Tag Archives: technology

The Quest for Techies

The other day I received an e-mail from an organization that caters to seniors (of which I’m a member) and that has a 4 letter acronym as a title. This organization was offering a series of free classes in how to operate a smartphone, both android and iOS (Apple) phones. I immediately read further to get the particulars. I have an older android smartphone and my knowledge of its functions is basic to say the least. I can add and subtract people in my contacts, make calls, text, send a photo to an e-mail address and play with my Bitmoji app. That’s about it, so a class to learn more sounded excellent to me. However the letter also stated that our specific phones would NOT be addressed. We students would learn on a phone they would allow us to use during the class. I could just picture in my mind’s eye the chaos in a room full of seniors, all with “deer in headlight” syndrome, interrupting the instructor to ask how this lesson was different than on the phone they used. I had already experienced this phenomenon when I took a class in operating a late model camera and also when I attended a hospital lecture about AFib for which there are several different medications which all work differently.

The e-mail also said that two classes would be offered for android and two classes for iOS phones. One set of classes was offered in the morning and one in the afternoon for each, and these classes were available in St. Petersburg or Tampa. I live an hour north of each of these heavily congested locations. The next thing I noticed was that all the classes in the morning said registration was already full. I never even had a chance to sign-up for a morning class. And the afternoon classes concluded right at rush hour. Surprise, surprise! I wonder who was responsible for setting that schedule up?

I decided to call the number suggested in the e-mail for further questions and when someone answered they knew nothing about these classes. After fumbling around for a while, putting me on hold and coming back, they didn’t know why the morning classes were already full and they didn’t know why the afternoon classes were scheduled to get out at rush hour. They also didn’t know if any classes would ever be offered anywhere nearer me. Why was I not surprised? This sort of thing is so typical in today’s world. Some half-wit took a great idea and turned it into an idiot’s endeavor, by being too lazy or ignorant to figure out how to make these classes possible for people in this geographic area.

Some people have disdain for seniors, claiming they are too stupid or lazy to learn how to use a smartphone or other technology. Those who feel this way are not being fair. I am a senior and I love to learn new things, as do many of my friends. The problem is in finding a source for that learning. I’ve always been good at reading owner’s manuals or going to a store where I’ve purchased an item when I’ve gotten stuck. Owner’s manuals are no longer being printed. The manual that does exist is on the phone, but if one doesn’t know how to get to it, what good is it!!! And if by some miracle you do get to the manual, nothing is explained in detail. It’s assumed we are already tech knowledgeable. And phone stores don’t typically teach people how to use their phones. They upgrade!  The few classes I’ve seen offered are too basic for me. Talk about frustration! It’s laughable!

We seniors need patient young folks to offer instruction in operating cell phones!!! Other technology, too! We’re even willing to pay. Help!!!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Today is Why-day

Most of my adult life I’ve tried to keep up with the latest technology, but lately, I’ve fallen behind. Recently, my son asked me with a grin  as he looked at my cell, “Mom, isn’t it time you got a “grown-up” phone?” I answered I really didn’t need one. In addition to my bundled land-line, I have a cell phone that takes photos (in case I’m in an accident), a slide-out qwerty keyboard that enables me to easily text a friend with a hearing disability, voice mail, and unused Internet that drains the battery, besides the obvious ability—phoning people. And it is cheap to own and use each month. So what if my phone is dumb, not smart!?

As a writer, my home and office are located in the same place, so I don’t need traffic and weather reports, or coordination with carpool members. My home computer provides most of the information I need each day and connection with the outside world, and I have GPS in my car.

I’m probably shocking a lot of you readers, but I’ve seen some of you isolate yourselves from the art of conversation at the doctor’s or dentist’s offices, in the grocery store line, at the hair salon, in restaurants, etc. How can I learn how to develop my characters if no one will talk with me?

I remember years ago when I had my dance business; I depended a great deal on my answering machine for acquiring jobs. When messages changed from analog to digital, I suddenly found it difficult to understand them. The digital ones were tinny and it sounded like people were mumbling far off in a concert hall. I still have that trouble. When people call me now, I ask them to call me back on my land line, because I have difficulty understanding them on my cell. I even had my hearing checked to see if it was just me. Nope, I have great hearing.

But, my son’s question played around in my mind. By not having the latest gadget, was I losing my edge, whatever that means? Why do I need to spend a lot of money, time researching, and effort learning how to use a smart phone?

Never the less, I did some research on smart phones and, my goodness, they do a lot these days! They also cost a lot. I’m not poor or cheap, but I can think of better ways to spend my dollars for something I rarely use. Anyway, I went to several consumer websites to gain more information.

Do you know there is not a single review that gives any of the myriad of smart phones an excellent rating on voice quality? Out of a ranking of 5 points they all rank a three. Isn’t that what telephones were originally created for? Apparently, not anymore. I do know it depends on the chosen carrier and the signal and the phone, but…

We humans can send people to outer space, but we can’t make a phone that has great voice quality? That is shocking to me.

Remember the days when, if you purchased a multi-function machine of some kind and if one thing went wrong or broke, you were stuck with having to replace several items or buying another combo-unit? I think that has influenced me also in not buying a smart phone. It does too many things. I know eventually it will be inevitable, but do I have to take that step yet? Hmmm, what to do?

Okay, folks, tell me why you can’t manage without a smart phone. If I’m missing out, I want to know.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Stalking Is Serious

In the fictional world of crime writing, stalkers make noteable characters. Their activities are obsessive, freaky, and often downright frightening, which creates and builds tension throughout a novel. But in the real world, a stalker’s motivations and actions are harassing, dangerous, and too often deadly.

With technological advancements continually upgrading, stalkers have increasingly new ways to make their victims’ lives more miserable than ever. There are countless programs and avenues for criminals to explore and use.

For example:

He can monitor his victim’s computer programs.

She can use a program that hides her own phone number and displays another’s on her victim’s Caller ID. And disguises her voice so even those closest to her won’t recognize it.

He can remotely access his victim’s voicemail, ensuring she doesn’t receive her messages. But he does.

She can send an anonymous email to cover that she is the one who is actually sending it.

He can post inflammatory, false, or enticing information about his victim that includes her name, address, phone numbers, and email address on a social network, which in turn causes her to receive harassing messages, sometimes visits, from strangers.

She can “friend” her victim’s family, friends, and other contacts on social networks to get personal information about her. And use it in insidious ways.

He can download a program on her phone that allows him to set up an account for himself to access her information and track her. Tip: only let people you completely trust borrow your phone to “make a quick call.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, “Protect Yourself From Computer Hackers,” it is very easy to hack into someone’s home computer and see what the eye of the camera is looking at. A slick, sick way to obtain an insider’s information about someone. Cover the eye of your computer camera.

I am currently working on the sixth book of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, and in the subplot one of the deputies, burly Vince Weber is a victim of stalking.

So what can you do if you know, or suspect, you are being targeted in this kind of abusive activity? Report it to the police. And preserve any evidence you have. If you get an unsettling phone call or email, do not delete it, as you may want to do. Sometimes it takes a person a while, and a number of incidents, before she recognizes she is being harassed. Save any suspicious message you receive. And if there are more messages, a pattern is emerging, and helps the police develop a case.

More and more stalking cases are being successfully uncovered and prosecuted. Stalking can lead to serious and tragic outcomes if the offender is not caught and stopped. Stay safe.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series.

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Technology Addiction Continued….

I have always been a reader. I love books. Their smell, the way they feel, the sound they make when the binding is cracked for the first time. I love the feel of the coolness in my hands and the smooth surface of the cover.

Beside my bed, there is a stack of books that I have purchased at various stores with the intent of reading. Unfortunately, I tend to purchase more books than I am capable of reading. Thus, my to-be-read pile continues to grow despite the fact that I spend a great deal of time sitting on my couch reading. It has grown so much, in fact, that I now have a spare bedroom that I have furnished with bookcases along one wall. It is these bookcases that hold the books I am intent on reading but can’t find room for on the pile beside my bed.

It really is quite comical. I may find myself buried beneath a pile of trade paperbacks one morning and unable to get out of bed. Come to think of it, as long as I can open one of the books, that may not necessarily be a bad thing…

But I digress.

In one of my earlier blogs I confessed to my technology addiction and now I will confess to allowing technology to enter my one true love – books.

I now have an e-reader. But not just any e-reader. I have the Kindle paperwhite. This neat little gadget has a screen that mimics both the look and feel of an actual piece of paper. The technology that comes with this little gizmo enables one to read while they are anywhere…even in direct sunlight! If any of you are like me, much of your time is spent outside. And if you can read while enjoying a sunny afternoon, all the better. Perhaps you’re sitting on your porch or relaxing by the pool. In either of these situations, the sun is your enemy as you simply cannot see the words on your e-reader screen despite how much you squint or turn the device. You wind up with a headache from trying to read through a piercing glare.

I no longer have that problem.

Let me say that this particular path to yet another technological addication was a long one. I didn’t want the e-reader. I had no interest in a device that was so “portable,” which is what my mother told me when she purchased hers. I simply could not understand how this device was any more portable than, say, a paperback.

Still, I gave in and got the e-reader. Once it was in my possession however, I was hesitant to purchase books for it. Would I miss holding a book in my hand? Would I miss turning the pages and feeling their smooth, cool softness between my fingers? Would I be somehow disloyal to the stack of books I already had in my possession?

I began slowly by downloading anything that was free, whether it was a short story, a novella or a full-length novel. In this manner, I was much like the former smoker who never buys a pack, only borrows from friends. If you don’t have to pay for it, you’re not really cheating, right?

Of course, it is a slippery slope and from there, I began to search out older books from some of my favorite authors. I signed up for several email alerts that let me know which books were on sale or were free. Before long, I had pages and pages of books stored on my Kindle that were sitting there, just waiting for me to read them.

I now confess to having an equal amount of books on my shelves and on my Kindle.

And I’ll never be able to read them all.

Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple In The Water. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina where she is at work on her next novel.

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=62&osCsid=ae4531f38449420009d200bed615aecb

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My Technology Addiction by Donna Small

This past Sunday, my daughter, Emily, wanted to make some cookies.  I’d just inherited one of those fancy mixers from my grandmother and this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try it out.

Perusing the kitchen, I realized we were out of several key ingredients so the two of us hopped into the car and headed to the grocery store.

About three minutes after leaving the house, I did the instinctive “reach into the pocketbook to make sure my phone is there” and quickly realized I had forgotten it at home.

Now, you’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal.  I was traveling about five miles away from the house to a populated area; not heading out into the Great Frontier.

But still, this was my cell phone.  I felt the panic begin to creep in…

What if I’m in a car accident?

How will I call 911?

What if I drive the car off a cliff?  (Totally irrational thought since I live in Clemmons and not the Grand Canyon, but that’s the panic talking.)

What I’m trapped for days in my car and have no way to contact anyone?

Trying to hide the panic I felt, I looked at my daughter and said, “I forgot my phone.”

Instinctively, she patted the pockets of her denim shorts and realized she, too, had left her device at home.

My palms began to sweat.  (Not kidding.)  I was (gasp!) out of reach and would be unavailable by text, email and phone for the better part of an hour!

What if I was needed?

What if a text was sent to me and I was unable to respond until I returned home?  (I should mention here that the most important text I have ever gotten is my husband telling me he’d be home later that originally planned.  It’s not like the president has ever texted me to ask for my advice on some foreign policy issue.)

I took some deep breaths and told myself how ridiculous these thoughts were.  After all, I’m not that important.  If I’m out of reach for an hour or so, I ‘m pretty certain the world will continue to turn on its axis.  I also need to remember that somehow I managed to survive the first half of my life without a cell phone.  As a matter of fact, when cell phones first came out, I was resistant to carry one. I’d survived thus far without one, why change now?

Of course, it wasn’t long before I caved.

I purchased a cell phone and carried it with me. Initially, I had one of those basic plans that allowed one to make phone calls in their home calling area.  Outside of that, the costs were extensive.  After a few short years, I upgraded to the nationwide plan – you know, because I travel so much – (not!)

In any event, it wasn’t too much longer before my contract was up for renewal and I was able to purchase a new phone.  Of course, I was woo’d by the newer smart phones and upgraded to something much more sparkly than I had previously.  Fast forward a few upgrades and my phone was also a camera, IPOD, GPS, was able to receive emails, and had internet access.

Thus began my Dependence on Electronics.

I now carry my phone with me at all times, even on my daily walks.   Anytime I am in the car, it is taken out of my pocketbook and placed on the center console.  I will frequently reach to touch it as though making sure it is still there and hasn’t mysteriously evaporated into thin air.

It is beside me each night when I sit and read in the living room and it is on the nightstand beside me when I sleep.  If asked why, I will tell you that it’s because I use my phone as my alarm clock, but really, it’s because I can’t stand the thought of it being out of my sight.  (Well, that and the fact that my publisher may need to call me at 4am to inform me that my book just hit the New York Times Bestseller list….I can dream, can’t I?)

This need to be constantly connected is somewhat disconcerting.  It has led to a bit of laziness on my part.  I’ll admit, I have texted my daughter upstairs in her room instead of actually walking up the stairs and I’ve done the same to my husband.   Why walk up a flight of steps when you can simply thumb a few keystrokes?

That being said, I’ll freely admit to having a pretty heavy reliance on technology and I’m not entirely sure it’s a good thing.  Yes, I want to be able to reach my daughter when I’m not with her or text my father who lives 900 miles away, but do I really need to break out in a cold sweat when realizing that my cell phone has been left alone for thirty minutes?  The answer is no.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, I doubt my reliance on this tiny piece of electronic equipment will change anytime soon.  However, I do pledge to walk up those steps to speak to my family members, even if it means I will lose my place in my book.  After all, the face of my daughter is something I never tire of seeing.  She’s worth a walk up a flight of steps.

I am pleased to report that my daughter and I survived our trek to the grocery store sans technology. I somehow managed to avoid the treacherous cliffs that are so prevalent in Clemmons and returned home safely without a scratch on either of us.  Emily and I were ready to begin our cookie-making.

However, upon my arrival home, my husband informed me that he tried to reach me.  Apparently, the Sunday paper wasn’t delivered and he wanted me to purchase one at the store.

And I missed the call…..

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=62&osCsid=2d9a9e8579dc699788f816443a7c146f

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Naysayers and Online Promotion

There are a lot of Naysayers out there who negate the value of Online Promotion.  Particularly with using social networks to create name recognition to sell their products—books. They tout other methods, proven methods formerly used in promoting books and authors. What I say to the Naysayers, is this:  TIMES CHANGE.  The basic methods of publicity/marketing remain the same but the focus of the methods has changed. To be successful you must CHANGE with the times.  Or get left behind

These days, a great deal of shopping is done online, including books, music, movies, clothes, house wares and appliances—even cars and houses.  Online is a HUGE mall and that’s the way you have to look at it. No it hasn’t replaced concrete stores, but that doesn’t reduce the validity of online sales, or online promotion.  Why?

Face it, we’re a techie generation and the technology is there, in ever-increasing numbers, to facilitate online selling and buying. Studies track how much time the average person spends online for things other than working. While I don’t have the figures at my fingertips, it’s a huge block of time.  Computers can do about anything a TV can—provide you with the latest news, music, TV shows, movies, and books.  Cell phones can hook you to your computer and access the Internet.  C’mon.  The Internet isn’t going anywhere unless some catastrophe happens to eliminate it. Naysayers have to get with the times. Which is why e-Books, Print on Demand or digital technology, and traditional published books in e-book format, aren’t going to go away, no matter how many opinions there are on what constitutes a “real” book. 

 If online sales weren’t valid, why is every paper catalogue put out have an online store?  Why are even major manufacturers providing an online presence and a venue to sell their products?  Everyone from attorneys to roofers sell their services on line.  Manufacturers from Beer to Xanax use known personalities to sell their products. These personalities and stars are known because of their activity in sports and on the silver screen—and known on the Internet. Why? Name and face recognition. 

 Hollywood sells their products online.  Their products are stars, producers, movies, and TV shows. The music industry is the same. Just about everyone who sells something has a website.  It’s real. It’s today, not yesterday. 

For instance, in Hollywood of old, anything that got the actors, producers, and the name of the movie or show, in the paper was publicity.  It was encouraged, it was “leaked”, it fabricated. Paparazzi are still everywhere with hopes of catching something to write about and sell on the citizens of the movie and TV industry.  But now, it’s not the papers that get it first, it’s the Internet and the publicity grinders make sure their people are on the internet. It’s the same method, different focus. Actors get known on the screen by the body of their work—if that was enough we wouldn’t see them in print or on the Internet.  Personalities sell products.  People want to get to know something about the actors not just the shows/movies they’re in. 

 If you’re an author and your product is good, you are going to sell it—if people know you have a product.  How are they going to know?  Today, it’s the Internet.  Authors have to have an Internet presence. Social networks (no doubt there will be other ways in the future) provide a way for the authors to become known and to build a readership base. If the author is a known presence, then readers will know who these authors are, may have even chatted with them online. Readers will know the books, the storylines, and release dates.  Consequently, authors will have better sales both online and where ever books are sold. 

 I’m not discounting the other avenues such as book signing events, speaking to book clubs, newspapers, radio, and TV, but, unless you have an existing platform for it, unless you already have name recognition, this may not increase your sales appreciably. Local, versus the World Wide Web. This is especially so given our present economic situation and the money spent to do this physically. The old ways vs. profits made? Getting known on the Internet can increase your sales. It’s free. Will it give you over night success?  Pfft, not usually, in fact rarely

 It takes time and work to garner success. It may not seem like you’re getting anywhere in the beginning, but this is a long-range goal. The amount of publicity also depends upon how you promote yourself as an author and it depends upon how soon you start with gaining name recognition on the Internet before your book is released. It takes a lot of focused time and work.  

 My thinking on it this is if you go to all the trouble and time to write a book what’s the point if you’re not going to take the time and work to sell it?  Or ignore the new ways to gain name and face recognition. 

 To the Naysayers, I again say, times change and either you change with the times or get left behind. 

Welcome to today.  

Sia McKye

 

I’m married to a spitzy Italian. We have a ranch out beyond the back 40 where I raise kids, dogs, horses, cats, and have been known to raise a bit of hell, now and then. I have a good sense of humor and am an observer of life and a bit of a philosopher. I see the nuances—they intrigue me.

I’m a Marketing Rep by profession and a creative writer. I have written several mainstream Romance novels one of which I’ve out on a partial request.  I’ve written and published various articles on Promotion and Publicity, Marketing, Writing, and the Publishing industry. 

Aside from conducting various writing discussions and doing numerous guest blogging engagements, I write a blog, Over Coffee, http://siamckye.blogspot.com/  Each week I promote and share authors’ stories, on the laughter, glitches, triumphs, and fun that writers and authors face in pursuit of their ambition to write—Over Coffee.

 

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Stories Are as Necessary to Us as Love

Ever since humans first noticed they were different from the other creatures, they (we) have been trying to figure out what specific quality sets us apart. Opposable thumbs? Awareness of self? Awareness of death? It can’t be; other creatures share, or at least seem to share those characteristics.

From the beginning, as humans huddled around the fire, they exchanged stories, and the best storytellers were revered. That is the one trait we humans alone have: the ability to tell and appreciate stories. Stories are our foundation, as necessary to us as love. Stories help us figure out who we are as individuals, and who we are as a people. Stories take us away from our problems, yet they also help us solve them.

We cry at the misfortunes of people we’ve never met, people who never were, people who seem more real to us at times than our own families. And we rejoice in the successes of those story people as if they were our own successes.

With all our sophistication and technology today, we haven’t come far from our primitive beginnings. Where once we huddled as a group around flickering fires, we now huddle singly before our flickering screens, but the need, the basic human need for stories is the same.

With the internet, we all have a chance to reach others with our vision of the world, with our interpretation of it.

There is satisfaction in that, though, to be honest, getting paid is even more satisfying.

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One,  and A Spark of Heavenly Fire now available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.

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