A NEW SMART SPEAKER

After accidentally dumping a load of cinnamon on our Echo Dot, Alexa wouldn’t talk to us any more. No matter. We decided to get a better smart speaker: the Sonos One.

The Sonos One (Gen 2), for $200, lets you talk to either Alexa or Google Assistant when you want music or answers to questions. The sound is great but it didn’t exactly blow us away. Unless we’re talking literally. Joy upped the volume on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” during the quiet part, then forgot about it. When we asked Alexa for the time the next morning, we were blasted out of bed.

Before buying the Sonos One, we looked at comparisons between it, the Amazon Echo Studio  and the Google Max. Nearly every reviewer favored the Sonos One. One said the Google Max is better but of course it’s $400 instead of $200. If you get two Sonos Ones, you’ve got the equivalent, they say.  For now, we’ll stick to one. 

The Sonos One, second generation, has a new app called Sonos S2. Here’s what’s new: If you have more than one Sonos One, and you’d like to hear a song continue as you go from room to room, you can group multiple rooms and save the setting. That way, you don’t have to set it up each time. But that’s pretty expensive. Joy remembers an intercom in her childhood home that did the same thing.

If you already have an Echo Dot or Google Home, you could plug in a speaker. But when we tried that with our other Echo Dot, Bob declared the results “muddy.” It couldn’t compare with the Sonos One. 

Years ago, we bought a couple of Altec Lansing VS2320 speakers that plug into our computer and they’re still selling for around $80. They blow Sonos away.  First we played the music we ripped from CDs. Later we played the music we found on YouTube. Excellent sound. Excellent deal. 

 iPad Trick

Joy gave away the complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary when we moved. Then we regretted it. So we bought the two-volume version, which crams every four pages into one. You can get it used for $70 on up. The original 20-volume set cost us $1,750  but we got free shipping. The type on the two-volume version seems about one point high, but somehow Joy can read it without glasses. Bob tried the iPad trick. Here’s how.

Take a photo with your iPad or any other kind of tablet. Find it in your photos app. Then use your fingers to expand it. If the screen orientation on an iPad keeps flipping on you, from portrait to landscape, keep it on a flat surface. Alternatively, lock it  in place using the “Control Center.” Here’s how: Swipe your finger down from the top right to see a lock pop up. This didn’t work for us but you may have a better finger.

Quick Clean

You can speed up your computer by cleaning up software debris. We recommend the free “Ccleaner,” which you can download from Ccleaner.com.

CCleaner- both the free and the paid versions- gets rid of junk that can slow you down. But the paid version, for $25 a year, goes beyond that, adding privacy features, file recovery and more. When we ran it the first time, it removed 3,139 trackers, including 2,999 from Google Chrome as well as 1,588 megabytes worth of junk in the form of temporary files. Both versions also delete cookies, which are small text files that are stored on your computer to make websites load faster. They can slow you down if they build up. Unfortunately, some people rely on cookies to store their passwords. If you do that, you’ll have to re-enter the password the first time you go to a site after the cookies are deleted. We use the built-in password manager in Google Chrome, so we were glad to see the cookies go. Other browsers have these too, or you can use a program like Roboform or Dashlane.

Ccleaner comes with a registry cleaner, but you can ignore it. Twenty or 30 years ago, extra files in the registry could slow down your computer. But that’s not the case now. These days, registry cleaning can do more harm than good, unless you’re recovering from a virus on your machine and need to remove all traces of it. 

When you download the free Ccleaner program, choose the custom installation. That way, you’ll have a chance to decline offers of extra programs instead of having them automatically installed. That’s how the company earns money on the free version; by getting you to download other free stuff they hope you’ll upgrade later.

Internuts

  • Passwords.Google.com has all the passwords you use to get into various websites, if you’ve saved them when prompted by Google. Click on one of the sites in the list, such as Facebook, then click the eye with a line through it to see what the password is. Sometimes we’re just tired of resetting our passwords, so we take a peek here.
  • OsherFoundation.org. Joy is in a creative writing group sponsored by Osher Learning Institute, nicknamed “OLLI.” For the past several months and into the foreseeable future, they’re using Zoom video conferencing instead of meeting in person. Besides writing, they have current affairs groups, literary groups, science discussions and more. From the website, click on “Learning Institutes” to find one in your area. All are affiliated with nearby universities. 

 

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