Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Free Audiobooks to Listen to Every Day

If you want or need books read to you, new ones appear nearly every day.   Keep up by going to (click or tap for) Librivox for a listing of the the latest releases, all free.

This is a great but underused resource for those with poor vision, and for "company" while lying abed, and while exercising with a portable player, and for your "reading circle", and not to mention while using your tablet.

(You can even read a (public domain) book and contribute it.)

Click or tap here for how to listen.

Note: I keep up with new books and everything else by using Google Reader.  Google Reader automatically advises me or what's new in my areas of interest.   On my tablet all it takes is a tap to get its listing of what's new.     Click or tap here for for a video on how to set up Google Reader.   (You may need a friend to help set it up initially).    Click or tap for another helpful link.

Another way to keep track of what's new is to use If This Then That (IFTTT).  Click or tap for the IFTTT webpage.   For example, you could have it so that by choosing a "recipe" that recipe would alert you when a new eBook was added to the Kindle Top 100 Free Books.  The same tool can alert you to all sorts of other things, such as a new listing for an item you are looking for in Craigslist.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Email and Tablets

When changing from towers to tablets, as many are doing, the question frequently comes up as to what to do about your email and address books

 Older users often say they want to stay with their old email and convert their address lists to the new device. Often they have been using Outlook or AOL.

 For many reasons it is better to switch to they new email service and email address. The email of choice is Gmail , which works on all devices and also provides the best search engine and capability to create documents of all kinds. Further Gmail is kept safe on the Internet cloud and automatically synchronizes across multiple devices.

 If the address book is small, it is simplest to reenter the address book into Gmail. Conversion is awkward. Conversion requires exporting from the old files into Gmail. This can be technical and time consuming. 

Keeping the old email address is usually not even possible. It is best to bite the bullet and establish a new Gmail address. Informing others of the new address is easy. All that needs to be done is to send one email to all addresses advising of the new email address

. The most challenging task of shifting over to Gmail is simply signing up. What you do is to do a search for Gmail sign up and follow the instructions to establish an account. That new so-called account will be needed to keep track of all your activity on the web, where everything will be shifting over. You will use your account over and over again to keep track of your work.

 For example, if you buy a book, the provider will need to know that you own it and keep backup access to it on the cloud. That way also you will be able to work from any computer anywhere as long as connected to the cloud. You will be safe from losing information. 

Google is the main player in the cloud although Microsoft and Apple are starting to shift to it. Although signing up for Gmail can be a nuisance, the future benefits are to simplify what you do.

 The end result will be that you will be able to pull out your small tablet and check email, news, ebooks, tasks, and so on just by looking at the screen , or at most, with a few taps. Nearly all the other capabilities of your larger computer will be available from the cloud in the small device. 

Dictated and published to my Nexus 7 tablet 12-19-2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Nook SimpleTouch

Up to now I have not commented much about the Nook, the third major player in ebook readers. The reason has been that the Nook operating system is the most proprietary of all the readers.

The Nook makes it very difficult to access the online libraries of its competitors. Barnes and Noble is the most protective of its book clientele and business.

That is not good for the most of us who want access to all the online bookstores.

To be fair, though, Barnes and Noble has the most to lose to its competitors. Barnes and Nobles is trying to protect its brick and mortar stores and business. Those are also valuable to the rest of us. Furthermore Barnes and Nobles offers help not available from Amazon or Google.

This situation actually makes the Barnes and Noble Nook the e-reader of choice for a few of us. The Simple Touch Nook has an appeal especially to those who are computer wary. This small device could be the e-reader of choice for them.   Although it is extremely limited in what it can do, it does what it can do extremely well.

Above all, it is easy to use and there's help in the stores.

For those of us who do a lot of reading it has some other advantages. It is small, lightweight, and has a longer battery life.    It uses standard eBook formats.   On a practical level, it is a lot more convenient to use.    My iPad is much moire capable, but I find the Nook easy to slip into a pocket, read in sunlight, and hold for more than 15 minutes of reading, such as lying in bed waiting for the laundry to finish.

While the tablets have their appeal I find the paper white screen of the e-reader essential for long sessions of reading. It is much easier on the eyes than the color screen.

But for me the appeal recently has been that you could buy one, refurbished, for $50, and, what do you know, I could hack it to perform as a lightweight tablet.

Even more important than the hack turned out to be that I could have an extremely small total e-reader I could carry in a coat pocket easily and read for hours without without eye strain.

The Barnes and Noble Nook also has a long battery life. The price is certainly right. And where the Nook does not suffice I always have my Google Nexus 7. So I did the hack . The Nook fills in where the Nexus comes up short, and visa versa.

You need both devices and maybe even a third such device. After all you don't need a larger computer much anymore and you already have one.

The hack gave me the capability of accessing the Kindle online library. Also, now I could access my email and news and other simple applications.

The hack is probably not for the faint of heart.    Click or tap for instructions.     (I won't tell if your foul up and "brick" your Nook.)    Install AirDroid for easy setup and management of the hacked Nook.

Yet the device might be a good choice anyway for limited e-reader use for the same unschooled users. The Nook is easy to use for e-reading only and fills an important niche.   Ease of use is not always to come by.
Also, we need to keep Barnes and Noble going as one of the last brick and mortar bookstores where we can browse and find books that are not yet available to any e-reader. We need more than just one e-reader device or tablet.

We still have a lot more than just a few dead tree books, don't we? Think of the paper we will save.

Dictated and published from my Nexus 7.

Note that this device has no audio to read books out loud to you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What is Facebook all about?

Often puzzled seniors ask me about Facebook while others are already deep into it.

For those deep into it Facebook is a great way of keeping from being disconnected to others.

But is Facebook really worth all the hype?

What is Facebook really?

Facebook is simply a way to connect people together as opposed to connecting people just with information.

Maybe it started with the invention of the telephone and a especially the party line. With the phone we suddenly shared a lot more knowledge.

We have social media here at Willow Valley without even realizing it. It is just not electronic. Most of us eat breakfast and dinner together with many different people and constantly share information of common interest. We hardly need anything else to keep well informed.

Facebook just keeps more of us connected together with common information . Especially, Facebook keeps us connected with those of a variety of common interests.

Do I use Facebook much?  Not really, only lightly, since Willow Valley is my primary Facebook so to speak . I do enjoy the postings of my distant friends, a few of whom use it all the time, while most do not use it at all.

There is a much broader use for social media. Here is a fine example where it can benefit all of us in a real way...

A new application of computers is called Waze. Waze can be of great benefit to all of us, especially seniors. Using cell phones,Waze shares traffic information from driver to driver. Waze reports accidents and traffic . This social media tool simply provides us the best new tool for our convenience and safety. This is a real benefit anyone can appreciate and understand.

There will be many more such tools. Social media will grow and grow until all of us share the important things we all need to know. It will be more and more like having a common brain.

Is it more important then having access to information alone without the social part? The short answer is no.

We need all the tools we can get. Facebook is a good one.

Is it the most important new tool? Well, for me more important tools are coming . One of them works by pulling together relationships of Internet information to tell us of connections we have not ever made.

Such a connection might be how variables in our environment affect disease. One of the principles at Google has initiated large scale instant medical studies to find what variables are associated with Parkinson's, as opposed to the traditional small longer studies. An interesting result from studying huge populations is that swimmers get Parkinson's much less frequently.

When computers can relate huge amounts of information together, using the same connect the dot capabilities our individual brains use, and we have one huge common brain working for us, that will be even more important than Facebook.

A major developing effort in this direction is Wolfram, a search engine which relates together independent data from many otherwise unconnected sources. Meanwhile Facebook pulls us together.

Dictated to text and published from my Nexus 7 tablet, December 12 2012.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tablets and Poor Vision

How can tablets help with poor vision ?

There have been many efforts in the past to assist those with vision problems, with moderate success.
I recently had the opportunity to observe large scale magnification for those with macular degeneration. The user was computer literate and able to navigate complex web pages.

I realized that it would be possible to provide this capability using just a tablet and a large screen display.

The tablet would need to be able to mirror its screen to the TV. Some tablets already have this capability.

An off brand from China, the Matrix One, has worked well for me . The small and uncluttered tablet screen is easy to read on the big screen.

The new Kindle HD is also described as having the mirroring capability, for example.

Of course, it would be useful to have speech recognition. The effect would be to use speech recognition as I am now doing and also control the large screen.

So far I do not see one tablet with good enough capabilities for both screen mirroring and speech recognition. There may be one out there. (Note 12-6-2012: the Nexus 10" appears to have both features.)

Most tablets already have the capability of reading text out loud, an additional benefit. Keep posted.
Dictated to my Nexus 7 December 5th 2012