Archive for Mobile Computing

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.


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

Leave a Comment (0) →

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

Leave a Comment (0) →

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

Leave a Comment (0) →

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 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 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

Leave a Comment (0) →

‘Smishing’ Is Internet Scammers’ New Favorite Trick. Here’s How to Avoid It

Internet scam artists are moving beyond your email inbox and targeting your text messages instead. With this new scam, called “smishing,” scammers are trying to get you to send them your personal information that could help them access your bank account or other online profiles.  Here’s what you should know.

What are smishing scams?
“Smishing” scams are so named because they’re like a phishing email, except sent via SMS, the technology underlying the typical text message. They often prey on people’s panic or sense of urgency, according to Jason Hong, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. For example, one fraudulent message might appear to be a warning from your bank about an unauthorized charge.

“That’s one of the main ways they try to trick you,” says Hong. “There’s an urgency to the message. There’s something that needs your attention right now.”

How can you avoid smishing scams?
Hong says you should make sure to use different passwords for everything from your bank’s website and social media apps to your email account. Two-factor authentication and password managers like Dashlane and 1Password can also be useful. And in the hypothetical case outlined above, you should call you bank or credit card company directly to verify the alert, rather than clicking any links in suspicious text messages.

Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to block smishing messages entirely, says Steve Wicker, a computer engineering professor at Cornell University. Wicker says the best course of action is to be vigilant for suspicious text messages, just like you should watch out for strange emails. One tip: Look out for text messages from phone numbers that clearly appear fake or suspicious.

Another warning: Wicker says some scammers may be able to make their messages look like they’re coming from a person you know and trust. So if you get a weird message from a friend, it’s a good idea to call them back on the phone and check if they actually sent the text.

Why are scammers using smishing scams?
Scammers could have one of several motives, Hong says. They could be trying to steal a victim’s identity, to access their bank account, or to blackmail them into giving out personal or company secrets.

“That’s where the money is,” Hong added. “People are getting more suspicious of emails. Companies like Google and Yahoo are getting better at detecting fake accounts and shutting them down. So the next easiest thing for [a scammer] to do is to go to mobile.”

Is smishing a new phenomenon?
Smishing scams have been around since as early as 2008, but experts say they are becoming more prevalent. They’re also popping up on all sorts of messaging apps, not just simple text messages.

“This is impacting all systems in the mobile arena, it’s not just limited to one system,” says William Beer, who works on cybersecurity matters for professional services firm EY, previously known as Ernst & Young. “There’s never 100% security on any app, whether they be desktop or mobile.”

Segarra, Lisa Marie. “‘Smishing’ Is Internet Scammers’ New Favorite Trick. Here’s How to Avoid It” Fortune, Security July 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Security

Leave a Comment (0) →

How to Encrypt Your Tablet or Smartphone

How to Encrypt Your Tablet or Smartphone

If you left your smartphone behind in a coffee shop or you were required to pack your tablet in your checked luggage, would your personal data be safely locked away? If you don’t have your device protected by a lock-screen passcode and your data encrypted, your text messages, personal and business contacts, emails, photos and videos and other sensitive information could all be accessible.

What is encryption?

To describe it simply, encryption is the process of jumbling data using an encryption key available only to you in such a way that the information is no longer recognizable or understandable. When you need to use your data, the reverse process of unscrambling, known as decryption, uses your unique encryption key to bring it back to a readable state.

You can think of encryption as a secret code known only to you. If someone were to steal your private journal, the thief wouldn’t be able to understand what’s in it without knowing the secret code you used to encrypt it.

Why encryption is important

Even if you’ve locked down your phone with a strong password, the data behind that wall of defense are still readable — your emails, text messages, photos, everything. So unless you have encrypted your phone, a knowledgeable thief can use various means to crack or bypass your password and then harvest your data.

Since encryption garbles information, it adds another layer of protection to your information by rendering it unusable by anyone who doesn’t hold the key to un-garble it.

Governments encrypt classified information. Businesses guard their corporate secrets with encryption technologies. Doctors and lawyers use encryption to prevent client data from falling into the wrong hands. You can use encryption to shield your personal information against identity and data thieves. In fact, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers encryption a human right because it “provide[s] the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the digital age.”

If you are preparing to sell or give away your mobile device, encrypt it before resetting it to its factory state, especially if it’s an Android device. Even a full factory reset won’t completely wipe out your personal data on older Android devices. Security company Avast found that information you thought had already been wiped clean still remains on your Android device even after a factory reset. The company’s researchers were able to extract photos, emails, text messages, search histories, personal identities, contacts and more from used Android phones they bought from eBay. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have also found that remnants of your “deleted” data can actually be used to log in to your accounts.

You can avert the potential for data breaches like these by encrypting your mobile device.

How to tell if your iPhone or iPad is encrypted

Apple devices running iOS 8 or higher have encryption baked into the OS and file system itself. However, your device isn’t encrypted until after you’ve set up a lockscreen passcode.

How to encrypt your iPhone or iPad

Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. There, turn on the Passcode feature. Disable Simple Passcode so that you can use longer alphanumeric passcodes that are harder to crack. While you’re at it, set the Require Passcode option to Immediately.

Afterwards, return to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and scroll down to the bottom. Here, enable the Erase Data option so that your data will be automatically wiped after 10 failed passcode attempts. You should also see “Data protection is enabled” below the option. This means that data encryption is now active and uses your designated passcode as part of the encryption key. Now no one will be able to hand over your data because only you know your passcode.

How to tell if your Android tablet or phone is encrypted

If your phone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher, it’s encrypted by default.

If your phone is running an earlier version of Android, you can head over to Settings > Security (or in some phones Storage). There you will either see that your phone is encrypted or that you have the option to encrypt your phone.

How to encrypt your Android phone or tablet

On Android devices, the steps are similar. Here’s how to do it for Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop. First, you’ll want to plug your device in and ensure you have at least 80 percent charge. Then go to Settings > Lock Screen > Screen Lock. Input  your old passcode and a new one (make sure it’s at least 6 characters). Then go to Settings > System > Security > Encrypt device > Encrypt Phone (or tablet). If you use a microSD card in your phone, you may also select Encrypt external SD card. Than select Encrypt phone (or tablet).

Once you encrypt your Android device, you cannot turn off encryption without performing a full factory reset. An encrypted SD card will only work on the device that encrypted it, so you can pop the card into a reader on your computer or use it in another device. Fortunately, SD card encryption can be undone, unlike full disk encryption of your mobile device. If you want to use your SD card on another phone, you will have to decrypt it first.

Initial encryption can take 30 minutes to about an hour, depending how much data you have. Your phone or tablet will reboot a few times during the process; this is normal. Just let the process complete. Once encryption is finished, you will be asked for your PIN or password to unlock your device.

Montejo, Elmer.  How to Encryt Your Tablet or Smartphone” Techlicious March 27, 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing

Leave a Comment (0) →

6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows About You

Want to find out all the things Google knows about you?

Here are 6 links that will show you some of the data Google has about you.

  1. Find out what Google thinks about you

In order to serve relevant ads, Google collects data about you and creates a profile. You can control and review the information Google has on you here:

Google also has a tool called Google Analytics, that helps publishers see what pages you have viewed on their website, how many times you have visited it, how long did you stay etc. You can opt out if you don’t want this type of data to be collected:

  1. Find out your location history

If you use Android, your mobile device may be sending your location to Google. You can see your entire location history here:

  1. Find out your entire Google Search history

Google saves every single search you have ever done. On top of that, they record every Google ad you have clicked on. This log is available in Google web history controls:

  1. Get a monthly security and privacy report from Google

Google offers an Account activity page that tells you about all the Google services you are using. You can even enable a monthly report that will be sent to your email:

  1. Find out all the apps and extensions that are accessing your Google data

The Account activity page also offers a list of all the apps that have any type of access to your data. You can see the exact type of permissions granted to the app and revoke access to your data here:

  1. Export all of your data out of Google

Google lets you export all your data: bookmarks, emails, contacts, drive files, profile info, your youtube videos, photos and more here:


Google also keeps a history of your YouTube searches. You can find it here:

 “6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows About You” March 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

Leave a Comment (0) →

You’ve Been Charging Your Smartphone Wrong

Yes, we know. Our smartphone batteries are bad because they barely last a day.

But it’s partially our fault because we’ve been charging them wrong this whole time.

Many of us have an ingrained notion that charging our smartphones in small bursts will cause long-term damage to their batteries, and that it’s better to charge them when they’re close to dead.

But we couldn’t be more wrong.

If fact, a site from battery company Cadex, called Battery University, details how the lithium-ion batteries in our smartphones are sensitive to their own versions of “stress.” And, like for humans, extended stress could be damaging your smartphone battery’s long-term lifespan.

If you want to keep your smartphone battery in top condition and go about your day without worrying about battery life, you need to change a few things.

Don’t keep it plugged in when it’s fully charged

According to Battery University, leaving your phone plugged in when it’s fully charged, like you might overnight, is bad for the battery in the long run.

Once your smartphone has reached 100% charge, it gets “trickle charges” to keep it at 100% while plugged in. It keeps the battery in a high-stress, high-tension state, which wears down the chemistry within.

Battery University goes into a bunch of scientific detail explaining why, but it also sums it up nicely: “When fully charged, remove the battery” from its charging device. “This is like relaxing the muscles after strenuous exercise.” You too would be pretty miserable if you worked out nonstop for hours and hours.

In fact, try not to charge it to 100%

At least when you don’t have to.

According to Battery University, “Li-ion does not need to be fully charged, nor is it desirable to do so. In fact, it is better not to fully charge, because a high voltage stresses the battery” and wears it away in the long run.

That might seem counter-intuitive if you’re trying to keep your smartphone charged all day, but just plug it in whenever you can during the day, and you’ll be fine.

Plug in your phone whenever you can

It turns out that the batteries in our smartphones are much happier if you charge them occasionally throughout the day instead of plugging them in for a big charging session when they’re empty.

Charging your phone when it loses 10% of its charge would be the best-case scenario, according to Battery University. Obviously, that’s not practical for most people, so just plug in your smartphone whenever you can. It’s fine to plug and unplug it multiple times a day.

Not only does this keep your smartphone’s battery performing optimally for longer, but it also keeps it topped up throughout the day.

Plus, periodic top-ups also let you use features you might not normally use because they hog your battery life, like location-based features that use your smartphone’s GPS antenna.

Keep it cool

Smartphone batteries are so sensitive to heat that Apple itself suggests you remove certain cases that insulate heat from your iPhone when you charge it. “If you notice that your device gets hot when you charge it, take it out of its case first.” If you’re out in the hot sun, keep your phone covered. It’ll protect your battery’s health.

Villas-Boas,Antonio. “You’ve Been Charging Your Smartphone Wrong”. Business Insider July 2016

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Technology

Leave a Comment (0) →

What is Spearphishing? How to Stay Safe Online From this Effective Cybercrime Technique

Spearphishing? All it takes is a single click, but it doesn’t have to be this way.spear-phising

Hackers, spammers and cybercriminals have a multitude of methods they can use to infiltrate computer systems, steal data, plant malware or compromise your personal information. One of the most long-standing tactics is targeting ‘phishing’, also known as spearphishing.

It has endured because it works: unwitting web users continue to receive malicious messages and still fall victim to their charms. If you are wondering how dangerous they can be, just ask John Podesta: the US political player who lost tens of thousands of email with a single click.

When a spearphishing email lands in your inbox, it’s rarely a mistake. Using your personal information – either hacked from another source or lifted from public social media profile – spammers are able to produce slick, and highly-convincing, messages.

They will appear legitimate, but spearphishing emails usually contain malware, spyware or another form of virus – often hidden in a link. When clicked, the payload will usually download automatically onto your computer and go to work – stealing files, locking records or logging your keystrokes.

Using your own personal information against you, hackers can craft an extremely personalized email message. It will likely be addressed to you by name and will reference a specific event in your life, something that will make you believe the sender is real and trustworthy.

What information could they possibly know?

Using social media, the spammer will likely already know your age, where you work, what school you attended, personal interests, what you eat for dinner, what concerts you have been to recently, where you shop, what films you like, what music you listen to, your sexual preference, and more.

But this is enough. Using the information, a fictitious hacker could easily pose as your friend and ask for further information about you – your phone number, password, even bank details? Not everyone would fall for the scam, but many still do if the recipient believes the identity of the sender.

A hacker using spearphishing may pose as a retailor, online service or bank to fool you into resetting your credentials via a spoofed landing page. The email may ask you to reset your password or re-verify your credit card number because suspicious activity has been monitored on your account.

If the email tempts you to click an embedded link, it could also download a keylogger or Remote Access Trojan (RAT) onto your computer to steal bank details or social media passwords as you type them. Many people re-use passwords across multiple websites, so the danger of hacking is high.

How to stay protected

Stay protected by being aware of the threats and remaining extremely careful about what personal information you put online. Limit what pictures to post to Facebook or Twitter, check where your email is listed and ensure your computer’s security is kept up to date.

Ensure the passwords you use are original, lengthy and, most importantly, unique to every online website or service. A strong password will contain a mixture of characters, numbers and symbols. If possible, enable two-step authentication on every account that offers it.

Finally, know the signs and stay vigilant. If you receive an email from a close friend that asks for personal information – think twice before replying and send them a reply asking them to verify their identity. Also, know that any real business or bank is unlikely to request sensitive data via email.

Unfortunately, it only takes one click of a mouse for the hacker to access your system and despite advanced spam filters on current email providers spearphishing emails will continue to slip through the cracks.

Murock, Jason. “What is Spearphishing? How to stay safe online from this effective cypbercrime technique”. IBT. December 2016

Posted in: E-mail, Mobile Computing, Security

Leave a Comment (0) →

Prepare Your Digital Devices for Holiday Travel

holiday-travelDecember is the season for getting out on the road — or in the air, or on the tracks, or maybe even on the water. And during our travels, many of us will carry along an assortment of digital devices.

Here are some tips for entertainment and security when you’re away from your usual home/office Wi-Fi networks.

Watch your Netflix favorites offline

On the last day of November, Netflix announced that it was finally offering offline video viewing, free to subscribers. It was excellent news for anyone wanting video entertainment while away from high-speed broadband.

But the new service was not ubiquitous: some Netflix content — probably newer and more popular shows — will still not allow offline viewing. Also important to know, Netflix’s offline viewing is currently limited to iOS 8.0 and higher and Android 4.4.2 and higher. (You also need to upgrade to the latest Netflix app.) In other words, you can’t call up Netflix in your laptop browser and download a video for viewing offline.

Why mobile devices only? Most likely, it’s because mobile operating systems such as iOS don’t have a true user-friendly file-management systems. That makes it easier for Netflix and other media apps to control access to the downloaded video files.

On my iPad, it took about three minutes to download a 46-minute episode of Doc Martin. The download took about 170MB of space, both on an iPad and iPhone. It did not seem to matter whether my default playback setting on the Netflix site was set to Medium or High resolution. The app’s own Video Quality option was set to Standard by default; changing to High increased the file size of my Doc Martin episode to more than double — 384MB. (You might want to switch the higher resolution if you’re casting the video to a full-sized TV.)

So with the right settings, you can pack hours of entertainment on a typical mobile device, assuming you haven’t soaked up a lot of storage space with music, photos, and videos from sources other than Netflix.

The mobile Netflix app offers other important settings for controlling downloads. By default, the featue is limited to Wi-Fi connections; turning that setting off allows downloading videos over a cellular connection. But just to make things a bit more confusing, there’s also a Cellular Date Usage setting for streaming videos. Six options let you control the amount of data used for streaming. You can, for example, limit streaming to Wi-Fi connections only or use the Unlimited option if you’re one of the lucky few who still have an unlimited cellular-data plan. The default setting is Automatic.

Netflix’s offline viewing tool is nicely designed. If the feature is available for a particular video, you’ll see a down-arrow (see Figure 1) next to the title and description. Another window lists your downloaded media (along with length and file size) and makes it easy to delete shows you’re done with.


Figure 1. Download shows for offline viewing by tapping the down-arrow icon.

(Amazon Prime also allows some content downloading. Check your subscriptions for details. Expect other streaming services to enhance or add downloading options.)

The timing of the Netflix announcement was somewhat ironic. While researching traveling with digital devices, I ran across the PlayOn app (site), which also lets you download and play streaming video offline. You might think that Netflix’s announcement would put the company out of business, but the PlayOn service works on both PCs (PlayOn Desktop) and iOS devices (PlayOn Cloud), and it has other significant differences.

Here’s the catch: Like any old-style personal video recorder, the desktop recording requires playing the video at standard speed. You can’t just do a quick download of a video file. PlayOn Cloud records a chosen show on a cloud-based virtual machine, and the full recording is then downloaded as an .mp4 file to the iOS device.

Note that the service lives in a gray area of legality. Services such as Netflix do not allow recording of streaming content. But in the 1980s battle over recording broadcast TV shows on VCRs, the U.S. Supreme Courts ruled that personal, non-commercial video recording was legal. PlayOn claims that its service falls under that ruling. And apparently it hasn’t been sued in the year it’s been in business.

PlayOn, of course, isn’t free: The desktop edition costs U.S. $2.50 per month, and the iOS version is priced at $.99 per recording.

Listening to audio content when on the road

Years ago, I did numerous drives alone between San Francisco and Seattle. Interstate 5 can get really boring over hours and hours of driving. My solution was an subscription, which I’d had since the early 2000s. With little free time for actually reading a book, I now listen books while taking my daily dog walks.

Unfortunately, Audible is relatively expensive; my subscription costs $14.95 per month for one book. So when I saw a promo for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (more info), I decided to try it out. For $10 a month, the service lets you check out Kindle-based books from the Unlimited library of over a million publications (magazine, books, etc.). You can have up to 10 titles checked out at any one time.

Having subscriptions to both Audible and Kindle Unlimited might seem redundant, for numerous reasons. Both are owned by Amazon, and both offer a smaller selection of books in audio and text formats. For example, I can sit and read a few chapters on my tablet, then switch to listening on my phone while out with the dogs or on the road. (I maintain that listening to a book in the car is probably less distracting than trying to hold a conversation with a passenger.)

But there are some important differences between the two services. With Audible, you have actually bought a book — you own it and can re-read it as often as you like. If you cancel your subscription, you can still listen to books you’ve downloaded. You can also download a book to as many as four computers and download the Audible app to as many as ten mobile devices. (It’s not clear whether you can have the same book on ten tablets and smartphones.)

With Kindle Unlimited, you are renting the books. It’s like paying to use a classic library. If you cancel your subscription, you can access checked-out books only until your monthly subscription is up for renewal.

In one of those creepy/convenient features found in our connected world, Kindle keeps track of your reading. If I put down my tablet, I can pick my phone and continue from the same page.

I can’t say that one service is better than the other. Audible is listening focused and has a much better selection of books. Kindle Unlimited is less expensive if you do a lot of actual reading, but the selection is relatively limited, depending on topic. Fortunately for me, I like reading primarily history and science fiction, and Kindle Unlimited has an extensive offering of sci-fi titles. (I use Audible for history books.)

Setting up a personal and portable Wi-Fi network

I spend many weekends on my small, rural farm. It’s so rural that there are few options for Internet connections. Until recently, I used tethering on my phone to set up local Wi-Fi and connect tablets and other devices to the Net. But the process has always been a bit of a pain.w20161206-fn-velocity

So recently, I purchased a cellular-based, mobile-hotspot box from AT&T. The Velocity device shares my smartphone’s data plan (currently 6GB per month), at the cost of an additional $20 per month (two-year contract) to my cell-service bill. The local Wi-Fi network it creates supports up to 10 devices — in my case, two tablets and an Apple TV.

The box provides a better Wi-Fi signal than my tethered phone, and it can be left up and running as I come and go. It’s fully password protected, and a handy status screen gives a quick indication of your data-plan status. With multiple devices attached, you need to watch data consumption carefully. The device also has separate on/off switches for Wi-Fi and cellular connections to help prevent unintended data use.

Verizon, too, offers a mobile hot-spot device. According to its info page, the Jetpack supports up to 15 devices and costs $50. But you can also use it to give an emergency charge to your cellphone.

Digital security when away from home or office

There have been many stories on the dangers of connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots. And those threats are real. Before heading out on your holiday travels, check that your digital devices are fully secured.

  • Whenever possible, check that your browser is connecting to a Web server with secure HTTPS. Note that on some sites, this can be confusing: you might get a security warning because some links on a webpage — for ads, images, etc. — are not using HTTPS.
  • Set up a Virtual Private Network service. VPNs add an additional layer of encryption and privacy. There are a few free services but paid services such as CyberGhost typically provide better performance.
  • Prepare your devices for travelOne key tip: Make sure all your devices are fully backed up before you leave.
  • Ensure that your portable PC is fully locked down.
  • Use your smartphone for online banking? It might well be that banking over a cellphone is more secure than using your PC. Banks have beefed up the security of their mobile apps, layering on encryption on top of the encrypted cell signal. The better banking apps also require two-factor sign in.

    Check your bank’s site for its mobile-security features and policies. US Bank, for example, offers an “Online Risk-Free Guarantee” (more info) for its mobile app. And as I discovered over Thanksgiving, some mobile apps make it easy to transfer money to traveling family members on a tight budget.

Our digital devices are essential for holiday travel. But while you’re visiting friends and family, take some time to put the devices away and have a real conversation!

Capen, Tracey. “Prepare Your Digital Devices for Holiday Travel.” Windows Secrets Dec. 2016.


If you have any questions or need assistance, one of our experienced professionals would be available to discuss your options or assist you in setting up a portable wi-fi network.

Give us a call at (732) 780-8615 or send us an email at to schedule a consultation.

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 4 1234