BUYING A RENEWED PC

After 11 years, my friend’s computer conked out, due to a hard drive failure. I tried to talk her into replacing it with a refurbished PC. No dice. Her first thought was taking it to a repair shop. Angie’s List said it would cost $300 for the drive and installation.  Not only did that sound like too much, but an 11 year-old all-in-one PC with a bad hard drive is likely to have other problems. So she got an HP Elitedesk 800 G1 desktop, which came with a monitor and mouse for $324 from Walmart. I was glad to see it had eight gigabytes of RAM and an Intel i5 processor. (You can compare processors at CPUboss.com.) Unfortunately, the Elitedesk […]

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NEW PORTABLE POWER BANK SAVES THE DAY

On a recent plane trip, I watched in dismay as the power drained from my phone. By the time I got from Chicago to New Hampshire with a stop in Philly, it was circling the drain.  A portable power bank is the answer. Here are two questions: How fast can it restore a phone to full charge? Does it lose power when not in use? In the past, on the rare occasions when I’ve thought to bring a power bank with me, it turned out it wasn’t charged and I didn’t have time to mess with it. Power banks with lithium ion batteries should retain their power months after they’ve been charged. But some products that claim to have lithium […]

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WHEN IT COMES TO A LAPTOP, IT CAN PAY TO SPEND LESS

You don’t have to buy an expensive laptop to get a fast machine. I like Google Chromebooks, but learned my lesson on the more expensive ones. Chromebooks are fast because they aren’t gunked up with software. Almost everything takes place online. Any errors are automatically fixed each time you boot up. But reviewers often encourage you to spend more money than necessary. Except for a cheapish Lenovo, everything listed on “The Best Chromebooks for 2020,” at TheVerge.com is around $600 on up, with one well over a thousand. Same goes for CNET and Wired reviews. For more than a week, I used a friend’s $199 HP Chromebook 14, comparing it with my own $650 Pixelbook Go from Google. Sure, the […]

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DATA NAKED

A reader got upset when I said Chrome was my favorite web browser. He wrote: “You do realize that Chrome keeps track of everything you do on the internet–  browsing, searches, and anything you write? I switched to Microsoft Edge after being a Chrome user for many years. I finally realized how data naked I really am.” It could be worse. According to Google’s privacy policy, your personal info is not for sale to anyone. Google uses it to show you ads for products from Google partners or Google itself. If you’re worried about privacy, go to myaccount.google.com and click on “data and personalization” to automatically turn off tracking and delete every trace of everything you’ve done on the web […]

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SHINY CHROME

Our four year-old Chromebook  started freezing on us. So we shelled out for a new one. A Chromebook is a laptop using Google’s operating system. The best thing about them is their ability to fix themselves when you reboot, so they don’t slow down over time. The freezing we experienced on the Acer 14 was the first problem we’d had in four years. The old Chromebook, an Acer 14, cost $274. The new one, the Pixelbook Go from Google, costs $649. Before taking the plunge, we asked: “What do you get for an extra $375?” Number one is reliability: Our Acer should have lasted longer than four years. It was Joy’s favorite machine until it started freezing on her, just […]

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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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HACKED!

A reader writes: “I was hacked by someone claiming to be AVG (the antivirus people). I had to close 20-25 accounts. My bank said I was the third person to come in that day.” The state attorney general’s office told him to close all bank and payroll accounts. They’d seen the fake AVG ruse many times before. Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” took a virus off his computer and put new antivirus software in. But it took 12 days before he got his computer back. He felt like writing the hackers to tell them to bug off. “I want a SAFE way to tell them I’m not using them ever but I’m horrified to contact them at all,” he said. “I […]

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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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THE DARK SIDE OF 5G

Joy sent off the wrong column last time. The one without Bob’s views on 5G. She swears she didn’t do it on purpose. So here’s some wisdom from the more experienced half of our duo.  There are two problems with 5G (fifth generation wireless). First, you almost certainly won’t get the speed advertised. Second, it ignores the competition, FTTH, or Fiber to the Home. Unlike 5G, FTTH involves laying actual cable connections, which is expensive. It’s not wireless. But it’s fast and secure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it’s the only way to give options to the 68 million Americans who have only one choice of Internet Service Provider.  According to the EFF, 5G customers will either get moderate […]

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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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