Since social distancing went into effect, our family has eaten every meal at home. One benefit to dining in is that we're saving money. Another is that we're discovering many new recipes. We've also rediscovered some old ones, pulled from cookbooks that fell behind the George Forman Grill back in 1998. Sometimes, however, we still get tired of cooking. Sometimes, we don't have the energy to even boil water. At moments like this, we order out.
Most of our favorite restaurants offer a curbside service, or an easy and safe indoor pickup procedure. Still, if we're feeling sluggish, and can't remember if today is Tuesday or Saturday, we just don't want to go out. (Many high-risk people simply cannot go out.) For these situations, we use a food delivery app.
Three of the more popular and highest rated apps to deliver vittles to our door are:
• Uber Eats
There are quite a few more apps that offer food delivery service, and this isn't really a recommendation as to which is best–just a sample.
All of the apps will work on either iPhones or Androids and are free to download. Once you open the app on your phone, you can set up an account, search to see if the app delivers from your favorite restaurant, and place your order. You can pay securely online with the app, so when your food arrives, the driver can leave it on your front porch. No fuss, no muss, no human contact! (You also have the option to pay in person if you prefer.)
Which of these apps do I use? I've used all three, and maybe even a couple more. Most of them offer free delivery for a trial period. After that, they typically charge you a small service fee and delivery fee. Try a few of them and see which you prefer. In my house, we look up the restaurant that we want to order from, and use the app that they've partnered with.
During those evenings when the Zoom call goes too long, or I've mowed the lawn in a hurry before the thunderstorm hit, it's so worth it to use a food delivery app! It's also a great way to help keep local restaurants in business.
Pro tip: No matter if you're in the free trial or paying in full, don't forget to tip the driver!
With all of us shut in at home and unable to see family, friends, and colleagues, Zoom has become the unofficial video chat app for keeping in touch during the pandemic. We use it in business for meetings. We use it for family "reunions" where any relative across the country can join. Everyone's invited, except Uncle Covid and Aunt Corona. Chances are, you've heard of Zoom. You've probably even used it. But are you using it correctly, or at least getting the most out of your experience? Here are 10 golden nuggets to help you:
1. Host a Meeting: Yes, even you can host a meeting. Signing up for a Zoom account is easy, and there is a free level of membership. Once you have an account, you can schedule your virtual cocktail hour for any day and time. (It's 5:00 somewhere.) Then invite friends via email or send them a calendar invitation.
2. Screen Sharing: The host, and often the guests, of the meeting can share their computer screens to show everyone whatever important information they want: A PowerPoint presentation, pictures of the grandkids, a website, a cat video. You name it!
3. Compatibility: You can use Zoom on any device--Mac, Windows PC, iPhones, Androids, and tablets.
4. Mute Yourself: This one gets into the issue of etiquette. Many users on Zoom don't realize how much background noise gets picked up when they are not muted. Even moving your laptop on your desk creates a loud sound. When you make a sound, your video box gets highlighted on everyone else's screen if it's loud enough. This distracts guests from what the speaker is saying. Unmute yourself when it's your turn to talk.
5. Smile! You're on Candid Camera!: Be sure to look at the camera. You'd be surprised at the number of people who don't realize that everyone is looking into their ear or at their shoes. Think of yourself as being on TV and check the video box you're displayed in to see how you look. If you're having a really bad hair day, you can always turn off your video. Remember, as long as the Zoom meeting is happening, and your video is set to ON, your camera stays on--even if you navigate to a different screen on your computer.
6. Step into the Light: Try to have good lighting directed at your face. You don't want to look like you're in the dark. Sitting with a window behind you can backlight you and make you look like you're in the Witness Protection Program.
7. Facial Expressions: While a step up from an ordinary audio phone call, video chatting still doesn't convey your emotions and demeanor as well as a face-to-face conversation. Even though you're muted, you can wave, give a thumbs up, smile, etc. You can also click on the Reaction Emojis to show how you feel.
8. Chat Feature: This is a great tool if you want to ask a question of everyone, or the host, or a specific user without disrupting the speaker. Important note: your one-on-one chat with your buddy won't be seen by the rest of the users in the Zoom meeting, but it's not private. The host gets a transcript of ALL chat conversations. So don't say anything bad about the boss or Aunt Martha!
9. Zoombombing: Many of us have heard about the security breaches that have happened recently, where nefarious people have crashed a Zoom meeting and displayed rude pictures or messages. You can avoid this by not publicly posting your meeting on social media. Assign a meeting ID and password, and only share it with your invitees. You can also turn on the Waiting Room function that puts users in a virtual "room," and only the host can let them in.
10. More Than You Can Shake a Stick At: There are myriad ways and reasons to use Zoom. My family has used them for work meetings, family get-togethers, attending a Passover seder, and a virtual happy hour. How have you used Zoom? I'd love to hear other ideas. Please let me know by posting in the Comments Section!
I hope you are all healthy and safe. The Coronavirus has put us in a bizarre situation where we need to keep ourselves sequestered from much of the human contact we need and are used to. A lot of our connection with the outside world now is through our technology. And it is times like these where we see just how good our tech is. If anything malfunctions, though, I can't pop on over for a visit. Fortunately, I can still help.
Through the magic of remote access, I can still diagnose and even fix your issues. Sometimes, a simple phone call is all that's necessary. Other times, you and I can use something called "remote desktop access" to solve the problem. This is where you give me permission through a safe, secure 1-time code that allows me to not only see, but also control your computer. (Once the session is over, I can't access your computer until you give me a new permission code.) It works very well and actually costs a bit less than an in-person visit.
If remote access sounds like something that interests you, I encourage you to let me know. Just call me, and we can diagnose the best course of action for your needs–whether for tutoring or for fixing a problem. Heck, call or email me even if you're not having technology issues. I'd love to hear how you're doing regardless!
Just when it seems my laptop and iPhone are running smoothly, I get a notice that there's an operating system update available. (The operating system is what runs our smartphones and computers.) The temptation for me is to ignore it. Why should I take the time to disrupt what I'm doing for something that may end up costing me more time? It can be a hassle if something goes wrong.
Part of me worries that the newest operating system will make my computer or iPhone run more slowly. Or it will be full of bugs. Or it will force my older apps into obsolescence. While these ill effects can happen sometimes, the more rational part of my brain reminds me that, given the right conditions, updates are good. They provide upgraded features, fix existing bugs, and implement security patches to keep my devices safe.
I recently upgraded my eight-year-old MacBook Air to the latest operating system, called Catalina. In general, I keep my apps and operating systems updated to within a couple versions of the most recent. This ensures that those apps are optimized for the operating system and vice versa. It's like going to the gym: I know it's good for me, but there are times I feel it would just be easier to skip it. In the end, though, I go, and I stay in shape. This system of updating has been working for me without issue. Until now.
As I clicked the Install Catalina button on my Mac, up popped a warning that my Microsoft Office programs would no longer work if I continued. It seems that my versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (all part of my MS Office 2008 suite of productivity programs) were too old for this dashing, young Catalina. I left the message staring at me on the screen as I hurried to look up what my options were with using MS Word et al. in the future.
Programs, such as the MS Office Suite, undergo minor version updates. These are free to download. Once in a while, they have major redesigns and are given new names–like MS Office 2008 became MS Office 2016, which later became 2019. These you have to pay for. After a while, enough re-designs have occurred that the oldest ones just no longer work with modern operating systems.
In the end, I decided to proceed with the installation, basically giving up my usage of Microsoft Office for the near future. I only did this because I knew that I could buy MS Office 2019 if I wanted to. In the meantime, though, I'm not sure I need it. I have other productivity programs and apps that I like better. And they're free. But that's a story for another time.
When it comes to major overhauls of operating systems, like going from Mac's Mojave to Catalina, or Windows XP to Windows 10, I like to wait a couple of months before committing to be sure that there aren't any big bugs in the new version that can be more trouble than they're worth. As far as minor updates to operating systems (like Catalina 10.15.2 to Catalina 10.15.3), I generally download these when they're available. These little updates are beneficial adjustments to make your system run more efficiently.
Bottom line, when it comes to deciding whether to update apps and operating systems, in general, I believe it's a good idea. It keeps your system running smoothly and securely. The trick, however, is understanding that it sometimes comes with unintended consequences. Sometimes your latest version app will be too advanced for your operating system, and sometimes your latest operating system will be too advanced for you app. That's why I try to keep them all as current as possible.
Not sure whether to update or not? Contact me. I'll go over your situation and help you decide. Then, we can walk through the process together!
This morning I gave a talk on "Keeping in Touch with the Grandkids" at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at Burns Park. The focus of the program taught grandparents how to use various video chat apps to communicate with their children and grandchildren. This lesson can easily be applied to stay close with any family member or friend.
Let’s face it, we don’t always get to see our family and friends as often as we’d like. Busy schedules and geographical distances can keep us apart. However, recent advancements in video chatting have made it so anyone can see and talk to their loved ones from just about anywhere. There are so many different apps out there, and each one is a little different. Here are a few that I like:
Apple's FaceTime: This is the easiest of them all to use. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It works seamlessly with making and receiving calls on your iPhone, and you don't have to download anything. You can even video chat with multiple people (if your phone is running iOS 12 or later). The only problem with FaceTime is that it only works on Apple products. So no Windows, no Android.
Skype: One of the first on the market to offer video chat. It works across all platforms--iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, etc. I don't, however, find Skype as easy to get set up. First, you need to create a Microsoft account (they own Skype). Then you have to make a Skype username. Anyone you want to contact also has to have a username. And, you need to know their username to ring them up. It's not as simple as calling someone's phone number. Oh, and that person needs to be signed into Skype in order for them to see your call.
WhatsApp: This is the most popular chatting app in the world. It became so common overseas due to the expense of sending text messages in other countries. In the U.S., most of our cellphone plans include texting and sending multimedia. What I really like about WhatsApp, though, is that it's easy to use, and it's ubiquitous overseas--perfect for communicating with friends and family when you're abroad, or they're abroad.
Amazon Alexa: When used in conjunction with an Echo Show, Alexa can become a video chat device. The Show is a small screen (my dad's is 8") that can sit on your shelf or counter. Go to the Alexa app on your phone and use the Drop-In feature to contact another person's Echo Show. The beauty of this product is that the person receiving the call doesn't have to do anything. For people like my dad, who live in assisted living and have trouble working a device like an iPhone or iPad, the Show automatically turns on the call. We dial up my dad and say "Hi." He sees us, and the video chat begins. No fuss, no muss.
Now the question becomes for so many of us, which one is right for me? There are a lot of different video chat apps out there. I've only touched on four. At Keen Focus Technology Tutoring, I help people research which ones are most appropriate. The answer almost always boils down to whichever one your family and friends have, and you find the easiest to use.
I've noticed that most of my clients take a suspicious eye toward emails that don't look right. This is a good thing. When in doubt, delete it. Knowing that people are trying to scam us by sending fraudulent emails can be unsettling. Sometimes, though, it can even make us fearful of using our technology. This is not a good thing. I'm going to attempt to strike a balance between vigilance and paranoia in this article, and tell you how to identify bogus emails known as phishing scams.
Phishing emails are those that use trickery to get us to fork over personal information that allow the bad guys to steal from us. Like the name suggests, phishing requires bait. In the subject line, these emails usually say something is wrong, such as " Your credit card has expired ," or "Your account will be closed." These statements can evoke a response that gets us to bite--to click on that link where we need to enter our credit card or Social Security info to make everything right. Always be suspicious of any email asking you to go to a website to give out any personal information.
That was Lesson #1. If the email asks for personal information, it's likely phishing. In Lesson #2, we'll check the sender's email address as another test. Take a look at this email I recently received:
In this case, my Mail program suspected this was junk and flagged it. But even without this aid, I was first alerted when I saw the subject line reading, "Payment Problem." Next, I took a look at the recipient's email address under "To:." It might be reasonable to think that a large company would use some weird email code to keep from publishing your personal email address. Maybe. So, to be sure, I clicked on the sender's name--Netflix Inc. (See image below.)
When I clicked on it, a window popped up revealing where this email actually came from. That's certainly not a @netflix.com email address!
Lesson #3: Chances are, if you've received a fraudulent email like this, other people have too. These scams often get reported to watchdog groups like Snopes.com. In fact, here is a link to their writeup on fake Netflix emails: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/netflix-users-update-payment/
Lesson #4: If you're still not sure, you can always go to the official Netflix website and contact them through there. (Important: Type the address directly into your browser window. Do not click on any links in the email.)
Being aware of fraudulent emails is a great first step. Knowing how to identify them using several different methods is even better. I don't know if we'll ever be able to get rid of people who try to scam us, but at least we can get rid of the fear they cause us when it comes to using our technology. All it takes is some knowledge in how to identify them to build that confidence.
It's not something we like to talk about, let alone think about. However, we must ask the question: What happens to my Facebook page when I'm gone? Sure, many of us have gone through the painful task of drawing up a will. Many of us have arrangements for our bank accounts, homes, businesses, and pets. But what about our social media accounts? No, Facebook doesn't know when you pass away. Neither do Twitter, Instagram, or other such companies.
When our social media pages outlive us, it can create some sticky situations. Many of us have seen a Facebook page belonging to a deceased friend or loved one. If only someone knew Uncle Joe's password so we could get in and post an announcement, give a tribute, or even close it down. Whatever you'd like to see happen with your pages, you'll need to plan for it.
Fortunately, Facebook has a setting that takes care of this very issue. It's called Memorialization Settings. In this setting, you can designate another person to:
Whatever you decide to do with your accounts, just plan ahead. Most other social media companies have forms for a trusted person to fill out in order to take over. Leaving an account unattended opens it up to unscrupulous people who can use it for their own nefarious reasons.
Yes, even in death, you can still be hacked.
If you own an iPhone from Apple, you may have noticed that there is a new operating system available for the phone. (Apple calls this an "iOS," as opposed to just "OS" for their Mac computers.) The latest is iOS 13, and before you upgrade to it, there are a few things to know first.
Apple touts this iOS as their best yet--and it eventually may be. However, since its launch, users are reporting many bugs. One of the worst quirks is dropping calls. I'm of the generation that bought a phone to use as a phone. You know, to talk to people. If I can't call someone, then the device isn't much use to me.
As a result, Apple is releasing a lot of updates to fix them. The most recent is iOS 13.1.2. While I haven't actually experienced these dropped calls with the upgrade, I have noticed, though, that Apple apps, such as Mail and Photos function a little differently. So there's a small learning curve involved. Some of the changes seem like change for change sake, like when you "flag" an email, the little flag is now on the right-hand side of the message instead of the left--where it's always been. Why? (Maybe some programmer in California needed to make his mark. I dunno.)
I will say, however, that I am LOVING a new feature that sends unknown callers straight to voicemail. I get about 5 robocalls per day that tell me the IRS is coming to arrest me, or that there's something wrong with my student loans. (I didn't know I had any!) So this new fix is a godsend to me. No more stopping what I'm doing to check my phone, only to find out it's some scammer trying to trick me into giving them my social security number.
Overall, I do like most of the upgrades that Apple has made to this operating system. It did take me a little time, though, to notice and figure some of them out, including an enhanced Apple CarPlay screen that surprised me when I plugged it in while driving one day. I was so excited, I had to pull over to explore it, just like any tech geek would do--even if it made him late for the dentist.
For a rundown of all of the new features of iOS 13, click here: https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-13/
Let’s face it, technology is a great thing--when you know how to use it. Many of us want to take part in the digital age, but with rapidly changing tech, it’s hard to keep up. In addition, even if we have no interest in the latest and greatest devices, sometimes we are required to learn new technology.
Don’t believe me? Your boss just told you and your co-workers that you’ll have to keep track of your leads using a new app. Your new Ford Escape comes with a beautiful display screen, but you have no idea how to use the navigation. Or you really would like to make calls while driving, but that would require using Bluetooth and pairing your phone to your car to make it work. Your new TV has a sharp High Definition screen, but the remote has way too many buttons. “I just want to turn it on and watch Dancing With the Stars, dammit!”
Yes, like it or not, we are living in a high tech society. One that requires us to know a few tricks to make our devices work. If any of the above instances sound familiar, you are not alone. Most of us--on at least some level--have struggled to get our WiFi working or our printers to print. My dad is the ultimate Luddite. He always says, "No computer; no viruses!" But even he has an iPhone.
This is where Keen Focus Technology Tutoring comes in. We can come to your home to help. We can take the mystery out of the process. We can even help you enjoy your technology again.
If you are like President Skroob in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (who had his luggage combination set to 12345), I highly suggest you change it. Fast.
According to Ars Technica, Gizmodo, and even the New York Times, 12345 has been in the top 5 of the most commonly used passwords for years. Do you know what's more common than 12345? 123456. Go figure. Other frequently used passwords that folks like to use are "password," "qwerty," "football," and "baseball." I seriously hope I haven't mentioned yours yet. It wouldn't take much for someone to guess these passwords and steal your information.
Even if you have a less common password, here are a few cyber security tips that I tell my technology tutoring clients:
1. Choose passwords that you can remember, but don't make sense to anyone else. Avoid words that are in the dictionary.
2. Add symbols and numbers to your passwords. A random series of letters, numbers, and symbols is usually best.
3. Change your passwords frequently. The longer a password has been in existence, the likelier it is to be hacked.
4. If you have a ton of passwords and can't remember them all, use one of the many apps that specialize in keeping/generating passwords. These apps only make you remember one password to access all of your other passwords.
5. When at a Starbucks or other places with a public wifi, unscrupulous hackers could capture your information if you offer it up freely. There are many ways to protect yourself while using the public wifi, but that's a conversation for another day. In the meantime, here's a basic precaution to take: don't log in to your bank account or other password protected sites on a public wifi.
I am by no means trying to be an alarmist. I also know that most people will read this and think, "Ugh! Why does it have to be so complicated?" It's the world we live in. We need usernames and passwords for just about everything. However, if you start with these 5 basic online security tips, you will be well on your way to enjoying your devices and keeping your information safe.