Category Archives: Technology

Fitbit Alta is Very Cool!

I got a Fitbit Alta this week as an early birthday gift and it’s really cool!

It’s much slimmer than my previous pedometer/watch (Max) and looks like a bracelet. It has a larger display than the other fitbits and it can show time/date/day of the week, steps, distance, calories, and active minutes with a tap to cycle through this info.  The display also lights up so that I can read the time in the dark.  As someone who is horribly near sighted, this has become a great way to check the time during the night.  As an alternative to turning on the display with a double tap, the display shows the time when I turn my wrist to look at the display, a very natural gesture for looking at the time already.

What I love most is that it buzzes when I get a call or text!  When I get a text, it shows the sender’s name and the message scrolls across the display.  With a call, it scrolls the caller’s name 3 times.  I often don’t hear my text alerts when my phone is in my purse or when it’s set on do not disturb, so I love this!

As the reviews say, it’s difficult to do the clasp at first, but this got easier after just a day.  It was also hard to figure out the tap and double tap to see the display at first, but I quickly got the hang of it.

Fitbit comparison page.

OsirisComm Web Hosting Highly Recommended

OsirisComm Logo My husband and I have been happy customers of OsirisComm web hosting since 2000.  They are a small company, which has always provided us excellent, personal service.

  • Prompt, personal customer service – I’ve had experience working with another web hosting service through another web site that I inherited and I have been very frustrated with their customer service on several occasions.  They’re prices may be slightly lower, but you get what you pay for!  When it comes to your business web site and getting help with technical issues, it’s not worth saving a little money in exchange for weak customer support.  OsirisComm’s customer support staff answer questions quickly, with excellent technical expertise, and are really great guys.  You can see many more testimonials on their web site.
  • 99.99% up-time guarantee – Great dependability in the years we’ve been with OsirisComm.
  • Reasonably priced web hosting and domain name registration – Web hosting starts around $3-7 a month ($3/month for 1G, $7/month for 10G — recommended). First year is often 20% off for new customers.  Domain names start at $16 a year, but drop to $11 a year if you buy four years or more.

I signed up for the OsirisComm referral program because we highly recommend their Internet services and we want to tell others about this great company.  If you decide to purchase services through OsirisComm, please use one of the links on this page so that they’ll know I sent you.  Thank you!

Choosing a Smart Phone

A friend read my recent post on iPhone tips and then asked for recommendations on how to choose a smart phone.

I recommend starting with the Consumer Reports Smart Phone Buying Guide video which gives a quick overview of smart phones.

Next, HowStuffWorks.com has the article, 5 Tips for Picking the Right Smartphone which covers whether you really need a smart phone, choosing a cellular network, and choosing an OS.

On the topic of whether you really need a smartphone, if you decide after reading the above linked article that maybe you don’t really want the expense of a smartphone, you might consider Apple’s iPod Touch which has many of the features of an iPhone except a phone, and without the expensive two year cellular data contract.  More about the differences between the iPhone and iPod Touch in my iPhone Tips post.  (One of the downsides to an iPod Touch is that you’ll often need to carry that in addition to a cell phone, whereas if you have a smart phone, you’ll have both in one device.)

The LaptopMag.com Smartphone Buying Guide has some helpful comparisons of different smart phone features, including OSs, phone cameras, battery life, cell networks, and phone size.

Of course Consumer Reports is always a great place to look for reviews and comparisons of electronics such as smart phones.  A subscription is required to view some of this information online, but you may be able to get a print copy of the magazine at your library, or get access to Consumer Reports online via your public library web site.

cnet.com is a reliable source of electronics reviews such as their Best Phones page.

As always, Amazon.com is one of my favorite places to get lots of customer reviews on products such as smart phones.

Features to Consider

When shopping, among other features, remember to consider

  • OS (iOS – iPhone, Android or Windows) – features, interface ease of use, and number of apps available
  • Battery life
  • Phone size
  • Camera resolution (mega pixels – MP) and reviews
  • Quality of cellular network and terms of the contract

Cellular Network Reviews

Several of the articles above suggest checking the quality of the different cellular networks.  Following are some sites which compare the different networks.

Consumer Reports Cell Phones and Services

Cnet Quick Guide to Cell Phone Carriers

Why I Love My iPhone

Now that I’ve given you lots of resources for deciding which is the best smart phone for you, I want to say why I love my iPhone.

  • Stable, intuitive, high quality OS – My husband and I really feel that Apple works hard to create excellent products.  They seem to test new features to death before releasing them.  The interface is considered by many to be the easiest to use and designed to be as intuitive as possible.
  • Small size phone that fits easily in a pocket or purse.
  • More apps than any other smartphone OS.

Feel free to comment below on the smart phone features most important to you and what you love most about your smart phone.

Happy Shopping!

My Favorite Digital Camera

canonSX260About a year ago, my family gave me the Canon SX260 Digital Camera as a gift.  I had actually researched and chosen it first since I’m rather particular about my electronics and I have a much stronger opinion on them than my husband.  This was my fourth digital camera if you don’t count cell phone cameras, so I have a lot of experience with digital camera features and this is definitely my favorite camera so far.

I really like that this camera has a good speed for it’s awesomely compact size and its price range.  I have three kids and I need a camera fast enough to keep up with them.  It also has a good 12.1MP resolution and even better, 20x optical zoom considering it’s size.  I love that it has all this and it will fit in my purse!

My camera is the Red which looks to me like a dark pink or raspberry and I really like the fun color.  It is also available in black, grey and green.

As for negatives, I fully agree with the reviews that the flash pops up right under my fingers which is annoying.  However I like all the other features so much that I’m happy to accept this one fault.

When I started my research before buying this camera, I really wanted a viewfinder instead of using the LCD screen to frame photos.  It’s difficult to find a camera with a viewfinder that is also compact, and in the price range that I could accept.  I’m very happy with my choice of a compact camera and have given up my desire for a viewfinder.

Finally, I really like to wear my camera on a neckstrap so that my hands are free and my camera is ready for use.  But compact cameras don’t seem to come with neckstraps or even the ability to use a neckstrap with them.  I would really like to have a place to attach a neckstrap on both sides of cameras instead of just a wrist strap on one side (in case Canon happens to see this review).  My solution to this problem was to buy a neckstrap lanyard that attaches to the camera in place of the wrist strap.  I can use this as a neckstrap or wrap it around my wrist when I prefer.

I highly recommend this camera for it’s speed, 20x optical zoom, compact size and overall great quality for its price!

iPhone Tips

My husband and I both have iPhones which we love!

I started with an iPod Touch in July 2010.  My husband soon saw how great it was and got one too.  Finally, when our cell phones were eligible for upgrades, we got iPhones!

There are a lot of smart phone options available, but between Apple’s iOS and Android operating systems, we strongly prefer Apple’s products since we feel that they are really well made and new features are thoroughly tested before being released.

iPhone vs. iPod Touch and iPad

The main difference between the iPod Touch and iPhone is that the iTouch is not a cell phone.  Other than that,  iTouch can use WiFi to access the Internet, use iPhone apps, and in most other ways is just like an iPhone. (And there’s a lot the iTouch can do while offline too!)

The other significant difference between the iTouch and iPhone is that the iTouch has a lower resolution camera than the iPhone.  The latest version of the iTouch (5th generation) has a 5MP rear camera, while the current iPhone has an 8MP rear camera.  (Be aware that the 16GB iTouch does not have a rear camera, only a 1.2MP front camera for FaceTime video chat.)

The iPad creates much less confusion as it is clearly an Apple tablet device and not a cell phone.

What the three devices all have in common is that they all use the Apple iOS software as their operating system (as Microsoft PC’s use a version of the Windows operating system.) Therefore, they can all use most of the same apps from the iTunes Store.

Wikipedia has a lot of useful info on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

iOS Tips

Following are a lot of the features of the iPhone that I have discovered just through using it over the last several years.  Most of these features also apply to the iPod Touch and iPad as well since they all use iOS.

“.” Shortcut – double tapping on the space bar adds a “.”  (set this option in Settings App, General, Keyboard).

Enable Caps Lock – double tapping on the shift key turns on caps lock (set this option in Settings App, General, Keyboard).

Auto Correct is a feature that attempts to automatically correct or complete your typing.  However it can also create some funny or frustrating text when it supplies words that you didn’t intend as evidenced by the many of these available at damnyouautocorrect.com.  If you prefer to turn off Auto Correct, go to the Settings App, General, Keyboard.

Shortcuts can be set up to assist you with typing.  For example, I have a shortcut that turns “tmrw” into “tomorrow.”  These are helpful when typing on the tiny virtual keyboard as opposed to a physical keyboard. Set shortcuts in Settings App, General, Keyboard, Shortcuts.

Turn the device a quarter turn to type in landscape mode in many apps which gives you a wider keyboard.

Shake the device to undo the last typing action.

Tap and hold many keys (vowels, .com, etc.) for extra keyboard options.

Screen capture – press and hold the power button (top of the device) and then press home button (bottom center of the device) at the same time. Images go to the Photos app, Camera Roll folder. This is great for saving an image of email and web coupons on the iTouch for use in stores when you don’t have WiFi access.  I also find this useful on the iPhone as it’s faster to flip through images of coupons in the photos app then hunting for the right email with the coupon while standing at a store register while the cashier waits.

Select text – touch and hold text to select text, then choose a select option from the menu. You can change the selection using the dots on the selected text.

Position the cursor in text – touch and hold then use the magnifying circle to position the cursor.

Insert image in email – you can insert an image(s) in an email with touch and hold in the email body. In the menu that comes up, tap the arrow on the right. Then select Insert Photo or Video, and choose the image(s) you want from the Camera Roll.

The Notifications screen is accessed by swiping your finger from the top of the screen down.

The Control Center is accessed by swiping your finger from the bottom of the screen up. The Control Center allows you to set many features including music controls, flash light, do not disturb, and calculator.

The Search screen is accessed by swiping your finger from the middle of the screen down (previous versions of the iOS accessed the search screen by swiping from left to right.)  The search option allows you to search all of your emails, apps and all other content on the device.

OS X Daily Emails

OS X Daily is a blog that you can subscribe to for daily emails with great iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) and Mac OS X tips.

What is your favorite iPhone tip?  Comment below!

Have fun with your Apple mobile device!

Be Aware of Location Info on Photos!

Most smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras add location information to photos, called geotags, by default.  Geotags identify the location where the photo was taken which means they would reveal your home address or other locations you frequent with your family.  It’s very Important to check this setting on your digital camera devices and make sure that it is turned off.

about geotags, but the instructions for turning off location info on iphones is outdated.  The correct method is Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services -> Camera switch to Off.

The Digital Zen blog also has a post with useful information about geotags.

Love My Chromebook!

I bought a Samsung 11″ Chromebook laptop in February and I love it!  I was researching laptops and considered several different types.

Windows 8 is getting bad reviews, and I’m so tired of the unstable, high maintenance Windows operating systems.  In addition, to get a Windows laptop with decent processing speed, it was going to cost easily over $500.

If money were no object, I’d get a Mac laptop.  No question.  But while I think very highly of Apple’s excellent quality products (love my iphone!), they are priced outrageously high!

A friend’s daughter has a Chromebook and really likes it.  I started doing research and decided that it was worth trying. The Chromebook runs the Chrome operating system (OS) (as opposed to Windows or Mac OSX) which is a browser based OS.  While some have claimed that without WiFi, it’s as good as a brick, there are also apps, such as Gmail Offline, that allow you to continue to work with your email and Google docs without an Internet connection.

For my purposes, I wanted a device with a physical keyboard and a decent size screen for typing long emails, viewing web pages not intended for mobile devices’ tiny screens, doing word processing, working with spreadsheets, doing WordPress web design, and image editing.  I had already been using Gmail as my email interface and was using Google Drive for docs and spreadsheets anyway. With the current trend in cloud computing (storing your data on the Internet so that it’s accessible from whichever device you happen to have at the moment), there are a lot of applications available via the web, including several image editing applications (such as Pixlr) which I will share in a future post.

I chose the Samsung 11″ Chromebook because it has very good reviews on Amazon, and I like the feel of the keyboard and track pad.  I like the 11″ screen size which is small enough to be very portable and lightweight, but feels to me like plenty of screen space.  I read reviews for different Chromebooks which discussed the feel of the keyboard and trackpad, so I went to a couple stores before buying so that I could try them out.  The Samsung keyboard has a satisfying clicky feel as opposed to the different feel of some other brands.  Seeing them in person also gave me a chance to see their actual size and compare their weight.

The Samsung 11″ Chromebook is about $250 on Amazon.  It has a 16 GB hard drive and two USB ports.  If you need more storage space than the hard drive (keep in mind that Google Drive gives you 15 GB of cloud storage), you can get a SanDisk 32GB USB Flash Drive for under $20.  This Chromebook also comes with an offer for a free 100 GB Google Drive storage for two years.

Set-up was as easy as the reviews say.  I just plugged it in, turned it on, and signed into my Google account.  I spent a little time becoming familiar with the Chrome browser and settings since I had only recently started using it.

If you’re considering a Chromebook, I’d highly recommend installing the free Chrome browser on your current device.  Since the OS is based on the Chrome browser, that is the essence of the Chromebook experience.  Now I love that I can use the Chrome browser on my laptop, iPhone, and desktop PC (on rare occasions); and I always have access to all my bookmarks!

While I am very happy with the Chromebook, there are a couple of limitations to the that I’ve found –

  • Google Docs does not have a columns feature (looking into Open Office which appears to support columns)
  • iTunes doesn’t run on Chrome and it’s required to sync, update and back-up my iPhone
  • GoZone pedomenter only had software for Windows and Mac for uploading data to their web site (I’ve sent them feedback on this)

We’re now considering getting another Chromebook for the kids when it’s time to replace their PC.  Most of what they do is Google Drive for school, email, and web games anyway.

Following are some videos and web pages that I found helpful in researching my decision to buy a Chromebook.

Chrome OS Guided Tour video – great intro to the Chrome OS

PCWorld – Chromebook power tips: How to work smarter online and offline

PCWorld – How I survived 7 days in Chromebook exile

E-Book Pricing

This post was originally on my previous blog September 2013.

Amazon.com and the big publishers may never see this post, but I feel compelled to speak my mind nonetheless.

In case you haven’t heard about the ebook pricing battle between Amazon and the big six publishers, basically Steve Jobs of Apple and the big six publishers forced Amazon to stop offering ebooks at deeply discounted prices.  The US Justice Dept. began an investigation in 12/2011 to determine whether this constituted collusion to fix prices.

As a result of the efforts of the big six publishers, Amazon has no control over the pricing of ebooks from the big publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.  Instead, these publishers dictate to Amazon what the ebook prices will be.

As a consumer, I certainly would love to be able to get really cheap ebook copies of the top selling novels.  However, I can also appreciate that publishers spend a lot of money to cultivate new authors, edit their writing and promote their books.  Publishers say that they have the best chance of making back the money invested in a book through the hardback book sales.

So just as we all learned to get along with others in Kindergarten, ebook pricing also comes down to a simple matter of compromise between Amazon and the publishers.

My proposal is that during an agreed upon initial hardback sales period of about three to six months, Amazon could discount the ebook version of a book no more than 40% off the print list price.  That would mean that a book selling for $25 in hardback would sell for $15 in ebook.  This pricing would prevent the ebook from being priced so low that it’s sales cut into the hardback sales, and yet prices ebook version at an amount that takes into consideration it’s lower cost to manufacture and distribute.  Three to six months is typically the time period during which the book has the longest wait time for availability at the public library, so making the ebook available at a moderate discount also increases the book sales in this format at a time when it’s difficult to acquire through the library.

After the initial sale period, Amazon and other resellers could discount ebooks without limitation.  The $9.99 Boycott indicates that many ebook readers feel that $9.99 or less is an appropriate ebook price and this point in a book’s life would be a good time for that price.

This arrangement actually has an advantage to publishers in that it allows resellers to price ebooks competitively with used books and paperback copies and thereby increase book sales.  Ebooks are much less expensive to produce and distribute than print copies and therefore, have the potential to generate a higher profit per sale.

In the case of used book sales, publishers make nothing each time a used book is sold.  However a publisher makes money every time that an ebook is sold since it cannot currently be sold secondhand, so competitive pricing of ebooks in the later phase of sales actually benefits publishers.

An ebook should continue to be discounted throughout it’s life approximately a dollar a year.  Once it has been out five to ten years, the ebook should be priced at $5 or less.  This pricing allows an older ebook to be competitive with the pricing of the used print copies.

For more information on Kindles and ebook pricing, see my Kindle Notes page.

Parental Movie Reviews

This post was originally on my previous blog September 2013.

As a parent I strive to closely supervise the movies that my kids watch.  It isn’t always easy to know which movies are appropriate for kids, but I’ve found some great tools that make at least this part of parenting much easier.  There are a couple of web sites with movie reviews for parents and I wanted to share them in the hope that they’ll make parenting easier for others as well.

IMDB

IMDB.com, the Internet Movie Database, is a great collection of movie information.  You can look up any movie, TV show, or actor.  From there, you can look up a wealth of related info.  It’s great for settling that nagging question of “That actress looks really familiar.  What else have I seen her in?”

IMDB also has a detailed Parents Guide for each movie that can help a parent decide which movies are appropriate for their kids and consistent with their values.  Users have submitted information from the movie for each of the following categories: Sex and Nudity, Violence and Gore, Profanity, Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking, and Frightening/Intense Scenes.

I’ve looked at a lot of parental review sites and I’ve found this format to be the best combination of detailed information and concise format.

Common Sense Media

CommonSenseMedia.org is another great site for parental reviews of movies, books and video games.  CommonSenseMedia gives reviews of movies and a recommended minimum age for each movie.  It also has a rating for content in the categories of positive messages, violence, sex, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs and smoking.

Movie Ratings

One of the reason that I find parental movie reviews so helpful is that even when I’ve seen a movie in the past, I often can’t accurately recall what details might not be appropriate for kids.  An example of this is the movie Big from 1988 with Tom Hanks.  This movie is about a boy 12 year old boy who wakes up in the body of grown man and has a PG rating.  However, because the boy finds himself in a number of adult situations, it is best that parents make an informed decision about whether a movie is appropriate for their kids instead of relying on the movie rating.