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 […]

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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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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 […]

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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 […]

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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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MOVE THOSE PHOTOS

We have several friends who bought new iPads when they ran out of storage space for their photos. That gets expensive. Savvy readers will shake their heads. Why not use the cable that came with the iPad? All you have to do is plug it into the computer to transfer files using iTunes. For more info, search on the phrase “Use iTunes to transfer files between iPad  and Windows (or Mac).” If you don’t have enough space left on your computer, you can buy external hard drives dirt cheap.  A reader asked if photo sticks would be easier to use. Some claim to instantly remove your photos from one device onto the stick. Then when you put the stick in […]

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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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