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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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

The world has gone wild for virtual meetings and Zoom video conferencing is gaining competitors fast. The train is leaving the station. A new Zoom competitor, RingCentral, a leading business communications company, is coming out with a new version in April. Recently, we tried another Zoom alternative — the free UberConference.com, which has nothing to do with Uber, the ride-hailing company. Joy’s women’s club recently chose UberConference for their meetings for two reasons. First, participants don’t have to download anything. Second, some people are annoyed by Zoom’s privacy policy. Zoom collects your phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook profiles, info about your use of Zoom and the device and networks you’re using. They also get info from third parties who know […]

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THE TECH SUPPORT DUNGEONS

Calling for tech support is often the beginning of a descent into gloom and doom. Here’s an example from a recent reader letter. He says: “I have recently turned eighty, my hearing is not the best. My Norton antivirus coverage expired and I needed to renew it using a new email address.” The nightmare begins. The whole process took two hours. He was told to bring up a chat screen but the “send” button wasn’t showing so he couldn’t respond.  This happened over and over with different tech support people.   After calling Norton, he writes, “I couldn’t understand the heavy European accent of a woman with a little girl voice. Soft voice, low volume, my deficient hearing, etc. The whole […]

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IS IT ENOUGH?

A reader writes: “I switched from Norton AntiVirus to Kaspersky. Now, I’ve received a notice that I’ve exceeded the secure connection limits. I don’t even know what this means. Did I make a mistake switching? I paid $20 for it. Norton was $50.” We found out that the $20 is like a trial subscription for Kaspersky’s anti-virus, because it’s almost impossible to keep within the introductory “connection limits,” which only allow 200 megabytes worth of data per day. An upgrade costs $30 a year and covers five devices, with unlimited data. That’s still cheaper than Norton. After an introductory period, Norton costs $80 a year for one computer. Kaspersky gets excellent reviews but is based in Russia. Because of that […]

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DISCONNECTED

A reader said he bought his first smartphone ever for one reason: His flip phone will no longer work properly if the carrier drops support for 3G (third generation). This was news to us. Sprint already dropped its support in April in favor of 4G (fourth generation) and 5G (fifth generation). Verizon will no longer support 3G networks after December. AT&T will drop its support in February. T-Mobile is expected to drop support next year or the year after. If you buy a 3G phone from a company that has dropped its support, you can’t activate it. If you already have a 3G phone, it means no more updates. It also means dropped calls. That’s curtains for our old Jitterbug […]

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HOLDING ONTO AN OLD PHONE

If your iPhone is more than five years old, it’s no longer getting security updates. However, even older iPhones are less likely to be attacked than Android phones, according to Symantec Corp., for three reasons. First, Apple doesn’t release its source code to app developers. Second, owners of iPhones can’t modify the code on their phones. Third, there are more Android phones out there to hack: 52 percent of cell phones are Android phones, 47 percent are iPhones. If your Android phone is over three years old, it won’t get security patches, according to TomsGuide.com. To be safe, get the free app from MalwareBytes.org. By the way, those who use old-style flip phones instead of smart phones, such as Warren […]

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A PHONE FOR BOB

Joy bought Bob a new cell phone for his birthday. Actually, it was his first. It was a Motorola Moto G7 that cost $249. It was beautiful. It was wider than other cell phones, took a while to get charged up, and was slow to process information. In short, Bob thought it was just like his own personality. However, Joy didn’t like it. Why didn’t she like it? Because she has a Google Pixel 2 and she saw on the web that you can get a Pixel 3a for $399. It could take a seven hour charge in 15 minutes, it was lightning fast, it could take pictures in the dark, and it cost only $150 more than the Motorola. […]

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RETURN OF A CLASSIC

A reader wrote to say she had been using a Windows XP computer forever. But recently she bit the bullet and bought a Windows 10 machine. Ouch! The wound still hurts. Mainly, she hates the clutter in the Windows 10 start menu. We suggested she try “Classic Shell,” which is free from classicshell.net. It replaces the Windows 10 start menu with something that looks a lot like Windows XP but makes no other changes to your computer. The main difference between the XP start menu and the one in Windows 10 is text, or the lack of it. Windows 10 seems to assume you’re either an idiot or you don’t speak English. At first, everything is an icon, not words […]

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NEW ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

We were roped in by Google’s one-day offer of a nice discount on a new phone; it came with a gift card from AirBNB, worth the cost of the phone, plus $225 for our old phone. But when we got the new phone, the Pixel 3, we decided to return it. The sound quality was muffled, said Bob. Joy couldn’t tell if it was better or worse, but she’s not the audiophile Bob is. This opens the way for a bit of high dudgeon. That is to say, an incensed tirade. One of the great flaws of the high-tech industry is adding improvements where none are needed. We have been writing about this stuff for so long that we now […]

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HOW MUCH IS THAT IN AMERICAN MONEY

What do people really want? This sounds like a twist on Sigmund Freud’s last words, but we’re talking about cell phones here and he was gasping about something completely different. The main thing people want in a smart phone is battery life, according to a survey of 1,894 U.S. users by market research firm Morning Consult. Over 95 percent of respondents said it was the most important feature, and after that they wanted “ease of use,” “memory and storage,” and “camera quality.” Are we all wasting money on our phones?  Here’s an interesting report from Flipsy.com, a site that buys old phones: The average selling price for a smartphone in North America is $567, with an average upgrade cycle of […]

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