Monday, May 30, 2016

Windows Phone Bargain

Rapidly dropping sales for Windows phones present an opportunity to obtain a decent phone  for about $50,  a bargain.

The bargain can be enhanced by obtaining a bring-your-own phone plan, as cheap as $5  a month for voice phoning only and no charge for using Wi-Fi.

Puretalk online offers such a combo.

However, an unlocked phone will work with any  bring-your-own plan.

I have found Nokia Lumia phones to be very good, very comparable to the competition now taking over the market almost entirely.

The downside of Windows phones has always been a limitation in apps.   Nonetheless there are enough apps to do very nearly everything most of us need to do.

Here is a link to find the apps,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Smartphone Batteries Quit Too Soon

Sometimes smartphone batteries do not last out the day.

What to do?

Especially, turn off functions which require the phone to poll constantly for gps, bluetooth, wifi, cell connection, notifications, and so on.

In no particular order....

adjust your display brightness down (the biggest drain)
turn off Bluetooth
cut down on notifications
uninstall Facebook
turn off GPS if you can
don't leave apps running (tap on the square block at the right bottom of the screen to see them)
fetch email less frequently in settings
turn on battery saving mode in settings
turn the phone off when not using and where the signal is weak
charge frequently, as in the car
send notifications to lock screen
set a dark wallpaper
toggle to airplane mode
tuirn off cell data

To see how effective you have been, go to settings/battery after a full charge tio see how long you can go before recharging.

No Help Desk at IT Here

Here in Happy Valley there is every imaginable type of service, very often easily accessed

but no HELP DESK!!!.

For example, let’s say, Happy Valley IT hooks you up to internet physically and after that If things don't work that is your problem, you are on your own from there on out.   You can go to a hit-or-miss outside service and $100 an hour or call Happy Valley’s internet provider direct.   

(Then later IT will say they never heard of any problems.)   

So where do you go for help?

(For connectivity you could go to Comcast but it is the same old cabling system which is obsolete as determined by Happy Valley's internet provider.    Hopefully Happy Valley will soon connect to Verizon’s fiber optic network or Lancaster City’s own network or switch to wireless from its existing provider.)

So what about a HELP DESK for everything else?

For Apple there are abundant resources, ofherwise...

Think about just try asking internet in your browser.  Put the question to internet just as if you were asking a person for help.

Then try some of these:
Tom's Hardware
How Stuff Works
PC Magazine
PC World
Make Use Of
The Tech Guy
Geek Squad


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cheap All-in-One Tablet/Laptop/Desktop

What if there were one device that could do virtually everything you need to do on a computer?

That one device would need to be small enough to carry with you anywhere and yet capable enough to use a large display and keyboard.

Also, the same device would need to incorporate all that you can do with Kindle and with Google applications, plus also Windows Office.

Well, that device does not exist yet, but there is a workaround.

The $70 Kindle Fire 6 can be made to do the job.

What is required is the installation of files to make it possible, and at this point Amazon is not preventing you from doing so.

The $50 Kindle Fire 7 can also be adapted.

The procedure is something like this:

First, prepare the Kindle Fire 6

Second, prepare a Windows PC

Third, connect the two and enable a script which will carry you through the balance of the process.

Finally install a few apps such as the Google Now Launcher and Google search.

Now, tap or click for all the details, with one change, as follows:

Instead of monkeying with Device Manager on your Windows PC, simply download and install two files, the first being an adb msi file.    Tap or click to download the file,

Thus, at the PC you will be essentially just be downloading and installing and running two files, first the adb The msi file and then the Installation file.

During the installation that PC will set up the Kindle Fire.   At one point, the Kindle Fire will ask permission and you will need to tap to enable it on the Fire.     I needed to close another screen so that I could see the notification (sent by the PC to the Fire) asking for it.

Using an inexpensive Amazon adapter cable from Kindle Fire 6 to display, you then have a fully operational desktop computer equivalent to a PC.   Just unplug it to use it as a tablet. Add a keyboard case to create a lapop.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Two Big Innovations

Two big innovations will change how we use computers.

The first is the Amazon Echo, a hockey-puck shaped computer which works strictly by listening and talking,
The second is the extension of cell phone based apps to the Chromebook.

Cell smartphones are a super set of old-fashioned tower computers.

Instead of presenting you a screen from which you can work out a solution to a problem, cell phones are more results-based. For example, all you need to do on the cell phone nowadays to  activate GPS is to say “take me home” as opposed to looking at a screen and inputting various information.

Already a new router can be controlled with voice as opposed to complex keyboard and screen manipulations.

The extension of smartphone based apps back to laptops will transform the Chromebook into a far more useful device.   This is about to happen.

For example,  smartphone apps present an easier way to connect to a printer, and ways to access eBooks easily and more widely the now.

(Dictated on my Chromebook)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reading and Keeping Informed

For reading, and keeping informed, it is desirable to have the best tools. These consist of hardware and also software apps.

The best hardware ranges from smartphones to tablets. The benefit of the smartphone is that you have it with you. Your choice with it is to read newspaper sized  text or to have it read to you using one of the popular audio readers, such as @Voice, Google TTS, Listen Reader, and Kindle for Kindle readers..

A better choice for reading comfort is a 7 to 10 inch tablet, either Windows or preferably Android.   These are available at more or less than $150.  Awfully cheap is the RCA 10 inch Android tablet with keyboard, or its 10 inch Windows cousin, which works as well as any Windows device I've ever seen, though some users have reported cracked screen along the way. Some credit cards double the one year warranty for such a device.

There is no need to spend anything more than $200 for a device, although it is handy also to have a Kindle reader only, such as a Paperwhie eReader, simply because it holds a vast number of books without WiFi.

With the proper hardware the next issue is to get the proper software.    For most, the first choice would be Overdrive, which connects to the local library for free access to vast written matter. Next would be the Kindle app.  The Kindle app gives plenty of access to free material and also offers a way to load custom documents and manage all of this.

Kindle offers access only to a portion of digitized material easily. This material consists of .azw, .mobi, and .pdf. Far more is available elsewhere, such as in the .epub format.

Next to Kindle would be the Google Newsstand Books app.  It is easy to send the widely used .pdf documents to it.

Now, there are those who would ask why do we need access to so many sources. The answer is simply to be well informed. but then people ask how you get the time to read so much.

The answer to that question is to be proactive and use reading skills which actually will reduce the amount of time he spent on reading.( I was lucky enough to have a professor* who enabled me to read an enormous amount in a very short time.)  I read very selectively on the basis of knowing that you don't need to eat all of an apple to know that it's bad. You just need to get the essence of what you want. I scan and read deeply only when necessary.

Nowadays, I read the New York Times Briefing which covers the news in a matter of a few minutes. I also read the New Yorker Briefing. I choose selected sources before reading anything at all. Such sources include  the Wall Street Journal, CBS News online, Google News, MSN news, and many others. For balance, I also read the Manchester Guardian and such sources as the Suedeutsche Zeitung (German).    The latter, and the BBC, have wonderful websites.

I read a selection of blogs and other websites with an aggregator such as The Old Reader app and also Google.

If I do have no time to read something now I then send it to Pocket, a sort of temporary holding spot.  If I need it for later reference I send it to Evernote.

I still need many other tools to get to the bottom of getting the right stuff..

The foremost of these is Calibre, the best tool for obtaining books and regular publications.  These are downloaded and sent by email or direct to a dedicated Kindle ereader. Calibre requires a Linux or Windows device, so I use an old otherwise abandoned Windows computer switched to Linux: it also powers my older printers for which no drivers are available in Windows any more. Foremost, Windows should be fine for Calibre, or even Mac.

There is an older software tool which is been upgraded to do a wonderful job more deasily, and it runs in almost any device to give access to a vast Library of information, plus a place to organize and keep it.     This is FBreader, which includes the ability to read documents out loud.

Windows has several apps which can read formats not available to Kindle.  One of these is Freda and there are others, such as Book Bazaar, one of which offers text-to-speech. ReadAloud  I do not use or recommend Windows Narrator.  It is unnecessarily fussy to use.

* note: My old professor was (Tap or Click) for Prof. Anton Nauhaeusler who helped us get through volumes of philosophy in the German language. If you don't have German, Google will translate (just right click). Neuhaeusler wrote, as an author, under a pseudonym, in Bavarian as opposed to high German.