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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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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