About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 25, 2017

A Flashback and the Future

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , — Ron @ 5:23 am

Before I start on today’s column I have a little flashback to last week.  I mentioned other voice recognition apps like Office’s new last week.  I received an email from a couple of readers last week chatting about Google Docs.  Yes, Google Docs has speech-to-text capabilities also.   However, I have never tested it.  I would imagine it is no better or worse than the others.

If you wish to try it go to your Google Docs online, choose Add-ons and click, “Speech recognition SoundWriter.”  Then go for it.  Let me know how it works for you…better or worse than any others you have tried?  And thanks for keeping me on my toes with the emails…keep them coming.

Google SoundWriter setup

Today I want talk to you a bit about something that many of my readers can be encouraged by.  I have lost count of the number of emails and conversations I have gotten into regarding how someone can get broadband coverage in rural areas.  Yes, they can get satellite TV, yes, rural areas can get internet through phone lines (slow speeds) … but what about real fairly reliable high-speed internet?

Within the past month Microsoft came up with a plan.  Around the first of this month MS talked about an idea to bring broadband internet connectivity to rural areas of the U.S.A.  The Microsoft Rural Broadband Initiative involves using the portion of UHV television bands that allow wireless signals to make it around blockages like buildings, hills and even travel longer distances.  With that and some other technologies they can get high speed to most all areas in the US.

This graphic shows current connection areas.This graphic shows current connection areas, click for detail.

At this point in time they are talking relative high speeds of 25Mbps.  The FCC states that 25 megabits per second is the definition of high speed broadband.  I have also read that means that approximately 23 million people in rural areas cannot get that speed.  For comparison, it has been said that you have to have a minimum of 8Mbps to stream video decently.  So, folks can easily watch Hulu, Netflix and all the other streaming services and broadcast channels that stream if they get this service.

OK, how long will you have to wait?  Currently they say that it should start rolling out in 2018 and be finished in 2022.  Is that true? Well only time will tell but I imagine they are a little overly aggressive at first.

Even the politicos are getting onboard thinking about the necessity of localities for emergency services, doctors, businesses and more that could benefit from this.   President Trump has put some money into the latest infrastructure budget to include funding to enhance Broadband access in rural communities. The politicians on Capitol Hill are also calling on federal agencies to help reduce costs on both sides of the aisles.

The reality is that it will most likely be here in the not too distant future.  It will cost a bundle to set up.  Even then not everyone will be able to access it.  However, it will be much better than the alternatives we currently have.

February 17, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 1

Looking over my articles, I realized I’ve never written about a few fun — but widely unnecessary — tricks available through Google.

Keep in mind, to use each of these tricks, you must start with a fresh page, not one from a previous search. You can also use the, “I’m Feeling Lucky” search button, if available; however, it does not usually show once you start typing.

Also, leave out the quotation marks when following the directions for searches below, or they will not work properly.

First, a few silly tricks: Try typing either “tilt” or “askew” and search, watching your Google window carefully. To undo it, type “untilt” and hit enter.

For a real trip, type “do a barrel roll” and press enter.

Do a Barrel Roll now!

Make a bet with a friend and type “flip a coin” in the search bar to see what you get.

Are you one of the many, “Six Degrees of Separation” players out there? If you’ve not heard of it before, people name a celebrity and if their opponent is wise enough, they can come up with no more than six other people to connect that celebrity with Kevin Bacon. Type, “Frank Sinatra bacon number” and see that how Frank and Kevin are related. Yes, in less than six steps: Frank Sinatra and John Lithgow appeared with Johnny Carson; then, John Lithgow and Kevin Bacon appeared in Footloose.

Sinatra's Bacon #

In the mood for a game? Try typing, “Google Pacman,” search and then click the graphic with, “Click to play” in yellow.

For all of you Doctor Who fans out there type, “Google Who” search and click the “Doctor Who 50th Anniversary — Google Doodles” link to play.

Both of these should pop up first in the search results.

Maybe you are dieting and wish to compare foods? Try typing, “banana vs green beans” in to Google (or any other two foods). Omit the period after “vs,” or it will not work.  You will see a graphic of the two foods with some dietary information for each. Directly below that small area, you will see a down arrow which will provide more information for each food when clicked.

If you need to know the weather for most anywhere in the world, try, “forecast Castelsardo” or use a zip code, if you know it.

Try, “sunrise” or “sunset” for any location in the world. Zip codes will work for this, too. If you found this information useful or interesting, let me know via email and I will share a few more for next time. 

Sunrise or Sunset anywhere

November 25, 2014

Real Estate Today

As many of you know in past lives I have been a mortgage loan officer and a residential real estate appraiser.  I have also been a buyer and seller of my own homes.  I have quite a bit of knowledge about the topic; however, it is not current since I have been out of that world for the past 16 years.

Well, I got into it again recently by buying a home.  For the past several years we have been renters.  I discovered some very interesting things involving, for me anyway, technology and the purchasing process.  I thought I would share some of that with you today.

First off we talked to our agent, Phillip Updike, and got the ball rolling.  He suggested a few houses and also a website for finding homes. was the site and fortunately for me they had an Android app of the same name.  We also found another one called, also with an app.

My wife and I used them both on our phones (she has an iPhone) and tablets.  They provided a huge amount of information in a very convenient format.  It stopped the numerous phone calls that would have been done in the past asking us about houses in which we may be interested.  Also it prevented us from calling our realtor with nagging questions like, "Is there anything new on the market today?" 

Both of these programs are very similar.  You can filter the house you may be looking for by location, price range, number of bedrooms and/or baths, etc.  The results are usually very close to what you are seeking.  I will warn you that if you filter by price be careful.  We found that the house we eventually bought was not on our list until I increased the price range by just a little bit.  If I had not done this I would never have found the house; although, I know Phillip would have.

They gave you photos of the house and property in the majority of examples I viewed.  It will also give you a map, places of interest in the surrounding area, the listing agent contact information, area schools, many things you would like to know and some that you never may have considered.  Excellent tool for house finding.

The other thing that surprised me that really should not have is the use of email.  I have sent and received emails regarding the mortgage loan, title insurance, questions from and about all areas, informational emails and the list goes on.  Now in reality I was planning on writing about this after all was said and done, so I have kept almost every email regarding our purchase.  When all was said and done I had about 210 emails, also included Zillow’s pictures of the house, loan documents, closing documents and Title Insurance.

I do not know if it was due to the excellent work done by everyone concerned or the capacity to have everything I could possibly need at hand in email.  But I will say this was the smoothest home purchase I have ever dealt with.  That is as a buyer, seller or banker. Thanks to all who helped!

June 10, 2014

January 14, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 2

This week I will continue with the second half of the links we talked about last year at

Remember, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with  Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  •   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • and  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google  Google’s free/paid (depending on what you want) music streaming plus you can upload your own music to it and listen anywhere you have internet connectivity.
  •  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google  A very good note taking app where you can add pictures, lists, texts and be alerted by them using the time or location of your mobile device.  I just hope Google does keep this one.
  •  Did you accidentally empty the Recycle Bin and need a file back?  If so try this app which is one of the better ones for recovering deleted files.
  • and  Two popular social web sites.
  • A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  •  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join  A free application for individuals, which will allow you to log onto someone else’s computer, while they are there.  Great to use for helping and training.
  • Should I Remove  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at 
  • and  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  •,, Internet Explorer – search at, and  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice ( and LibreOffice ( are two similar but excellent free replacements for Microsoft Office. 

I look forward to continuing the discussions about software, computers, the internet and all sorts of technology this year.  I hope that you, your families and friends have a great 2013 and continue to join me in the newspaper, on the radio and on the web! 

December 3, 2013

Go Different Waze

Last week I mentioned a trip to the "big city" and using my GPS. 

So today, back to my big city experience. 

image I was going somewhere and had just reinstalled Waze.  I was also running the family GPS.  They both directed me the exact same way on my 25 mile/35 minute trip.  About three quarters of the way to my destination Waze changed and told me to take the next right. 

I ignored it because, well, I do not know for sure… but I did.  OK, still driving along and all is well then Waze "bugged" me again and told me to take the next right…again I ignored it.  All of a sudden I got to the top of a hill and I saw that I was on a highway parking lot.  The cars were sitting still and the people looking rather hostile.

I sat there for almost an hour barely moving until finally traffic started to move.  I have no idea what stopped it.  The Garmin and Waze agreed again, ah, harmony.  When I got to my destination I checked everything out and found that even though the Garmin has a traffic alert function it did not work; however, Waze did.  If I had taken the first right where it told me I would have only been five minutes later instead of almost an hour late.  I also checked the reports in the area and saw a user had submitted a picture of the truck/car wreck.

How does Waze do this?  It tracks all of the GPS signals from its user base and figures, "Hmm, Ron Doyle was going 40 in a 40 mph zone and now he is going 5 mph."  Then other cars near me slow down as well for a few minutes.  Waze then automatically reroutes you the quickest way to get you going. 

It also allows you to let people track you by emailing or texting them a link.  They can follow you on a map to see when you will be there.  It has other fascinating features like posting pictures of the traffic, reporting which lane is going slowly, police sightings (I guess that is for you speeders out there) and several other useful settings.  You can either read this information or supply it.  The choice is yours since no information is taken from you unless you grant Waze permission to do so.

If you ever travel out of the area or even if you are in a hurry to get somewhere locally, try out Waze and see if it helps you avoid traffic problems.

November 26, 2013

Glympse or Waze

A few weeks ago I was on a trip out of town in a large city I did not know very well.  I used our family Garmin GPS to navigate around town.  It worked as it should but I kept getting into big traffic jams. 

There are two excellent apps I have used on my Android phone which perform similarly to a GPS.  They both use the GPS system as does the Garmin, but they have differences you may find useful.

image The first is called, "Glympse." This was the first app I used which would allow you to share your map location along with a map.  You can send your location to someone via text or email so they can keep track of you while you are on your "trip."

It does a very good job as far as mapping and sharing your location.  I do not, however care for one of their informational videos showing the pizza delivery person saying they use Glympse with their customers in order to get bigger tips.  Seems like a great idea but I have not seen anyone implement it yet.

image In previous times I used an Android application named "Waze" which was far superior to the regular GPS.  Waze was/is also available for iPhones and Window phones.  The reason I did not use it any longer comes from the fact that in June, 2013, Google purchased the Israeli application Waze.  A short time after this time it failed for me and continued to be non-functional for a few weeks after that.  So I deleted it and start using the Garmin.

But wait – I was talking to a geek friend in the big city.  He said that, true, it was not working but had recently started back up; better than ever.  Now being purchased by Google will be good for us consumers (unless of course they shut it down in a year or three, but don’t get me going).  They will surely connect it with Google Maps which will be even more excellent. 

The Google Maps app/site is great all alone in my opinion but Waze has total user incorporation making it completely interactive and not only for directions.   Waze takes the mapping app an immense step further.  It does this by allowing Waze users to be tracked by GPS and interpreting that information.  With almost 50 million users (per several estimates) this makes a lot of info available for travelers.  It is your choice whether or not to log in as a user.  Once logged in you can choose to either provide your location via the app or not.  You can also be a "lurker" and get traffic information without giving out any of yours. 

But what is the fun in that?  More ways to use Waze next week.

February 7, 2012

Google Latitude

Two warnings precede this information today.  First, I like most Google products and am a big Google supporter (read prejudiced).  Secondly, I work for Ntelos Wireless. Since I am going to mention phones I should warn you of any other possible prejudice.  When I talk about smartphones, etc. I am giving my personal experience not corporate information.

Now let’s get to the fun stuff.  Google is a great source of interesting, informative and OK, just plain fun applications you can get for free…at least most are free.  The one we will look at today scares some people.  I am in the camp of those others who could care less.  I imagine if you are a terrorist on the run from the Department of Homeland Security you would have an issue or two with Google Latitude.  But if you are a normal boring individual like me you do not mind it much.

Basically, if you install it on your smartphone, tablet pc, etc. (from your device’s marketplace) you can give your mapped location to only those you choose.  You can also hide your location whenever you choose.  The entire world will not be able to see your location, only your chosen "stalkers".  In my case only my wife and a couple of good friends can see where I am at any given time.  I only have one girlfriend and I’m married to her, so I don’t ever need to hide my location. 

Before anyone can view your location, you must either accept an invitation from them asking you to add them as a friend or you must request they share their location with you.  Then you must chose to either "Share best available location", which gives your most accurate location or "Share only city level location," which shows them the general area you are in, but nothing specific.  And of course, you can remove a person from your list and not share anything with them.

How close they are able to get to your location depends on the quality of your phone and how well Latitude is behaving.   Occasionally I will check it for fun when my wife and I are in the same location.  It has shown us to be over a mile apart but usually it is accurate to within 25-50 feet.  Hey, it is free what do you expect?

If I know my wife is leaving somewhere and I am going to meet her somewhere else I can follow her path on Latitude and ascertain her approximate location.  This helps me get there on time.  Of course, I could also call her but that just isn’t the geek way to do things now, is it? 

Where I've been the past 30 daysThe last thing I will mention today is that you can go online to "" and log into your Latitude account.  From there you can choose Friends, Location History or Check-ins.   Friends shows where your friends are which is pretty obvious.  The Location History gives you just that, where you have been. If you go to you can see where I’ve been for the last 30 days.  Check-ins are neat too.  When you go somewhere you can set Latitude on your phone to remind you to check-in where you stop for a while.  You can add a picture to it, a comment or just check-in.  I just checked in where I am enjoying a pastry and my fourth cup of java.  Where do you think I may be?

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