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 […]

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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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ROBOCALLS

Over 167 million robocalls are made to Americans each day, according to YouMail. That’s about 61 billion calls for 2019.  Robocalls represent over 50 percent of all phone traffic. They have become the modern equivalent of mail addressed to “occupant.” Some of these calls appear to be coming from your own area code. That’s what really throws people. Because you think, maybe it’s Uncle Max. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to talk to Uncle Max. We use the “call screen” feature on our two Google Pixel phones to avoid robocalls. But the new Pixel 4 has something better.  The Pixel 4 phone won’t ring at all if it senses a robocall. What happens if it’s not a […]

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YOU RANG?

Why do phones sometimes ring just once? It’s a scam. Don’t call them back. According to HowtoGeek.com, if you cave in and call back, your call may result in toll charges similar to a 900 number. The longer you stay on the line, the more money they make. The scam is called “Wangiri,” because it started in Japan. It translates as “one ring and cut.” Calls have been routed to Mauritania, Liberia, Comoros, Chad, the Cook Islands and Nauru. But it’s not always a developing country. Some go to Switzerland. If in doubt, search the web for the number to see if it’s part of a scam. Or if you get a lot of these and have an iPhone, try […]

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THE RIGHT ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE

A reader writes: “My Norton anti-virus is coming up for renewal and  I’m thinking of trying to go for free with Avast anti-virus. Is that what you guys use and, if so, are you reasonably happy with it?” We’re not surprised that he thought we were using Avast,  because our last two mentions were positive. Avast won PC Magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” award in the freebie category. Techlicious recommends its cell phone app. But one of our readers said he got overcharged by Avast tech support. And our favorite tech guru said: “I have heard about this. Avast is outsourcing their tech support to scammers! Someone told me that they followed the support links from Avast only to get a scammer […]

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BYE BYE ROBOCALLS

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 […]

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FIRE UP THE TABLET

Joy left her Kindle Fire tablet in the gym. At first we thought it was somewhere around the apartment but it never turned up. So she decided to bite the bullet and buy Amazon’s “Fire HD 10.” It’s $150 and looks as good as an iPad for less than half the price. She got it in blue. She knew the old one had been stolen as soon as she turned on the new one; now there was one Portuguese and two Chinese dictionaries. Some circumstantial evidence is pretty suspicious. So she went to the “Manage your Kindle” section of Amazon and de-registered the old device. The Kindle Fire HD 10 and HD 8 come with Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. It […]

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GOOGLE FINDS BAD RESTAURANTS

Harvard’s Public Health Center is using Google tracking to find restaurants that make people sick. This is how they do it: If you’ve been to “Mom’s Diner” and a few hours later start searching on terms like “vomit” and “stomach cramps,” there is a likelihood there’s a problem at Mom’s. In Harvard’s tests in Las Vegas and Chicago, health inspectors were sent out when the searches turned queasy. Over half the time, 52 percent, they found a problem at the restaurant the person had been to that day. Chicago has 38 inspectors for more than 8,000 restaurants. They find problems only 23 percent of the time, less than half the probabilities inferred by Google tracking. Reading this, you might worry […]

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GETTING A SMART PHONE

Hard to believe but there are still people out there thinking about getting their first smart phone. That’s a cell phone that can search the web and take selfies. About 80 people a year die while taking selfies. Sometimes they step back too far at the edge of the Grand Canyon, sometimes the flagpole on the tenth floor is slippery. Well, this has happened to us twice now. Not getting killed taking a selfie, but talking to older people who have decided they want one of those smart phone things. In one of the great marketing coups of all time, Apple has somehow made people believe that a smart phone is an iPhone. This is despite the reality that Android […]

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POP-UPS ON YOUR PHONE

An interesting thing happened: Joy was looking up recipes at VegetarianTimes.com. But as she was viewing these in the Chrome browser on her Android phone, she was inundated, distracted and annoyed by a constant barrage of pop-up ads. They were stupidly annoying: “You’ve won a new iPhone 9!” was the first one. (That’s not even the name of the new iPhone. It’s iPhone XR or XS. They skipped number nine).  The second pop-up: “You’ve won a prize on Amazon!” Really! The ads were so bad she closed the browser and started over. Pop-ups are supposed to be blocked automatically, if you want. To find out, she went to the Chrome browser, tapped the three dots in the upper right, then […]

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