DISCONNECTED

A reader said he bought his first smartphone ever for one reason: His flip phone will no longer work properly if the carrier drops support for 3G (third generation). This was news to us. Sprint already dropped its support in April in favor of 4G (fourth generation) and 5G (fifth generation). Verizon will no longer support 3G networks after December. AT&T will drop its support in February. T-Mobile is expected to drop support next year or the year after. If you buy a 3G phone from a company that has dropped its support, you can’t activate it. If you already have a 3G phone, it means no more updates. It also means dropped calls. That’s curtains for our old Jitterbug […]

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SIMPLY SIM

Joy’s Pixel 2 smartphone was blasted by a worker with a hose when she left it in a zip-up container by the side of the pool.  Google sent a free replacement, but it wouldn’t make calls. We went through many layers of tech support,  chats, email, and phone calls. The phone kept saying “no mobile networks.” In the meantime, we  discovered a free app called “Hangouts Dialer.” With it, you can make free calls over WiFi. We’d already been using Google Hangouts, which brings our voice mail messages and texts inside Gmail. To get our phone working, Google sent us a physical SIM card to use instead of the “eSIM” we started with. This made us wonder:  “What’s an eSIM […]

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CHOOSING A NEW PRINTER

 A friend asked Joy to go with her to Office Depot to choose a new printer. That was an eye-opener.  You can get a laser printer from Hewlett Packard for less than a hundred dollars. The LaserJet Pro M15W takes up less than eight by 14 inches on your desk and weighs just eight pounds. Bob’s first laser printer cost $5,500, was gigantic and weighed about 50 pounds. That was black and white only.  Our current color laser printer, a behemoth from Okidata, cost around $550 and also weighs nearly 50 pounds. The quality is superb. The kicker for us is tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When we had an HP printer and called tech support, […]

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APPLE SHINES

A reader writes: “I have an iPhone SE that’s not even two years old. Now it completely closes down, then will restart, but then goes down again.” She took her phone to a repair shop and the guy said it was planned obsolescence. That didn’t seem right to her, but she didn’t want to ask her service provider, AT&T, for help. In her experience, they upgrade you to a new phone automatically. We suggested she call Apple. “The person I spoke to was very helpful,” she said. “She ran diagnostics on my phone remotely and said I needed an update, which she then did. She showed me how to save my information to the cloud and made me an appointment […]

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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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TIME-LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Remember those time-lapse documentaries that showed a seed sprouting, pushing up through the ground and blossoming with leaves and sometimes flowers? You can do that. Our Google Pixel smartphones have time-lapse photography built in, and so do newer Samsung, HTC, LG and iPhones. We did it in four taps. If your phone doesn’t have time-lapse photography, try “Lapse-it,” free from Lapseit.com. A pro version lets you capture video in higher resolution, and adds special effects and other features. You can see lots of examples of time-lapse photography on YouTube. Go to YouTube.com and search on “time lapse.” We saw flowers unfolding, roots shooting out, stars flashing by and clouds moving quickly across the sky. Some of the best were from […]

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THE RIGHT ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE

A reader writes: “My Norton anti-virus is coming up for renewal and  I’m thinking of trying to go for free with Avast anti-virus. Is that what you guys use and, if so, are you reasonably happy with it?” We’re not surprised that he thought we were using Avast,  because our last two mentions were positive. Avast won PC Magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” award in the freebie category. Techlicious recommends its cell phone app. But one of our readers said he got overcharged by Avast tech support. And our favorite tech guru said: “I have heard about this. Avast is outsourcing their tech support to scammers! Someone told me that they followed the support links from Avast only to get a scammer […]

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HACKED!

A reader writes: “I was hacked by someone claiming to be AVG (the antivirus people). I had to close 20-25 accounts. My bank said I was the third person to come in that day.” The state attorney general’s office told him to close all bank and payroll accounts. They’d seen the fake AVG ruse many times before. Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” took a virus off his computer and put new antivirus software in. But it took 12 days before he got his computer back. He felt like writing the hackers to tell them to bug off. “I want a SAFE way to tell them I’m not using them ever but I’m horrified to contact them at all,” he said. “I […]

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STOPPING JUNK MAIL

Here’s the big reason we get so much junk email. Marketers can see which email we open and respond with an avalanche of new solicitations. If we open email on our phone, as 70 percent of us do,  we might even trigger a call. In the jargon it’s called a “read receipt.” Without your knowing, marketers use these to  tell which email you open. To combat this, we’ve started using “Edison Mail” whenever we’re on our phones.  It works with Yahoo, Gmail, Apple Mail or whatever email service you use, by bringing your mail inside its app.  Besides blocking marketers, Edison neatly categorizes any info about package arrivals, bills and flight changes, while also letting you unsubscribe from any email […]

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TACKLING PHOTOS

A reader writes: “Do you have any idea why Google stopped supporting the free photo organizing/editing system called Picasa?  How would we contact them to plead for it to be brought back? Do you know of any system that could replace it?” We hear you. Once you know your way around a program, it’s tough to switch. Google  thinks their online editing tool, Google Photos, is better. It lets you crop, enhance light, and save photos to your computer. But not everyone wants to work online. If you’re a Windows 10 user, try the built-in photos app. Click “start,” then “photos,” to get started or search the web for the phrase “How to Use Microsoft Photos,” to get more detailed […]

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