BYE BYE ROBOT VACUUM

When a young relative gave me a robot vacuum last Christmas, I got excited. Sure, it wasn’t a Roomba, only a $140 knock-off. But it jump-started my vacuum adventure. The “LeFant 300 M” robot did a great job, but I had to babysit it. It would go back and forth, practically on the same path, on a faux Persian rug from Home Depot, though it did better on wall-to-wall carpet. After awhile, I got bored and left the room. That’s when disaster struck. It made a beeline for the strings that pull up the blinds. After having a good chew, it burned itself out. I could still start it up, but after a few seconds it would stop and bleat […]

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NOT READY TO CUT THE CORD? THEN AT LEAST PAY LESS

Every year I consider dropping cable TV. Then I call AT&T and they offer me a deal. Using an ace negotiating technique — I simply ask– I got the bill down from $165 to $90  before it rose again. The discount ends every year if I don’t call to renew it. So this time I told AT&T: “ I don’t need cable; I have Amazon Prime and Netflix.” (If I miss “60 Minutes,” I’ll put rabbit ears on the set.)  AT&T offered me Internet-only service for $40 a month with a 1024 gigabyte limit. Is 1024 gigabytes enough? Currently, I’m averaging only 50 GB a month. What if I become a movie maniac? That’s OK too. A high-definition movie uses […]

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ONE REAL FAST PHOTO SCANNER

Our new Epson “FastFoto” scanner sucked in photos so fast it made us laugh. Put a stack in, and the photos jump through the scanner like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. Typical speed is one a second. Then we asked ourselves the big question: Why get a photo scanner when ScanMyPhotos.com will do it for you?  For instance, they’ll currently scan a thousand 4- by-6-inch photos for $50. No muss, no fuss. So here’s why your own scanner might be more useful: A scanned photo, sent by email or shared on Facebook, is often a spur of the moment thing. Reach your hand into an old collection, pull out a stack and put them in the FastFoto scanner. […]

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FREE AUDIO BOOKS

And now some good news. Several years ago, we criticized the book choices available for download from public libraries. The result was a spontaneous demonstration by angry librarians. (The whole idea of an angry librarian was beyond our ken.) “It’s not our fault,” they yelled in unison, “it’s the publishers!” Those publishers …. Really. Well, times have changed, and now you can get thousands, maybe millions of free titles. The lode is so rich, we’ll probably let our “Audible” audio book subscription expire, much as we have enjoyed it.  Instead of paying $15 a month, or $100 for 12 books at a time, we’re exploring the free world, so to speak. We’re expecting an angry demonstration from publishers any moment […]

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WHO’S THAT?

There are an estimated 220 million fake people on Facebook. So how can you tell who’s who? Fake identities are the third most common complaint, according to the Federal Trade Commission, so we tried a free app, “Legitifi” that tries to find out if the person you’re about to hire or date is who they say they are.  It’s touted for checking out babysitters, dates, handymen, caregivers, and could be used even for ride services and airline passengers. Legitifi’s identity-checking algorithm does some obvious things, like checking  whether the same person posts under more than one name on Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites. The only dating site they check is Tinder.com. If a social media profile is too new, that […]

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ADVENTURES IN VIRTUAL REALITY

Virtual reality, a cooking app that speaks to you, and a new Google assistant in your text messaging window.

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CELL PHONE SERVICE GETS CHEAP

We love our cell phone service from Google’s new “Project Fi.” It only works with Google Nexus phones, but if you get one, your bill might be as low as $25 a month with tax.  Now they’re expanding it. Google Fi currently works with three phone carriers. If the signal is strongest from T-Mobile, for example, that’s who they’ll connect to. If Sprint is better, you’ll be using Sprint. They’ve recently added U.S. Cellular. A Google Fi account gives you unlimited text and phone calls for $20 a month. Each gigabyte of data (which is what you use up when you’re on the Web and all those words and pictures come in), is $10. But you get money back if […]

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WHEN YOU CAN’T TALK, VIDEO TEXT

“Yahoo LiveText” is for those situations where you want to see the other person you’re texting and you can’t talk. Maybe you’re at the library. You know how they are about people like you. With this app, you can text each other while also looking and batting your eyes.

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WE CHAT

Our niece uses We Chat, used by eight million people, to share text, pictures, video and phone calls. She likes the fact that it uses less of her phone’s data plan and saves her money.

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MEANWHILE… DEEP IN THE JUNGLE

If you’re deep in the Amazon jungle, in a hurricane, or traveling too far from a cell phone tower, your text message won’t go through. (Good luck dealing with the giant Anaconda.) A new device called “goTenna” fixes that by using radio signals.

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