A reader showed us a simple way to block robocalls. It’s built right into the phone.

 “I am writing to you,” he says, “because I don’t understand why cell phone users don’t shut off robocalls. On an Android phone, just set it to ‘Do not Disturb.’ Then set it to accept calls from contacts only.”

We knew about “Do Not Disturb” mode but didn’t know you could make an exception for contacts. That choice is right there when you tap “Settings,” “Sound,” and “Do Not Disturb.” On an iPhone, go to “Settings,”  “Do Not Disturb,” and tap “Allow Calls From.” From there, “All Contacts” is one of the choices. 

The reader continues: “I did this a long time ago and I never receive a robocall. Simple fix. Anyone can still leave you a message and you can return the call at your discretion. However, robocallers do not leave messages and your phone only rings if the caller is in your contact list.”

We followed his advice but at first, we didn’t notice that “Do Not Disturb” was set to stay on for only 15 minutes. Now it’s set to stay on until we turn it off. Alternatively, you might want it on just when you’re sleeping.

We asked the reader what people say when he suggests they try “Do Not Disturb.” “Most say, ‘I didn’t know that.’ But later,” he added, “when I asked some close friends if they set their phones as we discussed, most say, ‘Not yet.’ I suppose most are not technically inclined to do so and will not take the time to Google how to do it for their particular device.” We can almost hear him sigh: “It seems such a simple  thing to stop so much complaining. Go figure.”

We figure some people are afraid of missing an important new contact while others are afraid to fiddle with their phone. We had two new important contacts the first day we tried it, but thankfully, they left messages. If you find that spammers are also leaving messages, you can block them. We’ve had pretty good results with the free “True Caller” app. But nothing beats “Do Not Disturb.”


  • Here’s how to add a picture to a happy birthday message in Facebook or in an email. Search on the person’s name along with the words “happy birthday.”  at You’ll usually get a cake or billboard with their name on it. Right-click it to save it, or use screen capture. (Look up “how to screen capture” for instructions.) Pop it in by tapping the “add files” or “attach photo” icon.
  • WolframAlpha gives you lots of information, but it helps to start with their examples. Categories include science stuff as well as “history,” “people” and “arts.” When we looked at the UV (ultraviolet) index, we found the sunburn rate for any city we wanted. In the “History” category, we got quick conversions to Roman numerals. For example, 1776 is MDCCLXXVI. And we found that $2500 in 1950s dollars is worth $26,620 today.
  • has interactive lessons on music theory, starting with the physics of sound. We found it interesting.

CraigsList Scams

Over 29 million phones are reported lost or stolen annually, but sometimes they’re not really lost. Scammers can sell a phone and keep it too, by reporting it lost and collecting the insurance money. These scams go up by 50 percent in summer months, according to a report at

Here’s how it works: The thief buys an insured phone from a carrier, sells it to you, then reports it as lost or stolen. The carrier then blacklists the phone, making it unusable. The insurer pays for a new phone. Flipsy recommends offering to meet the seller at the  store where they bought it. If they’re a scammer, they won’t show up, because the carrier will know it’s a blacklisted phone. You can check the blacklist at

Spied Upon

We usually tap OK, OK, OK when installing  Android apps on our phones, basically agreeing to whatever they want, because we have no privacy concerns. But according to a report cited by CNET, more than 1,000 Android apps collect data about you even if you deny them permission.

A fix is coming with the next version of the Android operating system, version Q. Google’s Pixel phones will get the latest update as soon as it arrives. OnePlus phones are second on the list, according to Nokia is third and Sony fourth. Samsung is eighth, Motorola is 11th and HTC is 12th.

Though iPhones are supposedly not collecting the information you type in, they do listen in, according to experiments run by and many others. A reporter said words like “going back to University,” or “need a new T-shirt,” and immediately got ads for those things. If this bothers you, turn off Siri, the voice assistant. On Android phones, go to settings, then “Google” then “Search,” and go to “Google Assistant” and delete any data collected. You can also turn off Cortana in Windows.


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