Saturday, July 14, 2018

Which Cell Phone Service

 As more and more seniors start to use smartphones,  I get more and more questions about which cell phone service to choose.

At the moment, in general I am recommending Consumer Cellular,  especially for use with an iPhone, and for iPad owners. CC is easily accessible by phone.

That does not mean that there are not plenty of excellent alternatives.

In the past I have recommended Republic Wireless as costing a bit less.    Republic Wireless does not communicate by phone but only by email. Recently a resident had to go through a procedure of taking out the SIM card and upgrading to restore a locked up phone back to use, before re-inserting the SIM.

I have also used PureTalk.      Phone support is very good and prices are competitive.    This service uses AT&T as opposed to the others here which use Sprint.     I have heard that Pure Talk belongs to AT&T.

FreedomPop offers the lowest cost service but phone support is terrible.   I use it anyway.

Another service with low cost is Tello, which I have not tried, but offers phone, text, and data at just $10 a month.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Your Old Smartphone

 Users love to upgrade their old smartphones and show off their new ones.     

Often there is a good reason, such as getting a cheaper or faster plan, selecting a larger or smaller phone, or upgrading the operating system.    But maybe just for fun.

Yet if the phone is simply not running well,  there is a better solution.

That solution is a reset.   

I did both a factory reset, and a reset in settings where I deleted all my data.      The factory reset for my Moto G and Moto E is simply done by holding down the Run and Volume Down buttons at the same time for 30 seconds and then selecting reset with the up and down button.

The result can be miraculous.

The phones run just like new.

Memory is a bit short on the Moto G, and this time I employed a new approach from my efforts in the past to make the best use of memory.

I just installed as few apps as possible.      Instead of installing news apps,  I mainly had my news delivered by email.

I then simply installed:

Accubattery to assure that my battery was still good, Hangouts, Kindle Reader, Amazon. Microsoft News, Amazon Music, eBay, Google Podcast,  WeatherBug, and ConnectDrive to run media from a separate Wi-Fi equipped flash drive.

Google apps, especially the essential Google Docs, had been installed by default.

That way,  I came nowhere close to using up the limited memory.     In the Moto E I was able to install a separate 32 GB flash drive.   Most of the above apps are transferred to it.

If I need other apps, I can install and use them when I need them,  and then delete them If necessary.

Alternatively, I can run applications from websites designed for access from small devices.    These I can then add to the home screen just like other apps.


Saturday, June 30, 2018

FedEx Woes

Fedex Pickup  

(A few days after this posting, I received a FedEx Delivery Manager code giving me the ability to control deliveries online.)

Ever receive a fedex shipment which needed to be returned?    Hold your breath!

When you receive a fedex shipment, a return label will be included.     Or you may request the label to be emailed from your seller. The label may be copied onto adhesive label paper to make it easier to affix.

The label will include a tracking number.

Now, to get it picked up…

Tap or click to fill out this form, once you have a tracking number.

Or phone 1-800-463-3339  (1-800-GO-FEDEX) to authorize a pickup.  Ask for the "Return Manager" and have the return label at hand.    

You may find that you are required to have a fedex account.   If so,  tap or click here,

If you live here at Happy Valley, don’t be surprised if it is not picked anyway.   If not picked up at one concierge desk, try another.

Happy Valley’s pickup is actually listed for a non-Happy Valley location elsewhere, but under the same name, at a grocery store nearby, and your item may not appear on fedex’s pickup list for our front desk(s), but for this nearby dropbox at 200 WV Square.

You then need to drive you package to the nearest depot as a last resort.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Check this out for iPad and iPhone.Tap or click

Monday, June 25, 2018

Podcasting is ready for prime time

Podcasting has been around for a long time but only now is ready for prime time.

Podcasting is broadcasting over Internet for on-demand access. Anyone can do it.

The problem has always been in finding the podcast that addresses your particular interest.

That is being fixed with the new Google podcasting app. Apple has a similar app.

Having an interest in ragtime, I was delighted to find a podcast from Ethan Uslan.

See what you can find. Go for it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Windows 10 Storage Issues

 There is a very good chance that that nice Windows 10 laptop with 32 or 64 gigs memory will sooner or later use up so much of your storage space that you cannot update it at all.

This happens as applications are added and as Windows is updated and an old version of Windows, and or restore points,  are not deleted.

These are the things you need to do when presented with such a situation

1. (If possible), even before you get into such a situation, create a recovery drive by entering  “Create a Recovery Drive” in the search block at the left bottom of your screen

2 If you do not already have administrative rights,  set them up.

5.  Run the cleanup utility by entering “Clean Up”  in the search box at the left bottom of your screen and check to clean up old system files

3.  Delete the windows.old directory from your C:\  drive

4. Download the windirstat utility to determine where else storage can be reduced.
5. Add another USB  32GB or largee flash drive to give you more storage space in the future.     Make this a primary drive for new storage. Do this by going to Storage under Settings and identifying the drive for various uses..

6.Optionally,  reset your computer in Settings to get rid of items that are taking up too much space.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Robo Vacs

 Standing and vacuuming can pose a challenge for those with mobility issues.    

Recently I became aware that Consumer Reports had very good ratings for robot vacuums.   

That was enough for me to try a Deebot 79s on sale at $180.

As I write this it just came in to return to its dock for recharging after spending an hour picking up a huge amount of dirt.

Hard to believe that such a lightweight battery operated device could automatically clean a room in about an hour.

Plus it is very easy to clean.    You remove the high-efficiency filter and hold the rest under a tap. and dry off the dust bin.   The initial setup was a snap.

It took awhile for me to realize that I needed to set up the room properly for the Deebot.     That meant getting rid of obstacles such as wires and cables.

They should really be off the floor anyway but it took me some time to get them where they needed to be and not in the way.  If I were in an accredited hospital setting they never would have been permitted on the floor in the first place.

Then I needed to learn how to set up a barrier so that it wouldn't cruise down the hall when I wanted it to clean the living room.     I just put a bar stool in the way.

It was a little unsettling watching cleaning the first time around.      It goes in random directions and eventually covers the full area. That is in contrast to standing and vacuuming in a circular direction.  It can also be used to go along the edge of the room or just stop and do spot cleaning.

You only need three voice commands to accomplish the main tasks  with Alexa. However, the smartphone app Is handy to show when it is charging or stranded, and set room or automatic mode and other options.

Comparing it with a conventional vacuum cleaner,  it reaches areas not normally reached. The worst part of the job is to move furniture away so that it can thoroughly cover a room.  Once that is done, the robotic vac does the rest of the work without ado.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A WiFi Bottleneck Fixed

 I am learning that the Wi-Fi adapter in a device may pose more of a problem than other factors in reducing speed than I had thought.   

That is a simple problem to fix (<$20),  and may save many an old machine from being discarded since we are now so dependant on the internet for everything we do.

I searched for USB Wi-Fi adapters on Amazon and selected the one with the best comments.   

I was flabbergasted at the results.     My old Dell ran 10 times faster than before when browsing.    

These adapters plug right into a USB port.     Drivers then come with them which need to be installed.

Then,  after that happens,  nothing will change until  the old adapter is disabled in device manager.    I did not find that indicated in the documentation but it is absolutely essential.

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Modem or Router?

 The most frequent question I get asked is the following:

Internet is not working well for me.  what do I do?

Before I get to answer, I often get asked whether a modem or router should be replaced or a tech called in at $100 an hour?

Before any of that happens we need first to determine if we are getting a good signal into our system.

All kinds of things can happen which interfere with that.

And there is no point in replacing anything if the problem lies elsewhere before getting to our system.

So we need to have our provider check signal strength with a proper meter to determine simply if we are getting a good signal.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are far more points of failure before signal gets to us then within our own system.   

These include type of cabling and proper cable maintenance.    Typically switches and so-called splitters fail frequently before a doistant signal even gets to our equipment.

Archaic equipment may reside anywhere between you and the source of your data.   Somewhere in the chain there may be reliance on age old telephone equipment.

It is a miracle that the system works at all.     A little understanding of how it works will aid in addressing problems with it.

Before internet was in place,  it was indeed understood how to make it work once the electronic technology was in hand.    

Communication had to work even where that technology failed,  so how could that be done?

This is what you need to know.

Internet communication works exactly like the post office.    Information is transmitted by packets. packets are just like letters.     They include a sender's address and the receivers address and content.

These electronic packets can contain any kind of information and enough of them  can present music or pictures or videos simply text material when assembled by the receiving device.

The transmission must be perfect,  so that every packet is sent back to make sure it had been received perfectly as compared with the original.    That way, you always get either perfect information or none at all or only some of the information or a slowdown when only some of the through and need to be sent repeatedly.

This last situation explains a lot of the problems that you may be having with internet.     Somewhere the packets are not getting through perfectly.

Could it be your equipment?     Most of the time it is not. However, simple measures like checking connections are basic.     Then the process of elimination takes over. Is the problem related to one particular device, or one particular website, or one particular location,  such as in wireless or Wi-Fi.

Next to getting a bad signal from your provider,  wireless is probably the next biggest area of problems.

The further you are from a wired connection, the more packet  loss you will have, of course. Typically Wi-Fi drops your internet speed by about two thirds.

With Wi-Fi you are also sharing communications with many others nearby,  using a limited number of channels available. There is only so much space available, so much bandwidth.  

When someone watches a Netflix movie,  throughput drops everywhere else accordingly.   That is just how the system works.

What happens here at times is that there may be interruptions or slowdowns  not related to anything more than high usage, and in no way related to your equipment whatever.

Streaming movies for example may stop and start,  especially on a wireless or Wi-Fi device,

That can be avoided by downloading them in advance,  which I highly recommend out of consideration for others.

Other palliative measures are simply to use devices which work well for speed of communication.     One such measure is a high-speed Wi-Fi adapter.

Or you could avoid Wi-Fi all together by using a so-called  ethernet adapter. Ethernet is the name for the most efficient and modern cabling,  also called twisted pair or 10 base T.

These can be a remedy for problems where your TV uses a streaming device like Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV.    There is even an adapter for an iPad, though it tethers you to a wired connection.

A frequent problem I have encountered is the use of an old computer which simply doesn't have the capability of doing anything fast,

Windows users need only to buy a cheap laptop to overcome such problems.     An up-to-dmate cheap $200 laptop will outperform an older unit which cost thousands of dollars.    I actually use a cheap Intel stick computer the size of a pack of chewing gum to work with an ancient display at extreme high speed.

So, it is only occasionally that a router or modem needs to be updated, and usually only by upgrading the so-called firmware online.

If your internet provider rents such to you, take advantage of rental and leave the problems to them. Alternatively, simply substitute a known reliable router or modem and see if that resolves your problem.   Mostly, it will not.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Easy Printer Setup

In setting up a new printer wirelessly, we are often confronted with CDs and complex installations.  With my Canon Image Laser, all I had to do is tap on the bluetooth button and then tap the router WPS button.   Done!

It's All About Speed

 No matter what device you use, using it is all about getting everything done as quickly as possible.  That is paramount. We all spend time browsing and we need pages to come up instantly. Forget operating systems, manufacturers and types of devices.

Next is getting devices cheap and getting them small for convenience, but compatible with a big screen.

Getting back to speed, what do we need?

We need a good fast internet connection.  That means not bogged down by multiple users on Wi-Fi nor bogged down by multiple splitters between you and the ISP.

Recently I looked over my system to see what I could do to speed things up.

Right at the start my ISP found bad splitters and replaced them.

I ran cables and installed inexpensive usb ethernet adapters to avoid Wi-Fi on laptops.

I concentrated on devices which support voice input, which also speeds up my activity on any device, not just smartphones.

I ruled out mechanical hard drives, and I looked for high speed memory devices.

I did not rule out Windows 10,  even though Windows 10 runs horribly badly on most  old equipment. Microsoft eventually catches up with new technology and the latest Windows 10 is much improved.

I tried a Lenovo Windows stick with an age-old display and it ran quite well.

For real speed I needed something better with 4 gigs Ram and 32 to 64 gigs memory, 32 for 32 bit and 64 for 64-bit.

That's not a lot of memory and you need to be astute in holding down use of that memory.  You need fast emmc memory nowadays. Windows gets cluttered with stuff too quickly.

As Windows is updated you need to do away with system files using disk cleanup,  and delete windows.old directories. Since most activity runs online anyway, there is no need to load much software.

Since this effort does not need to be expensive,  I picked up a flagship low-cost 2018 laptop at $200  meeting the above criteria.

Windows being Windows,  it took 10 hours to update the thing, but then a big surprise . This little laptop turned out to be the fastest device I think I have ever used.   Lightning speed.

Of course,  the very first thing I did with it was to dictate “ create a recovery drive”,  on a 16gb flash drive. That way, when Windows goes sour, it can be reinstalled without ado.

The laptop is light,  built to mil spec, and designed for rough and tumble treatment by students.  (Microsoft is trying to regain the school market lost to Chromebooks.)

It is very small and lightweight.    Works beautifully was a large external screen,  but also when the little display is set for max resolution but 150%  of normal font size.

The only downside is a soft screen which is certainly is vulnerable,  but nothing like as vulnerable as Microsoft Windows itself used by an unschooled person.

Windows has the great advantage is that it recognizes printers and many other devices simply by plugging them in.    To run on this laptop, however, it also took 10 special device drivers from the manufacturer. I put them on a separate flash drive for use in a future reinstallation.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Recovering Windows

 Sooner or later,  if your laptop has 32 gigs of memory or less,  that memory will fill up as you update Windows over time,  especially if you have an old Windows directory from a previous update.

At that point you may no longer be able to update at all.

it is therefore important that you prepare a recovery drive such as a USB recovery drive as soon as you start using a new computer.

The means to do so are are found separately on this website or can be found easily by searching  for instructions in a browser.

Here's the rub.  There may not be enough space for reinstallation.

It may be difficult to accomplish that result by deleting files.

Recently I needed to use Windows partitioning tool to create enough space.   That worked.

Unfortunately, running the recovery process still may not bring your laptop back to full functionality.   I was still not done.

There are usually a bunch of manufacturer’s files which need to be loaded to give access to everything,  such as a touchpad.

These can usually be downloaded and installed from the manufacturer support site.    

I needed to do that  to complete the job.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Rethinking Windows

When Windows 10 came out it was a fairly complete disaster.      It was hard to navigate and ran very badly on underpowered computers of the time.

Soon Chromebooks stole the show.  They pretty much took over the classroom.

In the meantime there have been some changes,  both in Windows itself and in its supporting hardware and hardware costs.

To attempt to regain the classroom market,  Microsoft now has much improved versions which run on rugged and cheap  laptops design for the classroom.

Those same laptops are also a draw for seniors.

Sufficiently large 64 gigabyte solid-state drives replace old clunky and slow hard drives.      Ram is now four gigabytes as opposed to two. Faster processors are in place. Repairs will be less frequent and easier.

There's also one big benefit in that Windows 10 configures a printer just by plugging it in.

Now available at as little as $200, all this does make Windows a more attractive choice, despite all the things that still can go wrong with Windows.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Three New Capabilities

 Updates : Three new capabilities

Nook Tablet

I've always been fascinated by trying to find the least cost item to do the job!     The Barnes & Noble Nook tablet was on sale for $30 and presented an opportunity and challenge (covered in previous posts).     The Nook can be sluggish and I have now found that it is better to use websites and bookmarks than apps, especially for News.  The bookmarks can be added to the home screen to look like apps.

Some new sources use up-to-date HTML 5 coding and some do not.    These news sites actually adapt themselves to the small screen without further ado.   These include the Washington Post, Reuters, Bloomberg, the Guardian, NPR, BBC, Google News, and MSN.

Kindle Fire TV

The Kindle Fire TV stick now has been greatly updated.      Not only that, but an adapter is available to bypass Wi-Fi and assure a smoother internet connection.

Alexa in the Car

A car adapter is now available to make it possible to do those things by voice, using Alexa.    Tap or click for the adapter.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Learn to Do It All With Voice

 As more and more seniors use smartphones, too many of them still flounder with their fingers  to accomplish things the old hard way when the use of voice input (speech) newly makes everything ten times easier.   Yes 10x.

The use of voice has come on so quickly that many are still unaware of  the beauty of using voice or are at least uncertain as to how to use it.

Often the older phone has not been updated for voice.   This is done under settings and may require activation.

For iPhones Siri needs to be installed.     For Android phones Google + Google Assistant are needed.      Windows phones are dead but do indeed have Cortana for voice use.   Cortana can also be used on Android phones.

Don't know how to use text messaging?.      Simply hold down the home button on the iPhone and say “Send a text message” and the iPhone will guide you through it by talking to you..   Google will do the same.

The same voice commands will set an event in your calendar,  set up navigation, look up information. Simple.

Learn to do it!


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Low Internal Memory

There are a lot of small devices out there, such as smartphones,  which have low internal memory, so what can you do to make the most of it?

You can read elsewhere about how to keep your photos on the cloud and not on your phone,  along with a lot of other such data. But what about apps?     That's another story. To a degree some apps can be loaded onto expandable memory such as an SD card if you have it, there a better alternatives to start with.

Websites designed for smart devices can be added as bookmarks, and even better, added to the home screen where they look like any other app.  This website, snrtech, is optimized to be used from such a bookmark.

These websites include  ABC News, Evernote, and many others.   

Next come light apps.     These are made available by loading an enabling app called Hermit.  Hermit has both ready-made apps and ability for you to create such an app. These light apps also appear on the home screen as any other apps.

But then you will still find memory decreasing as conventional apps are updated. Here you need simply to turn off updating by the app store. Otherwise some apps will hog entirely too much space for no reason.

You can avoid adding Google Apps individually by using a browser which accesses them from the browser such as Opera.

If you have expandable memory,  it will be possible to move some apps to it.    

Then there are also apps which use extremely little memory anyway.    

You can cram a huge number of apps into a gigabyte of memory.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Nook Tablet Revisited

Update: I now recommend adding a Micro SD card as internal memory to allow more space for apps.

The Nook tablet is just about the biggest tablet you can slide into a pants pocket and also hold comfortably in your hand to read a book.    That is its biggest merit.

At $30 on sale,  it is a lot cheaper than a phone, and it can actually phone with Hangouts when near Wi-Fi.
The Kindle Fire 7-inch tablet is bulkier and not as good a buy as the Fire 8-inch tablet.    

The Nook tablet comes with the essential Google apps,  whereas the Kindle Fires require that you load four files to be able to run the Google apps.

The Nook is slow to navigate but plenty fast enough to read a book.

The Nook also has very limited memory,  so that you really need to add a Micro SD card to it to run the basic apps you will need. Configure the card as portable storage.

Here there is a caution.   It is too easy to push the SD card over the slot, and lose it inside the device, instead of into the slot.

However,  once even a very limited memory card is inserted,  it is possible to load apps onto it. Updates need to be disabled. Use Hermit to conserve space.

I have the Kindle app,  Libby, LibriVox, Google Books, and Kobo,  plus Spotify, Pandora. and Amazon music.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

No Computers for Me!!

 When I was hired for converting Pennsylvania and Delaware state facilities from paper to computer,  under a non-profit called NET, one day the our chief came in and advised me that I needed to meet with a woman who  refused to change from paperwork. She would rather resign, and she was a valuable professional employee.

I was to meet with her for five hour-long early morning sessions over a week.

When she first came in she looked distraught.   

I asked her what the problem might be,  and she quickly asserted that it was not a work problem at all.     She had a child with a rare disease, Local doctors could not deal with it.

I suggested that we try internet.       It was only a matter of minutes until we had reached authorities on the disease and contacted them directly.     One doctor phoned us back Immediately.   She was immensely relieved that she finally could get help.

The next morning she came in and told me that it would not be necessary for us to have any more sessions.      She was going with our program.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Happy Valley Site

I will be busy for a time developing a Happy Valley internal website to serve as a temporary clearing house for local resident concerns, including your wellness and safety, but much more general.   (There is no such official Happy Valley intra-community newspaper with input from you as at other such communities nearby.) 

Your initial input for it can be submitted to me by EMail. 

That also means that I may not be able to address your WiFi issues.    Ninety per cent of these are not issues with your equipment, anyway, but are issues with Happy Valley.    If you are having WiFi issues, you can always switch to Comcast or cell service.    As apartments are being renovated, obsolete cabling is being replaced. 

Access is currently being limited to those who enroll by contacting me.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Choosing the Best Smartphone

 Normally,  when asked for advice on buying a smartphone,  I like to lay out the various considerations a buyer should have.

Recently, however, I find myself recommending specifically the iPhone SE along with Consumer Cellular coverage.

That does not mean that an Android phone is not a perfectly fine choice.

The iPhone benefits from recent improvements in navigation and the fact that it is essentially a little iPad when many seniors are now, or will be, using iPads.
The iPhone SE  from Consumer Cellular can be had for $170 with a monthly plan of about $25 without being locked in.    

The iPhone Is not perfect.      Siri voice is not as good as Google Assistant,  and the iCloud is not as good as Dropbox, but both Google assistant and Dropbox do run on the iPhone.

If you need a larger phone,  the extra cost of such an iPhone may outweigh these benefits.

All this, can change and I will change with it.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

iPhone Text Too Small?

 Let's say you have an iPhone,  such as an inexpensive iPhone SE,  but no iPad.

There will be times when the print is just too small, but there is an easy fix.

Using an Android app,  the iPhone can be mirrored to any other tablet,  such as a Nook or Kindle tablet.

Then,  making sure that both devices are on the same network,  start up the app and then activate iPhone mirroring From the main navigation screen.     Simple.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Install Google Play Apps on Kindle Fire Tablets (2017+)

Tap or click for the easy way to bring Google apps to your Kindle Fire and greatly increase its functionality.

You DO Need a Smartphone

What!!   You don't do that much phoning?    You don't need a smartphone?

But a smartphone is not mainly for phoning.    (Of course, you might text with it, but who actually phones with a smartphone, anyway?}

The iPhone is really just tiny tablet, a small iPad.    And you need it as such.   Same with Android.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Offline Safety for Media

 Not long ago everything was offline.

Then online became available,

Despite fears, online has pretty well taken over,  even for backup of a computer.
From the beginning there were questions about online safety.      Suppose it went away,  would we lose our books, music and photos?    

The more probable exposure is that our media will not be there when we need it,  as when we are away from WiFi.      Wifi is not always reliable, either.

Cell coverage is more reliable, but much more expensive.

So,  getting down to the point, how do we make everything available offline,  available when we need it, wherever we are?

For convenience,  I decided to put music on a Kindle Fire 7.      I added 128 GB SD memory for the purpose.    Alternatively I could have put it on a memory stick with Wi-Fi.      And indeed,  I did that, but for backup.

Kindle books went downloaded to a second Kindle Fire 7.     Google Books, however,  required the use of internal memory,  and I needed another device with plenty of internal memory for them.

I had consolidated all my music.

LPS and  78s  had been converted earlier to digital format on a PC, using software originally developed for a Linux called Audacity, and a turntable sending the music to the PC.

CDs were converted by the PC,  but using Apple iTunes.     You just insert the CD and iTunes does the rest.

As others have abandoned CDs except for using in the car, I have collected some of them,  especially popular music of earlier times.

Then I have accumulated some music from Amazon where you can get 100 piano concertos for $0.99,  and so on.     When I buy something from Amazon and choose  not to have immediate shipment,  I get a credit for such a purpose.     There is also plenty of free music from the Internet Archive.

Consequently my music library takes up a little more than 64 gigabytes.  Ten thousand pieces.   It took more than 24 hours to send it from PC to Kindle Fire.

That means I can take with me all the music I would ever want to listen to.

My library of books similarly includes anything II would ever want to read, no need ever to go to the library.

Ask for photos, the only steps  I have taken so far is to have them printed out book form.      It would be a simple matter to download them to a Kindle Fire.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Match Your Computing to Your Tasks

Nowadays computing devices are so inexpensive that you can have several of them for your various needs.

For reading,  the Kindle 8 and Nook 7 or both are best suited for that purpose.     Although the Kindle app can be run on other devices,  these are cheaper and more convenient than most.

If you are a heavy reader you will probably need to use an app called Calibre,,  available only on a Mac or PC.

For writing you will need a device with a keyboard such as a Chromebook.     If you are a more demanding writer,  you will need a device which runs the Scrivener app,  such as a PC or Mac.

For browsing you will want a fast browser,  the best choice being a Chromebook,  although Linux on a PC can also run fast browsing.

An iPad, with or without keyboard (using voice)  will also handle your reading and writing needs, including Scrivener.    It will also offer fast browsing.

For music,  Spotify will run on almost anything and give you access to almost any music at $10 a month.   Amazon offers in alternative.  If you have a large library of music,  you will require a device with a lot of memory for the ability to add such,  such as a smartphone.     The Pandora app will guide you to new music on almost any device.

Most agree that for finances Quicken is the choice so that you needed advice that are run it.    I disagree a bit.    Mint  from Quicken will do the heavy work for you and run on many more devices.

For photography, there are three choices all of them pretty decent:  Apple, Google,  and Amazon. But your choice of device may limit which are available.     I suggest the cheapest iPhone which will run all three and replace your camera.

Spreadsheets and presentations will run on many devices and not just Windows or Mac.

If you are fond of tinkering,  you absolutely need a PC,  which needs to be tinkered with all the time just to keep running.      Windows is the most adaptable interface but also the most exposed to trouble.

Summary: I suggest that you can have all of the devices you need to do just about anything for less than the cost most people pay for a single device.

This includes a Kindle 8, a Nook 7, a Chromebook,  a cheap Windows laptop, and a smartphone.

For voice phoning,  almost any of the devices will work from WiFi with such an application as Hangouts,    All you need is a $5 or $10 a month account away from WiFi , or alternatively a hotspot.    

If you use voice broadly for your computing,  it will be available on most devices but you need to assure that before you commit.

If you do a lot of communicating by phone, it  is far easier, cheaper, and less intrusive to the person you are calling,  to use text messages.      You just dictate them and they appear on the destination phone without disturbing anyone.

If you do use that phone for browsing away from WiFi I,  especially for navigation,  you need a gigabyte a month for about $10  over and above your basic $5 or $10 a month phoning.     Waze for navigating is almost mandatory for seniors who drive.

If you use headphones,  the new ones are cheaper and better, especially wireless (bluetooth).      I found one on Amazon which shuffles music from a memory card directly and sells for about $25.     

There are headphones now which include amplification and even plug into USB ports.  

Where you use headphones will determine your choice.       The old radio frequency headphones for TV are still around, but for new TVs with only optical output you need an adapter to use your new bluetooth headphones.

Bottom line:  you can have it all now cheap without struggling to make one device stumble through things it cannot do well.