THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

We just played “Animal Trivia,” “World Foods Trivia” and “What’s Your Nickname” without touching a phone, computer or board game. We used Google Home, the digital assistant. We paid $130 when it first came out but now there’s a new version called the “Mini,” which you can get for $49. This matches the price for Amazon’s “Alexa.” Holiday shopping is on the horizon and people are going to be making decisions and price is often the deciding factor. So are there differences? You bet. Most would consider them slight, Bob thinks they’re enormous. Bob prefers Google. Joy on the other hand, thinks Alexa has lots of advantages. Whaddaya gonna do? She particularly likes an Alexa game called “Yes, Sire,” in […]

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SMILE

What? As if 900 crypto-currencies were not enough, we now have “Dentacoin.” You guessed it, Dentacoin is for paying dentists. At the moment, you can only pay two dentists with this digital currency, one in Bulgaria and the other in London, but the wheel, and the planet, turns. These digital currencies, also called “crypto” or “e-cash” are a way of getting out from under bank fees, inflation, security risks and of course government control. Eeek, as they say in the treasury. We are fast approaching a thousand varieties and there’s no reason to expect it to stop there. Shades of early America, when banks in all the states used to issue their own currency. Except they could keep printing money. […]

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ANTI-VIRUS REVISITED

We bow to the mounting evidence and can no longer recommend the free anti-virus program: “Avast.” Too many complaints. And yet, cyber attacks as they’re called, are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. Choosing an alternative is tricky. For years, PC World, PC Magazine and other reviewers gave their highest marks to the Russian-owned Kaspersky anti-virus. Then came the accusation that Russian hackers may be using it to conduct espionage against the U.S.; some readers dropped it like a hot potato. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security ordered federal agencies to remove it from their systems. Avast is based in the Czech Republic, and there’s been some strange behavior recently.  One of our readers said the people who answer the […]

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POLITICAL DATING SITES

Given the current divide in American politics, we decided to investigate dating sites that could eliminate arguments at the breakfast table (and beyond). Here goes: — A new one for conservatives is TrumpSingles.com, a nicely designed site, with fewer offerings than big sites like Match.com, but more closely targeted. If you can’t figure out the target, it may not be for you. — ConservativesOnly.com is a bare-bones site that’s been around for years and is – how can we put it? – conservative. — For liberals there are many sites (in fact, most) but for that international flavor they might like to try “Maple Match,” a free  app that “makes it easy for Americans to find Canadians.” (They’re just above […]

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THE NEW PAINTER

It’s summertime and art shows have sprung out all over. Every time we go to one we see paintings that might have been done with a computer program. Some of them they are, and they’re often the best in the show. One artist whose work we liked said she used Ulead PhotoImpact, an old program you can find for about $5 on the web. We like it too and have used it for many years. On the other end of the scale is the new Corel Painter, which sells for $429, for Windows 10 or Mac. This is the program to get if you want the kind of effects professionals get. You can recreate brush strokes, palette knife smears, colors […]

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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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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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CAR TECH

We had a gizmo attack. A gizmo attack is when some new gizmo comes out and you feel you have to have it. Normally you should lie down and wait for this feeling to pass. But not always. So we went for it. We spent $500 for a driving aid called “Navdy.” This is a hamburger-sized device that sits on your car’s dashboard and projects a head-up display that brings you directions, text messages, phone calls and many other now necessary aspects of the modern world. Think of it as the same kind of display fighter pilots see — at least while there still are fighter pilots. In our case, we fitted this device in our 17 year-old Honda minivan […]

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GOOGLE TAKES “ACTIONS”

When extra features are added to cell phones or the Internet, they’re called “apps” — short for “applications.” Maps and games are examples. When features are added to the new fast-growing digital assistants like Amazon Echo, they’re called “skills;” but when added to Google Home, they’re called “actions.” Why the difference? We don’t know, and we didn’t make this stuff up. You have to realize that dozens of meetings, attended by high-powered executives, are required to make such decisions. We weren’t invited. Well these gizmos are the fastest growing products on the planet, just ahead of organic carrot juice. And so we looked at what “actions” Google can take. Users of either device most often ask for weather or music. […]

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WORLD’S EASIEST TABLET

A reader asked us for our recommendation on the easiest tablet to use – the iPad, the Kindle Fire or something else? The easiest tablet is nearly always the one your friend has, because they’ll help you out. We always regretted getting an iPad for our aunt, because she never learned to use it. All her friends had computers, but they were thumb-dumb when it came to the iPad. If we’d thought of it, we would have told her to watch YouTube videos. There are good ones on every kind of tablet. So, go to YouTube.com and search on “how to use an iPad” or “how to use the Kindle Fire.” What could go wrong? Basically, all tablets are similar: […]

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