Talk to your Mac, shaming non-SSL sites, WOT and IoT trust

If you already talk to your iPhone, why not do the same to your Mac? The Mac has built-in dictation that can be used to type with just your voice. Set it up by going to System Preferences, then Keyboard, to then click on the Dictation tab where you can turn it on. Then learn how to toggle it to listen or back off, the default keyboard shortcut is to tap the Fn key twice. You can also find the Start Dictation command on the Edit menu for any program that supports dictation.

Soon Chrome, Google’s brand of web browser, will be warning you that site not using SSL (starting with https:// or showing that lock symbol) are insecure. This should start at the beginning of 2017, with the words Not Secure showing to the left of the web address. I would also expect some more pop-up style fake alerts if people do not learn what the real alert looks like. See https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html

Flying in the near future and trying to find cheap tickets may be easier with Google Flights https://www.google.com/flights/. They let you play with all sorts of scheduling options, including interests like food or ecotourism, multi-city itineraries, and even how many stops you will tolerate.

There is a way to see if you have an Internet of Things (IoT) device, like a baby cam, a smart TV or thermostat, that is open to being hacked from the web. Bullguard provides an online scanner that can let you know if you have devices on the same network as your computer that could be open to remote hacking. It is at http://iotscanner.bullguard.com/

A lesson in trust, you may be using the Web of Trust plugin to check on how sites are crowd rated based on trustworthiness and child safety. It has come out that they both sell your browsing history and worse, having claimed that they anonymize it, it turns out they have not done a good job of stripping out information that can lead back to you. The lesson from this, other than first uninstalling Web of Trust, is that we don’t know anything about how companies are anonymizing data they sell about us.

Windows programs can be set to always open maximized. You will have to work with a shortcut for the program. Search for the app you want in the Start Menu, then right-click it and choose Pin to Taskbar. Right-click on the app’s icon on the Taskbar, then right-click again on the app’s name in the resulting menu and choose Properties. On the Shortcut tab under the Run: field, change the value from Normal Window to Maximized. Now, starting that program from the shortcut on the taskbar will make it launch at full size.

Tech support scams, iOS magnifier, improve lithium-ion battery life

There is a quick way to “kill” some of those scary tech support scams that pop up on your computer. These are those windows that open up, nearly always from the web, trying to get you to call Microsoft for help. If you can, with the mouse, right-click on the task bar at the bottom of your screen and select Task Manager, you will end up with a window listing your web browser application, along with other things you might have open. Select your browser, or maybe just go down the list, and click on the End task button in the lower right corner. You may discover that your scary window has gone away.

There are new features in iOS 10 for the Apple iPhone and iPad that might attract your attention. Finally, there is a built-in magnifier, easily accessible with three Home button clicks. You have to enable this triple Home button click by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier and sliding the button to the right. And, if you frequently send pictures in Messages, you may want to cut down on data by going to Settings > Messages > Low Quality Image Mode and sliding on low quality image mode. For more hands-off car safety, Siri can now announce the caller’s name or phone number, see Settings > Phone > Announce Calls and check how you want Siri to announce calls.

Another smartphone weather app is now available through a web browser. DarkSky.net will show you forecasts, and details when you click into the specific day, that are based on aggregated data from a variety of weather forecasting bodies around the world. For the weather data nerds look at <http://forecast.io/raw/> for their sources.

Even more exercises to help undo the effects of slouching at your computer with some simple exercises can be seen in this YouTube video <https://youtu.be/N_KDkC4tois> , however they require a bit of floor space and probably some privacy.

Information from the American Chemical Society points out at least three steps to improve lithium-ion battery life. These include: avoiding high heat as it speeds up chemical reactions in the battery requiring more frequent charging; not letting the battery die or drop to really low to zero charge; and storing your device at around 50% battery charge if you are going on vacation without that device and then keeping it in a cool place.

Frame by frame advancement is fun and possible in YouTube videos by first pausing the video with the letter k and then using the period key to go back frame by frame or the comma to advance a frame at a time. Use the letter k to start up the video again.

Facebook, as useful as it may be, can use some fixing. So, if you have been annoyed by certain facets of Facebook, try installing the social fixer web browser plugin <http://socialfixer.com/> and check out the new social fixer menu in Facebook that let you hide political posts, posts you have read already, hide “sponsored stories”, and even hide certain parts of the Facebook page that you really don’t want or need to see.

Password advice, Lynda training, router setup pointers

Some new rules for passwords come from the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST.) As you make new passwords or change existing ones, don’t just go for the minimum you feel is forced on you, go with such improvements as: use more than eight characters in the password as more is harder to guess; stay away from known bad passwords like common sports teams or “password”; and consider using a passphrase with punctuation marks if allowed. Additionally, the NIST finds password hints as dangerous, as are all of those recovery questions that often involve answers are publically available. And, they find that forcing frequent password changes means that people use easy passwords, rather than using something longer but harder to guess.

On the Mac side of things, there is another app that can help with screen dimming. Some of you may use f.lux for changing your screen to a less blue color later in the evening and now you may want to add in lumen to help adjust screen brightness on an app by app basis, depending on how light or dark an app is. It will darken the screen for those apps that use a lot of white while raising the brightness for those darker apps. Unfortunately, there is not an easy installer but the process of installing lumen may encourage you to learn a bit more about the underpinnings of the Mac operating system J. Lumen is at <https://github.com/anishathalye/lumen>

For anyone with an A-B Tech student account, you can access all sorts of computer training for free from Lynda.com, one of the best online software training sites. Ask at the A-B Tech library for more information.

When setting up a new router, there are a some things to do that can help with performance and security. First, set up the router in a central location and in the middle of an imaginary bubble surrounding your house while not placing it right by masonry walls or by microwave ovens or telephone base stations. And, then orient the antennas, if you have them, perpendicular to each other. Second, change the default administrator password, if possible and update the router’s software or firmware. Third, make sure that outside or remote management is turned off. Fourth, figure out how to change the radio channels and experiment with different ones to see if performance improves. This does not matter as much if there are not other Wi-Fi networks within range. And, finally, if you have the choice for setting up a guest network or enabling parental controls, decide if either or both will help with limiting abuse of your internet connection.

Figuring out if an online review is legitimate involves things like: looking at what specifics are being criticized or complemented vs. just generally repeating ad copy; did the reviewer actually use the item or visit the place; are relevant points being discussed; and is the item, place, or service being compared on similar points to related items, places, or services.

Info on ransom ware, don’t overheat electronics, check mac and ios requirements for upgrades

Ransomware, that malicious infection on your computer that encrypts and holds hostage your data, as affect quite a few businesses. Luckily there is a site that pulls together many of the tools and advice to help if you fall prey to this nasty attack. Check out <nomoreransom.org> and do it before you need to.

I love any study that reminds anyone born before the early 1980’s that millennials are not perfect with all technology. A recent study, sponsored by Dropbox, shows that many older adults are actually less frustrated by having to use a variety of different devices and machines in their work compared to the younger set. One theory is that younger people may be expecting the same type of screen interaction they are used to in their personal life and get frustrated with older style interfaces at work sites.

During the summer you have to be careful about leaving computers, tablets and smartphones in the car during the day or even leaving them in direct sunlight in the house. They can overheat; luckily some devices, like the iPhone, will tell you when it is too hot and will not run until you let it cool down. Certain cases can interfere with cooling also. As some batteries get hot as they charge, you may need to open up the case. Of course, some apps and games will also heat up your device, but at least those you can quit out of with flicks or taps.

In Windows 10 Anniversary Update (that big one year update to Windows 10), the Microsoft Edge web browser is finally supporting extensions or plugins. You can now add functionality like Ad Block Pro, or LastPass and more. You install them through the Windows Store by opening the Store, selecting Apps from the menu and going down to Extensions for Microsoft Edge. Over the next few months more extensions should be showing up in the Windows Store.

People with older Mac and iOS devices like iPads and such might want to check out Apple’s minimums hardware requirements for their next version of assorted operating systems, for the most part Mac should be no older than 2010 models and iOS devices should be iPhone 5 or newer, or iPad 4 and up, iPad Mini 2 and up, and iPad Air or newer. More information on new features for Sierra for Mac is at <http://www.apple.com/macos/sierra-preview/> and for iOS 10 at <http://www.apple.com/ios/ios10-preview/>.

What to believe, checking reliability monitor, check Google activity and what they know

How you can trust fast-breaking news on the Internet so that you don’t repeat wrong information? From OnTheMedia.org and their handbooks series, they advise: in the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong; don’t trust anonymous sources; don’t trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information; there’s almost never a second shooter; pay attention to the language the media uses – “We are getting reports” … could mean anything – “We are seeking confirmation” … means they don’t have it – “[News outlet] has learned” … means it has a scoop or is going out on limb; look for news outlets close to the incident; compare multiple sources; big news brings out the fakers, and photoshoppers.; beware reflexive retweeting.

When some menu or option has disappeared in a program you are not used to, always look at and click on triangles, angle brackets, triple dots, triple lines, double angle brackets and anything that points left or right or up or down, and move your mouse pointer over some of those symbols to reveal a help hint. Explore these “hidden” revealers before you actually need them.

Reliability Monitor in Windows 10 and earlier versions of Windows, like Windows 8.1, will help you gain insight into what failures might be occuring over and over on your computer that are affecting performance. Check it every few months by searching your Windows computer for Reliability Monitor. You can search your computer by pressing the Windows Key, lower left on the keyboard, and tapping the letter s (for search) and then typing in your search term in the search box that opened up. You can use this search feature for finding many things on your computer without having to dig through control panels and settings windows.

There will be a new feature in Windows 10 Anniversary update out on or after August 3 that will let you set active hours to prevent your Windows computer from restarting in the middle of the day due to updates from Windows. If you have gotten a honking big update from Microsoft, see if you can:
Search for “updates” in your Start menu and choose “Check for updates.”
Under “Update settings,” click “Change active hours.”
Set your Start and End time for your workday.

If you are a Google user with a Google account, check their new My Activity tool to review everything Google has tracked about you. You will find it at myactivity.google.com and look under the three bars menu for activity control to check and adjust what you like Google to keep for you.

Mini-habits to solve tech problems in life include: improve security on one service or account each week; clean a cluttered desktop by removing one item each time you reboot; pair a computer activity with a small exercise; unsubscribe from one newsletter each week; or delete and organize photos on your smartphone each time you go to the bathroom.

Take time off, IoT devices as services, Email sigs as marketing

Worthy of a reminder again is to take breaks from your computer. If you get caught up not paying attention to time, then try Time Out for the Mac (dejal.com, that is an ell not a one after deja), or Workrave (workrave.org) for PC. Micro breaks are for just looking away from your screen, and breaks are for actually moving around, getting off your seat.

If you have WiFi security cameras in your house or business premise, check some simple settings to ensure that they are less hackable. First, make sure that the video footage is being streamed to some website via SSL and that you view it via SSL. Second, make sure it is not publicly viewable, that you have to use a login and a secure password to access that video (remember, some cameras just use a default login and password which you should always change.) Third, just like your computer, you should always check for security updates for your security cameras.

Email signatures are great informational and marketing opportunities that are often made overly complex by corporate ideals or the kitchen-sink analogy of including all possible information. Name, title, company and phone numbers make sense, but you don’t have to include your email address, that is already part of the email you are sending. Keep your information on four or fewer lines, and list various bits of related information on the same line, separated by hyphens or vertical bars. Using complicated HTML or vCard formats to get a fancy look is likely to backfire as not all email programs handle HTML and vCard the same way. Think of having multiple signatures, to reflect seasonal wishes or to strip information in a reply if the recipient already has seen it. And, always test your signature by sending it to people using different email programs, such as Outlook, Apple Mail, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc.

10 pieces of information may be more than enough to steal your identity so try to protect the following: Social Security Number; date and place of birth; driver’s license or passport number; all your bank, credit card and other account numbers; weak or easy to guess PINs for bank cards; card expiration dates and security codes; physical and email addresses; phone number; full name; and all sorts of other employer and affiliations you have with groups. Many of these bits of information are public and yet can be used to impersonate you or “phish” you, getting you to share even more and maybe even swindle you.

When you buy a “smart” device, like one of those internet connected thermostats or one of those smart controllers lights and such in your home, you may think you are buying a product. You are really buying a service that at any point a company may pull for one of their products, literally shutting it off. Google bought Revolv a few years ago, which made a product competing with one made by one of their other purchased companies, Nest.  As of May 15, all Revolv products die, “the Revolv app won’t open and the hub won’t work.” They claim these Internet of Things (IoT) devices can become security holes in your house or business and that a company’s talent and efforts must be focused on the newer and more secure products they are making. This makes early adoption, before there are industry or governmental standards, very costly.