Saturday, December 31, 2016

Family Tech: "Some Thoughts for the coming year" - December 30, 2016

Don’t we all start the New Year with optimism?  It is the time of the year the gyms fill up, only to dwindle back to normal traffic by late February.

And while our thoughts today may go to parties, soon practical thoughts intrude. Like getting ready to do our taxes, paying off those Christmas bills and organizing ourselves a little bit better the coming year.

I started using an app lately that helps me keep things straight.  It is a journaling app. There are any number in the Google Play and Apple App stores. I have not looked at many.  The one I’m using is not syncing right, so I’ll find another.  Even so, I’ve been impressed with its usefulness.

With it I can jot a quick note. If I choose, it also records my location and the current weather. Soon after I started using it, I had my once-every-10-years lower back spasm. I tracked when I took pain meds with it.

I also track significant events in my day so that I can jog my memory to them later on.

You could use it as a journal is meant to be used, pouring out your heart for only yourself to read. While that might be hard on a phone, there is a website for the one I started using—although, as I said--not all the entries I made on the phone are showing up in the web version.

My mother made notes on a monthly calendar not only of appointments but significant events. She kept those calendars for years. They helped years later when we had to track certain events.

You could also keep a note titled “Journal for Jan. 2016” on Google Keep and add to it every day.  At least I know it syncs well.  And then start a new note for each month. 

Keep is one of my use-every-day apps. It is my grocery list and jot pad for information I will likely move to another app later on.

It is totally free and works with your Google account.  I cannot recommend it more highly.



Saturday, December 24, 2016

It’s tough ending a 22-year relationship. Trust was broken not once, but at least twice. And while ultimately confessions were made, it was not until years later -- after it was too late to repair the damage.

Thankfully I had ultimately moved on to something younger and flashier. I’m talking about Yahoo.
In September they confessed they had been hacked, and half a billion accounts were exposed. If that wasn’t bad enough, they confessed the penetration had occurred two years earlier in 2014.
And then just last week, they announced a possible one billion more accounts had been violated. Worse, that penetration had occurred in 2013 and Yahoo didn’t find out until the U.S. government found out and let them know last month. 

From both hacks, hackers stole names, birthdates, phone numbers and even passwords that were encrypted with a weak encryption technique.

Are you one of the one billion monthly users of Yahoo?  I am. I started using Yahoo soon after they began in 1994.  The web was smaller then. If you created a web site, you submitted the link to Yahoo. There, actual humans looked at your site and categorized it into Yahoo’s index.
Of course the web grew astonishingly fast, so that human indexing method failed to scale with the net. Soon little bits of code were crawling the net doing the indexing first, with companies like Alta Vista and ultimately today’s behemoth, Google. 

Yahoo moved to web crawling in 2000.

In 1997 Yahoo began offering Yahoo Mail, a free webmail service.  For many years it was my primary email account.  Even when I began using Gmail from Google, I kept Yahoo Mail. Many of my utility companies were still tied to that since that was the email I was using when we bought our home.

So what do we Yahoo users do now?

The first inclination is to close our Yahoo accounts and walk away. That would actually be a mistake.
If you close your Yahoo Mail account your username will ultimately be recycled and used by another user. In fact, the hackers may watch for them to be freed up so they can register them. That way any future emails to that account from someone who does not know you are no longer using it, will go instead to the hacker and give them information.



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Family Tech: "The tech revolution is keeping us healthier" - December 16, 2016

High tech home medical technology used to be a thermometer.  If you were lucky, it was oral.

Today, a lot of technology you would only find in a doctor’s office or hospital has come home.  And what you find in the hospital today is truly futuristic.

At the hospital, we have robot surgical knives like the Davinci machine that can hold a scalpel rock steady. A few inches movement of the controller by the surgeon might move the scalpel a millimeter.  A tiny camera inserted into the incision along with the scalpel gives the surgeon a view he could not get without opening up a much larger incision.  This minimally invasive surgery allows faster recovery and safer surgery.

What’s even more amazing is the controller unit and the patient do not have to be in the same room.  Theoretically, this could allow a surgeon in New York to operate on a patient in Bangladesh, or on the Space Station.

Even more futuristic is IBM’s Watson.  Readers may remember Watson as IBM’s supercomputer that triumphed against “Jeopardy” champions.

They are now training it to aid in medical diagnosis.  By feeding in massive numbers of x-rays, MRI’s, cat scans and other patient data, it is hoped Watson will learn to recognize patterns indicating disease and growths human doctors might miss.

The same artificial intelligence that lets Google Photos recognize dogs in our photos and lets us search for them, could let Watson find tumors and other abnormalities.  A San Francisco startup, Enlitic Inc., claims its software in a test identified malignant tumors 50 percent more accurately than a panel of four radiologists.

Your doctor might have you swallow a large pill that is in fact a camera and transmitter.  A small unit you wear on your body receives and records the information for your doctor to examine.

At home we have our own wonders. Diabetics have blood testing units. There are home blood pressure cuffs that have digital readouts and Bluetooth connectivity to log readings to your phone.  Pulse oximeters that monitor blood oxygen saturation  help those with breathing difficulties control their breathing.

If you have someone with heart issues, for $1,200 you could have your own automatic defibrillator.  I learned in my last CPR course that home CPR is just to keep the blood flowing until a defibrillator can restore normal heart rhythm.  This can be done sooner and before the paramedics arrive with a home unit that is fully automated.

For those with other issues, there are even home breathalyzers.

Now that the baby boomers are well into their senior years — I’m on the trailing edge of boomers, so I can make this comment — home monitoring systems let our kids know we are doing OK while we remain in our own homes.

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com


Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Let's Call it What it is: propaganda" - December 12, 2016

Fake news has been all over the news recently. Let’s call it what it really is: propaganda.

Why are we talking about this in a column about technology for families? Anyone online is inundated with information. Before the internet, there were certain filters in place when we got our information from newspapers, magazines, books and broadcasting.

It was expensive to print and distribute or to broadcast. The publishers and broadcasters had limits of how much content they could put out, so they were discriminating in their selection. And they had to reach a large audience to be economically viable, so they could not alienate a large portion of their audience by being unfair.

I do not mean to suggest propaganda techniques were not used, just that there were some filters in place. Today there are none. Anyone can publish to the net for only the cost of an internet connection. The only filter between publisher and audience is what the individual audience member provides for himself.

I learned about propaganda techniques in school, and I went looking through the Virginia Standards of Learning to find out our schools still teach about them -- albeit in the seventh grade.

That may be too late. Media consumption habits may already be well-formed by then, considering how much information even children are exposed to online.

As parents, we need to teach our children critical thinking at a young age. Have them learn to question what they read, see and hear. And also have them watch for propaganda techniques in their personal interactions.

When you see an example of name calling in an ad or speech, ask your child why the message needs to call someone a name. What are they hoping to gain?

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Family Tech : "You might want to be a kid again when you see these toys" - December 2, 2016

Last time we talked about gifts for adults.  What about younger people fascinated with technology? What gifts can nurture an interest or spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM? 

Or best of all, show off the wonder of the world?

I’ll champion high tech gifts in a bit, but for showing off the wonders of the universe there is no better gift than a telescope. You can find entry-level telescopes starting at about $40.  I still recall my first view of the moon through a telescope as a life-shaping event. So much of what I had learned in school became much clearer.  Today, you can use a phone app to help point your telescope at planets and other celestial bodies.

Looking the other direction at the universe of life --in a drop of water-- is even easier today. There are microscopes that hook into a PC and let you manipulate them through software, as well as capture images.

Of course, links for these, and all the items we are going to talk about here are in this week’s Link Post at FamilyTechOnline.com.

For younger kids, there is the Code a Pillar, from Fisher-Price. It is a toy caterpillar. Kids build it by attaching its segments in different orders. For example, if the first segment is go forward, then the second is turn to the left, and the next is go forward, the caterpillar will move forward, turn and then move some more.  By playing, kids are learning the fundamentals of programming.

For the  Star Wars  fans, there is Sphero’s BB8 robot. Controlled from the phone, you can control your own piece of the Star Wars universe.

Doll houses have gone high tech with Barbi’s Hello Dream House. Children control it with over 100 voice commands to make the lights work, decorate for Christmas and even have the stairs turn into a slide.

The coolest technology gift I found this year is the Piper Computer Kit. It lets a person build a computer case and install a Raspberry Pi 3 computer along with sensors and peripherals.  When it is complete, they can play Minecraft on it. 

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Family Tech : Gifts for Geeks

The best kind of gift, someone once told me, is one someone wants and would never buy for themselves.

That theory works well in choosing gifts for the geeks on your holiday gift list.  I’m not using geek as a pejorative, but rather to refer to someone who enjoys technology, clever gadgets, superhero stories and science fiction.  When you look at how many people watch “Star Wars” and the movies with Marvel and DC heroes, you realize geeks are all around.

So how can you buy them gifts they will enjoy?

The good news is you can, and should, avoid the big ticket items. We geeks are extremely choosy about our phones and laptops.  We have to choose those ourselves.

And we will put more effort into that than we did into choosing a college.

The most expensive things I’d suggest would be an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Both are small devices you place in your home. The device hears your commands when you call it by name, and you can ask it to do a variety of things: answer questions, set timers, tell you the weather, play music, etc.  

The Echo will let you order items directly from Amazon.  The Google device lets you add items to your Google Calendar and reads you your Gmails. Unfortunately it works with only one Google account. The Echo and Home cost $180 and $130, respectively.

These devices fall into the nice-to-have category and are not must-haves, so they fall squarely in the thesis of the gift giving I mentioned at the start.

In previous years, I have sung the virtues of Google’s Chromecast as a way to get streaming video to your television.  By now I hope most of you have something like Chromecast, such as RokuApple TV or the many alternatives.

Google recently came out with Chromecast Audio, which hooks to your speakers and lets you stream audio from your phone, PC or tablet. You may have the music coming to you from the music services available from Google, Apple, Spotify and many others.  Chromecast Audio is $30.

Fairfax based ThinkGeek.com has always been a go-to place for geek gadgets, do-dads and clothing.  I personally love the Jedi Fleece Robe and the Chewbacca robe.  They both look quite warm and powerful.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Visiting a B-17

A few weeks ago I toured the EAA's B-17 when it visited the Manassas Airport.



Of course I took our 360 camera.

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

I'd previously flew on the EAA's Ford Tri-Motor.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Family Tech: On a road trip to grandma’s, take up reading - November 11, 2016

“Over the river the and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.  The self-driving car knows the way to carry us through the white and drifted snow.”

OK, so self-driving cars are still a few years away, and their ability to work on snow has yet to be proven, but there are some tech tools to make long road trips a bit less painful for families this time of year.

Grandma may have once lived two farms over, but now she’s more likely to be in Florida. Costs for flying a family of any size that far pretty much means a road trip down Interstate-95.

On my family’s road trips as a kid, my mother was sure reading would cause car sickness so we were not allowed to read in the car.  As an adult, I found out I could tolerate it better than expected. I found a few tips on avoiding car sickness while reading.  

Reading in the car is a good way for kids to pass the time, and it promotes literacy too.  And parts of the trip that have sporadic cell coverage are a good time to promote reading.

The books can even be on their phones by using the Kindle app, and there are free e-books from the public library. If your child wants to read classics that are now in the public domain, they are totally free from the Gutenberg Project.

Watching movies in cars used to require a portable DVD viewer, and while they are still available even more affordably than ever, kids are also amazingly comfortable watching video on the tiny screens of the phone they might already have.

Streaming video from Youtube, Netflix, iTunes, Google Play or Amazon might be a bit difficult on a road trip where cell coverage might be spotty.  Usually coverage along interstates is fairly good. Away from the interstate is where you might run into problems.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Waze needs to learn my ways

When I first tried to use Waze, the Israeli developed navigation app Google later purchased, I was not impressed and stayed with Google Maps.

On our visit in March to Israel I saw how every tour operator and taxi driver user loved their home grown app, so when I started my new job and new commute I began using it.

I run the app for the entire commute even though I know the way well.  It warns me of issues that arise since I hit the road and routes me around them.

Every morning though, it asks me to take a route through a small, congested, hilly little town instead of staying on the main route around it.  It makes no sense to me and I expected it would figure out in a few days my preferred route.

No.  It nags me every morning even weeks later.

According to Waze's FAQ :

Waze should always pick what it believes is, mathematically, the fastest or shortest route, depending on your settings. If, in your estimation, it doesn't, that means that there could be an error in the map somewhere along your preferred route, or there is a lack of correct speed/trafficdata for that route, or lack or correct speed/traffic data on the route it is trying to send you on. If it isn't too far out of your way, take the suggested route a few times and Waze will collect and start to use that data in its routing decisions.
Maybe one morning I'll follow their advice, but since I'm going to work in the dark I'm hesitant to do so.

The final part of my morning drive, I have three options for going from the main route to work.  Each morning, it seems to choose one almost at random.

I wish Waze had the ability to explain its decision.  As in "Turn Left on Maple.  The normal route of Elm Street has an accident."

LastPass multi-device support is now free

If you are not using a password vault, LastPass now gives you one less excuse. Their free level now lets you use it on multiple devices. Before you had to pay $12 a year for that feature.

I gladly paid the last couple of years. It made managing a multitude of passwords for my many sites easy when using either my PC or my phone.

LastPass is well regarded.  You should consider using it to help keep yourself secure.

Signup for LastPass

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Family Tech: "You can get the best tech tools, but…" - November 5, 2016

If you are into tech as I am, it is a never ending cornucopia of new apps to try, new gadgets to covet and new capabilities to instill that “We live in the future” feeling.

Alas, like everything though, there is a certain amount of housework to do.  Without the drudgery of protecting our devices and networks from viruses and attacks, the fun soon comes to an end, and what should be a friction-free environment for work and fun gets bogged down and aggravatingly useless.

Anti-virus and their ilk are boring to think about. I’ve even put this column off for months as I found more entertaining things to write about.

If you are running an antivirus on your PC already, give yourself an atta-boy.  Then go check to see if it is indeed still running.

Many of us get a free 90-day subscription to McAfee with our PCs.  Problem is that after 90 days we get nagged to pay for the subscription and, instead of paying, often just turn off the nags.

If you did pay, find the McAfee app on your PC and check to see when it expires. And check too for the last time it updated its signatures and actually ran a scan.

If you did not subscribe and it is not running, there are better choices out there than McAfee.  In fact, on the ratings site AV-Test.org, McAfee is not near the top.  That site tests and lists the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac and Android devices.  Microsoft’s Defender, a free tool built into Windows, is next on the rating list. If nothing else, use Defender.

The No. 2 choice on the list of top antivirus apps is free. Avast does a great job protecting my system. Yes, they want me to upgrade so I get the occasional popup, but it is not too intrusive. I may subscribe now, but I wanted to experience the free level for column purposes.

If you choose to go with their paid level of service, it is $50 a year for one computer or $70 a year for three computers[1] .  There is also a five PC level.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Family Tech: DOS attack reminds us to be prepared - October 28, 2016

I hate it when the world mocks a recent column. Two weeks ago I extolled the virtues of the Internet of Things devices. This week, they helped cripple large parts of the Internet for the better part of a day.

On Friday the 21st, users were unable to reach sites like Twitter, Pinterest, CNN and many others. These sites all used the DYN Corporation to manage their DNS services.

When you type in an Internet address, like InsideNova.com, the request is first routed to a Digital Name Service server. There the name is found in a database, and a number is returned to your browser. That number tells your browser where to find the actual InsideNova web server on the net.

If that DNS server is down, then your browser will not find the content you are seeking.  

 DYN manages the DNS servers for the companies that became unreachable Friday. DYN was attacked by an unknown entity using a denial of service attack, or DOS for short.

In a DOS attack a site is flooded with traffic, overwhelming its servers so they cannot do their job. Think of a million mailmen all trying to put mail into your mailbox at the same time. Not all of them could stuff mail at the same time, and the little box would be overwhelmed.

Friday’s DOS came in two separate attacks from an astonishing tens of millions of Internet addresses. By attacking this one site, the attacker was able to hobble many sites instead of just the one they were attacking.

If just one computer tried to flood another in a DOS attack, it would be easy to know where the attack was coming from and block it. To avoid detection DOS attackers created botnets to infect PCs. They might trick you into opening an email attachment that would install the botnet or sneak it onto a PC another way.

A lot of times when your computer is infected by a virus, that virus did not harm your PC or even copy information from it to another PC. Instead it became partially under the control of a bad actor. When they wanted to mount a DOS attack, they could order their army of botnets on PCs like yours and mine all over the world to begin flooding the target site with traffic.  If you and I were alert, we might notice our outgoing internet traffic was higher than it ought to be, but few of us would notice.

This is where Internet of Things devices enter the picture. When we began adding home automation hubs, internet connected lights, thermostats, sensors etc., the manufacturers did not pay as much attention as they should have to the security of those devices.


Read the rest at FamilyTechOnline.com


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tech apps can make that commute just a bit easier - October 21, 2016

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had a new car. The new car was for a new job, and a daily commute to the Reston/Herndon area.  For the first time in 14 years I have a more or less typical commute for this area.
I’ve come to see my car as yet another piece of digital technology. And while my physical life may not be the best organized, my digital life is efficiently optimized. So I set out to find the best suite of tools to make my commute more efficient, while not distracting from driving safely.
Since a big part of any job is to arrive on time, my commute efforts begin upon waking. Google Now on my Android phone tells me as soon as I turn off my alarm how long my commute will take on my normal route. This gives me an idea of the urgency needed in getting ready for work.
The last part of my morning preparation has me at my computer checking personal email and dealing with column and blog issues. One of my open browser tabs is Google Maps. It shows my route to work along Fairfax County Parkway and two alternatives along Va. 28 and I-495. I can easily see if the estimate Google Now gave me on waking is still accurate, and how the alternative ways are faring.
Once in the car, I start the pertinent apps and place my phone in a dashboard mount. I am careful to plug in the power--the mapping app takes a lot of power as it keeps the GPS and screen running constantly.
I’d tried Google’s Waze navigation program a few times and have not been impressed. However, after our trip to Israel in March, I saw how enamored every cab driver and tour guide was with the Israeli developed app, so I gave it another try.
Why use a navigation system for the commute you do every day?  Waze is actually a social networking tool. People who precede me on the route can enter traffic jams, accidents, road hazards and other issues with their voice or gestures.  If an issue arises, Waze will immediately plot a route around it.  It also keeps me up-to-date about the probable time I will arrive.
Alone time in the car is a good time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Audio books are available from the county library or from Amazon Audible's monthly subscriptions.

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Family Tech: Internet of Things is already here - October 14, 2016

It used to be the only thing in our homes hooked to the Internet were our PCs. In a short amount of time, we added phones and tablets. Now, there are a multitude of things we can connect to the net, in our home and in the outside world.

This concept is called the Internet of Things, or IoT for short. The Internet of Things will dramatically change the world and, if we choose, our homes.

IoT in the world can be sensors along the roadside that report traffic flow. It can be power meters already in many homes that automatically report meter readings to utility vehicles that pass your street.

IoT can be sensors monitoring pipelines, medical equipment monitoring patients as they go about their day, buoys at sea watching for tsunamis, remote seismometers, and new uses every day.

IoT may already be in your home. There are home automation lights you can control from your phone, the Harmony remote control system for controlling TVs and other home entertainment, the Ring doorbell or any of the multitude of connected home automation devices.

The Amazon Echo, and Google’s just announced Home, let you ask questions, receive answers and command some home automation products. The Echo makes it easy to order from Amazon simply by asking for a product.

The Ring doorbell is mounted by your front door. When someone touches the button, thinking it is your doorbell, you are alerted on your phone. You can see them and have a conversation with them. They do not know you might not be in the house. Burglars often ring the doorbell first to see if anyone is at home before entering a house.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Family Tech: Be sure to ensure the kids’ safety online - September 30, 2016

My brother’s granddaughter called her grandmother four times Friday after school.  When an 8-year-old can place a video call for free, cross country, from her own tablet, it struck me again just how easy kids can communicate these days.

Therein lies the great benefit, and the profound risk of online life.

The 8-year-old can communicate with friends--hopefully ones she knows in real life--but also ones she has met online.  How do you teach a child that not everyone is good, not everyone is really 8 when they say they are, and the other cautions they need to learn sooner than later?

And it is not only children who need to be taught to be safe online. We can all fall prey to bad actors online. And we need to help our senior citizens understand the dangers online as they are often the target for financial scams.

Thankfully there are some powerful resources out there to help parents, kids and seniors.

Our county schools teach from materials found at Netsmartz.org. Parents should review the materials there.  There are sections for kids of various ages: teens, tweens and younger children. There are also sections for parents. Material is available as articles, presentations and videos.

The teen sections have real life stories of the consequences of being unsafe online.

Larry Magid of CBS News is the power behind SafeKids.com.  It has a contract families can agree to for safe surfing. They also have resources on how to stop cyberbullying, how to prevent sexting and how to recognize when your child is being groomed by a predator.

Cyberbullying is especially worrying. It used to be your child could only be bullied in the presence of the bully: at school.  The home was a safe place from bullying, and after school hours could be peaceful respites from bullying.

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Family Tech: Aftermarket car tech can save thousands of dollars - September 23, 2016

Our recent venture into the wonderful world of car buying brought home the nicest car I’ve ever driven.  That’s saying a lot--but on the other hand my brother never has let me drive his classic roadster or Lexus --but I digress.

We ventured forth with a list of must-have and nice-to-have features.  We came home without any of the nice-to-haves.

Our list of Android Auto, heated seats and a backup camera were available but added thousands to the cost.

And in one vehicle the package with those items came only with a third row of seats--seats that only a toddler would fit in, and would take away useful storage space. 

This is my first car with Bluetooth technology. I enjoy listening to podcasts and having phone calls through the speaker system instead of my Bluetooth earpiece. Coincidentally, last week’s column was about earpieces. Tech changes fast. Seriously, an earpiece is still good if you are not the only one in the car and you want to listen to something other than what the rest have chosen. 

Thankfully, I have found ways to get my nice-to-have features at much lower cost.

Android Auto and its Apple equivalent, Apple CarPlay, are devices in some cars that bring some of the functions of your phone to the dashboard.  Usually they display map and navigation information in large, easy to see and use displays.

Likewise, they make extensive use of voice to read your text messages and permit you to send texts and place calls using voice.

Some cars were available with only one of the systems. Some cars had both.

Your smartphone, mounted in a dash mount, can do many of the features of Android Auto and CarPlay.  Apps, in their respective app stores, duplicate many of the functions.

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Family Tech: Apple’s new phone calls for earpods - September 16, 2016

Apple’s announcement of the latest iPhone and a new Apple Watch was overshadowed by one feature of the new phone. Or rather, a feature removed from the phone.
Gone is the headphone jack.  Instead, iPhone 7 will come with earpods that connect through the phone’s lightning connector.
Removing the old connector, which provided a hole into the body of the phone, improves the water resistance of the phone. Anyone who has ever dropped a phone into the sink (or worse!)  will appreciate that feature.
What really upsets long time iPhone users though is this renders their huge collection of earbuds, headphones, remote speakers and such harder to use. Apple is including a dongle with the iPhone 7 that permits previous devices to work, but the dongle is an ugly appendage hanging off the phone, likely to break or get lost.  And replacement earbuds from Apple cost $29, the same as the old wired earbuds with the 3.5 mm plug that is now gone.  What is not certain is if third parties can produce earpods with the lightning connector as inexpensively as they did earbuds with the 3.5mm plug.
This brouhaha shows how much phones have become part of an entire ecosystem. The devices we connect to our phones are important to us and often make the phones work better.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Family Tech: Public libraries critical to community - September 9, 2016

Our county libraries are bragging they are Pokemon Go gyms, where players of the game can capture virtual Pokemons. 

This phone game is all the rage now with kids through adults. I know a minister who plays and is proud his church property is home to three Poke stops.

I’m happy to see the library promoting this on its website.  Staffers understand that being a Pokemon gym is a wonderful way to attract patrons who may have forgotten about the library.

Are public libraries obsolete?  It is understandable to wonder this in the world of broadband, eBooks, Netflix and are other digital media services.  The library does not seem to have the same gravitation pull it once did for many of us.

In reality, our public libraries are more important than ever.

Not everyone can afford a computer, or if they can, also afford broadband. Yet most jobs these days require you to fill out online applications.

Our public libraries and their free computers and internet access let those folks find jobs. It also gives all of us a critical backup to our home infrastructure. If our computer breaks the night before an important project is due, we can always go to the library.  In a recent column on contingency plans for when things go badly, the library was an important component.

Have you converted to ebooks?  I love having a book always with me on my phone.  While perhaps not as tactically satisfying as a paper book, the availability of reading material wherever I am is nice.


Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Family Tech: Pay attention to social media - a must in this presidential election- September 2, 2016

When my employer and I decided to relocate me from California to Virginia in 1999, the owner of the company said, “I wonder if you’ll become politically passionate like everyone else we’ve moved back there.”

There is something about this area that infected me. While I’m not passionate, my interest in the process has increased.

In the midst of a presidential election cycle, we all find ourselves a bit more caught up than usual. There are online tools to help us follow the elections. 

More and more, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are conversing with voters via social media.

I have followed the tweets coming from the various candidates through the primaries and now into the general election. I use Twitter’s Tweetdeck product. It allows me to have columns of related sources together.

I created a Twitter list of candidates and another of news sources. While I don’t read all the tweets, a quick glance gives me an idea of the ongoing conversation Clinton and Trump are having with the voting public.



Friday, August 26, 2016

My LG G3 from Sprint is now 2 Androids versions behind








I thought I had Sprint's commitment that Marshmallow was coming for the LG G3 back in April.

Alas. With the release of Nougat, my phone is now 2 versions behind.

I've tweeted them again. Let's see if I get real information this time.

I would be content with a statement that they do not plan on updating the LG G3 again, instead of being strung along.

At best, would be a firm date we should have it by.

At worst, would be a statement again that no date is announced, and to watch their press room for an announcement.  That should be shining users on.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Using Google Keep - Two Recent Articles

Here are two recent posts from across the web on using Google Keep I had already linked to on the Google Keep Community on Google+.

How to Use Google Keep & Inbox to Create The Ultimate Task List from Business to Community.


and

Google Keep: Ultimate Guide from AndroidCentral.com


Moving your Evernote records to OneNote - one person's adventure

  



Lisa Schmeiser, writing at WinSuperSite.com, talks about lessons learned moving your almost 15,000 Evernote notes to OneNote on her Mac.

It was an experiment only. While there are things she likes about OneNote, she's sticking with Evernote.

WinSuperSite.com



Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Complete Guide to Google Keep

From Android Central:  A Complete Guide to Google Keep

Family Tech: Apple’s, Google’s and Amazon’s family plans offer lots of sharing options

Twenty years ago you bought a movie and put the VHS tape on the shelf near your VCR. If the movie wasn’t quite appropriate for the kids, it went into a shoebox on the top shelf of the parent’s closet. That’s where the kids found it when they got a bit older and snooped when the parents were out. 

Then along came online media purchases and things got more complex. Mom and Dad likely had separate iTunes or Android accounts. Often the kids did too. 

Movies purchased on one account had to be watched on a device tied to that account. If two kids wanted to watch Frozen on their own devices, some parents bought a copy for each child’s device. 

Apple, Google, and Amazon have made it a bit easier with shared family plans for the videos and other streaming and downloadable content. 

These programs allow family members to share purchases and consume them on various devices, even if the purchase was made on another account, as long as that account is part of the family plan. 

Apple’s plan has one adult agreeing to pay on their credit card for the purchases of up to five family members. At first, that sounds dangerous, but the kids’ purchases can require the adult’s approval before the transaction is made. This works for both paid and free downloads. The approval is done right on the adult’s device, so the child can make the request while at daycare, and the parent can approve while still at work, for example. 

All downloads of movies, apps, books and music appear on the list of all family members. And the adults can hide some of their purchases if they want, to keep the six year old from watching “The Shining.” 

Read the rest at www.FamilyTechOnline.com

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Microsoft's Evernote to OneNote conversion tool now on Mac






Its not a move I'd make, but some are casting about for alternatives to Evernote. Those already paying for Microsoft Office have Evernote as part of Office.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Note taking apps for Students

Long time readers know I find Evernote one of my most useful tools, and I advocate students use it.

Lifehacker.com recently posted a wonderful comparison of a number of note taking tools for students that is worth reading.

There is some exciting new developments in this space with Zoho's Notebook and Dropbox's Paper, neither of which are mentioned in the Lifehacker post.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Family Tech: School Software and Making Plans for the Disaster to Come - August 12, 2016

Have you planned on things going wrong in your tech life?  They will.  Better to plan on it now and be ready.

And if you are sending a student away to school with a laptop, plan now on it breaking or getting stolen or some other catastrophe.

In July we talked about backup options.  Have you started using one yet? Have you setup your student with an automatic, offsite backup system so they do not have to think about it?

You will need it. That is almost a certainty.

What about anti-virus, for the the PCs at home and those going to college?  Get them installed now, and if there is a subscription, make sure it is paid through the end of the school year.

For the college students, check the school’s bookstore or website. Often schools have requirements for anti-virus software for all PCs that use their networks, and site licenses to provide it to students for free.

Before you buy any software for students, check with the university. Besides site licenses that provide free software to students, they also have academic discounts for other software often at vast savings.  

For $20 a month students can get a full range of Adobe software products or a year (and then just $30 a month). The package includes Acrobat, Premiere, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Audition and many more.  These are professional grade software packages. Premiere was used to edit the movies Deadpool and Gone Girl for example.

They likely have discounts on Microsoft Office subscriptions and also for specialized software certain majors might need. Architectural, engineering, mathematics, physics, and other fields need specific and powerful software that would be costly if it were not for student discounts.

Some of these discounts are available to teachers and staff of colleges, universities and school districts as well.