Grandma Got Run Over By Her Laptop
Grandma Got Run Over By Her Laptop
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
Poor, poor Grandma. She really wanted to be more connected with the kids and grandkids that rarely call or visit. So you, being the perfect child (or grandchild), decide to help grandma out by getting her a laptop. But not just any laptop. This bad boy had 4 gagillion megaparcecks, on board video grandometer with visual floppozoids, and a petaflopameter of storage space. At least that’s what it sounds like to Grandma when you give it to her and explain all of its features.
All she wanted were flowers and a visit. But that’s ok, because you really are helping her out. She just doesn’t know it yet.
Question: “I am buying my grandma a computer for Christmas, but she is not very technical and I really want to make sure she feels ok with using it. How do I keep from scaring her?”
Name withheld (to keep the present a secret, of course!)
Answer: Well of course you’re going to scare her. Don’t feel bad about that. It’s a similar experience to the first time she gave you broccoli for your own good. It scared you didn’t it? (I’m still scared).
But here’s what’s good about a computer for Grandma. She can watch you and your family on video. She can exchange emails with you without the messy paper and slow snail mail. She can even get pictures of your family much easier and faster than waiting for old fashioned film to develop.
So let’s concentrate on how to get Grandma what she needs: training, an internet service provider, a web cam, and an email account.
Training: There are several great ways to get Grandma trained on how to use the computer and its parts. You could do the training yourself. But this only works if you are a patient person. Nothing can become a doorstop faster than a computer that has a frustrated owner. If you’re not inclined to do the training, you can hire a professional. It usually costs around $60 per hour and there are lots of people in the yellow pages that do this.
Make sure you check references and you interview the person yourself. The lessons should not be any longer than 90 minutes at a time, and the trainer can come right to Grandma’s home. Grandma should be self sufficient after the third or fourth session. Another option would be the park district or community college, if that isn’t too much for her. The cost is less, but the training isn’t quite as personalized. The good news is that she may like hanging out with other grandmas and grandpas who are in the same boat with that same confused look on their faces. Confusion loves company, or something like that.
Internet Service Provider: There are lots of good choices these days in this area. You can go cheap with a dialup modem. Net Zero will run around $15 per month but the speed could make grandma “tsk tsk” you. DSL is only around $30 per month and is much faster. Faster yet is the provider from your cable company or, if you’re lucky enough to be in Verizon FIOS territory, you can go with that. The cost is $40-45 per month. They all usually come with no setup fee with a one year contract.
Web Cam: This is an easy one. Just go to any department store and get a USB web cam. They run about $30. Make sure it is at least a USB 2.0 because this is a better quality. USB 3.0 will be out soon but you have to make sure your laptop has USB ports that support it. You just put the CD in, and when you’re prompted, go ahead and plug in the camera. If you do this in the opposite order, you may cause a corrupt installation. I don’t know why. I think they just do it backwards to annoy you. You can get full video motion so you can see and hear grandma for free when you sign up with an instant messenger program like AIM, or Yahoo Instant Messenger.
Email: When you sign up for the instant messenger, you also get an email account that is totally free. How do they do this? Well, they inundate you with ads that pay for it. But you can usually minimize these so they aren’t too much of a bother.
Make sure she has antivirus and that you do computer maintenance on her computer once per quarter to keep it from slowing down. (Disk defrag, spyware scan etc.)
Now you can see and hear from Grandma whenever you or she likes. It will be just like she’s living there with you! It will make you and her very happy. Don’t forget to give her instant messenger handle to all your relatives so she can check up on each and every one of you.
For more great tips, check back here each week and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK, or listen online at http://alltechradio.com.
If you would like your technical question answered here, just email email@example.com. Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column I will always answer by email.