ZOOMING IN

Joy’s women’s club went virtual, starting with a group video chat on Facebook. It was great.

 Joy felt none of the shyness she often feels at ordinary women’s club parties. She could be blunt, telling the group to stop focusing on technical aspects of the conversation. “Let’s just have fun,” she said and so they did. But sometimes the sound quality was poor, causing the group to say they’d switch to Zoom software next time. Zoom is hot right now. It’s designed for video get-togethers and works beautifully. It uses the computer’s built-in camera and microphone, or you can use a tablet or smartphone.

 When you use Zoom on your phone, computer or tablet, you see the face of the person who’s talking looming large, along with live thumbnail pictures of everyone else in the group. These are easy to scroll through. If there are 100 or fewer participants, it’s free but limited to 40-minute sessions, unless you have three people or less. If you want to extend the number of people or the time, then get the pro version for $15 a month.

 To improve your appearance, click for a soft focus. Want a different background? Change it to Nob Hill in San Francisco or the Pyramids outside of Cairo. The first time Joy tried it on an iPad, there were 120 people present. People clicked a picture of a raised hand when they wanted to speak because the organizer had muted everyone. But he could un-mute the group so everyone could talk as the spirit moved them.

Free Audio Books for Kids

Rachel McAdams Performs Anne of Green Gables

With school out everywhere, Stories.Audible.com is offering free audio books for kids from toddlers to teens. No log on, credit card or sign-up is required.

 The performers are great. Scarlett Johansson performs ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Rachel McAdams performs “Anne of Green Gables.” Audible also has Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter, “Wheels on the Bus,” and many titles for the littlest listeners. For older teens, there’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and lots of new titles such as the Miss Peregrine series as well as Audible Originals. We saw more entertainment than educational titles, though they do have stuff like “The Three Documents that Made America.” You won’t see these freebies at Audible.com. You have to come in at Stories.Audible.com.

 New iPad

 Joy’s sister is finally getting a new iPad. Her old iPad got so creaky, she could tap an email and go get coffee before it opened up. Like many people, she likes using an iPad instead of a computer. The new iPad Pro is like a computer, thanks to the “Magic Keyboard.”

When the Magic Keyboard is in place, your iPad looks like a laptop. It attaches magnetically and you can adjust the viewing angle. Go to YouTube and search on “Magic Keyboard” to see it in action.

 Unfortunately, the cheapest iPad Pro is $799 and the cheapest Magic Keyboard is $299. That’s Apple pricing. You can get an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet for $150. But according to Apple, the chip inside the new iPad will make it faster than most PC laptops.The iPad Pro’s camera can shoot video in 4K resolution. Its microphones have improved so it may be good enough for professional podcasts. But above all, it’s expensive, which makes the buyer feel special.

Mac Versus Windows

 We turned to an Apple Developer on Quora.com, the question-and-answer site, to answer the age old question: “Which is better, a Mac or a Windows computer?”

 On reliability, he says: “If Windows were a car, the windshield wipers wouldn’t work right, cruise control is a bit iffy. If the Mac were a car, it would work perfectly until the engine exploded as you cruised down the highway.”

 On safety, he says: “If you don’t install anything stupid, both are very secure.”

 On ease of use, he says it’s a mixed bag. Some things are easier in Windows, others are easier on a Mac. “Apple thinks good design is hiding complicated things. It’s not. Good design is making complicated things simple. Apple screws this up, Microsoft doesn’t even attempt it. Pick your poison.”

Internut

DoctorOnDemand.com, founded by TV personality Dr. Phil and his son, will assess your risk for the coronavirus Covid 19 for free. If you want more than that, it costs $75 for a 15-minute session. If your computer has a webcam, they can stare at your throat while you say “Aah.” If your throat’s not swollen and they don’t see signs of the virus, they tell you to stop worrying. They also cover other conditions, such as joint pain or headaches.

Numbers Report: Mad Macs

 We used to hear all the time that Macs never get viruses. We’ve owned Macs, and believe us, they do.

 According to Malwarebytes.org’s annual report, Mac threats increased by more than 400 percent, compared to last year. Mac users get an average of 11 threats a year, nearly double the 5.8 threats on Windows.The number of software tools that hackers use is up 42 percent. Adware, pushing ads to people, is up 13 percent. You can get more detail by looking at the blog at Malwarebytes.org.

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