Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Resurrecting an old iPod Touch 2nd Gen

It's been more than 10 years since the iPhone was introduced.

Shortly after that a look-alike was introduced without phoning, an iPod Touch.

Some years ago ours, a 2nd gen,  had been relegated to using it only to listen to the radio as we transferred other functions to our  newer smartphone.

I reevaluated its usefulness.

It is very small compared to newer smartphones.      That turns out to be a benefit.      Most of ,s now experienced, smartphone users have found that it's best to have the smallest device possible in our pocket..

I considered selling it.  To my surprise I found that it sells for as much as $100 when in extremely good condition.      What's going on?

It turns out that it can now phone out using Google Voice in areas where there is WiFi.     It  also works with a hotspot.

It holds a surprising amount of music and delivers it beautifully to a good set of earbuds or Bluetooth headphones.

As many apps have been updated so that they no longer run in an old iPod Touch,  I found I could run Pandora, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, NPR news, Overdrive, Google, one version of audio books, and Kobo.

As for news,  I simply set it up for daily briefings from The New York Times,  Washington Post,  Google News,  the News Journal,  MSN news,  and the like.

It does the basics.   it's very small.    it's still a keeper.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Which computer device for which tasks?

 If you have an overriding need to do one particular thing with a computer device,  then which device would be the most suitable choice for you?

These choices are changing and challenging.

If you are a senior,  your general and specific needs will probably be best met with an iPad, especially if you are going to need help     The iPad is becoming more and more useful with ever new capabilities.   The outstanding new control panel makes it easier to use.  

Newly for seniors with mobility problems,  is voice computing using Amazon Echo and/or Google devices.     Their capabilities will extend further and further into traditional computing tasks. They are also dirt cheap, but you do need internet access.

If you are a reader, an eReader makes a lot of sense,  especially for offline reading, large memory capacity, and long times between charges.  Most popular are the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook alternative.    You might even want both,  because the Kindle Fire supports Kindle books best,  while the Nook supports the Epub format best.    However,  the seven inch Nook tablet  is also a nice choice, as it fits comfortably into a pocket  and runs the full Android Google app library.   I read with the cheap Moto E smartphone because I always have it with me.

Now,  if you are a writer,  choices are changing.      Notably voice input is desirable for many.    In the past a serious writer needed to use a serious tool such as Scrivener.  which ran only on PCS and Macs  in the past.   The eye opener is that it now runs on the iPad, of all places.      That is a game changer.       For those still using Word,  Word now runs on almost anything.

If you are an exhaustive reader,  you need a better choice than limited libraries.     Calibre  may not be familiar but is is the quint essential app for managing and accessing content from all sources.   Nowadays it require Windows or Mac operating systems.    

For communicating the smartphone is the choice.      The easiest way to use it as simply to dictate a text message which is then received to be able to be accessed at the convenience of the user at that end.     Just say:  “send a text message to Charlie” and let the phone prompt you through the rest of it.

Getting the news also works well on any smartphone,  but a big screen offers you more of a newspaper like array.

Facebook works well with any device which can be used with a large screen.

Many older users still rely on spreadsheets.      Ideally spreadsheets necessitate a big screen,   yet smaller laptops and even smartphones can manage spreadsheets on a large screen. The bigger question is why you would nowadays use the spreadsheet at all as opposed to a more competent dedicated application.

In the past presentations were best done with PowerPoint in Windows.    The eye opener nowadays is that the Keynote application for iPad is slicker to use once you get to know it.    The iPad also makes it easier to incorporate photos and editing into your presentation.

If browsing is your cup of tea,  you need a fast browser.      That will be best supplied by a Chromebook,  clear and simple.

If buying is your thing, you can accomplish that task in any device that runs a browser.  The Chromebook is a good choice.

When selling,  however, whether on eBay or Amazon or Craigslist,  it is highly desirable to use a device with a built-in camera  to take pictures of what is being sold.     That is why I use a  cell phone (yep) or an iPad.   I find it much easier to put up a listing on a smartphone than on any other device.

What about for addressing mailing lists, such as Christmas lists?     Sadly I have never found anything really  better than an old program from Casio which ran on a PDA.    Remember PDAs?   However there is a very decent program for the iPad described elsewhere on this website.

If your thing is your finances,  that poses a very special situation.      You may want to keep everything  entirely off the internet, which dictates a device that runs well off the internet      A Chromebook adapted for Linux will do that.      Other devices running Linux will also do that.     The $99 Linux Mac-lookalike Pinebook will do just that.   However,  the Mint application is said to run safely on internet  with bank encryption and I know of no efficient alternative for it.

Photo editing it may be your thing.      In that case the  Macintosh makes a fine choice.     We just don't know how long the Mac  will continue, as the iPad Pro takes over more functionality.  Right now the MacBook Air has some special appeal for that functionality with its camera.      For most purposes the iPad will do what you need.

Video editing requires heavy duty high speed hardware and maybe even a tower.      Users need to know that professional movie editing is done with Linux, which can be a challenge to use.    I know that Linux has great promise of moving more into mainstream devices,  but it has always been “almost” there.  Try Linux Mint on your old but high-speed PC or Mac.

If printing is a paramount concern,  Windows simply offers the most drivers for the newest printers to enable you just to plug them in direct.   Linux offers many such drivers for older printers.  Chromebooks depend on wireless and networks, but, that is just starting to change.

What about music?      The good news is that music is accessible from many devices.      Consider which sources though, and their associated libraries    There is the Apple iTunes library.     There is the Amazon library.     There is the Google library.      Just pick the device that best accesses your library of choice.

What about streaming video?     Here you want a high speed internet connection.      That restricts the choices right there.     Your device needs to operate either plugged in direct to internet wireless or wirelessly on the 5 gigahertz WiFi band      The device also needs a fast processor and fast graphics.      Much of the time the iPad will do.      Little known, however is that there is a device which will enable you to connect that iPad directr without using wireless for a higher speed streaming.

A smart TV can also provide high speed streaming.      There are also TVs which can be used both as standalone TVs and as displays for almost any other device, like your smartphone.     They are also quite cheap.    Pair a Chromebook with such a TV.    

Monday, December 4, 2017

Linux For EXPO Attenders

Tap or Click for 25 Resources to learn about Linux

Tap or Click to Get Started with Linux

Presentations Revisited

Recently a resident was stressed out about needing to create a presentation In a short time while also learning to use a new device for this user, an iPad.

It developed that the easiest approach was to create the presentation separately from the iPad,  and keep the learning effort as a separate project,

A presentation can be handled without a computer with simple paper handouts showing the slides in order, such a 6 / page.     No computer is needed at all.

On a computer the simplest way is to use a familiar word processor but save the document of slides in a PDF format.    That PDF format can be accessed and projected from any device.   Thanks to Tony Poulos for the suggestion.

More challenging is to use a computer program dedicated to creating presentations.

Of these, Microsoft PowerPoint is probably the most familiar to most users.      PowerPoint is even available now on an iPad.

Simpler is to create the presentation with PowerPoint on a machine familiar to the user,  and then exporting it to a separate device for projection if necessary.

PowerPoint requires some learning because of its exhaustive capabilities.   A class is advised,  and desirable if you are going to create many presentations.

More newly Apple has created Keynote for Macs and iPads and even iPhones.      The idea was to simplify the process while also offering many of PowerPoints capabilities.     

The result was a touch screen program which can create a sophisticated slideshow in minutes. Keynote is a stunning creation inspired by Steve Jobs' goal of making complex things simple.

If you are going to be making many, many presentations,  I think Keynote  is the best way to go, with a big caution.   The caution is that the documentation to use this program is awful.

(And don't bother if you are already using PowerPoint.)

In a past posting I have provided a detailed step-by-step tutorial to get you up and running quickly on Keynote.   Search this site for it.   Or just Tap or click for it...

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Getting Computer Help

The computer is a do-it-yourself instrument.   The computer is just a tool.      It is the hammer and saw to get the job done.

The mission of those helping others with computers is simply to help others learn how to do it and use the tool for themselves.

If someone wants someone else to do computing work for them using a computer, thatcomplicates the task of getting the job done altogether.

Such a prtcess introduces a complication.  There now needs to be a lot of intercommunication.   Takes a lot of time.     It is always easier to do it yourself.

Doing it yourself does require preparation end the use of all the resources available, of which there are many.

Classes,  books,  videos,  one-on-one sessions,  and more.

In learning difficult computer related tasks,  such as programming, I found it most useful to sit and observe the programmer without interfering or commenting at all,  simply observing.

Nowadays such a process of learning can be done by  watching a YouTube video.     Simply pick your task and look for the best YouTube video.

If there is no time to leafn, then do it the old non-computer way.

As Times Change...

As times change we find new ways to do our stuff.

Time was when we would go to our tower computer to do our computing at our desk.

Now, we reach in our pocket for smartphone, the smaller the better.

In our easy chair we reach for our iPad or other tablet, such as Amazon Fire or a Nook tablet or reader.

Alternatively, we use our laptop.

New intel-based Chromebooks work as tablets, smartphones, and even Linux computers. These  can also power a big screen.

The old tower sits more and more abandoned.

Barnes and Noble Nook TABLET

Recently I've been thinking about getting a new smartphone with a larger screen. These are still pricey.      What gave me pause is that I normally reach for my smallest $30 smartphone anyway when going anywhere.    I only use my largest one occasionally.     Not worth a new investment.

I think a lot of regular smartphone users do the same, even though seniors do tote big iPads around to show pictures to their friends,,,and take pictures with them, too.

Anyway, for many such Apple users the new four inch iPhone SE is very appealing despite its small size (and at its lower price).   
When Barnes & Noble came out with a special $30 sale on their Nook tablet,  I jumped at the opportunity to get one cheap as an alternative.    Bigger than  smartphones, it is still very portable, a better choice than a new smartphone.    It actually fits in my pocket.   Phones with Hangouts and even away from WiFi  with a Hotspot. If you have a Google Voice number, it will even receive calls to that number via Hangouts.

The Nook tablet enables the addition of  up to 128 gigs memory.       BUT when I put in a card with 16 Gigs, it suddenly disappeared.       I wondered if it had somehow slid into the interior of the tablet.

I called  Barnes and Nobles and they told me they could take a look at it, and when I got there they were immediately helpful.     Apparently the card had popped out without my noticing it.      When a new card was inserted,  it worked fine.

The Nook tablet is even better than the very positive reviews indicate.       It' has the familiar Android smartphone screen.      It's a bit smaller than the Amazon Fire and fits better in, at least, my hand.  It's lighter.   It's fast.

I like it a lot.    I can recommend it to anybody.

Even more, I like the way Barnes & Noble addressed  my trivial issue, and I am adding them to my list of computer friendly companies which include, of course, Apple and Best Buy.

Amazon notwithstanding,  we need to keep all of these customer friendly companies alive.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Guide to Linux Free Books and Resources

Here is a great guide to Linux resources...

Tap or click for it...

Learning about Linux

I will be demonstrating locally two ways to use Linux on a laptop for seniors, one on a MacBook look alike at $99,  and another on a Chromebook had less than  $200.

For those who need more information here is a great link to learn more about Linux…

Friday, November 24, 2017

New TV? Whoops

Getting a brand new TV?

Puzzled about adding headsets and speakers?

In any given TV you may be in for a surprise!

It may not be possible to plug in that headset.    You may find that all you have is an optical TOSLINK output port.    These are quite new.     Most sound devices do not accommodate them.   

So for any new TV,  it is best to investigate settings before buying.      On your LG controller, For example, look for a gear icon and press the button.      Then scroll down to sounds.    Tap.    Scroll up and down the options and look for things like Bluetooth

Even the very same brand may have different capabilities with slightly different model numbers.

There may be nothing but optical connections.    There may be Bluetooth or not.   There may  be the old RCA connectors, or not.   There maybe the old 3.5 mm stereo jack, or not.

Fortunately,  all can accommodated for your headset,  but sometimes an adapter or converter is needed.

Bluetooth is especially handy since it works with a variety of sound devices.      Optical converters are available to provide it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Linux on a Cheap ChromeBook

Linux is the backbone of the internet.    Usually you connect to Linux when you browse the internet. It is the ultimate of operating systems.

So why not have Linux for a laptop?

It is now practical.

Linux is ideal for those who loved Windows XP which is no longer supported by Microsoft.

Like Windows, Linux works both as an internet computer or as a self standing computer not connected at all.

The Linux Pinebook at $99 actually looks more like a MacBook and runs an Office Suite and browser and more.  Made by a parts supplier,  it shows more promise than fast functionality.

However, a cheap Intel Chromebook can be setup to run to both Chrome and also Linux, fast.

The process works like this...

The device is put into so-called developer mode by holding down the escape and refresh buttons along with the on-off button.  The refresh key is identified with a curled arrow.   

Wait a few moments. Or press Ctl D to move ahead.

On rebooting in developer mode,  a script called Crouton is downloaded.

The downloaded script is started by entering terminal mode in Chrome with control alternate T.

The word shell is then entered into the terminal.

Then a command is issued such to download and install Ubuntu Linux, such as
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce.

This takes some time so you sit back and do something else for a while to come back finally and enter a new login and password.

You are then prompted to enter a command to start Linux, which is spelled out for you.

Linux starts.

Additionally,  there is an extension for Chrome which will toggle in and out of Linux.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Optical to Headphones & Speakers

Here is a video on a converter to connect your new TV optical audio to your old headsets and speakers...

Tap or click for it...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Setting Up That Router

Setting up a router or extender can be intimidating.   

Not only that,  the instructions are too often confusing, whereas normally the process is simple…

Just plug an Ethernet cable into your computer offline, and type the IP address of the router Into your browser search or URL window..    Usually that IP address is 192.168.X. X,  where X is usually a zero or one, such as     That address may also be marked on the back of the router.

A search of internet will also usually find the IP address of your particular router.

What comes up is a login screen to your router.     The usual default login and password is admin.      Again,  a search will find that information for you if not on the back of your router.

Once logged in,  this next screen is intimidating.      There are too many choices,  and a wrong choice can give you some headaches.

Not to worry.  you can always reset the router back to default.

All you really need or want to do is to set up your wifi login and password and very often there is a Wizard to help you do so.

There is also the ability to pick a channel in the wifi spectrum which is the least used.     

On a smartphone or tablet, a  wifi analyzer app  will show where space is least crowded.

That procedure worked for me in a case where a CD failed to set up a very good router in Windows 10, as evidenced by the many negative comments about the router on Amazon.

RESET That Bad Actor

If you have had your device for a while and it is not working well,  then resetting it may put it right back into good shape.

This applies to computers in general and smartphones as well.

When you go to settings and tap on reset,  you get the option to keep your apps and other information.       I generally keep only selected apps where I have that option.

So many of us forget to do the reset procedure, just as we forget sometimes simply to pull the plug and reinsert it to restore functionality.

Resetting does take some time, so don't panic!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Using Amazon Echo voice to control lighting is appealing for seniors,  especially if the lighting is not in easy reach.

Initially I used smart switches at the wall to control lights by voice.   Now it is cheaper to use smart bulbs.

I selected the Sylvania Osram system called Lightify because the price had come down sharply from what it had been before.

I noticed that Amazon comments were conflicting, though.  Many commenters were strongly negative and yet many were strongly positive. Some indicated that Lightify could not be used with Alexa, whereas others indicated that Lightify worked fine with Alexa.

But nobody explained HOW Lightify could be made to work fine with Alexa.

So here is the explanation for the conflicting comments.

The basic installation to smartphone works well.  The connection to Alexa is simply confusing.  

The problem is all a matter of passwords and serial number.

Where the instructions say to use the information on the back of the Hub to connect, that information is not correct.

The login password is not the password indicated on the Hub. Instead it is the password used with your login which in my case was my email address login password.

Then the serial number is not the serial number indicated on the Hub.   The dash and digits following at the end are NOT to be included.

With those changes everything connected and paired.

Lightify uses a system called Zigbee, for which even cheaper bulbs are available than those from Lightify.   I have not tried them.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

iPad WiFi Setup

Once you have your iPad, then you need WiFi.

You can find it in public places of course.

Here's a way to connect... from Apple.  Tap or click for it.

But then you almost surely want WiFi at home.

You need internet service first of course,  and for that you need a router with wireless.

(Alternatively,  there are third-party adapters which connect direct to your modem,  but then it is inconvenient to use your iPad in only one place.}

So how do you set up your router?

Here is a procedure for one popular router.   Tap or click for it.

Other routers will work similarly.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Headphone and Speaker Headaches

Choices of headsets and speakers present a dizzying array.  Bluetooth adds to the confusion.

Bluetooth is named for King Harald Bluetooth who united North European tribes.  But Bluetooth does not offer a universally reliable interface.   Not every device can pair with every other device.

So here are some things to think about when getting ready buy a headset or speaker.

Headsets and speakers connect in various ways.  There is the old plug still universally used in cell phones.

A newer way is a USB connection. That USB connection may or may not power the headphone or speaker and may or may not amplify the sound.

There are also the old RCA plugs.

And there are converters.

Which of these will work in a device is often a matter of trial and error.

Fortunately good devices are not necessarily expensive.

I found a Billboard headset at $20 which had very good sound though a bit uncomfortable to wear.    

This particular headset worked both wired with Bluetooth and wireless, but not all Bluetooth.

Another headset worked wired and had amplification, but sometimes only on USB.

A third was an RF type a less than  $30 which did work well with TV,

Another device simply worked as a Bluetooth transmitter which had the ability  to deliver TV sound to Bluetooth headsets which happened to be compatible.

For TV the standard for me has always been the Sennheiser headset which looks cheap but is extremely comfortable and has outstanding sound. It is expensive.

The Pinebrook laptop presented a great challenge. Amplified devices selectively did work well with it, once the proper driver was selected.

In general smart phones work well with most headsets and speakers.

A sraightaway USB plug in speaker worked widely.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Printer Choices and Setup

Ideally a printer should be bought along with the computer you will be using.

That means a little online research should be done in advance to determine which printers work best with a given device.

Many newer printers work with Windows 10 simply by plugging them in and without any further installation effort.    Where there is no Windows 10 driver, some older drivers will work with some printers.   A call to Samsung yielded a driver for my old Samsung Laser.

Many older printer work with Linux by plugging them in and without any further installation effort.

Ideally, though, any printer needs to be a wireless printer with a touchscreen which sets and displays its network address.

Chromebooks prints this way through the cloud, or sometimes through an extension, such as for selected HP printers, (even into the USB port).     Chrome Version 59 enables adding selected fore more local network printers.

By typing the printer’s network address (from its display) into a browser on the same network, the printer can be registered and accessed by Cloudprint.

Smartphones and tablets use apps to find printers on the network automatically.

The iPad  is particularly good at finding selected printers.

Slow Wifi

Here is a good discussion of WiFi speed variations...

Tap or Click for it...

Friday, October 13, 2017

How to Create a Presentation in Keynote on iPad

Keynote for iPad offers a simple way of creating a presentation.

So although it is the ultimate in usability, how to use it as not intuitive from the start screen.   The key it is in those two little plus + signs,  one at bottom left and one at the top right.    Their function should have been much more clearly identified.

When using Keynote on iPad you are first shown the following screen.

This is the text entry screen for the first slide.

This slide can be created by double tapping to edit, and then tapping on the microphone icon on the keyboard and dictating the content.

Left bottom tapping on that little plus + then opens templates for the subsequent slides..

You choose the template for the next slide by tapping on it.

(Scroll down.)


You then enter text or tap on an image to replace it with a picture or text slide.

(Scroll down.)


That is done by tapping on either text or image.   Double tapping on a text block enables text editing. and then tapping on an image takes you to the plus + menu at top right of your screen.

There you can choose a picture or a document from the library of pictures and documents you have created earlier either by photographing them or creating or by downloading other documents or webpages.

(Scroll down.)


That’s the process which repeats as you add each slide.
When done creating slides, you rearrange them by dragging and dropping into position at left.

You can tap on the okay I saw that bagm to run transitions, but that is optional.

To run your slideshow, tap on the arrow at top.    That could have been more clearly identified, too.

Once in the presentation, you can slide left or right to advance  to the next slide or go back to a slide, and give your talk.

All it takes then is to plug in the cable to your theater projector