GETTING A HUMAN

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. Blah! Blah, Blah, Blah.

If you say this when you call tech support, you could be practicing a George Gershwin song. But in fact, you want to talk to a person. We got this tip from a savvy reader who told us that if you just keep saying “Blah” when the robot comes on the line and asks you what you want, you’ll eventually get a person. The robot’s initial response will be “I didn’t understand. Would you please repeat it?” Go ahead. Give it more Blah. If you keep at it – not for long – the robot will say “Let me get you someone to help you.” Hallelujah! That’s why you called in the first place.

If enough people do this, the answering system will eventually be changed to the point where it doesn’t work anymore. But until then, keep those Blahs coming.

(This approach was used in Bob’s favorite press release. It was from a video game company and the entire press release consisted of Blah, Blah, Blah, lots of them, interspersed with the name of the game company. It was his all-time favorite release. His second favorite release was two pages of closely-spaced type promoting a product that was never mentioned. He decided not to write about it.)

Rotary Dialing

A friend said she wished the world could go back to rotary dialing. Now she can almost get her wish.

A new smartphone just came out with a rotary dialer on top. It looks like a mini version of a rotary phone without the receiver.

The “Rotary Cellphone” comes in a kit you assemble yourself for $240. It was designed  by Justine Haupte, an engineer at Brookhaven National Lab. The rotary dialer is sold separately.The only thing the kit brings you is the mainboard and 3D-printed case. Get it at justine-haupt.com.

The phone is part smartphone, part 60s’ throwback. It has a 2.1 inch screen on which you can read phone messages and missed calls. There are two physical buttons you can press for the people you call most. Justine says she uses them “for her husband and mom, ha ha.” We haven’t tried this and the cost seems high. But on the other hand, that’s the price for a trip down memory lane.

After a story at Engadget.com, the response to the phone was overwhelming, Justine says. So she might team up with another company to present a complete model instead of just a kit. But right now she doesn’t have the resources to offer customer support. So this is truly for the hobbyist.

Internuts

  • ConsumerLab: If you go to YouTube and search on “ConsumerLab” you’ll see the results of laboratory testing of various supplements and foods. We subscribe to their website for $4 a month, but YouTube has 21 of their test results for free. If you reply to one of their videos with questions, a doctor answers right back. We learned recently that some cocoa powders and some chocolate chips, such as Guittard Extra Dark chocolate chips, are high in cadmium, a toxic metal. The best among the cocoa powders was Ghirardelli baking powder. The worst was from Healthworks, the one we buy. Out it goes.
  • The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge.” Search on that phrase to find a fascinating article. Ornate rooms for women opened several decades before public toilets were common. The Tremont Hotel, which opened in Boston in 1829, had the first restrooms and a women’s lounge.

Free Word Processing

Bob’s copy of Office 2007 mysteriously disappeared. What appeared instead was Microsoft Office 365, which they charge for. He didn’t want to pay for it, so he uninstalled Office 365. Lo and behold, that left the free versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint in place.

Now when he clicks on the Office icon in the Start menu, it comes up with the familiar icons for Word and the other Office programs. He ignores the reminder to buy Office 365. The free version of Word is familiar looking and if you prefer, you can use it at Office.com. In either case, everything you do takes place in your private online account. Since it’s all saved online, you don’t have to worry about losing things if you change computers.

Reader View

Our friend was annoyed by ads that come in the middle of articles on her iPad. We told her about “reader view.”

On an iPad, when using the Safari web browser, tap the “aA” icon on the left side of the search bar whenever you’re on a page with articles. Then tap “Show Reader View.” Or just hold your finger down on the letters “aA” and it will open automatically. Now you get the article without ads or links to stuff you don’t want.

On an Android phone, and for iPad and iPhone users who prefer the Chrome web browser instead of Safari, there’s the free app “Pocket” from the App store or Google Play Store. When we tried it on our Android phone, we got an option to have the articles read to us instead of reading them.

On a computer, search on the phrase “get pocket” and add the extension. The next time there’s an article you want to read uncluttered, click the Pocket icon in the upper right corner of your screen to save it. Go to App.GetPocket.com to start reading any of the articles you’ve saved, without the ads and external links. You might want to share them down the road.

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