With a little help from my friends -- Staying in Touch with Family and Friends
During the 2008 presidential campaign, reporters asked some of the candidates what was the one indispensable item they carried with them to remind them of home on those long campaign swings criss-crossing the nation.
Mitt Romney said he always carried a special, home-made trail mix concoction that he ate for breakfast.
John McCain said he always carried a framed photo of his family that he propped up on the hotel dresser wherever he went.
Barack Obama said he always carried a Web Cam. Each night he would communicate with his family back in Chicago with a live, two-way, private “telecast.”
Huh??? What’s a Web Cam?
A web cam is basically a movie camera that attaches to your computer enabling you to transmit real-time, color video to anyone having the same equipment. To complete the package, you’ll need a microphone and speaker also connected to your computer.
Web Cam Networking
As a retiree, you may be traveling a lot (wouldn’t that be nice) and you’ll want to stay in touch. Or maybe your children/grandchildren are living in a distant city. Or, wouldn’t you like to stay in touch with those long-lost friends you met at last year’s high school reunion? Well a web cam is the way to do it, folks.
So, that brings us to Indispensable Retirees Gadget #1: A laptop computer with built-in web cam, microphone, speakers and Wi-Fi (more on this later).
Not just any computer. First of all, you want a laptop machine. These are so powerful nowadays that there isn’t any justification for having a bulky, “tower” computer. But not just any laptop will do. The key here is light weight. You’ll want to carry this machine anywhere you go. It should weigh less than four pounds. Otherwise you’ll always be finding excuses for leaving it home. And you don’t want to do that.
Wi-Fi is basically an Internet radio signal that can be picked up by computers with a Wi-Fi receiver card (or, preferably, a built-in card). It's important because it will enable you to connect to the internet, often at no charge, at many public locations such as libraries, book stores and coffee shops. (FYI: there's a free iPhone application called "Wi-Fi Finder" that locates Wi-Fi locations near you - wherever you may be)
When Elena and I were in Geneva, Switzerland, our hotel was attached to a giant vertical mall. Wi-Fi service was available, free, throughout the mall. We used Skype (connected wirelessly to the Wi-Fi signal) to call family and friends back in the States for about 4 cents a minute. Sweet.
So here are a couple of recommendations. Both machines have all the built-in features you?you'll need and have the requisite light weight to make carrying along a pleasure, not a chore.
Technical Specifications • Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor (up to 2.66GHz) with Centrino® 2 technology • Genuine Windows Vista® Ultimate and other editions • 13.1" LED backlit display (1600x900 resolution) • 3.42 pounds • Hybrid Graphics System with 256MB dedicated video RAM • Up to 400GB disk drive • Up to 6 hours standard battery life • Built-in MOTION EYE® camera and microphone & WiFi • HDMI™ output
Technical Specifications • Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1066MHz frontside bus • Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard • 2GB Memory • 120GB SATA hard drive (or, optionally, a 128GB solid-state drive) • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics • 3.0 pounds (1.36 kg) • 13.3-inch (viewable) LED-backlight glossy widescreen display, 1280 x 800 pixels • Up to 4.5 hours standard battery life • Built-in AirPort Extreme (Wi-Fi) • Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR • One USB 2.0 port • Built-in iSight camera • Mini DisplayPort video output with support for DVI, dual-DVI, and VGA video output via adapters (sold separately) • headphone out, microphone, speaker
Apple "Air Book" Computer
Each of these will run you somewhere between $1600 and $2000, depending on options. If you have an extra $300, you can purchase your Macbook Air with a 128 GB solid-state memory instead of a disc drive. Rotating disc drives are the weak link in any computer system. This solid-state option provides worry-free reliability.
A big advantage of Apple computers is the near total absence of computer virus problems! Apple computers use the Mac OS operating system. It is much more secure than the Windows operating system used by PCs. Most Apple users don't even bother with anti-virus software.
CONTACT US if you have specific questions about either of these laptops,or any other you might be considering.
What you are going to do with your new laptop?
1. Use the web cam to do video messaging with family and friends. To do this you will need one more thing -- instant messaging software. I recommend Skype. You can download Skype free at their website: www.skype.com. This software uses internet protocol to enable voice or video calls using your computer. Calls can be made from your computer to another Skype user, or to a standard telephone. Long distance US calls are free. Overseas calls cost about 4 cents a minute. Skype user-to-Skype user calls are free. You will need to enter a deposit of about $10 to set up the account. This will go toward international calls. Of course, you will need to have your computer connected to a high-speed internet connection (cable modem, DSL phone modem, or a WIFI connection.
2. Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / LinkedIn. Chances are, you are probably already familiar with the first three. What's different about LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is that it's a professional career network. Use it for career tips and to stay in touch with colleagues who have a similar professional background as your own. People on this website often provide job referrals and resume references. Good site to get acquainted with.
3. AUDIBLE and ITUNES -- download books from Audible.com into your iTunes library, then listen to them on-line.
4. MOVIES -- are you a Netflixsubscriber? For $8.99 per month you can receive "instant" movies, downloaded to your computer, anywhere in the world, from their vast collection. All you need is a WIFI signal. HULU is another popular site that features TV shows and network movies.
Indispensable Retirees Gadget #2: An Apple iPhone 4 (www.apple.com)
Think of it this way: It?s a miniature computer with a touch-screen keypad, that also just happens to be an iPod, that also happens to be a movie camera, that also just happens to have a built-in cell phone. There's a reason why apple has sold over 21 million of this things (mid-2009).
What you are going to do with your new iPhone?
1. Take both still pictures and video and send pics to friends or upload into your computer 2. Twitter -- send text messages 3. Listen to the radio (via Sirius/XM) or watch TV (via HULU) 4. Access the Internet 5. Send/Receive email 6. Download and play music, books and video from iTunes 7. Amuse yourself playing video games 8. Check the weather anywhere in the world 9. Use the built-in GPS to find your way across town or across the world 10. Oh, and phone friends from all over the world nearly free (with Skype + WIFI). If you're not in a WIFI hotspot, you can use AT&T's "Edge" protocol as you would any normal cell phone. An advantage here is that AT&T uses dual band protocols, which means the phone works virtually anywhere in the world (through AT&T international partners).
Apple iPhone 3G
A large part of the appeal of the iPhone is the downloadable, affordable applications ("apps") you can buy on Apple's iTunes website. As of this writing, there are over 350,000 apps (that's not a typo!) available -- most free or a couple of bucks each. In January of 2011 Apple reached the milestone of 10 million apps downloaded.
Apple wisely chose to make their internal programming "open source," so software developers could create applications that would work with the iPhone's internal operating system. Then they encouraged developers to dig in.
There's a movies app: using the internal GPS, the application finds the theatres nearest you, tells you what's playing, offers critic reviews, and allows you to buy tickets (using Fandango)
There are dining apps that find restaurants near you (or in some selected city). These can be sorted by cuisine, price or critic recommendations. Maps and phone numbers are included. Once you've made a decision, you use the Ap to make that reservation.
There are memo apps, currency exchange rate apps, world-wide phone book apps, newspaper apps, and my favorite, Travel Guide apps -- you can have a world-wide tour book in your pocket.
You get the idea. Whatever application you can think of, someone has probably already written it for the iPhone.
What's your favorite form of Social Networking? Click on CONTACT US and let us know.
"Free laptops" (for a fee) by Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News. July 9, 2009. RadioShack is offering free Acer Aspire laptops at its stores. The catch: you must signup for a two-year contract with AT&T. The contract is for mobile internet service and will run you $60/month. The monthly price goes up if you send/receive more than 200 megabyes of data. This model laptop is a downsized, lightweight one, suitable for web browsing and email. The wireless charge can go up if you do a lot of data (read photos) uploading or downloading. Verizon is offering a similar deal for an HP Mini notebook. This one is on sale for $200 plus a two-year, $40/month contract. The monthly fee could go up if you send/receive more than 250 megabytes a month. This is a "pocketbook" size machine. Not something you would choose to write your Great American Novel on.
Both of these machines come equipped with 3G wireless access cards, so the computers gain access to the Internet using cell phone technology. If you decide one of these could meet your computing needs, a good strategy to keep down your monthly charges would be to access Wi-Fi networks whenever you can. HINT: Add the free "Wi-Fi Finder" app to your iPhone. The phone's built-in GPS chip will determine your current location and the app will find a list of nearby Wi-Fi services sorted in order of closest first.