Getting Grandma on FaceTime
August 27, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Getting Grandma on FaceTime

I'd like to hook up my MIL with the ability to have FaceTime video chats with her new grandson. My challenge is that she currently has a wired DSL (possibly ADSL) connection to a box running Windows 98 (possibly ME). She's not very tech savvy, so I need to make this as brain-dead simple as possible.

I can get a refurb iPod Touch, no problem. It's the wireless connectivity that's trickier. Ideally, I'd like to give her a box that she can just plug into her existing modem/router and create a wireless network off of it- it should "just work" without her having to run through configuring it.

How close can I get to this ideal, and what are my networking options?
posted by mkultra to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Recent previous question that may be helpful.
posted by phunniemee at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2012

I have similar challenges with my parents, and I would say the easiest thing to do is to buy and old MacBook, connect to a wired router, and create step-by-step screenshots of how to get on FaceTime. It's the only way. Due to the technical knowledge (low to non-existent) I do not think wireless internet connectivity is a good idea.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2012

If she lives in a Comcast-serviced area, they've introduced a Skype product that is independent of computers and hooks up to the television set. It is designed for people just like your MIL. (Disclosure: I work for Comcast, but I am not speaking for Comcast)
posted by inturnaround at 10:55 AM on August 27, 2012

The best way to establish a wireless network that "just works" is for you to pre-configure it before giving it to her (both the wireless router and the iPod). I'd suggest an Airport Express for the wireless router. It's simple (for you) to configure, and it has both a WAN and a LAN ethernet port so the existing Windows PC can daisy chain off of it if needed (i.e., if her DSL modem only has one ethernet port -- so you won't need an additional switch or router). Once everything has been set up (by you) she should never have to touch any of the settings.
posted by Nothlit at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2012

Does it have to be FaceTime or will Skype video work just as well? Skype runs perfectly well on PCs, Macs, iPods, and etcs, so this may be an easier option.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:19 AM on August 27, 2012

Response by poster: Some quick feedback, thanks for the responses so far:

KokuRyu: "I would say the easiest thing to do is to buy and old MacBook"

Not really an option- too expensive (even used), too fragile, takes up too much space, and I want to be able to "call" her for a chat, which is not a great experience on the Mac.

It's Never Lurgi: "Does it have to be FaceTime or will Skype video work just as well? Skype runs perfectly well on PCs, Macs, iPods, and etcs, so this may be an easier option."

The main problem is the lack of a camera.
posted by mkultra at 11:31 AM on August 27, 2012

The lack of a camera can be solved by a dirt-cheap webcam. I realize I've just added a step here, but I think it's just one step.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:55 AM on August 27, 2012

iPod Touch has no camera so would not work. Get her an iPad 2 or 3 and a Wi-Fi router. Then she can retire the Windows box. A cheap router would save cash, but an Airport Express would actually stay up and not need to be switched on and off all the time - your call.
posted by w0mbat at 12:04 PM on August 27, 2012

iPod Touch has no camera so would not work.

Wrong- the newest models do have cameras.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:13 PM on August 27, 2012

Agree on the iPad & AirPort Express pre-set by you, the easiest for your MIL to start using right away.

You don't say how she uses her Windows box, but likely the iPad can replace it for what she wants to do.
posted by scooterdog at 12:17 PM on August 27, 2012

Wrong- the newest models do have cameras.

Indeed they do. My bad.

I'd still recommend an iPad in this situation though. For a lot of casual users an iPad can replace a desktop or laptop completely, but an older person won't want to spend all day squinting at a tiny iPod screen.
posted by w0mbat at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2012

Not an iOS user but I tested an iPhone 4S and my first face time call was with an iPod touch user. 4th gen IIRC and it definitely had a camera. Nthing the pre configured router approach. Set it up at home with WPA2, join the iPod, provide clear instructions including the process of rebooting the DSL modem and router in the event the connection stops working. It helps to use a different color patch cable from what is attached to the modem currently if you need to help troubleshoot down the road.
posted by lordaych at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2012

I think that an iPad would be easier for her to use over an iPod touch. The iPod has a really really small screen.

Wireless router is probably going to give you the biggest grief. I'm not sure what good router to get, but the Apple Airport Express is probably going to be more reliable than a Linksys/Netgear one. All the Netgear/Linksys routers I've ever owned required the occasional reboot. Right now I have a Dual-Band Linksys Wireless N router that I have DD-WRT installed and that is rock solid. The default firmware on it ran like crap and I thought that the hardware was basically dead. A co-worker/friend told me about DD-WRT and I couldn't be happier with the router now. But thats a LOT for your grandmother...probably getting a better more reliable router than what is on the cheepo rack at Best Buy is the better option.
posted by nickerbocker at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2012

Buy her an iPad with a cellular connection that you pay for. Set the iPad up with a facetime account for her. Also buy a stand that she can leave the iPad in. Ship it off with instructions on how to plug it in and set it up in the stand. When she gets it, call her and walk her through the instructions you provided, because she probably won't want to follow them on her own. Once you can call her and she can answer, tell her to push the off button and that you'll call her on the regular phone before you call her on facetime so she knows it is coming. Eventually, she may even tell you "can't you just call me on facetime without the phone call?"

This gets around the issues of setting up wireless anything, and of teaching her how to use it.
posted by davejay at 10:09 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

In IOS6, you'll be able to make Facetime calls over cellular. Which means very soon (in a matter of a few weeks), she won't need a home ADSL internet line at all, or her old computer. This savings in cost may mean an iPad would be the best solution.

My vote as someone who teaches seniors technology - order her an iPad (2 or 3rd generation), cheapest model WITH 3G, get her a SIM card and then make her a call on Facetime, and watch her touch to accept. It may take a few goes to get her started, but it should be easy.

If you think the small screen of the ipod touch won't be a problem, get her a stylus to use with it (arthritic fingers don't love tiny touch screens). And as I said above, the cellular Facetime will work.

Lastly, get her a small $2 plate stand from the local dollar store to prop her ipod touch up on so she doesn't have to be holding it to Facetime.
posted by shazzam! at 10:32 PM on August 27, 2012

« Older Accepting credit cards when you are broke   |   How do I get more quality REM sleep? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.