If you are reading this, you are probably an early adopter. So when the holidays come around you spend time with your family doing In-law IT. These days it can be dreadfully easy:
- If at all possible, switch them to a Mac -- You know that experience of visiting family only to find their PC infested with spyware and viruses. Call it the crud of mainstream adoption. They complain about things simply crashing, you have a solution, move them to a Mac with at least OS X. This is the greatest gift you can give them, simplicity that simply works. If not, reinstall and update everything.
- Solve that connection problem -- If they don't have broadband, solve that. If they have laptops, wifi (especially if you get them on Macs, and of note, if you get them on Macs, layering on lifestyle services like photos and music is a breeze).
- Kill off IE -- One of the worst problems, just install Firefox. Then load the bookmark bar with the sites they spend time on.
- Simple Start Page -- For media junkies, My Yahoo (a simple RSS intro opportunity), for those who want answers, Google.
- Move them to Webmail -- Email is really all they want to do anyway. But running it on the client not only means problems, but you will have to migrate them in a year or two anyway. Get them up on Gmail or Yahoo and the app will feel more than good enough. Plus you won't have to help them in the hunt for the hidden email.
- Flickrdom -- While you are at it, set them up on Flickr so they get photos shared by consequence of your daily interaction.
- Communicate -- For more advanced users or stable systems, IM & Skype. You can always set them up with Vonage if you don't want them meddling with headset periperals.
- Don't set them up with blogs -- What do you want, them to read yours?
I tried to keep suggestions as simple as possible. Of course, you are highly technical and could install some fandooglydoo thats cool and sexy to you, but that just means a new problem for you when it conflicts with something else. If you started from scratch, setting up such a system would cost around $1,500 at the least, so its not workable for everyone. But at least get them on broadband and move things to web apps.
I'm interested in stories of the simplest thing that possibly works for families. Being tech support for the family isn't an easy job, mostly because it isn't easy enough in the first place.