“Crowd-sourcing,” also called “crowd-funding” is like found money. Instead of one sponsor, you have hundreds, perhaps thousands of strangers donating to your cause, with few strings attached. A new book, “The Crowd-sourceress” by Alex Daly, ($17 at offers advice on how to do it.

Over 100,000 projects have been funded by, one of several crowd funding services, since it began in 2009. We are talking big bucks here. It’s common to hit a couple hundred thousand and can sometimes bring in a couple million. This has even drawn the attention of major corporations, like Samsung, General Electric and Hasbro. Because after all, there’s no interest charge, unlike borrowing from a bank.

Sometimes there’s also no accounting. When you kick in to finance some new product or project — and we have kicked in — you do not get stock or a share of the profits, if any. What you get is the right to buy the product, if and when it actually appears. Sometimes you can get your money back, sometimes not. We got our $150 back when the product we kicked-in for hadn’t appeared a year after the designers said it would. They were really angry at our lack of patience, and said so vigorously. By the way, the product never appeared.

Crowd-funding websites vary. With Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. Set a goal to raise $50,000 and that’s the floor; if you only raise $49,999, you get nothing. On, you keep whatever comes in. Those who kick in may get small extra rewards for their investment, like a T-shirt or an autographed book. If the company fails to produce, they must give a refund or are legally liable. Of course, if they can’t make the product and go belly up, being legally liable is sort of meaningless.

Hey Google, Delete That

Google Home, a speaker with a virtual assistant inside, records your every request. That’s so it can get better and faster at understanding you, says Google. If you don’t turn it off, it’s still listening. But if you’re paranoid, you can delete every request you ever made, along with additional comments you didn’t know were being recorded.

Go to Click the three dots above a conversation and choose “delete.” Our most recent requests were: “Play ukulele music,” “When was the Federal Reserve created?” (1913). and “How long do giraffes sleep?” (About an hour.) We have wide-ranging interests.

Finding a Good Movie

We just had a lengthy conversation with Alexa, the voice inside Amazon’s Echo Dot. It was all about movies. She would have gone on for hours if we’d wished.

This is a new trick. To use it, enable the “Valossa” skill, by tapping the Alexa app on your phone and searching on “Valossa.”  Though it’s called Valossa, you have to use the words “Ask Movie Finder.” We started by saying, “Alexa, ask Movie Finder to find that movie about the smart girl.” We were thinking of the movie, “Gifted;” it’s still in theaters. She gave us “Get Smart,” from 2008, “School on Fire,” from 1988 and “Three Smart Girls,” a Deanna Durbin movie from 1936 about three girls who try to rescue their father from a gold digger.

This is just where the conversation begins. You can ask for more details about the first, second or third result. She’ll give you the director and a synopsis. If one movie sounds good, ask for similar movies. Asking for movies similar to “Get Smart,” led to “Wanted,” “Harlem Nights,” and “Love, Honor & Obey,” none of which were like Get Smart, but, hey, it’s a start. Get details on those, or ask for a longer list. She’ll give you the genre too, like “action/comedy/thriller.” This conversation can go on as long as you wish. It also works from a computer: Go to and type a query in the search box.

Cool Phone Tricks

We looked up “cool phone tricks” on the web and found some fun ones. Such as…

  • Go to sleep with music. On the iPhone or iPad, first tap the clock app. Next tap “Timer,” and then tap the musical note. Scroll to the bottom of the list of sounds and choose “stop playing.” Now, whatever app you’re using to play music or an audio book, it will stop when you told it to stop. If you don’t have any music in your iPhone’s music library, get the free Pandora app, or iHeart Radio or Spotify. Or play something on YouTube. For Android phones, use a free app called “Sleep Timer.” If you use Audible books, there’s a sleep timer built in.
  • When you’re out with binoculars, or have access to a telescope, you can take a picture of what your binoculars or telescope sees. Hold your phone up to the telescope or binoculars and press the camera icon to take a photo. Now you’ll have a memento of something far, far away.
  • Turn Wi-Fi off with your voice. Works with Siri, Google, and Cortana. You might want to turn it off if you’re away from home and the phone feels hot in your pocket because it’s continually searching for a Wi-Fi connection.

Good “Habyts”

Our nephew teaches high school math, and the first thing he does when the kids come in is confiscate their cell phones. He prefers it to having the same “put away your phone” discussion a hundred times throughout the year. “They’re addicts,” he says.

For controlling younger kids, “Habyts” is a free-to-try app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. It goes beyond shutting off an app when it’s study time; it also teaches good habits. You can get them to the dinner table promptly, since the parent’s dashboard has a “pause everything” mode which shuts down all their activities. You can also encourage good study habits, assign chores and reward them with points. At certain hours, block recreational websites and leave educational ones open. Ditto for games and other apps. Let them use Microsoft Word during study time, but not Minecraft. After the 14-day free trial period is up, Habyts’ plans start at $4 a month. Find it at





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