PLENTY OF TIME TO PANIC

The HP desktop computer we bought on Amazon less than two months ago wouldn’t start. For a few hours, we panicked. The solution? Unplug the machine. Hold the power button until the little light on the back of the computer goes off. (That’s if it’s a desktop computer, the type sometimes called a tower.) This frees the computer from hibernation mode. Viola, as we say in fractured French! It’s fixed! For several hours before that, we thought we had a dead computer. HP’s troubleshooting site told us to hold down the power button, but we didn’t do it long enough the first time. (HP said nothing about making sure the light had gone off before we released the power button.) […]

Read more

WHAT’S THE CACHE?

There’s an old Hollywood joke about the devil going to visit a talent agent and telling him he can put together any movie he wants, with any actors he wants, and no budget limit and the only thing he has to provide in return is his immortal soul. The agent thinks about this for a minute and says: “What’s the catch?” So our Gmail slowed to a crawl, and for a few seconds we couldn’t figure out why. But a Google search came back with the answer: It’s the cache, stupid. Well all right they didn’t say stupid; we filled that in ourselves. All the images that come up when you browse the web are “cached,” sort of the internet’s […]

Read more

DOUBLING UP

Over the holidays we visited with an Italian who sells automated chicken coops. It’s an odd business but somebody has to do it. But what we thought was really odd was in the basement of his home in suburban Chicago, he had six terabyte disk drives linked together in what the techies call a daisy chain. That means they can all act as one continuous drive as the contents are fed along the pipeline. He uses them to store information for his business, and, oh yeah, movies. Terabyte drives have become common now; most new computers come with disk drives of one or two of these monster storage capacities. How monster are they? Well, a terabyte is a thousand gigabytes. […]

Read more

TRUTH FINDER

We now know people who are married, or about to be, to mates they met online; it’s becoming normal. But if any of these meets make you nervous, you can make preliminary checks. A friend of ours turned down a match from an online dating service because the guy had “too many relationships.” Truthfinder.com told her. The scope of the information was amazing. TruthFinder not only knew how many online relationships the guy had, but how many business filings he’d made with the government (they were for McDonald’s franchises), what his house was worth, how much he paid for his mortgage, and so on. The service, which charges $28 for a one-time search, or $23 if you go monthly, also […]

Read more

SOLVABLE SOLITAIRE

What is the most popular Windows program ever made? It’s not Microsoft Office or Word, it’s Solitaire. Practically everyone we’ve ever known plays it. It’s one of those “win some, lose some” kind of games. Or is it? If you try Solitaire in Windows 10 they have an option: They have “solvable solitaire” options starting at “easy” and going up to tournament levels. Bob’s an ace at Solitaire, But Joy usually loses. So she tried the solvable “medium” level and won her first three games! Ha, ha, victory! To find the solvable games option, you can either type “solitaire” in the search box in the lower left of your screen, or click the start button and scroll down until you […]

Read more

SELECTING YOUR NEXT COMPUTER

This is the time of year when we get our most frequent reader question: What computer should I buy? It’s also the easiest question we ever get: Whatever you buy, you’ll almost certainly love it. The questioner usually wants a laptop; in fact it’s almost always a laptop. It’s a good choice for most people. Bob dislikes them intensely because of the crowded keyboard and small screen. Joy likes them because they’re portable. So, okay, one of the factors to consider in making your choice is weight; not your weight, its weight. As we used to say in the newsroom: keep it light and tight, and sometimes also trite. So this gets us down to choices right away. Are you […]

Read more

GIVING WINDOWS ONE MORE TRY

A reader said he missed the free period for getting Windows 10. No he didn’t. If you want it, you can still get it for free until December 31. Here’s how: Search the web on the phrase “Customers who need assistive technologies can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost”  or click here. You may feel guilty for getting a free upgrade if you don’t use “assistive technologies.” But it says right there on the website that such technologies include text enlargement. Heck, we already do that by holding down the “Ctrl” and “plus” keys. The upgrade is not required, by the way. Out in farm country they used to say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and maybe […]

Read more

ANTI-VIRUS REVISITED

We bow to the mounting evidence and can no longer recommend the free anti-virus program: “Avast.” Too many complaints. And yet, cyber attacks as they’re called, are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. Choosing an alternative is tricky. For years, PC World, PC Magazine and other reviewers gave their highest marks to the Russian-owned Kaspersky anti-virus. Then came the accusation that Russian hackers may be using it to conduct espionage against the U.S.; some readers dropped it like a hot potato. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security ordered federal agencies to remove it from their systems. Avast is based in the Czech Republic, and there’s been some strange behavior recently.  One of our readers said the people who answer the […]

Read more

A BIT OF BITCOIN

Ever adventurous, Joy decided the only way to really get an idea of what Bitcoin was about, was to buy some. So she bought a bit. At $4,000-plus per coin, she only bought a little bit of a Bitcoin. She bought $75 worth, which was a little less than two percent. With that little bit she bought a sweater from Overstock.com. It was $19.74. That left $54 worth of Bitcoin. She can go wild later. So what is this all about? James Dimon, head of J.P. Morgan and Co., the largest bank in the U.S., says “It’s a fraud, a scam.” Well, Mr. Dimon is always worth listening to, but in this situation, he may be talking his book (his […]

Read more

GMAIL TIPS

Gmail is the most common email service on the planet. We thought we were experts, but a PC Magazine article alerted us to a few features we either forgot or missed in the general flotsam of digital overload. You can send money to a Gmail recipient, and also request it, similar to PayPal. Just before you hit “send,” look for the dollar sign along the bottom of the email window. They’ll ask for your credit card number if it isn’t already associated with your account. The maximum amount you can transfer is $9,999. Alternatively, there’s an app for that, called “Google Wallet.” Our favorite Gmail feature is “undo send.” If you see an error in your message, and we frequently […]

Read more