'Is This Thing On?' Book gives technology tips

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Everywhere you looks these days, you'll find folks using high-tech gadgets like smart phones, computers and e-readers. In fact, according to CNN, 95 percent of Americans have some type of gadget.

Today's digital deluge can often be a source of anxiety. But according to tech expert Abby Stokes, seniors and techno-phobes shouldn't feel reticent to adopt today's technology.

Stokes actually helps people master technology, rather than just keep up with it. She has also recently published a new book called "Is This Thing On?"

On Thursday's Good Morning Arizona, she addressed several questions:

-Laptop or tablet?
The question of which is better for a person is based on several things. The first considerations are always cost, look, and feel. What is the budget? That will narrow down the choices.

Look is about two things. What do you like the look of, but also how does it work with your eyes? Nearsighted, macular degeneration, other eye issues may play a role in your choice.

Feel is also about two elements. If you're hoping for something to carry with you, is it too heavy or just right, and how does the keyboard and/or mouse feel to your hands? That's why a test-drive is so important to keep all the information straight so you can make the perfect choice.

The biggest distinction between a computer and a tablet is the size and portability. That's why, if you've got a lot of heavy work (writing a book, creating videos, or creating Excel spreadsheets), a tablet isn't the best for the task.
 
-WiFi vs data plan?
If a tablet is the way to go, you'll have a choice about whether the tablet connects to the Internet via WiFi exclusively - which means you'll need to be within range of a WiFi signal to connect to the Internet and send emails. That can be a limitation, but it's perfect if you know that wherever you want to use the tablet there is WiFi. A data plan provides a connection 24/7, but requires a monthly fee to the provider.
 
-What technology is better for your senior parents vs. your kids?
Stokes suggests it might be wise to not put expensive, small (aka easily lost), and fragile technology in the hands of kids. A netbook (not a notebook/laptop) is a good idea. It is the lowest-end portable computer (less than $300).

For older adults it's very important to consider the look and feel to accommodate any eye or dexterity issues. If those two factors don't eliminate a tablet, it may be that a tablet is perfect - not as many moving parts to be intimidated by and it takes fewer steps to take common actions such as send email or surf the Internet.
 
-If you own Apple products, should you own Apple across the board?
This brings up the question of Apple vs PC. Which is better for a newbie is not based on which system you think is better, but who they will call on a Sunday at 3 p.m. for help. If your daughter is who you'll call and she has a PC, get a PC. If it's your neighbor and he has a Mac, get a Mac. If you already have a computer or a tablet or smartphone, it is always easier to stay in the "family" that you're in for syncing purposes.

About the book:
With "Is this Thing On? A Friendly Guide to Everything Digital for Newbies, Technophobes, and the Kicking & Screaming," Stokes unravels the mysteries of modern technology for anybody who needs a crash course in streamlining and managing a life full of technology.

With the help of a companion website, AskAbbyStokes.com, readers will have access to video tutorials, step-by-step downloadable instructions, and much more on the blog.