Category Archives: Blog

Computer Tips for Travelers and anything else that these Geeks feel like writing about will show up here! For additional articles on Picasa, see our separate site PicasaGeeks.com
. For additional articles on Internet Connections on the Road, see our separate site WiFiSavvy.com

Yes you can read books on your smartphone.

Original artwork painted by Ruth Godbolt Kennedy

Original artwork painted by Ruth Kennedy

Do you remember reading a book as a kid? In bed, under the covers with a flashlight? Maybe that’s why I think of reading as a “guilty pleasure.” I have several memories throughout my life of spending hours, even days, engrossed in a novel. Grapes of Wrath kept me sequestered for several days, The Thorn Birds even more. I have been accused of getting sick, just so I would have to stay in bed, then I could read a book without feeling guilty for not doing my work. My friend, Ruth Kennedy, had just read The Count of Monte Cristo when she was inspired to create this painting. Magic indeed.

Kindle Generation 1Then came the Kindle eBook reader. My sweet Father-in-Law gave me a first generation Kindle when it came out in 2008.  I could now carry around a library full of books in my purse and read them anywhere! I’ll never forget taking that Kindle with me to the dentist. It changed my relationship with dentist appointments – I looked forward to them because it gave me time to catch up on my reading. When the dentist came in and noticed me reading, she asked what the book was, I told her Water for Elephants, and it’s wonderful but I’m almost finished. She told me the book she was reading, My Sister’s Keeper, and I immediately downloaded it. We discussed it at our next book club meeting, err I mean dentist appointment. (see personal blog post from February 2009)

Reading on smartphones, or listening with Alexa

Today, I don’t even need the Kindle reader because the Amazon Kindle app works just the same on my Android phone, my iPhone, my iPad, or my Android tablet. If the book has an audible version, Alexa will even read it to me. Jim’s and my primary method for passing time on the road is to have Alexa read to us.

Reading on a phone is so convenient

I actually prefer my phone for reading over paper books and also over tablets/iPads or eBook readers. Why? Because it’s small enough to hold with one hand, (leaving the other hand free for that glass of wine) and light enough that my hand does not get tired. I can set the font size and the screen lighting/colors so that it is comfortable for my eyes whether I’m in a beach chair in the bright sun, or in bed in the middle of the night.

The main reason I like the phone app is because my phone is always with me. I’m prepared with a book to read any time I might catch a bit of time to do so. If you’re worried about how your book looks on that little screen, realize that there are a lot of adjustments available.  Check out this little video to see how it works.

Buying new books – instant gratification

It’s so easy to get a new book. Last week while on vacation, I finished the book (Mrs. Hemingway) I downloaded for the trip and started asking the other people in our group for recommendations. At least 2 people highly recommended Where the Crawdads Sing. As soon as I got back to my room I could purchase, download, and start reading that book. Imagine how many days, weeks, months, -or never- that would be if I insisted on reading paper books?!

Google Play Books

Actually, I didn’t even use the Kindle app this time. Google Play Books is very similar, and it comes on most all Android devices. Just look in the Google group of apps. As long as you have a Google Account and have attached a credit card to your account, you can purchase books. For Kindle, you need an Amazon account. 

If you have an iPhone, you can still use the Google Play Books app to read a book, but to buy a book you have to use a Web browser to go to Google Play Books. Same with Kindle on iPhone – you need to use a Web browser and go to Amazon.com to buy a book, then you can read it on the iOS Kindle app.

Searching and highlighting passages

One other feature I really like with books on my phone is that I can highlight passages and I can search. Those books, and those highlighted passages are accessible to me forever. This is especially useful for non-fiction books. Let’s say you got the Kindle version of my book – Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos – and you wanted to remember how to set up a group photo album. You could highlight the passage and quickly find it any time just by opening the book on your phone and searching for “albums.” Your search results would show any highlighted passages with the word “albums” first. If perchance you didn’t highlight that part, search will show you everywhere the word appears in the book and give you the context. You can then click on an item from the search results and be taken to that page in the book.

Amazon Kindle vs Google Play Books

I have discovered 2 differences between Kindle and Google Play Books. #1 favors Kindle and #2 favors Google.

  1. When you buy a book using Kindle, you are prompted to add the audible book to your purchase if there is one. I often buy both the eBook and the Audible version. For some books I also have the paperback version! One way or another, I’m going to finish that book. In the Google Play Books version, the eBooks are completely separate from the Audible books. Pricing example: Homo Deus = Kindle: 14.99 + 12.99 for audible, Google Play Books: 14.99 19.95 audible.
  2. When you highlight sections of books using the Kindle app, those highlights stay with the book. With Google Play Books, your highlights are all collected in Google Drive. Very handy.

Download a sample

I was just watching TV and saw an interview of an author promoting a book. I have no idea if I’ll really like the book, but it sounds intriguing. Both Kindle and Google Play Books allow me to download a free sample. So I can read a bit and decide whether I want to buy it. I love that.

So, what are you reading? And, how are you reading it? Paperback? Tablet sized eReader? Anyone else like reading on your phone as much as I do?

Google Photos: 7 Favorite Features

Have you heard of the APCUG? That stands for Association of PC User Groups and it is a nationwide organization of volunteer computer/technology clubs where you can go to learn new things and get help with any of your technology. If that sounds interesting to you, check out their web site and see if there is a club near you. We often stop at computer clubs in various locations as we travel to present our seminars. This time they invited us to present an online seminar for their Virtual Technology Conference. We chose our favorite topic, Google Photos, and our favorite things about Google Photos. The recorded video is on Youtube and embedded below.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that we are doing this from the back of our camper van. I think it came out pretty good!

Here is a table of contents of the video. Notice the links at the beginning of each topic, clicking there will take you to that spot in the video. If you are a Geeks on Tour member, you know about these links since we use them in our show notes for our What Does This Button Do? show.

  1. 0:25 Introduction and Terminology
  2. 7:20 Editing – right on your phone, or tablet, or computer
  3. 24:49 Search by the content of the photos
  4. 30:02 Shared Library
  5. 34:27 Shared albums with collaboration for group photo albums
  6. 36:11 Make Movies
  7. 39:25 Google Lens to read business cards
  8. 42:45 Navigate to a photo

All of these topics are also covered in Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos, second edition. If you are a Geeks on Tour member, the .pdf version of the book is included in your membership on the eBooks page. The book is also available on Amazon.

Mrs. Geek's Guide to Google Photos 2nd Edition

  1. Editing – right on your phone, or tablet, or computer. Chapter 8
  2. Search by the content of the photos. p. 69
  3. Shared Library. pp 105-6
  4. Shared albums with collaboration for group photo albums. Chapter 10
  5. Make Movies. pp 95-7
  6. Google Lens to read business cards. p. 77
  7. Navigate to a photo. p. 72

A better way to take selfies: use the timer

We don’t always take selfies … but when we do, it’s a happy moment

I like taking selfies, especially with a friend or two, but my arms aren’t long enough! I stretch my arm out as far as it will go to frame the people and the appropriate background, then I can’t reach the shutter button with my other hand, and the phone is too big to stretch my thumb over without fear of dropping the phone. When I’m using my Samsung phone, I can verbally issue the command, “Shoot” and it will snap the shutter, or I can press a volume button for the shutter release, but then I’m jiggling the camera and get a blurry shot. I’ve found that using the timer is the best technique for a stress-free selfie.

If the timer is set for 5 seconds, you tap the shutter button and then stretch your arm out to frame the shot. You’ll have 2 or 3 seconds left to summon your best smile and, click, the photo is taken. No stress over dropping the phone as you stretch your thumb to snap the shutter. No wondering if the photo will capture your mouth forming the word “shoot.” Just a nice easy way to take a selfie.

Using the timer on iPhone: On iPhones, when you open the camera you’ll see a timer icon at the top of the screen, just tap it and select 3 seconds or 10 seconds. When you tap the shutter button, the timer will count down and then snap the photo. It takes a burst of 10 shots just to be sure you get a good one. The timer setting stays on for a short time, then resets itself to the off position.

Using the timer on Android: this will be slightly different on every make and model of Android phone. On some models, you will need to go into the camera settings and find timer. On my Samsung Note 9 I open the camera app, then tap the timer icon at the top. I have the choice of 2 seconds, 5, or 10. When I want to take a photo, I tap the shutter button and it starts the countdown, giving me time to frame the shot and smile before it snaps the photo. It only snaps once. Note: the selfie timer and the rear camera timer can be set separately, and they stay set.

Your phone should be quiet when you’re asleep

Have you ever just fallen into a deep, relaxing sleep when your phone starts chiming that you have notifications? Especially if you’re part of a group chat, with members around the world, your phone could be beeping all night long.

Some people turn their phone off at night so it won’t make noise. You don’t need to turn your phone off if you know how to use the Do Not Disturb feature. You can turn Do Not Disturb on instantly by using your settings shortcuts:

iPhone – swipe up from the home button to reveal Control Center, (iPhone X – swipe down from top right) tap the Do Not Disturb button.

Android – swipe down from the top and you should see some shortcuts for settings, you may need to swipe down again to see more.

You can also turn on or off the Do Not Disturb by using your voice assistant: “Hey Siri! Turn on Do Not Disturb”, or “Hey Google! Turn on Do Not Disturb”.

Setting a schedule

To keep my phone quiet while I sleep, I want it to automatically turn on Do Not Disturb at 11pm every night, and automatically turn it back off at 7am.

iPhone: Settings, Do Not Disturb, Schedule = ON, then set your times. For more info on iPhone Do Not Disturb settings, like exceptions, bedtime, and driving mode, see the Apple Help.

Android: Settings, Notifications (or Sounds…), Do Not Disturb, Turn on as Scheduled, set your times. For more info on settings like exceptions, rules, and meetings, see Android help on Do Not Disturb.

Don’t miss an important call

Many people don’t want to turn on Do Not Disturb for fear of missing that middle-of-the-night emergency call from their kids. Don’t worry – you can set exceptions so that any call from a specific number will ring even when Do Not Disturb is on. The easiest way to do this is to make all your Favorite contacts be exceptions. You’ll see the Exceptions option in the Do Not Disturb settings.

YouTube: How to Watch Videos Later

Do you like watching YouTube videos, but you don’t always have the time? When you do have the time, how do you find those videos that you want to watch? Just mark them as videos you want to “watch later” – they will be collected into a playlist that you can access at any time as long as you are signed in to your Google account. You should see an icon in the upper right to show if you are signed in.

Mark a Video to Watch Later

Click clock to add

When browsing videos on computer: when you hover over the small image of the video, you should see a little clock button. Click that and it turns into a checkmark.

When viewing one video on computer: You should see an icon for “Add to playlist” It looks like:

The Add to Playlist button

When viewing a list of videos on mobile: you should see a 3-dot menu either to the right, or below the video. Tap that, then Watch Later.

When viewing one video on mobile: you should see the same “Add to Playlist” button as shown above. If you tap that quickly, the video is added directly to the Watch Later list. If you hold down on the button, you’ll see the list of all playlists and you can choose one – included Watch Later.

Watching Later

When you mark a video to watch later, it is collected in a special playlist called “Watch Later.” How nice is that? Just find the “Watch Later” list and click it to see all the videos you have marked.

On Computer: Be sure you are signed in, view the menu at the left sidebar. If it is not showing, click the 3-line menu at top left. Click Library in the menu, then you should see Watch Later.

On Mobile devices with the YouTube app,

  1. make sure you are signed in to your Google Account,
  2. tap the Library icon
  3. tap Watch Later.

Here is the official page from the YouTube help team:

How to add and remove videos from Watch Later

Add Geeks on Tour Videos

Whenever you notice a Geeks on Tour video you want to watch, but don’t have time – now you know what to do. Add it to your Watch Later list! Or you could even take a look at the Playlists we’ve made for you:

Test your smartphone smarts

Every episode ends with Review Questions

We hope you have been watching and learning from our YouTube show called What Does This Button Do? Each show is about 45 minutes long and we present a beginner’s lesson on some topic of interest to smartphone users. We also present a quick tip and an app of the week. As of this writing, we have recorded 162 live episodes. All 162 episodes are archived on our website. Just go to GeeksOnTour.com and click the menu called Weekly Class.

At the end of each episode we have review questions about the topic in the beginner’s lesson. Here are a few samples. See if you can answer them. Use the comments for discussion.

  1. From Episode 162: T/F – if my phone is the same make and model as your phone, it will operate the same
  2. From Episode 162: Changing settings for Apps generally works differently for iPhones than for Android devices. The two methods are stated below, which is iPhone?
    A. Open Settings, then find the app
    B. Open the App, then find the settings button
  3. From Episode 156: T/F: you must install a dedicated scanning app on your phone in order to scan documents.
  4. From Episode 156: Can a .PDF file be edited?
    A. NO   B. Only if you buy the Adobe Acrobat software C. Yes, if your scanning app performs OCR  D. Yes, if you use Google Drive to scan, then open in Google Docs
  5. From Episode 155: If you paid for an App while using an old phone, when you get a new phone and want that app there will be no charge as long as: _____________________
  6. From Episode 146: T/F – A QR code is a link to a web page, that’s all.
  7. From Episode 146: To scan a QR code, you need a mobile device, an app for scanning codes and _____________________________
  8. From Episode 144: Camera Flash – should you leave it set to: A. on, B. off, or C. auto?
  9. From Episode 144: T/F: Panorama photos can only be taken from left to right.
  10. From Episode 139: How do you get the widgets on Android?
    A. Play Store, widgets  B. LongPress home screen, Widgets C. “OK Google” add a widget
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and click the bell to be notified when we are live.

We hope you will check out the archives and also join us in future episodes of What Does This Button Do? You can watch any of the archived shows at any time. If you want to watch when we record a new show live, you need to subscribe to our YouTube channel and click the little Bell so that you get notified when we are live. We usually record on Sundays at 2pm Eastern time. If you are watching in real time, you can use the chat box to ask questions and we will try to answer during the show.

Whose iPhone is this? The problem with couples sharing one Apple ID.

An iPhone is identified by the Apple ID it uses.

Something we see a lot with iPhones is that 2 people are sharing the same Apple ID. Let’s say that Mrs. Jones gets a new iPhone and gives her old one to Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones hasn’t had any smartphone before, so he’s glad to get the hand-me-down that his wife will surely be able to teach him. They don’t bother to wipe it clean because there might be something useful on there, like a contact list. But, after a while, Mr. Jones gets irritated when he keeps getting his wife’s imessages, photos, and other notifications. After all, this is his phone now, how does he stop getting her stuff?

An iPhone’s owner is designated by the Apple ID. Even if spouses don’t get a hand-me-down, many of them share the same Apple ID. This is a problem. I ask Mr. Jones to go to his iPhone’s settings. Right at the top is the name of the phone’s owner, with the Apple ID. Even if he changed the name to his, if the Apple ID is still his wife’s email address, then her account is in control of this phone and is accessing all her information.

Want to know who an iPhone belongs to? Ask Siri. Launch Siri on the iPhone in question and ask “Who does this iPhone belong to?”

One person, one account, one Apple ID

Apple accounts are intended to be for one person only. One person, one account, one Apple ID.

Want to share information? Consider setting up Family sharing to do that. With family sharing, you can purchase apps and music that can be shared by everyone in the family. You can also have a shared family photo album, a shared calendar, and shared reminders.

How to change the owner of an iPhone

So, what to do? How does Mr. Jones make this his phone? There are 2 steps:

  1. Stop it from being Mrs. Jone’s phone: Remove her account from the phone
  2. Start it as Mr. Jone’s phone: Get an Apple ID for him and add that to the phone

Step 1Note: these instructions assume you’re on iOS 10.3 or higher. For earlier versions, or just more detail see Apple Support. Note: you will probably be asked to confirm the password for the old (her) Apple ID at some point in this process – be prepared.

  • Settings, AppleID, scroll down, tap Sign Out
  • You will be asked if you want to keep a copy of Contacts, Keychain passwords, Reminders, and Safari bookmarks. This is probably a good idea in the case of a spouse keeping the phone, otherwise not.

Step 2 First you (Mr. Jones) need an Apple ID. If you already have one, make sure you know the password. If not, create a new AppleID. Although this can be done right on the phone, it is much easier on a computer at AppleID.Apple.com. If you already have an AppleID, this is where you can prove that you know your password by signing in. Otherwise, Create Your AppleID by clicking the link. Once you have Apple ID:

  • Settings, Sign in to your iPhone
  • Enter Apple ID – next – password
  • Enter iPhone Passcode – this is the numbers you want to enter to unlock the phone when you first turn it on
  • For more detailed instructions on setting up your phone see Apple Support

Everyone should have their OWN phone with their own AppleID.

How to create an Excel spreadsheet when you don’t have Excel, and you don’t want to install any software

We taught our Cloud Computing class today for the Deerfield Beach Computer Club and we’re always excited to see the lightbulbs go off in people’s eyes when we demonstrate creating an Excel worksheet without using Excel, or any other software installed on our computer! Cloud computing is a huge topic, and we try to give an understandable overview of what it’s all about. You can see our seminar handout here. Also see Episode 100 of our Button Show: Using OneDrive

How to use Excel in the Cloud

It just takes no time at all to demonstrate how to use Excel in the cloud.

  1. Browse to Onedrive.com, that is Microsoft’s cloud storage service.
  2. Log in with a Microsoft account username and password. If you don’t have one, you can click the Create New Account button. (important note: if you use a Windows computer, you most likely have a Microsoft username and password. It pays to find your existing account credentials rather than creating a new one which will later complicate your life no end! (See Episode 137: Accounts)
  3. Click the +New button, then Excel workbook
  4. You should now see an Excel workspace where you can create your spreadsheet – this is Excel Online.
  5. When you’ve completed your worksheet, you may want to give it a name. Just click at the top where it says Book1, and type the name you want.
  6. Your sheet has been saved in your Onedrive account automatically, you can just close out the window. If you want to share it with someone first, click the share button in the upper right and enter an email address.
  7. If you want the sheet on your computer, click the File menu, Save As, Download a Copy

That’ all there is to it. You’ve just created an Excel spreadsheet, sent it to an associate, save it to your computer, all for free without using any software on your computer. That’s Cloud computing!

My secret for taking lots of travel photos and not deleting any of them

We are currently traveling in New Zealand and taking lots of pictures! I’ve taken about 1200 pictures so far, and Jim has probably taken nearly the same. How would you like to see a slide show?

I think not! But, here’s our trip album with just our selected photos – just click this link to view the album.

The conventional method of photo organizing teaches to:

  • Keep the best
  • Delete the rest

But, I am way too lazy! Deciding which pictures need to be deleted is both time-taking and stressful. That sounds like work to me. I avoid work! I will certainly delete the obvious garbage – the mistakes when my phone took a photo of the inside of my pocket, or my foot, but, at the Hobbiton movie set yesterday, everywhere we turned was a beautiful image. Our phones take great pictures, and Google Photos stores them in the cloud, unlimited and free, so why not take every picture you see. I am not even close to being a professional photographer, but if I take enough – I’m bound to catch a good one here and there! Here is what my phone’s Google Photos screen looked like yesterday:

This is about 1/4 of the pictures I took at the Hobbiton movie set

I can’t delete any of those! But, I can pick out 3 or 4 representative shots to put in our New Zealand trip album, so that’s what I do. My method is:

  • Keep them all
  • Pick a few for the album and add them

That’s easy, actually it’s fun. I can even accomplish that, using my phone, on the tour bus on the way back to the RV! I love looking at the pictures I just took, adding a few of them to the trip album is as easy as tapping the 3-dot menu, selecting Add to Album, and tapping the New Zealand album. Before I go to bed at night, my friends and family are all able to see the wonderful things we did that day by viewing the album.

Just a few pictures made it to the album

I cringe when I hear people say, “I took so many pictures on my vacation, now I have to spend a few days deleting and organizing them once I get home.” How many people never get around to that? That’s work. What a shame.

What about photos on your computer?

I took the pictures with my phone, Google Photos uploads them to the cloud. I can view all those photos using my computer as long as I have an Internet connection. So easy! If I add photos to an album using the phone I will see them in that album using the computer. If I use the computer to do the work, I’ll see it on the phone. So easy! But, what if I don’t have a connection? What if I want my photos on the computer? That’s when I download the album to my computer by clicking the 3-dot menu. Voila! I’m not taking up unnecessary hard drive space, but I have my best photos on the computer. Essentially it is a backup of my best photos.

For more details and a complete photo management workflow, see my book, Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos, chapter 11. Geeks on Tour membership includes free access to the .pdf of the book here.

Learn more

What is Google Plus and how does the shut down affect my Blogger blog?

A lot of people are getting emails lately, “Your Google+ account is going away.” People have then been asking us, “What is Google Plus, and should I care that it is going away?”

First of all, please realize that Google+, aka Google Plus, was a separate service by Google. It is not your Google account. Google+ was Google’s attempt to have a social network similar to Facebook. If you did not use Google+, then the fact that it is shutting down will not affect you. Your Blogger blog continues on, your Google Photos will all still be there, your thousands of Gmail messages in your inbox aren’t going anywhere, and your appointments on Google Calendar are safe. The only thing that is going away is the website with the red G+ icon shown above.

However, Google+ was not completely separate. It had fingers in the pie of other Google applications, it was an add-on to your Google account and, for a period of time, everyone who created a Google account got the Google+ add-on whether you wanted it or not. It was referred to as your Google+ profile, as opposed to a simple Google profile. The idea was for Google+ to be the hub of all your Google services. So, as Google+ is closed down, it unravels some of that connectivity. This is happening over a period of time, everything I know about it is subject to change as the shutdown unfolds.

How is your Blogger blog affected?

Your Blogger blog will continue and all your posts will still be there. Only if you took advantage of Google+ special features will you see any change. See the official Google info on Blogger and Google+ here. If you set up your blog using a Google+ profile, you should change it to a simple Blogger profile. It is still using your same Google account, just without those “Add-ons” mentioned above, and you need to supply a screen name for use with Blogger. Find this setting under User Settings, General, User Profile. If the Google+ profile button is selected, change it to a Blogger profile.

If you checked the box to use the Google+ comment system for your blog, all comments written using that system will disappear. I’m afraid there is nothing you can do about that. To see if you are using these features, go to Blogger.com and be sure you’re signed in with your Google account, select your blog from the left sidebar, then click Settings, and Google + Comments. You should see a screen like this:

If you have been knowingly using Google+, please read the linked articles above in detail. You may also want to download your Google Plus data. Another good resource for more info is PeggyK’s weekly update for Google+ and Blogger.