Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Easy Transitioning to a New Computer Device

The great wave of new devices is accompanied by many seniors now transitioning from old to new.  These devices include Kindle Fire, Nook, Nexus 7, iPad, smartphone, and the like.
It will be easier with the new equipment, but first comes some work.    It may also be necessary to coordinate both old and new. 
The new equipment is usually wireless.     The device, laptop or tablet, can be used with available wireless wherever you are, somewhere, such as here in the common areas.  
The name of nearby wireless access points, such as WVGuest,  and others, will be found by your device, in settings or accessible from an icon, such as shown for WiFi,    Here, since here at WV, there is more than one, only  the right connection needs to be selected: WVGuest.   Then you need a password.    (Ask a computer club members for it.)
That brings us to passwords, probably the biggest transitioning problem.   The solution to the “problem” (remembering) is to keep track of all of them while also keeping them private.
Most device users will want faster wireless at home.    This requires an installation.   You may already have a wired connection.
Your wireless, too will have a name.   On recent access point boxes, this will be listed on the box itself.    You then select that name and password from your device.   So here we have another name and password.
For the least trouble in getting wireless working, the provider will come in and set it up, providing also the provider’s box or boxes.    All the responsibility is then in one place.  To insure that, with cable, for example, I have usually rented the box or boxes and also paid for a monthly maintenance contract.   With DSL, I needed to buy the box, but bought it from the DSL (phone) company.  I don’t want division of responsibility when things go wrong.
It is also possible to buy the boxes separately, though, and get someone to help or do it all yourself.   It is well first to know how to set up the equipment.   For setup you need another login and password., plus some know-how.     My experience with doing this has run from a  breeze to a nightmare.    Often you need to install the latest firmware and configure it.
Another compromise approach is to rent the boxes until you have set up your own.
Alternatively, or in addition, you may need to set up 3G or 4G cell tower data access.    You need an account with login and password.    If your device does not have such access, you can also obtain a pocket “hotspot”, such as MiFi.
The device will then also display the connection as for WiFi and ask for the 3G or 4G password.
Before you get that far, you need to find out where you will have good access.    You need to pick the right service for your area.    Most providers provide maps on their internet websites.  
You can find these websites by searching for, for example, Verizon coverage maps.  Verizon has worked well for me.
I have found that my main current 4G provider. however,  blankets my community well but fails away from built-up areas and main roads.   In this area, service is slow, just fast enough for Spotify music, but not for video, whereas in Philadelphia the same service can handle HDTV video easily.
This brings us to GPS.    You might think GPS to be superfluous, but GPS is important.     Any senior who drives NEEDS GPS navigation if only for safety. 
Now, limited or lacking 3G or 4G may or may not be a problem for GPS.    If your device is a Google Nexus 7, you will STILL have GPS satellite location service.     You will know where your are and you will get navigation directions.  What you will not have while traveling is data service, such as traffic service.  Your maps will also need to be loaded on your device.
(Without data service, before you leave, when you set up your destinations, check out the traffic with Google maps to find the least traveled route and with WAZE to get accident and construction and detour data.) 
Turning back to setting up of your new device, most users want their old Email contacts.   Worse, they may want their old Email address.     The benefits of changing to Gmail are that so much is automatically shared  that you have it on all devices, such as contacts, calendar, and so on.  When you log in on your device with you Gmail address, everything is synchronized.
Set up the Chrome browser, including on the iPad, and you will even be able to print from iPad to ANY printer. 
So  whether you ever use it or note, go through the agonies of signing up for Gmail.    Make sure you know the new address and also the password!
Well, then, what about your old contacts and address lists?     There are new a new ways to get them into your device without going through the troubles of the past.
Google: Tap or Click for Google Apps Sync
iPad, etc. Tap or Click for Apple iCloud Control Panel
As you install applications on your device, many will have logins and passwords.   Often you can use your Email address for the login.   If you want to simplify your passwords, you can do that now with  Lastpass (tap or click for it. 
The process of setup is then completed with set up of applications.  With tablets, that is easily done by going to the Google or Amazon or Apple online “store” for which you will also need an account login and password.  Don’t worry, most applications are free, but the store needs to have your account so that it can update your apps when necessary, and apps are update daily.
To install an app, go to the store, (sign in), search for the app, and simply tap on it to install it.
Which apps?     Separately I have catalogued the basic apps needed to get reasonable full functionality out of your device.   You might think 100-125 is a lot, but you will get familiar with them over time.     There are basically two types of apps: Apple and Android, with most in either format.   Google Chrome apps run on all devices.   These include Calendar, Documents, Voice (phoning), and so on.    Separately, Tango is a video phoning app which runs on all devices with microphone---it needs (borrows) a phone number for each to ide identify you.
Remember those login names and passwords.   Don’t get them mixed up. I will not tell if you keep them in a little notebook.   .


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Printer Madness

Printer troubles are not very exciting until they stop you dead in your tracks when you just want to finish up something.

Usually they fall into two categories: job stuck in buffer so that nothing happens, or the print cartridge is shot, but the printed copy looks awful..

The former is fixed by going to Control Panel in Windows and deleting jobs.  Sometimes I find dozens of attempts to print out of sheer desperation of a user.  Tap or click for Microsoft's solution for XP.

The other problem is harder for users to accept.    “It can’t be!”   But it is—happens a lot when a printer is infrequently used and the jets get clogged with dry ink.   We all know that new cartridges are EXPENSIVE, although Amazon often lists a non-oem source which has good comments and is fulfilled by Amazon itself.  I actually use a source at 20% of oem for one printer, but do not trust all such sources.

You can try to save the cartridge by cleaning the head.   This is usually hopeless with either water or alcohol.    I have dunked cartridges in a glass of water with head down with rarely any improvement.

So, then, go out and buy a new cartridge?   Maybe not.    Printers do not get outdated like computers, but the new ones are faster and better.   More than that, if you realize that you can get a new better and cheaper one for not much more than the cost of ink, why not ditch the old one?

New printers have all sorts of new capabilities, such as wireless printing if you have WiFi.    Some also work directly with a tablet computer like the iPad, though there are (Google Cloud) ways to print to any printer from tablets.

I often suggest TWO printers, one laser and one color ink-jet, to which I get unbelieving stares.    The idea is that the laser cartridge lasts a very long time for a very low cost per printed sheet.    Also, the cheapest print at $50-100 IS FINE, and you get two cartridges plus emergency backup! The laser cartridge does not dry up.

It does not really cost anymore in the long run.  You are mainly paying for cartridges.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Creating Documents with the Nexus 7

The downside of the Nexus 7 is that document creation is not as simple as on a laptop. However, there is a cheap and easy way to do simple document creation on the small screen. The basic Write: Tablet Notepad/Journal  application from Google Play Store at $2.99 does a decent job. The document is easily readable. Then, ideally, you will need an adapter to plug in a regular keyboard or just use a bluetooth external wireless keyboard. A female USB 2.0 to male USB micro adapter for a regular keyboard costs less than $1 on Amazon. Either keyboard disables dictation. (You can use dictation with the Nexus 7 screen keyboard.) There are lots of choices of sizes in USB keyboards. I tried a less than $10 rubber rollup, but liked my bluetooth better. Once your document is finished, it can be saved by Write to Dropbox, shared by EMail, or printed with the PrintShare app.  I published this posting direct to this website with Blogger direct from Nexus 7.

Tap or Click for a writer's thoughts on "A Nexus 7 is (Almost) the Only Device I Need"

Update 9-2-2012:  Voice recognition works well for document creation above.    

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Apple Opens Up to Google

Google Voice browsing is now available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Along with this, Google has brought a whole new level of functionality to these devices: Chrome and Google apps.
This is a very big change and innovation, like having a whole new device.
This is also a new departure for Apple if it stands.    It represents competition.
Although others may disagree, I think Apple will benefit from it.    It is a major benefit to the user.
Apple’s real competitive edge is not in restricting to Apple, but in innovating devices others do not have, along with ease of use, and freedom from trouble.
If I were Apple, I would bring out a much lighter tablet, using a new low power processor and a smaller battery.   The buying public will pay for such innovation.
Click for More about the iPad Google App
The new Google Voice search app is now up and running---I have tested it on iPad and Touch.
To be included are Siri-like voice actions, such as weather (the only action that worked for me at this time)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Voice and Video

Speech recognition and video are good enough on the Nexus 7 Google tablet to be used frequently for searching, EMail, messaging, and video phoning.   That covers a lot.    Then there is Assistant, which carries out many voice actions, such as checking the weather or starting an app.  Finally there is text to speech.   The last might be useful if you have a vision problem.  
This is good thing, since entering and reading text is not always entirely comfortable. 
To send an EMail, you just speak out “Send EMail”, then dictate your message.  Even better is to dictate send a voice plus video message which shows up from the receiver’s EMail, from which it plays.   I have used the Tango app for both uses.     It was a breeze to set up.  
Tango wants your telephone number for ID, but that number does not need to be the number you use on the Nexus.   For phoning the  Nexus needs WiFi.  The person your are calling also needs Tango.
Tango is also available for Apple devices, which makes it doubly useful.
Today a new app came out to use voice input and output for GPS in the car.  It is called Robin.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More about Which Computer for ME?

I get many repeat questions.   I constantly get asked which computer to get.     (It used to be WHETHER to get one.)
Of course we need to think about what we want it to do, now and future.   But there are factors: .
The size of a device may affect your ability to use it.    Any vision problem needs to be addressed.     Often size is important, but smaller devices may zoom up text.   That text zooming feature is handled in different ways by different apps.   Sometimes with settings, sometimes by widening two fingers touching the screen to expand text, and sometimes with an AAA selector appearing somewhere on screen.   Some apps have no zoom at all.
Some Larger TVs can now perform as computers for those who must have a large screen or simply want to access the wealth of internet video.
If you do much writing, more than short emails, a laptop may be needed, although keyboards may be used with most devices with wireless Bluetooth..  The MacBook Air is a great laptop.    So-called Transformers are a cross between laptop and tablet, with keyboard.    A very few old laptops actually work as transformers (Asus 10” notebooks).
If you travel or even move around much, You will want a 7” device  or less.    If you travel a lot, a smartphone is needed.   I like the big 5” smartphones
3G or 4G
3G offers access in many more places than Wi-Fi  but costs $$$.   You can “tether” a device to your smartphone's 3g or 4G.
The iPad offers a fine front camera with editing.   The Nexus has a back facing camera for phoning (Skype, etc).
Smartphones generally have GPS.   The Nexus has GPS.    However, for traffic you need data service, 3G or 4G.  I recommend 4G.    Traffic service is free with the WAZE and Google Maps apps.    I use both of these to get local reports and map route traffic (red, green routes etc.).    I would  not want to travel without either.
The right apps are very important, although Apple and Android devices have a huge selection.   However, if you want iTunes U (lectures from the leading colleges and universities), choose an Apple iPad.     For camera and photo editing the iPad is probably the choice.
A smartphone is handy (really almost essential) for travel needs, or any smaller device with 3G or 4G., though selected airports and hotels have free Wi-Fi.
Windows and Mac systems are converging and synced with tablet and smartphone.   Users with Gmail will find much is already synced.    Apple is converging its products, as also Windows in October.     If you have either, the upgrade is CHEAP if your old computer can handle it. 
Recorded TV requires a good internet connection.   Live TV is even more demanding and may require a separate device,    My smartphone does not handle TV well.
Apple is known for its quality support in stores, including “how-to” courses.   Barnes & Noble also supports Nook in its stores.    Microsoft offers very good online support.   For seniors Tap or Click this website.
So far no one device will serves all needs, but that is true of clocks and radios and TVs.   For many, a laptop and tablet will suffice, and even take over clock, radio, and some TV.