Showing posts with label Electronics Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Electronics Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review

The Best Way to Learn German or Any Language


The best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it and use it daily. Language is definitely a case of  "Use it or lose it." That's why my two years of college German had almost completely disappeared in the 45 years I didn't have any occasion to use it. A few years after graduation special circumstances compelled me to teach a bit of German to some select elementary students, but then I stopped teaching and started selling books and blogging. Spare time was scarce. I simply wasn't motivated to study when I'd rather be using my leisure time to read. But now I'm motivated since I discovered these two apps for my new Galaxy Note 9 phone.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Small Doses of Language Work Best for Me


Both of the apps I use, Drops and DuoLingo, have very short daily lessons. Both have positive reinforcement built into their programs. You know immediately whether your answers are right or wrong. I have been using both of these for about two weeks now. I got tired of the ads so I bought the paid versions after trying them out. Both programs encourage you by keeping track of what you've accomplished.

In the image above are two images from Drops. The first, in purple, is my page at the end of a session. It shows me how many words I've learned so far and how long my session lasted. It also shows which level I've achieved in my current topic. Underneath the time is a brief review of the words I've learned and reviewed during this session. This is really handy, since some words need more practice than others. Sometimes I haven't quite gotten the pronunciation down. If I click on an image in this section, I will see the English meaning and hear the German pronunciation again. If I still didn't catch it, I can tap again and I will hear the word again --  more slowly. I use this feature a lot.

The second Drops image shows the current topic I'm working on. The yellow lines show how much progress I've made. The yellow stars on the red row of squares underneath indicates that I've mastered the words in those topics.

How Drops Works

I have the premium plan and no longer see ads. I also can choose the length of each session. I think the session length begins at five minutes. I am now doing fifteen minutes a session and often I do two or more sessions a day if I have time. It's fun. It keeps my brain exercising. At the beginning of each session you receive a word drop. It looks like a large water drop and it brings you a new word you haven't yet seen. You also see a picture that represents it and the English meaning as you hear the the pronunciation of the German word. If you don't want to practice that word because you already know it, you swipe it up. If you want to learn or review it, you swipe it down. 

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review


The next screen shows you the word again and two pictures (far left of image.) It lets you choose the one picture it matches. You hear the German word again. After that you may have any of the other exercises pictured drop down. The rust-colored exercise helps you look more closely at the word and put the parts of the word into the blank spaces below. If you hesitate, they give you a hint of where to start by wiggling one of the ovals. If you've worked with the word a couple of times before they may add another group of letters that isn't a correct part of the word just to make it more challenging.

The blue screen shows one of my least favorite exercises. It's a word search. You get the first letter and have to tap the others in order to spell the word correctly. I've learned how to cheat when I don't know the correct article form and there's a choice. I find the blank oval and tap to get to it because I know it comes right after the article. It's tricky, though. Even if you know how to spell the word (which I often don't) you may have the same correct letter in two different positions you can choose. You have to look ahead to see which leads to spelling the rest of the word. If you guess wrong, the program will correct you until you make the right choice.

There's another spelling game I didn't show you. It has the picture and you have to keep picking letters from a group of a few letters on the bottom until you spell the word. When you pick a letter, another moves into its place, so you don't see all the choices at the beginning.

My favorite game is the last one -- the matching game. I don't have to spell anything for this one. I just tap the pairs that match. No matter which game, once you make the correct choice, you will hear the word that is the correct answer repeated again. Approaching the word in so many different ways -- as a whole, as an image, letter by letter, section by section, and as sound -- helps your brain cement it in your memory. Words you studied at the beginning keep reappearing in later lessons so that you don't get a chance to forget them. You can probably tell I really like this app. You can use it easily on a phone or a computer.




What I Don't Like So Much about Drops


Overall, I enjoy using Drops, but there are a couple of things I don't like. Part of the reason is in the program itself and part of it is my own lack of knowledge. I have a problem with the artwork. Now I definitely could not do better myself, but I have trouble figuring out what some pictures are supposed to be. Here are some examples in the screenshot below.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drop and DuoLingo
Screenshot from the Drops App. Get more information here.

I had no problem with the words and pictures on the left side of this screenshot from the review at the end of the session. But I had a tough time figuring out just what that man on the right top corner was doing. I thought maybe he was doing some sort of dance. I had to check the English translation, which was "I like." Yes, his thumbs are up. But when I hear the words, this is the image with which I associate it. Verbs are hard to illustrate.

My other problem was probably one I inherited from my mother who used to keep a novel inside her geography book during class. I'm not very good at identifying countries other than my own by their map shapes and/or flags. So it's only the German word that helped me recognize Greece (lower right corner of image.) When we learn the words for nationalities instead of the countries, we keep the flag and instead of the map there is a common object or a building often associated with the country. I had no trouble figuring out that bagpipes were Scottish, but many buildings in Eastern European countries seemed similar to each other. So I had to learn flags, country shapes, and architecture along with the language. I suppose that's good, but it confused me. That's why I started to pull out the old German books from college and the children's illustrated German dictionary  I used to sell. Those books  were great supplements to the apps.

Visual dictionaries for children are very good even for adults beginning the study of a foreign language. Here are two of the best available now. Mine are out of print.



DuoLingo or Drops?


I find DuoLingo boring. There is little color as far as I've gotten. It's more like doing textbook exercises on the computer. I understand the logic behind it, but maybe I should be at a more advanced level than I chose. It seems the several short sessions I completed never got past various ways of mixing these words (in German and English, in and out of sentences) : man, woman, men, women, boy, boys, girl, girls, is, are, he, she, it, you, they, the, a, and that. They were used in questions and statements. I realize this is establishing basic sentence patterns and teaching forms of the verb "to be" and singular and plural nouns, pronouns and articles. It's still boring. More color and variety in activities would go a long way to making this more fun.  Below is the screenshot of a scorecard after a brief review exercise. These are the instructions and the right answers. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Below is a screenshot of the correction screen for one of the exercises above. This is about as visually exciting as it's gotten so far. I'll let you guess which app I use most often. 



In all fairness, I have not explored all the options in this app yet, even though I have paid for the premium version. I have not joined a club  to practice with other people. I can't find one in my community, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I misunderstood that. 

I did check out the stories -- one reason I got this version. They aren't very exciting.  More like the dialogues in beginning textbooks. Bilingual children's books are much more interesting and colorful. Check out the wide variety on Amazon. Many of them are available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited. That's how I've been able to read so many of them this week. Some with very familiar stories are only in German. I will need to improve my skills before I'm ready to read those, but they are on my wish list.

In my opinion Duolingo is like a textbook put on a computer. You hear or read German and write what you see or hear in English. Or you do the opposite. I can only use this program on the computer because I can't seem to switch to a German keyboard on my phone. To be able to hear and speak comfortably I need to be on my MAC because my headsets for speaking and listening on my PC are somewhat uncomfortable for a complete session.

I probably would not buy the paid Plus version of DuoLingo if I had it to do over. It does give me a kind of practice Drops doesn't have, but it is more academic than I wanted in an app. Drops is much more fun and I seem to learn better with that kind of practice. I have a stack of German texts if I want to study the subject academically. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review
My College Texts and German References with Other Books I've Picked up Since Then
© B. Radisavljevic



My Current Plan for Studying German


My daily routine includes at least one session of using the Drops app a day, and I do it first thing in the morning on my phone before I get out of bed. That's the only way to make sure I get it done. I  also keep the Beginner's German Dictionary close to me in case I want to use it for visual review. It's a picture dictionary I used to sell. It's now out of print. For visual learning it's hard to beat Usborne books, but you can only get most of them used now. I don't think one book in my stack above is still in print, since I've had most of these for over fifty years.

Books in my stack are good for reference and review, but I need to update the dictionary. Many words have been added to the language since 1964. Here's my wish list to supplement my references. I didn't really see an adult dictionary I want yet. I will stick to the one I have until I find a more useful one. The DK Visual Dictionary (below) will have some of the more modern words in it. It will serve my purpose since it is intended for adults.

I also will keep downloading German or bilingual picture books I can read for free on Kindle Unlimited.  There are also many books there on how to learn German that I have downloaded to evaluate. When I have a bit more vocabulary, I will get the story book below. I need more experience with using the language. I hope to find my German Christmas carol book I got in college and start singing the carols again. I have some on CD's and can also listen to German music free as part of my Amazon Prime Membership. I've already found some great children's songs in German.


The most recent thing I've done is start following people on Instagram who speak German . This allows me to see how Germans actually speak informally to each other and I can read the German memes and jokes they post. I have found some real goodies so far.

 I hope if you want to learn German, too, some of my ideas, reviews, and recommended materials may help you. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or talk to me on Instagram or Twitter.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review from a First Time Smartphone User

Why I Finally Bought a Smartphone 


I have been using a flip phone since the 1990's. I only bought it because  I traveled on business and needed a way to communicate on the road. There weren't any smartphones then. The little phone fit easily in my purse or pocket and I used my landline whenever I was home. I only gave family members and very close friends my cell number -- and, of course, services that insisted I get two-step verification by text message. I don't really text anyone myself -- yet.

Almost everyone I know seems to have a smartphone and  many seem addicted to them. But I didn't want one. I hate typing on tiny keyboards with my arthritic fingers. I like to work on a desktop where I have it all. So I happily blogged on and resisted the smartphone. I processed my photos nicely without one and took a digital camera on my photo walks. Then came Instagram and I couldn't join the party. Unless I got a smartphone. So five days ago I finally got one.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
My Galaxy Note 9 with Accessories


Why I Bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Instead of an iPhone


My brother and many of my friends have iPhones and love them. My husband has a Galaxy S7. I've seen people do amazing things with smartphones and I thought they were using iPhones. One day I was at a winery with a friend and had forgotten to bring my phone. I borrowed hers and it took fantastic photos. I had seen my nephew scan a document by taking a photo with what I thought was an iPhone. I was all set to get an iPhone. But when I double checked with my nephew and my friend, I discovered they both had Galaxy phones. The camera I had borrowed was on a Galaxy Note 8 or 9

I wanted to buy the phone with the best camera. My plan was to start making more videos where I could just talk to people, so I needed a front-facing camera. I also wanted to get great nature and product photos and videos for my blogs and for making Zazzle products. And, of  course, I wanted to be able to post to my Instagram account with my own phone -- not Hubby's. I was using my PC to like and comment on posts from my friends, and I wanted to join the fun and post more. Now I can. If you like nature, books, gardening, or a simple lifestyle, you can follow me on Instagram and see the quality of what I've posted so far from my new phone. I'm barbradis on Instagram.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
Cyclist in Riverbed of Salinas River in Paso Robles Taken with Galaxy Note 9


I decided on the Galaxy Note 9 because it had great cameras. Yes, the iPhone camera is also a good one, but for my purposes, the Galaxy Note 9 tops it. There is also a lesser reason. I have both a Windows PC and an iMac. Both have been sick. While my PC was really sick, I used the Apple almost exclusively, even though it was really slow. I couldn't find anything. I called our local guru to come fix it and he confirmed that Apple just hides things and you have to know the tricks to get around that. I like a clear file path. I think in Windows, not Apple. I understand Google better than Apple. I thought over the long haul I'd be happier with Android.


The Learning Curve


If I had already been a smartphone user just trading up or getting a different brand, I don't think the learning curve would have been as steep for me as it's been these last five days. I'm used to the space and options I have with a desktop. I work with forty tabs open in Chrome, four notepads to cut and paste from, and several Windows Explorer windows open at once. Although the Galaxy Note has a larger screen than many phones, it doesn't come close to the 21 inches my computer monitor has.

The Note 9 lets me open several apps at once and flip between them, but I had some trouble getting an email with a pin I needed to put in a registration form for Verizon or Samsung -- I forget which. Once the email came in through the GMail app, I couldn't get  back to the form where I was supposed to enter it. I think that would have happened on any smartphone. So most of my learning curve is just learning to use a smartphone instead of a PC -- not something unique to the Galaxy smartphone. It's a totally different way of working. It will take time to really get good at this.

The thing that bothered me most was that tiny keyboard. It's hard for me to hit only one key at once -- even though the Galaxy Note 9's keyboard is larger than most. I have two work-arounds for that. First, I use that little microphone on the keyboard and talk instead of type when I can. I also have a small wireless keyboard I bought to use with another device. It plays nicely with my Galaxy Note 9, as would just about any portable Bluetooth keyboard. So if I'm free to talk without disturbing anyone, I make my Instagram captions and hashtags with my voice and correct most of my mistakes using the keyboard. The speech recognition does confuse to with too or two. I have to speak slowly. It mistook my friend Celia's name for silly. But I can live with that as it learns to better understand my voice.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
What Happens if You Hold the Volume Button Down Too Long  While Taking a Photo

What I love about the Galaxy Note 9

  • The large 6.4" screen
  • The ability to type with my voice instead of my fingers
  • The quality of the front and back cameras
  • The way the phone camera handles lighting differences -- what's in the shade shows better than it does in my Canon PowerShot photos if the photo subject is partially shaded. 
  • When I shoot videos while walking, they are less shaky than the ones I shoot with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. I'll show you one of my photo walks below.
  • Easy updates for software
  • Ease of installing the apps I want
  • Easy flipping between apps
  • The ability to take multiple photos in quick succession by holding down the volume button. I learned this accidentally. 
  • Clear voice reception on calls. I called my landline and my husband just to make sure.
  •  Easy contact management, but I confess that I used my little bluetooth keyboard to help enter the names and numbers.
  • Fast charging and long battery life.
  • Flaps that cover the ports for the charger and headphones to help keep them safe from water and dust during everyday use. 
  • The S-Pen with its many amazing features, only some of which I've tried so far. I can't do it all in five days. So far I've found it very handy when I have to use the keyboard since I can better control what I click. A video I watched showed many more pen features I have yet to try. The S-Pen can even control some phone features remotely. 
  • The ability to make a monitor act like a PC if you have the right cable, monitor, and the S-pen. It will work with your monitor if it has an HDMI port and you have an HDMI to USB Type C cable 
  • I can use the Do Not Disturb setting to keep away all notification sounds during the hours I sleep. While I'm trying to fall asleep I can play relaxing music for as long as I set the timer for -- all while my phone is charging.  


A Video of a Photo Walk I Made Yesterday

I made this video with the Galaxy Note 9 in the morning during a lull between rainstorms. 


Here's the Camera and Accessories I Use With It

This is my phone color. I also bought the case and screen protector to keep my investment safe. I already had a portable keyboard to use.



What I Didn't Love as Much

Much as I love my new phone, there are some things I don't love as much.


  • The phone is somewhat heavy because of its size.
  • The shape of the phone, though similar in shape to most other smartphones, is harder for my arthritic hands to hold while trying to take a photo than a camera is.
  • If I want to take a horizontal photo, it's really easy to press the button that will make the phone take multiple shots in a row as long as the button is held down. I'm learning to be careful how I hold the phone. 

Selfies

I have never yet found a camera that made selfies I liked. I'm afraid the problem is not the camera but the subject. Nevertheless, I made a selfie so I could photograph the screen for you. The weird colors are the result of the artificial lighting in the room that my Canon couldn't handle well. Flashes leave light bursts I didn't want. You do see the editing icons here. I don't normally edit photos except to crop them or add text, but I think I'll learn to use some of those available apps that remove wrinkles, etc. 

Since I haven't learned to use those apps yet, I'm hiding behind the camera. The editing icons are above the circle-shaped camera icons. The bottom row of icons are for the whole phone. The quality of this photo has nothing to do with the smartphone camera, since I didn't know how to use the Note 9 to take a photo of itself. It probably would have done a better job with the lighting. I think I  did use one filter and kept it because it changed my hair from gray to the blond I was born with.

Apps

Once I got my Note 9 smartphone, I started adding more apps. It's almost impossible not to when you see all that's available to play with. The thing that's hard is organizing those apps so you can find them again. The Note 9 gives me the Apps Edge. Most of the time it sits almost invisibly on the right edge of my screen, but I can slide it out whenever I need it. I can choose ten apps to put there, so I included what I use most. I guess they are also put in files. If I click the files icon (far left under open apps screen below) it will show me every app that's currently open and I can go back to working in it. Handy! I love both these features. Perhaps other smartphones also have them, but I only have experience on this phone.

So far my favorite free app besides Instagram is Relaxio. It gives me a choice of sixteen kinds of white noise I can listen to alone or combine with other sounds. I can choose from city traffic noises, falling rain, ocean waves, birds, crackling fire, wind, a flowing brook, night nature sounds, coffee shop, and a few other white noise sounds I haven't figured out. I love this app for falling asleep, since I can set a timer for how long it will play. I let it play beside my bed while the phone charges at night. 




Comparing Photos


This morning I decided to photograph some books in a bookcase in my office. The only light source was across the room and partially blocked with my iMac monitor. I made the shots as identical as I could except I used a flash for the shot from my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. The phone, of course, needed no flash. I didn't guess accurately the number of books included in each shot, but I think it's close enough for you to get the idea. Except to crop and size these for Instagram and add a background color in PicMonkey, I did no photo editing to change tone, lighting or anything else. I added no effects. Here are the shots, as I will post them to Instagram later.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User


Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User

As you can see, I didn't edit as much extraneous stuff out of the phone shot as I did the Canon shot. I'd never tried putting backgrounds on before in PicMonkey and I wound up using FotoJet to crop the photos when I hadn't gotten the images the right size for the background. I've never used layers before and PicMonkey just added them to their app. In the end I put the wrong photo in the shot above, not the one that trimmed the lower shelf out. I think you still have a fair comparison between the Canon and the Note 9 cameras.

My Recommendation


If you need a phone with an outstanding camera, I can't think of a better one than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. I bought it for the camera, but also love the pen and the ability to use it to  turn my phone into something very much like a PC should I ever need to. Just tonight I downloaded the Amazon Music app and discovered I also get great sound quality for the songs I love when I play them on the Note 9.

Now if my Note 9 could only take a selfie! There's probably an app for that, but I still need to find it. My advice? Get yourself or someone you love a Galaxy Note 9.


Don't miss our other contributor's reviews of electronic products on this site. 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reviewing the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore Review
Anker is becoming a brand name that I trust and depend on. And the PowerCore portable charger is no exception. Whether you travel and do not want to have the security risk of plugging in to public charging stations or you spend time off-grid but still want to keep that cell phone charged for emergencies, the Anker is an excellent choice for portable, secure, and dependable charging.

I bought one for myself but I think this little gadget would be a great gift idea.


What is an Anker PowerCore Portable Charger?


My description of the PowerCore is a rechargeable battery that is small enough to fit in my coat pocket but holds enough power to fully recharge my phone (and Kindle) many times. 

Even though it is an electronic gadget, it is foolproof. 

Three easy steps:

  1. Plug it in to charge the battery using the USB cord (using my laptop or the same plug I use to charge my phone and my Kindle)
  2. Remember to put it into my purse, coat pocket, or camping tote
  3. Plug my phone (or Kindle) into the PowerCore to charge as needed.



The Description from the experts:

  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (24w) with Anker's proprietary PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technology - fastest possible charge to almost any USB device. 
  • 7 days of power (fills the iPhone 7 almost seven times, the Galaxy S8 more than four times, and iPad Air 2 one and a half times) 
  • Quick Charge input, a full recharge is over in half the time of standard portable chargers. (written by Anker about the PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0)

Why I Chose the Anker PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0


I go camping at my cabin for days on end. I own the Anker PowerPort Solar charger and love it. It is dependable and perfect for off-grid living (see my review here). Perfect, except for when it isn't. 

This year was a record-breaking rainfall year in my area. Rain means solar charges aren't able to work properly (if at all). Lack of sunlight was causing either no charge on my phone or a walk (in the pouring rain) to the Jeep to charge (slowly) my phone. Due to all this rain, I bought the PowerCore "battery".  I charge it fully at the apartment, throw it into my camping tote, and I have a dependable way to charge my phone - rain or shine.

I depend on the Anker PowerPort Solar charger - except during a season of record rainfall.

I chose the 20,000 based on the higher number of charges it provides (compared to some of the more compact PowerCore chargers) and the price tag was as high as I wanted to spend that day.  

My PowerCore came with the charger, the USB cord to charge it, and a slightly padded travel bag. It did not come with the plug that is used in a wall outlet. But I already had several of those. 

There are many Anker PowerCore choices, smaller/less expensive and larger/more expensive.  I love that Anker provides so many options.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Saving Money with the Insignia Roku 32" LED TV

Just a few viewing options on my Insignia Roku TV.
My television stopped working and couldn't be repaired. It was a sad day that sent me out looking for a replacement. My #1 criteria while looking for a replacement TV was expense. I wanted to spend as little as possible. Fortunately, I found the Insignia Roku 32" LED television.  The out-of-pocket price tag was slightly higher than I wanted to pay but in the long run, I'll continue to have significant savings because I'm refusing to buy cable or dish services at this point in my life. I've had this Insignia TV for almost a month now and I'm loving it. If you are looking to stop making yourself cable-poor, this may be an option that works well for you too.


Insignia 32" Roku LED Television



I window-shopped at several stores, looking to buy a television at $100 or less. Then I found the Insignia Roku 32" LED TV at Best Buy. I thought about it for a bit and asked around.  

With this television, I could continue to watch via antenna (which is my preference, and why I thought I'd get a TV for under $100).

Also, with this television, I could watch my Sling channels and YouTube.

I could also watch Roku, which my son keep telling me to check into.

The official features of the TV are listed as:
  • Roku Smart TV - access to stream 500,000+ movies/television shows.
  • 31.5" screen - measured diagonally from corner to corner.
  • 720p resolution for quality HD images
  • LED tvs perform well in all lighting conditions and provide rich colors.
  • Built-in Roku smart platform (ability to stream from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Plus, or choose from 3,000 other streaming channels
  • Two 8w speakers
  • 3 HDMI inputs (cable not included)


I unboxed the TV and attached the legs. I plugged it in and attached my antenna. The television prompted me to connect my Wifi.  I also easily followed those prompts to add my existing Sling TV account, Amazon prime video library, and YouTube channel. 

Because the Roku TV has so many viewing options, I find it slightly cumbersome to remember to toggle from the two menus (the one on the left of the screen that lists things such as: home, My Feed, Search, Settings, and more) to the visual menu on the right that lists such things as: AV, Antenna TV, Netflix, Prime Video, Sling, YouTube, and etc. But that is a mild annoyance, and something I am becoming accustomed to. And an exceedingly small price to pay for a huge amount of free (or nearly free) entertainment.

I gotta tell you, I LOVE watching my YouTube crochet tutorials on the television screen. I could sit all day and watch the DIY channel on Sling. And what fun to watch my Amazon prime movies on a screen bigger than my laptop screen!


Antenna TV


Except for a 2 year (approximately) period of time that I gave cable a second chance - a chance to redeem themselves and a chance they squandered, I have watched television via the channels broadcast over the air. To do this, I use a little antenna that screws in to the back of the TV. Easy peasy and free local channels. 
Sling TV.

This indoor antenna is the new and improved version of the antenna I've used for the past few years. 




Verizon Jetpack



The least expensive internet connection that I have found, and that suits nearly all my needs, is the Jetpack by Verizon. It is a portable, mobile hotspot device that I use at home or when I travel. The "unlimited" data isn't fully unlimited. I do have internet connection for the entire month but if I do a lot of streaming, after a certain point I experience "bandwidth throttling". Which means they set me at slower speeds. It is occasionally annoying but not enough to cause me to purchase one of the other packages.

Unfortunately, my Verizon Jetpack does NOT work while I'm at The Shack. Hopefully, by the time I relocate, Verizon has stepped up and provides service in that area. Otherwise, I'll have to figure something else out. 

I'd hate to make changes since this set-up is working so well. But I have some time to figure it out. 


Sling Tv


Fortunately, Sylvestermouse Cynthia introduced me to Sling via her review Get Rid of Cable TV and Still Have Live Major Network TV with Sling TV in 2015. Since that time, I have been able to watch DIY, Hallmark, FYI, Food Network, Travel, Cooking, Disney, HGTV, and more on my laptop.

I pay a minimal monthly amount ($30) for Sling TV. I could pay less but it is "al carte" television and the channels I chose create the amount I pay. Now, with my Insignia Roku television, I can watch all of those channels on the television screen!

The savings by using Sling TV, other streaming entertainment options, and my Verizon Jetpack is significant (at least to me it is). When the cable company increased my monthly bill, it was approaching $150 a month.  In my current situation, I'm paying $30 a month for Sling TV and the Verizon Jetpack is a part of my phone bill which totals $110 a month. Cutting that cable bill saves my budget approximately $1,800/year. 


Related Link:


If I were not pinching every penny in order to rebuild The Shack, I would have chosen a better, bigger television. I would have chosen an HDTV. The quality of the picture is so much better.

Our Bev Owens reviewed her purchase, a Samsung MU6300 HDTV.  This would be a great television to own!  I love the colors and clarity of the picture on an HDTV.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Save Money with Powerextra Camera Batteries: A Review

Don't Miss That Perfect Shot Because of a Dead Camera Battery


Most of the time my photo walks take less than an hour. But sometimes I venture farther or stop to take more pictures than usual. That's when it really pays to have extra camera batteries. Here's why I bought my set of Powerextra batteries with chargers included.




It was a perfect day to walk by the Salinas River.  It was rainy season and the river was full. I decided to walk all the way to a bridge at least half a mile away. I knew that the river would be wider there and I could get a unique shot. It was a fairly warm day for spring, and the walk was longer than I usually take. (You can see highlights of the walk here.)

There I encountered many scenes I wanted to photograph as I walked toward the bridge. I got distracted by wildlife, signs of human activity, trees, shrubs, and, of course, the river itself. I had taken over a hundred photos, and I hadn't started with a fully charged camera. I hadn't expected to take so many photos.

I  was pretty hot and tired by the time I got to the bridge. I walked from the trail to street level to get on the bridge. Here's where my path approached the bridge.

Review of Powerextra Camera Batteries

I was almost to my goal. Once on the bridge, I took my first shot, the first of many I had planned, but not the special shot I had really wanted. And that's when my camera battery died. Along with my hopes of getting not only the other shots from the bridge, but also more shots I'd  been planning to get on the walk back to my car.

Choosing Extra Batteries


That night I decided it was time to buy some extra battery packs.  I can never predict how many photos I will want to take. Obviously I didn't correctly predict it for this walk. So I went right to Amazon as soon as I had time. My camera is a Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. See how I tested it when it was new.

When I looked up the replacement battery Canon made for my camera, the price blew me away. At $42.25 as I write this, it still blows me away. For just one battery! So I checked for alternatives. I discovered the Powerextra battery for my camera. And not just the battery, but a whole battery kit with two batteries and an extra charger for the house, as well as a car charger. For about one fourth of the price of one Canon battery!





Naturally I was suspicious! How could I get so much more for so much less? Oh! The Powerextra is made in China. But so is the camera and the Canon battery. Frugal as I am, I decided to buy the Powerextra kit and try it. I'd only lose about twelve dollars if the batteries didn't work. I could still purchase the Canon batteries if necessary. It was worth the risk. It paid off for me.

I have been using both the house charger and the batteries for over four months. They all work well. I can now have one battery charging and one extra in my camera bag so that I will always have a charged battery when I need one. I don't have to skimp on pictures for fear of losing power. And I won't have to miss the shot I want most.

 I have not yet tested the car charger because I haven't been on any drives long enough to try it out. I will add the results here after I do have the chance to test it.

I highly recommend the Powerextra batteries if you want to save money. They are available for most major brands and models of digital cameras. I think they offer great value for the price.








Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reviewing Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader

Reading on the balcony with my new Kindle.
I received my new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader nearly two weeks ago and I'm loving it! I was very hesitant to upgrade as I don't like change and often have trouble figuring out new electronic devices. I started researching current e-reader options as my original Kindle (a Kindle Keyboard, remember those?) was starting to have some serious malfunctions after all these years. I felt forced to shop for a new e-reader before my old one just stopped working. I have to say that so far I'm very excited about my purchase. My new Kindle is awesome! I like it so much that I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

New 6" Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader 


My new Kindle has a 6" touchscreen. It is slightly smaller than my first Kindle, and easier to pack in a small bag or purse.

This Kindle has built-in lights - no need to buy a separate, external light.

My new Kindle is advertised as having a resolution of 300 ppi. Now, that doesn't mean a single thing to me except that it is easy to see that compared to my original e-reader, the images are GREAT.

I had briefly considered purchasing a Kindle Fire so that I could also read magazines and have color photos. But I'm really glad that I stuck with the Paperwhite for two main reasons: 
My eyes. I am already familiar with how easy Paperwhite technology is on my eyes in general, in the dark while camping, and there is no screen glare when outside during the day. Computer screens strain my eyes. The Paperwhite does not.
Awesome battery. I require the long-lasting battery life of the Kindle Paperwhite. I want to read everywhere I go. That includes camping at The Shack, hiking, and waiting for appointments. There's nothing worse then reaching for an electronic device with a dead battery.

The Kindle I chose:




There are only two things that I'm concerned about so far. Both have to do with the touch screen:
No Buttons. I miss the buttons on my Kindle Keyboard that turned the pages. However, I'm becoming accustomed to turning the pages by tapping the side of the screen. But so far, I still wish for those buttons to turn the pages.
Oops! What Language is That?!  When I unboxed my Kindle I plugged it in to charge and I put it in the cover I bought. During that process, I touched the touchscreen and voila, all of my display turned to a different language! I had the hardest time trying to find anything in the online owner's manual that helped me to visually find the language settings so that I could change it back to English. Finally, with a video review and a lot of guesswork, I was able to make the language change I needed. I think the online owners manual should have more visual aids to go along with the written instructions.

The awesome cover I chose:




My Love Affair with E-Readers


I was aghast when e-readers were first introduced. Who in their right might would want to replace their beloved books with an electronic device?! Oh the horror. You wouldn't be able to read your books outside, or while camping, or while at the beach. What a terrible invention.

Then my son surprised me with a Kindle (3rd generation I think).  I bought a lighted, leather cover to protect it and to help me read it while camping. And I fell in love. I replaced my hoard of books with a single small item. And I found that even at the beach, I just place my Kindle in a gallon sized baggie and it is protected from the sand. Much better than soggy, gritty books after a day at the beach!

The only thing I didn't like about that first Kindle was the images didn't translate very well. Books with maps or drawings didn't always show up well. Or were too small to be read.

I think Kindle e-readers are awesome. They allow me to read anywhere and anytime. I always have my entire library with me. And I'm sure there are plenty of functions that I am not even aware of that others would enjoy. If you've considered buying a new Kindle Paperwhite, I encourage you to do it. I think you'll be glad you did.


Postscript:

Each and every time I've considered updating my Kindle, I've thought of Susan Deppner. She was a Review This contributor and a friend to many. I thought of her as the best Kindle advisor there was. I did refer back to the Kindle Reviews she had written for guidance. 

Susan, you may be gone from this earth, but you are not forgotten. I know you'd be as excited about my purchase as I am.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Google Play Gift Cards: the Preferred Gifts

Google Play gift card by mail
This review about the wildly popular Google Play gifts cards may be an odd review. After all, I've never used one and I'm not certain of everything they can purchase.  I can, however, swear to their popularity and the high demand for them with the teenagers I'm acquainted with. 

As a mom and a grandmom, I am very aware that over the years I give two types of gifts: first, the kind of gift I want the recipient to have (such as socks, coats, and gloves) and second, the kind of gift the recipient wants to receive. Google Play gift cards are gifts that are most definitely in that second category. I know this to be true from the students at work. And who better to recommend gifts for youngsters than the youngsters themselves?

Google Play Gift Cards


I watched a young man who was thrilled to have received a Google Play gift card. He said due to their popularity, they were always "sold out" when it was his turn in the school store. But not on this day. On this day he was able to obtain on. It was easy to see how ecstatic he was. It was like Christmas had arrived an entire month early.  Which made me decide to check into more about the gift cards.

These gift cards can purchase anything in the Google Store. This includes:

  • games
  • apps
  • movies & tv
  • music
  • books

Google Play Gift Card Tips


The Google Play gift cards cannot purchase actual items such as electronics and accessories. Think of the Google Play gift cards as money to be spent only in the Google Play Store. An adult friend told me that these cards can also be used to purchase extra levels or currency in certain games.

The students who like these cards are using them on their Android phones and on their tablets. 

Also, Google Play cards bought in the US are to be used in the US only (apologies to our international readers). The card I have shown is an actual gift card that will be mailed to a home address. Perfect for giving a tangible gift at Christmas. 

If you prefer instant gratification, there are Google Play "cards" available via a code that is purchased then emailed to you or the recipient and redeemed using that code. 

Google Play cards come in a variety of amounts. Check out Amazon for a variety of these cards.

Holiday Gift Guide 

Related Links:


Be sure to browse the Review This! holiday gift guide for a wide variety of gift ideas and recommendations from our writers. 

How many times have you been on the road during the holidays and have needed to recharge those electronics? Avoid that problem and make the long drives far more pleasant for the children and/or yourself with the DC to AC Power Inverter/Adapter for Cars recommended by Sylvestermouse Cynthia.

Photo attribution: CCO Creative Commons


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Samsung MU6300 HDTV Reviewed

Treat Yourself To A Quality Viewing Experience

before hdtv
Vintage TV image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Remember when we watched TV on a set similar to the one on the left? We actually have a set similar to it that we use as a TV stand for a flat screen television in our kitchen. Last week my husband and I decided to upgrade our main TV that was an LED flat screen to a larger sized HDTV. Oh my goodness, why did we wait so long?

If you are in the market for a new television, I can recommend a great one to consider. Now, I must admit that I was willing to settle for a lesser model but my husband convinced me to follow the old adage..."Go big or stay home". We differ in that respect. I am a little "cheap" when it comes to purchasing items. I want quality but am willing to get something that isn't necessarily the latest and greatest or newest shiny thing to save a few greenbacks for a rainy day. My husband on the other hand doesn't want to grab the brass ring; he would rather go for the gold one. (Why save money when you can spend it now?...is kind of his motto.) You can imagine our two views create a healthy discussion when it comes to purchasing a major item for our home. We usually compromise for something in the middle.

So, last week we agreed to get a new television for our living room. I agreed to get a larger screen and to get a high definition model. I also agreed that it should be a Smart TV. I had one in mind that I felt fit our budget; we just needed to go see one to make sure the quality of the picture was satisfactory. The model I had picked out was pretty awesome and if my darling hubby had not been along on the shopping excursion, I am sure he would have loved it. He was duly impressed with my selection until his wandering eyes spotted another one; a TV that was a few inches larger and instead of the 1080 pixels had 4K pixels. (I swear I think I heard angelic music coming from above and a light surrounded him! There might have been a little bit of drool slipping from his lips!) The next thing I knew the absolutely delightful salesclerk was bringing the box to the counter with the required HDMI cable and ringing up the sale. 

Arriving home (I'm still a little in shock at that point), I began to get the new HDTV set up for our viewing pleasure. It isn't that my hubby can't do this sort of thing, he just has less patience than me and doesn't think that reading instructions is a necessary step to bother with. That is another story for another day, however. Getting the Samsung MU6300 HDTV set-up was an extremely easy and painless process! The TV is so smart it actually does some of the steps for you and walks you seamlessly through the rest of it. I was impressed!

I did have a little trouble with the remote in the beginning. Being so used to just pressing a button to accomplish a task, it took me a little bit (and watching a video) to realize that the buttons for changing channels and the volume also move up and down. Pressing it in does one thing, pushing it up or down does something else. Once I got that down, it was smooth sailing!

We watch a lot of movies both from DVDs and streaming and I am here to tell you the quality of the picture on this television is amazing! The detail is absolutely incredible! You feel like you are in the room with the actors or the woods or whatever the location. I am really happy with my husband's choice! I was a tad upset until we watched the first program and then I realized that he was right. This is a much better TV for us and I am glad that we got it. I realize now that with the newer technology that this set offers; we won't have to replace it anytime soon.

If you are in the market for a new television, consider the Samsung MU6300 HDTV. I am pretty sure that you will not be disappointed.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Three Best Ways to Read Kindle Books

The three best ways to read Kindle books. Information and review from a long-time Kindle owner.
The author with her short-stack of Kindle readers and Fire tablets.

Most people who know me are aware of my Kindle obsession. I've had an Amazon Kindle e-reader since shortly after they first were introduced to the market in 2007 and I currently own a stack of Kindle readers and Fire tablets.

Back in 2007 it was easy to decide which Kindle to buy; there was just one model and it cost $399. But things have changed and now, with multiple models of both readers and tablets that go by the name "Kindle," it can be hard to determine which is best for you.

Maybe I can help. Let's review the various choices to determine the three best ways to read Kindle books. Hopefully this information will help you choose the device that will serve your needs the best.

The Best Way to Read Kindle Books: The Kindle Reader


In my opinion, the very best way to read a Kindle book is to use a dedicated Kindle reading device, i.e. a reader that is designed specifically for people who simply love to read books. The original 2007 e-reader, almost 10 years later, has evolved into four different models that range in price from around $80 to nearly $300. That's a huge difference in price, so it's important to understand the features of each model.

The goal of Amazon is to provide a screen that makes your brain believe you're reading a "real," paper page. Through the years, the clarity of the printed page, the resolution of the screen, and the available fonts and font sizes have improved greatly and, indeed, the screen really does mimic a high-quality paper page with its gray-scale e-ink. The size of the page itself is the same for each of the models too, six inches, a comfortable size to hold and similar to a "real" paperback book. Another feature of all the Kindle e-readers is that the pages are glare-free, again just like a real book.

The differences come in when we look at the additional features. The most obvious difference is that the screen of the bottom-of-the-line Kindle is not lit, which means that, just as with a paperback book, you can't read in the dark unless you have a separate light source. If you read with a lamp nearby or in the daylight, then there's not a problem. But if you like to read in bed or in a low-light environment, you definitely will appreciate the LED lighting that is built into the next three models. The Paperwhite has four easily-adjustable LEDs that work great in a range from very dim to somewhat bright. The Kindle Voyage has six LED lights with adaptive light sensors and the Kindle Oasis even tops that with 10 LEDs that automatically adjust the lighting to stay consistent if you move from one area to another.

Another feature that is important to me is the weight of the device. While a couple of ounces doesn't sound like much, it is much more comfortable on the hands and wrists to manipulate a lighter-weight reader. The weight really comes into count when we talk about the second best way to read Kindle books, the Amazon Fire tablets.

Second Best: Amazon Fire Tablets


Tablets are all the rage these days. The price point has dropped tremendously the last couple of years as the features and apps seem to multiple exponentially almost daily. While the dedicated Kindle reader is perfect for reading e-books that look like "real" books, Amazon's line of Fire tablets arrive ablaze with bright colors and populated with cool apps that many of us have come to depend on in our daily lives.

Since our topic today is reading books, I'll leave it up to you to explore all the apps and other features (movies, music, games, camera, etc.) available for as little as $50 (price subject to change) starting with the 7-inch Fire. If you have a smart phone you're probably familiar with how many of these features work. In fact, if you have an up-to-date smart phone that you're comfortable with and just want to add a comfortable reading capability, then I'd suggest sticking to your phone and moving on down to my third best choice for the reading app.

While we're here, though, let's talk about why you might actually want a Fire tablet for both reading and entertainment. The answer in a word is "color." If you like having colorful children's books at your fingertips, or perhaps you like comics or other heavily-illustrated books where color really does count, one of the seven, eight, or even the 10-inch Fire tablets might be a great choice for you.

I talked a lot above about the quality of the screen for reading on the Kindle Reader and mentioned the LED lighting capability of all but the low-end model. Perhaps the best part of that reading quality is that it's easy to read in any light source without glare. When we get to smart phones and tablets, we're talking about a totally different type of light which, most definitely does glare. Likely you've tried to take a picture in bright light and had a difficult (or impossible) time seeing what's on the view finder screen.  Or maybe you've tried to navigate a GPS program in bright light where, again, it's difficult to see. The bright LCD display on tablets and phones may be beautiful, and the Fire tablets have outstanding, high-definition displays, but glare definitely can be a problem. If you're reading indoors, no problem. Reading at the beach? While the function and screen layout of the "books" section on the Fire is excellent, you might wish you had a Kindle reader if you're simply in the mood for reading a good book.

Third Best: Free Kindle Reading Apps 


Keep in mind that third best doesn't mean "awful." In fact, the quality of the reading apps that Amazon supplies absolutely free to anyone, on most any device that you already own (PC, laptop, MAC, phone, tablet, etc.) is quite good. And the best part (did I mention this already?) is that the app is free. In other words, if you're looking for a totally free way to read Kindle books, the Amazon app on a device (or more than one) of your choosing is an excellent solution.

Now, don't misunderstand, this is a free way to read a book, not a way to get e-books for free. While plenty of Kindle books are available for free, where to find those is a topic for another day. For now, let me explain how to get the free app. It's easy as one, two, three:

  1. Go to the Free Kindle Reading Apps link in the Kindle store. (Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, but I'm sending you there for the free stuff.)
  2. Fill in the box with your email or mobile number, depending on where you want the app delivered. Click "send link."
  3. Follow the directions in the email that you'll receive almost instantly to download the executable file. Run the file and watch for the reading app to appear on your screen. All of the books you've already acquired for Kindle will be accessible from the app (as will the Kindle store). Simply access and download whichever book(s) you want to read.



In Summary


First, if you have a phone, laptop, or other device that you love, and if your budget is low, go with the free reading app to read books you already have without spending any money.

Second, if you want one device that includes just about any form of entertainment you can imagine, and especially if you want to watch movies or read books in color, decide whether the 7-inch, 8-inch, or 10-inch tablet best suits your fancy (and the size of your pocket or purse). Budget plays a role here, of course. Don't skip the 7-inch tablet because it's "cheap." I have one, use it every day for apps, and it's absolutely awesome. The only place "cheap" comes into play is in the price.

Third, if you truly love reading traditional books, indoors or outdoors, and you either already have a phone with apps or you don't really care about those, then I recommend choosing the best-equipped stand-alone Kindle reader that you can afford. I use my amazing Paperwhite because it has the lighted screen, but if I had a bigger budget I would buy the top-of-the-line Kindle Oasis. I love that it's thin and lightweight and that the cover (included) automatically boosts the device's battery power.

Clearly, after all these years I still love Amazon's e-book reading gadgets and recommend any of these devices and the app without reservation.

There are a few other Kindle features that I didn't have time to discuss. The links highlighted above provide comparison charts to make it easy for you to find detailed specifications. Then if you still have questions about which is the best way for you to read Kindle books, I'll do my best to answer your questions in the comment section below.

Happy e-reading!

~Susan
Read more of my reviews.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.