When I turn on my tablet a window at the center of the screen displays the time, date and weather forecast. My favorite app, it is also an example of the intermittent Internet. I have gone through three levels of understanding in regard to the data displayed.
At first I assumed that the weather report was immediate and accurate. After all, the date and time were correct.
Later I noticed a discrepancy between the radio report and the temperature reading. A detailed examination of the window revealed two arrows joined to make a circle–a symbol to refresh the data. With my reading glasses on I could see the date and time of the last Internet access in the lower right corner.
When I clicked the refresh symbol, I was rewarded with a new, accurate display–sometimes. At other times the window flashed but the refresh date and temperature did not change. In the latter case I eventually learned to press the settings gear, Forget my wireless connection, and Add it again, password and all, in order to get the current weather forecast.
The weather app always displays the best information available. However, the latest forecast may have been downloaded a day or two earlier. The dropped connection is a quality of Internet access, which is not always available.
My 7″ Galaxy Tab 2 does three things really well: books, music and games. I am not so happy with Internet access, word processing or news and weather.
First the good news. With the Overdrive app I can reserve and download books from my local library and read the free classics available through Gutenberg.com. I picked Les Miserables from the latter as a suitable companion for a long trip. With a little experimenting I learned to tap the left or right margin to turn a page and tap the center for control information such as the table of contents or font size.
When we returned home I tried downloading an ebook from the library. That was not easy because it involved scrolling around a web site designed for PC screens. The reference librarian helped me locate the link to ebooks and I began to search for something to read. Most of the ebooks available–mysteries or romances–were checked out. However, I put one on reserve. In a few weeks I was notified that my book was available. I could download the novel, read it, and return it to the library from the comfort of my easy chair.
A picture in the Quick Start leaflet packed with my tablet identified various holes, switches, symbols and icons. I started with the ON switch, which led to written instructions. I signed on to the Internet and set up a Google account and password.
At the end of that process I saw a screen packed with suggestions about apps, books, music and video that I could buy and download. By then I had a headache, so I stopped for the day. I did write down a few priorities for later. I needed to learn how to get back to the main menu, when to charge the battery, and how to control a keyboard which seemed to mysteriously pop up and disappear.
My next session began with another look at the Quick Start diagram. On either side of the house (home) symbol at the bottom of the screen I saw useful symbols–a backward C with an arrowhead to go back one screen, and a series of rectangles to show all the tasks currently running. I found the battery symbol, a gear icon labeled “settings,” and other stuff at the top. I decided that my first task would be to find a setting to keep the display on long enough for me to respond.
When I turned on the tablet I noticed that the battery was half charged, and made a note to plug it in at the end of this session. Then I started tapping icons, confident that I could go back one screen, go home or go back to a previous task. I learned that the keyboard pops up when I tap a data entry box. The keyboard disappeared when I touched the Enter key, now labeled “next” or “done” or something else. That was enough for the second session.
Starting session 3 with the Quick Start leaflet, I noticed that the vendor has a web site. Getting crafty, I signed on from my big old desktop PC to locate and download any documentation. After registering my tablet (ID, password, model and serial number) I found a 239-page manual, formatted for the tablet screen. That would be useful if I knew how to download and read on the tablet, which I expect to learn from the manual. I spent the rest of my scheduled session figuring out how to print two pages per side, both sides, on standard 8.5 x 11 printer paper. The good news is that the manual has an index as well as a table of contents, and more pictures with labels identifying the holes, switches, symbols and icons.
The quick start brochure enclosed with my tablet left out the most important information. I would need passwords: one to connect to a wireless network and one to set up a Google email address. First I had to get my reading glasses. (Eventually I will be able to read books with large print, but the instructions are written for 30-year-olds with excellent vision.)
The problem with passwords is that they are not useful if you do not remember them and they are not secure if you have to write them down. In some cases you may be asked to use both small and capital letters and numbers and at least one special character, and to change them periodically.
Think of password security like the physical security of your home or car. One level is to lock the door when you leave. That prevents someone from casually coming in. But someone who is determined to get in YOUR home or car can pick the lock or break a window. So, if you have valuables or live in an unsafe neighborhood, you may add an alarmed security system.
The password to receive, say, a newspaper subscription should be short and simple. You will be using it every day. Someone who “breaks in” can do you no harm–they get to read the daily paper without paying for it. A password for online banking may be more trouble than it is worth; this level is like the home security system.
In the middle is a Google password, which may be used for email or to purchase ebooks. Often the instructions insist on 8 characters, some alphabetic and some numeric. Pick something from the distant past for those days when you cannot remember your own address. For example, when I was in grade school we spent August at my grandparents cottage on Klinger Lake. So, my password might be klinger8, the digit for August. I use 3 or 4 for different kinds of accounts.
Oh, and call your network provider to get the Wi-Fi password. Some information is not worth the time it takes to memorize.
Over the past year I have watched my husband switch from paper books to ebooks and find new uses for his iphone. I have a big old desktop computer with side speakers and a sub-woofer under the desk. My simple cell phone dials friends and times my tea. Occasionally I use it as an appointment minder or alarm clock. When my son gave me a Best Buy gift card for Christmas, I knew I was ready to pack ebooks for our next vacation.
Before shopping I decided to narrow down my options. I can not read the icon text on hubby’s iphone without my reading glasses, and arthritis in my thumbs would make texting painful. On the other hand a 10″ tablet would be too bulky to hold for an extended period. I decided to focus on 7″ readers and tablets–about the size of a paperback book. My total budget was $200.
The salesman at Best Buy helped me find the perfect pet: a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 with Internet access and a Kindle app. I expect to spend the next year learning what I can do with it.