Thursday, March 28, 2013

PC Sticks and their Future for Seniors

PC Sticks have some great potential for seniors in the future.

These very new and tiny devices make your TV double as a very inexpensive computer. They also provide access to the vast video resources of Internet, especially movies and TV shows. 

They represent a revolution in providing content and in convergence of technology. 

The PC stick itself is not much more then the size of a USB flash drive or your forefinger. Plug in a keyboard and a monitor for display and, voila, you'll have a PC. No tower is needed, nor laptop. 

PC sticks run from about 50 dollars to 100 dollars. I ordered one as soon as they started to become available. 

PC sticks are really just a development from the smartphone, as are tablets. Smartphone innards are just growing up to power a large screen, as they grew up to tablet size.

So far they work like tablets, and like tablets, offer most of the capabilities of larger computers. 

They are free from many of the hassles of Windows which especially bother seniors. 

By combining TV and computer in one screen at low cost, they offer other important benefits.

For example, if you have a so-called secretary desk, with a fold out desktop surface, and three drawers below, then dresser  TV, and computer station can be combined in a very small space.

A small space thus can provide for multiple functions. You can sit close to open drawers and dress, or to use the computer or watch TV. 

Also you can push the chair back to watch TV from a distance or even watch from a bed. Both TV and computer can be operated from a wireless and portable keypad and touch screen. 

Newly you can even operate the whole system from some tablets. I use the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7. 

At the same time you avoid a heavy and bulky tower PC and the hassles of a heavy device and many cables. 

Starting to be available are PC sticks with full large computer capabilities for creation of documents. One of these uses Linux, which is an alternative for Windows or Apple. A version of Linux, Zorin, looks and acts like Windows without any of the usual drawbacks. 

When so many calls for help simply deal with Windows problems, that is a potential boon indeed. More time can be spent learning to use the many resources of computers so useful to seniors.

Tap or click to watch a video about the latest Stick PC.

Note:  To use a PC Stick with a TV, the TV must have an HDMI jack, although adapters may be available.

Dictated using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 tablet. (These tablets are newly available with the latest software and camera at $180 now.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Switching from Windows to tablets

Switching from Windows to Tablet What does it take to move from Windows to a tablet for most everything?

This question comes up more and more often, especially from those who have limited literacy with Windows, or have concerns about the challenges of Windows 8.

The first thing to do is to get everything off the old Windows machine: contacts, documents, pictures, and so on. 

Then, the documents need to be transferred to the cloud for safe storage. Safe storage means Dropbox or Drive. These applications need to be installed in both the old Windows machine and the new tablet.

That way, both machines can access the files. In Windows 7 the file directory for documents can be dragged from the file manager and dropped to Dropbox. Simple. 

For earlier versions of Windows the files may be scattered across many directories. To get them over takes time so it is this best do transfer only the most important ones.

It may help to search for documents, print out the list, and work through it. 

In both instances some familiarity with Windows is needed. There are videos on YouTube to help. 

If it is planned to continue using Windows, then files need to be synchronized between the two machines. The best tools for this today are Google applications.

To use Google applications Gmail needs to be set up on the Windows machine. This will make it possible to synchronize mail, contacts, event calendar, tasks, and future documents.

Photos and pictures may be collected and organized automatically by Picasa and then sent to Picasa Web for safety and downloading later to a tablet. 

Music can also be selected automatically and sent to storage place like Amazon Cloud Player.

The next thing to do is to set up applications on the tablet that you will use in place of those on Windows. These applications may need the files from the old applications on Windows, such as genealogy files.

Genealogy data files need to be stored safely in a place like Dropbox. 

All of this takes some time, but is worth the effort. The hard part is in Windows itself. It may then take a little time to select tablet applications which will replace what you were using in Windows.

Google PlayStore is a great help in finding these. It may not be worthwhile to transfer some documents and files but better to create them anew.

Rather than transferring contacts, for example, it may be easier just to reenter them, especially if there are say less than 50. If taxes were not done online, then tax documents, however, need to be transferred. These are normally kept in files with the tax software. 

Applications are easy to install on tablets, so the procedure needs to be learned early on. 

How will you print? If you plan to keep your old computer you can print through the old computer using Google Cloud Print. The document is sent up to the Cloud and then down from the Cloud to your PC and from PC to your printer. 

Otherwise you'll need a wireless printer. Your documents will then be sent from your tablet to the Cloud and from there out to your printer.

 The benefits of the tablet can be used early, such as the ability to dictate to Google and avoid typing. Googling can also find support in for switching specific applications from Windows to tablet. 

With any computer you cannot get by without help from internet. The new tablet is a machine designed to obtain content. Use it that way. Help can come from various directions, especially Internet itself: web sites, application help, manual, forums, and even Amazon comments. 

The old machine required you to accommodate to the machine, whereas the tablet accommodates to you. But keep the old machine around for a while to access anything you might have forgotten about and still need. 

Get familiar with the tablet applications before leaving the old ones. 

Especially, if you are going to attempt document creation, you may want to learn to use those apps on the tablet. For many it is worthwhile to keep the old machine around for serious document creation. 

Either that, or get a $199 Chromebook for that.   Tap or click for ways to run Office apps.

When all else fails...

When all else fails...

 What do you do when all else fails, such as when Windows is corrupted and you lose access to the computer and your stuff. 

In other words, what do you do when you have not backed up your files or unwittingly allowed a virus into your Windows computer, or when the hard drive starts to fail . Like in a car, what do you do when you have not worn a seatbelt , and have been otherwise reckless, but with your computer.

It is best, of course, not to get into such a situation and to take preventive measures so that these things do not happen. 

But sometimes important documents are left hanging in the balance. 

There is now newly the capability of at least rescuing a few documents. With a specially prepared USB memory stick, it is possible to get at files and rescue some of them. The USB stick can actually bring up something that looks like Windows and operate like Windows. It can even simulate a particular version of Windows. 

It is largely immune from viruses and can even eliminate Windows viruses. It can be installed and used in place of Windows. It can run on old computers. 

This specially prepared flash drive is set up best with Zorin software, a version of Linux which adapts itself well to most machines. In most cases it will recognize WiFi, printers, and soundcards automatically. It will boot from the computer with a screen that looks like Windows. It will automatically detect and display your Windows files. 

Then, and this is the important part, it will enable you to save these lost files either to another drive or better, to Dropbox, which will put them on the cloud for easy access from anywhere. Dropbox is installed from your browser and works like a local drive.

Tap or Click for what you can do.

 It may even be possible to run anti-virus software and clean up your Windows system to run again. 

You can also just install your own Zorin in place of Windows and enjoy its speed and safety. 

Ferreting out folders and files will take time, of course, by the user, who needs to acquaint or reacquaint himself with using files, and who alone knows which important files to retrieve. All of this also underlines the desirability of taking preventive measures to avoid such time consuming work. 

There is, however, the added benefit that Zorin may become the preferred operating system to Windows. There is the possibility of running Zorin entirely on the USB stick and dispensing with the hard drive altogether, which may be corrupted anyway. That also makes the system and files portable to any other computer.

Zorin can even run some Windows applications, though Linux applications run just as well and cost nothing, such is word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. Also more and more applications run from the cloud, even Windows Live apps like Word, etc. 

Zorin eliminates exposure to Windows viruses and malware. It is also free. You may never notice the differences, and wind up switching to a sounder, safer, stabler, faster operating system. 

Tao or click below for the process of setting up and using Zorin or having someone do it for you so that all you will need to do is insert the flash drive and reboot your computer, and start work.

Tap or click for Zorin information.

Tap or click for Zorin tour.

Tap or click to run Zorin from USB stick in place of a (failed) hard drive..

Dictated and published from my Nexus 7.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tablets, Logins, and Passwords

A number of recent help calls have made it clear that anyone switching to a tablet should first line up passwords before anything else.   They will be needed for these devices which relay so heavily on internet.

Even before that and before purchasing, you could download (tap or click for the iPad User Guide or the Nexus 7 User Guide), for example, and master then before going further.

Without logins and passwords very little can be done.   Trying to restore them may require a major time-consuming effort which is likely to be unsuccessful anyway.

If a password cannot be recalled, then new logins and passwords should therefore be set up in advance separately.   (The old ones are then just abandoned as unusable.)

Needed are Wi-Fi passwords, Email passwords, and app store passwords.    Some of these may be set for you by the seller, such as Apple.

Ideally a new Gmail account should be set up to enjoy all the features offered by Google which are synchronized between devices and not available elsewhere.

Then, many apps will require their own logins and passwords.

Accounts are needed simply to identify your particular activity on the cloud.   Without them you are simply locked out!