DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

September 9, 2014

Google Hero and Yet?

As you regular readers know I am a fan of Google and yet on occasion they fail me totally.  Mostly this is due to them doing away with applications I use and enjoy: Google Reader, Calendar Sync, iGoogle, Google Notebook just to name a few.

But I enjoy their products so much that I have purchased hardware from them.  Namely the Nexus 7, 2013.  They always add the "2013"; however, it should have been named Nexus 7.2.  Alas, they did not ask me.  It had been working very well until 90 days ago or so. 

Occasionally when I turned it from portrait to landscape the screen would not always, "flip" to match.  It was a bother at first and I ignored it for a while.  I could always start a program that must run in the correct alignment and then it would lock there.  That would be good until the next time I turned it.  I do not play many games but one day I had a few minutes and fired up, "Go-Go-Goat!"  You are required to tilt the tablet to make the goat jump in the correct direction.  Since the gyroscopic feature in the Nexus was dead he jumped straight up and died every time.   

I contacted Google and the nice folks there gave me three things to try as a solution.  They also told me that since I was under warrantee they would replace it with a rebuilt unit if these fixes did not work. 

Two of the resolutions were easy but regrettably did not work.  The third was easy to do but basically it was to reset my Nexus to the factory settings and rebuild it.  That takes a while and is quite a pain.  After putting it off for 2-3 weeks I did it and guess what?  That did not resolve the issue either.

I called tech support at Google again and they assured me my refurbished unit would arrive the following Monday.  Tuesday then Wednesday — I called again.  I was told by the first rep that it was already delivered…to Austin, TX.  What?!  I asked him to check my order and it was correctly set up with my address in Virginia.  He passed me along to a shipping person.  They were also pleasant and helpful. 

There was a problem with the shipment and he would check it and email me the next day.  You guessed this correctly too, nothing but the sound of crickets the next two days.  The next time I called I was apologized to and handed to a supervisory rep. 

Samantha was her name and I got a voice mail which assured me that she would return my message as quickly as possible.  She really did.  That afternoon I got an email from her saying she would investigate and let me know what was up within 24 hours. Sure?!

The next morning I received an email from her stating that she was sorry for the mix up.  She had found the problem, shipped out the correct unit which I should have by the end of the week.  She also gave me a credit to my Google account for having the hassle.

I got the Nexus Thursday, a day earlier than she had predicted.  Though it had taken three weeks instead of the initial, "couple of days" they did right by me.  I shipped mine back immediately and the replacement has been working fine. 

I will continue to be a Google Fan-boy for now.  Until they do away with a few more apps that I use.

August 12, 2014

Things Wanted, Part 3

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:07 am

Following the past two weeks’ columns, I’ve received many responses.

So, I thought I would continue the series addressing common suggestions I offer regarding questions I frequently receive.

For instance, I am often asked, “Which is the best e-reader app?”

I use Android tablets and phones, but my suggestion holds true for most all systems.

10,000 FreeNook AppThe two that I use on my tablet and phone are “Nook” (bn.com/nook) and 10,000+ Free eBooks Reader (eprint-studio.com, Android only).

I still use Nook because the Barnes & Noble Nook eReader was my first reader/tablet. I have several books through Nook that I cannot read on other devices; so, I stick with it.

The reason for my suggestion of 10,000+ Free eBooks Reader should be obvious: It offers free eBooks. Users have likely heard that before and been disappointed, but I’m not talking about classics, boring books or poor sellers.

All of the latest books are available free of charge, a service I believe the company is able to provide by charging for a small advertisement that pops up at random times while you read.

I can handle that just fine, given the positives.

For instance, I read several serialized novels. One Wednesday, I heard that the latest in the series had been released and I wanted to read it.

The next Monday, I checked the app and found the title in full, high quality.

Another question I frequently field is, “Which is the best tablet?”

Nexus 7 (2013)While that question is far too broad, I will say that I am partial to Android tablets. Throughout the years, I’ve owned a couple, and I currently use a Google Nexus 7.

It worked flawlessly until very recently but more about that in a couple of weeks.

So, which is the best tablet? It depends, but  I recommend finding a brand name and searching for reviews for a specific model.

I do not suggest the $49 tablets advertised at the local grocery stores. They are slow, don’t allow users to download many apps, have poor battery life and the touch screens will often have problems.

July 1, 2014

Bad and Good Customer Relations

If I have a bad customer experience I do not write about it.  I learned this about 14 years ago when I was new to the writing business.  At that time, I wrote about a product which many people were downloading, using and loving.  However, I found that it was recording what you did and where you went online and sending your browsing information to large retail chains.  I was thanked by many of you for the warning as you uninstalled it.  Within two weeks I received an email from their corporate lawyer threatening a lawsuit.  Now me, being a regular guy who has never used a lawyer except for closing on a home and had never been threatened by "the law" was concerned.  I did not have a lawyer to represent me due to lack of funds. I did not respond and a week later their counsel sent me a free copy of their paid application and asked me to install it, reevaluate it and to immediately issue a retraction of my previous article.  If not I would have to take on their huge team of corporate lawyers.  

I had written about the free version of the app which was all the rage.  So I installed the paid app and checked it thoroughly.  Guess what?  It was as pure as the driven snow, worked great and sent no information to the retailers.  However, I did not trust the situation so I uninstalled that one, reinstalled the free application and tested again.  It was still sending my browsing information to about 25-30 retailers.

I recorded all the information I could to prove my point.  I made screen shots with dates of the test, a video of the install along with the testing procedure I made a list of all of the retail stores involved.  I sent this via email to the attorney including the information it had gathered about me during the one day test.  The email stated if they decided to sue me and make me issue a retraction I would.  However, I would include all of this information in my final column before I went down.    

Customer Service checkboxs

Wait for it…I never heard another word back from them.  Glad that is over!

But now on to my great customer service experience this week.  My Google Nexus 7 (I wrote about ten months ago) started having an issue.  I called Google’s toll-free customer service number.  After poking the standard 2-3 buttons to get to the correct group I was informed there would be a 5-10 minute wait.  Soon afterward Logan answered the phone, asked my name and a few other verification questions and I was on my way.  By-the-way, he spoke with a clearly understandable voice (I later asked and found he was in Pennsylvania).

Within five minutes we were well on the way to resolving the issue.  It is something that will need to be verified over a week or two.  He sent me an email with three possible fixes to make sure my issue was resolved.  He also told me that my one year guarantee would be up in 6 weeks. However, Google has a policy stating if you call in a problem before your guarantee period is up they will continue to help you until the issue is resolved, including replacing the device if needed.  

Can you believe that kind of customer service and backing by this large a company?  I can’t.

May 20, 2014

Google, What are you Telling Me?

As you regular readers know, I like Google.  Google is not perfect but they have many great apps.  In the past I have been disappointed in their corporate decisions to do away with some of their more desirable apps.  For instance iGoogle homepage, Calendar Sync and Google Reader to name a few.

I learned something else disappointing this week.

Over the past year or so I have become a fan of Google’s Chrome browser.  Before any of you run out and switch to Chrome from Firefox, (my old favorite) remember the most important thing when deciding on a browser is, "How do you like it?"  You do not have to change but you could always try various browsers from time-to-time and find out what you may like.  It is easy to change back at any time.

I use a Google tablet, the Nexus 7 2013 I also use the Chrome browser as my default browser on the Nexus.  In recent months I have purchased Google’s Chromecast which basically allows you to turn your almost Smart TV into a full fledge Smart TV for $35.  As I originally wrote this past January, it is an excellent device at an excellent price.

Basically, if you are using the Chrome browser on your computer you can play a video in your browser, or music or slideshow which you already know.  If you have a Chromecast device hooked up to your TV you can "send" that media to your TV to enjoy it on a full screen and hear it through better speakers.  This makes it a much more pleasurable experience than watching or listening on a smaller screen. 

Chromecast buttonWhen you have something playing, or getting ready to play, in your computer’s browser you click the Chromecast button and it automatically appears on your TV.  It is a very easy to use and it shows quite a good picture and sound.

So I have three Google products running, their tablet, their browser and their Chromecast.  They are all in excellent working order.  This week my wife and I missed one of our favorite TV shows, "Castle."  If you go to ABC.com you can view their shows shortly after they air on the site.  This is true for most of the networks. 

I started up my tablet, went to ABC.com, got "Castle" running and guess what?  No Chromecast button so I could not send this show to the TV.  Please note:  I could, once I hooked up my notebook computer, but that was not my intention. 

I Googled for what I was doing wrong and there was not a tremendous amount of information about it online.  So I called Google support and guess what?  Even though I am running all Google products in working order they do not yet have a way to "Cast a Tab" with an Android tablet or phone.  I asked if it was being worked on and they "thought so" but there is no expected completion date. 

What are they thinking?  But who am I?  What are your thoughts?

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 DoubleClicks.info.

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

  • Dropboxbit.ly/aszzao.   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill Diskkilldisk.com.  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7 2013bit.ly/1esugJz.  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • Hulu.com and Hulu.com/plus.  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google Musicplay.google.com/music.  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.
  • BGCallwww.vieas.com/en.  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google Keepgoogle.com/keep.  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.
  • Recuvapiriform.com/recuva.  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.
  • Facebook.com and Twitter.com.  Two popular social web sites.
  • PayPal.com. A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device ManagerAndroid.com/devicemanager.  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  • Ubuntuubuntu.com.  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join Mejoin.me.  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 Itshouldiremoveit.com.  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet Aquariumbit.ly/anifree. A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at serenescreen.com. 
  • Glympseglympse.com and Waze.com.  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  • Chromegoogle.com/chrome, Firefoxfirefox.com, Internet Explorer – search at Microsoft.com, Operaopera.com and Safariapple.com/safari.  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice (openoffice.org) and LibreOffice (libreoffice.org) 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! 

September 10, 2013

Nexus 7 (Revisited or the New 2013)

Time and technology march on.  A couple of months ago I wrote about the Nexus 7 and how it compared to my first tablet which was a Toshiba Thrive.  Since then they have come out with a new Nexus 7, called…are you ready for this snazzy name? "Nexus 7 (2013)" Yeah, they even use the parenthesis.  I think that is really forward thinking naming; not.  I have also heard non-official references to the Nexus 7.2.

As luck would have it my wife’s Thrive of many years stopped functioning properly and she had used my Nexus 7 some while we were on vacation.  I told her about the new Nexus that just came out and being the wonderful wife she is, she had an idea.  A great idea in my opinion.  She thought I should let her have my old Nexus 7 (about 5 weeks old) and I should get the 2013 version, since geeks should always check out the new equipment.  What a fantastic and brilliant wife!

Image from Google.comSo I got one a couple of weeks ago.  It really is nice, not a tremendous amount better than version one, but nice none-the-less.

The original 7 had the same 7 inch screen and weights 0.75 of a pound. The newer one is, by comparison a light weight at 0.64 lbs.  The screen resolution is higher than the retina display you have heard about in other tablets.  It has a LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and 323 pixels per inch.  To those of us who are half-way normal people that just means that it has a very sharp, clear screen.  Movies run on it very well and it advertises a nine hour Hi-Def video playback.  The most I have run it so far was to watch about four hours of HD videos, including some on Netflix.  That took it down to about 50% battery life left.  I had also played a few games and checked email throughout that time.  That makes me believe in their advertised battery length.

It comes with the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system which is the latest one out there.  Google is constantly fixing and updating as I have had two updates since I got mine.

The 2013 model also has a camera on the front (1.2MP) and back (5 MP auto focus camera with face detection; 1080p video recording @ 30fps), unlike the original which only had the front facing camera.  One problem I had with the original is that it would not work with Skype which I had planned on using.  The new one works fine and I have had a decent video conversation using it. 

I will not get into the processor speed here but it is faster, much quicker than the original which was very good, too.  There is a noticeable difference.  The last thing I would mention is that it has two speakers on the back now instead of one so it is advertised as stereo.  In my opinion, it is like all tablets.  The sound system leaves a lot to be desired if you want to listen to high quality music with the tablet speakers but I think that is the same with any tablet.  However, when using a nice headset or ear buds it is very good indeed.

My opinion is that if you are in the market for a good seven-inch tablet this is the one you should take a serious look at. 

July 30, 2013

A Little Nexus and a Lot of Numbers

I got a couple of questions about my Nexus usage from last week so here is a short look at the answers.  I do watch videos on occasion especially when traveling for work, etc.  I have accounts with Netflix and Comcast so I can watch their offerings.  There are many of the major cable/broadcast networks have sites that will stream videos.  The videos look and play great.  You cannot stream videos from Hulu; however, you can from Hulu Plus thanks to the Hulu marketing department ($).  For music Pandora (easy to use) and Google Music (more geeky at Google Music) are my favorites.  There are many other great music streaming services.

OK, enough about the Nexus 7 for a while.

I will now tackle one question that I seem to get every now and then and have not tried to explain in many years.

It is all about sizes of computer “stuff.”  Every now and again I get the question, “How many floppy disks will a CD hold?”, “What is a bit or a byte?” or “How much does a GB hold?”  So here we go with a short discussion.

The smallest measurement where it all starts is the “bit”.  The word bit comes from what it is a “Binary digIT“.  It is pronounced the way you normally pronounce bit like, “A mosquito just bit me!”  Bits are either a one (1) or a zero (0).

The next one may sound a little more familiar; the “byte”.  Byte is pronounced as in “I will bite the mosquito back.”  There are eight bits to a byte.  A byte is approximately the space required to hold the data contained in one character on your computer.  This sentence is 42 characters counting spaces.  Therefore the previous sentence contains about 42 bytes or 328 bits, including the period.

Next we have the “kilobyte” which is 1,024 bytes.   Yes, kilo should indicate 1,000 even but this comes from computers using binary (base two- 1 or 0) math, instead of a decimal (base ten) system.  From here on out the measurements will be using binary math so they don’t quite match.  However, using the KISS principal and the numbers become so humongous, most computer people would refer to 10 kilobytes as being 10,000 bits.  That isn’t true, it’s actually 10,240 but we will keep it simple from here on.  For a size reference, 20 kilobytes is the approximate size of a one-page double-spaced document.

Next, the megabyte.  A floppy disk holds 1.44 megabytes (Mb) of data.  Most everyone knows what the old floppy disks hold.

Now the “Gigabyte” which is approximately 1,000 Megabytes (that isn’t precisely true, remember “binary math.”  I have read that one gigabyte of data would hold the contents of about 20,000 pages or about 60 paperback books.

The next storage sizes are (ascending order, referenced comparisons are estimates):

  • 1 Terabyte = 1000 Gigabytes about 4.5 million, 200+ page books.
  • 1 Petabyte = 1000 Terabytes, 4.7 billion books or 239,000 DVDs.
  • 1 Exabyte = 1000 Petabytes, 245 million DVDs or the average amount on data put on the internet every day.
  • 1 Zettabyte = 1000 Exabytes, 250 billion DVDs.
  • 1 Yottabyte (overtones of Star Wars) = 1000 Zettabytes, approximately 257,054,773,252,000 DVDs.
  • 1 Brontobyte (unofficial name but used by many geeks) = 1000 Yottabytes, let me think it is hard to come up with a comparison but basically more Blue Rays than you could watch in your lifetime.

July 23, 2013

My New Tablet

Nexus 7About two years ago I wrote in regard to buying my first tablet, a Toshiba Thrive.  Well time has continued on as it usually does and I have come to the point where I needed a replacement.  So I have recently purchased a Nexus 7 by Google.  Yes, I know I have not been extremely nice to Google over the past couple of months but I am not their enemy.

Please do not misunderstand, the Thrive and its successor the Excite are both excellent tablets.  I still believe for the price and features the Excite is one of the best out there.  However, there are two things that I grew to not like as much with the Thrive, its size (form factor) and weight.  It is a 10.1 inch screen and weight in at 1.7 pound.  Almost two pounds does not sound like very much.  However, after you hold it in your hands for a couple of hours reading the latest novel by your favorite author it gets to be a load.  Even when you are switching back and forth from hand-to-hand, throw in a case of carpel tunnel and it just is not that comfortable.

In steps the Google Nexus 7 made by Asus.  The “7” is for the screen size of seven inches and the weight is a mere .75 of a pound.  Also, not that it matters tremendously but the 0.41 inch thickness is amazing in comparison to my Thrive.

I know I am not really comparing apples to apples here since the Thrive has many more features, some of which I feel should have been on the Nexus but did not make the cut.  The Thrive was much thicker; however, that was so that it could have a multitude of access ports one each for USB, HDMI and for SD Card external storage.  The Nexus has, like most other tablets, none of these niceties.  Nevertheless, after using the Thrive for a couple of years I only used the SD Card but never really needed it that often, the others were good features I experimented with but did not use at any other time.  For me the Nexus 7, actually built by Asus, has all that I need which is a tablet I can do all I need with.

Some of the advertised features from Google say that you get over eight hours of HD video playback, ten hours of web browsing or e-reading, and up to 300 hours of standby time.  For the browsing and e-reading I agree that mine has easily gone that long.  Regarding the standby time, I have not officially tested it but it goes for days without worrying about charging.  I have watch two movies on it in a row and had more that 50% of my battery life left, so I can figure that video playback number from the Nexus marketing team is good too.

You can read more of the advertising about the unbelievably lightweight, the fantastic crisp, clear display and all the other great adjectives used to describe the Nexus 7 but my belief is that generally they are correct.  It is a very nice tablet for the smaller form factor.  Also, prices are now dropping for the Nexus 7 since the Nexus 7 version 2 is supposed to be out in the next couple of weeks.

It was recently announced that the Google Play Store has approximately 1,000,000 applications and over 50 billion downloads.  You will not be alone if you own a Nexus or any other of the great Android devices.

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