How to Take Care of Your Guest's Computer Needs

The Unplggd team has grown to welcome yet another new voice, this one hailing from Miami. Joel Pirela caught our eye with his DIY wireless speaker project, followed by a tour of his smartly appointed, tech-laden home. He's also the curator of one of our fav blogs, Blue Ant Studio, so we feel especially excited to invite him as a regular contributor!

You know the situation very well...

Your sister-in-law is coming for the summer with her husband, they are from another country and are staying with you for a couple of weeks. It's all fun and harmony...until they ask for your computer to "check a quick email from the office". It's all down hill from there and the fact they are two, means double the time: Twitter, Facebook updates, uploading photos from their trip into their accounts like Flickr or Picassa, downloading drivers and plug-ins for obscure video players.

If they are visiting from another country, they will check sales, use Google Maps (their phones don't have data plans and if they do, the roaming charges are atrocious!), shoot of a few emails. But fear no more, we've been there, done that for several years already, so we have a couple of tips to help make their stay and your role as host an easier one:

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Buy a pre-paid cell phone with data plan. (for out of the country visitors)
You can get prepaid cells for cheap these days. We just recently bought one for $27. Didn't care about the phone itself, just activate the SIM card and slap it into the in-laws Blackberries or iPhones. Voila! They are connected now with data in case they need to navigate the unknown territory.

Set a guest wi-fi spot in your home for them to use
Make sure your network is firewalled and WAP encrypted for security. Give them the password for the stay and after they are gone, delete it. This way they can access the net from the mobile (considering they have wi-fi compatible ones) and hit the data plan on their mobile less. Also make sure they have somewhere to plug-in their devices, since 1-2 extra laptops can eat up usable outlets quickly.

Your house is Mac-centric but they use PCs
We have the blessing to have an extra Mac Mini which is a little bit under powered for our graphic needs these days, but re-installing the OS and erasing unnecessary software and utilities, makes it very snappy. Make sure the basics are covered: the ability to print (more on that later), word processor and web access.
That way, they can mess around with it without any danger on deleting by mistake important files on your main home computer. After they are gone, just re-install the software and you are ready to go again for next time.

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Another good idea is to consider creating a guest account for your friends or family to use while staying over. This is as simple as going into your System Preferences and creating a specific account for them to use. Using this solution, you can limit and define which applications and folders are accessible while they use your machine, protecting yourself from them from discovering your folder of questionable music choices and other personal information.

Printers and printing
We have a network wi-fi Epson printer which our guests can use. Since it's placed on the second floor, we made sure to make them aware of checking to see the status on the printer, if there is paper, ink, etc.

Another option is to browse eBay and get a used laptop for cheap, so they can use it during their stay without any worry on our part.

At the end, it's all about having a great time, enjoying the company and not to sweat the small stuff, but we are so attached to technology these days that providing even the basics, could mean a friction-less interaction. Taking the steps above should insure tech needs don't intrude on the more important things in life and friendships and family.

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