project fiWe love our cell phone service from Google’s new “Project Fi.” It only works with Google Nexus phones, but if you get one, your bill might be as low as $25 a month with tax.  Now they’re expanding it.

Google Fi currently works with three phone carriers. If the signal is strongest from T-Mobile, for example, that’s who they’ll connect to. If Sprint is better, you’ll be using Sprint. They’ve recently added U.S. Cellular.

A Google Fi account gives you unlimited text and phone calls for $20 a month. Each gigabyte of data (which is what you use up when you’re on the Web and all those words and pictures come in), is $10. But you get money back if you don’t use it.

Our comment on this is that it was inevitable that phone service would get cheaper. It was just too darn expensive, with users averaging $73 a month in charges.

Can Your Mac Be Hacked?

The main reason hackers target Windows computers over Macs is because there are so many more of them. Even now, global Macs account for only 7.5 percent of all personal computer sales. Thirty-five years ago it was around six percent; not much change, eh? (The top PC vendors are Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus and Apple, in that order.)

hackingIt’s a very slight increase in the user base, but 7.5 percent is just enough of a bump to attract the bad guys. According to a study by “Carbon Black,” a security firm, the number of malware attacks on Macs was five times greater in 2015 than the previous five years combined. We can expect it to be even greater this year.

The Mac “OS X” operating system comes with its own malware detection program, but hackers still get through. According to Malwarebytes.org, a piece of “ransomware” called “KeRanger” has been downloaded by 6,500 Mac owners, some of whom saw their photos, files, music and what-have-you locked away. Ransomware is a term given to attacks that make your files unavailable unless you pay a ransom to have them unlocked.

Malwarebytes.org offers a free Windows and Mac program for removing what they call “potentially unwanted programs” — “pups.”

Reach Out and Text Someone

We get emails saying, “Hey, check your text messages.” Maybe you do too. Texting is used more often than email by the younger set, and it seems like it will soon be used more often by everyone. Why’s that? It’s simpler. Its users point out: “There’s less overhead.” Meaning, there are fewer steps to send a message.

textingRecently we wrote about one solution to check for incoming text messages. It’s a free program called “MySMS” (SMS stands for Short Message Service), which pops up on your computer screen when a new text message comes in. But you have to remember to start up the program. Now we have an even simpler fix: tweak the settings on your smartphone.

Smartphones make sort of happy noises when new email comes in, when there’s breaking news, and for all kinds of other reasons. It’s a personality thing. So you can silence all of those except the ringtone for phone calls and the sound your phone makes when announcing a new text. That way, when you hear a sound, it means somebody is trying to get in touch with you. (Search on the phrase “how to shut off sound notifications on Android,” or “how to turn off sound notifications on iPhone,” for detailed instructions.)

We get thousands of emails, so we used to turn the volume off on our phone so we wouldn’t get bombarded with ding-a-lings every few seconds. We missed a lot of stuff that way, and yet the world seemed to go on pretty much as before.


1 sandwich named kevin— “Passive Aggressive Office Notes” has some funny examples. A note on the office printer said: “My name is now Bob Marley, because I’m always jamming.” Seen on a vending machine: “Fix me! I take money but I don’t give treats.” A note inside a refrigerator read: “I don’t know your name but you have been seen stealing my butter. Put it back in the fridge or I will lick everything.”

— “The making of a marlin” is a four-minute YouTube video about making sculpture from plastics washed up on the beach.

Free Alternative to Start 10

We recently wrote about the $5 program, “Start 10,” which brings back the look and feel of Windows 7, and buries the annoying distractions of Windows 10. A reader reminded us that a free alternative to Start 10 is “ClassicShell,” from ClassicShell.net, which we wrote about before Windows 10 came out. Now ClassicShell is out in a new version, and is still free. Like Start 10, it returns normalcy to your Windows experience.

The reader says her brother is a computer network administrator who puts ClassicShell on the computers of all the medical office computers he services. She writes: “I don’t know what Microsoft has been thinking, but the Windows 8 and 10 setups cater to the teeny-boppers who are on touchscreen devices for personal reasons, not professionals who are earning a living and paying bills.  I

Going back to the Windows 7 start menu

Going back to the Windows 7 start menu

am rather dumbfounded why the target market actually is the unemployed, the nonprofessionals, and the non-tax-paying sector.” We got the impression she was a wee bit ticked off.

App Happy

  • “MyScript Smart Note” is a free app for Android and iPhone. It lets you make handwritten notes on your phone or tablet, using a stylus. What’s fun is you can edit those notes with easy gestures. Put a line through a word to erase it. Draw a line between letters or words to insert a new word, an apostrophe, or some other mark. Your notes can be turned into digital text and are searchable. Or copy your signature by holding your finger on it, tap “copy” and paste it into an email.
  • “MyScript Calculator” for Android or  iPhone lets you make calculations using handwriting instead of typing. It’s also free for Android and iPhone. It even does algebra. We had trouble getting it to recognize a decimal point. But it’s a quick way to calculate tips. We scribbled 15/100 x 16.8 to figure a 15 percent tip on a $16.80 bill: it’s $2.52.



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