Sunday, October 4, 2009

Traveling and Computers

There are lots of options for computer access while traveling. The benefits are many, from EMail to travel help and assistance, including using the computer as a guide, even in a museum.

Simplest, course, is not to take along a computer at all, but to use computers along the way where available. Hotels without free computer use can be avoided in favor of those with a free available computer. Libraries enroute often have computers and access.

It is a help to have all your applications on Google, so that you can access personal EMail, phone and EMail list, bookmarks, calendar, itinerary, and so on , anywhere there is a computer. For that, set up a GMail account, and Google Calendar, Docs, etc. so that you can get to all phone numbers, addresses, and EMail anywhere.

The next simplest and most useful thing to do is take along a tiny $10 USB flash drive with such information on it, even along with applications like a browser. Use it, again, wherever a computer is available.

With a little more heft you could take along a smartphone with wireless and internet, such as an iPhone, or a cheap handheld equivalent without cell contract, such as an iPod Touch or Zune. Skype should be installed on the device. The iPhone is the most versatile of all cell phones, and also smallest, but there are new ones in the Palm Pre and MyTouch. The iPhone/iTouch are full computers and can record messages, read ebooks and audible books as you travel, even take notes. The latter device needs wireless for some functions.

Free wireless access is available in many hotels and even in airports such as St. Louis and Phoenix, via a few airlines on the plane, and in places like Panera's. Find out before your trip. Newly, there are pocketable "hotspot" devices, such as the Verizon MiFi, which give you internet anywhere at all, even out walking.

If you want something bigger, and especially, if you want to originate documents anywhere, you may want at least a netbook, preferably one with solid state hard drive, (nearly indestructible), and/or, with a USB drive or SD card for backup of documents, so as not to lose your travel notes.

These come for as little as $200, up to $400, and from 7" diag screen to 10", the latter having a comfortable keyboard. They are a target for theft, so keep one locked up or in the small pack you carry with you at all times. The smaller iTouch above fits into a tiny beltpack, of which there are excellent ones under $10 on Amazon.

You must show your netbook or laptop to airport security. You can put your computer into a very small case with charger cables, pills, and even overnight essentials, and check everything else weighty. Case Logic and Targus make bags which get rave ratings on Amazon.

A surprising number of travelers take along a larger MacBook laptop, often seen in airports and planes. Next most often seen is a smartphone or iTouch.

The cheapest way to have everything with you is to carry your internet device, smallest camera (preferably including video), and GPS. Instead of all three, a netbook, though, can handle Skype where there is WiFi, and even GPS. The last, GPS, is invaluable in traveling, even just to safely find the correct route and lane, nearest rest stop, gas, or, restaurant.

I travel light and take along a small Nokia device which already has camera, Skype, GPS, and satellite TV access, but I carry a tiny camera and gps, too, and I use hotel computers. I carry a cell phone. An iPhone alone would handle it all, even without wireless, all in one tiny device, which can also serve as an ebook or audible book reader wherever you are.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Simpler Tech for Seniors

Useful Newer Technology for Seniors

Seniors benefit from technology once they know what is available and do it themselves, with maybe just a little help from a neighbor.

Here is some of what is both useful AND easy to use.

As many already know, Skype ranks high and offers easy phoning. Skype is a technology which puts free phoning through your computer. For seniors its biggest benefit is far better sound, either through speakers or normal-looking phones. Skype is free, but anyone can call out to phone numbers nationwide for about $3 a month. Skype has video phoning, too.

Next for seniors might be Netflix, which simply mails movies to them at a small monthly fee for use with just a DVD player, or with a small online device called a Roku wherever there is free wireless service. The Roku device is a small box which plugs in between computer and TV and actually makes things simpler than a remote once it is connected. Movies are chosen from Netflix's website. Computer users, search Google for Netflix.

Again, even without computer knowledge, for those who drive much, or navigate next to the driver, portable automobile GPS navigators are quite easy to use and help get where you are going. These small cigarette-pack sized devices guide by voice to any destination. They alert which lane to use for a turn, a safety factor for seniors or anyone else. These devices are among the simplest of all computer-based devices to use and make it easy and safer to find your way.

Similarly, Amazon now has a book-sized reader (Kindle) which lets the reader buy or access a book by just pushing a button. Designed for non-computer users, the Kindle delivers the book magically "over-the-air", so that a book can be delivered anywhere instantly, even reads it out loud. It holds a lot of books and can automatically receive magazines and papers like the New York Times. Books are about half-price normally but millions (literally) are available free. The Kindle is almost tailor-made for, and in wide use by seniors. Text of any size can be enlarged, a huge benefit No internet service or computer knowledge is needed. There is no monthly cost.

If you can put up with a small screen, the Apple iTouch has a brighter screen and is cheaper. The iPod Touch does not read books aloud from print but does access recorded audible books and play them aloud. Handy and easy to use.

New large combination TV and computer displays help seniors as vision fades. Wireless headsets nowadays help a lot to hear TV sound clearly if your TV has jacks to accept them. Worth looking into.

Here is more new technology to help more computer literate seniors, and for those willing to make the effort...

Cell phones are often still not entirely easy to use. Whereas a small wireless headset might seem a complication, it actually saves pulling out the phone when a call comes in. There are cell phone users everywhere to help.

If you are computer literate, if you can read the mini display and handle the mini keyboard, the wallet sized Apple iPod Touch offers Skype wireless phoning without a monthly fee. You also need a computer, wireless, and computer literacy, though. Much simpler iPods are just portable radios which play only recordings transferred from computer. Once set up, the iPod Touch makes up-to-date recorded broadcasts and PBS available automatically whenever wanted.

One of the big benefits of this technology is the ability to check out audio books (read aloud) from local Library. There is no need to read the book or to go to the library to get one.

With the wireless technology, no connection is needed in most hotels, and in some airports and restaurants Or you can plug wireless devices into your internet service at home, if you have it (GPS and Netflix and Kindle do not need it.) Anyone can phone thru Skype where there is free wireless.

Computers nowadays are being made smaller and handier with the latest software. The little "netbooks" can be used with older large displays, and some have nearly full-size keyboards. The biggest benefit is that anyone can carry them like a book and use them that way.

Google Voice simplifies phoning, once set up. Google provides a new phone number, free, with calls invisibly forwarded to any phone, including cell phones. Voice messages are translated to written messages and EMailed to recipients wherever they are. This is especially nice if hearing is a problem.

Google also has a simplified computer browser (Chrome), word processor, book finder, and reader (many free books), news, Email, and much else, if you have a computer. All are very useful. More ambitious, but worth teaching yourself how to use.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Speeding Up Windows

As time goes on, Windows runs slower, and there are things that drag it down from the start.

Recently one computer in our community had two antivirus programs, each one fighting the other. The computer had slowed down to a crawl. Already this month, removing an antivirus restored two slow computers to normal speed. Anti-virus programs look at every bit and byte, a heavy job which takes its toll on speed.

You could even do without an antivirus program if you are careful not to access questionable EMail links and suspect websites. Also, Microsoft's free Windows Defender alerts and avoids slowing things up. Alerted, you would remove any malicious software with Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, also downloadable. A recent Consumer Reports has recommendations on choice of antivirus software. Additionally, Microsoft has just released its own free full antivirus program, Morro.

Often what is ultimately needed to speed up an old computer is reinstalling the system from the original CDs (after backing up your files first, of course).

Even when new, though, or with the system reinstalled, a computer can be speeded up. There are lots of things that slow Windows down right from the start, or as time goes by.

There is Microsoft's restore program which slows down the computer by keeping bigger and bigger "restore" records in order to return to an earlier stage if there is trouble. That can actually be turned off or restricted.

There is "indexing" which also looks at more and more bits and bytes over time. It can simply be turned off. Click on c:\ , then right click on Properties, etc.

There are a lot of unnecessary formatting tools. Go to Control Panel/SystemProperties/Advanced. You can turn them all off.

And there are startup programs which run all the time. They can all be turned off. "Run" command, then msconfig, click on "start" programs, uncheck as many as all.

Some manufacturers themselves have advised to turn all the above off. The result is that their particular computers run faster, such as with the nifty and quick Asus 10" sold at Target recently for as little as $250.

Then, defragmenting can speed things up, too. Go to Accessories\System Tools. Defragment.

The new fast browser, Chrome, can speed up internet. Downloadable. Another browser, Opera, accomplishes a similar result. Or try DING from Microsoft itself (new).

It is a good idea to keep your documents file cleaned out. This can speed things up. And use your XP file cleanup utility.

There are also internet updates which can be scheduled so as not to interrupt your work, or prolong startup. Have this work scheduled overnight; default is 3 a.m.

Note that Apple and Linux do not have many of these slowups. Yet Microsoft sometimes offers the tool to get a particular job done, and at a low price.

One idea: have XP, Mac, and Linux. The mini Mac can run them all.

As for the simplest and fastest new or second PC, as an alternative to Dell, you might indeed look at an Asus netbook at Target, along with a 20-24" external display. That would be the most portable unit with the most readable display. The netbook can also be had with a solid state and nearly indestructible hard drive. It comes without a CD/DVD but with a tiny removable "chip" SD drive.

When it is introduced in October, Microsoft's new Windows 7 upgrade runs fairly fast and also much eases computer use (that speeds things up, too), available on advance order from Amazon and BestBuy at $50. I am impressed with it.

As for phones, the iPhone/IPod Touch are actually also very quick computers, mainly just to quickly access information once you learn how, and if you can deal with the small screen/keyboard. It takes just seconds to check weather, mail, news, calendar, and almost anything else, like YouTube and music. That speeds things up, too.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

AAXA Mini Projector

This is a review of the AAXA Pico mini projector, based on use over a month.

Brightness: The Pico offers adequate brightness at short range in daylight at normal monitor size of 15-22". In a completely dark room, the image is bright at 24" and adequate at 42" The picture is low-resolution but certainly adequate for videos.

Convenience: The size of a pack of cigarettes, the projector is easily pocketed. Use with an iPhone/iTouch, however, is inconvenient, especially with the short cord supplied as an extra.

The device, however, can also be used alone or with iPhone/iTouch or periferals such as a digital TV tuner or the Netflix TV device. These items worked well. Use alone is most convenient.

Comparison: Since the device is marketed for use with the iPhone/iTouch, an evaluation is needed here. Does the iPhone expand the usefulness of the projector? The short answer is no.

The iPhone iTouch small screens are themselves mostly preferable for individual viewing. More important, iPhone/iTouch AV does not provide a picture to the Pico at all much of the time, for example, the desktop/springboard, Safari browser, the weather channel. The latter limitation greatly diminishes usefulness of the Pico.

Based on all the above, then, the best use of the AAXA Pico is in the dark without any other auxiliary equipment, such as for viewing a movie downloaded to it. The Pico is put to its best advantage in projecting a large picture to the ceiling in the dark, for example in a hotel room or hospital. For such use a vertical bracket would be desirable to hold it in place. A bracket is also really needed for horizontal projection.

The device looks substantial except possibly for the light rubber lens cap and the plastic battery cover. External headphones or speaker(s) are mandatory; the speaker volume is extremely low.

Summary: The Pico excels at use without other equipment in the dark, especially for overhead projection. It is not recommended here for use with the iPhone/iTouch. However, use with Netflix box might be handy. Use with a digital TV tuner worked but requires an antenna for good reception.

For seniors, such as with wheelchair and small attached screen, use is impractcial. Hopefully such uses will be developed for the handicapped..

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

All About Links

Some of you have asked about those techspeak "links" that appear in my columns and are a mystery to some of you.

Here is one:

What is it, and why is it there?

Well, links are simply places to go for more information. You click on them and another document appears on your computer. Or you search for a page (a link) which has some of the key words in it that you expect to find in a document.

But is there a spook which will come out from them and jump at you, worse a virus, or someone who will steal your identity, or cause physical harm? Maybe. Neither you nor the computer may know exactly what you will find until you find it. Even after you find it, it may change.

But relax, links are basically our friends. There is no danger unless you respond to a questionable link.

Links are the building blocks of the WorldWideWeb. They are the spiderweb threads which connect the web together.

So how did they came about?

Back in the early days, some 20 years ago (wasn't that a long time ago?), the tech people at CERN, the nuclear accelerator in Switzerland, and (boy is that tech) had a problem.

Some tech people were doing things that other tech people knew nothing about. Or duplicating work. Very inefficient. CERN tried indexes and table of contents, but the information problem was so great that these solutions did not work. There was just too much information to handle and no efficient way to get what you wanted.

The problem was handed to Tim Berners-Lee.

Tim tried everything and finally came up with a nontech idea. Why not let the computer goes through ALL the information in all the computers and check it out. After all a computer can go through huge amounts of information in seconds. An absolutely enormous amount of info was called a "google"---(no, there was no Google then).

The computer would then come back with links to information of POSSIBLE interest. Was this like a footnote? Absolutely not. No, the computer had no idea what was relevant or not, but it could narrow down to a very few possibilities. We call the computer capability nowadays a search engine. We call the place to ask this question a "browser". The computer browses the "library" of information.

The links would link to other links and these to yet others. That was the idea.

Well, curiously possibly nobody had thought of this before. A browser (reader) was then created to look at information.

The first browser was actually called "Lynx". Get the idea? The WorldWideWeb is simply a totally unorganized database connected by links. A new kind of library or database or encyclopedia. The browser browses links just like a reader browses books in a library.

Crucially, Sir Tim found a way to build links into documents themselves, so that information could be connected together, rather than viewed as separate and distinct pieces of data. Goodbye to tables of contents and indexes. You could almost instantly go anywhere, find anything.

All this solved the problem at CERN. Done. An unbelievably simple idea worked, and Tim was knighted for it by the Queen of England. Tim is still quite a young man; all this was less than 20 years ago.

In a word, my links here are to sources of information of possible interest. That's all.

Here is a link:

from the creator of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee in the early days.

Here is another, Tim's basic proposal from 1990

Then, way back (??) in 1945 Vanevar Bush almost foresaw what was needed, though he did not know how to get it.

Links are a way to keep us connected. Just the thing for seniors. A good way for all of us to keep connected.

Can you get a virus from links? No. But you can get a virus if you respond to anything foreign and unknown and invite them in, just like letting a stranger in your front door.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The iPod Touch

I like to keep up with technology, but when a new resident arrived on campus with his Apple iPhone, I was caught by surprise when the iPhone could measure sound and reverberation in the Great Room and work as a carpenter's level in adjusting the speakers.   What do we have here?, I asked to myself.  A phone???

After all, when the iPhone came out, it had just a few proprietary "pda" computer-like applications.  Also, it was very, very small, and very thin.  You had to buy a phone plan.  We already had a contract cell family plan with t-Mobile.  

With a great display and touch screen, this phone was still a lightyear ahead of the competition.   It was a super MP3 player and even could serve as an external hard drive for your computer, with plenty of computer memory, and you could even stream some movies to it and play computer games.      This was actually a very powerful tiny but full--blown computer.   It could connect with wifi.    Still, even so, its full potential was locked up.

But something has happened in the meantime.     Competition and foresight has led Apple to open up the phone to development of new computer uses or "apps" by others.    When there was a huge response and uses exploded, Apple went even further and offered developers new tools to do more.    Thousands of so-called "apps" appeared.   The price of apps was slashed.  The Apple store was opened to nearly all.   Then, the "iTouch" (iPod Touch) twin of iPhone was offered as a tiny computer without phoning, billed as a tiny computer and not a phone at all.

Everywhere I go I now am more aware of younger people pulling one or the other of these things out of their pockets.     You need them for everything.     Pictures, prices, directions, Email, reading, eBooks, audible books, texting, appointment calendar, contact and phone list, restaurant guide, recipes, grocery list, latest news, music and recorded broadcasts and telecasts (podcasts), the weather, translations, sports, exercise programs, maps and directions, and bird-identification.  Even reading a little of the latest news on screen directly from the good old-fashioned newspaper or magazine, automatically delivered to it.  Oh yeah.

Then recently Apple announced iPhone #3, coming in June.  

There has been some scoffing about the fact that the phone is mainly physically unchanged in Version 3.0, although video recording is rumored..   Well...

The scoffers missed the point.     This is all about software and new uses.   About new things you can do with it.   The phone is truly a computer, and is so well designed that it is easy to use.     The screen is bright.    It takes up little space in pocket or purse..     Applications are often free, usually no more than a few dollars, and frequently offer simply to make things easier.  Usage is intuitive.    Microsoft should be so smart.  (They're trying now, though it is hard to teach the old dog new tricks.)     The upgrade software is free for iPhone and $10 for iTouch.

The screen seems small only until you realize that most of your life you read newspaper columns even smaller, eight to a page, eight-point type, and without backlighting.   And here the type enlarges with a single two-finger or double-tap motion.     The device even works as a mouse for your regular computer or as a TV guide.    The device can serve as a super remote for DirectTV.  For Dish TV,the other satellite system, greatly simplified remote access to satellite and internet TV is in final testing.   You also get access to your main computer.

That explains why I walked into the Apple store to see what was going on and came out five minutes later with an iTouch, the iPhone without the phone plan, and without GPS, navigation, or camera.  The iTouch looks just like the phone and, as of a few days ago, even now does Skype wifi phoning, such as at our main campus, or our Community Center, where even our cell phone sometimes doesn't work.   The iTouch, again, is without a plan, without a contract, and without cell-tower phoning, but with Wifi phoning.

The main iPhone itself is for high-speed internet ANYWHERE, even out identifying flowers, or birding, whereas the iTouch is high-speed only near wifi. 

The keyboard is great for small children with small hands.    This was not meant for writing novels.    Besides, all this is changing in June, when 3.0 comes along.   The keyboard will be enlarged to landscape mode.    I hope one day for an external keyboard, maybe a tiny flex-rollup or laser unit.  This device is mainly for access, not for creation of media (yet), though there is now even a blog editor.
The concept is so good that it is hard to imagine anyone doing better.     Apple paid attention to the user, and it will be a while until someone betters them., though all the major cell phone makers are furiously working on other devices, Google among them with something called Android.     A weak point in the Apple iTouch is the inability to date to run so-called flash video, one of the the main standard engines for video for PCs, plus it has some small remaining restrictions on content.  Still, it runs a lot of video.

So, now to keep learning yet a still different way of doing things.  I was getting nearsighted from squinting at it, but more and more, websites are designed or converted to the mobile scrolling of newspaper column format for easy reading. There is actually a developing app that sends the iTouch's screen to a big computer and TV, with or without cable.   For sound, who needs anything better?

If you do happen to walk into the Apple store and come out with one, the case is slippery as a clam and you need a protective skin around it, also to cushion its glass touch-screen, though many do just keep it loose it in their pocket or purse.   You might even come out with a cell iPhone complete with GPS and camera, and access to internet from anywhere at all.  

Look for this item on Google: "Review: iPhone apps for nearly every waking minute"

Search for cheap iTouch skins and cases on Amazon.   LIke $8 shipped.    

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Old Computers and New Media

 Old computers can sometimes be brought back to life again to work as they did when new.   That depends a lot on whether those system CDs are still available that came with the computer.    To reinstall the operating system, you also need the unique Windows proof of ownership code which came with the system.   Then you need the so-called device drivers, such as for the network or wireless "card".  Personal files need to be backed up before reinstallation.  (Microsoft's SyncToy automatically keeps such files on an external drive or flash drive).   

    Go here and search for "synctoy".

    In the last months two old systems could not be returned to use because device drivers could no longer be found, nor even downloaded from internet, (even though all Dell drivers were still available for download).   When you get a new computer or peripheral, it is good to keep all the documentation and CDs in a box and place restore disks in your safe deposit box.

    Of course, by the time systems get ten years old, they no longer can do many of the things we want to do.    Especially, it takes a newer system to support an internet browser, mainly because webpages put more of a burden on the system due to format and a language called Java, employed to make them more interactive, for example.  What happens is that old systems may run too slow to be useful.  The Dell towers from five or six years ago are still capable, but may need memory (cheap).

    Each successive new version of Windows bas demanded more of a computer, though it is rumored that the new Windows 7 will reverse that trend.     Recently, also, XP has been trimmed down to run better in the new small "netbooks".     

    Older computers also are more difficult to set up to return to network use.   The older software was not as good.    It was difficult to set up for Internet, whereas now that same setup is entirely automatic.     Also, new software and peripherals may not be compatible with the older hardware.    

    If there is anything at all physically wrong with the old equipment, the problems are compounded.   It is often not worth the expense and time to put the old computer back in working condition, even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, though that makes it an interesting challenge and sometimes produces results.   There is an efficient internet browser software in development designed to work better on older computers.   It is called "Cloud".   Here's hoping.  

     Additionally, though, the prices are really coming down for new equipment.   New netbooks can be bought for $350 or less.    Of course they have small screens, but your old big display can usually be plugged right into them.    The screen compatibility has not changed, and now you have a three pound computer you can move all around.    The keyboards run from small to  92% normal.

    The little computer also comes with wireless.  There is not so much a need to upgrade software as in the past, since more and more is free on internet  Add a wireless router and you can also get additionally an internet clock radio which will receive thousands of radio stations, even podcasts, your music library, and maybe even FM, too.    .

    The old tower, with all its unsightly wires, can then be discarded, or, if still working, hidden away as a "server" for music and podcasts.

    The media center and server are newer concepts.    With iTunes, it takes one click now convert a CD to mp3 which can be accessed easily from an internet radio, where you can quickly locate and play it.   I use Apple's iTunes to move a CD to a server, and then a few clicks on Windows Media Center to make it available wirelessly.     It is really not practical to convert your old LPs to computer, though there is hardware to do so.

    For those who prefer books to electronic media, Amazon now has a lightweight device the size of pocket book, which reads like a book, holds many books, downloads a new book in seconds, and enlarges the type as desired.     Lightweight, it carries along what you are reading as you travel and adds magazines as they are published.     The screen looks like a paper page in a book, and you do need to read it as a book.   Anybody got one to report on?

    This device downloads a book anywhere for about half the cost of a paper book without paying for wireless, and keeps your larger library of books elsewhere and easy accessible.   You get to read first a chapter of a new book free.     Bestsellers are $10.    EMail is available.  Newspaper subscriptions.   Audible books, too.  The unique white screen looks like a paper book page.  Just introduced, the Kindle2 will also read text documents out loud to you.

    Not for everybody, the Kindle above is especially nice for those with weak vision and/or limited mobility and/or who travel a lot, also for those not comfortable with a full computer.

    For the rest of us, there is another wonderful new and free book reading program from Google:

    Just released, this one works on your old computer.   It has a fairly exhaustive selection of books, too: 1.5 million.    Just enter the URL above into your browser, type the title of the book or author in the top space, and push Enter/Return.   There is the book, or books, if available in the public domain, or some of it, even if not.     You can easily magnify text, or by clicking somewhere in the text, bring up the original photocopied page.

    Some other EBook mostly free access resources to Search for...:


    Remember, if you do need a new computer, the cheapest new Dell will be all you will need nowadays, or you can get a netbook, radio, and a Kindle2 book reader for the price of a single more expensive tower.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Ways to Make Things Easy

   I have made a lot of changes over the past year in just how I use computers, especially to accommodate small mobile computers (even cell phones) and travel, and above all to make things easier for myself.

    The idea has been to make it so that I could work anywhere quickly from any computer, large or small, and without risking my data from a computer crash.  Here is how.

    I switched to the simplified Google Chrome for browsing on PCs, and to Opera for some very small screen browsing.     I still use IE Explorer for online Netflix movies.     I use both Windows and Linux machines, depending upon the computer I am using and what I want to do.

    My EMail is Google Gmail, which is kept on Google's server and is accessible anywhere.   Get it here:

    Once signed up for Google, I have access to the rest of Google's armada of applications which run anywhere: Docs, Reader, iGoogle, and the like.   Here is a video on these:

    And here is how to add them:

    Docs is a word processor which can also edited by others with permission.  Docs is compatible with Microsoft Word.  Here is a video on Docs:

    Reader summarizes from media so that you do not need to go to many websites to get updated on the news in all sorts of subjects.     Other software updates podcasts or "feeds" to me to access when ready.     iGoogle puts all kinds of web activity on a single page, such as my calendar, todo list, bookmarks, and so forth, even Picasa to show pictures on the handheld.   Here are explanations of Google Reader:

     Bookmarks provide a simple way of accessing webpages frequently.   Bookmarks (also called Favorites) can also be kept on a server.   I have the ones I use all the time on Google's server, and also on Delicious, and Mobilicious.   More info is here:

     Very often there are two web addresses for the same website, one for large screens, and one for handhelds.    The small screens best display information in newspaper column format, in a single column scrolled vertically.   That helps ease of use with a small screen.  You scroll up and down a newspaper column width screen.

    My computers also now use Skype for telephoning, so that I do not need a cell phone where there is WiFi.  Plus I have a speaker phone and conferencing thru Skype.

    My bookmarks give me access to internet radio and TV, and to my music library, such as Orb, which accesses my home computer for music.     There are bookmarks for Amazon, YouTube, and Google search features.  The latter reminds me how to use Google for definitions, calculations, and the like,   I use Youtube to find out how to do things and access music. not just video.    

    With my handheld, I can access music or podcasts thru a wireless bluetooth headset while exercising.   For more on such tech, check my blog here:

    I recently moved my mail list to Gmail, so that I can get anybody's EMail address and phone number wherever I am.

    If I don't have access to a computer, I can phone Jott to leave a message by voice which later is accessible from text on any computer.   I am just starting to use Jott.
    The bottom line is that I am no longer dependent upon any single computer for most things, and not dependent on any operating system, such as Windows.   I need for the computer to help me do things, not to become focus of my activity.

     If you want to try some of these, a quick search on internet will find where to download and install them.  If all this is too complex, try this site for more help:

    Here is some advice on passwords


Monday, January 19, 2009

Internet Radio

Internet Radio is still quirky, even though there are a huge number of stations broadcasting across internet, certainly most of those broadcasting over the airwaves, plus many exclusive internet stations, usually dedicated to a genre.

Access is best through a "clearinghouse" website such as Reciva or vTuner or Shoutcast websites, which find and connect most quickly, although you can connect with a bit more trouble through the station's website.     

You don't need a computer,  just internet service and an access point, and a dedicated internet radio, or mobile wifi device.   A number of radios are out there, mostly off brand units.   All have their strong points and weak points.   Amazon's reviews help you compare.

It is a strong point and benefit to be able to access your computer as a media server, not just to access your mp3 library, but also podcasts, so that you can listen to a broadcast when you want.

Judging from Amazon's reviews of internet radios, not many listeners use this capability.     To provide access, you need to make sure the radio can get through the firewall, on PCs easily done with the Windows Media Player 11 by adding a library (such as the iTunes Folder) and giving access.

Then, to add specific podcasts, best is to use iTunes on the server (your main computer) and simply subscribe.    It is desirable to set iTunes settings to update frequently, such as every hour, probably for the 2-3 most recent podcasts, then make sure iTunes is "on" to receive the most current podcasts.

Podcasts can be handled in different ways, but easiest with iTunes, which is a "catcher" which actually downloads, as opposed to  just listing the latest podcasts and  streaming then when played.

The Aluratek internet radio accesses your media server and plays podcasts well.    You can skip ahead or skip back.   Not all internet radios do that.

At the top is a flowchart showing how the Aluratek is tuned.

With it you can play podcast radio shows, such as talk shows, like "The Dolans", whenever you want, and skip ahead or back at will.

Some radios are limited to the clearinghouses (above), while others allow you to access through URLs.    Those URLs may be hard to find.    A search of internet can provide the tricks of finding internet radio audio sites.

With Aluratek you can add many stations outside of the vTuner "clearinghouse" through the vTuner website.   I make the point because reviews have stated otherwise.

All this may sound a bit complicated, which it is without a few cautions, but really not technical.    It is not complicated to listen to access what comes from the "clearinghouse", only to extend beyond that to other stations and podcasts, which greatly broadens the usefulness of internet radio to you.

The end result is to have an easy to use radio which accesses almost any broadcast whenever you want it, quickly and easily.   You get to hear what you want when you want it.    If you want it where you want it, the altenative is a portable or mobile wifi device, such as a few new mobile phones.

The latter devices work best with "podcatcher" software and players which can keep your place.  Since most are not either Windows or Mac based, and are often Linux or other operating system, it is desirable to check that out before purchase.

With my mobile device, a Nokia n800, my latest podcasts of interest are automatically downloaded with an n800 podcatcher and I can stop and resume playing whenever I like.   I also use bluetooth, so that all I need for listening is a bluetooth earphone or a bluetooth stereo headset.     The stereo is not always supported with such bluetooth equipped mobile devices.   Also, bluetooth stereo is not of the quality of a wired headset, but fine for talk and Ok for much music.