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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick, my choice by Carl Thorne

I have both Roku and Amazon Fire TV Sticks.

All the blogs I read that compared these two devices left out the reason I like the Roku over the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

I can watch channels on any PC monitor or TV monitor with these devices without renting a cable TV box.

Why is Roku better in this regard?
·      Your cable TV provider must support a app on either the Roku or the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Comcast supports more channels on the Roku.
·      Roku provides a free movie app. These offering change monthly. I can always find a couple of my movies watching each month. No such channel exists from Amazon.
·      Many must have Blu Ray movies I buy have a digital copy included.  One place where all my digital copies are stored is an app called VUDU. This app also has free movies that change monthly. This app is not currently available on Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Roku provides more access than Amazon with their apps. In this case, more is better.

Is Google Fiber Right for You? by Carl Thorne

I currently pay $158 for cable and Internet from Comcast. My Internet speed is 300Mbps and I have a step up from basic cable with the addition of HBO.

GoogleFiber is now available where I live. My building manager negotiated a deal where the first two months of GoogleFiber where free. If I were to change the $320 (2 free months) would more than cover the contract cancellation free from Comcast.

Fiber 100 + TV + HBO = $160
Fiber 1000 + TV + HBO = $180

Comcast is the better deal for me: 
  •     For $40 less than the cheapest Google Fiber package, my Internet speed is 3 times faster.
  •     Google Fiber does not have free hot spots I can connect to with my computer, tablet or cell phone. When I connect my cell phone to the free hot spot, I am not using data from my data plan.
  • Google Fiber does not support apps that run on my Roku or my Amazon Fire TV Stick. These apps allow me to watch some of my favorite channels on my TV without renting a cable box.
  •  A search of the Internet hints at Google getting out of the cable TV business because so many end users are cable cutters. This puts into doubt the future of Google Fiber as a cable TV provider.

A connection speed of 1000Mbps does sound attractive, but my 300Mbps connection is more than fast enough for my needs.

Therefore, Google Fiber is not much of an option for me compared to Comcast.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Google’s new PhotoScan will protect your old photos … forever by Yahoo Finance

Break out that box of old photos, because Google is going to help you protect them forever.

Available as a free download, PhotoScan will let you scan your old photos using your smartphone’s camera.

The app will eliminate the glare that usually comes from taking a photo of a photo.

Google says it’s able to do this with machine-learning techniques that recognize and remove glare and shadows.

The tech giant promises the scans will be clear enough to be printed.

But thanks to Google’s free unlimited photo storage, you don’t have to print right away.

Pogue’s Basics: Have your iPhone announce your calls David Pogue

I’ve got a friend whose home cordless phone (yes, she still has one of those) announces, out loud, who’s calling. It’s kind of cool, because if you’re making dinner or watching TV or something, you know whether it’s worth answering. “Call from Vantage Insurance,” it’ll say — a telemarketer — and she ignores it. “Call from David Pogue,” and, of course, she leaps to answer.

Turns out the iPhone can do that too. But not one person in a thousand knows.

Open Settings > Phone >Announce Calls. Here, you get to choose whenthe phone announces the caller’s name when it rings: Always, Never, Headphones Only, or Headphones & Car.

The point of Headphones is privacy — it means, “Don’t announce the caller’s name at times when anyone nearby can hear; announce it only when I’m listening in private.”

And the point of “Headphones & Car” is a safety thing. When you’re driving, you don’t want to take your eyes off the road to see who’s calling.

All in all, a very cool feature that nobody knows about.

How to avoid falling for email scams by Daniel Howley

Early one Sunday morning, my editor, Yahoo Finance’s Erin Fuchs, checked her personal email and was surprised to find a message from PayPal (PYPL). The missive said she had recently changed her password, and asked her to call a phone number if that wasn’t the case.

It wasn’t, so Fuchs called. The email had come from a “” address and included a link to the PayPaypal website. However, she became suspicious when the person on the other end of the line asked for her credit card information to “verify her account.”
An example of a phishing email.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what email service you use. If you have an email account, you’ve received some kind of scam, or phishing email, just like my editor.

Most of the time, these emails are relatively easy to spot. Some African prince or other wealthy individual wants to send you money until he can make it to the US. You just need to send your bank account information and Social Security number.

But criminals are quickly changing their tactics, firing off more sophisticated emails in an attempt to trick you into giving away your personal information. According to Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel (INTC) Security, in a recent studymore than 19,000 people were asked to look at 10 emails and identify which ones were scams. Only three percent of them were able to find all of the phony messages.

Worse still, some phishing messages contain ransomware, which locks down your entire computer until you pay the culprits a ransom.

Yes, it’s a scary world out there. But there’s hope. If you follow some of these quick tips, you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Read the subject line and sender’s address

Phishing emails are designed to sucker as many victims as possible. They cast a wide net by covering topics like banking and package deliveries—two things most people generally receive emails for.

You should be on high alert if you get a message from an unknown sender with a subject line mentioning changes to your bank account—or that you need to pick up a package that can’t be delivered—and you aren’t expecting either of those things. It’s probably a phishing attempt.
Just delete the message and move on with your life.

Hover over links

Okay, so you can’t remember if you changed your bank account info or aren’t sure if you have a package in the mail, so you open the email. That’s cool. As Intel Security’s Gary Davis explains, it’s rare that just opening a message executes any kind of code on your computer.
It doesn’t matter what email service you use, you’ve definitely received a phishing email.
The message, however, tells you to click a link to check out the changes to your account or the status of your package. What do you do? Simple: Hover your mouse over the URL. When you point to a link without clicking, most web browsers and email programs automatically display the web address that link will open. If the email says it’s from your bank or delivery service, but the link points to a different site, don’t click it.

Urgency is suspect

A good number of phishing emails try to get you to act before you think—by adding a sense of urgency to their messages. An email telling you to log into or verify information for your bank or other account labeled “Final Warning” or “Urgent Notification” should set off warning bells right away.

Kevin Haley, director of product management for Symantec’s (SYMC) Security Response, explains that you should be suspicious if you receive an email with a URL or attachment that is trying to get you to click on something right away.
If an email seems like it’s trying to push you to do something immediately, it’s probably a scam.
Russian agents are widely considered to have used this exact method to break into the Democratic National Committee’s server’s via a phishing email.

So if you get a message telling you to do something instantly, ignore it. If you think it’s legitimately from your bank, skip the link and just go directly to your company’s website.

Hooked on phonics

The easiest way to identify a phishing email is if it’s loaded with grammatical or spelling errors. As Microsoft points out in its phishing email primer, legitimate businesses hire professionals to ensure that communications with customers are mistake-free. Criminals? Not so much. So if you get an email that’s strangely formatted, and is loaded with enough grammar issues to drive your fifht-grade English teacher insane, delete it.
If you receive an email with especially poor grammar, just delete it.

Patience is a virtue

A lot of people fall victim to phishing emails because they’re simply in a rush. They’re in the middle of cooking dinner and taking care of two toddlers, see an email from their bank and BAM, that’s that. So how do you fix this? Just take a few minutes, breathe, and read your emails carefully. That’s pretty much it.

What to do when you’re hooked

So you’ve clicked a link or downloaded an attachment in a phishing email. You’re done for, right? 

Not exactly.

Both Davis and Haley suggest that if you realize you’ve been the victim of a phishing scheme and you’re fast enough, you can change your passwords on any affected websites before the criminals get access to your accounts. If you can’t do that, your best bet is to disconnect your computer from the internet and run an antivirus program.

Disconnecting your computer (like turning off WiFi) ensures that any malware you downloaded can’t communicate with its home server and steal your information; meanwhile, the antivirus program takes care of anything on your machine. You should also enable two-factor authentication on your accounts, which requires that you enter both your password and a second string of characters usually sent to your smartphone via text or an app, to keep people from accessing your information. 

If, however, you’ve given your private information to someone via email, well, your best bet is to use a credit-monitoring service to make sure that no one is opening credit-card accounts in your name.

Pogue's Basics: How to forward a text message by David Pogue

In a previous “Pogue’s Basics” tip, I let you know that you could report cellphone text-message spam by forwarding it to 7726.

“Well, great,” one reader wrote, “but how do you forward a text message!?”
Ah. I guess that might have been helpful information!
  • On the iPhone, hold your finger down on the actual text message that you want to pass along. When the More button appears, tap it, then tap the curly Forward arrow.
  • On Android, hold your finger down on the actual text message, and then tap Forward.
In each case, you’re now asked for the phone number you want to forward to.
Boom: The deed is done.

No, your Apple computer isn't immune from ransomware by Daniel Howley

Since Friday, hundreds of thousands of Windows PCs around the world have been hit by a nasty strain of ransomware called WannaCry 2.0.

Ransomware is a form of malware that completely encrypts your PC. The only way to get the key to unlock your photos, documents and music is to erase your hard drive or pay a ransom.
Apple’s Macs aren’t affected by the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware, but it can be impacted by similar malware.
This particular type of ransomware is only affecting Windows computers, but that doesn’t mean Apple’s (AAPL) Macs and MacBooks are immune from these types of attacks.

See, contrary to popular belief, Apple’s desktops and laptops aren’t inherently safer than those running Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows operating systems.

Yes, WannaCry 2.0 does exploit a vulnerability in older versions of Windows, but Microsoft issued a patch to deal with the problem well before this malware exploded across the web.

Windows is hurt by its popularity

None of this points to Microsoft’s current operating system, Windows 10, being more susceptible to malware than Apple’s macOS or OS X. In fact, the real reason hackers and criminals attack Windows is that it’s the most popular desktop operating system in the world.

“Cyber criminals are generally looking for a scenario that will maximize the return on their investment,” explained McAfee CTO Steve Grobman. “What that means is they will invest in creating a malware or ransomware campaign that they believe will generate the maximum amount of ransom payment by the victim.”

One of the key elements to a successful ransomware attack is the use of social engineering to trick victims into downloading infected files in dubious emails.
This is the screen you’ll see if your computer is infected with the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware.
To sucker enough people into doing that, though, criminals have to cast an incredibly wide net. And since Windows is far more popular in the world than Apple’s OS X and macOS, hackers go after Microsoft’s operating system.

“Given that the vast majority of deployed platforms in corporate environments are Windows, there is a lot of attention on looking for exploitation vectors of the Windows platform,” Grobman explained.
In other words, if Apple’s macOS and OS X were as popular as Windows, we’d see a heck of a lot more malware designed to attack Apple’s machines.

We’re only human

Vulnerabilities like the one used in the WannaCry ransomware are the result of human error when developing an operating system. Humans, like you and me, are notoriously fallible and are the ones who build and program operating systems like Windows.

Companies like Microsoft and Apple continually work to find these vulnerabilities before criminals can exploit them. But with millions and millions of lines of code to comb through, it’s nearly impossible to find every issue. What’s more, each update to an operating system can introduce new vulnerabilities that didn’t exist beforehand.

Apple does have one advantage over Microsoft when it comes to issues like malware: it builds both its own software and hardware. That means that if Apple finds an issue with a piece of firmware for its MacBooks or Macs it can provide an update that addresses it.

Microsoft’s software is installed on machines built by a slew of companies including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and others. Each of those organizations might have their own firmware that can be exploited that would need to be fixed with Microsoft’s help.

So no, Apple’s MacBooks and Macs aren’t more secure than Windows-powered machines. If you’re running a new operating system and are sure to keep it properly updated, your Windows and Apple laptops and desktops will be equally secure.

Now I get it: Ransomware by David Pogue

On May 12, a computer worm called WannaCry began infecting over 300,000 Windows computers in 150 countries—and made headlines around the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Meet ransomware

Why the headlines? First, because WannaCry is one of the most widespread cases of ransomwaresoftware that encrypts all of the files on your PC, and will not unlock them until you pay the bad guys. In WannaCry’s case, you’re supposed to pay $300 within three days; at that point, the price goes up. If you still haven’t paid in a week, all your files are gone forever. (Here’s what it looks like if you’re infected.)

(Why can’t the authorities just track who the money’s going to, and thereby catch the bad guys? Because you have to pay in Bitcoin, which is a digital currency whose transactions are essentially anonymous. Here’s my explainer on Bitcoin.)

The second notable feature: The WannaCry malware took advantage of a security hole in Windows that had already been discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). But instead of letting Microsoft (MSFT) know what it had found, the NSA kept it a secret and, in fact, decided to write a “virus” of its own to exploit it.

Ransomware is nasty. There’s no way out, no fix. And even if you pay up, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back; some of these ransomware people take your money and run. (Why can’t these low-life hackers have more of a sense of decency?)

How security holes get patched

So why doesn’t Microsoft fix Windows’s security holes? It does—all the time. For example, if you have Windows 10, you’re safe from WannaCry. And even if you have Windows 7 or 8, and you accept Microsoft’s steady flow of software updates, you’re fine, too; Microsoft patched this hole back in March.

The only people vulnerable to WannaCry are people running old versions of Windows, and people who don’t keep their Windows updated with Microsoft’s free patches.

Here’s the real irony: Typically, a researcher discovers a security hole in Windows—and quietly tells Microsoft. Microsoft’s engineers write and release a patch—for a hole the hackers hadn’t known about before. But the bad guys know that millions of people won’t install that patch. So they write the virus after Microsoft has fixed the hole! They get the idea from the fix.

In any case, ransomware loves to target corporate networks: hospitals, banks, airlines, governments, utility companies, and so on. These are places that often don’t regularly update their copies of Windows. (Lots of them still run Windows XP, which is 16 years old. Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, but to its credit, it has written and released a patch to prevent WannaCry for Windows XP, too.)

How not to get ransomware

If you’d rather not get a ransomware infection on your PC, here’s what to do.
  • Back up your computer. I know you know. But only 8% of people backup daily, according to a 2016 poll of over 2,000 people. For $74, you can get a 2-terabye backup drive, and use your PC’s automatic backup software. Thereafter, if your files get locked by ransomware, you lose only a couple of hours as you restore from your backup. (For best results, keep the backup drive detached when you’re not using it, since some ransomware seeks out other connected drives.)
  • Turn on automatic updating of Windows. Get those patches before the bad guys do.
  • Don’t open file attachments you’re not expecting. Even if they seem to come from people you know. Don’t open zip files that come by email. Don’t ever click links that seem to be from your bank, or Google, or Amazon; they’re just trying to trick you into giving them your passwords. Here’s my explainer on those “phishing” scams.
Backup, turn on updating, don’t open email attachments you’re not expecting.
This has been a public service message.

How to switch from iPhone to Android and vice versa by Yahoo Finance

Change is good. It’s, as the cliché goes, the only constant. But change is also hard. And the hardest kind of change, outside of my transformation from obnoxiously dressed teen to a just plain obnoxious man-child, is changing the kind of smartphone you use.

I’m not talking about going from an old iPhone to a new iPhone; I’m talking about changing from your old iPhone to a new Android device and vice versa.
Whether you’re moving from Android to iOS or vice versa, these are the steps that will get you there the fastest.
It’s almost as if Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG, GOOGL) don’t want you to leave their respective device ecosystems. And many consumers just stick with their current operating system, because they either don’t know how to change or are worried they’ll lose out on features.

But there is a way to jump between these two types of smartphones.

Moving from Android to iPhone

So you’ve been using a Samsung smartphone for the past three years and want to check out Apple’s latest iPhone. Well, buckle up, because you’re in for a … relatively painless process.

First, you’ll have to download Apple’s Move to iOS app through the Google Play Store. The app, which you’ll want to make sure is made by Apple, will copy your messages, photos and contacts from your Android device to your new iPhone.
Download the Move to iOS app.
To get started, turn on your new iPhone and run through the setup process for the iPhone until you get to the Apps & Data screen.

From there, select, “Move Data from Android.” Your iPhone will then prompt you to download the Move to iOS app, which you’ve already done. Tap “Continue,” and you should receive a series of numbers.

Now, open the Move to iOS app on your Android phone. You’ll see a screen that says Find your Code. Tap “Next” in the top right corner of the screen.
You’ll now be asked to enter either the six-digit or 10-digit series of numbers displayed on your iPhone. Your Android phone will then automatically connect to your new iPhone.

From there you’ll have to choose if you want to carry over your Google Account, Messages, Contacts, Calendar and Camera Roll. Tap “Next” and you’re all set.
You’ll need to select the data you’d like to transfer to your iPhone.
It’s important to note that I couldn’t get my Google Pixel XL to connect to the iPhone, but Samsung’s Galaxy S8 connected without issue. I can only assume the issue has to do with the Pixel running a newer version of Android than the S8.

Moving from iPhone to Android – Part I
If you’re more inclined to switch from your iPhone to Google’s Android, your change is going to involve a few different steps.

First, you’ll have to download the Google Drive app on your iPhone. Next go to the app’s options page and select “Settings”.
Download Google Drive from the App Store.
Tap “Backup” and then “Start Backup.” Your contacts, calendar and photos and videos will then be uploaded to your Google Drive account.
Select the data you want to backup via Google Drive.
Next, take your fancy new Android device, and run through the setup process until you get to the page asking if you’d like to “Copy your data” or “Start up as new.” Select “Start up as new.”

You’ll then have to enter your Gmail address and password to log into your Google account. After that, you can continue the setup and your phone will automatically pull the information you backed up from the cloud down to your phone.

You won’t, however, be able to carry over your apps. Instead, you’ll only get your photos, contacts and calendar information.

Moving from iPhone to Android – Part II
If you want to get nearly everything off of your old phone, you’ll need to select “Copy your data” back on the original Welcome setup screen. You’ll also need to have the appropriate cables and adapters available.
You’ll want to choose to copy data from an older device.
For instance, if you’re copying your data from an iPhone to a Pixel, you’ll need your iPhone’s Lightning cable and a USB to USB C adapter to plug the cable into connect the phones.

Your Android phone will then tell you to check your iPhone and tap “Trust” in the dialogue box asking if you should trust the device you’ve just connected.
If your’e going to copy data from your iPhone to Android device, you’ll need to need the right cables.
After that, you’ll need to enter your Gmail address and password. Your Android device will then connect to your iPhone and find Android apps that match all of the iPhone apps you’ve downloaded.
Not everything will carry over, though. Photos stored in iCloud, for example, won’t transfer, but photos stored on your iPhone will.

Tap “Copy” let the Android phone copy your data, finish up the setup and you’re done.