GETTING A HUMAN

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. Blah! Blah, Blah, Blah. If you say this when you call tech support, you could be practicing a George Gershwin song. But in fact, you want to talk to a person. We got this tip from a savvy reader who told us that if you just keep saying “Blah” when the robot comes on the line and asks you what you want, you’ll eventually get a person. The robot’s initial response will be “I didn’t understand. Would you please repeat it?” Go ahead. Give it more Blah. If you keep at it – not for long – the robot will say “Let me get you someone to help you.” Hallelujah! That’s why you called in the […]

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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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ROBOT VACUUM

Our oddest Christmas present this year is a robot vacuum, given to us by a young relative. Bob was hugely skeptical at first but he has to admit: “It works, but it doesn’t hold much.” Go to YouTube.com to find reviews for dozens of these, from Roomba on down. Ours, the “LeFant 300m,” costs $140 on Amazon. Roomba ranges from about $200 to over a thousand. We have hardwood floors, four small mats in the kitchen, and a large Home Depot rug in the living room. It seems complicated, yet the robot vacuum handled them all, traveling from room to room in our small apartment. We charged it by plugging it into the wall. We dumped the debris by using […]

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EASY ON THE EYES

“Dark Mode” is all the rage on smartphones. It gives you a black background with white text and is easier on the eyes. You can get it on your Windows or Apple computer too, with these tricks. On Windows, hold down the Windows key, (looks like a flag), and tap the plus sign to bring up the Magnifier. Now hold down the “Ctrl” key and the “Alt” key at the same time and tap  the letter “i” for invert. Now every bit of text you see anywhere – in Microsoft Word, other programs or on the web – will have a black background. Unfortunately, pictures will have inverted colors too, looking like negatives. To see them normally,  toggle back by […]

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FAKE REVIEWS

Fake reviews are like fake news. Easy to generate, difficult to believe. There are Facebook groups offering you money to write a five-star review. A reporter from the website TheHustle.co wrote about a Chinese merchant who offered him $10 to to write a favorable review of an iPhone charger. It already had 3971 five-star reviews and was labeled “Amazon’s Choice.” “Isn’t this illegal?” he asked. “No, You will love,” was the reply. The problem got worse in 2015 when Amazon started wooing Chinese sellers. The number of products sold went up by a third and hundreds of thousands of new sellers appeared. Based in manufacturing hubs like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they ship directly to Amazon’s warehouses. Steve Lee, Los Angeles-based […]

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TIME-LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Remember those time-lapse documentaries that showed a seed sprouting, pushing up through the ground and blossoming with leaves and sometimes flowers? You can do that. Our Google Pixel smartphones have time-lapse photography built in, and so do newer Samsung, HTC, LG and iPhones. We did it in four taps. If your phone doesn’t have time-lapse photography, try “Lapse-it,” free from Lapseit.com. A pro version lets you capture video in higher resolution, and adds special effects and other features. You can see lots of examples of time-lapse photography on YouTube. Go to YouTube.com and search on “time lapse.” We saw flowers unfolding, roots shooting out, stars flashing by and clouds moving quickly across the sky. Some of the best were from […]

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A READER TAKES A STAND

 A reader writes in to share his regret over buying a Windows 10 computer. “Here’s my issue,” he says. “I have never been a big fan of Microsoft and was a Mac-aholic until Mac OS 10.4.1 when the Mac OS was no longer backwards compatible.” It would have cost him more to make his documents and applications compatible than to become a Windows user.  It was hard-slogging at first. Then, he writes, “when Microsoft finally arrived at Win 7, it produced an OS that was reasonably stable and NOT buggier than a wino’s beard… hooray!” Then came Windows 10. “I despise Win 10 and all the hoops (and $$$) I’m gonna have ta go through to get this machine integrated […]

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A PHONE FOR BOB

Joy bought Bob a new cell phone for his birthday. Actually, it was his first. It was a Motorola Moto G7 that cost $249. It was beautiful. It was wider than other cell phones, took a while to get charged up, and was slow to process information. In short, Bob thought it was just like his own personality. However, Joy didn’t like it. Why didn’t she like it? Because she has a Google Pixel 2 and she saw on the web that you can get a Pixel 3a for $399. It could take a seven hour charge in 15 minutes, it was lightning fast, it could take pictures in the dark, and it cost only $150 more than the Motorola. […]

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SOFT IN THE HEAD

We’ve never written about headphones before because we were never impressed before. And that’s because every time a new set came out, bingo, every writer in America was immediately notified. But “SleepPhones,” $40 from Acoustic Sheep, (see them leaping the fence?), answers something we’ve all wondered about. How do we learn Zulu in our sleep? Acoustic Sheep makes a cloth headband with tiny equipment inside. Wear them to bed; they’re as comfy as any soft headband. Though designed for listening to music, Nature sounds or audio books as you fall off to sleep, Joy likes it for yoga. To avoid waking Bob, Joy sometimes puts it on her head in the middle of the night, whenever she has excess energy. […]

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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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