Privacy and Cleaning Up

Apple is letting users download a copy of all the data they have on you. Log into privacy.apple.com with your Apple ID and password to get to where you can select which bits of all the data Apple has on you. This is also a way to download documents, photos, and videos in their original format, and contacts, calendars, and bookmarks in VCF, ICS, and HTML format.

If you want to poke around and find out which Facebook advertisers have targeted you, Facebook makes it possible but a little hard to get to. This won’t tell you why particular advertisers are targeting you, just that they have some bit(s) of information about you from some other source and they are matching things like your phone number, email address, street address, etc. Log into Facebook and go to your Settings; close to the bottom of that dropdown menu (on the left side if you are using a desktop web browser) there should be a link to “Ad Preferences.” Click or tap into there and select “Advertisers you’ve interacted with” and then “Who use a contact list added to Facebook” (slightly different wording on the Facebook app). Here you will see all the advertisers that might be reaching out to you.

Windows updates, especially the semi-annual major upgrades they are delivering in Windows 10, can leave around many temporary files. If Windows fails to clean up after itself, then you can by opening up Windows’ 10 Settings app, then the system section, and then the storage section. Scroll down to where you see an option that says “Free Up Space Now” and click. Here you can clear out many things. But read carefully and proceed slowly. The “Previous Windows installations” choice is what will help with reclaiming major amounts of space. Check that box and click the “Remove Files” button. Wait and probably reboot the computer.

Time to remind you about how to see and adjust the information that Google keeps about your searches. Log into your Google account at myaccount.google.com. Look for and click into “Manage your Google activity” and click through “Go To Activity Control” and also check the “Go To My Activity” sections to adjust and/or erase search histories kept by Google. If you sign out of your Google account on the web, then your Google-based searches aren’t tracked by Google.

Headphones, Updates, and Recycling

Apple wants you to think plug-in headphones are passé, as they no longer will include that headphone dongle with new iPhones. You will need to own or buy Bluetooth headphones or a Lightning-to-headphone-jack converter.

Microsoft Updates

You may have heard that Microsoft will extend support for Windows 7 beyond January 2020, but that is only for business clients with Professional and Enterprise customers with Volume Licensing. It will extend security updates for another three years. Of course, it won’t be free and the cost will go up each year.

In the (delayed) October 2018 update for Windows 10, you will find that the Disk Cleanup tool will now purge files in your Downloads folder. So be careful and immediately move needed files, photos, documents, and installer files to another location. You should back up your documents and such before updating any software.

The October 2018 update was deleting some upgraders’ profiles, thus deleting their data. When the update is re-released, this should be fixed. When installing the update, you may start seeing an alert when installing Firefox, Chrome, or other web browsers, saying that you already have a safer and faster browser called Microsoft Edge. Nothing will prevent the installation of those other browsers; just click through to the “Install Anyway” button.

Delete Your Account?

If you want to delete your Facebook account, don’t log back in to test if it really has been deleted. Facebook has recently lengthened the number of days (to 30) they will keep your account around. They claim they have seen a rise in the number of people trying to log in after 14 days, so this it to “help” those people keep their accounts. I think all those people were just making sure their account was deleted.

Recycling Safely

Some people are getting to the point where they are ready to recycle their Windows 10 computer, and they might be worried about erasing their hard drive. Windows 10 now has an option as part of its ability to perform a factory reset to let you “Remove files and clean the drive.” This does take time but is good enough for most people. And if you are recycling any other smart device, remember to at least do a factory reset on it before passing it on. Search Google for instructions.

Good News for 365 Users

There’s some good news from Redmond for Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft is changing how they count devices against your plan limit of one or five devices. As of the beginning of October, the limit will be how many devices are actually active and signed in, not the previous hard count of the first one or five devices.

Mapping

In the category of what will they think of next, what3words.com has created a new physical location system, assigning three different words (available in quite a few languages) to a three-meter-square location on Earth. The most fun part of this for me is finding that my front door has a different address than my back door which could greatly help with package deliveries. Go to their website to see how it works.

Netflix

As Netflix tries out new features, including ads for some of its other shows, you might want to opt out of being a guinea pig. Log into your account (on a computer is easiest) and click on your profile image in the upper right of the page so you can get to and click on Settings. Find “Test participation” and slide it to off. This won’t prevent ads if Netflix decides we should all see them, but at least you will be saved until then.

Siri: Show Me Passwords

On the iPhone Siri can show you saved website passwords if you are using your iCloud Keychain. Ask Siri to show your passwords and you will be taken to the Settings pane for displaying your passwords. If you have a recent version of Chrome on Android, you can see what Chrome has saved in Settings, then Save passwords.

OneDrive Syncing

OneDrive, from Microsoft in Windows 10, now supports syncing/backing up folders outside of the traditional OneDrive folder. If you have OneDrive installed in a recent version of Windows 10, you can include Desktop, Documents, and Pictures in your account. Select the OneDrive cloud icon down in the system tray, in the lower right of the screen, then click More, then Settings. Click Auto Save and, finally, Update folder. You should be able to choose the local folders to include in OneDrive. Certain types of files cannot be backed up, like the “pst” file type used by Outlook. Pay attention to the amount of data you are putting into OneDrive. (PC only as of now.)

Comfy Laptops and Private Videos

Many of us use laptops, and there are ways to make them as comfortable as desktops. Get a stand to angle the keyboard and place the screen at an ergonomically correct position, then pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse. If you lack extra USB ports, add a USB hub.

If you don’t have a great photo printer or you’ve found it too costly to buy special paper and ink, consider online photo printing services. Many let you create calendars, photo books, coffee mugs, pillows, clothing and more, using your uploaded photos. Check out Snapfish, Shutterfly, York Photo, CVS Photo, Walgreens Photo, Walmart Photo, AdoramaPix, or even FedEx.

Good Vibrations

Use different smart phone vibrations to know what your silenced phone is alerting you. Both iOS and Android let you set vibration patterns for different apps, and for calls you can even change the default vibration patterns for various contacts. Now you can recognize that true emergency call without disturbing those around you.

There are a variety of ways to reduce mobile or cellular data usage that can often save you money. Manually cap your data on your phone, only use Wi-Fi, stop apps from syncing automatically or only let them sync on Wi-Fi, and definitely store music and such on the phone so you don’t need to stream them. And when you use these tricks to cut your data plan needs, you may find that your battery life goes up.

Sharing Home Videos

Use your YouTube (Google) account and mark your video as “Private” when you click into “Upload Video,” which means you can invite up to 50 YouTube users. If you select “Unlisted,” you can share what is basically an unlisted link to your video, even to people who don’t have a YouTube account. Other services with similar private options include Vimeo, Facebook, and other cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and others have options for sharing a link to a video without them ending up indexed by search engines for the entire world to enjoy.

A tech note for those who have previously submitted websites to Google for search word indexing: Google will soon require you to have and use your Google account with their “Search Console” site. If you have a website and would like to use Google Analytics to gather more information on how people get to and move through your site, look at support.google.com/webmasters.

Perfect Emojis and a Natural Smile

If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro with Apple’s newer “butterfly switch”-type keyboard, and letters or characters repeat unexpectedly or do not appear or if keys feel sticky or do not respond in a consistent manner, you should check in with an Apple-authorized repair place to see if Apple will replace that keyboard, even if your laptop is out of warranty.

Small but important search tips for Google (and Bing) include: putting quotes around a phrase make it a literal search; using a minus sign in front of a word ensures the word is not included in search results; inserting a tilde (~) will include synonyms; and adding double dots or periods will indicate a range for pricing or dates.

There are times you just need to find the perfect emoji, but it can be hard to locate it on your device. Try emojicopy.com, where you can search and copy emojis into all sort of communications. And if you need to decode the string of emojis just sent to you, try pasting them into decodemoji.com.

Sometimes you want to ID a plant or bug with your phone. Try Google Lens, part of the Google Photos app on either Android or iOS, to pull information from a photo, like contact information or an event date from a flyer, in addition to seeing if you can ID plants and such.

Here’s an anti-identity theft tip: a natural smile in an ID photo may make it more difficult to fake being you. A somewhat neutral and natural smile seems to be hard for others to copy.

We’re all always looking for more security and privacy tools, and there’s a new one to clean caches and securely erase free space on your Windows computer. Called Privazer and coming from France, it will help you securely erase those traces of financial data you might not realize stick around on the hard drive. Try it at privazer.com.

Just as there is often hidden tracking data in digital documents, there are similar tracking items or dots in printed items. If you want to descend into the weeds of how printed documents can be traced back to their printer, see some recent work by researchers in Germany at dfd.inf.tu-dresden.de. If you feel comfortable with the command line in Windows 10, you can install a tool that “enables automatic extraction, decoding and anonymization of document color tracking dots.” This won’t guarantee that you can create tracking-free documents, but at least you will learn more about how not even printing can save you from being tracked.

Passwords and Private File Syncing

Got a great formula to make your passwords seem more random or tricky? Password hackers love formulas and most any formula you have learned somewhere is included in password cracking software that is easily available. Take seriously the advice of using truly random passwords, with letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, or random words strung together if you are willing to go long without making a sentence. If you have more passwords than will fit on the back of a business card, consider a password manager to keep track of your ever-growing list.

On a related privacy topic, you can create throwaway email addresses for all those obnoxious sites requiring an email address to use their service. Burnermail.io has an extension for both Firefox and Chrome web browsers that lets you create “burner” email addresses that forward to your real email address. If you start getting spammed from one of those sign-up sites, you can easily drop those spammers into a black hole. You can also see and protect against companies that resell your email address by using a burner email address.

As part of estate planning, or even just putting together your simple will, you want to include your “digital assets.” These include writing down the more obvious logins and passwords for banks, credit cards, and other online financial management services, including an always-up-to-date copy with your will. Most password managers have a way to add an additional emergency access user. If you use two-factor authentication, check how that will work if the second device used, like a cell phone or other authenticator, is no longer available. Plan for, or at least understand, how digital purchases can be shared to family, even if they cannot be transferred. And definitely note your social media and email logins and passwords to make it easier for your executor to notify contacts, friends, and followers.

Toby (gettoby.com) provides a graphical way to organize your bookmarks and tabs opened in the background that you promise you will get back to. It allows you to create topics or categories for your open tabs/bookmarks, lets you reorder and reprioritize them, and if you actually sign up for a gettoby account you can save and sync all those between different computers.

If you have wanted a personal alternative to file syncing services like Dropbox, Google Drive or the many others, you might want to look at Syncthing (syncthing.net). It requires some reading for the setup but you don’t have to share your files with any third party at all.