Ask a Librarian: Older person wanting to learn about tech

screenshot of the Yahoo Internet Life web site from 2002

Subtitled: What’s the Yahoo! Internet Life for this generation?

From a friend: A nice older lady asked for advice on keeping up with technology and the kids. Are there any resources you’d recommend that I can in turn recommend to her? Web pages, books, etc?

That’s super challenging because some of it depends on what level she is at already.

  • Online or offline information?
  • Is she in an existing community?
  • What’s her level of understanding? (for some people you have to overcome some pretty serious “I am an idiot” intertia, for others, not so much)

If she just wants to learn about her own technology I often suggest dummies guides or a few “for seniors” books that her library might have. GFC Learn Free has some great online tutorials as does Lynda.com (now owned by LinkedIn, UGH but that’s just a you+me complaint I think, most people don’t care). Also, of course, check out if there are classes at the local library.

If she’s just curious “What’s new in tech this week” she could do worse than AARP. I thought they had a “what’s new in tech” podcast and I guess they don’t? They do have this landing page which would be good, some older people don’t like AARP (can’t blame them, some of their stuff is annoying) but if she’s already in that zone, it’s a good one.

One group that does an good job for a specific niche is AAA for road/travel stuff. Their magazine is nice and readable but will also talk about apps and tools for traveling and I’ve always appreciate that. Same thing with Kiplingers for money stuff. I don’t know why I assume older people want “magazines” but that is what my mom liked. Yahoo used to have a great magazine that would highlight new tech trends and I think we all miss it. Wired is really not it and I don’t think there’s another one that does what the Yahoo mag did.

Podcasts are places a lot of people get information (I’ve never really made the jump) but they have some trusted brands. I think the big deal is convincing people that it’s just like listening to the radio which it can be but there are some hurdles first.
This NPR podcast covers “the kids” though it’s more geared towards parenting. NPR also has this one but I am more shruggo on it.
If she’s already using some news platform (Reddit, Google, I know I know) showing her how to get the “tech” section of those can be useful. Like Google News has a technology section and I find it good for skimming what’s going on lately. Reddit’s ELI5 is great for basic explanations of stuff as is Simple Wikipedia (Wikipedia written for about a third grader but you don’t have to tell her)
Hope this is helpful. I suspect there is probably a better place to go (I’ll ask people at drop-in time) but it’s so far outside of my wheelhouse I don’t know about it anymore. Cheers and happy autumn

Ask A Librarian: What About Controlled Digital Lending?

screen shot from openlibrary.org

From a friend: Please explain to me your enthusiasm for controlled digital lending. Please let me know what you think are potential drawbacks and downsides

Well I think some of it starts with the fact that it is the process that Open Library (where I used to work) uses, so I’ve seen it in action and it works. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: What About Controlled Digital Lending?”

Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?

screenshot from Disk Inventory X

 

I am looking for someone who can help me find and clear out excess data on one of my internal drives to free up space…

[While I am happy consulting, a lot of times if people know how to download, install and run software, they may not need my help. Someone emailed to ask about cleaning up his Mac’s hard drive. Here is my advice.]

The tool I usually use for identifying “What is taking up all the space?” is a free tool called Disk Inventory X which you can get at this link (click the upper right button to download, where it says  8.3 MB)

http://www.derlien.com/downloads/index.html

You may have to follow these instructions to open an application from an unknown developer. When you install and run it, it can give you an idea of what is taking up the space and where it is. Usually for a lot of people the answer is pretty straightforward like “Music” or “Old movies” or “Photos that you also have in iCloud.” In fact, a lot of times syncing iCloud stuff when you take a lot of photos is the thing filling up people’s hard drives. The #2 thing is old backups that are stored somewhere on the hard drive that they moved there when they got a new computer but never investigated. Continue reading “Ask A Librarian: Hard Drive Cleanup for Macs?”

Ask A Librarian: VPNs?

image of a tunnel from an old railway magazine from 1905

 

From a Vermont librarian: VPNs are really important and I’d like to remind our patrons about them, but it gets confusing pretty fast. My sense is that patrons (and people in general!) want bullet point answers and specific steps to take when it comes to tech. I don’t have any experience with VPNs other than I just turned it on through my Dashlane password manager today. I see that Wirecutter recommends IVPN and TorGuard for $60-70/year. Do you have a VPN you recommend or, short of a recommendation, use?

It’s super confusing isn’t it! Wirecutter suggestions are good ones. I do not use one. Some of it will really depend what they need.

For people who don’t want to stream content, for example, something like TunnelBear has a free option for low-bandwidth use.

Nerds I trust also suggest PIA and talk about easy setup.

So maybe you want to give people a little chart and show people options (low bandwidth, best rated, loved by nerds) but maybe not too many.

And then you can use this chart if your patron has some HUGE important thing (like privacy is the most important thing, or cost or whatever) that can help you choose one more tailor made. (you can download the chart so you don’t have to page through it ten items at a time).