A SECOND LOOK AT AMAZON HALO WEARABLE

Amazon Halo, the new Fitbit-type wearable I wrote about it last time, is even weirder than I thought. But I like it.  Halo’s voice analysis can pinpoint my moods to the very second, telling me when I sound delighted, amused, shy, and so on. (I’ve yet to sound angry even once in over three weeks.) For example, it said I was  “miserable” at 11:10 a.m., but “happy” exactly two seconds later. If you want to improve your tone, the app has video challenges for that. For instance, a four-time martial arts champion and yoga expert guides you in warm-ups for powerful public speaking. You can turn off the mike if you don’t want your tone analyzed. Speech samples are processed […]

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SLEEP TRACKER KEEPS ME UP ALL NIGHT

My first night with Amazon’s $65 “Halo” fitness band was hilarious. I kept waking up to see if I could improve my sleep score. I couldn’t stand to see a “poor” grade. I kept trying to go back to sleep until I got a “fair.” The next night, my sleep score went up to “good,” with eight hours and six minutes of sleep but slightly less rapid-eye-movement than ideal. It also told me how long I took to fall asleep. Last night, it was zero minutes, compared to 14 the night before. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. The funniest thing happened when I took a nap. The app changed my score to “poor” and […]

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PLAYING WITH FIRE

Several readers followed up on our review of the Amazon Fire tablet. Their comments led us to discover some features we didn’t know about. One reader was confused when he first tapped the “Books” tab on the home screen of his Fire. It looked like he had to join “Kindle Unlimited” to get books. But you don’t. It’s free for 30 days, then it’s $10 a month. Kindle Unlimited gives you a rotating library of ten books, audio books, magazines or some combination of all three. We noticed they have the Economist magazine, which is normally $189 a year. If we let our subscription drop, we could get it for $120 a year plus nine other magazines or books.You can […]

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A LOT OF HOW-TOs

Capturing Video Highlights One of our friends is writing her memoir about growing up in Iran. Since she reads it aloud to other writers through Zoom, the free video conferencing software, she was grateful that we could capture her part of the session in its own video clip. We could have downloaded a program to cut out her slice of the two-hour meeting, but there was no need. A free screen capture program is built into Windows 10. It’s called “Game Bar.” Though it’s meant for saving your game highlights, it can capture anything you have in motion. Once you have a video playing, bring up Game Bar by holding down the Windows key (looks like a flag) and tapping […]

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THE WALKMAN LIVES

The first portable electronics gadget we ever had was a tape recorder, though we both remember the portable record player in a suitcase. Later, we both had Sony Walkmans. Did you know they’re still popular? Over 400 million Walkmans as of 2014– mainly used for listening to music on the fly — have been sold, according to TheVerge.com. In the 41 years since the first one, they’ve gone from cassette players to CD to Mini-Disc to MP3 to streaming music. Recently, we wondered why people still buy Walkmans, instead of listening to music on their phones. A reader told us the Walkman is superior. For one thing, you can store music in the “wav” file format, which takes up more […]

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ALEXA, TAKE A NOTE

We sometimes have a good idea late at night that we can’t remember the next day. Alexa, the voice inside the free Alexa app or the Amazon Echo smart speaker will remember it for us. We say, “Alexa, take a note,” and she’ll say: “All right, what’s the note?” Recently, we said “Guy from Ipanema.” That’s because Joy thought it would be funny if her woman’s club’s musical revue did a “Guy from Ipanema” song instead of the original “Girl from Ipanema.” When we said, “Alexa, what’s the note?” she told us. That led Bob to wonder how long a note she could handle. Joy said: “I’m going to the drugstore later to get root beer, toilet paper and face […]

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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

The world has gone wild for virtual meetings and Zoom video conferencing is gaining competitors fast. The train is leaving the station. A new Zoom competitor, RingCentral, a leading business communications company, is coming out with a new version in April. Recently, we tried another Zoom alternative — the free UberConference.com, which has nothing to do with Uber, the ride-hailing company. Joy’s women’s club recently chose UberConference for their meetings for two reasons. First, participants don’t have to download anything. Second, some people are annoyed by Zoom’s privacy policy. Zoom collects your phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook profiles, info about your use of Zoom and the device and networks you’re using. They also get info from third parties who know […]

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CASTING CALL

A reader sent us a link to “24 hidden Android features” from PopularScience.com. Here are a few. They apply to Android 8 and up. Get Shortcuts. When you swipe down from the top of your screen, you see icons for stuff like “Do Not Disturb,” “Bluetooth,” and “Mobile Data.” Swipe down again to expand the list. If you tap the icon for a pen in the lower left, then swipe up, you’ll see a list of other shortcuts to add. For example, “Screen Cast,” makes it easy to cast whatever you’re looking at on your phone to your TV screen. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to cast from select websites where you see the casting icon. This lets you cast […]

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REPLACING THE BACKGROUND

Normally, we use the editing tools at Photos.Google.com to crop or enhance our pictures. But recently we discovered PicsArt.com for free special effects and templates. You don’t have to create an account to use the site, and you might not want to. We saw several complaints at commonsensemedia.org. Some users said that after using the link at PicsArt to share their creations, they were bombarded with pornographic images from other members. One user complained of signing up for a “free trial” for certain templates which turned into a $48 charge on their credit card. We tried signing up at the site but none of that happened to us. The PicsArt app has 130 million active users, according to Wikipedia. We […]

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GOING POSTAL

A reader wrote to say that he believed “the whole purpose of computers is to drive us insane.” We don’t know how he discovered our secret. We confess. The source of his revelation was Barnes & Noble. He ordered an e-book called “Murder of a Post Office Manager.” He admitted that as a former postal worker, he had often thought about this possibility. “When I downloaded the e-book, all I got was one page instead of 313, and it appeared to be the cover of a Korean comic book,” he wrote. Ah ha! He obviously didn’t realize that the comic book was about killing postal managers. Of course it was in Korean, and no one could understand a word of […]

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