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Webcam suggestions for Grandma?
August 30, 2010 7:24 AM   Subscribe

What webcam/video chat setup would you recommend, if you had to set one up for a technophobe grandma, in order to let her see her grandchildren?

The partner and I are going to purchase the webcam, go to her house, set it up, and laminate some very detailed instructions for her on how to use it.

The real problem is, we are tech people - we can make anything work. Grandma apparently isn't even able to defrag on a regular basis, much less set up and maintain something. So we don't need suggestions on what to buy for US - we need suggestions on what to buy, and what software to set up for an elderly technophobe**.

If I don't do this, it is entirely possible that my children will never see their grandmother in real time, so its a big deal. And we will be doing the full install. Have you set something like this up for a grandparent recently? Any suggestions for us? I really want to make this work.

**bonus point: if and when she breaks the webcam, or accidentally uninstalls the software, or it otherwise this system stops working, that breakdown will be entirely attributed as being my partner's fault, regardless of the time between installation and said break. I need something that is seriously Gramma-Proof.
posted by kristin to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
We've used iChat on the Mac in the past, but it can be flaky. I walked my mom through setting up video chat in Gmail over the phone the other evening because of another iChat failure. It worked great, but was a pain to set up. I would advise installing Logmein on her machine first thing so you can take over whenever you need to.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:03 AM on August 30, 2010


Well, first off all, Skype is very user-friendly and simple. You don't really need to set anything up once installed. Everything is automatic. You may need to check the microphone/volume settings for her after you install it.

I have a Microsoft Lifecam. It's pretty much unbreakable. It's affordable, small, bendable can fit wherever.
I used to use the software for it on my other PC, but when I switched computers, all I did was plug the USB in and that was it. Skpe recognized it right away and no problems.

Those are my suggestions. I'm sure there may be some sort of kids webcam but I don't know if you're looking for something like that.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I will note - I had horrible problems using Gmail Video.
I wouldn't advise that for Grandma.

Also, my father used Skype with his built in webcam with no problems last summer.
He's far away from being computer savvy.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:06 AM on August 30, 2010


Another data point in Skype's favour - my mother uses Skype without issue and she can be the most frustrating person to talk through IT issues with - Skype just works for her.
posted by benzo8 at 8:15 AM on August 30, 2010


We use iChat to chat with my grandmother. It works ok, except that she used to get confused by the dialog boxes that would pop up. We always call first and then I initiate the chat. She has used skype with non-Mac-using relatives with some success.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2010


Funny. We've had bad luck with Skype and great luck with Gmail video. I'd install at least 2 solutions and make them as easy as humanly possible to switch between. And, to reiterate, get logmein on there.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2010


If you're going to stick with Windows, Skype is your best bet, as far as "simple to use" is concerned. Yahoo IM has a fairly easy-to-use webcam chat setup, but it's a bit flaky and low-ish quality.

You do seem unnecessarily harsh on your Grandma, though. Hell, I know people in their 20's and 30's who don't have a clue about de-fragging. People her age aren't necessarily technophobes as much as they really don't see/feel the need for the technology in their lives. Quite often, it seems like a huge intrusion to them. Doubly-so if the technology is being pushed at them by technophiles without understanding their non-sophisticated inexperience.

I assume you've already set her up with a PC. Can we assume you set her up to use it as a non-admin? That should restrict her ability to accidentally delete anything critical. But, in the end, nothing is going to be totally grandma-proof.

Good luck!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 AM on August 30, 2010


When I did the same for my parents, they would often wreck the setup when they unplugged the webcam from USB. Windows would forget which audio source to use and we'd go through a comedy of errors trying to get ti working again. When we go back this December, we're buying them a USB hub so they never have to uplug and replug devices for the additional port.
posted by advicepig at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2010


We use Gmail chat with my mother-in-law and it works pretty well - I did set it up at her house (there's a small add on to install) and all she has to do is log into Gmail and we 'invite' her to the video chat.
posted by Twicketface at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2010


As far as the technical support aspect of this goes, if you are using Windows on both ends, you might want to check out UltraVNC-SC (Single Click) which allows someone fairly easily to invite you into their PC to fix it. It has saved what remains of my hair in my day job doing technical support.

You will need to open up a port through your firewall/router and have a dyndns account to get it to work reliably, though.



As far as defragging things goes, get an SSD, you'll never need to defrag again. 8)
posted by MikeWarot at 11:02 AM on August 30, 2010


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