Photoshop alternatives, faster home networks, and laundry apps

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. Is there a good image editor for making my photos look better? I want something like Photoshop but less expensive.

A. Free tools to retouch photos are installed on many devices and bundled with cloud services like Google Photos. The power of these tools is significant, and most of them are much easier to use than Photoshop. I suggest you consider those options first.

There was a period early in its history when Photoshop was bundled free with scanners. Today, Photoshop is only available as an annual subscription that costs hundreds of dollars per year.

Fortunately for those of us with limited budgets, there is Affinity Photo. You can purchase versions for Mac, Windows or iPad for about $50.

If you used Photoshop before, Affinity Photo will look very familiar. But there are enough differences with other image editing programs that a tutorial will save you a lot of time in the long run.

The program does have its own tutorials, but I recommend using one of Simon Foster’s courses on such as “Affinity Photo: Beginner to Pro via Reference and Workflow” (or “Affinity Photo for the iPad”).

As a reminder, never pay the “sticker” price for Udemy courses. Discounts found online should reduce any course to less than $20.

Affinity Photo is the kind of tool you need to composite more than one image together or make local adjustments to just part of a photo.

If that is your goal, Affinity Photo is the right choice.

Q. After installing a 4K TV, streaming programs pause sometimes. I upgraded my ISP to gigabit service, but the problem continues. Help!

A. I am going to assume your home network uses Wi-Fi, since that is the most common type. Internet service providers sell services based on the speed delivered to your home, not the speed delivered to each individual device on your home network.

When speeds were slower, there was usually no noticeable difference. But as speeds into the home increase, it is not always obvious when your home network is not up to the job.

Even if you use the W-Fi base station rented to you by the service provider, that does not mean the speed on each device will increase.

The easiest way to upgrade your home network is to install a mesh type Wi-Fi network.

Mesh networks use a main base station and repeater stations throughout your home to amplify the Wi-Fi signal.

The easiest to install mesh network for most people is the Eero Pro 6 ( Just plug an Eero base station into an electric outlet and install an app on your smartphone.

Once installed the app will walk you through the steps needed to configure the network. Even better, it will provide information to help you understand which devices are slower and why.

For example, it can identify Wi-Fi devices that use an older Wi-Fi radio frequency or watch for collisions with a neighbor’s wireless network.

Troubleshooting Wi-Fi slowdowns can be difficult, but owning your own mesh Wi-Fi router will make it easier to configure your network and keep it running smoothly.

Q. What is one of the more surprising app product categories you have come across?

A. I am old enough to remember when the first soda vending machine was connected to the internet, yet I never saw this one coming: Apps that help with laundry.

The electric washing machine is a modern marvel, but the smartphone has added a few new tricks to wash day. Look closely at the instruction labels sewed into garments. All too often words like “dry clean only” or “cold wash drip dry” have been supplanted by little symbols that could mean almost anything.

Apps like “Laundry Lens” (iPhone) and “Laundry Pro” (Google Play) will help translate the hieroglyphic mish-mash into useful information.

But wait — there is more. Search your favorite app store to find apps that provide laundry timers, stain removal advice, and apps that talk to smart appliances.

There are even a few laundry-themed games to entertain you while you wait at the local laundromat.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

For Sale: Worst Things

A daily dose of the internet’s most horrible items. It looks like a parody, but most of these items are actually for sale.

Annual iOS Music Player Showcase

This blog post is the fourth annual roundup of alternatives to the music player app that comes with your Apple iPhone.

Covid Tracker

Use this page to look up the community spread of Covid infections for any county in the US.

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

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