Computer illiterate mum; PC or Mac?

Discussion in 'Overclocking & Hardware' started by trackhappy, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. trackhappy

    trackhappy Member

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    Not sure where this should be posted, so I'm posting here...

    Anyway, my mum is computer-illiterate and I just started teaching her today on an old Toshiba laptop salvaged from a computer shop because it was declared abandoned (left for 6+ months).

    Unfortunately... the laptop is a piece of shit, battery doesn't even last an hour, the original charger is missing (using a charger that only works when the computer is off due to being half the wattage the laptop needs), and corners are broken and it looks like someone jammed a butter knife into the card reader and had a good old time twirling it around and the pins are just destroyed.

    But I digress...

    She has an iPhone 3GS (which is due for replacement) and she seems quite competent in using that, so I'm wondering if getting her a MacBook Air would be a sensible way to go, as the usage conventions are quite similar (mail apps are broadly similar, scrolling, gestures are the same etc), but their entry price leaves a lot to be desired when one could get a cheap laptop for half the price, although I do realize you pay peanuts and you get a monkey. We can afford to get one, but it would be difficult justifying the expense.

    But here's the problem... I have no idea how to use OSX. I've never at any point owned a Mac (owned iPhones for nearly 4 years though), but I'm sure that if I took a week to familiarize myself with it, I'd pick it up pretty quick and thus would be able to show her the ropes, too. Is OSX really that different to Windows?

    Or should I still consider a PC for her?

    Any ideas are welcome. Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  2. Jim G

    Jim G Member

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    People will learn to use either (and break either, and accidentally delete their important documents on either etc. etc.). We have introduced OS X/Win7/Win8/iOS to various older relatives and the success rate honestly seems to be about the same across the board. They seem to just learn combinations which get them where they want to go.

    YMMV.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    trackhappy

    trackhappy Member

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    Thanks. The reason I lean towards a Mac is that you never seem to have to screw around with drivers, everything just works, and there's no poorly coded OEM software that everyone else seems to love heaping onto prebuilt systems. I don't want to have to deal with all of that rubbish to be honest. I want her to be able to open the box and the thing just works.

    Plus, the Windows 8 thing. It's fine for me to switch between the two UI's constantly, but to a newbie, the seemingly random UI switching could be quite jarring and confusing. I also don't want to use Windows 7 as even software does have a shelf life, and there's really not much of a point using it at a consumer level anymore. I'd like for her machine to still receive feature updates (and not just patches) in a few years' time, which it seems like this you can do with a Mac.

    Cheers.
     
  4. Treggs

    Treggs Member

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    I've introduced relatives (of various computer experience) to PC Mac Android and iOS. For those that have little experience I have had more success with iOS and Android as they are far more user friendly and seem to be harder to break. Android and Apple tablets do all the stuff most people require these days and $500-600 gets you a pretty nice tablet or a cheap computer. Perhaps if she is familiar with iPhones an iPad might be the way to go?

    The dual interface of windows 8 has just confused computer novices in my experience so I wouldn't go that route. If you are going to go the Android route, go with a Nexus device. They are supported longer than most other devices and vanilla android is the easiest to use imho.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  5. broccoli

    broccoli Member

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    Seriously, if she's really a computer noob (and you aren't just spouting hyperbole) get a secondhand computer and stick Puppy Linux on it. It is easier to use than Windows, and any computer that can't work without "permission" from big brother is unacceptable, so I wouldn't inflict a mac on her.
     
  6. ThankDog

    ThankDog (Banned or Deleted)

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    Have you asked her what she wants in terms of what she wants to be able to do on a computer versus what she can already do with her phone? That I think will go a long way towards your answer.

    If she's well versed in the iOS and uses it for a lot of things then perhaps a Mac is good since they complement each other well. As far as you being her IT person, the MacOS is also Unix based so if you have familiarity there, that might help. Otherwise, it's a lot easier to grok for someone already familiar with computers. Most things are "the same but different". Doubt it will take you much time to get used to the way it does things.

    Does it have to be portable? If so, maybe the iPad is the better way to go? If not, then what about a Mac Mini?
     
  7. Treggs

    Treggs Member

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    One of the problems I've had with giving linux to newbies is when they want to do something specific (that they saw someone else do, usually on a Mac or PC) they tend to ask "why can't my computer do it just like that?" I tend to stick to recommending the more frequently used stuff to newbs so other people can help them too.
     
  8. Ratzz

    Ratzz Member

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    The most important thing about whatever computer you buy, its not the computer, its the support.

    You are familiar with Windows, you are not familiar with OSX.

    You are her support. I'd be sticking with something you can help her out with when she gets stuck.
     
  9. Ninja_Harbinger

    Ninja_Harbinger Member

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    You could go the route of getting an ASUS Transformer (or equivalent). They run Android and will browse the internet just as well as an actual computer and they have an actual keyboard and trackpad as well as being touch enabled. Plus if you like, you can install Ubuntu on it (using a bit of magic, link here) and using the Unity UI. It's similar to the OS X look and it quite easy to navigate.

    If she wants a computer, go with a Mac. Look at the Mac Minis; they're pretty cheap but you do need to supply your own screen, keyboard, mouse, sound etc. They're just the 'tower'. The cheapest one is $750 and comes with a dual core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD.

    Failing that, look at the Macbooks. They're all in one, battery powered and easy to use. Again, the cheapest one is $1099 and gets you a MacBook Air with an 11 inch screen, dual core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

    Whilst I am an avid PC user (sometimes diving into the linux ocean), I think this is where Macs come in. They - like you said - just work; there's no stuffing around if there's a new update and it's a really simple UI. If there's ever a problem, you can guarantee other people have had it and you can find an answer or talk to one of the Apple 'Geniuses' and they will be able to help you.
     
  10. broccoli

    broccoli Member

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    Hence the question about whether she really is a noob or not. If you aren't "tainted" by knowing what others do or what you learned years and years ago and you think is "easy" because it is so familiar, then you shouldn't be suffering that angst of wanting it to be "just like windows".
     
  11. OP
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    trackhappy

    trackhappy Member

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    I don't use Android, and while economically it makes a lot of sense, it's another way to do things. Another way to have to teach someone. "Doing the same thing but slightly differently" is enough to seriously throw off novices.

    She also wants a "proper" computer, which I perfectly understand.

    Yeah, I'd rather not subject mum to the operating system suffering bi-polar disorder that is Windows 8, and I'd like for her to receive actual updates and not just security patches so that also rules out Windows 7 or anything older.

    I don't use Linux on any of my machines at home and I am not interested in learning to familiarize myself with it. I also don't trust, even in this day and age, that you can use Linux fully in an everyday scenario (download new apps, updates, etc) without ever having to once touch the command line, so, nope. :thumbup:

    Windows 7 maybe.

    What? I honestly don't think that even if that were a real issue (which I don't believe it is), the last people on earth it would affect is the pensioner wanting to browse the internet and check her email.

    I think I'll go with the Mac, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Just gonna have to justify the cost, is all.

    Thanks.
     
  12. broccoli

    broccoli Member

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    Puppy is less complicated than "normal" distributions. I am old, and stupid, and I learnt it and used it. I don't recall having to use the command line, but if your mother seriously doesn't know anything, she probably won't have any fear about the command line. It is sensible. "Mystery windows" are not. Puppy tells you what it is doing. It "talks" to you.

    Just make sure that she knows what is required. You might find it is an issue for her.

    Also, before you drop so much money, I'd suggest that you borrow or hire one and let her use it first. What seems easy to a young tech-savvy person might not be to her.
     
  13. Treggs

    Treggs Member

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    Fair point. Looks like its not an option for TrackHappy anyway.


    My wife was very happy with a Mac Mini running Win 7 for ages. She lives on her Nexus 7 2013 now though.

    One of the reasons I suggested a Nexus device (like a Nexus 7 2013) is they have HDMI out (using a slimport adapter) and if you add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse it can pretty much replace a basic desktop for most people. Very economical computing.
     
  14. ThankDog

    ThankDog (Banned or Deleted)

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    Gosh, I hope I can quote you on that at a later date, in another argument :D

    That's probably a wise idea.
     
  15. OP
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    trackhappy

    trackhappy Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions guys. I figure she might feel slightly more at home on a Mac because I noticed that the hardest thing for her was the trackpad. You will never find a trackpad anywhere near as good as the one on a Macbook. And that's not me being fanboyish; once you use the trackpad on a Macbook, even in the shop for a few minutes, everything else instantly feels a million times worse. As I mentioned earlier, the touch gestures on a Mac trackpad are identical to that of an iOS device, which she already knows how to use half decently. She even kept trying to touch the screen and use gestures on it when I was showing her the laptop...

    The renting/borrowing a Mac for the short term to see if she really likes it is a good idea, but who's got a spare macbook laying around? (Although I am tempted to buy a MBP myself...)

    I might have a peek in the Apple Store sometime and have a good play with one, maybe even do one of those "How do I Mac?" workshop things just to familiarize myself with the OS a bit more, if only to help me justify a Mac for myself or not. :thumbup:

    Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  16. ThankDog

    ThankDog (Banned or Deleted)

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    Perhaps below is the answer to your question?

    Take your mom! Make a day of it :D See if she likes it or not. Unless it's like a surprise gift or something.
     
  17. OP
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    trackhappy

    trackhappy Member

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    Well... this is quite the spanner in the works. I distinctly remember mum saying a few months ago "I'm not interested in an iPad", hence why I was exclusively interested in laptops. But I'm not sure she knew then what an iPad actually was, because I asked her earlier this evening, and asked the family, and they all agree that an iPad would be the way to go.

    Well then... I'll see if my brother wants to lend her his iPad to see if she likes it.

    If she does, looks like I'll be getting her a new iPad Air. :thumbup:
     
  18. ThankDog

    ThankDog (Banned or Deleted)

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    Does this mean I win an internets?
     
  19. Smokin Whale

    Smokin Whale Member

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    IMO Just get her a cheap reliable second hand Windows 7 or Ubuntu desktop PC with a big screen. Keyboards and mice are more comfortable for most older people, and you can use remote access software if she messes something up (eg. teamviewer). Make sure the OS is clean, get rid of any rubbish and setup just the essentials for her, such as email (gmail is best), chrome, and maybe google drive if she likes to share photos and videos. Plus it'll work with pretty much anything, she can store and rip music off CDs if shes into that sort of thing, manage photos from memory cards, do her taxes, use facebook etc. Gave my mum a tablet once and she got fed up trying to type on a tiny screen. My neighbour quite likes her iPad though, but it takes her forever to do anything on it.

    Plus desktops are cheap. An iMac or the likes will be harder for you to support, and just a lot more expensive overall.

    If she really needs a laptop, I'd still go for a Windows or Ubuntu based one. My 88 year old grandma loves her Ubuntu laptop and found it very easy to use with Gmail + Chrome. She uses it a lot - never a complaint. I noticed one day that she did try to download a nasty virus once though (which obviously didn't affect the OS at all :lol:). She hates the trackpad and uses a wireless mouse.

    My 2c - I work in the IT industry and work with a lot of seniors.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  20. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Best thing I ever did was convert members of my family over to Apple products.

    I used to be around their places fixing crap every weekend when they were all on Windows. Now they've converted to Mac, it's heavenly. Even upgrades to new Macs and wireless installations are painless, and they can do it all themselves. Heavenly!

    All this tablet talk is great too. If all they're doing is email and social media, why bother with a desktop machine at all?
     

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