Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Resources for Seniors Learning Google, GMail, Smartphones & Apps

Here are some aids for seniors just learning to use GMail, Smartphones, and Apps...

Tap or Click for them.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Upgrade your old machine?

If there's anything most techies agree on nowadays, it is that it is probably not worthwhile to upgrade your old machine.

For Windows 10, for example, you really need a quad processor, 4 gigs of RAM  and a solid state hard drive.    Old slow mechanical hard drives are a thing of the past and are to be avoided.

Such a device can be obtained pretty cheaply at $200 to $400 max.     If you have an old large screen display,  then a low-cost small laptop will do to work with it.    Also plug in a full-size keyboard.

I actually recommend having two new devices.

.  a cheap Windows laptop to do anything
.  a cheap Chromebook to do most of it faster and hassle-free     

The Windows laptop will be quickly and reliably compatible with any printer of recent vintage.*

The Chromebook runs at extremely high speed without exposure to Windows settings problems and support issues, especially slow ups and viruses.

That way you have the best of all worlds.   That is what I have.  I spent about $200 for each device, actually less, like $120 for one!!

The Chromebook can even be plugged into your modem direct to avoid router issues, costs, and problems safely.  An adapter costs about $10: usb to ethernet.

You could avoid the Windows computer.   You would use Google Docs with the Chromebook as opposed to Windows Office and you could obtain a Hewlett-Packard printer that works through your router.    You could put up with CloudPrint with a Chromebook as well, printing through the cloud.   I do not recommend the latter.

You could also avoid both options and simply rely on your smartphone to do it all. Most of the time it is easier to use a smartphone to perform a task than using the old laptop, especially when you can do it with a simple voice command.    The new Chromebooks also run the smartphone apps for Android smartphones, so: just one system to learn for both.

Here at Happy Valley, where there are Windows 10 free kiosks everywhere, the last is an attractive alternative.

A great smart phone should cost no more than $200, and a $30 smartphone will do the job, I recommend the Moto G 4 at about $150 (NOT the Moto 4G).

*If you have a really old printer you really love, a Linux device with the Linux Mint or Zorin Linux operating system will work with it.     Go to Dell only for that.    

** All the major brands of tablets have both Windows and Chromebook devices.   Look for compact laptops.    

Friday, February 17, 2017

What is a Hashtag?

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol.    It is used on Twitter.

The question came up at breakfast the other day and I could not find a very good explanation on internet.

Really, though, it is quite simple.

A hashtag is a means of searching Twitter.

To search Twitter, you simply put that hashtag symbol # ahead of your search criteria, as #smartphones.
To Tweet something so that it can be found, place the hashtag after your Twitter. Such as #smartphones if you are twittering about smartphones.

The benefit of searching Twitter is that you are searching right up to the minute info.

Monday, February 13, 2017

35mm Slides

Chances are you have somewhere in your family a hoard of old 35mm slides just taking up space. What to do with them?

Sorting through them can take a long time and be a cumbersome process.

Digitizing makes it possible to discard them all together, though, once you have them in a safe place such as on a DVD or a safe place in the cloud, preferably both.

In our case, once we had sorted through them, we had already discarded about 75% of them and kept 25% without discarding them.

Sorting took a long time but yielded some happy memories of times past.   There was no need to hurry through them  as we recalled old times and places.

Using a new digitizer made it easier than past efforts to do the job. Older devices had been disappointing over the years.

We employed a new $100 Jumbl scanner which worked better than our best hopes.      The side tray was indeed a little bit awkward to fill tightly.     Otherwise the pictures came out better digitized than in preview through a TV set connected to the scanner by  A/V..   The scanner produces a 14 megapixel image.

The slides were digitized in groups of about 100 before being backed up and stored somewhere. They were then actually uploaded to Google and Amazon and to Drive.   They were also backed up to a PC and to a flash drive in batches, being careful not to overwrite right

When the whole process is complete, they will be stored on a DVD with a copy of the DVD in the safe-deposit Box.

Phone (Dial) the Easy Voice Way

You certainly want to do your phone dialing by voice nowadays.

You want to be able to say “Call Mom”  or  “Call the Front Desk” or “Call Home”, and that's all there is to it.   Your smartphone completes the call.

To do so, you will probably want to update your contact list with new names or simply add contacts with those same new names.  Names like "Home" or "Dentist" or "Pharmacy".

That's about all there is to it.

If you have a Alexa,  you need to enable the Ooma skill and set up contacts in a different way...

Then, once OOma is enabled, all you need to ask Alex to “ask Ooma to call a (phone number).  Alexa (Ooma) will ask for a nickname for that number which you can then use to later. Just say the name of the contact.

Ooma will ring your landline phone and connect you.   

So, to recap, “Alexa, ask Ooma to call (a phone number or nickname)" , and wait for your phone to ring connected with the party Ooma called for you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Old Way is the Hard Way

The old way is the hard way with computers.  With computers, it is not so much what you know but how fast you can learn.

That also puts a new user at an advantage... the new user does not need to unlearn the old way!!

So, with computers, it is always the question of how can I learn most easily?   Where can I go to find the newest way to do it?

That means going to the browser first.

There, in the browser, YouTube often is the easiest way.   It is just a question of finding the most suitable video.    The viewer count is a clue to that.

Another way is simply to watch someone doing it the new way.   Around here there are many who will help you one-on-one.

Or you can simply pose the question to the browser such as “How can I  ……..??”

Last, and least, you might very well also even find a book online on the subject.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An Unexpected New Wonder

We now have an unexpected Wonder for those with poor eyesight but unimpeded speaking and hearing.

This wonder is the Amazon Echo.   The Amazon Echo is a computer without keyboard and  screen which operates exclusively by voice.   Her name is Alexa.

The Echo is cheap and capable. All you need to do is ask Alexa to do something and she will do it, such as read a book to you or turn a light on and off.    The device is just $50, the remote switches cost $30 and up.  Voice controlled thermostats cost quite a bit more.

The new technology is unexpected because no one had predicted its popularity after its recent initial launch. It has been wildly popular.

Whereas other tech to assist with limited vision has often been disappointing, this tech is far more promising..

It does require some setup help from someone with good vision.

The remarkable thing about this development  is that it was technologically possible 40 years ago even with the limited speech recognition available at that time. It is just that nobody thought of it.

There is this caution: this technology requires an extremely reliable connection to internet for reasons described below.* Though this community is working on that, such a connection is not available in all parts of it.

In my apartment I have been doing some of the following things. .. 

For example, just turning on the lights here is a bit of a problem in our apartment. Not only do you need to turn lights on and off to go from one end to the other, but a single switch controls all the lights in a single room.  It is a whole lot simpler just to ask Alexa to turn on a light at the far end or in any other inaccessible place.

I use it for texting and even dialing a phone number.    I just ask it to play music or listen to news or radio.    Or simply to get answers to questions. I use it to remind me of things I need to do when the time comes.

Newly it has become possible to read digital books from your Amazon Library and also your email.


This technology requires constant uninterrupted connections to the internet. It is essential to transmit, iin real time, the voice patterns from the user to the cloud, where a supercomputer interprets  hem and sends back instructions to the new device.  Timeouts  end limited bandwidth can shut it down so that it does not work.     Here, where we have obsolete cable, there can be such problems, but elsewhere in this community they are rare..