HOW TO SPOT A SCAM

We got a doozy of a phone call the other day. The message said our account would be automatically debited $499 unless we called back to get the money refunded. So we did what we always do in such situations. We typed the phone number into a Google search. Sure enough, it was a scam. Interestingly when Joy bought Bob a new phone, the Pixel 3a, we got a spam call within ten minutes of activating the phone. So take note: They’re out there and they’re always gunning for you. Kid Version of Alexa Amazon’s smart speaker, the Echo and Echo Dot with Alexa inside, sometimes offers more information than kids can handle. Now there’s a “Kid’s Edition,” $70 from […]

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A READER TAKES A STAND

 A reader writes in to share his regret over buying a Windows 10 computer. “Here’s my issue,” he says. “I have never been a big fan of Microsoft and was a Mac-aholic until Mac OS 10.4.1 when the Mac OS was no longer backwards compatible.” It would have cost him more to make his documents and applications compatible than to become a Windows user.  It was hard-slogging at first. Then, he writes, “when Microsoft finally arrived at Win 7, it produced an OS that was reasonably stable and NOT buggier than a wino’s beard… hooray!” Then came Windows 10. “I despise Win 10 and all the hoops (and $$$) I’m gonna have ta go through to get this machine integrated […]

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SOFT IN THE HEAD

We’ve never written about headphones before because we were never impressed before. And that’s because every time a new set came out, bingo, every writer in America was immediately notified. But “SleepPhones,” $40 from Acoustic Sheep, (see them leaping the fence?), answers something we’ve all wondered about. How do we learn Zulu in our sleep? Acoustic Sheep makes a cloth headband with tiny equipment inside. Wear them to bed; they’re as comfy as any soft headband. Though designed for listening to music, Nature sounds or audio books as you fall off to sleep, Joy likes it for yoga. To avoid waking Bob, Joy sometimes puts it on her head in the middle of the night, whenever she has excess energy. […]

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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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