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

Is your phone making payments without you?

Image result for google pay icon

Our phones, with Google, Apple, or Samsung accounts make it very easy to purchase things. Has anyone set up a subscription purchase and, months later, wondered what is that charge and how do I stop it? I’ve also heard from people who routinely hand their phones to their grandkids and later find charges for games they’ve never heard of.

Here’s how to see your charges, find what subscriptions are being paid and stop them:

Google

  • To see all transactions: Open the Google Pay app on your phone, or go to Pay.Google.com on a web browser making sure you’re signed in to your Google account. View your Recent Activity, tap See more if necessary. This will show you all of the payments that have been made using your account. Tap on any single item and you will see the payment method that was used – which credit card or other account.
  • To see subscriptions: On the phone you can stay in Google Pay and tap the account button in the upper right and choose “Manage your Google Account.” On a computer web browser you can go to MyAccount.Google.com. Find the Payments and subscriptions menu, then you’ll see all your subscriptions. To cancel, click Manage subscriptions and then click on the one you want to cancel until you see the option to Cancel or Deactivate.

Apple

  • To see transactions: There is no consolidated list of Apple Pay transactions, but you can see recent transactions by individual credit cards being used by Apple Pay. On your phone, open Settings, Wallet and Apple Pay, tap a payment card and then Transactions.
  • To see subscriptions: On your phone, open Settings then tap on the very top entry with your name, Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store, then Subscriptions. Here you will see all the subscriptions. To cancel one, just tap on it and you should see more detail, including a button to cancel.

Samsung

  • To see transactions: You can see recent transactions by your payment card. On your phone, open the Samsung Pay app. tap the 3-line menu and choose Cards. Select a card and swipe up for transactions.
  • To see subscriptions: I can’t find any information on viewing subscriptions with Samsung Pay. I have to assume that you can’t use Samsung Pay for subscriptions.

I highly recommend using your phone for payments. Especially in this time of Pandemic – your phone gives you a contactless method of payment. Security is also very high. When you hold your phone next to a payment terminal, you need to unlock it with your passcode or fingerprint. Your phone never sends your actual credit card number, it uses a different one-time-use number for each transaction, keeping your payment info safe.

Staying Connected on the Road – anything new?

The only way to stay connected when we started RVing was with a $6,000 Satellite dish on the roof.

Yes, and no. 5G is coming but it’s not here yet. Starlink is covering the globe with Internet from Satellites but don’t plan on using it for at least a year. The cellular carriers have some great unlimited data plans, but they’ve been discontinued.

Wi-Fi, Cellular, Satellite, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, 5G, Starlink, dozens of data plans, antennas, boosters, routers, hotspots – how do you keep up with it all? The only way is to make it your fulltime job, and that’s exactly what Chris Dunphy and Cherie VeArd of MobileInternetInfo.com have done. They were our guests on Episode 193 of our YouTube show and gave us an update. Here is a link to the YouTube video of that show.

  • 11:15 Chris and Cherie from MobileInternetInfo.com introduce themselves
  • 22:02 Starlink satellite Internet discussion
  • 28:06 Unlimited Cell Plan discussion
  • 34:00 Demo of where to find info on their website
  • 41:14 Streaming options
  • 44:44 5G Discussion

Oura Ring

Chris (my lovely wife) decided I need an activity tracker. I always do what she wants. She read about it in a book by Peter Diamandis, the futurist.

She ordered it without asking me if I was even interested. I’m glad she did. It’s really cool. A sizing kit came in the mail. You find your fit and complete the order online. The Oura ring (https://ouraring.com/) and custom charger arrived the following week.

Pick a size

I’ve had a couple of “Smart Watch” devices in the past. I drowned both of them. They weren’t as water-resistant as advertised, I guess. Pebble was their name. They were pretty basic as smart devices go but I wanted to learn about them.

I didn’t replace the second one. I always have my smartphone to tell time. A notification is just as noticeable on the phone in my pocket as a notification on my wrist. The watch was just an extra piece of technology that needed charging.

This Oura ring is something different. It’s a lot smarter than the watches I had even though it doesn’t tell time. It’s jam-packed with sensors. There are two infra-red LED emitters and an IR detector that samples your heart rate 250 times per second. There are 3 temperature sensors, an accelerometer, a gyroscopic sensor, memory, and a battery, all in a ring that fits on your finger!

Sensors

The collected data is transferred to the Oura app installed on the phone via Bluetooth. The ring’s internal memory can hold up to six weeks of data. You can put the ring in Airplane Mode to save battery and some people don’t like the idea of RF always on.

Oura summarizes your health data into three meaningful scores that help you harness your body’s potential every day.

Oura tracks key signals from your body while you sleep, delivering critical insights through the app to help you harness your body’s potential every day. It also tracks daily steps and activity during the day.

Understanding your health requires discipline, patience, and perspective. Oura maps your health data over the course of your use, focusing on long-term insights and patterns so you can build healthy practices—every day and over time. Information from the app could even alert you to infections or other serious health concerns. In fact, you can volunteer your data to university studies for analysis in predicting Covid-19. I joined a study run by UCSF for just that.

The app is full of charts and graphs about your sleep, your readiness, and your waking activities. It gives you a score you can track over time. It also suggests modifications in your activity to maximize your health. It’s a true data junkies delight!

You may have heard that staying healthy requires eight hours of sleep and 10,000 steps a day. But what’s right for you? And how do your habits shape your health? Oura helps you to understand and define your health on your terms, based on your personal data.

$350 sounds like a lot of money for an activity tracker but it is in line with a good Fitbit and cheaper than an Apple Watch. Granted, you can’t make phone calls on it and it doesn’t have fall detection but for me, it’s a great tracker for my activities.

Your phone can make your TV look smart

The Chromecast device plugs into an HDMI port

Does anyone watch network TV any more? The evening news is about it for me, and then the commercials drive me crazy. When I want entertainment I get it from streaming services like Netflix, HBO Go or Amazon Prime. Sometimes I even get my news from streaming services like YouTube, CBS, or PBS. But, how to accomplish this? I don’t have a smart TV, but I do have a Chromecast on the TV which means I can bring up a show on my computer or phone and “cast” it to the TV as long as the TV input is set to the correct HDMI port.

During this pandemic, #StayHome time, I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix and I’ve learned that my phone is actually the best way to stream shows and cast to the TV. I have a Netflix account and the Netflix app on my phone. I have an Amazon Prime account and the Prime Video app on my phone, and, of course I have the YouTube app on my phone. With any of these apps, I can happily watch shows on my phone, but it just takes one tap on the Cast button and now the show is on my big screen TV, the sound is coming out of our surround sound speakers and both my husband and I can be comfortable on the couch and watch the show. If I need to pause, just tap the screen on the phone.

It’s like having the phone as a remote control, but you’re not controlling television functions, you’re controlling the programming. The TV just provides the screen and the speakers.

What do you need?

  • A TV with HDMI ports
  • Good Household WiFi
  • A Chromecast device ($35)
  • Google Home app to set up the Chromecast on your TV
  • Subscriptions to streaming services like Amazon Prime or Netflix
  • The app on your phone to access Amazon Prime Videos or Netflix

When you bring home the Chromecast device, you’ll find easy to follow instructions on setting that up. The end result is that your phone’s streaming apps will have a Cast icon and when you tap it, you’ll see whatever you called your TV, for example “Living Room TV.”

Now all you have to do is find the show you want to watch and tap the play button, then tap the cast button, and choose Living Room TV, or Bedroom TV, or whatever other TV you have set up.

Wi-Fi is important

There are 2 prerequisites for this to work. First, the TV must have its input set to the HDMI port with the Chromecast device. Second, your phone must be connected to the same WiFi that the TV/Chromecast is using. If your phone is not connected to WiFi, if it is using your cellular provider instead, the Cast button won’t appear. If you have good Internet speeds on your WiFi, then watching your shows this way will be a pleasure.

My only question is, what do I watch now that I finished bingeing all of Homeland?

How to display a .pdf file in your blog or other website

Do you, or a club you belong to, create newsletters and distribute them in .pdf format? Have you ever wished you could just put the .pdf document in a blog post?

You’re in luck, it’s really quite easy if you use Google Drive to store your .pdf files.

Here are the steps from the beginning.

  1. With a .pdf file on your computer
  2. Open a web browser, go to Drive.Google.com and sign in with your Google Account.
  3. Click the New+ button in the upper left and choose Upload File
  4. Locate the desired .pdf file on your computer and click Open
  5. Now that file is in your Google Drive, open it there. (see Private or Public? below)
  6. You should now be seeing the whole .pdf file, you can scroll thru as many pages as it has. Click the 3-dot menu in the upper right and choose “Open in new window”
  7. Click the 3-dot menu from here and you should see an option for “Embed item” and copy the code from the box
  8. Go to your blog or website and be sure you’re in edit mode and HTML view then paste the code and save your post.
  9. When you view your blog, you should see the .pdf document in its own scrollable section called a frame. Here is a sample I did in blogger.

Private or Public?

Google Drive is a place to store your files. Anything you place there will be viewable only by you. Even after following all the instructions to embed the file in a web page, it will only be viewable by you. This can be handy if you want it to be private.

If you want it to be viewable by the public, there’s another step between steps 5 and 6 above. Select the file, click the link button at top right and turn link sharing on.

If you’ve been reluctant to keep a blog for disseminating news because you prefer creating documents and sharing pdf files, now you can have the best of both worlds.

How to get your old photo albums into Google Photos and display on TV

Showing old photo albums on TV fills your house with memories

How do I get my old photo albums into Google Photos? While we #stayhome, we are pulling out our
old photos. In this week’s YouTube show, Episode 189, we show you how we get them into Google Photos, make albums and then add the albums to our Google Home “ambient” mode which acts like a screensaver for the TV.

First step: Digitize

Scan the photos from albums with your phone so they go to Google Photos.
  1. If there is no problem with glare or reflection, you can just use the camera on your phone
  2. The Free Google PhotoScan will remove glare, and generally do a better job
  3. See Episode 134 for more detail on PhotoScan.

Then Display

If you have a Chromecast enabled TV, you can use the Google Home app, or the Google Photos Android App, to specify albums to be displayed like a screensaver. See Episode 108 for further detail on Chromecast.
Premium Members Only: Go to Episode 189 with notes and links and you can log in and see 7 pages of show notes documenting everything we covered in the show. You can also click “download the .pdf” to get a printable copy.

How to write that book of yours, one blog post at a time.

You know that book you have in you? The one you keep telling yourself you’re going to write someday, when you have time? It might be a travelog about your RV travels. It might be a novel based on your family’s experience. It might be your life story. Whatever the nature of your book, the way to get started is to … get started.

Starting a blog is an easy way to start your book

During this pandemic with orders to #StayHome, you might just have the time to do it. Writing a whole book is daunting, and it’s a problem that you don’t get any feedback until it’s done. If you use a blog to do your writing, you don’t have to worry about the whole book, you can get started one blog post at a time. If you make the blog public, you can get other people to read it and leave you comments. If you don’t want anyone to read it until you’re ready, just make the blog private to you.

3 Steps to create a blog – for free

I hear you saying, “That sounds great, but I have no clue how to make a blog.” There are many ways, but I believe in easy and free, at least to start. Blogger.com is my goto website for making a blog, easy and free. All you need is a Google account.

  1. Go to Blogger.com and sign in with your Google account. If this is the first time you’ve ever done this, you will be asked what name you want to be shown as the author of your blog.
  2. Click “New Blog” button at the upper right. Note: if you have already created other blogs, you’ll need to click the down arrow next an existing blog name.
  3. Fill out the form for your blog. You’ll need a Title for your blog/book, a web address (if you accept the .blogspot.com ending, it is free), and a theme – I recommend the Simple theme. You can always change it later.

Once you’ve done those 3 things, just click the orange button, “Create blog!” And, you’re done, that’s all there is to making the blog. Now you have to start writing. At this point you should see an orange button at the top that reads, “New Post.” If you don’t see that, look for an orange + button at the bottom. One of those buttons is how you start writing.

Next your will see the post editor. Think of it like a blank piece of paper in a typewriter. You need to give the post a title, then you can just write to your heart’s content. When you’re done, click the orange button called “Publish” and you now have a blog with one post.

That’s all you need to get started writing. For lots more about how to use Blogger, see Episode 123 How do I make a Blog?

More instructional articles about Blogger

What is Zoom for online meetings?

With orders to stay at home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, meetings are going virtual, and Zoom.us is quickly being adopted as the tool of choice for friends, families, businesses and organizations to hold online meetings. Whether you just want to get together with a few friends for happy hour, keep your Book Club going, or manage a community meeting when no one can come to the Community Center, Zoom might be your answer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Zoom meetings?
    It’s a website (Zoom.us) and apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS that provide tools for holding online group meetings. Meetings can include video, audio and screen sharing by any participant.
  2. How does Zoom meetings work?
    One person sets up a meeting and “hosts” it, inviting others to “join” by sending them a link with the meeting ID.
  3. How much does Zoom meetings cost?
    It is completely free to host a meeting for 100 participants up to 40 minutes. A “Pro” account costs $14.99/mo. and allows meetings up to 24 hours. See Plans & Pricing for more. People who join the meeting can have a free account, or even no account at all.
  4. Does Zoom meetings really work?
    I’ve been involved with several groups who use Zoom meetings over the last few years and we have nothing but praise for how easy and effective it is. Zoom has a well-deserved reputation for having excellent video and audio quality – even in this time of unprecedented usage. The only thing we have found that degrades the experience is the quality of the Internet connection on the participants’ end.
  5. Is Zoom safe and private?
    Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed, from 10 million daily users just 3 months ago to 200 million today. That kind of activity is bound to attract bad actors. There have been reports of “zoom-bombing” (think photo-bombing) where uninvited guests crash your meeting and display hate speech or porn. This can be avoided by requiring a password for your meeting, and/or changing settings so that only the host can do screen-sharing.
    The company is taking these reports seriously and working hard to make Zoom more secure. But, they need to walk a fine line. Total security is at one end of a line, ease of use is at the other. It’s not an easy job. Here is what the company CEO has to say.

What does a Zoom meeting look like?

Although it is truly easy to host and join a Zoom meeting, there is a lot it can do, and plenty to learn. Below is a video recording of a one-hour Zoom meeting with 50 people. Everything taught here is written up in detailed notes at Episode 187, and also see the video and written notes at Episode 186.

 During the one-hour meeting we offer How-To information on many topics:

  • How to mute and unmute your microphone while in a meeting
  • How to change the name displayed with your picture
  • How to view everyone in the meeting (gallery) or just the person speaking
  • How to display a virtual background rather than the messy office behind you
  • How to share your computer screen with the entire meeting

In addition to our Beginner’s Zoom lesson in Episode 186, and our Real, 50-person Zoom meeting in Episode 187, here are 4 short videos:

Stay healthy my friends.

Practical Tips for Running Online Zoom Meetings

If you remember the Hollywood Squares TV game show from the 60s and 70s, you’ll feel right at home in Gallery View.

We’ve been involved in a few different groups that meet online using Zoom over the last several years. In the last few weeks, due to CoronaVirus quarantines, we’ve attended and hosted many more. OMG, the things we didn’t know it could do! To learn the details of everything it can do, the best place is to go to the source – the Zoom.us website Help Center. The purpose of this article is to give some practical tips that we’ve learned along the way.

Have at least one co-host

It can be difficult to pay attention to everything going on in a zoom meeting. A co-host can be assigned to listen for distracting background noises and mute the offender. Also they can be watching for people who are trying to speak and need to be UNmuted. They can also kick people out of the meeting if necessary.

If you have more than 20 people, consider having multiple co-hosts, one co-host who listens as mentioned above, and one who watches the chat and makes sure that everyone who posts a question in chat, gets a response.

It’s easy to assign a co-host. After the meeting is started, the host clicks the “Participants” button at the bottom so you can see the listing of people the right sidebar. From there, you can simply click on a participant’s name and “make co-host.” Co-hosts have all the powers that a host has.

Learn more at Zoom help on hosts and co-hosts.

Audio etiquette

Probably the most problematic part of zoom meetings is participant’s audio. “Can you hear me now?” People need to know how to mute and UNmute their microphones. No one can hear you if you’re muted, and if you’re unmuted and some noise happens in your room, it can be very annoying.

The common etiquette is to stay muted unless you are speaking. However, this results in awkward pauses while people try to figure out how to unmute themselves. It is ok, if you are a small group – less than 8 say, and everyone is in a quiet place, to stay unmuted. This makes the meeting more relaxed, less formal.

There are many ways to mute/unmute. Try to find the one that is most comfortable for you so you can do it quickly.

  1. Click the microphone icon in the lower left. This is the primary method for mute/unmute. However, that microphone icon can sometimes be elusive as you may be focused on other parts of the screen, making it take too long to get to the microphone and click.
  2. Click the 3-dots on your cubicle and then the Mute option, or just right-click on your face/cubicle to get the same menu.
  3. Click the “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar. IF you have the participant list showing (click the Participants button at bottom) then you should see the words “Mute Me” or “Unmute Me” in the right sidebar at the bottom of the participant list. I find this position easiest to find quickly when I need to unmute. If you are a host or co-host, this is where you’ll find the Mute All and Unmute All buttons.
  4. Alt-A (Cmd-Shift-A on Mac) This keyboard shortcut will toggle you between audio mute and unmute. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.
  5. Space bar: This keyboard shortcut acts like a walkie talkie. If you are muted, holding down on the spacebar will unmute you so you can talk. Let go and you go back to being muted. Note: if you are using multiple monitors, this only works when the Zoom meeting window is the active window – click on it.

See help at Zoom.us: Mute All, Attendee controls

Video Etiquette

There’s a reason we use video conference calls rather than phone calls – so we can see you! Therefore, unlike audio, the standard etiquette is to leave your video on. If all we see is your profile photo, we don’t know if you’re even in the room! You control whether your video is on or not with the icon in the lower left of your Zoom screen.

Scheduling

The host should open the meeting at least 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start. This allows participants to gather, test their mics and video cameras, and practice sharing their screen before the scheduled start of the meeting. Be aware that a “scheduled” meeting starts whenever a host starts it. The purpose of the schedule is just for people to put it on their calendars, it has nothing to do with when the meeting actually starts – or ends. A scheduled meeting can be used like an always available meeting room, it can be used to start a meeting at any time, not just the scheduled times.

See Zoom.us help center for more on Instant and Scheduled meetings.

The Waiting room

One of the meeting settings is to have a “waiting room.” When you turn this on, people cannot pop in to the main meeting. They will be held in the waiting room until a host or co-host lets them in. This provides a way to control who enters the meeting without requiring a password.

See Zoom.us help center for info on Waiting Room

Calling on people

The host, or co-host needs to moderate the discussion in a Zoom meeting. Unlike an in-person meeting, there are no visual cues about who should speak next. The “Hollywood Squares” are not even in the same order on different participants screens. So, you can’t say, “Let’s go around the room and everyone introduce yourself.” You need to say, “Peggy, unmute and introduce yourself.” Then, “Carlos, unmute and introduce yourself.” It is the host’s job to see that everyone gets called on.

The moderator, or Host needs to be prepared to encourage individuals to speak. S/he also needs to be prepared to stop people from speaking too much. It’s not always an easy job.

Recording meetings

One of the benefits of using Zoom is that you can record the meetings. It’s important to make attendees aware that they are being recorded. Make that part of your standard greeting. When you view the recording, you may be surprised that it doesn’t look like the meeting you attended. That’s because you may have changed your view once, or even several times, between Gallery view and Active speaker view. You may be surprised when you see that the recording all happened in Active speaker view.

Learn more about the Recording Layouts.

Zoom.us Help Center

Here’s a Zoom.us blog post for more helpful tips:
Video Meeting Etiquette: 7 Tips to Ensure a Great Attendee Experience

As I’ve reference throughout this article, the Zoom help center is very useful. I encourage everyone to take advantage of their Live Training. You can join a live meeting, get instruction and ask questions. If a live meeting doesn’t fit your schedule, you’ll find recorded meetings as well.