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Computer recommendations for a tech-phobic 71 year-old father?

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Here’s the background: several years ago I got my severely tech-phobic 71 year-old father his first computer. It was old at the time, running Windows XP. It didn’t meet the technical requirements to upgrade to Windows 10, and since the end of support for XP has basically turned into a malware collection device. He has implied that he’s looking at a new computer. I’m thinking that a Windows 10 pc is not a good idea, due to, well, Windows 10. He uses his computer basically just for reading / sending email, visiting websites, and occasionally printing things. I’m thinking about a Chrome OS device. Looking at the Chromebox and Chromebase, it appears these devices are very niche-y, and aimed at businesses. Also, these appear to be the neglected stepchildren of the ChromeOS family, and I’m worried about a lack of support etc years from now. So, my questions for all of my worldly and industry-savvy guildies are:

1) Do you have any experience with a 70+ tech-phobic person using a Chromebook? Specifically, I’m worried that the small screen and small keyboard might be a problem. Is it reasonable to just hook it up to larger desktop peripherals?

2) Do you have any experience with a 70+ tech-phobic person using a touchscreen? He still uses one finger to type and doesn’t fully understand the difference between the left mouse button and right mouse button, so will a touchscreen be easier, or just add in another thing that will confuse him?

3) Am I wrong about the Chromebox and Chromebase? Are they a good option for someone like my dad?

4) Are there any other options I haven’t mentioned above? I’m specifically not looking at iOS devices, because I want something that I or one of his friends can help him with, and none of us are familiar with iOS.
Posted Dec 13, 17 · OP
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Hi There,

Will try to answer what I can.

1 - Nope, sorry.

2 - Yes actually, my mother was 65 so not quite 70 and my grandmother is 94-95. Both were techno-illiterate, as I like to call them, touchscreen seemed to be the easier way to go so long as a) you are willing to sit down and help them out till they get the hang of it... this can be trying. b) you get the right touchscreen device that fits their needs and which easy to use. We did try a full PC with both of them and it did not work nearly as well.

3 - If you have the cash, from what you have described for uses, get him an Ipad and install the apple software on your machine/laptop, keep the apple id and password handy so you can help troubleshoot any issues. (There are tons of videos on Youtube which will guide you through anything you want to do with one and there is Siri... totally amazing)

4 - There are other options but they are all more complicated. For example am Microsoft surface is a great product but it is a Windows 10 desktop replacement so you are back to square one. I realize you don't want to go with an iOS device but they are really not that different once you get the basics down, especially for an iPad.

Reasoning - First, Apple devices are some of the best products out there for people who want simple and have the device work out of the box after setup. There are lots of visual queues and if he ever gets stuck on anything he can ask Siri for help... this is invaluable once a user knows how this works... will save you a lot of phone calls. Second, email/browser is loaded right on the doc at the bottom of the screen so you can tap it and be right into what you want to do... link it to a wifi printer and you are set to print whatever you want. You will most likely see a lot less malware as well over time if he is just randomly surfing websites. Third, it means your father is not stuck using it at a computer chair/desk. He can take it anywhere in the house where the WIFI reaches and sit. This was a huge thing for my Grandmother since she enjoyed relaxing in the living room most of the time and it actually led to her using the device more for solitaire games and plants vs zombies at one point. It also was useful in her case since she started having mobility issues in her late 80ies.

Be warned however that Facetime is pretty sweet so if your father figures it out he may want to try it with other family members. It is how I tend to keep in contact with my father here in Canada, my Grandmother in England and my Aunt in Australia. Also once folks try using an iPad they tend to eventually get one lol.

Now keep in mind I am predominately a PC user, I love my Android Smartphone and I do own an Asus transformer as well... however, for folks who are really light on computer skills and/or just don't use them an iPad is spectacular.

The main issue we ran into with my Grandmother was someone need to stop by and update the iPad once in awhile... it does prompt you to do it but she could never quite get a handle of following the steps it provides.

Hope this helps

Cheers,
Posted Dec 13, 17
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No personal experience, but I've heard reports among acquaintances, that most seniors with little to no technical experience do better with tablets and touchscreens than they do with keyboard+mouse PCs.

Even typing emails on a touch-screen is usually not a problem/slowdown, when they are typing with only one single finger anyway.
Posted Dec 14, 17
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What I did for my 65 y.o. father, was take his old laptop, and put Linux Mint (a Ubuntu offshoot) onto it. Linux Mint with Cinnamon has task bar and "start" menu on the bottom of the screen, that is quite reminiscent of certain versions of windows. It's called "menu" - but I renamed it to "start" to make him feel more at home.

Also Linux, being less power hungry, runs pretty better on that old hardware (single Core CPU, intel onboard graphics etc.) than the previous windows install did.

All things internet are pretty much fine out of the box - including webmail. For email-client he'd been using thunderbird before, so that wasn't a problem either.

Main problem were his photos. He had grown used to looking through his photos using windows explorer only - just klicking through badly sorted folders. He'd rememember what was to be found which place, by that 4-item-preview that windows showed in the folder-icon or something. I wasn't able to reproduce that.

I installed "Shotwell" for him - a photo organizer software that does objectively offer more and is easier to use than just windows file system... but he wasn't impressed - because it was "different". Through a bit of hacking I even set him up with a share feature, that allowed him to right-click on any image in shotwell, and use "share" to create a downscaled, lower file-size version of the image, and attache that to a new email.
He previously had big problems with sending photos by email - recipients complained about the images being to large to see them on the screen, and download taking forever.
But even with that improvement, he was quite angry that it didn't work exactly like before. Change simply ain't welcome...

But overall, he's able to use his laptop like he did before - minus the machine getting slower and slower all the time, like his windows did.

Not sure if I can truly "recommend" that solution though. I merely did it that way, because he didn't want any money spent on this. My siblings and me have been talking about maybe getting him a tablet. But it seems like unless I iniate and organize that myself, it ain't gonna happen. He personally shows no interest on anything like that at all. To him it means learning something new, and he absolutely has no inclination to do that.
Posted Dec 14, 17
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Thanks for the suggestions
Posted Dec 19, 17 · OP
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