Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Local Community Website

This website, snrtech.org, addresses tech matters for all seniors everywhere, and is read worldwide.

Local residents of this community, however, have often asked me to address more specific local community Tech issues. To date there is no internet place to do so.   Many times I have intervened with management on an individual basis, but this has been unsatisfactory at times.

Further, many of the issues go beyond Tech and to other issues.     Among these are how to obtain services of all kinds, even political action.     Most frequent is how to handle the panic of a spouse's onset of Alzheimer's*.    But the issues go further t where to go for specific medical care, fitness support and training, safety issues, and problems with access to dining services.

So there is no website to deal with these local issues.    

So residents basically are asking for an unofficial community website to fill the gap, as with many, many other similar communities.   

Here I need your specific recommendations as to how we should proceed.

My number one priority is to see that seniors everywhere are not cut off from the wider world of technology, of course,  and I will need other hands to assist with the maintenance of such a website, once created.

Many here are concerned with the future of our national healthcare, and such a site would also direct them to help. Tap or click for one. As for you international readers, most of you do not have such worries.

NOTES:

  • I note that in the case of Alzheimer's, management here directed me to another community with a broad program, both internally and externally.   Although I am not faced with these issues personally,  I was able to learn a great deal about what I might be able to do to assist those around me, and I am deeply grateful for their gracious help.     The community is the Brethren community in Lancaster.    They have brought in world-class experts to work with their residents and fitness Department.     They also now offer Life Care contracts.

How to Use This Site

Based on solutions posted here to real tech issues for seniors, this site can serve as a how-to tech problem-solver resource!

The way to use it is to scroll down to the search window at the right and simply do a search of this site.

For example, if you need go stop your Windows PC from hibernating, search for "hibernate"

You will then come up with a posting that addresses the this one.    Tap or click to see "hibernate" search results.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Reading News Online

We subscribe to both print and digital subscriptions of a variety of magazines and newspapers.

We found recently that the subscription contents, format, and price have been changing.     For this reason we changed and/or extended some of these.

We discontinued our Kindle Paperwhite subscription to the Philadelphia Inquirer for its reduced content, cost, and format and replaced it with a smartphone-tablet-PC subscription to the News-Journal in Wilmington for a tiny fraction of the cost, exhaustive content and back issues, and full published print page---you tap on the story for readable text on a small device.  Not only that you get limited access to USA Today.   The site will also read stories out loud.     Daily Briefings were set up with Alexa.   

Because it is easier and more accessible to read away from the print edition on smartphone or tablet,  I extended the digital access to Time and Bloomberg Businessweek.    Going to the Time subscription management site,  I was able to add digital access for $0.20 per issue to a low cost subscription.   With Bloomberg Business Week I went to Amazon and searched for Kindle Business Week and followed the instructions to gain digital access.

I then went to smartphone and Paperwhite to activate the subscriptions where available,  I logged in as required to get the full content.

New York Times and Washington Post subscriptions still run well on the Paperwhite and at reasonable cost for good content.

Amazon Prime subscribers get the Washington Post for a bargain price.

Further, I set up daily briefings via Email wherever available, such as earlier with the New York Times and New Yorker and NPR.     

I added  English excerpts from the south German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.  Tap or click for it.   (Then, for the more complete German edition, just tap for the German edition from the English site.)


Bottom line:  keep your subscriptions up-to-date.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Programmable and Voice Controlled Thermostat

I recently had the following programmable and voice controllable WiFi thermostat installed in our apartment here, a  Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat (with Amazon Alexa access).

Programmability means that the thermostat can be set so that the apartment is already warm when you get up in the morning and already cool when you turn in for the night.

Wi-Fi means that you can control it remotely by smartphone or simply by voice via Alexa.   If you are too cold in the middle of the night you can simply say “Alexa, turn up the thermostat two degrees” without ever getting out of bed.

The cost of the thermostat was about $85 as compared to $25 for a normal thermostat.    installation ranges from $150 to $200.

Here the installation was done by the contractor which provides such services to this community, using the latest Honeywell thermostat, a nice choice.

The Wi-Fi setup required that the resident work with the installer so that one person could be at the thermostat and the other at a computer.    For the Wi-Fi to work properly the resident should therefore be computer literate.     Internet must be working to make any changes away from the thermostat.

If you are considering such an installation,  I suggest  you download and read the manual for particular term thermostat ahead of time.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

snrtech.blogspot.com

If you ever have a problem accessing snrtech.org, the altermative URL is snrtech.blogspot.com.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SnrTech is Now a Book

Over the 10 years of its existence, Snrtech has become a “how-to” website-based tech manual for seniors.

It is unique in that each posting addresses a problem presented in a one-on-one work session with a senior for solution, so that others could benefit from the process.   That made it possible for me to help more people.

So these postings are driven by the needs of seniors as they attempt to embrace the latest technology.    Many are still not using tablets and smartphones.

These postings are now available in PDF or paperback book form.  Tap or click to order it.

I find it handy myself to have postings in printed form as I work with a computer and as a backup.    The book also preserves them in the event that the website goes down.    Those who read the website have also asked for both backup and book.

The book has a table of contents but no index, and links are available only online.
The process for making such a book is as follows:

  1. back up the website at Google accounts Tap or click for how.
  2. convert the XMS backup to PDF Tap or click for how.
  3. send the PDF file to Lulu for publication Tap or click for how

The book has an ISDN number and is copyrighted with permission to use small sections of it with attribution.

The site was actually started as a blog a few years earlier than 2008 in the days when both content and form had to be hard coded in HTML format.     Those early postings could not be archived.

In the history of postings I have tried to stick to facts and specifics as much as possible and to moderate my own opinions.    The foremost of my opinions is that the newest tech is usually the best and easiest tech for seniors, once the old ways are discarded and the new ways are learned.    It is in this last effort that I can help.   

I am concerned when seniors do not benefit from technology now critical to their well-being.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Access to Services

One of the most important concerns for seniors is access to services, all the more so with increasing loss of mobility.       Seniors living alone gradually lose access to needed services.

This comes to mind as a remarkable new access to shopping becomes available: Amazon Fresh.

The new Amazon Dash Wand stick will now enables ordering by scanning barcodes or voice input and costs just $20,  actually refundable if you're a Prime member.

At your refrigerator,  you will be able to order quickly at any time and get very quick delivery in hours at $15 a month.  This can be great if you are sick, disabled,  unable to drive, and so on.

Access is all important.    
Here at Happy Valley access to services has always made this community what it is.     Senior couples can live here and not need to be separated unless hospitalized, with the hospital nearby and easily reached..

At best, access to food services is a short inside walk, along with access to nurse, pharmacy, banking, concierge, maintenance. assisted and skilled care,  doctors’ offices, cleaning, and more. Did  I mention multiple auditoriums and our performing arts center?

At the door there is access to multiple transportation options, all the way from Happy Valley’s own bus service, and van service, to city and county bus and van and Uber.      Access to Lancaster and Amtrak is a very short ride with rare traffic.

Not everything is accessible.      Fitness classes have been centralized and wellness activities in some areas have been curtailed or discontinued.       Bottlenecks in a crowded new dining complex make access to food and serving themselves difficult for many.

More important, internet service,  especially on weekends, can be spotty or absent.     This will be all the more important as seniors become more dependent internet for Alexa two-way emergency calls away from phones, shopping,  voice use of computers, voice control of thermostats and lights, and so on.    Some tech catching up is needed here.

And that applies to the Amazon Dash.  The advent of Amazon Fresh reminds us that reliable internet service will be essential for seniors to be able to use the new Amazon Fresh grocery delivery services.

Still, on balance,  Happy Valley cannot be outdone,  and we expect it to improve in the above,  as it has recently in providing outstanding new takeout meals and  snack facilities with longer hours.   In the past Happy Valley has not rested on its laurels.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Odds & Ends

Well,  Happy Valley has been without internet service again this weekend,  giving me a chance to catch up with odds and ends---there is no ability nowadays to help people with computers when Internet isn't working.

So no TV online to watch or radio or voice dictation to text or even regulation of my thermostat,   It will be a bit darker around here tonight with some lights not turned on which are inaccessible unless turned on by Alexa.
This posting is being done using a hotspot,  of course.   

I also bought an older big Kindle Fire 8.9 device a while ago which connects not only to Wi-Fi but directly to AT&T.    It is old tech and cost  just $68, but works beautifully under these circumstances. It is a bit slow but very capable, and quite light to hold.    Great for music and reading and browsing.

I have completed consolidating my music and books library into a single huge file but I have changed my mind about how to implement it.


On the Kindle 8.9 there is enough memory to hold a small library of books and music and it is easy to download and remove stuff as needed.

Two micro SD cards failed and I learned that some items just will not go on an SD card,  such as Google Books, so I will be avoiding them for storage in the future.

Instead,  I have everything archived on a SanDisk Wi-Fi stick accessible storage device which can be accessed from any other device.      It's a cheap solution, too: $35.

So I will now be keeping only a selected library on my internal device space end downloading ahead of time those items I will need when away from Wi-Fi.    That is a simple solution.

I also already had my library on two Windows phones with SD cards  which were bought cheap as the Window phone was phasing out.     There is no official Amazon music library accessible app for Windows phones,  but there is something unofficial called Prime Music.


It seems ironic that the Windows phone dropped almost out of sight even though it was an outstanding product at an outstanding price,  while Windows 10 itself is full of trouble but is widely accepted.     There is no accounting for taste.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

New Offline Chromebook Printing Solution

Up to now Chromebooks could only print by sending your document up to the cloud and back to the printer.

That process created a huge problem here at Happy Valley where the command to print never reaches the cloud at times.     (Your router keeps a record of those interruptions which is accessible to review.     I type in http://192.168.100.1/  to do so.)

Anyway. that problem is about to be solved for selected printers.  You need to upgrade to Chrome OS 59 for it to work.


The new print process sends your print job locally to your printer via the router and your local area network.    Only selected Hewlett-Packard printers could do this in the past, although there are other extensions to accomplish the result.

For this process to work you need to know your printer's IP address.

There are various ways to find it..

The newest printers display the IP address on the control panel, once set up on the same panel.   Older printers may require set up on a Windows device.   

I use the Android smartphone app called Fing to establish and confirm which printers and IP addresses are available on my network.    


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Kindle Fire for Offline Music & Books

The Kindle Fire 8 GB 7-inch tablet, at $50, is a great device to keep Amazon books and music offline for access anywhere.   

If you have very many books or a lot of music, you may need to get the 16GB model or add an SD memory card.    

Of course, such a device is a little small to use as a book sized tablet and a little bit large to use as a phone---which indeed is possible where you have Wi-Fi.

Still it works and is worth the low price even if used mainly just for storage and offline use.

To be really useful, though, it needs Google Apps capabilities.  It comes without them but so far Amazon has not stopped anyone from adding them.

These can actually be added using a PC or Mac.   Both the device and PC need to be set up for the process and a batch file needs to be downloaded and used.

Then the 16GB internal memory model applies if you need to store Google Books.


If that is too much trouble, Barnes and Noble offers a similar device which has Google apps right out of the box.

They also have a more expensive Samsung tablet with Google apps.

The Kindle Fire does have the Alexa app which is handy if you already have an Echo.


Forgot Your WiFi Password?

When a resident gets a new device,  that device needs to be set up for the resident’s Wi-Fi access point or SSID, for which a password is needed.

What if the resident cannot remember the password though?


Friday, June 2, 2017

Backup Your Books

When you buy a digital book online, you are buying access to it on a server somewhere.    As long as you are logged in and online,  it remains accessible to specific devices and readers.

Downloading gives you access offline, and also a sort of backup, to the extent that you have storage space available.

I download all my Amazon books into my Kindle Paperwhite as a matter of course.

What if we want to go further?


Where I do have my books on a PC,  no matter in which format,  I search for the format and transfer the books to a DVD,  flash drive,  or cloud storage elsewhere, like Drive or  Dropbox.

The main digital formats are .azw .pdf. and .epub.     To collect books  I search in the uppermost directory where I have them with the following:  *.azw *pdf. and *. Epub.      I then highlight the listing by tapping on the top item on the list and pushing the End Key,  after which I drag and drop en masse to the destination.