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Oct 28, 2009

A New Window for Seniors

SAM LIU     (Photo Credit: Julian Tay for The Straits Times)
Source: The Straits Times, Digital Life, October 28, 2009


Windows 7 has elderly-friendly features, says an IT-savvy senior.
ALFRED SIEW reports.

BRIGHT blue lights peering through a plastic side window are not what you expect from a PC built by a 73-year-old.

Yet, Sam Liu, one of Singapore's most IT-savvy seniors, is not stopping at the geeky machines he already owns, which includes a Net telephony device for making online calls to his son in Washington, DC and two green light-emitting hard disks hidden neatly under a shelf to store data.

He is upgrading his PCs - a Dell laptop and his DIY desktop - to run Microsoft's latest operating system (OS), Windows 7, which hit the shelves last week.

A semi-retired former satellite company executive, Sam believes the OS has features that will help seniors overcome their fear of PCs.

He should know. Sam is a part-time volunteer and IT trainer at RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme Singapore), a non-profit agency that runs courses on health care, IT and education for seniors.

"With Windows 7, the battery life is better (for laptops) and it's also faster and more user-friendly," says Sam, who won Singapore's Active Agers Infocomm Champion Award earlier this month. The award recognises seniors who help other seniors bridge the technological divide.

"I feel that Windows 7 is designed for seniors," he says.

Two features stood out for him when he tried out the "release candidate" - or a pre-release version similar to the final product - over the past four months.

The first plus, simply called Snap, brings convenience. Clicking and pulling down a full-sized window from the top of the screen now brings it down, enabling users to see the rest of the desktop screen quickly.

Previously, you had to search a small "minimise" or "restore" button at the top right corner of the window - something that seniors often fail to find, he says.

The same drag-and-drop effect can be used to organise several windows on a busy desktop, say, when one has several browser pages to compare side by side.

Simply drag open windows to the left and right borders of the screen. They will snap into place and be automatically resized to share the screen space. This makes for easy comparison of documents.

The second big benefit for seniors has to do with touchscreens, says Sam.

The built-in multi-touch know-how of Windows 7 - called Windows Touch - would enable people who have not used PCs before to compute in a more natural way - by simply touching and moving objects on-screen instead of using a mouse.

Like many users who have tried the new OS, Sam has mostly good things to say about it. It is unlike Windows Vista, which drew complaints of buggy drivers and suggish performance when it was launched two years ago.

One big selling point for Windows 7, touted as an edition that is groundbreaking as Windows 95 and Windows XP, is that it may make existing PCs run faster.

The new kid on the block, say individuals and expert reviewers who have tried it, is better optimised, such that even modest netbooks could run it with all the eye candy - like semi-transparent windows and nifty animation turned on.

In contrast, previous versions typically required users to buy faster PCs to have all the features enabled.

As Sam points out, both his high-powered desktop PC and his dusty four-year-old Dell laptop ran Windows 7 smoothly.

He even plans to buy a new laptop to run with the new operating system.

The laptop will come in handy when he flies to the United States, where his son is a researcher and where he is still on the boards of two companies that make satellites.

Back in Singapore and facing a classroom of seniors at RSVP, the volunteer will share his knowledge of Windows 7 which he believes will lessen the "digital discomfort" for PC newbies.




Blogger Lam Chun See said...

I am quite keen to try out Windows 7. But trouble is my Pentium 4 pc, running on XP Pro is in good condition - although rather slow these days. Any suggestions? The salesman at Challenger tried to persuade me to upgrade but I am not convinced.

October 30, 2009 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Me too. Windows 7 sounds good for the seniors but I wouldn't rush into it the way I did when I upgraded to Windows 95. I could remember that my friend Chua Eng Kiat and I were among the early birds who queued up from 11 pm to about 3 or 4 am at Funan Center to get hold of a set. It was a long journey too lengthy to comment here.


November 1, 2009 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

I googled about this question and several websites I went to say it is ok. But then I ran the Windows 7 Advisor the other day, apparently my pc not suitable unless make some changes. Not worth it.

November 9, 2009 at 9:30 PM  
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February 17, 2010 at 1:07 AM  

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