Digital Advent calendar is filled with fun surprises

A friend just gave me a delightful Christmas present. It's the Jacquie Lawson Edwardian Advent Calendar, an $8 download from JacquieLawson.com.

Besides something special on each day, it has other activities. In a beautiful living room with colorfully wrapped presents, for example, I found an undecorated Christmas tree. I clicked it to choose lights, ornaments and more. Then I clicked the presents to reveal games. One led me to fascinating versions of solitaire, including one with cards of the same suit and color. I then solved a puzzle that turned into a beautiful painting, and clicked a music book to reveal the wondrous tunes I was listening to.

When the program first opens, click the star on the outside of the building, then the three dots, then the question mark. It will show you everything. You can even change the furniture.


I wish I were in Smyrna Beach, Fla., the shark capital of the world. Then I could test the new "Sharkbanz 2," a $140 shark-protection band that can be worn on the ankle or wrist that just came in for review.

Both former President Barack Obama and Meta (Facebook) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg have been seen wearing it. They're still here, so I guess it works. A user said: "Two months ago while free diving the Florida Keys, a sizable bull shark approached me from below, rather deliberately to say the least. He veered off about two or three yards from the Sharkbanz on my ankle and swiftly darted away."

The Sharkbanz, which has won awards from The Weather Channel, Popular Science and Forbes Magazine, uses no batteries. Instead, it generates a magnetic field strong enough to overwhelm a shark's senses, forcing it to flee.


A friend wanted to show me something on her iPhone but couldn't figure out how to get back to the home screen. She needed a home button. I'd be lost without mine.

Here's how to add it: On an iPhone, go to "Settings," then "Accessibility," then "Touch," then "Assistive Touch" and turn on the "Assistive Touch" option. On an Android, go to "Settings," then type these words in the search box at the top: "Gesture Navigation." When it comes up, tap it. Then tap to turn on "3-button navigation."


After going to a retreat for health nuts in North Carolina, I decided to stay connected through an app called Marco Polo that was set up by one of my fellow campers. It makes it easy to leave video messages for individuals and groups.

It's a little like Zoom, but more convenient. Instead of joining a meeting at a set time, you can send a video clip any time you want, to be viewed any time they want. Just tap a friend's photo or a group's logo, then tap the camera icon to record. If you want to replay a video, just tap its thumbnail icon. All the videos you've watched previously are right there. It's great for dramatic moments, like a baby's first steps. To delete a recording, just press and hold its thumbnail photo. You get unlimited video storage with the $60 paid version.

Sending a video is sort of like shouting "Marco," and hearing someone call back "Polo," with their own video clip. So far, I haven't been able to resist adding my own two cents. For more info, do a search on "How to get started with Marco Polo - Video Chat for Busy People."


A recent video I took came out sideways. So Googled "rotate video" and got a free tool from Clideo.com.

Unlike Adobe Photoshop's mind-numbing menu, each tool at Clideo.com does just one thing, so I don't get lost. Just click and it's done. Besides rotating my video, I used their trim tool to whack off the extraneous stuff at the beginning and the end. It's so simple, I'm amazed that it's free.


Sometimes, after I've just watched a great YouTube video on my phone, I want to share it, but by then, YouTube has already gone on to the next one. If this happens to you, or if you're trying to recall something you watched from a week ago, go to myactivity.google.com. It will show you every video you've seen, everything you've searched for and every site you've visited.


Amazon now offers eight free courses on artificial intelligence. Some are for business people, others are for techies. Do a search on "AI Ready Amazon" to find the courses and register.

The courses include how to build an AI-ready organization, how to use Amazon's AI code generator and more. Amazon also provides AI scholarships to more than 50,000 high school and university students who take courses at Udacity.com.


To find a photo you might want to use in a letter or card, do a Google search on an image, such as "beautiful sunset." When you click the three vertical dots in the photo's upper right, select "About this image." It will name the websites where the image appears. I found a fantastic, downloadable sunset from Etsy.com, the craft site, for $1.29.


"21 Best Personalized Gifts Worth Ordering Early." Search on that phrase to see CNET's list. I especially like the cutting board with a family recipe etched into it.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected].

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