Richard M. Sherwin’s Consumer Tech Live From Boynton Beach, Florida:
Welcome to the second Palm Isles technology question and answer session. This time I will try and answer questions that I couldn’t get to last time and many that you emailed me.
I see some of you in the audience knew me from my time at IBM or heard me on radio or in webcasts. This is the time to get back at me in person.
And both this live and audience or recorded on tape delay viewers should be able to watch this session on www.Tech50plus.com, an award winning senior and super senior web site….. and www.digitalfamilyadvisor.com, which covers technology, finance and lifestyle.
OK, let’s get going. WAIT SOME BREAKING NEWS!
- If any of this audience is going to watch any part of the NBC Olympics coverage and you have any Amazon Echo Alexa model, you might want to turn it off during certain parts of the TV coverage. One of the U.S. team’s figure skating entrants’ isAlexa Scimeca Knierim and many expect her name to be announced many times this week, making your Echo go crazy. Some Echo aficionados have found a way to deter Amazon Echoes from reacting to that word. I haven’t.
- If you use any streaming hardware like Roku, Kodi, Google Chromecast, there’s really good news should any of your network shows, whether entertainment or sports or news, have broadcasting blackouts because of network difficulties. Your streaming hardware now will be able to still send that programming through Internet streaming even if your TV stations fail. Now if your home Internet fails, then you will have to rely of On Demand services.
- Those of you using the new Comcast X1 remote control don’t throw away your older remote. Many experts including me believe that the older remote easier to use. New model lacking some basic features…or they are hidden in the voiced activation.
- And see this mouse…whoops that’s my poodle’s toy mouse. I mean this one.This tiny generic Blue Tooth Mouse (under $15 at Walmart, Target and Amazon) is gaining popularity as its compatible with PC, Android, Apple and even many TV systems because its battery last’s months at a time.
Skype or what?
Let’s start with Skype. Many of you are familiar with this program that lets you communicate by video or just audio with your friends and family anywhere in the world. Skype is free if the person you’re calling is also a Skype member. But if the person you are calling isn’t a Skype member it will cost you.
One of the biggest questions I get is that sometimes there’s a pop up offer to spend some cash for certain features….like multiple friends and family online at the same time. Is it worth $10? Yes it is. That $10 will get you to Israel, Asia, South America, and Central America for way less than a cell phone or landline. You must have a Skype credit on your account to call a cell phone. It costs 2.3 cents per minute to make a phone call to anywhere in the continental United States or Hawaii, in addition to a 4.9 cent connection fee.
And what about Google’s Hangout and Apple’s Facetime for many domestic uses totally free if you have Apple or Google accounts?… and both very popular competitors to Skype?
Right now with ease of use and prices in consideration, I’d use Google’s hangout.
IBook, Google Play, & Kindle Book Questions
Thank heaven people are reading a lot lately and EBooks are popular no matter what device you are using. However, you should know that some book downloads don’t work with every tablet, phone or computer. (This is done on purpose to make you stay with that service). But now you can download a free program or App that will enable whatever you download to work on any device.
The 3 most popular Aps are Calibre, Format Factory and Hamster EBook. Calibre is complicated to use. Both Format Factory, which converts audio, digital picture, PDF and video files, and Hamster, which is just for EBooks, and both are easier to use than Calibre. Lately I’ve used Hamster to go from books I have on my Kindle to Google Books and Apple.
What is that Echo I hear?
In Florida for a few months now, many people have questions about the line of Amazon Echo products.
Here are three things you might not know:
- Now you can make free phone calls to friends and family members who also have an Amazon Echo
- If you have an older Echo and it stops working, if you still have your Amazon Prime account they will most likely fix it for free or replace it with a factory repaired model. Just remember to only send back the unit not the AC adapter.
- The number of Echo-compatible home networking products grows every minute. Unfortunately, many, especially these that control your heating, cooling, lights, web cams and TV-audio players are not easy to use. But the new Echo tech support just might be the best home technical support division in the business.
- Another anomaly is that if you have an Amazon Echo or its arch rival Google Home speaker too far away from the modem, while it will still light up you might not get any audio which makes the device useless. Try moving the speaker closer to the router-modem….or you might have to purchase a Wi-Fi extender. More on those dreaded extenders in our next session.
Many of you have been complaining that your favorite web sites or Apps, on your phones, tablets and computers are being overrun by pop-ups that say: “Do you want automatic notifications from The New York Times or ESPN or House Hunters? Or a website wants to know your location! I am telling you not to sign on to these notifications. Yes, they regionalize your questions for local information, but for the most part, these notifications only help advertisers know your demographic or locations for even more pitches.
Microsoft, a company that I’ve been critiquing for nearly 36 years, has actually, almost overnight, transformed itself into a terrific customer support service. Its new 24 hour (mostly free) support for Windows 10, Microsoft Office and even some just plain PC support is so good that even many consumer magazines and ratings services have raised Microsoft’s rankings.
Yes, we’re getting many questions from people who get a “real” Windows 10 warning that you must update your PC. In many cases, the improved support will guide you to fix your PC though it might take a “takeover” of your PC for a while. And they will walk you through any of the new required safety and security upgrades but we’re saying don’t do it if you don’t have to. And you don’t have to if your anti-virus is up to date and working properly.
We get a lot of questions surrounding the new Microsoft Office 365. It’s a fine business product, but it is too feature rich for average users, who don’t need these new features. So try the 2010 and 2007 consumer versions, which are easier to use and cheaper.
And remember, no matter what, if you are using a Windows 10 PC, its built in anti-virus is free and much easier to run than McAfee or Norton.
Microsoft Word Alternatives
Some of you literally use your Macs or PCs just to write notes and look at YouTube. If that’s you, I say spending $15 a month or $269 or more for Microsoft Office is a waste. The best legal alternative is LibreOffice 6.0, available for free via its own web site or Amazon. A video summarizing the top new features of LibreOffice 6.0 is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHBve8v13VY. For those of you who live off your phones or Tablets, Microsoft does make a free mobile version of office. This version is a nice basic version and for some people this will suffice.
The Apple of No One’s Eyes
Apple, whose latest $1000 IPhone is not selling well, nevertheless just offered its Mac computer owners (models from 2012 on) a free upgrade to its main operating system (including IPads and other IPhones). We’ve had so many calls and emails about the problems with this upgrade that I called Apple itself. The usually chatty PR department referred us to its crisis department which then never answered. So be very careful of this upgrade.
You don’t see me, but I see you
Those in the audience with dogs, cats, caretakers, beautiful children or grandchildren raise your hands.
I’ve be seeing the Logitech Circle 2 model of a security web cam in a lot of homes. So I tried it and voila!!!, unlike others, this Logitech Circle 2 literally took five minutes to set up and then I was watching my new puppy redecorate our home while I was about 20 miles away in a restaurant. The built-in speaker and microphone let you talk to your caretaker or pet via the Circle App on your phone. And the Circle 2 home security cameras now work with Amazon Echo voice controls and Google Home. Start by saying, “Ok Google, show me the backyard camera,” or “Alexa show a live view of my living room on my TV,” or “Alexa show me my grandkid in the guest room on my bedroom TV,” or ‘Whose’ at the front door”. Logitech Circle 2 home security cameras, along with mounts and accessories, are available now and can be purchased at Logitech.com, Apple, Amazon and Best Buy. Circle 2 Wired is $179.99 and Circle 2 Wire-Free is $199.99.
High definition web cams that will make your old PC or Mac into a Prosumer cam for Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, ooVoo and more are also available from Logitech and Microsoft. The Logitech model 920 is newer and easier to set up at $5 less than than the Microsoft Web Cam.
Do you hear what I hear?
Last month I talked about enjoying music and talking and listening to your Blue Tooth based IPhones, Android phones, tablets or music centers. Some for you also asked whether there are headphones that can be used for business calls, but still get “listening room” quality sound from the same device. Plantronics is a top selling business to business company found in many call centers and offices that require noise cancelling clarity when talking or listening. In the last few years, this company has made significant gains by producing unbelievable Blue Tooth headphones in a variety of sizes and uses. I picked these three as top choices over Bose, or Panasonic in each category:
The Backbeat 100 is an in-ear, lightweight model designed for your mobile phone. Its comfortable, super-slim neckband is so light, you can wear them all day. Its one-touch controls let you move between music and calls and our favorite feature is that the magnetic earbuds stick together to minimize tangles when not in use. Noise- and echo-reduction technology helps your voice come through clearly during calls and our second favorite feature is that the Backbeat 100 has up to 8 hours of non-stop Talk or listening from a single charge – and up to 10 days in standby mode.
For business and consumer use I liked the Back Beat Sense SE over the Sennheiser and Bose because the SE stands for Special Edition splash proof coating. It has pro grade: Class 1 Bluetooth 4.0 technology that will stream up to 330 ft. from Class 1 Bluetooth devices, which is perfect for iPhone, iPad, Android and other smart devices. These over the ear headphones include smart sensors for audio control and power management and to maximize wireless listening time. Our testers found the pillow-soft, memory foam cushions excellent for all day use. And if you go by the gym or pool, the splash proof coating make the device water resistant. The Rechargeable battery will last up to 18 hours of wireless listening and 21 days of standby battery charge.
And a few months ago I went to a Tech show in NYC where Plantronics faced off with its more expensive higher end Blue Tooth head phones and most of the experts declared that the BackBeat Pro 2: wireless headphones with
On-demand active noise cancelling also provides Class 1 Bluetooth power with an amazing range of up to 100 meters so you can move anywhere in your house. The equivalent Bose model is NOT Bluetooth. And for those of you who still make fun of my Bronx accent, well it’s never been clearer on the nice built-in microphone.