buying a mac for my mum, advice needed

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Vidman33, Jun 16, 2007.

  1. Vidman33 macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2007
    Hi all, firstly great site, still taking it all in.

    I need some advice for a mac newbie. Here's the situation...

    My mother lives in France and England, and is just turning 70. She has a PC that she has never been able to do much on, and is currently collecting dust/viruses in her basement. She is basically computer illiterate and I live on the other side of the world so have trouble helping her too often. We have just produced a granddaughter for her, and I would love her to be able to easily look at photos, maybe even video link etc. It would be truly a magical thing for her and us, and help overcome the tyranny of distance.

    Does anyone have any advice on whether she is likely to be able to use a mac if I was to buy one for her birthday. Has anyone had a similar experience? I guess the first question is whether you think there is any way she'd be able to operate it.

    Originally I had thought of buying her a MacBook Pro for transporting between the two countries. However I think the smaller screens might cause her a problem going forward, as her eyesight is ok now but might not be so good down the track. But now if we do it, I was thinking of buying her two macs, one for England and one for France, with a reasonable size screen(s). This wouldnt end up being much more expensive a solution. So my second question is what would you recommend for my hardware solution?

    Lastly I guess, and i hate to admit it, all my computers here are PCs because of work. How much compatibility problems am I going to have with her using a mac? Should I bite the bullet and buy one here? (its now getting a bit pricey to buy 3 machines, if she doesnt take to it)

    Thanks for any advice you can give.
  2. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    Honestly, I can't say that she will have more success with a Mac than a PC, but it really comes down more to you setting up all the right bookmarks in her bookmarks bar on the browser window and putting the few shortcuts that she will need for Mail etc. clearly and intuitively labelled on the desktop.
  3. AdeFowler macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2004
    I'm in a similar situation with my mum so I know where you're coming from. Here are a few thoughts:

    Only get her one Mac. Keeping two synched can be hard enough for seasoned pros. Buying .mac would help.

    My mum's eyesight is failing her so screen size and resolution is also a factor for me. Consider a 15" MacBook Pro and decrease the resolution.

    She really needs some form of teaching, even just the basics, otherwise she'll never turn it on. The Apple Stores run great sessions if she'd attend.

    Broadband I would say is essential.

    She has to want to do it. My mum keeps saying "Do I really need a computer?", and to be honest I'm not sure she does.

    Good luck ;)
  4. killerrobot macrumors 68020


    Jun 7, 2007
    I personally have to say that if she isn't using the PC, the Mac isn't going to solve the problem. It sounds to me like she just isn't too keen on computers period. May I suggest (I know this is old school, but if I were 70 I would be very comfortable with it) printing off the photos and sending them via regular mail. A lot cheaper than a Mac, and I'm sure your mother would enjoy it just as much.
  5. Vidman33 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2007
    Thanks we're going over there to show baby off in a couple of weeks so I'll be able to do the basic training. stores training would be impossible as she lives at least 1.5 hours from nearest reasonable size town. I'll check them out anyway maybe theres an intensive course she could do.

    She's at the point where she thinks a computer would be useful. If i show her her granddaughter on a video cam, she would then NEED a computer. Broadband in rural france? hmmm... that might get interesting! Anyone?
  6. Vidman33 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2007
    Hmm, thanks for that perspective. The pc was just very hard, even i had problems. The problems i had were, 1 viruses I couldnt protect it from across the world. 2. all error messages were in french! 3. The moment any error message happened she'd freak out and think she'd destroyed it. Admitedlly the pc was older and she was on dial up back then (5 years ago). That last one might be difficult.
  7. smithckl macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2007
    What you are thinking about doing is exactly what we did for my husband's 84 year old mother so that she could see our new baby using iChat which comes pre-installed along with the video camera on all new Macs. iChat is fantastic and it has really brought our family closer together even though we live on the other side of the country (USA) from her. Our now 3 year old daughter really knows her grandmother thanks to this technology. Photos or telephone can't compare to this technology. One problem is that you both will need to have Macs. iChat is not compatible with PCs, so I would use your money on two MacBooks (one for her and one for you). She can bring her's back and forth between UK and France. They are affordable, powerful, light and portable. All she would need initially is to know how to turn on the iChat which is very easy. Have the Apple tech Genius who sells it to you set it all up for you. Whenever my mother-in-law wants to learn something new on the computer, I show her what to do and then type out the instructions for her and leave them with her. She has macular degeneration (degenerative blindness) and so I use a very large font for everything. Mac has built in VoiceOver which means the computer will talk to you if you need it to read what is on the screen. I live in Florida and am writing this on my MacBook from Paris, France. I had no problems going from country to country with it. You must have broadband which should be obtainable anywhere cable TV is available and WiFi would be infinitely easier on your mother. Even the plug for recharging the battery is made so that adapters (purchased at the Apple store) can be switched out easily when you travel to another country. I have been in Europe for the last month and have iChatted almost daily with my husband in Florida and mother-in-law in Washington, D.C. from London and Paris. Although your concern with her eyesight warranting a larger screen is valid, I would say if she is able to see enough to read at all (my mother in law can't read unless the font is very large) I would choose the portability over the screensize and get two computers instead of three, particularly if your primary purpose is for the webcam. Or you can perhaps get one of the larger laptops for her which are more expensive. We got my mother-in-law a desktop because of her poor eyesight and we got the largest screen that Mac makes which has been nice for her, but now I wish that we had gotten her a laptop so that she could move the computer into other rooms for more flexibility. I could go on and on about how great this has been for us, but you get the picture.
    Best wishes :)
  8. Eclipse278 macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2007
    I don't think this is true. I'm pretty sure anyone out there with a webcam and up to date AOL instant messenger can connect with iChat users.
  9. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2006
    Southern California
    If she's near a retail Apple store, get her a 1 to 1 account - like $100 a year.

    A lot of old people are doing it in the stores in my area. Great for keeping them company, somebody to hold their hand as they learn how to use a computer. Worth more than a great computer.

    20" iMac is my recc. for her
  10. northernmunky macrumors 6502a


    Jan 19, 2007
    London, Taipei
    I say absolutely yes! My mum has a Windows based laptop and is extremely computer illiterate (and I mean to the point that if I moved the internet explorer icon a few pixels to the right she'd be completely lost and be shouting for my help!) and I do have to sit by her an explain every error and popup and Norton message that appears. It was like pulling teeth trying to get her to just click ok/cancel or whichever on each error message that came up on the darn thing and most of the time she used it was accompanied with a multitude of profanities in the distance!

    When I went out of the country though I couldnt be there to help her and when it fails I wont be there to reinstall the o/s, so I just decided to give her my 17" Powerbook (so I can buy a MBP here for a lot less) and she loves it! I transferred all her files over to the new machine (mostly consisting of .txt files of emails shes sent because she cant type fast enough before hotmail logs her off automatically and losing everything in the process)

    I made sure she sticks with Safari because its about as easy as you can get, I installed MSN Messenger, Skype and Gizmo Project so I could stay in touch (I highly recommend Gizmo by the way), put in a copy of NeoOffice, and would you believe it - I can even leave her to edit her website on her own in iWeb and she's never been happier. Its been nearly two months now since I gave it to her and she hasn't called me about one single issue and finally she can use a computer without my help.

    Shes put the PC laptop away in a box.

    In short, Macs are (almost) idiot proof, do it!
  11. Vidman33 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2007
    Thanks guys, i took the plunge and have just bought an entry level macbook. If she gets into it I'll upgrade in a year or two.

    I decided to get this and two largish screens, one for each place she lives (England and France). This should enable her to be small enough and portable enough for her, but I can teach her how to plug in the screen so her eyesight shouldnt be a problem.

    As an added bonus I've loaded every photo of her granddaughter on there ready to go! Heading off tomorrow, wish me luck!

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