A reader asked us for our recommendation on the easiest tablet to use – the iPad, the Kindle Fire or something else? The easiest tablet is nearly always the one your friend has, because they’ll help you out.
We always regretted getting an iPad for our aunt, because she never learned to use it. All her friends had computers, but they were thumb-dumb when it came to the iPad. If we’d thought of it, we would have told her to watch YouTube videos. There are good ones on every kind of tablet. So, go to YouTube.com and search on “how to use an iPad” or “how to use the Kindle Fire.” What could go wrong?
Basically, all tablets are similar: Tap on icons to launch activities such as email, movies, books, or the web. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend $400 on an iPad Mini, or $600 on an iPad Pro, though they are wonderful machines with excellent sound and picture quality. The Kindle Fire 7 is similar, costs only $50, works great, and now comes with “Alexa” built in. Alexa is the voice inside Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot. Press a button and ask for a song, a podcast, the weather, an audio book, a game or the answer to unlikely questions, like “Who were the Ink Spots?” (She knows.) Or use it to order stuff. A six year-old girl used it to order a dollhouse. When she described the experience on a talk show, saying “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,” Echo devices hearing this sprang into action and ordered dollhouses. (Alexa asks you to confirm any orders. Of course the little girl did say yes.)
If you want some Kindling, the Kindle Fire 7 can run for seven hours before recharging. The Kindle Fire 8, a slightly larger tablet, costs $89 and runs for 12 hours on a charge. Amazon Prime members get some free books and movies thrown in.
- “MyScript Nebo” is free for the iPad and Windows 10. It’s a note-taking app that was named winner of the 2017 Mobile Apps Showdown competition. It’s the superstar of note-taking apps. It uses handwriting recognition that converts scribbles, mathematical formula, diagrams, or drawings into neat looking results. The only catch? You either need an Apple Pencil ($99 from apple.com) or a Windows 10 computer with a touch screen and an active pen. It’s “coming soon to Android,” as programmers like to say.
- WithJoy is a wonderful wedding app. (Or you can use the website WithJoy.com.) Our nephew invited us to his wedding this way. We logged in with a special code that arrived on a lovely invitation by regular mail. Then we were invited to share a memory of the bride or groom, add photos, and interact with others.
- “Speed Drawing Challenge asks Artists to Sketch.” Google those words to find a page on BoredPanda.com with drawings done in time limits: ten seconds, one minute and ten minutes. Very interesting to watch a drawing progress; many looked great after just one minute.
- “What Each State Googled More Than Any Other in 2016.” Google those words to find a fascinating map. In California, they Googled the phrase “2016 Worst Year Ever,” searching on that issue more than any other state. In Montana, it was “Cupping Therapy.” (Movie and Olympic stars like Jennifer Aniston and Michael Phelps use suction cups on their backs to revitalize. It produces giant red welts and dates back to ancient Egypt.) In New Jersey, “Donald Trump” topped the Google queries, in nearby Delaware it was the “Brangelina Divorce.” In Missouri, they were just fascinated by “McDonald’s Breakfast All Day.”
- “Best Metro Areas for STEM Professionals.” Search on that phrase to see the list. WalletHub.com did a survey of the best places to live for scientists and engineers. On the top of the list are Seattle, San Jose, San Francisco, and Boston. Among the worst were Birmingham, Memphis and Honolulu.
Some of our readers bought a Google Chromebook after reading our column on the topic. These laptops are cheap, lightning fast and trouble-free. But there are some considerations to keep in mind.
One reader wrote to say that the Chromebook doesn’t work with his Okidata printer. It turns out that only a limited number of Okidata models work with Chromebooks. However, HP, Canon, Epson and many others have no problem. Check yours by searching on your printer’s name along with the word “Chromebook.”
Or use a workaround: Use Google’s “Remote Desktop App” to direct your PC to print something for you. Basically, this means you are temporarily working on a Windows, Mac or Linux which is controlled by your Chromebook over the Internet. Joy used her Chromebook to direct her Windows computer to make and print a greeting card. It was real fast.
One reader was disappointed he couldn’t use Quicken on his Chromebook, though he did remember that we warned readers that Chromebooks don’t let you install programs. On the other hand, there’s nearly always an online app that works just as well. For example, search on the phrase “Quicken substitute” to find an article from InvestorJunkie.com. It lists several.
Screen size: Chromebook’s normal font looks awfully tiny. One savvy reader suggested changing the screen resolution, and voila, problem solved. To do this, tap the picture in the right-hand corner, choose “settings,” and in the search box, type “resolution.” Choose a larger number to get a larger font. This works on regular computers too. An alternative method: Hold down the “Ctrl” button (or the “Cmd” button on a Mac) and tap the plus sign to increase the font size.