BEWARE OF TV ADS

hackersWe’re amazed at the info a website can collect about us without our doing anything but visiting.

The other day, we were channel surfing and stopped to watch the famous pitchman Ron Popeil.  He was pitching Ronco knives on TV and on a whim Joy decided to visit  his website, Ronco.com to see what else he was doing. She came, she saw, she left — without ordering anything or giving our name, address or credit card information. A few days later, a giant box containing 22 pounds of knives and  a holding block arrived. Guess what? We were about to be billed a couple hundred bucks for our “order.” We called Fed Ex and marked it return to sender.

This seems to be an old business model. It reminded us of the Book of the Month Club. Dealing with them, you had to formally refuse a book, otherwise they would send it and bill you, informing you that by not refusing it, you had ordered it.. Hello, sucker. They’re gone, but similar practices still go on.

A few days after our surprise knives delivery, a reader asked us about a “PCMatics” ad he saw on TV.  We told him to run for the hills, just on general principles. But what if it was actually a good deal? How do you check these things out? Well, the fastest and simplest way is whenever you see a deal that raises an eyebrow or two, go to Google.com, type in the product’s name and add the word “reviews.” When we checked “PCMatics reviews,” we saw a truck load of complaints. Read more »

Share

THE TRADE IN ON AN OLD PHONE

Galaxy S3If you’re like us and have a so-called “unlocked phone,”‘ with “prepaid service,” you may be curious on what it would cost to upgrade.

First off, the trade-in value: Amazon would only give us $80 for a Samsung Galaxy S3 that cost us over $500 a few years ago. If we wanted to buy that same phone (used, without contract) from them, the price was $95. Not bad. T-Mobile, our service provider, by contrast, offers to buy it for $40, and sells it for $200.

By the way, we pay only $30 a month for unlimited web and text usage and a paltry 100 minutes of phone calls. (That’s okay, we normally only use about ten minutes. We don’t talk much and only ran over the limit once in three years.) You can find similar deals at T-Mobile.com, but if you don’t see that one, chat online with one of their support people. They sometimes seem willing to deal.

Share

FREE SAT TEST PREPARATION

khanKhanAcademy.org offers free video tutorials on math, science, history and other topics. Now they’ve added free SAT test preparation. The test is changing in March of 2016 and you can practice it here.

Share

POETRY LOVERS PAGE

PoetryLoversPage.com was created in 1995 with one of the first complete collections of poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allen Poe. It also has the best of Robert W. Service, William Shakespeare and many others. Readers may also submit their own poems. The site still has a 1995 (early days for web sites) look, but the poems make it worth a visit.

Share

THAT’S FAST

dead battery woesJoy’s nephew recently graduated from a flip phone to a smart phone. The one thing he misses is the long battery life of the flip phone. What if you could fully charge an iPhone in five minutes? A charger that can do just that is slated to come out in August.

This idea so electrified (so to speak) the Kickstarter community that “Pronto,” the forthcoming fast charger, quickly raised $375,249 in seed money. (That was $325,000 more than they were looking for.) The basic device will cost $89 and hold three charges. The super model will hold nine charges. Either will fully charge an iPhone in five minutes. You can pre-order one for June delivery from pronto-battery.backerkit.com.

Share

THREE GREAT APPS

  • YouCam Makeup App

    YouCam Makeup App

    “Zepp Tennis 2″ works with any Zepp sensor to show you what your tennis serve looks like in 3D. It works with iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets. Check out similar apps from Adidas (soccer) and Babolat (tennis).

  • “Google Goggles” is a free app for Android/iPhone/iPad that identifies images for you. The other day, someone at the question and answer site, Quora.com, asked Joy to identify a picture of a fruit. If Bob had been there, he would have told her it was the Carambola, or so-called “star” fruit. Not having Bob there, Joy took a picture of it with her phone camera and the Goggles app showed her similar pictures, with links to identifying text. Ah ha! She even got a YouTube video on how to slice it properly.
  • “YouCam Makeup,” a free app for iPhone/iPad/Android, shows you what you would look like with various kinds of lipstick, eye shadow, eyeliner and so on. It’s been downloaded over 10 million times. Bob maintains that Joy and all women look best without makeup.
Share

ARE FITNESS BANDS RELIABLE?

fitness trackersThe information you get from “fitness” bands may be off by as much as 40 percent, according to Gregory Welk, an Iowa State University kinesiology professor, who tested seven of them. The top two bands were off just over 15 percent and the worst one was off 40 percent. There were $1.4 billion worth of these fitness trackers sold last year and the market continues to be hot. Professor Welk admits they’re still a valuable tool to achieve fitness.

Share

WATCH OUT FOR THE UPDATE AD

MALWAREBYTESOur screen kept nagging us with messages that we needed to update Adobe Flash Player, a program necessary for video playback on the web. But since we knew we already had the latest version , we ignored it.

It was a false message that was aimed at getting people to click on the box it presented, and of course that’s the sort of thing that can get you in trouble. Unfortunately, what’s new in phony messages is that you don’t have to click on anything to get a computer virus. We didn’t get one that time, but to be safe, we downloaded the new “Anti-Exploit,” a free program for preventing these attacks. We got it at Malwarebytes.org, home of another anti-malware product by the same name, also free.

Confused? So were we at first. It turns out there are three things you should have on your machine to keep safe: an anti-virus program (the free version of Avast is good), an anti-spyware program ( like the free one at Malwarebytes.org), and an anti-exploit program, like “Anti-Exploit.” In tests by the software research company Kafeine, the Anti-Exploit blocked every attack thrown at it.

It doesn’t cost much for a criminal to buy one of these exploitive ads. They pay an average of 75 cents for every 1,000 ads during peak traffic on major sites such as the HuffingtonPost, Answers.com, and DailyMotion, or six cents per thousand in off-peak hours.

There are premium versions of both Anti-Exploit and Malware, though it’s easy to get confused after installation. Anti-Exploit has an “activate” button. If you click on it, they ask you for your license code, so you might be tempted to go back and buy it. But that’s not necessary, unless you also want protection for Microsoft Office files and PDFs. This kind of thing has become commonplace on websites, so just pay attention to what you click on.

Share

PAYING AOL?

aol logoMore than 2.1 million Americans still use AOL’s dial-up connection, perhaps unnecessarily. We know two people right off the bat who think they have to pay $20 a month to hold on to their AOL email accounts. They’ve been paying for years.

This sort of thinking provides a nice bundle of extra income for the company, because the truth is: you don’t need to pay AOL to keep your email account, you just have to be connected to the Internet. Joy always offers to prove this by asking for someone’s AOL user name and password and then signing in as them on her own computer or phone, where she does not pay for anything AOL related. Works fine.

Share

GETTING THERE

wazeWaze” is a free alternative to Google Maps (also free). It calls out turn-by-turn directions, just as Google Maps does. Just tap the microphone and speak your destination, or type it in. Then tap “navigate.”  For those who want more, Waze keeps you up to date on traffic conditions and can even tell you when your friends arrived at the destination. (If five minutes have gone by and they still haven’t got out of the car and wrung the bell, they’re probably arguing about whether to see you at all.)

Share