5G PROMISES GREATER SPEEDS, BUT HARDWARE IS CRITICAL

“What is 5G?” The question reminds us of one of Joy’s favorite novels, “Atlas Shrugged.” The characters go around saying “Who is John Galt?” but never get a good answer until the end. Some say that 5G is ten times faster than the previous generation, others say it’s 100 times faster. An article in the New Yorker claims you’ll download a two-hour movie in four seconds. There will be no lag times for online games. But is this hype or reality? Several factors come into play, such as the hardware you’re using, where you’re located, what your network can handle, how many users are sharing it, what kind of interference you’re getting, and whether you’re at home or zipping around […]

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LOST IN THE AMAZON

Everyone in our building is Amazon-nuts, including us. The boxes pile up like mountains in the package room. The lady who handled them quit. We are just as Amazon-mad as everyone else. We can’t help but be impressed by Amazon’s bargains and free shipping. But they don’t always have the cheapest price. And yet, nearly every thing we get comes from Amazon or one of its five million vendors. We ordered a bed and mattress from Amazon for about $600 less than the local store was charging. The order page had an option to have the old bed hauled away. But that moved back the delivery date a couple of weeks. We nixed that and called a local guy to […]

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WHAT’S APP, DOC?

Our friend Olga called us from the Dominican Republic, using the free app, “WhatsApp.” It’s a great way for travelers to avoid having to buy a local SIM card for their phone, or face expensive roaming charges. But we’ve often wondered what other advantages WhatsApp has, considering all the alternatives, including Skype. One big one is simplicity. Because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, you automatically see Facebook friends who use it. With Skype, you must know the person’s user name. Our friend Olga didn’t use her last name so she was particularly hard to find on Skype, but easy to find on WhatsApp. However, call quality on Skype is usually better. You can use either one for a video chat, […]

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DRIVING AN OLD COMPUTER

We heard from several readers who were wondering if they should buy a Chromebook to replace their old Windows machine. A reader writes: “I saw an article that said, ‘Using a five-year-old computer is like driving a 1966 car on the interstate.” Her computer is four years old, and ran Windows 8 until she upgraded it to Windows 10. It came with four gigabytes of RAM, and her daughter added another four gigabytes.  But that “didn’t seem to make it any faster,” she said. Even after she switched to a fiber-optic internet provider, it was slow. We hear you. Even our super-fast Windows machine with an i7 processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM gets slow when the antivirus program is […]

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READ THE COMMENTS

One of the best pieces of advice we ever got was: “Read the comments following a review.” Not only are they enlightening, they’re entertaining. Take the screen-protector review we read at HowToGeek.com. The reviewer said he couldn’t get a screen protector on his iPhone without a massive bubble under the surface. So he bought one at an Apple store for $40, because it came with free installation. We see his point. We’ve never installed a screen protector without leaving bubbles. But in the comments, the readers dumped all over the reviewer. One guy said this is “not your ordinary dumb, this is some special kind of dumb. I call it ‘iDumb.’” Another pointed out that you could go to a […]

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ALEXA THE SNOOP

Some people have told us they’d never buy a smart speaker with Alexa, because they don’t want to be spied on. If you already have one, and are a bit worried that all your questions to the device have been recorded, here’s how to erase them forever. In the Alexa app, go to “Settings” and then “History.” You can delete the recordings one by one. Or if you want to delete them all in one fell swoop, open a web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, and search on the phrase “Amazon manage my content and devices.” Then click on “Devices” and on the three dots to the left of your Echo or Echo Dot. Click “Delete Voice Recordings.” However, […]

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RETURN OF A CLASSIC

A reader wrote to say she had been using a Windows XP computer forever. But recently she bit the bullet and bought a Windows 10 machine. Ouch! The wound still hurts. Mainly, she hates the clutter in the Windows 10 start menu. We suggested she try “Classic Shell,” which is free from classicshell.net. It replaces the Windows 10 start menu with something that looks a lot like Windows XP but makes no other changes to your computer. The main difference between the XP start menu and the one in Windows 10 is text, or the lack of it. Windows 10 seems to assume you’re either an idiot or you don’t speak English. At first, everything is an icon, not words […]

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REALLY BIG NUMBERS

An exchange of emails with a reader on the subject of falling prices for large storage drives, led to an inevitable question: What are they good for? In short, once you get past a few gigabytes – which you can buy as thumb drives for less than $10 – just what are you going to store? We know that the general notion is that bigger is always better, and at these prices why not go nuts and pull up the truck? Terabyte drives are now common. That’s a thousand gigabytes, a million megabytes, a big number. Let’s talk reality here. According to Britannica, all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica would take up 4.7 gigabytes. That’s all the words and […]

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FREE AUDIO BOOKS

And now some good news. Several years ago, we criticized the book choices available for download from public libraries. The result was a spontaneous demonstration by angry librarians. (The whole idea of an angry librarian was beyond our ken.) “It’s not our fault,” they yelled in unison, “it’s the publishers!” Those publishers …. Really. Well, times have changed, and now you can get thousands, maybe millions of free titles. The lode is so rich, we’ll probably let our “Audible” audio book subscription expire, much as we have enjoyed it.  Instead of paying $15 a month, or $100 for 12 books at a time, we’re exploring the free world, so to speak. We’re expecting an angry demonstration from publishers any moment […]

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EAVESDROPPING WITH ALEXA

Twenty-two million Americans now have what’s called a “smart speaker,” a gadget that sits on a table or shelf and responds to commands. The numbers have doubled in the past year. This is without doubt the hottest product out there and we expect the numbers to jump sharply again this year. The market leader, with about 72 percent, is the Amazon Echo; Google has about 18% and the rest is “other,” which includes Apple’s “HomePod,” and Sonos’ “Sonos One.” Now the Amazon Echo not only listens to you, it can listen for you. In short, it can be an intercom. If someone turns on its “voice calling and messaging” feature, you can either call them or listen in. There have […]

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