Seniors: Meet Libby, your new best reading friend!

Libby digital library app for mobile devices

A couple of days ago I posted a blog page that said photography was one of my favorite hobbies. My second favorite (there are many more favorite hobbies) is reading. And for seniors, there is no better way to read than Libby.

Libby is a free software app that works on Apple and Android mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) so that you can “borrow” books to read or to listen to them. Libby is the second generation app from developer OverDrive to support digital reading from public libraries.

Of course, we all know that reading books (or listening to them) is great for seniors. It keeps us sharp, active, knowledgeable, and more. Regardless if you purchase them from your local bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble – books are expensive.

Seniors who love to read (some read two or three books a week) and live on a fixed income have difficulty in justifying purchasing books.

Sure, you can walk, take an Uber, bus, or drive to your local library to borrow a book or sit and read but why? Paper books look and smell great. But if you are a tree hugger books are made of paper and paper is made from trees. Printing inks, binding glue, and delivery of books to stores by trucks all cause a carbon footprint.

The Libby app has similar reading tools like Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon’s Kindle reading apps. Bookmarks, type font changes, themes, lookups, highlighting, search, and page location syncs between devices are all supported.

Check with your local public library and see if they do offer digital reading and audiobooks. If they do download the Libby app from the Apple or Android app store, enter your library card number and get reading!

Olloclip lens system for the iPhone X. Do I NEED my DSLR camera any longer?

Olloclip for iPhone X

Digital photography is one of my favorite hobbies. For years I’ve carried large, heavy, and unwieldy DSLR cameras around my neck. I’ve used Sony alpha series cameras and they have served me well.

Since 2007 I’ve also used the cameras in my Apple iPhone as a back up. The Sony has been used for “serious” shots, and the iPhone for “simple” (non-serious?) shots. Each year as I’ve purchased new iPhones the camera and software have gotten better and more sophisticated. My last couple of iPhones – an iPhone 7 Plus, and the latest iPhone X have included dual lens cameras. One lens is for regular use (sort of wide angle), and the other lens is for telephoto (2x) use.

The iPhone X camera hardware and software are so good that I have begun using the system as my primary go-to camera and photo editing “lab.” But I wanted to add a lens for every day and particular use – like super wide-angle, or fisheye, or even more telephoto and macro close-ups.

I think I’ve found the answer in a lens system called “CONNECT X” from Olloclips. Olloclips has made a snap-on lens for iPhones and some Android phones for the last five-plus years. I’ve tried them on older iPhones with some good luck, and some frustration concerning attachment and detachment.

A couple of weeks ago Olloclips sent me an email that they were releasing a new connection system for the iPhone X that was easy to use, aggressively priced, and flexible.

The Olloclip system is easy to use and extremely clever in its design. Each lens can be flipped and used with either of the back two Apple camera or the front camera. Using the Olloclip “Slim Case,” the lens holder can be easily attached or detached. Each lens is metal and glass. Well designed and sharp in their views.

I purchased the “Mobile Photography Box Set” for the iPhone X ($99.99). It includes three lens – super wide, macro 15x, and a fisheye. The set also comes with the easy-to-attach and use clip system for attaching to your iPhone X. In addition, I purchased the telephoto 2X lens which should make the iPhone X into a 4X camera.

Finally, I bought the “Slim Case” for the iPhone X for $29.99 which provides back and side protection for the phone as well as an oversized opening to attach the Olloclip CONNECT X system. Be aware the CONNECT X system does not work with any other protective case for the iPhone (even Apple’s). You will need to remove your protective case to use CONNECT X unless you buy Olloclip’s “Slim Case.” The good news is that most front screen protectors (I use and recommend Zagg’s “Sapphire Defense” extreme hybrid glass cover that has sapphire infused into the glass) can be used and do not have to be removed when using the CONNECT X base and lens’.

I could spend the next few paragraphs describing the photographic quality of each lens, and how easy it is to put on and take off. I could also show you dozens of photos that I, or others, have taken with the system. But I won’t. You can see lots of videos, before and after photos, etc. on the Olloclip.com website. Trust me this stuff is reasonably priced, built like a tank, cleverly designed, and easy-to-use. You can also go to instagram.com and search by the tag #olloclip to see photos made by Apple iPhone Olloclip users.

I’ve seen everything now! Ember heated mug is a winner!

Ember heated mug

Wow! Just when you thought you had seen it all along comes ember click here to go to the ember web site. This is perhaps one of the sweetest uses of technology that I’ve seen in a while. While I probably would not have been the first on my block to run out and pick one up for about $80.00, our son and his sweetie thought this would be the perfect (and it is) gift for dad’s birthday.

Overview:

The ember is a porcelain mug that contains a surprising amount of technology, plus a rechargeable battery system that keeps your coffee, tea, or other hot beverage at precisely the right temperature. You use an Apple or Android app on your smartphone tablet, or Apple Watch to set the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius degrees. The app sends a Bluetooth signal to your mug that maintains the temperature selected by using a rechargeable battery operated heating element.

Are there benefits, or is this a gimmick?:

There are benefits to this system that are emotional, practical and economic…

  • The consistency of taste – from your first sip until your last the coffee tastes the same.
  • No guesswork involved – you are alerted on your watch, tablet or smartphone when your beverage is at your preferred temperature.
  • Save money – since the hot beverage tastes the same from beginning to end no more throwing away cold or lukewarm coffee.
  • No disappointment – your ember lets you know when it needs recharging with a red LED and you just set it on the charging pad. The onboard LED glows green when it is fully charged and ready-to-go.

Is it worth the price?:

Yes, the ember unit is sturdily packaged (very Apple-like), beautiful minimalist design, solid construction, well engineered and enjoyable to use on a day-to-day basis. Although you can’t pop it in a dishwasher, it is easy to rinse out, or hand wash.

The bottom line:

The ember is a practical and fun device if you enjoy hot beverages. Ember makes the porcelain mug shown here as well as a travel mug for your car. You can purchase ember at Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon.

Say Hello To A Good Buy! Local and National TV for Just Twenty Cents a Day.

TV for Twenty Cents a day!

You might be familiar with the concept of “The Third Wave” as applied to marketing or economics. The first “wave” introduces the concept. The second “wave” is the new and improved concept. The third “wave” is the one that finally gets “it” (whatever “it” is) right.

The “First Wave”:

Introduced in the early 1950’s TV was an immediate success. The good news is that over-the-air programming was free. The bad news is it required an expensive (at that time) TV set and big and ugly antenna on your roof – or “rabbit ears” and tin foil in your living room.

The “Second Wave”:

Of course, viewers couldn’t be satisfied with only three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC). In the late sixties and early seventies, cable TV and Satellite systems brought us over a hundred different channels to watch – at a price. The average price for cable and satellite soon zoomed upwards to around $50 a month. This was during the days of hard-wired telephone “land lines” and “dial-up” internet.

The “Third Wave”:

Today, with high-speed internet service, WiFi, digital televisions, and mobile devices it became possible, practical and affordable to use the internet for your TV viewing. The phrase “cut the cord” became the rallying cry.

Television for Twenty Cents a Day:

If you own an Apple TV or Roku streaming box and can live with just one local station and national network you can use the CBS All Access app to watch live TV on your flat panel TV for only $5.99 a month (twenty cents a day). You can also view limited programming on other apps included with Apple TV or Roku. You can also watch CBS All Access live TV on your smartphone or tablet at home or on-the-go.

The “Land Rush”:

Cable TV and Satellite are “dead” technologies. Aging dinosaurs like buggy whips. There are almost a dozen new internet streaming television services from DirecTV NOW, Hulu, Sling, Spectrum, and others that require no hardware tuning boxes. Some even provide DVR in “the cloud.” Some of these services even include a FREE new Apple TV or Roku if you pre-pay for a few months of service.

My Mom:

A few years ago my mother lived in a senior citizens apartment on a fixed income. To watch television on her 24″ Zenith Early American console TV, she had to pay $49.95 per month to the cable company (after also paying to rent the “tuner box,” the sign-up cost, and the installation charges.) Mom would have been happy paying $5.99 per month and only getting CBS – local and national. Sigh…

Egad’s! Senior Tech Power … it’s here to stay!

Egads! Senior Power!!!

I’ve been messing with so-called personal computers since 1978. Yikes, that’s 40 years ago! I’ll be 72 years old in early May. That’s ancient!

Quite frankly I’ve seen a lot of hardware and software come and go. In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s hardware “boxes” reigned supreme. In a nutshell, the first personal computers were expensive, big, bulky, slow and awkward to use. Software, if you could find any, was expensive, erratic, buggy, and quite frankly, somewhat useless. Mobile phones were bolted to your car along with an ugly antenna, and a monthly cellular bill that was a killer.

However, as with all technology, time brought progress, and things got cheaper, lighter, faster and more useful.

Believe it or not, farmers were early adopters of personal computing – with thousands of Apple ][‘s purchased to manage land, animal husbandry, and business expenses. Schools and small business’ were quick to get into PCs.

One group that was slow to adapt were seniors. Most seniors wanted no part of this personal computer thing. “I don’t need it, I don’t understand it, and I certainly don’t want any part of it!” shouted seniors from coast to coast.

Fast forward to early 2018. Most seniors carry mobile smartphones to communicate, read books on, surf, get an email, play games, and keep track of important calendar dates. I challenge you to go to a restaurant, airport terminal, doctors office and not find a senior that is staring down at that little glowing screen.

What happened? Certainly making mobile smartphones that were easier to use, slimmer, faster, with bigger screens and lower prices helped increase the number of users. Lower rates for monthly service with vendors like Consumer Cellular, or pre-paid services.

Community education classes, computer classes at church and the library – all helped confidence. More than one teenager has set up and helped granny or memaw learn about mobile computing. Third-party books with detailed indexes and lots of visual instructions (OK, photos) has gone a long way to educate seniors.

Good job seniors – carry on!

David vs Goliath: Which camera should a senior carry on their next vacation?

I love to take pictures. Especially when on a vacation journey. Although I can’t draw a straight line without a ruler, I think I have a pretty good “eye” when it comes to photography.

Over the years I’ve shot thousands of photos throughout the US and Europe. I use a photo posting site – 500px.com CLICK HERE to see some of my favorite images.

I’ve primarily used a Sony alpha series DSLR with a 75mm to 300mm telephoto lens. It has been my “go-to” camera for the last seven years. In addition to the Sony, I’ve taken many travel shots with various models of Apple’s iPhone.

Over the same period of time, the Sony has been a fast, reliable, and creative tool. But it is awkward and heavy to transport, and use on vacation field trips like walking, hiking, visit small retail shops, and going through narrow passages.

The iPhone, on the other hand, has become more lightweight, sophisticated, and easier to use – especially indoors. My latest iPhone, Apple’s advanced model “X” with its sharp and bright OLED screen is easy to view – as long as it is indoors. Trying to use the iPhone outside, in bright sunlight is almost impossible. The screen washes out in the sun. This brings a new meaning to the phrase “point and shoot” – but somehow it works.

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC and New York City. As a creative and lifestyle experiment, I primarily used the iPhone to document our travels. Quite frankly I was very impressed with the results – even the outdoor shots (some in cloudy conditions, others in the sun).

A significant benefit of using the iPhone as your primary vacation camera is that your pictures get synced to your other devices and backed up to iCloud every night. The ease of being able to edit and share your photos with family and friends is fast and straightforward. Apple’s built-in “Photos” app is simple and straightforward for everyday photo editing and organizing.

If you are into status symbols and want your travel buddies (and complete strangers) to be impressed, then carry a Sony, Canon, Nikon, or other quality DSLR camera around your neck. If you want great pictures and have fun on your vacation carry a lightweight iPhone camera in your pocket or purse.

Have fun, and enjoy your vacation!

Say Hello to a Good Buy: The Replacement for Granny’s Computer has finally arrived!

Apple 9.7” iPad

As a technology advisor to seniors, the most frequently asked question I get is: “My Grandmother (or Grandfather) needs a new computer which one should I get?”

My response is: “They no longer need a computer they need a tablet computing device. If you surveyed seniors that use computers (desktop or laptop) and ask them what they actually use their computer for, the responses would undoubtedly include:

  1. Getting, reading, replying to eMail.
  2. Reading and responding to Facebook.
  3. Playing a game that might include Solitaire, Scrabble, or Wheel of Fortune.
  4. Reading a good ebook or magazine.
  5. Surfing the web for news, weather, and funny stuff.
  6. Seeing photos of my adult children and younger grandchildren.
  7. Maybe shopping online.

All of the seven above can be done on grandma’s lap while she is sitting on her couch or lying in bed using a lightweight tablet. Not so with desktop computers, and not easy with so-called laptops.

There are hundreds of different tablet computers that range in price from $49.99 (Barnes & Noble Nook 7″ Tablet) to over a $1,000 (Apple 12.5″ iPad Pro Tablet). In my humble (but well experienced) opinion, the BEST choice for doing the seven items above is the new $329 9.7″ Apple iPad Click here for more info

Here are ten reasons why this is the one to buy:

1. This is the most current version of the iPad that Apple has honed to perfection over the past six years.

2. The screen is bright, easy to read, and the exactly the right size to read ebooks and magazines with ease.

3. It comes with the A10 Fusion processor chip that is incredibly fast – great for videos, games, and going from one app to another.

4. The main camera on this iPad is 8MP takes stunning photos and can record in HD video. Plus use it for FaceTime calls with family and friends.

5. Use it to connect to almost any Bluetooth keyboard.

6. Get FREE ebooks, music, audiobooks, and movies from your local library using the Libby and Hoopla apps.

7. Weighs just a tad over 1 pound.

8. Thousands of cases, covers, keyboards, stands, screen protectors, styli, and headphones are available for this model iPad. Apple’s sensational electronic Pencil also works with this model.

9. Secure Touch ID, stereo speakers, 32GB of storage (more available), a cellular option is available, your choice of three different finishes.

10. Over 1,000,000 apps in Apple’s App Store.

Want to make your parents and/or grandparents happy? Get them an iPad, not a replacement desktop or laptop.

Mobile Technology for Today's Savvy Geezer!

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