Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Get Smart!

The latest electronic wonders selling like hotcakes are … smart speakers!

Taking advantage by seizing a long head start, Amazon leads in the United States with 70 percent of the domestic market, compared to Google Home with 24 percent and Apple HomePod at 6 percent. Facebook reportedly is developing its own version. Fifty million US homes had smart speakers at the end of 2017; this is expected to double by the end of this year. Smart speaker adoption in China is growing even faster, but uses different products. The worldwide smart speaker market grew 187 percent in the second quarter of 2018.

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Has the “Internet-of-Things” Gone Too Far?

Oral B introduces IoT Toothbrush

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the hot topic these days. IoT involves connecting physical objects, everything from cars to refrigerators, buildings and homes, even entire cities, to the Internet. IoT objects contain electronics, sensors and accompanying software to collect information and communicate the data over the Internet or local network to other devices, for the purpose of displaying and/or analyzing the data.

IoT has the potential to be very useful for monitoring and communicating critical information, like medical issues. It also offers all kinds of possibilities for home automation. The potential for IoT is unlimited, with many applications that are yet to be imagined. And then there are those that have an uncanny imagination on how to apply this technology.

IoT-tbTake Oral B, who has just introduced a “smart” tooth brush. It is equipped with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and Bluetooth to communicate with your smartphone camera, so it can watch you brush your teeth. And you thought your mother was a stickler for making sure you brushed your teeth correctly!

Did I mention you can store your brushing history in the cloud?

Hmm? I wonder what could happen if someone hacked your toothbrush and installed some malware? The Stephen King film, “The Mangler.” comes to mind.

9 Steps to a Safer, More Secure Windows Computer

Let’s face it. Bad guys are out there; they are lurking on the Internet; and they are looking for YOU!

To protect yourself from muggers, pickpockets and thieves, you take certain steps. You keep your hands on your wallet or purse in a crowd, and you lock your door when you leave home and at night.

Similarly, you have to take certain steps to protect your cyber life. And these are a bit more complicated and involved that locking your door. But they are equally important if you intend to keep your computer, data, and even your identity safe. Here are 9 steps to a safer, more secure Windows computer…

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Use 10 Minute Mail for Spam Control

Did you ever want to sign up for a promotion that required you to submit your email to get the free offer? You know what happens then. You will start to get spam from the promoter, or even worse, your email address will be put on a list that is used by lots of companies to promote offers you have no interest in at all. And your email spam load starts to grow.

To avoid this, you can just give them a fake email address, right? Wrong. Frequently you will first get a confirmation email that requires you to respond or click to confirm that the email address you provided is really you. Even more frequently, access to the free offer is sent to you by email. If you sign up with a fake email address, you never get the offer.

But the offer is too good to pass up. What do you do?

The answer is 10 Minute Mail. When you go to the 10 minute mail Website  (10minutemail.com), you receive a temporary, throw-away email address that will last for 10 minutes. You can add another 10 minutes, if necessary. This should give you enough time to sign up for the promotion, receive an email confirmation link and get the offer, whatever it is. But after the allocated time, the email address will self-destruct and is no longer functional. YOU will receive no further communication from the promoter or spam from other people who might share the email list.

Amazon Prime Bundles New Premium Channels

 

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Amazon Prime just made two premium additions to their streaming TV bundle: Starz and Showtime. Amazon Prime started out to be just an expedited 2-day shipping option for a fixed price (now $99 a year). Then they began to add other services and benefits, including free streaming of a wide collection of movies and TV shows at no additional charge. Now they are offering optional streaming channels that has removed one of the last major objections to “cutting the cord” and ditching your traditional expensive cable or satellite TV service.

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Announcing the New Roku 4

Anyone that has followed this blog or attended any of my Streaming TV presentations knows that I am a big fan of Roku. I’ve had one ever since it was introduced several years ago, at that time streaming only Netflix. Now it has over 2,500 channels with 300,000+ movies and TV shows.

I could probably be called a TV junkie. I have TVs in my living room, office, bedroom, and oh yes, I can’t forget the motorhome. Each has a Roku attached.

I’ve had the original Roku, Roku 2, Roku 3, and now I guess I’ll have to upgrade to the latest and greatest, Roku 4.

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CuriosityStream – Streaming Documentaries from Discovery Channel Founder

New Addition to My Favorite Streaming Channels

A new channel has been added to programming lineup of the Roku streaming set-top box. CuriosityStream has been dubbed the “Netflix of documentaries,” and I think that’s a perfect description. I’ve added it to my favorite Roku channels list (right next to Netflix) and I love it. CuriosityStream has given me one more reason to abandon my expensive satellite TV service, full of mind-numbing, so-called “reality” shows and unending commercials.

I’ve only had CuriosityStream for about a week, but so far I’ve watched everything from shows on Quantum Physics (simplified) to historical documentaries on Greece and Rome, and a discussion of the “Curious World of Dreams.” Some of their programming is timeless; others cover quite current events, like the Pluto flyby and the confirmation of past liquid water flows on Mars, for instance.

CuriosityStream is not free. It has two subscription levels: a very reasonable $2.99 a month for standard definition and $9.99 a month for eye-popping 4K super HD. The standard definition option is available now. The 4K option will launch later this year. All programs are commercial-free.

They give you a free month to evaluate the service. I’m currently in my free month, but I have no intention of cancelling once my free period expires. To start your free month, go to: curiositystream.com.

Beware of Scammers Offering to “Fix” Your Computer

Continuing my summer theme on Computer Security, today I want to address the issue of companies that contact you, alerting you to problems with your computer and offering to fix them. Sometimes these offers come up on your computer. Other times you get unsolicited phone calls warning you of problems with your computer. Either way, they are bad news.

One of the most notorious and seemingly never-ending swindles is the Windows Support scam.

Many people I know have received calls from someone purporting to be from “Windows Support.” Personally, I’ve received these calls countless times. When you answer, they start out by telling you that they are from Microsoft or sometimes just “Windows Support.” They’ve called to warn you that they have detected problems with your computer, and they can fix them online. They may have you run a program that lists a whole host of things that are supposed to be malicious. In fact, the things displayed, while they may look strange to you, may be completely benign. To “fix” these issues, they ask for your credit card and remote access to your computer. Not only can this cost you money, but when you open up your entire computer to a complete stranger, you have done the virtual equivalent of opening the front door of your house to a thief and inviting him in. They may install malware on your computer; they may download sensitive files. Whatever they do, they are definitely up to no good.

Another approach is a popup that may appear on your computer, warning you of a problem and instructing you to call a number to get help.

When you get someone on the line, they may claim to be a Microsoft contractor who has been authorized to take care of issues with Windows computers. At this point, the scenario becomes quite similar to the Windows Support scam. They request remote access to your computer, and then proceed to install virus and malware protection (programs that are actually available to you for free). You will not only be charged for these services at the time they are provided, but they may enroll you in a monthly recurring charge (sometimes without your knowledge) to supposedly monitor your computer and keep you free of problems.

Know this…

Microsoft will never contact you about a problem with your computer. And any kind of pop-up warning that instructs you to call someone else for help is not on the up-and-up.

WARNING: Your Internet Activity is Being Tracked

Protecting Your Personal Privacy Online

Today’s topic may seem rather mundane, compared to some of the malicious things that go on out there in the wild, wild Internet. But if you value your privacy, you need to be aware that every time you use a search engine and every time you visit a Website, your actions are being recorded. You may not think you have anything to hide. But the results of what Internet companies know about you could easily result in revealing something you would prefer to keep private.

Why Are You Being Tracked?

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