spillJoy converted to using a Mac a couple months ago, after her Windows 10 machine became so slow she almost tossed it out the window. Then Bob spilled tea on the Mac (It was an accident! Really!) and the rest is history.

The genius at the Apple store’s “Genius Bar” told us it would cost $750 plus tax to fix it. A new Macbook Air is $899. Not much difference. Windows 10 looked good again.

We’d already done a lot to speed up our HP Pavilion computer — an all-in-one, heavy-to-move, they-discontinued-it — by getting rid of so-called “browser extensions” and other programs running in the background. For a while things seemed better. But then they got worse. The central processing unit (the “CPU”) would huff and puff at 99 percent of capacity. (You can check that kind of performance by right-clicking the strip along the bottom of the screen and choosing “task manager.”) One culprit was our computer’s power setting. If a PC hibernates right after you leave it, an anti-virus scan can get interrupted and take forever to finish, hogging computer resources all the while.

Another way to speed things up is dump your wireless connection, if you have one. A wired connection to the Internet is much faster and more secure. It uses Ethernet cables to connect computers to the network router. The bad side is your computers are now tethered to that router box. But the speed-up is tremendous. After we connected both of our Windows 10 computers, we were amazed. The HP’s central processor, instead of running at 99 percent of capacity as before, now typically runs at around 10 percent. The only exception is when we have a dozen websites, including video, all open at the same time. But whose fault is that?

So just remember this: to look at the Task Manager, right click the bottom of the Windows screen to see what’s hogging your computer, and either click “end task” or uninstall the offending program. If it’s still slow, switch to a wired connection.

The Flip Side of Instant Updates

marshmallow for androidA reader wrote recently to say that an Android phone upgrade is not always a good thing. After he upgraded to the new Android “Marshmallow” operating system, one of his email accounts stopped working. The only way he could get it going again was to change his server’s security settings to less-than-secure.

He spent three hours on the phone with Samsung tech support, but didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Next, he asked the tech support team at Best Buy about downgrading his phone to the previous “Lollipop” Android system. They said the process might break the phone and he’d be out $600 for a new one. So for now, he says, he’s going to have to continue to run his business using server settings that “make my email address a great candidate for purchase for $10 by a Nigerian prince.” (Our offers of Nigerian riches always come from widows of Nigerian Generals.)

According to a team of researchers from Indiana University and Microsoft Research, vulnerabilities in the Android system can allow a seemingly harmless app to automatically acquire extra permissions without a user’s consent. That’s if they upgrade.

But according to Digital Trends, most Android phones need updating. Most of them lack bug fixes and critical security patches. Some phones never get the latest operating system, which was true of our Samsung Galaxy S3. For others, the process takes a year. By contrast, iPhones and Nexus phones get updates within hours or days, direct from Apple or Google.

The Story of Upgrades

fixThis is an old story we have written about many times for many years. The title of the story is: “Just because there’s a newer version doesn’t mean it’s better.”

So-called upgrades to fix bugs often result in the installation of new bugs. Some software upgrades make the software incompatible with previous versions. Microsoft once did this with Word, which then could not edit documents written in earlier versions. (They fixed that.) Programmers even joke about it: they say “It’s not a bug it’s a new feature.” Yuk, yuk.

We have talked with sales people in office stores, computer stores and even dealers at flea markets and they all say the same thing about this: the customer always asks if it’s the latest version. If it’s not, they’re not interested.

There’s an old farmer expression which goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We use some programs that are 15 and 20 years old. They not only haven’t been upgraded, the companies don’t exist anymore. But the programs still work, and they’re nice. The latest thing isn’t always the greatest thing.

More Reader Insights

We couldn’t get a wireless signal in the whole apartment, so AT&T sent out a tech guy. He installed a “repeater,” also called a “range extender.” Took him two hours. The Internet connection was still bad. A savvy reader told us why.

“You need another router to be placed some distance from your main router/modem and connected to the main router with a cat 5 cable.” That’s the tech name for an Ethernet cable. In our case, this would mean running a cable down the hallway, around doorways and along the edges of rooms. Time to suck your thumb on that one. The reader had good results with the Asus RT-N12 D1 router from Amazon for $34, he said. But that’s after he ran an Ethernet cable to the basement.

Games Writers Play

Mystery of Mortlake Mansion gameWatching strange rooms fall to pieces and come back together again, solving puzzles, talking to ghosts: We’re having more fun with “Mystery of Mortlake Mansion” than any game we’ve played in a long time.

It’s part of a three-game set from Playrix Games, $7 at Amazon. Two of the games are turkeys, but Mortlake Mansion is fun. It’s a so-called “hidden object” game, a kind of “Where’s Waldo” for adults and kids. Unlike others we’ve played, this one has great puzzles and challenges. (We found a couple too hard, but most are fun.) In the meantime, we’re trying to escape a mansion full of surprises and mysterious events. If we don’t get out soon, send the Sherpas.


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