THE REAL MCCOY

We have a reader named McCoy, and he maintains that he is “The Real McCoy” (accept no substitutes). Well, we believe him and he has some good tips, which we will pass along a little further down the way. This goes back to a topic we wrote about a couple weeks ago. But it’s an important topic, and becoming more immediate as the world goes increasingly gonzo about these new digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo. We are going gaga along with everybody else and of course — as usual — the situation will grow increasingly worse as other manufacturers join the fray. Our Internet signal is strong in our office but not so good just 40 feet […]

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DRAGGIN’ ON

After a lengthy struggle trying to install “Dragon Naturally Speaking” on an ordinary Hewlett Packard laptop running Windows 10, we gave up. The next day, Joy called the company’s tech support and after their expert worked on it for an hour and a half, he got it installed. It was not a great experience dealing with what is supposed to be the world’s premiere voice recognition software. The idea is you load it in, speak into the microphone and the program turns what you said into words on the screen. The point of that is you can then edit it — do the rewrite. To quote the advice of best-selling science fiction writer Robert Heinlein: “The whole secret of writing […]

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BACKUP BLUES

  Joy tried to clear up Bob’s startup screen by dragging half the stuff into Windows’ Documents folder. It turned out to be a vanishing act! Gone was his story about Atlantis and a couple of detective action pieces. And doing a global search to find them, found nothing. Joy was a wee bit upset. She was only trying to help Bob back up his files. She even used the “copy,” command instead of “move,” which should have prevented such losses, but it didn’t. The universe is a strange place. She used Windows 10’s own backup tool called “File History.” After all, it’s there. But it has to be turned on. You’d think it would be on by default when […]

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WHO’S THAT?

There are an estimated 220 million fake people on Facebook. So how can you tell who’s who? Fake identities are the third most common complaint, according to the Federal Trade Commission, so we tried a free app, “Legitifi” that tries to find out if the person you’re about to hire or date is who they say they are.  It’s touted for checking out babysitters, dates, handymen, caregivers, and could be used even for ride services and airline passengers. Legitifi’s identity-checking algorithm does some obvious things, like checking  whether the same person posts under more than one name on Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites. The only dating site they check is Tinder.com. If a social media profile is too new, that […]

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HELP!

“Ask My Buddy” is a free app for sending an alert to everyone you know, without reaching for your phone or computer. It works just by voice on a Windows 10 computer, a Google Home device or the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Plenty more like these are coming out soon. With Windows 10’s built-in voice recognition program, Cortana, you can say “Ask My Buddy to Alert Everyone” and everyone on your contact list will get an immediate phone call, text message and email. Or you can confine it to a single person. Cortana isn’t great unless you’ve trained it by using it a lot, but the Google and Amazon devices are quite good at recognition. For Windows, we found […]

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Our attention was captured recently by a Wall Street Journal article about executives playing video adventure games. One was 34, another 49. Their ages were apparently meant to surprise us, but in fact it’s normal. There has always been an assumption that only kids play video games. It depends on the game. In fact, in the decades we have been writing this column — and it is the oldest and longest running technology column in the known universe (and parts of New Jersey) — the great majority of video game players have ranged from their mid 20s on up. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average male player is 35, the average woman 44. We’re talking about complex games […]

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THE RETURN OF THE PANIC BUTTON

Stand-alone push buttons are getting hot. Out of printer ink? Just push a button to order more. The buttons are only $5, ink quite a bit more. Is there any inconvenience in this convenience? We can see some. So here’s how it starts: Amazon sells $5 “Dash” buttons that you stick around the house. Press one labeled “Charmin” to automatically re-order toilet paper. Press “Tide” to get detergent. (Amazon then kicks in and sends you whatever quantity you normally order.) The office giant Staples has a trial version of an office supply button. And there are others. Remember the old “Panic” push-buttons that were sold as a novelty item? We’re getting there. We tested a “goButton” from a company just […]

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YOUR COMPUTER’S HEART BEEPS

Is your computer hyper tense? Does it suffer from anxiety, mood shifts, lethargy or even narcolepsy? You can get a free checkup at Belarc.com. Belarc Advisor tells you about your dear machine’s hardware, software, security settings, and whether or not you need updates. Our diagnosis: updates of six programs were deemed “critical.” But updating programs in intensive care is a hassle. Have you been to the Adobe site lately? It’s hard to find the update section. We had two copies of Adobe Flash, which is built into Chrome; we got rid of both. We also got rid of something called “Adobe Air.” Then there’s “Java.” Do we really need Java? We looked it up and the answer came back “No!” […]

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THE RIGHT LIGHT FOR NIGHT

The latest version of Windows 10 has a “Night Light” feature. It allows you to adjust the screen color from the regular bright white on a sliding scale from a light tan to orange. It’s free and you can get it if you search for “Windows 10 Creators Update.” Heaven only knows we need it. At least Bob needs it. He uses a tiny program called “Pango Bright,” from Pangolin Laser Systems that allows the user to scale down the screen brightness from 100 percent to 20 percent. Dealing with the fully bright screen is especially annoying at night or in darkened rooms. We owe this to Steve Jobs, who was the first to give us the bright white screen […]

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A STUFFED IPAD

A friend came home from the Grand Canyon with photos she wanted to transfer to her iPad. She used the “iKlips,” a thumb drive with two ends. One end plugs into your computer and the other into your iPad. She had a thousand photos of the Grand Canyon, which was perhaps one or two more than necessary, since the Canyon is pretty much the same from century to century. But there was no room left on her iPad, give or take a canyon or so. What is a shutterbug to do? Well, you could delete some of stored photos. After all, how many pictures of Aunt Bertha do you need? Then if you change your mind, you can retrieve those […]

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