Help me avoid weekly tech support calls.
October 18, 2008 9:18 PM   Subscribe

I have two G4 PowerBooks that I've wiped, packed with RAM and installed Leopard on. Now how do I make them as parent-friendly as possible?

So far I have:
- installed basic apps like FF, VLC, Word, Toast, Quicksilver
- disabled Spaces
- put regularly visited sites in the FF bookmark bar
- placed important apps and folders in the dock and enabled parental controls to lock it
- setup ichat for future troubleshooting adventures

Are there any other apps/fixes that might be helpful to my smart but not very tech-savvy parents? Any Firefox add-ons that might come in handy?
posted by killjoy to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Aaaaand I just found this. :P Well, any additional suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by killjoy at 9:22 PM on October 18, 2008

I'd stick with safari vs. firefox -- the help documents & mac help books all reference it.

Make sure you install the latest flash, real player, and flip4mac. Yes, the formats suck, but... that's life =)
posted by mmdei at 9:28 PM on October 18, 2008

Set them up for auto login. Logging in can be surprisingly frustrating for some people. ::cough::oldfolks::cough::

Disable clicking and dragging on the trackpad. Even as an experienced user, I get accidental clicks and drags all the time (even when "ignore accidental trackpad input" is checked"), and it can be frustrating for someone who is not expecting it.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:42 PM on October 18, 2008

Make a backup plan! The hard drives in those computers will fail sooner or later -- probably sooner, since they're old G4s -- and there's nothing that makes people hate computers worse than losing all their data. Give them an external drive, set up Time Machine, and make sure your parents know how to plug in to the drive every once in a while.
posted by xil at 9:46 PM on October 18, 2008

Maybe disable Expose in preferences. Otherwise you may get panicked phone calls when they try to use the function keys, if ever (or by accident.)
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:49 PM on October 18, 2008

- depending on eyesight, increase the default icon size and font size
- use Time Machine for backing up, but pull it from the Dock, or you'll get phone calls asking you why the computer decided to visit an alternate dimension after they accidentally click on the TM icon and execute Time Machine.
- maybe set the browser's homepage to their chosen webmail interface (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.), often the most-used site on parents' Macs.
- launch *all* the programs you've downloaded and installed so they don't get presented with the security warning about having downloaded a program...
- ditto for iTunes. Launch it and walk through the setup assistant.
posted by at 9:57 PM on October 18, 2008

turn off auto check for updates. These are largely bogus and hopefully you visit often enough to do this for them.
posted by troy at 10:14 PM on October 18, 2008

turn on auto check for updates. These are largely bogus, but the security ones are totally worth it

man, I wish there was a way to just auto-update the security stuff, and not the latest iTunes DRM-laden "improvement"
posted by zippy at 10:21 PM on October 18, 2008

Best answer: - Disable tabs in the browser.
- Set the home page to something sane (, their favorite news site, etc)
- lock system preferences (require password to change)
- put their favorite sites on the bookmark bar (webmail, google, news)
- Firefox: autoupdate browser and plugins do not ask
- Adblock Firefox extension. Add a subscription to one of the blocklists.
posted by zippy at 10:24 PM on October 18, 2008

- delete crud from the toolbar. Garageband, iMovie, etc.
posted by zippy at 10:25 PM on October 18, 2008

Why not install the Apple Remote Desktop client on both of them, so that if you get a tech support call, you can just log on to the respective machine(s) to fix, or to SHOW what to do.
posted by birdsquared at 12:00 AM on October 19, 2008

If you have access to their router, you can set port-forwarding so that ARD will work well. If not, LogMeIn is free and works fairly well for remote access through routers, firewalls, etc.
posted by at 4:54 AM on October 19, 2008

installed basic apps like FF, VLC, Word, Toast, Quicksilver
I'd uninstall FF, VLC, Toast and Quicksilver. None of them are "basic apps", they mostly have better-integrated Apple equivalents and their only advantages come from doing power-user things.
posted by bonaldi at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2008

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