GOING POSTAL

A reader wrote to say that he believed “the whole purpose of computers is to drive us insane.” We don’t know how he discovered our secret. We confess.

The source of his revelation was Barnes & Noble. He ordered an e-book called “Murder of a Post Office Manager.” He admitted that as a former postal worker, he had often thought about this possibility.

“When I downloaded the e-book, all I got was one page instead of 313, and it appeared to be the cover of a Korean comic book,” he wrote. Ah ha! He obviously didn’t realize that the comic book was about killing postal managers. Of course it was in Korean, and no one could understand a word of it.

So after deleting the comic book, re-downloading it, deleting the app from his iPad, and reinstalling it, he went online for tech support. Naturally there was no one there. Just a robot who didn’t understand what he was talking about.

“So I called in,” he says. “I don’t have an account number. All they have on file is my email and the billing information for my credit card. After being asked 50 times for my account number, I finally got a live person.” Surely, he exaggerates. We doubt that they asked him more than 40 times. “After explaining the order,” he continued, “I was transferred to the Digital Department. The rep tried to download the book. All she got was an error message. Good news is I got a refund. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, the book will be available for download.” The other good news is that the postal manager still lives.

Selling Your House on Zillow

A couple we know is selling their Florida home on Zillow.com. They think they’ll get a better offer that way.

The last time our friends sold a property, their daughter talked them out of using Zillow. Too bad. Zillow’s offer was $415,000. They sold the home two months later for $35,000 less.

One thing flummoxed our friend, however. She wanted to include a professionally-made video. Zillow asks you to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo first and then copy the link onto your seller’s page. YouTube confused her because it asked her to create a channel first. She just didn’t see herself as the star of a series. But creating a channel is just a matter of choosing a name for the videos you upload. It could be “Joe Doe’s Videos,” for all they care. You can make your videos private if you wish. If you choose the option “anyone with a link can view,” the “anyone” will be the people you send the link to or the people who find the link on some website. No one will be able to guess the link’s long string of characters and numbers. Joy uploaded the video to our channel as a favor.

Mighty Mouse

Which is better, a gaming mouse or a gaming keyboard? We got the answer on Quora.com, our favorite question-and-answer site. It’s a mouse that has a keyboard.

Think of it this way: You tap one button on a keyboard to move forward. But using your mouse you can turn and target, shoot, aim, zoom in and out, cycle between weapons, and throw grenades. “So, in a single move forward, 99 percent of the control is from your mouse,” says one gamer.

Corsair has a new gaming mouse with 17 programmable buttons, called the “SCIMITAR RGB ELITE MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse.” What caught our attention is that 17 programmable buttons can be used for any functions you want, not just for blowing things up on the screen. So heavy spreadsheet users, text editors, programmers, etc. could assign their own actions to these programmable buttons and never leave the mouse. If there’s some set of actions you regularly perform, create a routine called a macro. With a macro, you can tap one button to launch the whole series.

If the mouse doesn’t strike your fancy, but the macro does, there are free utility programs that will create macros for you. You can find a list of them with a Google search. But if you like having the buttons on your mouse, Corsair’s device costs $80. You better be right-handed though.

Internuts

8 Places that Baffle Scientists.” Search on that phrase to find some doozies. First off, there’s “Eternal Flame Falls” in western New York state. You can see a flame in the waterfall but there’s no explanation. In Naica, New Mexico, there’s a cave with 39-foot long, three-foot wide crystals.

BiodiversityLibrary.org allows you to download 150,000 free illustrations of the natural world, from the 1400s to the early 1900s. We saw a lot of bird paintings that looked like those of James Audubon. But they also have animals, insects and plants.

Bathing Alexa

If you get gunk on or inside your Echo or Echo Dot with Alexa inside, you might want to give it a thorough cleaning. We got these tips from CNET.

Start by lightly tapping it to shake out loose debris and dust. Use a toothpick to dig out crumbs. Don’t use a knife, since that might scratch the speaker. Use a lint roller to get stuff from the surface. If that isn’t enough, use the small attachment on your vacuum. A microfiber cloth is also recommended as a final step. Don’t clean with alcohol, Windex or any other liquid except water.

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