A reader writes: “My Norton anti-virus is coming up for renewal and  I’m thinking of trying to go for free with Avast anti-virus. Is that what you guys use and, if so, are you reasonably happy with it?”

We’re not surprised that he thought we were using Avast,  because our last two mentions were positive. Avast won PC Magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” award in the freebie category. Techlicious recommends its cell phone app. But one of our readers said he got overcharged by Avast tech support. And our favorite tech guru said: “I have heard about this. Avast is outsourcing their tech support to scammers! Someone told me that they followed the support links from Avast only to get a scammer trying to charge them a large amount of money by telling them lies.” 

We used to recommend the free AVG, easily confused with Avast since they both start with “A.” But we’re told by experts that it is now so loaded with bloatware, it could slow down your computer.

We use Bullguard Internet Security, available for Mac and PC, partly because we’re superstitious about changing after using it for so many years. The one time we switched,  we got a virus. Also, Bullguard’s tech support, which is 24 hours a day, is great. And they won the coveted “Gold Malware Protection Award” from AV-Comparatives. On the downside, you have to go into the program to turn on anti-virus checking. Click “Settings,” then “AntiVirus,” then “Advanced,” then “Manage Profiles, then “When,” to turn on daily, weekly, or monthly virus scans. The default it set to “Never, I’ll start it myself.” 

We tried Norton in recent years and thought it was excellent. It’s not the resource-hogging software it used to be. So if that’s what you use, stick with it. They have a introductory version for $40. We’d steer clear of the $99 version that comes with Lifelock identity theft protection, however. Recently, the Lifelock website was hacked. It allowed anyone with a web browser to harvest customers’ email addresses. This is pretty shocking for a company which claims to protect identities. Bottom line: If you’ve never had a virus, stick with the security solution you have.

App Happy

  • Last week, we suggested an app called “The Harmony Project” by Acoustic Sheep. It produces sounds that put you to sleep. We later decided that nothing beats the sound of perfect rain. Our current favorite is the free app “Nature Sounds” by Relaxio, which has many other choices. 
  • If you download the free Alexa app to your phone, or have an Amazon Echo with Alexa inside, you can say, “Alexa, play rain sounds.” The difference between the app alone and the smart speaker is this: If you just have the app on your phone and not the smart speaker, you have to tap the app and then tap the center icon to speak to Alexa.
  • Rivet,” a free app for Android and iPhone, offers 3000 free books for kids. They’re mostly non-fiction, aimed at kids age 6 to 8, with eight reading levels. If you tap the microphone while your child reads aloud, the app gives feedback on his or her reading ability.


  • “How to Fold Napkins, Impress Your Guests.” Search on that phrase to find an amazing YouTube video. Napkins turn into a rose, a bow tie and more.
  • is targeting college freshmen with these tips: Don’t overload outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Use power strips with current protectors. Make sure outlets around sinks are equipped with Ground-Fault Interrupters. (How quickly does a GFI close off the electricity when it detects a surge? Answer: 30 millionths of a second.) 

Calendar Spam

One day we woke up to find Russian characters all over our Google calendar. Here’s how to remove this kind of spam permanently.

First, click one of the spam items and then click the little trash can. Choose “all events,” to wipe it off everywhere it appears. To prevent it from happening again, click the little picture of a gear in the upper right. Choose “settings,” then “event settings.” The culprit is under “invitations.” Change it to “only show invitations to which I have responded.” 

Free Office Software

After having to reformat our test computer, we were ready to reinstall our favorite programs. To our surprise, Microsoft Office 2007 wouldn’t install. So we turned to the free, which we’ve often recommended. For some reason, it wouldn’t install either. Finally, we remembered “Kingsoft Office Free” from It’s great.

At first, we thought ‘Who needs any office program?” We use Google Docs, a Word substitute, Google Sheets (instead of Excel) and Google Slides  instead of PowerPoint. But sometimes it’s handy to work offline. Kingsoft Office Free has great templates for stationery, business promotions, business cards and resumes. If you want a storage account online, you have to activate the software, which costs $20. Otherwise, it’s free. 

For those of you suspicious of all free programs, both and Google’s marked it as safe. VirusTotal checks files and web addresses using tools from 35 well-known companies, including Microsoft, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Symantec (makers of Norton AntiVirus) and others.






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