GOING PRIVATE

Until recently, we thought that the only time you need a Virtual Private Network or VPN is when you are using a Wi-Fi connection away from home. The idea is to prevent hackers from breaking in. But you might want that protection at home too.

Though hackers likely can’t get in when you’re on your home Wi-Fi, a VPN prevents anyone from seeing the data you transmit over the Internet. That includes your Internet Service Provider, which most likely sells your information to advertisers.

When we searched on the phrase: “Does AT&T sell my info?” we got an AT&T form titled “Do Not Sell My Information.” Filling it out would stop the practice. They say they sell it so we can get great offers, from companies like HBO. Personally, we don’t mind if they sell our info but we’re still not buying HBO.

Here’s another reason for getting VPN software in the home: greater video selection. Some shows are only available in the U.S. for an extra cost but can be had for free on Netflix if you live elsewhere. Star Trek is one example. A VPN hides your location, making it possible to get virtually any shows you want. However, some VPNs won’t work if you beam your movie from your computer to your TV. We use Chromecast to do this and newer sets usually have it built in. TomsGuide.com recommends “Express VPN,” for about $91 a year. Techlicious.com recommends the free Windscribe.

Here’s the difference between free VPNs and the paid kind, according to Nord VPN, one of the leading brands. The free kind means slower speeds, data transfer limits and connection drops. The paid version is faster because it uses more servers. Also, a free VPN is under no legal obligation to protect your identity and may store information about you. To make money, a free VPN might show ads or sell your data to third parties, so it’s mainly useful in public situations, such as airports, libraries, and coffee shops. Nord VPN says they store no logs and protect your data with military-grade encryption.

Sifting Through the Email

Several readers wrote to say they’re confused by the steps involved in blocking unwanted email in Gmail. Here’s another stab at it.

Click an email to open it. Then look at the three stacked dots in the upper right. Click “Filter messages like this.” Then look at the section that says “has these words.” Gmail fills in the sender’s email address.

That only works for a time. Clever senders use a variety of email addresses, perhaps a new one every time. So add a word or two unique to the email you’re banning. For example, if you don’t want to hear from LifeExtension, type “LifeExtension.” Then check the box next to “Delete.” That way, any email with the word “LifeExtension” will skip the inbox and go straight to trash. Over time, Joy set up hundreds of these filters on her computer, cutting the email load to around 50 a day.

Clipboard for the Mac

We told you how to use the built-in clipboard for Windows 10, but we didn’t mention the Mac.

There’s a hidden secondary clipboard in Macs that you can access by using “Control” or “Ctrl” and the letter K to cut, and “Control Y to paste. But it only works with text. What’s worse, though it doesn’t displace an item in the main clipboard, there’s no way to build up a long list. A good alternative is the free app “ClipMenu” from clipmenu.com.

A reader said he’d rather save all his items on a page in “TextEdit,” which is built into the Mac and is found in the Applications folder. (Alternatively, he could have used Microsoft Word or any text editor.) He saves passwords there without the website name they’re good for, in case someone steals his computer. He says he tweets a lot about wine, so he also uses an “e” with an accent aigu for French names. You can get an accented letter in Microsoft Word by choosing “Insert” at the top of the screen and then “Symbol” over to the right. Or you can copy it from some word on the web, paste it into editpad.org to remove the formatting, and then copy and paste it into the right spot in your document.

 Internuts: Free Books

Free Kindle Classics.” Search on that phrase to find 400 pages of freebies. Many are developer’s guides or books in Arabic, but you can find gems among the rough. You don’t need a Kindle or a Fire HD to read them, just the free Kindle app on your phone, iPad or other tablet.


Gutenberg.org has thousands of free books. We looked at the “recently added” section and found a charming book for children called “Stories Pictures Tell,” from 1918. They show old photos, such as Dutch girls in a classroom, and tell you what’s going on.


HooplaDigital.com has free books from your local library. All you need is a library card to download them to a phone or tablet or read them on your computer.






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