A reader said he missed the free period for getting Windows 10. No he didn’t. If you want it, you can still get it for free until December 31.

Here’s how: Search the web on the phrase “Customers who need assistive technologies can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost”  or click here. You may feel guilty for getting a free upgrade if you don’t use “assistive technologies.” But it says right there on the website that such technologies include text enlargement. Heck, we already do that by holding down the “Ctrl” and “plus” keys.

The upgrade is not required, by the way. Out in farm country they used to say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and maybe they still do. Not every upgrade is an improvement and some in past years have made things worse. But  Windows 10 is said to be more secure than earlier versions and we’ve been using it. Our feelings are mixed.

After a couple of years with Windows 10, our main computer got increasingly buggy until one day it presented a black screen. So we restored it to its original state, which meant going back to Windows 7. As soon as we did that it automatically upgraded itself to Windows 8, which may be Microsoft’s most hated operating system. But we’re used to it and struggled on. Recently, it began slowing down again. So we figured Windows 10 couldn’t be any worse, and installed the freebie.

We immediately got a message telling us that Google “Backup and Sync” couldn’t find our “Documents” folder. That happens to be the one where we keep everything we write. It said the attempt to sync the files “may result in file duplications or collisions.” So we fasted and promised never to do it again and ignored the warning and went ahead. Everything is OK so far, but there may be other surprises ahead. Stay tuned to this station.

Too Good to be True

A reader found what looked like a great deal from a refurbished HP laptop computer with a touch screen and a huge 320 gigabyte hard drive for only $180. He asked our opinion. We said: Get cautious..

We have nothing against refurbished computers. Often they are just extras that were never used. But just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s up to date. One of the things to consider is the processing speed. This one had an Intel “i3” processor, which came out about five years ago.  You can go to and compare the speed of the processor advertised with the one you already have. If you don’t know the speed of the one you have, download the free “Belarc Advisor” to find out, or Google the model number and add the words “tech specs.” The pokey Windows computer we bought in 2012, the HP Pavilion 23, is slightly faster than the “bargain” our friend saw. Another thing to consider is size. An 11-inch laptop may cause eye strain, unless you go into settings and change the resolution. Bottom line: You get what you pay for. Well, usually.

Going Too Cheap

You may recall that we bought the Alcatel Pixi Pulsar smart phone for $22 for our 98 year-old friend, Ida. It worked well for her for about six months, but sometimes wouldn’t connect  to the Internet. So did another Pixi Pulsar we bought for ourselves for testing purposes. The lesson: Sometimes you can get too cheap.

We recommended a new phone for Ida, but not a new phone service. Through TracFone, Ida pays only $20 every three months for 180 minutes of talk time, 180 texts and 180 megabytes of data. That sounds like a miniscule amount of data, but since she rarely connects to the Internet outside the range of her home Wi-Fi signal, it’s plenty. As a replacement for the Pixi phone, we suggested LG’s “Rebel LTE,” which is $40 from Amazon or $30 from Walmart.

“LG” is now a leader in phones, TVs and other products. The Rebel is twice as fast and twice as reliable as Ida’s Pixi Pulsar. It also has twice the storage space — eight gigabytes instead of four. She loves it. Did you ever wonder what “LG” stands for? Bob knows. Because he’s been covering this field for so long, in the early days he met with reps from the company and back then it was called “Lucky Goldstar,” to encourage good fortune. “LG,” get it?

Facebook Tip

It’s often annoying to see politics and other stuff on Facebook. Here’s how to prioritize.

On an iPhone, in the Facebook app, tap the three horizontal lines at the bottom, tap “settings,” then “News Feed Preferences.” There you can choose what you want to see first. On your Android phone, in the Facebook app, find “News Feed Preferences” by tapping the three lines in the upper right and scrolling down quite a bit. On your computer, at, look for a tiny triangle in the upper right corner, right next to the question mark, or two icons over from the globe. Click it, and then choose “News Feed Preferences.” Now you can choose what you want to see first.

App Happy

Elevate” is a free app for brain training. It has fun exercises to improve your reading, writing, memory and other skills. According to an independent research company, Elevate users tested 69 percent better than non-users on grammar, writing, listening and math. The games are fun, and a day’s training session only takes about five minutes. What the heck, it’s free.


  • Chicago Humanities Festival.” Search on that phrase on to find some interesting speakers. All such festival has their duds, but this gives you a chance to sample. If they’re still dull after three minutes, kill.
  • 25 of Oscar Wilde’s Wittiest Quotes.” Search on that phrase to find some good ones: “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” Or: “True friends stab you in the front.” Bob always liked “I’d love to agree with you but then we’d both be wrong.”


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