A few weeks ago, I posted a few of my frustrations concerning Windows Vista and why I had decided to switch back to XP for my business and productivity needs. My upgrade to Vista had several noticeable hiccups that I simply couldn't handle on a day-to-day basis. However, in getting ready for Christmas, I had a much more positive experience with Windows Vista.
A month or so back, by dad mentioned to me that he wanted to get my mom a digital camera and photo printer for Christmas. After checking out Consumer Reports online and doing a little research, I recommended he get the Canon SD800 IS (camera) and the Epson PictureMate Deluxe (printer). As I was checking out cameras and printers, I went ahead and downloaded the Windows Live Photo Gallery to see how it would work for managing pictures. My dad's goal had been to get my mom a camera and printer she could use without the computer, but I was hoping to set my mom up with something so simple that she might actually be able to put the computer to good use.
I suggested to my dad that he upgrade the five-year-old computer in the basement, which had begun to make strange noises (never a good sign). He ordered a refurbished HP that came with Vista Home Premium. I was a little leery about Vista (considering my experience), but thought it might be worth the shot.
Unbeknownst to my father, the other reason I had recommended he upgrade his computer was because my brothers and I had intended to get him a Zune for Christmas and wanted to rip all of his CDs to it before Christmas. When my dad got the computer at his house, I told him I'd be taking it back to my apartment to "get the camera set up for Mom." Brilliant.
The first order of business was to rip what ended up amounting to 9 GB (WMA CBR @ 192 kbps, for those who care) of music to 4 different computers and then combining the files on his new machine. This took my brothers and me, working at a clip rate, about 6 hours to rip all of this music. I'm pretty sure we set a Guinness Record for the most Neil Diamond CDs ripped to a hard drive in one day.
The next day, I got busy working on the camera. I set my mom up with her own @live.com e-mail address and also set up the photo gallery on her computer. I set up the computer to automatically go to Live Gallery when she connected her camera or inserted an SD card. To my pleasant surprise, I was amazed at how simple it was to import pictures into albums and tag photos. Using the new printer was just as easy. I even ordered a few prints from the one-hour photo center at the local Wal-mart just to see how easy it was to order prints directly from the software. I was very impressed with how easy it was. I was fairly confident that even my mother can handle this much.
Enter Christmas morning.
My dad was blown away that we got him a Zune and had already ripped all of his CDs to the computer. The $24.99 Zune Home A/V Pack proved to be a worthy accessory for Christmas. I think what I liked most was that because the Zune was plugged in to the T.V. all day, every enjoyed the music and each other's company rather than watching television. It's a Christmas miracle! =)
Part of my Christmas present to my mother was to teach her how to use her new camera with the new computer. If you had ever experienced the labor of trying to teach my mother how to use technology, you would understand just how priceless this gift turned out to be. She was able to use the camera easily enough (there's not much to it) for basic point-and-shoot operation. She really liked how she could print directly to the printer from the camera or by using the card. The next thing I did was to try to show her how to use the computer.
Even though I thought the process of importing pictures couldn't have been easier, my mom did find it somewhat challenging. She disregarding the tagging feature as useless, but overall the import process was painless. I had to explain to her that by storing her pictures in the computer, she could print directly from the source image, which was better than making copies. I think she was impressed with how easy it was to order prints directly from the computer and to print to her photo printer from the computer. With my mother, technology only has value when it's easy to use, and thanks to Live Photo Gallery, it was incredibly easy, and therefore valuable.
As a final note, I'd like to say how impressed I was with the whole set-up of the Zune and Live Gallery for the camera. Even though I was disappointed Vista earlier, I can truly say that Microsoft has a good package when you combine Vista with Zune and Live Services. This blog post is even being created using Windows Live Writer =).
Those who haven't checked out the new Windows Live services should definitely do so.