Google Security, Adobe Alts

If you use Gmail, you might want to get more comfortable with Google’s 2-factor authentication. If you have ever gotten code numbers texted to you as part of logging into a bank or credit card site (along with typing in a password), you have experienced 2-factor authentication. Google is going to roll this out to all their users.

There are subsidies for broadband users with low incomes or those who lost income during the pandemic. Cable, fiber-to-the-home, DSL and fixed wireless ISPs are among the over 825 ISPs offering these discounts. Apply for up to $50 per month by enrolling at and be ready with tax forms and ID documents. You should also be able to apply directly through your ISP—and remember, this is a temporary program.

Google Chrome version 90 users can now create links to a specific block of text on any web page: right-click and select “Copy link to highlight.” However, like many Chrome features, this is being rolled out slowly. To get this feature, type “chrome://flags/#copy-link-to-text” into your search bar and then actively enable “Copy Link to Text.”

Some of us have come to rely on Adobe products, such as Photoshop or InDesign, but find them too expensive for just basic use. There are alternatives that provide base functionality without the high cost. For Photoshop alternatives, check out online editors such as Affinity Photo, Photopea or SumoPaint or downloaded applications such as GIMP, Glimpse Image Editor or Krita (download to install). To accomplish many Illustrator tasks, try Inkscape, and for InDesign-type work, look at Scribus. For Lightroom replacement, I know of RawTherapee and Darktable, but I cannot vouch for how far they will go. And if I had more time, I would love to play with DaVinci Resolve 17, an alternative for Premiere that I have never tried.

Microsoft is rolling out their next feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1 (also known as the May 2021 update) with a few exciting new features. Of course, some of you might like that Microsoft isn’t changing much this time. Their next version, currently called Sun Valley and coming out in the fall, will feature more visual changes and some new tools that might turn out to be useful.

Has Your Data Been Exposed?

Chrome is rolling out a new desktop browser feature, Live Captions, to auto-transcribe audio to text for nearly any streaming audio, even if the audio is muted. It seems like a wonderful way to “watch” a video while “listening” to one more video meeting. In all seriousness, it is a great accessibility feature for hearing impaired people. This feature, available in Chrome 89 or newer, needs to be turned on. Go to Settings, Advanced, Accessibility, and slide on Live Caption. Let it download the speech recognition files and then try it. It is not always perfect, and it won’t surprise you that highly accented English might be less accurately transcribed.

It’s time to again visit the “Have I Been Pwned” site (, this time to see if your phone number was revealed in the big data scrape from Facebook. It happened two years ago but we’re just learning about it now. It would also be a good time to see where else your information might have been leaked since you last checked (or check it for the first time). You may have already changed your password at some of these places, and not all entries in this database show passwords that are being leaked.

I love any new excuse for turning off my webcam in video meetings. Researchers from Purdue, Yale and MIT have shown that webcam usage contributes to carbon emissions and increased water usage, which is surprising, as we don’t tend to think of Zoom as emitting carbon. But roughly eight hours of Zoom at high-def quality is equivalent to burning a gallon of gasoline.

For people who depend on YouTube, you might want to check out the desktop browser extension called “Improve YouTube,” available for Chrome and Firefox. It offers better control and layout options, including blocking ads and comments, avoiding unwanted channel recommendations, changing video autoplay settings, limiting bandwidth and much more. Find out more at

Something I am still trying to understand is this new craze for non-fungible tokens (NFT), most publicly seen in a $69 million payment for a GIF. I am not going to be able to describe what NFTs are in 50 words or less. Think of it as owning the digital certificate of authenticity to a particular digital image at a particular digital place on the internet. If that makes sense, that’s good enough. But you can read more in Ars Technica’s ( guide to NFTs.

Zoom Solutions

Researchers at Stanford have found some simple fixes for four common Zoom fatigue problems. Close-up eye contact is intense and tiring, so put the view mode to tile and take Zoom out of full-screen mode to make all the faces smaller. Seeing yourself is fatiguing, so learn how to “hide yourself” with a right-click on your video. Long rounds of video chats keep you from moving, so move around—maybe this is a sign that you need to try a standing desk. Their research also pulls together papers that show how much more thinking we have to do to understand and present non-verbal cues for agreement, frustration, incomprehension, etc. We seem to have less fatigue on the telephone, so consider turning off your video or even arrange for the Zoom to be audio-only. Then you can move around even more.

In another sign that COVID is decreasing, Apple Retail Stores are open again across the US. They may have some limitations on capacity, but they are open. Not too long ago, all the Apple Retail Stores within a two-hour radius of Fairview were closed.

It is tax-filing season again (and you may have already filed). But it is good to know that the IRS has expanded its Identity Protection PIN to anyone who can verify their identity. To get more information on how this works and what you need to prove to help lock down your IRS account and avoid tax-related identity theft, go to

Despite the anticipation that the next iOS upgrade, 14.5, would let you change your default music service used when asking Siri to play music, it seems that this is not true in the way we might think. Siri will learn to use a particular music service as it learns your preferences, but Apple has clarified that you are not setting a default music service. I wonder how we will really know the difference.

Many people avoid using Microsoft Edge, but there is a new feature, Kids Mode, that might entice you to try it again. It is actually still in beta, but if it works out, it will let you provide a limited browsing experience on your phone or computer, including Bing SafeSearch, children-friendly content, and restricted access to only family-friendly sites. To exit Kids Mode, you have to use your computer login password. This is helpful—unless your kid already knows that password.

Old Games, Updates and Slow Videos

In case you really need to play those old Flash games, the ones that Adobe killed at the end of 2020, you should try Ruffle, a Flash player emulator ( Though it might require a little work to get web-based Flash games working with the relevant browser extension, it will let you play those games again.

Changing iOS Defaults

You might have missed an important change in iOS 14. You can now change your default email and web browser app, and soon, your default music app. The first two are in Settings, where you can choose the name of the non-Apple app you wish to make the default for email or web browser.

Text Emotions

Trying to accurately convey emotion in emails or texts is nearly impossible. Research has shown that even neutrally conceived messages can come across as criticisms. Try this: Write down your thoughts and then walk away for 10 minutes. Or, better yet, pour out those frustrations in a Word document and then sleep on it overnight. You might find that you can just throw them away.

Future Chrome

If you really want to see where the Chrome browser is headed, run Chrome’s Canary and enable the hidden flag for Chrome Labs. You’ll need to install Chrome Canary (see the link at, which can run side-by-side with your normal Chrome install. When you start up Chrome Canary, type “chrome://flags/” (without the quotes) into the address bar and hit Enter. Search for Chrome Labs and enable Chrome Labs. You will see a new icon in the menu bar and you will be able to try things that may or may not show up in the regular Chrome.

About This Result

Another Google beta feature to know about is their “About this result” feature, which can help check the validity and link security of a particular search result. You can find it by clicking or tapping on the three vertical dots just to the right of the actual web address for the search result (usually the top line of the four lines of the result). This should work in all desktop browsers and the Chrome browser app on Android and iOS. And, like many Google beta features, it might not always work or they might just send it off to the growing Google graveyard.

Apple TV and YouTube

If you have an older Apple TV (3rd generation models from around 2012), you will find that YouTube is dropping support for their YouTube channel. You can still use AirPlay to cast content from another Apple device that is able to play YouTube content, though.

Slow TV

I have been enjoying slow TV. It started when I watched a seven-hour train trip through Norway about a decade ago, and now there is a trip around the Moon. It is titled “MOON in Real Time I,” and can be found on YouTube (see the direct link at And don’t forget to put it in full-screen mode.

Gone Phishing is a site where you can easily find out how to get a copy of your data from many of the more popular websites. The site uses a stoplight coloring system to give you a quick idea of how easy it is to get data from each site, with directions on how to proceed. Their related site,, will help you get taken off many of those sites, but remember get a copy of your data before leaving.

Phishing is the act of sending an email that falsely claims to be from a legitimate organization. These emails are crafted to pull on your heartstrings, stoke your curiosity or scare you in order to get you to reply and reveal confidential information. (For example: “Your account has been hacked. Click the link below to reset your password.”) To see how these emails are created—which can help you avoid falling prey to them—check out a video tutorial from Sophos. (Go to to find the link to the video.) And spend a little more time going back and forth through their related posts (use the “Next” and “Previous” links under the title image).

And it’s not just email. More people are seeing SMS phishing—or smishing—which are texts trying to get you to reveal logins and other information. Anytime you have even a fleeting doubt, such as “Why would they be asking or doing that this way,” pause and check it out through some other source or try to explain it to a friend, which will often make you realize it’s fake.

WhatsApp is updating their privacy policy on May 15 (previously February 8) to let you know that WhatsApp data will be increasingly shared and integrated with Facebook, their parent company. If you wish to continue using WhatsApp, your only course of action is to accept those terms. WhatsApp has clarified their policy to state, “We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

In areas where 5G is not truly available, many iPhone 12 users are finding that turning it off will vastly increase their phone’s battery life. To do this, go to Settings, then “Cellular Data Options,” and then “Voice and Data.” Select “LTE” to turn off 5G, but remember to turn it back on if you are somewhere with true 5G.

New Year’s Security Checkup

T he new year is a great time to look at your security and computer disaster readiness. Here are a few steps to take to make your online experience safer.

• You likely know it, but it is time to make all passwords unique and not based on any personally identifiable information. If your passwords can’t fit on one sheet of paper, consider using a password manager such as LastPass, 1Password or Dashlane. A secret advantage of a password manager is that it will warn you if you try to log into a fake website.

• It might be time to turn on two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication; though it might feel annoying to type in a second one-time key or password, it is a great way to be warned if someone is trying to log into one of your accounts.

• If someone hacks into one of your online accounts, they might be able to charge purchases if you have stored credit card information on that site. Consider removing that stored info and enter it every time instead.

• If you have a Google or Gmail account, check into what they are storing about you at

• WiFi and Bluetooth should be turned off on your iPhone when you are not actively using them, especially when you are out of the house. Turn them off in Settings, and people on Android devices should do the same. Turning off Bluetooth will not interfere with any COVID-19 tracing apps.

• Back up your computers and data.

Microsoft will begin forcing some users to upgrade their version of Windows 10 if they don’t update manually. If you have version 1903, you’ll be forced to upgrade to version 1909 later this month. If you have version 1909, you’ll be forced to upgrade to version 2004 by spring of next year.

An increasing number of websites are asking visitors to approve “notifications”— browser modifications that periodically display messages on the user’s mobile or desktop device. Increasingly, these seem to be ads that pop up, often in the lower right corner of the screen. I suggest you choose not to get these notifications.

Both iOS and Android have many accessibility features that can make your use of their devices much easier. Visit to find links that will allow you to do more without having to use your fingers on a small screen.