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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BUYING HIGH AND LOW

We haven’t seen all the features of Apple’s new iPhone, but even without seeing them we’re  impressed by the price. Apparently, a thousand dollars isn’t what it used to be. But what is? Apple has always had high prices but this may be getting ridiculous. So we bought an elderly friend a smartphone for $17. That would be a cost ratio of about sixty to one. She impressed a fellow resident at her retirement home by whipping out her new phone to call an Uber cab. When she said it was a cheap phone, he figured she meant around  $200, a bargain these days. But the “Alcatel One Touch” cost us $17 from Walmart, and her monthly service cost is […]

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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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BOOK EM

We watched an interview with James Patterson, the best selling mystery writer. (This guy’s office would make a neat freak weep with joy.) He said he insisted his eight-year old son read a book a week all summer. It stuck. Years later he got a perfect score on the verbal part of the SAT exam. So did Bob. This runs counter to the current millennials and even some earlier gens, who don’t read much at all. What’s a mother, or father, to do? Recent numbers from the Pew Research Center say a quarter of Americans don’t even read a book a year. This is not a reflection on their intelligence; one of the smartest guys Bob ever knew is an […]

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BACKING UP AND BEEPING

We recently mentioned using “File History” in both Windows 10 and Windows 8 because it backs up changes you make to your files. You can find it by typing the name in the Windows search box. Another solution is “Google Backup and Sync.” It’s free and somewhat simpler and works for both Windows and Mac. It automatically backs up all your files, or just the ones you mark; it also keeps tracks of the files you delete. We were deleting some old stuff recently and Google Backup  popped up with a message to ask if we wanted to also delete them from our Google Drive account, which is online storage. This is also free and if you use Gmail for […]

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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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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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THE WEB AND ITS DISCONTENTS

This comes up pretty regularly. A reader writes to ask if it’s worth paying $70 a year for anti-virus protection, or should he use Windows’ own built-in support? A large surge in so-called “Ransom Ware” infections has exacerbated the problem. RansomeWare locks up your files, and the sender, naturally, demands a ransom to unlock them. Typical demand is $300. This can be blocked. Microsoft says their own free program, Windows Defender, offers enough protection for Windows 8 and Windows 10 users. Perhaps so. Research on the web found that Microsoft Defender caught 94.5 percent of threats. But the sample size was 1517 threats, which meant that 83 went through. It’s that extra 5.5 percent that gets ya. The answer, says […]

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UNROLL ME

If your inbox is cluttered with junk mail, you can fix that.  Unroll.Me lets you unsubscribe from all those mailing lists you never knew you were on and have no idea how you got there. It rolls them up into one message, which still has links to all that stuff if you want it. Go to Unroll.me to start and sign up using your Google, Yahoo, Outlook, AOL or other account. When Joy did it, Unroll.Me found she had 242 subscriptions in her Gmail account and 76 in her AOL account! What? Who were these people and how did they get here? A mystery wrapped in an enigma, as Winston Churchill used to say. They all appeared on a list, […]

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