By Robert DeLaurentis
Senior Wire 

Apple Watch SE, rechargeable AA batteries, VPNs

Bob's Tech Talk


November 1, 2020

Q. What is the one tech gadget you would miss the most if it were suddenly gone?

A. Of all the gadgets I own, the one I use most often in my daily life is the Apple Watch. Here are the highlights:

I use the watch to play music and podcasts.

At most stores I pay without touching anything by waving my wrist above the card reader.

The watch maps my daily walks and measures the distance I travel. When walking, I use the compass and altimeter to get a sense of the landscape. If the watch detected that I suddenly fell and was unable to respond, it would notify emergency services.

It guides me to wash my hands for a full 20 seconds. It also reminds me to stand up if I have been sitting at my desk too long.

At a glance, I view the current time, sunset time, the current temperature and wind, air quality, exercise progress, and water consumption, all on one screen.

I set my phone on a table and use the watch to trigger the camera. Now our group family photos include everyone.

And finally, it reminds me when it is time to slow down at the end of the day and then tracks my sleep overnight.

The watch has become my most essential piece of gear. None of the features I use require the latest, most expensive model, nor do they require the pricy cellular option.

Apple released new watches in September that fit a wide range of budgets and features. The best value by far is the $279 Apple Watch SE.

Q. Is there a reliable rechargeable “AA” battery suitable for small devices like clocks and remote controls?

A. Modern rechargeable batteries are a wonder. We are a long way from the fussy nickel-cadmium batteries of days past.

Most commonly available under the brand name eneloop, modern AA batteries use a different chemistry than the lithium batteries found in phones and laptops. They behave more like disposable alkaline batteries, except they are rechargeable.

I have used Panasonic eneloop batteries throughout my household for a decade. They work well just about anywhere disposable alkaline batteries are used. With many devices they often require only a single charge per year, and they last more years than I can count.

There are several varieties of eneloop batteries, including Lite and Pro versions, optimized for long life and power output. They come in two sizes, AA and AAA, and there is a kit you can use to adapt the cells to fit C and D-size when needed.

Q. What is a VPN and how is it used?

A. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) create private internet connections using public networks. They are typically used to enhance privacy and security.

When the early internet was a university network, security was not a priority. Eventually jobs like online banking made private connections essential.

Today, when you log on to a bank, your device establishes a secure connection to that bank. The data you share is encrypted and cannot be understood by anyone except the bank. This type of connection is a private network between you and the bank.

A VPN expands that type of connection to every site you visit. As a result, your identity is masked. Even your Internet Service Provider, which right now can track every site you visit, is kept in the dark. All they “see” is an encrypted channel between you and the VPN’s entry point.

VPNs impact performance, increase cost, and are complex to understand, so I steer most people away. But if you are extremely concerned about personal security, or want to explore streaming video from other countries, they are the right tool for the job.

For a close look at VPN technology, this page covers the details:

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

On-Demand Assistants for Seniors

Papa is a service that connects seniors with “Papa Pals” to provide companionship and help with everyday tasks. Papa is available in 17 states, and plans to expand nationwide by 2021.

Community Texting

Community is a social media service built around cellphone text messages. You can lead your own group or join a community listed in the directory. This relatively new service is best for people with an early-adopter mindset and unlimited text messages.

Poolside Radio

This site is pure nostalgia, from songs that evoke a summertime pool party to visuals that harken back to the previous century. Worth a visit just to experience what computer screens looked like 25 years ago.

A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at


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