A LOT OF HOW-TOs

Capturing Video Highlights One of our friends is writing her memoir about growing up in Iran. Since she reads it aloud to other writers through Zoom, the free video conferencing software, she was grateful that we could capture her part of the session in its own video clip. We could have downloaded a program to cut out her slice of the two-hour meeting, but there was no need. A free screen capture program is built into Windows 10. It’s called “Game Bar.” Though it’s meant for saving your game highlights, it can capture anything you have in motion. Once you have a video playing, bring up Game Bar by holding down the Windows key (looks like a flag) and tapping […]

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ALEXA, TAKE A NOTE

We sometimes have a good idea late at night that we can’t remember the next day. Alexa, the voice inside the free Alexa app or the Amazon Echo smart speaker will remember it for us. We say, “Alexa, take a note,” and she’ll say: “All right, what’s the note?” Recently, we said “Guy from Ipanema.” That’s because Joy thought it would be funny if her woman’s club’s musical revue did a “Guy from Ipanema” song instead of the original “Girl from Ipanema.” When we said, “Alexa, what’s the note?” she told us. That led Bob to wonder how long a note she could handle. Joy said: “I’m going to the drugstore later to get root beer, toilet paper and face […]

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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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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

The world has gone wild for virtual meetings and Zoom video conferencing is gaining competitors fast. The train is leaving the station. A new Zoom competitor, RingCentral, a leading business communications company, is coming out with a new version in April. Recently, we tried another Zoom alternative — the free UberConference.com, which has nothing to do with Uber, the ride-hailing company. Joy’s women’s club recently chose UberConference for their meetings for two reasons. First, participants don’t have to download anything. Second, some people are annoyed by Zoom’s privacy policy. Zoom collects your phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook profiles, info about your use of Zoom and the device and networks you’re using. They also get info from third parties who know […]

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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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