Back to basics

KISS rule still the best

By Andrew Mitchell

Many years ago I sat my mom down to introduce her to something called the Internet Ñ I figured I could teach her enough that we could e-mail, she could read news and use a few websites online, do some banking, that kind of thing. After a few hours we were both so frustrated we gave up. Watching her use the mouse was like watching a 95-year-old with arthritis parallel park. She was unable to distinguish between the address bar on a web browser the search bar on a search engine, or to understand how the search engine was also a kind of web page like When a few routine warnings popped up, including something about cookies, she wondered if she had somehow downloaded one of those viruses she kept hearing about.

IÕd still like to get my mom online, and with computer prices so low these days IÕm thinking Christmas. IÕd probably get her something like a MacMini with a flatscreen monitor and a cheap printer, because Mac is still the simplest system to use, and I imagine I can talk her through just about anything.

I think the problem before was that I had trouble explaining things because I was too familiar with computers. I understood them too well Ñ what keys to push, what to do if I need to find something or to go back, what to do if a system window comes up, where to find the things I need using toolbars, and, most importantly, what to do if things go wrong. Most importantly, I knew the language, and by using that language I think I scared her off Ñ it made everything sound a lot more complex than it actually was.

The problem with being so comfortable with computers is that you neglect the basics. IÕve forgotten a lot of the simple things that make life easier, as well as the rules that take away risks Ñ and new computer users are petrified by the risks.

Back up, back up, and back up

These are the three BÕs of safe and responsible computer ownership. You should never, ever assume that anything in your hard drive is safe because fatal crashes happen all the time. You donÕt need to back up your software and things that can be replaced, but you do need to store copies of all your personal files.

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