Upgrading your experience: Ideas for better ways to view your online world
Two weeks ago we talked about opportunities for us to enjoy what the internet has to offer. So many of these options are more enjoyable on the big (TV) screen! Getting this up and running can take a bit of creativity and more than a bit of patience, but many of the solutions are encouragingly more plug-and-play than they used to be! Here are some of our ideas that may help flatten the learning curve of your upgrading experience...
Enjoy the big screen: Both of us have our TV connected to a computer, so we can enjoy the current cornucopia offered on a big screen from a comfy seat. It is easier to make your TV into a Big Monitor than you think!
Usually you can just use an HDMI cable to connect them and select the right “Input” on your TV; figuring out how to select your input source is often the trickiest part! For an older TV and/or computer, there are many websites that can help you through the process. Check out a “how to” YouTube video for your make and model of TV! Or try your TV’s manual or manufacturer’s website - most offer instructions for this task. If that doesn’t work, try searching with your TV model and PC Operating System to bring up the best for you. Android Authority has a bit of lengthy but relatively easy to read with some good tips. What it doesn’t cover is connecting a PC with a VGA output to a TV that only has HDMI input (aka two different types of video cables). Options for that situation are explained through this article.
If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, you may want to line up your trusted techie as it may take some trial and error. Phone is one option, but a video call via your iPad or laptop is great as you can then ‘show’ your techie what you’re talking about or what they ask to see. This can make troubleshooting a lot easier! If you don’t have a trusted techie, many tech service providers offer support either in home or virtually by walking with you online through the steps you need to do.
Accessorize: To use the features of a smart TV or to use your computer when it’s hooked up to the TV, we both find that a wireless mouse and/or keyboard can prevent a lot of frustration that comes with using the TV remote control to “type”. A wireless keyboard/mouse can be purchased as a pair or even on the same unit, which means one dongle to plug in and less troubleshooting!
Bandwidth: Judy’s friend was having difficulty with videos freezing. She had been with her internet provider for some years. She found a different provider who offered better service/more bandwidth (aka how fast you can download and upload to the internet) - problem solved! You can check your own bandwidth using Speedtest and can compare to how much bandwidth you think you need (e.g., this Tom's Guide article on internet speed - scroll down part way to see a handy comparison chart). Or get your techie friend to do so. Another trick to good video streaming is to make sure your wifi signal is strong; if you are far from your modem or there’s a brick/concrete wall in between the two of you, try moving closer to see if that helps.
Consider a VPN: Embrace your inner geek and hold on to your techno-hats as we do our best to explain what a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is...
A VPN is a way of masking your computer’s internet address; in other words, a VPN makes it so that the internet can’t identify your specific machine and you can make the internet think your computer is located almost anywhere in the world you like. When you sign into your VPN app you say where you want to connect from (aka where you want the internet to think you’re located), such as Atlanta, USA. The VPN then connects you via their secure private connection “under” the Internet to their private server in Atlanta, which then connects you to the Internet. Using a VPN means there is no trace of your actual location - the Internet thinks you are in Atlanta. VPNs are safe to use as are all your website accounts that you normally use when you’re online. Note some websites may act funny or not at all if the internet thinks you are in a different country than your actual “home” country because some websites are country specific - they allow or block content based on where you’re located. But this is part of the point of using a VPN, as we discuss below! You can easily turn a VPN off at any time, which instantly unmasks your computer and the internet can see your true location again.
Tanis first used a VPN to “pretend” she was in the USA to sign up (and pay) for HBO so she could watch Game of Thrones as it was released - something she could not do with a Canadian internet address. She discovered she could use her VPN to access other USA-based sites that were only available if you were “located” in the USA. Similarly, connecting to a VPN server located in the UK lets you access the BBC. Bonus - using a VPN when you’re travelling adds a layer of security and enables you to access websites from home when you’re abroad.
VPNs can be tried for free but they are a paid subscription service. Check with your techie to see if this might improve your on-line experience. VPNs are explained reasonably well by WizCase (though this site is an American website recommending American products to American users). Word of caution: when shopping online, be sure you are ‘located’ in the region you want your shipment delivered to as many companies won’t ship across borders or your shipping rate may be miscalculated!
Get hard (copy) help: One of our readers writes that she wants a book of instructions beside her as reference as she struggles with figuring out her iPhone. In her words, “...it can’t be a “For Dummies” version; it has to have everything, and an excellent INDEX”.
Part of the trouble is every piece of technology operates differently. The different buttons, different operating systems, and different versions of the apps means your tech often has a different (and sometimes quite cryptic!) combination to make it work the way you want it to. The first and best resource is to search online. For example, you can find iPhone manuals with detailed information plus excellent indexes. You can also Google search a simple question like “manual for [your make and model] iPhone”. When you find what you want you then print it - this can be hard-copy (i.e., good old paper), “printing” a digital pdf for your tablet or eReader, or bookmarking the website so you can find it again whenever you want it.
- IN CONCLUSION -
With a little effort and help from your browser, you may be surprised how much you can discover and the improvements you can make by asking simple straightforward questions, and being willing to give it a “go”. We know we have been! So take the plunge - try something simple at first and work your way up. If you think you have done everything correctly but it doesn’t work, turn the PC, TV, whatever-it-is, off and then on again. It’s surprising how often this works. And remember - you, not your technology, is the boss!
PS: Judy has an update on her poetry books she talked about in last week’s post - they were to arrive on June 10th; two arrived on May 28 and the other one is on its way! Will read them very soon!
Talk with you next weekend!