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.