Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Fast Is Your Internet?


Ever wondered how fast (or slow) your internet connection is? With all the claims about who has the faster internet here is a quick and "non technical" way to learn what you have now. I use a website called and the site is FREE.

Go to and click "Begin Test" and watch. There is absolutely no charge but there are ads on the page so watch what you click.

How This Is Useful

If you ever think your internet is going slow, use SpeedTest to see if it's the internet speed between your computer and the internet. It's possible the culprit is the wifi connection or the computer itself. Using SpeedTest will narrow it down.

At little about the 2 measurements performed. First is download speed and the second is upload speed. Download is the speed at which data or information flows downward from the internet to your PC. Upload is the opposite or what goes from your PC to the internet.

I will avoid getting "techy" here and not go into detail why download speeds are faster than uploads or even why. Just know that download is faster and that's it for now.

I know what you're thinking…"can you do something to increase the speeds?". The answer is yes but it means spending more money from your internet provider or getting them to give you a plan that allows for faster speeds.

Being connected to your modem will get you the fastest speed while connecting via wifi will be slower. How much slower depends on the wifi technology of the router (Wireless B, G, N or AC with AC being the newest and fastest). Also, the farther away your device or laptop is from the wifi router or the more walls the signal has to travel through,  the slower the speed.

So, test your PC or laptop while connected to your modem and run speed test. Then try your laptop without the wire and on wifi. Even try from different places within your home. Then try your tablet or smart phone via wifi and then just the phone connection. Fortunately, there is a SpeedTest app for iOS and Android that works very well. The app is FREE too.
Screens from Android

According to BradleyMitchell, a wireless network expert typically don't approach their theoretical maximum. Network Speed Test for Windows 8 shows that streaming low quality video would be about 1 1/2 megabits per second (mbps) while high quality video would be a minimum of 3 mbps.

Here is what I get when connected to my Comcast modem with their "Blast" service which is very, very fast but does cost more than their regular internet service.

Here is what I get when connected via wifi with the router in the next room, one wall away.

My personal opinion is if you can get 15-20 megabits per second  (mbps) down then that is quite good and should be perfectly satisfactory for watching movies, streaming music or YouTube videos.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

4 iPad Camera Tips

The iPad is one of true wonders of the world when it comes to viewing photos.

1) When using the camera, tap the screen where you would like to focus. A small blue square appears showing the area the camera is now focused on.

2) You can even zoom in by doing the pinch out motion. Be aware that the quality of the picture degrades as you zoom in farther.

3) Another tip is that the camera doesn't actually take the picture until the shutter button is released. Therefore you can press down on the shutter button, steady your frame and then release the button to take the picture. This helps avoid blurry pictures.
Credit: iPad User Guide

4) From the camera screen you can get to your recent pictures by swiping the screen from left to right with a single finger. Keep swiping to see previously taken photos. You can get back to the beginning by tapping the screen and choose Done to return to the camera to begin the process again.

Check out this great article called Six easy tips for taking great photos on your iPad by Lou Hattersley.


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smart Phone Charging Tip

There is nothing worse than discovering your smart phone battery is below 10% or worse, shuts down because the battery is dead. Don't fret much.

To more quickly charge your smart phone or tablet follow these 2 steps
  1. Put your phone or tablet in Airplane Mode
  2. Close all running apps in the background
Airplane mode stops battery draining things like Wifi and GPS while stopping all background apps will take care of anything else and get that phone completely stable. This way the charge goes in 100% and nothing in the background drains while it charges.

I'd love to hear tips you might have too. Please write a comment or two.


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Need a Bathroom Break During a Movie, Try RunPee

RunPee provides one or more places during a movie where you can, somewhat safely, miss unimportant portions of the movie to go to the restroom. Brilliant! RunPee even provides a brief summary of things you may have missed during your break. (sorry, I can't stop laughing)

The RunPee folks (smile) do their best to find bathroom break spots during the most recent and popular movies. Here is a screen shot of recent movies.

I particularly like the timer feature within RunPee to remind you when an appropriate break begins. (still smiling (-:)

I learned of RunPee from iPad Today on the Twit Network of podcasts and found it amusing. But, after thinking about it for a while, I think the app is wonderful, powerful…even welcoming.

RunPee is available for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone and it's FREE.

But wait…there's more.

RunPee even shares if there is interesting stuff after the movie credits. 22 Jump Street for example.



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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Microsoft OneDrive Fires a Shot Across the Bow of Other Cloud Providers

Microsoft announced a price cut and storage expansion for its' OneDrive cloud service to begin next month and this is very big. Just for singing up you get a whopping 15 Gigabytes of storage for FREE, up from 7 GB.


First, let me give a concise explanation of the cloud. The first thing you should understand about the cloud is that it is not a physical thing. The cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers are used to store documents or deliver a service.

A Room of Computers - part of "the cloud"
When you upload photos to Facebook or Flickr, etc.; those photos are "in the cloud" or on servers like you see above. They are not on your computer but on very large computers.

For me, the cloud is important and most useful. In fact, I rely on it heavily for my everyday use of my PC, iPad and smart phone. I synchronize  ALL of  my documents, music and photos on the cloud. I do this because:
  • My smart phone photos automatically upload to my cloud provider so I never have to worry about accidently deleting them
  • The cloud is secure and a backup in case something happens to my laptop
  • The cloud allows me to use or see any of my documents or photos on any computing device I own; laptop, smart phone or tablet. I can even get to my documents from anyone else's computer.
  • My wife and I share all of our documents and photos because we use the cloud, thus they synchronize back and forth from our laptops to the cloud.

Basically, the cloud service synchronizes documents stored within specific folders on your computer and their server on the cloud. So your documents reside in two places, your computer and the cloud, and they stay synchronized.

I had a recent, and most favorable, experience of completely restoring my laptop to factory condition and then putting all of my documents and photos back on simply by logging into Dropbox, our choice of cloud service. Amazing!

Now, back to the main reason of this article--Microsoft's OneDrive cloud service. Below is a look at the most of the cloud services available today. I'm not going into great detail on each but a quick look at them...what they provide for FREE and how much 100 gigabytes of storage might cost if you need more than the free storage.

My family's cloud provider is Dropbox and has served us very well for the past 3 years. My wife and I share all of our documents using a single Dropbox account. In addition my wife and her real estate partner share their business documents using their own accounts. We each pay for 100 GB of storage space. Microsoft's new pricing makes OneDrive 25% less than Dropbox.

How Much Will a Gigabyte Hold?

I personally use Dropbox(family documents), OneDrive(OneNote), Google Drive(a few documents)  and Amazon Cloud Drive (my music) but primarily Dropbox and OneDrive. OneDrive because I use Microsoft OneNote everyday for managing notes, information, outlines for these articles, etc. and OneNote synchronizes with OneDrive. The major "players" are Dropbox and OneDrive with Amazon Cloud and Google Drive doing very well too.


Advantage / Disadvantage
  • Dropbox is the current market leader and many iPad/iPhone apps allow you to store documents here.
  • Microsoft Office for mobile ONLY allows document storage on OneDrive.
  • Sharing Dropbox folders with someone else requires the other person to have a Dropbox account.
  • Sharing OneDrive folders with someone else does NOT require the person have a OneDrive account. They will simply have a webpage to save for access.
  • The storage space of shared Dropbox folders counts against both person's storage allotment.
  • The storage space of shared OneDrive folders ONLY counts against the owners allotment.

Mary Jo Foley of All About Microsoft has written a great article and OneDrive and what Microsoft is doing with it if your subscribe to Office 365.

If you want to see how much cloud storage you might need, go to Windows Explorer (File Explorer in Windows 8) and right click on your Documents and Pictures folders and click Properties to see how much space they take up. (See a screen shot below)


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Windows 8.1 Book That Delivers Everything You Need

Cover design: Martin McClean

Windows 8.1 Field Guide, co-authored by Paul Thurott and Rafael Rivera, is a quality book and you deserve to read it. Here's why.

Let's face it, Windows 8 has been a tough road for we consumers to try and figure out the new features. We've had to do our own research on the Microsoft web site because there has not been a whole lot of reference books let alone a User Guide from Microsoft. I did share Microsoft's End User Training Brochure in a previous article.

Paul Thurott and Rafael Rivera have written a quality book. It is written with the same care and style of two of their  previous books; Windows 7 Secrets and Windows 8 Secrets published in hard copy and Kindle. I have both of these books and like them very much. They have been easy to read, understand and were very useful. Now they are very large as many computer books go because there is so much to write about and explain in screen shots as well as text. Windows 8.1 Field Guide is currently 590 pages and I have been most satisfied.

I have been reading early versions of the Windows 8.1 Field Guide. Paul and Rafael can do just about whatever they want to get the book right and using their readers as editors because they are self-publishing this book. Bravo to them. Windows 8.1 Field Guide's content is top notch, in my opinion, and I utilize it for the many nuances of Windows 8. Sure Windows 8.1 is different from Windows 7 but what new product isn't from it's predecessor and shouldn't for that matter. I don't care that Microsoft didn't write a book like this (did they or didn’t' they?) as I like this one just like the previous two books.

Now that I've established, what I believe, is the quality product point of view, lefts talk about the purchase proposition. Paul and Rafael have "nailed it" by going this self-publishing method and can establish their price and exclude middlemen. At least I think they have "killed" the middleman but no mater. Here are your purchase options.

Option 1:
Purchase Windows 8.1 Field Guide from as a Kindle ebook and download immediately. $4.99. Cool.

Option 2:
Purchase Windows 8.1 Field Guide directly from Paul and Rafael on their website and download to your computer in any of these formats; PDF (Adobe Reader), MOBI (Kindle) or ePub (many ereaders like the Nook). $2.00. WOW!

I know, you're asking. "Are you kidding! What's the catch?" No catch at all as this is self-publishing at its best. Option 1 is easy. Order on-line at and download to your Kindle. Any Kindle, Android smart phone or tablet and Apple iPhone or iPad. Even read on your computer with a Kindle app. Simple and just $4.99.

Option 2 is really sweet but there are a few more steps involved but your are rewarded with a lower price. Purchase from Paul and Rafael's web site and download. Start reading with the Kindle app or any PDF reader and you're set. And the tremendous price of $2.00!  Wait…that's just as easy as Option 1 and only $2.00. The extra steps are for getting the MOBI (Kindle) version to your Kindle device or smart phone or tablet. I've done it for my iPad using iTunes and it was easy enough.

Another benefit of purchasing direct is that you can get updates to the book as they are released. Simply bookmark the download page and download the latest book as it becomes available. You can't do this with Kindle.

Here are some articles to help you get the self-published book format to your device.

How to send .mobifiles to the Kindle App for Viewing on Your iPad or iPhone.
Transfer .mobi andepub eBook Files to an iPad for Easier Reading & Viewing.

To be fair, I heard Paul on the "What the Tech" podcast talk a little about this publishing experience and please don't think he and Rafael are making a bunch more money via Amazon's Kindle book at $4.99. Far from it. Amazon takes a piece of the purchase price and there are fees for the WhisperSynch technology where the book remembers where you left off or synchronizes from device to device. This feature is free to purchasers but the authors and publishers pay a fee. As a result, Paul said he makes a little less from the Amazon deal vs self-publishing.

Paul Thurott's bio excerpted from the book.
Paul Thurrott is an award-winning technology journalist and blogger, the author of over 25 books, a technology analyst at Windows IT Pro and the majordomo of Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Paul also writes a daily news column, WinInfo Daily UPDATE, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a monthly column called Need to Know for Windows IT Pro. Additionally, Paul co-hosts two tech podcasts each week, Windows Weekly with Leo Laporte and Mary Jo Foley, and What the Tech with Andrew Zarian. You can reach Paul via email or on Twitter at @thurrott.

Rafael Rivera's bio excerpted from the book
Rafael Rivera is a software developer for a VAR 500 company, Telos Corporation, where he works on mission critical systems for the United States Department of Defense and Intelligence  Community. He is also a certified reverse engineering analyst and takes Windows apart for fun on his blog Within Windows. You can reach Rafael via email or on Twitter at @WithinRafael.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Calendar App With a Twist


A good calendar app on a smart phone is so valuable but frankly, a bit boring. Up To Calendar changes that by adding a wonderful feature--seeing other events, in categories you select, and when they are going to take place. You can then add them to your calendar. Wow!

I heard about Up To Calendar while listening to the webcast called All About Android and each host share an app. In episode 163, Gina Trapani recommended Up To Calendar and I gave it a try.

Watch this 27 second video about how the Up To Calendar works.

My favorite calendar app is DigiCal which pulls my Google calendar from the web. What makes DigiCal so good is Large text for my vision disability. Bigger is required and DigiCal does this nicely. Up To Calendar has the same views (although text isn't as large) as DigiCal with my most useful view being the Agenda or List view. I see what is upcoming on my calendar  for today, tomorrow and beyond.
Image Credit: Up To
Up To Calendar has an icon that looks like a stack of papers that I touch to see other events coming up. If I want to participate in one of those events I simply swipe to the left and touch the red Add option and now that event is on my calendar.

Image Credit: Up To
When are the Oakland A's in town and I can decide which game to attend and put it right on my calendar.
What new movies are playing and put it on my calendar.
I can see when new TV shows are premiering and put them on my calendar.

Up To Calendar is FREE for iOS and Android.
Up To for iOS

UpTo works with your existing calendar. Google Calendar, iCloud, Outlook, Facebook Events and any other calendar that synchs with your phone. Enter an event into your UpTo calendar and it synchs to your web or desktop calendar. Now that's awesome!

Here's how to get started.
  1. Install the App
  2. Create a FREE Account
  3. Give UpTo permissions to see and create events to your phone's calendar.
Image Credit: Up To

One can follow or attach to other calendars. You can even publish your organization's calendar to UpTo for others to follow. Learn how. There is a FREE or Standard version, a Premium version for $5 per month or a Customer version where a quote can be obtained. The Standard version could be a great method to share a baseball schedule for the kids, a bowling league or any group activity. Unlimited Calendars and Unlimited Events--all for FREE.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Legally Blind and Waiting for Google's Driverless Car

I've been legally blind since June of 2010 and had to stop driving and working. I wasn't quite ready for this age 55. It's been difficult but just had to deal with it. There are two things I've been watching closely though--treatment for Retinal Pigment Epithelium  Dystrophy (my disease of which there is no treatment or cure) and driverless cars.

Google is making great headway with their Driverless Car Project and they are now showing a prototype car they built from the ground up and it shows great promise.

Watch this video and read what they have to say in Google's Official Blog.

Video from Googles Official Blog.

This car appears to be the ticket for to get some independence back. I could go to the mall, grocery shopping or visit friends on my own.

There are many questions still to be answered from insurance issues, legal issues, etc. Virtually all auto companies are working on projects like this but I strongly believe a technology company has the best chance to get it right. They don't have any automobile "baggage" to get in the way.

100 prototypes to be on the road by 2015. Then...we'll see.

Like I said, I can't wait!


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Southwest Airlines Now Has Mobile Boarding Passes

For all of you Southwest Airlines travelers, mobile boarding passes are now available at US Airports (not for AirTran at this time). Traveling on Southwest is taking another step forward in making travel on their planes more efficient for all of us.

To be honest, many other airlines have been doing this for quite some time and I, for one, have been waiting for Southwest to catch up and they have done it!

It's really pretty easy. No need to print boarding passes in advance at home, hotel or at the airport--just use your smart phone. There are 3 methods to get your Southwest Airlines Boarding Pass on your smart phone.
Image Credit: Southwest Airlines

  • View your boarding pass on your smart phone's web browser and save a picture of it to your Camera Roll or Gallery. Tap the orange "Save Image to Photos" button and then show this photo when going through Security and then Boarding.
  • When you check in online, you can choose to have a mobile-optimized e-mail that contains your boarding pass. Just open the e-mail from your smart phone and you're in.
  • Like the e-mail, choose the receive a Text Message when checking in online. From the text message, tap the link to show your boarding pass.
I love how easy it is to read these boarding passes.

It's all about being more efficient and reduce anxiety when traveling folks. Never worry about looking for that boarding pass in your purse, pocket, carry-on, etc. It's simply in your smart phone.

Get the Southwest Airlines app for Android or iPhone.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5 Handy Apps in One - Agent Do Not Disturb and More

Agent - Do Not Disturb and More for Android smart phones is a collection of 5 very useful apps. It's invisible and just runs in the background taking up very little resource or power.


Many of us want our phones to be tools to make us more efficient and effective and search for apps that take us in this direction. It even has large text for my poor vision. Here's what you get.

Battery: An app that helps you save battery usage along the way and then takes more drastic action when the battery is close to dying.

Sleep: Have times of the day, typically night time, where your phone won't ring or sound off those pesky notifications. Sleep then allows you to select any of your contacts where interruptions ARE allowed. Now that's effective.

Parking: Let your smart phone remember the precise GPS location in that very large parking lot-Shopping Mall, amusement park, etc.

Meeting: Silence your phone during meetings based on your calendar appointments. You won't have to remember to do anything here.  If there's a meeting on your calendar, your phone won't ring. What's really nice is that you can choose your particular calendar to us for blocking. For instance, you may have a Family Calendar and a Work Calendar. The Work Calendar will stop calls while your Family Calendar will allow calls or choose the reverse.

Drive: Texting and emailing while driving is just plain unsafe. However, you can have your phone automatically respond back stating you are driving and will return the text later or let the phone read the text message to you.

You can even see a screen that shows how it has helped during the day.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Make Paper Airplanes!

Try something fun from your younger years...make a paper airplane!

Take a peek here at some great old fashioned paper airplanes or some fancy types to bring back some childhood memories. Grab a child or grand child, some notebook paper (printer paper these days) and check out these links from some really terrific artists in the paper airplane field. I've included some You Tube videos too.

So grab that tablet or pull up a few chairs in front of your PC and take a journey and fold some airplanes.

Take a look at Kyong Lee's "Amazing Paper Airplanes". A very cool Eurofighter is on the front page and looks challenging. Kyong has simple to complex designs so start where you like.

Give a try so see what is available. "The Arrow" is the one I remember making all the time. is someone from outside the US as A4 paper is used but I just love the idea of using colored paper for the different planes. Very creative.

Here's a very nice 6 minute video on paper airplanes.

Go to the Fun Paper Airplanes site where you can download FREE templates for some nice and familiar airplanes.

And for you origami lovers, here is

Tell me what you think and share your experience with this timeless exercise in creativity and fun.


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