While visiting my parents during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I cleaned up my dad’s computer a bit. I try to do this for him every couple of months. The last time I was able to do it was at the beginning of August, so things were a bit ‘messier’ than usual. My father is the type of computer user who clicks on just about everything that appears on his monitor. He doesn’t spend much time figuring out whether it’s a system message, spam, a phishing attempt, or some other unscrupulous attempt to entice him to click the link and submit info. He’s been using a computer since 1985 and the Internet since the early 1990s, so you might think that he’d be more savvy to what lurks on the Internet, but as far as his clicking habits are concerned, I think he is pretty average in accepting just about anything that appears. A big problem is that while programs and applications have become more user-friendly (while not perfect, everything from games to business applications really is plug-and-play), system messages and legitimate warnings are still cryptic. So people ignore them. An example of this is the typical firewall, without thinking most people have gotten used to simply clicking ‘OK’ on any message that they think is delaying them in whatever it is they are doing. Instant gratification must never be more than a click away.

After cleaning everything up and updating all of my dad’s software, I added two new elements: Sticky Password and a remote access program. I know, I know, how is it possible that my father wasn’t using Sticky Password, yet!? Remember the saying about the cobbler’s children having no shoes? Well, in this case it was the cobbler’s father – that is, my father who was doing without. He’s been saying that he just didn’t have enough password-protected accounts to make it worthwhile. He has exactly 8 accounts, which seems like a manageable number, but every month he would have to reset passwords for a couple of the accounts, or ask me what his login was for this or that account. (And, no, I don’t recommend telling your passwords to others.) Somehow, all of this activity didn’t register with him as meaning anything – but it adds up and makes it just about impossible to make any sense after all the login resets! (In addition to claiming that he didn’t have enough accounts, I suspect that he wanted some hand holding for the installation. 🙂 )

I downloaded the Sticky Password installation package and clicked on it to launch the installation on his Windows XP system. I told him to get started while I sneaked off to get some coffee and cookies. When I returned, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat: he had installed Sticky Password all by himself! After 2 minutes of training – most of which consisted of me convincing him that all he had to do was remember his master password – he was happily visiting his favorite sites. A week later and he hasn’t had to reset any accounts and he is still clicking away – happily and SAFELY!

The other element I added was try remote access software. I’m testing LogMeIn, which seems to be a simply service to use and manage. So far, so good! If anyone has any experience or recommendations with this or other packages, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Now to the New Year’s resolutions: let’s see, all the standard ones – more exercise, eat healthy, get more sleep, read at least one book every month, my dog needs to learn a few more tricks (I’m not sure if that counts as a resolution for me or him)… and, to help my dad keep working efficiently and safely on his computer, a task that will be easier thanks to Sticky Password.

Happy New Year!

Peter L