Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Listening to Audible Books -- WOW!

Although I have a vision disability I can still enjoy books but by listening to them.
Shortly after my vision degraded to it's current level, I took to listening to books on my smartphone and PC and enjoyed the experience very, very much. Listening took me to a place where visualizing became possible when I didn't have to look at the page. Wow, what a feeling. I could just sit in a corner with my ear buds plugged in and listen away. Of course when spoken to I wouldn't be able to hear and that has been another experience to deal with. I've also been known to simply look like I was in a far away place or simply appeared to be asleep. And one could look anti-social. However, for many, listening to books in the car is a wonderful way to take in a book.

At first, I either purchased or checked out books on CD from the Library and put them into iTunes and synchronized to my phone. This worked great with my previous iPhone and works well with the Android smartphone but with some different software. At first I used DoubleTwist (FREE) then moved to Amazon Cloud Player (FREE with a moderate amount of space to remain FREE). Both are available for the Mac, PC, iPhone/iPad and Android.

I have now discovered Audlble. I purchase Audible books, books to be listened to only, and use the FREE Audible software for my Android smartphone to listen to the books. Wow, now this is a rich experience. I don't have to worry about importing the book on CD to my PC and then synchronizing to the smartphone or iPad. I avoid all of this work and simply bring the book to the smartphone directly.

Audible has over 100,000 books including best sellers.  Audible works on MP3 players, PC, Mac, IOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch), Android smartphones and Windows Phones. I just finished listening to Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reily and Martin Dugard, which was narrated by Bill O'Reilley himself. Bill O'Reilley is on FOX News cable.

I've written about the Kindle software as one of my Top 10 Most Useful Apps and still use it. I don't own a Kindle tablet of any kind, I just use the FREE Kindle software on my PC, iPad and Android smartphone. Of course I use the absolute largest text size and space the rows out to the max (see screen shot below). I use the same large text on my iPad too.
One of the absolutely fabulous features of Kindle is that you can stop reading with the phone and pickup at precisely the same place on the iPad or PC. Amazon, who owns Kindle, allows the last page to synchronize to the web and then synchronize back down to the other devices. Since Audible is now an Amazon Company, the same feature works with Audible books. Leave off with the phone and pick-up right where you left off on the iPad, PC or Mac.  Kindle works well but... listening to Audible books is simply devine.

So, take up reading again or give listening a try.

Here are some reviews of the products I've used.
Kindle (software)
Amazon Cloud Player

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Should you bother with cloud storage for documents?

Using a cloud service may not be of any value to you. You might simply say "why should I" and you could very well be right. Here are a few examples of how you might use a Cloud storage service.

  •  You have important documents that your adult children need access to (Trust, Last Will, etc.). Put them in the cloud and give them access. If you change the documents, they will see those changes.
  • You have a desktop or laptop but also have a tablet. Store all documents to the cloud so all machines can access or change the documents wherever you are.
  • You've had a rare and dreadful experience with a computer crash and lost everything on the computer.
  • You and a business partner or spouse have your own computers but need to share documents.
  • You had a horrible experience switching to a new PC and could not get to your important documents to move them to the new PC.
If any of these statements are true then cloud storage can be of value.

How does cloud storage really work? Is it complicated? It is NOT complicated... really. The "cloud" is just an Internet site. Don't worry, all of these cloud storage companies have very secure sites. I am very comfortable with the ones I use.

  1. When you install the cloud provider software, you create a User I'd and password and the software creates a unique folder on your PC.
  2. You move folders and files into that new folder.
  3. This folder is synchronized to the cloud.
  4. The cloud synchronizes to other PCs when installing the same cloud provider software and using the same User ID and Password. It's really secure.
Cloud folders as they appear in Windows Explorer

There are many cloud storage products to choose from. Most are FREE for a certain amount of space and charge an annual or monthly fee to get additional space. I use Dropbox because of the large number of iPad apps that utilize it. I also use Microsoft's Skydrive, Google's Google Drive and SugarSynch. I only pay for extra storage on Google Drive as I also use it to store a large amount of photos using Google's Picassa.

I use SugarSynch as a backup solution for my laptop. It backs up files immediately and invisible to me. Since my data file well exceed the Free portion, I pay about $50 per year to calmly know my data is immediately backed up to the cloud. I know if I ever lost or had my laptop stolen, I could quickly and easily restore everything to my new PC using SugarSynch. Oh, I use SugarSynch on my Android phone to copy photos to my PC, right though the cloud.

Here are links to some of the popular cloud storage companies.

SkyDrive from Microsoft
Google Drive from Google
ICloud from Apple
Amazon Cloud Drive

Search the Internet for cloud storage to see a much larger list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can the iPad do Office?

Although Microsoft Office is not an app for the iPad today(rumors have it this will change late this year or early next), there are quite a few apps that will create, open and allow you to edit and save Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). There are many alternatives and at various prices. I usually start at the lowest price (hopefully FREE) and see which has the features I need.

For the purposes of this article, Microsoft Office apps will be Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There are other apps included in Office but we will not address them here. Well, a brief word about One Note, Microsoft's note taking app. One Note is indeed available for iPad and is FREE. Notes can even synchronize back and forth between the Office version and the iPad version. I've been using One Note since 2005 for work (when I was working) and personal notes and absolutely love it.


I heard someone say the other night that the iPad can't do Office documents because there isn't a place to save them on the iPad. Although the iPad doesn't come with a file explorer like Windows, files can indeed be saved to the iPad. In addition, one can use the cloud to retieve documents to the iPad. More on cloud storage in a future article.


Apple's Keynote, Pages and, Numbers ($9.99 each). Apple makes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation programs and they are pretty darn good. I've used Numbers and it works fine. However, the price is a bit much considering the many other alternatives. These apps are tightly integrated with Apple's iCloud storage service.



Documents To Go from DataViz, ($9.99 or $16.99 for the premium version) Documents To Go includes Word To Go, and Sheets To Go apps. The Premium version includes Slideshow To Go along with cloud apps integration like Dropbox, SugarSynch, Google Docs, Sky Drive and box brand. Documents To Go has been around for many, many years when Pocket PCs and the Palm Pilot were around and I used Documents To Go then. It is very good and worth trying.


Quick Office Pro HD. $19.99. Quick Office has been around for a few years and was just purchased by Google. Expect to see better integration or a possible replacement of Google Docs. I have not used Quick Office Pro. The price is pretty steep for me.


Office2 HD. $7.99. Document, Workbook and Presentation. Office2 HD integrates with the common cloud services too.Office2 HD is my current choice for Office replacement apps and works well. I can save documents directly to my iPad or to the cloud. For the price and features I like Office2 HD very much.


CloudOn. FREE. App that has scaled down versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With CloudOn, you actually run real versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the web. These are slightly scailed down versions but true none the less. CloudOn maintains licenses for people to use these Office apps on the web and all that is needed is to create a user name and password to use CloudOn. Documents are are not stored on the iPad with CloudOn. You can connect Cloudon to Dropbox, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) and Box. Once done, you documents are all on the cloud and you can access them from any PC as long as you have your cloud service user id and password. I have adopted cloud storage for 100% of my Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and virtually all PDF files.



OnLive Desktop. FREE. Microsoft Office apps in the cloud. I used OnLive for a short while and stopped. Like CloudOn, you actually run a web based version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint right on your iPad. It runs just a hair slower than an app on the iPad. I have seen where one could not start Word because too man y people were already using up the Word licenses on the web. This has been mostly resolved. Menu options were a little close together and difficult for me to select. Onlive went through an ownership change during the last 30 days so I thought I would see if the app still works. I could not log in so maybe not.

I am moving back and forth between Office2 HD and CloudOniPad. Rumors abound on this topic and I'm following closely.


Adobe Acrobat documents (PDF's) can be opened and even edited and saved on the iPad. Here is a brief list of Apps. Check the Apple App Store and search for Adobe. All of the 3 apps below allow one to draw or type on to PDFs and save, including nice signature features. PDF Expert is a really good, full featured, app and I use it a lot. I just discovered Adobe Reader for iPad and and liking it's features too and the FREE price is a bonus.

  • Adobe Reader. FREE.
  • GoDocs. $.99.
  • PDF Expert. $9.99.
  • A myriad of others in the App Store

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Try Twitter--It's Really Fun

I like reading what people have to say but only in small amounts. I like seeing what is happening in the news before it hits the news shows. Every day I like to read blogs on subjects I am interested in. There are some very funny people out there and I like reading humorous tidbits. I need a place to announce my latest blog posts to people who like to read what I have to say.

Twitter is the place for all of this. Twitter is a simple place to read or write casually. I don't write much at all but I read Twitter a lot. Sure, there might be things not worth reading--just pass them by. If someone tweets stuff you don't want to read, simply stop following them (unfollow in Twitter lingo). Don't worry, no one will know you skipped their writings.


Here is a brief Twitter Glossary.

  • A tweet. This is a post made by a Twitter user. It is no more than 144 characters.
  • Follow: If some one's tweets are in your stream or view on the screen,then you are following them.
  • Follower: Someone who is reading your tweets, that is if you write any tweets.

For a more complete Twitter Glossary, click here.


Using Twitter is FREE for the masses. You will see some unobtrusive ads on pages and that's how Twitter receives revenue. You can use Twitter on your PC, smartphone or tablet.


Twitter on the web with your PC

See a large view of the Twitter reading area. The most recent tweets appear at the top. There are some twitter replacement apps for the PC too. Tweetdeck and Twitterific to name a couple. Many people want to see a slightly different screen or like some of the creative features the replacements apps have to offer that Twitter doesn't provide in their own app.


Twitter on a smartphone or tablet

The Twitter app or replacement Twitter app, on your smartphone or tablet is a smaller view of Twitter. The screens might look a litter different but it shows the same twitter information.

Twitter Replacement Seismic for Android
Twitter Replacement Echofon on the iPad
Twitter and twitter replacement apps, are available for tablets too (iPad and Android tablets). Some Twitter replacements for tablets and smartphones are FREE while others have a small cost.


It is really easy to get started with Twitter. Go to and create a FREE Twitter account. Just create a user ID and a password and you're all set! Next, open on the PC, smartphone or tablet. Then choose some people to follow. Think about actors or news and sports personalities to follow.


I mostly read Twitter on my iPad using the Echofon Twitter replacement app. Echofon allows me to increase the text size to make the screen is easy to read (great due to my vision disability). I can actually read Twitter on my smarphone using one of the replacement Twitter apps called Seismic. It too allows me to enlarge the text to a readable size. The regular Twitter app doesn't have the ability to enlarge the text size so it is a "no go" for me.


Give Twitter try for a few days. Here are some of the people I follow on Twitter.

James Kendrick. A tech blogger who I've read and listened to for about 8 years.

Anderson Cooper of CNN. I love reading small takes on where Anderson is reporting from.

CNN itself. Get the latest and greatest news headlines as they happen.

Paul Thurott. Another tech blogger who is an expert of the good and bad of Microsoft.

Denny Hamlin. A NASCAR driver who drives the number 11 car. Denny writes personal stuff just before and after a race.

Simon Cowell from the X Factor. No one says funny and harsh stuff like Simon.

GleeonFox. If you are a GLEE fan like me, hear the latest and greatest news about GLEE.

Sfearthquakes. Get a tweet every time there is a San Francisco area earthquake.

MarsCuriosity. For the space buffs around, hear about the latest Mars rover called Curiosity. One of the engineers writes about the happenings from Mars as if the rover has a brain and writing in the first person.

Andy Blasquez. Andy is a Contra Costa County Real Estate Agent and writes a very good Real Estate Blog.

TabletGrandpa. Of course there's me. Hear about my latest blog post right here on Twitter. Sometimes I share some of the very interesting tweets of people I follow.


Here's a very good How to use Twitter article.