Yup, my 84 year-old Iwo Jima-vet grandfather decided that he wants to get one o' them portable computers, mostly because he wants to learn how to use email.
So, I come looking for some advice. I've thought about a Netbook, but the keys are a tad too small for someone who understandably doesn't have the greatest vision anymore. The laptop itself really only needs to serve a couple functions, I don't need something incredibly high-end. It basically just needs to access the internet for the purposes of emailing, at least primarily. Looking mostly at the $800 or lower range.
He could always get a keyboard with large print keys, practice on that, then move on to using his laptop's actual keyboard once he's learned the positions.
The operating system is not going to matter. If you know Linux well, get something with good Linux support and get him an extremely simple, static software set that's immune to viruses. The actual hardware doesn't matter much. Just make sure it's large and reliable.
I've never used Linux on one of my personal computers, but people say it's very easy to set up in such a way that non-savvy people can perform basic tasks without difficulty.
Is it really worth it?
I mean, how hard is it to go "well I like Macs a lot and suggest one, but seeing your $800 max they're probably a bit out of your range. It's a shame, but a regular netbook or cheap laptop may be best in this case."
I know a lot of people here like Linux, and certainly it's possible to set up inobtrusively, especially if all that is going to be done is email. But in the case of an older person, personally I would want to set them up with something they'll see wherever they go. The last thing you want is for him to learn a little bit, how to get to the display settings and such, and then see a computer at the library or something and go "I know how to do this" and walk away totally confused and deflated.
Maybe that's not giving him enough credit, it's just what I'd do.
What's worse, spending a bit extra to get his grandfather an incredibly awesome machine, or getting stuck with 500, 600, maybe 800 dollars worth of regret?
I'm positive he can find a laptop that can handle e-mail for 700 or less.
I think just the opposite. At this point, when he learns how to use a computer, it's not going to be at the same conceptual level as we do. He is going to want to know which buttons to press to get to an email. He is going to write those steps down on a piece of paper. It'll be much more important that those steps don't change than it will be to introduce common OS concepts. Some older folks will pick up on concepts like files, folders, programs and such, but most will not. To them, the machine will be a cryptic box requiring a precise sequence of commands to get what they want. Since there's little chance at making the cryptic part go away, shortening the sequence is the best you can do.
Because all he needs to do is open a single window to get to the internet and send email.
I agree that $800 or more of regret is the greatest tragedy, which is why he should not be getting a Mac.
You can be fine with windows, and there are lots of O.K. machines for like 5-$600 that absolutely none of us would ever buy but are fine for checking e-mail and shit. Again, a netbook might be a good idea if it weren't for the tiny ass screen.
The big thing you're going to be looking to do is to PEBKAC proof the computer while also making sure that Gramps can do whatever he wants. Ergo, whatever OS you get, set up his account as non-admin, and just drop everything he's gonna need on the desktop/pin to start menu/load in dock/whateverthefuckUbuntudoesI'veonlyusedFedora.
Like this guy here: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/dell-i15-157b/4505-3121_7-33496186.html?tag=mncol;lst . Is it the world's greatest computer? No. Is it still good for $600 bucks and able to run Firefox and Thunderbird? You betcha.
The only way he's going to regret any machine out today for what he's looking for is if it's some rancid ass awful Windows machine with like a Celeron and 2 gigs of ram. Literally anything else will be able to do what it sounds like he's going to need it to do.
I would seriously just do as was suggested earlier - take him to a store, walk around the display laptops to find a size he likes (either smaller so he can handle it better, just decrease the res to make stuff larger) or larger screen/keyboard for easier use and then see what you can get online or in deals that's similar and see if you can save on the cost.
Is he actually going to move this thing around? Accidental coverage (which normally I wouldn't always recommend) may be essential in case he drops it and shatters the screen or something. If he's going to put it on the table and leave it there for the next 5 years, then he won't need it.
This is one of those big things that I assumed would simply be understood, but I guess had best be stated, as it's rather important.
So, if you suck at Mac, I want you to flip Obs the bird.
The other day at work I tried to use a Celeron with 2 GBs of ram.
There is not a human being on this planet who will be satisfied with a Celeron with 2 GB of ram and Vista on it.
Because the thought of non-Apple products causes you to froth at the mouth and bark wildly.
I mean, I have a 701 EEE that runs at 600 MHz with 2 gig of RAM, and I am quite satisfied with the speed. I was satisfied before I upped the RAM from 1 gig.
But so do thoughts of Apple products...
(Please do not gift. My game bank is already full.)
He doesn't bite and shit all over the rug, though, when placated by a nice, tasty Macbook.
Also, Obs, for some reason this discussion is making me imagine you as a Doberman.
I don't know why.
See the "with Vista".
It looks fairly simplistic and straightforward
Some of it is stuff he wouldn't use, but that's really any computer.
2 gigs is the new 128 megs. 2 gigs is baseline.
Myself and many others are able to run Vista Ultimate on 1gig just fine. If someone isn't gaming then 2gigs is plenty.
I have to throw my vote in with going to BB and checking out the displays. Then either getting a Dell or buy one @ BB with a warranty. Just so he can take it in if he needs to.
Linux & Mac are not the way to go for casual users. I have built & do maintain PCs for many people like this. They're not doing much of anything high-end and want what everyone else has, meaning Windows & Office.
The guy is old enough to have beat up John McCain in high school. You could set him up with a used lappy with 512RAM and XP and he wouldn't know what he was missing. If you insist on new, here. I just saved you $400
Furthering this I would question why he needs a laptop and couldn't go with a desktop.
I would imagine you could get hold of a shitty old box for around two hundred dollars and spend four hundred on a big arse monitor so the buttons are really big for him.
I ran Vista on 1GB of ram for a month about a year ago when my 2GB of ram died. while I was RMA'ing the ram I pulled 1GB out of another machine and put it in mine. While I wouldnt' try to game with it, or have more than 4-5 things open at a time, 1GB of ram is usable with Vista. It's like running XP with 512MB. Ideally, you want more, but you can easily get by with it.
I would actually go for a desktop, but he had a stroke five years ago and has limited use of his left leg, so he spends the majority of the day sitting in his living room or den on a couch or well-cushioned chair, he actually said he specifically was looking at something he could just set on his lap.
Thanks a lot for all of the help everybody, I've got a lot of great ideas now :^:
From what I've seen, there are a lot of really intuitive linux setups out there for people like this.
Unless he will be putting something on his lap onto which he then puts the laptop, you really need to keep in mind how hot some of these fucking things can get.
Throw a Linux distro on it with an easy to use desktop and everything he needs already installed. Then don't let him have any admin access. This way you won't have to go over to his house and clean up his entire computer every couple weeks.
Wireless keyboard & mouse on a TV tray with a monitor on an end table?
QFT. There is a reason they're generally called 'notebooks' now rather than 'laptops.' The sub-text is "Don't put it on your lap; it's fucking hot!"
Just make sure the bottom is plastic and it vents on the side. I'm sure grandpa won't mind if it's a little thicker than metal-bottomed or vent on the rear/bottom models.
I have some experience with this recently. My Dad asked me one day how much a laptop would cost, all he really wants is to email and google/wiki some random stuff (zero computer usage before). Rather than go buy a new laptop I gave him my old ass Dell. 6 years old, 512 MB of ram some crappy processor that I don't even remember.
I installed Ubuntu on it so we don't have to worry about viruses. Ubuntu is alright although there's some issues with Java and yahoo games that I found out about since my Mom wanted to play some internet backgammon.
It does what it needs to. A macbook of any kind would have been an immense waste of money.
This is the absolute truest comic that has ever been made.
-Typed on Macbook that is currently 50 degrees C.