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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PASSWORD FOLLIES

Over 23 million people had their account information stolen because they used “123456” as their password, according to PreciseSecurity.com. Another eight million used “12345678.” Nearly four million used the word “password” as their password. Many people use a favorite password for all or most of their accounts. Weak passwords caused 30 percent of all “ransomware” attacks in 2019. Ransomware refers to hackers who lock the information on your computer and demand a ransom to unlock it. But only 12 percent of users in the U.S. take advantage of password managers, which create and store passwords for you. If you search on the phrase “best password managers,” you’ll find a TechRadar article on the best: “Dashlane,” “LastPass” and “Keeper.” We haven’t […]

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THE RULES OF THE GAME

Joy would like to contradict Bob’s complaint about updates. He recently advised not doing them, even on an iPhone, because of all the problems they cause. Joy always does updates for security reasons and because some apps require them. A reader wrote us with these words of wisdom: “My son who is chief programmer and bottle washer in his game company says there are two mandatory rules about updating software: 1.NEVER update software. 2. Be sure your software is always up-to-date.”Bob has an additional rule: No matter what you get, you have to get something else to make it work. Update on Updates “Don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out,” is a variation on […]

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EASY ON THE EYES

“Dark Mode” is all the rage on smartphones. It gives you a black background with white text and is easier on the eyes. You can get it on your Windows or Apple computer too, with these tricks. On Windows, hold down the Windows key, (looks like a flag), and tap the plus sign to bring up the Magnifier. Now hold down the “Ctrl” key and the “Alt” key at the same time and tap  the letter “i” for invert. Now every bit of text you see anywhere – in Microsoft Word, other programs or on the web – will have a black background. Unfortunately, pictures will have inverted colors too, looking like negatives. To see them normally,  toggle back by […]

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FAKE REVIEWS

Fake reviews are like fake news. Easy to generate, difficult to believe. There are Facebook groups offering you money to write a five-star review. A reporter from the website TheHustle.co wrote about a Chinese merchant who offered him $10 to to write a favorable review of an iPhone charger. It already had 3971 five-star reviews and was labeled “Amazon’s Choice.” “Isn’t this illegal?” he asked. “No, You will love,” was the reply. The problem got worse in 2015 when Amazon started wooing Chinese sellers. The number of products sold went up by a third and hundreds of thousands of new sellers appeared. Based in manufacturing hubs like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they ship directly to Amazon’s warehouses. Steve Lee, Los Angeles-based […]

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GETTING IN THE CAR WITH ALEXA

We thought it would be fun to have Alexa, the voice coming out of Amazon’s smart speaker, in our car. We have a 20 year-old car but bought an “Auto Echo.” Turns out our car can handle it. All we needed was the Nulaxy “Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter Audio Adapter” for $17 from Amazon. We plugged it into what us old-timers call the cigarette lighter, and then plugged our new Auto Echo into the adapter. If you have a newer car, skip the adapter. Plug in the Auto Echo with the included micro-USB cable and power adapter. Enable Bluetooth on your phone, and then turn on the ignition. For us, Alexa’s voice came on immediately. After a few taps on […]

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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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