Computer thread for your mom

I’m looking to replace my mom’s aging, decade old desktop. That thing is a chundering snail, all yellowed with time.

Somehow it feels wrong to replace it with another desktop, but she has her system set up in the office with a desk featuring a custom built keyboard tray. She has a 17 inch LCD and a printer and skypes with her family… she writes tons of emails, and does a little surfing, that’s the extent of her computer use.

I feel like a chromebook, cloud printer, and wireless mouse would do the trick for her if she can get her sister to get a google account for hangouts. It would cover every use that she has for a computer, and get rid of all the hassles that she doesn’t like (waning speed, long boot up time, virus threats real and perceived, physical bulk. That said, I don’t think she’ll like the chicklet keyboard, she would hate not having a delete key, she likes her bigger screen, I don’t know if she’ll ever want the mobility a laptop gives her.

So I guess there’s a chromebox. But no built in camera… seems like some webcams are plug and play. But if I’m getting her a desktop, maybe I should get her something that simply lets her keep skyping with little change to the routine? Win 8 might mess with that idea too…

Is there a value / performance sweetspot for home desktops running win 7/8 that do the mommy thing without being crap? I know how to shop and install for gaming rigs, I built my last desktop from scratch, but is home use as simple as just picking out any old machine on sale at Best Buy? Are all machines designed to just work these days or am I looking to avoid certain brands?

Also, how about mini PC’s ? I’m confused by what I’m seeing… no preloaded OS… so what are they?

How do I buy for mom!?

When you said “mom” I thought of this:

If she’s happy with her keyboard/video/mouse, get her a Mac mini.

My Mom loves her iMac. We tried the “cheap PC from Best Buy” route once and it was a miserable experience.

Enidigm, that’s another idea, the all-in-one-monitor… although I think that tablet size would scare her into taking it around the house, it’s pretty big. My main argument for a laptop for her would be so she could type an email on the couch, skype with us from the living room or look up recipes on the kitchen counter… I can’t see her doing that with a 17" tablet. I do think that a nice all-in-one monitor computer would not be a bad idea, her 17" lcd is as old as the rest of it, and is of pretty crappy quality.

The mac mini really scares me because it’s a completely different OS… I’ve spent the last 15 years training her to understand Windows. At least Chromebook is pretty much exactly like any browser experience. Apple has so many little differences I can see myself across the phone line for hours trying to guess at what her problem is and, not being a mac-guy, not being able to help very much. (that said, I’ve used macs plenty, they’re fine, but the switch isn’t as intuitive as apple folk make it out to be, and less so for a 65 year old, I’m guessing.)

The cheapest Apple is always the best choice for a Mom who has no computer savvy to speak of. For one on the go, the Air is good because of its combination of durability, reliability, and esthetics.

Yea - Apple is probably a terrible choice, it’s a very different UI to the one she’s used to.

And it’s far more expensive than it needs to be. Compact office PC’s are cheap.

Get a junk-free Dell Vostro desktop and install TeamViewer to manage it for her remotely.

Dell’s probably what I’d suggest as well, yea.

I brought up the Mac for a few reasons:

  1. A new PC would include Win 8, so she’ll be learning a new OS anyway. It’s radically different from Win 7.
  2. The mention of not wanting to deal with viruses.
  3. Once she figures out the basics of OS X, the support calls you get from her will drop to practically nothing.
  4. Spending a little more money for a quality computer is worth it.
  1. Not when Classicshell and 7+ Taskbar tweaker are installed before she sees it
  2. You mean after the 2-3 years to learn it?

It’s not that bad. There’s an OS X equivalent for just about everything Windows has. The Dock = Taskbar. Spotlight = Windows Search. Finder = Windows Explorer. System Preferences = Control Panel. Installing and updating software is dead simple if you stick to the App Store (which is quite good, and all the apps there are sandboxed).

My Mom figured it out and she’s about to turn 80. :)

I’m just saying, if I had a choice between giving my mom Windows 8 and OS X, I’d give her OS X in a heartbeat.

It’s worse, if anything, for people who don’t “get” computers. The concept of “equivalent” does not come into it, for starters… (and store? Oh dear…talking accounts and so on, an entirely new method of installing things…)

And I see, you can get 99% of the Windows 7 UI functionality on a Mac with 2 addons? Hmm…

My mom is 70 and I just got her an iMac. She had been using Windows forever. It’s no sweat. You set up Safari with the bookmarks she needs, throw some other apps on the taskbar, and done.

As a followup – we visited the local computer superstore and had my mom check out all the options… we settled on an inexpensive all-in-one Acer 23" touchscreen with win8. She really likes the touchscreen, the lack of tower, the integrated camera and less wires. My dad likes the big HD screen (her last screen was a matted crusty 17" 1280x1024… yuck). I really like that I can customize her tile screen to only include what she needs. I was really, really leery about the lack of cpu power and dedicated graphics, but we’ve played with it for days now and it does everything she needs more than fast enough to not be noticeable.

I deleted every single tile on her start screen except for skype, though. Loaded with garbage by default. Then I made a chrome tile shortcut for every one of her bookmarks, including email and facebook… (every tile app is shit… it’s like they simplified everything to the point of uselessness.) Then I downloaded two solitaire apps.

Sorted!! She now has a super simple interface that no one could possibly screw up. And when she does, I have Teamviewer installed to save the day (thanks rei!!!). Mom is happy. Dad is still hopeless so he looks over her shoulder.

I just went through this with my mom, she’s had an Ipad and never used it. Well of course she needs to keep up with “technology” for real estate, at least that’s what the tech seminars tell her. She wants something that supports real estate software (MLS, etc) and apparently that’s a Microsoft platform. Ok, so I came up with Surface Pro or Thinkpad Twist. More toward the Twist, since I’m a longtime Thinkpad user and I still have one of those x200 convertible tablets. She’ll end up giving it to my older brother like the Ipad, or hopefully to me.

The Surface Pro screen is too small for almost anyone in desktop mode, let alone a presumably older mom. If you intend to hook it up to a monitor it’d be alright, but so would any laptop or desktop. I’d definitely go for the Twist w/ the larger screen.