Bluetooth Headphones

If you are looking for Bluetooth headphones to pair with a smartphone or tablet, you might take a look at the Oontz BudZ 2 headphones. I just bought a pair from Amazon for $18. Paired them with my iPhone X, and I'm really impressed with these headphones (or earbuds). Good listening quality and with the rubber tips, they stay in my ears much better than the Apple EarPods I recently bought for $150.

Now, I'm not saying they're as good as the EarPods, but for the money, quiet decent. And I don't know about the long-term quality, either. But for the money, I thought I'd take a gamble. One nit-pick on Apple's EarPods -- the small instruction sheet sent with them is on paper that has very small print that is light-colored and hard to read. The instruction booklet that came with the OontZ earbuds has black ink in a larger size that is so much easier to read. Comparing the two instruction booklets is like comparing night and day. Apple should take a lesson from this -- their instruction booklet is yucky and cheap-looking!

Jim Hamm 

Cell Tower Radiation

You are probably aware that phone carriers are working on 5G technology for use on our smart phones and tablets. 5G promises faster data speeds, but the cell towers have to be much closer to you in order to be effective. Concerns have been expressed about cell tower radiation and increased cancer risk of these new towers. Plus, some think home values might decrease having small cell towers all over the neighborhood, like on a light pole in your front yard.

If you're interested in learning more about this issue, following are a couple of links you might look at. On the second link scroll down for some questions and answers regarding cell tower radiation.

Jim Hamm

USB Restricted Mode

iOS 11.4.1 update brought a new feature called USB Restricted Mode. What is this, you might ask? In a word -- security. Apple is trying to improve the security of your iOS device from being broken into by  hackers. It's a bit of a convoluted story, so to better understand what this is all about, here are two articles to read:

Apparently some people haven't been able to charge their iOS device if it's been over 60 minutes since it was unlocked. I haven't noticed any charging problem, but in case you have, the articles explain what's going on.

The FBI, for example, would like for Apple to leave a 'backdoor' into iPhones so the FBI could view what a suspect's iPhone had been used for. So far Apple has refused to do this. If there's a 'backdoor' available, a hacker will eventually find it, and all iPhones will be at risk -- not just the one the FBI might want to get into. Arguments can be made for both sides of the issue, I guess. But I'm with Apple on this one.

Jim Hamm

Apple Worth a Trillion $

You've probably read that the market value of Apple, Inc. is worth a trillion dollars. It's difficult to visualize what a trillion is, but here are some examples that might help.

Go back a billion seconds and you'd be in 1995; go back a trillion seconds and you'd be around 30,000 B.C.; a dollar bill weighs about a gram, thus a trillion of those dollar bills would weigh 2.2 billion pounds; 

It's estimated that all the money in circulation today in the U.S. is about a trillion dollars.

Some years ago Gizmodo put together a conceptualization of what a huge pallet of a trillion dollars would look like. Take a look here, and remember -- each pallet is $100 million.

This might be more understandable: if you'd invested $10,000 in Apple stock 10 years ago you'd have $92,000 today, excluding dividends.

Jim Hamm

Printer/Scanner for Scanning Photos

I was asked which printer/scanner do I recommend for scanning photos.

Any current, new printer with a scanner will suffice. However, if you are interested in getting the best definition out of what you scan, the specs on the scanner should allow for 1200 dpi (dots per inch). Otherwise, 300 dpi is more than adequate. And if you are not interested in printing what you scan, and you don’t intend to display your photos on a large 4D or 5D display with UHD (Ultra High Definition), then scanning at 72 dpi will do. Be aware, though, that less than 300 dpi will degrade skin tones and sky colors. And for displaying on a large UHD monitor, only 300 dpi and above will do your photos justice.

You also have to choose between scanning to a JPG format or to a TIFF or PNG format. JPG is a lossy format. The more you edit it, the worse it gets. TIFF and PNG are lossless formats. You can edit as often as you like and it will not degrade the image quality. TIFF and PNG are also quite a bit larger than JPG, and the higher dpi you choose the longer it takes to scan. The higher dpi that you use, the larger the image file size will be. The more colors that are in the photo, the larger the image file size will be.

The image that follows shows the different file sizes for the same 3.5” x 5” color photo taken at different dpi, with one set for JPG and another for TIFF.

Photo Scan Test.png

On my 55” 4K UHD monitor, I see no noticeable difference between the 300 dpi and the 600 dpi images whether they be JPG or TIFF. However, the 75 dpi images blown up to fill the screen look decidedly horrible.

One note of caution about scanning. Clean the scanner platen carefully each time you open it, and wipe the face of the photo as well. Despite these precautions, specks will show up in the photos and that’s where the dust and scratches feature of the photo editor comes in handy.

So, as to what printer/scanner to get? It doesn’t matter as long as it will serve the purpose for the quality you want. What might matter are the features available for the printer/scanner that you choose, and you won’t know that until you plug it and try it. For example, my HP OfficeJet Pro series 8700 will (optionally) automatically put bounding boxes around a set of photos that I place on the scanner, and I can make adjustments to each one individually if I need to (but doesn’t correct if the photo is placed at an angle). Multiple scanned photos are all placed in the one folder I choose. Alternatively, I could scan the whole bunch as one big image at 300 dpi and then cut them apart with an editor after (actually takes way more time that way).

I use the Mac app Image Capture for all my scanning needs. It is probably not necessary to use any of the software that comes with the printer’s CD, especially if it is an Epson, a Cannon, or an HP. HP is my current favorite. If the printer/scanner claims to be perfect for photos, it is probably worth considering.

John R Carter Sr

Chromium Browser

Have you ever tried the Chromium browser? If not, you might very well ask what is it, and why would I want to use it? Here is an excellent article that explains all about Chromium:

I've used Chromium, and found it to be fine and very similar to Chrome, which is my browser of choice. The primary reason most people use Chromium, it appears, is that Chromium doesn't feed any of your internet surfing to Google, which many people don't care for.

As the article states, there is some downside to using Chromium. If you have further interest, read the article.

Jim Hamm

VPN Unlimited Chrome Extension

If you occasionally use a free wifi connection for internet access, I think it is important to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure and protect your connection. If you use the Chrome browser, as I do, I just became aware of a VPN extension from Keep Solid VPN Unlimited that will encrypt and protect your browser traffic. I downloaded and installed it just moments ago, and am connected to a server in Los Angeles.

I did a speed test to see if this extension adversely affected my download speed. I couldn't see any significant degradation.

So far so good using this extension, which will only encrypt traffic through the Chrome browser. A VPN app, on the other hand, will protect all traffic from your computer. Which do you want or need? It depends, and the info below may help your decision.

I just pass this on FYI and possible benefit.

Jim Hamm

iCloud Photos

IF you are using iCloud Photo Sharing (storing your photos in iCloud to make them available on multiple devices), then pay attention to the following.

There are issues with using iCloud photo sharing, the main one being that uploading images to iCloud can be very slow no matter your ISP speed is. The slow speed is caused by Apple’s server. Apple throttles the speed down to try to accommodate the millions of users uploading many millions of images all at the same time. The end result is that changes made on one device may not show up on another device even in the same week.

Related to that, to know what is actually in, you need to open a browser and log in to using the “same” Apple ID that you are using on your devices (for example, I have a main Apple ID and several aliases. I need to log in using the main ID). And it also helps to be logged in with that same ID on all your devices. So, when looking at your images in, you may see duplicates, or missing images, or images there that aren’t on one or more of your devices. There are several factors involved with this discrepancy. Wait a couple of days for the discrepancy to clear up. It is about a duplicate image (in or one of your devices), it may be a real duplicate caused by the synchronization process. The recommendation is to log in to and delete the image to the right as that one is most likely not the original. If the duplicate is on one of your devices, again just delete the one on the right.

There is no way on your iOS device (using Photos in iOS) or in to see the size information of an image. All you can go by is the date, and that will most likely be the modified date and not the creation date. So choosing to delete a duplicate in or on iOS is a crap shoot - but choosing the one on the right is most likely the best bet.

Finally, if the total number of images and videos is different on all your devices (like it is on mine), then wait - and wait - and wait - until the numbers match up, which they eventually should. And it may take many days for the match to happen. During that time, you may be adding/deleting/editing images on one or more devices, and that will certainly keep the numbers mismatched at any point in time.

Hence, if things don’t seem to make sense regarding the number of images and what image is on one device and not another, be patient and have faith that eventually some, if not all, discrepancies will clear up.

John R. Carter, Sr.


VPN Unlimited

Now here's quite a deal if you're in the market for a VPN: a lifetime of VPN Unlimited for only $31.99. See here:

This is way too cheap, it seems to me, so there may be a 'gotcha'. A few years ago I purchased a lifetime license for VPN Unlimited, and in fact am running it now. I don't remember now what I paid for my lifetime license, but it was way more than $32.

Here is one review of VPN Unlimited:

And here's another review:

This program has worked well for me, so thought I'd pass this offer along.

Jim Hamm

Messages on iCloud

If you've updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 11.4 you've got a new feature: Messages on iCloud. What does that mean, you might very well ask? Well, it's a bit complicated, and David Pogue explains it all in this link:

I must admit -- this is something I'm not too excited about, but it may be helpful for people who use text messages and iMessage a lot.

Jim Hamm

Router Hack?

For your possible interest, here is an article about Russian hackers carrying out attacks on home routers. The article doesn't mention how widespread this issue is, but I don't like the sound of it.  As Kim Komando says in the article, "this is a big deal, so pay attention".

The article provides a link to F-Secure where you can check to see if your router has been hacked. Another link to provides several tests to see how secure your browser's web service requests are. 

I did both the router and browser tests and came out OK. I suspect we'll read more in the coming weeks about how widespread the Russian attacks are.

Jim Hamm