Monday, June 30, 2014

The Italian Job (1969)

The 2003 remake of this 1969 movie did neither the original, nor Hollywood, nor the arts, any good. The original is a classic, and once you see it, you never will forget the ending. It's not only brilliant, it will make you wonder why it took so many thousands of years of staging to think of it. For those on the Cox system, you can see it for free on TMCHD 1071 at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 1.

IMDb Link:

Best Shower Head

You can spend hundreds of dollars on a Speakman or Kohler or other fancy-shmancy-named shower head but you will not find a better or more powerful (once you pull out the water-saver thing) shower head than the "ultimate" shown here, which costs about $30-40 depending on the finish you want.

ultimate shower heads


And if you think a little shower head cannot be that great, even though the larger model is not functionally any different, you can buy the "large ultimate" instead:

large ultimate shower heads

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Pack Lighter

When traveling, many people pack enough underwear to be able to change daily. There is an excellent alternative. Just pack a few pieces of ExOfficio travel underwear. You just toss them into the laundry or wash them in a sink and within a couple of hours they will be dry enough to wear. They are odor resistant, moisture wicking, durable, quick drying and very comfortable. They are available everywhere online and in stores.

ExOfficio Link:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not Fade Away

"Well, Jimmy, what did you think of Not Fade Away?" It's not close to The Commitments or The Blues Brothers, but if you like blues, and the British Invasion, and music of the 60s, you just might find it quite entertaining. The problem is the movie cannot figure out what its point is and why its made. It has more subplots than the spots on the back of a lady bug, so you end up not being able to follow any of them or even caring about them. It also suffers from cutting off great songs too soon, even though the movie goes for nearly 2 hours.

IMDb Link:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Never Losing Your Cellphone

ZOMM is a wireless leash that connects you to your cellphone. Whenever you go further than 30 feet from your cellphone, it will signal you. So, you will never inadvertently leave your house again without your cellphone or inadvertently leave your cellphone at a restaurant, movie, etc. Bringrr is a device that stays in your car and alerts you if you ever start to drive off without your cellphone. Both are available  for under $100 at Amazon and elsewhere.

Smart Crock-Pot

Although it will cost about $50 more than a dumb crock-pot, for any serious crock-pot user, a smart crock-pot is a must. Illustratively, many recipes call for lowering the temperature half-way through or raising the temperature for some period before serving, which with a dumb crock-pot you have to be there to do that. But with a smart crock-pot and the free app that goes with it for both Apple and Android devices, you can be on the other side of the world and you can make the needed temperature changes at the precise moment you want to.

Product Website Link:!-crock-pot%C2%AE-smart-slow-cooker-enabled-with-wemo%E2%84%A2/SCCPWM600-V1.html

Latest on the Tablet Wars

With its new Tab S, Samsung finally has a worthy competitor to the iPad Air. Priced about the same, the Tab S has a larger and higher resolution screen, is thinner and lighter, and has a a longer battery life than the iPad. Unlike the iPad, the Tab S also allows for multiple accounts and a multi-window mode (allowing you, for example, to have your Gmail open and access the internet through Chrome at the same time). And as an eBook reader, the screen has a special feature that makes for better visibility in daylight. The only disadvantage any commentator has noted for the Tab S is the bloatware that comes pre-loaded by Samsung.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gmail Stops Syncing on Smart Devices

Even though the user has turned on the auto-sync function in the Gmail settings, it will just turn itself off for no apparent reason. There actually can be several reasons this is happening, such as the use of Snapdragon or other battery savers. But the most common cause is having the device set to "Always" enable power saving mode. So, if you go to your Power Saving Mode in Settings, and select "Auto-Enable" instead of "Always," the power saving mode will not kick in until the battery gets down to 20% and, if power saving was the culprit, sync will not turn-off unless that 20% threshold is met, in which event you can manually turn sync back on.

Pros and Cons of PSAPs

[From the Wall Street Journal: June 22]

New hearing devices called PSAPs are available for about $100 to $600 each, but come without a specialist's help.

by Norm Crampton
June 22, 2014 4:54 p.m. ET

Do you need a hearing aid, or a PSAP?

That's short for "personal sound amplification product," a device that's challenging traditional hearing aids and changing how people navigate the marketplace for hearing help.

For decades, that process has involved a bundle of services from an audiologist or a licensed technician—getting a hearing test, selecting a hearing aid, going back for adjustments, buying and replacing batteries—and paying as much as $3,000 for each device. Now, PSAPs, which are available online, compete at a fraction of the price (about $100 to $600 each) but without the other services.

The changes are raising new questions and concerns: Is it smart to deal with hearing problems yourself? How good are the devices available in big-box stores or online? When is it a good idea to begin by consulting a professional?

For some answers, we spoke with Neil DiSarno, an audiologist and chief staff officer of audiology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Md. Here are edited excerpts:

Boomer Bubble
WSJ: Why are we seeing these changes—new products, new approaches to treatment of hearing loss?

DR. DISARNO: Entrepreneurs realize that there's a large bubble coming—baby boomers now getting to the age where they're noticing that they may have hearing loss. So there's a market, and people are trying to fill that market with advertising, new products, pricing strategies, certainly different kinds of dispensing strategies.

WSJ: All of which sounds good.

DR. DISARNO: There's good and bad. I think what's better is there's more information out there. People are more aware of the effects of hearing loss on relationships, and because there's so much more advertising they realize they aren't alone. People may respond sooner than they typically have—waiting seven or eight years after first noticing a hearing problem.

WSJ: And the downside?

DR. DISARNO: People are starting to self-diagnose and self-treat. Some of the marketing suggests you can do this and don't need a professional. But you wouldn't do that with a lot of other sensory deficits that you may have. However, when marketing is based on price points, people think, "If I can get this done at a much lower price than what my professional is asking, maybe I should look into it."

WSJ: What are PSAPs, and who might benefit from them?

DR. DISARNO: PSAPs are mostly off-the-shelf amplifiers for people with normal hearing who need a little boost in volume in certain settings, like listening to TV or going to a show. Hearing aids contain a much higher level of technology prescribed to treat a diagnosed hearing loss. In either case, an audiologist should make that determination.

I think some PSAPs can and should be provided by audiologists to a person who realizes he has a mild hearing deficit and wants to work with a professional who will be monitoring his progress.

WSJ: When a person with hearing loss is searching for help, is it always necessary to start with a professional?

DR. DISARNO: In my opinion, yes, whether that's your family physician or an audiologist. After taking a look in your ear, they evaluate the sensitivity of your hearing. An audiologist tests your hearing within the range of frequencies that encompass the speech signal.

The whole emphasis is, what's your hearing like now and how might that impact your ability to hear conversational speech?

In-Store Model
WSJ: Can you buy that kind of service in a big-box store—say, at Costco?

DR. DISARNO: Costco has to hire as the dispenser either an audiologist or a licensed hearing-aid specialist. You may see someone with extensive experience, or you may see someone with extremely limited experience. It's hard to know unless you ask: How long have you been doing this?

I won't say the Costco model is a bad model, but it may not be the right model for everyone.

WSJ: What changes are ahead in the hearing-aid business?

DR. DISARNO: I expect to see a change in the established models of service delivery.

The relationship between audiologists and their patients is built on trust. The unbundling of hearing-aid costs and greater transparency can strengthen that trust. The variety of providers may increase, forcing many to explain and demonstrate to patients the high value, best practices and professional services that they provide, and separating those who do from the rest.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

John Adams (2008)

Based on David McCullough's Pulitzer Price-Winning Book, the  HBO 7-part mini-series of John Adams is available free to Amazon Prime customers and otherwise available. Judging from Episode 1, it's entertaining even if not particularly educational. The script fails to give any depth to the characters and scant depth to the events, so it's hard to see any real connection between the richness of the book and the uni-dimensionality of the mini-series. Laura Linney is an absolute delight and turns in a marvelous performance, which makes Paul Giamatti's overacting (to the point where it is not believable that he captures John Adams or any real person) even more annoying than it otherwise would be. And for those who don't know this, Paul Giamatti is a generally nasty, rude person who cannot even be gracious to other guests of a talk show for the few minutes both are in the Green Room together and nothing was done to provoke Mr. Giamatti's surliness.  

IMDb Link:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Speed-Reading Web Pages

Squirt is a free browser add-in for Firefox, Chrome and Safari that makes it easy to speed-read a web page (or part of it) at up to 650 words per minute.  It's ideal if you regularly read news stories or other articles on the screen rather than printing them out, as it helps you to take in the information efficiently and quickly.
Once installed, the Squirt logo will be added to your browser's button bar.  To speed-read the entire page, just hit the button.  Or to read just a portion of the page, select it with the mouse before hitting the button.
Squirt works by showing you the text one word at a time, so that you can read without needing to move your head or eyes.  Colour-coding of one letter in the word, and clever positioning, helps ensure that you stay focussed and attentive.  
If you want to learn to speed-read, why not try it out?  It's free, and you can easily uninstall it if you decide it's not for you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

e-Book Storage

You need not keep e-books on your e-book reader to access them. Instead, by choosing the option “Remove from device,” you can un-clutter your reader. Even upon doing so,  books you have purchased from Amazon are archived on the company’s servers and still available from your account to be downloaded again should you ever decide you want to reread them. You can find the books in the Archived Items area on the home screen. You can also see all the books you have purchased and archived by logging into your Amazon account.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rental Cars and EZ Pass

One of the add-ons that rental car companies are now often including is an EZ-Pass device which will enable you to go through the automatic EZ-Pass lanes. You will be billed for the actual toll. But, in addition, you also will be charged a "daily convenience fee" of about $4 (usually with a cap of about $16). So, if you want to avoid the "convenience fee," be sure to check or un-check and initial the appropriate box when taking the car; or, it might be the case that, as long as you don't use an EZ-Pass lane, you will not incur the "convenience fee."

Protecting Android Devices From Ransomware

The plague of ransomware has spread to Android devices. There are numerous recent reports of malware infections on Android platforms that lock or encrypt personal files and demand payment before you can regain access to the files. Here is some help with this growing problem.
For systems that may already be infected, try a new free app that has just been released by Avast. It scans the system, removes any ransomware it finds, and decrypts affected files. It is called “avast! Ransomware Removal”. The description and download is here: There is also a short video demonstrating what actually happens when ransomware infects your Android smartphone.
This new app is for one-time use in cleaning already infected systems. For prevention and more permanent protection against a wider variety of malware, Avast has a second free app called “Mobile Security & Antivirus” available here:  This app secures against unwanted phishing, malware, spyware, and malicious viruses such as Trojans. It is free but it does contains in-app purchase options. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Printing From iPhones and iPads

Is your printer AirPrint-compatible?
Either way, you'll be able to use AirPrint, but if your printer is AirPrint-compatible, the setup will be easier. Go to this Apple support page at and see if your printer is listed as one of the compatible devices.
If 'Yes', then:
Your AirPrint setup is very simple. Connect your iOS device and printer to the same Wi-Fi network. As far as the setup goes, you're done.
To test the connection, open up a note in the native Notes app. Hit the action button (the square with the arrow) and select "Print." Your printer should appear as the selected device. If not, tap the Printer field, allow your device to scan, and tap the printer name when it appears.
Hit Print, and your note should be sent to the printer almost immediately. The transfer speed will vary depending on your Wi-Fi network, but you'll likely find that it's surprisingly fast.
If 'No', then:
If your printer is not AirPrint-compatible, don't fret. There are downloadable programs that trick your iOS device into thinking that any printer connected to your desktop is AirPrint-compatible. So, instead of the iDevice communicating directly with the printer, it goes through the computer first.
O'Print is compatible with Windows, while HandyPrint is available for Mac users.
Once installed, the program will display a list of printers installed on your computer. Enable the ones you want to print to from your iDevice. For most users, that's just one printer, but if you have multiple printers in the house, you can enable them all.
To test the connection, open up a note in the native Notes app. Hit the action button (the square with the arrow) and select "Print." Your printer should appear as the selected device. If not, tap the Printer field, allow your device to scan, and tap the printer name when it appears.
Hit Print, and your note should be sent to the printer almost immediately. The transfer speed will vary depending on your Wi-Fi network, but you'll likely find that it's surprisingly fast.
Just remember: For this setup to work, your computer must stay powered on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your iOS device(s).

AirPrint-enabled apps

With AirPrint set up, you can now rint almost anything you see on your iOS device. Photos, maps, Web pages, and even content from third-party apps can be sent to your printer wirelessly. 

Texting Multiple Recipients

The ability to text multiple recipients with one text can be especially useful at times, such as when the USA is playing Ghana in a fantastic World Cup game. If you have no problems doing so, ignore this post. But if your phone just hangs any such multi-recipient text and does not send it, there is an easy setting change that should fix the problem. Here it is (based on a Samsung Galaxy S3 but similar settings appear in most phones):

1. Open the Messaging App.

2. Open Settings and scroll down to “Multimedia message (MMS) settings.”

3. Uncheck the box that says “Group Messaging (send a single message to multiple recipients).”  And schzam!!! Problem solved!!!

[Note: The fix sounds counter-intuitive but actually it’s not. With the box checked, the phone tries to convert any text with multiple recipients to MMS messages and then they would not send. Unchecking the box leaves them as SMS messages and sending seems to work just fine]

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Juno Power: Not Just for Smartphones Any More

Many people know about Juno Power's making thin external batteries for smartphones and tablets. But most people do not know that Juno Power also makes a portable car battery jumper called the Juno Jumpr. It's about the size of a deck of cards and costs about $100. It's a must for any road-trip and nice to have anywhere.  

Site Link:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Benefit of Amazon Prime

Amazon just introduced Amazon Prime. With Prime Music, you can listen ad-free to over a million songs and hundreds of expert-programmed Prime Playlists. Prime Music includes tens of thousands of albums from top artists like Daft Punk, P!nk, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton, The Lumineers, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. And we'll be adding more music all the time. Here's a list of popular artists in Prime Music.
You can listen to the entire Prime Music catalog for free — it's included in your Prime membership. Don't worry about having your music constantly disrupted by ads... you won't hear any. Choose exactly what song to listen to, repeat your favorite song over and over again, or download music to your phone or tablet to listen offline.
Prime members in the US can start listening to Prime Music today at Kindle Fire HD/HDX devices will get Prime Music in an automatic, over-the-air update. You can also download the latest Amazon Music app in the Android and iOS appstores. If you're not yet a Prime member, start a 30-day free trial today

Tweaking Internet Explorer to Work Better on Some Sites

If your computer came with Windows 7 or 8, and has more than 4 GB of RAM, chances are that you're running a 64-bit OS.  The main reason for the switch is that 32-bit operating systems can only access around 4 GB of memory, so if your machine has more than that you'll need 64 bits in order to make use of it. Almost all software nowadays will work perfectly well on either type of OS.  If the software is specifically made for 32-bit Windows, which most of it still is, it'll also work just fine on 64-bit.  There are some exceptions, and some particularly powerful software that is only available for 64-bit Windows, but these are few and far between.  So if you start using 64-bit Windows, chances are that you won't have many problems. Unless, that is, you try to access web sites that don't like 64-bit browsers.  And, it seems, there are quite a few sites which fall into this category.  Especially if you access them via Internet Explorer.
Many web sites, or web-based online systems, use additional software in the form of ActiveX controls.  They only work in IE, and they don't always run properly in 64-bit IE.  One common example is internet-based cameras, where you need to download some additional viewer software into your browser.  Online games are another common example.  The additional ActiveX utility won't download, because it doesn't like 64-bit browsers.
Microsoft, unfortunately, does little to help.  When you click the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop, you get to run the 64-bit version of IE (assuming you're using 64-bit Windows).  Although you also get 32-bit IE installed as standard, there's no obvious way to launch it.
So here's how to do it.
First, find the IE shortcut on your desktop.  Copy and paste it, so you have an additional shortcut.  Right-click on the new shortcut, choose Properties, and you should see that the shortcut points to c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe.  This is the program that launches 64-bit IE.
Edit the property (don't worry, this is a copy shortcut so you can just delete it if it doesn't work).  Change Program Files toProgram Files (x86).  You're now pointing your shortcut at the 32-bit IE launcher, which is in the Program Files (x86) folder.  
Save your new shortcut and try it.  Chances are, you won't notice any difference, and IE will still run.  But you're now running a 32-bit browser, which should prove less of a problem with certain sites.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


At its annual meeting this week, the American Medical Association adopted a policy declaring that cheerleading is a sport. This is indeed welcome news and a cause for great celebration. Besides doing tumbles or jumping jacks for joy, a fitting way to celebrate this glorious event is to re-watch (or, if you've never seen it, watch) Bring It On. It is a cult classic with a brilliant, movie-stealing, unforgettable performance by Kirsten Dunst. When the movie ends, you'll want more, but alas, none of the sequels can match the original, so you can skip Bring It On Again, Bring It On: All or Nothing; Bring It On: In It to Win It; and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish (and there could be others so avoiding any movie that begins with the words Bring It might be advisable). While you can stream Bring It On, it is shown on regular television nearly every week.

IMDb Link:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Latest Serious Malware Threat

Last week, law enforcement agencies across the world, including the FBI, co-operated to shut down the servers behind the GameOverZeus trojan.  This particularly nasty piece of malware steals your passwords from a variety of web sites, including banks, in order to try to take your money.
Experts were warning that the criminals behind the servers, to which the malware sends details of the passwords it finds, will probably get them back up and running within 2 weeks, and urged everyone to ensure that their PC protection was up to date.  So if you haven't checked your antivirus software in a while, or if your subscription has expired, now might be a good time to do something about it.
F-Secure has set up a web site which, the company claims, can tell you whether your PC is infected by the GameOverZeus malware.  The malware works by intercepting your web browsing and, if you surf to any sites which contain the word Amazon, Ebay etc. inject some additional code into the page which captures your password and sends it to the hackers' server.  F-Secure have, therefore, set up a harmless page on their own web site, the address of which happens to contain the word "Amazon".  When your browser takes you to that page, their server checks whether the page you viewed has been altered to include the malware code.  If it has, it's a fair bet that your PC has the malware.
So to find out whether your computer is safe, just head to in your web browser and wait a couple of seconds.  The test is perfectly harmless, and will tell you instantly whether your PC is likely to be safe or not.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Eliminate Ambient Noise App

It might not work, but the next time I go into a restaurant with undue ambient noise, I'm to try out the Good Hearing App, available in Play and in the Apple Store. Supposedly, it cancels out ambient noise so you can hear clearly conversation at your table. Put me down as skeptical, particularly given that the app is free. Clearly, though, there will be such an app of excellent quality, and perhaps there is one that so far has hidden itself from me.

Disappearing Images in Windows Live Mail and 306 Error in iTunes: One Cure for Both

[Note: Submitted by a Valued Subscriber]

If your images suddenly disappear from your emails (using Windows Live Mail) and you searched for weeks for a fix and couldn’t find one, then one day you got a 306 error message when you tried
to access the iTunes store from your account and you spent 2 hours searching for a fix to the ITunes problem, and you think your computer must have contracted some awful bug, don’t despair.

The fix is hidden in the Internet Explorer browser you haven’t used in at least 5 years. Who knows why. Just be happy that you were brave enough to try the IE fix after you uninstalled and re-installed iTunes and you got a different error message – 310 – that some nice soul out there posted the answer to the iTunes hiccup which miraculously fixed the Windows Live Mail images problem.  Here is the fix:

1) Open up Internet Explorer and you'll probably get a "Proxy Server Isn't Responding" message.
2) If that's the case, go up to "Tools" in the browser tool bar select "Internet Options".
2) In "Internet Options" window that pops up, click the "Connections" tab at the top.
3) Click "LAN Settings" near the bottom of the section.
4) If the "Proxy server" checkbox is marked with a check, click to uncheck it.
5) Click "Ok" to close the "Local Area Network (LAN) Settings" window.
6) Click "Ok" to close the "Internet Options" window
7) Either refresh the page or close and re-open Internet Explorer, it should be working now. 

The Wedding Video (2012)

Sometimes a derivative movies make it, but more often they don't. This one does not come close. Most of Lucy Punch's on screen (TV and movie) appearances have been forgettable, but her supporting role in Bad Teacher was a treat. Her appearance here joins the forgettable list. Not likely her fault though given how weak the script was, how poor the cinematography was, and how unforgettable all the performances were. A good actor can make a bad character fun to watch, but even a good actor cannot make disagreeable sorts agreeable, and this movie was chock-filled with disagreeable sorts. The wedding planner did provide a few seconds of clever humor, but if wedding planners are your thing, better to re-watch Father of the Bride. And whatever you might think of Father of the Bride, it's way way better than this bomb.

IMDb Link:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Caution re Shipping Books by UPS (and Likely Other Shippers)

If you are shipping books by UPS to your great-grandchildren, such as a first edition of Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and 1875 Almanac, and Birds of Pennsyvlania, be sure to include the ISDI numbers of the books. Don't give any thought to the fact that there is no such thing as an ISDI number and that older books do not have ISBN numbers, if the package of books is lost by UPS, the level-one customer support rep will not be able to help you and will insist that his supervisor also will demand the ISDI numbers. Of course, that turns out to be bologna. That said, if UPS loses a package, be sure you have plenty of mood-controlling meds on hand when dealing with UPS.

NB: In all likelihood, while perhaps not as bizarre as UPS, other shippers likely follow the basic procedure of UPS in that claims for lost packages are NOT paid out based on what you insure the package for. Rather, what you insure the package for is the cap on what will be paid out. What will be paid out instead is the proven value of the contents which you might be required to do through receipts or other documentation.

Lowering Your Hotel Room Rates

There is a new generation of free websites and apps that likely will get you lower hotel room rates than whatever travel site you now are using. Here are some of them:

HotelTonight: Smartphone app that offers discounts of up to 70% for same-day bookings.

TripBAM: Monitors prices even after you've done your booking and will give you the option to cancel and re-book if the price drops.

Yapta: Similar to TripBAM for both hotels and airlines. Will bid on hotel rooms as you get closer to your arrival date.

These services exploit the preculiarity of the hotel industry where hotels would prefer to fill every room even at steeply discounted rates rather than let a room go vacant. Hence, as one gets closer to arrival time, rooms can be available at steep discounts. In stark contrast, airline seats get more expensive as one gets closer to departure time. It would take a University of Chicago economist to figure out why the two industries diverge.