GETTING TAX PREP HELP

I’ve never done my own taxes. I was always afraid I’d mess up. Yet I’ve known about tax software for years. I met my late husband, Bob Schwabach, when I was in public relations, trying to get him to write about it.  He never did review my rinky-dink client. Having been among the first to write about Intuit, he knew it was best. I’m a convert now. Intuit’s TurboTax website makes it so easy. I went there and clicked  “connect with an expert.” I got a phone call from a folksy guy who drives a school bus. He explained how I could do the taxes myself, paying anywhere from nothing to $170, the filing fee for complex returns. TurboTax reviews […]

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GOOGLE RELIC PICASA IS GREAT AT PHOTO ORGANIZING

Many readers have told me they miss “Picasa,” which Google discontinued years ago. It was great at organizing photos. One reader writes: “I have tried 22 other apps. The main source of frustration is their concentration on manipulating photos, with no attention at all — or very little — to importing, storing and organizing.” In Picasa, for example, he could save an entire set of photos to a single file. A descriptive name told him all he needed to know. Fortunately, I found the old Picasa. Go to https://archive.org/details/picasa_27 to find the most stable version. To download it, click on the “Windows Executable” file in the upper right. It posed no security threats when I ran it. With it, the […]

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FOR NEW STYLE FUN, CHECK OUT INTO THE MIST

A friend invited me to a live concert, complete with mystery mansion, at IntoTheMist.net. At first it seemed like a video game, but there was more. The setting was the Roaring ‘20s, with jazz bands, bootleggers and flappers. I headed upstairs to the “high roller” area. Suddenly I was in the midst of a Zoom meeting. The chips were flying and the bettors looked attractive. But I ducked out. I prefer family poker. I followed arrows on a dark hallway, stumbling around till I accidentally found myself outside on the virtual street. It was a bit spooky, so I quickly re-entered and found a room with a live actor playing the poet Langston Hughes. He introduced himself and asked my […]

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GOLD VERSUS BITCOIN

Bitcoin, the digital currency, has been going up like crazy. But is it a better store of value than gold? Last year, Bitcoin went from a little over $7,000 to over $26,000 per digital coin. On January 8, a single coin hit $40,675.80! I’ve had some experience with cryptocurrency. In 2017, I bought part of a Bitcoin at Coinbase.com, when it was valued at around $4,000. I bought a bit more when it rose to $15,000. What can I say, I’m a gambler. Unfortunately, I sold it after it crashed below $4000. Disaster! I admire those who “HODL” a Bitcoin acronym standing for “Hold On For Dear Life.” According to a deVere Group survey of their own clients, 67 percent […]

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MASSAGE GUN GETS A THUMBS UP

I asked a friend who has arthritis in his hands and feet to test a cordless massage gun. He gave it a pleasantly-massaged thumbs-up. A good massage increases circulation, decreases pain and removes stiffness. My friend reported back: “The Merach Pocket Nano Massage Gun is better than my Wahl Heat Therapy Therapeutic Massager, with one caveat. The hard plastic tips work well enough on muscles and fleshy parts, but pose a problem for bony parts. For instance, I usually run my massager over the tops of my hands. With this, I can only comfortably do my palms.” But it turned out that massaging the palms worked its magic all the way through to the bony parts as well. It also […]

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GETTING ZOOM HIGHLIGHTS

I’ve often wished I could capture the highlights of a Zoom meeting in a short video clip. Now, with a free app from Grain.co, I can. I started with a two-hour meeting recorded six months ago, which appeared in the Grain app automatically. I just had to click “import.” Then, by scrolling through the transcript underneath the video, I quickly got to the part where my nephew says “happy birthday” to my sister. When I highlighted the text and clicked the “share” button, Grain created a 17-second video clip, complete with transcript, ready to share in an email, on Facebook or wherever. On Thanksgiving, I had a Zoom meeting with my brother, nephews and niece-in-law. I figured they wouldn’t want […]

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PORTABLE POWER STATION KEEPS DEVICES GOING

If you find yourself camping in the woods with all of your gadgets, consider a portable generator to keep everything charged. I’ve been testing the “PS500N,” $490 from iForway.com. It could power a 60-inch TV for three hours if you want to lug it along to the woods. The PS500N is about the size of a breadbox, weighs 13 pounds, and uses no gasoline. The user manual calls it a “Portable Solar Generator,” but there’s nothing solar about it, unless you add a portable solar panel, which iForway sells for $190. (A solar panel could be useful for topping up.) With just the generator, you could charge a phone 45 times, a camera 75 times, a tablet 12 times, and […]

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ON THE CLOCK

TikTok is the hot application right now. It allows you to post 15-second videos or see what other people have posted. There’s soon to be a similar app for Instagram, called “Reels.” Both the free app and TikTok.com remind us of the show “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” When we tuned in, we saw the back half of a large car going down the highway. It was an illusion. Then we watched a girl vault a basketball over her head backwards. It knocked over a nearby jogger.  TikTok is more than just silly stuff. Our favorite podcast, PlanetMoney, (put out by National Public Radio),  is there along with many others. One of their videos describes the thuggishness of medieval knights. Another […]

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BACK TO THE PAST

Have you heard of Linux? It’s a version of Unix developed by a Finn, Linus Torvalds. But what is Unix? It’s a computer operating system developed by Bell Labs in the 1960s. What was Bell Labs? It was the research arm of Bell Telephone. Bob’s been to the original one in New Jersey. All this is gone now. But we still have Unix. Unix lives on and we all use it just about every day. Every time we put a dot (a period) inside something we type on the computer, like a .com, .org, or .gov, it is a Unix command to go to that location in its memory banks and find what came before the dot. Unix ran the […]

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A CAMERA FOR KIDS

We recently babysat our neighbors’ kids, ages 9 and 6, and had as much fun as they did with a camera that prints black and white photos. It’s called “My First Camera Insta 2” and is $100 on Shop.Oaxis.com. We were impressed by how quickly the girls got the hang of this thing. We only had to show the oldest how to do it once, and she taught the youngest, who got it just as quickly. Take a photo, press the gallery mode button, then the print button. If the paper jams, just give it a little tug. This only happened once in our tests. This is not a Polaroid-type camera. The prints you get come out on a roll […]

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