Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Short Blogging Interruption

I'll be taking a break from posting while sunning on a tropical beach. I'll be back the second week in January. Thanks for reading my blog!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year: Goodreads.com --For Boomer Readers

My gift to you this holiday season is more information about a web site I can't live without. I think most Boomers--especially Boomer readers--- will find Goodreads.com easy to use and full of great information.

I've been a member of Goodreads for a while, ever since one of my relatives suggested it to me. This is a website for inveterate readers, but you have to take some time to make good use of it.  On this site, you post the books you've recently read and rate them, using an easy to use five star system.Users can publish a review of a book if they want, but this is not required.

Users don't have to write out lengthy book info to find books, because they can search by author, title and other key words. The search box is easy to find and use. There are several tabs on the Home Page.  If you hit the My Books tab, you will go to your book list.  Using the green Add Books tab  you can search for any book you want to list.

Another tab lets you search for any books you want to read. For example, I wanted to see all the books that Lee Child wrote since I am headed on vacation and needed a light, exciting read. I entered his name and all his books popped up.


You can look at books your friends have entered, and you can use these for recommendations. I've been absolutely delighted with this service. I found I have a cousin with similar taste to mine in books. I wind up getting what she reads, and I hope I give her some good tips too!

The site solves a problem for me: so many books, so little time. I want to hone in on books I'll enjoy when I have time to read. My mother was a fanatic reader who would bring home stacks of ten books at a time from the library. She would go to the library and browse to her heart's content, and she found her books through trial and error. I go to school, have an empty nest that gets filled with young adults sometimes, write this blog, volunteer, and spend many hours researching this blog. I don't have time for trial and error. I read the New York Times Book Review. And I  go to Goodreads at any time of the day or night and search for books. I can order them online, or if I can wait, I'll make a list for the library. Either way, it's a great resource for me.

Goodreads is an excellent place for Boomers to explore books and authors. When you hit the Explore tab, you are given a list to explore. I hit the Books section and came to a group of lists on which site users had voted. I lost myself in the list of Books Everyone Should Read at Least Once.  Then I looked at the Best Books of the Decade list. Soon I was clicking off and rating as many of these books as I had already read, and I was making a note of the ones I hadn't read for future reading. If you hit the Authors button you will come to great interviews with authors and other reading material about the authors of books. Fledgling writers publish their own stories and chapters on Goodreads, and that's another interesting section.

While writing this post, I found another use for the site. I will now begin to use it to keep track of all the light reading I do on vacation. I think I've read every single Kellerman (both husband and wife) book out there, but maybe I haven't. If I begin listing them and keeping track of them, maybe I'll figure out which ones I haven't read! Stay tuned. 

I hope I've given my Boomer readers some inkling of why I enjoy this web site, and I hope you'll give it a try. I have no connection with Goodreads in any way. I just love to read.

Here's a list of some other web sites for readers. Maybe you'll like these better.

This will be my final post before heading on vacation. I'll be back the week of January 11th. I promise not to post from the beach!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My own take on Texting Help for Dummies (Over 50)!

A website I recently visited had some information about texting aimed at the over 50 crowd, so I thought I'd post the link here.

Texting Help for Dummies (Over 50)!
Posted using ShareThis

Do I text? Yes, moderately.
I find that texting is the best way to contact some members of my family at certain times and to reach some people while they are at work. It seems to be the best way to contact some friends who may not be able to look at emails during meetings, for example. I only text people who want me to text them, and I'd never knowingly text anyone who was driving! I know lots of boomers who constantly text their kids at college.  And I know some who have never gotten the hang of it. So this blog post could be of use to them.

What the Texting for Dummies article doesn't address is how to begin texting. On the iPhone (and other phones) there is a menu item called messages.  You go to that item and there will either be a little icon that looks like a pen and paper, or a listing that says compose or something similar. Different phones use different language (write, compose, create) or icons. Nevertheless, if you select the pen and paper on the iPhone or one of these synonyms, the text message form will come up. You select the person you want to text from your contact list, and their phone number will be added in the "To:" field.



At times, I've felt stuck in this contact field! I couldn't figure out how to get out of it to actually create and send the message. On the iPhone there is a little field box above the keyboard. If you touch the field box you can begin typing your message in it. When you are finished typing, hit send.

Of course, one of the problems with texting for those of us used to typing is the little keyboards we must use. On a regular phone, we are faced with trying to use the phone's keypad. The Blackberry and other smart phones have better keyboards. On the iPhone, I can use a pretty efficient touch screen QWERTY keyboard. It's not the same as typing on a computer, but it's doable.

Many cell phone packages come with unlimited text messaging. If you decide give texting a try, please, please get an unlimited package or at least a big enough package to accommodate your needs. Text messages cost cell phone companies pennies to send, yet they are a huge part of their revenue, and individual text messages without a package deal can cost up to 25 cents each.  Most people at one time or another underestimate how much messaging they do and get hit by a big bill. Don't let this happen to you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Games and Boomers--Let's have some fun

The holidays are here and between now and New Years I will probably blog about some lighter topics in keeping with the season. 

Let's face it, Boomers are gamers. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed some games until the PC came along and I became hooked on Spider Solitaire. Then I was addicted to Free Cell. These two games came with my computer and I didn't have to do a thing to get them. Then a friend of mine told me about Text Twist on Yahoo Games. I went to the site and bookmarked it so I could come back any time I wanted.


Recently, Google featured some favorite applications of famous people. I can't remember whose recommendation this was, but some famous person found a great version of the original Tetris and put it on his Google home page. Of course, I had to have it, so I play it online. I only play the original 1989 version of Tetris that I got to know back then, but there are many updated options on this site.  Now all of these time wasters are available to distract me when I sit down at my desk to do something useful.

Games on the iPhone are slightly different. They actually fulfill a purpose. Games are great time fillers when you are waiting in an endless line at the post office or when you are waiting for a flight. They entertain you when you might not be doing anything and fill smaller time periods when you might not pull out a book to read. As you can tell, I am enjoying gaming on the iPhone quite a bit.


My son introduced me to a game called "Words with Friends," an app for the iPhone by NewToy.  It is like Scrabble with some exceptions. The only problem with "Words with Friends" is you have to play it with people who are on social networking sites and who are your friends on those sites. So right now I am only playing with my son. I welcome other gamers.

Do you remember the old days, when people used to play chess via the mail? They would mail their move to an opponent and vise versa.  Similarly, with "Words with Friends", you play a word on the board, and your friend is notified that it is now his turn. When he or she goes to the game on the iPhone, your word shows up on their playing board. You can take as long as you like to make the next move.  I've found this a delightful way to pass some time.

I have to say, when I first downloaded the app, I had no idea how to begin playing and needed someone to show me. App developers really have to work on making their sites Boomer friendly. Spell out what you do to begin a game and how to invite friends.  Don't assume everyone can just figure it out intuitively.

One of my friends recently recommended playing Scrabble on Pogo.com. She says she plays on this site every day. I went to the web site and it was daunting. I couldn't figure it out. I'll need her to walk me through it. I'm guessing she had one of her adult kids walk her through it the first time she decided to use the site.

I'll let you know if I have any success with this in coming posts. In the mean time, have a wonderful holiday season and thanks for reading.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Boomers: Get Out There and Take Classes Online!

Recently I've gotten a lot of interest from friends of mine who would like to go back to college to complete degrees or to get a Masters and are fascinated that some of the classes I am taking are taught online. I know this isn't a new phenomena. A friend of mine was going for her PhD online at least ten years ago. Her program involved some online courses and some on site coursework. I remember she flew out to her host university's campus to participate in some activities. However, recently some of my friends want to know: how does taking classes online work? So I'm going to try to answer their questions in this blog post.

At Pace University, and many other universities, online courses are taught through the website and a portal program called Blackboard. You access Blackboard with your university email address and password. When you open the program, you are given all kinds of options. I click on the one that says "Courses in Which You are Enrolled." That brings me to another page where the professor has made announcements for the week. On the left hand side of the page is a list of other options.


The majority of my courses include "lectures" from an instructor which are posted on the web site under the Course Documents section. Assignments include readings from the assigned books or outside articles which may be posted to the website under the Course Documents section. Sometimes a video clip or Powerpoint to watch is posted. Or students may be asked to find their own examples through the library web site. In one course which was being taken by Masters in Publishing students from across the US and even one on an army base in Germany, we were told to go to a magazine newsstand and select a relevant magazine for an assignment. In other words, while assignments may be online, students often use books, magazines and other materials to complete their assignments.

In many classes, much of the course work is done via the Blackboard Discussion Board. On the Discussion Board the teacher may pose a question, ask for a reaction to the reading, ask for questions on the lecture or lead a discussion on any number of open ended topics. Sometimes a professor says you have to respond to one or more of your classmates, but often the discussions are so interesting people tend to interact with many more of their classmates. Also, Discussion Board topics are much more useful when the instructors weigh in on the subjects with their expertise and points of view.

Key to keeping an online class interesting and engaging is the teacher's ability to be organized and to be available to students via e-mail and other communications options. Since you can't see your professor in person, you have to get good at framing questions precisely so that the correct question gets answered. Teachers need solid lecture notes to make this work.


Online learners are also asked to do group projects and collaborate. Sometimes they collaborate via Blackboard tools. Sometimes they use other collaborative tools like Google Docs, a free collaborative offering from Google. Papers are collected online too. Students create Microsoft Word files for their papers and drop the assignments into a "Digital Drop Box." Like the drop box at Blockbuster, once you put your paper there, you cannot retrieve it.

People may be surprised to learn that tests can be given online as well. Sometimes tests are simply questions that  students can take as much time as they want to answer, and then post the answers to the Assessment section of Blackboard. Sometimes there are timed tests that have to be completed within a time frame stated in the Assessment section.

I know some online Universities use videos of teachers giving lectures, but that hasn't been my experience at Pace. Nor do I have to tune in to a "live" class at a certain time, which I know is a staple of some other University classes.

While I take some of my classes on campus, I enjoy my online classes as well. Done correctly, with great care from the instructor, the student gets individual attention even though he or she is just a name and an email address. I can't tell you how good returning to school has made me feel, fellow Boomers. So I highly recommend that those of you who haven't tried this before, take a class online to see how it suits you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Facebook Privacy--What it means for Boomers

Facebook changed its privacy policy this week, and basically reset everyone's privacy settings so that everyone can see everything you post. And Friends of Friends can see your photos.  If you click here, you will be sent to an excellent blog post by Brian Krebbs at the Washington Post that explains exactly what Facebook did. (Warning: you  may have to close an ad before you can be linked to the blog. It's annoying but worth it.) 

I don't intend to go over the same material Krebbs covered in this blog post. I only want to warn my fellow Boomers, especially the ones who are only occasional users of Facebook, to get in there and check your privacy settings immediately. I think that Boomers have an expectation of privacy that the younger generations who have grown up with social networking don't share. Yet, we have to expect that everything we put on the web will be fodder for some search engine sometime in the future, unless we protect it.

Do you really want Google or Bing pulling up posts you made to update your status? Take something innocent, like a post about a sick member of the family. Once that post is available to be indexed by Bing or Google, it is on the web for posterity, my friends. Your birthday is another example. If you let Facebook make this information public, then you are inviting marketers into your life. This blog article by Kaila Colbin shows how Facebook's decision to pull the privacy rug out from under its users is motivated by the the ability to sell the information it is collecting on us. I understand there are many ways that marketers can get this information anyway, but why make it easy to be a target for them?  The only way to protect your information is to make sure you keep your privacy settings updated.

Like many of my Boomer friends, I use Facebook to keep up with family and friends. I'm not interested in cultivating a vast number of friends of friends. And I am angry with Facebook for resetting my privacy settings --really without much notice. Frankly, I think they should have used my old settings as the default, and asked me to opt in to their new settings, which I would have refused.

Also, there should have been more notice given. While there was a big banner telling me to update my settings when I signed on last week, the keepers of the Facebook community didn't email me, and believe me, they have my email address. We all should have been warned before they made this huge change.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Turning in My Kindle

As I discussed in previous posts, I was privileged to be given a Kindle e-book reader by Pace University as part of a beta test of this device for use by graduate students. At the end of the semester, I was given the opportunity to buy my Kindle for less than half price. I've chosen not to buy it. In this post I want to examine my reasons why.

I was disappointed with the Kindle. Certainly, the device held three rather bulky text books in a small space, no bigger than a notebook, and that was a good thing. I was able to adjust the type size, a boon for a boomer who doesn't like to wear her glasses to read. (I'm talking about me!) And I could search for different topics in each book, something that came in handy in an educational setting. In addition, I liked that all versions of the book could be synchronized, whether I was reading the book on my Kindle, PC or iPhone.  However, the Kindle left much to be desired. I may buy an e-book reader in the future, but I think I'll hold out for one made by Apple. Most of my problems with the Kindle had to do with navigation (the book equivalent of flipping pages), and I think that's one area that Apple gets right.

The litany of things I didn't like about the Kindle is long. First, I didn't like that it doesn't have page numbers, only locations, and that there is no quick and easy way to see where you are within a chapter. Second, I was really unhappy with the little joy stick navigation device.  If you are in a book's table of contents and want to go to Chapter 3, you have to use this joy stick to point to the chapter you want to go to and then click it. The button is hard to use and maneuver. In the same vein, I didn't like the little keyboard and wound up using it as little as possible. Third, I didn't like the Sprint network Kindle used to download the books. I have no Sprint coverage in my house. I had to take my Kindle for a ride out in the car for it to download the books I ordered. Forth, well you get the idea...I don't think I need to beat up on Kindle. For some people, this device might be just what they needed, and I hope they enjoy it.

I'm just looking for something else. If I buy a e-book reader, I want it to mimic the way I use books and add some features I didn't know I needed but like. I want to flip through the pages with a flick of my finger. I want to be able to tell that I'm half way through a chapter easily. I want to be able to bring the e-book reader to the beach without worrying about it getting full of sand, gumming  up the electronics. I want to underline passages if I want, with little effort, and make notes easily, maybe even in hand writing.

I worry about the price point of my ideal device. After all Amazon was willing to let me have my beta tested Kindle for only $200. I won't spend $1000 on an e-book reader and that is the rumored price of Apple's new offering. It may be a while till I have access to a reader again, but I'll be keeping up with developments in this area. I think boomers are a great market for e-book readers, so when the companies finally get them right, we'll all benefit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to Use This Blog --for Boomers who want to know

First let me apologize for my silence these last few days. I've been waylaid by a sinus infection and spent much of the time sleeping rather than blogging. However, I'm back and hope to be a more regular contributor now.

This blog post is about How to Use This Blog, with some comments about how to use blogs in general. I know that many people my age don't understand this relatively new method of communications and feel stupid asking people about it. Yes, they've heard about blogs, and maybe they know what one is, but they are at a loss to find blogs they might enjoy reading.

One of my friends, who is very knowledgeable about the web, has simply ignored blogs because she didn't understand them. However, she was interested enough in my topic of Tech and the Baby Boomer to ask me how to find my blog. After she read it, however, she didn't understand how to interact with it. And she couldn't find it again the next time she looked for it.  So here is a short primer on how to read and interact with this blog.

You can find my blog at http://techandboomers.blogspot.com.  But you can also find it through certain search engines. If you Google my name "Esther Surden" my blog listing in Blog Catalog will be among the first items you'll see.  A direct search result for this blog will be lower in this list.  If you click on this link, either from the search engine or from Blog Catalog, your browser will go to the this Blog's home page.

Since my blog is still a little hard to find on search engines, I'd suggest that people who come here, bookmark this page so they can come back. Just click on the tab at the top of your page that says "Bookmark" or "Favorites." That will allow you to save the Blog's home page as a place to come back to.

Let's say you've landed on my home page, now what? You'll see my latest blog entry on top. Blogs are like a diary, written with the last entry on top. You can read just one entry, or scroll through and read more. I hope you'll want to read more.

After you've read what I have to say, please comment. The comment section is after the post. To comment, just hit the link under the post that tells how many comments there are for a post. It will open the posted comments section and lead you to a box labeled "Post a Comment". Write what you like in the white box below.

In my blog, you won't be published right away. I monitor the comments to prevent spam. Under the comment window you'll see a  box that says "Comment As" and you'll have several options. You can use your AIM user name, your Google user name, or a name with a URL. You can also be anonymous.  Once you've decided how you want to be listed, click the preview button to preview your comments. Once you are satisfied with your comment, click the Submit button. After you submit the comment, I will get the comment from Blogger, look at it, and post it.

Of course there are other things you can do with my blog.
  • You can email blog entries to other people by clicking the little envelope under the post.
  • You can look up related content, by clicking on the Sphere icon that looks like a miniature globe. Sphere provides links to stories or other content that is similar to the content in my post. You'll have to deal with some ads if you click this link, however.
  • You can subscribe to my post via email, through the form in the right hand column. 
  • You can get my blog posts and comments sent to your home page through something called an RSS feed. (I'll be dealing with this in a future post)
  • You can Follow my blog posts through Google Friend Connect, if you want to join that program. (I'll also touch on this in a future post)
  • You can Tweet the post or share it on Facebook, if you want to.

Feel free to use my blog as your guinea pig --a place you can experiment with your skills at commenting or sharing. In another post, I'll talk about using some of the larger and well respected blog sites. Getting to know them can enrich your life.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Changing Your Facebook Profile Picture

Recently, a friend of mine asked me how she could change her profile picture in Facebook, so I decide to change mine to see how the process went. It was very easy to do and I think any Boomer should be able to follow the simple instructions in this Yahoo answers.

It's probably best to get the new picture ready (select it, know what file it is in) before you swap out pictures. Then you just go to your profile, move your mouse over your picture, and see the menu that pops up. Click on "Change Picture" and follow the instructions to upload a new picture or get rid of the one you have.  Actually, I liked my friend's old picture. But everyone has the right to change their face to the world any time they want, and Facebook does make it easy.

My friend's difficulty made me realize the tremendous differences we all have in our knowledge of  programs, even ones we use frequently. We may know Facebook enough to use it to update our walls and communicate with friends, but if we let a younger member of our family set up our profile page, we may not know how use some of the other functions.

The Help function on Facebook is really hidden, down at the bottom right corner of the page. It would be nice if the wise people at Facebook put it somewhere people are actually going to look for it.

When I first started using Facebook, I was baffled by the notice that came with  accepting a holiday card (for example) that said "Allowing [Put Application or Game name here] access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends' info, and other content that it requires to work. I thought it would make me give Facebook access to my entire email address book. Instead, what really happens is that Facebook looks at the friends and relatives you have on the site, and ASKs you if you want to send something to them. You can send something to all, some or none of them. In other words, the warning sounds scarier than it really is.

Anyway, I hope this information helps my friend swap out her picture. She could have found helpful info in many ways: by plugging in "change profile picture on Facebook" into a search engine, by looking at Yahoo Answers or a similar site, or by consulting the Help function on Facebook.  I'm glad she asked me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Boomers' Attitudes Toward Technology

I saw this great article about Boomer attitudes toward technology  by  Michael Rogers on the AARP web site. Yes, I want to scream when I think of being old enough to benefit from AARP's wisdom, but here I am.

Rogers concludes what I knew all along. Boomers' "technology habits are not frozen in time. Boomers are thoughtful adopters who are open to new technologies that add value to their lives." We don't see ourselves as slow at adopting technology. However, we do think that manufacturers produce products that are excessively complex and have poor instructions.

AARP found that our generation is interested in some very cutting edge technologies.
  • We would be willing to wear sensor-equipped exercise clothes, for example, to keep track of our physical condition and calories burned during workouts.
  • We are willing to have our health records encoded electronically and maybe even to have a chip implanted with our health history. 
  •  Boomers support online banking and are willing to see the mobile phone become both a credit card and cash equivalent.
  • Our generation will also adopt "green" technologies en mass.
To be clear, these conclusions were not drawn from a large sample. Only 60 plus "influencers" participated in gatherings during May 2009 in San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, and New York. All of the participants had broadband Internet at home and so may have represented forward thinkers anyway. Here is the link to the report Boomers and Technology: an extended conversation. 

One example in the report said that Boomers will demand better security online and will pioneer the idea of true online Internet IDs, the electronic equivalent of driver's licenses or passports.  I have great faith in the power of our generation not only to adopt new technologies, but to help influence them. And so I ask you, readers, do you think Boomers will continue to influence technology? Or will it pass them by?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taking a break-- Happy Thanksgiving

I'll be taking a break from this blog until after Thanksgiving. Time to settle in with family and friends and enjoy the holiday. I'll be back next week.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do Boomers care about operating systems?

Do boomers care about computer operating systems (OS)? I didn’t think so until I heard from a reader that thought this was a relevant topic for this blog. He was speaking of the operating system Google is creating called Chrome. Chrome is not for your first computer. It's for that second one that you carry around with you on vacation. Don't tell me you don't do this. Most of my friends do.

Before you yawn, remember that technology is only good if it solves a problem. Google is trying to solve a number of little annoying problems that we ordinary PC users encounter every day.  If you are like me, you are upset that:
·         You have to wait for the computer to boot up after you turned it off and for all your programs and email to be ready to use. If your TV made you wait like that, you’d be mad, I bet.

·         Your computer runs more slowly than it did the day you first got it.

·         You forgot to backup your files and then your computer crashed.

·         You hate putting on a new disk drive, printer or web cam because it’s too complicated and then after all that work, the device doesn’t work.

When it first announced it would work on Chrome,Google said, “We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.”

Well, good luck with that, Google!

There is a whole lot of tech mumbojumbo out there about how the Chrome OS differs from Apple's OS or Microsoft's Vista OS. Apparently Chrome makes it easier for users to do everything on the Internet. The catch is that most of your data will also be somewhere on the Internet too. PC World has a couple of nice little articles about why Google Chrome will succeed or fail if you are interested.

So, your disk drive won't crash any more, or you won't need a disk drive on the road. On the other hand, do you trust Google to keep your data safe? And as a savvy boomer, you always want to ask "What's in it for Google, anyway?" Will this make it easier for them to bombard me with ads? Will they use my data for their never ending quest to "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."? Or are they as benign as they would have us believe? Do they just want us out there, Googling all day long?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birthday memories

Well, today is my daughter's birthday. Well, actually it was yesterday where she is in New Zealand. So while today on the Eastern seaboard is her birthday, it was yesterday in New Zealand. Is it any wonder that I'm confused?

I often forget birthdays and have for many years, as my extended family will attest. However, some boomers I've been talking to seem to be having problems with this for the first time. That is they are becoming forgetful for the first time in their lives. I think they are lucky.

Nevertheless,  I decided to look at the iPhone App store to see if there were any handy apps that could help boomers remember birthdays and avoid family fights. I did find a free one from a company called From|Ahead, simply called Birthdays.

The simple program provides lots of options. If you are a Facebook user, you can import the birthdays of your friends from there. You can get birthdays from your calendar or from an address book. Or, you can simply type them in to the program.

The program will notify you by email  if you want, or notify you via your iPhone. And you can choose how frequently you want to be reminded. Daily? Monthly? Weekly?

I think this little app is beautiful, clever and useful and is the kind of thing many boomers will appreciate. If my sister is reading this, here's the truth. I may still forget birthdays, but it will because I ignored the notifications this app sends.  I will be sorry, as always. I promise.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going to the Louvre: There's an app for that


I've been to the Louvre, and I am an art lover, and I assure you that an Apple iPhone is no substitute for a  visit to a real museum. However, for fun, I thought I'd download a free application (offered by that venerable museum) that has been making the "Top 25" free list at the iTunes app store.  It turns out the Louvre Museum app is a good way to pass some time looking at photos of great paintings and learning something about them. It's an app I think other boomers will like as well.

The icon of the Louvre application is a picture of the Mona Lisa, arguably the most famous painting in the collection. Click on Mona, and you get a lovely picture of the museum at night, followed by a page that says "Artworks" with Mona in the middle. If you touch the picture of the Mona Lisa, the introduction to the collection begins. I touched the first artwork presented --The Lacemaker by Jan Vermeer, and a larger picture of the painting came up.


Touch the small star on the right hand side and you come to this page.


  
When I touched the "About the Work" tab, an explanation of the picture and its components appeared.



The "back" tab, took me to the menu where I could "See more detail." Here I was able to use the iPhone's stretch feature to make the painting fill the entire field of the phone's screen and turn the photo to the orientation that best fit the work. Turning the phone horizontally brought up the "back" button again, and I returned to the menu.

The "Technical information" tab is pretty much what it seems: information on the size of the canvas, what kind of paint was use, where the inscription is, how the museum acquired the painting, and so on. The "Location" tab shows a map of the location of the painting in the museum. If you were walking through the Louvre, you might want to use this iPhone application to find important works.

 
The application contains pictures and information on about twenty pieces of artwork. I haven't had time to look at each one, but I look forward to it, as free time allows.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kindle for PC --No Kindle e-reader needed

I read an article in PC World that said that Kindle for the PC had just been released so I decided to give the program a try. The more places I can read my schoolwork, the better, I think. I've mentioned before that I am attending a masters program at Pace University and that I was given the Kindle as part of a beta test to see how universities can use the Kindle for texts.

Actually, you would think Amazon would notify current Kindle owners that this very useful download was available, but they didn't, so I had to find out via the trade press. Nevertheless,  I went on to the Amazon website, found the free program prominantly advertised, and downloaded it to my PC. The download was easy, the installation no problem, so I opened the program.



When I opened the program, book covers of all the books I bought (or were kindly given to me through my Pace University program) from Amazon were displayed as archived. I clicked on one of them, and the program loaded the whole book on to my PC in what seemed like seconds.




When I opened the book, it opened to the last page I had read! It really was amazing. The pages had retained all of the highlighting and notes I made in the book on the Kindle device, and the highlighting showed up as yellow! On the Kindle, highlighting shows up as underlining and is dark gray.

The PC version of the Kindle retains one of the most Boomer-friendly features of the device. Readers can set the type of the book to the size that is most comfortable for them. Any reader, however, will appreciate that the Whispersync technology used by Kindle keeps all versions of your books up to date. You will never have to worry that the book you are reading on your e-book reader is on a different page than the same book being read on the iPhone or the PC. Navigation between places in the book is still a bit awkward: you have to page through. But if you are used to a mouse, you can use the scroll wheel to quickly move through the book chapter. That's much better than the page turning function on the e-book device.

As I started to read my book, I ran into the downside of having the electronic book on the PC. The program has no way for you to highlight using PC keys. If you want to highlight, you have to do it on the Kindle device itself, not the PC. And the search function is missing, so you can't search for all the references to specific content. I'm hoping that Amazon will correct this and other shortcomings in the future.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Help for the Boomer Body--FoodScanner app

I recently heard about an Apple iPhone app that is a perfect fit for those boomers who want to lose weight or follow a healthy diet.  A lot of experts believe that tracking calories --writing down everything you eat-- is the best way to keep on a diet or even maintain preferred weight.

FoodScanner is an application that works with the iPhone camera to scan bar codes of foods in your pantry at home or packages at the supermarket. The amazing thing is that it is so easy to use --just point and shoot! You can use the app to figure the number of calories you've had for your meal, or maybe to decide if you'll buy a product that may be too many calories when it comes down to it. Of course, you have to be honest and report the correct number of servings! No fair saying you had one, when really you had two!

Before I downloaded the $1.99 ($3.20 including tax) app,  I thought long and hard about giving Apple and the folks at The Daily Burn my money. But I looked at reviews for FoodScanner and they were universally good. So I thought I'd give it a try. First I watched this demo video provided by the people who made the app. I want to congratulate them for a lucid video that showed me exactly how scan the packaging. After that,  I went over to my pantry and pulled out a box of angel hair pasta, opened the icon, pressed a little button that looked like a lightening bolt, and aimed my camera at the bar code.  As soon as I got the bar code within the limits on the application, the phone automatically took a picture of the code and converted it into this piece of information:
 
Then I was given the option to input how many servings I had of this item.

 
I selected two servings and hit the Next button. There I found this:



Pressing the little  arrow icon brought a screen that showed all the nutritional information for the package.



Maybe I'm easily impressed, but this little program will probably be very useful in my life. No, it doesn't factor in all of the fiber in this product, so you won't be able to use it to count points for programs like Weight Watchers. However, it should be a very good addition for those Boomers who want to know our calorie counts.




Friday, November 6, 2009

Hold on! I'm starting to get Twitter

I’m starting to understand Twitter, I think. This is the service (www.twitter.com) made famous by Ashton Kutcher and other celebs who get really excited that they have thousands of people following their every move.

People post messages limited to 140 characters either from the web or from their mobile phones. The messages are broadcast to a list of followers. Posting is called tweeting. People can say anything they want, from the boring to the interesting, on Twitter. You won’t know which you are getting—boring or interesting-- until you try to follow someone who uses the service.

At first I thought this was a service for the self-absorbed. I mean, do we really need to know what celebrities are doing every moment of the day?  However, I’ve come to see it as a useful  way to get news about an industry, a colleague or even a cousin. People who tweet from industry trade shows, for example, post opinions about presentations or tweet industry  news boiled down to its essentials. Following them clues you in to stories you might have missed otherwise.

And that colleague, well, who knew she liked to cook and was testing recipes for a cookbook?  I’ve also enjoyed following one of the organizations to which I belong. Different people tweet for this organization, and the latest one reported on what a senator said to her. It’s a sound bite I otherwise wouldn’t have known and it gives the reader the feeling of being on the “inside.”  Of course, you have to realize that what is being tweeted is what people want others to know. It may sound spontaneous, but it really isn’t.

One of the key features of Twitter is the ability to “Retweet” by cutting and pasting. If you get some important news, you can cut and paste it into your “What are you doing box?” and send it on to everyone who follows you. In that way, messages like the sad, terrible, unthinkable, killings at Fort Hood this week, get out even faster than ever before. Marketers love this feature too, because word of new products, gimmicks, and giveaways, travel at lightening speed.

Do Boomers tweet? Oprah does, but the jury is out on whether this media will have a lasting impact on our generation.  Some media research from Pew shows that only 9% of Boomers actually use Twitter. However, I think Twitter has a lot of application for Boomers. For one thing, it is very easy to use. You sign up, and Twitter will ask your permission to look in your email account for people who are already on the service. You can choose to follow them. And maybe they’ll follow you. Right now, I concentrate on tweeting about what I’m working on for this blog. I don’t like getting too personal. I’d be interested in knowing how you are using Twitter, if you do, and what features you like or dislike.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Facebook, the good and bad

Right now, people my age are joining Facebook right and left. It seems as though the boomer generation is taking over this social networking site. Researchers, as noted in this Newsweek blog, are well aware of this phenomina.  In fact, some members of the press seem to find the boomer invasion somewhat subversive!When I joined Facebook, I announced to my young adult children that I was joining and told them they didn't have to "friend" me if they didn't want to. That being said, I was friended by the older two and I have enjoyed the experience.

When my son posts pictures of his various adventures --last year he went abroad for the summer-- I feel as though he is letting me in on a little piece of his life, and I'm thankful for that. I've also connected with a cousin in Chicago that I rarely spoke to before and have more frequent contact with some other relatives who maybe I'd forget to add to the email list when sending out that joke. My nearby friends keep me updated on some of their activities, and I do the same. In this way, Facebook keeps my community of friends and family closer together.

I'm certain that I'm not using the social networking site to its full potential. I haven't tried to reach out to elementary school classmates, for example. One of my friends actually has her gradeschool class pictures posted on the site!

What I don't understand about Facebook are some of the applications. Lately, I've been invited to a "pillow fight" many times over. I guess this is a way people reach out to each other, but is it rude not to respond when someone asks you to a "pillow fight?" The first time is OK, but it seems like a waste of time to keep throwing therapeutic pillows and comfy pillows at friends and relatives. Does anyone have an answer to this burning question?

Friday, October 30, 2009

iPhone and Kindle, Perfect Together

I’ve discovered one aspect of the Kindle that I absolutely love, but it has nothing to do with the actual device. Amazon offers a Kindle app for the iPhone.You don't even need a Kindle to use it, but if you have one it synchronizes the books you have on your Kindle with your iPhone and gives you access to them on both devices.

This is true confession time. I never, ever thought that reading on a little screen like the iPhone’s would be enjoyable for me, but it really is. With the iPhone app, unlike the Kindle which requires the push of a "next page" button, you can turn pages with a flick of your finger. Even though pages have very little content, reading is fun. The iPhone Kindle App is better suited to reading a novel than reading a text book, I must admit. However, it is extremely convenient to have a book available to me to read at any time.

One of the features of the Kindle that this app preserves is the ability to change the size of the font, so if you have trouble reading small print, you can choose larger print. And you can change how the print is rendered. I chose a soft sepia tone. The reader can also sync to the farthest place read. In a text book where the reader often is assigned chapters out of order, this isn’t such a great feature; however, with a novel that is read linearly, finding the last page read means never losing your place. It’s tantamount to an electronic bookmark!


I took my phone to the hair salon the other day, and instead of leafing through Cosmo, I read a couple of chapters of Bombay Time.  I know there are other book apps out there to try, and I’ll get around to them, but for now I highly recommend that boomers give the Kindle App on the iPhone a try.
For other opinions of the Kindle app on the iPhone try CNET  or InformationWeek.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fastest Growing Users of Technology

 I've been talking to some very knowledgeable people in New York about this blog, and frankly they are skeptical that something like this is needed. Many of my contemporaries are very savvy about technology already, and don't need someone to walk them through it. They've been chatting away and getting push email on their Blackberries for ages. Some of them adopted the Palm Pilot and happily used that personal productivity product for years, using the stylus to make notes to themselves and the calendar to keep track of their lives.

Yet, both anecdotal and empirical evidence makes me believe that many of my peers are just now jumping into the technology waters. Take a look at this research from Accenture
that found that "Boomers are embracing popular consumer technology applications nearly 20 times faster than the younger generation."  One of my fellow bloggers in this space talks about it in his blog  The Savvy Boomer.

I'm finding that people my age who buy expensive phones, don't use them to their potential. For example, most smart phones these days have calendars on them and you can enter important events into them while you are out and about. If you take your phone and hook it up to the computer, it will usually "sync" the calendar on your computer with the calendar on your phone, so that all events are the same wherever you go. This feature has been available for years on many different phones, not just the iPhone, but not everyone who has a smart phone has figured out  how to use it.

Another great feature of the calendar on many phones it that it will remind you of your appointments ahead of time, so you have time to call if you've forgotten or are late. Yes, I know that business users have relied on this feature for some time. I think it is just now that the trickle down effect has gotten this kind of technology to the rest of us. What do you think?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to find a Restaurant Using an iPhone

Yesterday, I walked down 45th Street near 5th Avenue in New York while looking at my iPhone GS, which can be a dangerous thing to do in New York! There was a method to my madness. I was trying out a feature on the Yelp! app that lets you see reviews for the restaurants you are walking by while you are walking by them. Anyone out there who has found themselves in a strange city either on business, pleasure or family business knows that finding someplace suitable to eat can be challenging. Yelp! is an application for the iPhone GS  that takes the fuss out of this process using something called “augmented reality.”

Now, you know I’m venturing into strange territory when I begin writing about “augmented reality,” but that’s what I plan to do in this entry. No, I’m not reviewing Star Trek. I am discussing something that will be very useful for boomers. Like many of these applications, it took me a little time to figure out how to use it, but with the help of my son, I think I’ve got it.  That’s one of the things I keep forgetting to say. Most of the applications I’m talking about were shown to me by others first. They seemed baffling to me when I started to use them, but became easy once the “magic” was unveiled.

After you download the Yelp! app from the app store,  you activate your GPS on the iPhone GS so the phone knows where you are, and then you open Yelp!. The first thing you see is the Feed page, which lists recent reviews of nearby restaurants, with some painfully honest comments. If you wonder how far away from you the restaurant is, you can see the mileage right on the Feed page. An icon at the bottom of the page will say “nearby.” When you go to the “nearby” page the fun begins.



The real magic is up at the top of the “nearby” page, on the right, and in a little button that says Monocle which only appears on the iPhone GS. I'm sorry to say other iPhone users don't have this. When you hit that button, you activate the augmented reality feature which works with the iPhone’s camera. If you are walking down the street looking for a particular restaurant, the Monocle feature actually leads you to it. This is helpful when you are walking down a street with a lot of restaurants, and you only want the one you picked out. Or it helps you select from a lot of different restaurants on the same street. Just click on the reviews until you find the perfect place.


So if you are in downtown Manhattan (or anywhere USA) just walking around, use the Monocle feature on Yelp! It’ll let you find a good restaurant and take you right to it. It also will help you find the nearest bank, a nail salon, and many of businesses for which you may be looking. I’m sure a lot of boomers will find this application amazingly helpful. I did!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brain Games--Expanding the Boomer Mind

In searching around for ways to expand my boomer mind, I found some brain games on the iPhone GS3 which are easy to play. Some of the applications are free.

My latest download is Brain Toot (Free) by Vertical Moon. This app has four exercises on it to test thinking skills and reaction times, something we boomers need to do. Brain Toot was easy to find at the app store; all I did was use the search function for brain games. It was easy to download with instructions that were easy to follow. It's amazing: an application I can use right after it downloaded! There was some confusing language, saying that the application used to be known as Brain Toot Lite, but now is called Brain Toot (Free). However, when I downloaded it, all of the graphics say Brain Toot Lite, so I guess they forgot to change those.

Not withstanding the confusion, the games are fun and do test my abilities. There are three levels of difficulty, so you can challenge yourself a bit. After all, getting better at this is supposed to expand your brain. One of the games that uses a hidden ball in a Three-Card Monte kind of scheme seems to stump me. I can't seem to locate the right ball. Maybe my visual acuity needs some upgrading! Anyway, I'll keep trying. The company has a pay version available which is only 99 cents, but so far the free version is fine. I'm sure it will get boring eventually. One annoying thing: the app keeps reminding you to upgrade to the pay version. I guess I shouldn't complain. App developers need to make money somehow.