Category Archives: Software Apps

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!

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!

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. 

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!

APPS: What’s on my iPhone/iPad right now.

Favorite IOS Apps
Favorite IOS Apps

A lot of my friends – and a lot of you readers – have asked me what apps do you recommend?  As an Apple “fan-boy” since 1978 I’ve used hundreds of apps on every Apple device imaginable. Over the years my long list of devices have included the Apple ][, Apple ///, Apple Lisa, Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Quite frankly there is no such thing as the perfect app.  Every app developer thinks their app is the best.  Few are.  Even great ones like Numerous for the iPhone/iPad which had over 150,000 active users recently died an untimely death due to a lack of customer funding.  The history of computer apps (from an earlier term: applications) is littered with a few standouts and thousands of little purchased and little used want-to-be’s.

To give you an idea how big the market for apps is, consider that Apple has over 1,500,000 apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch. There are more than 15,000 apps available for the Apple Watch. In less than a year the Apple TV 4 has grown from 40 apps to over 5,000. Apps range in price from free to a thousand dollars or more! The average price for an IOS app for consumer use is $1.99. I’ve never understood how a person who spends hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone or iPad complains about the cost of an app that costs only a couple-of-bucks and has a lifetime of free upgrades.

I’ve compiled a list of my all-time top ten favorite apps for your consideration. Each app I use almost daily and each provides a good mix of features, performance and reliability. Note that some are free, some require a monthly or annual subscription, and a couple are reasonably priced. The list is in no particular order.

All of these apps work on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. Some also work on the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Apple Mac.

Check out my Top Ten Favorite Apps by clicking here:  Tom’s Favorite Apps

You will be taken to my app page where you can read a brief overview of each App and then click on a link to open the app in the Apple App Store.

Enjoy! Comments and questions are always welcome. Tech support is available from each developers web site.

“Say Hello To A Good Buy!” Definitely My Journal of Choice: DAY ONE Journal 2

  

I have well over 150 apps on my iPhone and iPad. Although, you may ask, how many do I really use? The answer: about a dozen. I’ve been using apps on Apple IOS devices for about eight years. I consider myself a software explorer and I’ve tried hundreds of different apps – some with the same purpose. For example, to find a solution for the best word processing app on my mobile devices, I’ve tried Apple Pages, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs. After more than a few attempts to find the perfect word processing app (by the way, there is no such thing), I’ve found the one that is “perfect” for me.

Over my lifetime of computing (since 1978), I’ve tried to find the perfect journaling software application for both “regular” computers (Mac and PC’s – desktops and laptops) and “mobile” communicators (IOS, Droid, and other smartphones and tablets). I love to record day-to-day events, as well as life, and, of course, traveling experiences. Although my diary (i.e., journal) contains my personal thoughts and pictures, I’m not too worried about security; yet I still employ a simple security system.

Here is what I look for in a journaling software application:

 1. The same basic software features in both versions (traditional computer and mobile computer)

 2. A graphical look and feel to the user interface, as well as what I can record and save on the application. I’m a visual person. I love photos, videos, and a certain look and style to my stuff.

 3. Easy, nearly automatic, journaling. “Click” a button, add some words and photos, save, share, back-up, done.

 4. Security that is safe and reliable, while not requiring a lot of effort to access my stuff.

 5. The ability to share my journal entries with others, (via email, Twitter, Facebook, or messages) or, rather, to keep them entirely private.

My absolute favorite journaling software program (App) is DAY ONE Journal 2 by Bloom Built, LLC. Here is a link to their website: DAY ONE Journal Web Site Home Page

Bloom Built, LLC released its latest version, DAY ONE Journal 2, just a few weeks ago and it is a standout! Here’s why:

 • Extremely graphical. You have the ability to associate up to ten photos with any journal entry. You can take photos within the app or add them from your photos library.

 • Excellent entry security. Use a four digit pin, or use the iPhone/iPad fingerprint sensor.

 • Journal entries can be GPS location-based. Use the associated photograph GPS or your physical location at the moment. There is a map icon that shows you where all of your entries have been made. This is incredibly useful if you travel often.

 • Entries can be tagged for easy grouping.

 • Entry dates are automatically added, but can be modified for both date and time.

 • Weather temperatures and conditions are automatically added.

 • You can have multiple journals. Personal, business, projects, organizations, etc.

 • Activity tags like stationary, walking, running, biking, eating, etc.

 • Step count (from iPhones)

 • Music, or rather, what is playing on your Apple Music player (note that this is the only player supported) at the moment you made the entry.

 • Entry URL lets you share this journal entry by providing the user with a link.

 • Standard IOS sharing menu for sharing to Twitter, OneNote, Pocket, Facebook, Apple Notes, and dozens of other sharing apps. You can also save to Dropbox, copy, print, and view as a PDF.

 • Organize entries by map location, date(s), and photos.

 • Entry is synced over iCloud to all devices. Backup is daily and automatic. It is date and time stamped as well.

 • Text styles, as well as, type formatting, lists (bullet and numbered), HTML view, and other styles.

 • The Apple Watch is supported and journal entry is easy by using user defined “stock” entries, or voice dictation into the watch and even photo journal entries can be made using the watch.

 • DAY ONE Journal 2 is available for IOS: $4.99, or the Mac: $29.99 – A reasonable price for pretty much the ultimate in journaling (“Say Hello To A Good Buy!”)

If you like journaling, this is the app you need. Start a journal entry on any device, and then edit and update the entry from any device, anywhere!

If you have a question or thought, post it in the comments section . Thanks for reading, come back soon! Best, Tom Gordon