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.