DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

March 7, 2017

Surface Pro

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:54 am

I am testing a new type of computer, at least for me.  They first came into the public view in early to mid-2013 depending on where on the globe you are located.  You know the one as the marketing for this “new” computer was worldwide and abundant.  You know all the happy people dancing around to a “snappy” tune, and flipping/closing their small computers in rhythm like they were in a euphoric trance.  Yeah, you have it now, the Microsoft Windows based, “Surface Pro.”

First was the Surface, next the Surface Pro, then a 2, and 3 which has progressed into the current Surface Pro 4.  Of course, that is not all Microsoft now has. The Surface Book, Hub and in December, 2016 the Surface Studio rolled out.

First what is different about it?  It is smaller than a usual notebook, more the size of a tablet with a very thin keyboard.  Approximately 11″ x 7″ x 0.6″.  When the keyboard is attached, it is closer to an inch thick.  There is a foldout section on the back to provide a stand to keep it upright with a couple of positions.  You need that “wedge” to support the actual screen/computer as the keyboard is only a hinge with no support like you may be used to with a regular notebook.

Surface Pro 2

Surface Pro 2

The keyboard is slightly smaller than some other brands of notebooks but not significantly.  It also includes a touchpad – similar to all the others.  I choose to use a wireless USB mouse with this one which functions well.  I have been typing on it regularly for a couple of days.  I am having no problem hitting the correct keys – other than caused by my regularly average typing.  (Hallelujah, for auto-spell checking in word processors!)

You have three keyboard options.  First, you can use the keyboard like any other notebook and type on it.  Next, you can fold the keyboard over to become the back surface of the notebook. It then becomes a tablet.  When in tablet mode your screen rotates when tilted like any other tablet and you can use the touchscreen.  Finally, you may choose to detach the keyboard all-the-way and have a Windows tablet.

It has good response and speed although nowhere near as quick as some larger notebooks I have used.  I have been using spreadsheets, word processing, web browsing, email, a very few online games (no pc games or Steam) and everything works as it should.

I cannot really find a lot to nitpick about with this nice little notebook/tablet combo.

Well, OK, there is one major issue for me, the price.  For the top of the line Surface Pro 4 today you may figure about $1,400.  Oh wait, that does not include a keyboard which may be had for an additional $55 – $130.  I am currently testing an older (2014) Surface Pro 2 which again I find to be a very decent system.  The price on one of these is around $550 and again that is without a keyboard.  I pulled these prices off of Amazon so you may be able to find others elsewhere.

Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4

My problem is at that price I can find two equally decent regular notebooks or tablets (with Bluetooth keyboards included.  If money were no object, sure, I would not mind owning one.  However, not currently for me.

 

 

July 26, 2016

Make Money with Google?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:37 am

Well, after the turmoil I created worrying you about Google watching you online last week, today you can get’em back! 

I thought today I would show you how to make some money off of Google.  Now be warned.  You will not be able to quit your job or buy a new car but you can make a couple of bucks when you have a minute to kill.

Google Opinion Rewards logoI started using Google Opinion Rewards about two weeks ago (rd.dblclx.com/GoogleOpinions).  I saw a write up on it from an RSS feed about Google which I receive every day.  I thought hmm, sounds like fun. So I gave it a try.

The way it works is occasionally you will get a survey on your Android device, sorry not for any other devices at this time.  For me the survey is usually about something I have never heard of.  I got one asking if I had read a specific magazine in the past week.  Easy answer since I had never heard of the magazine.  It then asked only two more follow up questions.  When I finished it added $0.34 to my Google account. Of course, it is not money to spend anywhere but at the Google Play store for apps, books and movies provided by Google.

The surveys are very consistent never having more than five or six questions and many have less than that.  Being so short you can take one in much less than a minute.  The app write-up says you will get one or more a week.  I got seven the first week, a few more the second week and this week (two days in) I have gotten none. 

Google Opinion RewardsThe questions also interested me concerning the article I wrote last week.  If you did not see it and are interested find last week’s newspaper or visit DoubleClicks.info.  One question I was asked sounded something like, "Have you been to a Honda, Ford, GM or Nissan dealership recently?"  Interestingly, three days before I had been to one of those dealers to have my car repaired.  I responded affirmatively and then it wanted to know how many days before I had gone.  The options were all less than a week except the last one which was, "More than 1 week."

From the information I told you about last week we know that Google knows where I went from my phone.  They previously knew I was at the dealership via that device.  My thought was, "Interesting, they are checking to see if I am honestly taking the survey or not."  They have not asked anything about how much I paid or what something cost.  They are very general questions.

Now what you have all been waiting for…how much money has Ron made with this thing?  OK, first the least money I have made for a survey was $0.10.  The most I made was $0.63.  And the total for the twelve days I have received surveys was an astounding – are you ready for it?  $6.89, which is not that much, but hey, it is technology, it is fun and it is not Pokémon. 

May 12, 2015

PC Spring Cleaning, Part 2

Last week we started looking at spring cleaning your PC.  We will continue this week with monitors, notebooks and tablets.

Get a soft lint-free cloth.  Use a microfiber cloth like you could use to clean you glasses and maybe some Isopropyl alcohol. 

Do not get any abrasive cleaners, glass cleaners (including none of the blue glass cleaners), no online monitor cleaners no matter how good the price, dish detergent, (well maybe but more on that later) no water, or paper towels. 

Shiny new monitorFirst, and very significantly, disconnect ALL cables/wires, especially the power cable from your monitor.  Electrical shocks are not good for you or the computer!

Use your compressed air can mentioned last week and blow all of the grit and dust off of every part of your monitor.  Now use the microfiber cloth and clean the "glass" part first.  Wipe it well but lightly if there is something stuck to it or something that will not easily go away.  You can do the same with the exterior monitors of your notebook and/or tablet including the glass and Smart TV. 

If you have a spot or an area where you have a smear of something try this.  Get warm water and very lightly moisten one of your microfiber cloths.  You will need a dry one later to dry the surfaces.  Use the slightly moistened cloth and see if that takes care of it.  After it is clean use your dry microfiber to dry it all up.  It should not be a dripping mess with water running down the monitor, if so you could damage the monitor or notebook.  Be sure it is just moist, not wet. Do not spray the water on the monitor either.

But what if you have some real dirt buildup on the monitor, say something the warm moist cloth could not remove?  This calls for a nonabrasive dish detergent.  Dawn and Joy are often recommended.  Fill a cereal bowl with warm water.  Put in one drop of detergent and only one drop, not a squeeze.  Mix it together, slightly moisten the microfiber with the mixture and clean again.  Once you are done, rinse out the cloth very well with clean warm water and get all of the soap out.  Wring it out thoroughly and get as much water out of the clean cloth as possible.  Remember always moist never wet.  Use this cleaned cloth to wipe the gadget down to remove all soap.  Finally use your dry microfiber to buff off the monitor, tablet or Smart TV.  This last step should get rid of any dry swipe marks. 

Your last resort on a bad spot is Isopropyl alcohol.  Very lightly wipe and then dry with microfiber as before.

If you think you see me in a coffee shop using a napkin to clean my notebook…that is most definitely not me! 

March 24, 2015

Android is Not Just for Adults Anymore

Over the years I have put age appropriate apps on my Android tablet for my grandkids to play.  Now, while I am a pretty good grandpa, I do not like letting a small child run around the house swinging the devices around their heads and throwing them to each other.  So at a young age they learned that if you are using grandpa’s stuff, sit down and relax.  They have not had a problem doing that…well, ok, they did at first.

They all like to watch fun videos online.  You know, usually it has to do with a cat or a dog doing something cute.  Sometimes another youngster singing a funny song and on-and-on.  I would go with them to YouTube.com and have to preview almost each video.  I do not know if you noticed YouTube videos or not but they sometimes have videos of some things that you may not want young ones to view.  Also, if your kids are at the age where they can read a little the language sometimes supplied by other viewers is reprehensible to say the least.

YouTube for Kids imageYouTube came out with a new app for Android properly named "YouTube Kids."  You may search for it by name at the Google Play Store or use this link, "bit.ly/1H2lAuF" and caps count in the link.

YouTube Kids provides kid friendly videos including Sesame Street, Super Simple Songs, Thomas and Friends and many other kid videos.  They have also removed all of the comments so they will not see, read or hear anything that many may consider inappropriate.  IT is a slick little app and this grandpa recommends it.

Pitfall! imageAnother that my eight year old loves is "Pitfall!"  It is a remake of the old Atari game I used to play where Pitfall Harry runs and jumps over collapsing bridges, across waterfalls and under and over outcroppings to get to the end.  That being said the graphics are far, far superior to that of the original which makes it an entirely new game.  I will say that I play this one on occasion too.

There are drawing/painting apps, letter games, piano keyboards, "paper dolls," animal pictures and games and even the talking apps like "Talking Ben the Dog" (do not get that one; it becomes tiring to old people but kids love it).  Most of these apps you can find for free and some are for a small fee.

Kids Math imageFor actual learning and not just games look for "Kids Math." It is just like it sounds; it has some simple "games" for youngsters.  Simple addition, subtraction, sequencing and higher/lower number arranging, with lots of graphics are there.  So they may actually learn something along the way. 

Last but not least, lots of children’s books are also available.

March 16, 2015

2015-03-16 Show Notes

Here are the notes from today’s show. Please enjoy reading, learning and clicking.

Also, the podcast is available for you to listen to 365/24/7 so have at it.

Ron’s Android App Recommendation
(This app can be found on Google Play from your Android phone,
tablet or viewed on your PC from the link below.)
Gas Buddy (gasbuddy.com)

Get local Gas prices as you need them 
You can get any grade, including diesel and any brand name of gas you use.

You may also check prices online before you leave or on any phone system used today.

Here is the link for Android devices,


Nest Protect Smoke Alarm helps stop burned toast sirens!
Nest.com
It doesn’t just start yelling at you.

Before turning on a loud, howling alarm, Nest Protect gives you an early warning we call Heads-Up. Nest Protect lights up yellow and speaks with a human voice. It tells you where smoke is or when carbon monoxide levels are rising. This gives you an earlier warning if there’s an emergency, or allows you to silence Nest Protect if it’s just a nuisance alarm, like an overly enthusiastic toaster.

No more frantically swinging towels at the smoke alarm to quiet it down. If there’s a nuisance alarm, just stand under Nest Protect and wave your arm to hush the alert. As you wave, your hand should be 2-8 feet away from the alarm.


Laptop Comparison Chart
productchart.com
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place online that you could go to, tell it what you were looking for in a new laptop and it would tell you. Boom! You are done and it is here.

Take a look at "Laptop Comparison Chart" which is totally interactive at finding the notebook you want. Pick it by screen size, weight, hard drive, ram and more.


Neuskool
neuskool.com
One page with most every search engine featured.

Music, Google, Flickr, YouTube, Weather Channel, Ebay and many more. It also includes most of the top email sites.


Thanks for listening, reading or whatever!  Come back to WSVA for the next show on April 20 to see what’s new in Tech.

And don’t forget to read the article here or on the Daily News Record every Tuesday.

Ron

February 24, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 2

Last week we looked at several of Google’s "tricks." Harold, from Broadway, VA was the first to ask about more Google tricks from the many emails I received. So today we will look at a few more useful Google features of which you may be aware.

If you are like me you never truly understood how to relate metric measurements with good old USA measurements.  The U.S. customary system was created from English units which were in use in the British Empire before America’s independence. Unfortunately, the British system of measures was refurbished in 1824 which gave us the Imperial system.  In Google, type what you need to convert like this, "14 inches to centimeters" or meters and then vice versa.  You will get accurate info right away.  You can do volume too, like "liters to quarts," etc.

How about finding the definition of a tricky word?  Go to Google and type, "define: jentacular" and do not forget the colon.  Now you know…and now you can go look to see what it is.

Would you like to know where your package is located or when it will arrive?  Try Google by typing the tracking number into the search box.  Google will track Fed-Ex, UPS and USPS to name a few.

Do you have problems with math?  Google again with the formula, even very complicated ones.  Do not forget your parenthesis if needed.

Now here is a neat one I recently discovered.  Try, "set timer to 3:04pm" or "set timer to 6 minutes 32 seconds."  Minimize the window and go about your work, with your volume on.  This works great on your computer, tablet or phone.  You will know when to stop boiling your eggs. 

Want to know when you favorite TV Show is on next, try "NCIS episodes." 

Check NCIS episodes

This one is slick.  Do you have a picture and you want to find a similar photo?  Have the picture on your computer or in the browser.  Go to Google and look up anything and then click the "Images" link.  Then click and drag your photo up to the Google search area and drop it.  I tried a picture of my house and it found similar houses including my actual house from the real estate listing!   

image

Here is one with individual parts but you can limit it to just one or two items.  Try this search, "lyrics ‘imagine all the * for today’ " and on this one do not use the starting and ending parenthesis and change the singles to doubles.  First off, "lyrics" will just look for lyrics, obvious.  The quoted, "imaging all the * for today" will find all the lyrics for "Imagine."  The asterisk is a wild card and will find any characters in that section of text which are missing from your search.  So even if you do not know all the words you can still find things.

December 16, 2014

Tech Christmas, Part 2

Last week, I suggested a few techie Christmas gifts. Some readers requested a few more; so, they are as follow.

Let’s start on a slightly different foot. This is similar to the musical cards that play songs or prerecorded messages when opened, but it’s a little different. At spreengs.com, users can create their own video card.

Users create their own video, then upload it to the site, at which point it is completed and mailed to recipients. Or, the company can mail users the card, envelope and USB wire, so the video can be uploaded to the card and sent. The first option costs about $5 more. The few that I looked at ranged about $ 20- 40.

447_mifi5510lFor a gift that keeps on giving — for a monthly fee — try a personal Wi- Fi Hotspot. These small devices supply users with highspeed Internet connections. Speeds are fastest with 4G coverage. Sometimes, I use one for work and it usually gets from 7 to 12 mbps download speed, which is enough to watch movies.  Shown here is the Verizon Mi-Fi that I use which works very well with 4G.

Prices vary for the hardware to the monthly charges for the amount of data used. However, before buying one, check if your cellphone has a hotspot capability, as it may be less expensive.

Tablet sales are down about four percent this year; but tablet keyboard sales are up approximately 90 percent. Users can take an old tablet and, add a Bluetooth keyboard, which costs from $20- 50. Users have found that this is much more convenient than typing on a tablet without a keyboard. You can also get a new tablet with a keyboard included; however, the cost will likely be much higher.

Also available are Mighty Purses, a fusion between fashion and technology available at mighty- purse. com. These bags have a lightweight, built- in battery and a cable for phone charging. They are available in a variety of colors and designs. Prices on Amazon. com run approximately $80- 100.

The Shoulderpod S1 (shoulderpod.com) is a $ 34.90 gadget that attaches to most any cellphone, with or without a case, and has three functions. First, it has a camera grip mode that can be attached to the phone and a grip and strap for users’ hands and wrists, respectively. Second, it has a desk mount mode, which allows users to stabilize without a tripod. Third, it has a mount to attach the phone to the tripod.

image

December 2, 2014

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.  Realtor.com was the site and fortunately for me they had an Android app of the same name.  We also found another one called Zillow.com, 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!

November 4, 2014

Cogi

Livescribe.comThe article last week regarding Livescribe generated many emails from readers, for which I thank you.  I really enjoy reading about your technology thoughts and discoveries, as well as tips like the one I got from Lisa this week.  She told me about an application she uses on her phone and tablet which helps take notes too.  It is a free app named "Cogi – Notes & Voice Recorder." 

I had to find out what Cogi stood for — "cogent idea."  So it is an app that helps you keep track of thoughts and information you gain, usually when attending a lecture or meeting.  It is similar in that respect to Livescribe.

After you install Cogi, just start the app when your lecture begins.  It buffers the audio portion of the talk.  OK, what does buffering mean?  When you buffer audio it means the application actually records the voices but does not save it to the memory card on the device/phone.  It keeps a good portion of the audio in your phone/table’s RAM (temporary) memory.

If you hear someone say something really vital and important to remember or follow-up on, click the "Tap to highlight" button.  It then records the audio portion to a file and continues until you click the, "Tap to stop" button.  You can set it to go back from 15 to 45 seconds.

Visit Cogi.comOnce the lecture is over and you have "highlighted" the important parts tap and hold the button and it stops.  It names the session for the date you recorded.  You can rename the file to something more familiar to you if you wish.

During the recording you can also add photos you take during the lecture.  Say someone draws a diagram on a whiteboard.  You can photograph it and add that into the recorded session.  That way you have any visual information with the audio so you have it all.

You also may add any photo to the recording session if you would like.  In their demo they show that you can even photograph a page of notes to add to the audio lecture. 

At this point Cogi is only available for Android or iPhones.  I imagine they are writing code for Windows phones too, but this remains to be seen.  

They advertise that the concept is simple and I agree. When you hear things that are significant, many times you cannot remember or capture them.  So this makes it easy to remain focused on all that is going on and grab the information you need.

I gave Cogi a spin a few times and found that the WAV sound of the voice recording was nearly 5MB per minute.  A little large but it played very well when I played it back on my phone.  It also gives you the options of emailing the files (pictures included) to someone or saving them to your computer, Copy.com, Dropbox, etc.  The pictures I took looked great too, they were large files; however, that is dependent on your camera not Cogi.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  

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