By Robert Delaurentis
Senior Wire 

Clubhouse, new printers, battery cases

Bob's Tech Talk


April 1, 2021 | View PDF

Q. What is Clubhouse?

A. Clubhouse is a new social network that connects people in audio chat rooms. It has become quite popular in the last couple of months and is by invitation only. If it continues to accelerate, it will only be a matter of time before someone invites you to join. But my advice is to tread cautiously. The Clubhouse app does a few things that old-time internet folks such as myself find distasteful.

When you first sign on you are asked for permission to access your contact list. Say no and you are stopped cold. Say yes and Clubhouse now has access to every single one of your contacts.

The request is framed like a benefit to you, but a single tap will send Clubhouse your entire contact list, including everything from street addresses to telephone numbers. In my view, the contact information for my friends belongs to my friends, and I have an obligation to protect their privacy.

Another behavior I find downright dangerous is that Clubhouse can connect you with a random person in your address book with a single tap. You may not realize what is happening until you are talking to someone you prefer to avoid. Every contact is considered your best friend, no matter what. That is simply wrong.

Clubhouse is functionally similar to Facetime audio or Skype calls, along with a few added bells and whistles. If Clubhouse becomes wildly popular, similar features will appear in other apps, and hopefully public pressure will address the privacy concerns. Until then, stick with what you have now.

Q. I need a new printer. There are so many models, so many different prices. Choosing is overwhelming. Where do I start?

A. Start with the biggest difference among printers, inkjet or laser. If you print color photos, inkjet is your best option. If you print black text or illustrations on white copier paper, you should choose a laser printer.

Printing is expensive no matter what, but comparing printer prices is measuring the wrong thing. What matters most is the price per page. Unless you only print a few dozen pages a year, a laser printer will be the most cost effective.

Sometimes you can Google around and find a printer’s consumable costs in printer reviews. But unless you have a clear idea of how many pages you are going to print over a given time frame, it will still be a rough estimate.

Inkjet printers can produce stunning photo prints and attractive color charts and graphs. When you move up in price, you generally get better quality, and faster output. That means the ink refills will be more expensive as well, and the cheapest inks are more expensive per ounce than fine wine. While I have owned inkjets from time to time, I send photo prints to the drug store or a pro photo lab.

For everyday printing, I depend on a wireless Brother laser printer, model HL-L2350DW. It is inexpensive and reliable, handling several thousand pages on a single toner cartridge.

Q. Searching my house for fresh batteries has become a regular pastime. How do I make sure I have borrowed from one device to feed another for the last time?

A. Extra disposable batteries are just as vital as duct tape or a box of bandages. I am old enough to remember when the phrase “batteries not included” was a punch line. When I was a kid, batteries were a kind of currency. We never had enough. As an adult I used the kitchen junk drawer to keep extra batteries, but what started as good intentions sank into chaos.

I finally achieved battery nirvana thanks to the Battery Daddy 180 Battery Organizer Storage Case (about $20 on Amazon). As a tech nerd with an affinity for electronic gadgets, 180 batteries seems about right. I don’t fill every slot, but I make sure to keep a few of every possible size, just in case. Fortunately, there are dozens of smaller cases available more suited to a modest-sized inventory.

But no matter the size, a case is the solution. It lets you keep track of batteries as they are used, prompting you to buy replacements before it is too late.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Quack Cures

The Quack Doctor documents scores of dubious health claims from past centuries. If you enjoy sick entertainment, this site is good for what ails you.

Geography Challenge

Travel the world from your couch as you compete to name famous landmarks from the comfort of your Web browser.

I Miss My Bar

This site describes itself as a modern digital artifact. It recreates the atmosphere of your favorite drinking establishment.

Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades and can be contacted at


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