I’m excited to share the amazing recommendations.
Maybe this list will introduce you to a new favorite tech thing — check out a genius hack for a failed TV remote and closed captioning for live online videos.
Or maybe you’ll take a moment to appreciate a marvel like your phone camera that is already part of your life.
(These submissions have been lightly edited.)
Tatum Hunter, Washington Post Help Desk reporter:
You and a partner or buddy will each see a series of names suggested by the app. Swipe right to say “maybe” or left for “no” — just like a dating app.
If you both swipe right on a name, it will be saved to a list that the two of you can review together. Hopefully this makes for fewer fights in which you have to explain that “Olivia” was the name of your high school bully.
Heather Kelly and I used the app to name a nearly-dead plant in The Washington Post’s San Francisco office. World, meet Landon, the leafy green guy.
2. The phone camera for everything
Anne Schwarz in Los Angeles:
Of course I like to take photos and videos of my pets, but I use my phone camera for so much more.
It shows me things in places I can’t reach, like the top shelf of the grocery store, under the sofa or the label on the back of a heavy piece of equipment.
It can zoom into the fine print of a tiny battery that I need to replace. It can show the vet how my cat’s stitches are healing without needing to take him in. And my favorite thing: It can deposit a check for me!
3. Creepy but useful AI in Google Photos
Heather Kelly, Washington Post Help Desk reporter:
Google Photos face detection is so deeply helpful and satisfying, the company should use it as marketing for all AI. I can click on my dad’s face and it will show me pictures of him as a baby. It’s that good.
I KNOW I’m just training Google’s AI to build a digital panopticon. I don’t want to care.
Google Photos in general has been a huge help for organizing my years of scattered photos. It’s one place to put them and it does the work for me.
4. Read along to weekly worship service
Sandy Brown in Gold Canyon, Ariz.:
Closed captioning in Windows 11 allows me to read the spoken words in my online worship service.
It’s very important to me. I have a hearing loss significant enough to wear hearing aids, am 83 years old, mostly homebound and still desire a live worship service on Sunday. I also use it to enhance live news video.
(Keep reading below for instructions to turn on this feature.)
5. A simple hack for frustrated couch potatoes
Danielle Abril, Washington Post Help Desk reporter:
I have a soundbar speaker for my TV that blocks the spot on the TV for receiving signals from my remote control. For two years, every time I wanted to change the channel, pause or whatever, I’d stand up from my couch to make sure my remote control could beam to the TV.
Finally I bought a nifty plug-in repeater that ended my tiny TV annoyance. One part of the device sits close to the signal receiver on my TV. The other piece sits on a spot where I can easily point my TV remote.
Tada! No more standing up every time I need to pause or turn up the volume.
6. Voice control for a medical device
Monica Cohen in Worcester, Mass.:
My parent just had knee replacement surgery and is using a cooler pump to ice the new knee. The pump doesn’t have an on/off switch. You have to plug and unplug it.
We got a connected electrical plug from Kasa with a voice controller feature. You can just tell Alexa to turn the pump on.
7. Nest. And YouTube TV. And the baby cam. And …
Geoffrey A. Fowler, Washington Post technology columnist: (He could not pick just one technology that he loves. I tried.)
I love the way an iPhone will automatically fill in a two-factor authentication code texted to my phone. I love that Dashlane types in credit card details for me. I love Nanit, my family’s baby camera. I love that YouTube TV lets me watch TV on any screen without any drama.
I love that my Nest thermostat makes me feel good about helping save energy. I love Adobe Lightroom for photo editing and spend too much money on it.
8. Apple Pay for public transportation
Patti Colevas in Stanford, Calif.:
Using Apple Pay for the subway in New York AND ALL THE BUSES is astonishing and transformative. It removes so many barriers.
It also worked great for the subway in Singapore. I think all public transit should switch to this. (Washington D.C. Metro take note!!!)
9. Splitwise to skip money drama with friends
Naomi Nix, Washington Post technology reporter:
On a four-day trip with friends in the Shenandoah Valley area, we all paid for different things — food, gas, the Airbnb house and more. We set up a “group” in the Splitwise app, each person put in what they paid for, and the app calculated who owed what.
You can click the Settle Up button and automatically pay your friends through PayPal or Venmo. This was easier than keeping track of our expenses in a spreadsheet and it was better than passive aggressively avoiding conversations about money altogether.
Read more about Splitwise: The best payment apps for privacy and low fees
Honorable mentions from Tech Friend readers: The Merlin app for identifying birds in your area, Libby for borrowing e-books and audiobooks from your public library, the NPR One app, Strava, online tax filing software, Shazam and the humble telephone.
Do you want that closed captioning in live videos recommended by Tech Friend reader Sandy Brown?
Your PC must be running the “22H2” version of Windows 11 software. (It’s the Windows 11 updated in the second half of 2022.)
To check the version of Windows on your PC: Open the Settings app that looks like a gear icon. Scroll down to About. In the next screen, peek at the Windows specifications.
If you need to install the latest version, go back to the Settings menu and select Windows Update. (If you have a computer from your employer, you might not be able to update Windows on your own.)
To turn on the closed caption feature if you’re using the 22H2 version of Windows 11:
Go to the Settings app → Accessibility → Captions. Flip the virtual switch to turn on Live captions.
Read more from Chris Velazco: What’s new and useful in the updated Windows 11