On Computers Pushing these Buttons Spells Panic

Stand-alone push-buttons are becoming hot. Out of printer ink? Simply push a button to order more. The buttons are just $5, ink quite a little more. Is there any inconvenience in this convenience? We can find some.

So here is how it begins: Amazon sells $5 “Dash” buttons which you stick around the house. Press one labeled “Charmin” to automatically reorder toilet paper. Press “Tide” to find detergent. (Amazon then kicks in and sends you whatever amount you normally purchase.) The office giant Staples includes a trial version of an office supply button. And there are others. Remember the old “Panic” push-buttons which were sold as a novelty item? We are getting there.

We examined a “goButton” by a business just getting started on Kickstarter.com, the website where you raise money from strangers. The pitch is this: imagine if workers could push a button whenever they wanted printer ink, had a paper jam or needed general plumbing and emergency plumbing services? They would push the goButton (terrible name) along with a support professional would arrive. The buttons have been configured in advance via a program on your phone and can be changed as the need changes.

The company sent us a few prototypes. One was labeled “Support.” Another was labeled “Refill.” Pushing either one brought a text message and an email saying that our order was accepted or support was on the way. The messages contained the name of the man who pushed the button and the company that responded.

Any possible problems with this? We can see a few hundred. At a company, for example: Imagine if each time a printer jams, someone presses the “help” button! A tech person would arrive but the individual sitting next to you has already fixed the problem. Sorry, you need to pay for the tech man’s time anyhow.

How about house use. How many people do you know who would push a “help” button each time they had some problem with their computer or the internet? Got any kids around who’d think that it’s fun to push buttons after new gas installations or repair? How about cats performing their “kitten on the keys” walks?

Remember: There is always time to panic.

Flipping That Telephone

Flipsy.com bills itself the “Blue Book of phones.” It tells you what you can get for your old phone at trade-in websites, as well as from private parties. We have $55 for a Samsung Galaxy S3 we sold on eBay last year but could have gotten $104 through Flipsy.

Type in your phone number and click on “private party value” to find out what you may be able to get. For an iPhone 6s, you may get $436 selling it yourself, $335 in a trade-in website or $235 from the phone supplier. Big spread! Trade-in websites linked to Flipsy include Amazon, Exchange It, Buy Back World and others.

A reader told us he had been scammed on eBay, so he now avoids it. We did not have any problems selling two devices there. However, on other websites it is possible to get faster payment. We’ve got scammed on CraigsList, one of the first trading and reselling websites.

Apple iPhones hold their value better than Android phones. The existing iPhone 7 would fetch $395 in a trade-in website. A Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the most recent model, would fetch around $240. If you go back three generations, a favorite phone of either kind will go for about $100. Go back further and you get less. Amazon will provide you $20 for an iPhone 4s. If you were to purchase one from Amazon, however, it would cost $92 to $170. That’s a significant markup.

Speaking Boxes: Google vs Alexa

We are still undecided on which nosy box is better: Google Home or Amazon Echo. So we have both. (We figure everyone in the known universe is already hip to this tendency, but merely to recapitulate, both are little gizmos that answer questions and play games and music.)

Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot have 71 percent of the market. Could 71 percent of the buyers possibly be wrong? We enjoy our Echo, which has some bad woman named Alexa inside, but Google Home seems smarter. We asked her to play the opening number from the film “La La Land” as we helped a couple contractors review their as2550.1 plan, and she did it. Asking Alexa, we heard, “I don’t have a song called ‘Opening Number.’ ”

We asked Alexa how many genes a wheat plant has. She stated “2,017” and then began telling us about fashions in blue jeans, like plastic pants (they must literally be hot stuff). Google Home said there were about 164,000 wheat genes (that is a whole lot more than we have), depending on the variety. We then asked Google house for an “intense ab workout” on our TV, and it began playing immediately. (you must turn on the TV first, pick the perfect input and be sure a $30 Chromecast is plugged in.)

This year, an estimated 36 million Americans will use those devices at least once each month. Ninety-five percent will probably use one from Google or Amazon, other producers are entering the lists, among them Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel. What matters most isn’t the brand of the gizmo, but the extent of its knowledge and context, so whether it’s applicable to be used on a slab crane, in a high-rise office or in your car.