Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The best Computing and TV for Seniors

Staying at home has launched me on a mission to work out what would be the best computing and TV station for a senior.

It worked out that I needed to abandon cable and Windows and a PC and their many annoyances and costs.

Instead, I needed to adopt what is new and more advanced, and a lot cheaper.

That consisted simply of a 24in TV which also served as a monitor or display, an assortment of so-called sticks, and a Chromebook with a 15 inch screen.

I could find only two such 24in TVs out there and both are fine. One is an Insignia Fire TV from Best Buy and the other is an LG. I also put to use an old HDMI display.

The Chromebook is an HP.

To make efficient use of space, this equipment sits in a bookshelf with one shelf extended out to accommodate a keyboard.  I sit three feet away from the screen.

All are connected direct through ethernet and avoid slow Wi-Fi where possible, such as Roku and Amazon Fire.

I run online media on the display while at the same time also using the Chromebook for computing. I can also deliver the Chromebook screen to the larger display.

This arrangement then opened up a whole new world for me.

The Roku Ultra stick especially opened up a huge array of services.  

I decided to go for broke by adding a Fire stick and a new TiVo stick, which applies TiVo tools to ease navigation. I dispensed with the Chromecast because the other sticks perform the same functions.

The array of services was dizzying at first. It took a while to find out what I really wanted and then weed out what I did not want, such as subscription costs.

I was able to get free all the local TV channels plus also the Philadelphia channels, both live and on-demand. Newson is
an app which gives access to local channels.

I did subscribe to Peacock, which offers a wonderful library of NBC and associated media. I did that also to eliminate commercials. I needed the Tivo stick for that.

There have been more and more services offering a cable like program guide. These include NBC above, and also Pluto, and as I say more and more others.

A favorite service is Acorn, along with Hulu Amazon Prime.

There are also many other services which offer media with commercials, especially movies and TV series.

I had used many of these services on my cell phone and simply had to activate them for the large screen.

These included music services such as Amazon and YouTube Music and Pandora, along with Spotify.

it is possible to subscribe to services such as Sling which give access to TV shows on demand.  These cost $20 a month and up. I avoid such costs. Sling does have some free content.

If you want to watch nearly all German TV series and movies it is possible to get them both live and on-demand via Youtv.    That is NOT YouTube.

You can get two shows at a time free or for less than $10 hundreds at one time which are downloaded for access. Wish we had that here. Yes, there are subtitles in German. Just tap on UT at the bottom of the screen.

For $5 a month I subscribe to a service which provides Canadian and Australian news TV as an antidote for our local news. Newsy is an interesting free USA app which avoids opinions.

The hardest part about the whole effort was learning how to navigate to find the best content.

Both Roku and the TiVo stick and Amazon Fire have voice input to make that easier.

Friday, July 10, 2020

TV News Goes to Internet

TV is now moving in a big way to internet.

If you don't believe that, consider that Disney and Comcast are now offering free TV on internet via the Pluto application.

It is a lot cheaper to offer TV on internet than to need to maintain cable systems and broadcast stations, as long as you have advertising income anyway.

I have Pluto, plus also a dozen other sources such as the Philadelphia TV stations online and a service called WatchnewsPro which offers MSNBC and both Australian and Canadian national news stations.

This allows me to watch news anywhere on my various devices.

I also watch our local WGAL TV news channel and a service called Newson.

In addition there is Reuters News and CBSN News Philly.

I mirror to TV with an iPhone and Apple TV  simply by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

I also use the Washington Post app which now mirrors the full printed edition on the TV screen.  Embedded with that is also streaming TV.

To read a story in large print I just tap on it.

Our daughter shares with us the News Journal from Wilmington which works the same way.

Along with that comes USA Today.

To have print content read aloud, I just tap downward with two fingers from the top of the iPhone screen.

That capability is set up with accessibility settings.

All the news that's fit to print and then some

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Making the Most of Tech for Seniors

 So what does a senior need to make the most of technology in this day and age?

The best space and cost efficient Technology setup for a senior in these days of covid-19 confinement might be the following: 

1. We all need the best choice of hardware and it need not be expensive.

2. You then need easy access to a whole host of information and media.

For hardware I suggest the following:

a big display, such as a 24” TV like the Insignia Fire TV with 3 HDMI inputs 

a rugged cheap student type Chromebook laptop to use with it or separately on your lap or desk

two cell phones,  one small and one large,  such as a iPhone SE and a Moto 7,  one always in the charger and one always in your pocket

TracFone service available for as little as $50 a year for each phone, or Tello

a tablet, such as a Kindle Fire or iPad, even an iPad only with cell service

a cheap wireless Brother laser printer

sticks such as Roku and Chromecast, even Windows (see below)

For this Hardware you will have access in the most appropriate way wherever you are for about $500-$800 total

To house the hardware I suggest a secretary desk with room for the TV/monitor and drawers

For accessing all the information you need, I suggest the following:

first, use voice wherever possible to do your work, searching and launching, including Alexa

install video phone communication services such as Duo

activate the ability to have things read out aloud to you

have your news delivered daily via Gmail, including Axios, Microsoft News and Google News, and also reasonably priced subscriptions such as the Washington Post for $4 a month

install TV apps such as Pluto, Newson, CBSN Live, Reuters Live, and those networks which provide free online access  such as ABC.    I subscribe to WatchNewsPro, which provides MSNBC at $60 a year, which also includes National TV news stations from Canada and Australia

 keep your photos online, only then print them to the nearest drug store photo service

use music services such as Amazon music or YouTube music, or free services such as Spotify  and especially Pandora

for reading, avail yourself of the free services such as Gutenberg and Internet archive, but also Amazon with its enormous libraries available for as low as $0.99 or even less

for writing, use nothing but Google Docs (free) with ability to dictate and interface with any other software

avoid everything which interferes with your ability to get things done quickly,  such as Windows,  unless you have a special need for it and the time to do all the support to keep it working

 if you do choose Windows I suggest a Intel stick coupled with a USB hub,  along with care that you do not overuse the storage---although you can add huge micro SD storage cheap 

be aware that with Chromebooks you can now run Linux applications such as Calibre,  really the only application to access and organize documents and written media of all kinds

With all this technology available, make sure you USE it to get any information you need quickly to solve countless problems, by asking for a Google or YouTube solution.