Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TV & Internet Hassles

TV at this retirement community can be a hassle.

The service is available from Comcast, rather expensive, or from Willow Valley via SrTV.  With SrTV frequently certain channels do not work.

(Alternatively, television stations can be accessed via internet from either of the above or alternative internet providers.)     

Internet TV can be more reliable.   Many TV station broadcasts are available from internet from your computer   On demand are  free broadcasts, and live TV can be provided through CBS live at $6/mo. or sling TV @ $20/mo for the major channels.  CBS News live 24/7 is free.  For those who speak German Sling provides the main German channels.  Just Google to find the channels you want.)

SrTV here uses satellite to obtain channels and sends TV out through different wiring in different places. Here at the North campus there have been many periodic problems related to the ungainly older cable technology being used, and the fast growing demands of TV and cloud based devices, which require constant continuous interconnection.

(Recently, slowdowns here remind us that cable bandwidth usage is skyrocketing as users access more and more internet TV and cloud-based voice recognition!)

Cabling in the North is done with what I consider obsolete coax cable designed many decades ago originally for one-way communication for the now abandoned primitive analog TV.   As IT director for the second largest nonprofit in Philadelphia I abandoned this cabling for internet use many years ago for what is commonly called twisted pair ethernet. (We called it 10baseT.)    Nowadays fiber optics works even better for both internet and TV, and is simpler and cheaper to install and maintain.

The old coax cabling does not carry the signal very far and it's very subject to twists and turns.  It is VERY expensive to maintain.

The coax technology is even more complicated. The signal on individual channels may vary widely, especially at the higher channel numbers.   Central IT routers may fail when no one is here to reset them.

Vizio and Sony receivers have been cited by IT here as having bad tuners. However they are widely sold and do work fine for everybody else.

Before abandoning your old set be sure to contact Willow Valley Renovations to check out your system. That can be done by submitting a service request through the normal process and asking for a check up from WV Renovations as opposed to maintenance. They have the equipment to analyze your signal.

In my case my old TV set which had been cited for years by IT as having a bad tuner cam back to life and is now working just fine.

In time the old cabling at Willow Valley North needs to be, and wlll be, updated if only to reduce the very high support costs for an antiquated system.      

For internet, use of all  cabling could be eliminated altogether simply by extending the Wi-fi system already in place in the public areas.  Residents would need no routers or access points or support, and would be spared those costs and annoyances.

Then maybe we could move ahead faster with efforts to keep seniors connected as they grow older without the many issues we have had in the past.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Odds and Ends, Old and New

Windows 10 is working very well for me now with both old and new equipment. The old tower needed a boost of memory to four gigabytes but is slowed down a bit by its obsolete mechanical spinning hard drive. A cheap new tablet does better with an ssd drive.

Lack of Windows printer drivers for my old printers led me to need to run Linux.    Linux Mint 17 runs extremely well on an old computer which can no longer run Windows.   Similarly, an  Intel Compute Stick serves the same purpose with an old monitor.  These can be had for $40.

But for everyday use a Chromebook is much more reliable and faster.

Even better is a new smartphone.

It is an enigma for me that seniors have difficulties switching to smartphones.    These are real liberating computers which address a fear of all seniors. That fear is to be cut off from Independence.

Still the learning curve appears to be steep though short.   Hang in there and use the past links on my website to find help.

Newly I have found a really great book to get started and available cheap in the next to newest edition.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Save on Internet and Phone Service

Your main ongoing computer costs are probably for internet service and for ink for your printer.

As these costs come down you could very easily replace old devices with much better new ones and save money in the process.

The idea is to work out your cost for internet service and for ink.   $30 can get you a new phone at very low-cost monthly rates from FreedomPop.   $60 can get you a state of an unlocked BLU R1 phone which will work with the least cost providers.

Near WiFi you might not even need internet service.

Project these costs out against what you are paying now.  It may be a no-brainer to add a new phone. With printers you can project the cost per page and achieve the same result.

Pretty soon you will have more smartphones and printers than you know what to do with!   (Just kidding!)

What to do with the older devices?    At the point where replacements are “break even” you don't need to get much out of them, and they will sell.    They will be a bargain to someone else.

If you go the route of an unlocked smartphone, be prepared to be adept in snapping off the back and inserting SIM cards.   YouTube videos will show you how.

Also be prepared to deal with almost unintelligible foreign phone voices when you need help.  

But save hundreds and hundreds of dollars over time in the effort and move up to the latest equipment.