We heard from several readers who were wondering if they should buy a Chromebook to replace their old Windows machine.

A reader writes: “I saw an article that said, ‘Using a five-year-old computer is like driving a 1966 car on the interstate.” Her computer is four years old, and ran Windows 8 until she upgraded it to Windows 10. It came with four gigabytes of RAM, and her daughter added another four gigabytes.  But that “didn’t seem to make it any faster,” she said. Even after she switched to a fiber-optic internet provider, it was slow.

We hear you. Even our super-fast Windows machine with an i7 processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM gets slow when the antivirus program is scanning, or for unknown reasons.

If you search on the phrase “15 reasons why Your Computer is Slow,” you’ll find many possibilities, such as a virus, a slow processor, a full hard drive, too many startup programs, or too many tabs open. Joy usually has at least six tabs open.

A Chromebook has several advantages. It doesn’t need antivirus software or reformatting. It repairs itself every time you boot up. Bob dumped a load of soup on ours, calling to mind the time he killed a Mac by spilling orange juice on it. It  had no effect on the Chromebook.

Another alternative is the Chromebox. It’s like a Chromebook, except it’s part of a desktop system– not a laptop. You can hook up an old monitor to it but you may need an adapter cable and a compatible printer. A Chromebox starts at around $250. An adapter runs around $20. Chromebox-compatible printers go for as little as $40, like the HP Deskjet 1112.

Our reader said: “The sales guy at Best Buy didn’t think it was a good idea. He got to talking about all the extra cables, converters, etc. that we would need to purchase to hook up an older monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  I was overwhelmed and just thought, ‘better stick with a Windows computer.’” We disagree. The extra expense is trivial compared to the extra cost of a Windows machine.Your current keyboard and mouse will work just fine.

Making Calls on a Computer

Joy found it a bit strange to hear her friend Betty’s voice coming through the laptop, but it was loud and clear. She was camping out at a hospital to help a sick relative and forgot her phone charger. Fortunately, she had her computer and made phone calls on it.

Search on the phrase “Make a phone call with Google Hangouts” and follow a few simple steps to set it up on a computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android. Start by signing up for a free Google Voice or Google Fi account. It’s also great for text messaging.


  • 88 Comics that Introverts Will Understand.” Search on that phrase to find some funny cartoons. One of them reminds us of Joy, who often replays old conversations in her head when you think she is listening to you.
  • The Most Valuable Vinyl Records on Earth.” Search on that phrase to see a list from DigitalTrends. An Elvis Presley record is valued at $300,000. A Beatles, limited-edition record once owned by Ringo Starr fetched $790,000 in 2015.
  • Words to Turn a Conversation Around (And Those to Avoid).” Search on that phrase to find some useful tips. For example: Avoid the word “just.” It’s seen as too whiny, as in “I just want one thing.” A good word to use more often is “willing” as in: “Would you be willing to come to a meeting?” “Willing” usually gets a yes response even in tricky situations.

Playing Baseball with Alexa

You don’t need to buy an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot to have fun with Alexa. All you need is the free Alexa app on your phone.

To get started, find it in the app store and install it. When it’s installed, tap it to open, and then tap the blue circle in the lower middle to talk to Alexa.

Although we usually use Alexa to find out the weather, answer a trivia question or play music, she has many skills.

We said:  “Alexa, play ultimate history quiz,” to get three true-or-false questions designed by History.com, which is part of the History Channel, Bob’s favorite. Joy missed this one: “Fortune cookies were invented in Japan.” She said false, thinking they were first baked in the U.S. She also wrongly guessed that Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Park Service. No, that was Woodrow Wilson’s doing. She said “false” instead of “true” when asked if the Republican Party was formed to combat slavery. (It sure was.) If you wish, they’ll tell you how you rank against others. Joy said she preferred not to know. It wouldn’t be fair if Bob played. People in the newsroom used to tell others, “Don’t bother with the reference books. Just ask Bob.”

For more tricks, go to Amazon.com and click on “Alexa skills” in the drop-down list in the search bar. Search on any term you fancy. Baseball fans might like the “Background Baseball skill” to listen to games from 1933 to 1973. We asked for a random game, and got the 1934 All Stars Game. It’s famous because National League pitcher Carl Hubbell struck out five of the game’s best hitters – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin – in succession, setting a longstanding All-Star Game record for consecutive strikeouts.




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