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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THE TECH SUPPORT DUNGEONS

Calling for tech support is often the beginning of a descent into gloom and doom. Here’s an example from a recent reader letter. He says: “I have recently turned eighty, my hearing is not the best. My Norton antivirus coverage expired and I needed to renew it using a new email address.” The nightmare begins. The whole process took two hours. He was told to bring up a chat screen but the “send” button wasn’t showing so he couldn’t respond.  This happened over and over with different tech support people.   After calling Norton, he writes, “I couldn’t understand the heavy European accent of a woman with a little girl voice. Soft voice, low volume, my deficient hearing, etc. The whole […]

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SEEING ALL

Every time Joy tests a product on Bob’s computer, something goes out of whack. Recently, she used Windows “recovery options” to restore it. Uh oh. Suddenly, the bookmarks bar in Chrome was too tiny to read. Initially, Bob tried to enlarge it, simply by holding down the “Ctrl” key and pressing the plus sign. This did not work. Everything got bigger except the bookmarks bar. Then he figured out the fix. First, right-click the main screen. Choose “display settings.” In the search bar, type “font.” When it comes up, select “make text bigger.” From there, you can drag a slider to increase the size of most text. You can also select “make everything bigger.” We chose 150 percent bigger. When […]

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BEST SLIDESHOW MAKER

Slideshows are one of those things that can drive us nuts.We’re always forgetting how we did it last time. When we look up instructions, we often get something that is no longer available in Windows. For example, when you look up “Movie Maker for Windows 10,” you get a lot of free products from unknown companies because the original Windows movie maker went kaput. Here are our top contenders for best slideshow maker. We judge mainly on ease of use. “Microsoft Photos” comes already installed on your Windows 10 computer. To find it, type “Photos” in the search box in the lower left of your Windows desktop and the app comes right up. If you just want Microsoft to make […]

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DOWNWARD-FACING DOGPILE

A reader says he’s used the “Dogpile” search engine instead of Google for many years, but now it’s not working. We say drop it. Our research shows there’s a Dogpile hijacker that looks like the real thing. So what should you use instead, if you don’t want to Google everything? We’ve been trying out Yippy, which is powered by IBM Watson, the computer that beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. Yippy was developed by Vivisimo, which we’ve written about many times. Much of Vivisimo’s and Yippy’s artificial intelligence was incorporated by IBM Watson which “reads” all the scientific journal articles to make better decisions in some cases than doctors can. In our tests, Yippy’s results look good. Joy looked up “cotton […]

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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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THEIR ART ON YOUR TV

We downloaded our favorite paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, which just made over 52,000 works from its collection available in high resolution. Then we put them on our TV and cycled through some favorites, like Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte,” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” You can download what you like to your phone and then make a nice background show on your TV. To do this, we first tried the slideshow option on our seven-year-old Sony, but the images looked faded. We could have burned them to a DVD and used that to improve the colors but turned instead to try Roku and Chromecast. We have the cheap version of Roku, […]

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BUILD YOUR OWN

We remember when personal computers first came out. You could build them yourself if you were savvy. That’s what Michael Dell did way back when. He sold them to other college students and the business went on from there. Now there’s a computer that kids can put together. The “Computer Kit Touch” is $280 from Kano.me. Designed for young children, it has a ten-inch screen. Follow a printed storybook to build a portable, touchscreen computer, and attach a keyboard. From there, kids can make apps, art, and games with simple steps. Included apps are Chromium (a web browser similar to Chrome), YouTube, Libre Office (similar to Microsoft Office) and Google Drive; more are available in the app store, such as […]

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THE WEB

What’s on the web? Everything. Without buying an antenna or paying for a subscription to Netflix, Hulu or Sling TV, all you need is an Internet connection. Out there on the cosmic web are tons of entertainment, and also some instruction – just recently a woman delivered her own baby watching instructions on YouTube. One of the most popular shows in the known universe is now on the web. Search for “Twitch Presents” to pick up 500 episodes of “Doctor Who.” Never heard of it? You’re out of touch. This show has been running, with a few breaks, since 1963 and regularly draws around 100 million viewers per episode worldwide. Why the Twitch? Twitch.TV was initially intended for watching people […]

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