BYE BYE ROBOT VACUUM

When a young relative gave me a robot vacuum last Christmas, I got excited. Sure, it wasn’t a Roomba, only a $140 knock-off. But it jump-started my vacuum adventure. The “LeFant 300 M” robot did a great job, but I had to babysit it. It would go back and forth, practically on the same path, on a faux Persian rug from Home Depot, though it did better on wall-to-wall carpet. After awhile, I got bored and left the room. That’s when disaster struck. It made a beeline for the strings that pull up the blinds. After having a good chew, it burned itself out. I could still start it up, but after a few seconds it would stop and bleat […]

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WINDOWS 10 TO THE RESCUE

This part is going to get a bit techie, but you’ll be able to handle it. A reader told us about his unbearably slow, seven-year-old laptop. He wondered if he could make it like new again. Sure. His first idea was converting it to a Linux system. It sounded good, but he had problems. So he asked us whether he could still get Windows 10 for free. Sure we said, though we secretly thought it might slow down his PC even more. Why not restore the laptop to its original factory condition, we asked? It had a super-fast Intel i7 processor. He admitted it used to be great. His computer is a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro with Windows 8.1. When […]

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KEEPING TRACK

Sometimes we forget to write about programs we’ve known about forever. Here they are now. Our friend Olga is using a notebook to keep track of her day trading. Now she’s more organized than we are. Which isn’t hard to do. But there are programs that make organization easier. Our favorite is Evernote, a free app for your computer, phone, or tablet. It’s been around for 20 years, but gets easier and easier to use. It gives you as many notebooks as you have ideas. They’re displayed  in a master index. Joy has an Evernote notebook called “Favorite Recipes.”  Though she could use Microsoft Word, Evernote makes it easy to flip through her whole collection, as though it were a […]

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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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