Android Pay Tap Ten Program Taps My Patience

In September of 2015, Google launched its Android mobile wallet payment solution which still has a very limited participating retail list. See list: Android Pay Partners. If you’re lucky to be located near one of the participating retail stores that has something you need it’s very convenient.  You can keep all those wallet-busting credit cards and loyalty cards inside your Android phone.  Mobile payments could be the cure for the fat “wallet ass” problems men have forever been dealing with. But things have been going slow for Android Pay due to usability issues by experienced by users and store clerks. Which is probably why you’re now seeing TV ads for Samsung Pay presumably capitalizing on the frustrations of Android Pay users.

Most retail stores do not hire their clerks for their computer tech savviness and they already have an assortment of payment possibilities including, Google Wallet, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay in addition to multiple card swipe options. Store clerks use the  equipment the establishment offers and likely get minimal training for the several mobile payment options now available.

The Samsung Pay ad begins with the guys behind the counter going into stitches when a customer approaches the counter asking to use his smartphone for Android Pay. “It don’t work,” one of the guys laughs as the others join in letting the customer in on the joke. So the customer says, “here try it”  and low and behold he taps, it works and he pays. Everyone gets high fives.

That’s not too far from the truth from my experience with Android Pay. First you are reminded to turn on Android “NFC”. This enables the near payments process layer. Then you have to figure out how to dance with the swipe device. This requires some thinking. Do you just touch it to the swipe screen? Do you swipe it?  Don’t bother asking the store clerks –most are as confused as the users. Oh, and you have to hit the “pay it” icon too.Too many steps.

Google realized that they were falling behind the Tap wars so they introduced the “Tap tapten1Ten” rewards program in late January. The program offered customers rewards of a free music track for every few taps. When you got to ten purchase “taps” you could redeem your 10th tap for a Chromecast device. Whoa! Great deal! Retail cost is 35 USD. I started tapping, and tapping and tapping and finally reached my tenth Tap at Walgreen’s (the only convenient store near me). I was starting to feel very weird about buying one paper towel a day, and becoming compulsive about tapping. Why didn’t I just didn’t buy one. But like Pavlov’s dogs or pigeons pecking for a cocaine rush.  I kept at it.

On my tenth tap, while sitting in my car in the parking lot surrounded by my paper towel, I felt the dopamine rushing to my brain in anticipation of the big reward. With another wave of tap-induced steroid adrenaline streaming through my veins, I tapped to redeem the two remaining songs and then went for the Big Kahuna, the Chromecast.  I had visions of black, red, or yellow Chromecasts dangling from my TV’s HDMI port and streaming binges on weekends. But nothing seemed to happen after my final tap. I thought I did something wrong so I backtracked to click on a previous song while Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” played endlessly in my head. Then a minute later, a code flashed quickly by.  I figured that Google had a way to seamlessly capture and register that promo code which is needed at the online Google Chromecast store. Google is a payment processing player and an engineering company. They’ve been operating Google Wallet for several  years so they should know better. I looked in settings. Nope. No code there. It was gone forever.

While the program ended at the end of Febuarary you have until March 31, 2016  st to redeem the Chromecast.  After six calls to Google Support and escalations, they are still trying to figure out how to get me a code.  Of course, software companies have been using one-time registration codes forever and intuitively now how to issue and deliver a replacement code.  Apparently, Google hasn’t solved this technical rubic’s cube yet.

Waiting a week for customer service responses and resolution from a company like Google is not acceptable. I don’t know if I’ll ever receive a code and get my black, red or yellow Caster.  Are you a happy tapper? Did you tap your way to ten and get the Chromecast of your dreams or were you left streaming in the wind?

Update: Google support finally got back to me and issued a redemption code. I was able to redeem it for a new Chromecast. The optional fast delivery shipping charges were $12.00 or almost 1/3 the cost of a Chromecast. But that’s fine. It was my option to elect two day delivery.



Day Ten: Nomorobo Eliminates All of My Robocalls!

I promised to update you on my progress using Normorobo. After ten days using the service, the verdict is in. It’s a game changer for me. No more interruptions to my concentration from companies telling me how they’re going to get me on page one of Google Search. I’ve gone from about ten robocalls per day using two Vonage lines connected to the Nomorobo service to zero. That would amount to 1800 calls for one line and 3600 calls a year for the two. No more pollster calls, dinner interruptions or early morning weekend calls. I’m thrilled. If I were you I’d give it a try. It’s free and if it doesn’t work for you just delete the Nomorobo number from your telephone services Simulcall feature! Here’s another recent review from AARP. The AARP article missed support for other major services including Verizon FIOS, Comcast Xfinity and others.The concern there is that people with cognitive loss may be duped by unscrupulous callers. If you’re concerned about your older family members you might consider setting it up for them too! – Howard

Outwitting Robocallers – Say Goodbye to Scammers and Unwanted Callers

Life is full of little annoyances and the opportunity to take one off the list frees up more time and it maybe it will eliminate 1 mm Hg off the blood pressure scale. One major annoyance to me is recorded Robocalls. You know the kind.  Is your site listed on the first page of Google? Hi, this is John from Microsoft. Did you know your computer was infected with Ebola? It’s hard to believe that I missed a service that started that 2013 to solve this problem. If I missed it then maybe you did too. The free service is Nomorobo It works like a community sandbox. That is, it relies on a collective pool of reported robocall numbers in a database gleaned from other users. It then matches that number instantly to determine if it’s a robocall or a real person trying to get in touch. If it decides it’s a robot call it diverts the call and you’ll just hear one ring which you can ignore.  How Does Nomorobo Work? It uses the Simultaneous Ring” feature offered by many telephone services. You add the toll-free Nomorobo number to your simultaneous ring” list. Nomorobo gets the call as soon as you do and instantly compares it to the robocall database. If it finds a match it quashes the call. Simple and free are two words I like.  I’m testing the service and will update this blog to let you know how it works. Supported carriers include: AT&T U-Verse, broadvoice, Comcast Xfininity, fronteir, ooma, optimum, (what’s with all this lower case branding?), SONIC, SureWest, TimeWarnerCable, Verizon Fios,, VOIPo, Vonage, WAVE, and 1-VOIP. I give it 5 stars out of 5!  Signup here.

Did You Know You Can Easily Create Multiple Virtual Desktop Views in Windows 10?

There is a useful new feature in Windows 10 that is so easy to miss. It’s the ability to create multiple virtual custom desktops with a unique set of apps running in each one. It’s insanely easy to do. If you have two or more monitors you can even have more “virtual desktops”. Creating a virtual desktop allows you to create uncluttered screens with just the applications running you need. This is not new but has previously been available from third party publishers.  What can you use it for?

  • Create screens for your personal use like recipes, sports events etc.
  • Great for devoting one desktop to a project for clients

Here’s how to do it:

  • Click on the multi-view icon smalldesktop located at the bottom of your desktop screen.


You will see small thumbnail representations of the desktop. To the extreme right, you will see a [plus sign]: Click on the  +  sign to add New Desktop.

  • The new desktop appears on the bottom of the screen next to the existing one.
  • You can navigate through multiple desktops by using the keyboard combinations:  Windows key start  + Tab key.
  • To delete a desktop hover over it. You will then see an X appear. You can now delete one or all virtual desktops if you no longer need them.
  • A tip:  Pressing the  start Windows key and the [ + ] sign will magnify (zoom in) and pressing the  start and [ – ] key will zoom out. This is key combo shortcut for the Windows Magnifier tool.

Howard Sobel, Editor

Hey Cortana How Do I Get You To Listen To Me?

Hey Cortana How Do I Get You To Listen To Me?

Windows 10 has a virtual assistant named Cortana but to get the most out of it you’ll have to activate it. Without a little bit of research on your part might hailing Cortana might fall on deaf ears. Here’s a quick start guide to getting Cortana’s attention.

Cortana can do a lot of things for you by voice commands on your PC. For example it can help you manage your calendar, track packages, find files, search the net, tell you what the weather forecast is chat with you, and even tell jokes. Since Cortana can be trained to your voice, the more you use Cortana the more is leans your habits and patterns and the more customized your results will be.

Here’s how to get Cortana working for you.

1) Click on the Start button


2) Click on Settings


3) Type Cortana into the Search Bar


4) Click on Cortana & Search Settings


This will bring up the settings screen for Cortana.

Turn “On” blue radio button for Cortana to get it to give you more suggestions, ideas, reminders, alerts and more.  Turn on blue radio button “Hey Cortana” to get Cortana listening to your commands.  You can choose respond best to “To Anyone” and Learn My Voice. Cortana will now begin the process of learning your voice and your computer habits. As the training progresses you will find that your results start getting much better. Now start having fun with Cortana your new personal assistant!

Windows 8.1 Automatic Repair Endless Loop Will Make you Loopy

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My very trustworthy Asus notebook running Windows 8.1 threw a fit today. Windows has a built-in Automatic Repair tool that diagnoses and helps you repair problems that prevent you from booting up normally.

I’ve encountered this feature many times before and it always goes into an endless loop of rebooting trying to fix the problem. Ideally, you just insert a bootable Windows 8 or 8.1 DVD and it will grab all it needs to make the repair.

Yesterday, I spent nearly two hours waiting for it to finally find the files it needed to make the machine bootable.  I used both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 disks. But wait, that was after 25 reboot attempts. After about the 17th reboot attempt, I was about to capitulate. I walked out of the room to get some work done on another PC. When i came back Windows 8.1 was up and running. The Blue Screen of Death (BSD) we thought went away is just hidden from your view by Automatic Repair. My advice is to let Automatic Repair reboot as long as your patience will allow in the hopes it may recover. I’ve found System Restore to be a hit or miss process. But I always use it when given the opportunity. In the above case, system restore did restore the system but only after Windows Automatic Repair was able to resolve the boot up problem through the nightmarish process of playing chicken with Windows.  Since we know that sooner or later most of us are going to run into system corruption issues you might as well prepare for it.

Planning for Disaster and System Recovery

Who doesn’t hate doing a clean install? It takes a lot of time if you have lots of desktop applications installed. The good thing about Apps and AppStores is you can bring all your apps back without having to find the registration codes. Windows 8.X has a good options for refreshing all the necessary system files that may be corrupted and that cause programs to crash. It’s the Refresh But Save My Settings feature. This will preserve all your custom settings and files but you’ll need to reinstall all of your software. I would keep a list of all your installed desktop apps. Take a screen shot of your control panels “Uninstall Programs” screen or you can write them down. or capture them with the Evernote screen app. I also recommend that you put all executable files in a download directory (preferably on redundant storagte) and all registration codes should be written down and backed up to a USB flash drive or disk not on your computer.

Oh and  just one more thing.  Backup all your files and applications install media to a hard drive and cloud based storage. If you do all this you’re going to have a really good chance at recovery with the shortest amount of down time. You can even plan periodic Windows Refresh to keep your machine running fast.You can also create a system image and back up that image to an external hard drive. System images are sometimes corrupted too so don’t bet on any one horse.

It isn’t fun but at least you be online again in a couple hours once your system suffers a major crash IF your organized and have planned and implemented your reconstruction strategy before disaster strikes.  – Howard Sobel

Howard has reviewed, written about, tested, marketed, published and distributed software for two decades. He is the co-founder of the Windows User Group Network (WUGNET) a serial entrepreneur and product marketing consultant.

Computer Repair Scam Telephone Call Still Claims Victims

Some of you have probably gotten these calls and hung up. If you haven’t been called beware.  This is going on across the USA. I received  a call from a friend yesterday who needed to unlock his  computer which was held ransomed by a gang from India. Here’s how the scam goes. An agent will call you and tell you they are from Microsoft, AOL, or some other trusted company and they need to take over control of your computer to fix the problem. If you let them take control they will ask you to go to a link or run a small piece of software they put on your computer. This bogus anti-virus program runs for a few minutes and then shows results which indicate your computer is infected. (The results come up so fast that more experienced computer users would know that it couldn’t have possibly scanned the entire computer). These results are fictional and often are just entries in your Windows registry file.  If you agree to let them fix it they will start making changes which will allows them to lock you out unless you pay anywhere from $100-500 dollars to be sent by Western Union or some other third party payment system. If you refuse they will lock you out. Sometimes they will give you a number to call back later and pay the  money after a few hours of hopelessly trying to restart your computer. If you don’t have a backup and will lose important information you don’t have much choice.  In today’s case, I’m pretty sure they didn’t encrypt (scramble the hard drive) because the technique I used to get it to unlock worked unless they were really bad amateurs!  I called the thugs back to have some fun and a guy picked up after twenty rings who answered “Secure PC” with what sounded like an Indian accent. Sometimes the caller ID will come from a local number. Note that It’s easy to create a virtual local phone number on Skype or Google Talk. That’s what security experts recognize as a good social engineering technique. Don’t let anyone scam you on the phone into letting them take control of your computer– ever. Honestly had this been real ransomware the disk would have been encrypted and unreadable. Fortunately, my friend was able to use his PC again. Corporations have been held hostage for millions of dollars because it’s cheaper for them to pay the ransom. Think before you give over control of your computer to someone calling you on the phone or it may cost you hundreds of dollars.

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset –Delivers Xtreme Comfort, Sound, and Design


Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset –Delivers Xtreme Comfort, Sound, and Design

I have a pile of Bluetooth devices but recently received the Jabra Stealth to review. The first thing I noticed about the Jabra Stealth is its unique design and surprisingly light weight. This is achieved through the use of what Jabra calls MicroPOWER battery technology which they attribute to its extremely light weight, longer talk time, and increased comfort.  I assume this is another word for a small but powerful battery. In the technology industry trademarked descriptions are always a marketing plus. So I put it on.  This is the most comfortable Bluetooth headset I’ve ever worn.

The Jabra Stealth was impressive in all areas. Light weight and comfortable you’ll forget it’s on your ear.  It comes with 3 ear gels as well as two ear hooks. I normally have to try on each ear gel that comes with Bluetooth headsets to find the right size and sometimes none of them work well for me. Not so with the Jabra ear gels. I immediately got a great fit. That was a bonus.

Design Simplicity

The Jabra lacks a volume button but I didn’t find that to be a problem in every day usage scenario. There are just three buttons. On/off switch, the Answer/end bar on well-designed metallic looking micro boom, and the voice button easily located on the inside of the body of Jabra microphone.  I find that I’m always fumbling around looking for the volume control on my headset. This is not only a pain but also a distraction while driving. Since the Jabra Stealth doesn’t have one, its buttons are a snap to locate. In this case it’s a feature not a design flaw. Sometimes less is more.

Simple “Stupid” Set Up

The setup process took me less than two minutes. The device can be paired through traditional Bluetooth pairing by just pressing the Answer/end switch which provides voice guided instructions. If your mobile device supports NFC you have that option as well. The Answer/end button also supports native device voice control like many other devices giving you access to Google/Now or Siri. The only problem I encountered was a small detour figuring out how to open the micro USB tab. They should ad an additional graphic showing exactly how to open it. It also only comes with a micro USB to USB connector. No plug in device. I think they should through in the full recharge adapter considering the pricing. Although I used another micro USB  adapter to charge it and worked just fine.


You can download the Jabra Assist apps for the Stealth on both Android Play and Itunes App Store. The app has some great features. Here’s the description from the Android store.

Find my Jabra (for Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm and Jabra Style). Each time the headset is in use the position is geo tagged. If the headset gets misplaced, you can see on the map on your smartphone where it has been used last time making it easy to find the headset again. The application can even show the easiest route back to your headset. Furthermore if the headset is lost but still in range, you can activate a sound in the headset, making it easier to find again.

Find my Car (for Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour). Each time you leave your car, its position is geo tagged. You can see your current location and where you left the car at any time on the phones build in map. The application can even show the easiest route back to your car. The application also lets you take a picture of the surroundings when leaving the car, making it even easier to relocate your car.

Responsible Driving (for Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour) Jabra Assist provides a new feature set to respond to the increasing focus on responsible driving, avoiding accidents when using your smartphone while driving. When you connect to a Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive or Jabra Tour speakerphone or Jabra Streamer controller, your smartphone will switch into safety mode. An incoming message will be automatically replied stating that you are in the car driving and will return later.

Battery meter (for Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm and Jabra Style). The battery meter gives you a simple visual indication of the remaining battery time on your Jabra device. It will give you a warning when the level reaches 50%, 25% and 10% of the remaining talk time.
Pairing guide. The automated pairing guide will guide you through the pairing session in an easy step-by-step process.

Animated guide. The guide gives you an easy to understand introduction to the key features of the Jabra Assist smartphone application.

User manual. Need to check the user manual? No worries; as you now have access to the full user manual from within the application.

Enjoy all these great features and more when you download the Jabra Assist app. Note that Jabra Assist application only works in conjunction with the Jabra Classic, Jabra Mini, Jabra Stealth, Jabra Storm, Jabra Style, Jabra Freeway, Jabra Drive, Jabra Streamer and Jabra Tour products.


Android Google Play:

Sound Quality – The Jabra does a great job filtering out background noise. I would rate it equal to or better than Plantronics, Jawbone, or Blue Ant.

Pro:  Exceptional comfort, nice design, long battery life, good sound and noise dampening.

Con: No Volume Control… USB plug a little hard to open without directions.