Our attention was captured recently by a Wall Street Journal article about executives playing video adventure games. One was 34, another 49. Their ages were apparently meant to surprise us, but in fact it’s normal.

There has always been an assumption that only kids play video games. It depends on the game. In fact, in the decades we have been writing this column — and it is the oldest and longest running technology column in the known universe (and parts of New Jersey) — the great majority of video game players have ranged from their mid 20s on up. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average male player is 35, the average woman 44.

We’re talking about complex games like Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, League of Legends, WarCraft, etc. These games outsell hit movies, and they’re a good deal for the entertainment dollar since they can be played for years, not just a couple of hours.

Games like these require teamwork, strategy, and initiative, which also requires lots  of thinking. A dozen people can play together. You can make treaties with opponents, contracts, agree on terms — and there is often not one opponent but several. Breaking treaties and other agreements can be costly, since you become known as unreliable and others won’t deal with you. This is way beyond kid’s stuff and it’s great fun.

Finding Someone’s Phone Number Online

A reader asked whether we could recommend a way to find someone’s phone number, without paying for one of those fancy search services. We have three ways: Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Go to and type something like “Joe Doe phone number.” The number comes up surprisingly often. Of course you don’t happen to be looking for Joe Doe, though we did come across an actual Joe Doe once.

If the phone number doesn’t Google up, go to Facebook and type the person’s name in the search box. There are two billion active users on Facebook, half a billion more just lounging around. That is enough people to have a decent shot at finding someone. Should that fortunate chance happen to you, click on it. There will be a box for you to send a message. Send one. Ask the person to call you or provide their phone number. The message is private, the equivalent of an email.

Things are moving right along here. Way three is LinkedIn. Bob found Joy’s long-lost brother that way. Took almost a minute. LinkedIn charges you to message someone who isn’t part of your LinkedIn contact list, but there’s a way around that: Click the “connect” button appearing next to your friend’s name. If they agree to talk to you or at least hear what you have to say, you can then write them for free — and ask for their phone number while you’re at it.

The Readers Unroll

We heard from several readers after we wrote about, a site that lets you get all your newsletters in a single email each day. Recently, Unroll.Me made the news over privacy issues and some readers were alarmed.

We, by the way, are never alarmed, and this is why: The same Unroll.Me “bot” that scrambles around and gathers your emails into a single message also collects data which is sold. However, your name is not attached, making it zombie data. Your activities could be used for marketing purposes, with your age, sex, marital status, location, etc (if they have any of that), but so what. Bob thinks this whole privacy fear is way overdone.

Meanwhile, back at the database … many other companies, like Facebook and Google gather information about their users so they can target ads. In a post, an Unroll.Me executive said that Gmail collects far more data than could ever roll up. Well put. In short, they will send you ads for stuff you seem to be interested in. Presumably, if you are interested in said stuff you might even find the ads interesting.

If any of this bothers you, go to “”  It’s run by the Digital Advertising Alliance and allows you to opt out of all targeted ads. You’ll still see ads, but they won’t be related to your interests. (Is this an advantage?) To tailor ads to your own preferences, search on the phrase “Google Ads Settings.”

App Happy

  • Seriously radio show: The Americanization of British English

    Pocket Casts” is a $4 app that makes it easy to find the best “podcasts,” another word for online radio. We listened to “Seriously,” an assortment of BBC documentaries for the relentlessly curious, and “Horizon Line,” which offers a new adventure story each week. Listen online or off. If you download an episode, you can easily delete it later. We normally don’t pay for apps, but this is exceptional.

  • Venmo” lets you pay a friend back or even a store with a few taps of your phone. Our visiting niece Amy used it to buy bubble tea at a nearby café.

The Numbers Report

  • BakerHostetler, a national law firm, looked at 450 hack attacks they’d been called in to solve and 43 percent were due to so-called “phishing” or malware. That’s an increase of 12 percent over last year. (These things usually happen when you click on a link that then automatically installs software that takes over your computer.) Thirty-two percent of all such problems were caused by employees error. Eighteen percent were caused by lost or stolen devices. Four percent were due to criminal attacks, and three percent to internal theft. The law firm says these numbers are typical for businesses.
  • One third of all smartwatches (mostly Apple) are abandoned by users, who found them boring or not as useful as expected, according to a report by Gartner Research.







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