HEY BOO BOO

We’re going to talk some more about the digital assistants put out by Amazon and Google. Those would be the Amazon “Echo” and Google “Home.” They are small, relatively cheap (from $50 to $129), and they answer questions and do requests. This is the future. Essentially what we have are two devices that listen to what you have to say — with sometimes less accuracy than you would expect — and then respond. They can play music, occasionally with nonsensical results, and respond to more direct questions, such as “how many calories are there in an apple?” This is all new stuff, the edge of wedge if you will. It’s potentially an encyclopedia on your end table, along with lectures, […]

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I DREAM OF GENIE IN A HOCKEY PUCK

Topics: The Amazon Echo Dot, Internuts (a crazily lazy brass band, a girl who speaks 20 languages, Roald Dahl quotes), and how to make your web searches private.

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LOSING SKYPE

Our 96-year-old friend Ida uses the free Skype service to have video-chats with her friends in Australia. One day, her account was wiped out. Could this happen to you? (Think of that question as having been asked in scary monster movie title type.) You might think this had something to do with her age, and she must have hit the wrong button or spilled something on the keyboard. But no, we found dozens of similar complaints on the web. One guy wrote: “Where has my account gone? I do business all over Europe and today you just trashed my account with the credit I had as well?  You idiots.  If somebody within Microsoft made the decision to do this – […]

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OFFICE POLITICS

Topics in this column: Office politics, Losing the Internet, TED Talks, an app for Healthy Eating, Giving away a Kindle Fire, and the new Mac operating system.

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MEDICAL APPS

A reader asked us to find her a blood pressure app for the iPhone. There are several of these for both iPhone and Android. Unlike the kind you see at the doctor’s office, the apps do not use a compression band that temporarily cuts off your circulation. They measure the slight pulsing from placing your finger on the phone. We tried “Finger Blood Pressure! Free” on our Android phone, and compared it with the reading we got on the $35 Omron 3 Series Blood Pressure monitor with a pressure cuff. The Omron is battery operated, so you’re not tethered to the wall plug. Omron said Joy’s systolic pressure was 118, her diastolic reading was 74 and her pulse was 46. […]

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WATCHING AMAZON VIDEO OFFLINE

“Amazon Instant Video,” for Android phones and tablets, allows you to download a movie for offline viewing, great for when you’re on a plane or train or otherwise out of range of a Wi-Fi signal.  Go to Amazon.com/GetAndroidVideo for detailed instructions.

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STILL HOT FOR THE LATEST KINDLE FIRE

When we briefly mentioned the new $50 Amazon “Kindle Fire” tablet, ours hadn’t arrived yet.  Now that we have it, we’re more impressed than we expected. Here are a few things we haven’t seen in other reviews: First off, the full content of the Washington Post  is free for the first six months, $4 a month after that. That’s because Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently bought the Post, so he can offer any deal he wants.  A catchy headline from the newspaper on the main screen of the tablet lures you in. This is totally addictive: Joy hasn’t gone a day yet without reading the Post’s featured story.

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AMAZON FIRE

Joy lost her iPad Mini at the gym and has been using an old Amazon Fire tablet. The new $50 Fire is better than the old one in many ways. One of the best changes they made was moving the power button.

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FREE UNLIMITED PHOTO STORAGE

Flickr gives you a terabyte of photo storage, but now Amazon Prime members get unlimited storage on the free Amazon “Cloud Drive.”

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ROKU VERSUS FIRE STICK

We just bought a $39 Amazon “Fire Stick” for our second TV, to bring in hundreds of extra movie and TV channels, plus games and apps. On our main TV, we have the $49 Roku 3 stick. Here’s the difference: Roku usually gives you more choices.

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