SHINY CHROME

Our four year-old Chromebook  started freezing on us. So we shelled out for a new one. A Chromebook is a laptop using Google’s operating system. The best thing about them is their ability to fix themselves when you reboot, so they don’t slow down over time. The freezing we experienced on the Acer 14 was the first problem we’d had in four years. The old Chromebook, an Acer 14, cost $274. The new one, the Pixelbook Go from Google, costs $649. Before taking the plunge, we asked: “What do you get for an extra $375?” Number one is reliability: Our Acer should have lasted longer than four years. It was Joy’s favorite machine until it started freezing on her, just […]

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THE BEST WEBCAM

What with everybody staying home, so-called virtual meetings with Zoom are taking the lead. Some computers and all laptops come with a built in camera and microphone. If you don’t have one, there are plenty for sale for around $50. Office Depot was out of almost everything but the thousand dollar models when we looked. Amazon didn’t have many either, but there we found a $240 webcam from Logitech, the C615 HD, which came out four years ago. (We were ripped off, we could have gotten it for less than half that.) The quality is great however, and we get a much wider view than we do on our laptop. We can even see Harv and Marv, Joy’s two stuffed […]

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MOVE THOSE PHOTOS

We have several friends who bought new iPads when they ran out of storage space for their photos. That gets expensive. Savvy readers will shake their heads. Why not use the cable that came with the iPad? All you have to do is plug it into the computer to transfer files using iTunes. For more info, search on the phrase “Use iTunes to transfer files between iPad  and Windows (or Mac).” If you don’t have enough space left on your computer, you can buy external hard drives dirt cheap.  A reader asked if photo sticks would be easier to use. Some claim to instantly remove your photos from one device onto the stick. Then when you put the stick in […]

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ZOOMING IN

Joy’s women’s club went virtual, starting with a group video chat on Facebook. It was great.  Joy felt none of the shyness she often feels at ordinary women’s club parties. She could be blunt, telling the group to stop focusing on technical aspects of the conversation. “Let’s just have fun,” she said and so they did. But sometimes the sound quality was poor, causing the group to say they’d switch to Zoom software next time. Zoom is hot right now. It’s designed for video get-togethers and works beautifully. It uses the computer’s built-in camera and microphone, or you can use a tablet or smartphone.  When you use Zoom on your phone, computer or tablet, you see the face of the […]

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CASTING CALL

A reader sent us a link to “24 hidden Android features” from PopularScience.com. Here are a few. They apply to Android 8 and up. Get Shortcuts. When you swipe down from the top of your screen, you see icons for stuff like “Do Not Disturb,” “Bluetooth,” and “Mobile Data.” Swipe down again to expand the list. If you tap the icon for a pen in the lower left, then swipe up, you’ll see a list of other shortcuts to add. For example, “Screen Cast,” makes it easy to cast whatever you’re looking at on your phone to your TV screen. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to cast from select websites where you see the casting icon. This lets you cast […]

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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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