Show your parents you care — tech style

It’s highly likely that many of you, like me, are respons­ible for tech­nic­al sup­port of your fam­il­ies’ com­puter sys­tems and inter­net con­nec­tion.

googfooter.pngEarli­er today I found a great little micros­ite (by Google) that’ll help you sup­port your par­ents with their online issues. is the site that helps you build a friendly little email and bundles links to appro­pri­ate self-help videos.


Obvi­ously this won’t address every ques­tion they’ve got, but it does:

  • Get them using email (they’ll need to in order to view the mes­sage)
  • Get them watch­ing online videos through a browser
  • Teach them how to do some­thing to cus­tom­ize their com­put­ing exper­i­ence
  • Give them a sense of accom­plish­ment and inde­pend­ence as they use new tech.

Here’s what your out­go­ing email could look like:


It’s not just simple issues either, here’s a video show­ing how to set up an email autorespon­der in Gmail — though sim­il­ar email apps work in much the same way.

And it’s a great little mar­ket­ing and brand­ing oppor­tun­ity to get Google into their com­put­ing exper­i­ence.

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Don’t forget your Tech Rescue Kit

This time of year many of us travel home to vis­it fam­ily. If you’re the least bit of a tech­ie, you’ll likely be called in to help someone dia­gnose some sort of com­puter prob­lem — hope­fully not very ser­i­ous. But if Uncle Billy’s com­puter ‘just stopped work­ing’ and you know you’re going to be spend­ing an even­ing there, you can bet you’ll be asked to ‘just take a look at it, you’re so good with com­puters it won’t take you long to fig­ure it out.’ The next thing you know you’re plopped in front of the sys­tem, wait­ing for it to go through a vir­us laden bootup while wist­fully remem­ber­ing that hot rum toddy you left by the fire­place. …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techb­log. Check out the full post here.

Friday the 13th: Refuge in the backup

Ok, it’s a lousy title for a movie, but it is a great remind­er to review and execute your data backup strategies, both at home and online.

Why Fri­day the 13th?
Simply, it’s a day-date com­bin­a­tion that hap­pens infre­quently, almost ad-hoc. When it does occur, you can eas­ily plan to take time out to per­form your main­ten­ance chores.

It’s also a very mem­or­able day. In fic­tion, bad things hap­pen on Fri­day the 13th — so the best way to pre­vent those bad things from hap­pen­ing to you, is to take pro­act­ive measures…and what bet­ter day to remem­ber to do that than Fri­day the 13th!

Some things to do

  • Backup your home com­puter sys­tems
  • Backup your blog(s)
  • Backup your oth­er con­tent stored in the cloud (flickr, Google Docs, iTunes video & music)
  • Remove and delete pro­grams you’ve not used for a while
  • Review and backup your pass­word & account inform­a­tion
  • Purge your online email accounts of old mail
  • Defrag your hard drives

More read­ing
I’ve writ­ten a few posts about backups and main­ten­ance before, so if you want to dig into the detail, here’s a handy list, sor­ted by backup tag.

Life­hack­er pos­ted this great over­view of a per­son­al backup sys­tem worth check­ing out.

How to synchronize your podcast feeds on many computers

A friend recently asked me if I knew of a way to syn­chron­ize his pod­casts (using iTunes) on mul­tiple com­puters.

Ini­tially I had no idea, but then I remembered Pod­Nova.

Aside: I’ve since learned that iTunes sup­ports OPML import / export, but still think Pod­Nova is the bet­ter way to go — online cent­ral­ized repos­it­ory of all your pod­cast feeds VS sav­ing and mov­ing OPML files between com­puters.

I’d writ­ten about it a few years ago when I was look­ing into a text-to-speach solu­tion for my blog: How to con­vert your blog post into a pod­cast.

Basic­ally, Pod­Nova is a ser­vice that you use to sub­scribe to all of your pod­casts. Or, you can stream your pod­casts dir­ectly to your com­puter (or mobile device: iPhone, iPod Touch, etc).

But, if you want to keep all your com­puters syn­chron­ized, you simply point  your iTunes sub­scrip­tion at ‘your per­son­al­ized’ RSS pod­cast feed. Done.

The res­ult is that you now have one feed to remem­ber, but that feed now con­tains ALL your pod­cast sub­scrip­tions. All you have to do is sub­scribe to your Pod­Nova feed, sit back, and enjoy your pod­casts. Once per com­puter.