THE BIG DISCOUNT

So we went to the drugstore to pick up Bob’s post heart-attack prescriptions and the pharmacy clerk said she looked around and knocked $135 off the price. That cut the bill in half. She should go on our Christmas list. What she did was look at our prescription list and then went to her phone to check that against an app called “Good RX.” This must be pretty new stuff because we just heard of it last week. We heard of it but we’re not as sharp as the gal at the pharmacy and we didn’t install it on our phone. We thought: come on, how much could this save you? Good RX gives you coupons for lots of pharmacies, […]

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EAVESDROPPING WITH ALEXA

Twenty-two million Americans now have what’s called a “smart speaker,” a gadget that sits on a table or shelf and responds to commands. The numbers have doubled in the past year. This is without doubt the hottest product out there and we expect the numbers to jump sharply again this year. The market leader, with about 72 percent, is the Amazon Echo; Google has about 18% and the rest is “other,” which includes Apple’s “HomePod,” and Sonos’ “Sonos One.” Now the Amazon Echo not only listens to you, it can listen for you. In short, it can be an intercom. If someone turns on its “voice calling and messaging” feature, you can either call them or listen in. There have […]

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WHO’S THAT DOWN THERE?

This is one of the weirdest cases we’ve ever heard of from a reader. A woman wrote to say that anyone replying to her emails was redirected to a hacker. We tried writing her back, and sure enough, we saw her email address change before our eyes. An extra letter was automatically inserted. We didn’t put it there, we just hit “reply.” Off it went to the hacker. The next time, we hit “reply” we carefully erased the “send” address and put in the one without the extra letter. This was beyond annoying for the reader. Friends thought she was getting their email but those messages all went to the hacker instead. She first tried getting help from “Geek Squad” […]

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HERE THERE BE TYGERS AND ALL MANNER OF STRANGE BEASTS

One of our frequent correspondents had a near miss. That’s a near miss from disaster when he got a phone call telling him his PayPal account had been compromised and he owed $340. The caller said they could fix the problem for $299 but they needed to take control of his computer. They said they needed his bank account number too, so he gave it to them. There was a lot of background chatter on the caller’s end of the line. The red flags went up, the rockets exploded and the bells started ringing. He turned off his computer, told the caller he just had a power outage, hung up and moved everything from his checking account to his savings […]

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DEVELOPING A TWITCH

An old friend in the computer gaming business called to pitch a new product. The product was interesting though not yet ready for prime time. But his call opened a window we hadn’t looked through in many years. We hardly ever mention computer games anymore, because it has become a specialty in its own right and is too narrow for this column. And yet, they’re still out there. More than half a million people tune in daily to Twitch.TV, where they can watch other people play video games. Ten million have downloaded the app to watch Twitch on their phones. Sound pretty stupid? We tuned in (because we have to) and it was actually interesting. In fact it was more […]

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SOLVABLE SOLITAIRE

What is the most popular Windows program ever made? It’s not Microsoft Office or Word, it’s Solitaire. Practically everyone we’ve ever known plays it. It’s one of those “win some, lose some” kind of games. Or is it? If you try Solitaire in Windows 10 they have an option: They have “solvable solitaire” options starting at “easy” and going up to tournament levels. Bob’s an ace at Solitaire, But Joy usually loses. So she tried the solvable “medium” level and won her first three games! Ha, ha, victory! To find the solvable games option, you can either type “solitaire” in the search box in the lower left of your screen, or click the start button and scroll down until you […]

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GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED

It seems like a lot of the people we meet want to be writers. And they have a great subject for a novel: it’s about them. A good start might be finding an agent. Nowadays, you can find them online. QueryTracker.net lists over 1500 literary agents, with brief information about each. It’s free to sign up, and the site can keep track of how many pitch letters you’ve sent, where they went and when. This could prevent some embarrassing moments, like sending the same letter to the same agent several times. Click on any agent’s name to find out the kinds of authors they represent. Some prefer pitch letters by email, others ask you to fill out a form online.  Click […]

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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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TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS

Recently, we bought a $21 smart phone for our 97 year-old friend, Ida. It was not only economical (meaning cheap), but it’s been fun and instructive…

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MAKING MUSIC

Topics: Free music app, refurbished computers, geography game, Netflix Releases,security for Android phones, Dropbox tip.

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