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Technology Newsletter

Occasional notes and tips on surviving in the digital world, and saving money on the essential components

Word, Office 365 etc.

New computers are often sold with a trial subscription of 'Office 365' giving up to one year of free usage of Word, spreadsheets and Powerpoint. This is a marketing ploy so that you stump up ~£90 each year for continued use. However there are free or cheaper alternatives. LibreOffice provides all the functionality of Microsoft and is completely free. If you feel nervous and want to stick to Microsoft, then it is possible to get standalone licensed copies of Office 2019 for a fraction of a year's subscription and no recurring cost - no updates but most people don't need shiny new features and in fact it often makes it harder to use.

Mobiles

Most people now have these and are comfortable using them - however do you have an expensive monthly contract? You should not need to pay much more than £5 a month for straightforward usage including unlimited calls - and without having to pay extra roaming fees in Europe. If you are on a historically high priced contract (after paying off the handset) it is very simple to switch and keep your number. Please ask me for help if needed.

The very latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models are released every few months, and can cost over £1000, or linked to expensive monthly plans. But you can get secondhand models in very good condition and with the full smart features for less than £100. Again I can help with advice and to move over any photos, messages etc stored on your old phone.

Laptops / Desktop computers

In my visits I notice people tend to have either very old computers (~10 years) or they have recently bought one new. The 10 year old examples are unusably slow, but you don't have to pay out £100s for a new one. A 3 or 4 year old laptop is typically less than £200 but will feel in a different league to your 10 year old model, with a faster SSD disk, full HD screen and the possibility to plug it into a large (inexpensive) monitor for home use

Windows

For many years now Windows 10 has been the ubiquitous version that many people are familiar with - it wasn't greatly different to Windows 7. In the last few years, Windows 11 has appeared on new computers and has updated many recent Windows 10 models. It is fairly similar but with some annoying differences.

Microsoft has continually pushed automatic updates to its Windows versions, which often cause more problems than the minor issues they are designed to solve and in rare cases can actually breakdown completely and lose your data. I prefer to disable automatic updates and make a choice when it is appropriate to upgrade - in any case it is sensible to have a regular backup strategy to be prepared for the worst, update or no update. Specific advice on how and what to backup can be valuable here.


In a recent online chess tournament, grandmaster Kramnik got into trouble when his laptop continued an automatic update and messed up his clock - he had to continue on his mobile phone!


That's all for now, contact kevincomer@yahoo.com if you would like further advice.


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