MARRIED TO YOUR PHONE

phone clipartOne of the things we like best about our Samsung smart phone is not having a contract. We have a T-Mobile prepaid phone plan and can walk away any time. But what if you signed up for one of those multi-year contracts? You are married to your phone.

Divorce penalties are typically around $350 a month minus $10 a month for each month you’ve already been on the plan. But you can walk off Scot-free if someone takes over the contract for you, and there are services to help you find that person.

CellTradeUSA.com charges a $20 finders’ fee, but you can advertise your phone plan and look at your offers before paying the $20. CellSwapper.com charges between $19 and $25. TradeMyCellular.com another swap partners service is free for now.

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ADDING PHONE SERVICE FROM A MENU

VIRGIN MOBILE CUSTOMWe won’t forget the time Joy racked up a $264 hotel phone bill for three hours of casual conversation with a girl friend. She’d run out of minutes on her smart phone, so she decided to switch to the hotel phone. A new phone plan from Virgin Mobile would have skipped that.

With the new “Virgin Mobile Custom” plan that comes on three smart phones sold at Walmart, Joy wouldn’t have hesitated to add more minutes. She could have doubled her available voice minutes for as little as $3. When the conversation was over she could have changed back to the same basic plan she was on before.

We tried this service out on the $60 “ZTE Emblem,” a nice, though smallish Android phone using the “Jellybean” operating system. Popular apps come pre-loaded and nicely organized. The camera isn’t great, so if this feature is important to you, go with one of the other phones that come with this service, such as the $80 LG “Pulse” or $130 LG “Unify.” (Smartphones are getting cheaper fast, aren’t they?)

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VANISHING PHOTOS, TEXTS AND VIDEOS

mirageMirage” is a new app for sending photos, videos, texts or voice messages that vanish after a set time period.

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TALK TO THE ANIMALS

SpeakaZooSpeakaZoo” (iPhone/iPad only) lets children talk to cartoon animals, and they talk back. The free app has built-in speech recognition that works pretty well. It understood questions like “What’s your name?” and simple answers like yes or no. When we said “I like you,” the elephant said “I like you too Zookeeper.” Most of the animals are wistful. We hope the next version has happier creatures. Could be the zoo environment.

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GMAIL INBOX

inbox by gmail“Gmail Inbox” organizes your email to save time. If you already use Gmail filters, you won’t need it. Right now, it’s by invitation only, but you can request an invite at Google.com/inbox.

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FREE TALKING DICTIONARY

dictionarySlovoed” offers one free talking dictionary each month for every kind of smart phone. This month it’s Russian to Arabic. It includes flash cards, common phrases and other learning tools. You can purchase any other dictionary from within the app. There’s a long list of dictionaries for $8 to $28. PC and Mac versions cost more.

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HISTORY’S BAD ASSES

Kick ass factsKickassfacts.com has a huge variety. In “history’s bad asses,” we learned that French Marshall Ferdinand Foch said the Versailles Treaty ending World War I was not a peace accord but an armistice for 20 years. World War II broke out 20 years and 65 days later. On the home page, we read of a Game of Thrones actress who got stuck on a different kind of throne (a toilet seat) because she was covered in so much fake blood.

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80 YEAR OLD MAN HASN’T BATHED SINCE HE WAS 20

80 year old non-bathing man on encuriousEncurious.com collects curiosities: photos, for example, of an 80 year-old man who hasn’t bathed in 60 years.

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READER TIP

win patrolIn a recent column, we suggested using “msconfig” or Windows 8’s task manager to prevent too many programs from loading at start-up, slowing down your computer. A reader pointed out that a free program called “WinPatrol” from WinPatrol.com does the same job and provides more information.

The reader said he liked it so much he bought the “Plus” version because it gives a thorough description of mysterious files. That solves the problem other readers have brought to our attention: How to decide what should and shouldn’t run in the background. One reader said he disabled too many programs and lost his audio. Of course he was able to get sounds back on quickly by simply checking “enable all” in the list of start-up programs.

As an alternative to WinPatrol, msconfig or Task Manager, another reader wrote to recommend ProcessLibrary.com.  Type in the name of a process running on your computer and get an explanation. If in doubt about what it means or whether or not you need it, the safest path is to leave things alone. If you make a mistake, however, you can always click “start,” run” and “msconfig” (or in Windows 8, use Task Manager) to re-activate any start-up item you disabled. Task Manager is available by right-clicking the task bar at the bottom of your screen.

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A MEMORIAL ON FACEBOOK

never forgottenOne of our best friends passed away recently, and we were reminded of the digital afterlife: Facebook accounts and email that just keeps going.

Fortunately, there’s a form on Facebook that lets you memorialize a person’s account. That way, other people won’t get requests to “friend” the dead person. To find the form, do a search on the words “Facebook Memorialization Request,” or click here. You’re asked to provide a link to their “Timeline.” Just search on the person’s name while you’re in Facebook and click “Timeline.” Then highlight the web address with your mouse, and use the copy command (hold down the “Ctrl” button and tap the letter C) to copy it. For the Mac, use the “Cmd” button.

If you’d like to download the deceased person’s photo collection and data, go to Facebook.com/settings and click “download a copy of your data.”

For information about closing down Gmail, do a search on the words “Google Inactive Account Manager,” or click here.  For other accounts, you can find info in the book “Your Digital Afterlife,” by Evan Carroll and John Romano.

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