On a recent plane trip, I watched in dismay as the power drained from my phone. By the time I got from Chicago to New Hampshire with a stop in Philly, it was circling the drain. 

A portable power bank is the answer. Here are two questions: How fast can it restore a phone to full charge? Does it lose power when not in use? In the past, on the rare occasions when I’ve thought to bring a power bank with me, it turned out it wasn’t charged and I didn’t have time to mess with it.

Power banks with lithium ion batteries should retain their power months after they’ve been charged. But some products that claim to have lithium batteries don’t. A friend of mine has a “lithium” lantern. But it drains quickly.

Having just tested the new NitroCharge 30, $80 from, I’ll never go far from home without it. It’s around the size of a thick smartphone, but is only around an ounce heavier than my Google Pixel 3a in its case, around eight ounces. It took my phone from 30 percent power to 100 percent in an hour and ten minutes. If I were starting from zero, I could still get two full charges out of a fully charged bank. It did great on my laptop too, going from 43 percent to 95 percent in an hour. In either case, I could have continued to use my devices while they were charging. 

The company name is “Excitrus,” which sounds to me like “Excite-R-Us.” It’s exciting to think I might never be out with a dead phone again.

App Happy Flight

As my plane touched down in Philadelphia, I went to the American Airlines website on my phone to get my boarding pass for a flight to Boston. I couldn’t find it, so I asked the passenger next to me. Duh. She used the American Airlines app.

As soon as I had installed it and signed into the app, I saw my boarding pass. I’d had the AA app on a previous phone, but hadn’t thought to install it on the new one. Oops.

How Much Memory?

You probably don’t want to buy a computer with less memory than your current one has, since it can slow down your web experience. 

To find out how much you have in your Windows computer, bring up the Task Manager by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing it from the pop-up menu. Choose “Details” to see the “Processes,” “Performance,” and “Startup” tabs. Click the “Performance” tab and “Memory,” then look for “Speeds and Slots.” Slots will tell you if you have any space to add RAM. “Speeds” gives you your operating speed. Click “Processes” to find the memory hogs. Click “Startups” to disable programs you rarely use. That way they won’t start up when the computer starts, just when you want them to. 

Or you can use the free CCleaner by clicking “Tools.” Their startup utility is better at labeling the processes you may want to disable. I thought I’d disabled my Hallmark greeting card program’s event planner from starting up, but it turned out to have two instances. Windows had named one  “program.”  Only CCleaner showed it to be another Hallmark process I’d missed.

An Edge to Edge?

Recipe “Collections” in Edge

I’m partial to Google Chrome when I go on the web. But Microsoft Edge has an edge when it comes to recipes.

Search for “salad recipes,” for example and you’ll  see your results in the main part of the page. I clicked on “Tasty Salad,” and saw the recipe fill the right side of the screen, with the search results still in the middle. Now if I decide Tasty Salad is not tasty enough, I can go back over the list in the main part of the screen and choose a different one without having to use the back button.

You can save your recipes to an Edge “Collection” to make them easier to find next time. When you start up Edge, click the three vertical dots in the upper corner. Click “Collections,” then “Start New Collection.” Now browse to a page you want to save and click “add current page.” You can have as many collections as you have interests.


  • gives you drop-off locations for old batteries and phones. 
  • sends emergency phones to seniors. They’ll pay postage on any you want to donate.
  • has info about recycling and earth-friendly practices, such as planting a garden the birds will like or charging your electric vehicle at home and on the go. Here’s an interesting statistic: In 2019, the U.S. threw away seven-and-a-half billion dollars worth of  raw materials found in e-waste.

Starting From Scratch

My neighbors’ children are already learning how to program at school. So why should they get the new book by Al Sweigart: “Scratch Programming Playground?”

Any kid who can master Minecraft might want to try his hand at making his own games using this as a guideline ($25 from NoStarch). There’s an animated art project, a maze runner, a new version of “Fruit Ninja,” “Asteroids,” and more. Adults who remember the classic “Little Brick Out,” the game that inspired Steve Wozniak to build the Apple II computer, might want to try turning a brick-breaking game into a version with extra animation. Free preview at


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