cow gets good scratch15 Animals that want to be Man’s Best Friend.” Google those words for some amazing video clips. We saw an otter playing dead on command, an armadillo playing with a squeeze toy, a baby elephant playing soccer, and a cat playing fetch and panting like a dog.



windows 10We love Google’s calendar app for Android and iPhone, which keeps us up to date on our phone when we’re away from our computer. Windows 8 and the new Windows 10 also have calendar apps.

Set up the calendar app in these systems by clicking the start button, “all apps,” and then “calendar.” When we did this we immediately saw all the dates we’d entered into our Google calendar, so we didn’t have to re-enter anything. Unlike the Google calendar, the Windows calendar puts all your Facebook friends’ birthdays right on the calendar. This can be amusing, if like us, you have Facebook “friends” you hardly know. We even saw birthdays for friends who aren’t on Facebook, whose birthdays were unknown to us. We suppose they were drawn from information in their Google accounts, but we’re not sure. Very mysterioso.



google searchHere’s a wakeup study for election time: Recent research shows that we trust the Internet — maybe too much. In a test of  undecided voters, the name and favorable information about any candidate that came in at the top of their search results, made them likely to switch to that candidate.

We decided to test that out ourselves in a very simple broadcast email. Joy sent a survey to the members of her woman’s club. The survey asked them to choose from a list of possible speakers at meetings. Sure enough, the speaker at the top of the list received the most votes. Cue in the Twilight Zone music.

The researchers Robert Epstein and Ronald Robertson of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology,  were amazed to find they could get any results they wanted, just by favoring one candidate over another at the top of a search page. Over 4,500 people were tested. A surprising number were more than 20 percent more likely to vote for the candidate at the top of their search page.

Looking back at the Institute research that prompted this test, the people who were the most aware that the search results were skewed toward a certain candidate, were still likely to switch to that candidate. They figured that the search engine knew something they didn’t. For those who want to pursue the implications of this further, the research was published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”



Wellcoin App for posting healthy habits and earning discountsSome insurance companies pay you for getting fit. Ours doesn’t, but the free app “Wellcoin” (iOs) (Android) earns you discounts for healthy behavior.

Cheaters are apparently welcome. When Joy was filling out their questionnaire, she put down “Twinkies” as her healthy snack choice and right away she earned five points. In fact, it gave her “health points” no matter what she put down. (Joy hasn’t had a Twinkie since she was 12. Bob has had only one bite in his life — can’t stand em.) She got triple the points if she took a picture of something healthy and clicked “verify.” The Wellcoin community weighed in immediately to judge her handful of unsalted almonds.

Tap “Marketplace” to see discounts of 20 percent as well as free stuff. Some things, like ZipCar rides, require a hefty 3000 points or more. Oh well, it’s somebody’s idea of a business model.



Ecotank PrinterWe’ve been fit to be tied by printers forcing us to change ink cartridges when ink levels are low but not out. A new model Epson inkjet printer is getting rave reviews for its “two-year ink supply.”

The Epson Ecotank Printer, the ET2550, has a tank of ink you refill yourself every two years or so. This means fewer empty cartridges going into landfills and big savings on ink, unless you’re already buying from third party suppliers, which are much cheaper. The downside is the $400, and up, price tag. But compared to buying separate Epson ink cartridges for years, you come out way ahead. Four bottles in colors at $13 each should last at least two years, for around 8,500 pages. Top up when needed by pouring more in.

The Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports and numerous Internet columnists, went nuts over this new product announcement, but in fact this feature has been available for more than a decade and not just for Epson inkjets but Hewlett Packard and Canon printers as well.

You have to buy a small kit to add to your printer, but the add-on is easy to do. Prices run from $40 to about $120 and in situations like this, where we don’t know who to turn to, we usually select a middle price. Even at top prices it’s cheaper than buying a new $400 printer. Search on the phrase “continuous ink supply systems” and a whole world of endless ink will open for you. (Don’t forget to clean up.) Read more »



Windows 10

Microsoft has said you will no longer need any anti-virus software because Windows will be fully protected against all viruses, and presumably any other hack attacks. If you believe that, Bob wants you to know that he has a large bridge in New York that he’d like to sell you. (No new operating system ever produced has been invulnerable to virus attacks.)

Nevertheless, Joy, our master tester, likes Windows 10, saying it has the best of Windows 7 and avoids the worst of Windows 8.  (Bob is sticking with Windows 7. He grudgingly went on from XP after his old computer got balky.)

If you want Windows 10, beware of scams. There are sites that lure visitors with the promise of a free copy. It’s already free, but be sure you get it from Microsoft.com. The exact address is Microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. Click on “download tool now.” If you aren’t sure whether you have a 32-bit system or 64-bit, you can find that by searching on “system info” from the help area of your computer. Just hit the “F1″ key to bring up a help menu. If you still can’t decide, it’s almost certain that you have a 64-bit system; we haven’t seen 32-bit systems in many years.



kindle on the iphoneJoy’s friend Frieda is going to France but leaving her Kindle behind for safe keeping. Joy said to her: “Why not use your phone as a Kindle?” Here’s how to do that:

Start by downloading the Kindle app to your phone. (Google how to do that and all will be made clear.) If you’re using an Android phone, it’s easy; every book you’ve bought will show up on your phone and new purchases can be made from the app as well. It’s trickier if you have an iPhone. Apple doesn’t let you make purchases from within the Kindle app because they want you to use their own app: iBooks.

You can get around this by going to Amazon.com and getting a Kindle book. There are lots of free Kindle books at Amazon, just search on “free books.” Once you’ve selected your book, you’ll have the option to send it to your Kindle, your computer, your phone or some other gadget. Your next problem will be trying to read the book on the tiny smartphone screen.

For Frieda, some complications arose.  She received her Kindle as a gift from a relative who registered it under her account. Until she de-registered it, nothing synced with her phone. She found this out from Amazon itself. Click on the “call me now” button in Amazon’s help section. They have great tech support; they called back within seconds.



baby on blanketSSA.gov/oact/babynames lets you find out how popular your name is. “Robert” was in the top 10 from 1900 to 1983. “Joy” never made the top 100 and is now at 475. Some names like “Scott” were wildly popular in the 60s and 70s, not much now. “Noah” is currently the most popular boy’s name (never would have guessed that). “Emma” is the most popular girl’s name. An unusual name might be the best bet; it never goes out of style because it was never in.



corruption indexTransparency.org has a “Corruption Perceptions Index.” By their measure, Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world. New Zealand is the second least corrupt, Finland third. The U.S. is tied with Barbados, Hong Kong and Ireland for 17th place. Greece and Italy are tied at 69th. Somalia and North Korea are tied at the bottom — 174th.  In the “Economic Freedom of the World” index, Greece is 144th, Germany is 31st and Canada is 10th.



Character on Star Trek no match for Chinese computer15 Cool Sci-Fi Technologies We’ve Already Blown Right Past.”  For example, in 1997’s “Men in Black,” Agent K shows a miniature compact disc saying “They’re going to be replacing CDs soon.” The very next year the first MP3 player was released. In Star Trek, the character “Data” could perform 60 trillion calculations a second. In China, the “Tianhe 2″ can perform 34 quadrillion calculations per second. The robot dog in 1977’s “Dr. Who” could play chess and move about looking for danger. The U.S. military’s robot cheetah can run over 28 miles an hour, climb hills and jump over some obstacles. But … it doesn’t play chess.

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