Monday mornings – I don’t normally struggle with them, but this time we had a really hectic weekend. So after my third cup of tea I found myself staring at the chocolate biscuits… and I’ve only just had breakfast.
You see, sometimes when I sit down to write these newsletters I already know exactly what i want to say. Sometimes I’ve even jotted down notes. And sometimes I have a list… and find I can’t fit it all in!
But this time I was finding it hard to keep my mind on it. Partly because I was tired. But mainly because my sister (who lives in Australia) is over visiting. I haven’t seen her in person for 11 years, so as you can imagine, I’m pretty excited!
In fact, in a funny way, she was actually partly behind me writing my first PC book, though I don’t think she knows it. I’d been making lots of notes for Mum and Dad about how to use the computer to email her, send photos and so on… and later on how to use Skype to do video calls.
And the notes I scribbled for them about how to use their computer for this and other things made me think “I could turn this into a book”.
Anyway, I know a lot of people have family abroad – or just a distance away in this country. So I thought I’d do a round-up of some of the things on the computer that I find useful for keeping in touch.
The most obvious one – it’s great to be able to send a message and it’s there (usually) almost instantly. Plus, you can attach photos for the other person to see or send an email to lots of people to tell them all some good news.
The very first time I told people about Skype, the main point was to be able to make free phone calls to people in other countries. I think it was possible in theory to make a video call, but it wouldn’t be fast enough to work very well. Nowadays most people have faster internet connections (at least most of the time…) and it can work really well.
I think it’s amazing – you can sit chatting to someone on the other side of the world and actually see them. What’s more, if you have a tablet, you can sit back in your comfy chair while you do it… or walk around the house to show them your new kitchen or whatever.
Or if you have a device you can plug into the TV, you can see the other person on the big screen.
I haven’t actually used this so much recently, but it’s a handy way to share photos with people. You can share photos on Facebook (see below) but Flickr is better in some ways – it’s much easier for people to look at the photos later on… and if you use Facebook they might struggle to even see the photos unless they look at them soon after you put them up. With flickr it’s easy to look back at all the photos you’ve put up.
There are lots of different ways you can use Facebook… and some people seem to be so reliant on it I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll use it to contact people they’re sat next to anyway…
But the reason I like it is that it makes it easy for a family to keep in touch – sharing photos or snippets of information with their own group.
It’s a little tricky to explain – you could just always send an email to everyone in your family.
It means you can have your own group of friends (including family) and when you share something, they get to see it.
But then, in our case, when I share something, it goes to my Mum and Dad, my sister and so on… and some of my friends. But if my sister shares something, I’d see it, but it doesn’t (normally) get shown to all my friends. So it’s a bit more complicated than just having a single group of people that you email everything to.
And it’s convenient for little snippets, with or without photos or short video clips. So you can share a snippet like “Alastair now on his fourth serving of pie – I think he likes it” which you probably wouldn’t bother to email. Then your friends can comment on it, if they like – maybe Dad would say “I hope he got four servings of the mash as well – don’t want you starving him”
Phew – it’s ended up quite a long issue. But it’s worth knowing what you can do with these different options – it’s only once you know about them that you can decide “That sounds useful” and give it a try!