HELP!

“Ask My Buddy” is a free app for sending an alert to everyone you know, without reaching for your phone or computer. It works just by voice on a Windows 10 computer, a Google Home device or the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Plenty more like these are coming out soon. With Windows 10’s built-in voice recognition program, Cortana, you can say “Ask My Buddy to Alert Everyone” and everyone on your contact list will get an immediate phone call, text message and email. Or you can confine it to a single person. Cortana isn’t great unless you’ve trained it by using it a lot, but the Google and Amazon devices are quite good at recognition. For Windows, we found […]

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GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED

It seems like a lot of the people we meet want to be writers. And they have a great subject for a novel: it’s about them. A good start might be finding an agent. Nowadays, you can find them online. QueryTracker.net lists over 1500 literary agents, with brief information about each. It’s free to sign up, and the site can keep track of how many pitch letters you’ve sent, where they went and when. This could prevent some embarrassing moments, like sending the same letter to the same agent several times. Click on any agent’s name to find out the kinds of authors they represent. Some prefer pitch letters by email, others ask you to fill out a form online.  Click […]

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YOUR COMPUTER’S HEART BEEPS

Is your computer hyper tense? Does it suffer from anxiety, mood shifts, lethargy or even narcolepsy? You can get a free checkup at Belarc.com. Belarc Advisor tells you about your dear machine’s hardware, software, security settings, and whether or not you need updates. Our diagnosis: updates of six programs were deemed “critical.” But updating programs in intensive care is a hassle. Have you been to the Adobe site lately? It’s hard to find the update section. We had two copies of Adobe Flash, which is built into Chrome; we got rid of both. We also got rid of something called “Adobe Air.” Then there’s “Java.” Do we really need Java? We looked it up and the answer came back “No!” […]

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UNROLL ME

If your inbox is cluttered with junk mail, you can fix that.  Unroll.Me lets you unsubscribe from all those mailing lists you never knew you were on and have no idea how you got there. It rolls them up into one message, which still has links to all that stuff if you want it. Go to Unroll.me to start and sign up using your Google, Yahoo, Outlook, AOL or other account. When Joy did it, Unroll.Me found she had 242 subscriptions in her Gmail account and 76 in her AOL account! What? Who were these people and how did they get here? A mystery wrapped in an enigma, as Winston Churchill used to say. They all appeared on a list, […]

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THE RIGHT LIGHT FOR NIGHT

The latest version of Windows 10 has a “Night Light” feature. It allows you to adjust the screen color from the regular bright white on a sliding scale from a light tan to orange. It’s free and you can get it if you search for “Windows 10 Creators Update.” Heaven only knows we need it. At least Bob needs it. He uses a tiny program called “Pango Bright,” from Pangolin Laser Systems that allows the user to scale down the screen brightness from 100 percent to 20 percent. Dealing with the fully bright screen is especially annoying at night or in darkened rooms. We owe this to Steve Jobs, who was the first to give us the bright white screen […]

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FINDING FREE MOVIELAND

A reader asks: “Where are the Amazon Prime movies?”  You’d think Amazon would have a category called “Prime Movies” on their website, but no, too simple.. So how do you find them? Prime Movies are freebies for those who have paid for Prime membership. To find, type “prime movies” in the search box at the top of the page at Amazon.com. About 135,000 come up. Don’t have time to go through those? Best narrow the search. There are categories off to the left. In what may be the worst designed web page in the known universe, some of those categories don’t make sense, like “used.” (It’s a download, dummy.) Also ignore the price listings; what part of freebie do they […]

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GOOGLE TAKES “ACTIONS”

When extra features are added to cell phones or the Internet, they’re called “apps” — short for “applications.” Maps and games are examples. When features are added to the new fast-growing digital assistants like Amazon Echo, they’re called “skills;” but when added to Google Home, they’re called “actions.” Why the difference? We don’t know, and we didn’t make this stuff up. You have to realize that dozens of meetings, attended by high-powered executives, are required to make such decisions. We weren’t invited. Well these gizmos are the fastest growing products on the planet, just ahead of organic carrot juice. And so we looked at what “actions” Google can take. Users of either device most often ask for weather or music. […]

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RANSOM!

A reader writes to tell us her Windows files have been hijacked. The hijacker is demanding money to release her photos and personal documents. Here’s what to do and how to prevent that. Restart the computer. Keep tapping the F8 key as you start up. A recovery option will come on the screen. This will take the machine back to a time before the hijack. (And to think that some people say time travel is impossible.) If for some reason this doesn’t work, there are lots more ways to do it in PC World’s article “How to Rescue Your PC from Ransomware.” It’s better to avoid being taken for one of those rides in the first place by getting free […]

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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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WORLD’S EASIEST TABLET

A reader asked us for our recommendation on the easiest tablet to use – the iPad, the Kindle Fire or something else? The easiest tablet is nearly always the one your friend has, because they’ll help you out. We always regretted getting an iPad for our aunt, because she never learned to use it. All her friends had computers, but they were thumb-dumb when it came to the iPad. If we’d thought of it, we would have told her to watch YouTube videos. There are good ones on every kind of tablet. So, go to YouTube.com and search on “how to use an iPad” or “how to use the Kindle Fire.” What could go wrong? Basically, all tablets are similar: […]

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