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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Giving Your Parents A Mac? Print This Out For Them!
December 15th, 1999

Picture this scenario. It is two days after Christmas. Everyone has gone home. The turkey is almost gone and there are no Christmas cookies left. You are sitting at your desk or your kitchen table staring at this computer the kids gave you for Christmas, wondering what the heck do I do now? Oh, granted they set it up for you and everything is connected. But somehow the time that was going to be spent teaching you how to use it came and went. After all, there were the kids running around everywhere, friends dropping by, perhaps church services, and all those meals, and somehow all the time is gone and everyone has left because they have to be back at work. Their parting words weren't much help either. "Sorry mom (or dad) we didn't get more time to spend on the computer, but it is a Mac and easy to use so just turn it on and have fun." OK. So how do I turn it on you ask, and then what do I do? Here is a primer to help IF YOU ARE USING A NEW COMPUTER THAT IS AN iMac OR SOME OTHER MAC THAT COMES EQUIPED WITH MAC OS 8.0 OR ABOVE. I know that you may not even know what that means, but if your computer came new from the store the following directions should work just fine.

First thing is don't be afraid. It is really hard to do anything so significantly bad that it can't be fixed.

Second thing is to acknowledge that it is going to take more than a half an hour for you to be so comfortable you are really having fun.

Third thing is to understand that whoever gave you the computer probably doesn't even remember what it was like to use a computer for the first time. They may have learned to use one in school with a teacher and other classmates close at hand for questions. You are going to be doing this on your own.

Fourth thing is to thank your lucky stars you are learning on a Mac. You and the Mac are on the same side.

Turn It On.

On an iMac the "on" button is located on the right of the case, just below the monitor screen. Notice that I said the "on" button and not the "on and off" button. You only use that button to turn off your machine if you are having a problem, such as when your screen freezes up. When you turn it on you will hear whirling noises and things happening on your screen. When all that automatic stuff ends, a box will pop up on the screen that tells you it is the assistant. All you have to do now is follow the directions.

What is a Mouse?

The Mouse is the little object attached to your keyboard with a plug. You simply keep it on the right or left side of your keyboard, depending on your handedness. It controls the cursor which is the arrow you see on your screen. Place your hand on the top of the Mouse, allowing your fingers to be able to press the button. To work, the Mouse must be flat on a surface that will allow you to easily roll it around. There is a ball on the bottom. Hopefully you have a mouse pad included with your gift. If not, use something with a little texture under it. Even a file folder or a very large envelope will work in a pinch. Experiment a bit making the cursor go where you want it to go. You will be a pro in no time.

Setting It Up.

When you turn on your computer for the first time you are going to have to take time to set up your operating system.  The introduction system will come up automatically and it will walk you through each step so don't get uptight about it.  

The first box is an Introduction that will tell you that you are using the Mac OS Setup Assistant and that you will be answering a few questions that will allow the basic settings of your computer to be set up.  This introduction assistant actually consists of two parts.  The first part will set up your system and the second part will allow your computer to access the internet if you are ready to do that.  The first set of questions are about you, where you are, and how you plan to use your computer.  At the bottom of each assistant page will be directions as to where you go next - usually using the words "click the right arrow to continue."

The second assistant box tells you that the system software has default settings for the keyboard layout, the time, date, text, and numbers.   The assistant will automatically adjust your system to meet your needs once you choose one of the language choices.  If you are an American just click your mouse once on the U.S. choice.  You will see a highlighted line appear over your language choice.  Then, following the directions, you click the right arrow to continue.  You don't have to tell it to save anything at this point.  The assistant is automatically storing all the answers you are choosing.

The next assistant box asks for your name and the name of your company.  Your name is not being sent to anyone.  Rather, the system will store it and frequently display it in various settings, eliminating your need to always have to type it in.  To enter your name, move the cursor into the box and click once. When the blinking line appears simply enter your name.  If this is your personal computer you may choose to ignore the company or organization box and go directly to the right arrow button and click to continue.

The next assistant box tells you how the time and date functions work.  This is important because all the e-mail that you send and receive is marked with the time and date.  First indicate whether you are currently observing daylight savings time by moving the cursor over the "no" box and clicking once.  A black dot will appear, letting you know you have made that choice.  Next it asks you for the correct time and the correct date.  To make changes move the cursor into the time box and click over the hour that is shown.   It will be highlighted.  You can change it by using the up and down arrow box to the right by clicking until the correct hour shows up.  You can also do this step by highlighting the hour and typing in the correct hour.  If you are still learning to use a mouse the first option is the easiest.  Continue these steps through the time and the date until you have the correct numbers inserted.  Don't worry if you do something wrong the first time.  Nothing will be saved until you give the instruction to move to the next box.

The next assistant box asks you to select a location from a list.  You should select the location closest to you by placing the cursor over that choice and clicking once.  For instance, since I live in Austin, Texas I choose Dallas, Texas as the correct location.  When this is complete the system will know which time zone you live in.

The next assistant box discusses the finder options and suggests that if you are a new user that you select "Simple Finder".  You do this by placing the cursor over the correct spot and clicking once.

The next assistant box gets into some more complicated areas.  It is talking about local network set ups.  If you are using your computer as a stand alone computer (meaning it is the only computer you are using) then you don't need to worry about network settings.  If you will be using network set ups then you should be able to con someone with more experience into setting up your computer for you!  Just so you will know, a local network, usually used in an office setting, allows computers to be networked so that different users have access to some of the same files and information.

The next assistant box asks you to choose a name for your computer so it can identify itself to other devices.  If you wish you can put something in that box, using the same techniques you used to enter your name earlier.  You are also asked to choose a password.  You may simply skip this whole box by clicking on the right arrow that allows you to continue.

The next assistant box is still working on the shared network stuff.  You are asked if you want to have a shared folder.  Place the cursor over the "no" box and click once to indicate that you don't want a shared folder at this time.  Again, just for your information, if you are on a shared network you have the ability to have some folders that can be accessed by anyone else on the network and to have some folders that only you can access.  That is why the next question asks you to name your shared folder.   You may choose a name or move forward by clicking the right arrow to continue.

The next assistant box concerns the printer you will be using.  If you don't yet have a printer you can skip this box as well.  If you do have a printer, be sure to select the Direct connection box.  The assistant then explains that you have to choose a printer type so that the computer will know what you are using.

The next assistant box asks you to choose the printer from a pre-selected list and gives you directions to go to the Chooser option under the Apple menu to find the correct printer.  (Note:  the Apple menu refers to the Apple trademark symbol in the far, top left corner of your screen.)  If you move your cursor to the Apple symbol and hold down the button, a menu of options will appear.  If you find yourself in the dilemma of taking this extra step you may want to ask a more experienced user to help you.  But with any luck at all you will find your printer listed on the list in the next assistant box.  The box tells you that it knows you are using a direct printer hook up and asks you to choose which printer it will be.  Select the appropriate printer by placing your cursor over the name and, while holding down the button, drag the cursor from the start to finish of your choice. This will highlight the information you are choosing.  You will find the kind of printer you have, printed on some prominent place on the printer itself.  Once this is complete, click on the arrow button to continue.

The next assistant box tells you that you have "done well" so far and the computer is ready to set you up on local connection.  The following assistant box tells you that this portion of the set up is complete.  That means that when you click on the "arrow to continue" all the information you have previously entered will be saved.  You can verify what you have entered by choosing the "show details" option at the bottom of the assistant box.  The next assistant box reaffirms that you have indeed successfully completed this first half of the task.

At this point you can choose to quit by clicking on the quit box.  However, if you are going to jump right into an internet set up, you need to continue to the next step.

At any time during this process you can stop and take a break.  Simply leave the computer just as it is and walk away.  The computer will retain everything you have told it to do up to that point and you just resume when you return.  If your computer has a screen saver of any kind you might return to find it going and your work not visible.  To get your work back just click the mouse once or hit the space bar key (the long key on the bottom row).  The screen saver will disappear.

The next assistant box asks you to indicate if you want to set up your internet connection.  Choose yes or no.

The next assistant box asks you a number of questions about the kind of internet connection you will be using.  Chances are you won't know the answers to all the questions and with computers, you have to answer exactly or something won't work.  Here is my advice.  Whoever you choose as an internet provider will walk you through this.  Most large providers have technical assistants on duty 24 hours a day and have a local or 800 phone number. Some will actually send out someone to set you up for their service if you are willing to pay for it.  Either way, you will probably be charged a set up fee.  It is to their advantage to make sure you have a correct set up because they want to keep your business.  The really important step here is to choose a provider that is right for you who offers the kind of service you are willing to pay for.  The competition for network services is fierce.  The most common kind of provider is an ISP provider.  They charge a set fee of about $20 a month, plus tax.  In return you get e-mail capabilities and internet access of unlimited amounts.  To access this kind of provider you must have a modem (probably built in if you have an iMac) and a phone line.  You can choose to have a second phone line, or choose to plug into your standard home phone line.  Keep in mind that you can't use your phone and be on the computer at the same time if you only have one phone line.  That can be a problem if you spend a lot of time on the internet.  In my area that second phone line cost between $12 - $18 a month plus fees and taxes.  With this kind of service you are automatically disconnected if you go a set period of time without actively using the internet or e-mail systems.

This requires you to go through the automatic dial up process each time you want to check e-mail or get on the internet.  Another option is cable modem.  If available in your area, this service is probably provided by your local cable company.  This service also charges a set up fee and will require a visit from a technician, but does not require you to purchase any equipment.   Cable connection is available at all times that your computer is turned on and it has no need of your phone line or an extra phone line.  The fees for this vary but tend to run between $40 and $50 a month.  A third option now available is through your phone company.  This system is the fastest available option and is preferred by those who play interactive games on the internet.  (This probably won't include you any time soon!)  The monthly fee is about the same as the cable, but there are equipment purchase requirements that can cost around $200.

If you are feeling really confident at this point and you have an internet service provider set up, then go ahead and walk through the rest of the assistant boxes until you have successfully completed the internet connection process.  

One last, very important thing.  There is a proper way to turn off your computer and it is not to punch the start button.  To run smoothly and effectively, the computer needs to go through a shut down process.  Click your cursor somewhere on your desktop in some unoccupied space.  The task bar at the top will change to default mode and you can go to the pull-down menu named Special.  Hold down the mouse button and move down the options until you come to shut down.  Release the mouse button and the computer will automatically go through the necessary shut down process.

I hope you enjoy your new computer experience as much as I enjoy mine.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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