The “Vermont Novelty Toaster Company” sells them for $75. Upload a photo of yourself, your pet, or your favorite picture. They’ll create a personalized toaster using a CNC Plasma machine (using a plasma jet to cut steel). That creates the template that is inserted into the toaster and burns in your image with every slice.
The price for the toaster isn’t bad, but here’s what’s crumbly, so to speak: it doesn’t come with interchangeable plates. So if everyone in a family of four wants personalized bread, that’d be four toasters. Still, it’s a strange gift idea for the person who has everything, such as Joy’s aunt, who’s pretty unusual herself.
Back in the dark days before Google, our favorite search engine was Vivisimo. The founder sold it to IBM and now has a new site, OnlyBoth.com
OnlyBoth is a search engine for info about colleges. It can search 3,122 colleges and bring up some unusual statistics. We did a search on Bob’s alma mater, the University of Chicago, and found that no other college with as many graduate students (nearly 10,000) has so few undergrads (5600). Joy went to the University of Southern California. Among its alumni are 461 National Football League players, more than any other school except Notre Dame, which has 528. Ohio State is third with 399.
Update: OnlyBoth.com has recently added baseball stats.
A reader told us he had a photo he wanted to use as his Windows desktop “wallpaper,” which is the picture that acts as background on your computer screen, but it was way too big.
Here’s how to re-size any picture, using the free program “Google Picasa:” Click the “File” menu and then “Export Picture to Folder.” Experiment with various size changes until you get one that looks right. Choose a folder that you’ll be able to find later, perhaps a sub-folder in “Pictures.” To make that picture your wallpaper, use your right mouse button to click on your main screen, the “desktop.” Then choose “personalize.” Put in the picture you want and that’s it.
If the picture doesn’t look right, click “Personalization” or “Personalize” and then “desktop background.” You’ll see options like “fit” or “stretch” or “fill” under the words “Picture Position.” (For our own desktop wallpaper, we get a new photo every day from Bing.com. It comes in automatically if you get the free download from Bing.com/explore/desktop.)
“Smokefree TXT” is a free app to help you quit smoking. You get texts with helpful advice from other quitters, progress updates and other tips.
A George Washington University study involving 503 participants over six months found that 11 percent using a text to quit app did quit smoking, compared to five percent of the control group.
Bob quit smoking more than 30 years ago when he caught the flu in Philadelphia. Actually, it turned out to be a variant of the so-called “Legionnaire’s Disease,” named that because it cropped up for the first time during an American Legion convention in that city. Breathing was so difficult that he couldn’t smoke. After the disease passed, he said to heck with it and just didn’t start up again. The lesson in all this: If you get a serious cold, use it to give up smoking. (As a footnote, there is considerable variation in susceptibility to damage. The philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell chain-smoked five packs a day of unfiltered. Pall Malls and died at age 98.)
“VSDC Free Video Editor” just came out in a new version. It’s very similar to professional video editors. It’s free, for Windows XP on up to Windows 8.
Critics have admitted they are in awe of its tools but point out it is difficult to use for novices. We’re novices, so we tried it out. Some parts of the program are actually easy to use. For instance, you can easily make a slideshow with a video of someone in one corner talking about the slideshow. Just click “add object” to add a photo or video to an existing video clip, or to add music or speech. This is pretty useful; could be all you need for an instructional video, for example.
During the download, be sure you click “decline” to decline the other offers, unless they sound good to you. Undoubtedly the company gets paid by companies that want to piggyback on the download process. This is common with free programs, as it’s one of the few ways for the programmers way to make some money; sometimes they ask for donations instead.
The program is free at VideoSoftDev.com, and they offer tech support for $10 a year.
Avast, a maker of anti-virus software, bought 20 phones to check this out. They found over 40,000 photos. More than 1500 were of children, 750 were scantily-dressed women and 250 were nude selfies of men, and there were several hundred personal emails and text messages. There was also one completed loan application and personal information about four previous owners. The cell phone owners thought they were erasing the data before they put them up for sale, but much of it was recoverable.
Naturally, Avast has a fix for that problem, and since it’s free, we pass it along: it’s an Android app called Avast Anti-Theft. Once you set it up, you can securely delete everything on your phone by logging into your Avast account on your computer.
If you don’t already have an Avast account, you can open one for free. We’ve used Avast for years and have recommended it to our readers, so we’re confident about their work. We signed in to our Avast account at my.avast.com, and once there, we had many commands at our disposal, including the ability to wipe our phone’s contents, if we wished, or locate it by its GPS coordinates. There was also a “siren” feature — and of course we couldn’t resist trying it out. On came a very loud siren, with a man’s voice yelling “This phone has been lost or stolen” over and over again.
One problem: After installation, Avast Anti-Theft told us it had a few issues to fix before we could use it. It took us awhile to figure out that we could fix them by just tapping each one and then tapping “fix.” Their explanations were very techie and may be a turn-off for some. For instance, we weren’t sure what to do about the request to “uninstall T-Mobile’s text messaging app,” so we just ignored it. In fact, we ignored most of the explanations and everything still worked.
In any group of women, Joy’s always the one who figures out the tip. Sigh. A new app, “Gratuity,” does it for her for free.
It figures out how much each person owes, depending on whether you’re at a restaurant bar, or getting a delivery. It also factors in whether you’re happy, sad or neutral about the service, though you can enter any tip percentage you want.
Bob says this is simple arithmetic, but Joy says she likes the automatic figuring. Bob says it would be better if you could make people who order expensive items pay their full share.
In any event, this is one of those apps that didn’t come up in a search on the App Store. If it doesn’t come up for you, open your browser on your iPad or iPhone and search on “Gratuity app.” There’s a similar app for Android users.
A reader wrote to tell us she can’t get her printer to print. The computer shows it to be “offline,” though it clearly isn’t. When this happens to us, simply rebooting the computer usually fixes the problem.
If that doesn’t do it, go to the “printers and faxes” or “printers and devices” menu. You’ll find it in the “control panel.” See if you your printer is checked as the “default” printer. If it isn’t click your model to make it the default. If your model doesn’t show as one of the choices, you need to download the software for that printer.
Try printing a test-page. That will point to whether it’s a hardware or software problem. To print a test page in Windows 7, click “start” then “Devices and Printers.” Right-click your printer and click “printer properties.” Then click “Print a Test Page.” If that works, you know the printer is fine.
If you can’t print a test page, it’s a hardware problem. Call the printer manufacturer, they’re happy to help. After all, if they can keep you printing, you’ll keep buying their ink.