Category Archives: Technology

First snowfall – video

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Surprise snowfall this morning in Connecticut, New England, USA. Snow before Halloween is unusual in the southern half of the state. After about two hours it turned to sleet and then rain leaving only small, sheltered reminders of the winter to come.

Note: Video and still photography captured using Canon Rebel T3i. YouTube video put together using YouTube Video Editor which was a complete nightmare. Never again.

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Do NOT buy Office 2013 or Office 365

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I am taking a course entitled, “Business Software Applications” to fulfill my computer requirement for my degree. When I rented my textbook, it was packaged with Office 365 which is 2013. The textbook is all about Office 2010.

Now try to imagine a group of online students trying to follow directions for assignments telling us to choose a particular theme or template or color palette and those choices are just not available. Now imagine we all go looking for answers to how we can complete these assignments that are supposed to teach us particular software applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) and we discover that this is happening all over the U.S. Students are expected to complete projects with the wrong tools.

What happened between Office 2010 and Office 2013? Well, Microsoft decided that there were just too many choices in theme, color, style, chart, and so on. They stripped the software down so that there are only a handful of choices for each of those categories.

I am working on an Excel project that tells me to use “Clustered Cylinder column chart, Layout 1, Style 26.”

There is no such thing. As a matter of fact, there are no cylinder column chart styles available at all. Being a resourceful person, I figure there must be a backdoor way to format my chart so that the columns are cylindrical instead of rectangular. Nope.

This course is pure torture for me and my fellow students.

Microsoft be cursed!!!

I am heading over to my old laptop to finish this project, and I will NOT use the newer software for this course anymore. It is wrong to expect us to use a software that doesn’t work with the course, so I’m not going to do it.

I don’t blame the publisher or the professor. They both got screwed by Microsoft.

Solution: Microsoft should make old templates, themes and version style packs available for download after a huge update such as 2013. That is the LEAST they can do.

Suggestion: For those of you with 2010 or older versions of Office: hang onto them. You will be really, really unhappy with the newer versions.

There’s an app for . . . almost everything

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I want to share some Android apps that I have discovered recently that help me organize my life and aid my studies. I am not affiliated with any of the programmers/developers of these apps. These are apps that I personally use.

Educational/Travel

English – Spanish Translator by Tick Talk Soft – Free

I am taking Spanish I with conversational lab this semester. This app helps me rehearse aloud what I am studying. I have only used the microphone part of the app so far. What this does is require that I pronounce words, phrases and sentences properly, with the accent on the correct syllable, or it will not translate it well.

Android Phone – voice recognition is so-so, but I attribute this to my phone’s age and not the app itself
Android Tablet – works well, voice recognition much better than phone

Translate Voice – Translator by Tick Talk Soft – Free

This app is probably redundant to the translator above, but I want both available. This one seems simpler. I downloaded this one to my Android Tablet first, and it works nicely. I can speak a phrase or sentence in English and it will translate it into Spanish. I can then reverse the order and practice the Spanish version.

Android Phone – good
Android Tablet – good

Voice Recorder by ??? – Free

This is a simple voice recorder that I use mostly for interviews (journalism). I also use it to record blog ideas if I am out. It is easier than trying to type something with my thumbs on my phone. Quality is is as good as the microphone on my phone. I wish my phone had a microphone input so I could use a lapel microphone for interviews, but this does the job as long as there isn’t background noise.

Health

White Noise Lite by TMSOFT – Free

I cannot sleep at night without some kind of white noise. This app is amazing! It has 40 sounds to choose from. I love the shower sound best for me. It is a very steady noise that doesn’t resemble anything I might hear in my house. I plug my phone in to the charger, turn on the app, and sleep like a baby. Any alarms override the app, pausing the noise.  Text message, email, and other notifications do not override the app, which is very important for me. I use my phone as my alarm clock (with my tablet as back-up).

Android Phone – Excellent
Android Tablet – n/a

Time Management

Alarm Clock Xtreme Free + Timer by AVG Labs – Free

I use this for all of my alarms on my Android phone. I have two alarms in the morning, one at 5 a.m. and another at 6:05 a.m., along with sets of alarms for different days of the week. The alerts begin softly and increase in volume, which I love. It isn’t painful. I use the Good Morning tone with my morning alarms, and other tones for other types of alarms.

Android Phone – excellent
Android Tablet – n/a

see Out of Milk Shopping List App for “To Do List” feature (below)

Weather and Emergency

WeatherBug by Earth Networks – Free

WeatherBug is far superior to the Weather Channel’s app (which just didn’t work a lot of the time). I use this app every day. It gives me current weather, maps, radar, hourly, 5-day, 10-day, and sends alerts to my phone and tablet’s notification system which has been important this year with winter storms 2-3 times a week since January. I have several other locations saved for quick access as well (family and friends).

Android Phone – excellent
Android Tablet – excellent

TeslaLED Flashlight  by TeslaCoil Software – Free

This app is easy to use. Open app, click on large light bulb to turn flashlight on and then click again to turn it off. The flashlight remains on when the screen is turned off (this is a setting). This has a morse code, strobe, police lights, and easy settings and notification to turn off the flashlight. I keep a small flashlight on my keychain, but this has been a help especially when I didn’t have quick access to my keys or needed a second flashlight.

Android Phone – excellent
Android Tablet – n/a

Organization and Shopping

Out of Milk Shopping List by Capigami, Inc. – Free

I confess to not accessing most of this app’s features. I also tend to not like using it in the store only because I need my hands to pick up items and will not put my phone on top of my purse or in the basket for security reasons. Now, if shopping carts had a mounting bracket for tablets and/or smart phones that held the technology secure until it was released by the shopper, that might be different. Hmmm, someone needs to invent such a tool. Wait, someone already did for the shopper to bring, but not for stores to provide.

I stopped using this app for awhile because it was just too much work. They have streamlined it with automatic categories and syncing capabilities. I have this app on my tablet and phone. I often turn sync off on my phone to extend battery life, but this app might change that behavior. I can use my tablet to make my lists. I can use the voice feature and I have a keyboard case that makes keying information easy. I will then have my updated lists with me at all times after syncing with my phone. Yes, this just might be what I need to organize shopping again.

If any manufacturers want me to review tablet mounts, I am game.

Has a pantry feature as well as To Do List with alarms and notifications for organization, though I have not used them.

Android Phone – good
Android Tablet – excellent (esp. voice recognition)

Entertainment

Moviefone by AOL, Inc. – Free

I have my favorite movie theaters saved so when I want to see what is playing, I just click and all information is available. This tool is excellent for the phone, especially. This app uses your phone’s location feature to find theaters in your area, or you can save your theaters under the “My Theaters” tab. I love that I can watch movie trailers from the app.

Android Phone – good
Android Tablet – n/a

Netflix – Subscription

This app is rarely used on my phone because the screen is just too small for my eyes, and movies tend to bog down quite a bit. I suspect that that is due to Verizon throttling my data since I have one of those older unlimited data plans. On the tablet, however, it is much better as long as I have a strong wireless connection (it is tenuous in my bedroom). Just plug in some ear buds or head phones and enjoy.

Android Phone – okay at best
Android Tablet – good

Xfinity TV Go – Subscription

I dislike this app for two reasons: there are lots and lots and lots of commercials and buffering time is very long. I often begin watching a show, must pause it for a minute or so to allow it to buffer, then have to sit through several minutes of commercials, and finally just turn the app off due to the frustration. I stream content on my PC a lot (usually few to no commercials), but they have messed up with their mobile app. I’m guessing they don’t really care much since they are a near monopoly cable provider for Connecticut (only competition is satellite dish providers). When I want to watch something on my tablet, I use Netflix. I keep this app in case something on live TV needs my attention (like special reports, etc.).

Android Phone – n/a
Android Tablet – poor

Additionally I have Skype, Pandora Radio, Adobe Reader, YouTube, eBay, Craigs List, Twitter, Barcode Scanner (Zxing Team), Dolphin Browser (tablet only), Knitting Counter (mkackl), Free Guitar Tuner, WordPress, two dictionary apps, Photo Editor by Aviary, Chrome, and apps that my adult son downloads each time he uses my phone. I have Craftsy on my tablet to access knitting patterns and video classes.

Rejected Apps

Spanish Talking Translator by GreenLife Apps – Free

The app itself worked just fine, but every 30 seconds or so an ad or some kind of notification popped up, interrupting my flow of thought and work. Unacceptable. I have attention and short-term memory issues. I cannot have something popping up all the time. I know it is free, but they should create a simpler free version and sell a more complex version.

Facebook – Free

I completely uninstalled this app from my smart phone and still get notifications that it cannot log in to Facebook on my phone’s notification area. This app is completely intrusive, so if I need to see something on Facebook (need???), I open a browser and log in that way. I only get on Facebook once a week or so as it is, and that is on my desktop PC. I don’t have the Facebook app on my tablet, either.

Here is an article from DailyMail.com entitled “Is Facebook reading your texts? Android update lets app access your written and picture messages.” This is totally unacceptable.

Google Plus – Free

Mostly the same issues I have with Facebook. Entirely too intrusive. It is bad enough that my Android Phone’s OS is a Google product and that they have built in many intrusive features (such as reading text messages and searches to generate advertisements).

The Weather Channel – Free

Hangs up or fails to load properly. Slow when it does load. A weather app needs to be fast and dependable when you live in a cold region with record cold temperatures and too many winter storms to count.

KBB.com Car Prices & Review from Kelley Blue Book – Free

App never loaded. Always required force close.