FUN WITH WINDOWS

How do tech writers spend their stimulus check? They buy software. For $30, we got a bundle of 14 Windows programs from Stardock.com, called “Object Desktop.” One program Joy really likes is “CursorFX” which gives you a choice of 23 cursors. She chose the hand, which has gestures, like tapping its fingers when it has to wait for a program to load. Here are some other parts of the bundle we’re having fun with:  “Deskscapes” gives you animated wallpapers for your Windows computer. Right now, we’re enjoying one that shows a vintage diner, motorcycles and a blonde talking to a guy in what looks like a 1950’s Ford Fairlane. Her skirt blows slightly in the breeze. “Fences” lets you corral […]

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ALEXA, TAKE A NOTE

We sometimes have a good idea late at night that we can’t remember the next day. Alexa, the voice inside the free Alexa app or the Amazon Echo smart speaker will remember it for us. We say, “Alexa, take a note,” and she’ll say: “All right, what’s the note?” Recently, we said “Guy from Ipanema.” That’s because Joy thought it would be funny if her woman’s club’s musical revue did a “Guy from Ipanema” song instead of the original “Girl from Ipanema.” When we said, “Alexa, what’s the note?” she told us. That led Bob to wonder how long a note she could handle. Joy said: “I’m going to the drugstore later to get root beer, toilet paper and face […]

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ZOOMING IN

Joy’s women’s club went virtual, starting with a group video chat on Facebook. It was great.  Joy felt none of the shyness she often feels at ordinary women’s club parties. She could be blunt, telling the group to stop focusing on technical aspects of the conversation. “Let’s just have fun,” she said and so they did. But sometimes the sound quality was poor, causing the group to say they’d switch to Zoom software next time. Zoom is hot right now. It’s designed for video get-togethers and works beautifully. It uses the computer’s built-in camera and microphone, or you can use a tablet or smartphone.  When you use Zoom on your phone, computer or tablet, you see the face of the […]

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GOING POSTAL

A reader wrote to say that he believed “the whole purpose of computers is to drive us insane.” We don’t know how he discovered our secret. We confess. The source of his revelation was Barnes & Noble. He ordered an e-book called “Murder of a Post Office Manager.” He admitted that as a former postal worker, he had often thought about this possibility. “When I downloaded the e-book, all I got was one page instead of 313, and it appeared to be the cover of a Korean comic book,” he wrote. Ah ha! He obviously didn’t realize that the comic book was about killing postal managers. Of course it was in Korean, and no one could understand a word of […]

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YOU RANG?

Why do phones sometimes ring just once? It’s a scam. Don’t call them back. According to HowtoGeek.com, if you cave in and call back, your call may result in toll charges similar to a 900 number. The longer you stay on the line, the more money they make. The scam is called “Wangiri,” because it started in Japan. It translates as “one ring and cut.” Calls have been routed to Mauritania, Liberia, Comoros, Chad, the Cook Islands and Nauru. But it’s not always a developing country. Some go to Switzerland. If in doubt, search the web for the number to see if it’s part of a scam. Or if you get a lot of these and have an iPhone, try […]

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PROTECTION

Malwarebytes.org is a great way to protect your computer or phone and it’s free. The download used to be the premium version which only worked for 14 days. To continue your freebie, you had to go into the settings of your account and turn off the premium version. This wasn’t obvious, so many people continued paying for years. We did. The difference between Malwarebytes Free and Malwarebytes Premium is this: the free version cleans up problems after they’ve occurred. The premium version gives you protection in advance. For safety’s sake, we decided on a lifetime subscription to the premium version. This is no longer available. Now the premium version costs $40 per year. Even with the best protection though, it’s […]

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WHERE ARE WE?

A reader writes: “I have a strange situation. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8 and I can no longer get street names on Google Earth.”  Google Earth is available as a free app or at Google.com/Earth and shows you an aerial view of any spot on the planet. You can zoom it. There’s no escape.  To make the street names appear, we thought at first the reader just needed to tap the hamburger icon (three stacked lines), choose “Map Style” and then choose “Everything.” The default position is to leave “Everything” off. But he’d already tried that. You’re probably thinking it’s just him, but he does get street names on his tablet, which runs the same version of Google Earth. […]

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DOWNWARD-FACING DOGPILE

A reader says he’s used the “Dogpile” search engine instead of Google for many years, but now it’s not working. We say drop it. Our research shows there’s a Dogpile hijacker that looks like the real thing. So what should you use instead, if you don’t want to Google everything? We’ve been trying out Yippy, which is powered by IBM Watson, the computer that beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. Yippy was developed by Vivisimo, which we’ve written about many times. Much of Vivisimo’s and Yippy’s artificial intelligence was incorporated by IBM Watson which “reads” all the scientific journal articles to make better decisions in some cases than doctors can. In our tests, Yippy’s results look good. Joy looked up “cotton […]

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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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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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