WHICH AMAZON REVIEWS ARE FAKE?

You can buy a thousand positive reviews on Amazon for $10,900. That’s less than $11 each. So how do you know which reviews to trust? I looked at an ArsTechnica article, “Posing as an Amazon Seller” to find out. One commenter said he rented a dreadful movie that had 4.5 out of five stars and over 10,000 positive reviews. Now he avoids anything with reviews in the thousands. A reader told me he only looks at the most recent ones. A third commenter observed that some reviewers get $20 per review. He says he’s in the wrong business. A United Kingdom consumer group found 702,000 product reviewers from just five companies. All were in the review-manipulation biz. Besides offering positive […]

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MASSAGE GUN GETS A THUMBS UP

I asked a friend who has arthritis in his hands and feet to test a cordless massage gun. He gave it a pleasantly-massaged thumbs-up. A good massage increases circulation, decreases pain and removes stiffness. My friend reported back: “The Merach Pocket Nano Massage Gun is better than my Wahl Heat Therapy Therapeutic Massager, with one caveat. The hard plastic tips work well enough on muscles and fleshy parts, but pose a problem for bony parts. For instance, I usually run my massager over the tops of my hands. With this, I can only comfortably do my palms.” But it turned out that massaging the palms worked its magic all the way through to the bony parts as well. It also […]

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ABOVE THE FOLD

Remember the first Samsung Fold phone? You could unfold it to get a much larger display. What a dud. Now they’ve announced their third foldable phone: the “Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G.” The reviewers of the first Fold went ballistic over cracking screens, black-outs and an unsightly bulge that appeared below the display. They also hated the bulky hinge. (This follows Bob’s general rule: Never buy anything with a low serial number.) The new Z Fold 2, Samsung’s third foldable phone, is getting good reviews, even before it’s out. There’s less of a gap between the screens. The hinge is better. Though some reviewers suspected a plastic screen, it’s actually ultra-thin glass. Samsung poured dirt and gravel all over it […]

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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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BYE BYE ROBOCALLS

A reader showed us a simple way to block robocalls. It’s built right into the phone.  “I am writing to you,” he says, “because I don’t understand why cell phone users don’t shut off robocalls. On an Android phone, just set it to ‘Do not Disturb.’ Then set it to accept calls from contacts only.” We knew about “Do Not Disturb” mode but didn’t know you could make an exception for contacts. That choice is right there when you tap “Settings,” “Sound,” and “Do Not Disturb.” On an iPhone, go to “Settings,”  “Do Not Disturb,” and tap “Allow Calls From.” From there, “All Contacts” is one of the choices.  The reader continues: “I did this a long time ago and […]

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CUTTING THE CABLE, REVISITED

We asked AT&T how much it would cost to drop our TV service and just keep the Internet. They immediately offered to drop the monthly charge to $120 from $160. That’s better, we thought, but hardly the best. “Philo TV” has over 45 channels for $16 a month. These include A&E, Discovery, AMC, BBC America, Food Network, History, Travel, Lifetime, Food Network and Nickelodeon.  You can watch them on your computer or your phone. Or, if you want to watch on a regular TV, you can plug in a Roku stick or player, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire stick. Roku and Amazon Fire are fairly cheap, $28 for Roku Express and $40 for the Fire stick. Though Philo doesn’t […]

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WHO’S THAT DOWN THERE?

This is one of the weirdest cases we’ve ever heard of from a reader. A woman wrote to say that anyone replying to her emails was redirected to a hacker. We tried writing her back, and sure enough, we saw her email address change before our eyes. An extra letter was automatically inserted. We didn’t put it there, we just hit “reply.” Off it went to the hacker. The next time, we hit “reply” we carefully erased the “send” address and put in the one without the extra letter. This was beyond annoying for the reader. Friends thought she was getting their email but those messages all went to the hacker instead. She first tried getting help from “Geek Squad” […]

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SEE IT LATER

Pressed for time or feeling sleepy? “Pocket” is a free app for saving articles and pictures to look at later. The app is available for Windows, Macs, phones and tablets. That’s everything but billboards. To get started on your computer, go to GetPocket.com and install it. If you use Firefox as your browser, it comes with it. Once installed, you can click the tiny picture of a pocket in the upper right of your screen any time you want to save an item for later viewing. To find the stuff you’ve saved, click on the pocket and “view list.” It might also save whatever you’re looking at right at that moment at the same time, but live with it. So […]

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MACHINE LEARNING

All right, we know that someday the robots are going to take over. So you might as well get with the program. Make it a partnership. We don’t mean robots like you see in sci-fi movies, walking around with shiny metal limbs. Anything that’s controlled by a program is a robot. So most robots aren’t visible in the ordinary sense of the word, they’re just part of the system. A machine can respond to body movements, facial gestures, or just leaving the scene. The very fact that you’re not there can be an instruction. Bob recalls talking to an engineer who had just come from an automated factory in Kentucky. It made small electric motors, like the kind in vacuum […]

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UNROLL ME

If your inbox is cluttered with junk mail, you can fix that.  Unroll.Me lets you unsubscribe from all those mailing lists you never knew you were on and have no idea how you got there. It rolls them up into one message, which still has links to all that stuff if you want it. Go to Unroll.me to start and sign up using your Google, Yahoo, Outlook, AOL or other account. When Joy did it, Unroll.Me found she had 242 subscriptions in her Gmail account and 76 in her AOL account! What? Who were these people and how did they get here? A mystery wrapped in an enigma, as Winston Churchill used to say. They all appeared on a list, […]

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