A VIRTUAL WORLD FOR CHILDREN

WoozworldWoozworld.com lets children walk around in a virtual world, try on new clothes, play games and talk to others by choosing pre-selected phrases from a menu. It’s free but has lots of ads. The artwork is stunning but we got a little woozy waiting for things to load in Woozworld.

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GAME ON

league of legendsRaptr” is a free program that automatically optimizes every game on your computer, making sure the graphics and other drivers are up to date. On Joy’s Windows 8 computer, it just found one, but it had links to tons of other free games with stunning graphics.

Under “simulation,” we found “Rail Nation,” free for train buffs; at “Big Farm,” also free, you compete to build the best farm, and “Settlers Online,” is a classic adventure game we remember from decades ago. Some of the online communities had more than two million members. Raptr lets you chat with your gamer friends while you play, even if you’re both playing different games. The most popular games are “League of Legends” and “World of Warcraft.” More than 27 million people play League of Legends daily, and eight million play World of WarCraft.

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BRAIN TRAINING

brain trainingJoy and a couple of her lady friends are hooked on the Lumosity brain training games; she plays them on her computer every day for 15-30 minutes. Bob prefers playing bridge and trying to figure out why politicians never answer a question directly.

The games are now on an Android app. Basic membership is free for a limited number of games, or $15 a month for the full list. There’s a two-week free trial of that full list. Adding it all up, there are about 50 million users.

The games test your wits in the areas of memory, flexibility, attention, problem solving, and speed. Joy has become a speed demon — in the top one percent of players in her age group. She swears she’s getting smarter by the day, though she still can’t remember where she put her cell phone.

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FINDING GOOD STUFF ON THE WEB

FliporaMost people find good websites through social networking sites. The six most popular are Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Digg and LinkedIn. The seventh, Flipora, is one we’d never heard of till they announced a new version.

The new Flipora 2.0 analyzes your Facebook posts to recommend topics for you, and as you browse the web, it gets to know you better. If you install the free browser extension, you get frequent pop-ups recommending a website based on your recent searches. Otherwise, you can go to Flipora.com for recommendations.

Some of these suggestions are good: We were looking at El Greco’s famous painting: “A View of Toledo” (Spain), when a link popped up telling us to look at Andy Warhol’s lost (and recently rediscovered) computer art. Not bad. We also watched a great video on government corruption. But many recommendations are out of date and uninteresting. Joy likes economics but wasn’t interested in two year-old forecasts of bank closings in India or the country’s 2012 tax policy. We suspect many or most of Flipora’s 30 million users are in India.

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SHARING A MOVIE, A SONG OR AN AUDIO BOOK

sharing a headsetHere’s a $10 gizmo that should make plane rides and train trips more fun. Instead of just watching your own movie on your own gadget, watch it together with a friend or family member.

We don’t mean you should take off your headset and let the volume rip. The “Divvy” from Wicked Audio, splits the sound between two headsets. It’s a tiny box that plugs into one socket. Each person can choose their own volume level. So if Grandpa is watching a movie with a grandchild, he can have the volume higher if he needs it.  It would also come in handy if two people want to listen to the same audiobook or song. We couldn’t find it on Amazon, but we hear it’s available at Game Stop, Airport Wireless and phone stores. Belkin offers a similar splitter on Amazon. Very cheap.

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GOOD DOG

PetPaceFor around $300 a year, you can monitor your pet’s health better than you monitor your own. The PetPace “smart collar” tracks dog and cat health 24 hours a day.

This seems like a great thing to have if you’re away on a trip and wondering how Fido is doing at the local kennel. It sends alerts to your phone if your dog is starting to have an abnormal temperature, pulse or breathing pattern, and monitors his calories, pain, and activities, comparing them to other dogs his age. (Get up Fido, it’s time for your floor exercises.)

So far, the main customers will likely be vets, who can buy a pro version of the collar and put it on animal patients to monitor them after they’re released from the hospital.

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BALANCING YOUR CHECKBOOK ON THE COMPUTER

checkbookA reader told us his disability is making it tough to balance his checkbook with pen and paper, and he is unhappy with software like Quicken. Here’s an easy way to do it using a free program.

Google the words “Kingsoft Spreadsheet Free” to get a free program that will open Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Then Google: “checkbook register for Excel.” It comes with categories set to go, like “groceries,” which you can change to fit your own purchases. (Maybe you just bought a Rolls and have now become aware of the maintenance costs.)

If you are unfamiliar with Excel, public libraries have lots of books on the subject. There are also many free tutorials on the web. Just Google: “basic Excel tutorial.”

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GEOGRAPHY QUIZZES

ukraineLizardPoint.com has free geography quizzes. For example it was easy to find continents on the map and we did well at state capitols, but finding the regions of the Ukraine was much tougher.

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FREE RICE

free riceFreeRice.com donates rice while you play a vocabulary game. (There’s a bowl on the screen that fills up as you play.) The rice is paid for by the site’s advertisers and distributed by the United Nations Food Program. In its first ten months of operation, the site donated over 42 billion grains of rice. That’s 2.38 million pounds or 1,190 tons.

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FACEBOOK TIP

facebookEver notice that the same Facebook friends are always at the top of your page? You can fix that.

Facebook notices when you comment on someone’s post or click “like.” It puts those people on top. To change that, start liking or commenting on posts from people you rarely see. You can type a friend’s name in the search box and go right to their posts.

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