keyboardHow’s this for perking up your paranoia: 45 percent of employers monitor every keystroke typed by their employees — email, web browsing, chat, sports results, you name it, according to a survey from the American Management Association.  That’s nearly half!  If only the workers could use an encrypted keyboard.


We had never heard of such a thing until sent us the “Cherry Unlimited AES” for review. It’s expensive, starting at $181, but it masks everything you type. This could be real handy on your travels or even at home. Keyloggers — the boss, and other bad guys, can’t see a single thing you do. (We had trouble finding this for sale, by the way, but finally made contact at

We’re trying out the wired version but there’s also a wireless version and both come with a mouse. The keyboard has four dedicated buttons. One fires up a calculator, another starts your email, a third takes you to the web, and a fourth puts the computer in sleep mode. The wireless keyboard can control a computer up to 32 feet away. The company says keyboard is expected to last for 10 million key strokes, the mouse for  45,000 hours. (Dang, we were hoping for 11 million keystrokes.) Cherry Corp. also sells a keyboard with an integrated card reader, for debit and credit card transactions.




iphone comparisonAfter we reviewed some battery basics in a recent column, readers who own iPhones and iPads wanted more. There’s much you can do beyond looking at “Usage” in the “Settings” area to find where the battery hogs are.

While you’re in “Settings,” disable “Background App Refresh,” which keeps everything running in the background.  If you don’t need to get a notice every time an email or reminder comes in, turn off “Fetch.” Tap “Settings,” then “”Mail, Contacts, Calendars,” then “Fetch New Data,” and change the setting to manual. There are many more tips if you do a web search on “7 Ways to Save Battery Life on iOS 8.”



lollipopRemain calm. We are not going to talk about the features of Apple’s new Watch. Enough ink has already been spilled there to float this newspaper for the next thousand years. And the watch isn’t even out yet! Let’s talk about smartphones instead; hardly anybody ever talks about those.

Want a Lollipop?

 Only 3.3 percent of phones have a Lollipop, the latest Android operating system. Is it worth buying a new phone just to get it? The next question obviously is … what are the features?

Here’s what impressed us: Lollipop phones go on for hours, even after you’re down to 15 percent of battery life; that is, providing you enable the battery saver. The saver stops the phone from constantly checking for new email, texts, notifications and other floating trivia of the digital life. After you enable it, your phone won’t open apps quite so fast, but you probably won’t notice it unless you’re multi-tasker like Joy.

Lollipop makes it easier to keep working or playing when a call comes in. Instead of taking up your whole screen, a small notice tells you there’s a call coming in. If you don’t want it, tap to dismiss. Lollipop lets you pin shortcuts to your home screen, making it easier to find an important file. Put your finger on the shortcut. Lollipop also lets you restrict notifications to priority calls and messages. If someone borrows your phone, you can restrict the phone’s use to one app. Finally, your apps can run on the memory card, saving storage space.

Google’s Nexus 5, around $430 without a contract, or Nexus 6, around $650, are two Lollipop phones getting great reviews. The other giant is the Samsung Galaxy S6 which generated 20 million pre-orders. We considered a Nexus phone when we thought we’d lost our Samsung S3. (It was in our Phone Soap charger getting cleaned, which made it invisible to the forgetful eye.) But we’re too cheap to spring for an upgrade while the S3 is working well. In short, if money is less important than having the latest phone tricks, this could be the upgrade you’ve always wanted.



landlineWe had an AT&T phone for decades, but then technology advanced and they didn’t. So now we have still have a land line, but it’s not theirs. (For that matter, even they want to get rid of their land lines.)

It looks like an ordinary desk phone but connects over the Internet to a service called Vonage. This has been around for a dozen years or more and we first got onto it when we saw a computer company exec using one.

They recently added “selective call block” to block unwanted calls. They can be blocked from your home and smartphones. Another new feature is “SimulRing.” When a call comes in, it rings on all your phones, no matter which one is called. We also have call waiting and caller ID. The basic service is about $13 a month before taxes and surcharges; those just about double the bill.


SEVEN ADORABLE ANIMALS THAT ARE SURPRISINGLY VIOLENT used to subscribe to this fun trivia magazine, but the website is almost as good. Recently we learned about music for cats, and 11 tasks that technology will make obsolete. (Robots will fix dinner for you, for example.) How about seven adorable animals that are surprisingly violent? Watch out for those Koala bears.


TRACKING PRICES ON AMAZON tracks price history on Amazon. “Top price drops” tell you which products are on the way down. Fisher Price “Jeep Wrangler” went from $290 to $179, for example. In general, toy prices have lots of give.



3_androidIt’s not just computers that slow down, Android phones do too.

A free app called “Droid Optimizer” from made our apps open a few seconds faster, and it has a lot of other features too.

The Optimizer’s one-touch speed up button that gave us almost double the “RAM,” (random access memory) we had before. (If RAM is low, the phone can’t hold on to many things at once.) The app manager uninstalled apps we didn’t need any more — 47 of them! An “auto cleanup” got rid of junk files.

This app’s “privacy adviser” warns you about what kind of information your apps are accessing but the warnings border on hysteria. It labeled 15 apps “suspicious,” but when we looked at the details, it was all stuff the app needed in order to work. For example, Microsoft Outlook was labeled “suspicious” because it could read our contact list. Well that’s what it’s for, folks. We ignored the warning.



plex“Plex” is an app for users of the Roku, a device that brings in hundreds of extra channels — Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, for example – on your TV.  Plex gives you shortcuts to your favorite content and lets you pick up where you left off in a movie or show. You can also get it for laptops and tablets.



Math-Girl1-PhotoMath, a free app, lets you take a picture of an equation and get an answer plus the steps involved. (Does not recognize handwriting.) Assuming you already have it on a screen somewhere, this is easier than re-typing the mathematical expression at sites like PhotoMath already has 11 million downloads for the iPhone and Windows Phone version. That’s a lot of downloads but it didn’t work for us. You try it. An Android version is coming soon.




aluminyzed photoWe just had a photo “aluminyzed.” It looks great. will turn your photo into anything from wall art to a license plate. Joy took a photo at a woman’s club event and had it aluminyzed for the chair of her committee, who typically receives a gift certificate at year’s end. This was different.

Here’s what we liked: It’s waterproof, durable and super light. It doesn’t need a frame. The colors are vivid, and it’s glossy like glass, though you can also choose a satin finish. The image can be printed in the shape of hearts, clouds, or letters. An iPhone case is $30, just the back panel is $15.  Prices for wall art start at $20 and go up to $319 for a 30-inch by 40 inch. So far almost half a million photos have been aluminyzed.


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