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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gift from the Computer Literate to Give to the new computer owner

In my last column, I gave advice for non-computer literate people on what to give someone with a computer. 

Now I will give advice to those of us who do know their way around computers on what to give computer owners, particularly new computer owners.


First, get them a backup drive. Get them two backup drives. Having a backup of your Mac or Windows or Linux machine is of utmost importance.  If you own a Mac, use one of those drives with Time Machine to keep an hourly backup. Use the other one with Super-Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner to keep a frequently updated clone of your system. If your system fails due to hard drive/SSD malfunction, you can swap in this clone drive to resume work almost immediately.

Second, give them a USB wired keyboard and a USB wired mouse or trackball. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest keyboard and mouse.  $20 will buy an Amazon Basic keyboard and mouse. You want a wired keyboard because some functions, such as switching between boot up volumes using the Option/Alt key and switching into Safe mode, require a wired connection.

Macs don’t require a special keyboard. Just substitute the Windows key for the Command key. I wrote an article here about using the Keyboard Preference Pane to switch the Windows key with the Alt key if you want the same keyboard placement as a real Apple keyboard

Besides, your new computer user may not like the touch of the notebook’s internal keyboard. Some people cannot get used to the trackpad on a notebook. So just plug in a wired keyboard & mouse combo and they can type away in comfort.

I’m not rejecting wireless keyboards, though, I use my favorite Logitech 2.4 Ghz wireless keyboard and mouse now and I am very happy with them. It’s just at certain times; you’ve got to have that wired connection.

Third, get some USB flash drives. Get some novelty figures and get some roomy drives, too. A Batman, a Snoopy, and some 64 GB drives make for great stocking stuffers.

Fourth, consider an Uninterruptible Power Supply if the recipient lives in an area with fluctuating power. I should warn you that an Uninterruptible Power Supply is heavy, as it contains a sealed heavy-duty battery. The unit charges the battery on a trickle charge while the battery runs circuitry to provide uninterrupted power. A word of warning, though: Don’t plug high wattage devices into the UPS’s sockets. High wattage devices mean laser printers. I think of laser printers as high-tech waffle makers.

Fifth, get them a good set of speakers or a nice set of headphones.  If your recipient, like me, listens to music through their computer using iTunes or Spotify or Pandora; they’ll appreciate a good set of speakers. If you have to live with them in close quarters, you’ll appreciate them having a good set of headphones so they don’t share their taste (?) in music with you. 24 hours a day.

Sixth, they’ll need a container of wipes, like those Lysol/Vons wipes you buy in a pop-up plastic container. The computer owner needs to wipe up spills and crumbs to keep away unwanted vermin. You can plunk this on their computer desk the day after Christmas or Hanukkah. 

Seventh, and this comes from my friend Quin of QAL Consulting in Indianapolis, IN, get some cans of compressed air. You will find these very handy in getting rid of crumbs.

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