FREE TV

“Locast” brings TV over the Internet. Locast is low-cost. How low? How about free?  The TV people, namely CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC, are upset and are suing. They want to keep collecting the fees they get from cable companies. This follows an old business practice: If things aren’t going your way, sue somebody. It reassures the shareholders that you’re on the job and who knows, it might even work. The fees collected by the big networks amounted to $10.1 billion last year.   Locast brings you TV through an internet connection. So far, it’s available in 13 markets, such as Boston, Chicago and New York,  but it will be coming your way. It worked great on our TV, and we […]

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BYE BYE ROBOCALLS

A reader showed us a simple way to block robocalls. It’s built right into the phone.  “I am writing to you,” he says, “because I don’t understand why cell phone users don’t shut off robocalls. On an Android phone, just set it to ‘Do not Disturb.’ Then set it to accept calls from contacts only.” We knew about “Do Not Disturb” mode but didn’t know you could make an exception for contacts. That choice is right there when you tap “Settings,” “Sound,” and “Do Not Disturb.” On an iPhone, go to “Settings,”  “Do Not Disturb,” and tap “Allow Calls From.” From there, “All Contacts” is one of the choices.  The reader continues: “I did this a long time ago and […]

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STOPPING JUNK MAIL

Here’s the big reason we get so much junk email. Marketers can see which email we open and respond with an avalanche of new solicitations. If we open email on our phone, as 70 percent of us do,  we might even trigger a call. In the jargon it’s called a “read receipt.” Without your knowing, marketers use these to  tell which email you open. To combat this, we’ve started using “Edison Mail” whenever we’re on our phones.  It works with Yahoo, Gmail, Apple Mail or whatever email service you use, by bringing your mail inside its app.  Besides blocking marketers, Edison neatly categorizes any info about package arrivals, bills and flight changes, while also letting you unsubscribe from any email […]

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HOW TO SPOT A SCAM

We got a doozy of a phone call the other day. The message said our account would be automatically debited $499 unless we called back to get the money refunded. So we did what we always do in such situations. We typed the phone number into a Google search. Sure enough, it was a scam. Interestingly when Joy bought Bob a new phone, the Pixel 3a, we got a spam call within ten minutes of activating the phone. So take note: They’re out there and they’re always gunning for you. Kid Version of Alexa Amazon’s smart speaker, the Echo and Echo Dot with Alexa inside, sometimes offers more information than kids can handle. Now there’s a “Kid’s Edition,” $70 from […]

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A READER TAKES A STAND

 A reader writes in to share his regret over buying a Windows 10 computer. “Here’s my issue,” he says. “I have never been a big fan of Microsoft and was a Mac-aholic until Mac OS 10.4.1 when the Mac OS was no longer backwards compatible.” It would have cost him more to make his documents and applications compatible than to become a Windows user.  It was hard-slogging at first. Then, he writes, “when Microsoft finally arrived at Win 7, it produced an OS that was reasonably stable and NOT buggier than a wino’s beard… hooray!” Then came Windows 10. “I despise Win 10 and all the hoops (and $$$) I’m gonna have ta go through to get this machine integrated […]

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LOST IN THE AMAZON

Everyone in our building is Amazon-nuts, including us. The boxes pile up like mountains in the package room. The lady who handled them quit. We are just as Amazon-mad as everyone else. We can’t help but be impressed by Amazon’s bargains and free shipping. But they don’t always have the cheapest price. And yet, nearly every thing we get comes from Amazon or one of its five million vendors. We ordered a bed and mattress from Amazon for about $600 less than the local store was charging. The order page had an option to have the old bed hauled away. But that moved back the delivery date a couple of weeks. We nixed that and called a local guy to […]

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WEARABLE MARVELS

We were invited to preview the first-ever wearable tech exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. We came. We saw. We were disappointed. Self-lacing shoes got our attention right off. Nike’s version of Marty McFly’s “Back to the Future” shoes worked fine in the exhibit but aren’t playing well in the rest of the country. As the Washington Post reported recently, at least one user said his shoe lost connection to the Internet and wouldn’t lace. He couldn’t tie it manually because the shoe’s software was buggy. Pushing onward, Nike will come out with shoes that collect information about your athletic performance. In another part of the exhibit, we saw the late actress Marlene Dietrich’s 1950s tech […]

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JOY CATCHES A PHISH

Recently we told you about a Google quiz from phishingquiz.withgoogle.com. It lets you know whether you’re good at spotting hacking attempts in your email. Even so, we almost fell for one ourselves. We got an email that seemed to be from AT&T, telling us: “You recently talked with someone at AT&T or told us online you forgot your User ID.” It listed our user ID and links to going paperless, setting up auto-pay, or getting AT&T news. All of that looked exactly like a standard AT&T email. It even listed the correct phone number for AT&T.  We called it up and the rep said the email was a phishing attempt. She warned us not to click on anything. But it’s […]

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CAN YOU CATCH A PHISH?

A quiz by Google reveals how good you are at spotting the difference between a legitimate email and a phishing attempt. Phishing is a way that thieves try to steal your password and credit card information while concealing their identity. The message may even appear to be from someone you know. Learn to avoid the punches at phishingquiz.withgoogle.com. They’re not as obvious as you might expect. One of the emails in the quiz provides a link to what looks like a document from Google Drive. But  a couple of dashes in the link should tip you off that it’s phoney. The trick is, you’ll only see those dashes if you hover over the link in the email. In any email […]

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HEY GOOGLE, START THE CAR

If you’re out of favor with the Mafia, you need this. It’s the Google Home smart speaker, or the free “Google Assistant” app on your phone. You can sit on your couch and say “Hey Google, start my car.” If it doesn’t blow up in three minutes, you might as well get in and go. This currently works with new Hyundais, Mercedes  and BMWs. More are likely to join in soon. The Hyundai program is called “Blue Link,” and requires either a 2017 or later Hyundai, or one of a dozen models from 2016 or a few from 2015. Besides starting your engine from the couch, you can set the interior temperature, send points of interest to the car’s navigation […]

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