cloud computingFor nearly an entire day, Joy thought she’d lost her most important files. Fortunately, they were backed up in more than one way, even though she wasn’t aware of it at the time.

The device that led her astray was the “Transporter Sync,” a $99 orb about the size of a hockey puck. It connects any external drive to the web, creating your own private online storage area, your own private cloud, as they call it. Let’s pause here for a moment, because all this talk about things happening in a cloud, is very misleading. There is no cloud, it’s a marketing term that refers to having file storage that’s accessible by going on the Internet. That’s all it is. Big providers of such storage, like Google or Microsoft, have row upon row of large capacity disk drives churning somewhere in an air-conditioned room that can be anywhere.

Back to the Transporter Sync device we were testing: You drag a folder onto an image of the hockey puck which then sends it out to storage somewhere else – i.e. the “cloud” where it is held in a private area reserved for you – sort of like putting your stuff in a locker at the bus station. You can then supposedly get to that stuff from anywhere you can sign onto the Internet.

That’s great in theory, and usually in practice, unless there’s a cloud-burst. Then there’s going to be rain on your digital parade. In testing the Transporter Sync, we started by moving files from Microsoft’s free online storage service, “One Drive,” (which allows you to store 15 gigabytes) to our new “Transporter Library.” This was as easy as drag and drop. Unfortunately, the very next day, the files weren’t there. A message said we either had a slow Internet connection or weren’t connected at all. Not true. Read more »



KARAOKE APPA reader wanted to divide long audio tracks into segments for public talks. We suggested he try Audacity, a free program. It’s been downloaded over a million times. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

The reader got a virus, possibly from downloading it at a non-official site, but it’s hard to be sure. When he told us that, we tried downloading it ourselves, and, whaddaya know, our computer started acting up too. This was a new thing: we had downloaded Audacity twice before, both times on a computer using Windows 7, and never had any problems with it. This time we downloaded it to Windows 8, and had lots of problems. Things change.

Downloading free programs is perhaps the number one way people mess up their computers. If it doesn’t sound right or look right, don’t download it. Many anti-virus programs will flash a warning message on the screen if they detect the free program trying to download something extra. The bottom line in that kind of situation is to skip the free program and pay to get an authorized version or a substitute.

In this case, for example, the reader turned to “Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio,” a $60 program he is very happy with. We used the free trial version of this program and it worked great. It has tutorials for everything you might want to do, such as split and combine audio files, or publish your creation to the web. Unlike most tutorials, a hand will point where you need to click. It’s $60 at SonyCreativeSoftware.com/audiostudio. That’s where you can find the free trial. If you want it to buy it outright, you can get it for $20 less at discounters like Amazon, CoolSavings or Newegg.

When something bad happens right after downloading a new program, use the Windows “System Restore” utility to take the computer back to the day before or even weeks before. This doesn’t delete any files, just recently downloaded programs. To find it in Windows 8, tap the Windows key and type “help.” In previous versions,  go to “start” and “help,”  then type “system restore.”



flashlightBob just loves flashlights, so we got a “Champ 2-in-1 Nightlight Flashlight, ” which is a combination flashlight and motion sensor. Plug it in and it lights up when someone walks by. Unplug it and it’s a flashlight. It has three LEDs, so it’s bright but lasts long. We saw it at discounters like Amazon for $20. What can we say – we like gadgets.







child peesRunpee.com recommends the best time to run to the bathroom during any movie.



MOXIE JEANMoxieJean.com lets you sell “like new” kids clothes or buy them at a big discount. They have over 40,000 items. Items that can’t be accepted for sale are donated to charity.



beach scene 1927Shorpy.com has interesting historical photos, like a 1927 beach scene on New York’s Long Island. You can zoom them.



literatureLiteratureMap.com –type in an author and they’ll show you others of a similar style, scattered over the screen with your author’s name in the center. It is definitely idiosyncratic: Authors shown closer to the center – your key author — are supposedly similar, though we doubt that Robert Benchley is much like Anton Chekov.



hands as heartGoodSearch.com contributes a penny to your favorite charity every time you search. The searches are powered by Yahoo.



gov dealsGovdeals.com lists stuff the federal government is getting rid of for cheap. Bob likes the concrete culverts currently going for $6. He saw a house built from them and says they’re great for bomb shelters.



  • downward trendAmerican homes gained a billion more electronic gadgets between 2010 and 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, but national electricity consumption declined by 12 percent. New electronic devices, including TVs and computers, use less energy then older models. So buying new equipment is “green,” as they say.
  • Meanwhile … all those devices are clogging up something else: Smart phone apps account for 25 percent of all Internet traffic, according to a recent report by Kleiner Perkins. An increasing amount of that traffic is for shopping: buying things from your cell phone will reach $100 billion this year, according to Forrester Research.
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