The Digital World

Gift of savings from digital library services

Do you keep a household budget? I do and I see my actuals creeping up. My family has been frugal but the current economic environment tests the definition of frugality for us. Probably many are in a similar boat so hang in there as this can't continue forever!

Although this is not a financial advice column, the digital world has been helping me save money, both literally and figuratively. Latter because "time is money" where efficiency or convenience brought forth by the services in the cloud, aka internet, gives me more time for the important things in life.

My readers know how much I appreciate the digital library services that our Westlake Porter Public Library and Bay Village branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library provide. For this article, I thought why not tabulate how much I'm saving each year by using those services.

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Volume 14, Issue 22, Posted 10:07 AM, 11.15.2022

Taking mom for a virtual autumn drive

Last year, it started much later than normal. This year I even surveyed a week prior to make sure it hadn't peaked yet. I decided the following Wednesday to be the peak. Well, the following Monday was a gorgeous day – temps in the high 60s to low 70s – for late October. My wife said I shouldn't wait until midweek. After I dropped her off at work, I headed down to the Metroparks with my mom. In retrospect, if I stuck to my original plan, we would've missed the foliage as it rained on Wednesday and some trees were almost naked!

Although the winters can be a little milder, I love Cleveland for the four seasons because Yokohama, Japan, where I grew up, has four seasons. When I got off the boat more than three decades ago, my new friends introduced me to the Metroparks and it sure was a culture shock. Coming from a country where land is at premium, I marveled at how expansive the Metroparks system was, yet meticulously taken care of.

My mom has visited Cleveland before during different seasons but she hasn't been back for a while to enjoy the fall foliage or brave the frigid winter temps in-person. Thanks to technology, though, I can offer her the next best thing: put my phone in the smartphone holder suctioned onto the windshield, start FaceTime, set FaceTime to see out the phone's rear camera, and drive from Rocky River Marina to Berea Falls on the winding Valley Parkway. Video chat apps like Apple's FaceTime, Google's Meet, Zoom, and Meta's WhatsApp to name a few, are the next best thing when in-person is unattainable.

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Volume 14, Issue 21, Posted 10:11 AM, 11.01.2022

Are you a SmartPrinter?

Last week I was reminded of a joke which goes: "A printer consists of three main parts: the case, the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light." I first heard this 30 years ago and it is still pertinent in 2022.

Recently, many seniors have sought my recommendation for printer procurement/replacement candidates as inventory improved. I answer them with a question: How much do they print and how often?

I explain to them that printer ownership is like car ownership thus comes with recurring costs. Purchasing consumables, like toner/ink cartridges and paper, needs to be budgeted. It's similar to changing the oil and buying gasoline to drive a car. To top it off, the blinking yellow light on a printer is akin to the check engine light glowing on your dashboard.

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Volume 14, Issue 20, Posted 10:46 AM, 10.18.2022

Value of the digital world

During the pandemic, the availability of technology products became scarce. It also affected inventory of products that rely on electronic components, such as cars and household appliances.

I'm sure you'll remember dealership lots being empty for more than a year. I also remember a couple of our nonprofit's alumni telling us that they had to wait six months or more for parts to become available so the repair service could fix their washer, dryer, and the garage door opener.

With the WFH (Work From Home) mandate for office workers, participation in virtual meetings through services like Zoom and WebEx in lieu of in-person collaboration became the norm. During this transition, available webcams went like hotcakes, often at premium prices, while no new stock of webcams were coming once inventory was depleted. Selling price easily doubled the manufacturer's suggested retail price or more!

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Volume 14, Issue 19, Posted 11:16 AM, 10.04.2022

Senior Wisdom

As many of my readers know – of course I'm being presumptive that I have "many readers" LOL – I love using analogies when explaining anything technology. For example, I've often used the analogy "streaming is just like broadcasting" where one streams content onto their Smart TV, smartphone, tablet, or computer connected to the internet wirelessly or by wire; one receives broadcasts of TV programming onto their Smart or Dumb TV through the cable TV box, satellite dish, or thin air.

Most of the analogies I use, if not all, I come up with by thinking, "How would I explain 'xyz' to my aging parents?" But "streaming is just like broadcasting," which by the way is beautifully succinct, is borrowed from my oldest alumni of our nonprofit's "Discover Digital Literacy!" program who offered his take on what streaming was; the alumni is also a Westlake resident.

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Volume 14, Issue 17, Posted 9:56 AM, 09.07.2022

Life skills for the 21st century

When I start writing my column for the upcoming issue of WBVO, I do so in the cloud. No, it's not that my mind is in the clouds – although my wife may disagree, LOL – but my article starts as a blank Google "Doc" document that is saved in Google "Drive," my own secure storage space, again in the cloud (aka internet).

If I'm in my home office, I just sit in front of my desktop computer and work on it. If it's not too humid or frigging freezing outside, I take my Chromebook and type while lounging on our deck. If I'm teaching for the Center for Aging in the Digital World at Advent Church, I use my laptop between classes as my laptop is already up and running and is being used to mirror my devices' screens to the big screen for seniors to follow in the classes.

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Volume 14, Issue 16, Posted 9:51 AM, 08.16.2022

Attending Zoom meetings is trivial

Our nonprofit just held our second annual "Gathering in the Park" where attendees spanned from our first graduating class in 2016 to current students graduating in two weeks. What I realized was that the physical distance mandates of the past two years really made me miss "seeing" and talking to some of the alums who couldn't attend our "standing by the watercooler" Zoom meetings. 

Although I truly believe that COVID-19 is entering the endemic stage, unlike the flu whose season recurs only once a year, the COVID-19 endemic seems to have multiple flare-ups during the year. To avoid postponing or having to cancel our 16-class "Discover Digital Literacy!" program in progress when public health officials declare physical distancing mandates again, last fall I adjusted our program's curriculum to cover "How to Zoom" earlier than later.

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Volume 14, Issue 15, Posted 10:05 AM, 08.02.2022

Lost & digitally found

This is part of the series on privacy in the digital world.

An old friend of mine, who has a type B personality, was anything but calm when he called me one sweltering day last summer. So much so that I thought he was involved in an accident … or worse. I could guess only every other word he was rattling off at the speed of sound.

When I could finally interject, I told him to call me back on the Duo app I had taught him to use (instead of FaceTime) since I have an Android phone. I figured the added "visuals" of a video meeting app will help calm him down faster than just audio. But he couldn't call me back using the Duo app. The reason for his panic, and the reason he couldn't call me back using Duo, was because he had lost/misplaced his new $1,000+ iPhone while vacationing abroad!

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Volume 14, Issue 13, Posted 9:35 AM, 07.06.2022

Dealing with data collection

This is part of the series on privacy in the digital world.

More often than not, the popular-culture idiom "what you don't know won't hurt you" still rings true with your real world adventures but the same idiom is debatable at best when it comes to your digital world dealings.

I use the word "debatable" because on one hand the internet-based services, aka the cloud services, have and continue to provide benefits to our everyday life. On the other hand the business processes in place, i.e. data collection and related processes, fuel privacy debates.

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Volume 14, Issue 12, Posted 10:00 AM, 06.21.2022

Slow down for clarity of cookie options presented

This is part of the series on privacy in the digital world.

While trekking on the information superhighway, I recently stumbled upon a definition at dictionary.com that was very appropriate to this series: "On the internet, a rabbit hole frequently refers to an extremely engrossing and time-consuming topic." It sure feels like I'm going down a rabbit hole when researching the current state of "privacy," or lack of, in the digital world!

When I pull up a website in my browser, or get links to websites after googling, I want to get to the content in the shortest time. What's akin to speed bumps in parking lots of the real world, are the "pop-ups" in the digital world that you get when pulling up a website.

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Volume 14, Issue 11, Posted 10:06 AM, 06.07.2022

Browser cookies and your privacy

This is part of the series on privacy in the digital world.

You've probably heard/read these words in the same sentence: browsers, cookies, and your privacy. Most geeks and Klingons alike, aka technologists, will say there are multiple types of browser cookies but we'll condense them into first-party and third-party cookie categories.

For more than a decade, through my work, I observed "convenience" to be the number one reason for browser cookies to exist from a user's perspective. Conveniences such as being able to open a browser to check your email without having to remember the password to log into your account. First-party cookies enable you to do just that. They also enable you to have a personalized browsing experience based on what you have done while on that website. These first-party cookies are fed to your browser by the website you are visiting.

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Volume 14, Issue 9, Posted 10:30 AM, 05.03.2022

The scamming of Margaret

Margaret (*not her real name) recently shared her story with me of how she was scammed out of almost $12,000. She said even if her story helps only one Westlake/Bay senior, it would be worth retelling. We'll continue the series on privacy in the digital world in the next issue.

It started out as a text message from a friend: "My friend Margaret got her computer hacked and I need to talk to you."

When I called my friend, I found out that her friend Margaret actually reacted to a message that suddenly appeared on her computer screen while she was browsing. The message, purportedly from Microsoft, told her to call the number on the screen because her computer was infected. When she did, they eventually directed her to call another number, also given to her, which she was told is for the fraud department of a local bank in Cleveland.

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Volume 14, Issue 7, Posted 10:51 AM, 04.05.2022

Privacy settings in Firefox browser

This is the second in a series of articles on privacy in the digital world.

Having a specific app on your smartphone/tablet that caters to a digital world service, for example the "Giant Eagle" app to shop online, "Spotify" app to stream music, "Westlake Porter Public Library" app to reserve a Wi-Fi hotspot before a road trip, "Libby" app to find eBooks at Cuyahoga County Public Library – and the list goes on and on – is foolproof as there is an unique icon you tap for each service you want to use. 

But what if you could have only one app/aplication on your smartphone, tablet, or computer? For me that one app would be a "browser." In this always-connected-to-the-digital-world (aka internet or the cloud) lifestyle, a single browser can connect to the aforementioned services and more, although the process is a little more tedious because you have to enter the address of each service's website unless you google it.

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 10:37 AM, 03.15.2022

Privacy in the digital world

This is the first in a series of articles on privacy in the digital world.

When it comes to the digital world – aka the internet or the cloud – your "right to privacy" is a hot-button subject that will always be highly debated.

I ponder if the same principles of the right to privacy in the real world are even applicable to the digital world. To be honest, I don't have a real good answer to that question and may never will. At least not definitively, not like it is guaranteed that the sun will rise from the east every morning.

My opinion has always been that our "information" is highly valued by the companies that offer products and services through the digital world. This information I speak of can be anything and everything from what we are "googling" to where we have been in the real world. Many make their bottom line by brokering our information to the highest bidder or sell other products

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:27 AM, 03.01.2022

How to smoke out a phishing email

In the last issue of 2021, to lessen the chance of becoming a "phishing" or "smishing" victim (email or text respectively), I suggested a New Year's resolution: to continue building good habits by ignoring unsolicited emails and text messages. I also wrote about a way to help you smoke out a phishing email after opening an unsolicited message. As always you can read that article and more at wbvobserver.com.

We're only one month into 2022 and I've already been asked several times for my opinion on whether a particular email is legit or not. To empower more people, I'm going to share an additional method I use, in conjunction with the first method, to try to smoke out a phishing attempt.

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Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 10:12 AM, 02.01.2022

Zooming without the visuals

We're only halfway through January, or about 3.8% of 2022 as I pen this, but I have already read several articles about the likelihood of the COVID-19 pandemic becoming an endemic – i.e. a disease that we live alongside like a flu – this year. I can't wait for the pandemic to be over!

In the last column of 2021, I wrote: "Frequent use of video chat apps like Duo and FaceTime, or attending Zoom events, stimulates our sense of 'seeing' and combined with 'hearing' can help isolation and loneliness from setting in." When isolation and loneliness are kept at bay even with the current physical distancing recommendations, I believe we also maintain "connectedness" to our family, friends, and the community.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:06 AM, 01.18.2022

A resolution for 2022: build good habits

The pandemic, once thought to be nearing control this past summer, continues to make us stand six feet apart in grocery checkout lines and wear masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment).

It has also underscored the many benefits provided by the digital world. Online grocery shopping affords you to be "physically" distant from crowds by ordering online and picking up your groceries curbside. Frequent use of video chat apps like Duo and FaceTime, or attending Zoom events, stimulates our sense of "seeing" and combined with "hearing" can help isolation and loneliness from setting in. In this case, loneliness is the unwanted side effect of continued physical distancing from family and friends during the pandemic.

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:47 AM, 12.21.2021

Many ways to skin the cat when tech snafu strikes!

Living in the duality of the real world and the digital world means one thing is guaranteed: running into technical difficulties. Throughout the years helping to demystify technology, I've heard people repeatedly say things like, "I'm not technically savvy" or "technology hates me" when bitten by "tech snafu." If you are one of them, here's news for you: electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers are far from perfect.

One thing to accept, or more precisely "retrain" your thought process, is that the tech snafu you experience may have nothing to do with what you did or didn't do. So adopt the 1930s British slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" – which was repopularized in the 2000s and variations of the phrase are still used to this day. I do!

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Volume 13, Issue 23, Posted 10:30 AM, 12.07.2021

Cacophony inside Tak's head

As we head into Thanksgiving, I have a lot of things to be thankful for this year. I regained my hearing after being deaf for almost 18 months, thanks to the University Hospitals team led by Dr. Rivas who handled my cochlear implant surgery.

Our non-profit, Center for Aging in the Digital World, after five years has a permanent home to offer the "Discover Digital Literacy!" programs, thanks to the in-kind gift from Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake. By having the use of their facilities, the organization will continue to help seniors in our communities discover the 21st-century life skill of digital literacy in 2022 without worrying about finding a teaching space every quarter.

Despite getting ready to finish 2021 strongly, I have a personal conundrum that I probably should consult fellow WBVO columnist Mr. Jeff Bing as it pertains to professional sports. My buddy Dave already tried to help me with my quest to find an "affordable" streaming service that will enable me to stream one thing, and one thing only, at a reasonable price: Cleveland Cavaliers games.

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Volume 13, Issue 22, Posted 10:15 AM, 11.16.2021

Windows 11 has arrived!

As promised, this week's column gives you more information on the brand new Windows 11 operating system that became officially available on Oct. 5 to many, but not all, PC users whose computer hardware meets the prerequisites. I use the word "many" as it has become a common industry practice to release new operating systems to users in waves rather than everyone eligible at once. 

First, a recap:

  • Microsoft will support computers running Windows 8.1 until Jan. 10, 2023, and until Oct. 14, 2025, for computers running Windows 10.

  • As you may have realized, your computer running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 did not cease to work when Windows 11 became available a couple weeks ago.

  • When Microsoft ends support – i.e. stops providing monthly security updates – any unsupported version of Windows will still continue to work but it is strongly recommended that you move to a supported operating system version before that happens to minimize the risk of being victimized.

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Volume 13, Issue 20, Posted 10:12 AM, 10.19.2021

How to 'hide' photos on your device

In the previous issue, we talked about putting a PIN (Personal Identification Number) on your smartphone/tablet. A PIN that only you know is akin to a deadbolt on your front door. If your smartphone/tablet is lost or stolen, the person who finds it, or the nefarious person who stole it, will not be able to get into the device without knowing your PIN. 

I also wrote that both Apple and Google, creators of "iOS" and "Android" operating systems for their smartphones/tablets respectively, have a way to "hide" photos from appearing in their Photos (aka photo album) app. For example, if you take a digital photo of your vaccination card, moving it to the hidden album or locked folder will prevent that photo from appearing in the Photos app alongside pictures of your grandkids!

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Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 9:56 AM, 10.05.2021

Digital deadbolt for your vaccination card

Just last week I helped an alumni of our Discover Digital Literacy! program store her vaccination card on her smartphone. Before we started, she already knew that taking a picture was the easiest option. She can keep the picture on the smartphone's digital photo album app.

Basically, she didn't want to carry around her original vaccine card and lamination wasn't a viable option either since it may make it difficult to update the card with newer information (like when she gets the booster shot). Some restaurants, for example, are requiring proof of vaccination, she said.

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Volume 13, Issue 18, Posted 10:10 AM, 09.21.2021

Location, location, location!

I always reckon smartphones as having powers akin to the color-shifting chameleons that blend into their environment. Crystals in the photonic skin of the chameleon are responsible for its color-shifting superpowers, much like smartphone "apps" change the smartphone's utility into different gadgets on the fly.

Out of the box, a smartphone is a mobile phone (Dialer app), address book (Contacts), calendar (Calendar), digital camera (Camera), video camera ("flip a switch" in the Camera), tool to use the services on the internet (type of an app known as "browsers" such as Safari on Apple iPhones or Chrome on Android smartphones), and a turn-by-turn navigation gadget (Google Maps or Apple Maps apps).

Apps such as Maps utilize the GPS (Global Positioning System) chip in your smartphone to know exactly where it is relative to earth by receiving information (i.e. coordinates) from the satellites in the sky. I rely on the Maps app while I drive to give me turn-by-turn directions.

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Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 10:40 AM, 09.08.2021

Matching your 'use case' to the appropriateness of technology

I often talk about the "appropriateness" of the technology you purchase within your budget. You don't want to overspend with bells and whistles you'll never use, or underspend on a device that turns out to be underwhelming and raise your blood pressure instead.

It is important to determine your "use case," or the activities you anticipate using a device for, when determining what is appropriate for you. An analogy of said appropriateness is buying everything and the kitchen sink when you only heat up frozen dinners for your meals.

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Volume 13, Issue 16, Posted 10:12 AM, 08.17.2021

Have a plan for Windows 11

Have you heard the news that Windows 11 is coming this October? I don't blame you if you think "why so soon?" because Windows 10 is only six years old. Some of you may have just upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 in January 2020.

The good news is that the impending arrival of Windows 11 will not immediately invalidate your Windows 10 personal computer (PC) by turning it into a pumpkin like Cinderella's carriage after the stroke of midnight. Rather, Windows 10 is slated to lose Microsoft's extended support on Oct. 14, 2025, which is a good four years away.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 9:55 AM, 08.03.2021

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Back when I had more free-time to watch the "tube," (that'd be more than two decades ago – LOL), a show I enjoyed watching was "Cops." These days, though, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, content similar to "Cops" is bountiful for instant enjoyment. My internet-connected smartphone that goes everywhere I go is akin to my "personal tube," providing bottomless content to stream from the digital world that can be enjoyed anywhere/anytime!

But I still enjoy reading the "Police Blotter" sent out by our local departments. Other than the entertainment value provided by the criminal minds [sarcasm intended], they often reveal tactics employed by the nefarious for online fraud.

One particular tactic disclosed in a highlighted incident from a recent Police Blotter report correlates with what I have been observing personally. Through analyzing the messages left on our answering machine and voicemails, plus reading the unsolicited text messages and emails, there sure seems to be an uptick in scammers trying to get their potential victims to send cash or gift cards.

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Volume 13, Issue 13, Posted 10:27 AM, 07.06.2021

Precious moments with my father

As this issue hits the newsstands, Father's Day is only five days away! Unlike last year, many will have the opportunity to hug them in-person again and celebrate together. To honor the fathers who went to heaven during the past year and a half when the physical distancing mandate made it ever more difficult to put closure, I've asked my wife, Mely, to share her story. This is her telling her story ...

My father passed away in October of last year in the Philippines. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to travel and be by his side. It was not easy, but something I had accepted, not being there to see him before he died. Like the rest of this country and the world, I could not attend his funeral to say goodbye. I still seek closure.

One of the fondest memories I cherish came when I gifted my parents a tablet for their 50th anniversary. When my dad saw my husband, who remained stateside, and I communicating via FaceTime, his eyes lit up. He asked me, "You mean I will be able to see you from thousands of miles away if I learn how to use this gift?" I said "yes" and knew I had his interest! He was determined to learn how to use it. Everyday during my visit, I would practice with him – how to turn it on, start FaceTime, and to accept video calls or make video calls.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:59 AM, 06.15.2021

Live Caption for Chrome web browser helps HoH community

Part two of a two-part series on how technology can help the hard-of-hearing community.

Whether you are: checking email, shopping online, googling (yes, it's a word in the Oxford Dictionary) for a widget, watching YouTube videos, paying bills, registering for a COVID-19 vaccine, or streaming a movie from Westlake Porter Public Library or Cuyahoga County Public Library in Bay Village, one ubiquitous tool that you will need is a "web browser." Firefox from Mozilla Foundation, Chrome from Google, Edge from Microsoft, or Safari from Apple all do the same thing: pull up a website so you can benefit from all of the above and other things in the cloud, aka the internet.

Previously, we discussed an app and a feature that fall under the "accessibility" category. Accessibility settings make handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets more comfortable to use while compensating for physical disabilities. Through personal experience, I've been relying on the above every day for over a year.

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Volume 13, Issue 9, Posted 9:59 AM, 05.04.2021

Technology for the HoH community

Part one of a two-part series on how technology can help the hard-of-hearing community.

My better half believes that I suffer from "selective hearing syndrome." Luckily, I possess a "get out of jail" card as I'm temporarily hard-of-hearing (HoH) for real. Honey, I "really" didn't hear you well enough that you wanted me to take out the garbage – LOL!

As an old geek teaching digital literacy to seniors for free through our nonprofit, my life after succumbing to acute HoH has been helped by none other than … technology. My smartphone, one of the Pixel models from Google, is basically a reference model for smartphones from other brands running the Android hand-held operating system from other brands. Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola license Android, and customize and sell smartphones under their own model names like Galaxy, Velvet, and Moto G respectively.

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Volume 13, Issue 8, Posted 10:39 AM, 04.20.2021

Practice Internet Street Smarts to protect yourself online

During our daily Google Meet session on April 1, I was telling my mom that I woke up to snow that morning. It reminded me of a late snowfall on March 30, 1987. It was sunny when I walked into the Richfield Coliseum for a Bon Jovi concert (yes, my son would say "Bon who?") and I came out to a snowy parking lot. God won April Fools' Day this year … he gets to have all the fun!

I do reminisce about the early-1990s digital world where computer viruses were more about pulling pranks than ill-gotten gains and racketeering. I often talk about Internet Street Smarts and how good "habits'' are important in minimizing the risk of being victimized on the internet, aka the cloud, while reaping the many benefits of the digital world. This is analogous to how we were practicing good habits in 2020 to thwart COVID-19 by staying home for non-essentials, physically distancing, and wearing a mask.

However, unlike the COVID-19 vaccine that will hopefully lead to herd immunity, there is no silver bullet against the nefarious actors of the digital world. Hence the importance of building good habits.

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Volume 13, Issue 7, Posted 10:31 AM, 04.06.2021

Another choice to watch local TV channels

Although still early in the game, year 2021 has been off to a good start and should be a year of healing. I've always been a geek with a "glass half full" mentality. My optimism for 2021 is based on "data" and "trends" found both in the real and digital worlds so my sixth sense can't be that off either!

While the digital world is engulfed in flames, figuratively, from the disclosure of security breaches at an alarming clip, I also continue to discover new digital-world gems. Like the "PressReader" service that our neighborhood libraries added to their digital service offerings recently, which I covered in the last issue, I'm going to introduce you to another beneficial service today.

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Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 10:26 AM, 03.16.2021

Libraries have done it again!

If it was anyone else, phrases like "the smartest card on the planet" or "the smartest card you'll ever own," would sound like an overused marketing pitch by a credit card issuer. However, it wasn't just "anyone" as this was a library proclaiming this on their website and in their mobile app and I couldn't agree more. A library card is the most beneficial card to have while the price of becoming a patron is free!

I fondly recall my wife taking our just celebrated 1-year-old son to storytimes at the different area libraries. Our son is a quintessential "library kid" where the area of the library he visited could easily show his approximate age, just like the etched markings on the inner door frame that parents record their children's growth throughout the years.

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Volume 13, Issue 5, Posted 9:45 AM, 03.02.2021

Tak dreams of ubiquitous communication

On many occasions I've been asked about which app I use for a certain task. I happily share the app I actually use on my Android smartphone. If my favorite app is not available on the iPhone, I consult my wife's iPhone as I manage what is on her smartphone too. My answers, though, do raise an eyebrow when I rattle off more than one app for the task in question. Let me explain ...

Apps for making video calls are a good example. I have no less than five video calling apps installed. Currently, they are Duo and Meet (from Google), Skype and Teams (from Microsoft), and Zoom.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:05 AM, 02.16.2021

Physical distancing but not social distancing

In the real world I continue to physically distance, wear a mask, and use a hand sanitizer every time I get back in the car while running essential errands like grocery shopping or going to the post office. Until COVID-19 is under control, which hopefully will be sometime later this year with the various phases of the vaccination trudging along slowly but surely, we have digital-world tools and services to be thankful for. As I always preach, we have to embrace the 21st century life skill of digital literacy!

Many digital-world tools and services help us accomplish essential tasks and that was even before this pandemic forced us to temporarily coop up at home. (The phrase "coop up" may only apply to me, who has a very small house, LOL.) Other digital-world tools and services are not about accomplishing tasks efficiently but more about new ways of receiving entertainment and life's other pleasures.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:08 AM, 02.02.2021

You are the product

As I pen this column in mid-January, experts are still uncovering the extent of the damage caused by the Solarwinds breach, aka SUNBURST, discovered last December. Solarwinds's tool is used by many businesses and government agencies, thus the implications of this breach can be profound. 

When a breach affects business and/or government systems, ultimately consumers are affected since these organizations hold our PII (Personally Identifiable Information) that, in nefarious actors' possession, can lead to all sorts of trouble. Even on our own devices such as computers, smartphones or tablets, protecting PII is of utmost importance.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 9:56 AM, 01.19.2021

My tech resolution for 2021

I know Hanukkah just started and Christmas is still over a week away but I've been thinking about 2021 often. Perhaps it's the unprecedented year that 2020 turned out to be and the hope of 2021 being better. So today I want to talk about my numero uno tech resolution for 2021.

For most technology related tasks like backing up the data on my computer or keeping the various files on my computer organized, I have a proclivity for well-defined processes. However, such predisposition has evaded my conscience when it comes to the curation of digital photos/videos taken with my digital cameras and smartphones. Simply, I have been importing all the photos/videos I take onto my computer indiscriminately – i.e. the good, the bad and the ugly – and they take residence in my portfolio.

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:51 AM, 12.15.2020

Appropriateness while technology shopping

I've talked before about "appropriateness" when shopping for technology devices. Although price will always be a limiting factor, appropriateness of the device's features should be aligned to how you will use them ... regardless of how big your piggy bank may be.

Here are two examples you may ponder this holiday season:

  • iPhone 12 Pro at $999+ or iPhone SE at $399+?

  • Entry level Windows 10 laptop at $350+ or Chromebook at $150+?

With the iPhone, a smartphone from Apple, for many with typical usage like voice calls, texts, emails, video chats, useful apps, and web surfing, the cost-conscious iPhone SE introduced this spring fits the bill (and saves some bills too). Just because it's cheaper doesn't mean you forgo the Apple premium quality.

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Volume 12, Issue 23, Posted 9:58 AM, 12.01.2020

Keeping tabs on auto-renewals

Several columns ago I talked about the "subscription" option, i.e. leasing, for Microsoft's productivity software suite "Microsoft 365" as opposed to buying "Office" outright. Another example, commercial anti-virus software, operates under a similar principle where they require their users to annually renew (pay) to continue getting the virus signatures to prevent known viruses from infecting your computer or identifying virus infections and eradicating them by using the updated digital antidotes.

I'm confident that many of you are seasoned geeks who can fix different ailments our technology devices succumb to. I also know some friends who opted for computer repair services from office supply stores or big box electronic stores locally. For the latter, many technology services have also adopted the subscription model to sell their preventative services after repair.

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Volume 12, Issue 22, Posted 9:20 AM, 11.17.2020

Digital-world butler to your rescue

I wish I could have a butler who will do all my assigned household chores so I can be a 21st century couch potato. In the real world, I am "Tak who does windows [grudgingly]" but I'm more comfortable cleaning "Windows" in the digital world, i.e. the operating system from Microsoft for the computers.

In the digital world, though, I already have butlers and that probably goes for you too. We don't have to be millionaires and the only requirement is that we own a computer, smartphone, tablet, or any wired or wireless (Wi-Fi) gadget that connects us to the digital world.

The latter is basically an electronic object prefixed with the word "smart," like "Smart TV" or "Smart Speaker." All smart gadgets connect to the internet, aka the cloud, and can be controlled by the owner (Smart Plug for example) or stream content, i.e. TV shows, movies, music, etc. like what Smart TV does for our enjoyment.

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Volume 12, Issue 21, Posted 9:26 AM, 11.03.2020

Building good habits

As a writer, I enjoy discovering the etymology of the words I use in my columns. I enjoy looking up a word's meaning, even simple words such as "habit." After all, I'm a creature of habits.

Managing money wisely is always a good habit to have. Compared to when I was learning to save my allowance or learning to maximize my 401(k) contributions when I started my first job, building good habits have become rather complex nowadays.

In geek-speak and business-speak alike, we oft use the words "attack vector" to describe the different methodology a nefarious actor may use to victimize us out of our money. Although new attack vectors may have sprouted with the consumerization of the internet, aka the cloud, even the nefarious are creatures of habit. The ways in which they try to victimize us is still the same from the pre-internet era.

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Volume 12, Issue 19, Posted 9:48 AM, 10.06.2020