GOLD VERSUS BITCOIN

Bitcoin, the digital currency, has been going up like crazy. But is it a better store of value than gold? Last year, Bitcoin went from a little over $7,000 to over $26,000 per digital coin. On January 8, a single coin hit $40,675.80! I’ve had some experience with cryptocurrency. In 2017, I bought part of a Bitcoin at Coinbase.com, when it was valued at around $4,000. I bought a bit more when it rose to $15,000. What can I say, I’m a gambler. Unfortunately, I sold it after it crashed below $4000. Disaster! I admire those who “HODL” a Bitcoin acronym standing for “Hold On For Dear Life.” According to a deVere Group survey of their own clients, 67 percent […]

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SANITIZING THE PHONE

For Christmas, my brother-in-law got me a phone sanitizer that looks like a flower vase. If I drop my phone into the $80 “Oblio,” I get a germ-free phone after 20 minutes. Or so the company claims. But the directions asked me to flip my phone to clean the other side when the 20 minutes were up. When I flipped it, the purple ultraviolet light, the one that cleans, did not come on. Tech support was no help. They asked me to send a video of the problem. That’s when I discovered that the UV light doesn’t come on at all now, even at the start. A good alternative is the $80 “PhoneSoap” sanitizing box. It sanitizes both sides of […]

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GETTING ZOOM HIGHLIGHTS

I’ve often wished I could capture the highlights of a Zoom meeting in a short video clip. Now, with a free app from Grain.co, I can. I started with a two-hour meeting recorded six months ago, which appeared in the Grain app automatically. I just had to click “import.” Then, by scrolling through the transcript underneath the video, I quickly got to the part where my nephew says “happy birthday” to my sister. When I highlighted the text and clicked the “share” button, Grain created a 17-second video clip, complete with transcript, ready to share in an email, on Facebook or wherever. On Thanksgiving, I had a Zoom meeting with my brother, nephews and niece-in-law. I figured they wouldn’t want […]

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PORTABLE POWER STATION KEEPS DEVICES GOING

If you find yourself camping in the woods with all of your gadgets, consider a portable generator to keep everything charged. I’ve been testing the “PS500N,” $490 from iForway.com. It could power a 60-inch TV for three hours if you want to lug it along to the woods. The PS500N is about the size of a breadbox, weighs 13 pounds, and uses no gasoline. The user manual calls it a “Portable Solar Generator,” but there’s nothing solar about it, unless you add a portable solar panel, which iForway sells for $190. (A solar panel could be useful for topping up.) With just the generator, you could charge a phone 45 times, a camera 75 times, a tablet 12 times, and […]

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LOOK MA, NO GLASSES PRESCRIPTION

I asked a friend to be a guinea pig for the “EyeQue,” a $60 gadget that tests your eyesight and gives you a prescription.  Results were great for him, not so for me — but that wasn’t the machine’s fault. Besides giving you a prescription, EyeQue will send you a pair of John Lennon-style glasses for an additional $19. They call them “try-ons.” They work well and look fine, but you’ll probably want another pair. For instance, the bridge width and earpiece length may be slightly off, since EyeQue doesn’t ask for these measurements, which are typically found on your old pair of glasses. My friend ordered new frames from GlassesUSA, which is not affiliated with EyeQue. He now sees […]

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SKIN CANCER APP HELPS DETECT SKIN CANCER

Growing up in Southern California, I never drove if I could walk, ride a bike or row a boat. Now my skin is paying for it. But a new app may save me. “Mii Skin” can check for skin cancer, when you feel like postponing a visit to the dermatologist. Due to the pandemic, skin care screenings are down 90 percent, according to USA Today. Mii Skin Premium, for $25 a year, lets you take a picture of an area, then wait to see if the suspicious spots it flagged have morphed over a 30-day period. If so, it could be a sign of skin cancer. Fortunately, there’s a 30-day free trial. Unfortunately, the free version only lets you keep […]

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WHEN IT COMES TO A LAPTOP, IT CAN PAY TO SPEND LESS

You don’t have to buy an expensive laptop to get a fast machine. I like Google Chromebooks, but learned my lesson on the more expensive ones. Chromebooks are fast because they aren’t gunked up with software. Almost everything takes place online. Any errors are automatically fixed each time you boot up. But reviewers often encourage you to spend more money than necessary. Except for a cheapish Lenovo, everything listed on “The Best Chromebooks for 2020,” at TheVerge.com is around $600 on up, with one well over a thousand. Same goes for CNET and Wired reviews. For more than a week, I used a friend’s $199 HP Chromebook 14, comparing it with my own $650 Pixelbook Go from Google. Sure, the […]

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FREE CALLS AND TEXTS

If you’re on a limited calling plan, you don’t have to buy more minutes when you run out. A free app called “Signal Private Messenger” lets you call for free using a WiFi signal. It beats the heck out of WhatsApp and the other free WiFi calling apps I’ve tried. Using the Signal app, my voice calls are as clear as any on my landline or cell phone service, whether I’m talking or listening. Ironically, 60 of my friends are on WhatsApp, but until I sent invitations, none were on Signal. Yet in my experience, the sound quality in WhatsApp is lousy. When I tried it, the sound kept cutting out. In Signal, it’s great. Signal lets you make calls […]

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DATA NAKED

A reader got upset when I said Chrome was my favorite web browser. He wrote: “You do realize that Chrome keeps track of everything you do on the internet–  browsing, searches, and anything you write? I switched to Microsoft Edge after being a Chrome user for many years. I finally realized how data naked I really am.” It could be worse. According to Google’s privacy policy, your personal info is not for sale to anyone. Google uses it to show you ads for products from Google partners or Google itself. If you’re worried about privacy, go to myaccount.google.com and click on “data and personalization” to automatically turn off tracking and delete every trace of everything you’ve done on the web […]

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LET’S COLLABORATE

I just started using Google Docs to collaborate. It’s fun. I enjoy collecting web links, poems and photos in a place where loved ones can view or add to them. That way, there’s no hunting for email attachments or cycling through photo galleries looking for stuff to see or share again. After someone shares an item, you can go to Drive.Google.com and click “Shared With Me” to see it. It will always be there to view or edit unless one of you deletes it. Another way to view your stuff is with the free app “Google Backup and Sync.” It adds a Google Drive shortcut to your computer. But if you use that program, be sure to select which folders […]

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