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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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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BIG BACKUP

We’ve been trying out Google’s free “Backup and Sync” app. That’s how we discovered its sister app, Google One.  Google One backs up the stuff on your phone that isn’t automatically saved to your account online. That’s handy when you switch phones, since you can get everything back.  Thanks to Google One, we found an audio clip we thought was long lost. It was Bob’s best recounting of the time he faced a firing squad off the coast of Morocco, when soldiers on a remote island mistook him for the enemy. Before being shot over a cliff, the color of his passport proved he was an American. True story. You can get Google One at the Google Play store or […]

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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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