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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Creatng a Presentation

Creating a presentation can be just as simple or complicated as you would like it to be.

Using a tablet such as iPad, the simplest possible way to do it is just to use your photography application to photograph your slides and put them in an album in the proper order.    

The album can then be projected from your tablet, or even smartphone.

You could create text slides by making them in a word processor and printing them out and then photographing them from smartphone or tablet.

These printouts could also be more precisely scanned such as with Google's Photoscan or from iPad by using iPad Notes scanning.    Both can frame the slide and square It off.    Seems a bit complicated but once you get used to it, it's Duck Soup.

That might be an easy way to get started if you're just getting into it.

The next more demanding step would be to use a Presentations application.      The Microsoft Powerpoint presentations app was one of the first.      Later on came Google Docs and Keynote for Apple products including iPad.  Powerpoint came with a thick book.

These dedicated applications enable you to enter text slides and then all the other fripperies such as transitions.

Such applications typically show your slides as thumbnails to the left of the screen from top to bottom with the current working slide in the large window at the right.   Rearranging is done with drag and drop.   The same apps run the slideshow, once created.

Creating text slides in any of these dedicated presentations applications take some getting used to.

Your first create a new slide in the presentation software app.

Typically you then double click to get into an editing mode window where you can control the slide and the formatting, including typeface and type size.

The editing window is usually surrounded by a dotted frame.

The text window frame can be moved and resized.

Where touch screens are available this can be done by touch.   It’s tricky, touchscreen or not.

I have usually used Google Docs for its simplicity.    

Monday, October 9, 2017

Choosing a Smart Phone

How do I choose the right smart phone?

First think about the size.

A small one like the Moto G is comfortable in your pocket, where a larger one makes it easier to read a book.

The price also goes up with size such as with the largest Moto.

Storage is also a key consideration. If you'll be working away from wifi or have a lot of photos you want available anywhere, you will need plenty of storage.
Any of these phones should be bought as an unlocked phone as opposed to a no contract phone.

Then you can pick your carrier at whatever price it features you prefer.

Consumer Reports and Best Buy can help you choose.

Making a Simple Presentation

In years past it was complicated to make a presentation. Microsoft sold thick books on just how to do it.
Nowadays all it takes to make a presentation is to create a slideshow for photos,
Nothing beats the iPad to do so.
Even better  use Keynote for iPad. Keynote accesses all your photos and makes it easy to sequence them in any order.
Keynote then gives you all the rest of the tools you need in the simplest possible way.
To find out more just search for a tutorial on Keynote on YouTube.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Splitter Headache

Recently the IT department here at Happy Valley has added staff to deal directly with internet access problems by residents..

Prior to this the work was done by Maintenance  or Renovations, or Senior TV, or outside party or tech qualified resident.

It is great now to have this competence in IT, where it belongs.

When IT sent in its new man to check my system,  he immediately found a 20 decibel deficiency in signal.     That is very bad and undoubtedly led to the many problems I have had recently.   He replaced a bad splitter at the wiring closet connection.

But wait, that deficiency was in the same place as a deficiency in db was found some time ago by Senior TV and also corrected by replacing the splitter.

Then, more recently, Renovations had uncovered a similar type of deficiency elsewhere in my apartment where I could not use my TV due to problems.   A bad splitter again.

Earlier, Maintenance had found a similar problem In yet another place.     Right,  a bad splitter!

All of these problems were related to splitters     A splitter is needed for every device,

I now believe that most problems in this complex may have been created by splitters     Cheap ones do not work well and good ones still fail frequently, and sometimes amplifiers are needed.

Here is a really good discussion of splitters...

Splitters diminish the signal to the point of unusability, as for my second TV,  which for 4 years years could not be used because of what are called  artifacts or a little areas of bad pixelation.  

Renovations fixed this bypassing behind the wall cables and laying a long cable winding around the room and in and out of a closet across the floor.     TV finally working perfectly when thought to have been defective by Maintenance.

All apartments here using old  one-way cabling, designed way back before internet, with TV in mind, and originating in the 1950s……….all these are being replaced with so-called home run cabling which avoids splitters altogether, but only when being renovated to the point of tearing out the sheetrock down to the cinderblock wall.

So the question remains what to do about the old apartments with splitters.

In general it would be a good idea to have IT check the first splitter from the wiring closet to each apartment where trouble is indicated, then at any device that appears to be giving trouble.

If you're having problems,  just put in a work request.     

Monday, October 2, 2017

As Seniors Abandon Windows

When seniors move into this retirement community, they often find time now to put an old Windows laptop to work,  either one they bought many years ago for $1,000 or one given to them by their children who are upgrading.

They are shocked to find that Microsoft has deliberately obsoleted these devices by not supporting them safety from viruses.     This does not go down well.

Sometimes it takes a little convincing,  but many simply move to the iPad and the great support they get from Apple.
All  they want really is a device that will enable them to do the things they used to do with Microsoft Office offline and maybe surf the Internet, at least to get email.

Those who really want a laptop as opposed to an iPad tablet, are well advised to go to a Chromebook,  which will do everything they want to do, just mostly online. These can be had for $200 or less.

Sometimes their old laptop can be converted into a Chromebook simply by loading the OS from an  SD card.

For those who do not want to be dependent on online, and simply want to carry out the old activities they did on their old Windows laptop, there is the PineBook

The PineBook is a $99 a 14-inch laptop

For those a bit daring,  this might be another solution.    Online the device is just a bit slow,  but that does not affected offline      It has a full Office Suite comparable to Microsoft Office.

I was annoyed with mine initially, because I could not use it with headphone or speaker or microphone with the 3.5 mm plug, even with Bluetooth

I found recently, however,  that the laptop works generally with my USB devices.     The PineBook picks up the drivers automatically and T then selects them from the sound window.

New USB devices are fairly cheap, under $30.

Similarly, the PineBook recognizes many devices, such as many printers, but only selectively based on what the Ubuntu OS supports.      This happens automatically as they're plugged in.

Compatible printers and devices will be found by searching for CUPS printers.

At this point we have a somewhat slow but beautiful and well-made lightweight laptop which will do most of what seniors want to do.

A little knowledge of Linux can help, but it is best to stay away from the arcane commands from the command line, other than to install apps with  commands like sudo apt-get install (app name).

For those knowledgeable about Linux it is good to know that this is not an Intel processor and therefore will not do apps that require it.

Compatible printers will be found by searching for CUPS printers.