Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Windows 10 Will Arrive Soon - Should You Upgrade?

Microsoft is beginning to advertise the latest release of it's Windows operating system - Windows 10. What happened to Windows 9, you ask? Well, it appears that MS would like to put plenty of distance between Windows 8 and the new release. Windows 8/8.1 has not been a huge success, and many users remain loyal to Windows 7 - which has proven to be an exception Operating System. Some users continue to stick with Windows XP, which is not a good idea. Windows XP is now outdated and poses substantial security risks for users and the Internet, in general.


So what about Windows 10? In short, I like it. Microsoft has resurrected some of the best Windows 7 features, that were abandoned during the Windows 8 mobile push. Windows 10 is quite usable in desktop mode, and the touch tiles continue to work well for tablets and other mobile devices. Overall it's a nice blend of Windows 7 & Windows 8 with many additional security features.

Is it really free? Windows 10 arrives July 29, 2015 and it will be a free upgrade for those using Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. You will have to perform the upgrade within one year to grab the free offer. After you upgrade, all future releases will be free for the life of your device. You may have already seen an icon in your tray that will allow you to reserve your copy.

So, should I upgrade, as soon as it's available. Unless you are "Geek", probably not. Wait a month or so and many of early bugs will be fixed. The latest pre-release of Windows 10 is excellent and I have encountered very few issues, but why take any chances on your primary computing device.

The new release will arrive as a normal "Windows Update" and Microsoft indicates that the "bits" will be downloaded to your "compatible" computer. You are then free to upgrade whenever you want. Enjoy a free gift from Microsoft!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tired Eyes? Tell Your IPad Or IPhone To Read Your Ebook Aloud

Have you ever tried Audio Books? They are not just for those with impaired vision. Audio books add a new dimension to your latest novel. Professional Readers can give an average book new life and draw you into the action. Audio Books are particularly well suited for long car trips. There are, however, two drawbacks - price and limited selection. A typical Audio best seller can command double the price of it's Ebook counterpart, and many selections are simply not available in the Audio Book format.

Fortunately, we do have another choice - it is not as engaging as a well narrated Audio Book, but it's a good substitute when your eyes are tired or you're solo, in a car. Simply have SIRI (the IOS voice assistant) read it aloud. Here's how.


1. On your IPhone or IPad - Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech. Toggle on Speak Screen. To start SIRI reading, pick a screen of text and swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen. You can have Siri read any text that's currently displayed, from any app.

2. SIRI will read everything on your screen - including things you may not want - like page numbers. Select an Ebook (Kindle, IBook, EPub, etc) and give it a try. When she reaches the end of a page she will turn to the next page. Take note of the small arrow on the side of the screen. When selected you will find several options - play, pause and speed.

3. Keep in mind that your Screen Lock will override your reading session, so you may want to go to Go to Settings > General > Auto-Lock, and make sure Auto-Lock is set to Never. Don't forget to reset your lock, when you are done.

Obviously, Siri Is not a substitute for a Professional Reader, and she doesn't read as well as a normal human being. It takes time to get used to its monotone voice. SIRI will also, occasionally, mispronounce a word. But overall the experience is very good - particularly when you need to rest those weary eyes.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Traveling This Summer? How To Use Your Smartphone Banking Apps - Safely

Years ago, almost everyone visited a Bank at least once a week. As ATM machines proliferated bank visits dropped off. Broadband Internet enabled the next step, allowing Online Banking from the comfort of home - with a desktop PC.

Today, nearly every Financial Institution has an App that allows customers to perform 90% of their transactions from a Smartphone or Tablet. Pay Bills, Deposit Checks, Transfer Money between accounts, monitor credit card transactions - it's all available using a pocket device. These services are particularly convenient when traveling. But, there is a downside - security. Convenience and security are always difficult to reconcile. So, here are a few tips that should help you "navigate these waters" safely.


1. Always use the latest version of your Banking App. Check for updates - the Apps are often updated to patch vulnerabilities.

2. Don't use your Banking Apps when you are connected to a Public WIFI Hotspot. Airports, Coffee Shops, Hotels are all notorious for open WIFI hackers. Your App may provide a secure encrypted connection across these Networks, but there are too many variables. Stick with your Cellular Connection when using your Banking App.

3. Suppose you are unable to obtain a Cellular signal and your only alternative is WIFI? Consider a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). You can find more information about VPN's here.

4. Always use a PIN code on your mobile device.

5. Always logout of your Banking App when you have finished using it - even if you have a PIN code on your mobile device.

6. Make sure that you are using a "Good Password" on your Banking App. What is a Good Password? One that includes at least 12 random - numbers, letters, characters (-/:;&@$), upper and lowercase. This Password should not be used with any other service - it must be unique.

Happy travels!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

How To Take Great Photos Of Fireworks Shows With Your Smartphone Camera

Today, July 4, 2015, America celebrates 239 years of independence. Sunset will usher in thousands of Fireworks Shows across the country. A few of the viewers will bring the appropriate equipment to capture these beautiful displays, but most will shooting with the camera in their pocket - the Smartphone. So, how do you snap great shots with these point and shoot devices.


First, all Smartphone cameras are not equal. The quality varies widely, particularly when shooting the night sky. No matter which device you use you will need the ability to set a slow shutter speed - long exposure shot. In most cases, this will require a special App. Here are three suggestions - one for each of the major Smartphone platforms.

1. IPhone (IOS) - Slow Shutter Cam ($.99) - will allow you to lengthen your iPhone's shutter speed. With both Automatic and Manual capture modes, Slow Shutter Cam is the closest you can get to turning your phone into a real, high-quality camera.

2. Android - Camera FV-5 ($3.95) - a professional camera application for mobile devices, that puts DSLR-like manual controls in your fingertips. Tailored to enthusiast and professional photographers, with this camera application you can capture the best raw photographs so that you can post-process them later and get stunning results. There is a learning curve, but the results are worth the effort.

3. Windows Phone - ProShot ($2.99) - Includes different modes such as Auto, Program, Manual, and two Custom modes, with the ability to manually adjust Shutter Speed, ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Focus, Flash, Aspect Ratio, AF Assist Lamp, etc,.

Now for a few tips:

1. Turn the flash off.

2. Try the HDR & Burst modes.

3. If you use a slow-shutter app, use a tripod. You can pick up a small Portable tripod like the GorillaPod that will attach to most anything.

4. Try to get as close to the action as possible - don't use the digital zoom.

5. If you are using Slow Shutter Cam for IPhone, pick Light Trail from the Capture mode, set your shutter speed to Bulb, and then manually start and stop the capture. For the Sensitivity setting, it is condition specific, so start with something like 1/16 and go from there. This should allow you to get the rocket trails and "blooms" when they explode, but experiment to find what works best for your particular situation.

Happy Independence Day!



Thursday, July 2, 2015

How To Try Apple Music - Free For 90 Days, And Cancel Your Subscription Before Being Charged

Apple Music is not the first Music Streaming Service, but it has certainly captured the news cycle. Music lovers know that there are a plethora of streaming services - Spotify, Rdio, Google Play All Access, Pandora, etc. Most of these are similar and charge around $10.00 per month for "all you can eat" music streaming. Generally their Catalogs include around 30 million songs.

Apple disrupted the music business, years ago, with the debut of digital music via ITunes. Instead of buying complete Albums (CDs) users could now grab a single track for $.99. Times have changed and many of the former Music Collectors have moved to Streaming Subscriptions. You don't own the selections, but you have unlimited access to millions of songs. Apple was a little late to this game, but that's not unusual for the Cupertino giant.


You may be an enthusiast who has tested all of the various Music Services, or perhaps you have never indulged. Well, Apple is going to let you try Apple Music - Free for 90 days. Currently, it works on your IOS devices and via ITunes on both Mac and Windows. If you have an ITunes Account the process of subscribing and canceling (if needed) is very simple. Here's how you do it on your IOS device.

1. You must have the lastest version of IOS on your IPhone, IPad or IPod - minimum IOS 8.4. To check go to Settings>General>About>Version. If not you will need to upgrade. Go to Settings>General>Software Update and follow the prompts.

2. Find the white Music icon on the home screen of your device. You will be given the option to either go to your music or to begin your free three-month trial of Apple Music. If you click the trial button you will be asked to choose a membership type (either individual or family), sign in, agree to Apple's terms of use and confirm your purchase (you won't actually be billed until after 90 days). This will give you access to the on-demand streaming service.

3. Apple Music is divided into 5 sections. For You shows you personalized playlists and albums based on the genre and artist preferences you pick out when you first open the app, as well as your play history. New shows a list of new songs and albums, currently popular content, videos and thematic playlists. Radio features Beats 1, Apple’s 24/7 live radio station, and algorithmically driven stations based on genre. Connect is a social network that lets artists connect directly to fans. My Music shows the songs you have in your library, as well as any playlists you’ve built.

4. You have 3 months to enjoy the free music. After that your ITunes account will be charged $9.99 per month. Suppose you decide to opt out? Open Apple Music and Tap the Account icon in the upper left corner of the app. Select View Apple ID. Select Manage under the Subscriptions subheader. Select Your Membership above Apple Music Membership. Turn the slider next to Automatic Renewal to Off. Keep in mind that you'll have to return to this screen to reactivate your subscription when your free trial ends - if you decide to continue the service.

Enjoy listening!