Sunday, April 25, 2010

Check out the EONs iPad Discussion Board, Boomers

I've been hanging out a little with the good folks at the iPad discussion board on EONs, a social networking site aimed at Boomers.

This is a Boomer to Boomer site,  so don't expect to find your kids or any member of the younger generation crowding around this social networking water cooler. What you get are some good, solid people who are trying out this new device just like you and me. They're smart and most of them are not techies. It's great to watch them as they handle this new toy.

The discussion board has a couple of more knowledgeable members who give technical answers when needed. Overall, it is a great laboratory for how Boomers will use this device and what the potential problems are with it. I recommend everyone go to the website and give it a read. You do have to join EONs first, but if you are interested in the pros and cons of the iPad for people our age, I definitely think you should do it.

The Boomers at EONs do a great deal with the iPad. They read books on the device, but they also are trying out all of the free apps that are available for it. One of these just happens to be for a comic book company, and users can download free comic books. One member of the group (for privacy purposes I won't name user names) finds comic books "better than on paper." He calls the graphics on the iPad screen "out of this world." That's something people really ought to know.

Streaming and viewing movies and video is also a favorite activity  reported by discussion group members. Working with a screen that is only 10 inches from your face, makes movies really come alive, they report. It's a personal, intimate, experience. Movies are downloaded through Netflix, and videos through a number of apps including YouTube. A couple of people on the board figured out how to make the iPad work with their TV without much fuss, so now they can stream movies, videos etc from the iPad onto the TV.

People here are very generous with their advice. They give lists of the best apps they've found. One of the ones mentioned is Stumbleupon, ( an app I've been meaning to discuss on this board. You can use Stumbleupon on your computer, smart phone or iPad and it does the same thing.

You select topics that are of interest to you and start stumbling though the web. My "Stumbles" have brought me to the website of the guy who does all those great chalk drawings and to pictures from someone who does unbelievable sand sculptures.

What you'll find depends on what topics you enter. This is a really fun way to surf the web and find things you never knew about.

Some of the Eons group have run into problems with their iPad: games that stall or are hard to make work after hours of playing; apps that let you download material but don't let you delete it; apps that don't look right on the iPad, clearly just brought over to the new platform directly from the iPhone; a keyboard that is clumsy to use. They've run into the device's limitations in real world scenarios. But for the most part they are an extremely enthusiastic bunch who don't believe that this will be a device that will end up on the trash heap.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Browsers and Searching --Some tools

A couple of my friends thought I should write about some tools they found that can help make Boomer's browsing and searching lives easier.

The first one is Opera Mini for the iPhone which was introduced this week. The iPhone comes pre-loaded with the Safari web browser from Apple, and Safari is a good web browser. So why would you need another? If you haven't noticed, web browsing on an iPhone can be a painful experience, especially when there is a lot of network traffic---a frequent occurrence in many cities. It takes a while to get a good signal if you aren't at a Wi-Fi hotspot. Then you have to wait for pages to load. That's why apps are so appealing. They load and get you the information you want without waiting.

Some browsers work better than others. Opera Mini is optimized for the mobile web but it isn't iPhone optimized. Safari renders web pages that have been optimized for the iPhone better. However, Opera loads web pages really fast, faster than the Safari browser that comes with the iPhone. It especially loads pages from sites you've already visited much faster. I gave the Opera Mini a try out this weekend and I was generally impressed. It worked admirably.  If you live in a place where there is a lot of web congestion, I suggest giving the Opera Mini a try. It's free at the App store.

Another interesting site brought to my attention was powered by  Google Search. It's just a search box, but one designed to be easy to use. The young people behind were trying to design something to make searching on the Internet more user friendly for their grandfather. The developer-- who just happens to be a 16 year old -- says:
Designed with the public's health in mind, Good50 has pre-set the search box to a larger size and gives the option to adjust to a larger font in the search results. These features of Good50 will reduce eye strain and help to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Some possible symptoms of CVS include headaches, dry and/or red eyes, fatigue, double vision, and neck or back pain.

They've also developed a version for people who have trouble with low vision:
We have a high contrast version for people with low vision. This option can also help save energy on a CRT monitor as a black background takes less energy to display than a white one. So, why not Go Green

The twist with is that for every 50 searches, the company donates 5 cents to good causes. The money goes to a different charity each month. Last month Good50 donated to the Red Cross for Haiti Earthquake Relief; this month the money is going to Meals on Wheels.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Health Info on the Web--Where do Boomers Begin?

I really bit off more than I could chew when I started this blog topic. There are so many sources of health information on the Web that it's no wonder it is confusing. Where do you go for your information?  I hope you'll comment and tell me. Perhaps there are better sites, geared to people of our age group, to look at for medical information.

We are hitting the time of life when health information is crucial. Sure we go to our doctors, but we also want to look up answers for ourselves. Is our doctor being conservative or aggressive in the treatment of our problem? Which specialty should I go to -- is it the orthopedist, the podiatrist, physical therapist or the chiropractor who can best treat my problem? When do you go to the allergist and when to the ear nose and throat doctor? What kind of doctor actually treats this problem? Do I really need to visit my primary physician before I choose a specialist to handle this issue?

I decided to take a look at some "Best of" sites to see if they could help me. One of the list sites that seemed to aggregate all of the health sites with good reputations together was called Medical Net Top 20, which says it is an independent site that looks at web sites and rates them.

First on its list is WebMD, a website many of you may already turn to for help with your medical issues.


I have to say that WebMD is my favorite place to start for a medical search. It is a well monitored site with a medical review board that makes sure its stories are honest. It also has a symptom checker. So if you are experiencing some symptoms, you can search for them and get a range of ideas about what the problem could be. The bottom line, however, is that you will be told to consult a doctor, no matter what! Web MD has some content tailored for Boomers. One, on the home page today, asks if Boomers will outlive their children...not a pleasant thought.  differs from WebMD in some ways. It brings together health information from a lot of different sites and also talks about medical research that is going on. I have two problems with First is the authenticity of the site. The information may be very accurate but it's difficult to find out who is making sure that only vetted information appears. Second is the way it is organized. HealthCentral really is the starting point for some 35 micro sites that discuss different diseases. If you fall into their categories, that's great. However, I think it makes it difficult for the average Boomer to figure out, is it heart disease or is it indigestion? This is just my opinion. Go to the sight, take a look, and form your own. On the good side there are really informative articles on this site. Two that may be of interest to Boomer women include "Good versus Bad Pain: How to Protect Yourself in Yoga Class" and  "Heart Attack Symptoms in Women"

In upcoming blog posts, I'll continue with my reviews of some of the health care sites and also look at some phone applications for iPhone and Google phones that deal with health. In the mean time, stay healthy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I didn't pre-order the iPad

You would think that as a boomer trying out new technologies, I would have been an early adopter of the iPad. I've written about this device prior to its availability last weekend and for the most part I've been impressed with all it can do. I reiterate that this is a slate device meant for the rest of us---the non-techies in the world. And I think I would like it. Techies should note: this is a consumer device, and consumers will be judging it. If it answers the question "does it enhance my life or make my life easier?" it will gain traction.

All that being said, I think it's just too expensive right now. In a year, when Apple lowers the price as it has on the iPhone and on the iPod in their time, I will jump on the bandwagon and buy the iPad. And I would guess that a LOT of Boomers will jump on the bandwagon along with me. Even so analysts are suggesting that Apple could sell 5 million of these devices this year at the higher prices.

By the time Apple lowers prices, initial demand will have softened. All the reviews will be out. I'll know if it's really too heavy for happy magazine and book reading. Yes, a lot of us have shoulder and carpal tunnel problems and don't want to hold something in our hands that weighs the 1.5 lbs (iPad) compared to the 10 ounces or so of the Kindle. Also, I'm sure that the device will slim down some by the time the next version comes around. When the iPod first came out it was heavy, compared to today's versions.

I'll know if I really need to spend money for a 3G connection for the device, or if a WiFi connection is good enough for me. I'll have figured out if the virtual keyboard is sufficient for sending out the occasional email or typing in a website address. And Apple will have either provided a USB port and a camera or not, and I'll know if I think this is a deal breaker for the device.

By the time I get to mine, Apple will have time to iron out all the kinks. Some industry observers say there are some problems with charging the battery in the initial version, especially if you have an older computer. You know we Boomers hold on to our computers far longer than the techie types do, so that would concern me.

When I get my iPad, I'll know that many of the applications written for the slate, work on it, and that they will delight me or not. I'll know if the vibrant color touch screen really makes a difference, or if reading on the iPad will be harder on the eyes than reading on the Kindle's E Ink.   Now some reviewers are saying that some applications are grainy or don't take advantage of the iPad's unique features. I'm sure that will change over time.

Of course, the fact that I've made a practical choice doesn't prevent me from wanting this device. So stay tuned, Boomers, because I'm heading over to the Apple store this afternoon. I'm going to stand there and try the iPad out and hope there isn't too long of a line to do the same thing.