Q. My daughter gave me an Amazon Fire tablet. What is the best way to learn how to use it?
A. The Amazon Fire is a great introduction to the world of tablet computers. Because the Fire can do so many different things, it can seem confusing at first. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Tablets are much less complicated than traditional computers, so try a little trial-and-error. Play with it. Push buttons, swipe across the screen. Just play and explore.
The Fire has built-in apps that let you read, watch movies, play some games, and browse the Internet. Since the tablet is new to you, there is no personal data to lose.
Watching someone else do something is an excellent way to learn.
Once you access YouTube, search for “Fire HD 8” videos. If you want help with a specific topic, search for that. For example, “how do I download a book on my Fire tablet.”
Playing is a great way to become familiar with the device, and searching for specific questions is a good next step. But if you prefer to dig deeper, you can download a number of free or inexpensive instructional ebooks from Amazon that will keep you busy.
You might also check your local library for a how-to book, or perhaps someone at the library can help you get started.
Q. Instead of committing to a yearly subscription, can I use Disney+ just when my grandchildren visit?
A. What a great question. Disney+, the new streaming service that launched in November with a lot of fanfare, is more flexible than it appears.
Most of the early attention focused on yearly subscriptions and multi-year discounts, but it is also possible to sign up for a single month for $6.99. Just remember to cancel the subscription a few days before the monthly renewal date. Once the account is established, a monthly subscription can be restarted and stopped as needed.
Moreover, while Disney+ apps are available for just about any device, you can also view it on a home computer. Just point your web browser to disneyplus.com and your computer becomes a Disney movie jukebox. Watching a movie on a computer is not ideal, but neither is a bored child trapped indoors on a rainy day.
Be sure to supervise the kiddos though. While the service looks family friendly at a glance, not all the material is appropriate for every child. Create a custom profile once you log in to restrict what they see.
With the mix of programs from the Disney Channel and classic movies like Peter Pan and Snow White, the Disney+ streaming service can help us all feel like kids again.
Q. I have seen conflicting reports that all 3G phones may or may not stop working Jan. 1, 2020. What is happening?
A. It is not surprising that a Google search on this topic returns conflicting answers. The Web is awash in out-of-date documents that were once true. And the best laid plans of tech companies often get pushed into the future.
The good news is that the 3G shutoff has been postponed for at least another year, until the end of 2020. Way back in 2016, telecoms were talking about the day when 3G would die. So they picked a firm date —December 2019.
Then earlier this year Verizon said that their 3G network would remain active until the end of 2020 for current numbers.
It is often devilishly difficult to know for certain which network a specific cell phone model can potentially use. Contacting carrier support may help, but policies like carrier locking and multi-radio devices make definitive answers hard to come by.
Most network-dependent devices are so well constructed that they can keep working longer than the networks they use. The sad reality is that shutting down the 3G network will eventually make a number of phones permanently unusable.
On the upside, as 5G networks roll out I expect prices for 4G service will become more affordable.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, DeLaurentis is developing an educational software project. When not writing, he is in the kitchen cooking up something unusual, or outside with a camera. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.