Android Emulator from Andyroid.net

An interesting thing happened: Joy was looking up recipes at VegetarianTimes.com. But as she was viewing these in the Chrome browser on her Android phone, she was inundated, distracted and annoyed by a constant barrage of pop-up ads.

They were stupidly annoying: “You’ve won a new iPhone 9!” was the first one. (That’s not even the name of the new iPhone. It’s iPhone XR or XS. They skipped number nine).  The second pop-up: “You’ve won a prize on Amazon!” Really! The ads were so bad she closed the browser and started over.

Pop-ups are supposed to be blocked automatically, if you want. To find out, she went to the Chrome browser, tapped the three dots in the upper right, then “settings,” then “site settings.” Yes, our pop-ups were set to be blocked, but after a further search, we discovered Chrome’s “Data Saver.”  Its main purpose is to save you money on your data feed costs by compressing web images, but it also blocks malicious pages and phishing attempts. The default position is off, so we switched it to “on.”

To block pop-ups on an iPhone or iPad, open the Chrome app. Tap “More Settings.” Tap “Content Settings” and “Block Pop-ups.”

Mac Update

We looked into the latest free software update for the Macbook: “MacOS Mojave.” It has one feature we would use, if we actually still had our Macbook. It failed to survive a glass of orange juice.

The update is called “Dark Mode.” It gives you white text on a dark background, which is a lot easier on the eyes. Bob’s favorite is the old-fashioned green text on a dark background, which used to be the way we got text in the old days. He gets this with a program called “Writer;” it can also provide white letters on a blue background, like the old WordPerfect program.

Black letters on a white background, which is the way almost all computer screens show text, was a Steve Jobs’ idea. It makes the screen look just like printing on white paper, he said. Of course, white paper doesn’t constantly shine light into your eyes and he didn’t write anything anyway, but everybody sort of obediently said “Yeah,” or words to that effect.

To get the new Macbook dark screen, go to System Preferences, which you can find at the top left of your screen by clicking on the three rows of 12 dots. Choose “General.” Then turn it on. You’ll see dark mode in most of the built-in apps, such as messages, calendar and mail.

Coding Cards for Kids

Programmers normally use slugs of code someone has already written. These are modules which perform routine tasks. For example: recognizing where the cursor is as you move it around the screen, or connecting to the Internet. After all, why reinvent the wheel or reprogram something that has already been programmed a million times.

Scratch Jr Coding Cards” is a box of 75 colorful cards that lets children use the same approach. They’re for ages five and up, and cost $25 from NoStarch Press. The cards tell you what to do to create a moving cartoon on your phone or tablet screen. You start with a character and a painted background. You plug in a pre-built movement module and tell it how far you want your character to move. Joy found this almost too much fun to stop and had to be pried loose by the promise of a cup of herbal tea.

The first lesson involves making a cat get out of bed and say “Hi.” The card directs you to choose a background, such as a bedroom. Next it has you move colored blocks (code modules) into place in a chain. Each of these blocks holds different commands. You click a green flag to start the animation. Our only problem came with the “disappearing” command. Our cat disappeared and we couldn’t get it back. (We thought the cat always came back.)

Scratch Jr is designed for a tablet, and you’ll find it in the app store on your device. However, we used it on a Windows computer. We got around the restriction by first downloading the free Android simulator from Andyroid.com. Once installed, we searched for “Scratch Jr” and installed it. Then we were ready to follow the coding cards. The last card shows you how to open one of 20 sample projects, ready to be customized.

SSD Prices Tumble

A reader who recently sped up his computer by putting in a solid state drive (SSD) was astounded at how cheap they’re becoming, and how quickly.

He writes to point out that “The Samsung 500 gigabyte SSD I bought from Amazon for $100 for my desktop; and bought again a week later for $98 for my HP Pro Book; is now $88!  How low can they go?  Remember what happened with thumb drives?  Whee!  We’re in for a ride, I think.” Thumb drives went from about a thousand dollars a gigabyte to $5 for 16 gigabytes.


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