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Satellite phone helps hikers call for help when in trouble

by JOY SCHWABACH | June 26, 2021 at 1:56 a.m.

You're out hiking when an earthquake strikes. You're covered in rubble and there's no signal on your smartphone. What to do?

Take out your satellite phone. The Zoleo Satellite Communicator, which sells for $200, uses the Iridium network when a cellular or Wi-Fi connection is unavailable. It's about the size of a bar of soap-- about 4 inches by 3 inches. It's so rugged that one user said he could drop-kick it down a mountain without harming it. It weighs 5 ounces and has a battery life of more than eight days. There's a button on it that lets you send an SOS to the company's emergency monitoring and dispatch partner. Press another button to let others know you're OK, along with your GPS coordinates. Text messages can be up to 950 characters long.

After three months, the monthly cost drops to $4 if you just want to send text messages and maintain a dedicated phone number and an email address. Otherwise, the monthly subscription starts at $20 a month for 25 messages on the Iridium network, and offers unlimited messaging through a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. For an extra $6 month, you can share your location every few minutes, or whatever interval you choose, like a trail of breadcrumbs. Detailed plan information is available at


A friend felt bad when she forgot she was meeting me for lunch. I told her I'd forget, too, if I didn't use Alexa. "Will she remind you well in advance?" my friend asked. I hadn't thought of that before, but the answer is yes.

"Alexa, remind me," I said to my Amazon Echo Dot. "What's the reminder?" she asked. "Lunching with Olga," I said. "When should I remind you?" she answered. "July 8th at 11:45 a.m.," I said. If I mess up, I can say, "Alexa, cancel the reminder," and start over.


When friends hand-wash and dry their dishes and are so righteous about it, I roll my eyes. How about a tiny dishwasher like the Capsule Personal Dishwasher from Loch Electronics? It doesn't use much energy or water.

The company claims the Capsule cleans two meals' worth of dishes in 15 minutes and uses 10 times less water than a regular dishwasher. It also rinses fruits and vegetables and disinfects objects --such as a phone or keys -- using ultraviolet light. You can fit in large dinner plates, frying pans, tall bottles, baking pans and chopping boards, which is mind-boggling, considering how small this thing is. It is 10 inches wide, 20 inches deep and 18 inches tall. It works with or without plumbing. Just set it on the counter.

The Capsule is available for pre-order on Kickstarter for $357. More info at Delivery is expected in February. If you don't want to wait for it, there's a portable dishwasher from Kapas for $329. It gets good reviews. Search on "portable dishwasher" for more options.


Voila AI Artist, a free app for iPhone or Android, makes you look like a Disney hero or heroine. Eyes get larger. Faces get smoother and more cartoonish. Women get lovelier, and men get handsomer. You can share the results as an email, on Facebook, Instagram and other places, or save them to your phone. I let the app create one for a friend just by uploading her picture. She was happy when her husband recognized her in the cartoon image. She plans to use it on social media. The app gives you a choice between various looks, such as "Royal," "Renaissance" or "Baby." I like Royal best.

Privacy alert: The company behind the app saves your facial photo for up to 48 hours. But that's not something I worry about.


Here's a tip to prevent those awkward beginnings in Zoom meetings. You know what I'm talking about: those times when a few people can't figure out how to turn on their video camera. The solution is to have everyone's camera turned on automatically. These days no one will show up in their pajamas.

To set it up, go to and sign in. Then, click "schedule a meeting." As you scroll down the options, look for "Video." Change "Off" to "On" where it says "Participant." For added convenience, check the box where it says "Allow participants to join anytime." This saved my bacon once when I forgot I was hosting a book group. The members started the discussion without me and had a merry old time.

INTERNUTS has information on dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, services and more. It even has information on airline policies.

"Adam G. Swanson, Professional Pianist and Entertainer." Search on that phrase on YouTube for some great ragtime. I especially like his tribute to Eubie Blake.

"Popular Amazon book clubs." Search on that phrase to find "Unforgettable Reads," which has 40,316 members and is open to anyone. Another one is "Things that Go Bump in the Night: Favorite Mysteries," with more than 20,000 members. Romance readers have a club with more than 16,000 romantics. But it's early days for these clubs. For now, they just offer recommendations. There's no messaging between members yet. But you can start your own club and make it private or public.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at

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