Originally written for the local Ufford Punch magazine:
The World Wide Web has been with us now for twenty years. Over this time it has dramatically changed the way we work, communicate, shop and relax. The last decade especially has seen massive developments with technologies such as wireless broadband and downloadable music, products such as the iPad and Kindle, and online services such as Facebook and BBC iPlayer. It is amazing to think how far we have come from Tim Berners-Lee’s first vision of what the web could do for us.
Saying that, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the web. For those confident in its use, it can seem easy and exciting, full of powerful and effective tools for getting things done, fun ways of sharing and enjoying content and keeping in touch with friends and family. For others, it can still seem daunting, complex and confusing. Perhaps a simple Google search is as much as they are comfortable with, and trying to send an email attachment seems like more work than writing the thing out again by hand and delivering it personally.
For those who feel left behind and confused about what others are enjoying online, I thought I would put together a short list of technologies that any computer user could (and perhaps should) benefit from – and how to make the most of them!
This is an obvious place to start. Almost every computer user will already know that Google is the most powerful search engine on the internet, enabling you to find what you need quickly and simply by typing relevant words.
Tip: if you enclose your search words with quote marks, you will get results that exactly match your phrase. Try “Ufford bygones” for example.
Both sites are excellent ways of keeping in touch with your friends and family. They work in different ways and can be a lot of fun. Do be careful how much information you post though – I am always happy to give advice on this, particularly to parents.
Missed a television or radio program? No problem! With BBC iPlayer you can watch or listen to them through your computer, tablet or smartphone. Other channels like ITV and Channel 4 offer similar services on their websites (just search for them on Google!)
Dropbox is a fantastic tool. Some use it to make sure their files are synchronised between their different computers. Others use it to share photo albums with relatives, or simply as a way of backing up their precious files in case their computer breaks.
Skype is a way of talking to people you know through your computer. This can be a simple voice call, like using the telephone. With the use of web cameras, you also have the option of seeing the person you are speaking to on screen, and being seen by them. The service is free and millions of people use it to keep in contact with friends and loved ones, no matter how far away they live.
It is important to make sure your files are protected. If your computer breaks, is lost or stolen, how upset would you be if you lost your family photos, letters, contacts or work? There are several ways to backup your files, including automatic services, some of which are free. Feel free to ask me for advice if you do not have a backup system in place yet.
You may have seen a Kindle by now. They are fantastic devices. My wife loves hers. They are shaped like a very thin book and can contain hundreds of books electronically. They are very easy to use and read, and the books are often free or very cheap. You can quickly purchase a book online and it downloads to your Kindle immediately, ready to read in seconds! Large books like Bibles are no problem. In fact, on that note, my wife also recommends www.biblegateway.com – look up any bible verse in almost any English translation!
If find yourself confined to one room in your house when you use the internet, consider a wireless range extender. I have set up dozens of these for people, enabling them to happily use the internet in any room in their house, and even out in their garden!
So many of our local businesses are now on the internet with their own websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Get into the habit of checking these for special offers and new products – a great way to get ready for Christmas. Large and small UK businesses rely on this time of year with the Christmas shopping season. Buying online can be cheaper and is often easier. If you’ve held back from buying online in the past, perhaps now is the time to give it a go. A friend or relative may be happy to help you with this – if not, give me a call, as I regularly teach people how to do such things, in the comfort of their own home with no one to rush them.
I hope this article has been useful to you. If there is anything I have missed that you would like explained, feel free to contact me. I am happy to give advice, set things up for you or teach you new tricks to help you get the most of your time at your computer.