HACKED!

A reader writes: “I was hacked by someone claiming to be AVG (the antivirus people). I had to close 20-25 accounts. My bank said I was the third person to come in that day.” The state attorney general’s office told him to close all bank and payroll accounts. They’d seen the fake AVG ruse many times before. Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” took a virus off his computer and put new antivirus software in. But it took 12 days before he got his computer back. He felt like writing the hackers to tell them to bug off. “I want a SAFE way to tell them I’m not using them ever but I’m horrified to contact them at all,” he said. “I […]

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FREE TV

“Locast” brings TV over the Internet. Locast is low-cost. How low? How about free?  The TV people, namely CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC, are upset and are suing. They want to keep collecting the fees they get from cable companies. This follows an old business practice: If things aren’t going your way, sue somebody. It reassures the shareholders that you’re on the job and who knows, it might even work. The fees collected by the big networks amounted to $10.1 billion last year.   Locast brings you TV through an internet connection. So far, it’s available in 13 markets, such as Boston, Chicago and New York,  but it will be coming your way. It worked great on our TV, and we […]

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GETTING IN THE CAR WITH ALEXA

We thought it would be fun to have Alexa, the voice coming out of Amazon’s smart speaker, in our car. We have a 20 year-old car but bought an “Auto Echo.” Turns out our car can handle it. All we needed was the Nulaxy “Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter Audio Adapter” for $17 from Amazon. We plugged it into what us old-timers call the cigarette lighter, and then plugged our new Auto Echo into the adapter. If you have a newer car, skip the adapter. Plug in the Auto Echo with the included micro-USB cable and power adapter. Enable Bluetooth on your phone, and then turn on the ignition. For us, Alexa’s voice came on immediately. After a few taps on […]

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BYE BYE ROBOCALLS

A reader showed us a simple way to block robocalls. It’s built right into the phone.  “I am writing to you,” he says, “because I don’t understand why cell phone users don’t shut off robocalls. On an Android phone, just set it to ‘Do not Disturb.’ Then set it to accept calls from contacts only.” We knew about “Do Not Disturb” mode but didn’t know you could make an exception for contacts. That choice is right there when you tap “Settings,” “Sound,” and “Do Not Disturb.” On an iPhone, go to “Settings,”  “Do Not Disturb,” and tap “Allow Calls From.” From there, “All Contacts” is one of the choices.  The reader continues: “I did this a long time ago and […]

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HOW TO SPOT A SCAM

We got a doozy of a phone call the other day. The message said our account would be automatically debited $499 unless we called back to get the money refunded. So we did what we always do in such situations. We typed the phone number into a Google search. Sure enough, it was a scam. Interestingly when Joy bought Bob a new phone, the Pixel 3a, we got a spam call within ten minutes of activating the phone. So take note: They’re out there and they’re always gunning for you. Kid Version of Alexa Amazon’s smart speaker, the Echo and Echo Dot with Alexa inside, sometimes offers more information than kids can handle. Now there’s a “Kid’s Edition,” $70 from […]

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CONVERSATION VIEW

We finally turned off a feature in Gmail that’s been there since the beginning and has been driving us crazy. It’s called “Conversation View.” We didn’t know you could turn it off. In conversation view, new messages show up at the bottom of the thread. If you have a ton of them, you scroll forever. For example, Joy’s friend Mary Lynn Funk went back and forth in one conversation for six months, all with the same heading. Half the time, Joy would lose the thread, unable to find the latest email, as she scrolled past long emails from three months before. Now those emails have been automatically separated into 49 separate chunks. It’s much more manageable. To turn it off […]

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THE DROP SHIP HAS COME IN

People are making some pretty good money buying things on Amazon and selling them for more on eBay without ever touching the product. It’s called “drop shipping.” PlanetMoney did a wonderful podcast called “Cat Scam,” to explore this topic. Their lead example is the Ripple Rug, a cat toy made by SnugglyCat. People bought the rug for $40 from Amazon and re-sold it for $60, using Amazon Prime’s free shipping service. They never had to touch the product or do much work. But when customers saw the Amazon box, they looked it up and found out they’d overpaid for the rug. So they’d return it to Amazon. In two months, there were 200 returns. Bad news for SnugglyCat, the toy […]

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DRIVING AN OLD COMPUTER

We heard from several readers who were wondering if they should buy a Chromebook to replace their old Windows machine. A reader writes: “I saw an article that said, ‘Using a five-year-old computer is like driving a 1966 car on the interstate.” Her computer is four years old, and ran Windows 8 until she upgraded it to Windows 10. It came with four gigabytes of RAM, and her daughter added another four gigabytes.  But that “didn’t seem to make it any faster,” she said. Even after she switched to a fiber-optic internet provider, it was slow. We hear you. Even our super-fast Windows machine with an i7 processor and 12 gigabytes of RAM gets slow when the antivirus program is […]

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COPY THAT

A reader says he uses the free LibreOffice as a Microsoft Word equivalent, but wishes he had an “extended clipboard.” That’s a program that lets you keep copying items from the web or elsewhere without losing the first thing you copied. He writes: “If I can’t find some program or add-on that will let me send 10-20 items to a clipboard to then mass paste to a Word document or spreadsheet, looks like I will be forced to buy from Microsoft. Prior to Windows 10, I had been using Office XP Pro for many years on all my computers. Any suggestions?” We suggested “Comfort Clipboard,” free for 30 days and then a one-time charge of $20. The reader says: “I […]

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IS IT CHEAPER TO PRINT YOUR OWN PHOTOS?

Are you better off using an online photo service like Shutterfly or doing it at home? If you count the pennies, Shutterfly wins. Ink and paper in bulk cost around 12 cents per photo, the same as Shutterfly. But that’s not counting the cost of your printer, and the annoyance of paper jams and hassles. Possible further problem: the ink can dry up and clog the printer if you don’t use it much. We once lined up six printers that had clogged because of infrequent use. If you need a print immediately, places like Walgreens and CVS will let you pick up your photos a few hours after you order them. We use our printers, an Okidata laser and a […]

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