SMART TV OR SMART STICK?

A friend of ours is thinking of getting a smart TV. We asked her: Isn’t your TV already smart? A smart TV is one that can connect to the Internet, which hers can. Perhaps she is thinking of a super smart TV, the kind with voice control. These days, many Samsung and LG TVs have microphones built into their remotes. The LG “ThinQ TV,” $380 for the 43-inch model, lets you use either the Alexa or Google Home devices for voice control. Ask for games, the weather, some scenery to jog into, or your favorite photos from Budapest; ask for a sports score without interrupting the movie your daughter is watching, and it will show along the bottom of the […]

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CAN YOU BE SUED FOR AN ONLINE REVIEW?

Online reviews can get people in trouble. In a case reported by the Washington Post, angry friends of a bride and groom accused a wedding photographer of being a con artist for holding photos “hostage” until an extra payment was made. The photographer went to court and won more than a million dollars in damages. Thanks to the First Amendment, you can say almost anything you want in an online review of a product or service. Almost. If you say something like “scammer” or “con artist,” that’s accusing someone of illegal activity; you don’t want to do that unless you can back it up, When writing an online review, be sure to use phrases such as “I didn’t like X,” […]

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REMOTE CONTROL

Sometimes you need to access your computer from a galaxy far, far away. Or at least from the beach. We used to like TeamViewer, but it got too complicated. So now we like the free “AnyDesk.” You can use this from any laptop, tablet or smartphone. In our tests, all went well. On a Chromebook, we used AnyDesk to control our Windows computer. It was only in the next room, but in theory it could have been far, far away. After clicking on the AnyDesk icon and typing the secret code, we clicked on familiar icons to browse the web, edit anything we had written, and play Peggle, our favorite game. In PowerPoint, we added a slide to our “History […]

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DRONE JOURNALISM

It used to be that aerial photography was available only to the richest newspapers. When Bob was the food critic for the Chicago Tribune, he remembers a photo shoot from a helicopter costing $10,000. Now with cheap drones, anybody can get an aerial shot. It’s called “Drone Journalism.” Two researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland have a new book by that name. Besides the usual tips, they point out that a journalist’s drone can be stopped by the government. Dictatorships are famous for this, but even the U.S. government sometimes calls a halt. In 2016, Sioux Indians staged a major protest against a proposed oil pipeline in North and South Dakota. When the first dramatic aerial images of […]

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STAY CALM AND SNUGGLE DOWN

Cozy up and get under the covers. “Calm,” is an app for your computer or phone and helps you fall asleep by telling you bedtime stories or providing music, nature sounds, and meditation lessons. We feel sleepy just talking about it. Their latest story is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale that claims to be the first one ever produced by artificial intelligence. It puts robots to sleep. Besides that, there are 80 stories written by actual humans. New ones come out almost every week. A couple of those are narrated by Stephen Fry, who played the helpful butler “Jeeves” in the “Jeeves and Wooster” TV series. We listened to “Blue Gold,” about the lavender trade. The only way it could have […]

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AT THE OPERA

A reader told us she’s tired of being tracked. We suggest using the new Opera web browser. It’s free and you can get it from Opera.com. Once on board you will have a built-in “Virtual Private Network,” or VPN, as the techies call it. It automatically encrypts all your data so hackers can’t get to it, which makes it safe (at least until the counter-attack) when you’re using free Wi-Fi at the airport or a coffee shop. For your phone, there’s “Opera Free VPN,” from the iPhone or Android app stores. Besides safeguarding your data, it lets you into places you might otherwise not be able to go.  For instance, some videos are restricted to certain countries. We’re looking at […]

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FACING FACEBOOK

As a special treat for our regular readers, we have nothing to say about Facebook. Meanwhile, back at the ranch … Virtual Reality at the Mall “Virtual Reality” has been over-hyped as a way to experience a movie or game. But it may be about to bring you into the mall. At the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles last month, six people at a time were allowed into a special room containing a virtual “Alien Zoo.” Those who made the trip viewing other-worldly animals said the 12-minute journey was something like being inside “Jurassic Park.” Participants, wore goggles and backpacks, fended off aliens and in general had a whopping good extra-terrestrial time. The company that set it up […]

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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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BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

A reader innocently called a tech support phone number he saw on the Brother Printers website. It turned out to be a scam. Unlike “click bait,” which leads you to fake news stories or other web sites, this one goes after your wallet. When our reader called the supposed tech support number, he was told they needed to take control of his Macbook Pro to fix a major problem. They said he had a lot of “stuck” and “sleeping” files (whatever those are), and added he needed to pay $299 a year for a firewall. Fortunately, he said “no.” He added: “They told me there was no way that I would get the printer to work without their firewall!”  But […]

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MISSING AND NO ACTION

A reader writes that she doesn’t hear from her son. She can send messages but she doesn’t know if he’s getting any email. She may be able to find out what’s up with that by using an email tracking program. ReadNotify.com (free to try, $24 a year for regular use) can let you know when the emails you send are opened, if they are opened. To get that response, tack “ReadNotify.com” on the end of an email address. For example, if your friend is JoeDoe@aol.com, you’d write “JoeDoe@aol.com.ReadNotify.com.”  When Joe Doe opens the email, you’ll get a message in your inbox saying when and where he opened it. It works with any email service, from Gmail to Yahoo. When Joy […]

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