PORTABLE APPS

If you need to use a hotel computer, but are worried about getting hacked when you do online banking or email, consider bringing a thumb drive or memory stick with a portable app for web browsing. With a portable version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, free from PortableApps.com, you can use a borrowed computer with ease. No one will ever know you were there. Just plug in your USB drive and go. It’s All in the Algorithm Nobody acts their age anymore. In fact, “We Are All the Same Age Now” is the title of a new book by data analyst David Allison. A recent survey of 100,000 people in the U.S. and Canada shows that the old demographic […]

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CONVERSATION VIEW

We finally turned off a feature in Gmail that’s been there since the beginning and has been driving us crazy. It’s called “Conversation View.” We didn’t know you could turn it off. In conversation view, new messages show up at the bottom of the thread. If you have a ton of them, you scroll forever. For example, Joy’s friend Mary Lynn Funk went back and forth in one conversation for six months, all with the same heading. Half the time, Joy would lose the thread, unable to find the latest email, as she scrolled past long emails from three months before. Now those emails have been automatically separated into 49 separate chunks. It’s much more manageable. To turn it off […]

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THE DROP SHIP HAS COME IN

People are making some pretty good money buying things on Amazon and selling them for more on eBay without ever touching the product. It’s called “drop shipping.” PlanetMoney did a wonderful podcast called “Cat Scam,” to explore this topic. Their lead example is the Ripple Rug, a cat toy made by SnugglyCat. People bought the rug for $40 from Amazon and re-sold it for $60, using Amazon Prime’s free shipping service. They never had to touch the product or do much work. But when customers saw the Amazon box, they looked it up and found out they’d overpaid for the rug. So they’d return it to Amazon. In two months, there were 200 returns. Bad news for SnugglyCat, the toy […]

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WHAT’S APP, DOC?

Our friend Olga called us from the Dominican Republic, using the free app, “WhatsApp.” It’s a great way for travelers to avoid having to buy a local SIM card for their phone, or face expensive roaming charges. But we’ve often wondered what other advantages WhatsApp has, considering all the alternatives, including Skype. One big one is simplicity. Because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, you automatically see Facebook friends who use it. With Skype, you must know the person’s user name. Our friend Olga didn’t use her last name so she was particularly hard to find on Skype, but easy to find on WhatsApp. However, call quality on Skype is usually better. You can use either one for a video chat, […]

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DRIVING AN OLD COMPUTER

We heard from several readers who were wondering if they should buy a Chromebook to replace their old Windows machine. A reader writes: “I saw an article that said, ‘Using a five-year-old computer is like driving a 1966 car on the interstate.” Her computer is four years old, and ran Windows 8 until she upgraded it to Windows 10. It came with four gigabytes of RAM, and her daughter added another four gigabytes.  But that “didn’t seem to make it any faster,” she said. Even after she switched to a fiber-optic internet provider, it was slow. We hear you. Even our super-fast Windows machine with an i7 processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM gets slow when the antivirus program is […]

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EH? SPEAK UP!

Joy’s totally nuts about exercise classes and once found herself trapped in a place where the music blasted so loudly that the instructor had to scream over a microphone. She should have left immediately. The tiny hairs in your ears lay flat when assaulted by noise. Like good soldiers, they bounce back– if they’re not insulted too often. After awhile, they can’t bounce back anymore and you have hearing loss. A loud rock concert — 110 decibels–  gives you permanent hearing loss after just a minute and a half, according to HowToGeek.com. An NFL game or a noisy bar gets up to 90 decibels of sound, and will cause hearing damage after a couple of hours. If you want to […]

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COPY THAT

A reader says he uses the free LibreOffice as a Microsoft Word equivalent, but wishes he had an “extended clipboard.” That’s a program that lets you keep copying items from the web or elsewhere without losing the first thing you copied. He writes: “If I can’t find some program or add-on that will let me send 10-20 items to a clipboard to then mass paste to a Word document or spreadsheet, looks like I will be forced to buy from Microsoft. Prior to Windows 10, I had been using Office XP Pro for many years on all my computers. Any suggestions?” We suggested “Comfort Clipboard,” free for 30 days and then a one-time charge of $20. The reader says: “I […]

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WEARABLE MARVELS

We were invited to preview the first-ever wearable tech exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. We came. We saw. We were disappointed. Self-lacing shoes got our attention right off. Nike’s version of Marty McFly’s “Back to the Future” shoes worked fine in the exhibit but aren’t playing well in the rest of the country. As the Washington Post reported recently, at least one user said his shoe lost connection to the Internet and wouldn’t lace. He couldn’t tie it manually because the shoe’s software was buggy. Pushing onward, Nike will come out with shoes that collect information about your athletic performance. In another part of the exhibit, we saw the late actress Marlene Dietrich’s 1950s tech […]

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JOY CATCHES A PHISH

Recently we told you about a Google quiz from phishingquiz.withgoogle.com. It lets you know whether you’re good at spotting hacking attempts in your email. Even so, we almost fell for one ourselves. We got an email that seemed to be from AT&T, telling us: “You recently talked with someone at AT&T or told us online you forgot your User ID.” It listed our user ID and links to going paperless, setting up auto-pay, or getting AT&T news. All of that looked exactly like a standard AT&T email. It even listed the correct phone number for AT&T.  We called it up and the rep said the email was a phishing attempt. She warned us not to click on anything. But it’s […]

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SLEEP TIGHT

A reader wrote to say his bed no longer communicates with the Internet. It’s a modern problem. He and his wife have a “Sleep Number” bed with “Sleep IQ” sensors that tell them how often they toss and turn, how they’re breathing and what their heart rate is. This baby costs anywhere between $499 and $5,199, depending on the model. Some models raise the head of a snoring spouse, saving their life and marriage. They also warm feet, and offer “zero gravity” positions. This prepares you for your next trip to the moon. Our reader’s first Sleep Number bed was so great he bought a second and then a third. When the new one wouldn’t connect to the web, however, […]

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