Thursday, January 08, 2009

Computer support for persons with cognitive limits: CoPilot

When it comes to keeping computers running smoothly, we all have "special needs". I am known as a "geek-of-geeks", and yet even I can, on occasion, be stymied (more often as I age).

In general, the computer situation for special needs persons is getting worse. Fifteen years ago "Simple Finder" for Mac OS, or the short-lived GEOS for DOS, had very simple environments that would be accessible to most people. Those don't exist now, though "Simple Finder" for OS X is irritatingly close (partly finished work that nobody seems to care about [1]).

On the other hand, baseline computer expertise is rising. A child I know with a fairly limited IQ is surprisingly facile on almost any device -- from a Wii to OS X to iPhone. There's a certain level of intuitive knowledge similar to knowing how to open a book or navigate a room.

So I can set up environments that will work pretty well for someone with special needs, or someone who grew up in pre-computer era (i.e. my mother). The problem is maintaining those environments.

I need to be able to connect, control and maintain their computer environment without any action at all on their part. I need, for example, to connect to my mother's Mac Mini while she sleeps.

The good news is that products are emerging to help with that remote maintenance for persons with either congenital or acquired (including by age - like me) special needs ...
Fog Creek Copilot

... Copilot OneClick is a new feature that makes it even easier to support the people you help most often. Install Copilot OneClick once, then connect to their computers with just a single click. Whether you are helping your parents each weekend or running a corporate help desk, Copilot OneClick makes it possible for you to help people quickly without them having to do a thing...
[1] Anyone want to sue Apple under the ADA to fix Simple Finder? They really don't have that much work left to do ..

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