Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Episode 3: Living with a Dragon is Like Living with a Cat, or How to Buy a Computer

You can't tell a book by its cover, and you can't tell a Dragon by its box.  This is why it is very important to listen to distributors and consultants who work for software companies.  We all know this; but when the box says that the software will work with a Windows 7 computer, it is just so tempting to believe what is on the box.  Maybe your computer will be the exception.  Maybe you are not hard-headed like me and will simply let go and move on to a new generation of computers.  Otherwise you will learn that Dragons, like cats, live where they want to and not where you tell them to.  Dragons, like cats, also decide if they want to live with the other software you already have installed.  It is not that they are unfriendly.  They just like a lot of room and don't like sharing, especially with antivirus memory hogs.  If you don't believe distributors and consultants, you probably won't believe me either.  In that case, go ahead.  Install.  Uninstall.  Convince yourself that you are experimenting and not really wasting time.  You are being thorough rather than avoiding pulling out your checkbook or credit card.  You are, in spite of all of your, "I am independent.  Hear me roar!", rhetoric, waiting to be rescued because hardware and software scare the living daylights out of you.

I am skittish because I once bought a computer that did not like printers.  I took so many brands (including the same brand as the computer) to and from office supply stores that sales clerks started disappearing when they saw me walk through the door.  I have learned not to buy laptops just because they are pretty.  The new ones in all shades and colors are so tempting, and the white keyboards remind me so much of my old typewriters that I want to swoon, but they do not have enough memory.  So now I am shopping for a basic black with 8-16 gb memory, 256 gb or double that in solid state hard drive, and at least 1 tb external backup (Generation 6 Intel 17 or 15 processor).  I fell in love with the laptops with the 17 inch monitors and then jilted them after I realized that I would need a new briefcase on wheels or briefcase and larger cart to transport them.  Since it is my injured hand that also has some arthritis that requires Dragon dictation software and J-Say for screen-reading capabilities, the weight of a laptop will be one of the most important features under consideration.

I have admitted several times in this blog that technology is not my strongest skill.  I now know why.  I started using computers when they were simple replacements for typewriters.  Word processing was about all you could do on them.  Unlike the two generations that have followed mine, I was never required to pass a basic computer class in school.  All of the books for dummies and seniors that I’ve read did not register.  Finally, I looked at a list of books about computers at Learning Ally (www.learningally.org).  This resource provides mostly textbooks and other materials used in classrooms in audio format.  I am now reading the book that I have been missing for more than 30 years, Peter Norton’s Introduction to Computers.  Learning Ally has many editions, but the 6th edition from 2006 is the most current.  It even has a chapter about how to buy a computer.

As the Norton book points out, today most people look at computers in stores and then buy online from either the store’s website or from the manufacturer.  I have learned that a computer can be built with only the features I need, that office supply stores and manufacturers have credit cards or plans with interest rates as low as 0%, and that buying more computer than I currently need might save more money in the long run.  Since adaptive software, along with word processing software, is only licensed for use on a certain number of computers, having to replace a computer sooner rather than later might also require the purchase of all new software programs.  This common sense reminder comes from my son, an Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Technology in a School of Computing.

My greatest challenge now requires listening to my occupational therapists who are telling me not to work at my computer keyboard for more than 5 minutes at a time.  Another challenge requires making my work space more ergonomically correct as Peter Norton directs in his book to avoid injury.  As I have shared how I do my work with the occupational therapists at The University of Michigan, they have shown me more comfortable ways to work with my iPhone and my Braille tools, the slate and stylus.  Getting me to change my habits (ouch), is a little bit like trying to train a cat.  Writers are compulsive by nature and trained to be even more so.  Walking away from an idea and trusting that it will still be there is not easy.  I have been keeping the creativity flowing by constructing a website, www.susanbourrie.com and keeping the Happiness Engineers at Word Press very busy.

Loving what is left often has detours.  My advice:  Take them.   

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