REPLACING THE BACKGROUND

Normally, we use the editing tools at Photos.Google.com to crop or enhance our pictures. But recently we discovered PicsArt.com for free special effects and templates. You don’t have to create an account to use the site, and you might not want to. We saw several complaints at commonsensemedia.org. Some users said that after using the link at PicsArt to share their creations, they were bombarded with pornographic images from other members. One user complained of signing up for a “free trial” for certain templates which turned into a $48 charge on their credit card. We tried signing up at the site but none of that happened to us. The PicsArt app has 130 million active users, according to Wikipedia. We […]

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ROBOCALLS

Over 167 million robocalls are made to Americans each day, according to YouMail. That’s about 61 billion calls for 2019.  Robocalls represent over 50 percent of all phone traffic. They have become the modern equivalent of mail addressed to “occupant.” Some of these calls appear to be coming from your own area code. That’s what really throws people. Because you think, maybe it’s Uncle Max. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to talk to Uncle Max. We use the “call screen” feature on our two Google Pixel phones to avoid robocalls. But the new Pixel 4 has something better.  The Pixel 4 phone won’t ring at all if it senses a robocall. What happens if it’s not a […]

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CHOOSING A NEW PRINTER

 A friend asked Joy to go with her to Office Depot to choose a new printer. That was an eye-opener.  You can get a laser printer from Hewlett Packard for less than a hundred dollars. The LaserJet Pro M15W takes up less than eight by 14 inches on your desk and weighs just eight pounds. Bob’s first laser printer cost $5,500, was gigantic and weighed about 50 pounds. That was black and white only.  Our current color laser printer, a behemoth from Okidata, cost around $550 and also weighs nearly 50 pounds. The quality is superb. The kicker for us is tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When we had an HP printer and called tech support, […]

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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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CONVERSATION VIEW

We finally turned off a feature in Gmail that’s been there since the beginning and has been driving us crazy. It’s called “Conversation View.” We didn’t know you could turn it off. In conversation view, new messages show up at the bottom of the thread. If you have a ton of them, you scroll forever. For example, Joy’s friend Mary Lynn Funk went back and forth in one conversation for six months, all with the same heading. Half the time, Joy would lose the thread, unable to find the latest email, as she scrolled past long emails from three months before. Now those emails have been automatically separated into 49 separate chunks. It’s much more manageable. To turn it off […]

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THE DARK SIDE OF 5G

Joy sent off the wrong column last time. The one without Bob’s views on 5G. She swears she didn’t do it on purpose. So here’s some wisdom from the more experienced half of our duo.  There are two problems with 5G (fifth generation wireless). First, you almost certainly won’t get the speed advertised. Second, it ignores the competition, FTTH, or Fiber to the Home. Unlike 5G, FTTH involves laying actual cable connections, which is expensive. It’s not wireless. But it’s fast and secure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it’s the only way to give options to the 68 million Americans who have only one choice of Internet Service Provider.  According to the EFF, 5G customers will either get moderate […]

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ALEXA THE SNOOP

Some people have told us they’d never buy a smart speaker with Alexa, because they don’t want to be spied on. If you already have one, and are a bit worried that all your questions to the device have been recorded, here’s how to erase them forever. In the Alexa app, go to “Settings” and then “History.” You can delete the recordings one by one. Or if you want to delete them all in one fell swoop, open a web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, and search on the phrase “Amazon manage my content and devices.” Then click on “Devices” and on the three dots to the left of your Echo or Echo Dot. Click “Delete Voice Recordings.” However, […]

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GETTING BACK ON TRACK

The first time we used a Macbook Air, moving our finger on the trackpad caused the screen to jump around like mad. So-called “gestures” can whisk you away to a new place, shutting down whatever you were working on. Recently, a friend complained of this too, so we looked up the solution. These gestures are amazingly abundant on the Mac and are supposed to offer you alternative ways to interact with your computer. But if you find them as annoying as we do, here’s what to do: First, click on the Apple logo in the upper right of your screen. Then choose “System Preferences.” Click “Trackpad.” Note the three tabs, including “More Gestures.” Click a tab to see what’s under […]

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TV OR NOT TV

A reader writes that his daughter signed up for “Hulu Live,” dropping her cable TV. What do we think? It’s $40  a month for more than 60 channels. Similar services include YouTube TV, Playstation Vue (no Playstation required), Sling TV, and DIRECTV Now. They’re all about the same price except for Sling TV, at $25 a month, which we haven’t had a good experience with. We currently pay AT&T $167 a month for TV. So we’re trying out the seven-day free trial of  the $40 a month Hulu service. So far, it’s OK, not great. Hulu Live brings us our live favorites: Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and 60 Minutes, as well as sports. It also has our favorite movie channel, […]

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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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