Technology, Cars, and the Big City

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 7.07.28 PMI don’t live in a big city. I live in a busy area, part of the megalopolis that is the northeast US….. but not in a city. However, my adult children and their spouses all live in cities. And when I visit them, I always learn something new.

If you are a city-dweller, you can stop reading, now. This will be old news for you. But for the rest of us …… it is so interesting to watch technology changing something so basic as the old “TAXI!” hail.

But let me back up a bit. It is often not practical to own a car when you live in a city, and entrepreneurs have focused on that need over the last few years, filling the gap with Zip Cars and Cars2Go. Zipcars can be found parked all around the streets of a city, and if you are a member, you just reserve one (find it on your app), unlock it and drive away, using the car for just hours or days.

For really short trips (maybe you just want to drive a few blocks) a Car2Go might be the solution. With a member card, you just get in and go. The description from the car2go website sums it up nicely: “A car2go is always a pleasure to drive: just take it, drive it, park it. Simple and straightforward. You can always find a vehicle in your area. You open it with the member card you receive after signing up. You go from A to B, park your car2go again and that’s that.”

New-to-me for this city-trip was a service called Uber. (thanks, Jinna!)

Uber has been around now for several years, and is located in cities all over the world … but was jaw-dropping goodness when my daughter-in-law whipped out her iPhone and said that she was going to get an Uber car to take us home.

We didn’t have to stand on a corner to try and hail a taxi. Nope. She just pulled up her Uber app on her phone, and tapped to call a car. Then, on her screen, we saw a map. This map showed our location …. and also the location of the Uber car that was on our way to pick us up!

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We watched as the car got closer, so we knew when to start looking for it. No curb standing for us. She also had been given the license number of the car and a photo of the driver.

Car arrived and we hopped in. After a lovely ride to our destination, we said goodbye to our friendly driver and left the car with no money exchanged. Your trip and your tip is simply charged to your credit card, which you gave when you signed up for the service.

Remarkably convenient. And the price was similar (I think in this case cheaper) than a cab ride would have been for the same distance. *****Note to new Uber users: you need to select UberX to get cab pricing that’s similar to taxis. Uber Black car service is VERY EXPENSIVE (it’s equivalent to a town car service). and unfortunately it’s easy to accidentally click on. So be careful (and frugal) and choose UberX for the best price.

This is extra interesting to me since this is a service that I might actually use when visiting Philadelphia or NYC. As a day visitor I would never grab a car2go to navigate city traffic, but an Uber car would be a wonderful opportunity to skip the smelly yellow cab and the whole “I have to find a cab” experience.

A quick google search showed me that many cities (taxi companies) are not pleased with this service, fighting to limit the number of cars, etc.

But I’m hoping this wave of “alternatives-to-taxis” prevails. It is marvelously convenient.

Uber cars are in service all over the world. Click here for a list of all the participating cities.

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Oy Vey! My Eyes Failed Me

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.39.29 PMSeveral days ago I posted a gushy happy recommendation for the app RetailMeNot.

If you read the post, you saw me ramble on about not being able to turn off the noisy cash-register-like notifications.

Love the app, hate the startling “ka-ching!”.

In a conversation with my dear daughter-in-law, Carmen, she shared her love of RetailMeNot on it’s website. She doesn’t have the app, but expressed her surprise that you couldn’t turn off the sound.

I assured her that you could not, and I thought that was surprising.

So I went and looked again (even though I had looked many times before)…..

Oh my. Oy vey.

It was there all along.

It is CLEARLY marked “mall notifications”.

But what did I see? I saw “MAIL notifications”. Not mall. I saw mail.

Can you say “old eyes”, boys and girls? :roll:

Thanks, Carmen, for making me look, again.

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Can you Laugh and be Angry at the same time?

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.32.38 AMI posed a question at the beginning of this post:

Can you LAUGH and yet be ANGRY at the SAME time???

The answer for me, I’ve learned, is absolutely YES.

The evidence came as I watched the video at the end of this post.

The LAUGH: It’s cleverly done. Acted well. Although the language is German, it is not necessary to know what they are saying.

The actions speak for themselves, and it’s … well…. funny!
(Thanks to Margo for sending it to me. :) )

BUT

The ANGER: Gosh darn it. I really get angry, seriously bothered, when older people are portrayed (often in commercials) as complete and utter idiots when it comes to technology.

And that is simply not true. What is true is that we didn’t grow up with any of this. There were no smart phones (your phone was attached to the wall, and tethered with a cord), there was no streaming, there were no tablets. And, hard as it is to believe…. no internet.

In my house we jumped into tech with the invention of the calculator, Pong, and then the Atari 2600. Next we enjoyed the AMAZING Commodore 64. I remember my son explaining to me how he could call another computer and if it was “on” he could leave a message on a “bulletin board” and someone else, from another computer could actually read this message. Unknown to me at the time (I actually thought it was pretty useless) that was the very beginning of the internet.

When he went off to college he explained to me that he would be emailing his papers to professors. I was skeptical…. but the world was changing … and fast.

And so those of us of a certain age, who were there from the beginning, had a choice. Jump in, or go on with life as usual. Technology, at first, was a choice. And if you aged without jumping in, it is most likely overwhelming, now.

But many many many people DID jump in. I loved it all. And still do. I know of many others both personally and online who are also “up there” in years and completely comfortable with smart phones, tablets and all the other technological goodies that are available to us today.

And I firmly believe, no matter what the age, with proper instruction, anyone can master an iPhone or iPad or a Kindle. My mother, age 84, uses them all quite well.

And, not only do I believe that older people CAN use these things, I believe that they SHOULD. The technology of today can enhance a life that is slowing down. A Kindle, for example, allows aging eyes to read comfortably with larger fonts.

The original purpose of this blog truly highlights this point … breaking down the sometimes-confusing-tech-speak into very do-able bits.

I fully believe that when the young people of today are old, they will find that they will be completely comfortable with the technology that they keep up with. But when new things come along at lightning speed (and they will), they just might find themselves left behind a bit, too. (And made fun of by the youth who are being born, now.)

So, after that rant of anger ….. here comes the laugh.

Proving to me that you CAN be angry and laugh at the same time. :)

Dad’s New iPad

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I Really Really REALLY Don’t Like This

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.41.58 AMI usually love all gadgets. I love my iPhone, my iPad, and my Kindles. Other tech stuff is fun too. I have some remote gadgets, step-counting gadgets and kitchen gadgets. I rarely meet a gadget I don’t like.

But I don’t like this one.

This is just plain creepy.

The Narrative is a clip on camera that you wear. It automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds.

The point? To create a “narrative” of your life. All the regular moments. The things you don’t remember… remembered.

I don’t want to be on either end of this device. I don’t want all those photos of …. ???? and I sure don’t want to be talking or working with a person who is wearing this little camera. I know I’d find it highly distracting.

(I suppose there is an argument to be made for wearing it to capture candid photos of your children, or maybe at an event …. I’ll go with that. But it’s the “all day” and photographing unsuspecting people that just seems yuchy. Bye bye privacy.)

You can read more about it in this article, and view examples of the photos that this gadget takes:

Cool or Creepy? A Clip-On Camera Can Capture Every Moment

If you’re interested, the Narrative sells for $279.

Just don’t visit with me if you’re wearing one. :roll:

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My Gift to you: Santa Claws

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and I’ll be stepping away from this blog for a while.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this little Christmas video with you. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

If you are a CAT person…. you’ll understand.

If you are a DOG person …. you’ll be very pleased that you’ve chosen the dog-route of life.

Enjoy! and Happy Holidays to you all. See you in 2014. :)

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Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving to all followers in the US!

and wishing those beyond this land of turkey-eaters a lovely weekend, as well. :)

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Netflix for Books? Hmmmm

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 8.16.20 AMI was so excited when I learned how to get books from the Library for my Kindle. (Borrowing Books from your Local Library … for your Kindle!). I have borrowed many books from the library, sitting in the comfort of my own home. It’s easy … and free. There is only one thing that brings this short of being book-heaven, and that is: selection. Although I’ve read many books from my library’s digital collection, I can not limit my reading to their books because their books simply don’t go that deep. I’m assuming the collection will grow, but until then, I continue to get books from other sources as well.

Recently I’ve heard of a brand new service model for e-book-getting. :)

The model is kind of like Netflix. You pay a fee per month, and for that fee you get movies books.

There are several companies that are trying to gain a foothold in this emerging new market.

Oyster charges $9.95 a month for unlimited books. They only launched about a month ago, and at this time, their books are only available for reading on your iPhone or iPod Touch. ( I’m quite surprised that they started with the iPhone. I don’t think that most people do their serious reading on their phone, but obviously there was some reason behind this choice. ) :shock: Their catalog has over 100,000 books, with more to come.

Another e-book-borrowing spot just launched this week. This one is from Scribd, a six-year old document sharing service. They are charging $8.99 a month for their all-you-can-read model. A big plus for them: their catalog includes a big 5 publisher, Harper-Collins, in addition to many small publishers.

Scribd is also offering a one month trial for free. You can read their books on your Android, iPad, iPhone or Kindle Fire.

This article includes a great comparison of the two services, Osyter vs Scribd: Scribd moves beyond document sharing with $8.99/month ebook subscription service

I think a service like this could really work … IF their catalog was deep enough. For me to get excited about it, I would have to see books from major publishers, and while I could be a little patient, I would like to see books show up for borrowing within a year of being released. (and I’d want to be able to read on my Kindle Paperwhite.)

One other area of concern for me: if all I can borrow are books from small publishers that sell on Amazon for $1.99 or a bit more, well, doing the math, I could buy them within a month for probably less than it would cost to be a member. I mean, I’m a pretty fast reader, but 3 books a month would probably be my average. And the math wouldn’t be on the side of the membership model UNLESS it was offering more popular, best selling, higher $ books.

I might try a month free … and if I do, I’ll be sure to share my experience, here. :)

What do you think? Does a “Netflix for books” hold interest for you?

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My iOS 7 Update Adventure

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First of all… my update/syncing history.

When the iPod touch was first released, wayyyy before the iPhone, I was right there happily enjoying my wondrous new device. There was absolutely no updating “over the air” at that time. You had to have iTunes on your computer, you bought your music and/or apps through iTunes, and you had to plug in your device to move those purchases over to the Touch.

Enter the iPhone. In the beginning, the syncing was done exactly the same way.

And so, when they introduced “over the air” updating, I stubbornly stuck to my computer syncing. After all, it had always worked for me, so why would I change? (change is not easy for me :shock:)

But time moves on, and eventually I caught up with the present. Once I updated over wifi I never looked back.

Until today.

Worried about the “bigness” of this update, I reverted back to those old days, and I thought it would be better, (safer?), to do it via the computer. Silly me.

Bottom line…. my computer sync failed. I was getting messages about a full start up disc and something else. Let me be clear, here. The failure was completely the fault of MY computer, not the iPhone.

So I UNplugged and just took a leap of faith and updated over wifi.

Happily I had no issues at all.

The update was relatively quick (well under a half hour) and smooth. No complications!

At first sight: It is definitely different … the icons are all redesigned. Not sure how I like it yet, I think it will take some getting used to.

So now I will start exploring features, and I will report back, here, one at a time…..

Here’s a little help with updating if you need it:

How to Upgrade to iOS 7

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iOS7 : Caution!

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It won’t be long now, (hours), until the new operating system is released and millions of people will rush to install it. (There is a good chance that by the time you read this blog post the iOS7 will already be available.)

This is a significant update.

I plan to download it soon, but maybe not right away. Not day one. Maybe not even day two. I am a cautious device user, and I’ll be watching the tech blogs to see how it is being accepted on the iPhones and iPads.

You can’t take it back off, so if it messes with your stuff, you will be very unhappy.

I’m not alone in my caution. To help you decide what is best for you, here is a great article for you to read: (and yes, I suggest you read it.)

Here’s why you shouldn’t upgrade to iOS7 … yet

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Reviews Have Changed the Way We Shop

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 7.26.42 AMIt wasn’t that long ago that when we went shopping for a new appliance, for example, we would make our choice because of the recommendation of a friend or the claims on the side of the box where the product-maker tries to tell you why their wachamacallit is the best.

But technology has certainly changed all that!

Everyone I know now thoroughly researches every major purchase before handing over the cash and/or credit card.

You don’t have to plan in advance, either. As you shop in a store, you can check the reviews for any possible purchase right from your smartphone.

And it’s not just the big things anymore. While shopping with my daughter-in-law, she used her phone to carefully check reviews before buying a hair product, and eliminated several items that she might have otherwise selected.

Truthfully I think I now look at reviews for almost everything I buy. It makes me much more confident about my purchase. If a product has a good number of reviews, you can benefit from the collective wisdom of others and make a great choice.

I not only look at reviews for things I buy, but also for things I do. Traveling has been made so much better by benefiting from the experience of others. I thank all those who take the time to write those reviews!

Do you use reviews? Do you write them?

Of course sometimes some people write worthless reviews. This doesn’t matter in the big picture because happily most people take the responsibility seriously.

Occasionally Amazon highlights some of these ‘off the track’ reviews ….

Here are a few of the funniest……

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