Sunday, April 27, 2014

Am I helping?

Am  I  Helping?

My internet blog here is one of the oldest blogs extant, having been started in 2007 under Blogger, and actually initiated two years earlier when there was no Blogger and I had to write my own HTML code.

The idea was to keep a record of what I was doing to help others, both for their benefit and for others with the same problems. It also documented solutions for my own later review and reference.

During all this time I have been more and more aware of hazards to seniors and the need for avoidance of the same.

If there is one trend in hazards it is often failure of monitoring and/or quality control. Some of these biggest exposures are in Windows itself, Internet services, and Wi-Fi.

Windows has always had serious security problems. Internet service has always varied too much in reliability. Wifi has some built-in exposures.

Just this week Microsoft revealed a problem with their Internet Explorer browser which makes it unsafe to use until they get around to fixing it. This is unacceptable.

Problems are largely avoidable. There are alternatives to Windows. There are Internet services which are highly reliable. Wifi can be managed. For example, my Android Nexus 5 smartphone is pretty much immune to the problems I have described, using data services.

But for those with Windows it is really essential to know how to monitor and support Windows or have somebody else do it f you. Or you can just choose an alternative to Windows.

Windows is especially vulnerable to internet and to wifi problems. There is really no safety with it for most seniors unless these are closely monitored by the service provider.

Internet is especially subject to all kinds of variations in speed and reliability, based on the complexity of the process. One of the most prevalent problems is that the provider is simply not providing enough bandwidth to avoid traffic jams.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to help anyone solve these problems other than the service provider and his conscientiousness about monitoring what you are paying for.

For most seniors I recommend an alternative to Windows. I recommend a reliable internet service which provides a safe installation of WiFi.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Getting the Most out of eBooks

Just the other day a resident complained that she would need to buy a lot of books to use an ebook reader and had decided not to get one.

There are dozens of sources of free ebooks, of course, and all it takes is a query to a browser to find them. The Internet Archive is a major source.

Another great source is your local library online, using the overdrive app, now easy to use and inclusive of a large library of free books.

But the real secret is somewhere else in an application called Calibre.  Calibre will also access and send news feeds and subscriptions automatically.

Calibre takes a little learning to use but opens up easy access to all books. Calibre organizes your library. Calibre searches all sources.

Calibre will then send the book to your PC from which you can transfer, say, to a Nook.

You can plug in a cable for the transfer, or have Calibre Email them to you or transfer via Dropbox. I have Calibre Email them from and to my same Email address and then download them from internet on my ebook reader.

On my Android tablet, with Google Play Books installed, the attached books are opened automatically where they can also be read out loud to me. The iPad requires a helper app called Audibook.

In the case of the Nook Simple Touch wireless transfer is challenging. It takes a bit of hacking to convert it to a very limited tablet but with Email and Dropbox and a file manager.

That is not a problem with the Kindle eReader. Calibre will Email  directly to the Kindle.

To get started just go to your browser on your PC or Mac and download Calibre,, the manual, too, and probably Dropbox.

I converted a refurbished Nook SimpleTouch for wireless transfer, long battery life, and ability to read easily even in direct sunlight, as compared with a tablet. The Kindle e-reader does the same without modification.

If you prefer a Nook for its ease of use and easy organization of your library, you might forego wireless.

Both Kindle and Nook e-readers are fine choices, easy on the eyes and pocketbook, easy to carry, and easy to keep charged.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Choosing an Internet Provider

If you are about to choose an internet provider it is worthwhile to consider ALL of your options...very carefully.  Know what you are getting into.

 Your choices are to choose a provider who will provide all the necessary support or a provider who will simply throw a switch and leave it to you to provide your own support, if not also doing the whole installation yourself.   Support means having a place to go when things go wrong, as they will.

Comcast, for example, will provide full support if they supply your router, whereas Willow Valley will simply connect you up and leave the rest of the installation and ongoing support to someone else.

The key question to ask yourself is: will I be able to trace and isolate slowdowns and disconnects, the reason for them, the action(s) needed, and then find a way to get them corrected?  Will I then need to call in expensive tech help?   Etc.

(Cell phone and hotspot based services connect you up without any installation at all, and no support normally needed.  With T-Mobile monthly non-contract service at $50, and available anywhere, there are new options for service.   This posting was actually dictated and published while riding in a car, using a smartphone when I had a few moments.)

Here at Willow Valley I will be glad to advise further about your choices and, if you like, even be on hand when your installation is done.     There is no way for me to help later when your internet service fails, almost always the fault of the provider, if not a more deeply technical issue.

Forewarned, I hope this warning will cut down on some of the frustration and anger I hear so often from residents about installation and ongoing support problems.  

Don't get me wrong.    Willow Valley service is fine and inexpensive but no bargain without support.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to Move Photos to a Tablet

How do I transfer, save and print my photos on my tablet or smartphone?

As computer users switch away from Windows XP and laptops and often to tablets, this question arises as to how to save and print them.

The easy way is to move them up to the Google cloud where they can be accessed or downloaded anywhere, just by using Google.

The first step is to download Picasa onto your PC, then run Picasa. Click here to do that. Even though support runs out for XP, Microsoft Security Essentials software will protect you long enough to do so.

Picasa will then find all your photos and organize them conveniently in one place on your PC. This is automatic.

The next step is to send photos from Picasa to PicasaWeb. This is done by selecting and highlighting your albums in Picasa and tapping or clicking at top right to do so.

Once your photos are on the web they are accessible anywhere. You need a gmail account for this, so if you do not have one then first sign up for one for this purpose. Search for Gmail and look for signing up for a gmail account.

When done, go to your tablet or smartphone and the Picasa site where you will find your photos. Click here for that.

Many photo apps will also find your photos easily from PicasaWeb.

(Another simple way to move photos and files is to install Dropbox on both PC and tablet, drag and drop to Dropbox on PC, and access from Dropbox on your tablet. Click or tap to sign up.To migrate files from an old to new PC download PC Mover.  Click for that.)

To print your photos, you will need a Cloudprint or AirPrint printer. Tapping on a photo will bring up a menu for your printer.

For Apple tablets AirPrint works automatically via your router. For other tablets download the Cloudprint utility to PC which will find your wireless printers and make them accessible, once connected to your Wi-Fi. Click for that.Then download the Cloudprint app to your tablet or smartphone, Click for that, or, with the latest Android version, just activate Print in Settings.

Once on the web your photos may also be printed from any PC connected with a printer.

Click here for a way to print from Dropbox.
There are also dozens of apps for both Apple and Android devices which transfer, and edit and print photos. Click for one.