UPDATE: Product recall of a device we reviewed

B&N Nook 7 Tablet
B&N Nook 7 Tablet

Last month we reviewed (and recommended as a “good buy”) the new Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet. We recently received an email from Barnes & Noble informing us of a product recall on the Power Adapter included with the device. It seems that the Power Adapter can break and expose metal parts that could lead to an electrical shock hazard when the device is plugged into the wall.

B&N Nook 7 Tablet Power Adapter
B&N Nook 7 Tablet Power Adapter

If you purchased this device on-line or at a Barnes & Noble store you need to return the Power Adapter using the on-line form at the following web site Nook 7 Tablet Recall Information. Upon receipt, Barnes & Noble will send you a replacement Power Adapter and a $5.00 gift card.

I’m fairly confident that at the original selling price of $49.99 B&N was not making any serious money on the Nook 7 Tablet. This is the only current Nook Tablet device (not counting e-readers) that is NOT manufactured and co-branded with Samsung. I’m also pretty confident that the cost for a replacement Power Adapter, two way shipping and handling, plus the value of the $5.00 gift card makes the recall cost total about $40.00 per return. According to published details the company has sold approximately 140,000 of the affected Nook 7 Tablets. If every person returns the defective Power Adapter the cost to Barnes & Noble would exceed $5,000,000 dollars.

Barnes & Noble can’t seem to catch a break on selling digital devices.  For several years B&N invested many millions of dollars on R&D, custom manufacturing, marketing, special store fixtures and dedicated sales, training and support personnel.  B&N competed during those years with Apple, Samsung, Amazon and others for both the consumer, business and education markets. During that period I personally worked for B&N and helped sell and support Nooks at two retail stores. In the last two-three years B&N has co-branded Nooks that are manufactured by Samsung – a better and more successful approach.

If you purchased the new Nook 7 Tablet for $49.99 during the period of November 2016 through January 2017 you can check your devices serial number against the recall list by clicking this link Nook 7 Tablet Recall Information.  We recommend that you do so – and especially if you purchased the device for a child or grand child. 

What happens when the computer nerd gets hacked?

Hackers are bad
Hackers are bad

I’m considered by most of my family and friends to be some sort of computer tech nerd. This means that I am supposed to know more than the average person about computer technology. So, imagine their surprise when I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago. Now imagine my surprise that I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago.

How I got hacked on Facebook

I have absolutely no idea how I got hacked. Obviously the bad guy(s) had to break through my – what I thought was strong – password. The password I’d used consisted of three joined words (comprised of both lowercase and uppercase letters), one random punctuation symbol, and four numerals. This adds up to a total of fourteen characters. Should have been safe, right? Unfortunately, no. 

It may have been easier for her/his computer hacking software (no hacker really just guesses your password) to decode my password because: 

1. I used a short phrase (e.g. “LongLiveTheQueen”). 

2. I used a popular punctuation symbol (e.g. “#”, “!”, “$”).

3. The numerical portion was a four digit combination (e.g. Such as a PIN number, or a year, like my birth year, wedding year, or birth year of a child).
 

So, what did I do about being hacked? 

Of course, the first thing I did was to change my Facebook password and apologize to all my Facebook friends for the appearance of strange Facebook Messenger texts, emails, and even phone calls from “me” asking that they become friends (strange, they already were friends)and then invest in some sort of financial scam. 

The second thing I did was to use a feature of my password manager (the software that keeps a list of my passwords) that can generate passwords that are truly random and secure. Something such as “8aE@6QQ$17+5&d”.  

This is not an advertisement for 1Password, but it could be

I’ve tried many different password managers over the years (since 1978). My favorite is 1Password. Here’s why:

1. It works on virtually every popular computer platform – Windows PC’s, Apple Mac’s, IOS (iPhones, iPads, etc.), and Android. 

2. It allows you to access all of your passwords from all of your devices with just one “master” password.

3. It synchronizes all of your passwords and user information to all of your devices.

4. Email support is extremely fast and exceedingly friendly if you have a question or problem.

5. It provides 1GB of on-line storage to securely store your documents.

6. It works with most modern web browsers.

7. It works when you are offline.

8. It has an easy to use “app” on Windows, Macs, and mobile devices (such as Apple or Android).

9. It keeps a 365-day history that allows you to restore deleted items and passwords.

10. It’s reasonably priced, at $2.99 per month for individuals and $4.99 per month for families (up to five people).

1Password keeps track of passwords, Social Security numbers, software licenses, driver’s licenses, passports, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and many other things. Their method of security is essentially bullet proof. Agile Bits, which owns and develops 1Password, scrambles your information on their servers so no prying eyes (theirs or the bad guys’) can get to it.  Check out 1Password at the Agile Bits web site: 1password.com

My family uses it so that we’re able to have access to all of our confidential information on any of our devices by simply having to remember a single password. 

Here’s my plan to remain immune from hackers 

Beginning today, I will go through all of our on-line passwords and change each to be truly unique using the random password generator of 1Password. No more using simple, easy-to-remember passwords. 

I’m starting with the important ones first (bank and credit cards, Social Security, passports, etc.), and then on to department stores, social media sites, and the rest. 

In this digital age, $4.99 per month for security is pretty reasonable, considering that most of us spend substantial amounts on computers, smart phones, and tablets. 

A final note

Secure unique passwords are only part of the not-getting-hacked story. Strong hardware and/or software firewalls and up-to-date anti-spam and anti-virus software are also part of securing your computer and mobile devices. 

“Say Hello to a Good Buy!” Barnes & Noble’s new Nook 7 tablet, just $49.99, Simply AMAZING!

B&N Nook 7 Tablet
B&N Nook 7 Tablet

The new Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet is a great device at an astonishingly low price.

Is it the best tablet? No. Is it a good value? Yes!

Here are 21 reasons why it makes a great stocking stuffer this holiday season:

1. The Nook 7 is perfect for kids under 10 (before they get brand envy) and budget-conscious seniors who want to read books, play Solitaire, receive email, and read about their families and friends on Facebook.

2. Why buy the Nook 7 over an Amazon Fire at the same price with similar features? Two answers: (1) You get Barnes & Noble in-store setup, training, and service help, if needed. (2) The Nook 7 uses the Google Play Store for app purchases; the Amazon Fire does not without modification.

3. The Nook 7 has 8GB of storage memory and can be expanded up to 128GB if you use a type UHS-1 MicroSD card (Class 10) and format it for internal use.

4. The spoken voice feature “OK Google” works great for searching and as an everyday assistant.

5. Video: live, streaming, and downloaded videos run smoothly.

6. The device runs a modern version of Android, 6.0 Marshmallow OS. It’s similar to using an Apple IOS device in look and feel.

7. The Nook 7’s screen is a 7″ IPS display and is very sharp and crisp. It is easy to read books, play games, and watch videos.

8. The Quad-core processor is reasonably fast for day-to-day use and may be the secret behind running videos that don’t stutter.

9. 1GB of RAM is not bad for a $50 device and helps in the overall zippy experience.

10. Wi-Fi 802.1 b/g/n dual-bands are quite good, with easy setup, quick connect, and reasonable range.

11. Up-to-date Bluetooth 4.0 hardware allows you to connect wireless headphones, printers, keyboards, and more.

12. It has a standard 3.5mm audio port for wired headphones and speakers.

13. A built-in microphone for use with applications such as “OK Google” searches. With additional apps you could record notes or use wireless phone services such as Skype.

14. Reset button for screen freezes, reboots, et cetera.

15. A Lithium-Ion battery powers the device for about 7 hours. It can be fully recharged in about 4 hours.

16. B&N thoughtfully included a wall power adapter and micro USB cable in the box.

17. You can project videos to your flat panel TV if you own a Google ChromeCast media streaming stick.

18. The B&N Nook reading software is mature, solid, and full of features. You can change fonts, type sizes, highlighting, notes, bookmarks, and dozens of other features.

19. Use the B&N Nook store for on-line book and magazine ordering and downloads.

20. The Nook 7 comes with a one-year warranty. For an additional $9.99 you can purchase an extended one-year (total of two years) warranty that covers accidental damage against drops, spills and other damage with no deductibles – perfect for the kids and grandkids.

21. Even with a 7” screen the Nook 7 tablet will fit in most classic-cut pant pockets, backpacks, and purses.

Here are a couple of things that are disappointing about the Nook 7:

1. Sound: the volume is way too soft out of the rear mono speaker. Although, music and video sounds great out of a Bluetooth or wired set of headphones.

2. Cameras: the device has front and rear cameras, yet they are too soft-focused and lack the contrast needed for crisp pictures and videos.

Overall, the Barnes & Noble Nook 7 is a triumph for consumers. It’s a wonderful pocket-computing device for just under fifty dollars. It may be the world’s first disposable computer; it would certainly cost more than fifty-dollars to have it repaired.

Inside the box you will find an easy-to-use Quick Start Guide booklet to help with the initial setup and configuration. Besides in-store support, you can find on-line email and chat support at nook.com, and by phone at 1-800-The-Book.

A final note: A few years ago there was a movement to bring the price of a personal computer down to $100 so that young students in third world countries could benefit from computer technology (obviously you would still need electricity to recharge the device and Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet). Now we can answer that call with a $50 B&N Nook 7 tablet. This kind of reminds me of the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” TV commercial from the early 1970’s. (Click here:) YouTube: I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke tv spot

Happy holidays from Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer

    Apple’s IOS 10 Operating System: Mature and smooth – and it only took ten attempts.

    IOS 10 Artwork
    IOS 10 Artwork

    Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.

    If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.

    Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.

    A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:

    1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.

    2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.

    3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).

    4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.

    5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).

    6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.

    7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.

    8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.

    One detailed example:

    When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.

    Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.

    This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.

    On a different subject – creativity:

    Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.

    1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.

    2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:

    • a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
    • b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
    • c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).

    3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.

    My bottom line:

    Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!

    What’s Best for Seniors: Electronic or Paper Magazines?

    Electronic Magazines - Great for Seniors?
    Electronic Magazines – Great for Seniors?

    I’ve always loved to read magazines; more than TV, more than radio, even more than books. As a kid I preferred Boy’s Life, Popular Science (or Popular anything: Mechanics, Photography, et. cetera), National Geographic, Mad Magazine, Car & Driver – and many others. It was how I learned about stuff, and it showed me how that stuff worked.

    Reading on Mac’s and Windows PC’s:

    I’ve tried to read magazines electronically for many years; first on Mac’s and Windows PC’s by using services like Zinio. But this approach was often cumbersome – resulting in slow downloads, big downloads, tedious scrolling, and hard to read type-faces and -sizes. Overall, not a great experience. I thought that there had to be a better way.

    Reading on Smartphones and Tablets:

    In January of 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, and it was now possible (but not enjoyable) to read magazines on a high resolution, yet very small (3.5”), screen. In January of 2010 Apple introduced the iPad, allowing us to now be able to read a magazine on an ultra-high resolution, and almost perfectly sized, screen (9.75”). This approach is much better than reading a magazine on traditional desktops and laptops. Magazines designed for mobile devices download faster, have smaller file sizes, are easier to navigate using your fingertips, and have adjustable type sizes. A much better experience. This is the better way.

    Is this really a better way than paper to read magazines?

    Maybe. Some people prefer paper. It’s easy to carry around. Some like the “look and feel” of paper (similar to how some prefer paper books over digital books). Some people even like the smell of paper and ink. The flip side of the coin is that electronic (digital) magazines may be better for the environment (no trees die in this process). They are also easier to store as collections, have far easier search-capabilities, have additional features like hyperlinks, embedded audio and video, and some even have interactive features built into the magazines, which is not possible on paper.

    Are seniors better off with electronic magazines?

    I believe so. Most seniors have diminishing vision over time. Improvements in eye glasses and eye surgery have helped. Digital magazine reading software (provided by the magazine publishers as part of the magazine itself) allows seniors to adjust the size of the typeface. With most mobile devices you can pinch and un-pinch your device screen to increase or decrease the size of the magazine article. Some newer magazine software, like the magazine service Magzter, offers a feature called “EZread” where the magazine article is automatically re-sized and re-paginated for easy reading.

    Where do I get electronic magazines?

    Almost all traditional paper magazines offer electronic versions; some charge for the digital edition, some offer it for free with a paid paper subscription. Check the magazine’s website for more details. You might consider an electronic magazine service like Magzter which offers unlimited access to over 4,000 magazines for $7.99 per month if you use Apple iTunes. If you pay the annual price of $49.99 directly to Magzter, it works out to just $4.17 per month – less than the price of 1 paper magazine. Magzter has a thirty-day free trial – a good way to see if electronic magazines are right for you. Go to: http://www.magzter.com and check it out. Further details about the annual pricing are available on their website. Magzter also lets you share your subscription with up to four family members at no additional charge.

    Happy reading!

    Do seniors really need to update to Apple’s newest software?

    Apple OS updates
    Apple OS updates

    You don’t need to update, but it’s almost always a good idea. Updates provide us with a measure of comfort by contributing a number of things:

    • Generally, a slightly faster, and more reliable device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Mac).

    • Usually a number of new and improved features that make day-to-day use more enjoyable.

    • Security updates that help protect our devices from nasty hackers.

    • Bug fixes that repair problems discovered before the update.

    A better question may be: Why wouldn’t you want to update your device? Here are a few reasons to update:

    • It’s free (Apple never charges for updates).

    • It’s easy to do (Follow the steps below).

    • You will receive bug fixes and new features.

    • Get a leg up on your kids and grand kids (beat them by updating first).

    Here is how to get started…

    1. On an IOS device (e.g. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)

    a. Look at the connector at the bottom of your device – where you plug it in to recharge the battery. If it has the older wider 20 pin connector you cannot upgrade your device to IOS 10. Sorry. If you have the newer, small “Lightning Connector” you can update to IOS 10.

    b. Make sure your device is attached to the charging cable and is at least 50% charged.

    c. Now go into “Settings” (it looks like a gear). Next press on the word “General”. Finally press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading, verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress bar. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.

    2. On an Apple Watch (updating the Apple Watch from watchOS 2 to watchOS 3)

    a. Make sure your iPhone has been updated to IOS 10 (this is required).

    b. Connect your iPhone to its battery charger.

    c. Connect your Apple Watch to its battery charger.

    d. In the Watch app on your iPhone scroll down the screen until you see the “General” icon. Press on the word “General”. Next, press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading (to the Apple Watch), verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress circle. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.

    3. On an Apple TV (Hardware Version 4)

    a. Start at the main menu of your Apple TV.

    b. Go to the settings menu (the Gear icon).

    c. Scroll down until you see the word “System” and then click on it.

    d. Now look below and find the words “Software Updates” and then click on it.

    e. Now click on the words “Update Software”.

    f. If the system needs to be updated, the software download will begin. The Apple will automatically restart upon completion.

    4. On a Mac computer (all newer models that use Mac OS 10 or newer)

    a. Start at the top left of the screen. Click on the “Apple” icon.

    b. The menu will drop down, and you need to click on the “App Store” menu item.

    c. Make sure you click on the word “Featured”.

    d. You should see the icon for “Mac OS 10 Sierra Update”. Click on this icon to begin downloading and installing the update. This is a large update and will take at least an hour to download and install. You can check on the progress by clicking on the words “Purchased” in the App Store.

    Apple has made free user guides for all of the updates. If you have iBooks installed on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac you can go to the “Featured” menu and search for the books:

    • iPhone Users Guide for IOS 10

    • iPad Users Guide for IOS 10

    • iPod Touch Users Guide for IOS 10

    • Apple Watch Users Guide

    • Apple TV Users Guide

    • MacBook Essentials

    • MacBook Pro Essentials

    • MacBook Air Essentials

    • iMac Essentials

    These free digital books provided by Apple are a great way to learn about the new and improved features. They’re also excellent reference guides for the “How do I…” questions that often come up.

    Happy updating!

    Am I sitting in line at the Apple Store this year? No! Here’s why…

    Waiting in line at the Apple store
    Waiting in line at the Apple store

    No one is a more dedicated Apple Fan Boy than me.  I’ve purchased almost every Apple product offered from 1978 on.  For many years, I’ve arrived several hours early at the Apple store (in either Grand Rapids or Lansing, Michigan) in order to be the “first one on my block” to have the latest Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. I should also mention that I am an Apple, Inc. shareholder.

    The photo above was taken of me waiting in line at the Apple store in Grand Rapids to be the first person in West Michigan to buy an iPad several years ago. I arrived at Woodland Mall at 6 AM along with the mall walkers.  I waited from 6 AM until 5 PM when the store re-opened (Apple had closed all of its stores on 3 PM that day to re-set the displays to feature the iPad.)  I was, obviously, the first in line!

    So why am I not sitting in line this year?  

    First – For the last couple of years Apple has allowed on-line pre-ordering of new devices with home delivery the same day that they are first sold in the Apple Store.  This saves me time and money since my closest Apple store is in Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away.

    Second – Apple reported yesterday that it was happy to announce that the Apple iPhone 7 pre-order was so successful that there would be no (nada, zero, none) availability of iPhone 7 Plus phones in Apple stores and only limited availability of certain colors and configurations of the standard iPhone 7.  The happiness was reflected in Wall Street’s surge in Apple stock from around $97 to over $115.  That happiness was not felt by those in line (see below)…

    It’s already Friday, the first day the iPhone 7 is to be available in certain parts of the world, Australia for example.

    People in line at Apple’s Australia stores were pretty unhappy about the lack of availability of iPhone 7’s on the first day they were offered for purchase and delivery.

    This is unprecedented.  In all of the previous releases of the Apple iPhone (since 2007) there has been limited availability of new product on the first day of sales at every Apple store.

    Watch for an apology from Apples CEO Tim Cook.  I suspect he will apologize but spin the story as to how wonderful -and successful,- it was; that people loved the new iPhone 7 so much that it sold out worldwide before it was even able to appear in Apple Stores.

    Tim, this is called inventory control.  There should have been iPhone 7 inventory in stock and held back for the first day of sales in Apple stores on September 16.

    I’m Glad that I didn’t wait in line to purchase my new iPhone 7 Plus this year.  If you read my earlier post a few days ago then you read that after only 7 seconds past the start time of ordering on-line, my iPhone 7 Plus delivery date slipped from September 16 to September 23 or September 30.

    Oh well, it’s not like I’m sitting here without something to make a phone call on.

    Mobile Technology for Today's Savvy Geezer!

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