The Digital World

Finding the best fit: tablet or computer

Last week a friend asked me whether she should get a Mac or Windows computer. She is embracing the digital world for the first time.

As my dear readers know, I advocate “Power of One” devices, such as tablets and smartphones, over traditional computers when the person’s needs are basic. The intuitiveness of these devices can help take down the intimidation barrier that often accompanies traditional computers.

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Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 9:30 AM, 06.21.2016

What are bitcoins?

As of this writing, 1 U.S. dollar gives us 1.31 Canadian dollars or 108.91 Japanese yen; these are examples of currencies in the real world. With technology permeating into every nook and cranny of our lives, it was no surprise when seven years ago the digital world gave birth to its own currency called “cryptocurrency.”

Cryptocurrency may sound intimidating and can easily be perceived as more techno jargon, yet you’ve probably heard references to “bitcoin” in popular media; it is the most well-known digital currency. Today 1 bitcoin gives us 537.86 U.S. dollars.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 9:42 AM, 06.07.2016

Options to ease seniors into digital literacy

In recent issues, we explored the probable consequences stemming from the currently low digital literacy rate among seniors. Although each senior’s personal situation and life challenges are different, such as the benign sounding, yet common mental health symptom of “loneliness” that afflicts many aging-in-place seniors, as well as physical health issues, becoming digitally literate empowers seniors to overcome many of their challenges and enjoy digital world benefits.

I continue to exclude younger generations out of this discussion, as they are mostly well in-tune with the utility of the digital world. But communication requires at least two parties, so the younger generation – such as the seniors' offspring and their grandchildren – play an integral role in promoting digital literacy for seniors.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:41 AM, 05.17.2016

Don't invite a digital con artist into your computer

The digital world is experiencing an upward trend of nefarious activity utilizing malicious software called "ransomware." As the first half of the name implies, ransomware takes your computer's data hostage and demands a ransom in “bitcoins,” an untraceable internet-based payment system. (We’ll demystify bitcoins in a future issue).

Ransomware renders your data unreadable, and thus useless, until you pay the ransom. Non-payment means you lose your data forever (unless you have an uncompromised backup).

Individuals and organizations, including society’s lifeline services such as hospitals and police departments, have fallen victim to ransomware attacks. Numbers reported by the media are probably on the lower estimate as some victims may just pay the ransom and never report it to authorities. NBC News reports that last year more than 2,500 ransomware attacks were reported to the FBI, costing victims $24 million. The amount of reported damages skyrocketed to $209 million in just the first 3 months of this year.

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Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 9:44 AM, 05.03.2016

Advocating for seniors 'aging in place'

Although I do miss my family and wish they were a little bit closer for more frequent weekend visits than what is becoming a biennial pilgrimage home, there’s still no other city I rather call my second home than Cleveland.

Participating in the recent Age-Friendly Cleveland planning summit at the Benjamin Rose conference center in Cleveland, where the task at hand was to collaboratively “develop a broad set of potential strategies … to help Cleveland become a premier age-friendly city,” reminded me of my aging-in-place parents in Japan.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 9:44 AM, 04.19.2016

Digital literacy is a necessary life skill

First in a series on digital literacy and the senior population

If you thought this article was going to be about electronic books, aka eBooks, I don’t blame you.

However “digital literacy” is about being able to use digital-world tools such as computers, tablets or smartphones to consume information, receive products and services while connected to the internet (yes, an eBook is one of those products delivered in the digital world).

Five “real world” years ago, which is like a fraction of a year in the digital world (akin to human vs. dog years), many aging baby boomer friends and acquaintances waved me off at the suggestion of becoming digitally literate. Their reasons mostly centered around “not necessary” and “too complex,” with “never again!” being the unanimous parting shot reflecting their frustrating experience of trying to embrace the digital world in the first place.

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Volume 8, Issue 7, Posted 10:02 AM, 04.05.2016

Scott Kelly's use of digital tools is out of this world

When I was growing up in Japan, I wanted to be an astronaut. That's probably nothing special as kids the world over must dream of being an astronaut when they grow up. Although multiple decades ago, I still can recall how obsessed I was with the idea. From my drawings to using big empty boxes from my dad’s shop strung together to look like a rocket lying horizontally on the ground, I could almost taste that cardboard cylinder rocket taking me into space.

As I mined my archived childhood memories, I do remember a distinctive “feature” all the rockets in my drawings had: mostly white from top to bottom, with black square patches strategically placed throughout. Yes, the telltale sign of the rockets from the mighty NASA Apollo program.

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 9:59 AM, 03.15.2016

'Going paperless' becoming the new norm

One recent February night, the unusually strong winds kept me hopelessly awake. Perhaps I was thinking too much about my next column, or I was just envious of my wife snoring loudly only inches away from me, as I had a flashback.

It was about a particularly memorable conversation I had in 2012 with a despondent senior who attended a presentation I was giving.

During the post-presentation Q&A, as I was enumerating the advantages of buying Google’s Nexus tablet over Samsung’s Galaxy tablet, my wife interrupted me and said “Honey, you have to talk to that lady NOW … she is in tears!”

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Volume 8, Issue 5, Posted 9:27 AM, 03.01.2016

Taking the 'why' out of Wi-Fi

My wife recently had lunch with a staffer from Cleveland's Department of Aging at Ticket to Tokyo, a lunch-only eatery on Public Square that I discovered three decades ago when I was a homesick student fresh off the trans-Pacific flight to attend CSU. Of the many things they discussed over tempura and rice, digital illiteracy of some seniors was a hot topic of discussion. She learned that some seniors didn’t understand how Wi-Fi and tablet usage went hand-in-hand.

As an advocate for seniors to embrace the digital world, demystifying Wi-Fi seemed like a great topic for this issue. And rather than going over technical jargon related to Wi-Fi, we will go over the more popularized usage of the term "Wi-Fi" instead.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 9:28 AM, 02.16.2016

Digital world benefits right under your nose

From time to time, I write about the bountiful benefits we can harvest by embracing the digital world. One of my favorite sayings is how technology is in every nook and cranny of our lives, which is an increasingly true statement.

Ever since the internet became widely available, traditional institutions and businesses that thrived in the real world started to embrace the digital world. That, from a simpleton viewpoint, benefits consumers.

One such institution that continues to embrace the deepening convergence of the real and digital worlds are the libraries. The digital benefits offered to library patrons, both directly and indirectly, are staggering and complement the library's traditional benefits.

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Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 9:47 AM, 02.02.2016

Time to upgrade from Windows 8

Windows XP’s tombstone says that it had almost a 14-year lifespan when Microsoft finally pulled the plug on it in early 2014. Compare that to the modern-day “black sheep” of the Windows family, Windows 8, which Microsoft just whacked earlier this month. It is recommended that all computers running Windows 8 upgrade their software to Windows 8.1 or higher.

Most users who upgraded their older system to Windows 8 or bought a computer that came with Windows 8 (approximately between late 2012 to late 2013), and follow the automatic Windows Update process monthly should have been upgraded to Windows 8.1 before Microsoft discontinued Windows 8 on Jan. 12, 2016. You will continue to receive software updates until 2023. (FYI, Windows 7 will continue to receive security updates until early 2020.)

If, on the other hand, you explicitly declined upgrading to Windows 8.1 and/or declined all automatic Windows Updates month after month, there is a good chance you are running Windows 8. You will not receive updates any longer, which is a risky situation.

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Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 9:54 AM, 01.19.2016

Simplify to embrace new technology

If you made a New Year’s resolution to get your first tablet in 2016, or upgrade your beloved flip phone to a smartphone, or received one as a holiday gift from your well-meaning family member, you will be pleasantly surprised at what the digital world has to offer. As discussed in the last WBVO issue of 2015, these tablets and smartphones, what I call "Power of One" devices, are more intuitive to use compared to the traditional computer.

Still, for the uninitiated that first step can be intimidating as many manufacturers and purveyors of services based in the digital world still seem to assume a certain level of digital literacy by their users. This may be fine for those that have been exposed to technology and the internet, but for first-time users it can add to the perceived complexity even when using intuitive Power of One devices.

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Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 9:52 AM, 01.05.2016

Gifting the 'Power of One'

Recently I talked to a group of seniors at the Westlake Center for Community Services. Our conversation was on Facebook and how it, and other services based in the digital world, can help people of all ages.

This group consisted of seniors already using some sort of technology, like a traditional computer, and seniors on-the-fence in adopting technology. Gauging from the questions coming at me, everyone was chomping at the bit to learn more!

It wasn’t like that when I started visiting area libraries, senior centers and senior communities almost four years ago. Back then technology was something seniors could ignore and not embrace. Seeing the senior demographic becoming more curious about the benefits offered by the digital world and open to the idea of embracing technology is promising since even senior services are starting to have their footprint in the digital world. And like a broken record: technology is in every nook and cranny of our lives, so let's benefit from it!

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Volume 7, Issue 24, Posted 9:42 AM, 12.15.2015

Read search results before clicking

If I had my druthers, a long-running topic of debate would focus on whether the effects of executing “just Google it” is beneficial or detrimental to our cognition. Just like how coffee/caffeine used to be considered good for you, then bad and then good again recently.

Thus I make my own judgment calls and practice accordingly. For example we continue to teach our son to use a traditional dictionary, instead of Googling a word he doesn’t know. I admit, it is easier to type or dictate a question into the browser and out come the answers ranked in relevance to the question.

Just like anything else the digital world has to offer, we need to be vigilant and practice good usage habits – akin to street smarts – before clicking on a search engine result. Failure to do so increases the chance of becoming a victim in the digital world that has real-world consequences (such as robbing your hard-earned cash).

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Volume 7, Issue 23, Posted 9:46 AM, 12.01.2015

Save money by bringing your own modem

Does the prospect of saving upwards of $10 a month, or $120 a year, perk up your ears? If you subscribe to high-speed internet service, aka broadband internet, through a cable TV company, your first step to potential savings of similar amounts is to look for line item that says something like “modem lease” in your monthly invoice.

Broadband internet can be thought of as another utility line coming into your house (just like electricity, water or natural gas). Taking water as an example, imagine a “shutoff valve” at the point where the water main comes into the house.

When you subscribe to high-speed internet service from a cable TV operator, your modem is akin to that shutoff valve. In an ode to former Vice President Al Gore who coined the term “information superhighway,” aka the internet, a modem is your on-ramp to the internet.

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Volume 7, Issue 22, Posted 9:07 AM, 11.17.2015

Smart facts about smartphone shopping

New or used? Buy or lease? You may think that I’m talking about cars and in most cases you'd be right. However, those same questions, and more, can apply to smartphone shopping.

I recently replaced my smartphone, which was just couple months shy of 3 years old but due to technology’s built-in obsolescence was becoming long in the tooth. I asked myself similar questions and did my homework before setting foot in a store.

The myriad options you are faced with when you walk into a store can be daunting, and outright intimidating, so doing your homework is a good way to prepare. Here are some of the things you want to think about before going shopping.

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Volume 7, Issue 21, Posted 10:02 AM, 11.03.2015

A looking glass into the digital world

You may recall the WBVO issue where I compared smartphones to chameleons, saying, “I consider smartphones to be the 'chameleons of the digital world' because their utility can be adapted for any situation, much as a chameleon changes colors to blend with its environment.”

While helping my friend pick a replacement mobile phone recently, that chameleon analogy was not working for him. Thinking on my feet as he complained about the lack of flip phone choices, I explained to him that smartphones are like Swiss Army knives, with “apps” being analogous to the various tools a Swiss Army knife holds … that was an analogy he understood right away (maybe being a Boy Scout five decades ago helped him too).

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 10:00 AM, 10.20.2015

My email pet peeve

Let’s face it. Even with all the various communication tools the internet has given birth to, email is going to be around for a long time. After all, mankind has been writing letters for a long time and we still do even with the advent of email two dozen years ago.

The utility of writing letters remain the same, whether in the real world with pen and paper or in the digital world through email, which is to convey a message.

Personally, I still prefer certain kinds of messages, like cards and love notes, on paper rather than an email. The card my wife hands to me on Valentine's Day, or the Father’s Day card my son crafts, have an inexplicable power to stir up emotions that electronic communications can't match.

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 8:42 AM, 10.06.2015

Keeping up with family and friends

Are you getting tired of people asking, “Are you on Facebook?” every time you go out? You might as well get used to it!

If you haven’t embraced social networking, such as Facebook, as one of your communication mediums to stay “connected” with family and friends, you may be in the minority. In 2014, Pew Research Center said 87 percent of our adult population use the internet. Of those online adults, 89 percent of ages 18 to 29, 82 percent of ages 30 to 49, 65 percent of ages 50 to 64, and 49 percent of ages 65+ use social networking.

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Volume 7, Issue 18, Posted 8:58 AM, 09.15.2015

Is Windows 10 Microsoft's redemption?

If you use Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, and your computer is receiving Windows Updates monthly like clockwork, you may have noticed a new icon in your System Tray. This icon is a reminder of your eligibility to upgrade to Windows 10 for free if you upgrade within the first year of Windows 10’s availability; users of pre-Windows 7 versions and/or users upgrading after the first year will pay $99 to $199.

For budding Windows computer users, the “System Tray” is where the current date and time are shown, flanked with small icons representing system functions such as the speaker, wired networking (or bars showing wireless networking strength), or battery gauge if it is a laptop computer.

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Volume 7, Issue 17, Posted 8:46 AM, 09.01.2015

Be inquisitive before back-to-school tech shopping

I love the movie "Groundhog Day" where actor Bill Murray, playing a weatherman named Phil, eventually realizes that he is living the same day over and over again. It feels like just yesterday that my wife and I survived the back-to-school gauntlet of getting our son ready for another school year!

Whether you are a proud parent sending your child off to college or your child is starting as high school freshman this fall, tools entrenched in the digital world are increasingly on our back-to-school shopping list.

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Volume 7, Issue 16, Posted 9:36 AM, 08.18.2015

Reducing risk of being victimized by 'Stagefright'

Tak is on vacation this week, so it's time to open the mailbag. Please look for his latest article in the next issue!

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DIGITAL WORLD

I saw a news segment on TV about a virus that can affect hundreds of millions of smartphones in use today. They mentioned Google’s Android but not the iPhone. I use a smartphone but it is not an iPhone. Do I have to be concerned?

I was about to hit the door but vacation can wait as it is a staycation in our backyard paradise!

Before I address your question, I need to demystify smartphone operating systems. An operating system, “OS” for short, is the software that manages the hardware and the apps. It is analogous to your brain that gives the signal to, for example, to raise your right hand when you want to.

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Volume 7, Issue 15, Posted 9:42 AM, 08.04.2015

Wearable technology for all

You may have heard the term “wearables,” whose etymology can be traced back to the earlier efforts of bringing the processing power of a desktop computer to something you can wear.

In the early days of wearable technology, I had my share of people telling me “you look funny with that hideous thing on your arm/head/chest.” Maybe I was lacking fashion sense, which to this day my wife agrees, or since 0’s and 1’s run through my veins I felt nothing was wrong with my fashion statement.

Admittedly, early incarnations of wearable computers did have clumsy form factors on top of being difficult and frustrating to operate, rendering the efficacy of such device questionable.

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Volume 7, Issue 14, Posted 9:13 AM, 07.21.2015

Thanks for the memories, Vincent!

My wife tells me not to go grocery shopping when I’m hungry. Hate to admit it but it’s not a typical old wives tale either because I am drawn to the junk food aisle when I’m hungry! I wonder if my uber WBVO editor will advise me not to pen an article when my emotions are running high … I guess I'll find out!

Recently our dog, Vincent, a 15-and-a-half-year-old mix of Rhodesian Ridgeback and German Shepherd, went to heaven. To honor his memory my wife decided to make a scrapbook.

In the old days it was just a matter of going through a shoebox full of photos to pick the pictures to use in the scrapbook. But when we got Vincent from the Lorain Animal Protection League, digital cameras were starting to replace our 35mm film-based cameras. I remember our first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 800, very fondly. It took great pictures and handled action sequences decently too. I have many shots from when our neighbor, a retired teacher, taught Vincent how to catch a Frisbee early on.

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Volume 7, Issue 13, Posted 9:56 AM, 07.07.2015

Internet Street Smarts: Minimize email hacking with two-step verification

Don’t be intimidated by the title of this article!

Enabling two-step verification, also referred to as two-factor authentication, when offered as an option by your email service provider and increasingly at other digital-world-based services, can decrease the likelihood of nefarious entities being able to use your stolen credentials.

Analogous to how you are asked to provide two pieces of identification while queuing up at the TSA checkpoint before proceeding to your flight’s boarding gate, after enabling two-step authentication you will first be asked to type in your password when accessing your email account but password alone will not get you to your inbox.

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Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 9:28 AM, 06.16.2015

Broken TV gives chance to try new streaming service

As we near the halfway point of 2015 we continue to see new threats emerging in the digital world. To provide you with valuable tips, the Internet Street Smarts series will continue to be interspersed between issues.

Threats aside, there are countless benefits that can be reaped from utilizing digital world tools. As discussed earlier this spring, one of them is what is known as “cutting the cord.” Simply put it often refers to getting live TV programming through the internet instead of the traditional duopoly of cable TV or satellite services.

I had an opportunity recently to test out the SlingTV service from Dish Network. Although Dish Network, like its main competitor DirecTV, delivers TV programming via satellite, SlingTV is a streaming service that delivers programming through the internet. Streaming live TV programming is a nascent industry so the landscape is changing almost daily to give consumers more options.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 9:23 AM, 06.02.2015

Internet Street Smarts Tip: Browsing secure websites

Growing up in Japan I really enjoyed being a Boy Scout. To this day there are skills I acquired during my scouting years that I still use. Although this is not one of those skills, learning how to encode messages so only my friends and I could decipher and read them made us giddy.

Throughout history, from military adaptation of the Enigma machine to send coded messages to the frontlines, to the current day application in the digital world, use of encryption continues to be critical in guarding secrets and protecting individual privacy.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 9:37 AM, 05.19.2015

Internet Street Smarts Tip: Always fly with your wingman

In military aviation, specifically in relation to combat fighter pilot theory, a “wingman” protects the pilot of the lead plane, while in formation/pair flight, from adversaries. Although a simplification, a fighter pilot’s blind spot is their rear position of the plane, aka the six o’clock position in military parlance, and phrases such as “watch my six” have become common even in non-military popular culture.

Using this analogy within the context of building Internet Street Smarts you, too, have one or more wingmen as you fly through the digital world. These wingmen come in the form of software applications, software upgrades and frequent security updates from operating system vendors, to name a few. But why are wingmen even necessary in the digital world?

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 9:13 AM, 05.05.2015

Internet Street Smarts Tip: Use 'real world' common sense

First in a series of short tips on internet safety.

Although the lines are blurring rapidly, we live in a duality of worlds. One is the "real world" that we are born into; another is the "digital world" that augments and increasingly affects the very fabric of our culture.

Growing up in Japan I didn’t go through a formal municipality-sponsored training like Safety Town yet I wouldn’t doubt that every culture introduces street smarts as part of early childhood education. I do recall the constant stream of reminders from my parents and teachers on topics such as not going with strangers.

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 9:33 AM, 04.21.2015

Act II: The method and madness of 'cutting the cord'

Part two of a two-part series

In the first installment of the series about "cutting the cable cord," I explained that considerations did not require, or hinge on, your internet connection. However, an internet connection, which I often compare to public utility lines coming into your home, is required for the considerations we explore today.

Know your TV viewing habits

Due to the nascent, but very rapidly evolving, landscape of streaming live TV programming through the internet, many channels are still not available as of today. Making a list of the channels you currently enjoy watching regularly may help you make honest assessments as to which channels you must have versus those you can live without when weighed against other parameters such as monthly entertainment cost savings.

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Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 10:00 AM, 04.07.2015

Act I: To cut or not to cut, that is the question

Part one of a two-part series

“Cutting the cord” has been in the public's conscience, perhaps mainly due to rising cost of "infotainment" and how the internet has changed the meaning of being informed/entertained. Saving money was my primary motive when I cut the cable cord some time ago. I have never looked back!

I thought it would take a little longer before cable's crown jewels such as ESPN and HBO became truly available through the internet in an a la carte fashion. Just look at how rocky the road was for the music industry to accept digital music.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 9:44 AM, 03.17.2015

Old habits die hard

Has this happened to you? My credit card was compromised twice in a year and each time the issuer reversed the charges, canceled the card and overnighted me a new card.

Currently the media is ablaze with reports on the recent personal information heist from Anthem. The health insurer launched a website, anthemfacts.com, to help impacted customers, including fraud protection tips and sign-up information for complimentary credit monitoring. Unlike a compromised credit card we can't simply issue a new birth date or Social Security number, so this Anthem compromise, to me, was a watershed moment that made me cringe.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 9:31 AM, 03.03.2015

Gut instincts in the digital world

Are you handy with fixing things around your house related to electrical, plumbing or even technology? As a self-proclaimed geek, I can only say yes to the last item. If you are intimidated by technology, I am equally intimidated by the idea of trying to fix an electrical or plumbing issue around our house.

Granted, things have gotten better because instructional videos, from how to fix a washing machine to changing a lighting fixture, can be found in the digital world. But sometimes even a detailed video from YouTube doesn’t solve my emergency. For those times I rely on the product’s or service’s support department to get me out of a crunch.

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Volume 7, Issue 4, Posted 9:05 AM, 02.17.2015

What's on your mind?

When it comes to understanding technology, some questions never get old. Although a little early for spring cleaning, we are cleaning out our mailbag today. Please keep those questions coming as I will try to answer you directly or in this column!

What’s the difference between "virus" and "malware"?
Although some people keep the two separate, I like to think of “virus” as a subset of the umbrella term “malware.” The word malware is short for "malicious software” … and a virus certainly falls under that category. They are both something you want to avoid becoming infected with. So practicing good computer usage habits while keeping anti-virus and anti-malware software up-to-date is recommended.

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Volume 7, Issue 3, Posted 9:36 AM, 02.03.2015

You don't have to be a geek

My primary care physician called me as soon as an email notification arrived with my electronic health record. She said my recent blood work didn’t show RBC or WBC counts; only a note saying that I had too many 0’s and 1’s (aka language of computers) running in my veins. Then I woke up – whew, it was just a dream! Note to self: do not read fan mail before going to bed as the last one questioned me if I follow what I preach!

Yes, I do “talk the talk and walk the walk.” I also “talk the walk” as I learn something new everyday. How’s that for a mouthful? Anyway, I thought it would be fun to take a look at how yours truly uses his digital world tools.

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Volume 7, Issue 2, Posted 9:49 AM, 01.20.2015

Adopting new technology in 2015

As we enjoyed the 2014 holiday season with family and friends, there was yet another end-of-year media frenzy when a major Hollywood movie studio’s operations were brought to its knees due to a security breach; updates to our popular topic of staying safer in the digital world will be forthcoming in the future!

This time of the year is also when traditional media (in the real world) and, increasingly, social media (in the digital world) are ablaze with New Year’s resolution do's and don’ts. I, too, picked up motivational tips from experts on fitness, weight loss and nutrition to maximize the success in converting my New Year’s resolution into a sustainable lifestyle to control my diabetes.

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 9:44 AM, 01.06.2015

If it is too good to be true ...

Coming home after meeting fellow WBVO columnist RJ Johnson (he pens the “Family Observations” column) over caffeine-infused geek talk, I made a beeline to my mailbox in front of the house as I was expecting a book for the long Thanksgiving weekend starting the following day.

Flipping through the stack of letters, I noticed an airmail addressed to me. It was posted through “Royal Mail” which I guessed was England’s equivalent of our United States Postal Service but who did I know in the UK? As they say, “curiosity killed the cat” and this cat, yours truly, couldn’t wait to find out ...

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Volume 6, Issue 25, Posted 9:34 AM, 12.09.2014

Tech deals not limited to Black Friday

Being bilingual and bicultural I tend to get curious about many things that I didn’t grow up with in Japan. Although “etymology” refers to what a certain word may have meant hundreds or thousands of years ago, for me it might as well apply to culturally unique events unilaterally.

For example I never knew that the phrase “Black Friday” dates back to pre-1961, was used to describe the downtown streetscape of Friday after Thanksgiving in Philadelphia circa 1975, and eventually spawned the current usage where it marks the beginning of a profitable month for the retailers to end the year.

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Volume 6, Issue 24, Posted 9:26 AM, 11.25.2014

Moshi moshi, this is VoIP calling

Is the above title Greek to you? No, my uber WBVO editor was not sleeping on the job when I slipped in a gibberish title! The phrase “Moshi moshi” is how the Japanese answer a telephone call and it roughly equates to “Hello” in English. Wouldn’t this be a good question for my favorite TV quiz show, "Jeopardy"? Who knows Alex Trebek’s phone number?

Speaking of phone numbers ... “To VoIP, or not to VoIP, that is the question” is repeated often these days. It may not be important to understand the whole inner workings of VoIP, which stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol,” as it can become too geeky. So here’s the crib sheet on what may matter to consumers:

  1. VoIP saves money by putting calls through the internet.

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Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 9:46 AM, 11.11.2014

Just like gas or electric, internet is another utility

As an Ohioan you probably know that Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, or PUCO for short, publishes a guideline, including an interactive website, where you can shop around for natural gas and/or electric energy suppliers.

Using the analogy of natural gas, electricity and water lines coming into your house, the internet is just another utility line coming into your house to enable you to access the digital world. Just like your electricity line connects to the public electricity grid to power your house, your internet (or often referred to as “broadband”) line connects to the internet – aka the cloud. Traditionally internet services were, and still are for the most part, provided through the same physical line as your cable TV or telephone – “cable internet” and “DSL” respectively.

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Volume 6, Issue 22, Posted 9:37 AM, 10.28.2014