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.