Thursday, August 31, 2017

Linux on an Old PC/Laptop

Some version of Linux will work on your old PC or laptop.

But not all versions of distros of Linux.

You see,  Linux is really a  generic name for a variety of versions of Linux which are called distros. They vary widely in capability.   They vary widely in speed in use.

Each distro contains a selection of Linux code to achieve specified objectives.

Consequently, some distros of Linux place heavy demands on hardware whereas others do not.     

Having used many distros, I can recommend Zorin especially for old devices.    Another very popular distro is Knoppix, which runs fast despite broad capabilities.    

Another fine distro  Linux Mint,  places heavy demands on hardware and may not run as well.      Its wide capabilities will only be brought out with up-to-date hardware.

If all you need is simply a good fast browser like Chrome and an office suite you can run offline,  all you need is Zorin  or comparable distro of Linux to bring back the main capabilities of Windows XP.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rescuing Your Old Laptop - Recipe


You may be able to rescue that old laptop from Windows and Windows 10 oblivion by installing somewhat of a look alike which will run the Chrome browser online and an office suite offline.

Your new system will work entirely from a flash drive and need not need not affect anything on your hard drive, once in use.

First, obtain a fast class 10 flash drive, probably 16 gigabytes, though a 4 GB Class 4 drive actually worked for me.

Second,  go to a PC or laptop browser and search for something called Zorin Light, and also something called unetbootin.     

Third, find sites to download them.

Insert the flash drive.
Fourth, run unetbootin.  Click on the check box for “iso”  and  tap on the three dot menu at right  to find the Zorin Light file you just downloaded.    Make sure to select the correct flash drive to write to. Start the process of writing your new OS.

Fifth,  sit back and wait for unetbootin to finish.   While waiting, set your laptop to boot from the flash drive: restart the laptop and tap on F2 or the delete key while rebooting to bring up the ability to control boot sequence.  Explore how to set it for the flash drive booting

Sixth, when unetbootin finishes, transfer the flash drive to your laptop.   Restart.    (On some laptops, you may need to tap again on F2 or delete as it starts, to select an option to boot from the flash drive.)

Take it from there for a renewed laptop, no old slow Windows, no confusing Windows 10, no slow old mechanical hard drive and memory.  Everything runs from the flash drive.

  • Note:

Once you are running in Zorin, you have the ability to make a second flash drive with local memory. Select 1000 MB for that live memory.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rescuing that Old Laptop or PC

Rescuing that old laptop is usually a bad idea when you can obtain a new one for $200 or less.

There are various reasons, though, to give it a try.

Just for fun.     Large screen.      DVD drive,  especially the HP LightScribe Drive which creates a disc label without a printer..   Or you just hate to throw out the old one for whatever reason.

All you really need is a browser to do everything you need to do.   Whatever operating system works best is OK.  You need an image of it to to install.   That is easy now: download, copy, and run..

Running an OS from either DVD or a flash drive makes a lot of sense.      Why bother with the slow old vulnerable physical ”Model T” mechanical hard drive.

I tried a rescue first with a typical Class 4 flash 16GB thumbdrive and then switched to a cheap $10 Class 10 drive for much better results, more than twice as fast.

In one instance (Pine64 OS) I found that I needed to switch to a USB mic and speaker to make multimedia work.      These are cheap now.

It is much easier nowadays to get the operating system free for flash drive or DVD.   You just download the “iso” OS image and either copy it to the DVD or use a third-party software to flash it to your flash drive. No need to be a techie.

Of the Linux distributions available,  I have these impressions.

Pine64:  workable though slow.

Pixel: light and fast, but browsing not available on all sites - this OS ran 10 times as fast as Microsoft Windows 10 on my Dell Tower, but not on Amazon apps

Knoppix: always worked for me in the past, and I will try it again.   You can get a live DVD for about $5 if you don’t want to download it.

Remix OS (Android) - should be a winner, being UNIX based and lightweight

Just search for any of these on your browser.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Password Not Working?

Is your password not working?

Don't stew.    This is easily fixed.    You just change your password.

How?   Normally like this.

Enter the non-working password you have been using and look for a message that says something like “Forgot your Password”  and click on it.     

There you will be asked to enter your login and advised that either a new password will be emailed or the ability to change to a new password will be offered.

That’s it.

Cloud Printer Not Working

Have you sometimes lost your ability to print to from Chrome, using Cloudprint?

Here's how to the restore it.


Chrome, and Chromebooks, are mainstream now for schools, and for seniors who want to avoid the issues of Windows.

Chrome does most of its processing in the internet Cloud as opposed to your individual computer.      That makes it subject to any problems with your internet connection.

Printing is especially vulnerable

Here our internet connection at times fails.     What happens is that a request goes out from our computer and never reaches the destination.      This can be tracked easily by your router.    In my case I type  into my URL or search box, click on  Signal,  and check out how many times this is happened.

The typical pattern for this to happen is on the weekend.    Sometimes it is very difficult to log in at all.

For printing, the signal needs to go to your router and then to the cloud and then back to your router and finally to your printer.    (Recently the newest version of Chrome version 59 makes it possible to avoid the cloud link for some printers and simply to go from your computer to router to printer.)

So here's the fix:

First,  don't try to fix anything while you were having internet connection problems.     It can make the process exasperating.     Then fix the problem later when your internet service is working properly.

Then, delete the non-printing printer and deregister it.  This is crucial.
There are two places to do this.     When you print a document, a window shows up which lists your print jobs and your printers.     Clicking  on “Printers” displays your active printers.     Clicking on the particular printer which is causing trouble gives you the ability to delete it.

The other place is found by entering  chrome://devices/  in your URL or search box,  clicking on “managing printers”,  and deleting the offending printer.

Then reinstall the same printer as originally done, as follows:.

Go to the control panel on the printer itself  and log on to your WiFi network.    Once logged in,  find your printer's IP address from the same panel.       On your computer enter that IP address in your URL or search bpx and re-register the printer anew.

You are still not done, if anyone else is using your printer.

If others are using your printer, you need to authorize them to do so by going to the usual print screen,  clicking on the printer,  and clicking on sharing.      Finally,  you need to go to the other user’s printer, bring up the print screen, and click on the message accepting the printer at the bottom of the screen.   

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mics, Headsets, and Sound

Recently I had some problems using mics, speakers, and headsets with various equipment.

There are two basic technologies and some devices will accept only one easily.

Resurrect that old Laptop??

Resurrect an old laptop?

It seems a shame not to try,  especially if that old laptop looks pretty much as new as when originally purchased.

But most authorities agree that it is not worthwhile to resurrect a laptop more than two years old.

More than two years old?

Well, that seems a little bit unreasonable, but the fact is that prices are so low, on much better machines, that $150 will bring you something better than what you bought just a few years ago.

But still it seems a shame to retire something that new.   Didn't it work well not that long ago?

Obsolescence occurs with Microsoft as more and more is demanded of the systems and Microsoft discontinues its old versions, along with support.

But you really can't blame Microsoft for the public demand for better systems

Even Linux which is public and nonprofit, has become more and more reliant on providing for modern capabilities.

With Linux, however, it is indeed possible to go back to a lightweight version for an old machine

Is it worthwhile?   Probably not.

But then it might be fun to try as long as it doesnot involve much cost, if any.

I hesitated a while before spending a dollar on an old HP laptop I will now attempt to work with.

The old laptop didn't even have that much wear on the spacebar so that it was never that heavily used, and never abused.

It also had the ability to write titles on special H DVDs and my newer laptops don't even have DVDs drives.

So there are plenty of old Linux distributions will which will work on older devices and look pretty much like Windows.     There will always be things that they won't do or will do only with a lot of exasperating tinkering.

Some of their run just from a flash drive and don't rely on an old slow mechanical hard driv6s.

On that old laptop I picked up for a dollar,  I will use my Windows 7 upgrade CD to see how it works,  then probably revert to the best of the lightweight Linuxes.

If none of those work, I will install the Chrome OS or Android Remix.

When I when I really want to do work thoiugh, nowadays I just pull out my smartphone.    It does it all and does it by voice and works with most wirekess printers.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Best Computer for Most Seniors

What is the best computer for most seniors? That question comes up almost every day here in this large senior community.

Their popularity here puts iPads foremost, now priced at $339.     They  are easy to learn to use and there is plenty of support from many quarters.

For those who need less support the Amazon Kindle Fire 8 at $79,  or $50 when on sale,  is a fine choice, made even better if adapted to run Google apps.

For those who want a laptop, then the natural choice is a Chromebook at about $200 or less.

Additionally, a smartphone gives the ability to work anywhere.   These are now as cheap as $50 or less with 10 - $20 monthly plans, now abundant.

All of these support voice operation---which nowadays is paramount.

All also require a compatible wireless printer,  best chosen before making the purchase, though Chromebooks now are starting to enable selected wireless printers.  

Windows or Mac?    Some work demands a big screen.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Not Your Fault!

Computers can make you feel like a buffoon.  A complete idiot.

Truly,  it.Is not your fault.    

It has always been that way.   I get regular calls like this:

How do I turn it on?

How do I turn it off?

You would think that they on/off button would be identified,  but usually not.   And very often  it is hidden.

Then I get calls like this:

How can I make it STOP playing music?

How can I make it go back to where I was?

I forgot to save it,  did I lose everything?  

I am ready to throw this thing right out the window!

It won't do anything.

And so on and on and on…

No wonder some seniors are totally turned off.     One recently told me she would never get a smartphone ever.      

The problem is not with you or the user.      The problem is with the person who designed the device.     

Let's say you are the designer programmer and you are almost finished the design,  and the boss is looking over your shoulder asking if you're done yet and making the point that there are a lot of other things to do.      So you quit and go on to the next.    No time to make things easy to use.

It has been that way since the very beginning  and it continues that way right through up to the present.

You are actually fortunate if you have not been going through this over and over again over the yesars and have never used computers at all until now.     One 95 year old woman here caught onto an iPad in only about an hour simply because she had not been turned off so many times before because she had never tried using a computer.

When smart phones came out,  the keyboard was shrunk to the size of a postage stamp.     No wonder people didn't like it.      No wonder some seniors will have nothing to do with it even today when you can use voice.

At the beginning, the computer was nothing more  than a big box with a string of lights.    That was it! Earlier,  when punch cards were used,  the sorting machines ground up the cards after a couple of sorts.

But it was even worse than that.

Early programming had to be done with something called Assembler Language.     You would write the code and if you made one single tiny mistake,  everything you had done would be blown away forever.

And it was worse than that…

Sometimes the mistake would not only blow away all of your work,  but also the device itself,  damaged beyond repair.

That went on until somebody invented a so-called compiler which pretended to run things and didn't destroy your device along with all your work.

I actually gave up on tabulating machines and went into a different field,  thinking that nothing could ever come of computers.     But computers came after me,  until I couldn't survive without getting back into them.

Meanwhile a young man in a garage in California had a vision.       First of all, make the device beautiful.   And second of all,  he thought it should with actual people as opposed to techies..    

Steve Jobs was on the side of the user right from the start.      The original Apple II  opened everyone's eyes to what could be done..
Here was finally a user-friendly device that almost anybody could use.     And here was someone committed to the user and his future, no matter what stood in the way.

More recently,  Amazon has entered the field to give you an easy to use device to buy from them,  with no other motivation on their part but to give you the cheapest and best most usable device possible device.   $50!!!!

So are we there yet?

Absolutely not.

Most of us know that when there is trouble, often  an easy fix is to unplug the device and restart it. But why can't that simply be built  in?

The, when a device starts to slow up,  why can't it restart itself,  instead of relying on you to go to settings and restart the thing?

And why can it not correct my typing errors?

But we have come a long way.

Just before computers came on the scene,  in my college years, I visited a college friend whose father was a professor of mathematics specializing in an obscure field called Boolean logic.      He explained to me that no one had really ever come up with a decent use for it.

Well, that is where the trouble started.

Now iBoolean Logic is at the basis of everything we do with computers and we can't live without it, so hang in there, and don't blame those problems on yourself.  

Not your fault.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The PineBook, a Wonder(?) Laptop at $99 plus $35 Shipping

The PineBook with Linux is potentially the best (or worst) of computers and operating systems for a senior.

Now, don't underestimate seniors. We invented computers.

This $99 slim featherweight laptop is a great bargain if it meets your needs.   Otherwise not.   If all you do is office applications away from internet,  it is a steal.  but it also does the same applications online, a bit slowly.

Neither Windows nor Apple nor Android,  it runs the Linux operating system, the backbone of Internet.   It can be made to appear as if it were any of them.

That does not mean that it is a knockoff.      It simply works in its own way according to the very same screen images of the other operating systems.

Linux is best in the sense that I can do very difficult things while mastery of it requires comfort in  using command line commands.

Where something doesn't run right,  it can be the devil to fix it.    Fortunately nowadays most things run well.     And for really heavy duty work such as video editing,  Linux is the choice of major studios.

In this particular instance, surfing the web tends to run slow while most things can be done without being connected at all,  as with traditional Windows.   Also,  sound volume is low.

Older printers are better recognized automatically than in most other operating systems.

Linux is also by far the safest operating system to use by a wide margin.
If you want to take a chance on it,  here is some help.

First,  know that this device is made on order by a company which manufactures the internal parts for other computers.      It is really an advertisement for the components.    You should place your order well in advance of expected delivery.     There is nothing more than a 30-day guarantee and very little help if any,  except a few pieces of excellent help online.

When my time finally came up it was shipped on a Monday from Shenzhen China and received Wednesday.    Wow!!

Like Apple’s logo is an apple,  the Pinebook logo is a pineapple.   As for the pine,  the  pi for the name of a mini motherboard of great popularity.

The Pinebook just shows what such a small motherboard can do.  The keyboard and screen are quite nice and the touchpad will do.

Second, once you get it,  the first thing you must do is to upgrade the image.     

Help is available at two websites but it's kind of confusing if you don't know a few things ahead of time.  Although the device will work right out of the box,  mine had a few problems and needed to be updated.

The image replaces the intelligence of the hardware.      That image needs to be downloaded to a PC and onto  a SD card.     That happens automatically with a downloaded app from Pinebook.

What is not explained is that you have a few choices of which image to download.      There are two options you should consider.    One  downloads onto the SD card which then runs this system from that card when inserted in the Pinebook.     The other loads the system into the Pinebook memory upon insertion and following instructions on screen.

Two links below will show you how to do this easily.

Then,  don't surprised that it might  to 12 hours to download the image. In my case the download would stop with a red box stating that download it stopped and asking if I wanted to continue.     Clicking on “continue” picked up where it left off.

With these  cautions,  the process is nonetheless seamless.

Then enjoy some of the finest software out there,  such as Calibre,  the best software for readers at whatever level.     

The last works also on Windows and Mac.