HEY GOOGLE, START THE CAR

If you’re out of favor with the Mafia, you need this. It’s the Google Home smart speaker, or the free “Google Assistant” app on your phone. You can sit on your couch and say “Hey Google, start my car.” If it doesn’t blow up in three minutes, you might as well get in and go. This currently works with new Hyundais, Mercedes  and BMWs. More are likely to join in soon. The Hyundai program is called “Blue Link,” and requires either a 2017 or later Hyundai, or one of a dozen models from 2016 or a few from 2015. Besides starting your engine from the couch, you can set the interior temperature, send points of interest to the car’s navigation […]

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DEFEND YOUR PHONE

Users and Apple say the iPhone is the safest smartphone out there, but you can make it safer still. Start with the log-on. Do you use a fingerprint? You should. Joy initially had difficulties getting her Android phone to recognize her index finger. The solution was to use more fingers. Now she uses her middle finger to get into the phone, and this one rarely misses. (No comments, please.) If you have an iPhone X, you can use your face instead of a fingerprint. It’s rumored that all iPhones coming out this fall will have “Face ID.” It’s inevitable. What about a hacker breaking into your iCloud account on the web? It’s a good idea to set up “two-factor identification.” […]

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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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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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WHAT’S THE CACHE?

There’s an old Hollywood joke about the devil going to visit a talent agent and telling him he can put together any movie he wants, with any actors he wants, and no budget limit and the only thing he has to provide in return is his immortal soul. The agent thinks about this for a minute and says: “What’s the catch?” So our Gmail slowed to a crawl, and for a few seconds we couldn’t figure out why. But a Google search came back with the answer: It’s the cache, stupid. Well all right they didn’t say stupid; we filled that in ourselves. All the images that come up when you browse the web are “cached,” sort of the internet’s […]

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OUR NEW PHONE

There are 4.66 billion cell phones in the world. Ours cracked. Water got in and they just don’t work as well when they’re submerged. ‘Hooda’ thought it? It was the third gone gadget in a year. So bye-bye Google Nexus 6P and hello Google Pixel 2. All 158 apps from our old phone transferred over automatically as soon as we signed into our Google account. (Who needs 158 apps? We don’t even remember what they all do; they went in just to test ’em for the column.) The data in some of those apps was gone. Unfortunately, Joy had a couple hours of Bob’s deep voice recorded on the old phone, telling her about his adventures in Morocco as a […]

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AUGMENTED REALITY

What’s hot? Fake reality, that’s what’s hot. What’s really great about the technology business is the number of things you can do and make even if nobody wants them. Who knows? Somebody might buy it. We thought the Netflix series show, “Stranger Things,” was pretty strange. Strange enough, for us to drop out and not return. But stranger still, some of the show’s characters, like “Eleven,” can drop into whatever you’re shooting with your smartphone. Characters from Star Wars can also drop in — your shopping trip can be guarded by Imperial storm troopers — and no one but you will know that you’re nuts. They drop into the scene in 3D, like from the moon, from thin air, and […]

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NO CAT CALLS PLEASE

Half a century ago Andy Warhol predicted that someday everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He forgot to mention pets. Now there are websites devoted to making your pet stand out from the crowd. Bowser or Fluffy can even star in their own story book. And of course you can post videos — with background music and sound effects. Don’t worry that people will think you’re some kind of nut, a recent report says 65 percent of pet owners post news of their pets twice a week. Where do they post? On pet social networks, of course. If you search on the phrase “How to Make Your Pet a Star in Social Media,” you’ll get lots of advice. ABC […]

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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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