THEIR ART ON YOUR TV

We downloaded our favorite paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, which just made over 52,000 works from its collection available in high resolution. Then we put them on our TV and cycled through some favorites, like Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte,” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” You can download what you like to your phone and then make a nice background show on your TV. To do this, we first tried the slideshow option on our seven-year-old Sony, but the images looked faded. We could have burned them to a DVD and used that to improve the colors but turned instead to try Roku and Chromecast. We have the cheap version of Roku, […]

Read more

LET THE ROBOT TAKE IT

“Robo calls” are getting worse. Adrian Abramovich, of Miami, has been accused of making 97 million spam calls and is facing a $120 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission. There’s a call-screening feature in the new Pixel 3 phone from Google, and it’s a sure bet you will soon see it in other makes. When your phone rings, you’ll see a “screen call” option. Tap it and a recorded voice in the Pixel phone asks the caller to state their name and the nature of the call. The caller might say something like “You have won a free cruise.” (We win an amazing number of those, which is unfortunate because Bob doesn’t like cruises.) At this point, you can […]

Read more

BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

A reader innocently called a tech support phone number he saw on the Brother Printers website. It turned out to be a scam. Unlike “click bait,” which leads you to fake news stories or other web sites, this one goes after your wallet. When our reader called the supposed tech support number, he was told they needed to take control of his Macbook Pro to fix a major problem. They said he had a lot of “stuck” and “sleeping” files (whatever those are), and added he needed to pay $299 a year for a firewall. Fortunately, he said “no.” He added: “They told me there was no way that I would get the printer to work without their firewall!”  But […]

Read more

HEY BOO BOO

We’re going to talk some more about the digital assistants put out by Amazon and Google. Those would be the Amazon “Echo” and Google “Home.” They are small, relatively cheap (from $50 to $129), and they answer questions and do requests. This is the future. Essentially what we have are two devices that listen to what you have to say — with sometimes less accuracy than you would expect — and then respond. They can play music, occasionally with nonsensical results, and respond to more direct questions, such as “how many calories are there in an apple?” This is all new stuff, the edge of wedge if you will. It’s potentially an encyclopedia on your end table, along with lectures, […]

Read more

I DREAM OF GENIE IN A HOCKEY PUCK

Topics: The Amazon Echo Dot, Internuts (a crazily lazy brass band, a girl who speaks 20 languages, Roald Dahl quotes), and how to make your web searches private.

Read more

MAKING MUSIC

Topics: Free music app, refurbished computers, geography game, Netflix Releases,security for Android phones, Dropbox tip.

Read more

SKIP THE IPHONE

We tried an experiment. We went out to the drugstore and bought a $40 cell phone. It wasn’t the cheapest one; we could have bought one for $13, but Bob noticed it was a so-called clam-shell or flip phone and you can’t load apps onto those. The impetus for this experiment was our 97 year-old friend Ida. She said she may have to give up driving one day and switch to using one of the ride services, like Uber or Lyft. So then, she would have to get an iPhone so she could call a cab. Uh-uh, we said. You do need a smartphone or a computer to call one of those ride services but you don’t have to spend […]

Read more

WATCHING TV SPORTS ANYWHERE

When our friend from Wisconsin (No, his name is not Yon Yonson) is in our neck-of-the-woods, he wants to watch the Green Bay Packer games on his phone. Can he do it? One way is to use “Watch ESPN,” a free app for Android, iPhone and iPad. We tried out the ESPN app on our phone to watch football in a doctor’s waiting room and it worked fine. But the catch is, you must verify that you have a subscription to cable TV. Our friend Lee does not have a cable TV subscription. Instead, he has a lifetime subscription to the TiVo service. TiVo users can stream programs to their TV at home or to their phone or tablet. But […]

Read more

DROPPING CABLE

We’re going into this again because it seems that all the world wants to get rid of their cable service. Another reader writes to say that he wants to drop Comcast, and short of taking to the streets with flaming torches, he can’t seem to shake them. All he cares about is local channels and HBO.

Read more

HOW’S THAT AGAIN? GETTING A TRANSLATION OFFLINE

  “Google Translate” is a free app for Android and iPhones, that can now translate 52 languages, whether you are online or off. For example: We tapped the microphone icon, then tapped “Spanish,” and said “Where is the bus station?” A voice from the phone then immediately said “Donde esta la estacio del bus?” If the person you directed this to, spoke the answer into the phone’s microphone, the phone would translate their answer into English. Joy tried Indonesian because she’s reading “Tales of a Female Nomad,” and the nomad spent most of her time there. The app solves the worst problem with the old method of using foreign language phrase books: There’s usually little trouble in speaking the phrase […]

Read more