A reader wrote to say she had been using a Windows XP computer forever. But recently she bit the bullet and bought a Windows 10 machine. Ouch! The wound still hurts.

Mainly, she hates the clutter in the Windows 10 start menu. We suggested she try “Classic Shell,” which is free from It replaces the Windows 10 start menu with something that looks a lot like Windows XP but makes no other changes to your computer.

The main difference between the XP start menu and the one in Windows 10 is text, or the lack of it. Windows 10 seems to assume you’re either an idiot or you don’t speak English. At first, everything is an icon, not words like “start” or “shut down.” But if you click the hamburger icon (upper left after you click the start button), you’ll see the categories in text. In your new XP-style menu from Classic Shell, you’ll see your program list in text, without colorful squares. Click “Documents” to see a list of what you were working on recently and you can go right there. When you click the icon for documents in Windows 10, you land in File Explorer. Better bring a compass.

There’s more. When you click the start button in Classic Shell, then  “Settings,” you’ll see the things you want most: Control Panel, Printers, PC settings, Network Connections and more.  When you click “Search,” you can immediately search for files, folder or contacts. In the start menu, there’s also a link to the word “run” in case you want to use an old DOS command.

Classic Shell is a shell on top of Windows 10, which is good, because you still need the Windows 10 operating system for added security. It should be noted that  it doesn’t give you the XP system, so you might not be able to run XP programs. You can try running Windows XP programs by right-clicking the program you want and choosing “run as administrator.” Then, if necessary, try right-clicking again and choosing “run compatibility troubleshooter.” This hasn’t worked for us, but techies tell us it should. So for $70, we bought a refurbished XP desktop computer from Amazon. For sure, it runs XP programs.

Alexa, Hypnotize Me

You don’t have to own the Amazon’s “Echo” smart speaker to use its go-to gal Alexa. Download the free Alexa app to your phone or tablet, and try the latest commands. With some trepidation we said, “Alexa: Hypnotize me.”

When you say that, you’re asked to say “list” to choose from a list. But we found that no matter which one we chose, what came up was relaxation therapy. Joy became so relaxed she felt drugged and turned it off midway through. The second time, she let it put her to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. The voice comes from Barry Thain, a British man, who has an actor’s genius for suggestion. He’s a licensed hypnotherapist.

We also tried “Women’s Health Yoga.” The first lesson, just a couple minutes long, focuses on resting. If you search on the phrase “Alexa skills,” you’ll find a list of the most popular ones.

What’s My Phone Worth?

A reader wrote that three friends gave her their old cell phones and she was thinking of selling them.

“What’s My Phone Worth?” is a free app. (Android version) It instantly analyzes your phone and gives you an estimate of its worth. Like, it has links to sites that are ready to buy from you. Tap to describe the condition, from “broken” to “like new,” to get an accurate price.

We sold some stuff on eBay last summer and here’s a warning: They don’t save records from transactions more than four months old. So it’s hard to see what you sold, unless you save the details yourself, or check your account on PayPal.

Email on Your Phone

A reader said she finally got around to trying out “Unroll.Me,” which we mentioned as a way of unsubscribing from all those emails you never meant to sign up for. But she was put off by the privacy warning.

It didn’t bother us, since it’s a bot (a program) reading your mail, not a human. However, we understand the concern about data collection. Another option is to click on a message, then click “spam.” You should see a link that says “unsubscribe.” This works for us in Gmail, but in AOL we keep getting an error message.

Edison Mail” is a faster way to unsubscribe from dozens of promotions and newsletters in one fell swoop. It’s free for Android and iPhones. You don’t give up Gmail, or whatever email service you use, you read your mail inside Edison. However, sneaky newsletters will add you to a new mail list as soon as you tap “unsubscribe.”

Besides getting rid of junky newsletters, Edison lets you swipe left to archive a message and swipe right to delete it. As with earlier versions, it automatically sorts email into categories such as “travel,” “receipts,” “packages,” “entertainment” and “subscriptions.”

We tapped “subscriptions” and saw 60 newsletters we didn’t know we’d subscribed to. How did that happen? We unsubscribed to Hilton Hotels, our grocery store, Nordstrom’s, DSW Shoes, and a host of others. Some were regular requests for donations. All it took was a tap on an “x” and they were gone. Andy Rubin, also known as “the father of Android,” is one of Edison Mail’s users.


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