Saturday, November 26, 2016

Finally, Maybe, a Better OS Cheap

Linux is the most widely used software for the backbone of internet, yet still unknown for most front-end users.

But tap or click for a needed breakthrough laptop alternative to Windows and Mac.

Linux is simpler, safer, stabler, faster, better.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

LTE Tablets STAY Connected

LTE tablets connect directly to cell towers for data (like WiFi except direct) and avoids the problems of local bad connections.

(The daughter of a resident here gave her mother such a device to avoid such frustrations here of  connecting to internet.)

The LTE iPad ALWAYS works for them to keep in touch.   That blessing is worth it,  according to the daughter.

With LTE you simply connect reliably wherever you are.     No routers, no wires, no Wi-Fi, no headaches.

It is not cheap, but you can pay just for what you use, like $25 for 1G over 3 months.   Yet for light users and new users, that is doable.   OK for email and light browsing.

These tablets do also work with Wi-Fi and hotspots, and with smartphones and plans that allow so-called tethering to such devices.

On a special sale from Woot, I picked up one for $70, refurbished.    A Kindle Fire 8.9, it  is probably the most versatile personal computer I have ever encountered.    Does Wi-Fi phoning away from Wi-Fi  (anywhere) and plugs into a big display to work as a full non-Windows PC.

It has a nice big screen and runs cheap subscriptions only available for Kindles.       It has a huge 64G memory to hold all your books and music and avoid most such data usage charges.

I t even cut that data usage down by using Opera’s  tunneling app.

Organized Browsing

For all of us who do very much browsing (Googling), it can get very confusing very quickly without your doing some organizing.   

Take a little time to organize, and it will help a lot.

The simplest way to organize is simply to use bookmarks.    Arranging these in folders further simplifies the process.

The organizing is best done in the bookmark manager where you can drag and  drop easily.

I simply right click on the bookmarks bar to create a folder, then drag and drop bookmarks into it.

Tap or Click to learn more in Chrome

Tap or Click for a how=to video.

A Space Efficient Computer Station

Like many seniors, I have a limited space for computers.   Of course, the least space solution is simply to use a smartphone for everything.

Still, it is nice to have a big screen somewhere.

I have a 24” LG combo smart TV/computer display connected through an HDMI switch to a PC, a Chromebook, a Roku, and a Kindle 6” tablet .

That way I can get to everything from one chair.

The Kindle can also be used portably as a phone with Skype or other app where there is Wi-Fi.  (The Kindle 6 has the essential special adapter to send out HDMI to the display.  Selected other Kindles have other ways of connecting.)

I also have a keyboard switch to share one keyboard with PC and Chromebook, plus a wireless keyboard/touchpad for the TV itself. The LG TV has the needed multiple inputs.

One HP Chromebook compatible printer serves everything.

Thus, I can do everything from one small space.

I do use tablets separately in an armchair. These take no space at all, so that you can have more than one to access all the capabilities.   For most seniors,  I recommend an iPad and also a Kindle Fire.     

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Organizing Files for a Book

With Windows 7 Microsoft patched-up a bad problem in Windows in a very crude way.   I have not seen any seniors using it.  It is called “Libraries”.

The basic problem was that it is difficult to find and organize files in Windows. Users put them here and there by using the “save as”  function, and eventually files are scattered all over the place and difficult to find.

So Windows 7 instituted Libraries, which appears as a folder in Windows Explorer, (Windows Explorer is also known as My Documents).

Libraries is not really a folder at all because it does not contain any files whatsoever, but simply provides a place to organize files which have been placed elsewhere. This happens automatically, so that all your document files are listed there wherever you have placed them on your hard drive.   In Libraries you can arrange them logically.

What really needs to happen, though,  is that file organization needs to occur within Windows Office.

That happens in a full-fledged word processor designed for creating complex documents and books.

Scrivener, for example,  makes your documents and notes easily accessible and organized in its main screens.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

MS Office

My issue with Microsoft Windows is that there are too many bear traps in it for those who do not take the time to learn in detail just how to use it.

That applies especially to Microsoft Office.  No one should use it without at least reading a book on how to use it, and better taking a course in it.

I say that with experience.   I have struggled through writing and publishing two books in Microsoft Word, finally successfully.   I had to go back and learn how to do it right by the time I got to the second book.

So if you are going to use Windows, and particularly, Microsoft Office, do your homework up front before you get into deep trouble.

I have seen half a dozen people get into difficulty without doing the spadework in advance.

The alternative is to use a more capable, more forgiving word processor.  I highly recommend Scrivener. Or just do it in Google Docs, but read Google’s help pages first. Or, Tap or click for how to do it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Files All "Mixed Up"

Recently a resident here using Microsoft Office opened up Microsoft Word and found his files all rearranged and “mixed up” from the order in which he had I stored them. He was horrified.

What happened is that Word had opened the Libraries Folder and not his original folders.

Microsoft created the Libraries folder directory newly in Windows 7 as a tool to order and collect all files of a given formatting, such as documents.    There are actually no files in the libraries folder, just links to where they were originally created.     What is different is that they are arranged in a different order  as mandated by Microsoft for easy navigation.

Right clicking on files in the Library folders will show where are they are in fact, and where you can go to find them in their original order and access them in Word.

Here is how to arrange files properly.

If this is confusing, read up Windows File Explorer and its use. Or use Google Docs for you word processing! Tap or click for a cheap used book on Windows 7

Internet Interruptions

Residents here have had many problems with Internet service in the last few days, and I have spent a lot of time checking out equipment to ensure that is not created by problems with resident equipment.  

The problem, however, is with the internet services, and I am assured by our IT people here that efforts will be made to resolve the problems on November 29th.

That is certainly is not soon enough for people who rely on internet for financial transactions and I am hoping that Internet problems can be addressed more quickly in the future.

Computing is ALL About Voice Now

Computing is ALL About Voice now. It's all about voice, and that is changing our world of computing and internet.

It could have happened technologically 40 years ago but nobody thought of doing it.

Then Amazon unwittingly thought of designing a neat gimmick called Echo and brought it out a year ago.

It has no keyboard and no display.

How could such a thing work?

Well, all of a sudden it, is does work, and blasted itself into the marketplace unexpectedly in very large numbers, much to the surprise of Amazon.

It turns out that it is more natural to do things by voice than any other way.  Simple.

Voice is the way we interact with humans most easily and effectively, so why not?

It is not that voice had not been used for a time with computers and smartphones.   It was that Amazon dispensed with the keyboard and screen.

The innovation set off a complete change and simplification in how we use smartphones and suddenly created entirely new demands on our internet connections.

With voice computing there must be an uninterrupted connection to the cloud all the time.  Not long ago that connection was only occasionally needed for an occasional email.  Voice sends your speech patterns up to a super computer which then sends text back.

Voices also cheap.   We don't need anything more than the $50 device to implement it. What a surprise!

The impacts for me especially is that it opens the door for a simple way for seniors to use computers not only to do all that computer work but to extend the device to the control of lights and other devices, and every other way of keeping connected.

Why didn't we think of this before?

Recovering Windows 10

To be sure that you'll be able to reinstall Windows 10 at some future time, without buying a copy,  tap on the following link and follow the procedure now.

Tap or click here

Also, before starting, set "sleep" to "never".    Then, when done, set back to your specified time.     Otherwise, the long process may not be able to finish and you will get a message saying that the drive could not be created.  

If you must use battery, be fully charged and turn off the display,

You would think the app would have attended to the above.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Christmas Bargains

 I have found a few super bargain “Best Buy” type items which may be attractive for other seniors, too!!.  (I use PayPal only to buy from abroad.)

Tech Items:

Amazon Echo Dot $50 - start to use voice computing, as for switching (hard to reach or remote) lamps on and off -

Switches for above - $30 or less ea - also work from smartphone

Charging Station $22 - makes the best use of an outlet to recharge your devices

Kindle Fire $50 - all-round tablet, can be hacked to google apps - on sale as low as $33

Cables - cheap and well-made cables -

Short charging cables -

Pigtail Power Extension for bulky wall warts -

Premium Audio cables that WORK!!  -

Hotspot Service - #4.99/mo up - cheap way to add (up to LTE) data to your smartphone and devices -

Other Senior Items

Shower Curtain Rings - $1.09x2=$2.18 - I use two per hole, facing opposite, replacing $$ units which quit too soon -

Shower Curtain - $14 expensive but worth it to stop spills and mold

Stockings - light compression stockings - $1.71/pair!!

2in1 Light Socket Adapters $1.46 - use 2 60 watt (10,5 watt) equivalent LEDS in one lamp to replace 100 watt incandescent -

Humidifier - as low as $15 - same unit under Sunbeam, Walgreen, Honeywell, and other brand names -washes in dishwasher

Men’s Automatic Belt - $5 - once you get the hang of it, tightens and releases instantly

Wireless Doorbell - $10 - receiver plugs into wall socket w/o battery

Stool - snappy and strong waterproof Folding Step Stool - $10

Men’s Slip-On - a decent stirtched cheap $30 shoe, also check Dexter Eastborough from Payless & their Sales -'s+Bay&start=1

Friday, November 11, 2016

Starting "Green" with a Smartphone

(Prepared for our Willow Valley computer EXPO in our Cultural Center Ballroom December 1st.)

If you are altogether new on smartphones, and even computers, here is how to get going,  the new way and the smart way, using mainly just your voice.

You will be using voice recognition everywhere possible and you will have the most widely used and affordable smartphone by far, an Android phone, although much of this applies to iPhones and Windows phones.

The phone will need a little set up from a helper to get you going.

That setup will be guided by the phone itself so that it will connect you to the cloud properly.   You will need an account to identify yourself to the cloud and to get our contacts accessible for phoning.     

Before that, you need to know how to turn it on, which I have found is not intuitive.   On every smartphone there is a raised bar about the width of a staple.  As you start your phone. you may need to hold it in for a few moments.   There will then probably be a vibration from the phone showing that it is starting to connect. That will take more than a few more moments.

You will then need to navigate to the home screen where things start and where you need to go back when done other activity..

That screen can be brought up from at the bottom of the portrait screen by swiping up from very the bottom and tapping on the small circle at the center of the home screen. When tapping, tap deliberately and don't jab.

Once there, you can get to almost everything with just voice commands. This is done by tapping on the microphone at the top of the screen and speaking your commands.   Voice commands should be in short complete sentences, well articulated.

A command can be quite simple like “phone home” or “send an email”, “play radio station WITF”.  The phone will then respond with voice and/or screen, with information and will prompt you if it needs more input.   It may also simply take you to a list of websites you can reach with a tap.

It  is okay just to dream up a command and see if it works. but start with just a few commands and gradually add more until you can do nearly everything by voice. That includes creating a document and, most important of all, searching for information.

There is a complete list of voice commands below.

By the way, voice  is the new way to use a smartphone and may be quite different from what others have been doing around you.  No need to do it tre hard way any more.

A resident here who gave up altogether using a smartphone the old way, caught on very quickly using voice.

Now, the phone as you receive it has a few capabilities.  It is pretty much a tabula rasa.  You will soon be adding so-called apps.

That is done by tapping on the App Store icon on the home screen and then tapping on the microphone to dictate the name of the app you wish to install.   When the app is found and displayed, you tap to install it.   Once installed, an icon will access it from your apps library, reachable from your home screen.

For example, you may want an app to enable the phone to read out loud documents which are normally accessed in print form.   I use @Voice, which sets itself up once installed and is activated from the sharing men or sharing icon.    Menus are displayed as three lines or three dots vertically.

The same sharing can send documents by email or to a printer or to cloud storage for later access.  Again,  apps are needed for these functions.    I use the Brother printer app and Push to Kindle, having first installed the Kindle reader app as above.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Christmas List

The first item on most seniors’ Christmas list needs to be a smartphone, if they do not already have one.

(A smartphone is not always recognized by a senior as an always available 24/7 helper.   But seniors do need 24/7 helpers.)

If not familiar with smartphones, it will be necessary to sit with the senior and show them the ropes. That means the essentials as opposed to the confusing array of all those things a smartphone can do.    Those can come later.

The essentials are: making phone calls, doing emails, and using voice for these and for searches for information.     Using voice is paramount to success.

I have learned that doing everything by voice works for seniors who otherwise have a hard time with a smartphone. Tap or Click for a list of all you can do with voice alone!.

Or tap pr click to see how it is done...

The phone should cost no more than $100, and the plan, if needed at all, as little as $10 a month as long as Wi-Fi is available nearby.