age of crypto currencyBitCoin is a much bigger deal than we thought.

In the new book, “The Age of Crypto Currency,” by Vigna and Casey, two veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, we learned that Bitcoin is used all over the world where banking is a problem. An Afghani teenager, for example, traded her Bitcoins for an Amazon gift certificate and bought her first laptop. Without Bitcoin, her earnings would have disappeared into her father or brother’s bank account. In Mali refugee camps, people receive Bitcoins as text messages on $5 phones. Without crypto currency, workers often have to depend on strangers to carry money back home to relatives.

“The Age of Crypto Currency,” $28 from St. Martin’s Press, also gives us a concise history of money. In so doing, they show how Bitcoin might eventually be a more stable currency than what we use now, hard as that is to believe, because it gets government out of the equation. The book had a big write-up in the Economist magazine and is getting rave reviews.



mia happy helper“Mia the Happy Helper” is a free iPhone/iPad/Android game for kids aged four to six. (We remember the first version from more than a dozen years ago.) Mia is a mouse on a mission. Sometimes she’s looking for hidden objects, other times she’s playing a small piano, sometimes she counts. The $2 version adds more missions.



trash recyclingCCleaner, free for Android, gets rid of junk on your phone. We’ve used it on our computers, and the phone app is just as good. It got rid of 898 megabytes of useless files, almost a gigabyte. A $2 app for iPhone/iPad called “CCleaner Doctor” is made by a different company but does a good job too.



military helps veterans transition into civilian jobs. It includes educational resources and a job bank. Their resume data base has almost a million resumes.



name that listens while you sing or hum a tune and then tells you the name of it. Sometimes. It never did recognize our rendition of La Bamba, but was quick to get the Zulu folk song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” (Bob says the really tough question of the week is … “What was the song on the flip side of that 45-rpm record when it first came out?”)



going abroadA company called “KnowRoaming” makes calls cheaper for international travelers by selling a $30 SIM card that automatically switches between providers to eliminate roaming fees. It’s thin and sits on top of your regular phone card, so you never have to take it out.

Whether or not this is a good deal depends on how you travel. We have a friend who travels so much she calls herself “Nomad Nana,” and even writes a blog under that name. She says she avoids roaming fees simply by buying phone cards in every country she visits.

But she goes somewhere and stays for a while, so she has plenty of time to buy a local service card. If you’re a business traveler in and out of places quickly, you may be due on a conference call the minute you arrive in a new country. If you use a KnowRoaming card, you’ll be switched to the local service as soon as you land. If the next day you’re in another country, it switches again. We don’t know anyone who jets around this much, but we worry that we just don’t give enough tips to the super-rich and it’s time to catch up.

An alternative is the “Sim4Globe” SIM card. It works with any unlocked phone in over 190 countries. Calls cost up to 87 percent less. There’s no contract, just sign in and view the cost per country. By the way, international tourism increased five percent in 2013. That’s 52 million extra people taking selfies every time they land.



Lenovo LaVie laptopYou might think that you could just amble into Office Depot or Staples and buy whatever laptop felt right to the touch. But frankly, all the different specs can seem confusing.

Really, there are only a few considerations to think about. The PC should have “Intel Core i7″ or “Intel Core i5,” which references the speed of the central processor. You don’t need i7 unless you’re a serious gamer, do scientific work, or edit massive movie projects. When we bought a Windows laptop about four years ago, it had i3, which shows how these things have moved along. Read more »



garage doorA reader wanted to use his phone as a garage door opener. What a great idea. That way, if you got a ride home from someone else, and don’t have the opener, you can use your phone to open the garage. So can anyone else in your family who has the app on their phone.

We found out how to do this through a video tutorial on Search on “Monitor and Control Your Garage Door with Your Phone.” Our reader said he got it going with the help of his tech-savvy son. All you need is a smartphone, a Bluetooth headset, a $1 transistor from RadioShack and a soldering iron. Oh, and you might need a smart kid.


NUMBERS REPORT – THE GROWTH OF PINTEREST, claims to be the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace for freelance jobs and recently noticed some changes in the way listings are being posted.

They looked at nearly 300,000 jobs posted in the most recent quarter and found that “Pinterest,” a social networking site where you pin items of interest onto your own virtual corkboard, is becoming more essential than Twitter and Facebook. Pinterest recently expanded “Promoted Pins,” which are bookmarked sites promoted by advertisers. Eighty percent of Pinterest 70 million users are women. The average user spends 98 minutes a month there. Pinterest is second only to Facebook in steering people to websites.



voice mail saveSometimes a cell phone message from a child or loved one is so special, you want to save it forever.

A $20 app called “Voicemails Forever” does just that. The catch is, it only saves an hour’s worth. To save an unlimited number costs $40. If you’re techie, you can do this for free.

First install the free Audacity software from Then connect your computer to your phone through the headphone port using “mini to mini” auxiliary cables.

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