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

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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Type is Too Small

 Some seniors struggle with the small type size of various devices.

Recently a senior here had difficulty with an iPad Mini,  which is especially vulnerable to such a problem.

There are lots of remedies,  but for the iPad Mini it is probably best to upgrade to the latest iPad.

Most devices offer the ability to increase type size, often through accessibility settings.

Individual apps,  such as Kindle,  will have the ability to increase type size built in.     Look for an Aa icon.

Often spreading your fingers on the screen will enlarge the type size.

Shift ++  will enlarge the screen in Chrome and other browsers.

Amazon Kindle also has the ability to read out loud.   Tap anywhere on a page screen for instructions, once activated in Settings.

Newly,  the Microsoft Edge browser app enables reading out loud.    Tap or Click for more about it,   

iPads and Android tablets already read highlighted text aloud, once activated in settings.

@Voice, a more general app, will read aloud in most other apps.

Monday, February 19, 2018

You Need GMail

For anyone using a tablet or smartphone, indeed any computer,  Gmail is essential, regardless of what you have been using in the past.

It is all the more essential for a new user,  even though that user already has a different email account.

Gmail simply opens up a vast category of tools,  including encrypted email, a calendar, an Office Suite, and much else.

You get all the tools you need to avoid using antiquated the equipment and software.

If you want to know all the benefits Tap or click for them.

Or more simply just tap or click to sign up.

During the sign-up process it is absolutely essential for a senior to remember the Gmail password,  which will be called for again and again.

Seniors often forget passwords.     When this happens, and they try to sign in,  they get this message in the in the form of a question:  Did you forget your password?

Click on that message and enter your e-mail address to receive an email giving you the ability to establish a new password.

You probably will never get back your old forgotten password since you established it to prevent access to your email anyway and it is working to do that job.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Phoning from a Smartphone

 So how do you place a phone call from a smartphone?      A new smartphone owner posed the question, migrating from an old cell phone.

Whoops.      Not what you might be thinking.

We do it now with voice.    

Just tap on the microphone in the browser.   Simply say  “ Call  Susie”.     If our contacts include Susie, the phone will do the rest.

If we don't know the number,  such as for a business,  all we need to do is to say the name of the business and the calling option will come up.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


 I get the question as to what I am doing when I am wearing headphones while exercising.

I am listening to music, of course.

I use an old iPod Touch deivce,  which is an ancestor of the present-day iPad.     

I bought it on eBay for $15 for its memory in which I could store and stream about 1500 items.      The old iPod Touch 2  was battered from long years (10) of use but still working perfectly.

Any iPad or iPod touch or smartphone will do the same.

It works by  activating Bluetooth wireless in settings and ”pairing” a  Bluetooth headset.     I picked up a Billboard headset for less than $20 at Staples

It is also possible to listen to audiobooks in addition to music.

If you don't have any music to install,  you can stream almost anything from Spotify for $10 a month.  Just install the Spotify app into your device.     On Amazon you can buy huge collections of music for $0.99 each.    Amazon also has in alternative to Spotify.

If you don't know what music you like,  then you can use the Pandora app to find music for you.   

If you have a large library of CDs,  these can be converted to digital form. Tap or click to find out how.

Old LPs can be converted using a player which converts the music to digital form.     About $50.

If you want to be able to stream your original collection of music,  it can be uploaded to Amazon music so that it will be accessible to you anywhere.    Just install Amazon music on your device or computer.

What do I listen to?      Anything from the Brahms Liebeslieder to the Firehouse Five and everything in between.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Tech Choices

 Computers are constantly changing and my own tech choices are also changing.   So what are they?

I now prefer the Apple iPhone to Android phones, specifically the iPhone SE,  because it is simple, small,  inexpensive, technically up-to-date, and now easy to navigate. Service from ConsumerCellular is well priced at $25 a month.

Next,  I like the Android Moto G4 as a large phone,  but not one to take with me most of the time because of its size.

I think now that the $250 iPad Is the preferred device for seniors, with its control panel,  even though you cannot stream music from iCloud.     Worse,  you need a PC to manage it at times.

My workhorse is a Chromebook,  specifically an HP Chromebook 15 which I got for $90 and you can get for about $200.     The Chromebook now runs Android smartphone apps, even Microsoft Office..

As for a tablet,  the  Amazon Kindle tablet is hard to be in function and price, But I am still using my old Nexus 7 along with a cheap Nook tablet which runs Google apps.

My choice of printers are Brothers,  whether laser or dot matrix.  I've had this preference for a long time.      My MFC-J875 has expensive print cartridges from A-Z.    I do have an HP LaserJet p1102w which works with a Chromebook and has cheap replaceable toner.

My 24 in LG TV monitor  is inexpensive and really the only such device in its class.

Amazon’s Echo voice systems are becoming more and more useful over time and spreading widely in this community.   I like the Lightify bulbs for Alexa.

I like the Billboard headphones and the Oontz speakers,  both inexpensive.

I see no reason to spend big bucks on anything.

I am not fond of Windows but you do need it now and then.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Old and New Tech Choices

 When someone asks me to recommend a solution to a problem,   I usually turn to the latest technology.

Why is that so?

Generally it is easier to use the newest technology, and often it is less expensive.

In my engineering days,  if I did not adopt the most modern efficient solution, a year would go by and somebody would say why did you go with the old inefficient solution?

And more recently, when I see seniors wrestling with the old ways,  I especially  recommend a new and better way.

That does not work for  everyone.

Many still want to do  it the old way, however complex, and many  simply do not want to invest time in learning something new.   Some just like the old ways.

That is okay.     I simply feel obligated to offer more than old options to solve problems.    

I do draw the line at offering solutions to Windows XT troubles, even though some old technology has stood up well over the years, such as Apple's original iPhone.   Windows XT, is a Model T, by Microsoft's own evaluation, with Windows 7 not long behind.

Serious problems with Windows, and Intel chips, are not found in alternative systems.   Worse,  we have no solutions yet.

Smartphones, though, do not have Intel chips, and offer a safer place to do most of your computer tasks.   The handwriting is on the wall.   

Monday, January 29, 2018

Emergency Windows Update

I am extremely concerned about Windows' & Intel's future.   

Start using alternatives.

Tap or Click for the "Fix"

Friday, January 26, 2018

Computing for Seniors

 What should a senior have in a computing device?   I get this question all the time.

Working with many different senior users and a wide variety of equipment, I have come up with the following.

More and more,  the iPad is taking the lead,  especially with the reduction to $250.

Up to now I had concerns about the iPad’s lack of a control panel, limited file access, lack of  heavy duty apps like  Windows PowerPoint, Scrivener, and others,  some concerns about  proprietariness,  and the $500 price.

Those concerns are gone.     

I have given the iPad some serious challenges and it has met or exceeded expectations.    Using it for a presentation proved far easier than any of the old alternatives.

I do recommend that users do not restrict themselves to limited “iPad only apps”  when they can run what they call “cross-platform apps” which run anywhere.

What about old Windows?

With its confusing Windows 10 screen and security challenges, along with the demise of the Windows phone,  Microsoft has had some setbacks in devices for seniors.

Now,  for some seniors it is possible to go cheaper.      The $50 Nook from Barnes & Noble tablet can even be made to phone over WiFi using Google Voice.     That way it works like a large smartphone.      The Kindle Fire 8 is a larger alternative at $80.      Both are frequently discounted.

For those who want a keyboard,  Chromebooks are the obvious choice at under $200.      I like my big brand new HP 15 inch which I got for $90.

The big point rows here is that these devices need not cost that much money,  whereas  seniors often think they need to spend a good deal more based on past purchases.    

Even a good Windows laptop can now be had under $200.    Problems occur too often with Windows however.    They need to be ”nursed along”  to work well.    Do you want to do that?
Going smaller, most seasonewd users like a 4”  smartphone, not a bigger one.     There are far more Android phones than Apple iPhones out there, but Apple has a great iPhone SE at under $200.      For a larger phone go to an Android Moto phone.    Get one with a large battery or replaceable battery.    

 Good plans have dropped as low as $25 a month,  but you don't need any plan if you always phone in a WIFI area.    With almost all devices and apps like Hangouts will do your phoning for you where there is WiFi.

Practically all devices can use a large screen or TV screen with an adapter so that a PC or Mac is not so much desirable anymore.     LG makes a cheap 24 inch smart TV which doubles as a computer display.

What is often highly desirable is the kind of support and helping hand  that Apple alone provides for its devices.   It is worth the extra cost.

More and more attractive to seniors are those voice devices  which are on the rapid rise.     Amazon’s Echo is very cheap for $35 and switches to control appliances are dropping under $20.  
Nowadays everything needs to work with voice and does.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Resurrect an Old Laptop Easily

It has always seemed high-handed to me for Microsoft to terminate support for an older product when device hardware is still working perfectly.

That creates a dilemma for many seniors who want to do only limited computer tasks with their old laptop, for which they may have paid a princely sum.

So is there a way to resurrect that old XT laptop?

There is indeed, though it is honestly better to switch new iPad at $250 or to Chromebook at about the same price level or less.

The software to resurrect the old laptop comes from Neverwhere.  Tap or click for it.    It is free for personal use.

For my old laptop I needed to use the new Neverware Chrome OS as a Guest and I needed to use a cheap router extender with an ethernet cable in place of WiFi.

Simple browsing and email worked outstandingly well.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

iPod Touch - Still Great Old Tech

The iPod Touch is 10 years old and no longer offered.       Yet even old broken devices are still popular.    Working, like new, units cell for up to $100.  How so?

I revisited our old iPod Touch 2 which had been relegated to music listening while plugged in.    The battery was still good.

How does it compare to present-day devices?

I was surprised, but there are just a few tricks to making it still useful.

It can receive and send telephone calls with Google Voice  from wifi or hotspot.

Many apps will not run which have been updated for newer devices.


I was able to run Pandora, Tunein radio, NPR news, Spotify, Overdrive, Google, Battery status, Audiobooks, Kobo, CNET,  New York Times, and even WAZE.

In some cases I needed simply to run from the Safari browser and add to the home screen.

That covers a lot of ground.

Thanks, Steve.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Connecting Headsets and Speakers

Our new TV came with no jacks nor wireless for listening privately with headsets.  Headsets are also desirable for clear hearing for old ears.

The TV did come with an optical jack, but optical is no good for wireless.     
Similarly smartphones do come with the wireless capability for old style headsets but how do we get that sound to speakers?     Some devices come now only with USB ports and do not accept other audio input.   Tap or click for such a speaker solution.

What to do about all this?

The following will discuss the issues and the solutions.

For a TV with Optical,  the simplest is a wired solution like this one. Tap or click for it.

Wireless is a whole lot more complicated.     Optical needs to be translated to bluetooth.    Bluetooth needs to be extended to a Bluetooth device or receiver.   The receiver needs to be connected to your old style radio frequency headsets such as those from Sennheiser with RCA or  3.5 mm cell phone type jacks.

Sounds complicated?.    Indeed.     But it does work.    Tap or click for an optical to bluetooth converter.    Tap or click for a bluetooth receiver.   Or maybe just use a second optical to Bluetooth converter as a receiver.     These devices work both ways.


So what about sending that smartphone sound out to speakers.

There are three ways to do this all of them quite simple, cheap,  and uncomplicated...fortunately.

Bluetooth is the most used.      Much less known is  Google's Chromecast Audio.   

There are plenty of bluetooth speaker, but I have found the Oontz speakers easiest to set up.     they come in various sizes with varied ranges and loudness.  Tap or click for them.

Then there is Chromecast audio which will send sound out to  headsets and speakers. Tap or click for these.

The third way is simply to send sound out to your Echo device and speakers.    Tap or click for how to do it.

Now finally,  what about cost?

Nowadays outstanding speakers and headsets can be found for a pittance.

Here are a few:

Old cheap vintage KLH speakers can be wonderful end can be found on eBay,  even new.