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As password managers go, freebies seem to work better

by JOY SCHWABACH | February 20, 2021 at 1:46 a.m.

A reader asked me to name the best password manager. That's tough. I've had bad luck with nearly all of them.

I'll never forget the time I lost the master password to a Dashlane account, waving goodbye to dozens of passwords I'd updated because Dashlane told me to. I bombed out with LastPass, too. It suffered a bad breach in 2015, compromising tons of email addresses. The company had a couple of more incidents in 2017 and 2019.

Recently, I took 1Password for a spin.

Nearly every blogger recommends 1Password. Even The New York Times does. I found it confusing, as did the users who griped about it on Reddit.com. I'd rather use a freebie. Google, Firefox, Edge and Safari all have built-in password managers. Google's, for the Chrome web browser, is my favorite.

The latest version of Chrome, which updates automatically, has an improved Password Checkup extension. To find it, go to Passwords.Google.com and click on "Password Checkup." There I discovered that more than 100 of my 407 passwords have been compromised. Fortunately, only one or two of those sites have my credit or banking information. But changing them is an ongoing headache. I've now whittled the list down to 74 baddies.

Google recently made it easier to change bad passwords, by adding a "change password" link in Password Checkup, which takes you to each website's home page. Just click "forgot password" on the sign-in screen and let them send you a password-reset link. It's also a good idea to set up two-factor authentication so that no one can break into your Google account and see your list.

A REVISED OPINION

When I first wrote about my Sonos One (Generation 2) smart speaker, I thought it was pretty dumb. The sound quality was no better than the Altec Lansing VS2320 speakers I use with my computer. Yet the Sonos cost $200 and the Altec Lansing is only $65, or $25 on eBay.

The other dumb thing, I discovered later, was how the Sonos with Alexa inside was a bit of a pest, compared with the Alexa inside my Echo Dot. I used to have the Sonos in the bedroom. But if I asked the Echo Dot in the living room a question, the Sonos answered from the bedroom and I couldn't possibly hear her. The Sonos is now in the living room, where so far she is behaving herself.

I like her better now. I no longer have any CDs, having given them away after turning them into digital files on my computer. But I've discovered I can "cast" the tunes to the Sonos. To do this yourself, highlight a bunch of songs in Windows Media Player and then right-click the list, choosing "cast." Once my TV showed up as a place I could cast to, but I haven't seen it since. The beat goes on.

THE BEST HEADSET FOR CALLS

I'm using a headset for phone calls for two reasons. First, it can be hard for someone to hear me. Second, I'd rather not blast cellphone radiation into my brain for an hour at a time, though it's probably a harmless level.

First I tried a Bluetooth headset. But a call would come in when I wasn't ready and I'd have to go into Bluetooth settings on my phone and re-pair the device. Instead, I switched to the kind that plugs into the phone. Mine has a boom-type microphone. That's convenient because it doesn't rub against me and create its own noise.

The Cell Phone Headset with Microphone Noise Cancelling & Call Controls, for Android, iPhone and PC is comfortable and works great. It has its own volume control and is considered a call-center headset, so it's high quality. Yet it's only $33 from Arama on Amazon. I'm going to use it for Zoom calls, too.

INTERNUTS

• GadgetGameShow.com: The show on this website is called "What the Heck is That'?" and is like the old "What's My Line?" It's hosted by NBC "Today" show gadget guy Steve Greenberg. When I tuned in, they were trying to identify what turned out to be a techy suntan lotion dispenser.

• "Going to Space to Benefit Earth"is the name of a remarkable presentation on YouTube by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. He describes the space colonies he'll help build. Shifting industrial processes to space where they can't pollute Earth may be the answer to our current environmental woes, he says.

• In2013dollars.com: Despite the "2013" in the name of this website, it tells you how a dollar from any year from 1635 to the present compares with a dollar today. If you spent $40 on a fancy meal for four in 1975, for example, that's the equivalent of spending $194.48 today. The amounts are calculated using U.S. Department of Labor statistics and a historical study by an Oregon State University professor. A similar site is measuringworth.com.

NUMBERS REPORT

Electric vehicles with batteries are expected to be competitive with cars in four years.That's because the price of a lithium-ion battery pack is expected to drop to $100 per kilowatt hour by 2025. The price already dropped from $1,191 in 2010 to $137 per kilowatt hour in 2020, in real-inflation adjusted dollars, according to BloombergNEF.

That's good news for windmills and solar panels, too. With prices dropping, companies will use batteries to smooth out intermittent power. And as the world uses more clean-energy solutions, the higher volume will drive prices even lower.

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

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