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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CELL PHONE SERVICE GETS CHEAP

We love our cell phone service from Google’s new “Project Fi.” It only works with Google Nexus phones, but if you get one, your bill might be as low as $25 a month with tax.  Now they’re expanding it. Google Fi currently works with three phone carriers. If the signal is strongest from T-Mobile, for example, that’s who they’ll connect to. If Sprint is better, you’ll be using Sprint. They’ve recently added U.S. Cellular. A Google Fi account gives you unlimited text and phone calls for $20 a month. Each gigabyte of data (which is what you use up when you’re on the Web and all those words and pictures come in), is $10. But you get money back if […]

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BLUETOOTH MYSTERIES

We heard from a reader who wasn’t sure what Bluetooth was and why she needed it on her new iPad Mini. The answer is (the envelope, please): It’s a short-range radio transmitter and receiver, and she doesn’t need it.

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THE CAR HACKER’S HANDBOOK

“The Car Hacker’s Handbook,” by Craig Smith is for the techie in the family. It’s an in-depth look at the computer-based systems in modern cars that make them vulnerable to attack. The book is $50 from No Starch Press.

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SECURE IPHONE

A reader asked us how to protect his iPhone from the bad guys; iPhones are pretty well protected, but there are a few things you can do to be even safer. Here are several iPhone security apps: “1Password” protects credit card info and passwords with military-grade encryption. “Private Photo Vault Pro,” $4, keeps whole albums or individual photos and videos private. “Hotspot Shield,” for $5 a month protects your identity and blocks hackers when you’re using Wi-Fi in coffee shops, at the airport, library or wherever you find a free public Internet connection. (There have been 400 million downloads on this one.)

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SECURE INTERNET

We’ve long recommended the Avast anti-virus program, because it’s free. But a major flaw was recently uncovered by a Google researcher in what they called “Project Zero,” which aims for zero threats.

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AT&T PRETENDERS

A reader was recently scammed by someone pretending to be an AT&T technician. Here’s how he got there:

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A KILLING IN ADVERTISING

Over 40 million people have downloaded “AdBlock,” a free program for blocking ads on  the web. We were skeptical initially but are now converts. Often, when a web site comes in slowly it’s because it’s loading ads. Lately, Joy’s computer has been so slow, she could put on water for tea and come back before the site had loaded. Then she loaded Adblock, and it helped. It counts the ads it kills and gives you totals; it knocked off 2,500 in the first week. What made Bob turn to AdBlock was pants. He bought some pants online and by the next day the entire clothing business had ads for pants on whatever web site he called up. It was clear […]

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SAFE LUGGAGE

Recently, we warned against writing your name and address on luggage tags, since burglars might figure you’re not home. Instead, we said, you might use smart labels from HomingPIN. These can be tracked worldwide by the airports’ own system.

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