DOWNWARD-FACING DOGPILE

A reader says he’s used the “Dogpile” search engine instead of Google for many years, but now it’s not working. We say drop it. Our research shows there’s a Dogpile hijacker that looks like the real thing. So what should you use instead, if you don’t want to Google everything?

We’ve been trying out Yippy, which is powered by IBM Watson, the computer that beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. Yippy was developed by Vivisimo, which we’ve written about many times. Much of Vivisimo’s and Yippy’s artificial intelligence was incorporated by IBM Watson which “reads” all the scientific journal articles to make better decisions in some cases than doctors can.

In our tests, Yippy’s results look good. Joy looked up “cotton wool spot,” something that occurred in her eye 12 years ago and later disappeared. Yippy had better information than we’ve seen elsewhere. However, when you look up something, you’ll see categories off to one side, to help you narrow down the results. In our tests, these weren’t working, so ignore them.

Another alternative, DuckDuckGo, is popular with anyone wanting to protect their privacy. It doesn’t track your movements, but you can still be “seen” by the websites you visit once you click on them in the results list. We recommend StartPage.com instead. It lets you browse the web invisibly. Just be sure you click “anonymous view” next to any site that turns up in your list.

Flickr Follies

Flickr, the online photo storage site, isn’t free anymore. We got an abrupt warning when we went to the site. “You have 795 photos we can no longer keep for free. Let us know what you’d like to do.”

From the Flickr page of Flickr CEO Don McAskill

The choices are: $50 a year paid annually or $6 a month. So we took one month’s worth. It’s taking an incredibly long time to download all 795, album by album. Many of our “albums” have only one photo.

There was rage on the Twitter-sphere about the charges, especially at first, when people couldn’t even log into the site. The CEO said there was a one-day outage, but many had trouble three days later. Someone commented: “First day you get in, download your photos and run!” Another person said: “What I’m really missing are the thumbnails for Collections. And working with tags in the iOS app is straight out of a horror flick.” The camera roll feature is also gone, but the company says they’re rebuilding it.

Flickr was recently purchased by SmugMug, a great site for professional photographers. Before that, Yahoo owned Flickr.

Giving Away an Old Computer

Somehow we wound up with five desktops and a laptop. We’re going to sell one of those desktops on eBay. That’s how we found these great tips.

In checking out eBay, we noticed a huge price difference between a used and refurbished computer. If we sell it as “used,” the starting bid is around $166. We could start at $333 if we sell it as “Refurbished.” To call it that, we just need to be sure we dusted it inside with a can of compressed air, and made sure all the parts are working. We know it’s working, it’s not even old. It’s a Lenovo we bought in February 2018 for $800. Computers lose value even faster than used cars! That’s something to remember when you’re shopping for a new one.

Before giving away or selling your old computer, you should back up your old files using Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Then transfer them to a new machine or external drive. We wish we’d done that instead of using Windows System Recovery. It doesn’t look like all the files came over.

The next step for Windows users, if you have sensitive documents saved on your machine, is to use the free program “File Shredder” to overwrite them. Apple fans who have older Macs can use the “Secure Empty Trash” option under “Finder.” If you have the OS 10.11 or later operating system, or a Windows PC with an SSD drive, encrypt your drive.

There are many more steps involved in being 100 percent sure no one can ever retrieve your data, but we’re not that paranoid. See the article on Techlicious.com: “How to Safely Get Rid of an Old Computer.”

Raving Friend

A friend of ours is raving about “Meural,” a $600 to $700 digital frame that rotates art from all the great museums. “You’ve seen the commercials,” he said confidently. No, we haven’t. We prefer to zap. Ad-watching is what friends are for. People are always telling us about commercials we’ve never seen.

Unlike the digital photo frames we saw twenty years ago, this one looks like an actual canvas with a traditional frame, not like a TV monitor. It can show still art or videos or both. There’s a $50-a-year subscription fee to keep the art coming beyond the initial sample. Using an app, you can choose the museums you want to focus on, such as the Louvre, or the painters you like best, such as Norman Rockwell.

We watched several YouTube videos to get the idea because our friend and his Meural are out of state. That’s how we found out that the resolution is 1080, not as high as today’s modern 4K TVs or even some cell phones, but it seems fine. A cord leaving the picture lets viewers know it’s a digital frame, though you could sneak that through the wall or hide it with a plant.

You could also just visit museum websites. For example, go to the Uffizi and see what the Medicis collected.

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