux
Your parents probably wouldn’t be able to set this one up on their own, but once you complete the setup for them, it’s much simpler than what they’re used to (Windows). Just beware of driver issues. Try the live CD and make sure you’ll be able to get their stuff to work, including wireless Internet and their printer.
Linux viruses are very rare. It’s something that your parents likely wouldn’t have to worry about and it’s something that you wouldn’t have to resolve.
Ubuntu has a software center that allows you to download free applications with just the click of a mouse, similar to the Mac App Store. Your parents won’t have to call you to find out where and how to download a specific application.
Ubuntu comes with Firefox by default and if your parents don’t like it, they can download Chrome from the Software Center. Let’s face it: No matter how many times you install a Web browser for your parents and explain how to use it, they’re going to go back to using Internet Explorer 7 eventually. I’m not sure if they can’t tell the difference between the two or simply forget what Firefox is for, but it happens.
Sometimes a touch interface is easier to interact with. It may feel more natural for your parents. If your parents already have experience with another touch device, such as an Android phone, you may want to consider an Android tablet rather than an iPad. Change is scary. Just make sure that, if you go this route, you set them up with Amazon’s App Store because it has an approval process similar to Apple’s, so they won’t have to worry about downloading anything malicious. But back to the iPad.
- It will do what they need it to. They can browse the Web, take and organize photos, play games, use Skype and/or FaceTime, etc.
- They won’t get viruses. All apps have to go through Apple’s approval process before they’re available in the App Store. You don’t have to worry about malicious apps.
- All of the apps are downloaded through the App Store, so you won’t have to tell them what website to go to, to download what they’re looking for.
- They can use Apple’s $99 One to One program to learn how to use it.
- If something goes wrong, they can contact Apple.
If your parents are like my dad, all they use is a Web browser. If that’s the case, a Chromebook would be the perfect solution for them. It runs Chrome OS, which is basically just a Web browser and Web apps.
- The setup is extremely simple. Turn it on, connect to the wireless network, and begin using it. It also boots up very quickly (in about eight seconds).
- It does what they need it to do. From the Web browser, they can check their favorite websites, look at family pictures on Facebook, check their email, browse YouTube, etc.
- They have a 3G option. If your parents decide to get a 3G plan, they’ll be connected everywhere that has coverage. They won’t have to deal with connecting it to their wireless network.
- Security is excellent. It is automatically kept up-to-date. It runs applications in a sandbox, meaning that a virus cannot affect anything outside of that sandbox. While it may affect the browser, it will not affect the OS. It also encrypts the data, so if you share your Chromebook with someone else, they won’t be able to access your data.
Change can be hard, but it can improve your parents’ technology experience. If you’re considering one of these options, try one out first. Go to an Apple Store; talk to the staff there. They’re usually very friendly and will answer any of your questions. Use the computers there. Use an iPad. Try an Ubuntu live CD. Find what is best for you/your parents.
What do your parents use? Do you know of any other user-friendly options?