FOR COMPLICATED TAXES, GET A HUMAN

The rivalry between TurboTax and H&R Block is like Hertz and Avis. I started with one company and ended up with the other. Despite my glowing review of TurboTax a couple of months ago, I ran into a snag. I had a complicated tax situation because my husband invested in partnerships. They generated a kind of document called a “K-1.” Actually, lots of them. On the TurboTax website, I pushed the “Do my taxes for me” button and got a nice lady in Missouri. But she bailed out when she found out about my K-1 tax docs. TurboTax experts won’t handle returns with more than one of those. She suggested I do them myself and use their live chat, but […]

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SPRING CLEANING

Worldwide shipments of desktop computers have dropped in half since 2010, while tablets and laptops have surged, but I still like the feel of a good desktop. I just have to remember to clean the inside occasionally. This is the perfect time of year for that, before summer starts to fry everything. I’ll never forget the time my husband cleaned my sister’s desktop computer for her. No wonder her machine was slow! The dust bunnies were thick and still multiplying. Dust never sleeps, especially inside a desktop. The cooling fans bring in air from the outside, clogging the parts with dust. If it gets hot enough in there, the central processing unit (CPU) as well as the graphics processing unit […]

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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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GOING PRIVATE

Until recently, we thought that the only time you need a Virtual Private Network or VPN is when you are using a Wi-Fi connection away from home. The idea is to prevent hackers from breaking in. But you might want that protection at home too. Though hackers likely can’t get in when you’re on your home Wi-Fi, a VPN prevents anyone from seeing the data you transmit over the Internet. That includes your Internet Service Provider, which most likely sells your information to advertisers. When we searched on the phrase: “Does AT&T sell my info?” we got an AT&T form titled “Do Not Sell My Information.” Filling it out would stop the practice. They say they sell it so we […]

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A LOT OF HOW-TOs

Capturing Video Highlights One of our friends is writing her memoir about growing up in Iran. Since she reads it aloud to other writers through Zoom, the free video conferencing software, she was grateful that we could capture her part of the session in its own video clip. We could have downloaded a program to cut out her slice of the two-hour meeting, but there was no need. A free screen capture program is built into Windows 10. It’s called “Game Bar.” Though it’s meant for saving your game highlights, it can capture anything you have in motion. Once you have a video playing, bring up Game Bar by holding down the Windows key (looks like a flag) and tapping […]

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STOPPING JUNK MAIL

Here’s the big reason we get so much junk email. Marketers can see which email we open and respond with an avalanche of new solicitations. If we open email on our phone, as 70 percent of us do,  we might even trigger a call. In the jargon it’s called a “read receipt.” Without your knowing, marketers use these to  tell which email you open. To combat this, we’ve started using “Edison Mail” whenever we’re on our phones.  It works with Yahoo, Gmail, Apple Mail or whatever email service you use, by bringing your mail inside its app.  Besides blocking marketers, Edison neatly categorizes any info about package arrivals, bills and flight changes, while also letting you unsubscribe from any email […]

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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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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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FIRE UP THE TABLET

Joy left her Kindle Fire tablet in the gym. At first we thought it was somewhere around the apartment but it never turned up. So she decided to bite the bullet and buy Amazon’s “Fire HD 10.” It’s $150 and looks as good as an iPad for less than half the price. She got it in blue. She knew the old one had been stolen as soon as she turned on the new one; now there was one Portuguese and two Chinese dictionaries. Some circumstantial evidence is pretty suspicious. So she went to the “Manage your Kindle” section of Amazon and de-registered the old device. The Kindle Fire HD 10 and HD 8 come with Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. It […]

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YOUR STUFF ON FACEBOOK

Did you ever want to see everything you ever posted on Facebook? You can download all that stuff and it comes in as folders. Double-click and they open up. A surprising bonus is the photos you posted and have long forgotten, are all still there. Go to www.facebook.com/Settings. They’re you’ll see a message which reads: “To download your information, go to “Your Facebook Information.” Click on those words to go there, then click “view” next to the word “download your information.” From there you can either download everything or uncheck the boxes next to stuff you don’t care about. We chose “download all,” and were pleasantly surprised at how organized it was. We first clicked the “Comment” folder and saw […]

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