TOE TO TOE WITH ALEXA AND GOOGLE

A child asked me which was better: Alexa, the voice inside the Amazon Echo Dot, or Google Assistant, the voice inside the Google Home speaker, renamed “Google Nest.” Until recently, I would have said Google Assistant. That was before I read CNET’s “9 Things Alexa Can Do that Google Can’t.” Of course, right after that, I read “9 Things Google Can Do that Alexa Can’t.” Let’s start with some Alexa differences. Alexa can play Apple Music as one of many choices;  Google makes Apple music off limits. Alexa listens for burglars, alerting you if  she hears glass breaking, an alarm going off and other sounds. (But you must turn on “Guard” in “Settings.”) Also, Alexa can hear your whispers and whisper […]

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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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PASSWORD FOLLIES

Over 23 million people had their account information stolen because they used “123456” as their password, according to PreciseSecurity.com. Another eight million used “12345678.” Nearly four million used the word “password” as their password. Many people use a favorite password for all or most of their accounts. Weak passwords caused 30 percent of all “ransomware” attacks in 2019. Ransomware refers to hackers who lock the information on your computer and demand a ransom to unlock it. But only 12 percent of users in the U.S. take advantage of password managers, which create and store passwords for you. If you search on the phrase “best password managers,” you’ll find a TechRadar article on the best: “Dashlane,” “LastPass” and “Keeper.” We haven’t […]

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ROBOCALLS

Over 167 million robocalls are made to Americans each day, according to YouMail. That’s about 61 billion calls for 2019.  Robocalls represent over 50 percent of all phone traffic. They have become the modern equivalent of mail addressed to “occupant.” Some of these calls appear to be coming from your own area code. That’s what really throws people. Because you think, maybe it’s Uncle Max. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to talk to Uncle Max. We use the “call screen” feature on our two Google Pixel phones to avoid robocalls. But the new Pixel 4 has something better.  The Pixel 4 phone won’t ring at all if it senses a robocall. What happens if it’s not a […]

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HOLDING ONTO AN OLD PHONE

If your iPhone is more than five years old, it’s no longer getting security updates. However, even older iPhones are less likely to be attacked than Android phones, according to Symantec Corp., for three reasons. First, Apple doesn’t release its source code to app developers. Second, owners of iPhones can’t modify the code on their phones. Third, there are more Android phones out there to hack: 52 percent of cell phones are Android phones, 47 percent are iPhones. If your Android phone is over three years old, it won’t get security patches, according to TomsGuide.com. To be safe, get the free app from MalwareBytes.org. By the way, those who use old-style flip phones instead of smart phones, such as Warren […]

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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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A TRAVELING MAN

A reader wrote to tell us about “Mobile Passport,” a free app which lets him breeze past the long lines at the airport after an overseas journey. Here’s how it goes: “So I was blindsided on a recent overseas trip when my daughter told me about this app.  By filling out some basic info and submitting it electronically when you arrive stateside, you skip right past the long line at immigration, to go to a line of one person (in our case) who was enlightened like we were.  It took us about one minute. This will certainly change when others learn about Mobile Passport so don’t tell anyone.  But for now, wow!” Okay, so we’re telling someone; what can we […]

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THE DAY OF THE PAINTER

All of the artists we know paint the old-fashioned way: with a brush. But we’re fairly awed by what you can do with a mouse or a tablet. The new Corel “Painter 2019” is out, and it’s worth taking a look at what artists are doing with it. Some of these people start with a photo, and produce the kind of work sold at art festivals. After some digging we found them on Instagram. Go to Instagram.com/CorelPainter to get a little awe for yourself. We were curious about trying it ourselves. So we installed the free trial version from painterartist.com, and clicked on “Discovery Center” inside the program. This was Joy’s job, and she encountered some difficulty right away. Tutorials […]

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AT THE OPERA

A reader told us she’s tired of being tracked. We suggest using the new Opera web browser. It’s free and you can get it from Opera.com. Once on board you will have a built-in “Virtual Private Network,” or VPN, as the techies call it. It automatically encrypts all your data so hackers can’t get to it, which makes it safe (at least until the counter-attack) when you’re using free Wi-Fi at the airport or a coffee shop. For your phone, there’s “Opera Free VPN,” from the iPhone or Android app stores. Besides safeguarding your data, it lets you into places you might otherwise not be able to go.  For instance, some videos are restricted to certain countries. We’re looking at […]

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NO CAT CALLS PLEASE

Half a century ago Andy Warhol predicted that someday everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He forgot to mention pets. Now there are websites devoted to making your pet stand out from the crowd. Bowser or Fluffy can even star in their own story book. And of course you can post videos — with background music and sound effects. Don’t worry that people will think you’re some kind of nut, a recent report says 65 percent of pet owners post news of their pets twice a week. Where do they post? On pet social networks, of course. If you search on the phrase “How to Make Your Pet a Star in Social Media,” you’ll get lots of advice. ABC […]

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