Moving Targets and Familiar Strangers

Good Advice

"Which [insert type of device here] should I buy?" was harder to answer before the excellent Wirecutter website took off.  Their reviews are shorter than Consumer Reports' and more consumer-friendly than the tech press. Some clients have been skeptical; yes, they make money from affiliate links, but reviews are written "blind," and they're owned by the NY Times. Not just for tech stuff.

More Backup News

Time Machine is Still Essential

Mac owners, don't miss our latest video on Time Machine backup and why you should still use it even with iCloud.

Mozy --> Carbonite

We've mentioned that Carbonite bought one of our old favorite backup providers, Mozy. If you had a PAID Mozy account, Carbonite installs itself and you'll see the Carbonite green dot IN ADDITION to Mozy's orange-and-grey checkerboard. If that happens, Mozy becomes redundant and can be uninstalled.

Free Mozy accounts seem to be untouched so far. . . we'll keep you posted.

Backblaze Price Hike/Opportunity

Wirecutter favorite Backblaze, one of the last companies to offer unlimited cloud backup, just announced a price hike coming in March; old rates still available if you sign up now, and current subscribers have the option to add a year at the old rates (we just did). Kudos to them for taking care of loyal customers, not just saving the deals for new ones. (Note: not suitable for all our clients; Backblaze has some limitations). 

Small Gmail changes

Google's rolling out minor changes to Gmail; some cosmetic, some time-saving.

The smartphone app has been redesigned (info here) and they're adding many more options to the right-click menu in the web version. Those are definitely useful!

Don't I Know You from Somewhere?

An Uber engineer created the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com to highlight how incredibly sophisticated AI-generated human photos have become. That very real-looking person in the photo on the left? Computer generated.

Fascinating and creepy. Read more here.


Belated Happy Valentine's Day to you all!


Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

Winter is Here

Important Reminder

Ah, January. . . when the mail brings tax statements instead of holiday cards. As you gather financial records, remember: regular email is not secure or private.  NEVER send unprotected private information such as social security numbers or financial statements by email. The good news is that you can password-protect most documents for free; instructions here.

Gmail, Explained!

New on our YouTube channel: a series of tutorials for Gmail users with something for everyone, from managing your Inbox through search techniques, using labels and turning off Smart Compose.

Cell Phone News

Verizon will FINALLY start offering free robocall protection for wireless customers in March--two years after the other carriers. Better late. . .

Apple brought back arguably their best-value iPhone, the SE, as a clearance item at $249. It sold out in a hot minute, and no word if more are coming,  but rumor has it that the SE 2 will be out in July. At the other extreme, phones with folding screens are expected this year---at six times that price. 

Farewell, Mozy (*sniff*)

One of our longtime favorite backup products, Mozy, has been bought by a competitor, Carbonite; details here. PAID Mozy accounts will be honored through their expiration dates, reportedly; no word on what happens to free accounts, but we expect they’ll pull the plug sometime soon. Luckily, iDrive still offers a free backup account with even more space than Mozy.

         phish·ing /ˈfiSHiNG/ noun
                the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from
           reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal
          personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
 

Even experts are falling for phishing attacks these days. Google is fighting back, with this quick (and challenging!) quiz to help you spot fakes. Try it!

No funny cigarettes here

Voice recognition has improved enormously in the last few years--Google Assistant famously made a haircut appointment last summer-- but its failures can be entertaining. Pictured, left, is the result when I told Alexa to add “Shredded Wheat” to my grocery list.

FYI, New Yorkers

A bit off topic but since most of you are New Yorkers, check out this fascinating (and fun) video on congestion pricing--which looks likely to pass in Albany this year.


Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

Zombie Apocalypse

Is the Zombie Apocalypse imminent? Arguable, but nasty weather is VERY likely. Avoid zombies, sleet, and Puddles of Indeterminate Depth by staying safely home and getting your questions answered on our YouTube channel—an ever-growing library of helpful video tips for Macs, Windows, iPhones, and now Gmail, too.

You Can Help (Pretty Please!)

We’re having a blast creating these videos and they help our clients daily, but they vacuum our time and resources faster than a Roomba. So a little shameless groveling: We need your help! Please subscribe—it’s free, makes it MUCH easier to find the new videos, and there are no annoying notices—it just allows us to reach a big enough audience to make this work. It only takes a moment.

  1. Go to our channel here

  2. Sign in to YouTube if needed (with a free Gmail or Google account)

  3. Click subscribe.

And do send requests: we have loads of ideas for videos, but you can determine which ones we make next.

Scam/Not Scam

One solution for tracking rewards points

Perhaps you’re already keeping a good watch on your credit cards and bank accounts—but a wise friend alerted us to an easily-overlooked theft: rewards points. Here’s an article on the subject, but if you have points scattered across multiple programs and/or family members, consider a tracking site like Awardwallet to help alert you to sudden changes in your points balance.

We’ve said many times that Apple and the IRS and “Windows Technical Department” don’t call you at home—but here’s a rare exception: Apple DID call to confirm the order of a very expensive new Mac—with a stolen credit card number. Same advice as always: unless you’re 100% sure the call is real, hang up and contact the company directly. Here are links for some of the most requested: Apple, Amazon (or call: 1 (888) 280-4331), Microsoft, HP.

Last Chance for the $29 Apple Battery Swap

If you didn’t spring for a new iPhone, Apple’s $29 battery swap program ends with 2018, and you do want to beat the other procrastinators to the lines if you can! Be sure to make a reservation, unless hanging around the Apple store all day is your idea of fun.

Just for Fun: Sweet Revenge (with Glitter)

If you’ve wasted time this holiday season (or ever) tracking a missing package, you’ll enjoy this brilliant, twisted, elaborate solution to package theft as much as we did.