Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Flashlight for iPhone

Maybe using the "App Store" from Apple is easy for you, but it wasn't for me until someone showed me. But learning how to use it is worth the time. For example, you can download a free application from the "App Store" on your iPhone that turns your phone into a flashlight! The whole screen lights up! You can use it to read menus in dark restaurants and find your way around strange hotel rooms.  It's a great little application and especially useful for us boomers. You just tap the flashlight and the screen turns bright white!

Flashlight is from John Haney Software. I'm still not sure how people find applications like this without a lot of digging or without someone to show them. It wasn't in the featured applications, but it was in the top 25 free apps. Maybe Apple's Genius software will help. I want to find applications that are relevant to me, so I'm  going to give it a try and report back on how that goes. In the mean time, if anyone has an application to suggest, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gaslighted by the Apple iPhone

I'm just a boomer, but everything Apple does is supposed to work right the first time right?  Wrong. I guess I've been brainwashed by their commercials.

Apple has a voice memo application that comes with the iPhone 3GS. It's handy to use to make notes to yourself. If you're like me you'll want to use it all the time to leave yourself messages about where you put the keys or where you parked the car at the airport or mall.

Anyway, I liked this feature when I finally learned how to use it. Who knew the little red circle under the microphone had to be pressed to make a recording? When you press it using the touch screen a meter appears and you know you are recording. At the same time, the button turns into two little red lines. But doesn't that usually indicate pause? Well, yes it does in many other places, but on the iPhone it means you are recording. I can learn this! I really can. Actually, you do hit the button with those two lines on it to pause.

Then how to do you play back? That was really hard to figure out. There's another gray button that takes you to the list of recordings you've made. To play back you touch a little arrow on the left of the recording you want to hear. Only sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't!

Oh, Apple, my Apple, how can you do this to your boomer users?  When I first ran into this, I felt as though I'd been gaslighted!

But I knew what to do. I went out on the web for a solution, that is, I searched Google for problems with Apple's voice recorder application. Someone suggested turning the iPhone off using the button on top of the phone (held down for a couple of secs) and then restarting the phone. It worked. The recordings miraculously began to play. Alas, this fix doesn't last. Before you know it, you are pressing the arrow and nothing happens.

There are all kinds of suggested software repairs out on the web for this glitch, but I'm not phone software savvy. I'm just a user who wants to use my voice application the way it was intended. Oh, Apple, help us boomers, and fix the voice memo problem. Thank  you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Me and my Kindle

As I said before, Pace University has given me a tremendous opportunity to beta test the Kindle electronic book reader. The Kindle I have is the larger format version, which translates better to text and reference books. All of my texts were downloaded free to the device and I didn't have to pay for them. All that is great so far. However, rather than a few minutes a book, it took me two days to get my texts. The reason: I discovered that my house does not have good reception for the wireless network used by Amazon. The Kindle uses Sprint's EVDO network (I looked it up) and my office in my house is a dead zone. As soon as I realized what was going on, I began walking around my house to try to get a couple of bars indicating a signal on the device. When I finally found a place where a couple of bars showed up, my books downloaded flawlessly! However, this is the kind of thing someone who has been writing about technology for as long as I have should have known! So all you boomer suburban Kindle users beware: you may have to work a little for your downloads.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Welcome to my blog, which I hope won't be just another voice out here whistling in the wind. My name is Esther Surden, and I am an experienced journalist who for many years specialized in the business of technology. Now, I want to address the 50ish consumer who is adventurous enough to want to try out Facebook and the Apple iPhone, but is unsure of what to do and how to do it. I also wanted to speak to the manufacturers of phones and the developers of sites, to explain just how many barriers there are to adoption of their gadgets and sites for many of us. While I have a lot of experience writing about the business of technology, this is the first time I've tried to write about my frustrations with using the stuff. I recently joined Facebook; posted my resume and reconnected with colleagues on Linked-In; purchased an iPhone; and now I am using an Amazon Kindle as a part of my publishing course (I'm getting a masters degree in publishing). As part of this experiment at Pace University, I promised the Kindle folks feedback and I will be giving them the same feedback that I give you. Since I come to these gadgets and websites without much user knowledge, I think I can help others in my age group figure out these things out. As they used to say in the world of TV, stay tuned.