Thursday, February 28, 2013

Samsung Smart TV

If you have a Samsung SmartTV, even if it's under 70" but at least 60", you likely are extremely pleased with the picture, but extremely frustrated with the clunkiness of navigating its web browser, which frustration only magnified when that Samsung keyboard you bought for it was not compatible. As it turns out, if you have a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (or various other smart devices), the AllShare Control app will turn that device into a keyboard and mouse (as well as let you control all the other functions of the TV).

PS: One word of caution about Samsung: While their products are in the main excellence, their telephone support is filled with people who do not have a clue about their products. Don't even bother calling unless you like hearing wrong information. And I am pretty sure they don't really record the calls for training purposes because I do not believe there is any training.


If you are having trouble activating MLB.TV, you can call customer support, listen to the rep talk gibberish for a half-hour, then ask for a supervisor and wait for 5 minutes, and then have your two questions answered in 30 seconds, or you can read below:

First, the MLB.TV icon will not appear on your supported device (telelvision or BR disk player) until MLB.TV pushes it to the device which will not happen until late March. Second, even if your television is not listed as a supported device, in actuality, if your television is a Smart TV, it likely is a supported device and the icon will appear on it.

Play ball!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Damsels in Distress

It's a gem! I can't say I understood it, but it's truly likeable and captivating. The dialogue is fresh and crisp. The characters are endearing except for the ones you're supposed to hate. The acting is first-rate except for the French guy. If you went to a college that was half-frats and half-not, it will bring back great memories. If you went to college at all, it's still a must see. If you didn't go to college, it's still a must see. It's no Animal House nor is it meant to be. It's a dark movie that focuses on depression, but it's presented with absolute lightness and mirth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Refusing Delivery of USPS Items

As long as you do not open the package or the shipping invoice packet, you can refuse delivery by giving the package back to the delivery person or the Post Office even the next day or later and even if there is a Delivery Confirmation tracking number on the package. In that event, the package will be returned to the sender at no charge to you, and the tracking info will show delivery but it will be re-scanned when you tender it back and then the tracking info will show that delivery was refused. This is very useful if, for example, you ordered chopping mats that weighed a few ounces but a juicer weighing quite a few pounds was delivered instead that would cost you more to return than you paid for the chopping mats and return is typically required to get a refund for delivery of the wrong product.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why You Should Tip Your Postal Delivery Person

When handing out holiday cash gifts, it is a good idea to include your postal delivery person. First, it's a nice thing to do for a deserving person who is shown way too little appreciation. Second, it's so rarely done that you will get to see some real appreciation. For example, you'll likely see a hand-written thank you note in your mailbox. Also, if it's raining, you'll likely hear your doorbell ring with a hand-delivery of your mail because, as he likely will put it, "it's too wet out here for you to have to go to your mailbox." Third, it's a nice thing to do for a deserving person who is shown way too little appreciation.

How to Contact an eBay Seller by Phone

Let's say you bought cutting mats from an eBay seller, and get an email shipping notice from the shipping agent saying it's shipping a juicer and your email response to the shipper gets bounced back and there is no way to contact the shipper. You can send an email to the eBay seller, but there also is a way to get the seller's phone number. On the eBay home page, next to Search in the upper-right corner click on Advanced. and then click on Find Contact Information in the lower-left corner, and then fill-in the Item No. and Seller Name which will be on the Order Confirmation, and schzam, you will contact detailed contact info for the seller so you can phone him and tell him to ship cutting mats instead of a juicer.


AccuWeather Platinum is on sale for Android tablets and phones for 99 cents. If you have been using it (as I have been) or decide to use it, please consider emailing a suggestion along the lines I just did:

"I really like AccuWeather Platinum which I have installed on two Nexus 7s and a Galaxy S3. My one suggestion is to have the temperature appear in the sun icon (much like the battery percentage appears in the Beautiful Battery Disc icon. This would make the temperature easier to read than the small number that appears at the top of the screen and would give the sun icon a purpose in addition to its current purpose. Thanks for considering this suggestion. And again, thanks for a terrific app."

At the very least, Mr. Walk will email you back promptly with appreciation for the suggestion:

"Dear Gene,

"Thank you for using AccuWeather on your mobile device.

"Your comments and suggestions are extremely valuable to us. We will share your suggestions with our Wireless Media Department for review and consideration. Keep in mind that most of the additions and improvements that happen with our products are due to user comments and demand, so please continue to provide any feedback that may help us to improve.

"Thank you again for your suggestion.

"Bill Walk
"AccuWeather Customer Service

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Checking RAM Memory

If you think you might have a RAM memory problem, the good news is there is a free, easy way to check:

Step 1: Open the Start Menu and type in mdsched.exe, then press enter.

Step 2. A pop-up will appear on your screen, asking how you'd like to go about checking the memory. The first option will restart your machine and check the memory right now, and the second option checks the next time you choose to reboot. Pick the option that best suits your needs.
Step 3: Your computer will load a screen that shows the progress of the check and number of passes it will run on the memory. Watch the memory diagnostic tool for errors. If there are no errors, then it's likely that your RAM is not causing any issues, and it's time to investigate other hardware or software issues.

Plug-Ins Slowing Down Browsers

All browsers will install various plug-ins without you knowing it. Many programs also will install plug-ins into your browser without you knowing it. Often, these plug-ins add no functionality while causing your browser to freeze or crash and otherwise slow down your browser in finding and loading websites. The good news is you can easily disable any of these plug-ins just by going to plug-in list and clicking on "disable." You can always reverse the process by going back and clicking "enable." It is good practice to check your plug-in list as part of your routine maintenance because, as noted, plug-ins get installed automatically without notifying you and can revert to the enabled state as well. Finally, while most browsers "recommend" that you allow plug-ins to run automatically, many prefer and we recommend checking the "click to play" box.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Footloose (1984--The Original)

Unless you're a stickler for excellent choreography, a realistic story, absence of over-acting and schmaltz, and crisp dialogue, it is impossible not to like Footloose. Putting aside the music and toe-stomping music and dancing, the cast (very young versions of John Lithgow, Diane Wieste, Sara Jessica Parker, Sean Penn's brother, and many others) without more makes this a good-see. It's not quite in the league of Fame or Flash Dance or Saturday Night Fever, but then not many movies comes this close to being so.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Moving iTunes to Android Devices

With increasing frequency and for many reasons (cost, ease of use, customizability, replaceable battery, larger screen, Chrome-compatibility, and more), iPhone users are switching to Android devices, especially the Samsung Galaxy S3. One stated reason holding some iPhone users back is the belief that they will lose their iTune library. Not so! Thanks to the folks at Media Mushroom, you can now sync your full iTunes library to your Galaxy S3 in an easy way. You can transfer contacts, messages, photos, music and videos with ease. If this is something you're interested in doing, read our full guide below.

Here is a 2-minute YouTube Instructional Video:

Here are written step-by-step instructions:

1.     From the Galaxy S3 home screen, head to the Google Play Store and download and install the Easy Phone Sync app.
2.     Next, head to and download and install the Easy Phone Sync desktop software on your PC or Mac.
3.     Install and run the Easy Phone Sync desktop software and it will automatically begin importing messages, photos, videos, music and contacts from iTunes.
4.     Now plug in your Galaxy S3 using the USB cable to your computer and the Easy Phone Sync software should automatically recognize and open the Easy Phone Sync app on your phone.
5.     Now that the app is open, tap the sync button on your Galaxy S3.
6.     That's it. Your Galaxy S3 should now automatically sync with iTunes!

Return of Breakables to Amazon

Let's suppose you own two 12" Red Vanilla dinner plates and you want two more, Amazon has them, and you order them. One arrives fine and the other is broken. While buried in fine print, you do NOT need to return broken dishes and glassware for either a refund or replacement, and if you mistakenly miss that fine print, a quick call to Amazon will solve the problem. Now suppose the replacement arrives and it's broken. If you choose the option of "other problem with order" instead of "returns," and talk to Amazon nicely and with an air of helpfulness (e.g., "I'm trying to alert you that your packing department is doing a terrible job"), you again can throw away the broken plate, and choose to have another replacement sent plus a refund of one plate charge or choose to keep the one good plate and get a full refund to enable you to buy the fourth plate elsewhere.

Radio Station App

TuneIn categorizes 70,000 stations in a variety of fashions largely unique to this app. You can  browse by genre as well as trending, local, country, town, and language. You would need to abide in a lonely and obscure alcove of the music world to not find an enjoyable station in its repertoire. TuneIn provides news, talk, and sports stations as well. You will be recommended new stations based on previous stations you’ve listened to. Unlike most radios, TuneIn doesn’t root you to the current song. During a session with TuneIn, you can skip back to any song played during the session and skip back to the current song. If you discover a song you enjoy, you can “favorite” the song. Radio stations can also be “favorited” for easy finding. TuneIn is available for Apple and Android devices.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Disputing Credit Card Charges

In most instances, if you have a problem with an order and cannot resolve it with the merchant, disputing the charge with your credit card company is the best option and very easy and efficient. But, if you happened to have bought a product from a merchant in South Korea, through eBay, and processed it by PayPal, and first you dispute the charge for "failure to timely deliver" and then change the dispute basis to "delivered wrong product," you are better off doing the dispute with PayPal. eBay's dispute process is a joke; and going the credit card company route runs an inordinate risk of things getting fouled up. It's a long story, which happened to work out fine with a bit of perseverance. But more important than the result was the lesson learned: Start with PayPal on Korean orders through eBay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Your Phone Is a Magnifying Glass

With the right app, you can use your phone as a magnifying glass.  I recommend the Over 40 Magnifier and Flashlight for iPhones and Magnificent Magnifier HD for Android users. These magnifying apps use your smartphone's camera to enlarge what's in front of you. They also take advantage of your phone's flash, which can help if you're trying to read in a poorly lit area.

Monday, February 11, 2013

System Recovery Disk

Creating a system recovery disk is very simple, very quick, and very inexpensive. All you need is 16MB USB thumb drive and 5 minutes (during most of which time you can walk away until the copying to the drive is done). It's all explained here:
Like with any insurance, you hope never to use it, and like with any insurance, you will be like so glad to have it if you need it.

Key Scrambler

KeyScrambler is a small, free program that adopts an effective preventive approach to protecting the user's private information by encrypting user keystrokes in real time deep in the operating system. Harnessing the power of state-of-the-art cryptography, KeyScrambler has proven to defeat both known and unknown keyloggers, even on security compromised computers. It now is available for Chrome and 21 other browser.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

We Need to Talk About Kevin

No we don't. We would just as soon never hear from or about Kevin again and wish we had never heard about him. Shame on the NYTimes for giving it a good review. Shame for two good actors (Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly) appearing in it. Shame for the producer and director letting it go on well-past the point where any sensible person would (and did) hit the Stop button.

IMDB Summary:

Printing From a Smartphone or Tablet

If you have a printer on a network, you most likely can print to it from your smartphone or tablet. Each printer manufacturer has an app. All you need to do is check on your printer manufacturer's website if the printer you want to use will work with that app.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pango Mobil Parking App

Pango is a free app that greatly alleviates many of the stresses of city parking:

On-Street Parking: With Pango Mobile Parking, you have a convenient alternative to parking meters and pay & display machines. Instead of searching for coins and dollar bills or presenting your credit or debit card, save time by paying with your cellphone at no additional cost to the city parking rate.

Off-Street Parking: With Pango Mobile Parking, you no longer have to deal with the hassle of lot attendants and pay & go machines. Instead of looking for money and walking long distances to pay, reduce your stress by paying with your cellphone at no additional cost to the city parking rate.

Personal Reminder: In most municipalities, parking time limits vary from location to location and are based on local municipalities’ and authorities’ designations for certain streets, parking spaces and parking lots. To ensure you do not go past the designated time limit, Pango will send you a reminder that the time is close to running out. While the app is otherwise free, the personal reminder service costs $1.99/month so it's better just to use your phone's alarm clock.

Pango is available for Apple and Android Devices.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stop Paying Window Washers

There now is a robot that cleans windows. It's just like those robots for cleaning floors but it does vertical spaces. If you have a window cleaning service, this robot, called the Winbot 7, will pay for itself in no time.


How to Find Removed Web Pages

Sometimes a web page you would like to see has been taken down before you  got to see it. Not always, but often, you can find it on


Why to Distrust Some Top-Rated Mutual Funds

Some mutual fund families use the following technique to cast themselves in a glowing but false light. They will open a slew of funds on "both sides" of various indices, and then, as time goes on, will quietly start closing the losers and keeping the winners, and will continue this winnowing process until they get down to a basket of what appear to be stellar funds.

Source: Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan (which just got an exceedingly favorable review by the NYT and is an absolutely terrific read).

Scan Documents With a Smartphone

Scanning documents used to require a computer, document scanner and a lot of spare time. Now, all it requires is a smartphone. Genius Scan turns your phone into a pocket scanner. Just point and shoot a photo of the document you wish to digitize and Genius Scan will turn the document into a PDF or JPEG photo. You can then email your scan directly from the app, or put your document in the cloud. What's more, the app will enhance the scan for clean copies. It also detects page frame and corrects perspective, so your documents will always look their best.
Genius Scan is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Disposable Email Addresses

There times when you would like to try some free service that is offered on the Internet but are reluctant to provide your email address because it might lead to spam. Don’t skip that free service – use a disposable email address. Here is how to get addresses that you can throw away. If spammers get hold of an address, just trash it. Or you can set up an address that expires before a spammer can even begin to use it.
There are many free temporary email services available. The details of their services vary somewhat. Some provide an address that lasts for a short time only. Others provide an alternate address that lasts until you decide to discard it. Some do not require you to register or provide your real address while others do require registration. 

Here are two services picked by my senior staff. They require registration but are highly rated and reputable.

  • Spamgourmet provides addresses with limited life that it forwards to your actual address. After a temporary address is used for some fixed number of times that you pick, the address self-destructs. Requires registration but this service is long-established and well-known.
  • GishPuppy provides disposable email addresses that automatically forward messages to your actual address. You can have an assortment of different addresses and cancel them whenever you choose.

How to get short-lived addresses with no registration required

A number of services provide temporary addresses that expire after a short time and are accessed online instead of being forwarded to your real address. Here are two well-known examples:
  • Guerrilla Mail - Creates temporary addresses that last 60 minutes. Your real address not required
  • 10 Minute Mail - Create throwaway email addresses that last for ten minutes. Ideal for sites that require an email but where you are unlikely to go back. 

Browser Extensions for throwaway addresses

Many disposable email service providers have created add-ons for their individual service for Firefox or Chrome. For Firefox extensions search  the official Mozilla Add-ons website and for Chrome go to the Chrome Web Store. Search for your preferred disposable email service.
More information - For an extensive list of different disposable email services go to this Ghacks list. The author also  provides a download of a spreadsheet with descriptions of numerous services.
And there you have it – give out email addresses with no fear of spam. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are Top-Named Universities Worth the Money?

Putting aside the question of whether or not the most elite universities (e.g., Harvard) provide a "better education" in some abstract way, the question many parents would like to know the answer to is whether or not it is worth the extra dollars to send their kids to such a school compared to a less-elite school in terms of post-graduation earning power. Put another way, given that it is established that kids who attend elite schools earn more than those who attend less-elite schools, do kids who attend the elite schools succeed more because they went to Harvard or do they succeed more because they were able to get into Harvard? The question has been answered by the Dale & Krueger study. It compared post-graduation results of kids who went to Harvard and such versus kids who were accepted by Harvard and such but decided to attend a less-elite school instead. And here is the result: With the exception of kids from low-income families (who did better if they attended an elite school), the kids who were accepted by the Harvards but attended the less-elite schools did just as well post-graduation as the kids who attended the Harvards.

PS: Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan is a terrific read that makes statistics understandable and great fun.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saving on Everyday Stuff

This is hardly new or earth-shaking news. But, it is often overlooked just how much money will be saved on many everyday items (from batteries to disposable razor blades to electric toothbrush replacement heads) if, rather than buying them at your supermarket or hardware store or even Costco, instead you buy them from eBay (screening for Buy It Now and free shipping) and Meritline (almost everything qualifies for free shipping). In general, the savings will be at least 50% and often much more.