HAVE YOU BEEN ‘FLoCed?’

There have been lots of complaints about Google’s new “FLoC” tracking system. You may be wondering what the fuss is all about. Here it is, in a nutshell.  “FLoC,” which stands for “Federal Learning of Cohorts” replaces third party cookies that track you on the web.  Instead of being followed individually, your anonymous browsing activity gets lumped with thousands of similar users. Then the whole group is given an identifier. For example, if 3,000 users visit a bunch of furniture websites, a group identifier will allow advertisers to send furniture ads their way Despite the complaints, FLoC seems less intrusive than the current system. Significantly, Google says there won’t be any identifiers on sensitive activities. These include searches for personal […]

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NEW PORTABLE POWER BANK SAVES THE DAY

On a recent plane trip, I watched in dismay as the power drained from my phone. By the time I got from Chicago to New Hampshire with a stop in Philly, it was circling the drain.  A portable power bank is the answer. Here are two questions: How fast can it restore a phone to full charge? Does it lose power when not in use? In the past, on the rare occasions when I’ve thought to bring a power bank with me, it turned out it wasn’t charged and I didn’t have time to mess with it. Power banks with lithium ion batteries should retain their power months after they’ve been charged. But some products that claim to have lithium […]

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SMARTER EYES

My mom used to swear by eye exercises. She said they would correct nearsightedness. Science may be proving her right. Kubota smart glasses can fix your eyesight, if you wear them 60 to 90 minutes a day, according to a report in ZME Science. They work by shortening the distance from the cornea to the retina using augmented reality and virtual reality. Fortunately, you don’t have to wear them for hours at a stretch. They’re a bit odd-looking. At a distance, the lenses look like windshields after rocks have shot through them. The smart glasses were developed by Kubota Pharmaceutical Holdings of Japan. In Japan, 95 percent of those under age 20 are myopic. In South Korea, it’s 96 percent, […]

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FAUX FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK

I ignore Facebook friend requests from strangers unless I’m sure they’re faithful readers of this column. But some are tricky. An apparent captain of an enormous shipping line requested a connection. I thought for a minute it was a legitimate request. One of my friends, a savvy public speaker, was Facebook friends with him. I decided to investigate, in hopes of warning her if he turned out to be a fake. His Facebook photo, profile and name matched that of the captain he claimed to be, which I found on LinkedIn and on the shipping company’s website. So I accepted his request. Minutes later, I decided it was a risky experiment, so I unfriended and blocked him. That didn’t prevent […]

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A SECOND LOOK AT AMAZON HALO WEARABLE

Amazon Halo, the new Fitbit-type wearable I wrote about it last time, is even weirder than I thought. But I like it.  Halo’s voice analysis can pinpoint my moods to the very second, telling me when I sound delighted, amused, shy, and so on. (I’ve yet to sound angry even once in over three weeks.) For example, it said I was  “miserable” at 11:10 a.m., but “happy” exactly two seconds later. If you want to improve your tone, the app has video challenges for that. For instance, a four-time martial arts champion and yoga expert guides you in warm-ups for powerful public speaking. You can turn off the mike if you don’t want your tone analyzed. Speech samples are processed […]

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ZOOMING IN

Joy’s women’s club went virtual, starting with a group video chat on Facebook. It was great.  Joy felt none of the shyness she often feels at ordinary women’s club parties. She could be blunt, telling the group to stop focusing on technical aspects of the conversation. “Let’s just have fun,” she said and so they did. But sometimes the sound quality was poor, causing the group to say they’d switch to Zoom software next time. Zoom is hot right now. It’s designed for video get-togethers and works beautifully. It uses the computer’s built-in camera and microphone, or you can use a tablet or smartphone.  When you use Zoom on your phone, computer or tablet, you see the face of the […]

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WHY ARE THEY SPYING ON US?

Why are they all spying on us? It’s because they want to sell us stuff. The “they” we’re talking about are Google, Amazon and Apple. They record you when you use the microphone on your cell phone or computer. It also happens when you talk to one of your smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. We tap the microphone symbol when conducting searches on our phone. We can ask for a Chinese restaurant nearby faster than we can type it. These days everybody delivers. We’ve written before that we don’t care what gets recorded. Our conversations are beyond boring. A reader wrote that he agreed but was still bothered by it. He felt that what he had to […]

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CONVERSATION VIEW

We finally turned off a feature in Gmail that’s been there since the beginning and has been driving us crazy. It’s called “Conversation View.” We didn’t know you could turn it off. In conversation view, new messages show up at the bottom of the thread. If you have a ton of them, you scroll forever. For example, Joy’s friend Mary Lynn Funk went back and forth in one conversation for six months, all with the same heading. Half the time, Joy would lose the thread, unable to find the latest email, as she scrolled past long emails from three months before. Now those emails have been automatically separated into 49 separate chunks. It’s much more manageable. To turn it off […]

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GETTING BACK ON TRACK

The first time we used a Macbook Air, moving our finger on the trackpad caused the screen to jump around like mad. So-called “gestures” can whisk you away to a new place, shutting down whatever you were working on. Recently, a friend complained of this too, so we looked up the solution. These gestures are amazingly abundant on the Mac and are supposed to offer you alternative ways to interact with your computer. But if you find them as annoying as we do, here’s what to do: First, click on the Apple logo in the upper right of your screen. Then choose “System Preferences.” Click “Trackpad.” Note the three tabs, including “More Gestures.” Click a tab to see what’s under […]

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THEIR ART ON YOUR TV

We downloaded our favorite paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, which just made over 52,000 works from its collection available in high resolution. Then we put them on our TV and cycled through some favorites, like Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte,” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” You can download what you like to your phone and then make a nice background show on your TV. To do this, we first tried the slideshow option on our seven-year-old Sony, but the images looked faded. We could have burned them to a DVD and used that to improve the colors but turned instead to try Roku and Chromecast. We have the cheap version of Roku, […]

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