~ December ~ the end of the year and the adventure….

 Farewell from MacSeniors!


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A handful of tips from the Spring

One of our favourite resources is Macworld.com. If you’re not familiar with it, give it a look. It’s well-designed and chock full of information about all things Apple.

Macworld is a great well of tips and tricks, or as their writers label them, Mac Gems. Here is a gleaning of a three you may wish to explore.

First, for anyone seeking to learn how to “set up a kid-friendly iPad,” MacWorld has an excellent video (with full transcript for those who prefer print). Click here.

So what settings should you change?
And what else can you do to make your iPad truly kid friendly?
The answer depends on on one basic question:
What are you worried about?

The video/article covers pitfalls from how to use settings to
limit (or even prevent) access to the App Store;

make sure the child doesn’t accidentally remove apps they need;

reduce opportunities to access “explicit content”;

and make it more difficult for the kids to contact or be contacted by “online boogeymen” through FaceTime or Camera self-portraits.

All this control requires that settings be under password-protected adult control.
It makes the adult the responsible one and may “challenge” the child to try to break through the barriers…but
that’s a different discussion—one that will have to be faced sooner than some parents and grandparents wish.

For those of you still keeping your calendar on a paper pad,
to check out Chris Breen‘s excellent introduction
to your Mac’s Calendar program
click here. He covers all the basics and a bit more!

……………..Chris Breen

Our third tip may be an old one for long-time Mac users,
but those new to Macs may not realize how easy it is to add special characters to text we create.

MacWorld’s Dan Frakes shows us,
again with a video and a transcript,
three ways to access special characters
like the ones at left.
Click here to learn how to use the key hold down, or keyboard viewer, or character viewer techniques.

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Seniors as fossils?

How can we fossils survive our times?

(This post is excerpted from the page “ Reflections on Moore’s Law.”)

I recently re-read a re-issued article from TechRepubli(May 2009)
that quoted Louis L’Amour [paraphrased slightly]: “(s)He who ceases to learn is already half dead.”

It goes on to say: “Technology and organizations change,
and with those changes comes the need to adapt accordingly.
Once we cease learning
technology [and (s)he who continues to learn] passes us by.”

It then offers “12 tips” to aid our learning, “regardless of subject.”
I’ve rearranged the order, combined, and reworded to suit my purposes.
See if you can count all 12. Some are very closely related.
Click this link to read the original article.

Set realistic goals. We have a greater chance of mastering material if we set goals— write them down; 
be realistic so we don’t get discouraged but force ourselves to “stretch” to achieve them. Find a personal connection.

Break things down. The way to eat an elephant, so the riddle goes, is to do so one bite at a time.

Don’t just read; take notes. Learn actively rather than passively. 
Frequency trumps duration in learning sessions.

Leverage what we know. If we’re trying to learn an apparently new concept, 
think about how that concept relates to something we already understand.

Retain the knowledge by applying what we’ve learned. 
Write or talk about what we’ve learned. 
Better yet, teach what we’ve learned—discover just how much we really comprehend.

Have someone review our insights.

Use an iPod. It plays more than just music. Lectures, for one thing. Listen while traveling or waiting in line.

And, to put all this into perspective, find and (re)read A Canticle for Leibowitz (© 1959)! Good luck on the rest of your journey.

  Special extra on A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Not only can you still buy it from Amazon.ca,
you can also listen to
an adapted version of it online

at this wonderful website
that also offers a number of other old time classics in audio format.
An excellent freebee in our opinion!





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June report

To read the whole of this article, “Reflections on Moore’s Law,” click here.

Computers are associated with constant change.
Gordon E. Moore, “visionary co-founder of Intel,” observed back in 1965, that since their inception in 1958,
the number of components in integrated circuits (aka ICs, “microchips, or silicon chips”—
not be confused with Pringles explosion-triggering-chips;>))
had doubled every year and predicted that the trend would continue “for at least ten years.”

Well, the reflection evolved into “Moore’s Law” which posits that
the number of transistors on IC’s doubles approximately every two years and “the trend” is still happening
(although some argue we may be reaching the physical limits of such miniaturization).

Moore’s Law also showed that computer performance doubles every 18 months.
As computer processing power increases exponentially even while computer components shrink in volume,
the cost of owning one of these much faster, much more capable devices decreases substantially
even as research and development costs spiral upward.
Economy of scale from rising sales keeps prices down.

So are we about to reach the limits of all this growth (or shrinkage) any time soon?
Like most predictions, answers depend on the assumptions one makes….

To read the rest of this article, “Reflections on Moore’s Lawclick here.

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Ruminations on change…again.

Someday, it appears, there won’t be a livery stable or a steam locomotive or biplane
or PC or Mac to be found—except for models and images in attics (what’s an attic?) and museums…. Hmmm.

Nothing left but the cord…?


The end is nigh…
or is it?

Perhaps you read in April that “Worldwide PC shipments totalled 79.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013, a 11.2 percent decline from the first quarter of 2012, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. Global PC shipments went below 80 million units for the first time since the second quarter of 2009. All regions showed a decrease in shipments.

The first quarter of 2013, was the fourth consecutive that showed a drop in worldwide PC shipments,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
“Consumers are migrating content consumption from PCs to other connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
Even emerging markets, where PC penetration is low, are not expected to be a strong growth area for PC vendors

Read MacSeniors’ take
on the speculated death of the PC
in our Pages Section.
Click here.


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When is a newspaper not a paper?

Here’s an easy riddle: when is a newspaper not a paper?

Answer: when it’s only bits and bytes displayed graphically on an electronic device.

Okay, as riddles go, this one’s pretty clumsy.
But, as always, I wouldn’t bring it up unless I had something worthwhile to show you.

Van Sun media forms

Pick your poison!

Let’s try a different approach.

Assumptions: we own a reasonably up to date computer (less than five years old), and perhaps an iPad and a printer.

By how many different means can we access The Vancouver Sun
(or any of Post Media’s 10 daily newspapers across Canada)?

To find out the answers in our
in the Today’s Seniors section, click here.

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Looking for insights into email systems?

Email Clients: Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail

Email terminology can be confusing:
email Clients,
and POP and IMAP,
and Webmail and  so on.

If you’re looking for some help
in untangling this confusion,
click the link below for our page,

YOU email: how do you do?

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Some Thoughts On a Mac’s Slow Performance

by Keith Richardson

A common problem that all computer users face eventually is the “slowing down” of their computer.
(A problem I’m familiar with—and I’m talking about myself, not my Mac!)

When people complain that their Mac is running slow, it’s important to determine whether they’re talking about an application that is Internet based (like Safari or another web browser, or Mail or other email program), a particular application not tied to the Internet, or the Operating System in general.

Click for larger image.
LITE sucks big time!

Most often, the problem is a slow Internet connection which is remedied by buying faster service. Many seniors when signing up for the Internet a few years back, purchased the cheapest option at the time, often called High Speed LITE. Lite, I joke, has always been pronounced with a silent T, which would make it High Speed LITE. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have allowed their long time customers to continue paying for HSL (the ISPs call the service “grandfathering”) and wait until the customer eventually realizes that the reason streaming video stops and starts and stops and starts and, more importantly, software updates take hours on their machines YET only minutes on their kids’ Macs is because their Internet connection speed is simply too slow for today’s needs.
Running with slow Internet is like driving a mobility scooter on a freeway!

MacSeniors can help you determine what your speed is and choose a plan that best suits your needs. For true high speed, you’ll pay 10~15 dollars more per month, but you’ll be glad you do. We promise.

Do you really need to have all these apps running
(the ones with the bluish light underneath)?

However, even when you’re NOT using the Internet there are a lot of other reasons why your Mac may be running slow. If you’re seeing the old spinning beach ball more than you used to, try quitting applications that you don’t need to have running in the background. If you’ve been running half a dozen or more when you only need two, you should see immediate improvement.

MacWorld online recently published an excellent article that may be helpful for you. The last part of it is rather technical and I would counsel you against getting in over your head, but there are a number of things you can certainly try. For a simpler, earlier MacWorld article,  click here.

Some additional things you can try.

Restart your Mac. “One of the simplest steps you can take is also one of the most effective. Restarting your Mac cures most slow-downs, because it forces background processes to quit, frees up RAM, and generally lets you begin afresh.” (MacWorld)

Clean up your Desktop. If your Desktop is strewn with files you’ve saved to it, either put them away in appropriate folders in your User folder or, at least create a single Desktop folder and store them in it. “Your desktop plays a part in how long it takes for you to boot the system because it’s the first screen that it has to load up. As much as possible, try to keep it simple by minimizing the number of icons from the dock and clearing up the amount of files you can see. You can either delete them or put them into folders so that the operating system doesn’t have to waste additional resources to load them upon starting your computer.” (hongkiat.com/blog/ways-to-speed-up-mac/)

Cluttered Desktop (and we’ve seen MUCH worse!)      Click to enlarge.

All those files and folders put into one!     Click to enlarge.

Read the rest of this entry »

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February update and a tribute to a well-known retailer

February already. Already the first signs of spring.

Change, and more change. It has always been thus.

And we’re all wishing that it’s change that we want and deserve but never guaranteed.

Wi-Fi scanning built into OS 10.8

Last comment on the router issues that consumed much of our earlier posts! Reader Keith W-B enquired whether I was aware of a software program called iStumbler that allows Mac users to see/analyze in some detail the Wi-Fi traffic in their immediate vicinity. While aware of it, I’d had no occasion to use it, and when encountering difficulties with my Shaw modem-router, didn’t think of it. In January, however, doing further research on factors that affect Wi-Fi performance, I re-encountered this free, open source app available at istumbler.net.

As it turns out, I don’t need it. Apple’s latest OS 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion) has a Wi-Fi scanner tool built in, albeit very deeply buried. For details on how to access it, see osxdaily.com. I’m using it as described in the osxdaily article and it works great!

Last month, I reported that iMacs continued to be in short supply through December. Well, ditto for January. This at a time when Apple is again rumoured to be foundering as stock values plunge from their late September high. Writing in MacWorld (Jan. 11), Lex Friedman observed: “Some tech pundits ask, on occasion: Is Apple doomed? The answer right now is most certainly not. In fact, the better question to ask is: Can Apple ever really be doomed again?” Mac users are used to such repartee. That real problems exist needs to be set against the fact that Apple is sitting on cash in hand of about $120 billion! Friedman continues: “The other key argument is that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t sentimental or overly proud when it’s time to make key business decisions.” For more on this, read “Can Apple ever be doomed again?” online at MacWorld.

But back to the new iMacs—the late-2012 models supposed to replace those introduced in mid-2011. While they’re increasingly available now, throughout January, stock was still scarce among its traditional resellers like London Drugs as supplies went first to the mother ship’s own fleet.

old-time service

One of my South Surrey clients who, in early November 2012, wanted to buy the last of the “old” stock with the built-in CD/DVD SuperDrive, ended up with a story worth telling! When her favourite London Drugs computer dept. was unable to provide an iMac of any generation, it called nearby locations and eventually found a 2011 model which that store offered her at a reasonable discount. She dashed over to pick it up as others were waiting to take it if she couldn’t get there by the agreed upon time.

When I set it up for her the next week, I noted that the OS (10.6.6) installed on it was older than one would expect on a Mac purchased in 2012. That’s not completely unheard of, however, and as she was upgrading from a system two generations older, she had enough adjustments to deal with. The set up and software updates went well, and we believed that it had been properly registered with Apple.

Needing some assistance, but not wanting to bother me over Christmas, our feisty lady called Apple on Christmas Eve expecting phone help under her warranty; she was rather upset to be informed, somewhat curtly, that, based on the serial number, this “old stock” was no longer under warranty at all, let alone qualifying for the three months of phone support she was expecting.

She decided to handle her dissatisfaction directly with LD whom she initially thought had knowingly dumped on her an “unwarranteed” computer.

She went back to the second London Drugs store where she had picked it up and where she had already been given a complimentary iTunes card to pay for an update to OS 10.8. The computer manager explained that her recent news was equally surprising to him, but there was no way to tell from the box that her machine no longer qualified for warranty. He assured her that while LD could not provide free phone support, his store would provide her with a warranty equivalent to Apple’s on the machine itself.

At first she was satisfied, but as she mulled over the matter, she felt she needed to do more. A single lady who celebrates her independence, she decided to “go to the top,” and contacted LD’s head office in Richmond. The female executive she was eventually referred to, after commiserating with the customer’s dissatisfaction, did two things that need to be reported. First, she asked the customer, “What will it take to make you happy in this situation?”

Then, after our client stated that she liked her machine and just wanted to have the warranty that she felt she had paid for, the LD exec observed that there was nothing they could do to influence Apple in this situation, but she would give the client a choice: she could assure her that LD would provide a full year’s warranty OR, if the client preferred, LD would, at no cost to the client, see that she received a brand new “late 2012” iMac as soon as one was available.

Our mutual client, who is devoted to justice but not to greed, replied that the second option would be unnecessary on two counts. First, it meant that London Drugs would be “out some money” over a matter that was likely beyond their control (and she didn’t want that), and second, she likes the mid-2011 model’s built in features. She could upgrade the OS, when the time was right, to the same as a 2012 model at no cost to her.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending. A senior stands up for herself and for justice. A big company whose name starts with “A” wriggles off a hook (hmmm) thanks to the the generous determination of London Drugs to make sure a customer’s long-standing loyalty is retained. It is stories like this that make me feel proud to be a LD customer, too!

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COMPUTER CHAT January 2013

from the column in Today’s Senior Newsmagazine
by Keith Richardson

Happy New Year! Hope your holidays were happy and heartwarming!

Back in mid 2010, we discussed routers and Wi-Fi at some length in Today’s Senior Newsmagazine. My own ignorance on the subject prompted me then to quote liberally from online resources such as brighthub.com which examined the latest devices and explored the differences among some of them. For more of that, please search online for updated material.

In the previous post (December 2012), I reported on significant improvement in Shaw Cable’s technical support in the case of my Internet connection speed blues. Unfortunately, the improvement lasted only about two weeks until someone moved into our building and began using the same router channel.

At the beginning of December, we noticed that Wi-Fi connections for our laptops, iPads, and iPhones had become suddenly and irritatingly intermittent. We could always reconnect for a minute or two, then the link would die. An iMac connected by ethernet cable to the DPC3825 modem-router worked fine and became my lifeline. Our “Internet problem,” clearly, lay in the wireless router part, probably the settings, of the DPC. There was a chance that the device itself was defective.

Another call to Shaw tech support led to a lesson on Wi-Fi channels and an effort to improve the DPC’s router settings to a channel that wasn’t being used by too many of our condo neighbours, most of whom are apparently using high powered Wi-Fi routers. At one point I counted 20 other networks that my computers were detecting at their full transmitting power! When the tech’s determined phone help failed to provide a solution, I asked for a tech be sent to our home to see what could be done.

The next two paragraphs matter the most in this saga. The Shaw tech arrived (right on time), armed with an iPad and software that enabled him to check not only my modem-router, but what channels (from 1 to 11) were most in use in our building. He discerned that one channel was being used by only one other resident. He also felt that my DPC unit might be defective, so he replaced it and set up the new one for optimal performance based on his experience. He explained, however, that the Internet Service Provider (ISP)s can guarantee only the “hard-wired” (ethernet) connections to their modems; wireless is always a gamble in apartments/condos, and that Wi-Fi connection speeds will always be slower than hard wired. We should not expect the same speeds on our iPads that we get with our Macs. The age of our computers (actually the components inside them that enable Internet connection) also affects our connection speeds. And then he left: we’ve been extremely pleased with our Local Area Network (LAN) for the past two weeks. We have chosen to utilize hard wire connections for our three Macs, and Wi-Fi for iPads, iPods, and iPhones.

The next day, I visited a townhouse complex where a client was experiencing the same kind of problem with her TELUS modem-router and MacBook. It had functioned perfectly (wirelessly) at two locations in the US where she had spent much of the summer and fall, but was now displaying the same annoying intermittency we had suffered. While her husband’s wired connection to the router worked fine, her Wi-Fi connection was driving her to distraction! Not only did a call to TELUS Tech Support NOT resolve the problem, but we were told that as long as the wired connection worked, TELUS would not send out a technician to look at the problem. TELUS does not guarantee wireless connections.

(Nor does Shaw, for that matter, but at least they’ll send out someone to look into the problem).

Please don’t infer that I’m suggesting “TELUS is bad / Shaw is good.” Such oversimplification is foolish. I know plenty of folks who like TELUS and hate Shaw and vice versa! I’ve had effective and ineffective service from both at various times.~Keith

In the end, it turned out that the client’s situation was even more complicated than I had been aware of. I’m told that their TELUS connection box affects their Optic TV as well as their Internet. It is likely that a TELUS tech will, in the end, have to come out and untangle the mess.

The bottom line, I guess, is, “Ask around. Find out what kind of service the ISPs in your area are providing, and make your choices accordingly.” This high tech stuff requires expertise when “normal” goes haywire!
[See the update, and, we hope, conclusion to my home saga in the February post!]

On a happier note, I’m delighted that a free Google Maps app for iOS 6 (redesigned & enhanced) has been accepted by Apple’s App store—for the iPhone at least. While I’m not enamoured of all its new features, it’s still much better—for my needs—than Apple’s Maps app. Give Apple credit at least for being humbled (quite the opposite of being honoured!) enough to accept a better product from one of their main competitors!

iOS 6 for the iPhone and iPad is an important evolutionary step up from iOS 5, and I’m very happy to have it on my devices at last. My face feels so much better with its nose sewed back on….

One more curious note.
Perhaps you know that Apple and Samsung have been at each other’s throats over competing mobile devices (smart phones and tablets). One might think they feel about each other as North and South Korea do. Apparently not! This headline online really grabbed my attention: “Samsung exec praises Apple’s ecosystem, admits he uses their products at home.”

Young Sohn
Samsung exec

From the website maskable.com: “During an interview with MIT Technology Review, Samsung’s chief strategy officer Young Sohn admitted that he is a longtime user of Apple products and continues to use them at home.

Sohn continued: “If you look at the strengths of Apple, in a way it’s not the product per se. It’s that consumers like their ecosystem such as iCloud. I like that my family 6,000 miles away in Korea is able to see my schedule and see all of my contacts and photos. It is sticky, but it is a proprietary architecture.”When asked to clarify if he is still using Apple products, Sohn said, “At work I’m using Samsung devices; Apple at home, mainly because all of my systems and files are done that way. That’s sticky, you know? However, I did figure out how to sync all of my contacts and all of my schedules between the two different systems. You can do it. It’s a bit of work, but it is possible.”

The Thinsomest iMac!

That’s pretty high praise for a competitor—especially considering that Samsung is battling Apple in courtrooms around the world and has launched a string of anti-Apple ads.

Finally, the new thinsome iMacs continued to be in short supply through December.
More on them in February’s post! .

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