THE BEST WEBCAM

What with everybody staying home, so-called virtual meetings with Zoom are taking the lead. Some computers and all laptops come with a built in camera and microphone. If you don’t have one, there are plenty for sale for around $50. Office Depot was out of almost everything but the thousand dollar models when we looked. Amazon didn’t have many either, but there we found a $240 webcam from Logitech, the C615 HD, which came out four years ago. (We were ripped off, we could have gotten it for less than half that.) The quality is great however, and we get a much wider view than we do on our laptop. We can even see Harv and Marv, Joy’s two stuffed […]

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ROBOT VACUUM

Our oddest Christmas present this year is a robot vacuum, given to us by a young relative. Bob was hugely skeptical at first but he has to admit: “It works, but it doesn’t hold much.” Go to YouTube.com to find reviews for dozens of these, from Roomba on down. Ours, the “LeFant 300m,” costs $140 on Amazon. Roomba ranges from about $200 to over a thousand. We have hardwood floors, four small mats in the kitchen, and a large Home Depot rug in the living room. It seems complicated, yet the robot vacuum handled them all, traveling from room to room in our small apartment. We charged it by plugging it into the wall. We dumped the debris by using […]

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FAKE REVIEWS

Fake reviews are like fake news. Easy to generate, difficult to believe. There are Facebook groups offering you money to write a five-star review. A reporter from the website TheHustle.co wrote about a Chinese merchant who offered him $10 to to write a favorable review of an iPhone charger. It already had 3971 five-star reviews and was labeled “Amazon’s Choice.” “Isn’t this illegal?” he asked. “No, You will love,” was the reply. The problem got worse in 2015 when Amazon started wooing Chinese sellers. The number of products sold went up by a third and hundreds of thousands of new sellers appeared. Based in manufacturing hubs like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they ship directly to Amazon’s warehouses. Steve Lee, Los Angeles-based […]

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BEST SLIDESHOW MAKER

Slideshows are one of those things that can drive us nuts.We’re always forgetting how we did it last time. When we look up instructions, we often get something that is no longer available in Windows. For example, when you look up “Movie Maker for Windows 10,” you get a lot of free products from unknown companies because the original Windows movie maker went kaput. Here are our top contenders for best slideshow maker. We judge mainly on ease of use. “Microsoft Photos” comes already installed on your Windows 10 computer. To find it, type “Photos” in the search box in the lower left of your Windows desktop and the app comes right up. If you just want Microsoft to make […]

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BRUSHING UP

It’s a brave new world for dental patients: There’s a financial incentive to brush. We just earned 226 “Dentacoins,” a form of crypto currency, from brushing three times. We looked up their value and at the time of writing, they were worth eight cents. There are a dozen exchanges where we could sell our e-cash to get our eight cents, but the Dentacoin app says we must wait until we’ve accumulated more. Nuts. The brief spike in January when that amount of Dentacoin would have been worth $1.30 is gone, fell into a cavity. Perhaps it will rise again. “Dentacare Health Training” is a free app for Android or iPhone. It aims to make you a better brusher and flosser […]

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THE WEB

What’s on the web? Everything. Without buying an antenna or paying for a subscription to Netflix, Hulu or Sling TV, all you need is an Internet connection. Out there on the cosmic web are tons of entertainment, and also some instruction – just recently a woman delivered her own baby watching instructions on YouTube. One of the most popular shows in the known universe is now on the web. Search for “Twitch Presents” to pick up 500 episodes of “Doctor Who.” Never heard of it? You’re out of touch. This show has been running, with a few breaks, since 1963 and regularly draws around 100 million viewers per episode worldwide. Why the Twitch? Twitch.TV was initially intended for watching people […]

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SELECTING YOUR NEXT COMPUTER

This is the time of year when we get our most frequent reader question: What computer should I buy? It’s also the easiest question we ever get: Whatever you buy, you’ll almost certainly love it. The questioner usually wants a laptop; in fact it’s almost always a laptop. It’s a good choice for most people. Bob dislikes them intensely because of the crowded keyboard and small screen. Joy likes them because they’re portable. So, okay, one of the factors to consider in making your choice is weight; not your weight, its weight. As we used to say in the newsroom: keep it light and tight, and sometimes also trite. So this gets us down to choices right away. Are you […]

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A WORD TO THE FRUGAL

Topics this week: Free word processors and dictation, smart shopping, pinpointing your location, annoying ads.

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MAKING MUSIC

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

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FREE CREDIT SCORES

Joy was pleased with our credit score after we let WalletHub.com evaluate us. Last December WalletHub became the first website to offer free credit scores, full reports and a financial fitness analysis.

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