Most cars today come with a mobile hotspot, allowing everyone's devices to stay connected to the internet at a cost ranging between $20 and $40 a month. But what if you have an older car?
A reader wanted to read the newspaper on his iPad in the car because he likes its bigger screen. Since there's no WiFi in his older vehicle, he needed some way to connect his iPad to the internet.
I told him to go to "Settings" on his iPhone, then "Cellular" and tap "Personal Hotspot" to turn it on. After he did that, his iPad was able to share the iPhone's cellular network. "Works great," he said.
To try it on my Android phone, I went to "Settings," then "Network & internet," then "Hotspot and Tethering," and tapped "Wi-Fi hotspot." Then I toggled the switch to "on." I made a note of the hotspot name, "Pixel_1644," tapped "password," and wrote it down. Then, from my other devices, all I had to do was choose the Pixel_1644 as my network, type in the password, and voila, I was sharing the cellular connection with my phone. With it, I browsed the web from two computers, two tablets and an iPhone. I could have been alone in a forest instead of at home with the router turned off.
Unfortunately, the hotspot feature is not available on every cellphone service plan. For example, when a friend tried it, he got a message that Tracfone doesn't cover data sharing on his plan. My Tracfone plan is the same price as his, $130 a year, but it worked fine. Alternatively, you could buy a dedicated mobile hotspot and get a service plan for it, starting at around $10 a month.
SURVIVING A POWER FAILURE
A reader said an auto accident damaged or destroyed a major transformer, causing the electricity to go out. "Do you have any idea how large a backup unit would be needed to power our Dish receiver and television?" he asked.
Most TVs are 117 watts and the highest-rated satellite dish is 28 watts. Add them together and you get 145 watts. The Allwei Portable Power Station, $186 on Amazon, has 280 watt hours and gets good reviews. With that, the reader's TV and Dish receiver could be powered for almost two hours, long enough for him to watch his favorite show. For more information on watt usage, look up "Power Consumption of Household Appliances," from Generatorist.com. It lists everything from air fryers to Xboxes.
Gasoline-powered generators run for six to 12 hours, but you can't run them inside unless you want to be asphyxiated. They're for camping.
WHO'S TRACKING YOU
The latest version of the Vivaldi web browser is pure genius when it comes to blocking trackers and ads. Blocking them cuts through the clutter of a website to make it load quickly.
When a friend tested it for a month, it automatically blocked over 8,000 trackers and over 5,000 ads, mostly news sites. In my test, Car and Driver is temporarily at the top of the tracking list. Google doesn't show up because its tracking relies on hidden settings that Vivaldi automatically blocks. No add-ins required.
Vivaldi also has amazing customization. For example, when I save recipes to my reading list, I can sort them by title and other criteria. The side panel is full of gems like that, in addition to links to your downloads, your search history, your calendar, and more. But the more the merrier. Besides Vivaldi, I'm using six other browsers, including Chrome.
I'm always emailing: "Thank you for your kind note." Now I can type "tykn" and my iPhone will write it out for me.
That's an example of the iPhone's "text replacement" feature. Even if you don't add any shortcuts of your own, the iPhone starts you out with one. Type "omw" in a text or somewhere and it will change to "on my way."
To add your own shortcuts, go to "Settings." Under "General," find "Keyboard," then "text replacement." Tap the plus sign, and type the phrase you want. Then type your shortcut and "save." I added "See you later," so when I type "syl," the iPhone fills in the whole sentence.
OUTSMARTING THE REPAIR SHOP
A reader told me how he thwarted the local repair shop. They wanted to sell him a new computer. He insisted his old Gateway could be repaired.
It started with an error message saying that the fan no longer worked.
"The repair man told me he couldn't fix it due to its age and parts scarcity," the reader wrote. "But he could sell me another computer. So I went home and got the make, model, and serial number, and looked for it on eBay."
He found it for $18.
"I'm not competent to do the repair myself," he said, "and do not have the appropriate tools for the job. So, if an old dude needs an old computer fixed by this shop -- the only one I can get to in the region -- he's a 'blowed-up sucker' who can readily be sold a computer when the shop doesn't want to do the repair. Even when the part needed is identified and available at a reasonable cost," he added.
What happened next?
"When they've got you in a bind, they know it. Me? I put a six-inch fan next to the cooling vents on the tower and turned it on. Cools the tower and they can go to blazes!"
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]