Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Windows 8 End User Training Brochure for Beginners. Short, Sweet and Pretty Good

Download this new Windows 8 End User Training Brochure--I call it a terrific, 36 page Getting Started Guide. I strongly believe Microsoft could have dramatically changed people's first impression of Windows 8 if this simple document was made available early on.

It is an easy and fast read at only 36 pages and those pages have great pictures with easy to understand text. In fact, this FREE guide could be read before one purchases Windows 8. It would certainly remove many fears of the new operating system.

One of the things I really like about this guide is that it is written for beginners. The language is kept plain and avoids "geek speak". It also shows how to use the mouse and keyboard to get around as well as touch. We must remember that many will upgrade to Windows 8 on older PCs instead of buying a new computer that has the new touch feature.

Also note the very good description of Internet Explorer 10. I've heard from many beginners that they don't like Internet Explorer on Windows 8 because there are no longer tabs. Indeed there are tabs but they are out of the way to allow for a much better view of the page and those friendly tabs can be easily seen with a single click or swipe.


I also question a few things about this guide but don't take these as serious faults. Microsoft shows the File History feature on page 19. I think of File History, a very good yet different method of backing up files but for those beyond "beginner" status. Yes, having a method to backup important information is valuable but I consider many other topics much more important for beginners to become more comfortable with Windows 8.

Another unnecessary topic for this guide is on page 24 where Microsoft describes Windows To Go, Windows 8 Enterprise In Your Pocket. Just how many people does Microsoft think will use this feature, let lane beginners? I'm sure some will but, heavens, not beginners. Geeze Microsoft.

If Microsoft wanted this user guide to show all features of Windows 8 then they left out quite a bitf but I don't believe they wanted this. If this guide was to introduce a beginner to Windows 8, which I like very much, then I believe a few topics (like the two above) could have been left for another document.

Bottom line, get this guide now and discover that Windows 8 is pretty good indeed.


Myself and others have made the comment that a document like this should have been made available at launch, in fact, Microsoft produced the Windows 8 and Windows RT Product Guide.

If this article was of value to you, please share with your friends and family. Thank you.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do It Yourself Video Magnifier

There are many devices to help the visually impaired. Some are really good and others not so much. Some of the best are quite expensive. Of these are the video magnifiers that have a combination camera and monitor. The camera points down at what is to be read and projects it to the monitor. Well, I've built my own and saved well over $1,000.

First, here is what you can buy on the market now. They range in price from $1,500 to $3,100.

Here is what I put together.

I've been using and love the iPad right at launch a few years ago and have bragged about how it allows me to read even though I have a vision disability. Now I'm using the iPad and it's camera and taking it to a new level. All I had to find was a stand that could hold the iPad above the table so the camera could view a book, newspaper or whatever small print item I needed to read.
What got me thinking about building my own device came about when I discovered some software for the iPad that looked almost identical to the software on a video magnifier machine. This software was about $30.00 but got me thinking. I then searched for other software and found loads of them and many under $10.00. I then had to find the tablet stand and that took a while. I'm a big Amazon.com person so I just searched and searched.
Parts List and Prices
iPad. $499. New
Arkon Tablet Stand. $38.23
VGA cable. $8.64VGA to iPad 3 connector. $29.95

I looked at many iPad apps for this and have settled upon Vision Assist because it has some nice features beyond what the camera and it's zoom capabilities. Vision Assist not only has zoom but brightness, reverse text and can even change the background to yellow with black or blue text. These are common capabilities found low vision magnifying viewers. Vision Assist works on the iPhone too so you can even carry this with you for reading menus in restaurants, theatre programs, etc. Vision Assist costs $5.99.
There are a few other tablet stands out there. I've started with the Arkon but might evolve to one that puts the tablet a little higher.

Arkon Table Stand for 10" Tablet
VGA to iPad 3 Connector. $18.40 from Amazon. NOTE: for iPad 3. 
6 ft. High Resolution Monitor VGA, Male to Male cable.

For the latest iPads, there is a "Lightening" to VGA or "Lightening" to HDMI connector.
With a newer TV, you could  use an Apple iPad to HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable.

I've found 2 other uses for this device. I recently did a comparison of Android and iOS phones and used my device to project the phones to a screen. Instead of a TV I connected the iPad to a projector. Participants were as curious about my home made device as they were with the phones. I can change to scanning software on the iPad and take a picture of a document and convert it to a PDF for e-mailing or faxing right from the iPad. No need for a FAX machine or copier.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Google Keep - A Simple Note Taking App That Rings Big

I have used, and still use a variety of To Do List or Notes apps. I might be a little fixated with them but I digress. I seem to rely on them for their unique advantages but not rely on a single one. Google recently released a new app called Google Keep and it is getting mixed reviews from tech pundits.


There are some big names in the note taking world like Evernote and Microsoft's One Note. However, simplicity is the name of the game these days and Google Keep gets a note because of just that. I love that the app starts up instantly and I can speak a note, save it and exit the app in seconds. It really does save time when I think of something I need to do and don't want to forget and that's what technology is supposed to do--save us time and energy. And as important to me because of my vision disability, the notes and text are big and easy to read. Best of all...it's FREE.

I can see my notes on any mobile device as well as my PC using Google Keep. The notes are large and clear and this bodes well for my vision disability.
Another big reason I like Google Keep is that I can use it on my Android smart phone or on the web on my PC or iPad. Use Google Keep on any other device or PC from https://drive.google.com/keep/.
I am not going to replace any of my note taking apps with Google Keep. I am, however, going to stop putting those quick reminders in them and use Keep instead. There are more feature rich note apps out there and I use some of them, but don't skip looking at Google Keep if all you want or need is something quick, easy and time saving.

I've been using Google Keep for over 2 months and haven't deleted it. I still use it but I am not "in love" with it. It's still simple, easy to read and all but... I think I'll keep looking. Don't blame Google Keep for this as it might be just the think for you.
BGR (Boy Genius Report) Google Launches Google Keep note-taking service March 20, 2013 by Dan Graiziano
NOTE: Google Drive is required for Google Keep. Google Drive is FREE too.

Please write a comment. I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turn Your Old Smart Phone Into A Security or Baby Cam

If you have an older smart phone laying around, put it to use or sell it. How about a security or baby cam?

Security or Baby Cam

With software use the phone as a security camera. I have a little windshielf suction holder for the phone that I set on the desk with the camera facing a desirable direction. Then I use FREE software to take a silent photo if the phone notices movement. The photo is then e-mailed to me for viewing as well as stored on a private web site. Here are some software titles for this purpose. Motion Spy Camera or Spy Camera OS for Android and SpyCam, Motion Detector Pro, Bodyguard Pro for iOS.


Tip: Have a place for the phone where it can be charged and always available.


If you don't want to or can't sell the phone, either give it to someone or put it to some use. I've found a few chores my old phone can still do and do nicely.


Put a few games on it and let the grand kids play. Even though the phone might not be able to make calls (mine cannot) it can still connect to WiFi and I put a few games on it and it's always charged up and ready for the kids. Oh, and don't forget to have a pair of ear buds to keep things silent too.



Connect speakers to it and use it to play music. Since there is quite a bit of space on the older phone as I don't have that many apps on it, there is loads of room for music. 1 GB can accommodate over 100 songs so it works nicely.


Use the phone as an extra camera. It's always nice to just grab this phone to take pictures. I have the phone automatically upload photos to Dropbox where I sort or discard as needed. This way I never have to remove the memory card or deal with e-mailing photos.


Use the phone as a portable FAX machine. Free software like CamScanner, Handy Scanner, PDF Document Scanner for Android or Cam Scanner FREE, Tiny Scan, Genius Scan for iOS.

You might be surprised how much your old phone might be worth. Here are some sites that will buy your old phones for cash. Craigslist, eBay, Gazelle.com or BuyMyTronics.com.

Share your smart phone uses in the comments and I'll share with everyone.