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Thread: Off topic - senior email and net surfing.

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    Default Off topic - senior email and net surfing.

    I have been asked to set up a simple email client for non-technical 80 year old. She's fairly sharp, former teacher, but remembering lots of new icons and complex mouse clicks is not her thing. Dexterity is minimal, vision is fair when corrected with glasses, she can move the mouse well except for double clicks. Her OS is XP, computer is ~2 Ghz, with low RAM.

    Needs:

    1. A very simple email client that minimizes typing of addresses, basically just a form with a send button.
    2. Highly magnified , very simple, web browser


    Built in Microsoft visual aids are cumbersome to use if your not agile with computers.

    I'm sure I'm not the first to hit this problem with friends and parents. Tested Suggestions Please!

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    My suggestion is to get rid of the PC and use a 10" tablet instead. Clear away all icons and desktops so there are just two icons, mail and web.

    Not much left to confuse, and that was the best solution for my 92yr old dad. All other stuff I've tried didnt work out in the long term. Greets!

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    I second the tablet idea. All email contacts can be pre-setup and then all she would have to do is pick from a list of names who she would like to email and there would be no need to remember complex email addresses. The only down side I see to this is if she was hoping for a large monitor for larger text and easy reading.
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    I agree with the tablet idea. I wanted to do it for my nana , however she died before I got round to doing it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phatslug View Post
    My suggestion is to get rid of the PC and use a 10" tablet instead. Clear away all icons and desktops so there are just two icons, mail and web.

    Not much left to confuse, and that was the best solution for my 92yr old dad. All other stuff I've tried didnt work out in the long term. Greets!

    Quote Originally Posted by SaltyRobot View Post
    I second the tablet idea. All email contacts can be pre-setup and then all she would have to do is pick from a list of names who she would like to email and there would be no need to remember complex email addresses. The only down side I see to this is if she was hoping for a large monitor for larger text and easy reading.
    I disagree with the tablet idea, but agree with the rest.

    If she cant double click the mouse then typing and navigating on a handheld screen will be near impossible. Even I have trouble with it sometimes. If she is familiar with the PC then she should stay with it, you should not be trying to teach her on a new device. Also everything listed that can be done on a tablet can be done on a PC. You just have to take the time to set it up for her. You can also set up single click activation.

    Do not use a web form based email client. It can be very confusing for old people. I'd suggest Thunderbird, or Outlook. Load all her contacts in for her using the first name of her friends. This way she just has to type one letter in the address line to pull the menu of all the people who's name starts with that letter. All the rest of the actions are the same. Click Write, type first letter of the name, fill subject line, write email, click Send.
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    Going through the same thing with my mom. She actually used to teach computers to 5th graders long ago but her capacity for learning just isn't there anymore. We got her a GPS and an iPad and she can't use either and she won't take the time to learn so we gave up. Hopefully, the woman you are helping has more of a desire to figure it out. I don't think any of the email or browsers are much different. It will just take some interest and repetition for her to be able to use them. Goo luck.

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    So far what I'm testing is Eldy (Excellent, freeware, but no large font support, includes one free email account sponsored by a NGO.)
    Pointer (Pay to play)
    PAWPAWMAIL (Pay to Play, Pretty Good)

    If you have a Senior with normal vision, ELDY rocks as a GUI on a PC. Heck, its fun as a younger person.

    The pay to play programs all host the email account, for a low cost per month, usually 5 to 7 Dollars. This comes with the benefit of some level of spam reduction, attachment striping etc.


    All the Senior email programs (15 or so I've looked at) suffer from what seems to be the same Windows GUI or Programming Language limitations. She's smart enough to censor her own mail, but most of the Senior programs do not allow you to tailor their options, so the best program for her (PAWPAW) would require a second party / 2nd email address to approve her sending /censor incoming mail. She's not that bad by far. Little things we take for granted such as sending to multiple addresses and "reply all" are stripped from nearly every one of these programs.

    As font size goes, the best of these programs uses a 24 thin , and I'm looking for a 36 Bold, or a 48 Bold.

    Software Magnifiers are out there, but none of them (at least the shareware and under 100-300$ versions) read the underlying text from memory. All of them just grab the pixels, with very little smoothing, so you get Jaggies. I'd love to have even just rolling ball smoothing and thresholding for image processing, ie Smooth the contents of the magnifier window it and turn it to black and white. Win 7 (we upgraded her two days ago) fonts often have grey, light blue, and black underlying pixels, when zoomed, the blue/grey washes out.

    The large screen LCD TV/Monitor is working for her. I taped textured tape next to the on switch and source select switches on the back of the LCD. Now she can get from PC to TV without having to spin the huge monitor around, by feel alone.

    One company buys whole PCs and ships them with a modified Linux OS with a customized GUI, but does not sell the OS alone. It looks very good, but is too pricy...

    Windows fonts are zoomed 200% on her machine. I learned my lesson, do not zoom more then 150-200% on a laptop, you may find life interesting trying to reset whne you reboot to high magnifications. Wheel zoom is interesting on three button mice.

    There is a serious lack of innovation in this area. I'm speaking to some one about writing a grant, and then hiring a programmer. We have three local foundations that might allow for some funding. I'm not worried about net surfing, what She (and others) really need is simple email and some form of CHAT/SKYPE. A icon that sends a IM or SMS alert to her daughter might be useful as well.

    I understand perfectly well why the companies and individuals who write these programs place limitations on what you can adjust. This is so it works "Out of the Box" for nearly everyone without requiring a younger or computer savy person to do the setup. That's fine, but there are a lot of folks out there that could use the Vision boost who did grow up with computers.


    Steve
    Last edited by mixedgas; 06-18-2014 at 07:01.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnYayas View Post
    Going through the same thing with my mom. She actually used to teach computers to 5th graders long ago but her capacity for learning just isn't there anymore. We got her a GPS and an iPad and she can't use either and she won't take the time to learn so we gave up. Hopefully, the woman you are helping has more of a desire to figure it out. I don't think any of the email or browsers are much different. It will just take some interest and repetition for her to be able to use them. Goo luck.
    My mom was the same way at 65, till I taught her how to play the original Nintendo. She was a Mario Bros and Tetris addict. I'd come home at 3 AM and I'd see the familiar blue light in her window. She played so much she had to have a bandage on her thumb because the pad had rubbed her thumb raw from the extended hours of play. I bought a Playstation 1, and she could not get the hang of it no matter how hard she tried.

    Thats why I say work with what shes already has. If she is comfortable with a PC then a tablet will just mess her up. Like most older people they tend to over think things. Introduce some new tech will just confuse her more.

    The reason I dont recommend web email is that they usually dont have the defined buttons that program based email clients do. Plus with the web based email she'll have to sign in. You want the least many steps as possible. With program based clients you can activate Send on exit. So she doesnt even have to hit the send button, Plus a program is much easier to navigate than web mail.

    Keep messing with the fonts, and colors. Make them as big as needed, and use high contrasting colors like black, and white. I'd skip all the handicap settings other than the magnifier. Those settings are for general use, and are not tailored for individuals.
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    it is really too bad that display postscript didn't catch on. it was awesome on the NeXT machines.

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post

    Software Magnifiers are out there, but none of them (at least the shareware and under 100-300$ versions) read the underlying text from memory. All of them just grab the pixels, with very little smoothing, so you get Jaggies. I'd love to have even just rolling ball smoothing and thresholding for image processing, ie Smooth the contents of the magnifier window it and turn it to black and white. Win 7 (we upgraded her two days ago) fonts often have grey, light blue, and black underlying pixels, when zoomed, the blue/grey washes out.
    Steve
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    I Went to church, played with the Pastor's Mac and Apple Tablet. Apple has a very nice system for people who are differently abled. The Mac tablet was a non-starter. But a iMac with a wheel mouse looks very good when it zooms, as the underlying graphics software/technology is very different from Intel/Microsoft. Apple button plus Scroll wheel is a winner, estimate that it is equal to a 36 or 40 font on a PC before it becomes Jaggy. The font was constructed of all black pixels, and is wider when zoomed then your typical PC font.

    I'm still thinking a there is a need for dedicated PC software, and I have a mental image of the desired layout and functionality. So we're going to borrow a Apple for Jo and see if she can grasp the UI and Apple way of thinking.

    Looks like I may have a major show to prepare for the Forth, and I need to finish the "506" project, but I will not sink this to the back burner. I'll keep you guys informed.

    Comments and suggestions are still VERY welcome.
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