SMARTPHONE PLANS FOR THE FRUGAL

My frugal sister will get her first smartphone when her flip phone runs out of minutes, 45 minutes from now.  That may take a while. She doesn’t make many calls on it. In the meantime, her friends keep saying: “What?” The sound quality is dreadful. I suggested the Pixel 4a for $349 with “Google Fi” cell service for $20 a month for unlimited talk and text, not counting whatever data you use. But a friend’s deal may be better. She went with Consumer Cellular’s iPhone SE for $250. Consumer Cellular is known for their friendly tech support, especially for seniors. The monthly cost is lower than Google’s “Fi” service if you use more than 500 megabytes worth of data per […]

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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 […]

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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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YOUR STUFF ON FACEBOOK

Did you ever want to see everything you ever posted on Facebook? You can download all that stuff and it comes in as folders. Double-click and they open up. A surprising bonus is the photos you posted and have long forgotten, are all still there. Go to www.facebook.com/Settings. They’re you’ll see a message which reads: “To download your information, go to “Your Facebook Information.” Click on those words to go there, then click “view” next to the word “download your information.” From there you can either download everything or uncheck the boxes next to stuff you don’t care about. We chose “download all,” and were pleasantly surprised at how organized it was. We first clicked the “Comment” folder and saw […]

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ONE MINUTE ON THE INTERNET

From The Guardian, a British newspaper, we learn that one minute on the Internet looks like this: 156 million emails, 29 million text messages. Wait, we’re still not through. One point five million Spotify songs, four million Google searches, two million minutes of Skype calls, 350,000 tweets, 243,000 photos posted on Facebook, 87,000 hours of Netflix, 65,000 pictures put on Instagram, 25,000 posts on Tumblr, 18,000 matches on Tinder, and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. If you take just the online video watched on websites, YouTube, Netflix and webcams, you have 77% of the world’s internet traffic. Whew! The Readers Bite Back We recently wrote that there’s no reason to have a terabyte drive if you don’t have […]

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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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A TRAVELING MAN

A reader wrote to tell us about “Mobile Passport,” a free app which lets him breeze past the long lines at the airport after an overseas journey. Here’s how it goes: “So I was blindsided on a recent overseas trip when my daughter told me about this app.  By filling out some basic info and submitting it electronically when you arrive stateside, you skip right past the long line at immigration, to go to a line of one person (in our case) who was enlightened like we were.  It took us about one minute. This will certainly change when others learn about Mobile Passport so don’t tell anyone.  But for now, wow!” Okay, so we’re telling someone; what can we […]

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FUN WITH WEBSITE NAMES

We learned some interesting things about websites. For example, the minimum length for a website ending, which refers to the site’s “domain,” is two letters. There are more than one billion web sites and every possible letter combination has been taken. We went to GoDaddy.com to verify this and searched on tv.tv. Sure enough, it’s taken, though apparently it isn’t being used. (If you go to tv.tv, it just hangs there. It’s sort of a no-show show.) The domain name “tv” is for the Pacific island country of Tuvalu. Domain name sales are big business. HomeAway.com bought VacationRentals.com for $35 million back in 2009.  You can buy the website name “TV.xyz” for $3,250. “TV.lgbt” is $4000. We know a few […]

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THE REAL MCCOY

We have a reader named McCoy, and he maintains that he is “The Real McCoy” (accept no substitutes). Well, we believe him and he has some good tips, which we will pass along a little further down the way. This goes back to a topic we wrote about a couple weeks ago. But it’s an important topic, and becoming more immediate as the world goes increasingly gonzo about these new digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo. We are going gaga along with everybody else and of course — as usual — the situation will grow increasingly worse as other manufacturers join the fray. Our Internet signal is strong in our office but not so good just 40 feet […]

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THE RIGHT BROWSER

Which is the safest way to browse the web: Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox? According to the blog “How to Geek,” Edge has a slight edge. Many say Firefox has the last word on privacy and we find that’s it pretty private. In 2015, Firefox instituted “tracking protection.” It removes all tracking elements from pages you visited using the “private browsing” feature. To use private browsing in Firefox, hold down the “Cntrl” (or “Cmd” on the Mac) and the “Shift” key. Then tap the “P” (for private) key. It was news to us that advertisers and websites can track you in Google or Microsoft’s browsers even if you use the “incognito” or “InPrivate” modes. All those modes do […]

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