Advice about Facebook Messenger for Kids

Advice about Facebook Messenger for Kids

Facebook is rolling out a new version of Messenger aimed at kids.  Normally kids under the age of 13 are not allowed to sign up for a Facebook account, this is managed by the really hard to fool, birthday picker.

Is this a good idea, to give access to a powerful messaging app with their own logins and passwords?  Now parents will have to approve everyone that their child wants to communicate with, but this does open a couple other questions about safety and security.

According to Facebook, there is a high demand for kids who now are allowed by their parents to use tablets and smartphones to have access to Facebook Messenger.  I have to wonder, do our children, who are growing up steeped in non-traditional communication methods really need another avenue to avoid actual human interaction.  Nevermind the obvious safety and privacy concerns.

I feel that Facebook is rolling this out as a way to hook-em when they’re young.  The under 25 demo is leaving Facebook in droves for other platforms like Twitter and SnapChat.  Most kids don’t want to post their updates to a site that is shared with their grandparents.  Facebook isn’t as cool and unique as it used to be.

If Facebook can succeed in getting kids as young as 6 using their services, they will be the first social media platform these kids interact with, hopefully creating a user for life.  It’s the same strategy that Apple used in the 90’s by flooding the educational market with their computers.  Thinking that if kids got used to using their devices at a young age, they would continue using them as adults.

You can argue the success/failure of that approach for Apple.  Will this gamble work for Facebook, maybe, as long as they avoid any negative news that would be associated with this experiment going wrong.  Any news showing a child be exploited or there being anything untoward happening in their service will kill it before it has a chance.

So why would we need to give 6-year-olds an Instant Messaging service?  Why can’t they just us messenger on their parent’s device to have directly supervised conversations with grandparents, cousins, friends etc?  Are they so totally connected that they need to be reached all the time?  There is already so much research showing that the always-on connected life we lead now as adults is harmful, what will it do to our kids?

Kids need to have space to just be kids.  They also need to learn skills like talking on the phone, speaking to someone face to face, or even writing an email/letter.

The tendency of social media drives us to only present our more edited selves.  There is no space to be vulnerable or take a risk.  That’s why texting has become the most popular way to communicate with a cellphone than actually calling someone.  If you are speaking with someone you cannot take the time to craft the perfect responses or make sure you only come across a certain way.

This leads to a shallower level of communication.  Starting our kids at 6 or 7 years old to start operating in this form is bad for their still-developing brains.  Think I am crazy?  Try having a conversation with a 15-year-old and get them to look you in the eye.

So is there room for a messenger app for 6-13 year olds?  Maybe, I can’t think of one.  My kids (7 and 4) don’t even have their own “smart” devices let alone a Facebook account.  When my wife and I think they are ready we will have that discussion with them.  Until then, if they want to contact the grandparents, they can do with our supervision.

What do you think?  When is the right time to get your kid signed up for a Social Media/Messenger/Smart Device?  Let me know in the comments.

Tablets: Why do we need them

Tablets: Why do we need them

Really, why do people want or need what is basically a large smartphone that can’t make phone calls?  I have written about this before, but I figured it was time for an update.  Turns out there are a lot of reasons, many of which I am finding out since I have ditched the smartphone.  A tablet does really bridge the gap as a device between a smartphone and the laptop.

So where does the tablet fit, what are the advantages of the larger screen, faster processors and easier to see screens, due to there larger form factors.  The average smartphone screen is around 5.7 inches.  While small tablets are normally 7 inches.  That extra two inches of real estate can make a huge difference when viewing the screen for a long time.  The second advantage of the larger screen is that the chassis underneath can accommodate a larger battery for more use time between charges.

The tablet also offers more portability over a laptop.  The smaller slate design versus a laptops clamshell makes a tablet easier to slip into a large pocket or bag where a 13-inch laptop would not work.  So for reading or watching videos on the go, it’s hard to beat the size of the tablet.

So why is the tablet market so weak?  I think mostly it is that people are not wanting to spend $200-$500 for a bridge device.  The tablet was supposed to be the answer if not the replacement for the laptop for a lot of people, but that tide never really turned.  Even Apple has downsized their vaunted tablet lineup to just a couple of devices.  They position the iPad Pro as a full laptop replacement as long as you add the optional keyboard to it.  I have seen people out and about using the Pro in this way, I for one think typing on that keyboard feels a little unnatural.

Microsoft has also tried to be in the tablet as laptop space with the Surface Pro.  Jamming computer level hardware into a tablet form factor is no small feat.  They do manage to see a few of these devices but they also produced a Surface-branded laptop alongside it.  It seems if you are going to pay close to $900 for a tablet, you can get a really capable laptop for the same price and have about the same or better functionality.  Since a laptop does not have to hide all its internals behind the screen.

So that’s the high-end.  What about the flood of budget-friendly tablets?  Not really talking about the not-so-cheap iPad Mini 4.  That comes in at $350 but more like the Amazon Fire Tablets that are $50 for the 7-inch and $80 for the HD 8-inch.  Or the other off brand 7-inch tablets from various Chinese companies you have never heard of?

It’s in the sub $100 range that I think the tablet becomes a viable alternative to using your smartphone for media consumption, gaming, email and web browsing.  Now that I don’t have the smartphone to compete for my attention, I have really paid attention to the tablets that are out there.  I still have a great laptop for managing my website and writing these blog posts.  Since typing directly on a tablet/phone onscreen keyboard is a chore.  Still way better than trying to compose a text on my flip phone.

So what should you get in this cheapy range?  The undisputed king of the sub $100 tablet is the Amazon Fire line of tablets.  Well constructed, decent hardware and great support.  The drawbacks?  Well, they are plastic build, they don’t feel cheap.  The 7-inch tablet lacks an HD screen, but it still looks pretty good.  Has decent brightness.  Text from website looks a little fuzzy but not terrible.  At $50 with special offers (ads on the lock screen), you can buy 7 of these for every iPad mini.  Makes a great tablet for kids.  They are also way more durable than an iPad.

For a little bit more, about $30, you can get the Fire HD 8.  With an HD (720p) screen text is rendered really well and is easy to read.  Movies and shows look great from Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.  Dual speakers also reproduce decent sound, some basic headphones or a Bluetooth speaker work nicely to fill the room with sound.   The screen is very responsive to touch inputs and the battery goes for about 12 hours in mixed use.

Amazon does run their own version of Android on these tablets and you technically can’t install apps from the Google Play store, there are ways around that.  The parental controls are second to none, which furthers the Fire as a great tablet to give to the kids.

So dollar for dollar when it comes to tablets unless you really want/need an iPad the Amazon tablets are the way to go.  They offer the best balance of performance and price.  If you can get over having an ad on the lock screen you can even save a couple of bucks.  The Fire HD 8 is probably your best bet.  The screen is not iPad Retina quality but works just fine for sending email, reading blog posts and watching videos.

What tablets do you think are worth the price?  Or do you think tablets are a waste of time and money?  Leave a comment below.  If you like this article please share it with your friends.


Going Back to the Flip Phone

Going Back to the Flip Phone

Why, in the age of the smartphone, would someone voluntarily go back to a flip phone?  I can hear you asking, “You run a Tech Blog, why would you do that!” Well, there are a few reasons why I have done it.  I will try to lay out a couple of them here for you.  Maybe it will convince you to give it a try, or make you clutch your smartphone that much tighter.  Let’s get one thing straight to start with, I am not going all Luddite.  This is just one area of my life I have chosen to take a simple approach too.

Can you even buy a flip phone anymore?

Turns out you can, you don’t even need to dig your old Motorola Razr out of the closet.  I was able to purchase a brand new Cingular Flip 2 from AT&T.  The phone is made by Alcatel and branded as a Cingular phone.  Cingular doesn’t really exist as a company anymore, it’s a brand name owned by AT&T.  This flip phone features a lot of not so backward features.  It operates in full 4G LTE mode, has Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi, and a built-in MP3 player.  For a “dumb phone” it’s pretty smart.  I can still check my email on the go if I want to.  Responding to the email, on the other hand, is a little more difficult.  The phone also allows you to listen to over the air FM radio if you have a pair of wired headphones plugged in to act as the antenna.  So not so bad and not your grandmother’s jitterbug either.

Since this is a tech site, let’s bring out the phone’s stats:


DESIGN

  • Size: 4.13in x 2.06in x 0.73in
  • Weight: 4.16oz
  • Color: Dark gray

MEMORY

  • ROM/RAM: 4GB/512MB
  • SD Support: Up to 32GB

FEATURES

  • Processor: MSM8909 Quad Core CPU 1.1GHz

OPERATING SYSTEM

  • KaiOS

DISPLAY SIZE

  • 2.8”

RESOLUTION

  • QVGA (320×240) TFT-TN

CONNECTIVITY

  • Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • 3G/4G/LTE
  • UMTS B2/4/5 FDD B2/4/5/7/12 MFBI
  • HD Voice: Yes
  • Wifi Specs: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 3.0
  • FM Radio
  • USB Type: Micro-USB
  • SIM Type: Nano
  • Others: A-GPS

BATTERY

  • Size: 1350mAh
  • Standby Time: 384 hours (16 days)
  • Talk Time: 8 hours (3G)

CAMERA

  • Main Megapixels: 2MP
  • Focus: FF
  • Angle: 60°
  • Main Camera Video: 720P @ 30fps

SOUND

  • Music Player
  • Supported Formats: PCM,MP3,AAC,AAC+,eAAC+
  • HAC Rating: M4/T4
  • Headset Jack Size: 3.5mm
  • Speaker Size (In Watts): 1 x 0.7W

IN BOX

  • Quick Start Guide
  • Charger
  • Battery
  • Safety and Warranty Information

*HD Voice is not available in all areas. HD Voice Requirements: To experience HD Voice,both parties on the call must be located in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area and have anAT&T HD Voice-capable device and SIM with HD Voice set up on their account. Incompatible Services or Features: The following services and features are currently incompatible with HD Voice: prepaid service, Smart Limits, Ringback Tones, andOfficeDirect and OfficeReach (for business customers). HD Voice is available at no additional cost; standard voice rates apply and are charged according to your wireless rate plan.


All of this flippy goodness was bought for the low price of $60 US, that’s right $60 bucks.  You can’t even get an iPhone’s screen repaired for that.  Buy two to have one as a backup for when you accidentally lose one.  These phones are not the bricks of old.  I have been using this phone for a couple of months and I don’t even notice it in my pocket.

So why did I switch to a flip?

Simple, simplicity.  A smartphone is designed to keep you engaged with it.  Call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), boredom, the need to be doing something with our hands, the fact we have forgotten how to be bored, or whatever, a smartphone keeps it all within reach.  Never before in human history has so much information been so easily available.  Try and think about the last time you were having a real in-person conversation with someone and one of you didn’t pull out a smartphone to fact check something on Google.  Does proving yourself instantly right or wrong bring anything better to the conversation?  Probably not.

I personally sit a desk all day with a computer in front of me.  A smartphone is an accessory to most of my day.  Why would I access the internet on its small screen when I have an awesome 24-inch monitor and a keyboard in front of me.  Same thing at home, I have a nice laptop and a tablet.  I was finding more and more I was limited by the smartphones smallish screen.  My smartphone was pretty awesome, it was no other than last years (2016) Google Pixel.

So it’s not like I had a crappy phone, I had a great one.  But I felt myself being more interested in it than what my kids were doing, or other things going on around me.  Sure a lot of it was my own self-discipline.  I wanted to not have the distraction of a smartphone around.  Just turning it off, of removing the apps, etc, wasn’t enough.  It’s like when I first tried to quit smoking a long time ago, I would keep a pack hidden in the house, “just in case” and I would always go back to them, maybe a little less.  The only way I was able to quit was just to remove them from my environment.  Same thing with the smartphone.  If I wanted to be better about not using it, I had to get rid of it.

These are just my reasons, if you are feeling the nagging that you need to do something about your smartphone use, or just want to have a good backup phone, the flip is the way to go.

What have I noticed?

Since I switched to the flip I find that I text people less.  Since it’s hard.  I never embraced T9 back when it was new, I was always the multi-button pusher.  I got pretty quick at it, and was kind of amazed how fast the muscle memory came back.  So now I call people.  It’s interesting how many people don’t like taking phone calls anymore.

I miss maps.  I have a horrible sense of direction (pull my man card now) and I used a smartphone and Google Maps as a crutch.  The only time I have found it would have been really helpful was when my older daughter came out to visit me in Washington DC.  We were wandering around seeing the sights, but we needed to find a Metro station.  I “knew” one was nearby, but not sure where exactly.  We had to *gasp* look at the many maps posted around the National Mall to figure out where to go.  We also double checked by asking someone.  Crisis averted.

I am more focused at work mostly in meetings, I usually only need small pieces of the overall meeting I am attending.  So it was easy to just pull out the smartphone and find something to distract myself till my part came up.  Now I am finding that being more present in the whole meeting has made me more productive since I am gathering more the contexted of the information I am collecting.

I also really notice other people on their phones.  Resturants are the biggest one, whole families sitting around staring at their phones and not talking to each other, or their conversations revolve around showing each other things they have found on their phones.  I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  I just don’t want a part of that right now.  My little kids tell great stories if I just really listen.

Will I ever go back to a Smartphone?

I won’t say I never will, the convenience of a smartphone does tend, to me, to outweigh the drawbacks.  Our culture is becoming more smartphone-centric, which is good and bad at the same time.  Since all the things that people use their phones for, don’t work once the power goes out.  Smartphones are great when they are working and have a good connection to the internet, not so much when they don’t.  It’s always a good idea to have a “back-up” communication system.

For now, I am enjoying the mental clarity that comes from not being constantly distracted.  Is it for everyone?  I don’t know, it works for me, but I am not everyone.  If you think you might be too involved with your smartphone, try turning it off, go to a flip phone for a couple of weeks, or months.  See how you feel.  Also, the lower data plans tend to be much cheaper.  As of this writing (late-2017), it looks like the unlimited plans are coming back, so it might not matter.

What do you think about giving up your smartphone?  Something you think you might try, or will they pry your iPhone from your cold dead hands?

Getting Your Message Out

In the current world, we live in, there are several avenues in which to get your message out to the audiences you hope to address.  With that, there are several challenges that are created in order to elevate your message above the noise.  The old models and metrics of market share and audience reach do not really work anymore.  New metrics are needed to really bring to light how effective a media channel is.  This paper will cover some of what shortcomings are in the market space around metrics to judge how a specific media channel is doing.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, Traditional News Outlets, Face-to-Face, and other personal interactions.  Each of these channels and their various offshoots present their own challenges are require a tailored media/message approach.  It is the basics of knowing your audience and how to reach them.  A long post on Facebook does not translate to Twitter, which is limited to 140 characters.  Instagram is visual where a blog can have more words and ideas than a picture can convey.  Traditional News Outlets are restricted to what they can say or what stories they will run based on how the message will be received by their viewers and advertisers.  Face-to-Face is expensive and time consuming.  So how do we manage each of these channels?

Let us look at social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al) each service tries to do basically the same thing in a different way.  Never before in human history can a group or even lone person have access to such a large audience, relativity unfettered.  No longer is the story controlled by those who own the network.  Facebook alone has almost 4.8 billion pieces of content posted daily, according to Zephoria.com. That makes it that much harder for the message you are trying to put out has to compete with billions of other pictures, news stories, videos, status updates, and ads.  Instagram sees 95 million photos and videos per day according to Hootsuite.com again, saturation will cause your message to get lost in the noise.

So how do you measure a successful social media post?  Is it the number of likes or views?  I don’t think so.  The goal of a social media post should be user interaction.  It really shows engagement beyond just a click.  Some users click like on everything that pops up in their newsfeed, whether they read it or not.  To counter that, someone who takes the time to share a social media post, to their own followers, curating if you will, something they felt was important is a much better gauge on the success of a post.  Even better is the number of times a post caused a user to click a link through to the source material.  If you can convert a social media user over to interact with your website, you have them and can almost guarantee that they are truly interested in the content you are providing.  Conversion is the goal in social media.

Blogs, on the other hand, provide a way for an organization to present more long form news and information articles.  The goal of a blog is beyond simple page views, again you are looking for interaction.  You want someone who is reading your blog to continue beyond the article that was linked from the viewer’s original source, usually social media, and then you want them to share the article to their friends.  One of the worst statistics you can see on a blog is a high bounce rate.  This would mean people are coming to your article, reading it and leaving.  Or not even reading the article, due to any number of reason, normally slow page loading.  The goal for a blog is to also create engagement, page views are not enough.  The metric to check is comments and shares.  It shows that your articles connected with readers in a way that caused them to want to be part of the conversation, not just a consumer.

Traditional Media presents several new challenges that have been created by social media.  The pressure is on to provide worthwhile content that delivers ears/eyeballs to the advertisers.  In this case, the content is not the commodity but the consumer is.  Your message will not be carried if the media outlet doesn’t think it will bring enough value to their advertisers that are paying for the airtime your story occupies.  With so many avenues open to the message generator the future of traditional media is quickly becoming outmoded, just no one has told them yet.  It is expensive and does not create a ton of ROI.

Face-to-Face is a great way to get your message out on a more personal level.  Humans still enjoy and connect more with a face to face conversation, in whatever format, then they do an online interaction.  Forums like TEDTalks and South-by-Southwest that bring several experts together for short talks are very popular and easy for a large audience to digest.  Long form lectures and presentations attract a very narrow scope of people who are generally in a core group of people who are truly interested in the content.  It is hard to attract the casual observer into something like this.

Today people expect to receive their news and information in small digestible quick bites.  Media consumption has gone to the buffet model and less the meal model.  People today will read dozens of news stories and watch a couple of videos and gain more information on a subject in 30 minutes than someone would have reviewed in a whole day not 10 years ago.  Without changing your model away from long form snippets to a quick bite format your message will be lost.

Why do lithium-ion batteries catch fire

Why do lithium-ion batteries catch fire

www.avgguytech.com - Exploding Batteries

 

It’s a matter of chemistry

Lithium-ion batteries are in everything nowadays.  Their lightweight and high capacity make them great for all kinds of mobile applications.  They can be found in wireless headphones, laptops, cell phones, kids toys and portable speakers.  If it needs a battery and has a large power draw, chances are the Lithium-ion battery is inside.  These batteries can be safely charged over and over again without issues or developing a cell memory.  Cell memory happens in older batteries when they are not charged and discharged properly.  I have discussed it before in an article about keeping your batteries in top shape.

So what happens that can cause these batteries, or really any battery to explode?  Let’s look at a couple of factors.

What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?

A lithium battery is a small cell that uses lithium compound that allows for the movement of electrons from one pole to the other.  I am really oversimplifying it.  Long story short, the Lithium is the medium used for power generation.  If you want to read more, here is the Wikipedia article about it.  It goes deeper into the chemistry than I can.  These batteries, or more accurately, power cells, provide a lot of the characteristics of a power source that is great for small scale applications.

What goes wrong?

The simplest explanation is that the battery/cell contains a flammable material.  Now, this is housed is a protective case that makes up the exterior of the battery.  The problem comes from when the battery is either overcharged or allowed to drain completely.  The chargers for these batteries and the batteries themselves are supposed to have circuits built in to prevent an overcharge/discharge situation.  Without a charge in the cell, the lithium gets hot and the gasses expand and explode.

While most battery manufacturers follow strict quality control to ensure the cells they produce are safe, some cut corners to lower the cost of their cells, i.e. the batteries sold to Samsung for the Galaxy Note 7.  These batteries were allowed to overcharge and that caused the explosion.  This is also what was happening with the “hoverboards”  cheap batteries in cheap toys, not the best mix.

What can you do?

First thing is to check the battery once in awhile, now this is harder with some of the newer smartphones that the battery is not removable.  But for your easier to access devices, it’s a good idea to pull the battery out once in awhile and make sure it is not damaged in any way.  If you see cracks or bulging stop using it right away.  Don’t throw the battery away but take it to an electronics recycler.

If you are using something and it starts to smoke and get hot, the best thing to do is dump it in sand.  Do not put water on it.  If you do not have any sand, just throw the item far from you and allow it to explode.  Then take care of the resulting fire.  Once the gas escapes from the cell the fire should put itself out.  If the fire catches other items on fire, that is a problem, and the fire you should fight if you can.

Also, make sure you check with the consumer safety groups in your country.  They usually maintain a list of items with known issues.  If there is a recall, make sure you stop using the item and return it as directed.

Bottom Line

These batteries are safe but need to be respected, like anything else.  They power our modern lives and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  Some general awareness of the explosives you are carrying in your pocket or on your head is something to be aware of, but not afraid of.

OS Choices

OS Choices

www.avgguytech.com - OS Choices

How you interact with your computer matters

If you find it hard to use something, chances are you won’t use it.  That has been the focus of this blog from the start 6 months ago.  I like making things easier for people to understand the new tech coming out and making the best use of the stuff you have.  One thing that seems to always get people fired up online, is “Are you a Mac or PC?”  My answer to that question is becoming, “Why does it matter”

I am sure you might remember the Mac vs PC commercials from a while back.  Where they presented PCs as being stuffy, business like machines and Mac’s as hip and cool.  While this persona is still around today, I think it is time to start getting beyond that.


How you interact with your computer used to really come down to a personal preference, or at least what you were familiar with.  This is why Apple pushed so hard to get its computers into the education market.  If they could flood the market with computers that kids got used to using, maybe they would continue to use them when they got to be old enough to buy their own.  Problem was, Mom and Dad used a Windows machine at work, and they are cheaper overall, so more than likely there was a PC at the house also.

While Apple did manage to convert some, I don’t think they had the whole level penetration into the market they had hoped for.  Several years ago Apple made the switch to Intel based processors, instead of their own in-house cores.  This opened a whole new world to the Mac.  It could now run the programs that people wanted, namely Microsoft Office.  This helped homogenize the market even more.

So what are my choices now? (in no particular order)

1. ChromeOS

This is still my current favorite.  The ability to get great performance out of low-cost hardware is great.  This, in my opinion, is still the best way to get a laptop that can do almost anything you could want, and not worry about any of the stuff you don’t.  As long as you don’t need an application that is specific to an OS, then you are good to go here.  You probably handle 99% of your computing tasks inside the browser already anyways, so why not use a computer that is built for that.  The old arguments about they only work online, is not true, and really, how many times are you somewhere using your computer that you don’t have internet access?

ChromeOS, I think, does the best at just getting out of your way and just letting you get to work or play and do what you want.  You really can’t go wrong with one of these machines.  There are some great new Chromebooks coming out from the major manufacturers soon.  This is an exciting time for Chrome.

2. Windows

The big daddy of them all.  No OS has more market share or widespread use than Windows.  Due to the early ability to be run on almost any computer (other than a Mac) made it easy for businesses to buy it and for computer makers to field it with their new machines.  There may have been some collusion between the manufacturers and Microsoft in the early days, but was Dell or HP really going to ship a computer with MacOS on it?  No, not really.

Chances are you already use a Windows machine somewhere in your life, it’s almost hard not to.  It brings an ease of use and lots of support to help with any problems you might have.  There is a giant community out there using Windows, so chances are if you have an issue, someone else does also.

Windows is probably a little harder for the newcomer to just have a computer that gets out of the way.  Mac and Chrome, since they control the hardware, have fewer issues getting running out of the box.  Windows is the closest to a One-Size Fits most type of approach to computing.

3. Apple/MacOS

Apple has always positioned itself as the alternative to Windows, the problem is cost.  Mac Computers and Laptops are always more expensive than their Windows-based counterparts when you compare specs.  Since Apple controls the hardware and the software they can dictate and focus on software development.  This makes the Apple MacOS environment much more robust.  Since they can focus on creating an Operating System for a narrow band of devices.  This helps to eliminate the bugs that can creep into more diverse OS’s.

I will say the overall build quality of Apple devices is greater than most Windows machines I have used.  But as far as the actual OS goes, I think there are still some quirks that take some getting used to.  I wrote about transitioning from Windows to Mac a couple of weeks ago.  It’s getting a little easier for me, but I still find a couple of frustrations when interacting with the OS.

So long as I stay in the browser, life is great, I get to use what in essence is a $1700 Chromebook.  Almost everything I need to do, work or otherwise, can be handled in the browser.  So in the browser (Chrome) is where I choose to stay.

For someone who is not as tech comfortable as I am, the MacOS can be a lot different than what they are used to.  I would only recommend the MacOS to a beginning computer user if they have never really used a computer before.  I would still steer a new user to Chrome before I sent them to the Apple Store.  It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows.  If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold.  There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.

It’s not that the OS is hard to use, it just changes your interaction vs. Windows.  If grandma, let’s say, is only slightly comfortable with a couple of tasks in Windows, I would not dump them into Mac, cold.  There is a learning curve there that might be a little more than some can overcome.

4. Linux

Linux really is, in a way, the best of all three.  There are so many versions of the Linux OS, called distros, that you can find the one that suits your needs.  While you can’t walk into a store and buy a Linux computer, it is easy to add Linux to an existing computer.  It also can breathe some life into an older computer, should you choose to go that route.

Linux really allows someone to have as much or as little interaction with the operating system as possible.  Should you want to tweak all the settings and optimize all the settings then Linux will let you.  If you just want to browse the web and check email, yep that works also.  There are a lot of resources out there that can point you towards what might be your favorite distro.  If someone you care about has an older computer that maybe isn’t running so well anymore, a Linux distro might be the way to get them back up and running without too much of a learning curve.

5. Andriod (Bonus)

No longer just relegated to the phone, Android is starting to come into its own as a full-fledged OS.  While you won’t find it running a whole computer, yet.  It can be used as your primary computing device.  In fact, you probably already do with your phone or tablet.  With the inclusion of a keyboard and a pointing device it is easy to use a larger screen tablet as a full blown computer.  Again, if you do everything in the browser, then the OS is really irrelevant.

Android is coming to and is already available on a wide range of Chromebooks.  It really brings together the best of both of these outstanding operating systems.  All your favorite apps from your phone, now available on your computer.  I do recommend getting a touchscreen Chromebook to really get the best experience out of it.

Bottom Line

How you want to interact with your computer is really up to you.  There is no longer any huge differences between how the different OS’s go about making your computer usable.  Well, on the surface anyways.  If you are like me and work in the browser, then what OS you use doesn’t matter.   And as we move more and more towards SaaS (Software as a Service) the choice in OS becomes even more of a matter of taste, less a matter of what works.

I always look for a laptop/desktop that just lets me work.  I am not going under the hood to tweak all the settings and change things around.  Not that I can’t do that, I just don’t have a need.  The browser brings me everything I need so if I run Chrome on a Mac or a “PC” it really doesn’t matter.

So the next time you are looking for a computer, spend less time looking at which OS you want and little more on how you can more easily make the computer work for you.

Check out some of the latest computers on eBay