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

Take a note using Keep on your smartphone

I love to write things down. If I don’t write it down, it’s bound to be forgotten. What do you use when you need to write it down? Post it notes? A spiral notebook? The back of a business card? A napkin?
That’s the problem isn’t it? When you use whatever is handy, good luck ever finding that note again. How about using my phone for notes, it’s always handy. But what app to use? I’ve tried a bunch of them, Evernote, Samsung notes, Apple notes, and even sending emails to myself, but I haven’t been able to stick to just one. This leaves me back with the same problem of not being able to find them. Enter Google Keep

Instant Notes

Put your Keep icon on your main home page, then you can longpress that icon and see the options to take a quick note:

  • writing text
  • taking a photo
  • automatic checkbox list
  • record an audio

It just couldn’t be easier to take a note on your phone.

Color Coding

When you’ve created a note, you can change its color. Either at the bottom of the note, or by tapping the 3-dot menu at the bottom, depending on the device you’re using, you’ll see dots of color. Just tap the color you want. I like using yellow to indicate that a note is something important, probably something I need to do. Green means personal notes and ideas. Orange is my color for business ideas and notes. Purple is my color for temporary notes – something I needed to jot down today but I don’t really need to keep it. You can come up with whatever works for you.

This makes it so easy to scroll thru your notes and find the appropriate note. If you want to see all your business notes, just tap the search box at top and scroll down to see the colors. Tap on Orange and it filters all your notes. You will only see the orange ones. I find this so handy.

As with most any Google product, you can also search for specific words, and it will find notes with those words anywhere in the note.

Checklists

This is my favorite feature of Keep. Each paragraph gets a checkbox. When you check it the item gets crossed off and moved down to a completed items section. You can easily re-prioritize items by simply dragging them up or down in the list. As I wrote in this previous article, I think Google Keep is the perfect ToDo list.

Unlimited Notes for Free on any device

The Keep app is available for both Android and iOS. Your notes are in the cloud so you can see them anytime at Keep.Google.com using a web browser on any connected computer. Your notes are completely private to your Google Account, yet it is extremely easy to share a note with someone. For example, you may have a shopping list shared between you and your spouse. When you add an item, they’ll see it and when they add an item you will see it.

Google Keep is completely free, you won’t even see any ads when using it. Storage of your notes does not count against your Google account (Drive) storage allotment which means it is essentially unlimited.

Learn more by watching Episode 173 of What Does this Button Do?

Do you use Google Keep? Do you use any other software for keeping your notes? Let us know in the comments below.

Your smartphone’s volume buttons do more than you think.

When you press the volume up or volume down button what’s happening? Is it changing the volume of your phone ringer? Is it changing the volume of who you’re listening to on a phone call. Is it changing the volume of your notifications? Or is it changing the volume of music or videos?

In general, the volume buttons are context sensitive. That means, if a video is playing and you press a volume button, you’re adjusting the volume of videos. If you’re talking on a phone call, pressing a volume button adjusts how you hear the person on the call. But, what if nothing is going on? What does the volume button do?

There’s a setting for that

iPhone: In settings, Sounds and Haptics, you’ll find a setting for Ringers and Alerts, control with buttons? I kind of like the setting to be off. That way, I can set the volume of my ringer here – making it quite loud – and know that I’ll never accidentally turn it down. I miss so many calls that way.

But, it’s your choice, if you turn this on, then when no other sounds are playing, the volume buttons will set the ringtone volume.

iPhone mute button: on iPhones there is one more control over sound. You can easily stop the phone from ringing by switching on the mute button. It’s on the left side of the phone, directly above the volume button. If you see red when you look at it, that means your ringer is off and your phone will only vibrate if you get a call. This is very quick and handy for those times when you don’t want your phone to ring – but you need to remember to switch it the other way when quiet time is over or you’ll miss a lot of calls!

Android: when you press the volume buttons you should see info pop up on your screen about which volume is being affected. From that pop up you can drag down, or tap a settings icon to see more choices. This screenshot is from my Samsung Note 9 phone. I pressed a volume button and initially saw a volume control just for Ringer, when I dragged down on the Ringer message, I get all these choices. Notice that the default for media is Off – that is why my first option was for Ringer.

Stop the ringing!

One of our very favorite smartphone tips is that, when your phone is ringing, you can make it stop by simply pressing a button. It must be a physical button, not any onscreen button. The up volume, down volume, or power button will do. So, if you’re in a quiet theatre and your phone starts ringing, you don’t have to fumble to get it out, open it, unlock it, find the phone call and hang up. No, all you need to do is press a button. Unless you have a phone case that covers up all buttons, you can usually just squeeze the sides of your phone and you’re bound to hit a button. So, even if the phone is in your pocket, you can grab and squeeze the sides and the ringing will stop. The call is still there – you can answer it, or let it go to voice mail – but the ringing will stop.

The camera shutter button

And now, for something completely different, did you know that the volume buttons can be used to take a picture? That’s right, when you’re using the camera on your phone you don’t have to tap that round button on the screen to take the shot, you can press a volume button instead. Sometimes this is more comfortable when you’re holding the phone in such a way that your finger is already poised on the volume button. Either the up volume or the down volume works. This even works on the volume buttons on earbuds – kind of like a remote control.

This works on both iPhone and Android phones, but some Androids may have a camera setting that lets you choose whether the volume buttons take a picture or zoom in/out.

Google Photos and Google Drive will no longer automatically sync your photos and videos. 5 things you can do and 1 you can’t.

Google Drive and Google Photos will no longer sync

Google Photos and Google Drive will no longer sync.

Here is the official announcement from Google: Starting July 10, 2019, Google Photos and Google Drive will no longer automatically sync your photos and videos. Learn more here, or read Google’s blog post.

Google had good reason for doing this. When photos did sync between the 2 services, it appeared that you had a copy of your photos, but that was not true. Under the hood, there only existed one copy of your photos, they were just viewable from 2 places. Not understanding that, people would delete photos from one side or the other and be dismayed (to put it mildly) when they found their photos were gone. That will not happen now. Any photos or videos that had synced between the two services before the breakup will still be seen in both, but they will now be independent. Deleting one will not delete the other.

Google Drive and Google Photos are now completely separate apps

To keep your photo and video memories, use Google Photos.
To keep documents, spreadsheets, slides, and special-purpose photos/videos – use Google Drive.

Five things you can do:

  1. Copy photos/videos from Drive to Photos – manually – use Photos->Upload->from drive
  2. Copy photos/videos from Photos to Drive – manually – use mobile device->Share->to Drive
  3. Copy and sync photos/videos from phone to Google Photos in the cloud – this basic function of the Google Photos app has not changed.
  4. Upload and sync photos/videos from computer to Google Photos and/or Google Drive – this basic function of Google Backup and Sync for Windows or Mac has not changed.
  5. Download photos from Photos or Drive to Computer – manually – select photos (or album), click 3-dot menu and Download all

One thing you can’t

One thing you can’t do anymore, at least not with Google products, is to automatically sync your phone’s photos/videos to your computer’s hard drive. This can be easily accomplished however with OneDrive or Dropbox.

What about the storage space used by photos?

Google gives you 15 GB of free storage to be used by Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. When you use the “High Quality” size setting to upload to Google Photos those photos do not count against your storage allotment,  meaning you get unlimited free storage. Here are the things to know now:

  1. Photos uploaded manually to Google Drive will count
  2. Photos uploaded to Google Photos in Original quality will count
  3. Will photos uploaded to Google Photos FROM Google Drive count?
    That depends on the size setting on your web version of Google Photos. From photos.google.com click the 3-line menu, settings. If Original is selected they count, if High Quality is selected they don’t
  4. Will photos that were originally uploaded to either side in Original quality, then synced to the other side now count twice?
    No. If you have original size photos in both Drive and Photos because they synced prior to the change they only count once. If you delete one, the remaining copy will still count.
  5. If you upload photos, in original quality, from your computer to both Drive and Photos using Google Backup and Sync, they will not count twice. You will have a copy in Drive and Photos, but they only count once. If you delete one, the remaining copy will still count.
  6. If you upload photos to Google Drive, using Google Backup and Sync, you can select High Quality and they will not count.

More resources for Geeks on Tour Members only

Ask a question by adding a topic on our Ask the Geeks page. Here are some tutorial videos about Google Photos.

5 years of “What Does This Button Do?”

Have you watched any of our weekly YouTube shows? We’ve been making them for 5 years now, and we feel like we’re just getting started. We call it “What Does This Button Do?” to indicate that we try to keep it at a beginner’s level. That’s a pretty long title though, so we call it The Button Show for short. We keep a listing of all episodes on our website which you can access with the URL – TheButtonShow.com

Do you think your smartphone is smarter than you? Do you have questions about your Android, iPhone, or other personal technology? How do you learn about these amazing devices?

Lifelong Learning

These shows are intended to be taken like a regular class, 45 minutes each week. You can watch live and be able to ask questions, or you can watch the recording any time. The bulk of the 45 minute show is devoted to a Beginner’s Lesson on a particular topic, but there’s more. We start each episode with a quick tip and we usually have an App of the week as well. We always finish with review questions to sum up the teaching in the Beginner’s Lesson. We name each episode after the topic of the Beginner’s Lesson. For example:

  • 124. First Four Buttons to Learn on your Smartphone
  • 125. Google Photos_ What’s New
  • 139. Widgets
  • 149. Internet and Battery when you’re Off-Grid
  • 161.Remember your Travels-photos, maps, Blog
  • 163.Emergency-how your phone can help
  • 165. Sharing Photos w Google Photos

We demonstrate on several devices. iPhones, Android phones, Chromebooks, Web … we don’t just talk, we show you what we’re talking about.

It’s Free

All episodes are recorded on YouTube and you can watch them for free. If you are a premium member of GeeksOnTour.com, you get an extra benefit in the form of written Show Notes. The notes are like little ebooks, with complete instructions plus timeline links to go directly to the video at the places where the topic is being demonstrated, plus links to further videos and other resources on the topic.

If you watched our 5 year anniversary episode (169) live, we gave you a link to all 168 show notes in .pdf format. If you are a premium member you can still get them. The link to all 168 .pdf files is included in the show notes for episode 169.

Keep Pushing those Buttons!

Technology isn’t going to slow down any time soon. Keep trying new things and know that Chris and Jim from Geeks on Tour are here to help. Tune in every week. Whether we’re live with a new episode, or you watch a previous episode, you’ll learn something. We always do!

Questions about Google Drive breaking up with Google Photos

I wrote a recent article called What’s Happening with Google Drive and Google Photos, where I tried to clarify Google’s announcement that they’re Changing how Google Drive and Google Photos work together. My intention was to calm fears. The sync between Drive and Photos is not essential to how Photos works. In fact, by default, the sync settings are off. Unless you have turned on either of the 2 settings involved, then this change does not affect you at all.

So, I was surprised when I received a few questions from panicked people.

I don’t understand what I must now do to automatically store my pictures safely, and to have access to them within the limited storage space on my phone. Please clarify what I must do quickly!

I received this note from Google photos about upcoming changes. What do I need to do, if anything?

You’re probably not affected

Nothing is changing about how the Google Photos app works. Your photos are all being uploaded to Google Photos from your phone. That is where they are stored, for free, and they will continue to be stored there. They will still be accessible from all your devices and shared with your designated partner. 

Google Drive is a separate service, mainly for storing files other than photos. Documents, spreadsheets, slideshows. Google Drive has been around a lot longer than Google Photos. The two products have had some overlapping areas. The breakup on July 10 is intended to show that Google Photos is now completely independent – it’s left the nest if you will.

Before the breakup

Google Photos setting: Sync photos and videos from Google Drive

This setting means that IF you ever uploaded or saved photos directly to Google Drive, they will appear in Google Photos. If you have never specifically saved photos to Google Drive, this will not affect you at all.

Google Drive Setting: Create a Google Photos folder in My Drive

This setting meant that all photos in Google Photos ALSO showed up in Drive – in the cloud. Some people depended on that because there are things you can do with photos in Drive that you can’t just using Google Photos. Two examples:

  1. A photo stored in Drive can be embedded in some other web page.
  2. Photos stored in Drive can be automatically synced down to a computer using the Backup and Sync software on Windows or Mac

You can leave the setting on and your photos will continue going to both places until they turn it off. After that, no new photos will be showing up in Drive, but they will all still go to Google Photos.

After the breakup

The 2 settings that connected Drive to Photos will be gone.

  1. You won’t be able to send photos from Google Photos to Google Drive.
  2. You won’t be able to automatically get all photos from Google Drive in Google Photos. They do promise to give us a process to import selected photos from Drive to Photos.

Who does this affect?

There are people, lots of them actually, who want to have all their Google Photos automatically downloaded to their computer. With the current settings, they could automatically collect all Google Photos in a folder in Google Drive, then, using the Backup and Sync software for Windows 10 or Mac, that folder could be synced down to their computer.

This method of getting photos from phone to computer will no longer be possible. You can still view your photos from the computer at Photos.Google.com but they are not stored on the hard drive, they’re in the cloud.

If this affects you, what should you do?

You need to find an alternate method for your secondary backup. Dropbox or OneDrive can do this nicely. I use Microsoft OneDrive.

Any other questions? Leave a comment below.

Google Maps can show elevation change

I’ll never forget when we were traveling in New Mexico and asked Google Maps to plot our course from Carlsbad to Alamogordo near White Sands National Park. I didn’t understand why it was telling us to go many miles out of our way to the north, then around and down. When I looked at the map I saw a much more direct route – thru Cloudcroft. Let’s go that way.

Well, we learned the hard way. That is a very steep climb up and an even steeper trudge down. We’d already burned one set of brakes, we had to be very careful not to burn another.

That was some years ago and we didn’t have the separate programs that would tell us what the elevation was. Today it is super simple, right in Google Maps. Just tell Google Maps that you’re on a bicycle and it adds a panel to the left sidebar with the elevation changes along the selected route. Make sure to select the car once as well, just to check that the route is the same. The elevation profile will only show up when you have bicycle selected.


To learn more about navigating with Google Maps, see our Member Learning Guide:

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.