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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WI-FI BLUES

A reader wrote us to say he’s barely able to connect to the Internet wirelessly, even though his phone is just 20 feet away from his AT&T router. Two bars is the best he gets. We told him to call AT&T, since they’ll replace his router or add a booster for free; it’s part of the monthly contract. However, that may not work. What he’s opened up is a much larger problem that many people experience, and it’s definitely worth going into. It is a trickier subject than it first appears. The subject of radio broadcasts (which is what your wireless modem is doing) and receiving them is a special field of its own in electrical engineering. Antenna design can […]

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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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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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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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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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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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FINDING FREE MOVIELAND

A reader asks: “Where are the Amazon Prime movies?”  You’d think Amazon would have a category called “Prime Movies” on their website, but no, too simple.. So how do you find them? Prime Movies are freebies for those who have paid for Prime membership. To find, type “prime movies” in the search box at the top of the page at Amazon.com. About 135,000 come up. Don’t have time to go through those? Best narrow the search. There are categories off to the left. In what may be the worst designed web page in the known universe, some of those categories don’t make sense, like “used.” (It’s a download, dummy.) Also ignore the price listings; what part of freebie do they […]

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