POWER PLATE EXERCISE SHAKES UP ROUTINE

​It’s hard to resist exercise tech. I’m talking about a $1,495 vibrating machine called “Power Plate.” My sister uses one with her personal trainer to help reverse her osteoporosis. It’s become my personal go-go-dancing platform and a fun way to exercise. The app offers a ton of workout videos and so does YouTube. But it’s so powerful, you’re not supposed to  use it more than three times a week.  The first time I stepped onto it, my whole body vibrated, even my head. To avoid head vibration, I now keep my knees bent. It’s a lot more powerful than the vintage vibrating belt my aunt used. Back in the day, my sister and I cracked up when the belt vibrated […]

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HEY DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?

I’m horrible at finding a car after I’ve parked it. But one of my friends is even worse. Once, when we couldn’t find hers, we walked all the way back to my place, got in my car, and drove around in circles till we found it. Thankfully, phone apps can help. My favorite is Google Maps. After you park, open the app and tap the blue dot in the middle. You’ll see the option, “save your parking location.” After saving it, you’ll see a red marker and the words: “You parked here.”  When you’re ready to find it, tap the red marker to get directions. Apple fans might prefer the built-in Apple Maps. Just as with Google Maps, tap the […]

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FOR COMPLICATED TAXES, GET A HUMAN

The rivalry between TurboTax and H&R Block is like Hertz and Avis. I started with one company and ended up with the other. Despite my glowing review of TurboTax a couple of months ago, I ran into a snag. I had a complicated tax situation because my husband invested in partnerships. They generated a kind of document called a “K-1.” Actually, lots of them. On the TurboTax website, I pushed the “Do my taxes for me” button and got a nice lady in Missouri. But she bailed out when she found out about my K-1 tax docs. TurboTax experts won’t handle returns with more than one of those. She suggested I do them myself and use their live chat, but […]

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I LEARN TO FLY A MINI DRONE

DJI makes the best drones, according to just about everyone. But who wants to spend a thousand dollars? I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning to become a drone professional. Recently, I borrowed a $31 Holy Stone “HS 210” mini-drone from a friend. It’s astonishingly easy to fly, compared to the last miniature drone I flew. The old quadcopter shot past me like a rocket, banging against every obstacle in my apartment. Not this time. Push a button on the three-inch-by-three-inch flying machine and it launches. Push another and it flies in circles. Push another and it does aerial flips, or lands. Push two buttons —  if it’s about to hit Aunt Sally — and it shuts off […]

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HAVE YOU BEEN ‘FLoCed?’

There have been lots of complaints about Google’s new “FLoC” tracking system. You may be wondering what the fuss is all about. Here it is, in a nutshell.  “FLoC,” which stands for “Federal Learning of Cohorts” replaces third party cookies that track you on the web.  Instead of being followed individually, your anonymous browsing activity gets lumped with thousands of similar users. Then the whole group is given an identifier. For example, if 3,000 users visit a bunch of furniture websites, a group identifier will allow advertisers to send furniture ads their way Despite the complaints, FLoC seems less intrusive than the current system. Significantly, Google says there won’t be any identifiers on sensitive activities. These include searches for personal […]

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SPRING CLEANING

Worldwide shipments of desktop computers have dropped in half since 2010, while tablets and laptops have surged, but I still like the feel of a good desktop. I just have to remember to clean the inside occasionally. This is the perfect time of year for that, before summer starts to fry everything. I’ll never forget the time my husband cleaned my sister’s desktop computer for her. No wonder her machine was slow! The dust bunnies were thick and still multiplying. Dust never sleeps, especially inside a desktop. The cooling fans bring in air from the outside, clogging the parts with dust. If it gets hot enough in there, the central processing unit (CPU) as well as the graphics processing unit […]

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NON-FUNGIBLE IS ALL THE RAGE

Did you hear about the New York Times article, still online, that sold for $560,000? How about the digital cat in a pop tart? It sold for $590,000. Or the 5,000 online images that sold for $69 million? They’re part of the brave new world of “Non-Fungible Tokens.”  “Non-fungible” means “can’t be copied, unique,” much like the items on Antiques Roadshow. In the digital world, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are sold in online auctions. If you buy a token, you own a link to a unique piece of digital art, music, video clip or what-have-you. Recently, a video clip of  LeBron James’s basketball dunk was tokenized. The buyer paid over $200,000. Before NFTs, digital files weren’t considered unique because they’re so […]

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NEW PORTABLE POWER BANK SAVES THE DAY

On a recent plane trip, I watched in dismay as the power drained from my phone. By the time I got from Chicago to New Hampshire with a stop in Philly, it was circling the drain.  A portable power bank is the answer. Here are two questions: How fast can it restore a phone to full charge? Does it lose power when not in use? In the past, on the rare occasions when I’ve thought to bring a power bank with me, it turned out it wasn’t charged and I didn’t have time to mess with it. Power banks with lithium ion batteries should retain their power months after they’ve been charged. But some products that claim to have lithium […]

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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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SMARTER EYES

My mom used to swear by eye exercises. She said they would correct nearsightedness. Science may be proving her right. Kubota smart glasses can fix your eyesight, if you wear them 60 to 90 minutes a day, according to a report in ZME Science. They work by shortening the distance from the cornea to the retina using augmented reality and virtual reality. Fortunately, you don’t have to wear them for hours at a stretch. They’re a bit odd-looking. At a distance, the lenses look like windshields after rocks have shot through them. The smart glasses were developed by Kubota Pharmaceutical Holdings of Japan. In Japan, 95 percent of those under age 20 are myopic. In South Korea, it’s 96 percent, […]

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