Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I am Almost Speechless

For Windows to come out with an easy to use smartphone at $90 without any contract was--- well it is hard to find the words.

First, the Win Blu Jr is the easiest to use smartphone yet and maybe among the best music players on the market.

Second, it runs Windows 8.1 , which has been a disaster on tablets and laptops because of its complexity.

So how could that be?  How could the same system work easily in one device and not in others? And how could Microsoft abandon its jack of all trades to come up with something very simple?

Anyway, take it from me that it did. The home screen has tiles for all the functions and main apps. Swipe to the right and all your apps are listed. Nobody has done that better.

Now, it is not perfect. Especially, you cannot use voice recognition in a word processor. Also, apps are somewhat limited. I was nonetheless able to find workarounds to do almost all the things I regularly do.

I believe voice recognition will be expanded as Microsoft even scraps Windows 9 and jumps ahead to Windows 10.

The phone also has memory expansion available on far too few phones and it is a major benefit.

In fact, that is how I came across this device. I wanted a device simply to be able to take my music and library elsewhere than home, such as the exercise room and the car.*

If you need to use your phone away from WiFi or where WiFi is unreliable, it is nice to have your whole library of books and music and movies available.

As of the end of the month Microsoft is bringing out a gadget to project the phone screen to your TV or large monitor. Add a wireless keyboard, and Voila, a big computer.

I should also mention that this phone is extremely fast and has a remarkable battery life.en

But am I about to give up my Republic Wireless Moto G phone? Certainly not, it does many more things than the basics. With my monthly cell plans costing $5 for the one phone and $10 for the other, I will carry both.

* After I got the phone, I coincidentally received another device to accomplish the same result.  My internet hotspot carrier, Freedompop, sent me a new hotspot capable of operating like my home internet router, and alternatively to it but now anywhere and with enough memory to hold music and books. It can pinch hit for my home service when not working reliably and support wireless printers.

Note: to deal with the paucity of apps for windows 8 .1, Microsoft has an app called Appswitch which will find apps which may not otherwise be obvious as alternatives to Android and iPhone phone apps.

Monday, October 13, 2014

All About Phone Plans

Well, maybe not all about phone plans but a lot more pertinent information than you are likely to find anywhere else in one place relative to seniors.

First, you ought to have a smartphone and a plan just for your own welfare and safety.

Second, they are now cheap, along with cheap plans, and are far easier to use than ever before.

Third, they do just about everything a computer can do without the nuisance.

You do need to be able to learn how to use them, which is a whole lot simpler to than using your computer. Read up and even get the manuals ahead of time and before you buy. Look for tutorials on YouTube.

You can get all phones and plans you need online. Search.

I have recommended sub $100 unlocked no-contract phones in past postings.You then need a no-contract plan.

The least cost Puretalk plan costs $5 a month for 50 minutes of talk and text.   This will work with most so-called unlocked phones bought separately without a plan.

Republic Wireless phones start at $100 for a Moto E plus no contract plans from $5 to $25. The $10 plan offers unlimited talk and text. The $25 is for browsing away from Wi-Fi. It is also nice if you want traffic information when you are using the phone's GPS.

The $25 plan gives you unlimited talk and text plus up to 5 gigabytes data per month. The data is 3G (means slow) and only a trickle but still enough for most purposes and often available along the main highway corridors. Don't expect it everywhere.

T Mobile offers a whole lot more data speed in a lot fewer places at much more cost. T Mobile offers plans from $50 a month for unlimited talk and text and just one gigabyte of data, enough for one third of a movie.

I hardly think most people need that at all. Just put a movie on your phone I ahead of time from Wi-Fi.

If you do need data out on the road and away from home it is cheaper to use a hotspot like Freedompop. The monthly rates range from $5 to $25 and make it unnecessary to have any other plan at all.

I recommend ONLY smartphones with the ability to add storage with an SD card. These are now coming down sharply in price and make it possible to use your phone as an ebook reader and music player away from Wi-Fi or cell towers by keeping your books and music on the card.

That is a great advantage when Wi-Fi is not working well or cell towers are not nearby.  The cost runs from about $15 to $45 for 25 to 50 G, which translates to a huge amount of storage of books, music, and even videos and movies.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Budget Senior Computer Survival Kit

Here is an up to date simple senior computer survival kit which will do it all for a senior.


An easy to use new smartphone at under $100, such as a Republic Moto E or a Windows Blu JR phone, along with a  no-contract $10 to $30 monthly plan.

A low-cost Android tablet such as Dell's 7" Venue at $130 or less.

A tablet such as the Acer C720 Chromebook, or Hewlett Packard Chromebook or Windows 8.1 tablet coming in November, all of which are under or just over $200.

If you go with Windows be prepared to learn some new things.

Next spring Windows 10 will restore a more friendly look and function.

Or just go one at a time.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Keeping Physically and Brain Fit at the Computer

Desk sitting and fussing at the computer is no good for seniors or for anybody else for that matter.

You need to be building muscles and brain cells, which you can do at any age.

So, when a problem comes up, use solving it as a way of building brain cells. Use a smartphone or tablet somewhere in a comfortable position where you can browse the internet for a solution.

Use speech to text dictation.  Get up and walk around while you are at it.

I find that doing a little computing at a time throughout the day and interspersing these sessions with physical activity works very well using a smartphone.

Imaginative new smartphone apps make it easier to do almost everything with your smartphone. This includes making slide presentations and both buying and selling. Easier on the eyes, too, than a large web page, as your eyes focus on a small area only.

A recent Mayo Clinic newsletter correlated sitting with shortened lifespan.