Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fixing the Nook Tablet and Others

The Nook tablet from Barnes & Noble is appealling in price,  size, and operating system.

It goes on sale for as little as $30, fits easily in a pocket, and runs the pure Android system from Google, as compared with the Kindle tablets.


It can do phoning with Hangouts where there is Wi-Fi,  and do it a lot cheaper than a big iPhone.

The problem is that it has woefully little memory…


Think of RAM memory as oxygen,  and application memory as body parts.


The use of both needs to be maximized, while the basic minimum apps still need to be installed.

These include Amazon Buying and eBay, Pandora, Spotify, Kindle, an internal music player, and maybe a news app like Microsoft News and/or Google News.   A better alternative to the last would be to have news delivered by email,

Without these, the Nook does not offer enough to be bothered carrying around.

Installing Opera Mini as a browser will not only speed up browsing but also give access to Amazon and eBay without needing to use memory to install them.

Amazon Kindle needs to be installed first.    Now we can have all our books with us and not two devices.

We need actually to uninstall Nook itself.     Don't worry, we are going to reinstall it as an app and save a 100mb  in the process. We do want Barnes & Noble to stay alive in competition with Amazon.

We then need a little known but essential app from Google called Google Go Files.     This app will clean memory as needed, and without the delay of other apps with commercials.

In order to do voice browsing we need the Google Voice app as well.

Where websites are designed to fit on our tablet, we need simply to load them and save them to our home screen where they appear like any other app.

(One concern about the Nook specifically is that we need to be very careful adding memory.    If not done carefully, the memory will slide past the memory slot and disappear inside the device.)

Otherwise older tablets may need a similar approach to the Nook..

Whereas the Nexus 7 2013 still does not need special efforts to run well,  its original predecessor, the 2012, is also burdened with too little memory.

It can benefit from such an approach, especially the Google Go Files app.

Older smartphones can be revived the same way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hearing



As we age the challenges of hearing it can be daunting.   Getting a resolution can be your full-time job for a time.

A good place to start researching is the National Institute of Health site as follows: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss

The important point is that most of us have hearing loss by 75.

The most important thing to do is live in  a place where the problems of aging and hearing are addressed.

Here at Happy Valley we have state of art facilities in our auditoriums and heaters.   No effort or expense has been spared so that we can hear speakers and music.

In one of our oldest dining rooms we also have remarkable design and engineering dedicated to all facets of aging, safety, and efficiency.

A newer dining room has very bad design.  It is loaded with hard reflective surfaces to an extreme.   Even those with the best of hearing must shout. In a large facility like this there's always somebody who doesn't get the message that this facility is for the aging.

We also have on staff here a highly competent audiologist.  This audiologist is not bound by any particular brand, but cannot support proprietary devices which are locked to be maintained only by the seller.    It is best to avoid such sellers.

Having an audiologist is vitally important, but in all aspects of healthcare we must also make it our job to do what we can do.

For example, I had a health care issue which local doctor emphatically insisted could not be resolved.   I worked for many months to find a resolution. When I got to the right doctor it was only a 12 days to wait for a six-hour operation to cure my problem permanently, to the point where I never need to go back to a cardiologist again for it.

So it is up to you to do the spade work.

So here's what we need to know to address such problems.

A really important point is that all hardware to address hearing issues is dirt cheap.     Almost all microphones inside hearing aids are made by the same source.

What costs is the digital logic of the device, plus also the skill and programming of using a hearing aid.   It takes a while and some work to use a hearing aid properly.

Without a hearing aid, a cheap bluetooth headphone from Five and Under can provide wonderful wireless sound from TV, iPad and smartphones.  I found bluetooth earbuds from China for a well under $5, plus adapters to use with your existing headphones.



For the fun of it, I bought two hearing amplifiers from China for $25 each, which were then reduced in price to $14.99 and then to $13.99 and then with a 20% off special.



They do work almost as well as some earlier hearing aids that I have had. They use pre-programmed audio curves which may or may fit any individual,s hearing curve (audiogram).

They do not work well in enabling me to hear the group at a dinner table clearly in a bad environment such as the one indicated above.

Also, it is possible to use a smartphone with a microphone app to connect someone else with our Bluetooth headphones.

The point, though, is that the hardware is dirt cheap. The digital software expertise is not.

And, with hearing aids there is no one place, like Consumer Reports, to compare the specific capabilities of various hearing aids.  Shame on Consumer Reports.

There is however a useful book called the “Consumer Report on Hearing Aids”, which I obtained free from Beltone.  



From AARP is this:


Generally, the Rexton/Signia lines, and Phonak appear to be the most advanced hearing aid designers.

The Rexton and Signia lines are available at least cost from Costco.



Do cheaper aids work?

Studies from Johns Hopkins indicate that they do.   This is also corroborated by Consumer Reports.

Unfortunately the only way to find out is to try them.   That is really not practical.

However, there are some initiatives to address the issues.

One of these is called iHear, which gives you the ability to obtain a good low-cost hearing aid, which either they or YOU can program, if we are up to it.



Otherwise you're left to deal with the multiple hearing aid sellers you will find in any area.  The idea is to pick one which will be there conveniently when you need them, at a reasonable cost.

Whatever hearing aid you choose it needs to be unlocked so that you are not tied to one particular source of support.

There is always the possibility that no hearing aid will work for you.   Alternatively, with a lot of learning on your part, working with a good audiologist, remarkable results may occur.

My otolaryngologist found that I had a moderate to severe hearing loss,  but no physical limitations which would preclude a hearing aid from working for me.     It is just a jungle to find the right one.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fix Your Nexus 7 1st and 2nd

The Nexus 7 2nd Gen 2013 is the nicest table I have used.   Here is a tech way to fix a lot of problems when it quits.

The previous generation 2012 was effectively "destroyed" by upgrading to 5.01.    Here is how to fix that, too!!    Not for the faint of heart.

Tap or Click for How to Fix Your Nexus 7


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hearing and Hearing Aids

Bedeviled with problems with my old hearing aids, I needed to inform myself better about hearing loss and hearing aids. 

That process started as I was standing in a CVS drugstore and looking at a hearing amplifier at $20.

Shortly, as I stood there, an an older gentleman came by and volunteered that he had been successful in using this simple device.

The first point he made was that it is too easy to turn it off or leave it on the battery runs out.

He then indicated that it is best to replace the receiver loosely in the ear and not tightly so as to avoid interfering noise and occlusion.   But try the smallest, too.

He also volunteered that then lowest volume setting was enough.  (Consumer Reports warns against setting such a device too loud.)

He made a special point that it needs to be kept clean.   The device may seem to be working well when only dirty.

I bought the $20 device.   Trying this inexpensive amplifier, I then found it most useful in a quiet environment, but of no benefit in a noisy environment.

Far more expressive aids are able to shut out sounds which interfere with voice. That process is essential.   That capability drives up the cost.

Otherwise the hardware is pretty much the same. 

So, then, how to choose the best hearing aid?

Get an audiogram, of course, just to find out if anything will work with your particular hearing.

Then, the only thing you can do is try before you buy from an entity whch has them available to try. 








Monday, July 23, 2018

Music & Money

 As more and more seniors venture into smartphones, some are unaware of the capabilities, and are surprised to find them useful for more than telephony.

Sometimes I hear a senior say that they don't do much phoning and don't need a smartphone.  (Yet more and more medical practices are using text messaging to communicate with their patients.)

But it is the non phoning activity that takes them unawares.

Listening to music is one.     Money is another.

All it takes is a smartphone to enjoy Concert Hall quality of music.     iPhones are delivered with a superb set of earphones with microphone. They don't look like much,  but the quality of sound will be as good as the most expensive speaker systems.

That is because there is nothing to get in the way of the sound.   

Hearing impaired seniors will hear even better than with speaker systems.      I found a $5 set of earphones from Five and Below which performs outstandingly.    Really!!

Then what about buying?

Buying on eBay alone will find you items you no longer can find in the stores, replacement parts you can't find anywhere else, and prices way below store prices.       Just take care in looking at the seller's history and the way the seller presents items for sale and handles your questions.

Seniors can buy online from nearly everybody nowadays and Amazon boxes are a common sight everywhere here

As I write this I am enjoying music and wearing $80 shoes I just got for $20 on eBay.   Really.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Which Cell Phone Service

 As more and more seniors start to use smartphones,  I get more and more questions about which cell phone service to choose.

At the moment, in general I am recommending Consumer Cellular,  especially for use with an iPhone, and for iPad owners. CC is easily accessible by phone.

That does not mean that there are not plenty of excellent alternatives.

In the past I have recommended Republic Wireless as costing a bit less.    Republic Wireless does not communicate by phone but only by email. Recently a resident had to go through a procedure of taking out the SIM card and upgrading to restore a locked up phone back to use, before re-inserting the SIM.

I have also used PureTalk.      Phone support is very good and prices are competitive.    This service uses AT&T as opposed to the others here which use Sprint.     I have heard that Pure Talk belongs to AT&T.

FreedomPop offers the lowest cost service but phone support is terrible.   I use it anyway.

Another service with low cost is Tello, which I have not tried, but offers phone, text, and data at just $10 a month.