About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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 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.

December 18, 2012

Backing Up

I have mentioned the importance of backing up your important electronic files before.  It really is important if you intend to use those files in the future.  Whether it is your previous tax returns, (done on your computer or the scanned version of your paper copies) emails or documents of any type you need to keep an extra copy.  Today two of the most talked about file types are music and of course all those digital Christmas photos.

The reason to keep copies may be obvious to many of us, but not to others.  The biggest reason you may need a backup is to guarantee that one day, sooner or later, your hard drive will fail.  Hopefully it will survive long enough to grab your files but many times they are totally trashed; nada.  Occasionally you may be able to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars and send your hard drive to professionals to restore some or all of your files.  However, for individuals like you and me it will be very cost prohibitive. 

Recently I received an email from Alicia.  She asked, "I have a new 1 TB external drive.  Do I use the backup software that comes with the drive, or the Windows back up application?"  That is a great question and highlights one great alternative for backing up files.

What can a 1 TB drive hold?  Toshiba, one of my favorite companies, says approximately 17,000 hours of music which is just less than two years of music, non-stop 24 hours a day, 320,000 HD digital photos or about 457 holiday’s worth of photos, 1,000 hours/41 days of home videos (again without sleep) or 250 DVDs of about two hours each.

The price of external drives, like all other electronics is always coming down.  I found an external 1 TB drive for $80 and then a 2 TB drive for less than $120 so the cost is not horrible if you are serious about backups.

Now, let’s go back to Alicia’s question.  I would always use the software that comes with the drive.  It has been tested and proven with the drive you have.  It is most likely made to do just that one thing and do it well, so I say stick with it.  If you prefer the Windows application or any other you are used to, feel free to use that one.  However, it could invalidate your warranty on the drive so you need to check that out first. 

Keep in mind that there are also some great "cloud" storage applications out there.  I heartily recommend Dropbox (, Google Drive (, SkyDrive (, Carbonite ( and many others.  I feel that DropBox and Carbonite are the best to use for automatic backups; however, DropBox has a free version. 

Make sure you backup no matter where you choose to do it. Just do it!

September 25, 2012

Tablet Keyboards

Well this week I was very pleasantly surprised.  A coworker, who also has the same android tablet I have, saw an advertisement for a "wired" keyboard for our Toshiba Thrives.  The price is $11.88.  Are you kidding me?!  As you know from my previous articles, in my opinion real inexpensive cheap is the next best thing to free.

Of course, I didn’t really use my Thrive for typing lengthy documents like this column, but for that price it was worth a try.  So my coworker and I both ordered one.  More details about that fun later.

The keyboard is built into a well-constructed case that also holds the tablet which is extremely handy.  When you open it up the tablet sits at a great viewing angle for typing.  It is a full keyboard, meaning not all of all the keys you find on your desktop/notebook keyboard are there; however, all of the functionality you will need from the keyboard is available.  Some of the keys have dual uses when combined with the Function or Control keys.

The keyboard works well and I really enjoy using it.  This column (and many more to come) was written with this keyboard.  The only drawback I see is that it has a wire on it which has to be connected to the USB port on the tablet.  Many tablets do not have this port, so be warned it cannot be used on all tablets. 

Bluetooth Keyboard Folding Leather Case for Samsung® Galaxy Tab 10.1Most all tablets have the Bluetooth function which allows a wireless connection to many different accessories.  You know me…after I got my wired device, I looked around for wireless.  These start at around $20 and go up from there.  Of course, I have never been able to figure out why you would pay three times more for something that does the same thing, but apparently many people do. 

If you are a tablet (yes, and even an iPad user) I highly recommend looking into one of these if you would like to be able to do a lot of typing on your tablet.

Now, I will explain the funny thing about the orders, which I mentioned previously.  My coworker ordered his from about three hours before I did.  No problem there, he was faster to act.  The fun comes from me getting mine the next day before I left my office.  I walked over to his area to see if he got his.  As the color drained from his face he told me that he had just received an email saying that his new keyboard would be delivered in four to six weeks.  I laughed, he did not. 

The reason given was that mine was the last one in stock delivered from the store in Maryland.  His was not available locally since they were out of stock.  His was being shipped from China most likely on the proverbial "slow boat."

So I guess that just goes to show you that procrastination is sometimes a good thing.

April 17, 2012

My e-Reader holds More e-Books Than Yours

I receive questions similar to the one I got from Donna recently.  It involves something that sounds quite important in picking an e-book reader so let’s take a look and see. 

I own a Toshiba Thrive which is not actually an e-reader but I can also read books on it, so it will qualify.  My wife owns a Barnes & Noble Color Nook.

This question always involves, "which e-book reader can hold the most books?" 

For our two, the Nook advertises that it can hold around five to six thousand e-books.  It seems that all of them can hold at least three thousand and then it goes up from there.  My Thrive could probably hold that many and maybe two or more times that amount.  I’m guessing here, but I really don’t want to find out since I would have to buy a lot of books.  Yes, I know I can get the e-books and add them to my tablet but again, why?

Now all numbers given by manufacturers can vary in either direction from what they say.  No, they aren’t lying but it also depends on how many other items you store on them.  All but the purest e-readers have the ability to add other applications to them.  Those apps take up room too. 

It also gets a little more complicated as far as numbers.  If you buy a book from B&N, Amazon or anywhere else, you do not "have" to download them to your e-reader (no matter which one it is) until you are ready to read it.  You can leave it in your online "library."

I am amused by the advertising which says you can hold 3,000 – 12,000 (plus or minus) books on the various readers because, well, why would a person want to?

Do some math here. If you are my age, in my 50s, you wouldn’t have enough years left to read 3,000 books. 

If you have 3,000 books on your e-reader, pretend you read one book a week per year.  We will also say that you skip two weeks a year and don’t read due to vacation, health, etc.  That would be 3000/50.  The answer is that it will take you 60 years to complete your reading.  If your e-reader will hold 5,000 books, that would yield 100 years of reading.  I hate to be negative here, but I do not believe that the majority of us will make it that long.

These numbers are just a wonderful marketing ploy.  Most people just download a couple of recent purchases and save the rest until they finish the others.  Once a book is read you can remove it from your e-reader and it is still kept in the B&N/Amazon account for you to download and reread later if you want to.

Have a great time no matter which you finally settle on.

November 22, 2011

Thrive, Even in the Cold

This should be the final time I write about my Toshiba Thrive.  Here are the 1st and 2nd articles.  (Well, OK most likely the last one.) But two more questions about it need to be answered. These were the most common questions I received about it from my readers.

First, it has Android Honeycomb as its operating system and it has been upgraded once since I got it six to eight weeks ago. Next, I run Nook software on it and it also has Kindle and other book reader apps for it. PDFs can also be read on it. If you do not know what a PDF is, do not worry, just skip that last part.

imageFinally about the Thrive; yes, you can work with Microsoft Word documents on the tablet. However, you will need to purchase an application to do it. I bought one called “OfficeSuite Pro 5” ( from the Android Market, for a whopping $4.99. Yes, the prices for the applications range from free to (I believe the highest I have seen was $19.99.) They are reasonably priced to say the least. With OfficeSuite you can create, edit and save (online or on your tablet) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files along with other neat features.

OK, I think I am done. Be advised; I left a lot out but you will have to read more, email me or buy your own tablet PC and let me know what you think. I always like to hear from you folks.

Here is something you may want to consider purchasing for your tablet, smart phone, iPad or any touch screen using friends for Christmas this year.

Picture this, it is winter time, cold, snowing, icy rain, whatever the case may be ands you have on your nice warm mittens. Then your phone rings, you pick up your phone and see it is someone you really need to talk to. By the time you take off your gloves they have hung up. You then call them back, while your fingers are getting numb. Is there a better solution? You betcha!

imageLook for some touch screen gloves. I have had a pair for a couple of years and they are great. I am not talking about gloves with the finger tips cut off so you can use your touch screen device. These are gloves which actually have a special material built into the finger tips which reacts to your devices just like you were using your bare finger.

Some of them have finger tips that fold up out of the way, but I like the ones mentioned above much better. The special material finger tips work very well without having to do anything that takes more time.

You can find them online anywhere from $15 to over $100. My comment on that is the old, “Let the buyer beware.” My wife found two pairs this week in a local store for less than $5 for both!

November 15, 2011

More to Thrive On

The column about my Toshiba Thrive from last week generated several intriguing emails. 

First, "I am looking for a Tablet PC and want to know if you can tell me more about yours?"  Well, I can but I only have so much space in the columns.  You can really find all you need online starting at and Googling for the "Toshiba Thrive."   I will, however go on to talk about a couple of things I did not mention last week.

imageIt has an amazing recharging capability. The specifications said it will recharge a totally discharged battery in an hour.  Well come on folks!  Do I look like I was born yesterday?  I am not new to this stuff and I found that pretty hard to believe.  So I tested it out.  I ran my battery down to less than a 10% charge.  I plugged it in for exactly one hour and checked it.  The charge was up to 89%.  No, that is not 100% but close enough for me.  It only took a few more minutes to make it to 100%.  Just think about it, your battery is low and you have 20 minutes to spare. Charge it for those 20 minutes and you may have 25% or more of your battery capacity back.  That is amazing compared to other charging experiences I have had.

imageI mentioned the full size USB port last week and someone wanted to know if it would also hold a SD Card.  The answer is of course. Yes, there is a slot for one of those also.  There is also an HDMI slot (to connect to a video device like TV to deliver digital quality.) You could not ask for much more on a tablet.  Oh but wait, there is one more thing you do not find on many other tablet PCs, if any at all.  The Thrive has a replaceable battery.  That means you can order a new battery if needed and put it in yourself.  With others you have to pay a geek to do it and maybe send it away for a few weeks.

The other emails said that I had mentioned, "Swype" and they wanted to know if I had misspelled "Wipes".  Swype is a great Android program which allows you to significantly increase your "typing" speed on your phone or any Android device.  You simply slide your finger from one letter in a word to another and it predicts the word you are typing.  It is amazingly accurate and if you have an Android device and you want to try it out this free app, go to

The last item for today is Skype ( and no, I have not just misspelled Swype. They are two totally different programs. The really basic description of Skype is that it allows you to call phones and other computers via the internet.  It also has the built-in capability to have video along with your audio.  That allows you to talk to and see the boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, grand kids, etc. no matter where they may be located on the globe.  It is a free computer-to-computer service but for phone calls check out the rules on their site.

Have fun computing this week and keep those emails coming!  I love to hear from all of my readers and answer your great questions.

November 8, 2011

Take a Tablet

During the summer months I wrote several articles regarding e-book readers in general and more specifically Barnes and Noble’s Nooks (  They are both great to have if you are a reader; however, something different has come to my attention.

I was very happy to receive a gift of a tablet PC and I have to say, "I think it is great!"  I did not get an iPad, which is the most popular right now.  I received a tablet I had never heard of, the Toshiba Thrive.  Now that I am using it I think I may never use another.  It has just about everything I would look for in a tablet PC and some things I would never have thought available.

I will start with a definition just in case you are not aware of what a tablet PC is.  A "tablet" is a crossbreed type of computer.  It is a cross somewhere between a notebook computer and a smartphone…lacking the phone part. Of course, with the Thrive ( and Skype ( that isn’t exactly correct, but more on that later.  Also, it does not have a keyboard on the outside but it does have a digital one built-in.

Toshiba ThriveThe Thrive has a 10.1" high resolution touch screen.  This means that it is smaller than my 17" work notebook but larger than my 8.9" personal netbook.  This screen is great for reading a Barnes and Noble e-book (or any other brand) and watching movies or TV shows on Netflix.  Yes, you can watch other TV networks’ sites too. 

You may ask what I use my Thrive for.  I surf the net.  OK, I realize that was an obvious use.  I also check email for work and home, read the Daily News-Record, read other news sources from around the world, post my columns to, send my columns to the DNR and others for publishing, watch a TV show I missed last week, log onto my desktop computer if I need a file I don’t have on the tablet, write this column…What? Write on a tablet?

OK, in my opinion there are two disadvantages to a tablet.  First is the keyboard, which is adequate for typing an occasional short email or web address.  However, if you are typing a 500-2500 word article it is way too slow, even if you use Swype like I do.  You cannot type as fast as you can on a regular keyboard.  It is more hunt and peck; of course, if you type that way on a regular computer it will be fine for you.

Included with the Thrive is a full size USB port, so that means you can plug in most USB devices.  This includes most full sized keyboards.  You can also plug in a thumb drive for copying pictures to and from the Thrive.  Did I just say pictures?  I did and the Thrive has two cameras.  There is one camera on the back for taking photos and movies.  The other is on the front which can be used to take the user’s picture.  Why you may ask?  I will talk more about that next week.

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