Category Archives: General

The Best Computer for Seniors

He’s looking smug, must have made the right choice!

What type of computer should a senior get? It depends!

Now that may not sound very helpful, does it? But please bear with me a little and it will become clear.

In this post I will discuss the pros and cons of various options to make your choice a little easier. All the options are computers that I personally own and use.

They all run the latest, easy-to-use Windows 10 operating system so it is easy to switch from the one to the other.

The Desktop

On the one end of the spectrum we have the traditional desktop PC (personal computer). It normally consists of a tower, a monitor, keyboard and mouse. So it is huge and typically requires a dedicated computer desk.

My workhorse on its desk. It is several years old and still chugging along.

A variant of the desktop is the “two in one”. Here the guts of the computer that is normally housed in the tower, is now built into the monitor. This is an elegant solution that frees up a little desk space for sure. They tend to be a bit more expensive and complicated to maintain.

A laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

The Portables

There is a wide range of options in this group. I will discuss three representative models (a mid-sized laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone).

Their main claim to fame is that they take up less space, consist of one unit and are portable.

All three have touch screens which allows you to zoom and scroll with ease, even if you don’t have a mouse.

My-Computers4The Laptop

The laptop is the oldest portable computer design. Here everything is built-in: screen, computer and keyboard. It has been popular for years with people on the move like students and business people.

The advantage of a laptop for seniors is that it takes up less space than a desktop, and can be used anywhere. You can work on it in your study for example and later carry it to your bedroom to watch a movie.

The mid-sized 15” Dell model that I show here, while lovely to work on, is actually quite heavy and many seniors might find it at best “luggable”.

The Surface Pro 4 with keyboard

The Tablet

Tablets are smaller and much more portable. The model I show here is a 12” Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft and I use it with a detachable keyboard as shown.

It is certainly light and small enough to take with you to your local coffee shop, yet it is powerful enough to do some serious work on it.

Also included is a stylus which opens new possibilities of working. More on that in upcoming posts. Notice how sharp and accurate the screen is!

The Lumia 830 shown with the table for size comparison.

The Smartphone

Yes, the smartphone (in this case a 5” Lumia 830) is also a computer capable of doing serious work!

And it does pretty well as phone and a camera too.

It is also, obviously, the most portable of all the choices. I have with me all the time. The photo shows the smartphone alongside the tablet.

The Cost

These devices are not cheap. At the time of writing, they each cost $1000 CAD, give and take depending on the model and accessories. You can get cheaper but you will enjoy the pleasure of owning a quality device long after you have forgotten how much it cost you.

The hidden cost: to get the full benefit of computing for seniors you really need access to the Internet. For that you will have to talk to your phone or cable TV company. They will provide you with a router/modem and a hefty monthly fee that over time will add up to more than the cost of your computer.

An ADSL modem supplied by Telus

This will give your desktop a fast wired connection to the Internet (the yellow cable in the photo) and wireless connections for your mobile devices (the two antennas).

What to Get?

Finally, what do I recommend? It is comforting to know that you can’t go wrong. Any of the choices will work just fine.

  1. If you still want to do serious work, like writing your latest novel, or editing a documentary video, a desktop computer is a good choice. You will appreciate the large screen and keyboard.
  2. If you lean more to the entertainment side, like visiting websites, movies on Netflix, or reading ebooks, the tablet is the way to go. Remember, you still can do serious work on it,  but you can also watch a movie, in your favourite armchair, with it on your lap –  no problem.
  3. If you do want to do serious work needing computing horsepower, but space is a concern, then a high-end laptop would be a good choice.
  4. If you can only afford to get one device, go for the smartphone. In real life I own all of these devices, but in the end I spend most of my time on the smartphone. I do my emails, write articles like this one, read e-books, watch movies, check the news, shoot and edit videos, and do my banking. Even if I lost all three the other devices, I would still get along just fine. My phone is several years old—when my ship comes in, I am buying the latest model…

Looking Good in the News

example-newsletter-foldedNow that Publisher is included in Office 365, we have access to a powerful page layout tool.

In this post we will describe our unique course, Newsletters with Publisher.

Why Newsletters
Newsletters are an important marketing tool for many organizations. However, you should look good in print! Now Publisher 2016 included with Office 365 makes it possible to create a professional newsletter with ease.

The Course
The course is unique in that it covers not only the tools in Publisher, but also the newsletter concepts that make your newsletter look professional.

This new online course consists of eight lessons and will take you step-by-step through the process of designing a newsletter from scratch using MS Publisher 2016. Every lesson contains extensive notes in addition to the videos.

Along the way you will learn some newsletter design concepts. For example we discuss the importance of repurposing content and illustrate this by using posts from this website for the newsletter articles.

Although the focus of the course is newsletter design, the techniques learned will be useful for many other graphic projects.

This course is part of our Office 365 for small business series.

Visit the course page today


Book Promotion on a Budget

book coverThe key to the success of a self-published book lies in the promotion—and this is no easy task.

I was recently asked if I could help a mutual friend with her book. In this post I will describe how we went about it.

Setting the Scene
The book has been self-published. Our starting point is an entry on Amazon with a book description and a small graphic of the book face. We have a copy of the book and have read it. The author has spent a lot of money getting the book published so has minimal residual funds for promotion.

The book is an historical novel, so we don’t have access to photographic material. The author is elderly and not really up to making many public appearances.

Our Approach
We felt the best approach was to create a book website ( as the main promotional vehicle. Other activities will serve to drive people to the website for more information and buying instructions.

In this case we have to rely on people finding out about the book via search engines (Google/YouTube). This would require us regularly creating keyword-rich content.


  1. Create a website using WordPress with a basic free theme. This would include typical pages like About the Book, About the Author and a blog. Make sure to include a SEO plug-in.
  2. Compile an editorial calendar listing when we would publish what content where. For SEO to be effective, it is important that one has regular content. With all the other things going on, an editorial calendar keeps one on track. The idea is to create posts in the blog at least once per week, and more regular posts on Facebook and Twitter.
  3. book-cover-3dCreate required graphics e.g. 3D book cover, website header graphic etc. We have no other visual material, so we designed a look and feel that would permit rapid creation of images for social media.
  4. The editorial calendar includes the creation of video. Video has become very important and with YouTube one can make sure that the uploads are keyword-rich. As video is more time consuming, we aim for one per month. Early on in the project we created two essential videos: a book video (aka book trailer), and a recorded book excerpt (reading).
  5. We encouraged the author to obtain reviews/endorsements from friends/family and to use every opportunity for word-of-mouth promotion. Books are too expensive to just give away, but a “book business card” with the website address has made up for that.
  6. When funds/time allow, create a promotional DVD by using the videos already made to send to book stores, libraries and book reviewers.

Side Benefits
As there is no financial incentive, we looked at what other benefits we could get from the project. Of course the experience gained in any volunteer work is always worthwhile.

And one gets indirect, personal exposure when one posts about the book on social media sites – this post is an example.

As we also create online training, we saw a real potential for turning the work into a range of online courses. For more information visit

One can promote a book on a very low budget. The main cost being the webhosting and domain name and the business card printing.

It does represent a considerable time investment. This can be mitigated by repurposing content and graphic elements as much as possible for example creating a DVD from videos already made.

The book was a good read too so that is a bonus!

Computers for Seniors

laptop6fpoCan computers play a role in the lives of seniors, or are we “over the hill”? Should computers even be considered?

In this post I will look at why I believe that computers can play an important role in the lives of seniors.

Not all the same
Seniors are not a homogeneous group. Some have been using computers for most of their careers, while others have not touched a computer ever. But many seniors face common problems like loneliness and resulting depression.

The Advantages
Computers can do so many things that they can be useful for all seniors. We will list just a few:

  • Access to information at any time—weather, health, news, diet, finances.
  • Communication with friends and family, and virtual friends who share your interests.
  • Entertainment in the form of online movies, radio, eBooks, podcasts, chess, bridge, etc.
  • Online banking and purchasing.
  • Support for your hobbies, whether knitting, cooking, photography or the Internet of Things.
  • Gaming and other tools to enhance dexterity and mental agility.
  • Contribute your skills and experience through online mentoring.

The Challenges
There are several factors that prevent seniors from considering a computer:

  • Physical limitations like poor eyesight and limited hand dexterity.
  • Many fear using a computer as they are “sure to mess things up”.
  • Many don’t understand what computers can do for them so they don’t see the point.
  • Many have downsized so they have limited space in their accommodation.
  • Lack of funds.
  • Steep learning curve.

The Risks
There are risks to consider:

  • What if you actually “mess up” your computer, who do you turn to for help?
  • Scammers who take advantage of vulnerable seniors.
  • Excessive use may promote a sedentary lifestyle.

The Takeaway
The advantages that computers can provide are really quite compelling. The challenges and risks, while real, can be managed and mitigated.

Personally I am a senior who has grown up with computers as it were. I am also a computer instructor and have personally seen what a difference  computers can make in the lives of seniors.

Why Learn Publisher?

Microsoft_Publisher_2013_logo_svg_With Microsoft Publisher now included in Office 365, small businesses have a tool that allows them to create many graphic projects easily and quickly in-house. That’s great, not so?

Well, there is a danger lurking there. And that is the reason to spend some time learning Publisher properly.

What is Publisher
Publisher is a powerful, easy to use page layout program. It allows one to easily lay out graphic projects like flyers, adverts, newsletters and more.

While one could do similar things in MS Word, it was much more difficult. Objects that you had carefully placed on the page, seem to move without apparent reason. Publisher uses frames to place objects and they stay put no matter what you do elsewhere.

The Danger
Graphic design is an art. Publisher is easy to use and so it is also easy to make a mess of a graphic project if you ignore graphic design principles.  Your project can end up looking “home made”!

There Is a Way
We have created a fun course, Flyers with Publisher. In this course we take you step-by-step through the design of two typical small business flyers. In the process you will learn the most frequently used tools and concepts of Publisher.

What is unique, however, is that we teach the basic concepts of graphic design in the way these two flyers are structured! This alone is worth its weight in gold.

This course is part of our Office 365 for Small Business series.

To learn more, visit the course home page


When To Learn?

jitlAny time is a good time to learn, surely! Well yes, but there is more to it.

In this post we will look at two valid approaches to learning software.

Software like Office 365 and Adobe Elements are just tools we use in what we do every day in our organizations. They are very useful but nevertheless represent a huge learning curve. So just how does one go about learning these programs?

Most programs include basic tools. These are the core tools one uses for 80% of your tasks. That then is the first order of business when getting to know a program. Then there are the advanced tools that you hardly ever use. And as the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Project-based Learning
Our approach to learning the core tools of a software program is project-based learning. We strive to create courses in which a program is used to create a typical project in a step-by-step process. An example is our course Design a Flyer with Word and Present with PowerPoint. In these projects you learn how a real-life project is tackled from start to finish, and as a byproduct, almost by “osmosis”, you learn the basic tools of the program that is used.

Just In Time Learning
JITL is a good approach for learning the more esoteric tools of a program. When you are confronted with a specific task that needs one of those more esoteric tools, look for a course that addresses just that tool.  Because you now have a specific need, you will be more motivated the more involved tool or process. An example is our course Laying Out a Book in Word.

Suggested Approach
We know from experience that getting to know a new program is fun and rewarding. Once you complete a project it gives you a sense of achievement, and rightfully so. Or courses are designed to be easily digestible in a hour or so. Spending an hour taking a course will be more satisfying than watching TV, guaranteed!

Of course the more you become familiar with the basic tools of a program, the line between the basic and esoteric tools will start to blur so by all means tackle one of the more advanced topics—it is still designed using the same step-by-step project approach.

For more information on our selection of courses, visit

It’s That Time Again

Festive DDIt’s amazing how often “it’s that time again”! For us it means it is an opportunity for seasonal advertising. With that in mind, we have created a special course, Seasonal Advertising with Adobe Elements.

What do we mean by seasonal advertising? It is advertising for specific times of the year like autumn or winter. It also includes cultural events like Halloween, the Super Bowl, etc.

These “seasons” typically have a very narrow time window so the key is to be able to produce advertising quickly and Photoshop Elements is ideal for that!

In this course we show how you can create seasonal ads for print, web and email easily using powerful, but often overlooked, tools in Photoshop Elements. This course is part of our series, Adobe Elements for Small Business.

In the course we focus on Clipping Masks and Graphics tools – powerful skills that you will be able to use in many other Photoshop Elements projects.

Here is one of the ads you will create in the course:


Go to the course page…



Virtual Shields

Arduino_logo2Virtual Shields — what’s that and why is that exciting (at least to me it is)? It has to do with the IoT (Internet of Things) and Microsoft’s commitment to it.

Microsoft yesterday announced at the Build 2015 conference two new collaborations with microcontroller makers Arduino: Windows Virtual Shields and Windows Remote Arduino.

What is a Shield

Arduino is famous for its Arduino Uno series of development kits used by so many who are active in IoT development (an example is shown in the photo).


By contrast shields are boards that can be plugged on top of the Arduino PCB – extending its capabilities. The different shields follow the same philosophy as the original toolkit: they are easy to mount, and cheap to produce.

That brings us to the virtual shields. Windows Virtual Shields for Arduino, which enables Arduino “sketches” (small programs) to access the built-in sensors on Microsoft Lumia phones. All that’s required is an Arduino UNO, a bluetooth module, a supported phone, and usage of the VirtualShield library and functions. The photo shows a prototype “weather station” controlled by a Lumia smartphone.

As Microsoft’s Steve Teixeira explains, “Windows Virtual Shield for Arduino enables developers to tap into the incredible power of Windows 10 devices through wireless protocols. A Lumia 530 contains well over $200-worth of Arduino shield sensors and capabilities, and we’ve made it easy to access all of those sensors and capabilities from an Arduino as if they were standard hardware shields. Imagine being able to create an Arduino project that includes GPS, Web connectivity/parsing, touch display, speech technologies and more. We’re particularly fond of the picture the weather project we’ve created that lets you bring your children’s drawings to life.”

For more information, see the full article in the Make: blog

Let Video Tell Your Story

fbytUsing video to promote your business, organization or cause is the in-thing. It seems like every day I get an email with even more stunning video statistics similar to:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

Then they tell us that Facebook is ready to overtake YouTube as the go-to place for online video.

The Implications
What does that mean for small businesses? Basically two things:

  1. You cannot ignore the use of video
  2. Because there are now so much video, your videos will have to be good to stand out in the crowd.

We can help
In the same way we have two solutions to offer:

  1. Let us help you learn video
  2. Let us make the video for you.

Our Training
Make no mistake, the learning curve for making promotional video is steep. At the same time it is a fun skill to have and that you will be able to use in other areas of your life.
With this in mind we have developed a whole series of online how-to courses on video for small business using the free Movie Maker. We are currently developing courses based on the more powerful Adobe Elements suite.  Find out more…

videoshootWe Do It
In spite of our obvious passion for video, we believe it is better for you to focus on your organization, and let us work with you to do the video work. We offer a full service from developing the script with you, to publishing it and putting it on your website.  Find out more…

Using video to promote your organization is where it is at. It is not a fad, it is the reality. We look forward to working with you no matter which of the two options you choose.

Industry 4.0

Hannover-Messe-Logo_image_fullWhat on earth is Industry 4.0? It is a term coined by Hannover Messe, one of the most important industrial tradeshows today.

Essentially there have been four phases in industry starting with the industrial revolution. Today we are in the phase where information systems plays a major part, hence Industry 4.0.    Not surprisingly, the Internet of Things (IoT) features prominently at this year’s Hannover Messe.

Let Us Do Lettuce
A fascinating application of IoT is described on Microsoft’s blog as follows:

“One thing that will become clear this week: IoT is cutting across a wider range of industries than we’ve seen in the past. Fujitsu is bringing together its Eco-Management Dashboard, IoT/M2MP platform, Microsoft cloud services, and Windows tablets in a way that can enable managers, engineers, and scientists to improve product quality, streamline systems, and enhance functionality while reducing costs. For example, at its facility in Aizu Wakamatsu, Japan, Fujitsu is able to grow lettuce that is both delicious and low in potassium so that it can be consumed by dialysis patients and people with chronic kidney disease. They can track all of the plant info from their Windows tablets through the cloud. These solutions will also be able to help other agriculture and manufacturing companies transform their businesses through innovation.”

Who would have thought IOT and lettuce go together?

The Takeaway
Our world is changing rapidly. Because of the IoT there is plenty of opportunity for innovation. New West has plenty of innovative people. If one can grow lettuce, maybe one can track Fraser salmon too…?

Miele Smartoven
The Miele smartoven helping you cook