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How do tech writers spend their stimulus check? They buy software.

For $30, we got a bundle of 14 Windows programs from Stardock.com, called Object Desktop. One program Joy really likes is CursorFX, which gives you a choice of 23 cursors. She chose the hand, which has gestures, like tapping its fingers when it has to wait for a program to load. Here are some other parts of the bundle we're having fun with:

Deskscapes gives you animated wallpapers for your Windows computer. Right now, we're enjoying one that shows a vintage diner, motorcycles and a blonde talking to a guy in what looks like a 1950s Ford Fairlane. Her skirt blows slightly in the breeze.

Fences lets you corral your desktop icons, such as your most frequently used programs or your recent documents, into clutter-free groups. You can also make them disappear, except for the title of the group, by double-clicking or dragging them to the edge of your screen. Get the icons back with a click. That way they don't clutter up the magnificent wallpaper you've chosen to fill your screen.

Multiplicity lets you control two PCs with one keyboard and mouse.

Start10 gives you the familiar Start Menu of Windows 7 in Windows 10.

BITCOIN REVISITED

Bitcoin, the digital currency, was in the news recently when miners got the announcement that the reward given to bitcoin miners for processing transactions would be cut in half, an event that happens about every four years. A digital currency exists on a computer memory bank; there is no physical coin. There are 3,000 varieties. Another popular one is Ethereum.

Today, there are just 3 million bitcoins left to be mined. By 2040, bitcoin miners won't be able to make any new currency. By then, the world will have reached the 21 million-coin limit established by the mysterious founder Satoshi Nakamodo.

Joy invested in bitcoin three years ago and lost money on it by continuing to buy it as the price went up and selling it after it crashed. We can't say whether it's a good deal now. It rose from around $3,400 per coin in February 2019 to $10,000 on May 7. (Note: You can buy partial coins.)

We read about a guy who gave away the computer where he'd stored his bitcoin super password, called a key. Without it, he lost access to his account. His 7.5 million bitcoins, bought for less than a penny each, would now be worth over $71 billion. So remember this: If you buy bitcoin, write down the key and store it in a safe place. Joy put hers in a book but then gave away the book. However, Coinbase, the site where Joy bought her bitcoin, lets you regenerate it if you lose it.

Five years ago, Ben Horowitz of the venture capital firm Andreesen/Horowitz, bet a National Public Radio reporter that by now, 10% of Americans would be using bitcoin to buy stuff. Instead, according to surveys, it's only 3%. Even that number is fishy, because many of those surveyed used bitcoin only to buy other cryptocurrencies. Or they claimed they used it at stores that in reality don't accept it, so perhaps they traded it in for dollars first. Its value is too volatile; most people buy it as an investment.

Horowtiz's bet against the NPR reporter was relaunched for 2025, with a twist. He is now banking on increased global demand. More specifically, he's betting that the use of some cryptocurrency will rise to 10% of purchases in Mexico. His firm has a $300 million investment in crypto-related firms.

Recently China introduced a digital currency and is giving it a trial run. It's called the "e-RMB," and will be the first digital currency issued by a major economy.

THE NUMBERS REPORT

Microsoft's Edge web browser moved up to second place, with 7.6% of the market. But Google Chrome is still by far the most popular, with 68.5%, according to data from NetMarketShare. Edge grew more popular after being redesigned. Now it's built on the same Chromium system as Chrome.

VIVALDI BROWSER

A less well-known browser is Vivaldi. The new version has built-in ad blocking and tracker blocking. Download it for free from Vivaldi.com. We tried out the new version on our Android phone. It has a nice "speed dial" to take you to common sites, like Amazon or YouTube. When you hit the speed dial again and then add a site, you can switch back and forth between sites you have open.

We like the Windows version even better than the Android, and there's also one for the Mac. When you first install it, you're led by the hand to customize it, choosing a theme like "Dark Mode" or another background, as well as many other features like note-taking and customized tabs. You tell it whether you want to block both ads and trackers or neither. It has quick commands for activities such as going to your notes page or looking at sites you've recently visited.

INTERNUTS

NewDayNewChef.com has plant-based recipes from Amazon Prime's new cooking show, New Day New Chef. The show features an Olympic athlete, a rock star and an actress.

SimonandSchuster.com. If you go to the website and sign up for a free electronic book, they'll let you choose a new one every week, from a choice of 10, including several from best-selling authors. They're all free.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at bobschwab@gmail.com and joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

Business on 05/23/2020

Print Headline: $30 or so can buy a whole lot of fun, utilitarian software

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