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spacer features > > remote tech support > > software

Remote Tech Support: Grandpa's New Computer

Software Applications

Even though Internet activities like browsing the Web and email account for a lot of computer use, computer-based software remains a big reason many people want, need, and have a personal computer. Here are the core applications we set up for our test seniors, based on their needs and our desire to configure the machine so that it had the common tools we use, so that we could more easily answer tech support phone calls.

We started with some useful free software that we regard as must-haves:

  • Ad-Aware SE Personal This nifty piece of software is used to hunt down and eliminate spyware from your computer. For heavy web-surfers, run it every week or two; for more modest surfers, every few months.

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader Adobe Acrobat is used by most of the world to create formatted downloadable documents and forms, like tax forms and insurance claim forms. The free Acrobat Reader is required to open these downloaded documents, and is typically integrated into your browser.

  • Adobe/Macromedia Flash and Shockwave are two other useful programs from Adobe, that plug into your browser to enable a wide variety of animated displays on many websites.

  • Apple QuickTime Player is a multimedia player that plugs into your browser, and is used by many websites to provide animation.

Then we added some nice-to-have free programs:

  • Mozilla Firefox is a highly popular browser that is vulnerable to fewer viruses and worms than Internet Explorer.

  • Mozilla Thunderbird is an email tool from the same group, that provides an easy-to-use mailtool, complete with spam filtering capabilities. You can also set it up to easily exchange PGP signed and/or encrypted email.

  • Apple iTunes is a neat music playing and cataloging system that works on Windows as well as MacOS.

  • AIM AOL Instant Messenger is the most popular instant messanger service. This allows you to know when the other person is online, and exchange realtime text messages.

  • Skype Skype allows you to make free long distance calls over the Internet to anyone else using Skype.

Finally, purchase and install any other software you know they will use, like:

  • Microsoft Office or the free, downloadable and compatible OpenOffice

  • Intuit Turbo Tax. There are several other good tax preparation software tools available, but this is what our test users had been using on their old computers.

Finally, put shortcut icons on the desktop for only the most commonly used applications or bookmarks. For ease of use, fewer is better than more. We ended up with about a half-dozen: browser, mailtool, calculator, Antivirus, Ad-Aware, Recycle Bin, and Hearts or iTunes.


Next, Remote desktop access.



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