POWER PLATE EXERCISE SHAKES UP ROUTINE

​It’s hard to resist exercise tech. I’m talking about a $1,495 vibrating machine called “Power Plate.” My sister uses one with her personal trainer to help reverse her osteoporosis. It’s become my personal go-go-dancing platform and a fun way to exercise. The app offers a ton of workout videos and so does YouTube. But it’s so powerful, you’re not supposed to  use it more than three times a week.  The first time I stepped onto it, my whole body vibrated, even my head. To avoid head vibration, I now keep my knees bent. It’s a lot more powerful than the vintage vibrating belt my aunt used. Back in the day, my sister and I cracked up when the belt vibrated […]

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FOR COMPLICATED TAXES, GET A HUMAN

The rivalry between TurboTax and H&R Block is like Hertz and Avis. I started with one company and ended up with the other. Despite my glowing review of TurboTax a couple of months ago, I ran into a snag. I had a complicated tax situation because my husband invested in partnerships. They generated a kind of document called a “K-1.” Actually, lots of them. On the TurboTax website, I pushed the “Do my taxes for me” button and got a nice lady in Missouri. But she bailed out when she found out about my K-1 tax docs. TurboTax experts won’t handle returns with more than one of those. She suggested I do them myself and use their live chat, but […]

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SPRING CLEANING

Worldwide shipments of desktop computers have dropped in half since 2010, while tablets and laptops have surged, but I still like the feel of a good desktop. I just have to remember to clean the inside occasionally. This is the perfect time of year for that, before summer starts to fry everything. I’ll never forget the time my husband cleaned my sister’s desktop computer for her. No wonder her machine was slow! The dust bunnies were thick and still multiplying. Dust never sleeps, especially inside a desktop. The cooling fans bring in air from the outside, clogging the parts with dust. If it gets hot enough in there, the central processing unit (CPU) as well as the graphics processing unit […]

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NON-FUNGIBLE IS ALL THE RAGE

Did you hear about the New York Times article, still online, that sold for $560,000? How about the digital cat in a pop tart? It sold for $590,000. Or the 5,000 online images that sold for $69 million? They’re part of the brave new world of “Non-Fungible Tokens.”  “Non-fungible” means “can’t be copied, unique,” much like the items on Antiques Roadshow. In the digital world, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are sold in online auctions. If you buy a token, you own a link to a unique piece of digital art, music, video clip or what-have-you. Recently, a video clip of  LeBron James’s basketball dunk was tokenized. The buyer paid over $200,000. Before NFTs, digital files weren’t considered unique because they’re so […]

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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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WINDOWS 10 TO THE RESCUE

This part is going to get a bit techie, but you’ll be able to handle it. A reader told us about his unbearably slow, seven-year-old laptop. He wondered if he could make it like new again. Sure. His first idea was converting it to a Linux system. It sounded good, but he had problems. So he asked us whether he could still get Windows 10 for free. Sure we said, though we secretly thought it might slow down his PC even more. Why not restore the laptop to its original factory condition, we asked? It had a super-fast Intel i7 processor. He admitted it used to be great. His computer is a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro with Windows 8.1. When […]

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GOING PRIVATE

Until recently, we thought that the only time you need a Virtual Private Network or VPN is when you are using a Wi-Fi connection away from home. The idea is to prevent hackers from breaking in. But you might want that protection at home too. Though hackers likely can’t get in when you’re on your home Wi-Fi, a VPN prevents anyone from seeing the data you transmit over the Internet. That includes your Internet Service Provider, which most likely sells your information to advertisers. When we searched on the phrase: “Does AT&T sell my info?” we got an AT&T form titled “Do Not Sell My Information.” Filling it out would stop the practice. They say they sell it so we […]

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WHY ARE THEY SPYING ON US?

Why are they all spying on us? It’s because they want to sell us stuff. The “they” we’re talking about are Google, Amazon and Apple. They record you when you use the microphone on your cell phone or computer. It also happens when you talk to one of your smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. We tap the microphone symbol when conducting searches on our phone. We can ask for a Chinese restaurant nearby faster than we can type it. These days everybody delivers. We’ve written before that we don’t care what gets recorded. Our conversations are beyond boring. A reader wrote that he agreed but was still bothered by it. He felt that what he had to […]

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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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YOU RANG?

Why do phones sometimes ring just once? It’s a scam. Don’t call them back. According to HowtoGeek.com, if you cave in and call back, your call may result in toll charges similar to a 900 number. The longer you stay on the line, the more money they make. The scam is called “Wangiri,” because it started in Japan. It translates as “one ring and cut.” Calls have been routed to Mauritania, Liberia, Comoros, Chad, the Cook Islands and Nauru. But it’s not always a developing country. Some go to Switzerland. If in doubt, search the web for the number to see if it’s part of a scam. Or if you get a lot of these and have an iPhone, try […]

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