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6 New Gmail Features Worth Trying — and how to get them now

On the surface, you could easily mistake the new Gmail for the same web-based email you’ve been using for years.

But looks can be deceiving. This week’s major revamp packs in powerful, helpful and overdue new features. It’s the right balance of new and familiar.

If you haven’t gotten a notification to test out the new Gmail, you can be proactive.

Click the gear icon in the top right corner of the web-version of the platform. Select “Try the new Gmail” and poof, you have a refreshed inbox. (If you don’t see the option, check again soon).

 

1. Make your emails self-destruct in 5…4…3…

The star feature of the redesign is Confidential Mode. If you’re sending sensitive information or are worried about sappy love letters haunting you a few years from now, you can pick a day when you want those emails to disappear. The recipient won’t have access to those emails anymore either — unless they took some screenshots.

Click the lock icon in the bottom right corner of any email you’re composing. A pop-up window will give you the option to pick when it expires, from one day to five years. If you know the recipient’s phone number, you can add an extra layer of security by requiring them to enter an SMS passcode to read your message.

2. Unsend a message

You can take back access to emails sent in confidential mode anytime before they are set to expire. Go into your sent folder, find the message, and click “remove access.” If you change your mind or if it expired too soon, click “renew access.”

Note: The recipient will still see that you sent them an email, including the subject line, but if they try to click it, they’ll be told “You don’t have access to this email.”

3. Make more room for your inbox

This tiny tweak is hiding in plain sight. Google has added the ability to collapse the left navigation bar to make more room for your list of unread emails. Tap the menu icon in the top left corner (a stack of three lines), next to the Google logo and it will disappear.

4. Don’t open your emails

It’s the ultimate productivity tip: instead of opening your emails, don’t open them. If you hover over a message in your inbox, four icons will appear. You can archive an email, trash it, mark it as read or unread, or snooze it, all without opening it. If you select snooze, you can choose a certain day or time to be reminded of its existence — or select the mysterious “someday” option.

Bonus: You don’t need to open an email to see its attachments. They now appear as small icons in the main inbox view under each email, so you can quickly open them without digging through a chain of emails.

5. Let Google answer for you

When you can’t find the words, let Google answer for you. Gmail’s new Smart Reply feature scans incoming email and suggests three possible replies for simple enough conversations. For example, if a friend emails to ask if you have any pepper jack cheese for a picnic, Gmail might suggest “I do!” “I do indeed” or “No, I do not.” You can edit or add to the text before hitting send.

Google has been working on its Smart Reply feature for years, starting with the Inbox app in 2015. The feature is also available in Gmail’s Android and iOS apps.

6. Stay on task with a brand new app

There’s a new sidebar on the right side of Gmail that shows a mini version of your Google Calendar, Tasks and other apps. If you use the Tasks list for keeping track of what you need to do, check out Google’s new standalone Tasks mobile app. You can create simple lists with radio buttons to tap when you complete something. These items will automatically sync between the app and Gmail.

Kelly, Heather. “ 6 new Gmail features worth trying — and how to get them now”

 

Posted in: E-mail, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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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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Here’s how to check which apps can access your Facebook account – and delete them

If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, you’ve probably installed games or given sites permission to log into your Facebook account. You may even use Facebook to log into services like Spotify, Netflix, or Tinder.

But if you’ve been following the news around Cambridge Analytica, the data consultancy firm hired by the Donald Trump campaign for the 2016 US election that harvested the data of up to 50 million Facebook users without their permission through data collected from third-party apps, you may want to know how to make sure that something similar isn’t happening to you.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to Facebook.com (it’s easier on a computer)
  2. Click the little arrow all the way on the top-right of the screen:
  3. Click on Settings
  4. Look for the Apps button on the menu on the left-hand side of the screen and click on it:
  5. This page will tell you how many other apps have access to all or some of your Facebook data. I had 192 connected apps, and others I’ve seen had a few dozen, and some had over 1,000.
  6. Click the Show All button about halfway down to see every app.
  7. Here’s the fun part: You have to click on the little “x” that appears when you hover over an app to delete each one of them, one-by-one. This will take time.
  8. Start with the apps or sites that you don’t use (or perhaps don’t even remember using—Facebook is 14 years old, after all), and then move on to the newer ones.

Once you’ve spent all that time deleting apps, there’s one more thing you need to do. Below all the apps, you should see a set of four grey boxes. Click on the Edit button for the “Apps Others Use” one:

This very hidden menu actually controls what apps that your friendsinstall can see about youThis is important: When they install apps with very invasive permissions, much like the one at the center of the Cambridge Analytica debacle, those apps can browse Facebook like the user can, seeing what you share with your friends, even though you never consented to let that app (which is acting like an extension of your friend) see and take your information. It turns out I’ve been sharing a bunch of information about myself—much of which would be very useful for people who wanted to build a profile of me to target ads or political messages—without knowing:

Uncheck all the boxes that are checked and press save.

There’s also a nuclear option above this box—the one labelled “Apps, Websites and Plugins”—if you click the Edit button on this one, you have the option to block any app or game from using Facebook. But then if you use Facebook to log into any other service (like Netflix or Spotify, for example), you may lose access. Facebook has inserted itself into the web in such a way that the same ways it’s become so useful to us are the ways it uses us to sell our information. There’s no way to turn one part off without the other.

There’s one more problem with all of this that you probably noticed when you clicked the first app to delete it above. Even if you revoke all these apps from accessing your Facebook account, there’s no way of knowing what data they’ve already harvested, and what they’re doing with it.

Facebook rather flippantly says the apps “may still have the data you shared with them,” and to contact that company to remove the data for you. Even if companies were to actually do that for you (who would you even reach out to ask to delete your data?), this would require as many emails as you have apps installed. And what about the companies or apps that have gone out of business? Did they diligently delete your data as they should’ve before they shut the lights off, or did they sell it to someone to try to make a few bucks?

It’s safe to say that the only surefire way to ensure that you’re no longer being profiled against your will on Facebook is just to delete Facebook entirely (which you can do here)—but how many among us are that strong?

Murphy, Mike. “Here’s how to check which apps have access to your FB account-and delete them” Quartz, March 20, 2018

Posted in: Social Media Marketing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Easy Ways to Keep you Cybersecure at Work

Here are some no-excuses tips that will protect your business devices from malware and data breaches.

For every business, it’s not a matter of “if” you will experience an attempted cyber attack or breach, but “when,” security experts warn. And despite an increasingly sophisticated cyberthreat landscape, organizations are failing to proactively update their security defenses: 46% of IT professionals and business leaders said that their organization’s security strategy rarely changes substantially, even after suffering a cyberattack, according to a recent report.

Even if your company doesn’t have the strongest cybersecurity measures in place, there are still things that employees can do to keep their individuals’ devices as secure as possible and protect both their data and that of any clients.

Here are five easy tips for keeping yourself cybersecure at work.

1. Be extremely wary of links and downloads received via email

“Lot of attacks happen today over email, and the attackers often use social engineering as the first step of a compromise attempt,” said Engin Kirda, professor of computer science at Northeastern University.

If you can, avoid clicking on any link that you receive via email, Kirda said. “If you need to check a link, if you use an anonymous proxy site to open that link, the risk of an infection would be reduced,” he added.

Attachments are also how infections get into your system, Kirda said. Loading attachments like PDFs or Word documents into Google Drive first and opening them there reducing your chance of getting infected, he added.

2. Take caution when installing apps

Be very careful installing anything new on your work or home machine, Kirda said. “Some ‘open source’ applications that are free might be bundled with Spyware,” he added.

3. Update everything regularly

Updating all of your systems regularly is key for staying cyber secure, Kirda said. Failing to update systems and software has led to a number of major breaches and attacks—including the Equifax breach—and excuses for failing to update must become a thing of the past.

4. Protect your home devices

If your home device is compromised, it puts your professional life at risk, according to Forrester principal analyst Jeff Pollard.

If your company offers home security products as a part of your employee benefits package, sign up for them, Pollard recommended. “The big security software players will often offer companies the option to offer employees anti-malware software for their home laptops and desktops,” he said. “Since so many of us log in, check email, and open attachments from work on non-work devices this makes lots of sense.”

5. Avoid reusing passwords

Making sure you don’t use the same passwords for different work and personal accounts is one way to limit your exposure to cyberthreats, Pollard said.

However, choosing complex passwords that you can actually remember and not reuse is difficult, he added. “A password manager—either an app on the endpoint or a browser plugin—is a great way to avoid the habit of repeatedly using easy to guess passwords,” Pollard said.

DeNisco Rayome, Alison. “5 Easy Ways to Keep Yourself Cybersecure at Work,” TechRepublic March 7, 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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11 First Sentences That Guarantee the Rest of Your Email Won’t Get Read

Even if your intentions are professional and sincere.

Imagine you get this email. You don’t know the sender, but you open it anyway. How long would you keep reading?

Dear Jeff,

I hope you’re having a great President’s Day! I definitely am. Even though I’m spending a little time at work right now, I plan to spend at least part of the day having fun with friends. We’re going snowboarding. I can’t wait!”

​”I am writing to ask if you would be interested in…

Would you keep reading? Generally speaking, would you even have made it to the second paragraph? I know: The sender was trying to establish rapport. But still — do you care about the President’s Day plans of someone you don’t know?

Nope. Instead you were thinking, “Clearly you want something. Can you please get to it?”

Now imagine you get this email:

We would love to have you on our show to talk about your book. Our podcast regularly appears in the top 10 of ‘What’s Hot’ in the Business category of Apple Podcasts…

Would you keep reading? I know I did.

Here’s the thing. We all get cold emails, and we’re all incredibly good at sniffing out boilerplate openings and forced friendliness. Even if we do keep reading, canned openings negatively impact our impression of what is to come — and make it much less likely we’ll respond positively to the actual message of the email.

Think I’m wrong? Tell me how many times you’ve seen the following opening lines in an email and still kept reading.

“I thought I would circle back …”

Yes, because I didn’t respond the first time you emailed. But why will I respond this time… especially when the rest of your email is just copied and pasted from your original email?

In the same vein, this won’t work either:

“In case you missed this …”

Maybe I did miss this.

Or maybe I wasn’t interested.

Occasionally the recipient may have missed your original email. But know the person you’re targeting. If it’s someone who gets dozens of unsolicited emails a day, like, say, Tim Ferriss, then his lack of response doesn’t mean he missed it. He didn’t respond because he gets too many emails to respond to each one individually. If he’s interested, he’ll respond.

And just in case he really did miss it, find a more creative way to send another email. “In case you missed this” only ensures that even if he does see your second email, he’s not going to read it.

And that’s also true for:

“I’m just following up …”

Occasionally a follow-up is warranted. If I said I would do something, and I haven’t, by all means, please follow up. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I sometimes do forget.

But if you’re just “following up,” or “circling back,” or finding out if the recipient “missed this,” find a more creative opening line.

Look at what you wrote in the first email. In all likelihood it was benefit-driven — foryou. Find a way to benefit the recipient. Always give, long before you hope to receive.

“I hope this finds you well.”

I get this one at least four times a day. While I appreciate the sentiment, I immediately think two things. I first wonder when Dickensian greetings came back into vogue. But more important, “I hope this finds you well” screams “We don’t know each other.”

And while every new friendship has to start somewhere, “I hope this finds you well” is unlikely to be the place.

That’s also true for:

“I hope you had a great weekend.”

Fine if it comes from a friend (even though none of my friends ever open an email that way). Otherwise it’s just forced friendliness. Asking “How was the Rolex 24?” shows you know me personally. Asking “How is your next book coming?” shows you know me professionally.

Granted, “I hope you had a great weekend” is an attempt to be friendly. But really: Do you expect people to respond? Do you really want to know about their weekend? Nah. What you really care about is how they respond to the meat of your email.

In time, some professional relationships do also become personal. But when the initial contact is through email, the relationships always starts as a professional one. Work to establish that first. Then a friendship might follow.

But not if you pretend that we’re already friends.

“You might be surprised to learn …”

No, I won’t be, because I won’t read the rest of your email. Like fake friendliness, interest-starters feel canned and forced. If I might be surprised, shoot, go ahead and surprise me with your opening line.

The same is true for:

“Did you know …?”

Granted, asking a question can be a way to engage readers. But not in the opening line of an email since what we all do know is that whatever you claim we don’t know is something you will then solve for us, probably for a fee.

“Did you know” and, “You might be surprised to learn” are clear signals that a sales pitch is coming. Maybe that’s not your intent — but we’ll assume it is.

And a couple quick ones:

“My name is …”

I already knew that. Your name appears in the sender field.

“I would like to introduce myself …”

Sometimes introducing yourself first is OK, but in most cases the best approach is to say what you can do for the recipient (or what you want) first.

Then, if we’re interested, we’ll be willing to check out whether you’re the right person to provide it (or are someone we want to help).

“I know you’re really busy …”

This is always followed by “but …” (which is a lot like saying, “I know this is going to hurt your feelings, but …”), Acknowledging a situation and then choosing to ignore that situation is an off-putting way to start.

Instead, respect the recipient’s time by getting to the point: The less fluff, the better.

“I want to ask a quick favor.”

At least in my experience, a “quick favor” never turns out to be quick. And neither does the ask itself.

Here’s a better way to do it. I recently received this one-line email:

Daniel Coyle’s new book is about high performance teams, I would love to have him on my podcast, and I’m hoping you can connect us.

He clearly knows I know Dan, and the name of the podcast was in the sender’s sig. Easy ask, and I always try to help out people I know, so I forwarded his email to Dan with one line: “Want me to connect you guys?” (I don’t share people’s email addresses without asking.)

Dan said yes. That’s the kind of favor I’m happy to do.

But if the email had led with something like, “I am hoping you will do a quick favor for me. My name is John Doe, and in addition to running Acme Industries I am also the host of …”

Nope. Probably not — because I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it long enough to get to the good stuff.

And that, ultimately, is the point. Your may have great intentions. You may mean extremely well. You may only be trying to be friendly, courteous, and professional.

But if you start your emails with opening lines like the ones above, most people will assume the worst — not the best.

Find a different way to be friendly, courteous, and professional — especially if you want your emails to actually be read.

Haden Jeff. “11 First Sentences That Guarantee the Rest of Your Email Won’t Get Read” Inc.com March 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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14 Hacks to Improve Your Google Searches

In the 20 years since Google was founded, it’s grown into one of the biggest companies on earth—but its original purpose, search, is still as relevant as ever. How many times a day do you type a few words into that search bar and click on a result? For most of us, the answer is dozens, if not hundreds.

For a product that’s used so frequently, there’s a lot Google can do that you might not know about. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up tricks to help you get the most out of Search, from simple tricks for narrowing down your results to more advanced methods for finding hidden files and pages online.

1. GOOGLE SEARCH BASICS

You probably alread know some or all of thes, but it’s worth going over the basics in case you don’t.  If you’re searching for a specific series of words, like a quote, just put those words in quotation marks (e.g. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”) Alternatively, if you want ot rule out any search results that include a certain word, just add a minus sign beofe that word (e.g. “Martin Luther King -quotes.”) You can also search for results from a specific website with the format “site:mentalfloss.com” – or whatever you are looking for.

2. REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH

Google’s image search is a great tool for finding photos online, but you can also use it to learn more about a picture you’ve already found. Just right click on the image and select “Search Google for Image.” Google will offer up a definition of whatever you’re looking at, along with other web pages that use that image and a few relevant links.

3. USE AN ASTERISK FOR WORDS YOU CAN’T REMEMBER

If you’re searching for a specific quote but you can’t remember one of the words, just put an asterisk in its place. That tells Google there’s a word missing so you get the best results. This also works for song lyrics or article headlines that you can’t quite remember.

4. HOW TO USE OR AND AND

Adding a capitalized AND or OR to your search can help narrow down your results as well, thanks to a method called Boolean Search. Putting an AND in your search between two words makes it clear that you want to see results with both of those terms included. Meanwhile, using OR will tell Google you only want to see links that include one of those two words.

5. USE “RELATED” TO FIND SIMILAR RESULTS

If you’re looking at a specific website or article and want to find more information on the same subject, just add “related:” right before the URL. This works for general sites (e.g. related:mentalfloss.com).

6. HOW TO SEARCH WITHIN A RANGE OF NUMBERS

If you’re searching for numeric results inside a specific range, there’s an easy way to do that in Google. Just put two period marks in between the two numbers. It works with basic numbers (1..10), dates (1960..1970), financial figures ($500..$1000), and other units of measurement (40..50 miles per gallon).

7. SEARCH FOR SOMETHING IN THE TITLE, BODY TEXT, OR URL

You can narrow your search results to a specific part of a web page with a few different commands. To focus exclusively on headlines, just add “allintitle:” before your search. You can also do the same for body text (“allintext:”) or the web address (“allinurl:”).

8. CACHED WEBSITES

If the website or article you’re looking for no longer exists online, you can still use Google to track it down. Just click on the small downward facing arrow next to the URL in your search results and select “Cached.” That will pull up an archived version of the site.

9. SEARCH THROUGH OLD NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

If you’re looking for an older article that was never posted online, Google has a whole separate site set up for just that. Head to news.google.com/newspapers to look through scanned copies of old newspapers and search for specific topics.

10.  SEARCH FOR A SPECIFIC LINK TO SEE WHO’S SHARING IT

If you run a website or published an article online and you’re curious to see who’s sharing it, there’s an easy way to find out. Just copy the URL in question and paste it into Google’s search bar with quotations marks on either side. The results will reveal any other sites that are sharing your content.

11. LOCATION SEARCH

To narrow your search to a specific part of the world, just add “location:texas” (or wherever you’re looking) to the end of your search. Google will also automatically factor in your current location if you’re looking for something like nearby restaurants, but this is a useful trick if you need to plan for an upcoming trip.

12. SEARCH FOR SPECIFIC FILE TYPES

You can also use Google to search for certain types of files, like PDFs, audio files, and Powerpoint presentations. Just add “filetype:pdf” (or the extension for whatever type of file you’re looking for) to your search and Google will narrow down the results automatically.

13. GAMES AND EASTER EGGS

Beyond helping you find the information you’re looking for, Google is also packed full of hidden surprises. Over the years, developers have added various Easter eggs into Search, and most of them are still there. Try searching “do a barrel roll” to make the screen spin around in an homage to Nintendo’s Starfoxgames. You can also search “zerg rush” to launch a minigame, and search “bubble level” on your phone to create a virtual level tool that actually works.

14. GOOGLE SEARCH WIDGETS

Google’s also added dozens of useful tools to show you information right from the results page. You can search “weather new york” (or wherever you are) to get a forecast. You can also ask Google for stock quotes, sports scores, sunset and sunrise times, word translations, definition, movie showtimes, currency or unit conversions, and your public IP address. Google even has a widget to help you search for plane tickets, a built-in calculator, stopwatch, and countdown timer.

Kleinman, Jacob, “14 Hacks to Improve Your Google Searches” Mentalfloss.com March 5, 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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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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