IF IT MOVES, SHOOT IT

Time to stop worrying and line up your gun sights. Video games are not making us more violent. In Victorian times, people feared the effect of novels on the young. John Locke worried about their eating too much fruit. Then in the 1950’s, rock ‘n roll was the boogie man. Now people fear video games. There’s still time to panic. Most video gamers are not children. The average age is around 30. As the Economist Magazine points out, “violent crime in America has fallen as games have become popular.” A study in Britain recently found that crimes committed by teenagers there are down a whopping 86 percent. This is even better news than you’d think. Bob predicted a decade ago […]

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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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DISCONNECTED

A reader said he bought his first smartphone ever for one reason: His flip phone will no longer work properly if the carrier drops support for 3G (third generation). This was news to us. Sprint already dropped its support in April in favor of 4G (fourth generation) and 5G (fifth generation). Verizon will no longer support 3G networks after December. AT&T will drop its support in February. T-Mobile is expected to drop support next year or the year after. If you buy a 3G phone from a company that has dropped its support, you can’t activate it. If you already have a 3G phone, it means no more updates. It also means dropped calls. That’s curtains for our old Jitterbug […]

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SIMPLY SIM

Joy’s Pixel 2 smartphone was blasted by a worker with a hose when she left it in a zip-up container by the side of the pool.  Google sent a free replacement, but it wouldn’t make calls. We went through many layers of tech support,  chats, email, and phone calls. The phone kept saying “no mobile networks.” In the meantime, we  discovered a free app called “Hangouts Dialer.” With it, you can make free calls over WiFi. We’d already been using Google Hangouts, which brings our voice mail messages and texts inside Gmail. To get our phone working, Google sent us a physical SIM card to use instead of the “eSIM” we started with. This made us wonder:  “What’s an eSIM […]

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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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HOW MUCH IS THAT IN AMERICAN MONEY

What do people really want? This sounds like a twist on Sigmund Freud’s last words, but we’re talking about cell phones here and he was gasping about something completely different. The main thing people want in a smart phone is battery life, according to a survey of 1,894 U.S. users by market research firm Morning Consult. Over 95 percent of respondents said it was the most important feature, and after that they wanted “ease of use,” “memory and storage,” and “camera quality.” Are we all wasting money on our phones?  Here’s an interesting report from Flipsy.com, a site that buys old phones: The average selling price for a smartphone in North America is $567, with an average upgrade cycle of […]

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OUR FAVORITE PHONE SERVICE

We like Google’s “Project Fi” cell phone service so much we wish it were available on every phone. Until recently, you could only get it on a Google Pixel or Nexus phone. Now they’re branching out to LG and Motorola. The price is the best part. Project Fi offers unlimited calls and texts for $20, with each gigabyte of data costing $10. You only pay for what you use. Our bills have ranged from $26 to $36. If you use more than six gigabytes, they cap the maximum charge at $60, the rest is free.  The service itself, despite the Google name, comes from T-Mobile, US Cellular and Sprint, whichever signal happens to have the strongest signal for your location. […]

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STAY CALM AND SNUGGLE DOWN

Cozy up and get under the covers. “Calm,” is an app for your computer or phone and helps you fall asleep by telling you bedtime stories or providing music, nature sounds, and meditation lessons. We feel sleepy just talking about it. Their latest story is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale that claims to be the first one ever produced by artificial intelligence. It puts robots to sleep. Besides that, there are 80 stories written by actual humans. New ones come out almost every week. A couple of those are narrated by Stephen Fry, who played the helpful butler “Jeeves” in the “Jeeves and Wooster” TV series. We listened to “Blue Gold,” about the lavender trade. The only way it could have […]

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