Ask My Buddy” is a free app for sending an alert to everyone you know, without reaching for your phone or computer. It works just by voice on a Windows 10 computer, a Google Home device or the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Plenty more like these are coming out soon.

With Windows 10’s built-in voice recognition program, Cortana, you can say “Ask My Buddy to Alert Everyone” and everyone on your contact list will get an immediate phone call, text message and email. Or you can confine it to a single person. Cortana isn’t great unless you’ve trained it by using it a lot, but the Google and Amazon devices are quite good at recognition. For Windows, we found we had to type the command in the Windows search box.

If you use Google Home, there’s now a shortcut available. Instead of saying “Ask My Buddy to Alert Everyone,” you can say “Ok Google, call everyone,” or whatever words you choose.  (We tried “Help,” but that confused Google Home, since it also responds to “help” as an ordinary word.) With Google Home, your voice command sends an emergency text, email and phone call  to any group of people. To set it up, read the instructions at It involves using Google Home’s “shortcut” setting.

Using the Echo Dot with Alexa, we said “Ask My Buddy to alert Louise.” Our friend Louise got both a text message, an email and a phone call. A voice on her phone said “Joy Schwabach sent you an alert. Please check now.”

The free version lets you send 30 messages a month to five contacts. For $5 a month, you can send 400 messages a month to ten contacts. (If you have to send 400 emergency messages a month you probably should be in intensive care.)

Microsoft Knows You

Microsoft is very touchy about who owns what. If you don’t have a legal copy of Windows, they don’t want to know you. So what do you do when you have to replace your computer’s hard drive and put in a new one? Do you have to go out and buy another copy of Windows? No way.

A reader told us his computer’s hard drive died, so he replaced it. He pointed out that it was a very easy thing to do, and we quite agree. A couple of Phillips screwdrivers is all you need.

But what now? What he had installed was a blank hard drive. So he Googled the words: “Windows 10 boot disk.” Following the directions, he saved the free boot disk program to a thumb drive. Any external storage drive will do. He inserted the thumb drive into a USB port and the computer booted right up. It not only booted up, it recognized that he was a valid Windows 10 license holder and installed the operating system. They knew! Their spies are everywhere.

Hail Norton!

Our test computer, a five year-old HP Pavilion desktop, recently died. In attempting to resuscitate it, we reversed our opinion of Norton Internet Security, which for many years had been at the bottom of our list of acceptable programs. Times change and we guess we have to too.

It all started when we got a screen message saying: “No boot disk has been detected or the disk has failed.” Bad news. So we bought a new hard drive for $40 on Amazon and struggled to get the case open on our all-in-one, a machine whose hard drive is inside the monitor. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult. We never had a problem with this before, but the case in this one seems to be bomb proof.

But Bob had a thought: What if it’s just like one of those creature feature movies and the thing from the swamp isn’t really dead? So we tried it one more time, and … It was alive!  But it was alive in an earlier time, back in Windows 7. We got out the CDs that came with the computer and reinstalled them. They took our computer back to the day we bought it and in doing so we learned a lot. (For instance, the volcanoes have cooled and the dinosaurs are gone.) In the process, we got Norton anti-virus. And both the program (Norton) and the computer we used to hate are now lightning fast.

A word about Norton which has been bashed by reviewers for many years. We may even have started it, since there was no question it had more problems than a teenager starting high school. Norton stopped talking to us. (Why is it that when something isn’t working right and you point out that it isn’t working right, the people who made the thing that isn’t working right, hate you?) But times change and so has Norton.

In summation, we have calmed down, and the computer worked well even after it updated to Windows 8. We are happy using a five year-old, lightning fast Windows 8 computer for Joy’s creative work, a Windows 10 laptop for Bob’s, and an Acer Chromebook to go online and cast movies to our TV. (We also use a $70 refurbished XP machine for programs that don’t run in Windows 8 or 10.) If using old equipment and old operating systems scares you, remember that Microsoft says it will support Windows 8.1 until 2023 and Windows 7 until 2020.


  • Google “eclipse simulator” or go to to see how the upcoming August 21st solar eclipse will look in your area. (This turns out to be amazingly boring.)
  • People Sharing Pics of their Cats Acting Weird.” Google that to find some startling cat photos. One of them likes to hang upside down from a shower-curtain bar. Another hops around on its hind legs. Weird.
  • 11 Brilliant Resume Tricks that Worked.” Google that to turn up an article from Mental Floss. Tip one: Keep it clean. You have 15 seconds to get their attention; whaddya gonna do? Keep it clean.
  •  lists Android emulators. In other words, if you’d like to try an Android app on your Windows XP, Windows 7, or Windows 10 machine, read about them here. We’ve tried two of them, “Andy,” and “Bluestacks.” Both worked well.  The site has many other suggestions for getting the most out of your Android phone or tablet.



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