THE NETFLIX OF BOOKS

1cat with booksOysterBooks.com, sometimes called “the Netflix of Books,” recently added a new service. Besides renting all the books you can eat for $10 a month, you can now buy books as well.

In fact, they’ve gone nuts. OysterBooks is now offering almost everything for sale.  Prices are lower than Amazon’s, but don’t forget you’re paying $10 a month after the first free month.  Every time you change categories, you have to slide the filter to the right to see the freebies. We looked at “Sci-Fi,” “History,” and “NY Times Best-Sellers.”

If you like audio books, Librivox.org has them for free. They have around 600 books in children’s fiction, over a hundred books in children’s nonfiction, as well as hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books for adults. We listened to some short stories by P.G. Wodehouse. The reader was excellent, complete with fine English accent, but most readers we listened to were amateurish.

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UNLIMITED FLYING

flightOneGo,” coming this Fall, is for frequent flyers who just can’t stop. For $1500 a month, you get unlimited flights on major airlines such as American, Delta, United and Virgin America.

But as they say in late night TV, that’s not all you get. You’re also enrolled in faster security screenings and free Internet on the plane. The flights must be booked seven days in advance, and you’re limited to four open reservations at once. Initially, OneGo will only be available for West Coast flights. The service FlyRise has a similar deal for flights in Texas.

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HACKING THE GARAGE


An ordinary kid’s toy, Mattel’s “I M Me,” can be used to open garage doors in under ten seconds. Hackers aim the toy at your garage and presto, it opens.

Samy Kamkar, a security researcher and entrepreneur, did the hack to make it do that, and explained it all on YouTube. He said professional burglars already know how get these “open sesame” devices, so he has moved on by telling us how to check if our garage door openers are safe from this kind of attack. Ta-dah!

So here’s how to figure out if you could be holding an inadvertent open house. Look up the model of your garage remote control and find the product description. If you see “rolling code,” “hopping code,” “Security Plus,” or “Security Plus 2.0,” you’re safe.  If not, open your remote to see if it has dip switches. (Dip switches are very tiny white levers sitting in a small red or black box inside the remote control.)  If it does, it’s potentially exploitable. Consider upgrading to a door control that  has rolling codes in the product description. Examples are  Liftmaster or Chamberlain. Watch a video tutorial on this subject at Samy.pl. (The “dot pl” suffix is for Poland.)

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HOT PHONE RESEARCH

phone clipartJoy had noticed her cell phone was hot in her pocket and wondered why. We were in an elevator when this came up and Bob said “why not do a quick survey.”  So we spoke up and asked the three people in the elevator if their phones were hot. We didn’t mean “hot” as in stolen or “hot” as in “cool, man,” but they got it. A young woman answered immediately and said her phone was hot all the time, Someone else nodded in agreement. But the tall guy had the answer: “It gets hot when it’s always searching for a signal.”

So that’s the problem. Well at least it was the biggest part of the problem. Joy had inadvertently left the Wi-Fi search signal on, even though we were far from home. The phone was forever searching for a signal so it could talk to someone. (Truth is, we don’t have that much to say.) Bluetooth was on too, looking endlessly for something to connect to. Turning both of these off cooled the phone immediately and also saved on battery life. She also dumped a lot of apps that were always running in the background.

In addition: We worried that those clever and sharp looking cell phone cases trap heat. Joy has one with the famous Winston Churchill quote: “Keep calm and carry on.” (Bob always thought it would have sounded better if he had said “Remain calm” or “Stay calm.” He just can’t stop editing people.”) But within a week of carrying the phone without the case, our phone’s screen broke. Much better to turn off Wi-Fi for awhile than to remove the case.

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HIDDEN FACEBOOK FEATURE

Courtesy of the Washington Post

Courtesy of the Washington Post

Bob clicked on a hidden Facebook feature and discovered an old pal from Philadelphia. Turns out there’s a Facebook button called “Other.” It’s faint and hard to see, but that just makes it more mysterious. It’s there you may find mail from people who aren’t on your friends list, also ads for things you never wanted.

Anyone can send anyone a Facebook message, whether you know the recipient or not and whether they’re on friends list or not. Celebrities get quite a few of these. That may be the reason you haven’t heard back from them.

If like us, you didn’t know about the “other” mailbox, here’s how to find it: Click on the speech bubble in the top right of your Facebook page to get to the general “Messages” area. Right next to the word “Inbox” is the word “Other” in pale gray, practically invisible. Click there. When Joy clicked it, she found  messages that had been there for seven years!  They weren’t urgent, at least not anymore.

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101 AMAZING FACTS

dwarfs

One of the dwarfs was almost called “Chesty.”

101 Amazing Facts,” pulled together by the folks at the magazine “Mental Floss.” They’re not all that amazing but there are some curiosities. Like: in Japan it’s considered good luck to let a Sumo wrestler make your baby cry.

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40 MAPS THAT WILL HELP YOU MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD

countries40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World.” The 22 countries that Great Britain never invaded. The only countries that don’t use the metric system are Liberia, Myanmar and, of course, us. McDonalds restaurants around the world. (The busiest is in Moscow.)

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WHAT’S REALLY WARMING THE WORLD?

greenhouse gasesWhat’s Really Warming the World?” Search on that phrase and you’ll come up with an interactive chart put together by Bloomberg Business. It’s a view of temperature changes in air and water over the last 135 years, plotted against things like volcanic activity, deforestation, changes in solar radiation, etc. The strongest correlation is seen with so-called “greenhouse gases.”

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FREE GAMES, REALLY

brickiesMany computers come with a “games” file on board from their first startup; our Hewlett Packard has at least a couple hundred.

Google, Yahoo and AOL also have tons of free games and the nice thing about those and any games that come with you computer is you don’t have to worry about viruses or hacking attacks. At least we’ve never had any problems with these games. They run from card games to adventures, action, role playing and imitations of famous games that are expensive, but of course much larger and more complex.

One of Bob’s favorites is “Brickies,” a free game for iPad/iPhone/Android phones. This is much like “Little Brick-Out,” a classic computer game that goes back to the very earliest days, when “Pong” introduced to the world as a little moving rectangle of light on a black screen; it could be bounced around using a short line that acted like a paddle.

Little Brick Out was also a favorite of Steve Wozniak, designer and builder of the first Apple computer. In fact, therein lies an interesting footnote to computer history. The original Apple design had a black and white screen display. But Wozniak wanted to play Little Brick Out, which is in color (just basic colors), so he added a chip that would show a color screen.

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BUYING A NEW COMPUTER

new computerWhen we buy a new Windows 10 computer this summer, we’ll be asking ourselves: Should we get one with a traditional hard disk drive or one of the new solid state drives?

Hard disk drives have been around for 60 years. They were a tremendous advance over floppy disks. They were invented by IBM and were originally called “Winchester Drives,” because they were as fast as a rifle bullet, they said. The name may have been influenced by the fact that the IBM lab that designed the drive was across the street from the Winchester mansion in San Jose, Calif.

Solid state drives have no moving parts, they’re all chips. But even if you buy a computer with one of these, you can still add external old-style hard drives; we saw one from Toshiba that could hold a terabyte and was only $56. A terabyte can hold17,000 hours of music, 40 days of standard movies recorded around the clock, or 500 hours of high definition movies.

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