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How to Block Annoying Robocalls

  • Robocalls can originate from anywhere and are hard to fight.
  • There are apps you can download to help prevent them, and steps you should take when you receive them.
  • Here’s how to stop those annoying robocalls.

If you’re like me, chances are you’re constantly getting bombarded by robocalls. You know the type: You pick up the phone only to hear some pre-recorded message — sometimes not even in English — about how you owe someone money or you’ve won a free vacation to Barbados.

These sorts of robocalls are smarter than ever, too. Spammers are capable of spoofing the area code where you live so that it appears to be a local call or even one from a legitimate business you’ve used. And of course you answer: Maybe it’s a neighbor, the drug store or a doctor calling.

Usually it isn’t.

I’m going to walk you through how some of those calls happen in the first place, and how to start blocking them.

Where Robocalls Originate

Anyone can pay to make millions of robocalls. There are legitimate businesses that follow the law which you can pay to have your message sent out to people around the globe. Advanced tools let you pick the area code the call originates from, so someone can target a specific area and use a local number.Other people and groups around the globe don’t necessarily care about US laws, so they’re able to call you from pretty much anywhere — but with similar tools to what legitimate businesses offer. They usually call for private info such as social security numbers and bank accounts, or cash, with the hopes they’ll trick you into giving it away.

Current scams listed by the FTC include people impersonating the Chinese Consulate and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, for example.

What to do when you get one

If you see a number you don’t recognize, even if it’s from a local area code, let the message go to voicemail. If it’s important — say a message from a school nurse — you’ll get a voicemail.

If you pick up, you should end the call immediately after you realize it’s a pre-recorded message.

“Hang up the phone,” FTC attorney Kati Daffan advises. “Don’t press one to speak to a live operator. And don’t press any other number to get off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.”

How to avoid them

Your first line of defense is to sign up for the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry. It’s illegal for telemarketers to call you if you’re on it, though plenty still do.

Sign up for the FTC’s Scam Alerts. This will help you know about current robocalls and scams that have been reported to the FTC, such as the two I mentioned above.

You should also download apps that have frequently-updated lists of known robocall numbers that are automatically blocked. The US wireless industry group CTIA recommends several apps for Androidand iPhone, including the app Mr. Number, which is highly rated in both app stores.

I downloaded Mr. Number and it offers a lot of options, including the ability to automatically block known scams, block suspected fraudsters, block numbers that are hidden on purpose, block numbers that aren’t in your contacts and more.

Some wireless carriers also offer services that can help cut down on robocalls. AT&T offers a Call Protect app and T-Mobile has a Scam Block tool.

How to block a number

It’s almost impossible to completely avoid robocalls — unless you block everyone who’s not in your address book with an app — since it’s easy for scammers to create a new number and call you again. Still, you should know how to block a number on your phone. Here’s how to do that on Android (the steps might vary by device) and on the iPhone:

On Android:

  • Open the Phone app
  • Tap the number that just called you
  • Tap “Details”
  • Tap “Block number”

On iPhone:

  • Open the Phone app.
  • Tap the “i” icon next to the number that called you.
  • Scroll down and select “Block this caller.”

Report them to the FTC

If you follow the steps above you should receive fewer robocalls. If you still get them, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Doing so can help the FTC detect patterns and potentially stop whoever’s sending those calls in the first place.

 

Haselton, Todd. “How to block the annoying robocalls that you keep getting” CNBC.com, Tech May 5, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Backup your SMS Text Messages on Android

Much of the world has moved on from SMS, but it’s still one of the most popular methods of sending messages in the US. It’s an unfortunate requirement here for many, and it probably will be until RCS gets off the ground. And if you’re the data-hoarding type, then you might want to keep those SMS messages around for later reference—either in cold storage or an easily accessed format. But even bringing them with you from device to device isn’t actually that hard, and we’re glad to walk you through the different ways to do it. 

Of course, Google’s Pixels (and a handful of other Oreo-powered devices) include built-in SMS backup these days, as well as a tool during the setup process for migrating messages over to a new phone, so let’s cover that first.

Android’s built-in SMS Backup

As of Android 8.1, you can now restore backed up data (including SMS messages) after the initial setup. Unfortunately, it’s not a manual process like the other items on this list. It’s only available if the “Finish setting up” screen is shown at the top of your settings panel. Tap that “Finish Setup” button, and it’ll perform the same restoration maneuver it typically would on initial setup, which can include restoring previously backed up SMS messages from your devices.

The data comes courtesy of Android’s automatic backups, and they’re stored on Google Drive. You can view them (but not their contents) via the Android app, and they can’t be copied off or moved elsewhere.

The built-in system is useful and automatic, but without a way to manually trigger the restoration process or view the backed up contents, it’s of limited utility. For instance, you can’t read those messages off-device, and you can’t save them long-term. In such cases, this automatic system might not fit your needs, but there are alternatives.

There are a lot of individual apps for backing up and restoring your SMS messages, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to two well-known and high-quality free apps we’ve covered in the past: SMS Backup+ and SMS Backup & Restore. They both let you back up and pull down your messages with a bit more control than the stock system, but each is suited to a slightly different use case.

SMS Backup+

If you’re mostly interested in keeping your messages around somewhere (without necessarily having local access to them), then SMS Backup+ is probably your best choice. The app is open source and allows you to automatically back up your SMS, MMS, and call history to your Gmail account, presenting your messages there in a convenient “SMS” label, laid out in the same format as email conversations, accessible anywhere via phone, computer, or tablet.

The app is free with in-app purchases, and although there was a couple year gap in updates, it still remained functional during that time (if somewhat dated looking). Now that it has a slightly more modern aesthetic, there’s no reason not to use it.

The setup process is simple. Once you have the app installed, fire it up, and jump past the changelog splash screen to the main app. There you toggle the “Connect” switch, grant the app access to your contacts, select the Gmail account you’d like to have your messages synced to, and decide if you’d like all your current messages to be backed up or not as it pulls SMS permissions. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

You can set the app to automatically back up messages with a configurable schedule. I’ve always found the default settings—which back up incoming messages every minute and outgoing messages every two hours—to be fine. Data used by the app is pretty minimal, but if you are concerned, you can set it to only make backups on Wi-Fi. It’s also able to broadcast an intent at the time of backup for third-party app integration.

The backup process for SMS Backup+ is pretty slow, but since messages really only need to be backed up once—and since that can be done as they come in without you even noticing—it’s not really a problem. It is much more of a concern, however, if you plan on using the system to migrate between devices, as the restoration process is quite time-consuming.

In fact, if that’s your intention, there’s another app in this guide which might suit you a bit better.

SMS Backup & Restore

SMS Backup & Restore has changed hands a few times in recent history. It was bought by Carbonite and later sold to SyncTech. But none of that really matters, it’s just a good, free app for exporting SMS and MMS messages in a single file.

On first launch, SMS Backup & Restore has a nice little walk through that explains which permissions it needs to request and why, at which point it asks for the whole bundle at once before dumping you on the main screen.

Hager, Ryne. ” How to bck up your SMS text messages on Android” Android Police, April 27, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Get Better Wi-Fi

The cable plan you signed up for promised up to 300 Mbps of blistering Internet speed, but reality has proven to be somewhat different. You’re barely topping 25 Mbps, Netflix doesn’t work upstairs and by 7 p.m., no one seems to be able to stream anything at all.

It’s quite possible to boost your Wi-Fi speed yourself, with the solution being as simple as moving your router or as persnickety as switching Wi-Fi frequencies.

The distance between the router and connecting devices, as well as the number of walls and floors in between, make a big difference. While a Wi-Fi signal can travel hundreds of feet in an unobstructed space, walls and floors can cut that distance by half or more.

Your connection speed can also be influenced by your router—how old it is, how good its processor and antenna are, how good it is at picking up wireless signals and how many devices are using it.

In some cases, your connection speed may even come down to your service provider’s preference for certain kinds of traffic. Service providers prioritize voice traffic first, then their own video services.

What actions can you take to increase your Wi-Fi performance and get your streaming speed back up to par?

1. Check the router

The IP connection between your device and the router or between the router and Internet can get hung up. A restart of the router reboots all its systems, including the network processor and wireless radios.

If your router has a reset button, hold it down for a few seconds. If not, restart it by removing the cable from the power socket, waiting half a minute and then plugging it in again.

If that doesn’t work, check to make sure the router firmware is up to date. Look for the update option under “System” in router software you have installed on your computer. Only download router firmware updates from the manufacturer’s website.

You may also find that resetting and reinstalling your router software may do the trick. For most routers, this is accomplished by holding down the reset button and then reinstalling the software.

2. Turn off Eco mode

Some routers have a power-saving or Eco mode that’s on by default. Eco mode can slow down your Wi-Fi and the actual power savings are minimal. In your router’s settings, look for Eco mode or power-saving mode and turn it off. Also, check to see if your router has an Automatic transmission setting and make sure it’s at 100 percent.

3. Move the router

Most good routers have antennas that try to provide a symmetrical ‘donut‘ of Wi-Fi coverage, so when possible, place the router in an open space centrally located in your house, equidistant from its farthest locations.

Place the router up high to help avoid obstructions.

The materials surrounding the router matter as well. Metal interferes with Wi-Fi signals, while wood does not. Positioning the router’s antenna vertically rather than horizontally also increases signal strength.

4. Check to see if other family members are streaming

Intensive activities like streaming HD video or file sharing can take its toll on Internet speed. Routers can support hundreds of devices connecting, but it’s more about what each device is doing online. For example, if everyone is watching Netflix at the same time, this can cause an overall slowdown.

Distance from the router is important as well. If four people are streaming video but they’re all close to the router, you may not experience any slowdowns. So if everyone simply must watch Netflix or play Fortnite separately and simultaneously, try to move the devices closer to the router with as little wall or floor obstructing the path as possible.

5. Check if your ISP is having a hard time keeping up

Another bottleneck is the speed of the service coming from your service provider. A lot of ISPs oversubscribe, so you can feel the lag in the afternoon when everyone gets home.

Test your connection by running a speed test from a site such as SpeedTest.net at different times during the day (There can be confusing ads on this page, so don’t click on anything but the big “Go” button). You don’t want it to fluctuate too much over the course of a day. The speed should always be at least 80 to 90 percent of what your service provider promises. If that’s the case but you’re still not satisfied …

6. Run a ping test

While a speed test gauges the speed possible based on available bandwidth from the service provider, a ping test gauges latency, which is the delay in communication between your computer (or phone) and a particular website on the Internet. It can tell you how good the quality of your Internet connection is.

Head back to SpeedTest.net, where you’ll receive a ping figure measured in milliseconds. In general, lower numbers are better, but anything under 50 is considered good and under 100 is average.

7. Check to see if you’re on an overcrowded channel

Slow Wi-Fi speeds may be the result of interference from your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks as all the devices compete to use the same channel.

All routers support the 2.4Ghz frequency, which distributes traffic among a handful of channels. Dual-band and tri-band routers also support 5GHz frequency, which contains even more channels. That frequency tends to be less congested and therefore usually allows faster connections. And with tri-band routers, you get two separate data streams, which can help if two devices are accessing the router on the 5GHz frequency simultaneously.

You may be able to increase your speed by switching to a less busy channel. Download a wireless channel analyzer app such as Wifi Analyzer for Android (no equivalent for non-jailbroken iPhones) or a desktop program such as NirSoft’s Wi-FiInfoView for Windows. Macs have the tool built in; hit Option and tap the wireless icon in your top toolbar, then click Open Network Diagnostics. Open the menu and select Utilities. Select the Wi-Fi Scan tab and choose Scan Now. You’ll see the best 2.4 and 5GHz channels.  These programs show each channel on each Wi-Fi frequency and which ones nearby networks are using.

8. Switch to a different channel

If you discover you’re on an especially crowded channel, you can manually change it. Type your router’s IP address into your web browser. (The IP address is usually on the back of the router, or you can google your router’s model.) You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password, after which you can click through to Wi-Fi settings and select the channel recommended by your Wi-Fi analyzer program.

Check for interference from a nearby cordless device

Baby monitors, older cordless phones, microwave ovens and wireless speakers are just some of the common household gadgets that also use the 2.4Ghz frequency. These can interfere with the wireless signal from your router.

Deal with the conflict by moving the router away from these devices and ensuring that no devices that could potentially interfere lie in a straight line between your router and the gadget you’re trying to get online with.

Stokes, Natasha. “How to Get Better Wi-Fi” Techlicious, Internet & Networking, Tips & How To’s, May 1, 2018

Posted in: IoT, IT Support, Mobile Computing, Networking, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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6 Cool Things in Windows 10 April 2018 Update

Microsoft no longer releases major overhauls to its operating system. Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows, and Redmond now releases upgrades to it on a semi-annual basis instead of one huge upgrade every few years.

The latest, out today, lacks a descriptive name; it’s just the April 2018 Update. But while it’s smaller than previous releases, there are several noteworthy goodies available to Windows users, many of which aim to save you ti me or help your manage time better.

Speaking of time, the update will roll out slowly, first to the most compatible PCs. The whole roll-out process can take months, but you can install the April 2018 Update manually via the Update Assistant utility from Microsoft’s website.

But unless you’re super-stoked to get the new features, you’re actually better off waiting for the normal Windows Update process, as your machine may not be ready to run the new software reliably. In fact, if you’d rather put off the update, you can go into Settings > Windows Update > Advanced Settings and defer the update for up to 365 days. You’ll still receive security and reliability updates.

1. Timeline

The biggest feature of the April 2018 Update, Timeline was originally planned for the Fall Creators Update. It takes over the OS’s multiple virtual desktop button to add the element of time. For me, usurping the multiple virtual desktop feature for Timeline cluttered up the interface, but your desktops still appear across the top clearly. Only activity from the last 30 days is included.

A plus is that Timeline includes activities you performed on your iOS or Android smartphone if you’ve installed Office or Edge there. It will take time to build up some history with Timeline to see whether the feature really delivers. For it to work between devices, Timeline must store your activity in the Microsoft Cloud; if you don’t want that, you can disable it in Settings or set it only to work on the local machine.

2. Nearby Sharing

Apple devices like Mac computers and iPhones have long included the nifty though underused AirDrop feature. This lets you send a photo or document to someone nearby who’s also using an Apple device. It doesn’t require internet connectivity, just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (though you don’t even need to be connected to a Wi-Fi router).

As with AirDrop, you need to turn on Nearby Sharing, in this case in the Action Center right-sidebar. And as with Apple’s feature, when you tap an app’s Share icon, nearby recipients with the feature turned on appear as targets. It’s a convenient way to get pictures, websites, and documents to someone nearby without having to email or message.

3. Focus Assist

With all the constant bombardments hitting knowledge workers these days—from Slack, email, social networks, and more—the new Focus Assist feature can help you get things done and take control of your time use. Windows 10 already had a “quiet hours” feature accessible from the Action Center, but the new feature adds the ability to schedule focus times, provides a summary of what you missed when you return from focus, and lets you designate contacts who can still reach you during focus time. You can also allow alarms during focus if you choose.

4. Dictation Anywhere

Microsoft has long been strong in speech technology, with dictation an option for over a decade, and Cortana listening for her name and your command. But now you can enter text with your voice in any text entry area you see, simply by hitting the Windows Key-H hotkey combination. This feature has already made it into some pre-April 2018 versions of Windows, so give the key combo a try. One shortcoming is that it doesn’t punctuate what you say—something I’d expect in this day of speech AI.

5. Edge Browser Improvements

Edge already lets you see which site tabs are making noise on your PC, but with the update, you can now silence them by clicking the mouse cursor on the small speaker icon that appears in the offending tabs. With the update, Edge also gets full-screen capability for PDF and ebook viewing (What? You didn’t know that Edge also had ebook capability, and even a bookstore?).

The April 2018 Update adds the ability to store payment information to speed up online transactions. Printing webpages also gets better with a new clutter-free option. And finally, a Grammar tool shows learners syllable breaks in words as well as parts of speech, such as adjective or noun.

6. Cortana Smart Home Control

Don’t feel like buying another gadget to control your smart home? The Windows 10 April 2018 Update lets you do it from your PC, using Cortana. Just say, “Hey Cortana, set the lights to 25 percent” and your Philips Hue bulbs respond appropriately. Ditto for ecobee, Nest, or Honeywell smart thermostats. Of course, if you don’t want to leave your PC on all the time, you could also do this through the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker.

 

Muchmore, Micheal. “6 Cool Things in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update” PC Magazine, April 2018

Posted in: IT Support, Mobile Computing, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to export saved passwords from Chrome to a CSV file

This process shows you how to export your passwords stored in Chrome into a CSV file, so that you are able to import your account credentials into a password manager. However, there’s one big caveat.

At first blush, you may think I’ve lost my mind. Wouldn’t exporting passwords to a text-based CSV file be insecure? Although that may be true, when you want to migrate your passwords from Chrome to a password manager (especially when you have a large number of passwords), the last thing you want to do is rely upon your memory to recall all the URLs, usernames, and passwords. And if you’re migrating away from Chrome—which you might be so inclined to do after reading this piece—you’ll want to export those passwords, such that they can be imported into your password manager of choice.

I’m going to walk you through the process of exporting your password information from Chrome. How you then import that information into your password manager will depend upon the tool you use. Fortunately, many of the better password managers are capable of importing CSV files.

With that said, let’s take care of this.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a working version of Chrome. That’s it. As long as you’ve stored your passwords with that browser, you should be good to.

A word of warning (IMPORTANT!!!)

This exported CSV file stores all your information in plain text. The idea here is to export the file, import it into a password manager, trash the exported CSV file, and then undo the process. If you leave that CSV file on your hard drive, you run the risk of leaving yourself exposed. If you don’t undo Chrome’s ability to export, someone could come along and export the file (more on that danger in a bit). Because of that, it is very important you delete that file after you’ve imported it into your password manager. Or you can always save that file to a USB drive, and then lock that drive up in a safe. Either way you go, make sure to protect that file at all costs.

Exporting

The first thing to do is enable password exporting. To do that, open Chrome and type chrome://flags/ in the address bar and hit Enter. In the resulting window type Password export in the search field. When the search result appears, select Enable from the drop-down.

You will then be prompted to restart Chrome. When Chrome restarts, click on the menu button (three horizontal lines in the upper right corner) and click Settings. In the Settings window, click Advanced and scroll down to Manage passwords. Click the three vertical dots associated with Saved passwords and then click Export.

When prompted, click the EXPORT PASSWORDS button and save the .CSV file.

You can now import that newly downloaded file into your password manager.

Undoing your work

First off, remember to delete that file or tuck it away for safekeeping. Once you’ve done that, go back to Chrome, type chrome://flags in the address bar, search for Password export, and disable the feature (set to Default). Relaunch Chrome and the feature will no longer be available.

THE BIG CAVEAT (IMPORTANT!!!)

Unfortunately, Chrome no longer allows the browser to use a password for profile locks. Because of this, you might consider deleting Chrome from your desktop, if you are migrating to Firefox for example and aren’t planning on using Google’s browser. Otherwise, someone with the understanding of how to export passwords could gain access to that data by following the above process.

In the end, the last thing you should do is allow Chrome to save your passwords. If you do, and a malicious user has access to your browser, there’s nothing keeping them from exporting your passwords to a file and using them to gain access to your accounts. Lock those passwords away in a password manager, and remove the passwords from chrome (Chrome | Settings | Advanced | Manage Passwords).

Consider this a word of warning.

Wallen, Jack. “How to export saved passwords from Chrome to a CSV file” TechRepublic, March 22, 2018

Posted in: IT Support, Mobile Computing, Security

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Never Miss an Important Email on Your Smartphone

In today’s always connected world, it’s expected that you will get an email as soon as someone has sent it. But with all the junk, spam and unimportant messages from people you know, it’s too much of a hassle to sort through it all every time you check your mail app.

Fortunately, you can set your phone’s email apps to flag emails from certain senders as important and notify you immediately. Read on to find out how to set your smartphone to keep you on top of important emails.

For iPhone or iPad Running iOS 11: Use the Mail app

Your iOS device comes equipped with a default email app called Mail. You can set it to check your incoming email from many popular email services such Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Outlook.

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll down until you find the “Accounts & Passwords” option and tap it
  3. Under Accounts, tap Add Account
  4. You will see a list of popular email services to choose from. Pick one or, if you don’t see yours, choose Other.
  5. Follow the directions for each service you want to add, but generally, you’ll have to provide the name the email is registered under, the email address (john.doe@gmail.com), the password and a description so you can identify it in a list next to other email accounts you may have set up in Mail.
  6. Once set up, open the Mail app, choose the email account from the list that appears and make sure it has synched.

Once it’s set up you can then use Apple’s Mail app to set up a VIP list.  A special message tone will sound off so you’re well aware of every important email that comes in that is flagged as from a VIP. To add email addresses to the VIP list:

  1. Open the Mail app
  2. Find an email with a sender that you want to mark as a VIP
  3. Tap on the email address of a sender
  4. Tap Add to VIP

Alternately:

  1. Go to the Mail app’s home screen
  2. Select VIP (if you already have contacts designated as VIP, tap the i in the circle next to VIP )
  3. Tap on Add VIP…
  4. Choose a name from your contact list

Make sure any mail from a VIP appears as an alert on your screen, a notification on your Lock screen and as a custom alert tone:

  • Launch the Settings app
  • Select Mail
  • Tap on Notifications
  • Tap on VIP

Under Alert Style, choose whether you want Banners, which automatically go away or Notifications, which require you to act before they disappear. Then select from the following options:

  1. “Show on Lock Screen”
  2. Select Sound for a custom auditory alert (or choose none for a silent alert)
  3. “Show Previews” to see part of the email in your notifications

For Samsung devices: Use the Email app

Your Android device comes equipped with a default email app called Email. You can set it to check your incoming email from any email service that supports POP3, IMAP or Microsoft Exchange, which means just about any service. To set up your email:

  1. Open the Email app
  2. Select Menu
  3. Select Settings (the gear icon)
  4. Add account
  5. Input your email address and password. The app will try to set up your email automatically, which should work for most email providers. If that fails, you’ll need to manually configure it with your POP3, IMAP or Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync settings. Your email provider will be able to provide those.

To add VIP

  1. Go back to Settings and select Notifications
  2. Turn on email notifications for VIPs
  3. Tap on “Notification Sound” and “Vibrations” to customize the alert
  4. Go back to the main menu
  5. Select VIP
  6. Select the + button
  7. Enter the email address for anyone you want to add to the list or select the person from your Contacts address book
  8. Now when a contact you’ve designated as a VIP emails you, you’ll receive an alert.

For other Android devices: Use the Gmail app

Gmail allows you to set up filters so important emails that come in are auto-labeled and auto-starred, say emails from your boss. Once you set that up, you can then tell your phone to only notify when an email with a certain label arrives and ignore the rest.

The first step is setting up the important email to be auto-labeled and you can’t do this on your phone. You’ll need to access Gmail on a desktop or laptop machine.

  1. Point your browser to gmail.com and sign in.
  2. Find an email from someone you want to be alerted about and open that message
  3. On the upper right-hand corner of the email to the right of the date stamp of the email, you’ll see a downward pointing arrow. Click on that and choose the “Filter Messages Like This” option.
  4. The sender of the message will autofill into the form. Click the “Create filter with this search” link at the bottom of the box.
  5.  Check the “Apply the label:” box.
  6. Click on the “Choose Label” drop down and choose “New Label”
  7. In the pop-up box that appears, give the label a name such as “The Boss” and click on “Create”
  8. This will bring you back to the “Apply the label:” box. At the bottom click Create Filter.

Alternately:

  1. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Gmail inbox and choose Settings from the drop-down
  2. Click on the Filter tab
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Filter list and click on “Create a new filter”
  4. Type in the email address from the sender you want to be flagged. Click the “Create filter with this search” link at the bottom of the box.
  5. Check the “Apply the label:” box.
  6. Click on the “Choose Label” drop down and choose “New Label”
  7. In the pop-up box that appears, give the label a name such as “The Boss” and click on “Create”
  8. This will bring you back to the “Apply the label:” box. At the bottom click Create Filter.

Now to set up your Android phone to notify when an email comes in that falls under that label.

  1. Open up the Gmail app
  2. Tap on the upper left corner and then on Settings
  3. Select the email account where you’re receiving important email
  4. Make sure Notifications is checked
  5. Scroll down and tap on “Manage labels”
  6. Scroll down your list of labels to find the one you just created and tap on it
  7. You will be asked to Sync the mail for that label to your phone to enable notifications. Tap the sync message, then choose 30 days from the list of sync options.
  8. After it is done syncing, you will see a notification screen. Tap on the “Label notifications” check box.
  9. On this page, you can also customize the sound, set it to Vibrate and enable the phone to play sound/vibrate when each new message arrives.
  10. Hit the back button and check your other labels to make sure notifications are not turned on (“notify once” will appear under the label). By default, your Primary inbox at the top of the list is synced to notify, so you’ll want to tap that and then uncheck the “Label notifications” checkbox.

Congratulations. You are now set up to be alerted as soon as an important email arrives!

Kantra, Suzanne. “Never Miss an Important Email on Your Smartphone” Techlicious, Phones & Mobile, Productivity, Tips & How-To’s. March 19, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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8 Tips to Deep-Clean Your Android Phone

Does your Android phone feel sluggish? Is the camera refusing to take pictures because there’s no more space to save them? Or maybe you’ve had to resort to a one-in-one-out policy when it comes to downloading new apps.

A deep-clean could be the solution. Whether your phone sports 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage, it can be all too easy to fill it up, especially if you’ve migrated app data and settings from an older phone. Restoring a full backup of your device (to see if you’re backing up, check Settings > Backup & reset > Back up my data) minimizes the setup required when upgrading to a shiny new phone — but it can mean that you end up dragging along apps and data you no longer need.

Even if you’ve started afresh, photos can be another common storage hog. Not only are smartphones the de facto recorder of life’s moments, they also collect all the images and videos you receive from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and image files created in scanner apps, for example. All these images are saved to your device — but with Google’s generous photo upload policy (unlimited lower-resolution uploads for all Google users; unlimited full-res uploads for Pixel and Nexus users), it’s hardly necessary. Anytime you have an internet connection, you can view every photo you’ve ever uploaded via the Google Photos app.

Downloaded files from emails and web browsing can make sneaky demands on those GBs too, and if you’ve been using your phone for a while, it may be overstuffed with fragments of app data — cached files that apps create while they run to help keep operation smooth and slick.

Expunging unneeded apps, photos and other files from your phone is a must when you’re running low on storage, and can even provide a sizeable boost in performance. Here’s how to get started with your Android deep-clean:

The basics

1. Identify the biggest storage-hungry culprits.

Like laptops, smartphones use a solid-state drive for storage, and maxing out this drive can slow down performance (here’s a technical explanation of why). Tests have suggested that using no more than 75% of total storage of computer solid-state drives helps with performance. If sluggishness has been an issue, aim to delete enough files so you’re under that benchmark.

Head into Settings > Storage where you can see what percentage of your total storage you’ve used, and what types of apps are eating it up.

Photos often take up the most space, so if you haven’t already, here you can enable Smart Storage, which backs up photos and videos that are over 30, 60 or 90 days old to the Google Photos cloud service. This option means you can delete photos from your device, but still view them via the Google Photos app, whenever you have an internet connection. For Pixel and Nexus phones, doing this is a particular no-brainer as you get unlimited full-resolution photo uploads in Google Drive; for users of other Android phones who have enabled unlimited lower-resolution backups, it’s worth noting that this option will delete your full-resolution originals (from your device) unless you back them up somewhere else first (like an external hard drive or a photo sharing service such as Flickr, which offers 1TB of free storage).

Note: Deleting photos directly from the Photos app removes them from everywhere even if you’ve selected auto-backup — see below for how to delete backed up images and videos from your device only.

2. Free up space (easily).

An easy place to start is by deleting downloads, infrequently used apps and backed up photos and videos. For those running Android 8.0 Oreo, it’s as easy as going to Settings > Storage and tapping on “Free up space.” If your phone is running Android 7.0 Nougat (or earlier — which you shouldn’t be, because you should always install software updates) you’ll need to address each separately.

Since your photos and videos are backed up to Google Drive, deleting them doesn’t affect your ability to view them on your phone, as long as you have an internet connection. Go ahead and check these for deletion — I last reclaimed a pretty hefty 5GB of space. For Android 7, open the Photos app (not the Samsung Gallery if you have a Samsung phone) select Menu > Free up space.

Downloaded files can accumulate through email attachments or PDFs you open while web browsing. Here you can view a list of downloads in order of size, then delete what you don’t need. You may not claw back more than a hundred MB from download files, but go ahead and delete them anyway — every byte counts. For Android 7, go to the Downloads app, sort the files by size and then touch and hold to bring up the option to delete the file.

Infrequently used apps can easily build up on your Android phone too — whether you’ve migrated some outdated apps from a previous phone or you download apps on a tablet or web browser that remotely turn up on your phone too. Happily, here in “Free up space,” you’ll be shown which apps haven’t been used in at least 90 days — which may not mean you don’t want them, so run through the list before hitting delete. For Android 7, go to Settings > Applications > Application Manager and you’ll see a list of apps. If any don’t look familiar, tap and then select “Uninstall.”

Note: You can check “Free up space” regularly to see if there are photos or downloads you can quickly and easily delete with little impact.

3. Check to see what other types of apps and files are taking up a lot of space.

The storage manager also shows how much space various categories of apps take up compared with others. Do you have a ton of games, music apps or movie/TV apps? If so, tap on the category and run your eye down the list. Are many apps performing similar functions? If so, you could delete some of them. If you know which apps you want to delete, head into Settings > Apps and notifications > Show all apps for Android 8 (or Settings > Applications > Application Manager for Android 7), then tap the apps in question and hit uninstall.

If you need a little more inspiration for deletion, you can see which apps are getting the least playtime — and are therefore the ripest candidates for deletion — by heading to Play Store > top-left menu > My apps & games. Sort by “Alphabetical” in the top-right to filter by “Last used,” and head to the bottom of the list to check for underused apps, especially if they eat up more MBs than their neighbors. To delete an app, tap to open, then hit uninstall.

4. Manage music and podcasts.

If you use Google’s Play Music app for streaming music and podcasts, you may have inadvertently selected to download purchased or uploaded music to your device, or allowed the app to automatically download the three most recent episodes of subscribed podcasts.

That might mean you have a ton of media on your device that doesn’t really need to be there — after all, if you’re in a Wi-Fi or 4G zone you’ll have access to the tunes. Or, you may have doubles of particular songs if they appear in various collections. (Of course, if you’re embarking on a 12-hour plane journey, go ahead and keep these on your device.)

You can see how much storage space music and podcasts are taking up in Play Music > Settings > Downloading > Manage downloads, where you’ll also see how this compares to the storage usage of other apps. To clear out these downloads, tap on Music Library > Songs and manually delete song by song (or podcast episode).

To prevent future auto-downloads, in the Play Music app, head to Settings > Downloading and disable the setting.

Streamlining

You’ll most likely still have various bits of digital flotsam that have escaped the wide net cast above — this next stage is about streamlining the files that are saved to storage.

5. Sort out your photos.

In Photos, hit the top left menu and select “Device Folders,” where you’ll see categories such as Screenshots, WhatsApp images, videos and gifs, Instagram pictures and other image files created in your various apps. You can delete folders here — for example, you probably don’t need to save all your WhatsApp gifs or items scanned on Office Lens — by tapping on the folder, then the top-right menu (or selecting All in Android 7 and tapping the trash icon). Here you can also turn off syncing to Google Photos; though they won’t count against your storage if they are less than 20MP image (which they should be), for the sake of a tidy cloud folder, screenshots probably don’t need to be backed up, for example. A cloud with a line through it indicates a folder is not being synced (and therefore if you delete it here, it’s gone forever). So make sure you sync your photos and videos before you purge them off of your phone.

6. Delete old offline maps.

Google Maps’ offline feature can be a godsend for navigating abroad without incurring roaming charges. However, those saved maps of Paris or Casablanca could be contributing to your phone’s dwindling storage. Open Google Maps and tap the top-left menu button to view — and delete — offline maps of places you’re no longer in.

7. Empty app cache or app data.

In the course of operation, apps create cache files — bits of data created as you use an app in order to make the app run faster. Depending on how much you use an app, cached files can build up to quite a size — but, thankfully, they can safely be deleted.

Head to Settings > Storage > Other apps to see a list of your downloaded apps (excluding music, games, and movie/TV apps) sorted by the amount of storage they take up. Click on the ones using the most storage to see how much of that is taken up by cached files. You can then click on “Clear cache,” which can help with storage issues as well as improve sluggish performance — for example, my Instagram cache took up nearly 1.4GB while the app itself took up under 100MB. If you’re using Android 7, you can clear all app cache data at once in Settings > Storage > Cached data.

If the phone is having performance issues — or if an app is glitching — you might even hit “Clear Data” on especially bloated apps, which essentially resets the app as if you had just downloaded it. You would then need to sign in again and any saved progress in the app (such as with a game) might be lost unless the app is saving data to the cloud (such as with Instagram — you could clear app data in Instagram without losing photos).

The nuclear option

The ultimate deep-clean, of course, cleans all of it out: your photos, apps, data and settings.

8. Do a factory reset.

With so many apps, including the photos and contacts book, capable of syncing to the cloud, this isn’t as explosive a nuclear option as it might be in a computer deep-clean — and it can be the best way to clear the junk from your Android trunk in one fell swoop, while potentially bringing your phone back to its early-days speed.

Resetting your phone means you can then cherry-pick the apps you want to reinstall. Check in Settings > System > Backup > App data that you’ve enabled Automatic restore so that when reinstalling these apps, their data and settings are preserved. (Alternately, you might disable this setting if some apps were glitching — a fresh install might sort out in-app performance issues.)

Finally, head to Settings > System > Reset options > Factory reset — and enjoy your spiffy like-new phone.

Stokes, Natasha. “8 Tips to Deep-Clean Your Android Phone” Techlicious, Phones & Mobile, Tips & How-To’s, March 7, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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iOS 11 Tips & Tricks You Need to Know Right Now

iOS 11 is officially out, which means you can install it on your iPhone and iPad right now to experience some of the things Apple has been working on. If you’ve already tried the beta, then you’ve probably discovered all the secrets of iOS 11. If you’re experiencing it for the first time, however, you should know that many things are changed, while others are just hidden.

Control Center
Swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and there’s a new Control Center. It has a new design and comes with 3D Touch support. But the best part about it is that you can customize it to fit your needs. Customize Control Center from the Settings app.


Clearing Notification

Clear all notifications with a tap. Yes, you can, just hold onto that X until the Clear All Notifications menu appears.

Drag and Drop

iOS 11 does drag and drop. The feature shines on iPad, but you can also use it on iPhone in select apps including the Notes and Camera apps.

 

Annotate screenshots

You can now instantly annotate screenshots before sharing them. No longer will you have to open them in a different app to do it. Just click on the screenshot thumbnail in the lower right corner after you take one, and annotate it. Share it, and you can then delete it immediately from the same interface.

Indoor Maps

When your walking, Apple Maps will help you not get lost while walking in certain locations like airports.

Screen Recording

It’s finally here. Screen Recording is a great new addiiton to iOS 11, and it all “just works” directly from the Control Center.

I hope you find these tips useful!

Smith, Chris. The iOS 11 hidden tricks you absolutely need to learn right now” BGR

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Best Android Tips to Make Your Phone More Useful

Things looked shaky for Android in its first year or two, but it has overtaken Windows as the most popular computing platform in the world. Android gained traction with device makers because it’s open source and free, and users grew to love Android for the plethora of features and customization options. Google is always making tweaks and coming up with new features for Android, and OEMs like Samsung and LG can add their own stuff on top of that. It can be hard to keep up, so we’ve gathered the 25 best tips for your Android phone right here.

1. Configure a secure lock screen

Android phones all offer various forms of secure lock screens. Most phones will prompt you to do this during setup now, and you should. The defaults are PIN, pattern, and password. Most devices now offer fingerprint security which will probably be the fastest way to unlock your device. To control your lock screen, head to the system settings, and find the Security menu. Some phones have a separate lock screen menu instead. You will need to have a secure lock screen to use features like Android Pay and factory reset protection.

2. Disable/uninstall bloatware

Most phones come with some apps pre-installed that you won’t want to keep around. Luckily, they can be dealt with these days. Some pre-installed bloat can be uninstalled normally by using the Play Store or finding it in the app settings menu. However, anything that’s part of the system image is non-removable. What you can do is disable it by opening the app menu from the main system settings and finding the app in your list. Right at the top will be a “Disable” button that removes it from your app drawer and prevents it from running in the background.3. Find my phone

We have all occasionally lost track of a phone. Maybe it was hiding in the couch cushions or sitting on the kitchen counter. Don’t go crazy looking for your phone next time; just use Google’s “Find my phone” tool (previously known as Android Device Manager). You can access this via the web on a mobile device or computer. Simply log into your Google account, and choose your missing phone from the drop down menu. Google reaches out and shows you where it is. You can also ring the phone, even if it’s in silent mode. If worse comes to worst, you can remotely erase the phone to protect your data.

4. Add mobile data tracking

Data caps are common across mobile carriers, and data rates just keep getting faster. To make sure you don’t blow through your monthly allotment, visit the data usage menu in the system settings. Some phones call this something a little different, but it’s always right near the top. Here, you can set your plan reset date, create a warning threshold, and even have data automatically disabled when you’re about to incur an overage. If that’s not to your liking, Google has an app in the Play Store called Datally (pictured). It collects data from the settings menu, and it can limit background data with a nifty floating counter to track your bytes.

5. Choose Do Not Disturb settings

Android’s notification settings are a bit confusing right now. Not only do OEMs often change the terminology, but Google itself has revamped it a few times in recent updates. You’ll find the settings for this feature either in your volume popup when you hit the toggle or by going into the system settings for notifications (usually Sound and Notification). It will be called Do Not Disturb on most devices. In this menu, you can choose when DND is toggled on automatically, what is blocked, and if any contacts are allowed to ring through anyway. Simply turning DND on is usually possible from the quick settings, which is faster than opening the system settings.

And much more…

This is just the beginning, though. If you would like to read more, Click here to read the full article including 25 tips. There’s a lot more to discover in Android, and every device is a little different. So, don’t be afraid to poke around in the deep, dark corners of the settings and see what you can find.

Whitmwan, Ryan. “25 Best Android Tips to Make Your Phone More Useful” ExtremeTech, December 18, 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Easy Ways to Find Your Phone

What would you rather give up than your phone? According to surveys over the last few years, many have said they’d rather give up sex (30%), chocolate/alcohol (80%) or even their car (%30) than do without their phone. So when our phones are lost or misplaced, we panic. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to track a phone, whether it’s hiding in the couch cushions with the ringer off, left behind at a restaurant or even stolen and turned off. Here are 5 ways to find your phone when it goes missing.


The first four ways of locating your phone require that your phone have location capabilities turned on BEFORE you lose your phone. For Android phones, you’ll find this under Settings > Security & Location > Location (for some phones, you’ll just see Location). For iPhones, go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud then select Find My iPhone and then turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location. You may be prompted to enter your Apple ID and password.

1. Google it (Android)

If you have an Android phone, you can find your device by Googling “find my device” on any device with a browser and internet access. Depending on the browser you use and whether you’re logged into your Google account, you may be taken directly to Find My Device – Google or you’ll need to select “Find My Device – Google” from the search results. Either way, you’ll then log into your Google account or re-confirm your password. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be presented with a screen that shows your phone’s location and the option to “Play Sound,” “Lock” or “Erase.” If you select “Play Sound,” your phone will ring for up to 5 minutes, even if the ringer is off. If your phone is off,  you will see its last known location.

If you have multiple Android devices, you can also download the Find My Device app (free for Android) to view all of the device associated with your account.


2. Use Find My Phone (iPhone)

If you have an iPhone, you can use Find My Phone, an app that comes preloaded on iPhones and iPads and is available on iCloud.com. As noted above, you’ll need to turn on Find My Phone before you’ll be able to use Find My Phone (go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud then select Find My iPhone and then turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location). Then you’ll be able to see your phone’s location by logging into iCloud.com and selecting the Find My Phone app. You’ll also be able to see other devices associated with your account and, if you’ve set up Family Sharing, you’ll also be able to see their devices’ locations, unless they’ve decided to keep their location private.


3. Use a phone tracking app

Tracking and recovery apps like Prey Anti Theft (free for iOS and Android) provide one place to track all of the mobile devices in your home, whether they run on iOS or Android (It covers Macs and PCs as well). Once you’ve installed the app on a device and created a Prey account, you’re ready to start locating.

Depending on your issue—loss or theft –you can set your device to respond in different ways when you notify Prey the phone is missing. First, the phone determines its location and sends it back with a time stamp and pictures taken with the phone’s front and back cameras. Then you can have the phone sound an alarm, receive a text message that states the phone is lost or stolen or operate in stealth mode. You can also set up Control Zones, areas in your city that you’ll be notified if the phone enters or leaves.

The free version covers 3 devices and one Control Zone and will store the last 20 location reports (you can get as many as you want, but the older ones are deleted as new ones come in). You can upgrade to a Personal account for $5 per month for 3 devices and 3 Controls Zones, saves 100 location reports per device and generates reports more quickly when you report a device missing. A Home account will cover 10 devices, comes with unlimited Control Zones and costs $15 per month.


4. Use your smartwatch

One feature on my Apple Watch that I use at least once a day is Ping iPhone. I just swipe up on the watch face and select the ringing phone icon. Tapping will ping the phone once. If you have an Android Wear watch and an Android phone, you can say “Ok Google, find my phone.” Then you scroll up and tap Start and then select Find my phone. It will start ringing, even if the ringer is off.

Your smartwatch must be paired with your phone, Bluetooth must be turned on and the two devices must be in range.


5. Use a device tracker

While you’ll likely use your phone to find your keys and other items clipped to the Tile Pro, you can also use this tracker to ping your phone. You simply double press the Tile icon in the center and your phone will start to ring, even if the ringer is turned off. The Tile Pro has a range of up to 200 feet. You can pick up one Tile Pro for $34.99 or two for $59.99 on Amazon.

Kantra, Suzanne. “5 Easy Ways to Find Your Phone” Techlicious September 27, 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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