There are 4.66 billion cell phones in the world. Ours cracked. Water got in and they just don’t work as well when they’re submerged. ‘Hooda’ thought it? It was the third gone gadget in a year.

So bye-bye Google Nexus 6P and hello Google Pixel 2. All 158 apps from our old phone transferred over automatically as soon as we signed into our Google account. (Who needs 158 apps? We don’t even remember what they all do; they went in just to test ’em for the column.) The data in some of those apps was gone.

Unfortunately, Joy had a couple hours of Bob’s deep voice recorded on the old phone, telling her about his adventures in Morocco as a young man, when he helped excavate a Carthaginian seaport. All gone. Have to bore her all over again.

If you have an Android phone with a Marshmallow or newer operating system, some of the data in your apps, such as saved locations in your Google Maps or Waze app, will be in your Google account in the cloud. In all Android versions, your calendar, contacts, and email will be saved and automatically restored to a new phone. Look up and look grateful.

The Pixel 2 has “augmented reality,” which is one of those fads of the moment. You can add creatures and features to your photos and your screen. There’s now a Star Wars storm trooper on our phone; if you want, he can multiply into many and follow you around at the hardware store. Kids like it.

Other new features: We can say “Hey Google” to ask a question, get some music, or play a game, without touching the phone. Squeeze to get its attention. (That works with people too.) We said, “Hey Google, what’s new?” And she told us she was celebrating Trivia Day with a fact and notified us that a sea urchin was the first animal to be cloned. Who knew?

The Pixel 2 costs $649 with 64 gigabytes of storage in the 5-inch version we got, or $849 for the six-inch “XL.” That seems a mite high, but our monthly service bill is only $30 using Google’s “Project Fi” service.

Annoying Windows Log On

One of the most annoying features Microsoft has given us is the short life span of an open computer. If you step away or pause to read instructions for a couple minutes, everything goes black and a password is required to get back in. This is to protect you from the numerous spies that are constantly traipsing through your house and office building, hoping to steal the telephone numbers of your relatives and favorite pizza restaurant. You can fix that.

In the search box in the lower left of your screen, type “settings.” In the settings search box, type “login.” Click “sign in options.” Change “require sign-in” to “Never.” Watch out for spies.

Is It a Spectre or a Meltdown?

The specter of a global business meltdown loomed large a few weeks ago, when the press reported a vulnerability in Intel’s chips. Actually, Intel had already known about this problem for several months; they just didn’t tell us. Windows users can check to see if they’ve been attacked, using a free program from one of our favorite companies, Ashampoo.

Go to Ashampoo.com and type “meltdown” into the search box. Click on the “Spectre Meltdown Checker.” When Joy did it, it said her computer was vulnerable to Spectre but not about to have a Meltdown. She clicked “What should I do?” One of the suggestions was to update the graphics driver. To do that yourself, type “device manager” in the Windows search box, click on it when it comes up, and then click on “Display Adapters.” Right-click the graphics driver and choose “automatically update.” You’d think Windows would do this for you but they were out to lunch. Joy’s graphics driver did need updating, even though it was a new computer. Bob’s computer, of course, was fine.

Another thing the Meltdown Checker suggests is to use “site isolation” in the Google Chrome browser. Search on the phrase “Manage site isolation in Chrome” and follow the instructions. They seem tech-y but are easy enough. If anything, our web experience seemed faster after carrying this out.  But even after doing all this, we still got a “vulnerable” rating from the Meltdown checker. But every computer is vulnerable if the user is prone to click on suspicious links. A friend of ours got panicky when she received a screen message telling her to call Microsoft immediately to fix an emergency problem. Joy grabbed her hand before she could call. Remember this: Microsoft will never ask you to call!

iPad Alternatives

A reader wrote to say he balked at paying $329 for a new iPad or $399 for an iPad Mini 4. Joy feels the same way. She lost her iPad when she left it in the gym. She has no desire to buy a new iPad, because her $50 Amazon Fire 7 tablet, bought two years ago, works fine. The new Fire 7s also cost $50 and are even better.

The only thing that bugs us about the old Fire 7 is that it’s always running out of storage space. However, it has a slot for adding a memory card. You can add up to 256 gigabytes, which is 248 more than it started with. However, we must have dropped the Fire on its head, because our memory card keeps popping back out.

The new version of the lowest-cost Fire tablet, still called the Fire 7, is thinner, lighter and has a better display. Like the older version, it’s seven inches, about the size of the iPad Mini, which makes it easy to hold in the hands, like a book. The battery goes for eight hours, not bad compared to 10 hours for the more expensive iPad.

Other versions of the Fire Tablet have more features and are larger, on up to the $204 version. One thing they have in common: If you also have a $40 Amazon Fire Stick plugged into your TV, which brings in Amazon Prime Videos, Netflix and other channels, you can browse Amazon on your tablet and tap to instantly watch it on TV. For Fire Tablet and iPad alternatives, check out TechRadar’s article, “The Best Cheap Tablets.”




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