FACING FACEBOOK

As a special treat for our regular readers, we have nothing to say about Facebook. Meanwhile, back at the ranch … Virtual Reality at the Mall “Virtual Reality” has been over-hyped as a way to experience a movie or game. But it may be about to bring you into the mall. At the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles last month, six people at a time were allowed into a special room containing a virtual “Alien Zoo.” Those who made the trip viewing other-worldly animals said the 12-minute journey was something like being inside “Jurassic Park.” Participants, wore goggles and backpacks, fended off aliens and in general had a whopping good extra-terrestrial time. The company that set it up […]

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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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MISSING AND NO ACTION

A reader writes that she doesn’t hear from her son. She can send messages but she doesn’t know if he’s getting any email. She may be able to find out what’s up with that by using an email tracking program. ReadNotify.com (free to try, $24 a year for regular use) can let you know when the emails you send are opened, if they are opened. To get that response, tack “ReadNotify.com” on the end of an email address. For example, if your friend is JoeDoe@aol.com, you’d write “JoeDoe@aol.com.ReadNotify.com.”  When Joe Doe opens the email, you’ll get a message in your inbox saying when and where he opened it. It works with any email service, from Gmail to Yahoo. When Joy […]

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WHAT’S THE CACHE?

There’s an old Hollywood joke about the devil going to visit a talent agent and telling him he can put together any movie he wants, with any actors he wants, and no budget limit and the only thing he has to provide in return is his immortal soul. The agent thinks about this for a minute and says: “What’s the catch?” So our Gmail slowed to a crawl, and for a few seconds we couldn’t figure out why. But a Google search came back with the answer: It’s the cache, stupid. Well all right they didn’t say stupid; we filled that in ourselves. All the images that come up when you browse the web are “cached,” sort of the internet’s […]

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ALEXA IN THE CAR

In its never ending struggle to conquer the world, Amazon is moving Alexa into your car. Well, maybe not your car, but a lot of cars. We have a couple things to say about that. Okay, maybe three things. For those who came into the movie late, Alexa is this know-it-all device you can ask about anything and it will often come up with the right answer and play music too. But it chops up classical pieces. (It’s best to imagine that somewhere in the middle of the Emperor Concerto, Beethoven dies, and that’s all he wrote.) Coming out in early February, the car version will plug into your cigarette lighter and all will be well with the world. The […]

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NO CAT CALLS PLEASE

Half a century ago Andy Warhol predicted that someday everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He forgot to mention pets. Now there are websites devoted to making your pet stand out from the crowd. Bowser or Fluffy can even star in their own story book. And of course you can post videos — with background music and sound effects. Don’t worry that people will think you’re some kind of nut, a recent report says 65 percent of pet owners post news of their pets twice a week. Where do they post? On pet social networks, of course. If you search on the phrase “How to Make Your Pet a Star in Social Media,” you’ll get lots of advice. ABC […]

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DOES DONALD TRUMP KNOW ABOUT THIS?

Earn.com lets you make money giving out your email address. You decide how much it’s worth. If you’re a big shot, or you think you are, you could charge $100 per message. That’s what Ben Horowitz does. As of last January, he’d made over $8,000, which he donated to a charity called “Black Girls Code.” He’s one half of the consulting firm Andreessen/Horowitz. Marc Andreeson founded Netscape, the first web browser, and is otherwise a general hot shot. We’re not sure what Horowitz does. (Just kidding. Horowitz sold a software company to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion, and was a major investor in Skype before it was sold to Microsoft. He consults.) After signing up at Earn.com, we wondered if this […]

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THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

We just played “Animal Trivia,” “World Foods Trivia” and “What’s Your Nickname” without touching a phone, computer or board game. We used Google Home, the digital assistant. We paid $130 when it first came out but now there’s a new version called the “Mini,” which you can get for $49. This matches the price for Amazon’s “Alexa.” Holiday shopping is on the horizon and people are going to be making decisions and price is often the deciding factor. So are there differences? You bet. Most would consider them slight, Bob thinks they’re enormous. Bob prefers Google. Joy on the other hand, thinks Alexa has lots of advantages. Whaddaya gonna do? She particularly likes an Alexa game called “Yes, Sire,” in […]

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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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POLITICAL DATING SITES

Given the current divide in American politics, we decided to investigate dating sites that could eliminate arguments at the breakfast table (and beyond). Here goes: — A new one for conservatives is TrumpSingles.com, a nicely designed site, with fewer offerings than big sites like Match.com, but more closely targeted. If you can’t figure out the target, it may not be for you. — ConservativesOnly.com is a bare-bones site that’s been around for years and is – how can we put it? – conservative. — For liberals there are many sites (in fact, most) but for that international flavor they might like to try “Maple Match,” a free  app that “makes it easy for Americans to find Canadians.” (They’re just above […]

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