Tech Fix: The Best Ways to Share Your Smartphone Photos This Holiday

“There are a few really clever photo sharing tools, but as smart as they are, you might still need to teach family members how they work,” said R. C. Rivera, a professional photographer in San Francisco.

So here are some tips for the quickest and most efficient ways to share digital photos, based on my tests and interviews with professional photographers.

Sharing With Google Photos

If you have a modestly sized family, chances are some members use iPhones but others use Androids. The quickest method for everyone to share pics is to rely on a photo storage service that supports both devices.

Mr. Rivera said that most of his family in the United States used iPhones, but that his relatives in Asia all used Android devices. So he goaded his family to use Google Photos, which is included on Android devices and works on iPhones.

After you sign up for Google Photos, each photo you take is automatically backed up to Google’s cloud. From there, you can create albums for your trip to Spain or your 2-year-old’s birthday party to share with other members of the family with Google accounts. You can also create public albums that anyone can see with a web link.

To make sharing more effortless, you can also take advantage of some neat artificial intelligence. Google Photos detects the face of a person and automatically groups all the photos of that person into an album. From there, you can set up Google to automatically share photos of that person with others — which is great for baby photos.

To do that, inside the Google Photos app, you add a partner account that you want to share with, like your spouse or relative, and then select the option to share photos of specific people. Then select the subject you want to share. If you want to keep people up to date with photos of your toddler, this is a quick and efficient method. (An added bonus: This trick also works for dogs.)

Google Photos is cheap. Google offers to store an unlimited number of compressed images for free. For full-resolution images, you get 15 gigabytes of free storage and can pay at least $2 a month for 100 gigs.

Moving Photos Between Apple Devices

For families that entirely rely on iPhones, there’s a major benefit: the ability to share photos among devices almost instantly. Apple phones and computers have AirDrop, a tool that transfers pictures directly between devices via a wireless Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.

Unfortunately, this useful feature is difficult to find. In iOS 11, the latest mobile operating system, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hard press in the upper-left corner to open a hidden menu that includes AirDrop. From there, you can set up AirDrop to receive photos from everyone or just people on your contacts list.

To share with AirDrop, make sure your relative nearby has AirDrop receiving turned on. On your iPhone, you can select a photo or a group of photos and tap the Share button (a box with an arrow pointing up). Your relative’s device will show up under the AirDrop menu, and you can select the device. The files will move over instantly — even a batch of 50 photos will take only a few seconds.

Slide Shows on a Big Screen

Your older relatives are probably familiar with the tradition of using a slide projector to show vacation photos or talk about family events. You can do something similar to that with a smartphone, a television set and a media streaming device.

First, pick your streaming device. Google’s $35 Chromecast, a small dongle that can be plugged into the TV, is perfect for families using Google Photos. For those relying on iPhones, a $149 Apple TV is also great.

After you set up your streaming device, beaming your photos to the television set is a breeze. In the Google Photos app, a small broadcasting icon will appear in the upper-right corner. Tap that while you are reviewing photos, and they will beam onto the television screen.

With an Apple TV, the process is just as simple with the tool AirPlay. On your iPhone, open the photo album you want to share and hit the Share button, and then tap AirPlay. The photos you are looking at on your phone will show up on the television screen, and you can narrate your trip to Hong Kong while swiping from photo to photo.

Print Your Albums

There’s always the old-school option of printing out your photos for a physical album. There are several different apps you can use to skip buying a printer.

The easiest option for Google Photos users is to just print directly through Google. A photo books tool lets you compile photos into a book. In my tests, dragging some favorite photos from my trip to Japan into a photo book was a breeze. A 20-page book costs $10; each extra page costs 35 cents.

There are other options if you want to assemble an old-school scrapbook. Online printing services let you upload photos and order prints in different sizes. Wirecutter, a New York Times company that tests products, highlighted Nations Photo Lab as its top printing service that offers high-quality prints for a good price.

Mr. Rivera, the professional photographer, takes the route that requires minimal effort: He regularly prints Google photo books for his relatives. The color accuracy in the photos is not perfect, but the outcome is good enough.

“As a photographer I would scrutinize the color,” he said. “But for 90 percent of the population, it’s perfect. My parents wouldn’t notice.”

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Net Neutrality Hits a Nerve, Eliciting Intense Reactions

But none of that has overshadowed the heated reaction to the agency’s proposal.

“There doesn’t seem to be middle ground on this issue,” said John Beahn, a lawyer at Skadden Arps who specializes in regulation.

At the center of the debate is whether telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon should be able to charge internet sites for delivering their data to consumers’ homes. In 2015, the F.C.C. voted to prohibit those charges, in a policy often called net neutrality.

But Mr. Pai, a Republican nominated for the chairmanship by President Trump, said the regulations were heavy-handed and prevented telecom companies from pursuing new business models. His proposal, by stripping away the existing rules, would allow telecom companies to charge websites to deliver their data at higher speeds.

In a speech on Tuesday, Mr. Pai addressed some of the concerns that have been voiced since he released his proposal, pointing specifically to comments by celebrities like Cher and Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley.” He said their tweets warning that his rules would lead to authoritarianism and a handout to big cable companies were “utterly absurd.”

“I’d like to cut through hysteria and hot air and speak in plain terms about the plan,” Mr. Pai said, adding that the plan would bring back the regulation-free policy that helped the internet thrive. He said big tech companies might be a bigger threat to online speech than telecom companies.

The proposal is expected to be approved at a meeting of the five F.C.C. commissioners on Dec. 14. The two other Republican commissioners have already expressed their support for Mr. Pai.

The 2015 rules also elicited strong interest. The F.C.C. site was overwhelmed with comments after a monologue from the late-night host John Oliver went viral online. Some people who wanted the stronger rules blocked the driveway of the chairman at the time, Tom Wheeler, to try to persuade him to change the agency’s plan.

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What Is Net Neutrality?

The F.C.C. voted to dismantle rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how net neutrality works.

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Big web companies like Google and Netflix played activist roles as well, supporting the stronger rules. They argued that telecom companies should not be able to split sites into fast lanes and slow lanes, because that would allow them to become a sort of gatekeeper for information and entertainment. In addition, they say, it would hurt start-ups without the money to pay for the faster lanes.

Mr. Pai, who opposed the rules as a commissioner in 2015, gave broad outlines of his plans early this year. For months, comments to the F.C.C. website piled up, to more than 20 million. President Barack Obama’s clean power plan, perhaps his biggest policy change at the Environmental Protection Agency, attracted 4.3 million comments over six months.

But the intensity has increased even more since Mr. Pai released the details of the proposal — perhaps in part because few people expected him to try to strip all of the existing rules.

“We never expected this,” wrote Craig Moffett, an analyst at the research firm MoffettNathanson.

Lawmakers, celebrities, founders of start-ups and consumers have continued to hash out the debate into this week.

Conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute praised the rollback. The radio host Rush Limbaugh defended Mr. Pai’s plan on Monday in an online post. He dismissed concerns by supporters of the rules, whom he described as liberal “millennials and tech bloggers.”

“What the tech bloggers and the left don’t like is that there are options and that there is a freedom in the marketplace and that people can choose superior service if they’re willing to pay for it,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “And if somebody’s willing to pay for superior service, the providers had better provide it.”

Public interest groups like Free Press and organizations like Mozilla, the nonprofit behind the popular Firefox browser, said they were prepared to file suit against the plan as soon as the vote on Dec. 14.

“The action hit a nerve because the internet is central to the vast majority of people’s daily lives, and so people were very eager to understand what was happening over the weekend,” said Denelle Dixon, chief legal officer for Mozilla.

The reaction from the biggest tech companies, however, has been noticeably subdued. Instead of forceful pleas from their executives, like those in years past on this issue, they are largely speaking through their trade group, the Internet Association, which has expressed disappointment over Mr. Pai’s plan.

“Internet companies are firm supporters of the 2015 Open Internet Order and will continue our push for strong, enforceable net neutrality rules going forward,” said Noah Theran, a spokesman for the Internet Association. “We are reviewing the draft order and weighing our legal options.”

Taking their place are start-ups such as Airbnb, Twitter and Reddit, which joined dozens of smaller start-ups on Monday warning Mr. Pai that the rules would hurt innovation and the economy.

Sorting out the real individual commenters from fake or automated accounts is far more tricky. The F.C.C. said it did not have the resources to investigate every comment on its site.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, said that after a six-month investigation, his office had found that the identities of tens of thousands of state residents were fraudulently used to post comments to the F.C.C.

“If law enforcement can’t investigate and (where appropriate) prosecute when it happens on this scale,” Mr. Schneiderman said, “the door is open for it to happen again and again.”

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Tech Fix: How to Buy a Great TV This Black Friday

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You know how it is: Every Black Friday, you are bombarded with lousy shopping deals that do not offer as much of a discount on an item as you think. But there is a bright spot: If you are shopping for a television, it really is the best time to buy one.

To stoke sales, electronics manufacturers typically slash prices of popular TV sets during Black Friday to the lowest all year. This week, you will be able to buy high-quality televisions for $500 to $1,500 after discounts of 15 percent to 30 percent. That’s a deal considering that typically, many TVs in the $500 range are just O.K. and high-end sets cost upward of $2,000.

But as always, there will be duds to watch out for. Many TV brands take this opportunity to sell sets with exaggerated features that have subpar picture quality. And inside stores, TVs often look different from the way they would at home, because you probably don’t have gigantic lights in your ceilings like the showrooms at Best Buy.

“A lot of Black Friday marketing is designed to get the consumer interested in something, sometimes with not a lot of facts but a gut feeling of ‘I need to buy this,’ ” said Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate, a consulting firm that studies TV and smartphone screens.

So we did some research ahead of time. To help you scout for great TV deals, I interviewed experts on TV technologies and teamed up with Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products. Here is our guide to picking out a TV you will be happy with this Black Friday, advice that may also come in handy if you are shopping for TVs over the rest of the holiday season.

Viewing Conditions

To narrow down your search, the first rule of thumb is to assess the ambient light in your living room.

If your living room gets lots of sunlight, you will want a very bright TV with vivid colors that can overcome some of that ambient light that washes out your TV, Mr. Soneira said. In this situation, you would probably go for an LCD TV, which can produce very bright and sharp images.

Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said.CreditRobert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

If your living room has lower ambient light or if you have a dark theater room, go for a TV with more lifelike colors. In this case, you could go for televisions with so-called OLED screens, which can be made thinner and lighter with more accurate colors and contrast. In general, OLED TVs look better than LCD sets, but OLED TVs are not as bright, so their colors and shadow details can be washed out by bright sunlight.

And then there is content to consider. If you watch a lot of movies, you would benefit from an OLED television to get a picture that more closely resembles what the director intended you to see. But if you mostly watch sports or broadcast television, a good LCD television would be sufficient to get a clear, bright picture of the ballgame or your local news coverage.

In the end, your budget may drive your decision. Good LCD televisions cost as little as $500. A nice OLED television tends to cost $2,000 and up.

A Few Important Features

After you have decided on a type of TV, there are two important features to look for: local dimming and high dynamic range, said Chris Heinonen, a writer and TV tester for Wirecutter.

Local dimming is a technology that uses a backlight embedded inside the TV to make bright parts of the screen look brighter without washing out shadow detail. It also helps improve contrast and produce a more vibrant image.

High dynamic range, or HDR, is a software feature that enhances the contrast and color profile of a picture. In bright colors, you will see brighter highlights; in dark colors, you will see more details.

Most television sets today come with 4K high-definition resolution, also known as ultrahigh definition. But 4K videos won’t look very good if the TV lacks local dimming. In addition, the expanded color gamut from high dynamic range makes a big difference when watching videos in 4K, Mr. Heinonen said.

Buyer, Beware

Here’s the tricky part: On Black Friday, many companies exaggerate the features on their TV sets to make them look more attractive. Here are some things to look out for.

■ Fake contrast ratio numbers. Contrast ratio is the difference between a TV’s peak brightness and lowest darkness. All you need to know is that a high contrast ratio helps make a picture look good. Manufacturers enjoy pumping up the contrast ratio of their TVs by listing results in unrealistic test settings, Mr. Heinonen said.

■ Unknown TV models. On Black Friday, TV brands also enjoy releasing obscure television sets with model names that are similar to popular sets but with inferior features. “They all do it,” Mr. Heinonen said.

For example, Samsung could hypothetically sell a TV set called MU8020, which sounds similar to the Samsung MU8000, a well-reviewed television. But the unknown TV might lack important features like local dimming.

■ Misleading display technologies. TV makers use confusing terms that may mislead you. LED televisions, for example, sound similar to fancy OLED televisions — but they are just LCD televisions with an LED backlight, Mr. Soneira said. In addition, companies advertise TVs with high dynamic range, but some sets are not even powerful enough to display HDR properly, Mr. Heinonen said.

Do Your Homework

The best way to avoid falling into any traps is to figure out what TV you want and keep track of its price leading up to Black Friday. Here’s a good place to start: Wirecutter put together a chart of the best TVs based on dozens of hours of testing. It highlighted sets from Sony, TCL, Vizio and LG.

Some TV makers have already announced Black Friday prices for a number of top-rated TVs. LG, for example, is selling an OLED TV, called B7A, for about $1,500 for the 55-inch set and about $2,300 for the 65-inch model. Originally, they cost $2,200 and $2,700. The $1,500 price is remarkably low for a high-end TV of this caliber and size.

In addition, Amazon is selling a great 55-inch Sony LCD TV with HDR for about $1,000, down from about $1,300. And Walmart is selling Vizio’s M50-E1, a well-reviewed 50-inch budget TV, for about $500, down from $600.

Whatever you do, try not to overspend. Mr. Heinonen said to steer clear of TVs that cost more than $3,000 because TV technologies were rapidly maturing and prices plummet every year.

“Paying a ton right now for the top of the line is really paying a premium when things are improving so fast,” he said.

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When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work

Shannon Otto, who lives in Nashville, can pinpoint the moment that she realized she wanted to be a nurse. She was 16, shadowing her aunt who worked in an emergency room. She gaped as a doctor used a hand crank to drill a hole into a patient’s skull. She wanted to be part of the action.

It took years of school and thousands of dollars of loans, but she eventually landed her dream job, in Tennessee, a state facing a shortage of nurses.

Then, after working for more than a decade, she started having epileptic seizures. They arrived without warning, in terrifying gusts. She couldn’t care for herself, let alone anyone else. Unable to work, she defaulted on her student loans.

Where Your License Can Be Seized

Twenty states around the country can seize professional, driver’s and other licenses from residents who default on their student debt.

Iowa

Any state-issued license, including a driver’s license, can be revoked. The Iowa College Student Aid Commission said it has not used that power in the last five years.

South Dakota

The state can revoke driver’s, hunting and fishing licenses, as well as camping and park permits. As of October, 1,550 people with educational debt had their licenses blocked.

Kentucky

The state’s Higher Education Assistance Authority said it does not track how many default notices it sends to licensing agencies. Records from licensing boards show that 308 nurses and 223 teachers have had their licenses blocked in recent years.

Ms. Otto eventually got her seizures under control, and prepared to go back to work and resume payments on her debt. But Tennessee’s Board of Nursing suspended her license after she defaulted. To get the license back, she said, she would have to pay more than $1,500. She couldn’t.

“I absolutely loved my job, and it seems unbelievable that I can’t do it anymore,” Ms. Otto said.

With student debt levels soaring — the loans are now the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages — so are defaults. Lenders have always pursued delinquent borrowers: by filing lawsuits, garnishing their wages, putting liens on their property and seizing tax refunds. Blocking licenses is a more aggressive weapon, and states are using it on behalf of themselves and the federal government.

Proponents of the little-known state licensing laws say they are in taxpayers’ interest. Many student loans are backed by guarantees by the state or federal government, which foot the bills if borrowers default. Faced with losing their licenses, the reasoning goes, debtors will find the money.

But critics from both parties say the laws shove some borrowers off a financial cliff.

Tennessee is one of the most aggressive states at revoking licenses, the records show. From 2012 to 2017, officials reported more than 5,400 people to professional licensing agencies. Many — nobody knows how many — lost their licenses. Some, like Ms. Otto, lost their careers.

“It’s an attention-getter,” said Peter Abernathy, chief aid and compliance officer for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, a state-run commission that is responsible for enforcing the law. “They made a promise to the federal government that they would repay these funds. This is the last resort to get them back into payment.”

In Louisiana, the nursing board notified 87 nurses last year that their student loans were in default and that their licenses would not be renewed until they became current on their payments.

Eighty-four paid their debts. The three who did not are now unable to work in the field, according to a report published by the nursing board.

“It’s like shooting yourself in the foot, to take away the only way for these people to get back on track,” said Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican state representative in Montana.

People who don’t pay their loans back are punished “with credit scores dropping, being traced by collection agencies, just having liens,” he said. “The free market has a solution to this already. What is the state doing with this hammer?”

Photo

Shannon Otto of Nashville defaulted on her student loans after she was unable to work because of epileptic seizures. Tennessee suspended her nursing license. Credit Kyle Dean Reinford for The New York Times

In 2015, Mr. Zolnikov co-sponsored a bill with Representative Moffie Funk, a Democrat, that stopped Montana from revoking licenses for people with unpaid student debt — a rare instance of bipartisanship.

The government’s interest in compelling student borrowers to pay back their debts has its roots in a policy adopted more than 50 years ago.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, which created financial aid programs for college-bound students. To entice banks to make student loans, the government offered them insurance: If a borrower defaulted, it would step in and pick up the tab. The federal government relied on a network of state agencies to administer the program and pursue delinquent borrowers. (Since 2010, the federal government has directly funded all student loans, instead of relying on banks.)

By the late 1980s, the government’s losses climbed past $1 billion a year, and state agencies started experimenting with aggressive collection tactics. Some states garnished wages. Others put liens on borrowers’ cars and houses. Texas and Illinois stopped renewing professional licenses of those with unresolved debts.

The federal Department of Education urged other states to act similarly. “Deny professional licenses to defaulters until they take steps to repayment,” the department urged in 1990.

Two years ago, South Dakota ordered officials to withhold various licenses from people who owe the state money. Nearly 1,000 residents are barred from holding driver’s licenses because of debts owed to state universities, and 1,500 people are prohibited from getting hunting, fishing and camping permits.

“It’s been quite successful,” said Nathan Sanderson, the director of policy and operations for Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The state’s debt collection center — which pursues various debts, including overdue taxes and fines — has brought in $3.3 million since it opened last year. Much of that has flowed back to strapped towns and counties.

But Jeff Barth, a commissioner in South Dakota’s Minnehaha County, said that the laws were shortsighted and that it was “better to have people gainfully employed.”

In a state with little public transit, people who lose their driver’s licenses often can’t get to work.

“I don’t like people skipping out on their debts,” Mr. Barth said, “but the state is taking a pound of flesh.”

Mr. Sanderson countered that people did not have to pay off their debt to regain their licenses — entering into a payment plan was enough.

But those payment plans can be beyond some borrowers’ means.

Tabitha McArdle earned $48,000 when she started out as a teacher in Houston. A single mother, she couldn’t keep up with her monthly $800 student loan payments. In March, the Texas Education Agency put her on a list of 390 teachers whose certifications cannot be renewed until they make steady payments. She now has no license.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who has worked to overturn these laws, called them “tantamount to modern-day debtors’ prison.”

States differ in their rules and enforcement mechanisms. Some, like Tennessee, carefully track how many borrowers are affected, but others do not keep even informal tallies.

In Kentucky, the Higher Education Assistance Authority is responsible for notifying licensing boards when borrowers default. The agency has no master list of how many people it has reported, according to Melissa F. Justice, a lawyer for the agency.

But when the agency sends out default notifications, licensing boards take action. A public records request to the state’s nursing board revealed that the licenses of at least 308 nurses in Kentucky had been revoked or flagged for review.

In some states, the laws are unused. Hawaii has a broad statute, enacted in 2002, that allows it to suspend vocational licenses if the borrower defaults on a student loan. But the state’s licensing board has never done so, said William Nhieu, a spokesman for Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, because no state or federal student loan agencies have given it the names of delinquent borrowers.

Officials from Alaska, Iowa, Massachusetts and Washington also said their laws were not being used. Oklahoma and New Jersey eliminated or defanged their laws last year, with bipartisan support.

But in places where the laws remain active, they haunt people struggling to pay back loans.

Debra Curry, a nurse in Georgia, fell behind on her student loan payments when she took a decade off from work to raise her six children. In 2015, after two years back on the job, she received a letter saying that her nursing license would be suspended unless she contacted the state to set up a payment plan.

Ms. Curry, 58, responded to the notice immediately, but state officials terminated her license anyway — a mistake, she was told. It took a week to get it reinstated.

“It was traumatic,” Ms. Curry said. She now pays about $1,500 each month to her creditors, nearly half her paycheck. She said she worried that her debt would again threaten her ability to work.

“I really do want to pay the loans back,” she said. “How do you think I’m going to be able to pay it back if I don’t have a job?”

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Tech Fix: A New Phone Comes Out. Yours Slows Down. A Conspiracy? No.

[READ NEXT: The iPhone 8 Reviews: What the Critics Say]

“There’s no incentive for operating system companies to create planned obsolescence,” said Greg Raiz, a former program manager for Microsoft who worked on Windows XP. “It’s software, and software has various degrees of production bugs and unintended things that happen.”

Here’s what happens: When tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google introduce new hardware, they often release upgrades for their operating systems. For example, a few days before the iPhone 8 shipped in September, Apple released iOS 11 as a free software update for iPhones, including the four-year-old iPhone 5S.

The technical process of upgrading from an old operating system to a new one — migrating your files, apps and settings along the way — is extremely complicated. So when you install a brand-new operating system on an older device, problems may occur that make everything from opening the camera to browsing the web feel sluggish.

“It’s like changing the plumbing of the house without changing anything else,” said Scott Berkun, an author and a former manager for Microsoft who oversaw engineers that worked on Windows operating systems and web browsers.

The good news is that because tech companies are not intentionally neutering your devices, there are remedies for when you think your three-year-old iPhone or your seven-year-old Windows computer has become slow or short-lived. Here’s a guide to speeding up your troubled gadgets, based on interviews with information technology professionals and operating system experts.

Start Fresh

Tech companies make it simple to upgrade to a new operating system by pressing an “update” button, which seamlessly migrates all your apps and data over. While that’s convenient, it isn’t the best way to ensure that things will continue running smoothly.

A better practice is backing up all your data and purging everything from the device before installing the new operating system. This “clean install” works more reliably because the engineers developing operating systems were able to test this condition more easily, Mr. Raiz said.

[READ NEXT: What You Need to Know About The iPhone X]

Let’s say, for example, you have an iPhone 6 with 100 apps installed, four email accounts and 2,000 photos. It is more likely that a quality-assurance engineer tested installing a new operating system on a blank iPhone 6, rather than an iPhone 6 with the same setup as yours.

So if you want to minimize the chances of something going awry, resist the easy update path and opt for a clean install. For smartphones, I recommend backing up your data to your computer. For computers, you could back up your data to an online service or a portable drive. After the operating system installation is complete, you can then safely restore your data and apps to the device from the backup.

Remove the ‘Cruft’

Sometimes you can do some light maintenance to speed up your device. Over the long term, an operating system accumulates system files, settings, logs and other data; I.T. experts call this “cruft.” This can bog down your device.

For computers, there are some apps for cleaning up your system. Mac users can download a free app called Onyx, and Windows users can run a cleanup utility included in the system. For iPhones and Android devices, you can open the settings app and select reset settings. (Just make sure you back up first in case there are important settings you may lose.)

[READ NEXT: The iPhone X is Cool. That Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for It]

Be Mindful of Your Storage

Here’s something many people don’t realize: Just because your iPhone or Samsung phone has 64 gigabytes of storage doesn’t mean you should fill it all the way up. The device will generally run faster if more of its storage is available.

That’s partly because your device needs space to move data around and download software updates. But it’s also related to how the storage technology works inside smartphones and modern laptops.

Smartphones and newer laptops rely on flash storage, which stores data in the cells of semiconductor chips. When data is stored on a flash drive, it is scattered across the drive. So when you are pulling data to open an app or a document, you are retrieving it from multiple parts of the drive. If lots of space is occupied, the data gets crowded and the device may feel sluggish.

“If you fill these things up, it doesn’t get to operate as well,” said Brian Denslow, a technician for TechCollective, an information technology consulting company in San Francisco. Mr. Denslow said a good rule of thumb is to buy more storage than you think you will use. If you think you are going to use 64 gigabytes on an iPad, for example, buy the 256-gigabyte model.

I also recommend freeing up a huge amount of space by managing your photo library in the cloud. You can upload all your albums to a service like Google Photos and periodically purge all the images from the device itself. I did this recently on my iPhone 7 that was nearly full and seemed to be slowing down; purging the photos freed up about 50 gigabytes of data, and the iPhone feels as good as new.

Invest in Your Infrastructure

Your device may seem slower for reasons unrelated to the device. Mr. Denslow, the technician, said many apps relied on an internet connection, so a shoddy Wi-Fi router might be the real bottleneck.

To get a nice boost, invest in a modern Wi-Fi system. I recommend products like Google WiFi and Eero, which are so-called mesh networking systems that help you seamlessly set up multiple Wi-Fi stations to get a strong signal throughout the home. They are pricey, but upgrading your infrastructure will do more than buying a new phone.

“Instead of spending $1,000 on a phone every year, spend $500 on networking,” Mr. Denslow said. “It’s not sexy, but it provides more benefits over a long period of time.”

[READ NEXT: The iPhone 8: A Worthy Refinement Before The Next Generation]

Consider Upgrading

At the end of the day, there are many reasons your device may feel slow. New operating systems carry more powerful features that were designed to work better on new devices. In addition, developers of third-party apps typically prioritize making software for newer handsets, and sometimes they even discontinue support for old gadgets. If there are important tasks that your older device cannot do proficiently, consider an upgrade.

Mr. Raiz, the former Microsoft program manager, said he had recently encountered problems after updating his iPhone 6S to iOS 11. Some functions, like the ability to search for an app, no longer worked. Resetting the device’s settings fixed the problem, but he said he would most likely buy a new iPhone soon anyway to keep up with the latest technologies.

“There’s only so much you can do if your device is multiple release cycles behind,” he said.

[Want more advice and tips on the technology changing how you live? Sign up for the Personal Tech Newsletter here.]

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The New Old Age: No Excuses, People: Get the New Shingles Vaccine

“This really looks to be a breakthrough in vaccinating older adults,” agreed Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, a physician and researcher at the National Institutes of Health.

What’s causing the enthusiasm: Shingrix, which the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline intends to begin shipping this month. Large international trials have shown that the vaccine prevents more than 90 percent of shingles cases, even at older ages.

The currently available shingles vaccine, called Zostavax, only prevents about half of shingles cases in those over age 60 and has demonstrated far less effectiveness among elderly patients.

Yet those are the people most at risk for this blistering disease, with its often intense pain, its threat to vision and the associated nerve pain that sometimes last months, even years, after the initial rash fades.

Almost all older Americans harbor the varicella zoster virus that causes shingles; they acquired it with childhood chickenpox, whether they knew they had the disease or not.

The virus stays dormant until, for unknown reasons, it erupts decades later. The risk rises sharply after age 50.

Shingles is hardly a minor menace. “A million cases occur in the United States each and every year,” Dr. Schaffner said. “If you’re fortunate enough to reach your 80th birthday, you stand a one-in-three to one-in-two chance of shingles.”

Preventing the great majority of these cases — along with the risk of lingering and debilitating nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia — would represent a major advance in public health.

So while the old vaccine will remain on the market, the C.D.C. committee voted to make Shingrix the preferred vaccine and recommended it for all adults over age 50 — a group younger by a decade than those earlier encouraged to get Zostavax.

The committee also recommended Shingrix for adults who’ve previously gotten Zostavax, since a smaller study in people over age 65 demonstrated effectiveness and safety in those already vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix last month.

Once the C.D.C.’s director endorses the committee’s recommendations, and the agency publishes them, insurers — including Medicare and Medicaid — will start covering the vaccine.

“By early 2018, it should be broadly available to consumers in the U.S.,” said Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GSK Vaccines. (Canada has also approved Shingrix; it awaits approval in Australia, Japan and Europe.)

What makes the new vaccine so promising, especially for older adults?

* It provides better protection against shingles from the start. Though Zostavax, introduced in 2006, can reduce shingles cases by about half (and postherpetic neuralgia by two-thirds), that overall rate conceals big differences by age.

That vaccine’s effectiveness drops from 64 percent for people in their 60s to 38 percent among those over age 70, and falls still lower for people in their 80s.

But the new vaccine protects nearly as well in older groups as in the middle-aged. Shingrix racked up a 97 percent effectiveness rate in adults over age 50 and, in a separate study of people over age 70, prevented 90 percent of shingles in those 70 to well past age 80.

“In groups such as the elderly, who often don’t maintain vigorous responses to vaccines, this represents extremely strong disease protection,” said Dr. Kathleen Dooling, an epidemiologist at the C.D.C.

* Shingrix’s protection appears to last longer. Among seniors, the effectiveness of Zostavax wanes with disappointing speed. “After 11 years, the protection was close to zero,” Dr. Harpaz said.

Regulators don’t yet have 11 years of data on Shingrix, but in some samples, it remained effective for six years or longer, according to GSK. That should greatly reduce the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia, too, assuming the 42 million people in their 50s start getting vaccinated.

* The new vaccine may protect people with compromised immune systems.

A substantial number of older Americans have suppressed immunity because they’re undergoing chemotherapy or transplants, have H.I.V. or take steroids. For them, the previous vaccine was off-limits because it was made with a weakened live virus.

Yet immune suppression itself leaves the people vulnerable to shingles. Shingrix, a recombinant vaccine made from a glycoprotein and a combination of immunity boosters called adjuvants, doesn’t pose the same danger.

The C.D.C. committee held off on recommending Shingrix for the immunocompromised, because GSK is still running trials with these patients. But since the F.D.A. did not declare Shingrix contraindicated for them when approving it, they can get the vaccine once it’s available.

Public health advocates do foresee a couple of potential problems.

First, Shingrix requires two doses, administered at least two months apart. Prodding the older population to get a single shot has proved tough: barely 31 percent of those over age 60 have been vaccinated against shingles. How much harder will it be to persuade people to get two Shingrix injections?

Further, “it tends to be a bit of an ouch-y vaccine,” Dr. Schaffner cautioned.

In studies, most older recipients said they’d experienced pain, redness or swelling in their upper arms for a day or two after the shot, and 8.5 percent of those over age 70 deemed those symptoms uncomfortable enough to interfere with normal activities.

About half of those over age 70 reported more systemic side effects like fatigue, fever or aching joints, lasting one to two days. Physicians and pharmacists should prepare people for such reactions, Dr. Schaffner said.

“If people anticipate it, they’ll cope with it better. They’ll take a couple of Tylenol” — and not worry that something is seriously wrong.

They may feel pocketbook pain, too. Zostavax is the most expensive adult vaccine, and at $140 for each dose (plus the cost of administering the injection), Shingrix will be pricier still.

The 50- to 65-year-old cohort, many of whom have coverage under employee health plans, may not find that much of a barrier. At older ages, cost matters more.

Medicare will cover Shingrix under Part D (like its predecessor), not under Part B like the flu vaccine. That complicates reimbursement for those seeking vaccination in doctors’ offices, so Medicare patients will probably find it simpler to head for a pharmacy.

But not all Medicare recipients have Part D, and those that do could face co-payments.

Still, it’s no contest: The hazards of shingles and its complications dwarf any problems yet reported with Shingrix.

“Compared to shingles, a little arm pain for a day or so is a small price to pay,” Dr. Schaffner said. “If you know people who’ve had this illness, you’ll be first in line for this vaccine.”

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The Interpreter: What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

Factors That Don’t Correlate

If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.

Whether a population plays more or fewer video games also appears to have no impact. Americans are no more likely to play video games than people in any other developed country.

Racial diversity or other factors associated with social cohesion also show little correlation with gun deaths. Among European countries, there is little association between immigration or other diversity metrics and the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.

A Violent Country

America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries. In Canada and Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds with differences in gun ownership.

Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley.

Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of American violence, came down to guns.

More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence.

Photo

An investigator among thousands of personal items left behind after a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas last month. Credit John Locher/Associated Press

Comparisons in Other Societies

Skeptics of gun control sometimes point to a 2016 study. From 2000 and 2014, it found, the United States death rate by mass shooting was 1.5 per one million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting American mass shootings were not actually so common.

But the same study found that the United States had 133 mass shootings. Finland had only two, which killed 18 people, and Switzerland had one, which killed 14. In short, isolated incidents. So while mass shootings can happen anywhere, they are only a matter of routine in the United States.

As with any crime, the underlying risk is impossible to fully erase. Any individual can snap or become entranced by a violent ideology. What is different is the likelihood that this will lead to mass murder.

In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

Beyond the Statistics

In 2013, American gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. That same year in Japan, a country with one-third America’s population, guns were involved in only 13 deaths.

This means an American is about 300 times more likely to die by gun homicide or accident than a Japanese person. America’s gun ownership rate is 150 times as high as Japan’s. That gap between 150 and 300 shows that gun ownership statistics alone do not explain what makes America different.

The United States also has some of the weakest controls over who may buy a gun and what sorts of guns may be owned.

Switzerland has the second-highest gun ownership rate of any developed country, about half that of the United States. Its gun homicide rate in 2004 was 7.7 per million people — unusually high, in keeping with the relationship between gun ownership and murders, but still a fraction of the rate in the United States.

Swiss gun laws are more stringent, setting a higher bar for securing and keeping a license, for selling guns and for the types of guns that can be owned. Such laws reflect more than just tighter restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must affirmatively earn the right to own.

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A vigil after the Las Vegas attack. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Difference Is Culture

The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.

The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.

After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 shooting. But the United States has repeatedly faced the same calculus and determined that relatively unregulated gun ownership is worth the cost to society.

That choice, more than any statistic or regulation, is what most sets the United States apart.

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

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