STAY CALM AND SNUGGLE DOWN

Cozy up and get under the covers. “Calm,” is an app for your computer or phone and helps you fall asleep by telling you bedtime stories or providing music, nature sounds, and meditation lessons. We feel sleepy just talking about it.

Their latest story is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale that claims to be the first one ever produced by artificial intelligence. It puts robots to sleep. Besides that, there are 80 stories written by actual humans. New ones come out almost every week. A couple of those are narrated by Stephen Fry, who played the helpful butler “Jeeves” in the “Jeeves and Wooster” TV series. We listened to “Blue Gold,” about the lavender trade. The only way it could have been calmer was by adding the scent.

Though most of the stories were new to us, there are also classics, such as “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “The Wind and the Willows,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and a scene from “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” An item called “Ferris Bueller’s Teacher” is narrated by Ben Stein, the guy who played the economics teacher in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” He reads Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” That should put you under.

There’s a free trial at Calm.com/trial. After 21 days, it’s $60 a year.

Locked Out

A reader says she couldn’t remember the log-in for her old Windows computer. In other words, she’s locked out. Here’s a way to get back in:

If you do a Google search on “what to do if you forget your Microsoft user name or password,” you’ll get a link to reset it. There’s only one problem: what if you didn’t set up a free Microsoft account? In that case, you can return your computer back to where it was the day you bought it by using the recovery software built into Windows.

Our reader has a Toshiba laptop, so we searched the web for “Toshiba recovery mode” and it came right up. In every case, recovery is just a matter of turning on the machine and holding down some key until the screen changes to recovery mode. Search on “recovery mode” and your brand of computer to find instructions online.  Of course, this wipes out any photos or files. But that should be no problem: you backed up all that stuff to a thumb drive on a regular basis, right?

What if it’s your phone you’re locked out of? (Another reader problem.) The solution? Reset it. For LG phones, turn off the phone first. Then hold down the power button, the home button and the volume down. Then follow the on-screen instructions. For other phones, look up “reset” and your phone’s make and model. Resetting a phone makes it happier and more content.

Multi-Tasker Heaven

After almost every column we turn in, Joy turns to Bob and says, “Wait, we forgot to mention something!” Of course, we forgot to mention something, that verifies that we’re human. To indulge her, we’ll tell you something we forgot to put in last time. It has to do with browsing the web with the new version of “Opera,” a rival to Internet Explorer, Edge, Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome and other browsers.

The Opera web browser lets you watch videos in a mini-window while you continue to work on your computer. That’s multi-tasker heaven. At this moment, Joy is watching a video about the “Holistic Holiday at Sea,” a vegan cruise. Normal people might watch a ball game or golf. She can do this while working on a Word document. Bob can’t do this because he has to focus on the column.

After you enable “video pop out” in settings, you’ll see a tiny icon at the top of any online video. Clicking it pops the video out into a small window that floats over the screen. It remains visible whatever you’re viewing or working on.

Dumping Magic Jack

We loved the idea of Magic Jack: You can use your old landline phone for only $39 a year. But it had one major annoyance: most of the time, the line was dead.

That wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds, because we had calls automatically forwarded to our smartphone. It blocked all spammers after we installed the free “TrueCaller” app. We returned to a service called Vonage, which costs $21 a month with taxes. That’s a lot more than Magic Jack, but at least the line never goes dead and the call quality is better.

Some readers have written us about how much they love their Magic Jack and we’re glad it works for them, but obviously we have not performed the right rituals to appease the phone gods. Fortunately, there’s a free trial for both services, so you get to decide on your own.

Stop Listening

Your apps may be listening to you. They do it to send you targeted ads. (Someday, they will come after you in your sleep.) Maybe you like those ads, but if it bothers you, here’s what to do:

Go to “Settings” on the iPhone and tap the suspected app and see if it accesses your phone’s microphone. If it does, then it could be listening and taking notes. For an Android phone, go to “Settings,” then “Apps,” and tap the app you suspect is listening. Scroll down to permissions and check for microphone access there. We could find only one app on our phone that had access to the microphone. That was for learning German, which requires Joy to speak into the mike to check her accent. Ja! (She has a friend opening a restaurant in Munich.)

(subhed) Internuts

  • 32 Unknown Facts.” Search on that phrase or go to 1Funny.com to find some unusual stuff. Rats can last longer than camels without water. A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top. So they say.
  • OpenPaymentsData.cms.gov/search. Is your doctor getting payola? According to a study cited by NutritionFacts.org, most physicians in the United States get gifts and trips from the pharmaceutical industry. Ironically, cardiologists, whose practice centers around diseases that can largely be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes, receive the most payments of all. The national mean for the value of those gifts is around $3,200. Our own doctor received only $200.

 

 

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