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 […]

Read more

SLEEP TRACKER KEEPS ME UP ALL NIGHT

My first night with Amazon’s $65 “Halo” fitness band was hilarious. I kept waking up to see if I could improve my sleep score. I couldn’t stand to see a “poor” grade. I kept trying to go back to sleep until I got a “fair.” The next night, my sleep score went up to “good,” with eight hours and six minutes of sleep but slightly less rapid-eye-movement than ideal. It also told me how long I took to fall asleep. Last night, it was zero minutes, compared to 14 the night before. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. The funniest thing happened when I took a nap. The app changed my score to “poor” and […]

Read more

FREE CALLS AND TEXTS

If you’re on a limited calling plan, you don’t have to buy more minutes when you run out. A free app called “Signal Private Messenger” lets you call for free using a WiFi signal. It beats the heck out of WhatsApp and the other free WiFi calling apps I’ve tried. Using the Signal app, my voice calls are as clear as any on my landline or cell phone service, whether I’m talking or listening. Ironically, 60 of my friends are on WhatsApp, but until I sent invitations, none were on Signal. Yet in my experience, the sound quality in WhatsApp is lousy. When I tried it, the sound kept cutting out. In Signal, it’s great. Signal lets you make calls […]

Read more

LET’S COLLABORATE

I just started using Google Docs to collaborate. It’s fun. I enjoy collecting web links, poems and photos in a place where loved ones can view or add to them. That way, there’s no hunting for email attachments or cycling through photo galleries looking for stuff to see or share again. After someone shares an item, you can go to Drive.Google.com and click “Shared With Me” to see it. It will always be there to view or edit unless one of you deletes it. Another way to view your stuff is with the free app “Google Backup and Sync.” It adds a Google Drive shortcut to your computer. But if you use that program, be sure to select which folders […]

Read more

BYE BYE ROBOT VACUUM

When a young relative gave me a robot vacuum last Christmas, I got excited. Sure, it wasn’t a Roomba, only a $140 knock-off. But it jump-started my vacuum adventure. The “LeFant 300 M” robot did a great job, but I had to babysit it. It would go back and forth, practically on the same path, on a faux Persian rug from Home Depot, though it did better on wall-to-wall carpet. After awhile, I got bored and left the room. That’s when disaster struck. It made a beeline for the strings that pull up the blinds. After having a good chew, it burned itself out. I could still start it up, but after a few seconds it would stop and bleat […]

Read more

A NEW SMART SPEAKER

After accidentally dumping a load of cinnamon on our Echo Dot, Alexa wouldn’t talk to us any more. No matter. We decided to get a better smart speaker: the Sonos One. The Sonos One (Gen 2), for $200, lets you talk to either Alexa or Google Assistant when you want music or answers to questions. The sound is great but it didn’t exactly blow us away. Unless we’re talking literally. Joy upped the volume on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” during the quiet part, then forgot about it. When we asked Alexa for the time the next morning, we were blasted out of bed. Before buying the Sonos One, we looked at comparisons between it, the Amazon Echo Studio  and […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more

THE WALKMAN LIVES

The first portable electronics gadget we ever had was a tape recorder, though we both remember the portable record player in a suitcase. Later, we both had Sony Walkmans. Did you know they’re still popular? Over 400 million Walkmans as of 2014– mainly used for listening to music on the fly — have been sold, according to TheVerge.com. In the 41 years since the first one, they’ve gone from cassette players to CD to Mini-Disc to MP3 to streaming music. Recently, we wondered why people still buy Walkmans, instead of listening to music on their phones. A reader told us the Walkman is superior. For one thing, you can store music in the “wav” file format, which takes up more […]

Read more

JUST GOOGLE IT

More often than not, the best way to solve a problem is to Google it in the same words you would use when describing the issue to your techiest friend. Recently we were trying to digitize our CDs so we could play them on our computer, but Windows Media Player couldn’t identify any of the tracks. We were stuck with “Unknown Album” and “Track 1,” “Track 2,” etc.  Windows Media player is supposed to name your tracks automatically, but it didn’t. The Windows Troubleshooter popped up to tell us that our media player was corrupted but offered no solution. It dumped us out on a general Microsoft page where we could search vast reams of info from other users. So […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more