INTERNET BLUES

A reader wrote to say she can’t get fast Internet service from her Internet provider. They say it’s because she’s in a rural area, at the very edge of their coverage. “An update available on my iPhone 6s took a day and a half to download,” she says.  “The update on my watch took even longer.  My son got both done at his school in two hours!  It’s ironic that in order to pay the bill I have to mail it in.” If you’re in the same rocky boat, go to speedtest.net to verify how fast your Internet connection is. (Just click “go” and they do the rest.)  Our connection is pretty fast, with a download speed of 20 and […]

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SOMETHING NEW IN GMAIL

Joy’s favorite part of Gmail is the “Undo” button, which allows you to call back an email that on second thought, you shouldn’t have sent. You can set it to hesitate for as long as 30 seconds, which allows for short naps. Now this second-thought-er is available in the free Gmail app for Android and iPhone. To try out the “undo” feature of the Gmail app on your phone, compose a message as you normally would. After you send it, look at the bottom of your screen. Tap “undo.” There’s also a new Gmail look available for your computer. If you’re a Gmail user this new version should pop up as a choice, meaning it will show you what’s new […]

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FINDING FREE ONLINE GAMES

We got a guide from Play-Free-Online-Games.com. The exact page is impossible to find in a search, so we’re giving you the gist of it here. Actually, these things are fun, and you can’t beat the price. Shooter Games. If you like to fly through space, try “Battleship Galactica” or “Ace Online.” If you prefer to fight on the ground and like monsters and werewolves, try “Wolf Team.” If you prefer mummies, try “Mission Against Terror.” If you would rather fight the military, and like World War II vintage tanks, try “World of Tanks.” If you prefer a deadly cartoon soldier, try “Lost Saga.” Role-Playing Games. If you like fantasy, join ten million others in “World of Warcraft.” If you’ve been […]

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CUTTING THE CABLE, REVISITED

We asked AT&T how much it would cost to drop our TV service and just keep the Internet. They immediately offered to drop the monthly charge to $120 from $160. That’s better, we thought, but hardly the best. “Philo TV” has over 45 channels for $16 a month. These include A&E, Discovery, AMC, BBC America, Food Network, History, Travel, Lifetime, Food Network and Nickelodeon.  You can watch them on your computer or your phone. Or, if you want to watch on a regular TV, you can plug in a Roku stick or player, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire stick. Roku and Amazon Fire are fairly cheap, $28 for Roku Express and $40 for the Fire stick. Though Philo doesn’t […]

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FREE AUDIO BOOKS

And now some good news. Several years ago, we criticized the book choices available for download from public libraries. The result was a spontaneous demonstration by angry librarians. (The whole idea of an angry librarian was beyond our ken.) “It’s not our fault,” they yelled in unison, “it’s the publishers!” Those publishers …. Really. Well, times have changed, and now you can get thousands, maybe millions of free titles. The lode is so rich, we’ll probably let our “Audible” audio book subscription expire, much as we have enjoyed it.  Instead of paying $15 a month, or $100 for 12 books at a time, we’re exploring the free world, so to speak. We’re expecting an angry demonstration from publishers any moment […]

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THE BIG DISCOUNT

So we went to the drugstore to pick up Bob’s post heart-attack prescriptions and the pharmacy clerk said she looked around and knocked $135 off the price. That cut the bill in half. She should go on our Christmas list. What she did was look at our prescription list and then went to her phone to check that against an app called “Good RX.” This must be pretty new stuff because we just heard of it last week. We heard of it but we’re not as sharp as the gal at the pharmacy and we didn’t install it on our phone. We thought: come on, how much could this save you? Good RX gives you coupons for lots of pharmacies, […]

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EAVESDROPPING WITH ALEXA

Twenty-two million Americans now have what’s called a “smart speaker,” a gadget that sits on a table or shelf and responds to commands. The numbers have doubled in the past year. This is without doubt the hottest product out there and we expect the numbers to jump sharply again this year. The market leader, with about 72 percent, is the Amazon Echo; Google has about 18% and the rest is “other,” which includes Apple’s “HomePod,” and Sonos’ “Sonos One.” Now the Amazon Echo not only listens to you, it can listen for you. In short, it can be an intercom. If someone turns on its “voice calling and messaging” feature, you can either call them or listen in. There have […]

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WHO’S THAT DOWN THERE?

This is one of the weirdest cases we’ve ever heard of from a reader. A woman wrote to say that anyone replying to her emails was redirected to a hacker. We tried writing her back, and sure enough, we saw her email address change before our eyes. An extra letter was automatically inserted. We didn’t put it there, we just hit “reply.” Off it went to the hacker. The next time, we hit “reply” we carefully erased the “send” address and put in the one without the extra letter. This was beyond annoying for the reader. Friends thought she was getting their email but those messages all went to the hacker instead. She first tried getting help from “Geek Squad” […]

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HERE THERE BE TYGERS AND ALL MANNER OF STRANGE BEASTS

One of our frequent correspondents had a near miss. That’s a near miss from disaster when he got a phone call telling him his PayPal account had been compromised and he owed $340. The caller said they could fix the problem for $299 but they needed to take control of his computer. They said they needed his bank account number too, so he gave it to them. There was a lot of background chatter on the caller’s end of the line. The red flags went up, the rockets exploded and the bells started ringing. He turned off his computer, told the caller he just had a power outage, hung up and moved everything from his checking account to his savings […]

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DEVELOPING A TWITCH

An old friend in the computer gaming business called to pitch a new product. The product was interesting though not yet ready for prime time. But his call opened a window we hadn’t looked through in many years. We hardly ever mention computer games anymore, because it has become a specialty in its own right and is too narrow for this column. And yet, they’re still out there. More than half a million people tune in daily to Twitch.TV, where they can watch other people play video games. Ten million have downloaded the app to watch Twitch on their phones. Sound pretty stupid? We tuned in (because we have to) and it was actually interesting. In fact it was more […]

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