chalkboard art“Visual Canvas, Chalkboard Riot” has incredible art, all done with chalk, chalk dust. and erasers. Each one includes a saying, from Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss, John Lennon, Coco Chanel and others. Impressive!



password protection

Courtesy of Getty Images

A reader shared her computer disaster and we want to pass on the warning.

Her iPhone broke and she spent five hours at the Apple store before the guys at the “Genius Bar” (they really do have a “genius bar”) suggested she get a new one. Fortunately, she’d copied her contacts and appointments from her phone onto her Windows PC. Unfortunately, during backup, she didn’t notice a small box that was already checked and automatically encrypted the contents. Later, she didn’t remember the password to undo the encryption. “Keep trying to think of the password,” said the guys at genius bar. (Don’t think we need a genius for that advice.)

Frustrated, she tried the $29 “iPhone Backup Extractor,” from, hoping it would in fact extract her data. But she still needed the password. The company suggested she try the $59 pro edition, which is refundable if they can’t get back her valuable appointments and contacts. What they’re trying to do is guess the password. The National Security Agency could probably do it.

We agree with her conclusion: Apple should have a pop-up message before you back up, something like, “Are you sure you want an encrypted backup?” Should this ever come up for you, write down the password — since you won’t be able to get your stuff back without it!




Satechi bike mountThere are several makers of cellphone holders for bicycles and motorcycles. We got one from Satechi, $30, because it was beautifully engineered and we couldn’t resist.

Now what is the point of attaching a cellphone to your handlebars? At first we had a wild image of hundreds of cyclists running into telephone poles as they tried to tap text messages on their phones. As a practical matter, you can’t text while you’re riding. You could conceivably talk to someone but the traffic noise around you would often make it near impossible. So what is the most likely use here? Directions!

Joy is one of those people who gets lost easily – even when she’s going to places she’s been to several times before. Bob used to think this was pretty strange but has since learned that there are many people who seem to be “directionally challenged.” There are mild cases — like trying to find your car in a big parking lot, and serious cases – like not being able to find your way back to a building you left just a minute ago.

Bob tried to help by buying Joy a compass but it turns out they work best if you’re a Boy Scout. But so far, a cell phone with GPS beats any compass ever made; Google Maps with their turn-by-turn directions is the way to travel. You needn’t look at the screen, because a friendly voice tells you when you go off track. When you get there, or stop for a sandwich, you can remove the pouch from its clamp and carry on.

Joy found the turn-by-turn directions easy to hear and follow. This turned out to be necessary, because tapping through the tough plastic cover is, well, tough. She listened to music while pedaling, which unfortunately was still blasting away as she reached our apartment building; she couldn’t work the phone’s volume control through the plastic.

A more costly way to go is the $120 “MountCase Bike Kit” from Bike2Power. It lets you charge your phone as you peddle. (It takes two and a half hours at 12 miles per hour to fully charge a phone.) A basic phone holder, without the charging device, starts at $50. Bob, who cycled through Britain, feels he should point out that a device that generates power in this way does so by rubbing against a wheel to turn a tiny dynamo, and this takes noticeably more effort from the cyclist.



Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney washing dishes35 Rare Candid Photos Of Famous People Together Like You’ve Never Seen Them.” Google those words for some rare photos, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger riding a toboggan with George Bush senior or Paul McCartney washing dishes with Michael Jackson.



Winnie the Pooh and has19 great truths from Winnie the Pooh, with great drawings. Example: “How do you spell ‘love?'” asks Piglet. “You don’t spell it, you feel it,” says Pooh.



republican lists the Best Places for Liberals, Conservatives and Centrists. Berkeley, California, tops the list for liberals, Alabaster, Alabama for conservatives. The list was put together using the analysis of Congress, as well as how cities self-report their political leanings and how the citizens voted in the 2012 presidential election. Finally, they looked at restaurants, cars, magazines, shops and TV shows that are heavily favored by liberals or conservatives to find areas where those goods are most used.



comiXchat– In the next version of the Gmail app for phones, you can send an receive mail from Yahoo and Outlook as easily as you do Gmail; just tap on the icon for the other account.

ComiXchat is a free app for turning ordinary text messages into comic strips. Some have found it difficult to use.

Influenster is an iPhone/iPad app and website for consumer product reviews. It includes a barcode scanner so you can get an instant review when you scan a product on the shelves. Always be skeptical about any reviews; it’s difficult to know their origin.



Zotac desktop PC fits in jeans pocketZotac is a small company known for small computers, and this time they’ve gone the pink limit. It’s a full featured Windows computer that can be slipped into a jacket pocket. It is slated to be available in mid November and will sell for $199.

This little computer is called the “Zbox Pico” and is about the same size as two smartphones stacked on top of each other. You can plug in a monitor, hard drive, keyboard and mouse wherever you happen to go. It has a quad-core “Atom” processor made by Intel, two gigabytes of RAM, and 32 gigabytes of flash memory. It also a micro SD slot for your camera card, two USB ports, Bluetooth 4.0, an Ethernet port and wireless capabilities. Windows 8.1 is pre-loaded.



good nights sleepTED talks” are widely popular 18-minute talks you can watch on the web. We once listened to a woman’s talk on shyness – and so did ten million other people. Having lost our shyness after this talk, we wondered what if we want to give a TED talk?

TED is an acronym for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” which were the initial subjects offered. But the range has gone way beyond that now and talks on virtually any subject can now be called up and sometimes the audience is as large as 12 million. How do you become a TED talk speaker? Go to to nominate yourself or someone else. If it’s someone else, you don’t have to give their email address if you don’t know it; just say why you think that person would be great.

A TED speaker speaks at a TED conference, either on the national or global level. It isn’t easy to be chosen: many TED speakers run major companies. Collectively, speakers giving TED talks have won every major prize awarded for excellence, including the Nobel, Pritzker, Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony and MacArthur “genius” grant.

Past speakers have included Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, genomics pioneer Craig Venter, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Nobel Laureates James Watson and Murray Gell-Man and many more. But most are people you’ve never heard of, such as Jeff Iliff, who talks about “one more reason to get a good night’s sleep.” You can watch a TED talk online at, or download it for later viewing.



slow computerOur favorite question-and-answer site,, recently posted a message from David Seidman, a Microsoft employee, on the question of why Windows gets so slow after just a year of use.

First off, he says, if you never install any software, except security updates, and leave lots of free disk space, it will never slow down. On the other hand, if you have lots of programs, you should run the “msconfig” utility to keep so many from loading at start up. In Windows 7, get to msconfig by clicking “start,” and “run” and typing “msconfig.” In Windows 8, get to the startup tab by right-clicking your taskbar and choosing “task manager.”

Seidman says that Windows 8 runs many fewer services at startup and uses less memory; so it’s less likely to suffer from programs running in the background.

Disk fragmentation can be a problem in old computers, but “defragging,” as they call it, takes place automatically in Windows XP and up. However, it still can be a problem if the drive is so full that the defragmentation process never finishes. If your computer has a flash drive instead of a hard drive, it can degrade over time. But the gist of all this is to avoid problems, don’t fill up your drive.

Some people disastrously try to speed up their computers by removing their anti-virus software. Malware and viruses can slow down a computer worst of all. By the way, our favorite free anti-virus software, Avast, is now out in a new version at