GOLD VERSUS BITCOIN

Bitcoin, the digital currency, has been going up like crazy. But is it a better store of value than gold? Last year, Bitcoin went from a little over $7,000 to over $26,000 per digital coin. On January 8, a single coin hit $40,675.80! I’ve had some experience with cryptocurrency. In 2017, I bought part of a Bitcoin at Coinbase.com, when it was valued at around $4,000. I bought a bit more when it rose to $15,000. What can I say, I’m a gambler. Unfortunately, I sold it after it crashed below $4000. Disaster! I admire those who “HODL” a Bitcoin acronym standing for “Hold On For Dear Life.” According to a deVere Group survey of their own clients, 67 percent […]

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KID PHONE

My neighbor’s ten year-old won’t get her first smartphone until high school. Unless her parents change their mind when they see my “Gabb Z2.” The Gabb, sent to me for review from GabbWireless.com, is designed to be non-addicting. Its basic functions are text messaging and phone calls. Or you can enjoy pictures, videos and music transferred from a computer. There’s no Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, web searching or games. The Gabb Z2 is an $80 ZTE Android phone with a $20-a-month unlimited talk and text plan. It has a few basic apps, like FM radio, but there’s no app store. A new “Find your phone” app for the parents’ phone allows the Gabb to be traced.  The Gabb’s battery is great. […]

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PORTABLE POWER STATION KEEPS DEVICES GOING

If you find yourself camping in the woods with all of your gadgets, consider a portable generator to keep everything charged. I’ve been testing the “PS500N,” $490 from iForway.com. It could power a 60-inch TV for three hours if you want to lug it along to the woods. The PS500N is about the size of a breadbox, weighs 13 pounds, and uses no gasoline. The user manual calls it a “Portable Solar Generator,” but there’s nothing solar about it, unless you add a portable solar panel, which iForway sells for $190. (A solar panel could be useful for topping up.) With just the generator, you could charge a phone 45 times, a camera 75 times, a tablet 12 times, and […]

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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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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 […]

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NOT READY TO CUT THE CORD? THEN AT LEAST PAY LESS

Every year I consider dropping cable TV. Then I call AT&T and they offer me a deal. Using an ace negotiating technique — I simply ask– I got the bill down from $165 to $90  before it rose again. The discount ends every year if I don’t call to renew it. So this time I told AT&T: “ I don’t need cable; I have Amazon Prime and Netflix.” (If I miss “60 Minutes,” I’ll put rabbit ears on the set.)  AT&T offered me Internet-only service for $40 a month with a 1024 gigabyte limit. Is 1024 gigabytes enough? Currently, I’m averaging only 50 GB a month. What if I become a movie maniac? That’s OK too. A high-definition movie uses […]

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NEW PHONE VERSUS OLD PHONE

The new Google Pixel 5, coming out in October, will have a new camera and a powerful processor. But if you’re like me, you don’t care about that. My lower-resolution camera takes more flattering pictures. As for processing speed, I never have umpteen apps going on at the same time anyway, so I don’t need that much power. Instead of spending $699 for the new Pixel 5, I’ll stick to my Pixel 2. (A used one can be had for about $120.) Pixel phones get the latest updates as soon as they’re available, unlike most Android phones. Here are some features I like: “Live Caption” allows you to see captions during phone calls. That way you can turn the volume […]

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ON THE CLOCK

TikTok is the hot application right now. It allows you to post 15-second videos or see what other people have posted. There’s soon to be a similar app for Instagram, called “Reels.” Both the free app and TikTok.com remind us of the show “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” When we tuned in, we saw the back half of a large car going down the highway. It was an illusion. Then we watched a girl vault a basketball over her head backwards. It knocked over a nearby jogger.  TikTok is more than just silly stuff. Our favorite podcast, PlanetMoney, (put out by National Public Radio),  is there along with many others. One of their videos describes the thuggishness of medieval knights. Another […]

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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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