Microsoft Kill’s It’s Windows Keyboard for iOS

This is a sad day for me as another little piece of Microsoft’s Window Phone is being taken away.

Microsoft is removing Word Flow from the App Store. This means that the critically acclaimed keyboard app will no longer be available to iOS users who haven’t already downloaded it. And those that have face the prospect of Word Flow never being updated again. Because that’s how Microsoft rolls.

Having failed with their “Windows Phone” Microsoft began releasing several apps including Word Flow for iOS. Word Flow being a keyboard app designed to replicate the Windows Phone typing experience on your iPhone. Microsoft released Word Flow in April 2016, and gave it a major update adding GIF search and other features in August 2016. You can check out my April 25, 2016 review of Word Flow here.

Now, Microsoft is delisting Word Flow on the App Store. This means that while existing users will be able to carry on using Word Flow (without any future updates or support) new users are being denied the opportunity to try Word Flow out for themselves.

On the Microsoft Garage website, Microsoft describes the Windows Phone keyboard app as “an iOS app with a blazing fast keyboard that comes with search (GIFs, restaurants, and more), free customization options and includes Arc mode for comfortable one-handed typing.”

That one-handed typing is what separated Word Flow from the crowd. Once you got the hang of it Word Flow could speed up your typing, and all while leaving one hand free for other things.

Microsoft is advising Word Flow users to download SwiftKey instead because the former acquired the latter in early 2016. And this acquisition is probably why Microsoft is killing Word Flow in the first place. Let’s just hope the one-handed typing feature now makes it into SwiftKey.

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Google Introduces SOS Alerts

Google has added a number of emergency features to Maps and Search. Facebook has been trying to master this service for over a year now to mixed results.

SOS Alerts have been developed with the aim of delivering important updates to users during major disasters.

Image result for google sos alerts

These include maps, news reports, emergency phone numbers and translations of local phrases.

The company says “major natural, manmade, or humanitarian disasters” will activate the alerts, but it “can’t guarantee that you’ll see an SOS Alert for every major crisis”.

In Maps, Google’s SOS Alerts will tell you what’s going on in the area, warn you about road closures and point you towards emergency resources, such as helpful numbers and websites.

In Search, SOS Alerts will offer different levels of detail, depending on how close you are to the incident.

Image result for google sos alerts

If you’re nearby, it may display a banner notifying you of the ongoing crisis and displaying emergency information and resources.

If you have the latest version of the Google app and have your location turned on, you may also receive a notification on your phone’s home screen.

If you’re not in the immediate vicinity of the disaster, you won’t get a notification but will be able to access SOS Alerts by searching for information about the incident.

Similarly, instead of seeing an emergency phone number, Google may instead show you a link to make a donation.

“In times of crisis, access to timely, actionable information is crucial. Working alongside trained responders and volunteers on the ground, technology plays a vital role in providing information to help keep you and loved ones safe and informed,” said Google.

“We have teams around the world who source content from government agencies, first responders, trusted media outlets, and NGOs. We also aggregate information from other Google products and services, such as Google News, Google Maps, Waze, and more.”

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Kaspersky Offers Free Antivirus Version

Image result for kaspersky png logoMy favorite antivirus solution is about to offer a free version.

Kaspersky is launching a free version of its award-winning antivirus software worldwide. Kaspersky Free offers the most basic protection for free for everyone who wants it. And all without bombarding you with ads.

Some of you may have noticed a downturn in the number of security issues you personally have encountered in recent years. This is mainly because hackers and cybercriminals have moved onto newer, more targeted means of making money. Such as ransomware and identity theft.

However, despite this change in strategy, you still need good security software and a modicum of common sense to stay safe online. Kaspersky cannot help you with the common sense part, but the Russian security company is offering to cover the other part of the equation. And all for free.

Kaspersky Now Offers a Free Antivirus

Kaspersky Free, which has been in development for 18 months, is now available in selected countries. In the words of Eugene Kaspersky himself it offers “the bare essentials: file, email and web antivirus; automatic updates, self-defense; quarantine; and so on.” Which are essentially “the indispensable basics that no one on the planet should do without.”

This free offering will exist alongside Kaspersky’s premium offerings. The latter offering extra features such as parental control, online payment protection, and a VPN. However, Kaspersky reasons that offering everyone basic protection will help it hone its machine-learning, therefore keeping everybody safer in the longterm.

Kaspersky Free is being rolled out around the world in stages, starting with the U.S., Canada, and several Asia Pacific countries. When it becomes available in your region you can download it directly from the Kaspersky website. All you need is a Windows-based system running anything from Windows XP up to Windows 10.

Offering a Basic Level of Protection

Kaspersky Free looks to be a really solid security option for anyone who just wants the basic level of protection. Kaspersky’s antivirus protection has always performed well in independent testing, so Kaspersky Free should keep you safe.

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Protecting Your Passwords with Ice Cream

As a reader of this fine technology blog you no doubt are taking your security seriously. One of the most important things you can do to protect your personal data is adopting a strong password plan. I have recommended LastPass many times in the past – and it remains my password manager of choice.

The problem has remained the same since the dawn of the internet. People generally do not always use effective passwords. They’ll often use things like their birthday or the name of their pet in their login information. To make matters worse, people have a tendency to use the same password for multiple accounts. This happens because birthdays and pets are easy to remember. The same goes for recycling the same password for multiple accounts. In an attempt to get users to create better passwords, some companies like Apple force them to include special characters, numbers, and an uppercase letter in the password. Browsers offer to remember your password for you and all you have to do is set a good one. Another solution is to use a password vault. A password vault is an app that stores your logins. It allows you to set complicated passwords and remember them.

If you have a shared computer, multiple vaults can be used to separately store information for everyone that uses it. The vault locks itself automatically after a set period of time. If you walk away form your computer and forget to lock it, the vault and the information in it will still be safe.

Storing Information

Ice Cream Password Manager lets you store more than just your login information and it’s duly sorted by the type of information it is. You can mark information that you frequently use as a ‘Favorite’ but it is otherwise sorted into categories like Login, Credit cards, bank accounts, identities, passports, etc.

These categories don’t just sort information. Each one has fields that make it easy to enter information. For example, the passport category has essential fields like issuing authority, the date it’s been issued and when it will expire, your date of birth, etc.

Similarly, the Bank accounts category has fields for entering your bank’s Swift code and your account’s IBAN number. What this essentially ensures is that you enter all relevant information that’s related to an entry. You might have to take the time out to fill it all in but once that’s done, you’re never going to have to search online or through physical papers to locate the information you need.

Desktop App And Chrome Extension

The desktop app and Chrome extension don’t need one another to function but, if you have both of them installed your information is synced. The extension makes it easier for you to add login information. Every time you log in to a new domain, the extension offers to save it.

One advantage that comes with the Chrome extension is that it has a password generator. The password generator doesn’t just give you a random password. You can specify the length and how many special characters you need in your password.

The Chrome extension syncs all the vaults you’ve created, password and all. Like the desktop app, the Chrome extension locks itself after a period of inactivity and you need to enter your vault password to access your information.

Backup

Ice Cream Password Manager lets you schedule regular backups. In fact, you can keep multiple, incremental copies of your data.

Additionally, you can sync your information with Dropbox.

Security

I mentioned early on that the Ice Cream Password Manager automatically locks itself after a period of inactivity. The app lets you choose what that period of inactivity is. You can also set it to automatically clear the clipboard one minute after you’ve copied any information from your vault.

Shortcomings

Ice Cream Password Manager is an overall well developed app. It has a couple shortcomings. (1) it doesn’t lock down characters for known fields. For example, passport numbers are only 9 characters long. Similarly, IBAN codes are 14 characters long. In both these fields, you can enter as many characters as you like. This is problematic because you might accidentally repeat a character when entering your information and never know it happened until you try and use it.

(2) Another problem is that there is NO mobile app. We often need our passwords while on the run and this is a serious flaw. However if you want a free password manager this looks like a fairly good option and hopefully a mobile app is on the way.

Ice Cream Password Manager is pretty well made. It’s stable and the information is quick to sync between desktop and browser. There’s a Firefox add-on in the works so there isn’t much left wanting. If you struggle with remembering your password, or your purposefully keep simple ones, give this app a try. It will help you set complicated passwords and remember them. It will also make sure you always have all your important information in digital form on your computer at all times.

You can learn more about Ice Cream Password Manager here.

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10 Reasons Why I Love Star Trek: Voyager

On the eve of the newest Trek series to launch (Star Trek: Discovery) I take a look back at my favorite Trek and I try to explain why the most maligned in the franchise may actually be it’s very best.

Image result for star trek voyager

The Voyager crew from Seasons 4 through 7.

Airing from the Winter of 1995 to the Spring of 2001, Star Trek: Voyager was the final Star Trek television series to follow in the footsteps of Paramount Studios new line of Star Trek television productions that began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Produced by primarily the same individuals responsible for ST:TNG and also ST:DS9, Voyager took another huge step forward in the Trek-verse, breaking new ground not only by placing a female Starfleet captain at the helm, but also by dropping the show’s flagship namesake into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe.

Here’s a look at 10 reasons why Star Trek: Voyager may have come closer to Gene Roddenberry’s vision than any of the others…so far.

10. The Delta Quadrant

delta

By whisking Voyager into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe with the pilot episode, the creators of the show immediately raised the stakes for the show. With a female captain at the helm, Voyager found itself in literally uncharted territory, populated in large part by Federation nemesis, The Borg. By Voyager’s projections, it would take nearly 75 Earth years to return home, thus placing Voyager in a place where literally “no man had gone before.”

9. The Emergency Medical Holographic Program

Voyager Doctor

In a new twist on an old Star Trek staple, the show’s creators implanted a holographic program to run the ship’s sick-bay, as opposed to the usual, living and breathing, chief medical officer. Gone were the days of the in-the-flesh doctors, “Bones” McCoy and Dr. Beverly Crusher, and instead we got Robert Picardo’s fantastic holographic character, “The Doctor.” Forced to run on a full-time basis due to Voyager’s sudden relocation to the Delta Quadrant, sans a medical officer, The Doctor would become this series first person in search of the meaning of humanity, following in the footsteps of the great Data from the TNG series, and further advocating for full sentient status with help from Captain Janeway.

8. Chakotay And The Maquis

Chakotay

True to Star Trek series tie-in form, the pilot episode of Voyager finds the ship leaving DS9 in pursuit of another vessel. This vessel would turn out to be a rebel ship, piloted by the Maquis, a race of people who are at war with the Cardassians. What is so significant about the Maquis in this particular episode is that they, too, are whisked over 70,000 light years from their last known location along with Voyager. Both crews are forced to unite their survivors in order to survive and ultimately find their way home to the Alpha Quadrant, and the Maquis crew thus becomes part of Voyager’s personnel. Included are Chakotay, who would become Voyager’s second in command; Tom Paris, who becomes Voyager’s helmsman; B’Elanna Torres, a half-human, half-Klingon Maquis who becomes Voyager’s chief engineer, and the Vulcan Tuvok: initially Voyager’s second in command who had infiltrated the Maquis ship in an undercover role.

7. Big Time Guest Stars

Voyager The Rock

Star Trek: Voyager was ripe with guest star appearances, including some of the earliest work of today’s more famous actors. Included in this list are screen legends such as Jason Alexander from TV’s Seinfeld, John Rhys-Davies from the Indiana Jones films and Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even WWE’s The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who was featured in an episode of the show’s 6th season.

6. Recurring Star Trek Series Characters

Votager Q

Star Trek: Voyager probably contained the greatest number of former Star Trek character appearances of any of the post-original series. Throughout it’s 7 seasons on-air, the Voyager television show gave us a nostalgic look back at some our favorite characters from Star Trek’s past. Included would be the great omnipotent Q, portrayed fantastically as always by John DeLancie, who hilariously attempts to court Captain Janeway on several occasions. Also making appearances were Trek legends such as Dwight Schultz’s Reggie Barclay, Marina Sirtis’ Deanna Troi, and even Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker. But perhaps the most important and notable appearances are those of the Borg Queen character: her/their story plays a vital role in the overall tale of the Voyager spacecraft and it’s ongoing trek home.

5. Kes

Voyager Kes

A native of the Delta Quadrant which became home for our Voyager spacecraft, Jennifer Lien’s character of Kes was instrumental in the ship’s quest to return to the Alpha Quadrant. She was the life partner of the ships cook, Neelix, and a student of The Doctor, where she worked in the ships sick-bay and also attempted to help The Doctor with his inter-personal skills as it related to the crew. Kes was an Ocampan, and thus she possessed the race’s psionic abilities. Her abilities would eventually evolve and with the help of Vulcan Tuvok, Kes would learn to harness her powers and eventually use them at the time of her death to send Voyager beyond the Borg-infested area of space, and 9,500 light years closer to home.

4. Tuvok: The Return of a Vulcan to a Starfleet Bridge

tuvok

The Tuvok character was instrumental from day one of the Voyager series for two reasons: the character itself was an homage to the classic and original Trek series by once again having a Vulcan as part of the ship’s senior staff for the first time since Captain Kirk’s reign; but more importantly the Tuvok character was also largely responsible for landing Voyager in the Delta Quadrant as the ship pursued the rebel Maquis vessel on which Tuvok was an undercover agent in the series pilot episode. These two reasons alone are enough to warrant the Tuvok character a place in the top 5 awesome reasons in this column; not to mention that Tim Russ did an awesome job carrying the Vulcan torch for the full 7 seasons while constantly taking a “#2” backseat to the lackluster Chakotay character and his “#1” position on the crew.

3. Species 8472 Changes the Game

Species_8472_Tripedal_Hirog

From fluidic space, a dimension outside the known Star Trek universe, emerged Species 8472. Discovered by The Borg, Species 8472 was unknown to Star Trek space until The Borg invaded their fluidic space in an attempt to assimilate their technological and biological distinctiveness into their own. How’d that work out, you ask? Yea, not so good: Species 8472’s complex triple helix DNA structure allowed them to forego and avoid assimilation, and practically destroy The Borg at will. As a result, Captain Janeway forms an alliance with The Borg: allow Voyager safe passage through Borg space, and Voyager will help with a nanotechnology answer to the Species 8472 threat. The result gives us the first and only Borg/Federation alliance, and the retreat of Species 8472 back to fluidic space.

2. Seven of Nine

Seven Of Nine

Arguably the defining character / subject of the Star Trek: Voyager series, Jeri Ryan’s orphaned Borg drone was the designated representative in the Federation/Borg alliance against Species 8472. After neutralizing the Species 8472 threat, Seven of Nine attempted to assimilate Voyager’s crew and was then separated from her collective. In the seasons that followed, Seven of Nine would be slowly integrated into the Voyager crew, with the majority of the crew resisting trusting her. She would also join The Doctor as another member of a Star Trek crew seeking to understand humanity, as she searched to reclaim her assimilated innocence.

1. Captain Kathryn Janeway/Kate Mulgrew

Captain Janeway

Without question, the character of Captain Kathryn Janeway broke through the final typecasting barrier that had stood for so long in the Trek universe: having a female series lead and also in the captains chair. Kate Mulgrew was cast as Voyager’s fearless captain, and so began Trek’s final television journey without an Enterprise leading the way, and with a female captain in control. What followed was seven fantastic seasons with the Star Trek universe being experienced through the eyes of a female captain, placing a new spin on familiar story arcs, and a new approach to unfamiliar territory. The Janeway character would later appear as a Starfleet Admiral, again portrayed in a cameo by Mulgrew, in the feature film Star Trek: Nemesis as a superior officer to the Enterprise’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and even later in a novelization that had her assimilated into the new Borg Queen as Seven of Nine sought to rescue her. Overall, a fitting lead for the final non-Enterprise related Trek series, and a legendary character to be sure, fitting of the Captain’s chair.

So, fellow trekkies, do you agree or disagree? Do you miss the show now that you’ve relived some of its finest elements, or do you disagree with me. I have been watching Star Trek almost my entire life (I am 53) and this one touches all the bases of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and just like in our lives there are missteps along the way.

However in the end – it is the journey that matters the most.

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Organizing Your Folders in Outlook 2016

Would you rather spend less time searching and scrolling in Outlook and more time composing and replying? Then you need to learn about the benefits of folders and subfolders.

Image result for outlook tip

Read on to get started with folders.

Folder management

By default an Outlook account will present the following folders:

  • Inbox — The inbox is the primary location for incoming messages.
  • Drafts — Drafts are messages that have been either completely or partially composed but have not been sent yet. Drafted messages are still able to be opened and edited before sending.
  • Sent Items — A copy of each message you send will be saved in the Sent Items folder. They are not visible in the inbox folder.
  • Deleted Items — As a message is chosen to be deleted, it’s moved to the Deleted Items folder. These messages will be automatically purged after 30 days unless the Retention Policy is changed. Users can also choose to empty the folder of its contents at any time.
  • Clutter — Messages that are considered low priority will be redirected to the Clutter folder. Outlook recognizes which messages are read and determines the unread messages to be of little importance.
  • Junk Email — Messages that seem to exude the appearance of junk mail will be redirected to this folder.
  • Archive — Archiving older messages moves them from the main .pst file into a separate archive.pst file.

Depending on your organization, you may see additional folders created by an administrator or by other services, such as Skype or Yammer. Now understanding the folders that are first presented to you, you should know that you cannot delete these folders. You can, however, create folders of your own and delete them, as well.

How to create a folder:
  1. Locate where the new folder should live on the left pane.
  2. Right-click on the location.
  3. Select New Folder.
  4. Input a name in the resulting Name box.
  5. Press Enter to create.
How to delete a folder:
  1. Right-click on the folder to be deleted.
  2. Select Delete from the command menu.
  3. Select Yes to confirm.

Folder creation and deletion are parts of the overall folder management options found when you right-click on the left pane of the Outlook interface. Keep in mind that many of the actions are grayed out for default folders. Here are the options that are presented:

  • Open in New Window — This opens another Outlook 2016 window with the selected folder opened.
  • New Folder — Creates a folder or sub-folder.
  • Rename Folder — This allows you to rename any folder or subfolder that you created.
  • Copy Folder — This copies the selected folder as a subfolder. You can then choose the destination folder in the resulting Copy Folder pop up box.
  • Move Folder — You can move the folder into any existing folder from inside the popup box.
  • Delete Folder — This option moves the folder and its contents to the Deleted Items folder.
  • Mark all as Read — All messages and other items in the folder will be marked as read.
  • Clean up Folder — Duplicate or redundant messages will be automatically moved to the Deleted Items folder.
  • Delete All — All items in the folder will be deleted. If you choose this action with a folder that contains subfolders, the sub-folders will be removed as well.
  • Show in Favorites — Choose to add this folder to the Favorites section, which is located near the top of the left panel.
  • Remove from Favorites — This option appears when right-clicking in the Favorites section. It removes the folder from Favorites but does not delete it.
  • Sort Subfolders A to Z — All sub folders within a folder will be listed alphabetically.
  • Move Up/Down — Folders and subfolders can be moved up or down the list, one entry at a time.
  • Properties — This action takes you the properties menu of the folder. A series of settings are presented such as selecting the folder policy, permissions and viewing the folder size.
Search folders

searching folders

Those who need Outlook to retain a large volume of messages could potentially have difficulty retrieving information. A Search Folder aims to eliminate the needle-in-a-haystack scenario. It presents messages that match search criteria determined by the user. It doesn’t matter if the messages are stored in various folders. As long as they are contained within the same .pst file, they will be found.

How to create a customized search folder:
  1. Select the Folder tab from the ribbon.
  2. Select New Search Folder.
  3. Select Create a custom Search Folder from the Select a Search Folder list.
  4. Click Choose.
  5. Enter the name of the folder in the name box.
  6. Click Criteria to pick your options from the following sections:
    • Messages – Choose to search for specific words from the subject or body, specific contacts or recipients.
    • More Choices – This offers more criteria such as specifying read or unread items, attachments and level of importance.
    • Advanced – This gives the user the option to create finely tuned criteria to narrow down result. This provides a list of criterion and allows you to choose conditions and values.
  7. Click Browse to select a specific folder to include in the search.
  8. Click Ok on each dialog box to confirm your selections.
How to create a pre-defined search folder:
  1. Select Folder from the ribbon.
  2. Choose New Search folder.
  3. Select a folder type from the Select a Search Folder list.
  4. Select Criteria under the Customize Search Folder section.
  5. Select Ok to save the search folder.
Folder sharing and delegation

sharing folders

Your Outlook folders can also be a place for collaboration. Depending on the necessary tasks, you can either choose to share a folder or delegate one. To delegate is to allow someone to act on your behalf, such as responding to emails or managing items in your folders. Sharing folders is commonly used to promote collaboration.

How to delegate a folder:
  1. Click on File.
  2. Click on Account Settings under Account Information.
  3. Click on Delegate Access.
  4. Click on Add.
  5. Search and select the individual.
  6. Click Add
  7. Select the permission level for the individual under the Permissions box.
  8. Right-click on the account.
  9. Select Folder Permissions.
    • Reviewer – Users can read items but cannot delete them.
    • Author – Users can read and create items.
    • Editor – Users can read, create and modify items.10.Click on the name of the person.11. Select the Permission Level. (then select OK)
How to remove a delegate:
  1. Click on File.
  2. Click on Account Information.
  3. Click on Delegate Access.
  4. Select the name of the current delegate.
  5. Click Remove.
  6. Click Ok.
How to share a folder
  1. Click on the Folder Tab in the ribbon.
  2. Click on Folder Permission in the Properties section
  3. Click on the Permissions tab in the Inbox Properties box.
  4. Click Add to add a user.
  5. Locate the person in the address list.
  6. Click Add
  7. Click Ok.
  8. Select an option from the Permission Level list.
    • Owner – Change permission levels for others who have access. Create, read, modify and delete contents of a folder.
    • Publishing Editor – All contents that the owner has created can be read and deleted. Content and subfolders can be created as well.
    • Editor – All items can be created read and modified.
    • Publishing Author – Items can be modified, deleted, created and read. Sub-folders can be created as well.
    • Author – Allows users to read and create items that the owner has created.
    • Nonediting Author – Owner created items can be deleted. Can create and read items.
    • Reviewer – Can read items but cannot delete them.
    • Contributor – Users can only create items.
  9. Select specific permission in the provided fields.
  10. Click Apply.
  11. Click Ok.
How to stop sharing a folder:
  1. Access the Folder tab from the ribbon.
  2. Select Folder permissions.
  3. Click on the name of the individual.
  4. Select None to suspend sharing.
  5. Select Remove to stop sharing.
Wrapping up

Being able to effectively manage folders enables you to be more productive in your communication. It also allows you to make Outlook both personal and comfortable.

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The Annoying Rise of Scam & Robocalls

Special Report: Have you noticed more & more robocalls or out & out spam phone calls making it to your mobile device? If you have – you are not alone. This has been getting on my nerves for a while now so I looked into just what was going on and why – these annoying calls are becoming more frequent.

An estimated 2.5 billion automated calls are being made each month, according to YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking app. Three quarters of wireless customers feel like the number of unwanted calls has increased over the past year, and the calls cost Americans an estimated $350 million each year, according to Consumers Union.

Image result for robo calls mobile

There is some good news. The FCC has reported that it wants to crack down on unwanted robocalls and the federal agency looking at ways to help us block them. It’s also been stepping up enforcement of illegal robocalls. Last week, the agency voted to fine a New Mexico-based company $2.88 million for making unlawful robocalls. And last month, the FCC fined a Florida resident $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period.

However ridding the world of robocalls entirely is tricky because some legitimate communications are made using automated call technology. That includes weather alerts and messages from schools, public utilities and political organizations. Phone companies don’t want to block legitimate calls that consumers may want to receive.

Here’s what you need to know to understand what’s going on with robocalls.

Annoying Calls Explained

Telemarketing tech that uses automated dialers to make so-called robocalls is pretty simple and inexpensive to set up and run. All you need is a computer connected to a modem and a program that selects and dials numbers from a database. Other features can be added too, such as recording calls or detecting when a person has answered.

Because the cost of making these calls has pretty much come down to zero and it’s possible to make the calls from offshore — where they’re harder to trace and crack down on — it’s become an easy and attractive method for scammers.

Why Are We Getting These Calls?

There are a few reasons.

  • You may have actually given your consent to a company to make these calls. And maybe you didn’t know you’d done so.
  • Your phone number has been reassigned and the previous person who had that number had consented to getting marketing calls and the company calling you hasn’t updated its list. (The FCC is currently considering a proposal to fix this issue. I’ll explain what they’re doing below.)
  • The people calling you are scammers and they don’t care about the law. This is probably the most likely answer to this question.
We May Have Done This To Ourselves!

If you have ever checked a box when signing up for a service, website or at a retailer asking if they can market directly to you, you may have given consent to receive marketing calls. Always double chec

FCC’s Recent Robocall Action Explained

Last week, the commission voted on two items related to ridding the world of unwanted robocalls.

First, it voted to evaluate a system that would let phone companies check if a number calling you is legit. This call authentication system could help improve third-party apps that allow consumers to block unwanted calls and allow phone companies to offer call blocking as a service.

The second thing it voted on was a proposal to consider how to prevent unwanted calls after a number has been reassigned to a different customer. Currently, legitimate companies that make telemarketing calls have no way of knowing if a phone number has been reassigned. This means customers who haven’t given consent for marketing calls are getting them. It also means that legitimate companies making these calls to customers who don’t want the calls are in violation of the law and are subject to stiff penalties.

To help resolve this issue, the FCC is considering whether wireless companies should be required to report when numbers have been reassigned so a database can be created. Companies could access the database so they aren’t calling numbers that have been reassigned to a new customer.

What We Can Do Now?

Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology — most of them offer some form of protection, although a few will charge you a fee.

If you use a robocall-blocking app or your carrier provides technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others. I have been using the truecaller” app for a few months now which has seemed to help quite a bit in respect to identifying robo & spam calls.  With this app, your phone still rings, however the caller identification reports the callers as “spam caller” which at least helps you avoid answering one of these calls. Check out truecaller here.

Image result for truecaller app

Don’t pick up the phone when someone from an unknown or suspicious number is calling you. This is often how scammers know it’s a legit number to target and they may sell your number to other telemarketers and scammers.

File a complaint with the FCC or the FTC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules. But it doesn’t award individual damages. The FTC can file lawsuits against companies or individuals violating its rules.

Consider filing a lawsuit, if you can find out who is making the calls. Companies are “strictly” liable for unwanted robocalls made without explicit written consent. And since damages start at a minimum of $500 per unwanted robocall, the penalties can add up.

Forward spam text messages sent from a phone number to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with the wireless carrier reports the spam number and you’ll receive a response from the carrier thanking you for reporting the spam.

If you need more information, check out the FCC’s website here.

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Microsoft Awesome Surface Book Deal

I rarely make purchasing recommendations here. I realize that everyone has varying tastes and of course varying needs from their tech. However I wanted to pass on this deal that is going on over at Microsoft. My laptop of choice for almost the past 2 years (a lifetime for me in respect to my tech) has been the Microsoft Surface Book.

Image result for microsoft surface book

If you’re looking for a powerful, yet portable, 2-in-1, Microsoft’s Surface Book has probably come across your radar a time or two. There’s no denying that they are a bit on the more expensive side, but there are ways to get them for less.

Right now you can pick up the Intel Core i5 model with 128GB SSD for just $883 as a certified refurb. Normally, this configuration runs for around $1,499 in new condition and $1,149 as a refurb, so you’ll save $266 right now. There are other models available, like the 256GB Intel Core i7 variant for $1,374 or the decked out 512GB Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM for $1,766.

You shouldn’t have to worry about it being a refurbished model, though. Microsoft states:

Good as new, each refurbished Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 undergo a rigorous refurbishing process that includes hardware and cosmetic quality inspections, software updating, and diagnostic testing. And all refurbished Surface devices are backed by a manufacturer’s limited one-year hardware warranty.

Microsoft does not state how long these prices are good for, so you won’t want to wait too long before making your purchase. Whether you are looking for something basic, or something with killer specs, you can get it right now at a pretty substantial discount. Don’t miss out.

 

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Apple Releases iOS 10.3 Update

Today Apple rolled out iOS 10.3.3 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch on Wednesday. While the update itself is little more than a collection of bug fixes and security improvements, there’s a chance that this could be the last major iOS 10 update with iOS 11 deep in development and set to release to the public in September.

On the whole, iOS 10.3 wasn’t a major upgrade for the mobile operating system. In fact, the most substantial upgrade was invisible, as Apple replaced the HFS+ file system with the new Apple File System (APFS). Other additions include the Find My AirPods feature, a new Podcasts widget and updated app transition animations that you may or may not have even noticed.

If you recall I had upgraded to the iOS 11 Public Beta last month but after about two weeks I downgraded back to iOS 10 dues to countless issues.

I recommend you go over to Settings – General – Software Update and upgrade your iPhone, of course if you have an iPhone.

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A Look @ Microsoft’s Outlook App

I have been recommending the Outlook mail app for iOS and Android for almost 2 years now. I have also written about it several times. During the past several months Microsoft has updated their mail app and has made it even better.

Image result for outlook app ios

Why Outlook?

Outlook’s design is very clean & unique.

Outlook has 5 icons across the bottom: Mail, Calendars, Files, People, and Settings. The way it’s laid out makes it feel like a complete communications – file management ecosystem. You are only one tap away from getting what you need. It uses a light theme with black and blue text throughout. Usually I prefer darker themes, but I feel like the design is here is very easy on the eyes. I don’t ever feel like the UI user interface) is distracting; it melts away and allows me to focus on what I need to see.

From a usability perspective, Outlook really shines. It provides me with just enough options to make it my own, but not so many that I am overwhelmed or spend time tinkering.

Outlook calendar

I love the built-in calendar function. I like being able to see email and my schedule in one app. The compose screen is simple to use as well. It allows me to change which account I am sending from, add files, photos, send calendar invites, or see my calendar availability.

One important aspect of all third-party email apps is which types of email services it supports. Outlook supports Office 365, Outlook.com, Exchange, Yahoo, iCloud, Google, and IMAP. (POP3 isn’t supported, so if you require it, you need to look elsewhere.)

Outlook supported email accounts

Outlook has support for iPhones with 3D Touch features. From the 3D Touch menu, you can hop right to your calendar, create a new event, or start a new email. I find myself using the View Calendar function frequently. A Notification Center widget and watchOS app are included as well.

Outlook supports push notifications for new emails, or just “important ones” with a feature Outlook calls Focused Inbox.

Focused Inbox sorts your email so you see the important ones first. It does this by considering past emails from a particular sender and your address book. You can also reclassify emails as you go in order to help train it. The calendar feature can also notify you of upcoming appointments as well as send short emails letting the people in your meeting know you are running late.

The snooze/delay function of email was made popular by Mailbox, but has since become adopted by a handful of other apps. Outlook offers a feature that allows you to control which folder your snoozed emails are stored. Your options for snoozing are in a few hours, this evening, tomorrow morning, or a custom time. Outlook doesn’t offer the ability to customize these times, and I’d like to see that added in the future.

Like I mentioned earlier, I like the fact that Outlook has a built-in calendar. It also has native support for a number of file systems. It includes OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. While this isn’t as important for attaching files (due to document providers), it does offer some advantages. There is a file screen that shows your most recent files for cloud document apps, as well as making saving attachments faster.

A recent update added third-party app integration through “add-ins.” Add-ins let you turn any email into a Trello card, save a message to Evernote, insert a GIF, translate messages, and more. These are currently only available to users with Office 365 email addresses, however.

You do not need to settle for the built-in mail apps on your iOS or Android smartphone. If you decide to take the time to explore other options, I definitely recommend starting with Microsoft’s Outlook app,

 

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