Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Computer Prescription for Seniors

My computer prescription for seniors follows:

New hardware and new capabilities have changed what I think a senior should have in terms of computers. I have changed nearly everything for myself in the last few months.

Unless vision is very poor a senior should have a smartphone. These are now simple to use and the price is right. A senior should have one with him or her at all times. It will do most of the things a senior will want to do without any other device.

I recommend the Motorola Moto G at about $175 and T Mobile service at about $50 a month without a contract. The Google Nexus 5 is larger and costs about twice as much. Cheaper phones are coming.

T Mobile service includes Internet data service and WiFi access from it for your separate WiFi device(s). You may not need any other WiFi service.

What else?

Windows is a problem. I always feel bad when I see seniors struggling with  Windows. Therefore I recommend you avoid  Windows unless you need it for some specific reason and are willing and able to provide your own time consuming support. Most users want to use a computer and not monkey with it all the time.

Alternatives to Windows are many.

The best choice for many seniors is simply the iPad Air, since training and help are readily available and these devices are by far the most popular with seniors. I like Android tablets better, such as the Nexus 7, but there is nowhere near as much support.

A fine inexpensive Android solution without camera is a Nook 9 inch tablet, with some support actually available from Barnes and Noble stores.

I recommend AppleCare extended warranty for the iPad. I recommend  a thin protective case  for any tablet. Pick carefully.

For almost everyone a laptop is no longer necessary. However, the Chromebook is a fine choice and works much like Windows, without all the problems. The price is low, under $300 and even $200 .

There is also the expensive but wonderful MacBook Air laptop at $900 and up.

It is possible to install WinFree lookalike Linux Zorin on an old computer.  Free.

Note that the iPad can display on your large screen display or TV with the Apple TV set top box at $100. Also note that Microsoft Office may now be rented at around for $7 a month or $70 a year. The parallel Google Office apps cost nothing: Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

So...just two devices should fill the bill; a smartphone and/or a tablet or laptop.

I do recommend one more device, however: I recommend the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite for a bunch of reasons. It is nearly indestructible with its plastic screen, has a long battery life, and is usable in both very bright direct sunlight and in the dark. It is a very small inconvenience to take along with you.

If you need Windows, the latest 8.1 with update is now appealing and available in a perfectly satisfactory laptop or tablet at under $400. But be smart and make a system image backup right at the start so that you can get out of trouble in a matter of minutes by reinstalling the system.

So, say goodbye to the past and enjoy the new technology. Computers are tools and you deserve the best tools.

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