Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

August 2014
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Hope everybody is having a fabulous summer - the weather has certainly been cooperating! Let's hope that August is as lovely as July.

I've done some back to school cleanups already, and also had several requests to help with new laptop purchases. If you are still shopping for your student check out this article I wrote for the Medfield Patch in 2012 - most of the advice is still valid. The biggest change regards purchasing Microsoft Office, and I address that below.

Back to school time is also a great time to revisit your printer needs, so I've written up a printer purchasing guide - hope you find it helpful! 

Julie Marto 


PS - I've reserved a booth at Medfield Day on Saturday September 20th! More about that next month, but mark it on your calendar as I will be answering questions, raffling off ComputerMom services, and handing out freebies!
Microsoft Office 365 - One GB of Storage per User!
In the last few years, Microsoft has been transitioning from a sales model to a subscription model for Office. They still sell standalone Office licenses, but their big push is towards Office 365, which costs $70/year for a 1 user license, or $100/year for a 5 user subscription. I've said for a while that if you have a house full of computers, the 5 user subscription is a great deal (it works on both PC and Mac systems, includes all Office programs, and is always the latest version) but Microsoft has upped the ante by adding 1GB of OneDrive cloud storage per user

What does that mean for you? It means that with a single Office 365 subscription you get enough free cloud storage to back up every user's entire hard drive, including all photos, music, documents and videos. The single annual subscription price can eliminate the need to buy or pay for any additional back up systems, such as external drives or subscriptions to Carbonite or Mozy.  As such, I consider an annual Office 365 subscription to be in incredible value for any family with two or more systems.

As mentioned in my letter above, In 2012 I published an article in the Medfield Patch about how to buy a computer for your college student. Most of the information in it is still relevant, however a big change is Microsoft's student pricing for Office 365. Whatever you do, don't buy Office at retail for your college student. You can either get it for an incredibly reduced price through your student's college, or you can take advantage of the Microsoft university pricing to get a four year subscription to Office 365 for 2 computers for at total of $79.95.
Need a new printer? Here's what you should be thinking about.

Printers are often a throw-in item or a last minute purchase. However if you give it some thought you can save yourself time, money, and aggravation. Here's a few things to keep in mind when considering a printer purchase:

What devices need to print?

If you are only using a desktop PC, a single printer connected with a USB cable is just fine.  However, if you have multiple wireless devices then a network printer is the way to go. And if you have portable Apple devices like an iPhone or an iPad, you will need a printer with AirPrint capabilities. Before making a printer decision make sure you have considered every device you use in your home.

Laser vs. Ink Jet 

Ink jet printers tend to be less expensive to buy but more expensive to run, as the ink cartridges are expensive to replace. If you print a lot, you will run out of ink quickly. If you print very infrequently, the cartridges will  need to be replaced because they will dry out

Laser printers tend to be more expensive to purchase but much less expensive to run. Laser toner cartridges are typically good for thousands of prints, and will never dry out. Laser printers are also much faster than ink jets, especially good if you are printing long documents.

Do you need color printing? If the answer is yes then you are probably better off with an ink jet printer as color laser printers are generally expensive to buy and very bulky. If the answer is no, definitely buy a small laser printer. If the answer is only sometimes, you might be best off with two printers - a laser for the bulk of your printing, and an ink jet printer for the times you need color printing. That's what I do in my own home.

USB vs. Wireless vs. Wired 

Connectivity options are an important consideration. Basically, a printer that only has a USB connection can be plugged into one device at a time - your desktop or laptop. Unless you set up a home network, sharing the printer is generally done by unplugging it from one computer and plugging it into another - not very convenient, but okay if you are not a frequent printer. USB printers typically cannot be used by portable devices like phones and tablets without jumping through a lot of hoops.

Wired networking means your printer is connected to your router with a cable. Once it's connected, any of your wireless devices can access it as long as they are also connected to your network. The advantage of wired networking is that it's quite stable. The disadvantage is that the printer must be placed near enough to your router to connect to it with a cable.

Wireless networking means your printer is connected to your router with a radio signal, just like your laptop or tablet would be. Again, once it's connected any of your devices can access the printer as long as they are also connected to the network. The advantage of wireless networking is that you can place the printer anywhere in your house, as long as it's in range of your wireless router. The disadvantage is that it's a bit harder to set up and can be less stable.

What about multifunction printers?

In the printer aisle you will also find a lot of multifunction devices, combing printing with copying, scanning, and faxing. These devices are very popular as combination devices are space and time savers. Most people find copying to be the most useful additional feature, with scanning close behind. These days faxing is a distant third, and it can add a lot to the cost of the device, so only pay for it if you need it. If you think you will be doing a lot of copying or scanning an automatic document feeder is very useful. If you plan to only do occasional copying or scanning you can probably make do with placing documents one at a time on the glass.

A few more things to consider . . . 

We all love a bargain - once you have decided the type of printer you want to purchase you can set up a deal alert at a site such as Slickdeals.net and pounce on a sale!

Paper handling is important - if you do a lot of printing make sure you purchase a printer that can hold a lot of paper. A straight paper path is more reliable than one that makes a lot of loops and turns. If you are an infrequent printer a paper tray that holds the paper flat is better than one that holds it up at an angle, as the paper will eventually curl and be more likely to jam.

Supplies are expensive, and there are a lot of generic alternatives out there. Printer manufacturers will tell you that using third party supplies will void your warranty but it's just not true - it is illegal to void a warranty for the use of third party supplies. So if you want to save some money give it a shot - I certainly do for myself. However, my experience is that you can save a lot of money with third party supplies but the quality is definitely not the same as genuine.