Slowing computer, AppleTV explained, family memories online

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. My computer slows down the longer I use it. A restart will make it better for an hour, but I fear this problem will get worse.

A. Computers slow down for many reasons. When a computer slows down, it generally means a resource is constrained.

The most serious constraint is a nearly full disk drive. Every drive needs local storage to grow, and a too-full drive can cause slowing just as you describe. A good rule of thumb for drives is to avoid using the last 20 percent of free space.

If the drive is not full, the next suspect is random access memory. RAM fills up for different reasons. Perhaps there are too many open programs. These programs generally appear in the Windows Task List (or the Dock on a Mac), and they include items that were opened up automatically along with programs you launched yourself. Not everything appears in the Task List. Viruses, for example, are good at hiding themselves.

From here the guessing starts. A bad file on the disk can sometimes cause slowing, as can network traffic — especially things like uploads.

Over time, computers collect digital bits and bobs that clog the plumbing, making it necessary to reinstall the operating system from scratch. These troubleshooting steps are best performed by an expert.

One last suggestion, which will seem a bit like it is coming out of left field. And this applies to owners with older computer hardware facing a repair cost approaching $300 or more: consider switching to an iPad. That can be a better investment for long term happiness.

Q. Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been a holiday tradition since my childhood, and this year it can only be viewed on AppleTV+. Does this mean I have to buy an AppleTV?

A. Not necessarily. The name AppleTV applies to three different things: a hardware device that attaches to your TV, an app that delivers a variety of streaming channels, and a streaming service that delivers movies and television shows.

The subscription streaming service is called AppleTV Plus, usually written as AppleTV+.

Confused yet? I know I am. Think of it this way, AppleTV+ is a service that is available on many different devices, including AppleTV. But the AppleTV app can also be found on some smart TVs, streaming sticks like Amazon Fire, and very soon, game consoles. There is a very good chance you already own a device capable of viewing AppleTV+. There is even a web viewer at

The streaming TV revolution is picking up speed. I expect a flood of new movies previously scheduled for theatrical release will arrive via streaming services this winter. It has already happened with movies like “Mulan” and “Greyhound”.

The only bright spot behind the fact that A Charlie Brown Christmas has disappeared behind a pay-tv channel is that streaming services are easier than ever to access. Sadly, that will leave some potential viewers out in the cold. Nevertheless, streaming is the future of TV.

Q. How can I save family memories online and share them with specific people I know? I want something more than a shared photo album.

A. Check out a service called The company has been around for seven years, which is upper middle-aged by technology standards.

The service provides tools to family members to create a digital version of a family archive, complete with video, text and photographs, all organized in chronological order. There are additional features, including the ability to deliver messages to someone at a future date and a generous free tier to determine if the service is right for you.

There are two key aspects of this business that appeal to me.

The first, is a business that charges a fee. Too often ideas like this pop up online and fizzle out because the builders focused on building an audience instead of building a business.

And second, there is a reasonable escape hatch if the business does go away. Users should be able to download and preserve their creations. Neither the fee nor the download guarantee long-term success, but this is a service that I would recommend to my family.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Phone and Tablet Sizes

Can’t get to a store this season to see a device on your shopping list? Use this site to create side-by-side comparisons of current phone and tablet devices.

Santa Tracker

Tap on the small red menu button in the top left corner of the screen to display enough seasonal activities to enchant you all season long.

Holiday Recipes

A hearty collection of traditional and contemporary menu choices to spice up your holiday season dinner table.

Author Bio

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