RETURN OF A CLASSIC

A reader wrote to say she had been using a Windows XP computer forever. But recently she bit the bullet and bought a Windows 10 machine. Ouch! The wound still hurts. Mainly, she hates the clutter in the Windows 10 start menu. We suggested she try “Classic Shell,” which is free from classicshell.net. It replaces the Windows 10 start menu with something that looks a lot like Windows XP but makes no other changes to your computer. The main difference between the XP start menu and the one in Windows 10 is text, or the lack of it. Windows 10 seems to assume you’re either an idiot or you don’t speak English. At first, everything is an icon, not words […]

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NEW ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

We were roped in by Google’s one-day offer of a nice discount on a new phone; it came with a gift card from AirBNB, worth the cost of the phone, plus $225 for our old phone. But when we got the new phone, the Pixel 3, we decided to return it. The sound quality was muffled, said Bob. Joy couldn’t tell if it was better or worse, but she’s not the audiophile Bob is. This opens the way for a bit of high dudgeon. That is to say, an incensed tirade. One of the great flaws of the high-tech industry is adding improvements where none are needed. We have been writing about this stuff for so long that we now […]

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SMART TV OR SMART STICK?

A friend of ours is thinking of getting a smart TV. We asked her: Isn’t your TV already smart? A smart TV is one that can connect to the Internet, which hers can. Perhaps she is thinking of a super smart TV, the kind with voice control. These days, many Samsung and LG TVs have microphones built into their remotes. The LG “ThinQ TV,” $380 for the 43-inch model, lets you use either the Alexa or Google Home devices for voice control. Ask for games, the weather, some scenery to jog into, or your favorite photos from Budapest; ask for a sports score without interrupting the movie your daughter is watching, and it will show along the bottom of the […]

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OUR NEW PHONE

There are 4.66 billion cell phones in the world. Ours cracked. Water got in and they just don’t work as well when they’re submerged. ‘Hooda’ thought it? It was the third gone gadget in a year. So bye-bye Google Nexus 6P and hello Google Pixel 2. All 158 apps from our old phone transferred over automatically as soon as we signed into our Google account. (Who needs 158 apps? We don’t even remember what they all do; they went in just to test ’em for the column.) The data in some of those apps was gone. Unfortunately, Joy had a couple hours of Bob’s deep voice recorded on the old phone, telling her about his adventures in Morocco as a […]

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TRUTH FINDER

We now know people who are married, or about to be, to mates they met online; it’s becoming normal. But if any of these meets make you nervous, you can make preliminary checks. A friend of ours turned down a match from an online dating service because the guy had “too many relationships.” Truthfinder.com told her. The scope of the information was amazing. TruthFinder not only knew how many online relationships the guy had, but how many business filings he’d made with the government (they were for McDonald’s franchises), what his house was worth, how much he paid for his mortgage, and so on. The service, which charges $28 for a one-time search, or $23 if you go monthly, also […]

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GIVING WINDOWS ONE MORE TRY

A reader said he missed the free period for getting Windows 10. No he didn’t. If you want it, you can still get it for free until December 31. Here’s how: Search the web on the phrase “Customers who need assistive technologies can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost”  or click here. You may feel guilty for getting a free upgrade if you don’t use “assistive technologies.” But it says right there on the website that such technologies include text enlargement. Heck, we already do that by holding down the “Ctrl” and “plus” keys. The upgrade is not required, by the way. Out in farm country they used to say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and maybe […]

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BOOK EM

We watched an interview with James Patterson, the best selling mystery writer. (This guy’s office would make a neat freak weep with joy.) He said he insisted his eight-year old son read a book a week all summer. It stuck. Years later he got a perfect score on the verbal part of the SAT exam. So did Bob. This runs counter to the current millennials and even some earlier gens, who don’t read much at all. What’s a mother, or father, to do? Recent numbers from the Pew Research Center say a quarter of Americans don’t even read a book a year. This is not a reflection on their intelligence; one of the smartest guys Bob ever knew is an […]

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HELP!

“Ask My Buddy” is a free app for sending an alert to everyone you know, without reaching for your phone or computer. It works just by voice on a Windows 10 computer, a Google Home device or the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. Plenty more like these are coming out soon. With Windows 10’s built-in voice recognition program, Cortana, you can say “Ask My Buddy to Alert Everyone” and everyone on your contact list will get an immediate phone call, text message and email. Or you can confine it to a single person. Cortana isn’t great unless you’ve trained it by using it a lot, but the Google and Amazon devices are quite good at recognition. For Windows, we found […]

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BACK TO THE FUTURE

We downloaded Microsoft’s “Creator’s Update,” for the latest and greatest in Windows 10. It’s Microsoft’s way of giving you a look at the wonderful things that are coming up for Windows. Why do we do these things? It’s our duty. So the latest update of Creator Updates took an hour to install and trashed our Windows 10 computer. Programs like PowerPoint and Word wouldn’t start. Nor could they be reinstalled. Dead icons appeared everywhere. It wasn’t a virus, it was a look at future Windows updates. Thanks. In the Windows “Recovery” center, there’s a helpful hint saying we should revert to a previous version of Windows 10. We clicked that and reverted. It was like reverse digital evolution. We got […]

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THE RIGHT LIGHT FOR NIGHT

The latest version of Windows 10 has a “Night Light” feature. It allows you to adjust the screen color from the regular bright white on a sliding scale from a light tan to orange. It’s free and you can get it if you search for “Windows 10 Creators Update.” Heaven only knows we need it. At least Bob needs it. He uses a tiny program called “Pango Bright,” from Pangolin Laser Systems that allows the user to scale down the screen brightness from 100 percent to 20 percent. Dealing with the fully bright screen is especially annoying at night or in darkened rooms. We owe this to Steve Jobs, who was the first to give us the bright white screen […]

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