Monday, April 30, 2012

Changing How We Do Things

Like many others, I have changed my way of using computers since Jan 1.    Instead of sitting down at my Dell to do my computer-related actvity, I access a computer wherever I am.  A 7" tablet and/or 4G Samsung Exhibit II smartphone go everywhere with me nowadays.   The smartphone connects tablet and Chromebook to 4G internet service.

That has happened because of the internet cloud.   If I start reading a book on my Fire, I may read in bits and pieces elsewhere on my smartphone, when I have a moment.   I finished a book last night with the smartphone in bed.     The smartphone, and tablet, have gotten a lot better.   It is practical to read even a book on a phone.

As for phoning, I now tend to text.   I had not really understood the benefits of texting earlier.    Faster and cheaper, of course.   I just dictate a few words and the text message is sent, to appear at its destination without intrusion, and accessed only when the receiver of the message responds to the alert.     This is way better than phoning.  Saves a lot of time.

Communications tend to be right up to the minute.  I do not need to go wade through a stack of EMail.     Matters are disposed of on the spot and do not hang unresolved.   Less strain on my memory.    Saves time.

I don't need to wade thru the news, either.   I get it bit by bit during the day---I hardly need to watch the evening news to be informed, although it remains entertainment.     I pick and choose preemptively what I want to know about, anyway, on demand.

There is also a new way of educating yourself at your own pace and time.     This will explode to relieve the high costs of education and keep us learning all our lives.     I search for answers from internet wherever I am and whatever I am doing.    How crude it was to listen to relegate learning long lectures without interaction, and ineffective too much of the time.

Click or tap here for one new way from Khan Academy.   Pick your subject.  Then click or tap to start. and GO!    These are not long lectures but short exercises to get concepts down one at a time all by yourself.   If this is too intimidating, just search internet..

As wonderful as our educational system is, it is also based too much on the age-old German system of regimenting students into classes and teachers, as opposed to supplementing their proactive efforts with free and preemtive access to help.

All this has come with a remarkable change in computer hardware, and we are not done with it yet.

Thus the smartphone and the tablet adapt to us.    We don't need to adapt to them so much.      They are far easier to use, once you learn how.

Plenty of devices are coming.  TVs will merge with computers .Amazon's book business depends on innovation.   Amazon has started opening stores.    Google is coming out the tablets, and stores.      Apple started it all.      Yet Samsung has just brought out the most advanced small 7" tablet yet.     Who, and what, next?

This will go on as long as users want to have the computer conform more to them and not the reverse.    It will be happening fast, as prices fall.   It will go on until everybody catches up.   Life will change with it.     Computers will become an invisible part of   our everyday lives and an extension of ourselves.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Windows is Getting to be Passe for Many Seniors

  Windows is more and more passe for many seniors.    Not all.     I still use Windows for some needs.  (But I am an old hand at it.)

It came home to me that I have more and more swung to this view as I was asked recently to help with a new Windows project.      I spent a day looking it over and realized it was a future problem child.

I help seniors one on one.    Too often I come upon  a Windows problem which should not have happened, and even worse, a rarely used computer.   I feel sad when I see an unused computer where a senior needs to keep connected.
When I help with an iPad, it gets used.

Windows crashes too often, comes up with cryptic messages, runs too slow, requires mechanical drives as opposed to solid state.   Mostly, it is just too non-intuitive to use.

Windows is also claimed to be more prone to viruses, but that problem is overhyped.     Most problems turn out to be soimething else entirely.

That does mean that Microsoft has not tried to simplify things .    I like Windows 7.  But Windows 8 piles too much together again.

Seniors have unique needs.    They travel.    They get confined.     They need something portable and indestructible.     They need simplicity.    Exit Windows.

I do not have a Mac.     However, I recommend Macs simply because Mac help (free) and  courses are available at the Apple store.    The MacBook Air has a solid state drive and is light and easy to carry, a wonderful device.   Yes, it costs too much.

Strangely, one of the reasons I have stayed with Windows was for Apple iTunes!   I used my Windows machine to use iTunes and get media.     I don't need either now with the cloud and  TIVO.    The only reason I don't have an iPhone is that the data plan costs too much---I do have and love the iPod Touch, which is a non-cellphone clone without the monthly costs.

I used my Windows computer as an intermediary between small device and internet, a "holding tank."     I don't  need that anymore with the "cloud".

The android phone and tablet have come on so quickly that I see the future in them, whereas just three  months ago I despaired over the first 3 Android phones I tried in vane to use.      The latest, an Exhibit II from t-Mobile finally got everything right.   As for tablets, wait just a bit for the marvelous Android 4.0---I have it running on an old laptop (yet)!   Oh, wait,..  Tap or click for a new one which just came out ($170).

Tap or Click for What is Coming

So what do I persist with Windows for?:

word processing - you need Windows or Mac, but there will soon be alternatives
my website
Spotify through my sound system
old stuff where I have not bothered to learn the new way

Bear in mind, though, that for most of this, all I need is any way to get to internet and the cloud, where my word processor, web creator, and Spotify reside.  Like with my Chromebook given me by Google.

Calibre converts books from one format to another.    Once you get the hang of it, superb.   I hope this necessity for conversion vanishes.

If you are an old hand and especially if you like to tinker, Windows is fine.     But if your objective is keeping connected, you might try something that does not leave you disconnected too much.

I would love to hear your comments, pro and con.   Am I being unfair?

Sure, I will still help you "do it yourself" with Windows.  But if you are mostly new to computers, get something else.      If your old Windows is giving too much trouble, try Zorin, a clone of Windows not likely to fail.

In addition to iPads, much improved Android tablets and laptops are coming.    I will have an evaluation soon of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7" tablet which came to store shelves April 22.    This could be a one and only device for some seniors: $249.