READ THE COMMENTS

One of the best pieces of advice we ever got was: “Read the comments following a review.” Not only are they enlightening, they’re entertaining. Take the screen-protector review we read at HowToGeek.com. The reviewer said he couldn’t get a screen protector on his iPhone without a massive bubble under the surface. So he bought one at an Apple store for $40, because it came with free installation. We see his point. We’ve never installed a screen protector without leaving bubbles. But in the comments, the readers dumped all over the reviewer. One guy said this is “not your ordinary dumb, this is some special kind of dumb. I call it ‘iDumb.’” Another pointed out that you could go to a […]

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SLEEP TIGHT

A reader wrote to say his bed no longer communicates with the Internet. It’s a modern problem. He and his wife have a “Sleep Number” bed with “Sleep IQ” sensors that tell them how often they toss and turn, how they’re breathing and what their heart rate is. This baby costs anywhere between $499 and $5,199, depending on the model. Some models raise the head of a snoring spouse, saving their life and marriage. They also warm feet, and offer “zero gravity” positions. This prepares you for your next trip to the moon. Our reader’s first Sleep Number bed was so great he bought a second and then a third. When the new one wouldn’t connect to the web, however, […]

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FIRE UP THE TABLET

Joy left her Kindle Fire tablet in the gym. At first we thought it was somewhere around the apartment but it never turned up. So she decided to bite the bullet and buy Amazon’s “Fire HD 10.” It’s $150 and looks as good as an iPad for less than half the price. She got it in blue. She knew the old one had been stolen as soon as she turned on the new one; now there was one Portuguese and two Chinese dictionaries. Some circumstantial evidence is pretty suspicious. So she went to the “Manage your Kindle” section of Amazon and de-registered the old device. The Kindle Fire HD 10 and HD 8 come with Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. It […]

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WHO’S ANONYMOUS?

Many readers have written to rave about the search engine “DuckDuckGo,” because it promises privacy as you search the web. But we learned that it’s only partially private. DuckDuckGo itself doesn’t track your movements, but you can still be “seen” by the websites you visit, for marketing purposes. An alternative is Startpage.com. Search on anything and when the results come up, click “Anonymous View” next to the site you wish to visit. Your computer’s address will be masked. So will your location, your browser, operating system and personal information.  So … when you go on Facebook or Twitter, those sites can’t share your activities with the websites that advertise with them. We actually don’t mind advertisers collecting data on us, […]

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INTERNET BLUES

A reader wrote to say she can’t get fast Internet service from her Internet provider. They say it’s because she’s in a rural area, at the very edge of their coverage. “An update available on my iPhone 6s took a day and a half to download,” she says.  “The update on my watch took even longer.  My son got both done at his school in two hours!  It’s ironic that in order to pay the bill I have to mail it in.” If you’re in the same rocky boat, go to speedtest.net to verify how fast your Internet connection is. (Just click “go” and they do the rest.)  Our connection is pretty fast, with a download speed of 20 and […]

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GO GRANDMA GO

A few years ago, our friend Ida got a smart phone so she could use Uber and Lyft. We wish there’d been a connection to “Go Go Grandparent” back then. Any cell phone will do.  And imagine this: you can even call from what’s called a landline, whatever that is. Go Go Grandparent connects you to Uber and Lyft with nothing extra to do on your part. Register at GoGoGrandparent.com. Then call Go Go Grandparent from any phone. Press “1” to be picked up at home. Press “2” to be picked from wherever you were last dropped off. Press 3, 4 or 5 to be picked off at one of your usual locations. Press “O” for an operator you can […]

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DEFEND YOUR PHONE

Users and Apple say the iPhone is the safest smartphone out there, but you can make it safer still. Start with the log-on. Do you use a fingerprint? You should. Joy initially had difficulties getting her Android phone to recognize her index finger. The solution was to use more fingers. Now she uses her middle finger to get into the phone, and this one rarely misses. (No comments, please.) If you have an iPhone X, you can use your face instead of a fingerprint. It’s rumored that all iPhones coming out this fall will have “Face ID.” It’s inevitable. What about a hacker breaking into your iCloud account on the web? It’s a good idea to set up “two-factor identification.” […]

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THE DAY OF THE PAINTER

All of the artists we know paint the old-fashioned way: with a brush. But we’re fairly awed by what you can do with a mouse or a tablet. The new Corel “Painter 2019” is out, and it’s worth taking a look at what artists are doing with it. Some of these people start with a photo, and produce the kind of work sold at art festivals. After some digging we found them on Instagram. Go to Instagram.com/CorelPainter to get a little awe for yourself. We were curious about trying it ourselves. So we installed the free trial version from painterartist.com, and clicked on “Discovery Center” inside the program. This was Joy’s job, and she encountered some difficulty right away. Tutorials […]

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CUTTING THE CABLE, REVISITED

We asked AT&T how much it would cost to drop our TV service and just keep the Internet. They immediately offered to drop the monthly charge to $120 from $160. That’s better, we thought, but hardly the best. “Philo TV” has over 45 channels for $16 a month. These include A&E, Discovery, AMC, BBC America, Food Network, History, Travel, Lifetime, Food Network and Nickelodeon.  You can watch them on your computer or your phone. Or, if you want to watch on a regular TV, you can plug in a Roku stick or player, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire stick. Roku and Amazon Fire are fairly cheap, $28 for Roku Express and $40 for the Fire stick. Though Philo doesn’t […]

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HERE THERE BE TYGERS AND ALL MANNER OF STRANGE BEASTS

One of our frequent correspondents had a near miss. That’s a near miss from disaster when he got a phone call telling him his PayPal account had been compromised and he owed $340. The caller said they could fix the problem for $299 but they needed to take control of his computer. They said they needed his bank account number too, so he gave it to them. There was a lot of background chatter on the caller’s end of the line. The red flags went up, the rockets exploded and the bells started ringing. He turned off his computer, told the caller he just had a power outage, hung up and moved everything from his checking account to his savings […]

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