A reader writes: “I have an iPhone SE that’s not even two years old. Now it completely closes down, then will restart, but then goes down again.”

She took her phone to a repair shop and the guy said it was planned obsolescence. That didn’t seem right to her, but she didn’t want to ask her service provider, AT&T, for help. In her experience, they upgrade you to a new phone automatically. We suggested she call Apple.

“The person I spoke to was very helpful,” she said. “She ran diagnostics on my phone remotely and said I needed an update, which she then did. She showed me how to save my information to the cloud and made me an appointment at the local Best Buy. They ran diagnostics and said it seemed fine for now and that if I had any further issues to bring it there and they would check it out. There was no charge. It was the best customer service I have seen in some time.” No charge is always nice.

Fun with Wallpaper

Deskscapes” from is a $5 program that puts animated backgrounds on your Windows laptop or desktop. See a lava eruption in the ocean, autumn leaves falling in a forest, or ants crawling on a tree. You can specify “no ants” if you wish. The nature scenes are so spectacular, they’re a welcome break from whatever we’re working on. After you install the program, click the “online” tab to get hundreds of choices beyond the pre-installed selections.

If you balk at paying $5, try the free Windows 10 app, “Desktop Live Wallpapers.” We had trouble getting it to work, but you may do better. If you like still photos, the free “Bing Desktop” from Microsoft gives you a different image every day. Unfortunately, it sometimes stops working. So annoying.

Phone Disaster

Joy misplaced the combination for her lock. Rather than leave her Google Pixel 2 phone in a locker, she put it in a zip-up container by the side of the pool. A worker with a hose came along and blasted away at the container and everything on the deck.

Though the phone still worked, it got green, black and purple streaks blocking out one side of the screen.

No wonder we love Google. They sent us a new Pixel 2 for free. They guarantee their phones for two years, no matter what happens. By contrast, Apple warranties do not cover accidents; you have to buy the extended version.

Restoring Your System

We’ve often relied on Windows “System Restore” whenever things went awry. System Restore takes your computer back to a day when everything was working. Microsoft changed it in Windows 10, and we hate that.

In Windows 10, type “settings” into the Windows search box on your desktop or click the start button and then click the little picture of a gear. In the search box, type “System Restore” and click where it says, “Create a Restore Point.” But instead of doing that, just click “System Restore.” It’s a bummer if you get the message that there are no restore points to go back to. Then all you can do is make a new one for today, so at least in the future you’ll have something.

In Windows 7, you click “Start,” then “Accessories,” “System Tools” and “System Restore,” choosing a day when all was right with the world.

Exercising with Alexa

They say it’s healthier to break up your sitting with bursts of exercise than it is to sit all day and do an hour-long routine. Alexa, the voice coming out of the Echo smart speaker, can help.

Go to and in the search box, click the arrow and change the word “All” to “Alexa Skills.” Search on “5-minute workout” and you’ll see three choices: “5 Minute Plank,” “5 Minute Core and Cardio” and “7-Minute Workout.” Choose one, click on “enable” and you’re all set. Just say, “Alexa, open 5 Minute Push Ups,” or whatever the skill is. We like “Daily Stretch.”

Internuts found flights for us that were $100 less than what we saw on

American Airlines website, though we had to go with another airline for part of the trip. When is a good time to book a flight? CheapAir’s latest report says the best time is 70 days before you leave. Last year, the best time was 54 days in advance. lists every Beatle song from A to Z and gives you the inspiration for each song. For example, “A Day in the Life” was inspired by the 4000 potholes in London and the death by car crash of a Guiness heir.

A Brief History of Chess by Adam Gendler.” Search on that phrase to find a cartoon about the history of chess. We didn’t know it was banned in France hundreds of years ago. It was thought to be a time-waster.

App Happy

Filtr,” a free iPhone app, was designed by a behavioral economist to help us go through email much faster. He says the average worker takes 23 minutes to get back to work after an email interruption. Unfortunately, it’s only available for the iPhone and iPad. Android users might like Edison Mail, which makes it easy to unsubscribe from lists. They just added a new “price alert” service, which searches for the lowest price.

Gallery Go” is a free app for Android phones. Take pictures from within the app to make them easier to organize. Create folders and move pictures into them.

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