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I’m my family & friend’s (retired) geek and a recent rec’d diary started me thinking about how often I hear these complaints:

  • “I HATE the new (Windows, OSX, iTunes, iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.)!”
  • “I just learned how to do what I want in the old software and now they changed EVERYTHING!”
  • “(Microsoft/Apple/HP/Dell et al) must hate their customers; I can’t use any of their new stuff!”
  • “I just got my new computer and now I can’t find my (mail/ contacts/ documents/ pictures…)!”
Well, I hate to break it to you – but, it’s not their fault – it’s your fault. (Well, maybe a little their fault – but you can protect yourself from evil Corporate Marketing forces).  Allow me to elaborate and ramble a bit lot with my old “Analyst” hat on …

So you don’t have to read the whole thing (no one ever does), here’s the “executive summary”:

  1. Don’t buy the “newest thing” unless you’re prepared for some changes in how you work
  2. Don’t buy “Consumer Class” hardware from retail stores without careful research and/or advice from someone knowledgeable
  3. Don’t expect your “productivity” routine to stay the same without some concerted effort on your part
  4. Be realistic about what you will do versus what you would like to do with new technology
  5. Educate yourself on how general advances in technology will impact how you work – there is usually much discussion available on the web and you can usually find “experts” who can advise you (sometimes for free – sometimes for pay)
First of all; things change – deal with it or you will suffer on some level.  They change because you demand it. Everyone is attracted to new toys, the latest and greatest gadget, on some level.   It’s called progress and progress progresses – especially in tech – that’s a good thing.  It gets complicated when whatever what you’re using is more than a gadget to you – when your career or chosen vocation depends on you getting something specific done by a certain deadline.

Finding a balance between adapting new technology and remaining productive is always a difficult. This is more critical when your professional livelihood depends on the choices you make or your budget can't handle frequent upgrades. It has been made more complicated by hardware vendors selling direct to end users without the (sometimes dubious) advice of knowledgeable dealers and consultants.  When you work for a large-ish company, you have an “IT Department” that does this for you – but if you’re on your own; you are the IT department and you have to do your homework before you jump. If you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into, it’s easy to go wrong. Here are some thoughts based on 30 years of dealing with these problems that might help.

First is the big secret most computer vendors don’t really tell you - there are two classes of computer hardware out there: “Consumer” and “Commercial”. “Consumer Class” hardware is usually flashy (thinnest, lightest, prettiest, Win8 …), has the latest processors and graphics accelerators, built-in multimedia capabilities (web cams, memory card readers, premium speakers, etc.) and it seems inexpensive for what you’re getting, because it is.  These systems are primarily built to a cost/price target where most the perceived value is in the device itself, not hardware longevity or support relationship. Once these devices ship out the door, you’re essentially on your own after a year or two.

“Commercial Class” is not as sexy, usually heavier with less emphasis on performance, fewer options, “last gen” processors and operating systems … and is almost never sold in a retail stores (a relic of the “value-added re-seller” model). Notebooks will feature metal frames vs. mostly plastic and have low-buzz options like high capacity batteries and road-warrior friendly configurations. On the plus side, they will usually have a better quality keyboard, stand up to more abuse (due to sturdy chassis and components) and frequently have longer warranties. Manufacturers usually commit to longer support cycles - making bug-fixes, updates, new drivers and replacement parts available for a longer period of time because that’s what corporate customers demand. These same customers are not as price sensitive, so these will cost more – sometimes a LOT more – but you are usually getting your money’s worth.

One exception to this rule is Apple; most of apple’s products are quasi-commercial quality because that’s part of Apple’s Industrial Design ethos.  They are a “premium” product and you get what you pay for most of the time. Apple also doesn't have the legacy “dealer channel” model that created the “commercial vs. consumer” issue other large PC vendors have. Apple’s world is not without its flaws – the “walled garden” means you pay more for accessories and have more limited options on software and peripherals, but it also means what you buy is usually going to work.

It’s not always easy to find these commercial-type models because PC vendors don’t like internal divisions seeming to compete against each other.  If you look for “Small and Medium Business” (SMB) on the company web site – that’s where you head. You’ll know when you get there because the web page usually gets a lot more boring and most of the systems will still have Windows 7 as the operating system (or as a direct-downgrade option). Finding these “pro” systems will let you settle back into a slower refresh cycle and help delay the plunge into new operating systems you may find disruptive.

The second biggest road-bump I encounter with (usually older) users is adapting to basic paradigm shifts in technology. Most development around new operating systems revolves around the convergence of phones, tablets and computers and how we can stay productive while integrating these devices into our work-flow. If you don’t really use a “smart phone”, have no interest in a tablet and don’t care if you don’t have seamless access to your “stuff” everywhere – this is not for you.  Unfortunately, you will find yourself increasingly isolated from mainstream product and software development.  This means you’ll have to work a bit harder to get what you want – and to get your tech to do what you want, but it’s not impossible with some effort.

Windows 8 is a good example of how this “convergence” will eventually work. One of the reasons Win8 wants you to log in with a “Microsoft account” is that it’s goal is to provide you with a seamless experience moving from your Windows Phone, to your Surface Tablet, to your Windows Notebook. For example; when you leave your notebook and take your Surface (tablet) to the couch – all your bookmarks, email, and documents will follow you and still be accessible.  By the same token, moving to your Windows 8 Phone will also give you a similar web browsing experience (all your “favorites” are there) as well as the same email, contacts and access to documents(via the "cloud"). It’s a pretty ambitious project and not all the pieces are in place yet (as witnessed by still having to load legacy productivity applications from the “desktop” vs. native Win8 apps).  When it all works, they will potentially have a better “eco-system” than the not-completely seamless Apple notebook > iPad > iPhone world everyone admires.

Another tactical issue is the problem of dealing with legacy systems that haven’t quite died yet.  I just finished a rather painful (for them) migration for some friends from the old Outlook/Pop Mail to IMAP access to mail. If you still use POP mail servers; you are about to slide off the “cassette & VHS tape” end of the technology continuum.  There are still quite good mail programs (Thunderbird) that will feel like your old Outlook – but it’s time to jump on the IMAP/Exchange Server bandwagon.  If you don’t know what these terms mean and why they’re important, get someone you trust to explain it to you or do some more research – it could cause you some grief at some point.

After this point, it gets complicated; if you chose NOT to or cannot participate in the “bleeding” edge of tech development; you’re going to have to get your hands dirty at some point (metaphorically speaking). If you decide you don’t want to deal with emulators to run your old software or don't want to commit to one vendor’s vision of the future; there are options – but you’ll need to get your geek on. Most older hardware (notebooks or desktops) will run VERY nicely with any number of free Linux operating systems (Ubuntu seems quite user friendly).  The OS is free, also has many free productivity applications available (Open Office does everything “MS Office” does, including compatible files) and it even looks very much like the version of Windows you’re currently using (“Libuntu” flavor of Ubuntu, specifically).

The downside to all this is you have to do the grunt-work; find the download of the ISO file, figure out how to burn a bootable “disk image” to a CD or DVD, learn how to configure, update and download applications you need, etc.  None of it is hard, but if “ISO” sounds like a foreign term to you – proceed with caution.  Once you get your system configured, though – you should be good to go. Browsing is very similar, mail is the same (with Thunderbird & others), files are compatible and the operating system is advanced enough that it should support any hardware or peripherals you throw at it.  One advantage of the “open sourced” world is that you are not penalized for experimentation – everything’s free – so you can feel free to explore what’s out there.

If this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, my usual recommendation (and my only one for older, first-time buyers) is to stick with the Apple world. While not perfect, their software and hardware tends to be easier to navigate for casual users and Apple’s support infrastructure (also not perfect) is at least more consistent. The primary downside here is cost; apple hardware can be substantially more expensive than equivalent performance in the PC world – but you are usually getting a better overall quality (commercial type) product. Your hardware also has a better chance of staying up to date because Apple has the advantage of being able to “push” incremental software upgrades out to their users through the homogeneous nature of their devices and their direct sales model. (Ask some Android phone users what version of their OS they have from their cell provider if you want to start an interesting discussion some time …)

All of these things can be learned by searching for discussions in numerous places on the web, but it’s going to be harder NOT to be a geek in the near future if you don’t want to go with the main flow of technology.  I just turned 60 and have no problem using any and all stuff out there, but that’s how my brain is wired and I’ve been taking all these things apart for the last 30 years.  I worry about the increasing divide I see with friends 10 – 15 years younger that aren’t “tech-fluent”.  Much of the new tech is getting easier to use if you’re already there – but if you don’t upgrade on a timely basis you can get to the point where you won’t have any idea where to dive in.

More than you wanted to know, probably, and I’m not sure how helpful this survey will be (or if anyone will read it!). I wind up helping my circle of friends, family and acquaintances make these types of decisions all the time, so I thought I’d pass this info for whatever it’s worth.
{/ramble} {/book}

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Comment Preferences

  •  The only change I want (9+ / 0-)

    is my trillion dollar coin!

    Good luck with that whole... getting people to understand and accept change thing.


    Another techie

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:18:08 PM PST

  •  I hope that Windows 8 (or 9 or 10)... (8+ / 0-)

    ...eventually gets it right.

    In the mean time I'll be looking at Macs although I've been using Windows for over 20 years.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:27:22 PM PST

  •  Well, yeah, but... (6+ / 0-)

    sometimes upgrades just suck.

  •  TechBob My Dad (67) Said He Just Wanted (8+ / 0-)

    a phone to make a call. It didn't want it to take pictures. He'd never use it to text. Now I can't stop him texting me like a dozen or more times a day. Almost wish I didn't get it for him :).

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:35:13 PM PST

  •  It'll be an interesting time on the home front (7+ / 0-)

    PC or Apple - the choice and struggle continues.

    My desktop is showing it's age.

    It's the third PC I've built - after owning several Macs in a row.

    But age, it will bring that time to failure up on the machine's clock. More important - MS says that no, they are not going to support my OS, not anymore, too old. So, do I go for a Win8 machine - MS again?

    I'm thinking not - even though I can build my own, bigger power supply, robust keyboard, great cooling system, extra HDs, best of everything I want or think I need.

    Except I don't want a desktop, not anymore. Don't want to be tied to a desk.

    So it's a laptop, which I cannot self-build. Frankly I think most commercial or consumer laptops are just plain awful. Compromised.

    For the very reasons you outline - flash, but no sturdiness. Cheap, for obvious reasons.

    By the time I spec out one in the manner desired I'm looking at a bill not far removed from a good Apple product.

    That old desktop? Going to Linux the thing and run it as a second DVR.

    Nice diary.

    •  I Was A Mac User At Home From 1984 (3+ / 0-)

      until about five years ago. I like to say I did the reserve switch (always a PC at work). I love my Sony laptop. I run Windows 7 on both of my machines and I find it to be a wonderful OS (why I don't upgrade).

      Now I am something of a power user. I develop web sites. But if I used the Internet the way most people I know use it. A few emails and surfing I might be able to live with just my Google Nexus tablet.

      Just a thought ...

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:54:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm also thinking about a Nexus tablet (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They seem to have good specs and look like a good transition devices that would be more useful than a phone, but less mess than a notebook (or ultrabook) most of the time.

        It will be interesting to see how "cloud" apps progress for power users on the developer side.  We may all wind up back in the virtual terminal world after a 20 year cycle - that would be bizarre (spent many years setting up VT 100 emulators...).

        I think graphics types like me are stuck with stand-alone devices.  I can't see distributed apps making headway there (though Adobe seems to be trying) - living in a rural area with fast, but unreliable Internet makes that sound scary.

        "Curiouser and curiouser!"

        by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:35:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm OS agnostic (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't care as long as I can run PhotoShop.

      I did notice one thing poking around on Dell's site, though: many well-built "business" notebooks are frequently on sale because they are not "state of the art" (older processors or similar).  If you're looking for something pedestrian, find one of those and just ignore the Windows 7 it comes with and install Ubuntu.

      It is hard to figure out what is and "actual" business (commercial) class system, though, and what's just a low-content consumer system.  Wish they published a "% plastic" content  - that would be a good indicator, or maybe just buy the heaviest one!

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:30:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I started with C64 (6+ / 0-)

    Which I still have.  A IIGS I still keep.   I was a developer for OS/2, and a developer for OS/2 Warp and OS/2 Merlin, including Beta.

    I was a beta candidate for WfWG, Win95, Win98, Windows 2000, etc.

    There are always significant changes, good and bad.   There have been times where the right idea just comes along and hits you.  Other moments where something goes wrong.

    Frankly, there are a lot of things I really admire about Win8, but there are a lot of things where I think from Beta just prior to RC1 and RC1 there were some changes made that I don't think worked to it's benefit.  

    I've helped people with development on Android, iPhone, Windows.  

    Having played with it, this is what I'm going to tell you:

    The Surface RT is not the right item.  Samsung is about to introduce an RT tablet running on the far superior Qualcomm chip and it will be the one to get.  Surface isn't a bad idea, but MS's commitment to having a storefront and sync app ready at launch was a major disaster.

    The one product Microsoft has that really does work far better than I ever expected is the Windows Phone.   For the first time in years, I dropped my iPhone and traded in for a Nokia 920.  Better camera, fast, functional, and the integration with Skype and other tools really stand out.   It's the one thing where MS really hit an absolute homerun in my book.

    Windows 8 is one of those things that is hurt because it's place in a business environment isn't so good.  This is because of the way the shell is managed and it goes against a lot of the beta advice they received.   There is some talk that some of the items prior to RC1 will be restored in a future Service Pack.  If that's the case, people will get what they want.

    So, my end thoughts:

    Windows8: wait unless you have a touchscreen
    WindowsRT: Surface is "OK", but better options coming
    WindowsPhone8: The only complete success out of the group.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:41:53 PM PST

    •  Windows Surface Pro is sounding good (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Most reviews seem to be gushing about it, but it sure is expensive.  I'm holding off on Win8 until my graphic programs go "native" - and I get a nice, bit trackpad like the new Logitech T650

      It will be interesting to see what happens when the full Win8 phone> tablet> desktop is finished (next year?) - could be a truly "disruptive technology"...

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:39:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks, this is great (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, Andrew F Cockburn, TechBob

    Especially rec to avoid consumer lines, and especially especially avoid the crap at the big box store unless you really know what you're doing.

    Ps If you want a reliable windows PC, check out the Dell Latitude line (running Win 7 of course).

    "I don't cry over milk spilled under bridges. I go make lemonade" - Bucky Katt

    by quill on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:44:41 PM PST

  •  Thanks for making the case for Apple products. (4+ / 0-)

    They do hold their value well, and there are several life cycle studies that show that over the whole life of the machine an Apple is competitive, if not cheaper. My old Powerbook 40 (1992, 40 M hard drive) is still being happily used by the friend I gave it to when I needed more power - she uses it for simple word processing and mail, and it still does that just fine.

    Folks who blanche at the price tag on an Apple should check out an Apple mini - it's basically a cpu box with all the system advantages of an Apple, and you can use your current monitor and keyboard.

    I was using both Apples and PCs for most of my last ten years at the university - never found anything to prefer in the PCs but they were my only option for teaching.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 05:50:24 PM PST

  •  A few minor quibbles (5+ / 0-)

    First off, your paradigm seems completely backwards to me. Please read "Computers as Theater" or "The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design" or anything else by Brenda Laurel, pioneer in the field of computer human interaction. Computers should adapt to humans, not the other way around. Anything less is laziness and arrogance on the part of the designer and programmer.

    Lets be clear: not all change is progress! You know it, we know it, everyone knows it. Microsoft Bob. Windows ME. Shall I go on? Some changes are bad, stupid, and wrong. Tech companies are not Godlike beings with an omniscient sense of what their customers want.

    Many changes in technology have nothing to do with what the customer wants. They have more to do with what other large, powerful corporations, like the entertainment industry want. Vendor lock in and the walled garden do not benefit customers. This new Windows Store is rather pathetic. Do not let yourself be railroaded into doing things that do not benefit you. Punish companies that work against your interests.

    Power users such as engineers, architects, programmers, and graphic designers are NOT going to be giving up their desktops and moving to tablets and smartphones any time soon. How many apps were actually developed on the devices they run on? Practically none. They were developed on workstations, with mostly using keyboards and the types of text editors that have been around for thirty years.

    Although I dislike vendor lock in and the walled garden approach, I have to agree that Apple products are easier to use in general. Unlike Microsoft, Apple saw no need to radically redesign their user interface of their desktop platform. Thank you, Apple.

    •  That is true as an ideal, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn, chocoholic

      but in practice - vendors are hostage to hardware/ software refresh cycles. They give lip-service to "disruptive/ innovative" design goals - but are slaves to the "POR" (Plan of Record) bible all Product Managers plug and crank to turn out new devices.

      I fought these battles as an internal analyst - and the inertia (and fear, mostly from displeasing Wall Street quarterly performance targets ...) are against you. Additionally, few tech companies have strong, charismatic leadership like Apple had.  We'll see if they continue to innovate now (not looking good so far ... "Mini" meh ...)

      Change may not be progress, but it is inevitable - you don't always have a choice about what you can do as an individual. From a practical standpoint, I've always tried to be focused on what is practical vs. what is possible.  Trust me, the disruption on graphic artists during the transition to digital workflow was tremendous and painful to them.  And EVERY SINGLE change/ upgrade afterward was almost as bad.  Our simple productivity needs are almost trivial and more of an annoyance in comparison.  We'll survive.

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:20:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thankfully, we demolished Bob (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Windows ME was also a failure. Windows Vista was replaced by Windows 7 in record time. Tech companies make mistakes, and WE decide what constitutes a failure as opposed to "progress."

        How different is the Apple user interface now, compared to when it started? Not very different. Windows 8 is a huge interface redesign. The Windows store is a terrible idea, and Microsoft should be punished for it.

        You see, productivity IS important. It is not trivial. Moving to a new operating system is a big deal. Many companies have skipped upgrades because they see no benefit, only pain.

        One thing that made Windows more successful than the arguably better Apple Macintosh was that, in order to work in most any office, people had to learn Windows. It was something one could put on a resume, like knowing how to type. Windows made no significant changes to the user interface for well over a decade.

        Why do companies buy Windows? Because it is easy to find people who know how to be productive on Windows. If companies upgrade to Windows 8, this will no longer be true.

        Microsoft screwed up, Windows 8 will be the same sort of quickly replaced failure that Microsoft is famous for. No, not every change was as bad as moving from drafting board to computer screen. Not by a long shot.

        This essay feels like an apologia for the stupider side of the tech industry. You admit that tech companies create new products not out of any real demand, but because of idiotic Product Managers and the soul-destroying "profit motive." There is no real money in fixing problems in an old product. There is no real money in improving an existing product according to customer feedback. The real money is in convincing consumers that they need the latest crap, whatever its merits.

        And you are playing right into that.

        I'm proud of the fact that I have helped ween many individuals, companies, and state agencies off of crap commercial software and onto Open Source, putting power back in the hands of the users. You seem to be saying, "Shut up and eat the crap we slop on your plate." Are you proud of that contribution?

        •  As one who actually used Bob, I can say (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming

          it was kind of fun. It would have been a fun operating system for little kids. And it gave us Clippit!

          I never tried to use it for a real operating system - it would have been terrible at that. But as a fun OS wrapper, it was fine.

          Win 8 is basically Win 2 on steroids. Windows 2 gave us the first "windows", but they were static. You could tile windows, but you could not size or move them. We have come full circle and Win 8 now allows us only full-screen or two tiled windows. Actually, that's not even as advanced as Win 2. You could have more than 2 windows even then.

          When collective bargaining is outlawed, only outlaws will have collective bargaining.

          My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

          by pucklady on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:56:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Please. Do not mention that... thing. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wu ming, Odysseus, skohayes, pucklady

            Clippy is an abomination. It is Microsoft's complete misunderstanding of Brenda Laurel's ideas about human/computer interfaces. They stole the basic idea from her, but got it stone cold wrong, in ways that she specifically warned about, no less!

          •  Clippit :) (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It didn't just give you clippit, it also gave you the search engine dog of WindowsXP.

            Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

            by Chris Reeves on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 05:46:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, I kind of liked that dog. (0+ / 0-)

              the way he'd curl up and go to sleep after a while was cute. The cat was even better. It would stand up and put its paws on the back side of your screen.

              When collective bargaining is outlawed, only outlaws will have collective bargaining.

              My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

              by pucklady on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:23:33 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  That's a lovely idea (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but many people are not prepared on any level to use open source software without a level of support that is unavailable without a "personal geek" around.

          I don't advocate reflexive upgrades, in fact I'm usually conservative about it as productivity IS important (won't do Win8 until the software I use is there).  But "open source" is not an option for what I do on the graphic side - but I appreciate your positive attitude.

          "Curiouser and curiouser!"

          by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 08:00:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Rereading it, that last part I wrote sounds kind of angry, sorry for that. Your essay got me angry because it sounded like "Oh, you don't like some new thing in computing? SUCK IT UP, GRAMPA! Or do you want to get left behind?" I believe the end user should be in control, their needs and desires come first, and "progress" is what they say it is, not what tech company insiders say it is.

            Mostly, I've helped create back end replacements for closed source software, and for the most part, that included support contracts from open source firms, so the companies I worked with do have their own personal geeks, as much as anyone does. The thing about open source is, you do get your own personal geek. That's what mailing lists and forums are for: people will help you figure things out.

            I say this writing from a Windows 7 computer, though. I like strategy and war games, but try finding any of those on consoles, tablets, Linux, or Macintosh.

            Well. Microsoft has utterly pissed off the PC gaming industry with Windows 8. Maybe that will be the kick in the pants those companies need to move to Linux. You think Steam likes the idea that there is only ONE place to buy Windows 8 software? Or that MS will take 30% off the top? Haha, nope. Microsoft is in for a fight with this one.

            •  Sorry, too - I shouldn't have snapped back (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I also am very concerned about end users being in control, but I'm afraid many can't or won't take that responsibility.  Because of MY age (60) and being a life-long geek (wrote my first Fortran code @12 - did NOT like it) and also being an ADD-type arts/engineering hybrid - I'm very exposed to people who have NO interest in how things work, they just want to do what they want to do.

              It's a hard balance for me because I can't use anything until I understand everything about it at some level (stuff makes no sense until I get a sufficiently dense information cloud in my brain). It's hard for me to comprehend not wanting to know how the things you have to use work - and how to master them, rather than them mastering you.

              Many people my age and a decade or so younger have no interest in how things work and somewhat afraid of change - some are almost proudly ignorant of the tech that surrounds them - which concerns me even more.  I've made a special effort to enable those around me to access every day tech (all my friends have WAY more technology than they're comfortable with) - from smartphones to home theater and gaming.

              I tend to get a bit evangelical about technology and enabling yourself - guess it comes from shepherding artists into the tech world for so long. It is rewarding when my birds leave the nest and realize it's not so hard - they feel very empowered.  But I also realize that some will never care if they get left behind on even the basic stuff and try not to badger (though it does get me wound up).

              My worry is that eventually basic things like banking and medical access will become "tiered" and some will wind up with 2nd class (and usually more expensive) services at some point.  It does please me that I've been able to bring a couple of dozen octogenarians (including my mother) to a point where they aren't fazed by modern tech.

              After a fairly deep immersion into PCs, Macs, Unix & Linux - I try not to be caught up in an inflexible "OS as religion" trope that seems to be the domain of "fanboys/girls". Open source is fascinating and I've done my share to facilitate many younger, future geeks as a way to educate themselves in what interests them when you don't have the funds to buy what you want.

              Anyway, sorry for the "snap" - I get stubborn when someone holds up what reads as a rigid dogma (and I love to argue - it's genetic).  I'm for Tech Zen - I will "flow" with whatever technology I can get my hands on. :)

              "Curiouser and curiouser!"

              by TechBob on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:57:11 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  We sound like very similar people (0+ / 0-)

                And not just tech-wise, after all, we are both here on Daily Kos so our politics must be at least sort of similar. ADD type arts/engineering hybrid, started on computers in the 1970s, memorized the internal workings of the Commodore 64, familiar with Windows, Mac, and Linux, why, the list of similarities just goes on and on!

                One meets some of the most fascinating people at Daily Kos.

  •  In case anyone is looking (4+ / 0-)

    for a win7 machine, of the commercial variety, Dell Outlet is now selling their legacy machines on ebay. A year ago, there were about a dozen grey market vendors selling Dell's new on ebay when I got mine. My daughter needed one and now it's just Dell selling them direct (or indirectly, through ebay).  Their latitude line is one of their commercial lines, I picked up a 6510 for her for $330. Closest I could come to comparable specs for their newer models is around $950.

  •  'member how you said Linux (4+ / 0-)

    for older hardware?
    's the only operating system I've ever had on this desktop, and I don't know how I'd function without it. I use LibreOffice, Firefox, and Kubuntu.

    I'm not really a geek (any more) -- but I'm the not-quite-a-geek in an IT household. Husband and son do IT for a major health provider in Texas.

    Back in the Dark Ages, I taught myself VMS (John Earl wherever you are, may you be ever blessed and all your children too) out of a set of DEC manuals I wasn't supposed to have (the service tech took one look at the cobbled-up "help book" handed to me by the Dept of Commerce, shook his head, went out to his truck, and came back with all the volumes).

    Never quite got the hang of Fortran though I did pass the class.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:10:14 PM PST

    •  Not necessarily for older hardware, (0+ / 0-)

      but it will totally give old hardware a new lease on life. An old desktop that could barely run with latest WinXP software practically flies with Ubuntu.  I can imagine how new hardware would work - but I need my Photoshop, so Linux only goes on my older stuff. (GIMP is OK, but I need my "Adobe"...)

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 06:42:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ah -- my elder son is a fan of Inkscape. (0+ / 0-)

        This box came from Tiger Direct (the monitor is off Ebay) brand new in 09, and it flies. I do have an ongoing disability with Java/Script, so I disabled it in Firefox a long time ago. Turns out that mayn't have been so big a problem after all...

        I need to find a way to get drivers for the HP Son2 had to abandon in 2011, so I can run that laptop on Linux (hey! a laptop! Free!) . Unfortunately it's got a flaky videocard, which is direct-mounted on the motherboard. (Dammit.) I keep thinking maybe I'll find one on Ebay broken differently, for the take-2, make-1 fix ...

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

        by BlackSheep1 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 07:07:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And you don't have to download Linux (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and burn a disk. You can get any of 15 different Linux distributions or FreeBSD on DVD from for $5.95 plus about $1 S+H. Most are a combination live disk/install disk, and include all the basic software you need, including office and graphics.

        You can download and install all the rest using the distribution's package management system - like an app store, but free - or for another $20 - $30 get all of that on DVDs.

        List price for Photoshop CS6 is $700, but a lot of people don't buy it.

        And I still use POP3, although IMAP would involve simply clicking a different radio button on my email client - and it's been that way as long as I can remember.

        In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

        by badger on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 08:56:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True, but most people don't know where to find (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          them or which flavor to get without some guidance. I've been recycling my old DTs with Linux for a while now to people who needed hardware but couldn't afford it - and they work great once you get them set up.  Setup can be a pain, though (but usually isn't).

          Problem with POP mail comes when you start accessing your mail from multiple devices. People get into this confusing "did I delete this or not" thing and wind up managing the same mail 2 or 3 times.  No big deal, but annoying and an increase in the chance of missing something important (flagged as "downloaded" from checking phone, not downloaded on DT if email client not configured correctly - everybody's unhappy).

          On top of that, I've found many smaller ISPs (and a few big ones) don't configure their mail servers properly and/or inconsistently - which is loads of confusing fun all around. Also, once info goes into "Outlook" sinkhole - it never seems to come out again.

          One nice thing about transitioning to IMAP, besides eliminating redundant housekeeping, is not being so shut down by hardware failures.  A hard drive crash used to by a disaster for the most dynamic part of your files - your email and contacts - now it's no big deal.

          Of course, you're putting your life on Google servers and depending on them - but that's a whole other rabbit-hole to go down! :)

          "Curiouser and curiouser!"

          by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 09:38:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  My wife is going nuts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    newyorknewyork, Odysseus, TechBob

    Her quicken has told her if she doesn't upgrade it won't talk to banks anymore.
    Recently iTunes switched to a more graphical interface and she had me back it out for the more textual older version.
    She HATES being forced to less textual interfaces and longs for wordstar the touch typist's dream.
    If I forced her to win8 she'd. Kill me.

    •  That Quicken upgrade sounds fishy, but perhaps (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it's just my utter disdain for (and distrust of) Quickbooks.

      But I digress: is she being informed that her version is no longer supported by the financial institutions or is no longer supported by Intuit (to sell more software and support contracts).

      I'm guessing it's the latter, but again - I'm not a fan of Intuit.

      I laughed at the Wordstar mention though -- I haven't run that since the last time I booted my Osborne 1.  As for iTunes11 -- I find it hard to believe Jobs would have let that heinous piece of crap out the door (but then the Lion OS escaped so I guess anything's possible).

      I was talking PDAs with a friend the other day -- I've owned a Newton, a very early Palm, a Sony Clie, and an Agenda VR3: a short-lived but actual Linux PDA.

      All of them -- including the Osborne -- still fire up :)

      ...and after we get your guns, we're coming for your dildos.

      by here4tehbeer on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 09:54:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's always the rub (0+ / 0-)

      with something you MUST have to do your work.  My mother was fine with her "text based" old DOS accounting system, but eventually it got to the point where backup was a nightmare (no support for anything like CDs and a proprietary backup scheme) and she could only use one ancient laser printer than emulated an even OLDER HP laser printer.

      She finally gave up, started using Quicken - then had to upgrade again for a reason similar to yours (tax tables?). Then she migrated to a MAC and is now running Windows version under an emulator.  Potential nightmare, but seems to be working. (She's 85 - it's a whole family of geeks)

      I know how you feel trying to support people who don't want to change how they do things when it's not possible to do what they want any more.  I can't decide if older people are more stubborn than graphic artists - its' a tossup.  I think I've become more flexible as a reaction - I can get what I want to happen on anything from XP to Win8, OS (Mac) anything and Linux anything right up to command line.  I'm ready for the computer-pocaplypse (as seen on TV!)

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 10:19:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Flipping From Computer Support to Rennaissance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    artisan I completely flipped my relationship to the technology.

    I would love to be paid again to work the technology for people I support. But that's never ever going to happen again.

    So I spend my day bending dried grass and shaving wood, and when I occasionally have to put on my ancient computer tech hat to debug numbskull interface inconsistencies or install/setup crashes, it's just intensely disorienting and annoying. I've been without iTunes for weeks thanks to a crash during an update. Every few nights I run regedit and delete a hundred or more iTunes entries till my wrist gets sore; maybe some day I'll reach the end of them and be able to do a new install. Uninstall continues to fail and that stumps Apple tech support.

    I need my computer to run the same old spreadsheet, the same old email, the same old legacy legacy legacy DOS drawing software, the same old image/graphics editor, and to let me fart around here. Farting around here is the only thing I can count on keeping after any upgrade, but Soros doesn't pay me to do that.

    I don't use the OS and I don't give a shit about it. I just want it to run my few apps that I select by mouse because I must, and run almost entirely from keyboard because I have lightning fast fingers and I have people waiting.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 07:05:50 PM PST

  •  I get it but I don't agree with it! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, skohayes

    I hear what you're saying but I think there should be CHOICES.

    Like the commenter above me said about his wife, (at least as I understood it) I don't care for all touch screen crap (no buttons to be found anywhere). First of all, my damned fingers don't work like that. I need an f'n button, OK???

    I just bought a new computer a couple of months ago and PURPOSELY got the older windows 7 instead of 8 because I didn't wan the touchscreen "tiles" or whatever the hell they call them.

    What I don't get is...why do we ALL have to conform to what somebody decides is the way to do it? THEIR way! People are different and they shouldn't force crap on you. Give people a choice.

  •  If a paradigm works, why change? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming
    The second biggest road-bump I encounter with (usually older) users is adapting to basic paradigm shifts in technology. Most development around new operating systems revolves around the convergence of phones, tablets and computers and how we can stay productive while integrating these devices into our work-flow. If you don’t really use a “smart phone”, have no interest in a tablet and don’t care if you don’t have seamless access to your “stuff” everywhere – this is not for you.  Unfortunately, you will find yourself increasingly isolated from mainstream product and software development.  This means you’ll have to work a bit harder to get what you want – and to get your tech to do what you want, but it’s not impossible with some effort.
    Virtualization has done some really nice things, but there's no reason why everything has to be converged.

    There's a big diference between "a phone that I can do other things on" and "a little computer I carry around that can call people".

    Frankly, the 2000s still seem like they are searching for a killer app.  Email was a killer app.  It's possible that Instant Messaging might rise to that level.  Is facebook via phone really that useful or important?  Just selling more advertising is a waste, not a reason.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 07:19:30 PM PST

  •  My advice: Buy the extra stuff (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TechBob, skohayes

    Don't buy the cheapest bare bones model. It doesn't hurt to have more RAM, more hard drive, a bigger screen, a faster processor. In two or three or five years, there will be a new operating system that needs those extras. Or you'll want to edit videos. Whatever. Remember those computers that were sold as "Vista Ready?" Technically, yes, but in reality no.

    “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

    by Dbug on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 08:10:41 PM PST

    •  I concur (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but didn't want to get to any specifics - it was already too long.  I always advise friend who ask to buy "more" than they think (up to a point) so their investment stays usable for longer. (Really not a fan of Intel graphics, for example and you can't ever have too much RAM!).

      That whole "vista ready" mess was a disaster across the board.  Vista turned out to be OK eventually, but that stuff with half-baked drivers on less-than-capable hardware left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

      I know it's hard to time hardware, software and support eco-system for a product launch - but I hope Windows 8 makes it - it's pretty spectacular in spots.  I'd love to be able to afford a Surface Pro - no reason to get one, it just looks like it would be fun to play with. (not that I'm addicted to gadgets or anything ...)

      "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      by TechBob on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 10:27:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  ack! (0+ / 0-)

    I'm still running Win XP.  Okay, it's an old computer (bought it used) but XP works.  Can't afford to upgrade in any case.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 08:26:19 PM PST

  •  Flexibility is key (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You have to have flexibility these days.  

    For instance, I am writing this on the old laptop with XP and have Office 2003 on it. but it gets totally bogged down with Lightroom so I can't edit my raw photos.

    My new HP desktop has Windows 8.  After I figured out I needed to add a program to see the start button and another to read pdf's, I am good with just using the desktop portion of it.  Haven't bought any MS Office for it yet, now using some free programs - maybe they will be fine.  The 64 bit seems to be great for my photo editing.

    My phone is an android.  I love it.

    My work pc has XP, and Office 2010 (hate the ribbon).

    So I guess the point I am trying to make is that there are usually many different systems and levels we all have to deal with every day.  It can be kind of jarring to keep track of which system you're on at a given time.

    Stay flexible and keep an open mind.  

    Everything is easy if you don't know what you're talking about.

    by chocoholic on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 09:51:58 PM PST

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