YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES

Portrait Pro before and afterIs it hard to believe a celebrity is really in her 60s when she looks 25 in a photo? Is there some trick to it? You bet.

There are programs out there which do the touch-up automatically, no skill involved. We’re thinking of “Portrait Pro,” a $40 program now out in a new version, with a free trial available at PortraitPro.com.

When last we tried “PortraitPro” Joy was so pleased with her enhanced photo, she was reluctant to accept her old look. As we noted then, she would only walk outside with the “Portrait Pro” photo pasted on her face. (This has caused some comment.)

The new version is easier to use than ever. Each effect you may want to apply has a slider control. Slide a little or a lot when adding mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, hair color, “baby skin,” and other effects. The program also fixes “selfie distortion,” caused by wide-angle lenses. The skin controls give you options from “healthy glow” to “nightclub” look. There’s even a child mode. Your baby won’t be mistaken for some teenager, even after you apply the effects. Read more »

OUR NEW PHONE

NEXUS PHONESometimes we pay attention to our own column. Right after we wrote about Google’s “Project Fi” phone service, we ditched our T-Mobile service and signed up. It was, as they say, a moment of epiphany.

It’s not that our three-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 isn’t a great phone, it is. But with Project Fi, we got unlimited talking and text for $20 a month. We only pay for the data we use, an extra $10 for each gigabyte, and they reimburse us for what we don’t use. The catch is, to be a Fi user, you have to buy a new phone, either the $199 Nexus 5x, the Nexus 6 (around $300 on eBay)  or the $499 Nexus 6p, made by Huawei, (pronounced “wa-way.”) Surprisingly, Huawei is the largest telecommunications company in the world.

We went for the top of the line, and had it in mind to sell our old Galaxy S3 on eBay to defray the cost. It came in the mail and it was beautiful. The service plan  combines T-Mobile, Sprint and Wi-Fi into a virtual network.

The Nexus 6p is about an inch longer than our old phone and a little wider. It’s sometimes called a “phablet,” for phone/tablet. The large screen makes it easier to type and the phone feels light in the hand. For us, who are very thrifty phone users, the battery lasted several days before needing a charge. The recharge took an hour and 20 minutes. Read more »

THE CAR HACKER’S HANDBOOK

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.

The book teaches you how to write programs to remotely take control of a car’s engine, steering, brakes, temperature control, door locks and more. We hope no bad guys are buying this book, but people who want to prevent bad things from happening. The author says the book will help you understand the inner workings of modern cars and encourages you to let manufacturers know about the vulnerabilities. Sure, sure.

GETTING A JUMP

dead car batteryWe stopped paying for AAA road service after they refused Joy’s call for help. Joy’s car was sandwiched tightly between two others in a crowded medical parking garage and she couldn’t get in. She finally got help from a building employee.

So that made us wonder what we would do if our car needed a jump start and our cell phone was dead. There are a couple of portable jump starters you can get at car parts supply stores. We saw the “Road Boost XL,” a portable jump starter for $73 at Amazon. It was cheaper than AAA.

USING GMAIL OFFLINE

GmailSay you’re on a train without a connection to the Internet. If you’ve previously downloaded “Gmail Offline,” you can answer mail. It will be sent out the next time you’re able to connect. This is free for computers and phones. You’ll need to use the Chrome web browser. If you don’t have it, you can get it at Chrome.com; it’s free.

LET YOUR PHONE READ TO YOU

the iphoneIf you’re too busy to read the Web, or find the fine print too fine, let your iPhone read the Web to you.

To make the iPhone’s “Siri” voice start talking, tap “Settings,” then “General,” then “Accessibility.” Now tap “Speak Screen.” When you’re on the web, tap the uppermost left icon for “Reader View,” to skip the ads.  Then swipe down with two fingers to get playback and pause controls. Tap the turtle picture to speed up or slow down the reading.

We couldn’t find anything comparable for the Android phone. The apps we tried all used a dull, robotic voice and Google Voice just wasn’t in the mood to read to us.

20 MOVIE SCENES BEFORE-AND-AFTER SPECIAL EFFECTS

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

20 Movie Scenes Before-And-After Special Effects.” shows you what it’s like to be an actor in Hollywood. You sit stroking a lumpy stuffed toy but the movie viewer watching ‘Game of Thrones” sees a dragon. When we watched a port with ships coming in for “Boardwalk Empire” it’s really just a bunch of people milling around in front of a blank wall of green paper. Saves a lot on building stage sets.

GOOGLE’S FREE MUSIC LAB

Google Music LabMusiclab.chromeexperiments.com is Google’s new music lab. Click on a picture, click again to add stuff to the picture and create your own music. We especially liked the rhythm section where we watched monkeys play kettle drums and triangles according to the rhythms we chose. Color it cute.

GOOGLE MAPS ADDS UBER

Google_Maps_Street_View_CarGoogle Maps is adding Uber taxi info to its maps for Android phones. You should be able to see it in the next few weeks. You’ll be able to see how many Uber cabs are nearby and what their fares are. We were hoping that the much vaunted app, “TextBer,” would let you hail an Uber cab with just a text message instead of an app, but it never got off the ground, even after reams of free publicity.

REUTERS TV

Reuters TV

Woody Allen on Reuters TV

Reuters TV is a free app for Android and iPhone, as well as iPad, Apple TV and the web. On the web, go to Reuters.TV for what looked to us like even-handed coverage; they are especially strong on international news.