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.

Home Pages and Tab Snoozes

What home or start page to have in your web browser is always a conundrum. Usually you want it to be where you tend to go much of the time. But sometimes it is good to have your home page teach you something. Try setting it to Wikipedia’s home page, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, with its “Did you know…” and “On this day…” sections.

Just as you can have custom ringtones for different groups of people, so you know when you really have to answer your cell phone, you can also have custom vibrations for when you have the ringer turned off. This way, you can ignore all but the most important calls, texts, or other notifications during those periods you should not be checking your phone anyway.

Shutting down and restarting Windows 10 is not quite what you thought it was. In Windows 10, Microsoft implemented a “fast startup” trick to make it appear that Windows 10 boots more quickly by saving a snapshot of current kernel memory to the hard drive that can be read from when you boot up again. But if you use Shutdown/Restart to clear out problems, you need to really use the Restart option.

That dock on the Mac screen has been around for so long we tend to forget that there are options to replace how it works. uBar (brawersoftware.com/products/ubar) is expensive at $30, but it might be one of the best ways to ease into the Mac world from Windows. Another, called Station (truenorthsoftware.com/station), works more to organize documents and apps in folders or nesting docks. DockShelf (thealchemistguild.com/dockshelf) lets you make little tabbed docks. If you want to go totally minimalist, you can use Spotlight, via its keyboard shortcut of Command and Spacebar, to find and launch pretty much anything in your Mac. And then you can hide the Dock and sweep everything off your desktop to revel in the beauty of your ever-changing desktop pictures that you have set to rotate through your Photos library using the System Preferences for Desktop & Screen Saver.

You might want to snooze some of those websites you want to read but aren’t getting to anytime soon. Snooze Tabby (snoozetabby.com), an extension for both Chrome and Firefox, will let you set a time, from 10 minutes up to a month, for when a particular website will pop back up for you to read or react. Why bookmark something that you only need to read once (just not right now)?

Autoplay, Machine, Emails, and More

At long last, the current version of Chrome (which you should have if you are using it on a regular basis, since it automatically updates) will block many automatically playing videos so you don’t embarrass yourself in a public space with suddenly blasting audio. Chrome will still play those from sites designed to play videos automatically, like YouTube and Netflix.

Learn Like a Machine

Machine learning projects for kids can help children (or adults young at heart) learn more about how computers can be taught to learn. Machine learning is what drives autonomous cars, helps decide on loan applications, recognize faces, and powers many recommendation websites. One place to start is the website machinelearningforkids.co.uk, which uses Scratch, a simple, block-like programming language, to help you learn more about machine learning. And it all will run in your web browser.

Do Not Disturb

You can control when you get bothered by your smart phone by using the Do Not Disturb features available for both Android and Apple phones. You likely know about Airplane mode, which pretty much cuts you off from calls, texts, and the Internet, but sometimes you want a select few emergency contacts to filter through. When you use Do Not Disturb features, you can silence everything or let through certain emergency contacts or types of messages. Different options are available on Android and iOS: dig through them to find what can really work for you without having your device annoy everyone at your next event or meeting.

Keep Your Cookies

Firefox now has an extension to isolate your Facebook cookie “crumbs” from following you around the other sites you browse. Straight from Mozilla, the parent organization that makes Firefox, you can get the Facebook Container Extension. Go to addons.mozilla.org and search for Facebook Container.

Early Morning Email

Timing your emails to get a response might seem like common sense, and research by Boomerang and Yahoo Labs shows that sending email to arrive in someone’s inbox in the morning hours, from 7 to 9 am (and earlier in the week), generates the best response. Of course, if you know your recipient has different work hours, adjust the sending to correspond to the beginning of their work day.