Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Now That It's All About Voice with Computers...

Now that it's all about Voice with voice computers, I realized I don't have enough interconnection. Too many devices do not communicate with too many others.

What I needed was an ability to render any device into a Bluetooth transmitter or receiver and also inexpensive devices to use with any TV or laptop,  especially my PineBook.

Here's what I found... Tap or Click...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Get the Answers

You can never know enough.

In the old days it was often hard to find out the answer to so many questions that come up throughout the day.

BUT now many of those answers are in your pocket.

So tap on voice search on your smartphone and ask for them!!!.

Make it a habit.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bottomline: Rescuing an Old Laptop

After trying many of the options for upgrading antiquated laptops,  I have come to the conclusion that the best approach, next to not bothering to do it at all all, is to use Cloudready to “make” them into a Chromebook.     That's what schools use that can’t afford upgrading their old Microsoft Windows laptops    

The Chromebook will handle very nearly everything you want to do, and formerly did with Windows, but using Google Docs, unless you're writing a book and prefer to use Word.     (Word itself can indeed be used online on Chromebooks, costs $$)    

If Word is not your cup of tea, you do need a Microsoft or Apple device to organize many notes and resources with advanced software like Scrivener.    The cheapest of Windows 10 devices will do for that purpose.    

I hated Word when I was publishing my two books. Light years ahead of Word is Scrivener is (Tap or click for) Scrivener for iPad,

Or just tap or click for a free book on Scrivener.

Tap or click for Cloudready.  Free to individuals.

However,  if you need to work offline,  Linux might also be preferable, though you can indeed work offline with a Chromebook.

For the diehards who want Linux, it is no big deal to create flash drives for Zorin Lite or Linux Lite. They either work or they don't.     

If  you really want Linux, consider a PineBook for under $100 that looks for all the world like a MacBook.    Not the fastest,  but not the slowest either.     

In contrast to earlier awkward laptops, a PineBook really does work well on the lap, being extremely lightweight And well-balanced.

Both an old Vista turned ChromeBook laptop and the PineBook ran YouTube for me.    But nothing more demanding.

As I've mentioned before, you can get a great computer in the Amazon Kindle 8 at $55 to Prime customers currently.  A new Amazon Kindle 10 has just been announced.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Saving an Old Computer

Saving an old computer raises a lot of questions.

I came across a very interesting commentary.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Batteries are more and more essential to your quality of life.

Cell phone batteries may be easy or difficult to replace.     A search of YouTube for your particular phone will show how to do it so that you can decide whether it is worthwhile to try it yourself or not.

In one of my phones it was ridiculously simple;  in another it was ridiculously complicated. I wish I had checked it out before buying the latter.,

With more and more devices depending on everyday AA, AAA, C and D batteries,  It is important to make the right choices.

I maintain AA batteries and attery adapters into which they insert to work as C or D batteries.    That means I need to keep fewer batteries on hand, just AAA and AA.

If batteries last a long time  in a device,  I buy the cheapest,  such as Amazon brand.      If not I buy a powerful lithium battery or a rechargeable battery, such as for a wireless mouse.     All of them AA.  Some of these of course require AAA batteries.  I avoid such devices if possible.

Rechargeable batteries generally need to be brought up to full charge and allowed to totally discharge completely in the first use.     This applies especially to laptop batteries.    

Old flashlights can be brought up to date and made much brighter with LED bulbs to save buying a new expensived flashlight.

In a dark closet I have a bright battery-operated LED wall switch.    I only use it when getting something out of the closet so the battery lasts a long time.

Google Drive Ending

To save your documents from Google Drive before the service stops...

     tap or click for instructions

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What's Getting in My Way?

A good way to look at problems is simply to ask the question  ” What's getting in my way?”

All tasks are processes and the evaluation of a process will often show how to speed it up.

In a business environment such as Manufacturing the most important tool is probably a flow chart.

The flowchart need not be complex.    it can be as simple as a list of things that need to be done in a process in order to  accomplish a result.

For seniors this process can be used to work out solutions to those problems which affect all seniors.

Access to healthcare might be such a task

Those living at home can plot out just those things that they need to do in order to get to a doctor. Those living in a retirement community or planning to live in one can do the same.

This process led me to realize that even though I was living in the midst of a metropolitan area with every conceivable and imaginable type of healthcare,  the means of getting to where I needed to go were extremely limited and complicated.

Although it did not seem  intuitive, a retirement community outside a major metropolitan area had far more transportation options than I had living independently, or so-called independently.     In fact,  I am more able to live independently in the retirement community than outside it

My retirement community is literally in a cornfield BUT is in a low traffic area with city bus transportation and county bus transportation,  along with van transportation for seniors from several sources including both the community and the county,  along with  satellite services from healthcare providers actually right on campus and accessible easily from the community campus bus service.

The same approach can be applied to obtaining Information services, to finding out about health care options,  to managing financial issues, even simple tasks like dining.    The latter:  what are all the steps I need to do to be able to enjoy a meal?

The best source for information of course is internet, so that the question is how can I obtain reliable wifi service.     The next question is where do I go to answer specific questions     And finally, of course, the question of what device to use most easily.

Local or cell phone based hotspot devices can provide service.   Here I need both,  so sometimes the local services down.    Nowadays simple voice input can direct you where to go to answer specific questions using nothing more than a simple smartphone.

So whatever the problem is, studying the flow of the process can use some unexpected results.

My experience as an engineer has always been that when someone writes down the sequence of steps used in a given process they almost always come back and ask the question why they ever did I do it that way--- they now can do it in so much better steps, just from bothering to review how they handled things in the past.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Better Ways to Phone

Nowadays there are better ways to phone.

The simplest way is the speak into your smartphone and say “Call Smitty”,  or whomever.

For that to happen,  you need a contact for the nickname, separately from a contact for the full name, in your contact list.

But then, you will reach the one number in your contact list for Smitty, and not additional phones Smitty may have elsewhere

I use Google Voice  to solve that problem.

I use Google Voice to reach all my phones,  landline and cell phones, with one number which reaches me, everywhere...almost.

If I am not close to the phone at home, there is a better way to contact me quickly.

The Amazon Echo offers that alternative, whereby I can be reached anywhere in my apartment without going to the phone.

If the person calling or being called has Echo phoning set up,  I can just say “Alexa  call Smitty”,  or for an incoming call, simply say “Alexa Answer”.    Then, “Alexa Goodby”  when done.

For others to set up such calling, all that is necessary is for them to reinstall the Alexa app,  at which point they will be asked whether they would like to set up Alexa Echo phone.  You will have a list in the Alexa app of people you can reach that way.

Better than phoning,  which is intrusive,  is texting.     Texting allows you to leave a message  which appears on the phone so that he recipient can access it when convenient.      

Texting is simply done by voice, telling the smartphone or Echo to “Send a text message”.

Probably the most sure way to eventually reach me is simply to send an email message, again with voice.

Google Voice allows voice messages be received not only as voice calls but as (voice translated to text) messages when it is not possible to answer the call.   Both voice and text messages then  come to me by email.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Selecting a Mobility Chair/Scooter

 The time comes when a senior needs a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

Often the need comes suddenly and urgently, without time spent considering how to best fill needs.

Wrong choices are often made.     Large,  heavy “hallway locomotives” are frequently chosen which are difficult to maneuver and very limited in what they can do.

It is better to figure out ahead of time what will best fit your need now and in the future..

To do that, your specific needs need to be examined.      This examination can be done with a few simple questions,  as follows:

Where will you be using the device?    In a retirement facility?   At home?   From a car?.   Under a desk or dining table?   If the latter, check both cart and table for clearance.

Using such a device is not like driving a car.     You need help in learning how to use it safely.

There is less margin for error than in driving a car since you're operating in very close quarters.   Backing up can by extremely frustrating.  Those walking may close in on you or suddenly appear behind you.

Then, do you need a walker?  Do you need to carry it on your mobility device?
In a retirement facility, that facility may require you to obtain approval before purchasing at all.     The same facility may reasonably want you to be trained in use under occupational training.    

In your home or apartment the device needs to be extremely maneuverable.     That means not too large and bulky.     

From a car the big question is how to load it.     Can you handle the weight?    Even wheelchairs range from 25 to 60 lb or more, normally about 35 lbs.     Power scooters range from 40 lbs. up.  Even a 25 pound weight can be a chore or risk for an elder.

Loading devices are extremely expensive.      Vehicles which ease loading are typically the Toyotas Sienna type van or an SUV such as the Kia Soul..
What types of vehicles are available?

There are two steering  choices:  single hand steering stick controls on one arm, or handlebars.      The former can turn on a dime; the latter cannot.     There are also two transport types: those that come apart and  can be loaded in pieces,  and which fold up to be lugged into place.

Vehicles are classified as power chairs,  mobility scooters,  powered wheelchairs,  and so on.

All of these considerations may mean that you need more than one piece of equipment.     

The next question is whether there will be someone to assist you.

That means someone capable of pushing a wheelchair.     Someone capable of lifting and moving.     Someone to help at a destination if you are going a distance

The next question is where  to buy.

A very important consideration is where to go  if something goes wrong.      Many mobility scooters are manufactured outside the United States.      Do they have local support in your area?     Do they have parts?

If there is support in your area,  you might not think about buying one from Craigslist.       However,  this is a  source IF you are careful about the process.      For a long time these vehicles were paid for under insurance,  used for a  short time,  and something  to be got rid of for  a low price thereafter.

Providers can be found in unlikely places.     These include resorts near casinos and hotel complexes.      There are providers with offices in many casinos and resorts,  such as in Brigantine, New Jersey, for Atlantic City and King of Prussia ,or in Orlando Florida for the Disney Resorts and others.

These providers not only sell but rent deliver and repair a variety of brands of vehicles and even are Factory Authorized for some..  Check that out.

The last question is what do I recommend...

I recommend an extremely small mobility chair to get around in tight places and also separately a folding device for transport in a vehicle. Two vehicles,  since there is no single vehicle which meets all requirements yet.

Specifically,  I recommend the Pride Go Chair.     This device is actually separate from a normal mobility vehicle which is also made by Pride.      It was developed in Pennsylvania and in is very wide use.      iI is also a brilliant design as simple as it looks.      

Steering is in the wheels and is accomplished by powering  one or both wheels  with a hand control.     The vehicle stops quickly when power is not applied.    So: no transmission,  steering gear,  or separate breaks are required at all.    My only beef with it is that parts heavy and uncomfortable to disassemble for transport.

So,  for transport I recommend a different type of vehicle.      The folding type is the best choice,  especially if the vehicle can be picked up at one end and slid into a car trunk or door.      I like the Luggie best,  but it is not made in the US and is expensive.

Better choices may be coming.     Although seniors would certainly not be using a hover board standing,  these have been adapted very inexpensively  with a seat and four wheels.    The problem is that steering is done with the feet  from pressure on the pedal.       

Some of these put the seat directly over the hover board and others behind it over the back wheels.      Some have separate steering controls separate from the pedals.     All so far look a little too light duty and rickety.

The  potential comes from having power and steering in an extremely inexpensive device which can be hopefully adapted for a reliable senior conveyance.

As for wheelchairs, costs go up sharply as the weight goes down.     If there is no one there to help you, light weight might be worth the very high premium.       Whereas a good  wheelchair can be found for $100,  light and feather weights start at about $350 and go up from there to the stratosphere.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Alexa Addresses Senior Issues

Probably no computer technology has as much to offer seniors as voice computing, such as the Amazon Echo, known best as Alexa.   The cost is about $50  for an Echo Dot.   You do need WiFi.

Voice computers address many issues faced by seniors.      These include limited mobility, vision problems,  trouble with typing,  and even hearing loss.

There is no need to go to the computer to do work.     There is no need to use a keyboard.    There is no need to use a screen.     Sound volume is easily raised with a simple voice command.

As an emergency alert to call for help,  it is possible to do a voice phone call when incapacitated away from the phone.     That benefit makes it desirable even if you already have an alert of another type.    The cost is so low that it is worthwhile to have both alerts.  Each has its pros and cons.

Voice calls by Alexa make it possible to converse without anyone being there at a phone and by groups at both ends.

It is also possible to listen in and check on someone from elsewhere.

Inaccessible switches, such as for lights, are no longer inaccessible, once remote switches are added, about $30 each.

Voice operated switches are also a special benefit to those nearly blind.   Broadcasts and music are accessed by voice only.

Reminders and alerts are entered with a voice command and accessed by voice or time, such as as taking pills.

Event calendars and  to-do lists can be similarly maintained strictly by voice.

Alexa has the ability to read books aloud from selected sources.

Control of thermostats by voice is handy when It is not easy to get to them.   These cost $250 or so.

Recently, even control of TV is now available by voice.

From the very beginning it has been possible to order items by Alexa  and check on them just by asking “where's my stuff.”