New apps to help you learn something or get fit while in quarantine

Well, it has been well over a month since we were all ordered to “shelter-in-place” and I bet you are a bit bored. You are most likely also spending a lot more time using your phone, tablet, computers, and TVs than you are used to.

Here are a few new apps that can help distract you during this difficult time. A lot of people have found comfort in cooking, reading, exercising, and much more while we all hunker down at home and wait to reemerge into a (hopefully) COVID-19 free world.

LEARN TO COOK

The Project Foodie: Guided Cooking app will help you learn to be a better home cook. Recipes are demonstrated by professional chefs and are broken into steps.

LEARN SOMETHING ELSE

The EdX app offers hundreds of classes on just about any topic that you can think of. The classes have been compiled from some of the world’s best institutions including Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Tsinghua, The Smithsonian, and more. Learn to code, learn about history, learn about the universe, and so much more!

LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE

Duolingo is a free to try language learning app that is structured more like a game than a class. It is very image heavy, fast-paced, and incentivizes you to keep going with small inconsequential rewards. On top of actual languages they have fictional ones like Star Trek’s Klingon and Game of Thrones’ High Valyrian.

GET FIT

Aaptiv is an audio app designed to get you moving. Just turn it on, listen, and workout. The Runkeeper app tracks when you run to help you measure your progress.

LEARN MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS

This meditation app is a free mindfulness, meditation, and compassion building tool for all ages. It is designed to ease your mind from the moment you open the app. The app gives you a self-evaluation and then analyzes your current state to give you a personalized experience. The sessions include things like guided breathing, brief meditations, or even calming compilations of cat videos (if you are lucky).

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS

The Nextdoor app connects you with neighbors in your specific neighborhood. This is a good place to swap stories, trade items you need, and help keep an eye on each other from afar.

CONNECT WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Always remember that connecting with others helps boost your overall mood. We are human and we need one another. Use apps like FaceTime and Skype to have a quick video call.

We are truly in unprecedented times but we will get through this together. Stay safe, stay sane, learn something new if you have the time, and make sure to check in on others… from the safety of your home, of course.

Need a hand or have a question? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tips to help during the COVID-19 Pandemic

covid-19 pandemic

The current COVID-19 pandemic is changing how our world works, educates, and socializes. We are all learning how to keep healthy, sane, and connected to each other during this difficult time. To that end, this month I won’t be writing about technology so much as sending out a few tips to help you keep connected and safe right now.

Get Out:

With stress and anxiety at an all time high, a dose of fresh air and sunshine can go a long way! Make sure to get out and get some sun every day. Simple short walks around the block can help you feel rejuvenated and generally happier.

Connect:

Just because we all need to stay at home and away from others right now doesn’t mean that we cannot connect with each other. How can this be done?

-Social media – If you don’t have any social accounts, now is a good time to set one up. Contact your loved ones and see which they are active on and create one yourself.

-Email – Take a few minutes to write short notes to friends and family to say hello, touch base, and even request assistance if you need it.

-Phone – Give people a call!

-Text – Same with calls and emails, texting is a great way to keep in touch with quick statements.

-Video – Now is a great time to learn to use Skype or Facetime to chat with loved ones and actually be able to see them.

Order Online:

-Lots of small businesses are going to need your support through this pandemic if they are to survive. Most of us eat out at least once a week but currently we cannot go to restaurants, consider ordering take out or delivery from your favorite local places.

-Most grocery stores offer delivery or pick-up services for orders.  

-Other places like Amazon, Costco, Target, Walmart, etc are still shipping orders from their warehouses – if you need toiletries or other items consider ordering instead of heading into a physical store.

A few general health tips:

-Stay home as much as possible.

-Call your doctor if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, or shortness of breath) and/or a temperature above 100.4 F. 

-Shield all coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow, or your shoulder (not your hands).

-Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you cannot wash, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Let’s all remember to be considerate of other people and help slow the spread of this awful virus. Our best course of action is to slow how quickly the virus spreads by staying home and away from others. You can review the CDC’s guidance for more information on how you can do your part.

We are all in this together. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy and remain that way. If we can help please let us know.

Cheap Cables – A Warning

charging cables

Did you know that the dollar store charging cable you bought and use on your devices just might be choking your tech to death? Did you know that recently there has been a huge influx of weaponized cables that can harm you as well as your device?

This is what is called Supply Chain Poisoning and it is kind of a big deal.

Cables are being sold right now with hidden malicious modifications that damage your devices and even steal data from your device and/or computer while you are charging it. Criminals have even found ways to embed small wireless transmitters right inside those skinny little cables.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself and your tech:

  • Buy only OEM cables from reputable dealers*
  • Charge your phone in a wall outlet – not connected to your computers’ USB port
  • Buy a USB protection adapter that blocks the data pins
  • Inspect any new cables for noticeable tampering

*Reputable dealers include stores like the Apple Store, Samsung’s online store, and Telco stores. Places like Amazon, WalMart, or your local Dollar Stores are not reputable dealers.

I know that OEM cables can be pricey but they are worth it. Don’t be caught with your cheap cable not only charging your phone… but also charging your credit card or stealing your identity!

Keep Your Smart Assistant Voice Recordings Private – How To Opt-Out

We all love our voice-activated helpers… on our phones or in our homes… but did you know that they record everything you say? Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant devices all have ways for you to opt out of recording and human transcription… but you have to actually opt out on your own. Do it!

I am sure that by now you have read at least one article full of revelations and apologies from literally all of the major smart assistant makers on how they handle the audio snippets that their devices record. Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana were all using third-party contractors to transcribe all of the recorded audio from the devices. However, the backlash over the lack of transparency kick started quite a lot of new customer controls.

If you haven’t done so before, now is the time to take stock of how you have things set up on whatever platform you have chosen to use. Each service has its own mix of options and controls. So, here is how to stop Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana from recording and keeping your voice data… and once you are done, tell a friend or two to do the same.

Siri

To opt-out on Siri : Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvements > Improve Siri & Dictation and toggle the switch off.

If you previously has this enabled, you will need to delete all the audio Apple has collected from you. To do that, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History > Delete Siri & Dictation History to wipe everything clean.

Alexa

Amazon was the first smart assistant company to centralize and expand its user controls for voice recording retention, but it mainly due to massive public backlash.

You can review the voice recordings Amazon has stored for your account by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy in the Alexa app or through Amazon’s website. There you can delete entries one by one, by date range, by device, or everything. You can also delete recordings by device on the Manage Your Content and Devices page. You can delete voice recordings directly through the smart assistant device by saying things such as “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today”… but you will need to turn on that feature. To turn that on in the Alexa app or Amazon’s website go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History.

To opt out of sending your Alexa recordings to Amazon, go to your Alexa Account in the Alexa app then Alexa Privacy > Manage how your data improves Alexa and turn off Help Develop New Features and Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions.

Google Assistant

Google offers a number of ways to stop audio retention or to delete your recordings. This page lays out the different ways you can choose from to delete or opt out in a desktop browser, on Android, or on iOS. To delete recording on desktop, open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then Manage Activity. Here you can scroll through the list of entries—those with an audio icon next to them include a recording and you can delete individual items one at a time. Or on this same page click the More menu in the upper right, choose Delete activity by and under Delete by date select All time. Then at the bottom choose Delete.

To opt out of letting Google collect recordings in the first place open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then make sure the box next to Include voice and audio recordings is unchecked.

Cortana

To manage or delete your audio recordings of interactions with Cortana, make sure you’re logged into your Microsoft account and then go to Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard.

Regardless of which platform you use keep in mind that these expanded controls, while positive and necessary, don’t change the fundamental concept of smart assistants. These services run on devices that contain a microphone, and can be woken up to “hear” things you’re saying and process them on a random faraway server. As with any internet-enabled technology—but particularly one that involves a potentially live mic—there are always going to be privacy considerations no matter how much control you have.

If these devices are a helpful and delightful force in your life, that’s fine! Just take steps to protect your privacy.

Microsoft support for Windows 7 is nearing the end!

windows OS

Can you believe that Windows 7 is 10 years old? Some time ago Microsoft announced that support for Windows 7 will come to an end on January 14, 2020.

So, what does “end of support” really mean?

On January 14, 2020, and going forward, your computer will still function but Microsoft will no longer provide the following for your operating system:

  • Technical support
  • Software updates
  • Security updates or fixes

Can you still use your computer?

Technically yes. You could continue to use your PC running Windows 7 however, without continued software and security updates it will be at great risk of hacking, viruses, and malware.

What should you do?

Well, it is once again time for an operating system upgrade. You will need to migrate over to Windows 10 as soon as you can.

Do you need a new computer?

That depends. Some older systems can handle the new operating system and some will not be able to.

Have questions? Need a hand? TeCHS can help! Contact us for an appointment today.

Start 2020 Right! Technology Tips for the New Year

happy new year 2020

2020 is just around the corner and now is the time to prepare all of your tech, your business, your marketing, and yourself for the coming year. Here are a few helpful tips in all 4 areas.

1.) For Your New Tech

Setting up a new device

Fully charge your new device before you begin setup or use. If the device requires an account (Apple ID, Google, Microsoft, Amazon account, etc.) you should login (or recover) any existing accounts that you have. If you wish to set up a new account for your device, be sure to document the email address and password/pin numbers used to create the account. Always add security questions, or 2-factor authentication, as well as a valid alternative contact method (email or phone number). Once your device setup has been completed you should connect your device to your wireless network (if applicable) and perform any system updates by accessing the settings from your device menu.

Protecting your device

Electronics are expensive, and accidents happen. Invest in a high-quality case as well as a good screen protector. If you feel you are very accident prone, consider adding device protection offered by your provider.

Maintaining your device

To keep your new device running at peak performance take some time to regularly uninstall unused apps, disable unneeded notifications, and restart your device regularly. You also need to periodically physically clean the entire device with a soft non-abrasive cloth. When charging the device – never leave it on a charger overnight. This will cause damage to the battery and shorten its lifespan.

2.) For your Business

The start of a new year is an exciting and challenging time for businesses. It is a great time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t over the previous twelve months. It is also an excellent time to take stock and evaluate what your business needs to go forward.

Is Your Hardware Still Up to The Task?

If your computers and peripherals are over 2 years old it is well past time for a hardware upgrade. Newer hardware isn’t only safer to use, it is faster, and is capable of holding more data. Today’s computing demands asks a lot of our hardware and older hardware simply isn’t up to the task. Take time to review your IT demands to ensure there are no bottlenecks in your productivity pipeline.

Is Your Backup Reliable and Working?

Every business needs reliable backups for their data. It doesn’t matter if you simply transfer files manually to an external hard drive or USB storage device, copy documents over to a local server, or save all of your media to the cloud, you need to have a system in place that is performed on a regular basis. You don’t want to find out that your backups haven’t been going on when you need them the most.

Is Your Compliance Up to Date?

Nearly every business has compliance and regulations standards that it must adhere to if it is to keep its position in the marketplace. These may be industry specific (such as medical or automotive certifications), or regional protections (such as data protection regulations). Compliance regulations tend to change regularly. Make sure that yours are up-to-date.

3.) For Your Business Marketing

Is your website ready for 2020?

Website trends are constantly changing and your site needs to change with them. Much like your hardware, if your website’s look and feel hasn’t been updated in the past 2 years it is well overdue for a facelift. Web technology, consumer expectations, search engine optimization rules, and more change dramatically from month to month. If you don’t keep up you will be left behind by your competitors that do.  

Social Media Channels

Is social media part of your marketing strategy? If it isn’t, it sure should be! You need to be where your potential customers are and they are all over social media. Take the time to put together an engaging strategy for 2020 that includes posting on a very regular basis.

Marketing Materials

Do your marketing materials still reflect the right message for your brand? When was the last time they had a re-design of their overall look and feel? All of the materials about your business that your prospective customers see need to stay on top of current visual trends in order to be noticed.

4.) For Yourself

A new year can be a bit daunting but never forget that you need to take time to work on yourself as well. We aren’t talking about New Year’s resolutions that everyone forgets about come February. I mean the small things every single day that make your day better, your life better, and the lives of those around you better. Keep the playful kid inside of you alive and enojoy every day that you can. Life is short. Enjoy!

… and Happy New Year!

May 2020 bring the everyone peace and happiness they deserve.

Scammers are exploiting a Firefox bug to freeze your browser

Scammers are taking advantage of a Firefox bug that causes your browser to lock up and display the following message:

“Please stop and do not close the PC … The registry key of your computer is locked. Why did we block your computer? The Windows registry key is illegal. The Windows desktop is using pirated software. The Window desktop sends viruses over the Internet. This Windows desktop is hacked. We block this computer for your safety.”

It then tells you to call a toll-free number.

Don’t call the number!

Never ever call any number like this.

Simply force-quit your browser and go about your day.

Mozilla says it’s actively working on a fix but as of right now there isn’t one.

Handy Windows 10 Touchpad and Touchscreen Gestures

windows 10 touchscreen

Windows 10 supports a variety of keyboard shortcuts (See last month’s post) as well as gestures for touch-based devices. Try them out a few times, and before long they’ll become second nature.

Touchpads are standard equipment on laptops and for everyday computing a modern touchpad can do pretty much everything a mouse can.

Windows 10 touchpad gestures

GESTURE WHAT IT DOES
Tap the touchpad with one finger Open or select an item
Tap the touchpad with two fingers Show more commands (like right-clicking)
Tap the touchpad with three fingers Open Cortana
Tap the touchpad with four fingers Open the Action Center
Place two fingers on the touchpad and slide vertically or horizontally Scroll
Place two fingers on the touchpad and pinch Zoom out
Place two fingers on the touchpad and spread them apart Zoom in
Swipe three fingers up Show thumbnails of your currently running apps in Task View
Swipe three fingers down Show the desktop
Swipe three fingers either left or right Switch between your open apps
Swipe four fingers either left or right Switch between virtual desktops

If you’re working on a tablet or a touchscreen PC, here’s how to get around:

Windows 10 touchscreen gestures

GESTURE WHAT IT DOES
Tap Open or select an item
Tap the Windows button Switch between the Start screen and the currently running app
Press and hold Pop up a menu to display more information about the item
Press and hold, slide and release Move an item to a new location (the equivalent of dragging an item with a mouse)
Pinch with two fingers Zoom out (used in apps such as Maps where you commonly zoom in and out)
Spread two fingers apart Zoom in (used in apps such as Maps where you commonly zoom in and out)
Rotate with two fingers Rotate the display in the direction you move your fingers
Swipe horizontally Scroll sideways through a screen
Swipe vertically Scroll up or down
On the lock screen, swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen Display the login screen
Swipe in from the left edge of the screen to the center Show thumbnails of your currently running apps in Task View
Swipe in from the right edge of the screen to the center Display the Action Center
Pull down from the top of the screen to the bottom Close an app
Swipe down from the top of an app Bring up the app’s title bar
Slowly pull down from the top of an app Snap the app to take up one half of the screen

Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are the most useful Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts — get to know these and you’ll save oodles of time as you zip around Windows 10 without taking your hands off the keys.

* The Pause key is located to the upper right of most keyboards; however, some portable and laptop keyboards don’t have a Pause key.

KEY
COMBINATION
WHAT IT DOES
Windows key Show/hide the Start menu (toggle)
Windows-A Show/hide the Action Center (toggle)
Windows-C Open Cortana in listening mode
Windows-D Show the desktop or go to your previous location
Windows-E Open File Explorer
Windows-H Take a screenshot of your current app and share it
Windows-I Open the Settings app
Windows-K Connect to a wireless display or audio device
Windows-L Lock the device or switch accounts
Windows-M Minimize all windows
Windows-O Lock the screen orientation
Windows-R Open the Run box
Windows-S Open the Search box
(or Cortana, if you’ve enabled it)
Windows-T Put the focus on the taskbar and cycle through your running desktop apps
Windows-X Open a menu of tools for power users
Windows-Tab Open Task View
Windows-Pause* Display System Properties screen
Windows-1 through 9 Go to the app in the corresponding position on the taskbar
Windows-, (comma) Peek at the desktop
(requires holding the Windows key down)
Windows-Home Minimize/restore non-active desktop apps (toggle)
Windows-up arrow Maximize a desktop app
(or restore it if it’s minimized)
Windows-down arrow Minimize a desktop app
(or restore it if it’s maximized)
Windows-F1 Get Windows help
Windows-Ctrl-D Add a virtual desktop
Windows-Ctrl-F4 Close the virtual desktop you’re working in
Alt-Tab Cycle through thumbnails of open apps
Alt-F4 Exit the current Windows app or desktop application
Ctrl-A Select all
Ctrl-C Copy
Ctrl-E Select the address bar in Edge
Ctrl-N Open a new window in Edge
Ctrl-R Refresh
Ctrl-V Paste
Ctrl-X Cut
Ctrl-W Close the current window in Edge
Ctrl-Y Redo
Ctrl-Z Undo
Ctrl-F4 Close the active document in desktop apps
Ctrl-mouse click Select multiple items in File Explorer
Ctrl-Shift Select a group of contiguous items in File Explorer
Ctrl-Shift-Esc Run the Task Manager
Ctrl-Shift-N Create a new folder in File Explorer
PrtScrn Take a screenshot and place it on the Clipboard
F3 Search for a file or folder in File Explorer

Would you like that SHAKEN/STIR? More on the fight against Robocalls.

Robocalls are currently the number 1 consumer complaint to the FCC. In the month of June alone Americans received over 4.4 billion robocalls. The FCC, all of the major phone carriers, along with other industry professionals specializing in robocall blocking technology have been working diligently on solutions to these increasingly annoying and dangerous scam calls. Their most recent tool in the battle? SHAKEN/STIR.

What is SHAKEN/STIR?

Ok, this is quite a name – SHAKEN/STIR stands for Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited.

Basically SHAKEN/STIR verifies calls that are coming to your phone and tracks where the call is originating, identifying potential scammers. The system will use a small symbol or logo to let you know that the person calling you is, indeed, authentic. While call verification won’t block annoying robocalls from reaching your phone, it does give you more information about the caller before you answer the call.

How does that help?

Robocallers have mainly turned to “neighborhood spoofing” (or replicating a number within your area code that looks familiar to you) so there’s a much better chance of you picking up the phone. However, once you pick up the phone, they know your line is active and, therefore, you are likely to get more calls. SHAKEN/STIR gives you the ability to quickly figure out whether the call is coming from a real person or a robocaller.

When will roll out and where?

The FCC expects providers to have the SHAKEN/STIR standard implemented by the end of 2019. The FCC has mandated all of the major phone carriers uphold this new standard – not only verify the calls within their network but also the calls coming from other networks.

Upon launch, SHAKEN/STIR will only work in the U.S. Even though a lot of robocall scams do come from outside the country, most illegal telemarketing originates from the United States.

Keep in mind that SHAKEN/STIR requires modern phone systems (such as 4G) to work, so older landlines will not have the new protections.

You may already be noticing the rollout of SHAKEN/STIR and as the year comes to a close you will see more and more. Do you think that SHAKEN/STIR will help or not?

Have questions?

Need assistance?

Contact TeCHS!

(800) 669-2022

www.ezdigitallife.com