computer virusIt turns out McAfee isn’t the only anti-virus company that wants to charge you big bucks whenever you have a problem.  A reader alerted us that this happened with Avast, the free anti-virus we have often recommended.

The reader wrote that his adult daughter bought a two-year support contract from Avast. They asked her to pay an extra $120 for an emergency remote cleaning service, which she did. Unfortunately, her laptop kept crashing and freezing anyway. She talked to three people in customer support but they said it was past the five-day support window, so forget it. We sent our reader’s note to our Avast contact and were told that our reader’s daughter would get a full refund. (Bob cautioned Joy about this story, because we can’t  promise that the power of the press will work in all cases.) We still think the free Avast is fine, just don’t pay for support contracts or servicing. We have a long-standing rule that we never pay for an extended service contract.



hilary clintonWhat if Hilary Clinton had used encrypted email instead of a private email service? Could anyone have uncovered her conversations? We don’t know the answer but we have one word for privacy seekers: encryption.

We’ve been trying out the free trial version of “StartMail,” a $60 a year encryption service. It allows you to send unreadable email that becomes readable when the recipient answers a secret question. All they see at first is your name and the subject line. Your “sent mail” folder is also encrypted.

Since everything takes place on the web, as with Gmail or Yahoo mail, there’s no installation. Use it at home or work and no one but a confederate will be able to read the mail. It comes with 10 gigabytes of email storage.

You could also try a free encryption program, if you don’t need a tidy mailbox. We tried The process couldn’t be simpler. Go to the website, type in your message, type in a password, and click “encrypt.”  When you save it, you get a link to the message. Share the link, and if the recipient has the password, it instantly decrypts.

Unfortunately, the message will lack formatting. We wrote down four great Adam Smith quotes, with spaces between each one, and it came out as one paragraph, with no spaces.



Kenyan hotel roomTwelve of the Weirdest Hotel Rooms.” There’s the Hobbit Hotel in New Zealand, Hotel de Glace in Canada and Marmara in Turkey.



A bathtub in Vietnam

A bathtub in Vietnam

The World’s Most Opulent Outdoor Bathtubs”  Bob liked the Bali bathtub, which looks like a private pond. It includes a waterfall and shower. Joy favored the handcrafted tub looking out on the East Vietnam Sea.



website -frozen bubbles“Breathtaking Frozen Bubbles Look like Glass Ornaments” Search on that phrase to find some remarkable bubbles. The creator mixes dish soap with Karo syrup. The bubbles look like etched glass.



hackersHewlett Packard recently sponsored a hacking contest in Vancouver, Canada, to see if anyone could break into “unhackable” programs, web sites and browsers. It may come as no surprise that there were people out there who were fully capable of hacking into the unhackable.

Contest participants found 21 critical bugs, and earned over half a million in prize money. Almost half of that, $225,000, went to one guy, Jung Hoon Lee, who hacked his way into Google’s Chrome web browser, despite Google’s claim it was almost impossible. He also earned money hacking Internet Explorer and Safari, as well as Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash. It was the most ever won by a single person.



lollipopAfter we temporarily lost our cell phone, we added a lock code. Now, no one can get in unless they know the code, but it’s frustrating to have to type it in every time the screen goes dark, which happens in just one minute of idleness.  With the new Lollipop operating system, available on phones with Android 5.0, the phone is more responsive to your environment.

A new “Smart Lock” lets your phone stay unlocked as long as you are carrying it or using it in your car or home. To set it up on the Nexus 6 and similar phones, tap “Settings,” then “Personal,” and finally “Security.” Under “Advanced,” tap “Trust agents,” and turn on Smart Lock.

Besides the Nexus, Lollipop, or Android 5.0, can be found on Galaxy S5 phones and is coming in the next few weeks to the Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, LG G3, Motorola Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, Droid Mini, HTC, OnePlus, Asus ZenPhone 4, 5, and 6, and the Nvidia Shield Tablet.



web md magazineWe spotted some great recipes in a “WebMD” magazine in the doctor’s office, including one for “Tofu-Pineapple Stir Fry.” (OK, Joy thought it sounded great, Bob still prefers grilled cheese.) But when we tried to subscribe, we discovered that the print version is only available in doctor’s offices. (We think rioting in the streets might be appropriate here.)

But not to worry: WebMD has a free magazine app, bringing all the articles to your iPad or iPhone, but not to Android phones.  Once it’s downloaded, you’ll find the Magazine app under the “Newstand” category. There’s a separate WebMD app for medical advice that works with Android phones but no magazine (a definite blow to Android-loving tofu-pineapple stir fry fans. However, you can read it on the web at



facebook messenger appGoogle is working on a way to let you read a bill in your email and pay it right there without leaving your inbox. Facebook is rolling out something similar, letting you transfer money to friends and family right there in the Facebook Messenger app (Android)  (iPhone) which split off from Facebook last Spring. You can also send money to anyone through the “Google Wallet”  app. None of this can be good news for Western Union.

The future Gmail bill paying service is code-named “Pony Express” – which shouldn’t affect Wells Fargo any more. Both this and the coming Facebook service will lend new meaning to not leaving a paper trail. (Couldn’t resist.)

Will these web giants get too much information about spending and lending habits?  We’re not worried, but the usual protesters will appear on schedule.



snap8 screen caputreAfter extensive research – we talked to several people – we found that most people don’t know how to capture what they see on the computer. This is shocking but true.

Why would you want to do that in the first place? Well, if you can capture the screen image or any part of it, you can print that out, email it, use it yourself, or post it to Facebook. Somewhere in all that there may be a copyright involved; so it you think there is, don’t do it without permission.

You can capture anything you see on your computer screen. No exceptions. And there are lots of different tools for doing it. What’s more, you can add comments, include extra directions on a map, do long explanations with arrows pointing to appropriate spots. So let’s get everybody in gear.

The easiest way is to just select “Save As” after right-clicking an image. That’s it, you got it. You can also use the “snipping tool” in Windows 7 and later. After snipping, go to the file menu and select “save as.”

PCs both old and new have a “Print Screen” button on the keyboard. Sometimes it’s labeled Prt Scr, but you get the idea. Press “Alt” and then the “Print Screen” key. You just captured an image of what’s on the screen; unfortunately, you don’t see anything and will likely think that nothing whatsoever has happened. This has thrown many people, including us in the early days.

In order to see the print screen capture, open the “Paint” program that comes with all PCs. (In older PCs, find it under “Accessories.”) Select “paste” and the screen capture will appear. The equivalent Mac program is “Paintbrush,” which can be downloaded for free. To do a screen capture on the Mac, press “Cmd” and the “Shift” key, then tap the number 4. For phones, it’s usually a matter of holding down two buttons. Search on “screen shot on an Android or iPhone” for details.

If you want to go beyond the free programs, Bob recommends “CaptureWiz Pro,” $40 from Joy likes the new “Snap 8,” from, which has a tool for stripping the background from your image and placing it somewhere exotic, like New Jersey. Both have free trials.