Q: The students of Minnetonka High School all have been issued iPads to be used in the classroom, and one of the uses is electronic note-taking. Unfortunately, the note-taking app, called Notability, crashed last week, causing students to lose all of their notes. It was a devastating loss for many students.

Fortunately, my daughter was largely unaffected because she prefers to take notes the old-fashioned way, by hand. Perhaps iPads are not the end-all in the classroom that they are purported to be. What do you think?

Sally Greer, Shorewood


A: There’s nothing wrong with taking notes by hand; I do it myself sometimes. But I’ve learned that I can take notes faster and more completely with a computer. So, for speed and accuracy, I have to go with the iPad.

But the truth is that all electronic gadgets can fail (it sounds as if this mass failure was caused by a software update). When disaster happens, you can lose all your best work if you haven’t backed it up.

The good news for your daughter and the other students is that Notability is designed to be backed up. Notes created with it can be stored on a central school server, sent via e-mail, printed via wireless printers or copied to Dropbox, a free online cloud storage service. (See the Notability review by PC Magazine at tinyurl.com/ljkl289.)

In the e-mail you forwarded to me from Minnetonka High School, I see that the administrators have embraced the idea of cloud backup and say that “before future planned software updates, we will work to ensure students have their most essential data backed up off their iPads.”

I would urge them to tell students not to wait for a software update to back up their iPads. Tell them to do it every day. It’s a little more work, but it’s the difference between being safe and feeling devastated.


Q: I have followed your recommendations many times and downloaded some of the programs you’ve suggested. But is there a way I can search for different programs or services, such as a PC registry cleaner?

Robart Whiting, Miami, Fla.


A: You could just search Google, but I suggest you try a safer source by going to Download.com. It offers a variety of free and for-pay programs that have been scanned to eliminate malicious software.

At the top of the page, click on the type of operating system you are using (Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, Apple iOS or Google Android). Then go to the search box at the upper right-hand corner of the page and type in “registry cleaner” or whatever type of software you’re seeking.

Skip over the first few listings that have the heading “sponsored content,” which means someone paid to have them listed first. Look instead at the following programs, which are listed by popularity.


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 ­Portland Av. S., ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.