BUYING A RENEWED PC

After 11 years, my friend’s computer conked out, due to a hard drive failure. I tried to talk her into replacing it with a refurbished PC. No dice. Her first thought was taking it to a repair shop. Angie’s List said it would cost $300 for the drive and installation.  Not only did that sound like too much, but an 11 year-old all-in-one PC with a bad hard drive is likely to have other problems. So she got an HP Elitedesk 800 G1 desktop, which came with a monitor and mouse for $324 from Walmart. I was glad to see it had eight gigabytes of RAM and an Intel i5 processor. (You can compare processors at CPUboss.com.) Unfortunately, the Elitedesk […]

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GOOGLE RELIC PICASA IS GREAT AT PHOTO ORGANIZING

Many readers have told me they miss “Picasa,” which Google discontinued years ago. It was great at organizing photos. One reader writes: “I have tried 22 other apps. The main source of frustration is their concentration on manipulating photos, with no attention at all — or very little — to importing, storing and organizing.” In Picasa, for example, he could save an entire set of photos to a single file. A descriptive name told him all he needed to know. Fortunately, I found the old Picasa. Go to https://archive.org/details/picasa_27 to find the most stable version. To download it, click on the “Windows Executable” file in the upper right. It posed no security threats when I ran it. With it, the […]

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WHICH AMAZON REVIEWS ARE FAKE?

You can buy a thousand positive reviews on Amazon for $10,900. That’s less than $11 each. So how do you know which reviews to trust? I looked at an ArsTechnica article, “Posing as an Amazon Seller” to find out. One commenter said he rented a dreadful movie that had 4.5 out of five stars and over 10,000 positive reviews. Now he avoids anything with reviews in the thousands. A reader told me he only looks at the most recent ones. A third commenter observed that some reviewers get $20 per review. He says he’s in the wrong business. A United Kingdom consumer group found 702,000 product reviewers from just five companies. All were in the review-manipulation biz. Besides offering positive […]

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FAUX FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK

I ignore Facebook friend requests from strangers unless I’m sure they’re faithful readers of this column. But some are tricky. An apparent captain of an enormous shipping line requested a connection. I thought for a minute it was a legitimate request. One of my friends, a savvy public speaker, was Facebook friends with him. I decided to investigate, in hopes of warning her if he turned out to be a fake. His Facebook photo, profile and name matched that of the captain he claimed to be, which I found on LinkedIn and on the shipping company’s website. So I accepted his request. Minutes later, I decided it was a risky experiment, so I unfriended and blocked him. That didn’t prevent […]

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NEW PHONE VERSUS OLD PHONE

The new Google Pixel 5, coming out in October, will have a new camera and a powerful processor. But if you’re like me, you don’t care about that. My lower-resolution camera takes more flattering pictures. As for processing speed, I never have umpteen apps going on at the same time anyway, so I don’t need that much power. Instead of spending $699 for the new Pixel 5, I’ll stick to my Pixel 2. (A used one can be had for about $120.) Pixel phones get the latest updates as soon as they’re available, unlike most Android phones. Here are some features I like: “Live Caption” allows you to see captions during phone calls. That way you can turn the volume […]

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PLAYING WITH FIRE

Several readers followed up on our review of the Amazon Fire tablet. Their comments led us to discover some features we didn’t know about. One reader was confused when he first tapped the “Books” tab on the home screen of his Fire. It looked like he had to join “Kindle Unlimited” to get books. But you don’t. It’s free for 30 days, then it’s $10 a month. Kindle Unlimited gives you a rotating library of ten books, audio books, magazines or some combination of all three. We noticed they have the Economist magazine, which is normally $189 a year. If we let our subscription drop, we could get it for $120 a year plus nine other magazines or books.You can […]

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A LOT OF HOW-TOs

Capturing Video Highlights One of our friends is writing her memoir about growing up in Iran. Since she reads it aloud to other writers through Zoom, the free video conferencing software, she was grateful that we could capture her part of the session in its own video clip. We could have downloaded a program to cut out her slice of the two-hour meeting, but there was no need. A free screen capture program is built into Windows 10. It’s called “Game Bar.” Though it’s meant for saving your game highlights, it can capture anything you have in motion. Once you have a video playing, bring up Game Bar by holding down the Windows key (looks like a flag) and tapping […]

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ALEXA, TAKE A NOTE

We sometimes have a good idea late at night that we can’t remember the next day. Alexa, the voice inside the free Alexa app or the Amazon Echo smart speaker will remember it for us. We say, “Alexa, take a note,” and she’ll say: “All right, what’s the note?” Recently, we said “Guy from Ipanema.” That’s because Joy thought it would be funny if her woman’s club’s musical revue did a “Guy from Ipanema” song instead of the original “Girl from Ipanema.” When we said, “Alexa, what’s the note?” she told us. That led Bob to wonder how long a note she could handle. Joy said: “I’m going to the drugstore later to get root beer, toilet paper and face […]

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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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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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