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July 11, 2017

Google Makes Some Changes

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:10 am

If you have followed my articles through the past 15 or so years, you’d realize that I have a love/hate relationship with Google. OK, it’s mostly love, but sometimes they really antagonize me.

Today, I have two Google changes for you: one insignificant and the other very significant.

First up is the one that will most likely have no effect on you. "Google Talk" was a social/ chat application that Google started back in 2005.

Now, I do not know how you feel, but I have more than enough communications ability with Facebook alone and do not feel the need for another. But many people differ, so I guess another app like this could have worked.

In reality, most people never used Talk. So, as of June 6, it was shut down.

Never fear, because Google is moving everyone that may have used Talk over to another Google platform, "Google Hangouts." Hangouts is another messaging app similar to Talk, but offers more, including video chat capabilities. I may talk more about it in the future – maybe before they shut it down, too.

Ron's Hangout...never used

Next is the great new change for Gmail. If you are or have been using the very good Gmail product for email, I hope you know the following; if not, you may be surprised.

In the information regarding Gmail when you sign up, it tells you that Google will be " scanning" your email for advertisement purposes.

Have you ever noticed the ads on the side of the screen in Gmail, sometimes showing you things you have been talking or thinking about?

That is because Google is taking a look at your emails and seeing what you are interested in.

It’s called targeted advertising. It works well for them to sell advertising to companies, knowing that they will be seen by people that are likely buyers. Now they say they do not scan any personal information in your emails, but personally, that is hard for me to believe.

Now for the big news: Google announced that they will no longer be scanning your emails at some point "later this year."

That’s good news, and I believe them. No, really, I do. With their paid email app, "G Suite," they have never scanned emails. This is because it was company information and, if scanned, it could be said they would have access to private company dealings. Google could have, whether guilty or not, found itself in big trouble if that was thought to be the case. They are going to match them up with the free accounts you and I have. No more "targeted advertising."

That last line was a falsehood. You will still be targeted if you use Google. If you are logged into your Google account and use Google.com to search, you are watched. Google knows every site you visit, what you buy, what your interests are, etc. That’s especially true in the Google Chrome browser. They record cookies on your computer, so they always keep track of you, just not your user information.

So, you will continue to see ads that interest you. There are ways around it, and one is to use a different search engine that does not track you. DuckDuckGo.com comes to mind first in that category. Even though it uses Google, you will not be traced. The user interface is not as likable as Google, but no one will be watching you.

Go visit DuckDuckGo search engine

June 20, 2017

Email Negatives, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:25 am

Last week I wrote regarding some of the good of email, see “Email Positives, Part 1” if you missed it. This week I will voice some of my concerns regarding this great feature of the computer age. Email has been around forever. Well not quite, as Ray Tomlinson is attributed with devising email in 1972 or 1971 depending on where you find that fact. Forms of it existed as far back as 1965 but not by the masses.

Email, Angel or Devil

First up, email forces employees to often multitask. Now, at this point in time multitasking is considered by the “authorities” to be costing employers a lot of time and money. One researcher said that he found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. My thought has always been that task switching was nuts from the beginning. Yay me, I got one right! I can even prove it if you take one of my classes on technology. So, jumping in and out of email costs corporations money today. There is also a personal stress factor with multitasking that we will not go into today.

Read this one of many articles on Multitasking - Lifehack

Check this article on Lifehack about the good/bad of Multitasking

Another issue for business is that email can be easily abused by many as workers jump in and out of worthless emails whether personal (yes, at work) or company produced. Some companies have found that without specific boundaries their employees may send many emails to family and friends instead of doing their jobs. Think about all of those emails you are “Courtesy Copied” (you know, the CC on your email app) on daily which are no concern of yours. You still need to review them to make sure you are not responsible for something mentioned.

Next, many people change email addresses – often. This means that if you sent email to them yesterday it may never be read. If they do not respond it does not necessarily mean they are avoiding you.

As of March, 2017, statistics indicate that 57 percent of all worldwide email is spam. Another time waster. And BIG money waster. In January, 2017, it was estimated that worldwide a little over $2 billion dollars was spent in time wasted in corporations from spam.

Catching up on Email after Vacation?!Another email time killer…email catch-up. For instance, in my first days of business with email I would go on vacation for a week. When I returned to work I would spend most of a day going through them to see what I needed to act on, save for the future, ignore, or delete. That took a lot of my time. Even though I was paid at work I felt horrible having to waste time going through this process.

Now, I, like most other employees nowadays, check it once daily or at least every other day while vacationing to keep the load down when I return. So now email is messing up your, and my off time.

Next, one of the major issues with email. Viruses, scams, phishing, frauds, deceit, etc. See the amount of money mentioned above? That does not include the individuals who continue to fall for scams from email all the time or the money they throw away.

OK, I am now done ranting about email, even though I do not consider it all bad. Do you consider it a good thing or bad for you and/or your business?

June 13, 2017

Email Positives, Part 1

Filed under: Columns — Tags: — Ron @ 5:47 am

When I started to ponder writing about email this week I thought, “This will be short and sweet.”  After I started to think more about it I found that it will be neither.  This simple email topic has turned into a series about my love/hate relationship with email, which I know many of you share.

Most likely you have at least one email address.  If you do not have one skip to the comics as this will probably make no sense to you.

This time I would like to discuss some of the good things we get from email.  First, it is very accessible and easy to use.  If you have an internet connection you can easily get to it. You do not have to wait to receive it or go to a mailbox and check to see if it is delivered yet.  It is pretty much instant, within a few seconds, since once it is sent the recipient has it too.

You can also send more than just information.  For instance, my wife and I went out of the country not too long ago.  We were told to take copies of our passports and itinerary with us just in case ours were lost/stolen.  I took a picture of them and emailed them to both of our own email accounts.  They could be accessed from phone or computer if needed.  Fortunately, they were not needed.  You can send most any type of file via email which is quite convenient.

It allows you to store documentation and information for future use.  We are currently having a flooded kitchen restored thanks to the leaky dishwasher while on that vacation.  I have a collection of all pictures, prices, contracts, insurance company interactions and everything else related to this in one folder using my email.  For me this is an excellent use of email, storage of needed information.  I also store all of my licenses for software, user manuals, and warrantees there.

email

If you are in the work place today you have a business account too.  Therefore, you can keep all of this documentation separate but also at your fingertips.  If like me you have a couple of personal accounts too, one for friends and family, one for online purchases and one for using when you know you will get spammed by signing up for something.  That is more convenient for me; although, you may not appreciate multiple accounts.  That is fine but if you want more they are free and easy to obtain.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and think of something you need to tell someone you can create and send them an email in minutes.  At the same time, what if you think of something you need to remind yourself of? Shoot yourself an email for tomorrow.  It is available 365/24/7, all the time.

If you get an email from someone that makes you angry or upsets you, you can write them and blast them!  But with email, have a little self-control.  Write it now but wait until you cool down to have it sent.  You would be wise to calm down and reconsider what you are saying after you have thought through the issue with a clearer head.

Finally, for today, how about reaching out to customer service?  Years ago, it would take weeks of back and forth snail mail to get your order straight or your warrantee work taken care of.  Now you can do it in a day or so…with reputable companies.

Next week, the negatives.

April 4, 2017

Schemes, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:45 am

Today on Part 2 of looking at different schemes that are knocking on our phones, emails, and even doors we will look at a couple which have hit me recently.  I am no different from you, so if I am getting them some of you are too.  So here are your alerts, warnings and call to be cautious.

How about those offers from Netflix you just received?  I got this one yesterday.  At first glance it appears to be from Netflix.  The logo is in the upper right of the email so it must be official.  The email explains that if I do not click the “Click here to verify your account” button and fill in the blanks it asks for my Netflix account will be closed.

However, let me tell you several other things about this “scary” email.  The first thing I noticed is that there are some typos.  The salutation is, “hello,” all lowercase. ALERT!  Some of the grammar sounds strange like, “…will result in suspension Netflix.”  Notice the missing parts of speech and similar sentences with comparable bad grammar. ALERT!

Next, there were two links in the email.  One was “Netflix Support.”  I did not click this link as I have warned you about many times here; however, you can hover a link with no ill effects.  When I hovered over that link it popped up and was actually the Netflix Help site. GOOD.  Then I hovered the “Click here…” link mentioned earlier.  When it revealed itself, it was for some strange site in France. ALERT!

imageThe final straw for this email trying to get my login information, or worse, is where they sent it.  It came to my most commonly used email address. ALERT!  The one I used online all the time, for this site, for logins to blogs, RSS feeds, etc.  It can easily be found online.  I buy nothing with that email address.  I use a completely different email for purchases online.  And this includes Netflix.  They fell into my trap and sent it to an account that has had no dealings with Netflix.  That is a guarantee that it was a scheme/spam.  I have advised you before to get one email address for buying online ONLY. Do it if you have not done so yet.

I have given you several alerts that you can easily check in an email…use them!  Most importantly…NEVER, EVER click links in emails that ask you to login to validate, verify or check something online.  If you are concerned that it may be an actual email from a company, open your browser and log into the actual site like “netflix.com.”  While there you will be alerted if you actually need to validate something for them.  Note that this is a rare occurrence.  I have been contacted by sites like this before but only because someone tried unsuccessfully to get into my account.  They emailed to let me know that I should change my password.

By the way, I received two emails from Amazon over the past two weeks.  They were even worse than this one.  One of them spelled Amazon as “Amozan.”  Spelling errors will not be found in actual emails from large companies.

Amazon pays people to check emails before are sent out.

December 13, 2016

Several Words of Warning

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:53 pm

I have noticed a lot of scam emails coming to my inbox lately and thought I should mention a few to you.  Since they could very easily hurt your credit, finances, reputation, etc. you should be aware and very careful.

I have received many that were easy to spot.  They were text only, looked very simple, unlike an email you would expect from a big retailer and sometimes sounded if they were written by someone whose native language is not English.  One other very obvious tell with scam emails… there were several spelling errors. 

For instance, I received one this morning which said, "we incorrectly specified your information in the recent invocie #8858345." It went on to say, "please see the revisions, is in the attachment and make corecctions."  This one was text only.  Notice the spelling errors, they addressed it to lowercase "ron" and also notice they attached a file for me to review.

Red Alert! Especially regarding the attached file.  I am pretty sure I have expressed it a million times before and maybe I should again.  NEVER EVER open an attachment from someone you are not expecting an attachment from.  Even a friend or relative.  It could be totally innocent and it could be horrible.  The attachment I received was a zipped file which is even worse as it could contain anything. 

I say again open no attachments unless you know the person was sending it to you. 

Next, during the Christmas season I have received multiple emails from eBay, Amazon and one or two others.  They sadly inform me that my orders cannot be shipped due to some sort of problem.  In reality once a company has your money, especially Amazon, the product is good to go and I do not believe anything could pop up to create a problem. To solve the "problem" I will usually be requested to click a link and fill out some much-needed information.  This is also a scam as the first things they will ask you for on the site is your username, password and possibly your secret question.  The site can look exactly like a real business page so do not let that fool you.  As a matter of fact, I got a scam email from a PayPal look alike one time that had links to the PayPal security information page, home page and all other sorts of actual PayPal affiliated pages.  They can put a link to anything in a professional looking email. 

And the last thing for me, which I suggest for you:  I only transact purchases online with one email account.  That is all I use it for.  You know, presents, items we need at home…you know just stuff.  That way when I get an email concerning a purchase at any other email address but that one I know it is a scam since I have never purchased anything from that address.  Email accounts are free so get one for online purchases only to add one more step to your security path. 

You can report an email scam, hoax, or phishing scheme to several places like the Federal Trade Commission but I imagine they have more than enough to keep them overworked.  However, I do suggest you contact the company who supposedly sent it to you.  I have been successful once or twice but unfortunately most times they seem very nice but do not care.

Stay safe, be careful online.  They are out to get you and they make those fake emails look very good!

October 11, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 2

Last week we looked at several programs I recommend to be good additions to a Windows system.  They are either better than what comes on a PC or those applications may not usually be found on a new computer.  Of course, the apps are free…you know me. From the responses I have received you want more.  So here are some additional applications for you.

You need a good cleaner and CCleaner (piriform.com) is great.  I have previously written about it in length so go check those older articles.   CCleaner can speed up a slow computer and get it to start faster while cleaning up unneeded files. Well worth the $0.00’s. 

ccleaner

Oh boy, now a biggie…antivirus software.  There are several good ones to pick from. Avast (avast.com) and AVG (avg.com) always come to my mind first.  They are closely followed by Avira (avira.com), Bitdefender (bitdefender.com) and Panda (pandasecurity.com).  Take your pick.  They are good and all have a free and paid version.  You may even choose to stick with "Windows Defender" which comes pre-installed on your computer.  It is really pretty good.  Just make sure you run one of them, but only one at a time or they can interfere with each other.  

Avast! site          AVG logo          Avira logo     

Bitdefender logo          Panda logo

Another good protection app you need is Malwarebytes (malwarebytes.com) which takes care of threats.  The free version needs to be run manually by you; whereas, the paid version runs automatically.

Malwarebytes logo

How about the best video/audio player?  There is only one and it will run on most anything you own, PC, iPhone, Android, etc. and that is VLC (videolan.org).  The great thing about this app other than dependability and quality is that it can play every video or audio format you can put on it.  That includes DVDs as well as Blu-Ray discs. 

VideoLAN (VLC) logo
 
Now to online storage or cloud storage.  There is really only one name in this area that I prefer, Dropbox (dropbox.com).  It is solid, works flawlessly and also allows for quite a bit of storage space.  There are others but for free, Dropbox does it for me.  You have files that are important to you and Dropbox is dependable, enough said.

Dropbox logo

Now email apps.  I personally like online email, mainly Gmail; however, you as well as a large percentage of people like an app to take care of email.  Thunderbird (rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax) from Mozilla, the Firefox browser people is excellent.  It is reliable, high quality and easy to set up if you pay attention to the instructions.  I would also say the built in email program in Windows 10 is a good basic email app but there are not many advanced features.  Also, with the Windows app you will be on your own setting up your email. 

Thunderbird logo

Next week a few more. 

January 19, 2016

Temporary Email Address

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:44 am

Have there been times when you want to sign up for something on the internet but knew once you did you would get "IT?"  You know what "IT" is.  It is tons of spam from some stupid site that looks like it has something you want or need.

Sometimes even very reputable sites will start spamming you with lots of email.  They may get some small amount of money for sending your email address to their business partners.  There are many reasons you may be spammed when signing up for things online.

In order to avoid this there are several temporary email address sites out there you may use.  However, one that I currently use is called "Instance Mail."  You can use it to sign up for sites to whom you do not want to reveal your real email address.  You can find it online at instancemail.com.

InstanceMail main screenIt is quite simple to use.  Once at their site, you enter your real email address and press the "Get new address" button.   You will then see the new temporary address.  When I used it recently it gave me esprl1la2@instancemail.net as my address (no longer functioning).  I know, now you are thinking, "If I give them my real address won’t I get spam from them?"  The answer is no, you will not.  They are clean.  At least they were the last many times I have used Instance Mail.  I believe you are quite safe using their site.  They do need your email address to verify it as real and give you a little information on how to proceed.  

You may also want to take a look at the Options link.  There you will see that the expiration for this new email is 120 days.  You can make that a shorter time in various increments down to 30 minutes.

Another nice feature is that you can also get the site to send you an email reminder when your address expires.  Also, you may add a comment to your address which is actually just a short note letting you know what you used that address for in case you forget.

I find it very interesting as a "web guy" that all of the information you need is found on the one page of their site.  You go to that one link to get to everything you need to use at InstanceMail.com. Very convenient and easy to use. There are links there to reuse the email which allows you to extend it another 120 days as many times as you wish.

To sign up at another site use it just as you would your regular email address.  For instance, I signed up at a site with the instance email address and the site sent a verification email to the "fake" address.  However, it was received in my regular mail’s inbox.  That way I could verify it and then use the site.  After I was finished with that address I went back to the Instance Mail site and shut my recently used email address down. 

If you use this or any of the other temporary email sites let me know what they are and how you like them.  This can help you stay safe and more private online.

August 11, 2015

Emailed Questions, Part 4

Thanks for all of the emails I have received regarding the last few columns on applications and sites I use.

I will answer a few more questions today.

I am often asked how I check my email accounts.  Since I probably have many more than the average user I may operate a little differently than most folks.  For my main Gmail account I use the Gmail.com website and all is well.

Thunderbird logo

However, since I have email for testing, personal, work, columns, and purchasing I also like to keep them in one place so I only have to check one application.  Now this can all be done through Gmail but I prefer using a better (IMHO) application.  That application is Thunderbird (rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax) which was created by Mozilla.  Mozilla is the same company that produced the Firefox browser.

Using Thunderbird I can have all of my email accounts in one location with separate inboxes for each.  It was quite easy to set up with only my email addresses and their corresponding passwords.  So if you have Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail, etc. you can now view them all in one place with access to many advanced features the web sites do not have.

Evernote logoI get this question often from readers, "If you are out and think of something you want to write down or make a note of for later…where do you put it?"  I could be a wise guy and say take paper and pencil with you and write it down.  But unless you are my buddy Shannon you have a phone with you already so you are set.  There are many applications you can take notes with, Evernote (Evernote.com) being one of the leaders. However, the one I use I believe is even better and much more user friendly.   It is Google Keep (keep.google.com) and you can tell by its name who the company in charge is. 

Google Keep logo

With Keep you can, from your phone, tablet or computer, type in a note, create a list, add a photo, copy from a website and paste it in a note or even leave an audio message.  An audio message will be converted to a test message and both will be saved in Keep.  There are many other features that you should check out.  

Another neat feature is that you can set alarms for individual messages if you wish.  The alarms can be set for a date and time or even a location.  If you need to remember to take out the trash when you get home from work you can set your home location for a message to remind you.  If you need to do something at 10:43 AM next Tuesday, set a note with the alarm. 

We will start looking into Windows 10 toward the end of the month.  Keep sending in those W10 questions.

Windows 10 logo

July 28, 2015

Emailed Questions, Part 2

Last week I mentioned Chromebooks and Antivirus software.  Today in continuing with sharing emails and answers we look at the following questions.

"How often do you run Windows Update, defrag, cleaning, and other computer maintenance?" Wow, huge question with a multitude of answers.  First I suggest for most users you should set windows updates to run automatically.  With Windows 10 your only choice may be to have it automatically update, there are varying reports.  If you now run the update manually they come out on "Patch Tuesday."  Or, the second Tuesday of each month.  So you are good to run your update any time after that.  I would recommend you do it each month for security reasons if no other.

Defragging and cleaning really depend on how often you use your computer.  I have also recommended here before that you use CCleaner (piriform.com) for cleaning/removing old files and refreshing your registry. It is an excellent program.  For defragging I recommend another Piriform product called "Defraggler," found on the same site under "Downloads." 

Piriform logo

The timing for these is really up to you since it depends on how much you use your computer.  For a heavy user like me who can spend eight hours a day at work and then an hour or two several times a week at home, I run them every week or so.  If you only go online once a day to check email and Facebook for an hour, once a month or so is fine.  Longer will not hurt you and the more often you run them the quicker they work.  Defragging takes the longest so if you have never defragged before it could take overnight or more depending on the size of your hard drive.

One word of warning about defragging.  If you have a SSD drive and not a regular "platter" drive you should not run defrag.  It will not kill it; however, I have read reports that they will not last as long if you do. 

Maintenance other than those mentioned above is as follows:  Make sure you run your antivirus software regularly.  If you have a free one, as I told you about last week, you may have to do it manually.  To do so you usually right click on the software’s icon in your notification area and click update.  Applications can vary so check yours and proceed. 

Malwarebytes logoThe other two applications I have talked about before but are quite important are, "Malwarebytes" (malwarebytes.org) Filehippo logoand "FileHippo App Manager" (filehippo.com/download_app_manager).  I have talked about them in detail before but I do not feel like mentioning them again is too much.  The new improved version of FileHippo is even better and easier to use.

See you next week.

February 11, 2014

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