Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Should I buy a Windows 8 PC?

If you need a new PC, now is a great time to get one and don't let Windows 8 stop you. Now don't go getting a new PC just because you think Windows 8 needs a new PC either. This is NOT the case. If you need a new PC...Get One!

See my article on Windows 8. 

Just announced January 17, the Windows 8 introductory prices are going way up! Upgrade will be $119 Feb 1. Get the upgrade before then for $39g.99.

This new round of Windows PCs built for the new Windows 8 Operating System are hitting the market right now.  To get the most out of Windows 8 you will want to get one that is touch-capable. That is you can touch the screen to navigate around Windows. Although this feature is not new, it has evolved much and is a major benefit to Windows 8. Recent tablets like Apple's iPad are touch-cable. In fact, using a keyboard or mouse is NOT the norm to get a great experience. The new Windows PCs with touch give you the benefits of a tablet without losing the power of a laptop.

All of the major brands are embracing this new Windows 8 experience so there is a lot of choice. In my opinion, there might be a bit too much choice. To a certain extent, there are so many looks and configurations that one might get confused and have a difficult time deciding which to get. It will likely take the better part of a year before the masses gravitate to a narrower group of hardware while the less chosen fall by the wayside.

We have the common desktop, laptop, tablet, ultra book, hybrid and all-in-one. I'll describe these and show some pictures so you can be better prepared when you trek to the store to shop.

All the buzz surrounds new Windows tablets called Surface with Windows RT.  The Surface was made to compete directly with Apple's iPad and it does pretty well for the most part. From the articles I've read, the common complaint only seems to be that it is a bit sluggish but the look and feel are quite good. The Surface with Windows RT comes with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) pre-installed. This is a slightly scaled down version of Office but virtually all of us will be quite comfortable with it. You can even get a keyboard cover (priced extra) for the Microsoft Surface tablet. The Surface starts at $499 just like the iPad. It is wise to note that Windows RT, a version of Windows 8, does NOT let one install older Windows 7 software. Like the iPad, you will use newly created software that you can get from the Windows App Store right from the Surface.

Simon Bisson of ZDNet says  "what I've been looking in a tablet for years now has been something that's light, powerful, and above all, able to run Office. That's why my last four laptops have been tablet PCs. They've all been powerful, they've all run Office, but they have never ever been light. That's where Surface has the advantage."

Laptops and notebooks  have expanded to Ultra books, very thin and light, to convertibles, where the screen flips around. But the standard laptop is still alive and well and still popular but with Windows 8 and a touch screen, using the laptop is easier and just more fun. Laptops come from many suppliers and the sky is the limit on capability and price so do some comparisons. For those that want a regular PC that can run older Windows programs yet still does Windows 8 where surfing the web and checking e-mail are the common chores, then the less expensive laptops with Windows 8 will work just fine. There really isn't a badly built laptop for this type of person.

Ultra books and the next generation of thin and light and very powerful laptops are for the more technology savvy person. One who needs a powerful processor and speed. Check out the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 for $999. This a thin Ultra book that is also a convertible where the screen folds all the way around flat. It's a little thicker than a tablet but a very powerful PC.

Source: HP
Scott Glenn of CNET says that The Hybrid Windows PC is "a tablet that turns into a laptop or a laptop that turns into a tablet." This genre of Windows PC begins with the Microsoft Surface Table and tablets made from the likes of Acer, Asus and Samsung running Windows RT. After the first of the year the more powerful Surface Pro that runs Windows 8 that can run those older Windows programs. Some of these will be Hybrid in nature where keyboards can slip or click on to the back of a keyboard.

One of my personal favorites is the all-in-one style where the large monitor contains the DVD/CD drive and computer innards. Add a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse and you have a small foot print Windows PC that doesn't have that bird's nest of wires all around. Again, using the touch-capable Windows 8 and you've got a real joy for a PC and one that is easy to see. Check out Windows 8 all-in-one PCs from Samsung, HP, Gateway, Dell, Vizio and Lenovo priced from $550 to $1,400.

All in all, the current crop of new Windows PCs should be able to meet every one's needs. I have read that people are waiting on a new purchase because there is uncertainty with Windows 8. From my experience with Windows 8, the new operating system is absolutely no reason to wait on a new PC. If your old one is on it's last leg, feel comfortable that getting a new one with Windows 8 will not make your sweat.

News from Microsoft as reported on the Windows Blog.

"As we pass the one month anniversary of the general availability of Windows 8, we are please to announce that to-date Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses. Tam Reller shared this news with industry and financial analysts, investors and media today at the Credit Suise 2012 Annual Technology Conference. Windows 8 is outpacing Windows 7 PCs. And we also set out to make upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 super easy."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Should I buy Windows 8?

Windows 8 has a beautiful look and feel to it. The application icons are larger and show information right on them. These larger icons are called "live tiles". Most existing Windows programs will work on Windows 8. And you do not need to upgrade your current PC's memory, hard drive or processor to install Windows 8 either. A Windows 8 PC starts up in about 25 seconds and apps start faster too. Microsoft Word opens in 2 seconds. So, should you upgrade to Windows 8?

Just announced January 17, the Windows 8 introductory prices are going way up! Upgrade will be $119 Feb 1. Get the upgrade before then for $39g.99.

As is the answer for many questions, it depends. For many, the PC is something you use to get things done. Check a little email, surf the web and that's about it. Some will even do all of their finances on it. They want the PC to work, not be work and learning a new operating system might be considered a waste of least for some. If this is the case for you, passing on Windows 8 would be OK. Windows 7 works perfectly well. It's safe, smooth and you know how to do your stuff on it. Even if you have Windows XP you might still be good by staying where you are.

A computer enthusiast will probably go right ahead (likely already has) and take the plunge to Windows 8. I did and have absolutely no regrets.

If, on the other hand, you are pondering getting a new desktop, laptop or even one of those new Microsoft tablets, go ahead and do it. Do NOT let a new Windows 8 operating system stop you. Windows 8 works great and is easy to use. Most new PCs will have "touch". That is you can touch the screen to start apps and navigate around by swiping the screen from left to right or right to left.

I know, having to learn something new is not much fun. But, do you remember moving into your current home? The kitchen cabinets were different and you had to put things away in slightly different places and it took a while to get used to where things were. But you got used to it didn't you? Well that's the way it is with Windows 8.

If you are thinking about a new PC, go right ahead and do it. Windows 8 will be very good especially if the screen is a "touch screen". Windows 8 was designed for "touch". Please be aware. Windows RT will NOT run older Windows software. Windows 8 laptops, Ultrabooks and All in Ones will. Windows 8 tablets will hit shelves in January. (More on Windows 8 PCs in my next article)
  • If you are keeping your current PC or laptop, keeping Windows 7 is a safe bet.
  • If you are seriously pondering an upgrade, click here to take a look at the steps. Use the Upgrade Assistant to examine your current PC to see what is needed. Windows 8 works perfectly well with a keyboard and mouse.

If you would like more details on upgrading to Windows 8, Paul Thurott (author of Windows 7 Secrets and Windows 8 Secrets) shows what to do based on your current Windows version. See the links below.

Upgrade from Windows XP
Upgrade from Windows Vista
Upgrade from Windows 7
Upgrade from Windows 8 Release Preview

NOTE: You would actually upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. Windows 7 Upgrade cost me $109.00 3 years ago so this is a great deal.

If you'd like to take a quick preview of Windows 8, click here and watch a few quick videos from the Microsoft website.

Coming soon...Tablet Grandpa talks about new PCs and tablets for Windows 8.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Make FREE Video Calls with Skype. Here's How

Overseas Military personnel and their families keep in contact by video call using Skype. You too can use Skype to say hello and see your grandchildren at the same time.

Unlike Apple's FaceTime app which only works on Apple products, Skype is available for all types of computers and smart phones so anyone can participate. And it's FREE too.
Here's how to get started
  1. Create a Skype account at It's FREE.
  2. Install the FREE Skype software on your PC, tablet or smartphone.
  3. Setup Skype on your phone, tablet or PC (Windows or Mac)
  4. Search for contacts
  5. Make the call!
Go to
Create a Skype account. It's FREE

Setting up Skype
  1. From Skype, search for another person who has Skype and add them as a contact. A Skype message will be sent to the other person for permission to be a contact.
  2. Make the Skype call.

Choose the Skype Contact

Make the Call!
Making a Video call from a smartphone
A Skype Contact Profile
Skype is FREE with basic features. More advanced feature have a charge.

Please note:
  • Your device must have a network connection and a camera that faces you. 
  • Some carriers will allow video conference over a standard 3G connection while others will not. Either contact your carrier or give this a try to see. If not, make sure you are connected to the Internet via WiFi.
  • Skype can work while on 3G or 4G but works best on WiFi.
Your Skype User Name and regular name are ways for people to search for you. Please remember this when setting up your Skype account.
Using Skype can be FREE but you see frequent notes talking of premium or extra features, all with additional costs. My advice is to hold your ground until you find you use Skype more and more and feel you could indeed use those extra features.
Get Skype for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch from the Apple App Store.
Get Skype for Android from the Google Play Store.
Get Skype for Wmdows or Mac at
Get Skype for Wndows 8 from the Wndows store from within Wndows 8.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How To Use FaceTime on iPad or iPhone to make Video Calls

The FaceTime camera, on an iPad 2 or later, iPhone or Mac lets you talk face to face or switch to the front facing camera (Apple calls it the iSight camera) to share what you see around you. And for FREE.

I don't see that many people using FaceTime or other video calling and it surprises me. Heck, I don't use it and I'm going to change that right now. I'm going to make every effort to get my relatives to try FaceTime with me. I would like to see my grand kids, nieces and nephews, etc. more often.  How about you?
To use FaceTime, you need an Apple ID and a Wi-Fi connection to the internet. When you open FaceTime, you may be prompted to sign in using your Apple ID, or to create a New Account.

Set options for FaceTime: go to settings and choose FaceTime.
Turn FaceTime On and Create or Choose Email.

Turn the switch to On.
Options include specifying a phone number, Apple ID, or email address to use with FaceTime. (Although it make ask you to create a new email address, you can use your current one if you choose. I do)

Make a FaceTime call. After opening FaceTime, tab Contacts, choose a name, then tap the phone number or email address the person uses for FaceTime. (the person you are calling must have previously set up FaceTime just like you did)
See your Contacts, Favorites or Recent Calls
You can also make a FacTime call from the Contacts app.

Rotate the iPad to use FaceTime in either landscape or portrait. I prefer portrait.

Restart a recent call. Tap Recents, then choose a name of number.

Use Favorites. Tape Favorites.

  • Add a favorite. Tap + and choose a contact.
  • Call a favorite. Tap a name in the list.

From the iPad User Guide

* FaceTime only connects with people using FaceTime. FaceTime is only found on Apple iPhones/iPads/iPod Touch and Macs that have cameras.
NOTE: Apple says FaceTime may not be available in all areas. On iPad Wi-Fi plus cellular models, FaceTime calls can be made over a cellular data connection. Cdellular data charges may apply. Otherwise use FaceTime while on a Wi-Fi and these video calls will be FREE.
Check the iPad/iPhone User Guide for more details on setting up FaceTime. See my article about how to find the User Guide.

Not everyone has an Apple iPade, iPhone or Mac so I will write another article for using Skype. Stay Tuned.

If your other friends or family doesn't have an IOS device, FREE video calls are still possible using Skype. See my article on how to setup and use Skype.