Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Gift of Free e-Books this Holiday Season, Boomers!

I can't tell you how it breaks my heart to publish this post. My sister, Anita Lyons, has been  helping me with these, checking for typos and spelling errors, for the last few months. This is the last post she helped me with before she passed away. I will always be grateful to her for her interest in my work, her devotion to language, and her love of family.


Once again, apologies for not publishing on a timely basis. I am still working on my thesis, and hope to get back to regular posts once it is finished. While I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, I wanted to give you a kind of holiday gift this season: the present of free reading. I'll explain.

I always read Rob Pegoraro's Faster Forward posts in the Washington Post, and at the end of November he wrote one about Amazon. Apparently, Amazon has been charging Kindle users a fee for books that are essentially free! The titles in question are not just public domain books, but books that have been formatted for Project Gutenberg by volunteers, Pegoraro said. In October, he had received an email from one of the volunteers:

"Gutenberg contributor Linda M. Everhart complained in an e-mail in late October that Amazon was selling a title she'd contributed to Gutenberg, Arthur Robert Harding's 1906 opus "Fox Trapping," for $4."

"They took the text version, stripped off the headers and footer containing the license, re-wrapped the sentences, and made the chapter titles bold," wrote Everhart, a Blairstown, Mo., trapper. She added that "their version had all my caption lines, in exactly the same place where I had put them."

That made me wonder if Baby Boomers and others who are new users of e-book readers actually knew about Project Gutenberg, a great free site for books that are out of copyright. You can download all the classics from this site without paying a cent or even registering. If you like the site, and want to contribute to its upkeep, then you can donate to it. Otherwise, you can use the books there as you wish. To download the books to your Kindle, choose the Kindle format. You can also find "epub" formatting for most books and Apple formatting for some books.

Here is a link to Project Gutenberg's top 100 most downloaded books.  When I looked on the day I wrote this blog  Sherlock Holmes, A Christmas Carol, Huck Finn and Pride and Prejudice were all on the list, as was an audio book from an author  I've never heard of  called The Song My Paddle Sings, a poetry book by Canadian author E. Pauline Johnson.

Yesterday, I went to the site and decided to download some Sherlock Holmes. I took a look at Project Gutenberg's mobile site, which is in development but worked fine for me, and found that Adventures of Sherlock Holmes mysteries were listed there.

After I clicked on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I came to this page:

At the bottom, it listed a number of different formats for reading. Since I have the Kindle program on my iPad, my iPhone and my computer, I decided to download it in the Kindle format.
I selected Kindle within this list, and within moments the book opened on my computer within my Kindle app.

In my life, I've revisited some of the classics many times, and this is one way to do it without leaving the house, going to the library or paying a penny. So visit Project Gutenberg and enjoy the wealth of material on that site. I hope you like my "gift."

In my next post I'll show you how to get those Project Gutenberg books off of your PC and onto your mobile device. I also plan to discuss other sources of free reading material for the iPad and e-readers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What kind of Tablet Should You Buy, Boomers?

Hello, Boomers. Once again I want to apologize for not publishing in this blog recently.  I am in the midst of putting the finishing touches on my thesis and will return to blogging once that is complete. In the meantime, a colleague of mine, Gerry Purdy, of MobileTrax, LLC has written an email giving his advice to family and friends about what kind of tablet they might want to buy for the holidays. Most of Gerry's e-mail newsletters are written for the industry, but I thought this one was applicable to you. With his kind permission, I reprint it here.


I’ve had a number of friends and relatives ask me, “What tablet should you buy for the upcoming holidays?”  The question is a good one to consider because there are so many choices this year.  Remember that just a year ago the only ‘tablet’ in high volume production was the Kindle eReader.  Now, there’s the new (better but still B&W) Kindle, the color nook from Barnes & Noble (really an eBook reader), the full function Apple iPad, the Galaxy Tab from Samsung and products announced from Dell (Slate) and RIM (BlackBerry PlayBook).  I’ll focus on the first four products in this issue as I haven’t yet seen the Slate or PlayBook which are not yet shipping in volume.

Each one of these tablet devices may be right for you depending on your personal preferences.  Of all the current tablets, Apple has created the most emotional appeal with its commercials emphasizing the “magical iPad”.

First, if you only want to read a book, then the Kindle will adequately meet your needs.  The latest offering includes a 6” black & white display that provides higher contrast than previous models.  It includes Wi-Fi & free 3G to download books from any location in the world and costs $189.  There’s a Wi-Fi only version for $139, but I recommend spending $50 more to get one with built-in 3G. Amazon has the largest book collection, so the Kindle is a great gift for someone who’s an avid book reader and not likely to want the advanced features of a tablet.  


The next step up is the Barnes & Noble nook that now includes a color display.  They have announced support for a number of magazines that predominantly include color diagrams and photos.  This isn’t a full tablet as it doesn’t support an OS like Apples iOS or Google’s Android, but it greatly expands the classes of content that can be displayed on a tablet device.   This first version of the color nook only has Wi-Fi, but I expect you’ll see a color nook with 3G cellular wireless, since 3G is already provided in older nook models. 


For the past six months, the full tablet arena was owned by Apple with the launch of the first version of the iPad.  It has a larger 10” display, and the Apple App Store now includes thousands of applications that are designed specifically for the iPad.  A good example is the app produced to provide a great experience for reading color-enhanced newspapers, magazines and periodicals.  


I recently wrote a column (September 15, 2010) that declared the death of the physical newspaper within 10 years as the number of color tablets grows to hundreds of millions.  I expect publishers to offer a better tablet-based content reading and searching experience versus what can be provided on paper.  Rupert Murdoch has announced plans to publish a new digital newspaper called The Daily which will be delivered overnight to tablets.   That’s the sign of the future.


The iPad has two great ways to read books: 1) iBooks (formatting method for just the iPad that is cool - pages flip graphically) and the iBook Store (library of iPad enhanced books like iTunes provides a library of music and videos) and 2) Amazon Kindle Reader for the iPad so you can get all of Amazon's digital books (millions of them) on your iPad.  All of the books I have read on the iPad came out of the Amazon/Kindle library because it has significantly more titles.


I have found the iPad to be a much different experience than I thought it would be.  First, it’s much more of a ‘pass around’ kind of device that is different from either an iPhone or a notebook/Mac.  It’s easy to access photos or other things and just pass it to someone.  


Pandora works well with the iPad (because it has good speakers).  We sometimes just play background music, since it creates channels based on the music you like.


Email is easier on the iPad than the iPhone simply because it’s easier to see and much easier to type a reply.  It doesn’t replace Outlook on the Mac/PC notebook, but still it’s easier to manage than with a phone.  


I like the Amazon book store on the iPad as it has all of the books that are available with the Kindle.  I suspect that you’ll just find that you can get books from Amazon (download the Amazon/Kindle app for the iPad), as well as some books from the iBook store, and end up just not needing the Kindle.  If you have an older Kindle and are getting a new tablet like the iPad, give the Kindle to someone else who would enjoy reading books.


Just like with the iPhone, you sync up the iPad via 'Apple connector' to your notebook (Windows or Mac). You can then transfer files, photos and videos through the connector and using iTunes.  All of your iTunes content is immediately available on your iPad -- which is nice (and not available on the Samsung Galaxy).  And, you can make phone calls with the iPad using Skype and Wi-Fi.


The iPad will display PDF documents, allowing you to view them when out with friends or business associates.  I use it with other people showing them PDF versions of presentations or documents or photos all the time.  You'll be amazed that it becomes your group meeting interactive, pass around device.


I just acquired a Galaxy Tab.  The screen is smaller at 7”, but it feels very comfortable holding and carrying it around.  It has a camera, MicroSD slot for additional storage, and supports Adobe Flash -- thus easily displaying any web site that utilizes Flash technology.  It can also be used to set up a mobile hotspot.


The Galaxy Tab is definitely 'better' (more features) than the iPad, but it's just coming out.  Both have wireless with Wi-Fi built in, but I would recommend getting any tablet with 3G, as I have found you need access at times when Wi-Fi isn’t available.  You can sign up for their least expensive wireless data plan, but make sure you use Wi-Fi for large downloads and apps like Pandora (streaming music) which consume a lot of bandwidth.  


It seems clear to me that tablets will become a ‘must have’ for technology savvy individuals this year and then migrate into the enterprise market next year.  By 2012, I expect tablets to be become part of what I refer to as ‘the three mobile device world’ which includes a notebook PC/Mac, SmartPhone and tablet.  You talk and review with the SmartPhone, think and reflect with a tablet, and create and explore with a notebook/Mac.  


If you want to get that ‘Ooooh’ and ‘Ahhhh’ (along with some ‘Eeeeeks’ and ‘OMGs’), give someone you love an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab this holiday season.  You’ll be so cool and receive lots of love.


Written by: 

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst
Mobile & Wireless
MobileTrax LLC
404-406-5309

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Think of the iPad for Your Elderly Parents, Boomers

I know that many Baby Boomers are still in the sandwich generation, caring for loved ones who now are elderly. It's been interesting to me to find out that some of us are using technology to enhance the quality of life of older people whose minds might be shining as brightly as ever, but who have some physical limitation that keeps them tethered to home or even in a nursing home.

In the past, it was difficult to envision packing mom or dad's expensive and fairly heavy laptop with them to go to assisted living, and impossible to figure out how to get Internet access for the laptop. However, with the advent of the iPad older people are bringing their connections to the outside world inside with them.

I recently watched a YouTube video and a news report showing a 99 year old woman with glaucoma rediscovering her love of reading and writing poetry using an iPad which lets her see the letters because of the contrasting screen. I also had been following some posts on the Boomer social networking site eons (www.eons.com) by a devoted daughter, screen named Techie44, who wanted to keep in touch with her 94 year-old mom even though the daughter would be spending the winter many miles away. I contacted Techie44 and asked if I could share her story and she graciously agreed.

In the beginning, Techie44 wasn't sure if the iPad would work for her mom, but she thought that her mother, who has rheumatoid arthritis and is in a nursing home, might be able to master it. I read through Techie44's posts as she weighed the pros and cons of getting what was then a brand new device for her mom. One thing was telling, however. Her mom was already familiar with email and wanted to have her email with her in the nursing home.

After showing her mother the family's iPad and how it worked, Techie44 ordered one for her with Wi-fi and 3G and set up her mother's email accounts to sync with the iPad. She also sent her mom some email so she could practice replying. Thinking about what would make her mom happy, she also loaded the iPad with the Christmas and classical music that her mother loves and put in pictures of the family, as well as some photos of the family camping vacations, since that's what her mom used to love to do.

Significantly, Techie44 signed up for Apple's MobileMe, an application that keeps mobile devices in sync. This was suggested to her by one of the other eons posters and it turned out to be very important. The iPad is the kind of device that can be picked up easily and just "walk out the door" of a nursing home. MobileMe has a feature called "Find my iPhone/iPad" and if someone walked away with the device, it could let Techie44 know where it is.

In an email, Techie44 told me she put a sticker on the outside of the iPad notifying everyone that it could be tracked and that she demonstrated how she could track the device to the people at the nurses station. She also told them that she would prosecute if the device were stolen.  Although she didn't tell me this, I expect she was hoping word of mouth would spread, and anyone thinking of walking away with the device would be forewarned. She also took the added precaution of selecting a pass code her mom could remember, so no one else could borrow the device.

Now I've always contended that MobileMe should be free, and not the $99/year product it is, but I'm willing to say that in this case it's worth the money. An added benefit of  MobileMe is that Techie44 can link her mom up to a "cloud" photo gallery, and the family can update and add pictures to it  from wherever they are, without having to load them directly onto the device. This was also pointed out by another eons poster.


So how is it going? Techie44's mom has arthritis, so hitting all the right icons and keys on the iPad is somewhat of a challenge, but she is managing, and enjoying the device. She does most of her typing herself but an aide helps her type long letters.  She's listened to her music on the device, but had a bit of a problem figuring out how to shut it off. Thinking ahead, Techie44 showed someone at the nursing home the ins and outs of the iPad so they could help her.

In addition, Techie44 signed her mom up for the Facebook app, so now "Granny" can follow her grand nieces and nephews on the social networking site. She also downloaded an app called iFish Pond that will help her mom pretend she is sitting by a pond when the weather gets cold.

Techie44 says that she made the right choice in getting her mom an iPad. A computer would  have had to sit on a table and her mother would have had to deliberately go to it. The iPad is easy for her mom to carry with her, and the 3G wireless solves the problem of getting Internet access in a nursing home, something that could prove to be nearly impossible.

One last thing: Techie44 says that the iPad has made a tremendous difference in the quality of her mother's life. She is connected to relatives she hadn't heard from for years and looks forward to receiving her email and photos from her family.  You can't find a more ringing endorsement than that.

I know the post above makes it look like I endorse the iPad or that I'm employed by Apple, but I assure you I am not. I simply believe that this genre of tablet has opened up a new era of computing and is beneficial for society. Many, many tablets are coming into the market soon, but right now Apple essentially stands alone. If the upcoming Linux Android tablets are as easy to use as the iPad, as this author predicts, they too will gain traction with the elderly and will add to the societal goal of helping them stay connected.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A New Way to Back Up Important Files; Try DropBox, Boomers

First, I want to apologize for the length of time between blog posts. As you know, I returned to school to get my Master's degree, and now I'm working on my thesis. The deadline for the thesis is nearing and I've been spending a lot of hours working on it, and so I've neglected this blog.  Today I pulled myself away from that work because I found something I think will be really interesting to most Boomers.

Specifically, I came across an article called The 25 Worst High-Tech Habits (and how to fix them) in The Washington Post  online and believe it or not it's written in a way most of us can understand. Getting to the gist of it, the author, who is with PC World, says there are certain things that people do when they have computers and high tech gadgets that are not in their best interest. I had to laugh when I saw the list, because a few of my bad habits are on there.

The very first thing the author deals with is Avoiding Security Software. Some people think they can just be careful on the web, and they won't get infected by all the viruses out there, but it's really impossible to surf that carefully. Many sites that appear to be legitimate aren't. However, I do understand why some people won't put up with security software. I've found that my security software sometimes interferes with some of the other programs I want to run. And my software often does a mini-scan of my systems when I'm in the middle of something important. All I can do is wait for it to finish because it slows down the entire machine. However, you should run some kind of security software on your computer, Boomers.

The author also takes to task people who don't back up their computer, something with which I can relate. The author has a wake up call for those of us who don't back up. "All hard drives crash eventually. All of them. Yours will too." The article provides a link to a simple guide to get started with backup, although I looked at it and didn't find the guide so simple. I haven't found backup all that simple period. Every time I purchase a hard drive to back up my data, something happens to it that I can't undo. I have to go running to my computer savvy son to help me out. Still backing up is important, and I encourage you to back up your important docs. For another point of view on this matter check out the web site, and my competitor, BoomerTechTalk (www.boomertechtalk.com), and their article Backing Up is Not Hard to Do.

While I don't back up my disk as much as I should, I've found a way to protect my important documents (including the thesis I've been working on so diligently that has kept me from updating this blog more frequently) by using a program for my PC called Dropbox.(www.dropbox.com) Once again, I have my son to thank for introducing me to this ingenious app.  When you arrive at the Dropbox site, you are greeted by this:
Have you ever seen anything so simple on a web page? When you click to watch the video, you get a very good explanation of how to use this application, which is simple and smart. Basically, you are dragging documents you've created to the Dropbox folder, which is a kind of locked box that only you can access. No matter where you are, you can open your Dropbox and get your important documents from this locked box. One word of caution though, be sure to remember your password. (I'll have more on keeping track of passwords in a future blog post.)

So if you are working on a particularly important document, you can store a copy in the Dropbox, and if your computer crashes, the document will be there, accessible from the website. Dropbox even keeps the document updated for you, so you don't have to worry that the version in your computer is different from the one you are accessing at your hotel or, in my case, on the school computer. You can also download the app for the iPhone and iPad and open your documents on these devices.  Many Boomers would probably be worried about the security of this app, but Dropbox has thought of this and says it uses " military grade encryption methods to both transfer and store your data."

Well, I'm heading back to work on my thesis now, Boomers. I'll check back in to this blog as soon as I can.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

You Can Save Web Material to Read Later, Boomers

I recently came across an app called Instapaper, which has been added to some top 10 app lists, and I thought it might be of interest to Boomers, especially those of us with iPhones or iPads.  It's pretty simple to use, but could save you a lot of squinting. OK, so I know our eyes aren't what they used to be!

Basically, as you are reading on the web, either on your computer, on your iPhone or even on your iPad, you can save what you are reading to read later, when you have time, and you can read it in a text only format that is easier on the eyes. I signed up for Instapaper at the website www.instapaper.com.

It's a very simple sign-up procedure as you can see. After you sign up, you have access to a "Read Later" button that you can drag to your tool bar. To drag it in Windows, just place your mouse over the button, left click the mouse and move it into place on the tool bar.
As you browse the web and you find things you don't want to read quite yet, you can hit the "Read Later" button and Instapaper saves the articles for you. When you are ready to go back to them, just sign into your Instapaper account, and there they are. I was browsing the web for some ideas for this blog and here is the way the two articles I wanted to read later are listed.  You can see that both are from an industry paper called InformationWeek, but this could easily be the New York Times or CNN online. Do you see the button that says "Text?" That means that you can see this article in a text only format, devoid of the chaos around it.


Where this application really shines is when you use it on your iPhone or iPad, during those slow times when you are waiting in line or in the doctor's office. You can check to see if there are any articles in your queue, and read away. You'll always know that what is there, is material you wanted to read.

I downloaded the free version of Instapaper for my iPhone via the iTunes App. Once again it was very easy to download the app and when I signed in with my email address, my list of articles above was right there. A couple of  caveats about the free version. You may get some off color advertising with it . You are warned of this before loading the app via a warning which says you have to be over seventeen to use it. Also, on the free version, you can only keep a list of ten articles to read later.  If you want more, you'll have to pony up for the $4.99 paid version. I understand the paid version lets you adjust the fonts, a great boon for Boomers.

My advice is to use the free version for a while to get a feel for the application. Then, if you find the advertising annoying enough, or find the fonts too small, or run into the limitations on the number of articles you can store, you can consider giving the developer his $4.99.


Here is the way the Skype article from InformationWeek that I saved to Instapaper looks.

You often get an option to open the page in Safari, so you can see what it is like on web. InformationWeek has a nicely optimized site for its information, so you will find the article in an easy-to-read format. In other cases you won't be so lucky and Instapaper's clean, clear presentation will be important to you.

Another useful app along the same lines is called Readability. Although this works just on the web, I guarantee that you'll be amazed at how much easier to read it makes web-based articles. Although this little button doesn't let you save anything for later, you'll want to use Readability whenever you are surfing the web and want to get rid of some of the website clutter.

I went to the website and selected my settings, from the options of Style, Size, and Margin. Then I dragged the "Readability" button to my tool bar, much in the same way I had dragged the "Read Later" button. Next, I surfed the web. Here is how the CNN article about the miners who were trapped in Chile looked on my Firefox browser.

 And this is how it looks by clicking Readability.

I know there are many other web and mobile apps that Boomers are using to their advantage. If there is something you really like, suggest it in the comments section below, and I'll take a look. Maybe if we pool our resources we can come up with a list of great apps for Boomers.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Joy of Groupon and the Coupon Wild West

I'm not a big user of coupons, online or cut out of the newspaper or magazines. I tend to wait for the big sales, and then if the coupon says 20% off, or a couple of dollars back, I take the trouble to cut out the coupon, download it and print it, and make sure I tote it to my local store.  I'm sure many of you Boomers out there save hundreds of dollars with great couponing techniques, but this isn't what this column is about. I want to tell you about some big savings I've found online and used to my advantage.

Many people who go online have seen ads for something called Groupon. This is a site that sends out localized offers for big savings at businesses in the viewer's town, nearby or online. One day you might find a Groupon for spa services and the next day a discount to create a photobook, or a great deal on a restaurant. The key to Groupons is that they require a massive number of people to sign up for the deal for "the deal to be on."

Here's how it works.  You go onto the Groupon site and register. You do have to give them your credit card information, but nothing is charged until you accept a deal. Then the emails start.  The other day I received a "Groupon" offer in my email to create a $30 photo book for $10. My husband's aunt had just had a 90th birthday party and my husband had taken some pictures there. I thought it would be fun to put those pictures in a photobook, but frankly, I didn't want to spend $30. This offer was just what I needed. I signed up, and received a notice that enough people had signed up for "the deal to be on." Groupon charged me $10, and later sent me a link to the photo website and a coupon code to use when I was checking out, so I would get the deal.

I won't name the photo website I went to, but the photo book wasn't particularly easy to put together. The directions were a bit hard to follow, but I finally got it done, and sent it off to my husband's aunt, who was thrilled with the results. I had to pay some additional taxes and shipping and handling, but I did get a real bargain on this photo book, and I tried out the photo website. Unfortunately for this vendor, the website is a bit too hard to use, and I probably won't be coming back unless they make some improvements. However, the Groupon deal was a really good one.

One drawback to Groupon deals is that they almost always have a time deadline. Right now I am sitting on a coupon ($20 for $40 worth of food) to one of my favorite local restaurants that almost never offers discounts, but the coupon is only good for another two weeks. If I want to get my money's worth, I have to make sure I use this Groupon soon!

The Coupon Wild West

While Groupon is a great legitimate site, let's face it, Boomers, many of you may be wary of using web coupons. It's like the wild west out there, with fake coupons and bad checkout codes proliferating. Back in June some Internet scammers circulated an email coupon for a free bag of Doritos, costing Frito Lay a lot of money. You can read about it here.  This is just one of the scams that spread "virally" on the web so its no wonder that some of your local grocery stores refuse to accept Internet coupons as a matter of policy. This happened to me when  my local supermarket decided to stop accepting Internet coupons for a very long time. Believe me, this decision created some problems with some of its customers. 

On her website, celebrity coupon mom Stephanie Nelson features a list of legitimate, authenticated sites you can use to print out grocery coupons. You can find the list  here. These include SmartSource and RedPlum


Some of these sites ask you to download their software before you can print out the coupons. That's one way to keep the coupons legit, but I understand that there are many Boomers out there who don't want to have to put one more program on their computers!

Several sources offer advice for people who want to save money and make sure their coupons are accepted at the store. The first and foremost hint is to bring the whole page with you.  If you bring the whole page with you, the address of the website will be printed on the paper, so your store can see it is a coupon from a legitimate site. Also make sure the bar code, expiration dates and all fine print are readable. If they are not, grocery store clerks are probably not going to take the coupon. More hints are available here, in an About.com article.

Many of us also want to take advantage of websites that collect lists of coupons available online and usable at online merchants, but these too are fraught with problems. There are just too many sites out there that purport to provide coupon codes you can use in online checkouts, but when you try to use them,  the codes don't work or they've expired. In the past, trying to be a savvy shopper, I did try using some of the codes on coupon sites. I was almost never successful, and it was a frustrating process.

Recently I heard of a website that is trying to combat that problem. It's called CouponAlbum.com. Don't think I'm endorsing it, because I'm not since I haven't really tried it out myself.  The site seems to be on the right track, though, and appears to have.some backing from the Better Business Bureau. CouponAlbum.com says it verifies and updates coupons on a consistent basis using a quality assurance team.  There may be other sites that do this, but I haven't heard of them. Anyway, that's what is needed, if the world of online couponing is to become less like the Wild West.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Wealth of FREE Online Education Awaits Boomers

Reading my most recent Temple Review, the alumni magazine for Temple University where I received my journalism degree so many years ago, I came across this quote from Nancy Henkin, executive director, the Intergenerational Center at Temple. Talking about Boomers she said,
"Essentially, we have added a new stage to  life. But for most people it's not about what stage you are in; it's about the overall journey."
Henkin's statement made me think about my journey and the journey of others around me, and how technology has changed that journey.

As you all know, I went back to Pace University for my master's degree in publishing a few years ago, and with luck and perseverance, I will finish it this December. I took about half of my courses online, and I wrote about that experience previously. I know others who went back to school recently, life long academics who are returning to school to be retrained, to take up new interests, to do something different.

However there are Boomers out there who just want to learn as much as they can about different topics, who want to exercise their brains, and who aren't after a degree. Unlike the scarecrow in the Wizard of OZ, they don't need a diploma. As the Wizard said:
"We have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma." 

And there are those of us with enough degrees already. Recently, my husband --a very accomplished man with several degrees, not in science-- became interested in the topic of Biology and Evolution. At first he found several PBS Nova TV  shows online about the topic, but that wasn't enough. He wanted to delve into the subject deeper. My son pointed him to the wealth of university lectures available online, and for the last week or so, he has been watching and listening to lectures on this topic given by a professor from Yale University.

Just think about that, Boomers! We may not be the first generation of people to return to school after their children are grown. (I had an uncle who consistently audited college courses after he retired.) However, we are the first generation to have such a wealth of free educational materials available to us online. We are the first generation that doesn't have to travel to enrich our lives with education. You can have arthritis, be a shut in, and still benefit. My uncle had to travel to the campus to take his course, he had to enroll in classes, even to audit them. However, if you don't care about getting a degree, you don't have to enroll. You don't have to pay anything--except the cost of a broadband or even a dial-up connection-- to get this education.

And it's not just any education. We can see lectures from the best educators at the best universities. If you don't understand the subject matter the first time, you can listen to the lectures as many times as you want. How wonderful is that? And how powerful?

How do you find these lectures?

Go to Google and type in "University Lectures Online Free" and your search results will come up with a number of choices.


A trip to Yale's Open Courses  at www.oyc.yale.edu brings you to this page or one similar. The featured courses change frequently:
If you click on the Courses tab, you'll find the whole list of courses offered online. It's quite extensive, but Yale is far from the only college that gives away its education for free. YouTube has many lectures given by university professors posted as does iTunes. In both of these websites, all you have to do is search for "university lectures." Some lectures are available in video form, some can only be listed to as an MP3 or a Podcast. You can listen to a lecture on the Economic Crisis and Globalization, or one about the Geography of US Presidential Elections, or Art History and English lectures. Whatever your desire, you can dabble in these courses, and if you are very interested, you can listen to the entire series.

A while ago, I posted about brain games for Boomers. Playing games that are difficult for you and require you to learn a new way of thinking is definitely something Boomers should do. Scientists speculate that playing games help you create new synapses and help keep your brain young. But so does learning any new skill or concept.

For enjoyment, I highly recommend online courses by great lecturers. I believe you will find listening and viewing rewarding and also strangely compelling. Once you start being bombarded with new ideas, you'll want to keep going.

Happy learning, Boomers!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blog Basics for Boomers

Ideas for this Tech and the Baby Boomer come from a number of places.  About a week ago, my brother-in-law said he wanted to start a blog, but didn't know how to begin.  So in this entry, I'll talk about the mechanical part of how I started my blog and give some good references for people who want to start one. I'm assuming that Boomers and others reading this have a good idea for a blog, and want to try it out.

I know there are many competing, free, blogging "platforms" that people can use, but I wanted something that could be up and running within minutes and felt intuitive to use. After watching my daughter post her blog,  I chose Blogger, Google' s blogging software, hosted on their site. For the most part it has been easy to use and not intimidating at all.


To get to blogger, I went to Google's home page, and looked for the listings at the top of the page. I pressed "More."

After that I pressed the "even more" tab at the bottom. That opens up a screen with a vast array of options, including ones under Communicate, Share & Save.
.
 Here you'll find a connection to Blogger, Google's blogging platform. When you click on Blogger you'll find a page that looks like this:

You can sign into Blogger with your free Google account, and create a blog. As you can see Google has many tools for  you to use to understand how to start the blog. You can take their Quick Tour or watch a video about how Blogger works.

If you don't have a free Google account, you'll be asked to sign in to the account, create passwords, and accept Google's terms of service.

After you've filled in the form, you are ready to pick a name for your blog.

And after you've selected a name, you'll be asked to select how you want your blog to look from a few simple designs.

Choose one of the Templates, or designs, offered. Once you select one of the templates, you'll see a note that your blog has been created. If you want to start posting, you can, by hitting the Start Blogging button.
You'll be taken to a page that looks like this:
You can start blogging right away, but I'd suggest taking some time to take a look at the Settings page. Here is where you can decide if you want your blog publicized to the entire Internet, or if you want to keep it to a limited number of selected individuals. If you only want the members of your community --a club, a group, your friends, your family --to see the blog then select the appropriate settings.

Once you've selected your settings, go back to the blank blog entry, take a minute and decide on a title for today's post, and write. If you want to see how what you are writing or posting looks before you publish it hit the Preview button. You can go back and make changes before you publish. If you hit the publish button,and then want to make changes to your post, you can, just by selecting the Edit Posts tab.

That's pretty much all there is to it to get started in blogging. Of course, once you get started you might want to consider issues like how many people are reading your blog or how to make money blogging.

In this post, I gave you a step-by-step overview on how to use Blogger, and I hope it helps any Boomers out there who might want to take their first baby steps into this online world.  Blogging can be therapy, it can be a way to share ideas or pictures with a select group or a wider audience, it can be an online diary, or a way for you to share expertise with an audience. Frankly, I think more Boomers should get into blogging and I hope this post inspires you to do it.

Here are some additional resources beginner bloggers can use to learn about blogging:
Here is a link to the  Google YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU4gXHkejMo
Here are a couple more articles about starting a blog:






Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reading on the Beach for Boomers --iPad Vs. Kindle

I was very lucky that this summer ran into fall, and our family had a beautiful, sunny Labor Day weekend, as they say here, "down the Jersey shore."  The first thing I want to tell you  is that my Jersey shore is nothing like the TV show. We go to a beautiful little family-oriented town, calm and peaceful, with a great beach.

The second thing I want to tell you is this: reading on the beach with the iPad is not an experience I'd recommend. The glare of the sun on the iPad screen made reading very difficult. Yet, I wanted to try it out, and try it out I did, squinting through an entire book. My family was somewhat amused, especially those who vow not to give up paper reading.  I must admit that I didn't realize that you could change the background color to sepia, and that reduces the glare a bit, and you can adjust the brightness of the screen.

Still, walking out into the bright sunshine today I see that it really doesn't solve the problem. Since the iPad has a touch screen, each time you touch it you leave fingerprints. Normally, you don't see them. Under the glare of a beautiful beach day, or even a sunny fall day, you see every one. Yet my iPad has been so good for almost everything else I've wanted to do with it, I'd never give it up now. 

Another drawback, but one that applies to all e-readers, is that others can't tell what you are reading. My sister-in-law saw how much I was enjoying my book, and had to ask me what I was reading. That's because e-books have no covers to show the world. The covers appear inside the iBook application, for the reader's eyes only. Publishers have long used cover art for marketing their books, and when you are walking down an airplane isle, don't you take a peek at what others are reading?  One day, I'm sure, iBooks and all of the other e-readers, will have a way to tell the world what you are currently reading, if you want them to, and everyone will benefit from this. Maybe the answer will be a second screen on the back of the device, to display the cover of the novel that so engrosses you.


All that being said, I'd like to tell you some of the features of the iBook app that I really like.  I like looking at my books on the library shelf. That's where you see the covers of the books you've downloaded.  As you can see, I don't have a lot of books on my shelf as of yet, since I wanted to try the device out in various environments.




I  also like that the book has a clear table of contents. Here is a sample of the Contents from Hangman, by Faye Kellerman.


I really liked that Apple's format tells you how far along in the book you are and how far in the chapter. A little note comes up at the bottom right of the page saying something like "there are 15 pages left in this chapter."


 
It's amazing how much I missed those measures--the equivalent of flipping through the pages--on the Kindle I tried last year. They definitely help me figure out if I'm going to have enough time to finish the chapter before I start something else.   The new Kindle app for the iPhone says what "location" you are at and what percentage of the book you have finished but it doesn't  give quite the same feeling as the Apple app does.

So the dilemma still remains: do you go for an excellent single use device like the Kindle or a Nook, or do you go for a multi-use device that has some serious drawbacks? The prices of the dedicated e-readers have come down, and you can now purchase a Kindle for as little as $139 and a Barnes & Noble Nook for as little as $149. I've seen some other e-readers advertised for under $100. Those numbers look really good compared to the $499 starting price of the iPad, but then the iPad does so much more.

I've made my choice, Boomers, but you may make a different one. I've seen the ads for the Kindle, the ones showing people sitting on the beach, reading comfortably, and I can say, if all you want to do is take your device to the beach to read, then maybe the Kindle or any other e-reader made with e-Ink is for you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boomers Will Like the Interactive RollingStone 500 Greatest Song Issue

In my last blog post, I talked about RollingStone Magazine's interactive issue, which users can download for the iPad through the Zinio app. What sets this magazine apart is the clever way it is designed to take advantage of the interactive features of the iPad. Here's how you get it. First download the free Zinio App from the App store. When you open the Zinio App, you'll find a "store" inside. Inside the store, there is a listing for interactive magazines. Choose the RollingStone 500 Greatest Songs of All Times Issue.



You'll have to give Zinio a credit card number to get this app, but once you download it and pay the $9.99, a  hefty price for an app, you get a magazine chock full of information. There are a couple of feature stories such as this interview with Leiber and Stoller,


and short articles about each of the songs and artists chosen, as well as a way to listen to 30 seconds of each song.

 
The number one designated song in the magazine is  Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, and next to it are icons for reading about it, listening to 30 seconds of it, and buying it.


In fact, many of the top 500 songs will be familiar to Baby Boomers and come from artists we know and love like the Beatles, John Lennon , The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys. The app easy to use and fun to listen to.

What's significant about the magazine is the spirit of discovery that it encourages. You are only wasting 30 seconds of your time if you tap on an unfamiliar song and don't like it, so you keep on tapping. That's when I found out that all hip hop wasn't created equal. Number 51 on the list, right next to The Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson, was The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I listened to 30 seconds of it and I liked it. If I choose to download it, it will be the first hip hop song ever on my iPod and iPad. And that's exactly what Apple, Zinio, and RollingStone are counting on.

Going through these 500 songs will be a journey of discovery for many of us. If you are like me, you missed some of the songs of the 80s and 90s. By that time I had ventured into Jazz and other venues. But I am open to all kinds of music. So if I find something I like in this journey, I'll probably buy it from the iTunes store, which is conveniently linked to the app. You do have to re-sign in to the iTunes store to purchase the songs, but actually, it's genius. Once again Apple has found a way to part me from my money! I'd definitely like to know how many songs were processed through the iTunes store from people who bought the RollingStone magazine. I'll bet it's impressive!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Download those Magazines Boomers!

If you have an iPad, you may want to download some of the newest e-magazines that were designed just for this platform. Or you can get replicas of current magazines and read them in the iPad's format. Since the iPad is a beautiful venue for looking at pictures, magazine art stands out on the device.

Prior to a recent trip to the West Coast I loaded my iPad with a few e-magazines to see how I would enjoy them. Well, I did enjoy them, but I was unable to enjoy most of them on the airplane! Almost every e-magazine I tried had a downloadable or interactive component. That means that the same thing that keeps these magazines interesting, keeps people from reading them on an airplane where you can't turn on your cellular service during flight!  I learned a real world lesson about how e-magazines work on today's iPad.

As I said in a recent post, I do have a beef with Apple. Magazines need a category of their own in the App store. Not all of the magazines available come up if you plug in the keyword "Magazine" into the search engine. I understand that Apple and magazine publishers are feuding about subscriptions on the iPad. Magazine publishers want to offer them, but Apple just wants people to download each individual issue and pay the price. Maybe that's why Apple is being so user "unfriendly" about magazines on its site.


Anyway, I did manage to download some of the magazines now available and I also downloaded magazines from two what I call "gateway apps": Magcloud and Zinio. Magcloud and Zinio are magazine stands of sorts, and let you download issues, most for a price, although a number of beautiful magazines like some Life Magazine titles are free.

In a very interesting move, Rolling Stone just put out a $9.99 special issue through Zinio on the iPad that includes articles, but also plays 30 seconds of each and every of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."  You can also download the complete songs, for a price, if there is something you want to play on your iPad. I plan to download the magazine, and report back to you next time on how I liked it. Of course, this is a very clever, yet entertaining, way to part people from their money, since once you hear 30 seconds of those songs, you are probably going to buy them if you don't have them.

That being said, some magazine publishers have gone their own way and are issuing individual apps for the iPad. Here is an example of the app for the sample issue of Sports Illustrated and a screen shot of two of its pages, including one that tells you how to navigate through the app. I've also pasted a screen shot from the cover of the Vanity Fair app.


When I was reading through reviews at the app store, some subscribers to Glamour's free iPad app were  disappointed that once they downloaded the app, they had to pay for the actual e-magazine. And some subscribers to the print version were upset they they were being asked to pay twice for the same information.

If you do decide to give downloading magazines a try, let me know what you think both about the e-magazines you've read and what you think about the issues brought up by reviewers. If you have a subscription to the print magazine, should you have to pay for the iPad version?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My iPad: Essential, No; Fun, Yes, but Also Frustrating!

Since I got my iPad several weeks ago, I've been using it around the house a bit. Although I still find myself wedded to the computer in my office for most of my tasks,  I keep the iPad  in my bedroom upstairs near the TV. It has eliminated the need for a laptop up there, and now during commercials, I usually delete my junk email, do a couple of word games, and catch up on the New York Times and Washington Post articles I haven't read during the day.

I also downloaded my first book on the device from the Apple store, and since I have the Kindle application on the iPad I plan to put several more books from Amazon on the device. My family and I are planning a vacation and I want to have a lot of books on the iPad to take with me, plus several print books to pass around. Someone can read a book on my iPad, while I read a print book, and vise versa. I'm hoping it will work out nicely, reducing the weight of print books I take,  but I'll report back to you.

I've also been playing around with some of the apps I downloaded, particularly the Pages app. This is a word processing app that lets you create documents on the iPad and then email them to yourself or others.  I know that hard core Apple users probably don't see anything remarkable in the Pages for iPad app, but I am certainly enjoying the creative aspects this app inspires. I've been "fooling around" with making posters from my photo library using some of the templates, and they've been highly amusing, at least to me.

So here's the thing. The iPad makes me feel more creative, but I keep running into the device's limitations. I want to do more with it. For example, the iPad provides a more intimate photo viewing experience. I love looking at my photos on it,  but when I find one that belongs in the trash, there's no way for me to delete it. I want that option! I need a trash can in that photo app that then syncs back to my computer and iPhone and zaps those unwanted pictures for good.  No doubt I'll have that option in upcoming versions, but for now, it's a bit frustrating.

I also downloaded a few of the magazines that were created just for the iPad, and have found them interesting to page through and read. I want more! And yes, I know they are pricey. I want the iPad version of all of my favorite magazines, but it's not happening fast enough.

And if any of you magazine publishing types are reading this, I'd like to see a comprehensive magazine stand category in the App Store. Am I missing something? Is there such a thing? I want to browse through all the magazine apps just like I do when I'm at the newsstand at Barnes & Noble or at the airport.  Why do I have to look in sports for Sports Illustrated and Entertainment for Vanity Fair?  I have to know what I want to buy to find these magazines.  Frankly, if I had my druthers I'd load up that iPad with so many magazines, I don't have time to read them, and then just take the iPad out and thumb through them when I'm on a plane. It would be fun to go through the new advertising models and follow links. (Well, I guess you can't follow the links on the plane because you are in airplane mode.) Anyway, I hope more magazines come out before my vacation.

[Just after I published the above paragraph--thanks to Precision Media's Bob Sacks -- I learned of a free app for the iPad called MagCloud, that will allow me to download magazines onto my iPad. I will download it and report back.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Look at the Computing Guide for Boomers from Microsoft

Thanks to Lori Orlov for noting that Microsoft has updated its Computing Guide, changing the name from Guide for Aging Computer Users to Computing Guide for Boomers.


This definitely sounds less condescending, and I'm thinking that maybe this isn't just a cosmetic change, but perhaps its a change in attitude by Microsoft.  While many of us Boomers are hooked on Apple products, many of us choose PCs too. After all, if you compare Apple to PC, PC always wins out on price.

Anyway, the first article in the Computing Guide addresses a problem that many Boomers don't want to discuss. "By the time we reach our fifties, two-thirds of us have vision, hearing or dexterity impariments that will impact our computer use." I know you don't want to be told this, but it's true, and someone has to address it.

Go to the link associated with that statement, however, and you get a long, involved article. Heck, Microsoft, if I'm having problems, get me to the right article, right away. So without more ado:  Here is the direct link for the the article about making the items on  your PC easier to see: http://www.microsoft.com/athome/setup/magnify.aspx.

Keep in mind that many of these tips work for Microsoft Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. Unfortunately those of us with older operating systems will have to make do. I tried changing the resolution on my Windows ME-based machine, and, while not difficult to do, frankly, it looked terrible. There was only one option. The newer operating systems have many more options from which to choose.

Microsoft points out that you can make the text and other items such as your icons, folders and mouse pointer larger. If you do this, however, some things won't fit on the screen.  They say you can decrease the size of the text and use the built in Magnifyer to see the text as you type. A video here demonstrates how you can do this.

If you just want to make the desktop icons larger and easier to see, right click the desktop, point to View, and then click Large Icons, Medium Icons, or Classic Icons. (Classic icons are the smallest size.) .Did you know that you can also use your mouse to increase the size of your icons? Just keep holding down the Ctrl key while you scroll over the icons with your mouse.

You can also increase your screen resolution to see sharper images. A video that shows you how to do this can be found here.  Microsoft says these are the steps you should follow to do this, but remember, you may find that some items "fall off" your screen when you implement this change. You can always change it back if this doesn't work for you.
  •  Open Screen Resolution by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, and then, under Appearance and Personalization,  clicking Adjust screen resolution.
  • Click the drop-down list next to Resolution, move the slider to the resolution you want, and then click Apply
  • Click Keep to use the new resolution, or click Revert to go back to the previous resolution. 
I'll take a look at some of the other areas in the Computing Guide for Boomers in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, I'm looking into iPad apps and am finding myself overwhelmed. If I can't figure out which ones are good for Boomers, how can I tell you about them? More on this next time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Layout and New Background For Blog

Hello to my readers:
I recently experimented with a new background and new template for my blog. Let me know how you like it! I hope it makes reading my blog a more enjoyable experience.
Let me know. And thanks for reading Tech and the Baby Boomer.

Esther Surden

Friday, June 25, 2010

Updating to iPhone OS4---It's Really Not that Intuitive, Boomers

Sorry I haven't been posting regularly, but life has a way of getting in the way. And sometimes, even the gadgets you rely on to simplify your life, seem to be complicating it.

So it was for me this week, when Apple announced its upgrade to the OS4, and I couldn't even figure out how to download  the operating system onto my phone. My original iPhone was a 3GS, and I expected that when I synced to iTunes I would get a message telling me about the new OS and that I should upgrade my phone. Well that didn't happen.

When I complained to family about not being able to find the upgrade on the Apple site, my son took over and actually upgraded my phone for me, before I had a chance to look at all the steps it took. I made him show me what he did so I could blog about it.

Of course I found out that all you have to do is connect your device to iTunes, sync it, click on the little icon of the iPhone that appears under "Devices", and it will say "Check for Updates."


After you click, it will give you options to update your phone. My question for Apple is, why isn't this automatic? Shouldn't they notify you when an update is available? All my other programs do. Maybe there is something I'm missing here, like a setting I'm not seeing to set it to notify me right away when an update is available. Or maybe there  is a reason some people don't want to automatically upgrade to a new operating system when it comes out. Too many bugs, perhaps?

Anyway, once I updated the phone, I began exploring some of the new capabilities, and frankly, they just didn't seem so revolutionary to me. Yes, I got some spiffy new backgrounds for my phone. And I learned that if you double click on the home button you can keep some apps running while you go to another app. I can keep my mail open while I play a game, for example. That's good, and saves some steps. But is it revolutionary? Not really.

One thing I did like was that I was able to organize all my apps in folders, which significantly reduced the number of pages I have to deal with on my phone screen. All my social apps such as Facebook and Twitter are in a folder, as are all my music apps.


My son moved some of the apps together right on the phone screen, but when I tried to do this myself, I couldn't do it. However, following a tip from an EONs member, I decided to go into Apple iTunes, connect my iPhone, click on my iPhone icon which is under the Devices section, and click the tab called Apps. Then I was able to use my mouse to drag the apps icons to consolidate apps into appropriate folders.  Now I have two pages of icons rather than three, and am happy with the results.

This is how iTunes Help tells you how to do it:




I have to tell you that doing this wasn't intuitive or as easy as I expected from Apple. However, now that I've done it once, it seems easy in retrospect. At least, since Apple does things consistently, I'll know how to change my new iPad when the operating system update to that comes along in the fall.

My son, who has been helping me figure these things out, says he can't relate to my difficulties, and he is laughing at me a little today as he reads this post.  But  I'm guessing the rest of you can relate to me, right?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ever Hear of Location-based Services, Boomers? How about Foursquare?

Recently I read a post by a marketer who believes that Boomers increasingly will be using location-based services. In case you don't know what these are, I'll try my best to explain. Your cell phone probably has GPS in it, the same kind of GPS that gives you directions in the car. With many cell phones, especially smart phones, you can download geolocation apps such as Foursquare. Foursquare lets you "check in" when you are at a particular location, such as a concert, or even a department store or Starbucks. "Checking in" means letting all of your contacts know where you are at that particular moment, and also letting the establishment know that you are there.



When I first heard about this, I thought, why would anyone want to let people know where they are? That's fine for kids who have time to hang out together and want to find their friends, but why would I do it? Well apparently, according to blogger  Anne Mai Bertelsen, president of  MAI Strategies, Boomers, me included, are going to want to do this for many reasons.

First of all, I'll be able to keep track of all the places I've been. Ever wonder what the name of that great restaurant you went to in San Francisco was? Or where you saw that piece of jewelry you just couldn't decide whether you wanted or not? If you "check in" at the places you go you'll be able to track that information. You'll have a memory jogger, something Boomers can surely use.

Also, I'll be rewarded when I "check in" frequently at one place. So my 5th trip to Starbucks or my 3rd trip to an expensive restaurant will reap some kind of recognition. Perhaps a dollar off a Frappuccino will be in my future, Bertelson says. Or maybe I'll get a free desert at the restaurant.

One of the geo-location apps -- Loopt --that can be downloaded onto a smart phone is a sort of virtual loyalty program. I use my loyalty card to get discounts at the Shoprite near my home. Why wouldn't I want to use a virtual loyalty program? Discounts, without having to clip coupons, are something Boomers can easily understand. Below you'll see what the Loopt iPhone app looks like.



Bertelson says that one of the reasons she uses the services is that her friends use it. When they go to a restaurant they post what they liked eating there, for example. I suppose they also will post what to avoid. Then when she goes to that same restaurant and checks in, she finds recommendations from her own friends. That's kind of cool.

A working woman, Betelson says she is also able to use the services to find colleagues at conferences. Occasionally, she's even been able to locate relatives who happen to be in the same place she is at the same time. Here's how it would work. You are visiting a crowded craft fair and unbeknown to you Cousin Mary is wandering around the same craft fair. Odds are you won't meet. However, if you've both "checked in" to the craft fair, you'll know that Mary is there, and you'll be able to contact her and find her.

There are lots of other location based apps for the iPhone, for Twitter and even for Facebook.  Some other prominent new services include Gowalla, Where, BriteKite, MyTown, PegShot. They are catching on in popularity and my bet is that in another year or so, many Boomers who have never heard of these services will be using them with abandon, just as they use Facebook.

Just remember, if you do decide to experiment with location services, protect your privacy. Make sure that only friends you know can find you. Conversely, please be careful about letting everyone and anyone know that no one is at home.

Some sites are already exploiting the negative side of  geo-location. According to DYP Advisors, these services can let bad people know you are not home. "A website called Please Rob Me links Twitter updates of people who say they are not home to locations using Google Maps," a blog post on the DYP Advisors Inc.web site says. The DYP blog also says if you use geolocation services you might be in for higher home insurance premiums. When you visit Please Rob Me it really only demonstrates the possibility of using location-based services this way. Nevertheless, it's a scary thought how these services could be misused, and like anything else on the Internet, protect yourselves.

To see Anne Mai Bertelsen's complete post called "I Get Around" go to Engage Boomers at http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=130044

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Who knew the iPad Doesn't Automatically Sync Calendars?

I got my new iPad this week! I know, I know, I said on this site I wouldn't get one until the price came down and it weighed less. ( Why I didn't Pre-Order the iPad) But my adult kids and my husband decided to get me one for my birthday and Mother's Day, and, how could I say no? Besides, I told myself, I'll get to write about it on my blog.

The device is amazing, but I haven't had a chance to try everything out on it. I've been busy with school, working and life, and haven't been in the consuming media frame of mind. However, the very first thing I did with the iPad was download all of my pictures to it. There can't be a better photo viewing experience available than this device. Every picture looks breathtaking.

I'll tell you another thing I love about it. I carry it around to the couch, to my bedroom, everywhere I go inside my house. The iPad makes computing just that much more accessible! Its hard to explain how much better an experience this is than my iPhone. My iPhone is amazing, but there are certain websites that just can't be read easily on the tiny screen. The iPad's screen size is just right and, yes, Steve Jobs, the device is almost magical.

So have I found anything I don't like so far? Of course. When I first plugged in the iPad to my computer to sync it, it didn't automatically sync my calendar. For those of you who don't know what syncing is, it is short for synchronizing, so that all the calendars, emails etc. on one device are up to date and the same as those on another. What's with that, Steve Jobs? I was told I could buy something called MobileMe for $99/year that would keep all of my calendars, email accounts, and contacts in sync for all my devices. Frankly, Boomers, this is a feature that should be free. The family paid enough for this device! We live in the 21st century now, and syncing should be included in any device that purports to be "easy to use."

Anyway, with the help of my son, we found the online instructions for syncing a calendar, notes and contacts to the iPad. It's really simple and the calendar etc. syncs every time you connect your iPad to the computer.  I'll present the steps  below, in case anyone else runs into this problem.

1. Plug your iPad into the USB port in your computer
2. When the  iTunes screen appears on your computer, go to the Devices icon

3. Click on the Devices icon
4. A series of tabs will appear

5. Click on the tab that says "Info"

6. Scroll down to the Sync Calendars area and click on the box

7. Take a look at the other options. You can sync your contacts and notes as well.

I hope this helps other Boomers set up their iPads. Can anyone think of a reason why this wouldn't be an automatic part of iPad setup? We are coming closer to devices that are as easy to use as the TV used to be, but not quite.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

You'll be Surprised what Facebook and Others Know About You, Boomers

As you know I've written about privacy a few times in this blog. I really think you have to keep on top of the privacy settings in social network sites. But it is abundantly clear that sites are collecting lots of information that we don't really know about. 

While much of that information is harmless, some can be used to attack you. And I'm not talking about kids who post pictures of drunken parties on the web and expect that their job hunt will go well. I'm talking about you, Boomers, as this Washington Post article makes clear.  

To sum up the article, a woman's two relatives were hurt in an electrical explosion while conducting routine maintenance at Walmart. They sued the company. The defense went after the woman's online life. Through a subpoena seeking information about what was said about the men's injuries, Walmart's defense team got full access to her Facebook and MySpace accounts "every public and private message contact and photo for the last 2 1/2 years."

The Washington Post article says that many online sites are building dossiers about their users, and while some are making the information anonymous, others are not. Some retain detailed data for a year, others for a month. The amount of access to that data is increasing, as attorneys use subpoenas to get access to the data for divorce and other suits.

Here's the key thing to remember. If a lawyer wants to access your laptop, he or she needs a warrant, and that's hard to get. If he or she wants access to your online life, all that is needed is a subpoena, which is easy to get. Google keeps track of search queries from a particular IP address; XBox users: Microsoft knows what game you played and how long you played it.

Facebook keeps a record of  the IP address used to access your account, the date and time you went on and exactly what you did. Facebook now knows that I am addicted to their Zynga Scramble game!

With all that in mind, I urge you to check your Facebook privacy settings yet one more time.  Facebook actually changed the privacy settings to make them simpler to use. All you have to do now is go to Facebook and go to the Account tab in the upper right corner. You'll see a pull down menu that has a Privacy tab. Hit it.

The photo below tells you what Facebook recommends for your privacy settings.

 

I say don't do it. Change them.  Be more careful who you open up your life to. And even while you use Facebook, remember that every snarky comment you make could be held against you.