ISP data selling, Steaming your laptop (don’t), iOS workflow, Securing your mic

With all the recent concern about ISPs being allowed to sell their customer’s data, it is good to see what you can do and understand what ISPs are currently saying. Some major ISPs, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, have already come out saying they will not sell their own customer’s data (I suspect it is more valuable to them and they can always change those terms.) So you should just test your safety level at https://www.letsgetsafe.org/ part of the https://www.fightforthefuture.org/ project. Also, use EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) HTTPS Everywhere plugin to try to make sure you are using an SSL website version, if they are available, https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere. It is much harder for an ISP to know what you are doing at a site that is using SSL, all they will know is that you went there. Finally, although not a perfect solution, more people are exploring VPNs to carry their Internet traffic beyond the data gathering eyes of their ISP. Besides, a VPN should always be used when using public Wi-Fi hotspots, especially at airports, hotels, and convention centers.

If you want to set up email Encryption in Apple’s Mail application, take a look at this helpful article https://www.macobserver.com/tips/quick-tip/macos-using-email-encryption-apples-mail/

Laptops don’t belong near steam sources, like dishwashers. A tale of caution, many people use their laptops in the kitchen, likely placing them on the counter above the dishwasher. While the dishwasher is running, especially during the during the drying cycle, it will exhaust out a lot of vapor. If a laptop is anywhere near that moisture and its fan(s) are running, that vapor will get pulled in and over time corrode the internals. You might not notice anything wrong until you gently bump that laptop and little internal connections all fall apart.

Safe disposal of data on solid state drives is a little different that with conventional drives. With conventional drives, you could reformat it with software that wrote zeros across all the platters or physically destroy it by drilling holes. For reasons I don’t quite understand, erasing an SSD doesn’t work, but you can encrypt it and then throw away that encryption key. Then nothing is readable. You might need to use a SATA to USB cable to handle a drive that you have pulled from a computer. In Windows, if you don’t have a Pro version, you can download Veracrypt (hosted with codeplex which will be shutting down by the end of this year) https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/ and on a Mac, you would use the Apple provided FileVault. The important trick is to make sure you encrypt the correct drive. Not that it would be bad to encrypt your regular drive anyway.

iOS Workflow is a great productivity tool that is now free after Apple aquired it earlier this year. It can help you automate tasks on an iPhone or iPad and is available through the App Store. With a little bit of work, you could take an image from Photos, convert it, then upload it. More information is at https://workflow.is/

Warning and reminder: Windows Vista is no longer supported by Microsoft and the same is true for nearly all other software makers. Microsoft ended their support on April 11th and so you should figure out how to upgrade for safety sake on the Internet.

Taping over the camera on a computer still leaves the microphone open. In Windows, you can use the Device Manager to disable that internal microphone, located under the section called Audio inputs and outputs. This works fine unless you already have some kind of RAT (Remote Administration Software) maliciously installed.

Safety when walking away from your computer, Offline video playback, Browser privacy

Safety when leaving your desk includes locking your computer with a password. Soon you will be able to tether your phone to your Windows 10 so that when you walk away (taking your phone with you) your computer will lock. When you come back you unlock it with a password. However, there are many ways to do this without involving a phone and waiting for the next version of Windows 10. The first one is to hold down the Windows key (the one with the four square “flag” on it) and tap the letter “l”, as in lock. Or, you can set your screen saver to activate quickly and to prompt for a password when you come back. Another option is to make sure your computer prompts for a password when you wake it from sleep and then set a keyboard shortcut for sleep. Of course, if you have a laptop, this is much easier, just make sure your laptop, Mac or PC, goes to sleep when you close the lid, then prompts for a password when you open it back up.

If you are mapping out travel with Google Maps, you can make lists of points of interest, like restaurants and places to visit, and share them. Interesting, this only seems to be available in the iOS or Android versions of Google Maps, not through a normal web browser. The basic process is search and find places in Google Maps and then “save” them to a new list, named however you want. Since these lists are private to begin with, you have to go into Sharing Options to make them shareable with a link you send to the people in your group.

Often you want to just download video from the web, video that you “could” just play on-line but you want it on your computer. Here is an article link to quite a few services and applications that can help, depending on what video service you are wanting to download from, <http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/18-free-ways-to-download-any-video-off-the-internet/> or try the bit.ly equivalent of <http://bit.ly/1yvTvWT>.

Sometimes you need a web browser that keep as much of your surfing private, more than the private surfing option available in Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer and Edge. The first, and probably most likely to keep information private, is the Tor browser, from <torproject.org>. Due to how it works to make your traffic anonymous, it can feel a bit slower than your regular browser. Nothing will hide everything, but it goes a long way. Other options include: Epic Browser <epicbrowser.com>; SRWare Iron <srware.net> (click on the American flag in the upper right corner to get the English version of the site); and Comodo Dragon Browser <comodo.com> (scroll to the bottom of the page and look in the lower left column for Comodo Dragon to click on.)

Using the Facebook app on smart phones is going to become more annoying in public if you don’t use ear buds or have video auto-play disabled. Facebook will have sound fade in and out as you scroll through all of those cat and cute animal tricks videos. You can disable it; within the Facebook app you start by tapping the three horizontal line button so you can then go into either Settings – Account Settings – Sounds (for iOS) or App Settings (for Android) and then slide off the slider for “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound.”

Facebook privacy again, Krita, different search, email closings and organizing

Facebook may be finally making it just a bit easier to see all of their settings that control privacy by putting together a Privacy Basics at https://www.facebook.com/about/basics that will lead you into stepping through their Privacy Checkup to see some of your basic settings.

Another alternative to Photoshop, that runs on Mac or PC and is free, is Krita <https://krita.org/>. Apart from letting you edit images, it has tools to more easily let you paint and create digital artwork. Have fun creating.

Even though google became a verb some years ago, there are other search engines to use with different advantages. DuckDuckGo.com is a favorite for not tracking any information about your searches. For video search alternatives to youtube, there is vimeo.com, and yahoo.com does rather well as an alternative for image searches at <https://images.search.yahoo.com>. And, you can even search for sound effects at < http://www.findsounds.com/>.

Public WiFi networks are pervasive and tempting to use, and there are some steps you should take to keep your device and internet traffic safe. When using any network other than one you trust, you should always turn off file and printer sharing. If you are joining a network in Windows, always set it to public. And, turn off WiFi as soon as you are done. Make sure that you are using SSL, that the web address starts with https, especially on any site you are logging into. Luckily, most common social media sites have moved to SSL-based logins. And, maybe you should find out how to use your own smartphone as a hotspot for safer browsing, just avoid streaming long movies <G>.

With email, don’t neglect the closing as it may have an equally important effect on getting a reply. Boomerang, a company that makes email productivity programs, has studied email closings to see what differences they would elicit. Business emails that ended with “thankful closings” like “thanks in advance” got the highest response rate. <http://blog.boomerangapp.com/2017/01/how-to-end-an-email-email-sign-offs/>

If you occasionally need to encrypt a file before you send it off to someone, you should try whisply <https://whisp.ly/>. It lets you encrypt a file and share it out through Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive. And, you can even add a PIN or password to further protect that file.

There is another way to organize email, there always is just keep everything in the inbox and then search for what you need, or you could try using four priority folders in addition to the inbox. They would be, today, this week, this month, and informational. As new messages come in, you sort them by when they need to be handled, or pitch them in the trash.

Free Mac video editors, clickity-clickity, Office alt, Windows 10 privacy settings tweaks

There are some good free video editors on the Mac, you don’t have to pay for high-end software if your needs are mostly to trim clips, assemble clips into a storyline, lay over music or other audio, correct colors, or insert transitions between clips. Various ones to look at include: Davinci Resolve 12.5 at https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve (the Studio version costs nearly $1,000 so go for the free one), OpenShot at http://www.openshot.org/ which has a PC version also, Shotcut at https://www.shotcutapp.com/ also with a PC version, and there is always Blender at https://www.blender.org/ though geared towards 3D creation can handle video editing.

Some day you might want to see how much information a site can collect from you and your mouse pointer. When you are ready, visit https://clickclickclick.click/ (yes, that domain really does end with dot click, it is one of the many top level domains other than the dot com) Run it for a bit, switch away to something else, move your pointer around, and read what they are finding out using JavaScript. The only real way to stop this data gathering is to block scripts and then you may find out how many sites lose functionality.

If you don’t have to have Office or don’t want to get caught on the subscription treadmill called Office 365, you might want to check out a few other free office suites. Anyone with a google account should try Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to see if their word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation needs can be met right there. It works best if you have an internet connection. If you would rather run the software on your computer, install LibreOffice from http://www.libreoffice.org/ There are Mac and Windows versions reminiscent of the layout of older editions of Microsoft Office. A final online collaboration oriented suite is Zoho Docs at https://www.zoho.com/docs/ and if you are careful you should be able to find their free plan, good for up to 25 users.

On a Mac, you might decide you want to hide that big banner of an OS update to Sierra. Simply right-click or hold down the Ctrl key and clicking anywhere in that banner and regular click or left-click on Hide Update.

I waited long enough, now a great online paid course on dealing with procrastination is free and on Youtube. Rather than put that really long link here, I would suggest you search on Youtube for “how to stop procrastinating full design” and make sure the video is by “Successful by Design.”

In Windows 10 there are many privacy related settings scattered around in different settings panes. Luckily, there are some 3rd party apps to help manage them. Spybot makes Anti-Beacon at https://www.safer-networking.org/spybot-anti-beacon/ good on Windows 7 through 10, to pull many settings together. If you want to work with XP or Vista you should look at Windows Privacy Tweaker from https://www.phrozensoft.com/2015/09/windows-privacy-tweaker-4

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.