A couple of months ago I started using the free app “WhatsApp” for sharing pictures and making free phone calls. Now millions are angry with the app, turning instead  to “Signal” or “Telegram.”

Switching from WhatsApp to Telegram is like switching from sugar to corn syrup. Telegram has had problems with foreign terrorists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It was recently used for hacking into Facebook accounts. And it’s not that private. Telegram allows businesses to collect data on you so they can send you ads.

But what’s so bad about WhatsApp, anyway?  I don’t care that it’s owned by Facebook. Starting in May, businesses will be able to collect data on you so they can send you messages. But that’s OK with me. That’s how WhatsApp can sustain itself and develop new features without charging me. I don’t expect people to work for me for free.

WhatsApp may have features you have not explored yet. For instance, it allows you to email your text conversations, along with any pictures or videos involved. Just tap the three dots in the upper right corner, choose “more” and  “export chat.” I read on the web that this is also available in Signal, but it didn’t work for me. As with Signal, WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, so no one can read them but you.

An alternative is “Beeper,” for $10 a month. It  merges 15 chat apps into one, so you don’t have to sign in to each separately. These include WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Slack, Twitter, Discord, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, among others.  Apple’s iMessage is officially for iPhone/iPad only. But if you’re techy, you can use a free app called AirMessage to get iMessages on your Android phone. But it only works if you use a Mac as a server.

A Toy for the Switch

Photo courtesy of Polygon.com

I could hardly wait for my ten year-old friend to arrive so I could show her my new Nintendo Switch gaming machine. But she prefers talking about the olden days while we watch old movies together. Is the new generation sick of video games or is she just a well-brought up child?

I thought she’d change her mind when she saw the “Ring Fit Adventure” game, but we never got past the setup screens before she was bored to tears. I’ll have to wait for a visit from one of my nieces and nephews.

If I take my Switch on the road, it would be handy to have the $39 Genki “ShadowCast,” coming out in April. ShadowCast works with a Switch or a Playstation 5  to display your game on a TV, desktop computer or laptop. That way you don’t have to lug around a bulky docking station. The ShadowCast is about the size of a thumb drive. It records your games and streams them out for others to watch. You could go pro and sell tickets.

Unfortunately, ShadowCast is still a project on the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter. But it has raised nearly two million dollars, after only requesting $30,000. If you don’t want to wait, previous models are available from the company. But some, such as the “Covert Dock,” for $69 from genkithings.com, are currently out of stock.

Ripping CDs

I’m moving to a condo a few blocks away– my first-ever real estate purchase. It’s a bit smaller than my current digs, so I’m transferring CDs to digital files to save space.  Here’s my recent discovery:  Windows Media Player stinks compared to Ashampoo Burning Studio.

For some unknown reason, Windows Media Player keeps getting stuck before it finishes ripping the songs off a CD. I thought at first the drive had overheated, but even after cooling off, it gets stuck again. Ashampoo’s Burning Studio works like a charm and has loads of extra features. For example, I can continue working on something else and watch the progress meter in my taskbar so I know when it’s time to insert another CD. There’s a ten day-free trial, or you can use the free version, “Ashampoo Burning Studio Free.”

I gave away my vinyl collection because my record player bit the dust. But I saved “The Best of Pete Fountain, Vol. 2.”  I can’t find it on CD or streaming services. So I’m going to use recordrescuers.com/ which charges $35 an album to digitize, using an $800 needle. The owner says customers can’t believe how good their vinyl records sound when he’s done with them.

App Happy

  • GolfNow is a free app for iPhone or Android that makes it easy to reserve a golf course. My brother-in-law swears by it. Courses that were previously impossible to reserve are child’s play with the app. You can arrange to split the cost of a round with friends before arriving at the course. Or just book yourself. If you prefer, skip the app and book a course on their website, golfnow.com.
  • AfterPay is a free app for Android and iPhone that lets you buy something in four installments with no interest charges or fees. You get a choice of 48,000 retailers.





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