ALEXA THE SNOOP

Some people have told us they’d never buy a smart speaker with Alexa, because they don’t want to be spied on. If you already have one, and are a bit worried that all your questions to the device have been recorded, here’s how to erase them forever. In the Alexa app, go to “Settings” and then “History.” You can delete the recordings one by one. Or if you want to delete them all in one fell swoop, open a web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, and search on the phrase “Amazon manage my content and devices.” Then click on “Devices” and on the three dots to the left of your Echo or Echo Dot. Click “Delete Voice Recordings.” However, […]

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IS IT CHEAPER TO PRINT YOUR OWN PHOTOS?

Are you better off using an online photo service like Shutterfly or doing it at home? If you count the pennies, Shutterfly wins. Ink and paper in bulk cost around 12 cents per photo, the same as Shutterfly. But that’s not counting the cost of your printer, and the annoyance of paper jams and hassles. Possible further problem: the ink can dry up and clog the printer if you don’t use it much. We once lined up six printers that had clogged because of infrequent use. If you need a print immediately, places like Walgreens and CVS will let you pick up your photos a few hours after you order them. We use our printers, an Okidata laser and a […]

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RETURN OF A CLASSIC

A reader wrote to say she had been using a Windows XP computer forever. But recently she bit the bullet and bought a Windows 10 machine. Ouch! The wound still hurts. Mainly, she hates the clutter in the Windows 10 start menu. We suggested she try “Classic Shell,” which is free from classicshell.net. It replaces the Windows 10 start menu with something that looks a lot like Windows XP but makes no other changes to your computer. The main difference between the XP start menu and the one in Windows 10 is text, or the lack of it. Windows 10 seems to assume you’re either an idiot or you don’t speak English. At first, everything is an icon, not words […]

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COMING CLEAN

A cell phone has 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats, according to scientists at the University of Arizona. We got on this because Joy got an antibacterial box for her cell phone, the second one we’ve been sent in a few years. The first one was a royal pain to use, which made her turn to soap and water, which of course killed the phone. Yes, we know phones are  waterproof now, but they weren’t then. Reminds Bob of his first video tape player, a Japanese model which came with a manual advising the user to avoid turning it on underwater. Good thinking. Despite the soap and water hazard, the name of this gadget is “PhoneSoap Go.” It […]

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GOOGLE FINDS BAD RESTAURANTS

Harvard’s Public Health Center is using Google tracking to find restaurants that make people sick. This is how they do it: If you’ve been to “Mom’s Diner” and a few hours later start searching on terms like “vomit” and “stomach cramps,” there is a likelihood there’s a problem at Mom’s. In Harvard’s tests in Las Vegas and Chicago, health inspectors were sent out when the searches turned queasy. Over half the time, 52 percent, they found a problem at the restaurant the person had been to that day. Chicago has 38 inspectors for more than 8,000 restaurants. They find problems only 23 percent of the time, less than half the probabilities inferred by Google tracking. Reading this, you might worry […]

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BUILD YOUR OWN

We remember when personal computers first came out. You could build them yourself if you were savvy. That’s what Michael Dell did way back when. He sold them to other college students and the business went on from there. Now there’s a computer that kids can put together. The “Computer Kit Touch” is $280 from Kano.me. Designed for young children, it has a ten-inch screen. Follow a printed storybook to build a portable, touchscreen computer, and attach a keyboard. From there, kids can make apps, art, and games with simple steps. Included apps are Chromium (a web browser similar to Chrome), YouTube, Libre Office (similar to Microsoft Office) and Google Drive; more are available in the app store, such as […]

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THE DAY OF THE PAINTER

All of the artists we know paint the old-fashioned way: with a brush. But we’re fairly awed by what you can do with a mouse or a tablet. The new Corel “Painter 2019” is out, and it’s worth taking a look at what artists are doing with it. Some of these people start with a photo, and produce the kind of work sold at art festivals. After some digging we found them on Instagram. Go to Instagram.com/CorelPainter to get a little awe for yourself. We were curious about trying it ourselves. So we installed the free trial version from painterartist.com, and clicked on “Discovery Center” inside the program. This was Joy’s job, and she encountered some difficulty right away. Tutorials […]

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BRUSHING UP

It’s a brave new world for dental patients: There’s a financial incentive to brush. We just earned 226 “Dentacoins,” a form of crypto currency, from brushing three times. We looked up their value and at the time of writing, they were worth eight cents. There are a dozen exchanges where we could sell our e-cash to get our eight cents, but the Dentacoin app says we must wait until we’ve accumulated more. Nuts. The brief spike in January when that amount of Dentacoin would have been worth $1.30 is gone, fell into a cavity. Perhaps it will rise again. “Dentacare Health Training” is a free app for Android or iPhone. It aims to make you a better brusher and flosser […]

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CUTTING THE CABLE, REVISITED

We asked AT&T how much it would cost to drop our TV service and just keep the Internet. They immediately offered to drop the monthly charge to $120 from $160. That’s better, we thought, but hardly the best. “Philo TV” has over 45 channels for $16 a month. These include A&E, Discovery, AMC, BBC America, Food Network, History, Travel, Lifetime, Food Network and Nickelodeon.  You can watch them on your computer or your phone. Or, if you want to watch on a regular TV, you can plug in a Roku stick or player, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire stick. Roku and Amazon Fire are fairly cheap, $28 for Roku Express and $40 for the Fire stick. Though Philo doesn’t […]

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CAN YOU BE SUED FOR AN ONLINE REVIEW?

Online reviews can get people in trouble. In a case reported by the Washington Post, angry friends of a bride and groom accused a wedding photographer of being a con artist for holding photos “hostage” until an extra payment was made. The photographer went to court and won more than a million dollars in damages. Thanks to the First Amendment, you can say almost anything you want in an online review of a product or service. Almost. If you say something like “scammer” or “con artist,” that’s accusing someone of illegal activity; you don’t want to do that unless you can back it up, When writing an online review, be sure to use phrases such as “I didn’t like X,” […]

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