The following is a guest post from Suzie Mitchell.
My 29-year-old son has lived in a different state than me since he graduated college six years ago. When he lived in New York, once or twice a week, he'd call me on his five minute walk from the subway station to his apartment-me savoring those minutes.
Occassionally, he would return home to Michigan, and during his visit, he would complete various home repairs and check on my computer to be sure it was operating efficiently.
Now he and his wife live across the ocean in Israel. So our conversations have switched to G-chat or Skype, and I've hired a handyman to do the repairs. However, he is still keeping tabs on my computer, thanks to a great new program called Soluto.
A few weeks ago he sent me an email invitation that included a very nice picture of him. I was delighted to see his smiling face and immediately felt connected. Next to his photo were the words "I want to help you with your computer." Words that make a parent melt.
The invitation went on to say: "Soluto is a small piece of software that helps me take care of your computer and spot problems before they have a chance to bother you. It's perfectly safe and I'll never see any of your personal stuff, just technical details about how your computer is running. All you have to do is download Soluto. I'll do the rest."
How could I resist? My son wants to help me? My husband, the skeptic, wasn't as quick to jump on the bandwagon. He was concerned that our files be kept private from our son. "How can you be so sure he can't see our banking files? I don't want him snooping around on our computers. You should check it out more," he warned.
And so I did. I went to Soluto's web site where a diagram explained how "power users" - those who are techies, like my son and daughter-in-law -- can use the Soluto web service to help their friends and relatives from anywhere in the world. The illustration explained that the power users could make their loved ones' computers run faster, help alleviate crashes, install important apps, spot when hardware repairs are needed, and silently upgrade programs--even if the PC is turned off or in another country.
The diagram concludes with the trusty "lock" and explains, "Plus it's safe and secure. Soluto cannot see your personal files, desktop or browser history, just the anonymous technical details of your PC's performance to help make it better."
There is even a cute little video with a child helping mom as an example. It sucked me right in-pulling on my heart strings.
But the reporter in me was skeptical-so I kept investigating.
I also checked out the company blogs to see how Soluto advises the power users about how to help a PC user, and to check that the message was consistent. The blog says that power users can NOT see into the others' computers. What power users can see:
- A list of the existing apps on that PC that can be updated, followed by a list of apps the user doesn't have that can be remotely installed.
- A timeline with different frustration events (applications that crashed or froze) that plagued the user. Power users could see when a problem occurred and what might have caused it.
- All of the applications running during start-up and in the background, including recommendations for those that should be removed or delayed so the start-up is quicker.
- A place to enable or disable the firewall, install antivirus software (AVG or Microsoft Security Client) or update Windows.
- A detailed overview of the hardware, including laptop battery health, and the option to clean up the hard drive.
Because nothing is deleted from your computer during this process -- selected applications are removed from start-up or set to run at a more convenient time for optimal speed, for example - changes can be undone. For instance, if your daughter or nephew removes a toolbar favorite from your internet browser, you can say, "bring that back, I want that," and voila, easily returned with one click of the mouse.
So if you have a techie in the family, or you know a techie, you can ask your techie to help your computer run faster by using Soluto. Just tell them to go to Soluto's website and sign up. The techie will be directed to send the invitation to you, and from there, it's just a few simple instructions.
The program is free for up to five PCs, its quick and you won't even notice what's going on, only that your computer starts up faster and it doesn't freeze up. And when your techie has checked in on your computer, a cute little message complete with his or her photo appears, saying "David just improved your PC. "
I'm sure there are other similar programs out there, but I haven't seen such a simple one that is as effective and unobtrusive.
However, I think the biggest bonus of Soluto is that you know a loved one is looking after you, even if it's remote and you can only see his or her photo.
Could a Boomer parent ask for more?
What's the best tech tip you've learned from your children? Any other programs like this we should know about? Let us know in the comments!
Previously: Apps every boomer should know.
Suzie Mitchell is a 25 year PR vet who specializes in marketing tech products to Baby Boomers. She is a professional journalist and public affairs and public relations consultant. She also is the co-author of the book Growing Into Grace: Adventures in Self Discovery through Writing. Follow her on Twitter here.