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A Tablet for Seniors That Comes With Uber

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My family spends a lot of time talking about how my grandfather, now 95, probably shouldn’t drive. But living in a suburban town means that without a car, any visit to see friends or go to the gym (because he still works out more than I do) is impossible. He could call an Uber, but he doesn’t have a smartphone and frankly, would be baffled by the app.

But maybe not for long. A new version of a tablet called grandPad—specifically designed for seniors—will come preloaded with a special version of Uber tailored toward the needs of older people, so that it can be used by even reluctant adopters of new-fangled tech.

As many as 43 percent of older adults report experiencing social isolation—which can have dire health effects. So in communities where people can’t walk out of their house and down the street to shop or go to the doctor or visit friends and family, older adults who can’t drive or have their licenses taken away are at a major disadvantage. Cabs tend to be uncommon outside of major urban areas, and public transportation options are more often than not abysmal.

grandPad

The Uber app for grandPad comes with a preset list of destinations that can be set by a caregiver or relative, and can be set to send real-time updates about the ride to a family member. So people who aren’t the type to regularly comment on their relative’s Facebook events (hi, Grandma!) don’t need a complete crash course on how to work an app that is more designed for New Year’s Eve revelers trying to get home at 3 a.m. than an 80-year-old trying to get to the pharmacy. If they are into technology, they can break open the app themselves, but with the large-format, simplified interface, they won’t have to strain quite so hard to see the tiny icons of mainstream apps.

Granted, a tablet-based app isn’t a perfect solution. Many people won’t want to go out for dinner or to the grocery store carrying a tablet so that they can call a ride home. But it’s one of the better options facing older people stuck in the suburbs without a car these days.

[h/t: Los Angeles Times]

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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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Slow Wi-Fi? It Could Be Your Neighbor's Fault
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If your Wi-Fi connection remains interminably slow no matter how many times you restart it, you can probably blame your neighbor. It could be that there are too many people using Wi-Fi connections on the same channel, even if you're all on different networks. But, as Tech Insider teaches us in the video below, there is a way to circumvent this, returning you to the prime TV-streaming Wi-Fi speeds of your dreams. (These instructions apply to Mac users, but if you've got Windows, How-To Geek recommends a tool called the Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector to do the same job.) It seems like a lot of steps at first, but it'll be worth it—we promise.

If you’ve got a Mac, hold the Option key while clicking the Wi-Fi symbol in your top menu bar. Go to “Open Wireless Diagnostics,” then when that opens, go up to the top left menu bar and click the drop-down menu “Window > Scan.” That will open up a window with all the nearby Wi-Fi networks. Click the “Scan Now” button on the bottom right, and your computer should recommend the best channels for you to use—say, you’re on Channel No. 1, but the best 2.4GHz channel is No. 3. Tech Insider recommends writing those down (there are options for both 2.4GHz channels and 5GHz channels).

Now, you’ll need to break out your iPhone. Download the AirPort Utility app, and go to your phone’s settings. Scroll down to the AirPort Utility app in your app list, and enable “WiFi Scanner.” Use the app to scan your house for Wi-Fi networks and note which channels are commonly used by your neighbors’ networks. (If you don’t have an iPhone, you can also use Acrylic Wi-Fi for Android or Windows phones.) This will help you avoid the most congested networks.

Then, log onto your router on your computer by typing your router’s IP address into your browser, just like you would any web address. From there, go into Wireless Settings, and change the channel your network operates on to one of the recommended options that you wrote down from your computer's diagnostics window earlier. And don’t forget to save!

This should help you get a faster internet connection by minimizing the amount of interference from other networks around you. Because the best neighbors are the ones who don't slow down Game of Thrones for you.

See the process step-by-step in the video below.

[h/t Tech Insider]

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