Saturday, December 21, 2013

Microsoft Scraps Windows XP

(Update: Microsoft has now announced that it will at least maintain Microsoft Security Esssentials AV to July 2015: Click for details.  Otherwise there will be no support after April 2014.)

Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft after April. That means you need to quit using it online. It will NOT be safe to use Windows online securely.

So what are your options?

Disconnect your XP device from internet in any event when the time comes.

It may be that your old device may be upgradeable to Windows 7 or 8 and 8.1. Install Windows Upgrade Assistants to find out if Microsoft thinks so.   Then, take that with a grain of salt.  OK to try only if you are a tinkerer.  

You nay be able to find a tutorial for your specific old machine on YouTube.   You may be able to boost memory and speed cheaply with ReadyBoost.  Click here to read about ReadyBoost.  I also found a cheap RAM upgrade for my old antique.

Better, you may be able to install a free Windows look alike like Zorin Ubuntu Linux software, also available online. Search for Zorin.   Not a bad solution if money is short.

It will be more practical just to buy a new computer. That could cost as little as $300. A little tweaking will help it run like a champ.*     This the best option.

That new computer will have Windows 8 or 8 .1, which requires some learning to use, like it or not.

To transition, files and apps need to be provided for.    Establish Dropbox on your older computer if necessary to hold them, back them up, and access them from the new computer and anywhere else. 

That will leave many users between a rock and a hard place. In other words, the old computer will not be upgradeable and the new Windows 8 computer undesirable or even incompatible with your old devices and software.

Fortunately there are plenty of tablets out there which will do most of the things seniors need to do. They are far more intuitive and reliable than older systems. Most of these will actually run Microsoft Office Suite, such as through Skydrive, plus many other alternative office packages.  Simplest, download and install Open Office.   Use a fast browser like Opera.

Your choice. XP will no longer be secure.     Dump it, probably along with your old machine.

* Note:  Running one app at a time and using cloud storage and apps will help any computer run better, old or new.

Friday, December 6, 2013

If You Must Use Windows

There are better choices than Windows for most seniors nowadays in computers.

That does not include all seniors, however, and there are some reasons to continue with Windows, such as needing to work with a very large screen, as for example with genealogy. Another less compelling reason is to use Microsoft Office, which comes free with Windows RT.

Or maybe your old computer has quit, and you still like your old Windows XP or Windows 7, but are faced with Windows 8 or 8.1 in a new machine.

Using Windows always calls for taking some special precautions. Fortunately that has been made easy with Windows 8.1.

With Windows 8 it is also not necessary expend a lot for a new computer unless you are doing video games or video editing or running multiple programs at the same time. A budget of $300 will do, especially if you can plug in a large screen.

Windows 8.1 will then require some learning, but the Metro or Modern start screen can be largely avoided if desirable.

It is best, though, to learn how to use the new Windows. Using the tiled screen is largely a matter of learning to use touch swipes.

With Windows, what the user needs to do is to put himself in a position where, if there is a disaster, the system can be restored simply. That is the secret of using Windows. This is because Windows is extremely subject to problems; viruses, slowups, and overuse of memory.

Again, Windows 8 .1 it makes it easy. Every new user of Windows 8 .1 should make a factory image backup immediately. All it takes is to plug in a USB flash drive and go to the start screen and type "restore drive". A complete image including data may also be made the same way.

Not only that but an ongoing data backup may be arranged.

Here is how, more specifically: Go to the Metro or now Modern start screen with all the tiles. Do not select anything. Simply start typing the following words: restore drive. Then wait. When the screen comes up, select "Create a recovery drive". (Everyone should do this at the outset.)

Follow the prompts to complete this operation. Or select "Backup copies of your files with file history". Again, wait. From the next screen you may select three options: keep a file history, system image backup, and advanced settings where you may set up ongoing back up. Note especially the capability of making a system image backup. Now you are in a position to get back to work quickly when anything happens, simply by inserting a USB flash drive. Pretty nice!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Tech Bargains?

A Christmas tech bargain may not be what you think, especially in computers. Just because something costs half what it cost last year does not mean that there is not a still even better alternative now.

Here is an illustration. Tablets and cell phones have dropped in price. But now you can buy something different and far of just a few weeks ago. You can buy an unlocked smartphone.

So what's so important about an unlocked cell phone? A new big smartphone, unlocked, can serve the purpose of both tablet and smartphone, even without the usual high cell service costs.

And then the new cell phone plans no longer require a contract. The new smartphones cost half as much as before, if paid for upfront.

The Nexus 5 brings all the features of tablets and phones together at less than $400, already a bargain. Click or tap for the Nexus 5. The new Moto G does that for half that price.Click or tap for the Moto G.

Meanwhile my T Mobile cell phone plan has fallen in price with twice as much data and no contract when the old one expires in March.

If I had no other computer, the brand new Moto G could do everything I need to do, helped along with a wireless keyboard and Wireless HD HDMI external display and $35.00 Chromecast stick.

Not only that but it can piggyback a laptop on its data plan cheaply, as many as 8 laptops.

It is similar with laptops.? You can get a laptop for about half what it would have cost a few years ago.

But the right choice will yield you a laptop which can do far more than that half priced laptop.

I could not believe that I could get a Windows 8 laptop with touch screen for less than $300 which would do far more than a laptop I bought years ago at $600 without any of those capabilities and which is still being sold today.Tap or click for a fine lightweight one which will drive your old large monitor,too.

A $50 Canon printer today far exceeds the capabilities of last year's printers at more than $100, being newly tablet-capable as well.

Today with these benefits, however, there is a caution. You may need to learn something new about how to use them. You also need to make sure that the latest capabilities are in any new device you buy.

If you do that, you will be richly rewarded in what you can do and what you had to pay for it.

Or you could just buy the last year's technology still selling today at last year's prices and limp along with the old technology and its serious shortcomings. Some of those old devices can be updated at practically no cost.

The old Kindle fire and the Nook HD can be upgraded to work like the newest tablets.

Windows 8 may run on an old laptop. It is a faster and safer operating system, providing you learn how to use it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ransomeware and Other Windows Ills

With Ransomeware and many other computer ills it's mainly about Windows. There are other computer systems not so exposed.

Windows is special. With Windows you need to do your own support to keep things going. It is up to you to make yourself as secure as possible using it. No one else can do that for you with Windows. 

Ransomware can lock up your Windows computer until you pay a ransom. This is just the latest of Windows' many ills. 

Now, security exposures are grossly overhyped and rare. But they do happen in Windows. (My experience comes from working with hundreds of users in the past on a one to one basis.  I feel a responsibility to unschooled users of Windows.) 

The easiest way to avoid exposures would be not to use Windows for any Internet related activity but restrict yourself to offline for work with Microsoft Office, for example. Do your browsing in a safer place. 

So Don't Rely on Windows Alone?

Or you could simply avoid Windows altogether, even if you needed to run Microsoft Office from a more secure device and operating system. There are also plenty of office suites which work just like Microsoft Office on other safe platforms. 

You could even run Windows from another operating system such as Apple or Linux for Android for most tablets. 

At Your Own Risk 

All That is a little extreme. 

There are ways to run Windows. However, (disclaimer) alternatives are at your own risk and depend upon your own tech know-how. Neither I nor anyone else can protect you completely from an insecure system like Windows. 

Avoid Patent Medicine Fixes 

I emphatically recommend against many of the nostrums to remove malware. No matter how many of these you use there is no way to be sure there is not a vestige somewhere in your system. The ONLY sure and safe way to remove malware is to reinstall the operating system. Fortunately, Windows 8 makes that easy. So get to know how to reinstall in a jiffy. 

Keep Your Data in a Safe Place 

A less extreme approach to security would then be to keep your data on Microsoft's SkyDrive so as to be able to reinstall quickly, as now is possible. That way, it would be very easy to recover from a disaster. Reinstalling would be quick, and your data would be safe. 

Learn to Use Windows 8 

The downside to that is that you need to learn to use Windows 8. This is definitely worth the effort, but there are other ways to to skin a cat without doing so. There are safeguards, however, which really need to be employed if you do use Windows online.

Make Email Secure

The most obvious of these is to protect yourself from malicious email attachments. Use a reliable email like Google's Gmail and think carefully before opening any attachment. Gmail screens and encrypts content.

However even this may not be practical or entirely effective. It may not be enough.

Other Measures are Needed

There are other measures which are essential and necessary for Windows. It is possible to run Windows inside a secure pipeline or in virtual mode. That gets technical. You can search for the details on internet.

Configure that Router Using Windows

Without a properly configured router Windows is unsafe. Get that router configured with a reliable internet service.

Safety then starts at your router. Without one you are altogether insecure.

Again, for Windows the router then needs to be configured. Unfortunately this usually does not happen unless the router is supplied by a competent entity such as Comcast, which also screens content.

The router needs to be configured so it cannot be taken over by someone else via Windows. That means applying a new password, disabling control on a wide-area basis, disabling PNP and so on. Again, search internet for more.

It is possible to run a second router in tandem to make it even more difficult to access your data.  Works.

Avoid Insecure Wi-Fi when Using Windows

Your WiFi access point needs to be protected with an encrypted data key. It is best not to use Windows with an unknown WiFi. And in your Windows computer the Java programming language needs to be disabled, ideally along with Adobe programs such as Adobe Reader and Flash Player. They are OK on a tablet if you need them.

Exposing Your Personal Data

You need to make sure that you have not exposed you r records to misuse by others. That does not mean excluding well protected internetsoftware. It does mean care with Social Security and account numbers. No one should require you to provide them your social security number, although they do anyway, period.

You can also protect your accounts in various other ways by limiting and controlling access tightly.

Learn to Use the Newest Tool Windows 8

With all its faults, Windows 8 is probably the safest Windows version to date, so that whatever concerns you have about it, you are obligated to learn to use it if you want its security. And don't try to make it work like older versions of Windows. Although the new Windows may seem awkward and strange, it is pretty nice to be able to use the touchscreen.

If you use it, I would recommend that you replace anybody else's antivirus software with Microsoft's own Microsoft Security Essentials combined with Microsoft Defender. This is built in. Just delete anything else which may have been installed with your particular brand of computer computer.

Don't let the bad guys scare you off.

Do your Homework Yourself

If you really want Windows you need to do your homework. Otherwise use some other platform.

By the way you do not need to spend an arm and a leg for a Windows 8 computer. My $280 Asus touch screen laptop is a wonder, configured for performance and used for one application at a time, no games, and no video editing.

Spend the rest of your money on a much safer device which is not exposed to so many disasters.

First on the list should be a Nexus 7 2nd generation tablet. Then, maybe a Chromebook, an iPad, or even a Mac.

I do use Windows and I do enjoy the benefits of Windows 8 and my remarkable cheap laptop from Asus but I am under no illusions about what I need to do for security. That will never be enough to be completely comfortable.

Still, if you are still using spreadsheets, this might be the way to go. The trouble is that those still using spreadsheets are not likely to want to learn new ways of doing things.

(links to follow.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Its NOT What You Know

With computers It's NOT what you know.

With computers it's not about all that you know. It is not like the legal profession. It's more about how fast you can learn and, yes, also how fast you can forget. It's about knowing where to go to find out what's new, then replacing the old with the new.

That is because everything is changing so fast, and indeed has been changing that way for many years. You need to be able to put what you know aside and open up to a new way of looking at things and then do things that way.

My college had as its objective to have students put aside what they had learned up till then and rebuild from the ground up. That was liberal arts.

This came back to me recently when a resident asked for help learning to use a computer. She was 95 and had never used computer before. Worse, someone dear to her had given her a computer with Windows 8 which has NOT been well received by old Windows fans.

I spent an hour with her showing her what I knew of Windows 8 and then asked another resident to assist her further. By the time he got to her she had already mastered Windows 8 and was delighted with it. There had been nothing she had to unlearn.

That was an eye opener, just as much about learning to use computers as it was about Windows 8. (The barrier in Windows 8 is in trying to make it work the old way and not learning the new way.)

So it is not all about what you know as much as how fast you can learn. I recall that when I was a very young engineer, my boss, a head of personnel who had come up the hard way without a college education, recommended me to head up a project to convert the company to an IBM System. He had been unable to recruit anybody qualified.

Our Vice President called us in and asked me if I knew anything about computers. Of course I knew nothing and I said so. But then I said that they were so new that you could not find anyone with experience, and I was a fast learner. I got the job and soon two IBMers were teaching me 1 on 1 in how to implement systems.

Without any experience at all and no knowledge of it I was able to install major industrial systems. That forced me to learn all about cost centers and cost accounting, production control, quality control, inventory, and so on. It was a benefit not to know the old way in order to implement the new.

Thereafter, working in computers, I could never could find enough people with experience and knowledge about computer systems. I found I did not need them experience.

It was the same when the original computer developers of the ENIAC computer in Philadelphia had a secretary who wanted to do the technical work but had no background whatsoever. She was told that if she could learn assembler language she could become part of the team. Assembler is terribly terribly difficult. But she learned it and became part of the team.

Years later, when I was an IT director, I had to scrounge for people who could assist in converting a large operation to computers. I looked to people who could learn fast. Once I interviewed a woman who had never worked anywhere else except McDonalds. I gave her the typing test, and surprisingly, she passed it. She had trained herself as a touch typist. I asked her if she had a computer at home. She did. Then I asked her if she had ever had it apart. She had. She had trained herself all about it.

Here was a self trained self-starter. She was quite excited when she left the office with a new job and twice her former pay.

What you know can really get in your way as time goes by. You get wedded to a situation that no longer applies. Our McDonalds worker could have kept on at McDonalds.

Now that we have a technology which enables us to get information quickly we are no longer dependent so much upon what we can remember and we can deal even more effectively with change. So polish up your "forgettory" and get on with learning the new . Let your little tablet speed you on your way.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Christmas is Coming---How Much Should You Pay?

When considering a new computer the question comes up as to how much you should pay.

You should pay for whatever it takes to serve your purposes, present and future.

That might not be entirely clear at the outset.

Unfortunately I see many users paying too much or too little for what they need, even though prices have dropped a lot.

There is no need to pay more for a tablet than the $230 Nexus 7 second generation. Spending less will get you fewer capabilities, and spending more will gain you little or nothing, unless you have a special reason for a particular capability, such as ability to mirror to a TV.

If you need a laptop, there is every reason to buy a Mac Book Air at $1000 plus. Although this is the most expensive of laptops, what you gain is no cutting corners to give you the best.

If you do purchase a Windows machine, there is no reason to spend anywhere near that much for a machine which will not give you better service and just cost more. What you are buying is nothing more than processor speed and memory that you will never need if you are not doing many things at a time or doing games & video editing.

A mechanical or optical hard drive may just be an unnecessary nuisance. You can always plug in an optical drive, but nowadays you should not need one. There are better options.

A $300 touch screen Windows 8.1 laptop will do the job if you are conscientious about opening only one or two applications at a time. Without a touch screen, your machine is severely limited in ease of use.   Windows 8.1 is not worth having unless you are willing to learn how to use it, which will then be worth the effort.

Now, want to spend more? If vision is a concern, or if you need to have a large screen, then almost any device will work nowadays with a TV or large display. Just be sure you have the proper connector or converter to do the job. A TV box may be needed.

The same applies to a keyboard although you may need a particular keyboard device. For example, the iPad, with an Apple TV box, can work with your TV and add on keyboard to serve the same purpose as any other computer.

If you play videogames or do video editing you will absolutely require a powerful machine which will cost you $$$. Don't scrimp.

If you are a touch typist, you may feel lost without a friendly touch keyboard like the old IBM Selectric, a classic machine loved by all of us who ever used it.

 If you are a poor typist, or even if you are not, you may want speech recognition. In that case only the best will do. That means speaker independent internet aided speech recognition such as Google's.

If you travel or move around a lot you will absolutely want a small device. You will want something with a solid state drive. The Samsung Chromebook laptop will do the job at $250, as will the Nexus 7 tablet if you do not need a keyboard.

It may be useful to choose a machine used by others who can help you.

Remember also, that there may be no machine which will fill all your requirements, and you may need two devices rather than one. It may be better to have two than to spend a lot on a single device.

Whatever you choose, you may very well need a new printer. Again, too much is often spent for a bulky device. No more than $100 will get you a fine all in one printer. It does make sense to have two printers, a laser printer to keep ink costs down, and an all in one for all other functions. Both should be small. My Canon all in one cost $50 including some other items thrown in by Walmart and is recommended by Consumer Reports.

What makes little or no sense is to use or buy old equipment, no matter what seems like a bargain. New equipment will do more for the same investment.

It is almost always a good idea to read the manual for a new piece of equipment, even before buying. Manuals are almost always available on internet. A very good and popular book may also be advised. Just make sure you get the best one, often by first reading user comments on Amazon. The book should have plenty of pictures of screen processes.

Choose the easiest machines to use for your particular needs. A tablet comes first, followed by a Chromebook, followed by a tablet, preferably from Apple for Apple support, then only a Windows machine with touch screen.

Windows 8.1 is mainly for someone who wants or needs to infinitely configure his machine for all kinds of purposes. That capability is the prominent benefit of Windows.

Windows 8 is not a good choice for those who want to learn nothing new and stick to the old Windows unless...they stick to the desktop only in Windows 8.1.

It is not a waste of money to buy into support such as Apple's support if you will be able to take full advantage of it.

A cost saving measure is to combine your computer and TV by using a TV with another device for both TV viewing and computer. That is fine if your mobility is limited and you have limited space.

Does it make sense to buy something you want even if you don't need it? It certainly will make sense if you will regret not having it sometime later.

A very popular device is an all in one computer in which the computer and screen are in a single case and there are very few wires. The keyboard is wireless. If you want that, go for it.

And for cell phones, the simplest will do the job. On the other hand a large cell phone can do much of your tablet work. You can now obtain an unlocked phone and pick your service separately. There are now very inexpensive cell phone plans which will do the job.

Even a non phone tablet may provide what you need in phoning via Wi-Fi. A hot box such as that from Freedompop can connect almost any device to internet. It will work almost anywhere but needs to be in a place where it can "see" that cell tower.

The big thing about Internet service is to choose a service which indeed provides service and does not pass on to you most of the support.

In summary, it is possible to buy a tablet, a laptop, a new printer, and Wi-Fi hardware, all of them outstanding, for way under $1000. You may or may not want to chintz on your internet service.

Oh, and as for cases, very low cost cases can be found on Amazon or eBay. The idea here is not to spend more but to choose wisely after studying Amazon comments.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Memory Failures

Like seniors, computers sometimes come up with short memory. If you are a computer user you may actually unwittingly be the culprit. You may be asking the computer to do too much.

The computer only has space for so much memory just like seniors.

When memory is running short problems occur. When overloaded, the computer puts things where they are harder to get, in slow memory.

This week one resident had a problem with his screen freezing up, another had a problem with slowups, still another had a problem with an unresponsive touchpad on a tablet. Finally one resident came up with a clue to these other problems by noticing that his computer kept telling him that he had low memory.

How can you be the culprit?

Well, for one thing you might be opening too many web page tabs in your browser.

Now you could always add more RAM memory and this is often the popular solution. In fact, computers are often sold on the basis of how much RAM they have.

With a little care though you can make even a cheap or old computer with slow RAM perform quickly.

For example, in the Chrome browser you can install a plugin which automatically limits to 6 tabs.

You can also limit the number of programs in Windows under start up. These run all the time and can be entirely eliminated and run only when needed.

Approaches like this made it possible for me to run Windows 8.1 quickly on a touch tablet under $300.

On some tablets it is easy enough to go to settings, rank applications by memory size, and simply delete those with the most memory and least interest.

On an iPad you can double tap the home button and swipe programs away.

On Windows 8 at the top left screen you can swype or use the mouse to display the programs that are open and delete all that you are not immediately using.

The last also helped me use an inexpensive laptop to perform well with Windows 8. If a Windows device is very low on RAM memory, it is even possible to plug in a USB stick or SD card to add a bit more memory if needed.

Taking care with memory will eliminate a lot of your computer problems even if you have little other technical knowledge. It may also save you from needing to buy another computer just to overcome such problems.

To find out exactly how to do it Google for more information.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Touch Swipes Come of Age

It should come as no surprise that ALL three---the latest versions of Windows, IOS7 (iPad), and Android (most other tablets), come with new swipe touch screen functions.   

If you have a touch screen, you will need to master these before doing much else.   Google for instructions to avoid being shut out of key functions, or look for help on YouTube,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bad Routers and Internet Providers

(This is about routers and router support.  For internet service connection problems, tap or click for my prior posting on choosing internet services.   If your internet service fails and you do not get help, switch to another service.)

A router is a switch which connects your devices with Internet.

You would not expect to need to call in an electrical engineer or someone who calls himself an electrical engineer to replace a light switch in your rented apartment.

Yet that is exactly what happens with routers here.

Again, the router is a box which directs Internet to your computer or iPad or even printer.

You are too often expected to call in an outside computer fixer to whom the visit is a fool's errand at no profit. And routers frequently fail.  They need to be configured.    Ideally they need to be matched to the service.

This is a big disappointment and frustration to those excitedly learning to use iPads and those of us who help them and may have recommended learning to use them.

Internet service is also becoming more and more essential to our well-being. It is becoming the primary way to handle our medical and financial communications and records. It is especially important for seniors who may have no better way of communicating and decreasing mobility.

It is just taking time for this to be understood by some Internet service providers.

What to do? I had five residents contacting me at breakfast the other day with router problems.

There has to be a simpler way, and there is.

With Comcast you can simply hand the problem to to Comcast by letting them supply you and support a router. There will be a charge. You can also obtain a service contract.   Their routers are matched to their service.

With Windstream they automatically supply and support your router. They sell you and support that router. 

Freedompop supplies your router.

(I have just been able to sign up with T-Mobile to use my smartphone as a router for 4.5 G and $15 per month. If you have such, it might be all you need.)

With Senior TV you are unfortunately on your own, a big downside for this otherwise acceptable service.

A good alternative if no other remedy is available is to obtain a simple practical low cost proven router as opposed to a newer yet unproven more technically complicated and expensive state of art router.

In other words keep it simple.

Just read Amazon buyer comments to find out which ones are reliable and which ones are not. The newer ones may not even be certified yet.

I use a D-Link $30 device which works perfectly. Substituting such a device for a suspect router can show whether the router or the service is failing.  Tap or click to read about it or try it.

This is a better solution than having residents work with dozens of different computer fixers, some qualified and some not, who do not want the work anyway and charge a hefty fee.  I am aware of only one I could comfortably recommend, at $90 per hour.

Routers are complicated devices. There are too many of them. All of them are complicated to configure. I have learned to program half a dozen different ones but it takes a lot of time and it's not worth my trouble. I need to spend my time helping people help themselves. It is not worth outside trouble and the high cost of it either.

It is much simpler to plug in another when one fails. If the backup does not work, then you suspect that your internet service is just plain not working, even if they insist that it is.   Ideally the service provider would at least loan you one to try, or even rent you one.

Obviously it would be a lot better if we all used the same router. In my IT days I required that it be possible to drop in replacement equipment instantly to avoid outages. Generally that means standardizing the equipment.

All the providers above require that except Senior TV. Putting seniors at risk for a more and more necessary service is certainly not acceptable.  It is really irresponsible to put seniors at risk for loss of internet functionality.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Windows 8 and 8.1 Visited

Although I could not recommend Windows 8 to anyone, it is only fair to present its good points.

To recap some of its bad points, upgrading from 8 to 8 .1 required 75 updates or patches , and then 25 more later, followed by about two dozen app updates before the 8.1 installation could occur. That then took many hours, with more updates. If you like houses with leaky roofs by all means you will love windows 8 and 8 .1.

Window 8 is nonetheless a grand vision---if built on a shaky foundation. Windows 8 actually includes Microsoft Defender, if not replaced by McAfee by the laptop maker.   Contrary to the comments of some reviewers. this a greatly enhanced and strengthened program.

At the same time the new Windows also is the only software out there with the old and the new both brought together in one device. A touch screen adds a terrific convenience to the ponderous touch pad.

A $300 touch screen laptop worked beautifully for me even with a large screen and over a standard keyboard. It ran surprisingly fast despite reviews to the contrary. I don't think the reviewers read the guide--- as long as you do not need to multitask this system runs much faster than previous systems as a result of Microsoft tweaks with the GUI software. You need to swipe down the screen to close an application before another one starts, that's all.

Also, one of the big benefits of Windows is that you can configure it any way you want, such as to run on a slow processor such as the Celeron in my laptop.   Did that.

You have an arsenal of keyboard, touchpad, mouse, and text screen tools which are either a boon or burden, depending on how you look at it. An 11.6 inch screen offers more real estate than most tablets and gives my Asus laptop a double functionality. It can easily replace a tower.

The Metro tablet screen is a joy to use with touch, as compared with the mouse. The app selection is limited, but nowhere near as primitive as in the developers' edition released a year or two ago. For example, there are few news aggregators available, though the Bing aggregator is quite outstanding. One app unfortunately loaded malware which probably was caught by McAfee. Sloppiness on the part of Microsoft.  Some apps are abbreviated from their counterparts for other devices, such as TuneIn radio, which is quite limited.

If you are still comfortable with the old Windows and are willing to expend the time and effort both to learn and support it, and you buy a cheap but good laptop, such as one like the Asus, go for it.

Still, read the documentation before starting to use the device at all, and hgetnit ONLY if you are willing to reinstall the operating system regularly, that is.

There's a big new helper here. You can now make a backup at the start which will restore in a jiffy, rather than the hours it took me to restore my Windows 7 tower. That took all day. So reinstalling the Windows 8 operating system is a dream.  All that said, most seniors have rejected Windows here, including one Windows fanatic.

It is best to have a tablet, too, if only to dictate your work. I found dictation largely limited to browsing in the new Windows.  This a weak spot.

A large screen is still a help with large web pages, spreadsheets, genealogical charts, and so on. I would like to have had a laptop with a solid state drive and a better battery, but the price was certainly right.

The laptop hardware was excellent, despite the low price. The laptop had both display output jacks. It has both old and new USB ports. It was extremely lightweight. Battery life was a little bit short, the touchpad a little fussy, and a solid state drive would have been preferable.  Sound was fine, even better than fine.

Try at your own risk.  For the tech savvy only.    A tinkerer's delight.

Dictated from my all-powerful Nexus 7 tablet

Reinstalling the OS for Windows

If you want to avoid Windows 8 and its manifold problems and your old computer its not working well, you may be able to bring it back by reinstalling Windows, that is if there are no hardware problems.   (Update: Windows 8 makes it easy.)

In fact, reinstalling Windows is the only sure way of bringing your computer back to its original state. There are a lot of other nostrums out there. They may all be safely disregarded. There is no way of knowing what they do not do, and your old computer may have multiple problems of which you're unaware.

(The new Ransomware virus cannot be removed in any other way---Tap or click for more about it.)   To find out how to protect against it, Tap or click here.

 I usually reinstall once a year as my computer slows up. (Windows was designed as a stand-alone computer system never to be connected to other computers.)

Some computers make it easy to reinstall by keeping a backup copy of the system in a hidden place on your computer. Your manual will guide you. Otherwise you need the original system disks. If you do not find them you may be able to obtain them from the computer maker. If you are still keeping your documents on your computer and not using the web for storage, you need to get your files off before reinstalling. You can either drag and drop them to Dropbox or to a thumb drive. Hopefully most of them are there already.

If you are using applications locally in your computer as opposed to cloud apps, you need to have these install disks ready, or switch to cloud-based apps. Inserting the system disks will start the process. This process will take some time. As it progresses you will need to come back to your computer to move it along from time to time. Eventually the process will be completed and you can move on to installing any necessary drivers. If you do not have these from the manufacturer, they may be obtained online and transferred to a CD or DVD from another computer. It is best to gather together your drivers disks and downloads before even starting the reinstall process.

The next step is to install updates. When updating my computer this morning, there were 134 updates or bandages needed to install Windows 7. Windows is an ongoing sieve for security problems!

You also need to install Microsoft Security Essentials to keep new viruses away. That can be downloaded and put on a disk and installed before connecting to Internet. Otherwise you'll be subject to host of intrusions the moment you connect.

At that point the next step is to install applications, most easily done from internet online. Hopefully you made a list of these before starting the reinstallation of the operating system. Then you need to reinstall those files that you backed up from the old system. The result will then be that you have a brand new system, safe and fast and free of all the problems of your own system, most of which were probably hidden from view.

Of course, you can avoid all of this by simply installing a person of Ubuntu Linux. The Zorin version works like Windows 8 and has none of the security exposures. Besides, it is free. Just download it and burn to disc before installing. If uncertain of any of this process, there are plenty of resources on internet to guide you through it.   Google it.

The big thing is to avoid all those fixes offered as alternatives which do not give you any assurance that your computer is working properly. They may only work for a while or just not work at all.

If you want to wrestle with the woes of Windows 8, and your old computer is blazingly fast, the new install from new disks is especially easy, up to date, and cheap. Just be aware that it offers very little new and will require plenty of support in the future. The same applies to a new computer with Windows 8, except that it may cost more for a decently fast device, unless expertly configured, whereas a Mac or tablet will be largely free from the need of future support. Apple is also there to for support. Your old computer with reinstalled Windows will give you the capability of doing the few things alternatives cannot do well, and save you money.

Dictated from my Nexus 7

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How Do I Learn to Use a Tablet?

How do I Learn to Use a Tablet?

This question is coming more and more from more and more seniors.

The easy way is to be a Willow Valley resident, as Willow Valley is training its residents to use tablets.   The first session, with 20 slots, was attended by 42!! residents and supported by three WV computer professionals, 5 resident helpers, and available iPad Minis.  There will be four more sessions this month.
More resources are needed, and I will unearth them here as time goes by.

For now, tap or click on this link for Apple’s (iPad and iPod Touch) iOS7  Guide.

(If you are just now switching to IOS7, be sure to acquaint yourself with changes in“swipes” and home button usage before starting to use it.)

And tap or click here for Google’s (Nexus 7) Android 4.3 Guide

Other tablets are also being supported.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interview with the Editor

 Q Which computer do you recommend for most users?

 A The Nexus 7 2nd generation, especially for its speed. The iPad Mini to project to large screen or TV. Click here for a Chinese device which enables projection on the Nexus 2nd (worked well for me---best yet).

 Q What about Windows 8?

 A I recommend Windows 7. For a very old computer I recommend Zorin Windows Linux fast "look alike".  The question to ask is whether Windows 8 offers anything new or special for your use.   Residents have either found it difficult, limited, slow, and non-intuitive and/or have simply returned it for such a computer with Windows 7.    It is possible to run Windows 8 for the old desktop only and avoid what is new.

 Q Why the Nexus?

 A Price, size, functionality, speed, display, upgradability, ease of use, having it right there when and where you need it, GPS.

Q. And towers and laptops?

A. Sales are falling as tablet sales rise, with Google Android taking 67% in the 2nd quarter, iPad 28%, Windows 8 under 5%..   The Samsung Chromebook at $250 is the leading laptop on Amazon---I love mine, but mostly I do not need a laptop with the Nexus 7.  Click for tablet sales.    Instead of a tower, consider also the Mac Mini.

 Q What do you recommend for word processing?

 A I recommend any of the following: the Write app, Google Docs, the Office Pro app, QuickOffice, iPad Pages, SkyDrive (MS Office). I recommend your choice of apps which work with dictation to text, but (only) using speaker independent technology with no training or prep required.  Many apps use MS format files.

Q. And spreadsheets?

A. Nowadays there are better and simpler ways to do things than spreadsheets. but Google Docs does them beautifully, such as for Christmas address labels.

 Q What is the future for the big players?

 A Excellent for those who innovate new technology and content. Good for (new and better) systems and devices. However, innovation gives anybody an edge... including small players.

 Q What do you see in the future?

 A What we do not see now. In the development of radio and TV, the prime movers were not the providers of devices or systems, but the broadcasting companies. The driving force, and the revenue, was advertising, as it is with computers (Google). I see innovations which bring them closer to us, such as computer watches and glasses and driverless cars. We need to remove obstacles, such as time and place, between the computer and the user, as simple as that. We just don't have the time to use old or less accessible technology. Advertising needs that too and will pay for it. Consider how the smartphone removed obstacles.

 Q You cannot believe that people will adopt driverless cars!

 A I think the costs of traffic accidents, poIicing the highways, lost productivity in driving, and a need for transportation efficiency, will force them on us. What a boon for seniors! Driverless cars will create a lifestyle change.

 Q And computer glasses?

 A We need computer help at all times and not just when we pull out a smartphone or tablet. Again, what a boon for seniors! We can never have too many facts at our instant and immediate disposal. We need those facts right in front of our eyes.

 Q How soon will these changes occur?

 A The technologies are already available now.

 Q What is the biggest obstacle?

 A Paranoia about the new and not taking the time and trouble to understand that there are better ways of doing things. For example, we now know cancer to be a result of mutations which cause about 30 genes not to be able to control their own growth. What a shame not to be able to fund solutions in gene therapy to eradicate it, not to mention the huge dollar payback through cost savings in care.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Switching Emails

Getting up to date often means switching to a new email carrier. But what are we to do with our contacts? 

The usual reaction is:"I don't want to switch". Maybe we are just afraid of "losing our contacts" in the process. We do not want the hassle, either. Indeed, switching, converting, and transferring can be difficult and time consuming.

The alternative of typing them all in again usually will be quicker and easier than converting or transferring them, but it is still a nuisance. 

So there is a better way, a simpler way. It works like this. First, set up the new email provider. Set up the account and the password. From your old email address send a group email to everybody advising them of your new email address and ask them to email you back that they have received it. Then send another email back to them. 

Your contacts will now appear in your new email contacts directory. 

Here is the process in more detail. 

Search Google for the provider registration instructions, then complete them. Just filling out the instructions might be the worst part of the job. It is important to get the login and password right. I have noticed about half of users get it wrong and thereby get in deep trouble.

Most users are going to Gmail now. Gmail has some security questions and a block of letters and numbers you can hardly read for you to input. Get out your magnifier. Don't worry, if you got it wrong you will get another chance and another and another. Gmail has the enormous benefit that they are not kept locally where you could lose them. 

Now that you're signed up and you have a new email address, and be sure to get that right, go back to your old email and send a group message to everybody that you are about to change your email email address. All the old email carriers have their own way of sending out a group email so that you will need to check out how that is done if you do not know already.

The idea is that you'll be sending a single email to all of your contacts at a one shot. This will be a short email. 

Tell everybody that you will be switching to a new email address and would like to have them email you back to confirm that they have received it and will be using it. You might also ask them to update you on any changes in their address and so forth. Then give it some time and go back to your new email. 

As messages come in confirm back that you have received them. This will automatically place them in your new contacts list. Those who do not reply to you will not be included in the new list, so that your list is automatically updated for only active contacts.

After a few days print out your new contact list and compare to the old one to add any old contacts you still want to include. You may also want to adjust the Gmail settings to forward any mails going to your old address. When you receive them your response will go out with a new email address. Anyone replying to your email will automatically be redirected to that address.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Update: Creating Documents on a Tablet

With all the interest there is in using tablets for document creation, I need to amplify my short posting a year ago on the subject. What I said there still applies, but new choices abound now. I need to supply more facts

New Choices 

 The need for more facts became evident following our great Willow Valley Introduction to Tablets presentation by management with courses to follow. (Willow valley kicked off an Introduction to Tablets for residents and prospective residents in the Cultural Center here and there was standing room only. When questions came up afterwards about document creation I felt I needed to address the issue more thoroughly. Then, when my single one paragraph website posting was visited heavily afterword on the subject I knew I needed to do something better.

 There are many new choices, too many, as usual. But to make a good choice you need to know about all of them.

Here we go.

Simple and Not So Simple Tools

Most of us will need either a very simple word processing application or a very capable application, depending upon what we are doing. I actually use both. To publish my two books I needed the capabilities of a heavy duty word processor to create chapters, table of contents, index, and footnotes. I needed the format of PDF documents required by the publisher.

But for the rest of the time I do not need that complexity at all. In fact I need to avoid it. I need simplest fastest tool.

I used Word and Word Perfect for the books. I found the menu structures crude and complicated beyond reason but nonetheless essential. I then needed to convert to PDF format.

To inject an opinion here, I believe the world needs a far better conceived word processor than MS Word? and I believe that need will be filled with the advent of tablets. Here is your opening Apple. You are the masters of simplicity.

 New Ways to Handle MS Office Files

 Meanwhile we do have some better choices for those who do not feel they need to stay with a product like Office or who simply do not want to take the time to learn something new. Most of us will never need to use anything like older complicated and often confusing products.

Also, we need the cloud supported supercomputer speech recognition which comes with the new simpler tools. This speech recognition does not require the training needed for Microsoft Office.

For Old Time MS Office Users 

But I do not wish to diminish the importance of Microsoft Office for those who have always used it. Not only that, but there are actually ways to use Microsoft Office on tablets. I will cover these below.

Meanwhile, if you have used Microsoft Office for a long time, keep that old laptop working as long as possible if for Microsoft Office only.

For New Users

 For others , there are new choices and alternatives. Let's go over those new choices. I still use the Write app for my blog website and for quick notes. But I now use others for other reasons. For example I use Evernote because it indexes my notes. I have started using two new Microsoft Office look alikes, both actually excellent. One is Office Pro and another is Google Drive or Google Docs. Both provide most of the functions of Microsoft Office in the digital format. Both give me easy access to print from my tablet. Both accept Google's outstanding speech recognition.

Oh, I also use Apple's iPad Pages application, which is outstanding in its simplicity and capabilities and also has easy access to sharing and printing, along with good speech recognition. It has one additional benefit that I can wirelessly display it on TV and compose documents from my easy chair . I like that.

Using Microsoft Office Itself on Tablets

I could also actually use Microsoft Office on my tablets. Here we go again with more choices and frequent fluid changes. Heretofore Microsoft online users could use Microsoft 365 for their tablets at a fee.

Microsoft also licensed Microsoft Office online to others, such as OnLive Desktop. OnLive Desktop actually puts the whole Windows desktop on the tablet. Looks just like Windows.

So far I have only found an awkward way to print. While I can use Microsoft Word to create documents I need to go to a separate online file app to send them to elsewhere such as a printer. However, OnLive provides some other benefits. It provides browsing with Flash support. Note that OnLive has both free and paid services for a range of capabilities.

More recently, Microsoft has come out with another option to use Office on tablets: SkyDrive . It has announced that this option will be available both for Apple and Google Android tablets. So far I could not make it work with Android, but I will keep trying. (Another app called Cloudon does work with Android SkyDrive files only.)

SkyDrive, however, works beautifully on the iPad Mini. Like OnLive, it displays MS Office just like Windows. It works well with printers. So far it has been free. The downside is that it is too big to fit on the iPad Mini screen. Still I can project that screen wirelessly to any size TV or display using an adapter cable for VGA for an Apple TV for HDMI input. Back to that comfortable easy chair again.

Ongoing Development

This development is not over and the choices are broad and will get broader. Lately the Parallels app has become available for the iPad to run the entire operating system from your Windows or Apple computer. The cost is about $80 annually.

The Microsoft Surface Tablet

The Microsoft Surface tablet includes the ability to run Microsoft Office as well as a limited number of tablet apps which are reported to run slow. That MS Office benefit may be crucial to some writers. Microsoft Office features, however, may be limited. This device also only runs a very few Windows apps. I do believe this capability will be extended as some developers are working on it, for example, Irfanview, what a great photo app.


This is a "hot topic" as more users shed their laptops, and as evidenced by the wide readership of this posting in just a few days.  Also, just a few days after my posting was published I came across this item from the Associated Press and NPR: click or tap for "Google, Apple provide decent contenders to Office".  I don't agree with all the statements---Office is indeed a viable option on your tablet as I have mentioned and in other less publicized ways, but the point is that  better options are out there as the writer says, and I certainly agree with that.   Again, watch Apple...

Th reason I question that "viable" choice of words is that seniors come to me with this demand: "I WANT A TABLET AND I WANT TO RUN WORD---NOW SHOW ME HOW".   I say "Keep your old Windows computer and run Windows from your tablet remotely, or just examine your needs and pick the simplest options for them.   Your choice.

Tao or click for more about using MS Office

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Printing Wirelessly from a Tablet

I have searched and searched on the internet and have never found a good explanation of how to set up your wireless printer. So here goes.

There are many way to interconnect. Too many.

Tap or click for all the ways to print.


To use a wireless printer you either need a so-called wireless access point or router which incorporates wireless access. With internet access you already have a router.

(Without internet access it is possible to use so called bluetooth wireles, usually with a printer adapter . Bluetooth sets up a communication wirelessly and directly between your printer and device without a wireless access point. However, bluetooth is rarely used.)

As mentioned, with internet access you already have a router box delivering a connection to your computer. If it does not include wireless, the cheapest wireless box I have found is a D-link wireless access point at about $25.

 Next, you need a printer which works with wireless or an adapter. There then needs to be a way for your device to find your printer in that wireless jungle.

 There are many ways to do so. One is to assign some printers an email address and send it documents via email. Others work by connecting similarly. Connected to internet, the printer already has a so called IP address, effectively a computer phone number. This may change however from time to time. Ugh!!

The oldest and most prevalent way for the device to find the wireless printer is simply to login with your wireless login and password directly at the printer, using the printer's display. That is a little awkward and defeats those without X ray vision and finemotor fingers. The printer also needs to have such a display and keypad.

The process has been eased more recently. "No worries" wireless routers or access points have a push button. Pushing on the push button and then on the printer and then back on the printer, this process connects everything together very nicely.

However, there are even easier ways now. The most common and most prevalent is Google's Cloud Print technology. This is the most universal technology that works with almost all printers and devices. Cloudprint works by sending your document up to Google's cloud computer or server and then back to your printer. Sounds more complicated but works more automatically.

Until recently you need an old fashioned Windows or Apple computer to set it up. You download the software and it does the heavy work to interconnect everything. Cloudprint finds your printers and connects them to Internet magically.

That way you can print from anywhere to anywhere without further ado, a big advantage. Of course, you would like to avoid using that old dying .computer. You certainly do want to avoid the necessity of keeping your old archaic and troublesome Windows computer running. Fortunately "Cloudprint ready" printers are now out there and represent the easiest and most universal way to connect.

These are essential for new laptops like the Chromebook laptop which dispenses with ongoing connected Windows computers and their annoyances altogether, while providing all of their benefits.

For Apple devices there are other alternatives. An app called Fingerprint magically connects from a Windows computer. You just install the app. We want to avoid that Windows complication and Apple provides a better solution called AirPrint on its latest devices. Airprint goes out and finds printers and connects them magically. Clicking on the print sharing icon from an iPad sends the print job to the printer. 

There are also apps for non-Apple or Android devices which require another step. Tapping on the document file brings up the choice of sharing. The Office Pro app "MS Office lookalike" makes this all seamless. 

Finally, it is possible to connect your old printer with an adapter or so-called server. The adapter can plug into your printer or your router. One of these is the Lantronics device.

So, to recap, the Cloudprint ready printer is the latest and most universal solution while Apple's AirPrint offers an easy solution for Apple devices. Similar to Airprint is the Printershare app for other (Android) devices.

With a new wireless access point incorporating a WPS push button, conventional wireless printers become a snap to set up. Specific manufacturers provide other specific solutions for their particular printers. These include eprint and iprint printers. Eprint uses an email technology to connect to a Hewlett Packard printer. Iprint connects Epson printers over the internet.

For an easy wireless printer solution I bought a Canon $37 printer and connected it via the push button method, also Fingerprint, Cloudprint, Airprint, and finally Printershare. You only need one of these however. For most users the "cloudprint ready" printer is the best solution, alternatively Airprint for Apple devices.

Interesting Note: When my daughter read this posting she said "But DAD!!   The digital generation does not need or use printers any more---what would they DO with them??"  Oh, well, it is hard to treach an old dog new tricks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rethinking How I Want My Tablet

Recently I have been advising people to think it all out before obtaining a tablet.
What do they want in a tablet? What do they want to do?
But what do / want to do? I need to rethink it all, too

A Challenge!!!

That's actually hard. So much is changing so fast that every day you get a different view. Not only that, but you learn more what you can do which you did not know about before.
So any time is a good time to rethink it all.

Wants and Needs

I wanted especially to access my medical records, referrals, prescriptions, messages and so on. Lancaster General Hospital has come out with a superb way to do so in the My Chart app. No more phone calls.

The most important thing I want to do in general is to accomplish my tasks in as little time as possible. I don't want to spend time staring at a computer screen from an uncomfortable chair.  It is hard on the back.

I don't want the computer to take my time. I want the computer just save my time. Life is too short for anything else.

If I am doing very much interactively on the computer I need the fastest tablet. If I need to read a book I need a larger tablet. If it's music then I need a tablet with good speakers or bluetooth speakers nearby.

I do not need a monthly fee for anything, but I do want access everywhere. I don't mind paying a small fee for a so-called hot box which gives me that capability cheaply. I use Freedompop at under $20 a month

Oh, I need to be able to take pictures and scan barcodes. I need to know where I am and how to get there from here.

That pretty well dictates the choice of devices. For blazing speed the Nexus 7 FHD second version blew me away with its high speed and also its display. I have never seen anything else nearly as good.

So I sold my old Nexus 7 for better than half cost and replaced it with the new version. Additionally I bought a large Nook tablet with a nine inch screen for $150. I sold my older Samsung tablet for $130.

I already have a cell phone which runs on wifi and keeps my monthly costs low

I was about to replace it, too, but decided that maybe it would work better if I learned a little more about how to use it well.    Looking around, I found bigger phones but not better or faster.

I learned I needed to clear out phone memory with a couple of utilities every day to keep it running fast. I also deleted all my apps and reordered them for quicker access. Finally, I got a case which allows me to pull it out quickly and use it. To supplement battery life I now use a portable charger

Now, what about apps? Apps are the key to accomplishing what I want to do. So what else do I want to do ?


Well, I need Gmail which set up on one and works on all  my tablets and computers and provides extensive other capabilities such as word processing, my calendar and my agenda, my task list, reminders of upcoming events, and so on. The Google speech recognition keyboard now works on almost all other devices and I need it


I want to keep up to date. I need the latest news. Even better, I need readers which cull through sources of my special interests and summarize them up-to-date.

The last has been changing very quickly. The Google Reader app, which does a wonderful job, I should say 'did' a wonderful job , was discontinued. Now, where could I go to read in a few minutes what formerly took me hours?

Google took everybody by surprise. In a panic, a number of app providers jumped in to take over the readership. The most prominent is called Feedly. Not knowing which to choose, I installed all of them

These include Newsblur, Redtreereader, Inoreader, and others. A good one, Skimr, dropped out of the race. The Old Reader is still hanging on. The last looks very much like the original discontinued reader. Ino came in late
I had already been using Flipboard which also serves now as a reader. Flipboard puts everything into a nice 'easy to read' magazine like format but is less targeted. I had been using Trapit also, which indeed traps items of special interest for me.  Trapit sends me emails to keep me up to date on items of special interest. In contrast, an app called Currents is even less targeted then Flipboard.


More general news apps which are only very generally targeted are: BBC, Pulse and Taptu, along with Google News. I have them all on my cell phone and my Nexus 7 2nd generation. The BBC app is one of the best crafted apps I have ever seen.

That covers the essential latest news gathering. I also use the Kindle, Nook, and Google Play Books apps. I need them all.


I want books at my disposal wherever I am. I want to read when I have a few moments of time with only a smart phone in my pocket. Yet I also want to read in a comfortable chair with a larger device

Recently I listed out F Scott Fitzgerald's list of favorites and downloaded them all from Amazon. They were almost all free

I wanted them in categories for or shelves. Since the Kindle app does not organize things very well, or at all, I use the Calibre app to find them. I then send them to the Kindle library and from there send them to the smartphone and also the Nexus 7. I downloaded them all to tablet so I should be able to read away from WiFi.

Calibre finds the books automatically after I have obtained them from Amazon. Kindle library change them where  they need to go

.Now that covers reading for the most part

Creating Document
I have wanted to create documents away from Windows. I had been doing it with the  Write app, a very simple word processor with the ability to share documents in every imaginable way

However, working with another resident who also uses dictation, I found that both the Polaris and Kingsoft office apps work also with dictation and give most of the capabilities of Microsoft Office

Especially, these apps work with the smartphone and can be edited with a larger tablet hooked up with a normal keyboard. Works like a laptop

I also need to keep "notebook" in an indexed file where I can look up a particular note up quickly through a search. For that I have been using Evernote. I now need to start using speech recognition with it

Internet to TV

Now to something else, streaming.

I have wanted to be able to send videos wirelessly to a large screen TV, especially to watch recorded PBS telecasts and do video phoning with Skype and other video phone apps. I also would like to be able to use the large TV as my tablet display for browsing and apps

(Note that selected tablets can plug in directly to the HDMI port on his TV. As mentioned, with a large screen and separate keyboard a small tablet can perform like a laptop.)

All current Apple devices provide the wireless capability using the Apple TV box. Other boxes include the Roku which offers numerous video channels. I have them both. After watching a TV show I can continue watching supplementary material from internet.

The new $35 Chromecast box does much of this and is likely to improve. Whereas the older technologies mirrored the tablet to the screen, the Chromecast box uses the tablet has a remote control to route Media directly to the TV. That has a future because it is faster.  No hiccups


And now to music.I have always wanted my music available instantly.  Dragging out LPS and CDs has always been a nuisance. There was never a time for it. Years ago I digitized most of them and I completed the job recently

I also wanted access to the enormous library of the major recording companies and to services which find music I would like. Pandora, covers the latter. Spotify covers the former. Then, Amazon Cloud Player and Google Play Music serve as repositories for my collections

To fill out this capability I recently added from Amazon a huge library classical music at pennies: Beethoven a 50 best and so on. The artists are the familiar older ones I knew in my younger years

This then allows me also to put my music locally on a tablet for use away from WiFi
What I have learned to do is to import music to iTunes and thence to tablets.  On the tablet I have found it necessary to use an app called Winamp to handle all digital formats, such as iTunes mp4

My bargain 9 inch Nook tablet is now set up for music and books. The Nexus 7 could also handle the duties but the bigger Nook is easier on the eyes

I send the sound either to ear buds or headphones or to my TV speakers or a digital radio I picked up cheap on sale here (5$). However the stereo sound straight from  the Nook is fine away from these


And now to printing. I want to be able to print from anywhere to anywhere. I have been doing that with Cloud Print for more than a year. Cloud Print normally sends the job via the PC. If you want to get the PC out of the loop, some of the new “cloud ready” printers actually print without a PC in the chain.

(Ultimately I want a remote keyboard to be my keyboard, the tablet to be my computer, and the display to be my combo display and TV.I finally found the perfect keyboard with the touchpad which can be used especially comfortably when I am streaming app/web to TV.)

Pros and Cons

The Apple iPad works beautifully with so called AirPrint printers. It is also possible to email print jobs via Email with eprint printers

I finally broke down and bought a Consumer Reports recommended top rated Canon wireless printer at $52. It does AirPrint and also wireless printing via WiFi and my router

We will see how well it works with my Android tablets. There is rapid development and we will see broader capabilities soon

Whereas for now the Apple iPad has the best TV mirroring and printing capabilities, Android has the best speed, screen, and ability to organize apps conveniently on screen. That clearly will change for the better.
Apple has the best networking technology in its elegant 'bonjour'. Fortunately this technology is used with Android and Windows, but Google is innovating in this area too, rapidly.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cheap Ways to Upgrade


If you have an old PC, or want to spend the minimum for a new one, and you need more than a tablet, there are ways, maybe with the help of a tech savvy helper, and do so after Microsoft withdrsws support for XP next year

These boil down to installing Ubuntu or a variation of it, which can be made to look and work like Windows (Zorin) or Mac OSX (WijnLaunch) along side other systems.    Also, Android can now be made to install on most (X-86) computers.

Often the whole new system can be made to install on a SD card without even disturbing the original system software.

Then, the inexpensive and rugged Samsung ChromeBook laptop ($249), a MacBook look-alike, can be made to operate independently of internet at no cost.  Click or tap for how to do it.

Click or tap for how to install Zorin.

Click or tap for how to install an OS X look-alike on Windows.

Click or tap for the X876 Android download,  (Look for X-86.)

There is a even a way to convert a$150 Nook 9-inch tablet to open it up to full Android OS Access to use as a laptop.  Click or tap to learn how.    With a removable Minisuit keyboard this cheap tablet works like a laptop, including with Microsoft Office and or other office apps, and with voice dictation.

Or just switch to any other tablet at $150 up.   Add a keyboard case if need be.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wrong Impressions

Here they are, all wrong and too widespread:  My comments in italics.

1. Tablets are mainly used mainly for eMail and notes.

How about apps??  (700,000 now)

Click or tap for

2. There are no wireless desktops.  You at least have to plug them in.

Take a look at Consumer Reports or BestBuy.    PCs are actually going wireless.

3. ePrint does not work with iPads and other tablets.

ePrinters receive and print via eMail.

… or tap to see how to print to ANY printer

Click or tap for

4.Chromecast is automatic to set up.

Help is available from CNET.   Chromecast does not work for XP but does work for Chromebooks despite many reviews to the contrary.

Click or tap for it here

5.If you are stuck with Windows there is no way to use Windows the way you use a Mac.

WinLaunch Click or tap for how

If you don’t like Windows 8 screens, there is hope!

6 Tablets of different kinds do not run common apps.

All the major apps run on multiple platforms.

Click or tap for some

7. You cannot do word processing on a tablet.

There are multiple ways, including Microsoft Office.Click or tap for info  The main version, though, has become available in the last few days.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Choices and Mistakes

We seniors are faced nowadays with choices we never had before.   A wrong choice can be devastating.

Remember the old days?    When TV came along, we had two choices, 10” or 12”.  Period.

Choosing the wrong medical option can be disastrous.   Yet we need to make the choices.  We have no alternative.

Years ago my doctor told me what he was going to do.  That was it.  But not now.

All this means we must be gathering facts.   And there is no better way than to use all the resources and investigate all the options at our disposal.    One of the options is internet.

But how do we do that as simply and effectively as possible?    Residents come to me with the woes of computers, not their advantages
It all starts with the choice of computer.     Residents are faced with advocates of Apple, Windows, Google, and very fixed and usually wrong opinions.

Now let me say up front, no one should tell you which to choose.  Not only that, but you should not care about the brand
What you should care about is what you want to do.    No one single device does not have some serious downsides.

That means you must set down what you need in specifics.  Only you alone can do that.  You need to get down to the nitty-gritty details---even the wrong case for a device can make a device hard to use.

But before we can do that, you need to know what is out here and what it can do
How to do that?

Go to a browser and search for “how to choose a tablet” and read a variety of suggestions.

My own bias about choices comes from all the complaints I hear.  I want the easiest and simplest and most reliable computer for everyone.   That is usually the  newest tech   I want everyone to apprehend all they can do. I don't want them misled into thinking something cannot be done because they do not know how to do it

And I really don't care who makes what device.     I care that you do your homework, and that you are happy down the road because you did it well.

Those of us who are knowledgeable need especially to help others stick to the facts and not indulge our pre-conceived notions.and unfounded opinions.upon others.
Dig in.   

Thursday, August 1, 2013

More Breakthroughs

I have recently examined the latest new version of Android (4.3) and found some new features not noted elsewhere but affecting almost anyone who uses computers--- by offering new options.

. the ability to run Android tablet operating system on a Windows x86 computer

. the incorporation of features to “pair” with TVs

This opens new possibilities for switching away from Windows on existing computers, also evaluating tablet software for those unfamiliar with it, along with “beaming” content to TV as accomplished with Chromecast.   Is it accidental that Chromecast sounds like Comcast?

Android 4.3 ran extremely fast without a glitch.

Tap or click to download it    (tech savvy users)
Select the Android-x86-4.3-devel build.

Internet Comes to TV

For you computer wary…

Imagine accessing the vast resources of internet without mastering the intricacies of Windows or its many miseries.  Without being a computer type.

Well, you can do it with a smartphone.

But, frankly, it has taken me four cellphones and a few years to get to the point where I use my cellphone automatically.    They’ve just fixed that bad code which caused Android phones to slow down over time, (and I had just learned how to overcome it just a bit before).

My smartphone now hums.   With my new $5 flip case I now pull it out in an instance for a quick use through the day.

It has also tough to navigate web pages on a phone, and it is only now that much of that has been simplified for phones by using  Apps.   Apps are simple ways to use internet without messy web pages and endless probing around through them..   But tablets are better, especially bigger.

Still, there is an even  bigger, better way now, especially for us seniors.    Our TV.  Better for old eyes and ears.

And the technology of TV is mostly wasted.    Using cable is like seeing with tunnel vision.    Often poor stuff at the wrong time.     Netflix proved that. and started to fill the gap.

Now, Google has come out with a $35 device which opens up your TV to much of internet.  Click or tap for a review,   Apple had already done that, even better, for its devices.   And there are other ways.   (All require a router, and internet service, though used in  different ways).

The bottom line is no need to put up with arcane systems and even difficult web pages and navigation, expensive and fussy equipment, endless tinkering
Just imagine accessing recorded PBS shows.. No recorder needed.  And PBS is only a drop in the Internet bucket.

The Apple iPad, combined with Apple TV, simply brings your tablet to TV via its tablet apps as opposed to confusing web pages.     For other tablets, an app called PlayTo does some of the same for selected sources, using AppleTV or the Roku box.
The Apple technology is called Airplay.  AirParrot does it for Windows but without the benefit of apps.

So far, Apple does it best.

You need a tablet at your TV chair.    It becomes your remote.   When there is a reference on TV to internet for supplemental video or material, you pick it up and send it to your TV.

Watch recorded TV when you want it.   Old shows,   Internet originated TV.   The music and radio you like.
It goes beyond that and all the stuff on internet archive…With a remote keyboard you can even run MS Office on the big screen.   Or you can dictate your stuff as I do.      Even record radio shows   or schedule them.  Or just read the paper onscreen.

No PC needed.   With voice recognition, “no hands, ma”.

Finally  Finally  Finally.  Something for everybody.  

What a transformation we have seen: from a PC as a personal computer, with arcane commands to handle only our personal tasks, to an easy-to-use appliance giving us the keys to our collective knowledge and experience.

Just happening now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cleaning House

I recently cleaned out my entire tech up to a year old and replaced it with new. An old DVD recorder and internet radio, even older type wireless keyboards and webcams, sold for more than new. These are getting scarce, but I had already converted all my tapes and the new tablets serve also as internet radios.

I also rearranged my choices based on uses.

I wanted a device which would transmit recorded videos to TV such as the huge offerings by PBS, also Internet Archive.

I wanted a device to generate documents. Now, that means dictation, since I do most documents that way, now, but I also wanted a regular keyboard.

I wanted to do videophoning trouble-free

I wanted a device with good loud stereo sound to play music.

I wanted device sized for easy reading without being too heavy.

I wanted a portable device to accompany me everywhere.

I wanted the device really fast.

Now, here is what I concluded.

The Apple devices are best at sending to an AppleTV ($100), but Google devices are catching up. Google's new $35 Chromecast may be all it takes.

Google devices, especially the new Nexus were best for dictation. They are also the fastest.

The Apple Facetime video phoning works only with other Apple devices but is the best.

The Nook HD+ had wonderful sound and and also is a great size and weight for reading.

My old cell phone was already the right size, maybe a little small, to carry around---but I did need to learn how to speed it up.

In the future we may find one device which does most of this. For now, it took more than one. I made my choices.

How would you have chosen? I did manage to come out ahead in dollars.


Now, I need to add that I do use Windows, but not Windows 8. I wavered back and forth about a Windows laptop or tablet and finally decided neither offered anything new and traded in my original Chromebook laptop for a nifty Samsung---light weight, fast, reliable, indestructible, portable, slick.

But for a very few others, there might me another choice if Microsoft ever gets it right. One resident who does a lot of writing for publication bought a MS Surface RT, lovely hardware with very limited software which does MS Office, though little else, well.

I found it appealing despite very negative reviews. It can actually serve as your main computer by just plugging in a keyboard and display, and is very portable indeed.

A poor choice now for most, but I do believe developers are working hard to get it right.

Typed and published from MS Word (my old tablets are gone and I don't have the new one(s) quite yet).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Computer Hardware Survival for Seniors

Here are my recommendations for senior computer survival in the digital world as our whole way of using computers changes.

If you don't have an Apple computer then keep your old Windows 7 computer working as long as possible. Sooner or later it will need a reinstall of the operating system. 

Avoid Windows 8 unless you are faced with the need to buy a new computer, and even then consider leaving Windows. Windows 8 takes a lot of learning and it is s full of grief, based upon the deafening cries for help that I hear. In the past it was just a necessary evil. It is no longer necessary. 

So pick up a new tablet in any event.. 

If you need GPS, a good choice would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 or 10. These also have both front and back facing cameras. If not, and you need a camera, then the iPads are an appealing choice, maybe the only choice for a dedicated photographer. 

But if you don't need either, or have a separate device for either or both, then the big 9" Barnes and Noble Nook HD+ is a great bargain, even if it is to be phased out. For some this might be the only device you need.

If you need voice recognition , then the latest Android tablets are an exceptional choice. 

Consider the size of the device. Will you be using it mostly at home or on the go? Then, if you need to use a large screen wirelessly with your device, or a TV, any of the Apple offerings will work with Apple TV. If the small size does not put you off, then the Apple iPod Touch may be your choice. This device does almost everything the iPhone and iPad Mini do without the iPhone monthly fee.

While the ability to stream to your TV is a big plus for Apple, the big iPad is a bit heavy to hold for any length of time, and the Mini can bw a bit hard to read, being downsized from the original---unless used with an AppleTV and a remote display.

And so, in summary, both keep your old Windows 7 computer and add a tablet sometime soon, along with a GPS and/or camera if you need it. Neither of the latter should cost much more than $100 for a fine choice.

If you really need a laptop then consider the non-Windows Chromebook.

If you really need Microsoft Office, you can run it online. Click or tao to get it set up.

Or, consider the Microsoft Surface RT, a tablet which includes Windows Office and can even be used as your sole system by plugging in a display and keyboard.    This is a limited tablet and has limited tablet apps, device support, and will not run many Windows apps to date, either.    Still, if you MUST have MS Office, it is the cheapest way to go and now costs only $350.     Or just subscribe to MS 365 at $100 per year for 5 computers.

A budget not exceeding $400 should do the trick.

Oh, you will need a case or two. A poor case may discourage you from using a device. 

For use around home a "tire tread" rubber skin jacket both protects the device and makes it easier to handle. These cost about $5 or less delivered from eBay. On the go a better case is needed which gives you quick access. You need a case which opens up and gives access quickly. These are not easy to find. Search the online stores, Amazon, and eBay.

Finally, you may need a keyboard case. This choice may determine how well you use any device. Preferably you will find one with a removable keyboard which separates from the case but is included inside it. These cost about $30 from Amazon.

Digital Downsizing

As we get older we are faced with downsizing. That includes digital downsizing. 

Sooner or later that old tower and scramble of wires needs to disappear. We need the space. 

At the same time we need the capabilities of newer computers which address senior issues. 

These needs include decreasing mobility, problems with vision, and lessening dexterity with our fingers. 

It is also time to start enjoying the use of a computer and not be tied up forever with solving computer problems.

The time is ripe and the new technology can address our needs well. We can now benefit from portable devices, touch screens, use of large screens and TV, and voice recognition. We can now enjoy the resources of Internet on a TV connected to a small computer or tablet. 

Based on those requirements, then what are our choices? 

Apple addresses all these needs. Other tablets address many of them. Microsoft addresses fewer. Microsoft offers familiarity, though, so we stick to our older systems until they fail us. Windows 8 offers challenges. 

Apple is unique in offering a good wirelss connection between computers & TV. Apple's newer Apple TV technology permits use of a TV screen wirelessly with its devices. 

Microsoft is not quite that far yet but has announced the future wireless TV connectivity with Windows 8 .1. Meanwhile, a Windows software program,AirParrot, can provide the capability to those with an Apple TV device. 

The same technology is in the works for other future tablets. These other tablets, the Android ones, probably have the best speech recognition, while Apple follows not too far behind. Microsoft has a older system which requires special training by the user. 

It is up to the senior to decide which provider offers the equipment which best suits his. Typically a senior will work with Windows until it fails, meanwhile starting to work with tablets with the best combination of the above new capabilities. 

In our rocking chair more and more of us will have a tablet at our side while watching television which also serves as an Internet display resource. More of us will phone others to see them on our TV using tablets. 

More will browse library shelves without leaving the chair or listen to their sound systems via their tablets. 

More will use voice recognition for their email and browsing without leaving the chair. The device in their hands will serve as a radio and camera as well. It will go along with more of us us wherever we need to go. 

Rather than requiring us to conform our ways to the computer the tablet will adjust more and more to our needs and free us from some of our limitations.. As we age our Internet devices will become the magic carpet to keep us connected as our mobility decreases.

Dictated to my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7