REPLACING THE BACKGROUND

Normally, we use the editing tools at Photos.Google.com to crop or enhance our pictures. But recently we discovered PicsArt.com for free special effects and templates. You don’t have to create an account to use the site, and you might not want to. We saw several complaints at commonsensemedia.org. Some users said that after using the link at PicsArt to share their creations, they were bombarded with pornographic images from other members. One user complained of signing up for a “free trial” for certain templates which turned into a $48 charge on their credit card. We tried signing up at the site but none of that happened to us. The PicsArt app has 130 million active users, according to Wikipedia. We […]

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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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GETTING A HUMAN

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. Blah! Blah, Blah, Blah. If you say this when you call tech support, you could be practicing a George Gershwin song. But in fact, you want to talk to a person. We got this tip from a savvy reader who told us that if you just keep saying “Blah” when the robot comes on the line and asks you what you want, you’ll eventually get a person. The robot’s initial response will be “I didn’t understand. Would you please repeat it?” Go ahead. Give it more Blah. If you keep at it – not for long – the robot will say “Let me get you someone to help you.” Hallelujah! That’s why you called in the […]

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GOING POSTAL

A reader wrote to say that he believed “the whole purpose of computers is to drive us insane.” We don’t know how he discovered our secret. We confess. The source of his revelation was Barnes & Noble. He ordered an e-book called “Murder of a Post Office Manager.” He admitted that as a former postal worker, he had often thought about this possibility. “When I downloaded the e-book, all I got was one page instead of 313, and it appeared to be the cover of a Korean comic book,” he wrote. Ah ha! He obviously didn’t realize that the comic book was about killing postal managers. Of course it was in Korean, and no one could understand a word of […]

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PICKING UP A TABLET

We bought the newest iPad model because we couldn’t stand getting iPad or iPhone questions from readers without being able to try out the solutions ourselves. We’re happy with the current model but a newer version is coming out sometime this year. The next iPad is rumored to have an anti-reflective coating on the surface. That’s what’s used in telescopes and microscopes. It improves the contrast of the image by eliminating stray light. A triple-rear camera is also expected, for extra wide photos and videos like the iPhone 11 Pro can take. But we’re happy with the current model. It sells for $249 at Amazon, down from $329 at Apple.  What we like best about our iPad is the sound […]

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THE RULES OF THE GAME

Joy would like to contradict Bob’s complaint about updates. He recently advised not doing them, even on an iPhone, because of all the problems they cause. Joy always does updates for security reasons and because some apps require them. A reader wrote us with these words of wisdom: “My son who is chief programmer and bottle washer in his game company says there are two mandatory rules about updating software: 1.NEVER update software. 2. Be sure your software is always up-to-date.”Bob has an additional rule: No matter what you get, you have to get something else to make it work. Update on Updates “Don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out,” is a variation on […]

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ROBOT VACUUM

Our oddest Christmas present this year is a robot vacuum, given to us by a young relative. Bob was hugely skeptical at first but he has to admit: “It works, but it doesn’t hold much.” Go to YouTube.com to find reviews for dozens of these, from Roomba on down. Ours, the “LeFant 300m,” costs $140 on Amazon. Roomba ranges from about $200 to over a thousand. We have hardwood floors, four small mats in the kitchen, and a large Home Depot rug in the living room. It seems complicated, yet the robot vacuum handled them all, traveling from room to room in our small apartment. We charged it by plugging it into the wall. We dumped the debris by using […]

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SEEING ALL

Every time Joy tests a product on Bob’s computer, something goes out of whack. Recently, she used Windows “recovery options” to restore it. Uh oh. Suddenly, the bookmarks bar in Chrome was too tiny to read. Initially, Bob tried to enlarge it, simply by holding down the “Ctrl” key and pressing the plus sign. This did not work. Everything got bigger except the bookmarks bar. Then he figured out the fix. First, right-click the main screen. Choose “display settings.” In the search bar, type “font.” When it comes up, select “make text bigger.” From there, you can drag a slider to increase the size of most text. You can also select “make everything bigger.” We chose 150 percent bigger. When […]

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IF IT MOVES, SHOOT IT

Time to stop worrying and line up your gun sights. Video games are not making us more violent. In Victorian times, people feared the effect of novels on the young. John Locke worried about their eating too much fruit. Then in the 1950’s, rock ‘n roll was the boogie man. Now people fear video games. There’s still time to panic. Most video gamers are not children. The average age is around 30. As the Economist Magazine points out, “violent crime in America has fallen as games have become popular.” A study in Britain recently found that crimes committed by teenagers there are down a whopping 86 percent. This is even better news than you’d think. Bob predicted a decade ago […]

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PROTECTION

Malwarebytes.org is a great way to protect your computer or phone and it’s free. The download used to be the premium version which only worked for 14 days. To continue your freebie, you had to go into the settings of your account and turn off the premium version. This wasn’t obvious, so many people continued paying for years. We did. The difference between Malwarebytes Free and Malwarebytes Premium is this: the free version cleans up problems after they’ve occurred. The premium version gives you protection in advance. For safety’s sake, we decided on a lifetime subscription to the premium version. This is no longer available. Now the premium version costs $40 per year. Even with the best protection though, it’s […]

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