Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ginger and Rosa

If you would like to see Annette Bening in a part that should have been played by Linda Hunt, or Christina Hendricks in a part that is as far from Joan on Mad Men as possible, or Oliver Platt in a part that makes you long to see Lake Placid, then by all means watch Ginger and Rosa. Otherwise, forgetta about it. That said, Elle Fanning, Dakota's younger sister, is fabulous and could and indeed should become a premier star one day.

IMDb Link:

Controlling PCs and Macs With an iPad

The one last reason people had for schleping their computers around was the inability to do word-processing and other such "computer functions" on one's tablet. Those days are over for iPad users. With the Parallels Access app, you can link to your computer (whether PC or Mac) and use all its programs, which will appear full-screen on the tablet. For example, you can create a Word document through the tablet which actually will be on the computer, or pull up any Word document to view or edit it. So now, you can leave your computer at home and access its programs from anywhere. There are two drawbacks: (i) it costs $80/year per computer; and (ii) there is a file transfer issue that is being fixed. Also, there is no Android version.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Taking of Pelham 123

The 2009 remake might be as good or even better, but the original 1974 Taking of Pelham 123 is fantastic. Great cast, great plot, wonderful dialogue, terrific twists, engaging characters, and everything is fast moving and thrilling.

IMDb Link:

Deleting Web Accounts

Some Web sites make it difficult to figure out how to delete your accounts. can save you time by providing direct links to the cancellation pages of numerous Internet sites.


Tweaking a Cable Box's TV Guide Listings

You can customize the programs that appear on your cable box's TV guide by designating it to show only channels you've designated as Favorites. But if you add as a Favorite a channel that you had previously designated as a channel to be Skipped, you need to go back to your settings and Un-Skip that channel as well as designating it to be a Favorite or it will not appear in your Guide.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Upside Down

The Romeo and Juliet story is timeless. It's been told so many times and in so many ways that it's difficult to believe that a fresh perspective can be brought to its retelling. And it's even more difficult to believe that casting Kirsten Dunst as Juliet would be anything but a stroke of genius. Unfortunately, there's Upside Down. It's not just terrible. It gives one an incredible headache as half the people and scenes appear upside down. Even Romeo's brilliant work with inverse matter can't save the movie.

IMDb Link:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Turning a Smartphone Into a Stun Gun

A cover from Yellow Jack will enable an Apple 4 and soon other smartphones to deliver a small taser shock. It is not debilitating and not that painful but it's something. The case also will serve as a backup battery for the phone itself. Here is what the case looks like:

Black Yellow Jacket Iphone Case

Here is where you can order it:

Tracking Your Progress in an E-Book

Kindle devices and the Kindle app for tablets and phones give various scales to show how far you've read in the book, stated by pages, percentages, and locations. In addition, the device now "learns" how fast you are reading and will tell you how long you have to the end of the chapter or end of the book. By going into settings or by tapping on the various scale displays you can change what appears on the page you are reading and how the scale is displayed. Contrary to rumors being spread by the paranoid, while the NSA does monitor what you select for reading, and how much you have read from any selection, it does not track your reading speed.

Dead Man's Burden

It is tempting to watch this low-budget western because of the spectacular New Mexican scenery. Alas, the high desert foliage grows faster than the movie's story. The second half of the movie might be better than the first half, while the most entertaining aspect of the first half were the subtitles. Besides missing much of the dialogue (the word "unintelligible" appears in almost every subtitle, whoever did the subtitles had two descriptions of non-words: "music" or "noise"--such that every sound that was not a word or musical note was deemed "noise." Unfortunately, many of the noises in the sound-track were so poorly recorded that there was no way to know what they were supposed to be.

IMDb Link:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yikes, My Chrome Extension Button Bar Disappeared!

It's very easy to get back. You'll see that the Address Bar reaches almost to the Settings button, just before which is a little button that upon clicking will show your Extension buttons. In any event, just put your cursor on the right edge of the Address Bar, and when it turns into a horizontal double-arrow, just drag the right edge of the Address Bar to the left, and as you do so, the Extension buttons will re-appear.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Samsung Mega

The Samsung Mega has an even bigger screen (6.3") than the Samsung Note 2 (5.5") and while it's smaller than the 7" tablets, it has a phone. It's also priced lower than the Note 2 likely because it does not have the pen feature and some other cool Note 2 features. The Mega will be available for $150 with a 2Y contract with AT&T starting August 23, and soon from the other carriers.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Sessions

A good movie should take you to place you've never been and know little if anything about. A really good movie does so with a tight script and good pace. An excellent movie does so with great acting by a perfect cast. The Sessions is such a movie.

IMDb Link:

Dangers of VRBO

Here is the beautiful place in Telluride CO recently rented by a subscriber:

Here is his review:

This place is isolated – 25 miles to the nearest store, gas station or restaurant.  Do not plan on arriving after dark as the last 7 miles are on dirt roads not well marked.  In our case we had some trouble finding the place because the owner’s directions were off in several key respects.

Contrary to what is advertised, the house has only one bedroom and a loft with a bed and a futon mattress on the floor.  The ladder to the loft is so steep it would be dangerous for small children or anyone elderly or infirm. 

The evening we arrived we found that the house had no heat or hot water, no cell phone coverage on our Verizon phones, no wi-fi, no internet connection, no electricity in the bedroom, no hand soap, no dish soap, no microwave and no spare toilet paper.  The owner, who lives about 5 minutes away, was unapologetic and unsympathetic.  She did give us two bars of hand soap and two rolls of toilet paper.  As for the liquid dish soap she held up a plastic bottle with an inch or two of soap in the bottom and said, “I could give you this, but then I wouldn’t have any for myself.”

The day after we arrived a friend of the owner helped us get the hot water and heating system turned on, but he couldn’t figure out how to make the lights in the bedroom work or how to get wi-fi or an internet connection.  Two days later an electrician solved the lighting problem but even he had no idea how to connect the router or get a wi-fi signal.  When we spoke to the owner again about the lack of internet connection the best she could do was to say, “It used to work,” and tell us that Dish Network had assured her that we were “getting a strong signal.”  Over the week we were there we never did get any internet service.

To give it its due, the scenery is magnificent and the house is modern, attractive, situated beautifully and has great views.  There are a few odd quirks: many wall switches to many overhead lights, all arranged in a system that is not self-evident.  Aside from the master bath, there are no soap dishes or towel racks or wall hooks in the other bathrooms.  And despite the owner’s assurances that it would go away after a day or two, there was occasionally a noticeably unpleasant smell (suspiciously like sewage) in both halves of the house, strongest in the attached studio.

Scam Alert re Landlines

 If you have a landline telephone, be on the lookout for this recent scam. It’s similar to a phishing scam, but much scarier since victims have every reason to think they are actually talking to their credit card company. Keep reading for the details.
The Scam
This scam starts with a call from the “local police”. It isn’t law enforcement, rather scammers masquerading as police. The call is always made to a home phone (not a cell phone). The scammer explains that your credit card information was found in a recent bust. They encourage you to contact your credit card company and report the information.
What would you do if this scenario occurred? I know I would immediately pick up the phone and call my credit card company. Surprisingly this is exactly what the scammer wants you to do. They wait for you to hang up, pick up the phone again and call your credit card company.
Landlines work a bit differently than cell phones. If the person that initiated the call doesn’t hang up, the call remains connected, even if the recipient of the call hangs up. So, although you think you’re calling your credit card company, you’re still on the phone with the scammers. They then pretend to be representatives of your credit card company. As they verify your credit card number, security code, and other details, they get all the information they need to make you a victim of id theft.
How Can I Avoid this Scam?
This scam is scary, but it can easily be avoided as long as you recognize it. Before making any calls on your landline telephone listen carefully for the dial tone. If you get a call from your local police and believe it might be a scam, contact them and find out. If you get a call like this, you may want to use a different phone to call the police or your credit card company.
Watch out for this scam and remember it only works if the scammers call your landline phone. 

Browser Safety

When it comes to online safety, not all Internet browsers are created equal. Information security research firm NSS Labs, Inc. tested the five leading browsers against a sample of 754 “active and malicious” web addresses to see what percentage were caught by each browser’s defenses. Here is a ranking of browsers by level of protection:
Internet Explorer-99.96%
Google Chrome- 83.16%
Safari5- 10.15%
Firefox- 9.92%
Opera12- 1.87%
The primary reason for the huge differences in safety is that Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all use Safe Search,  a system that blocks URLs labeled as “malicious” in a database compiled by Google. According to the data, this defense alone is only 10% effective at protecting your computer against malware. However, Chrome uses an additional protection that also evaluates the safety of an executable file (such as a malware code embedded in a website) instead of just the URL .
What makes Internet Explorer so effective is that it has its own line of defenses called SmartScreen. It does what Google Safe Search and Download Protection do, but with much more effectiveness. The URL-based portion of the protection system blocked over 83% of the malware. This test only included the latest versions of each of these browsers, so earlier versions may not be as strong in their security.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Second Generation Nexus 7 Keyboard/Case

A bluetooth keyboard case such as the one from Minisuit is an absolute must for the Nexus 7. It acts as a stand, provides a physical keyboard, and is a solid traveling case. The bad news is that the Minisuit model that works with the first generation Nexus 7 does not fit the second generation Nexus 7 which has two big improvements over the first generation Nexus 7--a fabulous high-def screen and front- and rear-facing cameras. But the good news is that Minisuit is bringing out a model that does and it's under $25. BTW, if you have any questions for Minisuit, it will answer an email inquiry within minutes.

Link to Minisuit:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Umbrella for Smartphones

Unfortunately, holding an umbrella usually precludes the use of said smartphones for picture taking and texting, but Brollytime, a company based in Chicago, has come up with an innovation to change that. Its umbrella comes with a handle that has an ergonomic, four-finger grip. It turns out that the handle is perfect for smartphones and cameras because it frees your thumb from holding the umbrella. Now you can avoid that awkward position of tucking an umbrella handle under your chin to take a picture or shoot off a text.
The Brolly, which takes its name from the informal British term for umbrella, is available at the link below for $20. It’s compact and easy to fold and store. The handle, which is a combination of plastic and rubber, is strong but comfortable. I could easily hold the umbrella over my head while texting in the rain.
I wish the rest of the umbrella were designed as well as the grip. The Brolly looks as cheap as those $5 umbrellas that vendors start hawking as soon the sky turns gray. I have a feeling the Brolly might not last through a gusty New York storm and would end up among the other twisted creatures of bent spines and torn fabric that are left in trash cans and gutters after a heavy rain.

Scan Any Suspicious File

VirusTotal is a free web-based system that scans any uploaded file with more than 40 different antivirus products. You can use VirusTotal to check your own computer too. There's also an official free downloadable Windows utility that can do this for you automatically, and which has some extra capabilities that aren't available via the web site. 

Link to VirusTotal website:

Link to VirusTotal uploadere:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Image Size Reducer

Digital photography produces images that continue to improve in quality and resolution, with even some smartphones now boasting a 41 megapixel camera. But images taken at such resolution are often quite large, and take up a lot of hard disk space. Which can be a problem if, say, you want to email a collection of photos to someone. Most image editor programs have the ablity to resize a picture file, but one of the fastest and easiest I've found is called TinyPic. It's a tiny 1.5 MB download and it's free.  Once it's installed, just drag one or more file names onto its selection panel and in just a few seconds you'll have your resized images to your required specification. You can choose whether the originals are retained (which is the default) or deleted. To the naked eye, the re-sized images look just as good as the originals, but at a fraction of the file size. Around 20% in my testing. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Excellent Cleaner for Android Devices

1-Tap Cleaner is very good and free but it is ad-supported. Clean Master is just as good if not better, sleeker looking, and also free. Thus, Clean Master provides every possible tool you need to improve the performance of your Android device. It can eliminate hordes of junk files that riddle your device, quickly empty the cache, or simply uninstall a pesky application. This application is beautifully designed, cleverly engineered and technically perfect.

From the moment you install Clean Master you will know that you have something useful. Within seconds of the install you are able to get your device going faster. The main menu is divided into quarters. In the first section, an icon represents the cache files. Users must tap on this square to delete cache files. The second section covers all of the junk files. These are files that are left behind even after the user deletes an application. The third section is for the applications. It allows users to uninstall pre-installed applications or the ones they installed. This feature will also eliminate all of the junk files associated with the application. 

With its modern user interface and intuitive controls, Clean Master represents possibly the best application for memory cleanup available on Android. It is well-designed, super stable, and adds value to the Android operating system. This application is a must-have for every user who frequently installs apps, as well as for all other users looking for a way to clean their device and boost its performance.


Way Cool Doormats

You probably have wondered where your old flip-flops went. If they lived a really good life, they are rewarded by being re-cycled into really cool doormats, which are colorful, durable, attractive, and inexpensive, and you can find them all over the internets from The eBay to The Amazon to specialty stores .... just put "flip flop doormats" into The Google. Here are what two look like:

Here are just some of the varieties of patterns:

Cox's New Contour DVR and App

Cox now has available a new cable box called the Contour. It has some distinct advantages, most notably, that it has six tuners instead of just two so that you can record up to six shows at once or record five shows and watch a separate show. It also has greater DVR storage capacity. In addition to a full-screen TV Guide and two-week-ahead searching, and to its whole-home capability of being able to watch any recorded show on any other Cox-box TV, you also can watch any show on an iPad (and Android-capability is coming soon). The standard installation cost is $60 and the additional monthly charge is $12-$26 depending on your current set-up, but if you ask for the Customer Loyalty Department, Cox will waive the installation charge and reduce the monthly charge by $5. It uses the same remotes as existing Cox cable boxes so, if you prefer the silver to the black, you can continue using the silver and you won't have to go out and get more remotes to have one at each end of your sofa.

Explanatory Link:|1028992|cox%20contour||S|e|28487260922

Cool Moto X Features Now Available for Android Phones

The Moto X is one of the most talked about smartphones of the year. Despite not being equipped with a full HD display and a quad-core processor like other high-end devices, Motorola still managed to bring something special to the market. The company tweaked the Android operating system just enough to deliver a unique user experience that helps set the phone apart from both the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
The Moto X includes features such as Active Display, which allows for select portions of the AMOLED screen to light up to reveal the time and incoming notifications, and the ability to launch the camera application with a simple flick of the wrist, know as Quick Capture.
Third-party developers took notice of these features and have been hard at work to bring them to other Android smartphones. It would appear that their perseverance has paid off. Two free apps are now available in the Google Play store that will make your smartphone a little more like the Moto X.
Active Notifications
The first application is called Active Notifications and it is designed to replicate Motorola's Active Display technology. The app was originally only available for devices running Android 4.3, a software version that is found on only a small number of devices, but it has been updated to support any device running Android 4.1.2 or higher.
There are still some shortcomings, however. Unlike the Moto X, Active Notifications isn't capable of handling multiple notifications.
A one time in-app purchase of $0.99 opens the door to even more features, including the ability to disable notifications at night, set custom brightness levels, and hide notification details. Phones with an AMOLED display such as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Nexus will also benefit from minimal battery drain because only a portion of the screen will light up, rather than the entire display.
Twisty Launcher
An application known as Twisty Launcher will bring the Quick Camera feature to select smartphones running Android 2.3 or higher. The app goes one step further than the Moto X, allowing users to set up gestures to launch more than just the camera. Users can choose from three possible gestures, a chop, a twist, and a flip. The chop gesture is enabled by default, but the other gestures and the ability to launch different apps can be unlocked for $1.
Active Notifications and Twisty Launcher are available now for free in the Google Play store.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ready, Set, Bag

The best documentary competition movie, by far, is Best In Show, brought to us by Christopher Guest. The documentary on the National Spelling Bee is good, but the contest itself makes no sense and the participants are off-the-planet. Word Play is a wonderful movie about the National Crossword Puzzle Contest in general and Will Shortz in particular. Right up there is Ready, Set, Bag, the story of the national competition in grocery store bagging. It is funny and poignant, and leaves us wanting to know more about many of the people in it. It drives home that competition just very well might lie at the soul of the American psyche. If not, then it leaves us to wonder, where does this kind of thing come from? In fine, it's a delightful movie, that will make you laugh, and will hold your attention throughout.

IMDb Link to Ready Set Bag:

IMDb Link to Best In Show:

IMDb Link to Word Play:

IMDb Link to the National Spelling Bee Movie: don't worry about it ... skip it.

Shout Out to AC: Thanks for the tip to Ready, Set, Bag ...  it was delightful ...

Print Screen Work-Around

Sometimes your Screenshot program refuses to capture a screenshot. Here is a back-up: Press Alt and Print Screen at the same time; open Paint (All Programs/Accessories/Paint); click on Paste and your screenshot will appear there. Then you can copy it or save it to wherever you want.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nexus 7 Defaults

Many apps can be launched by default. For example, when doing a web search, if there are multiple browsers installed, the Nexus 7 will ask which you want to use and whether you want to use it just once or for all such searches. If you choose "for all" that will be the default setting. Later, you might change your mind and want to change or delete that default setting. Just go to Settings/Apps and tap on the app whose defaults you want to change and tap on Clear Defaults.

Concerto for Typewriter

One problem with listening to music instead of attending live concerts is that the visuals are lost. Here is a perfect example of why attending live concerts is so much more entertaining and enlightening.


Free e-Books

Most e-books aren't free, and the ones that are often old public domain classics. If you're feeling thrifty, you don't have to resign yourself to the public domain exclusively. There are newer works of popular fiction available from big-name authors.Check out 425 free ebooks at this site. You'll find some classics, but also newer works from David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick and Paulo Coelho.


Friday, August 9, 2013


Supposedly, this is the story of a Princeton admissions officer who is up for a major promotion but takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption. I would not know because I gave up after 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, the dialogue, people, premises, assumptions and everything else about the movie were somewhere at the outer fringes of stupid, inane, unrealistic, and insipid.

IMDb Link:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Customizing Icons on Apple Devices

The ability to customize your iOS device beyond a wallpaper on the home and lock screens and icon arrangement doesn't truly exist. Unless, that is, you decide to jailbreak your iDevice. Jailbreaking a device gives you full permission to modify and install whatever you want on iOS, outside of Apple's walled garden. There are plenty of arguments for and against the act, but we'll leave that for another post.
For those who don't want to jailbreak, a new app called Iconical will allow you to create your own app icon for a long list of supported apps (the developer claims 14,000 apps are supported).
You can purchase Iconical from the App Store for $1.99, or if you're fast enough you can get it for half price for the next week.
After you install it, you can select an app from the default list, or scan the installed apps on your device. How the app works is actually pretty ingenious. Iconical will scan for installed apps that support the iOS URL scheme, which allows apps to be launched from another location, either to the default or with a specific function in mind. An example of a specific function includes launching the FaceTime app and calling a predefined contact just by tapping on the icon. The icon you end up creating is nothing more than a Web shortcut pointing to a URL scheme.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
Select an app and begin designing. You're able to draw, import a photo, or take a new photo to replace the current icon.
Once you've added a photo and given your icon a name, simply tap on the "Create Home Screen Icon" text. You'll then be redirected to Safari on your device, where you're instructed to create a Web shortcut.
In the end, you'll have the default app icon on your device, along with the newly created icon. You can hide the standard icon(s) in a folder and move your creation into its place on your home screen.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Re-installing an Uninstalled App from Google Play

If an app experiences problems, one thing to try as a fix is to uninstall and re-install it. You can do so with both free and apps that you have bought without incurring an additional charge. Here is one point to remember: The online Google Play Store takes up to 24 hours to update so, if you try to do the re-install from the Google Play Store website immediately after you did the uninstall, the Google Play Store might not let you do so because it does not yet realize you have uninstalled the app. So, you can wait a day and then do the re-install from the Google Play Store website. But wait! There is a way to do the re-install immediately: Just do it by going to the Google Play Store from the Google Play app on the device itself.