Saturday, December 22, 2018

Speakers are Changing with Fewer Wires

It once was that you needed a bulky amplifier for quality PC speakers, with power(1), amplifier input(2), and output(3) wires. 

Then, speakers came out with builtin amplification, but they still needed power and output wires.

Now USB speakers are more and more USB self-powered, and even the cheapest are often excellent.   Just combined power/output via USB.

PineBook Linux "MacBook Lookalike" Update

The $89 (plus shipping) PineBook Linux Laptop, and MacBook lookalike, gave problems until I realized that WiFi and audio problems could be solved by using USB devices instead of the built-in Wifi and headphones jack.

The Panda USB Wifi adapter and USB headphones and speaker did the trick.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Hearing Aid Solution

 Faced with new problems in hearing over the past 6 months, it was a hassle to arrive at a resolution.

With this posting I may be able to help others avoid at least some of the hassles.  It is frustrating to be faced with up to a $7,000 cost for something tiny which may or may not work.

That may or may not be necessary

The high cost results from regulations requiring qualified experts to fit hearing aids and the support which is sometimes necessary and for those with limitations

The cost also reflects the ability in digital hearing aids to deal with sound issues using digital programs in many different ways, and the cost of those efforts.
The effect is that most of the 50% who are hard of hearing at 75 simply do not get hearing aids.

Now that it is understood that dementia goes along with loss of hearing,  this is unacceptable

Regulations are now therefore loosening  through bipartisan effort.

At the same time new players are entering into provision of self-programmable hearing aids at low cost, such as Bose and Zounds

The hardware for a hearing aid is very inexpensive.    Again, what is expensive is the programming logic which is Incorporated in it and the fitting to a particular customers needs

I went to an ENT physician and four hearing aid providers,  all of whom were most helpful and gracious in trying to help me find a solution.

Surprisingly, all of them indicated that Costco's least-cost Kirkland KS8 Signature hearing aid ($1,600 for two) should be able to restore my moderate to severe inability to hear most normal conversation.

This Costco hearing aid, which is essentially the Signia NX,  is the basic hearing aid which is sold elsewhere for as much as $7,000.

It took me a while to learn that.

The problem is that there are no metrics (numbers) for us to compare the functionality of various hearing aids.There is no Consumer Reports evaluations in lab tests.

The only way to compare was to visit four major hearing aids vendors.

One of them said  “it hurts me to say so”  but the Kirkland hearing aid is the best of them.

Here in this community we have an audiologist who can support this hearing aid at a fee-for-service cost for those who are not able to get to Costco.   That is invaluable.

Costco can be intimidating.     It is often crowded. It is large.      Getting around might be difficult for those with mobility problems.     Parking can be a problem. Costco does have motorized carts.

At the prices that Costco offers, Costco does not have the ability to assist you before you buy,  but it offers a 180-day trial once you buy the hearing aid. So you go there and purchase up front.    A short demo will prove nothing anyway. (Costco does everything possible to keep prices to a minimum and does a major business in hearing aid sales.   You need to become a member, and you will save by getting a Costco credit card and thereby exrend your warranty from three to five years.)

Now those with severe to profound hearing loss may do better to go to a provider who can offer more bells and whistles than come with the Costco hearing aid.      Such providers may offer service where you live or on a walk-in basis at any time.

Costco will supply the minimum start up for you but with ongoing but limited support.

Inpurchase considering the Kirkland hearing aid, it first seemed to me that the ability to use the iPhone was really just a frippery.     I learned very quickly that it is absolutely essential to have an iPhone to support their hearing aid

The price of the iPhone at $175 plus $25 a month service from Consumer Cellular is trivial compared to the cost of the hearing aid

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cloud Printer Offline

 Let's say that you set up your printer as a Cloud printer and now suddenly find it's offline.     You make sure it's turned on, but when you go to print, it's still offline.

This is a bug. It happens especially when a printer has not been used for a time.

The solution is to delete the printer and reinstall it

To delete the printer, initiate a print job and click on “change” to display printers and print jobs,  then click on “printers”and delete the offending printer.

To reinstall, go to the printer and get the IP number, such as

I also use a utility called “fing” to provide me that number from my network without going to the printer.

With the IP number in hand, simply type that number into your browser and re-register your printer.

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


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:

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