Google+ February 2014 ~ High Tech House Calls

Do Dogs Really Miss Us?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

7 sites - some you've never heard of - to watch TV and movies for free online by Kim Komando

Gone are the days when you were hopelessly tied to high cable bills. Now there are plenty of options

But even non-cable options aren't completely free. And if you're not paying attention you could still rack up quite a bill.

So to cut out the hassle of finding places to watch your favorite movies and TV shows I've brought together some of the best sites that stream for free (legally). You'll find hours of entertainment for the whole family!

YouTube - Believe it or not, YouTube has more uses than funny cat videos and crazy dash cam footage. YouTube hosts plenty of free movies, and not just user-created clips.

YouTube Movies offers full-length feature films from Hollywood and around the world and many are completely free! You can also find classic films, independent films, and Disney movies. But remember, some of these movies are not suitable for all audiences, so be sure to surf for movies with your kids.

Internet Archive - When a film enters the public domain, it means that you and I own it! So where's your copy of the original Little Shop of Horrors? It's online at the Internet Archive.

This site collects public-domain works, so it's mostly classic films. Features, shorts, silent films, talkies and even vintage newsreels and advertisements are available. You can get your fix of classic noir and Charlie Chaplin right here.

Big Five Glories - During the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema in the 1930s and '40s, the five biggest production companies were Fox, RKO, Paramount, Warner Bros. and MGM. Four of them are still making movies, but Big Five has movies from all of them.

You'll be able to find many of the most glorious pictures made between 1903 and 1976 on Big Five Glories. All these classic flicks stream without commercial interruption.

Crackle - If you'd rather browse from hundreds of more contemporary movies, Crackle has plenty of popular options for television shows and movies. Many of them are recent blockbusters, but there are also a number of classic, underground and independent choices.

There are hundreds of films and TV shows from every genre. Crackle is supported by advertising, so each video will have commercial breaks. Again, not all the content is appropriate for everyone.

Hulu - One of the most popular sources for brand-new TV shows and movies is Hulu. Hulu hosts hundreds of shows, many of them recently broadcast on major networks.

Hulu is also supported by commercials, and you will be required to create an account and sign in to view content intended for mature audiences. But there are also plenty of movies for kids and the whole family to watch.
for watching your favorite movies or TV shows, one of which includes cutting the cord to cable.

Viewster - You'll find plenty of popular and contemporary movies at Viewster. Here's a site that collects tons of films from every genre that flew under the radar. Most of these films will be lesser known, but no less enjoyable.

Most of them are free, although some will give you a choice between watching advertisements or paying a $3 fee. Be careful when watching with kids: Many of these films are not rated and could include objectionable material.

Listen To A Movie - Audio books make a lot of sense for those times when you have your hands or your eyes full. The same is true when it comes to movies!

Listen To A Movie is a site that has hundreds of flicks - well, the audio from hundreds of flicks! There are also TV shows, radio programs and stand-up comedy. As with Viewster, there are no ratings attached to any media, so use your own discretion.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

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Don't panic, but that public Wi-Fi is coming from ... inside your house By Julio Ojeda-Zapata

When Comcast asked Ronaldo Boschulte to swap out his malfunctioning broadband modem and Wi-Fi router with an all-new model late last year, he didn't know the Internet device was a high-tech Trojan horse of sorts.

Comcast fessed up a bit later in an email to the Maple Grove man.

The new Xfinity-branded modem and Wi-Fi router also works as a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

This means any Comcast subscribers within range can gain access to the Internet, via the router, simply by tapping in their Xfinity credentials.

"I didn't know it had a hotspot" feature, the accountant said. "That was pretty much a surprise."

Boschulte has plenty of company in this regard -- and not all are thrilled about it. Some Xfinity subscribers, when made aware of this public-hotspot feature embedded in their home routers, have reacted with a mixture of apprehension and suspicion. Others say they like it.

Comcast residential customers by the hundreds of thousands across the country now have the new Xfinity routers with this public-hotspot feature, which makes their homes rough equivalents of coffee shops and other public venues that have long offered free Wi-Fi.

Modems that Comcast sets up for its small-business clientele also are capable of broadcasting two separate Wi-Fi signals -- one for private use by the company staffers and visitors and another for public use by any Xfinity subscriber who happens to be nearby.

Nearly 200 Twin Cities businesses with such public Xfinity Wi-Fi are listed in a "hotspot finder" directory at Comcast, based in Philadelphia, is the No. 1 cable and Internet service provider in the Twin Cities.

Xfinity neighborhood and small-business hotspots, when lumped together, are approaching the 1 million mark, Comcast executives said during an earnings call last week. That is up from about half a million over the past year.

And the Internet and cable-television behemoth makes no secret of its plan to raise that figure as it aspires to be a major U.S. Wi-Fi provider -- with the assistance of customers and their residential and business facilities.

Such customers aren't required to broadcast such public Wi-Fi signals, the company stresses, and they can easily turn it off.

But Comcast hopes they won't.

Comcast's grand plan to stitch together vast urban webs of overlapping and interlocking Wi-Fi networks is a major branding exercise, for one thing. Every such public hotspot has the same moniker -- "xfinitywifi" -- that is readily detectable by any Internet-capable laptop computer or mobile device via their Wi-Fi control panels. Xfinity also makes available apps for this purpose.

Comcast users log on to any such network with their Xfinity usernames and passwords.

Comcast hopes this might spur those who aren't Xfinity subscribers to consider signing up. To seal the deal, it offers a couple of complimentary Wi-Fi sessions, and then gives them the option of buying day passes to continue testing the service.

In addition, Comcast is positioning its rapidly expanding Wi-Fi footprint as a kind of public utility for its customers.

When they're away from their own Wi-Fi networks, they have any number of others available as they move about their urban areas. If one Comcast subscriber is visiting the residence of another Xfinity user, he or she can simply log on to the home's public wireless signal and not trouble the homeowner with any requests for private Wi-Fi access. This is useful because it does not incur cellular-data charges.

Comcast's broad scatterings of neighborhood and small-business Wi-Fi networks can function as a single network -- when someone logs on to one such network, they're automatically logged on to all of them, wherever they go.

For all its potential practicality, the public-hotspot feature built into residential Xfinity routers isn't being met with universal acclaim.

Some people have privacy and security concerns, even though Comcast insists the public and private Wi-Fi networks are entirely separate and shielded from each other. Others worry that the public network will affect the private network's performance. Comcast says this isn't so.

No amount of reassurance has stopped some from turning the public-hotspot feature off. That is what Anthony Domanico, a St. Paul-based technology journalist, did, partly because of performance concerns.

Ditto for Ehren Stemme, an information-technology worker who lives in St. Paul. He said he has data-privacy concerns, partly because his spouse works in the health industry and needs to be extra careful about data security.

Stemme also laments having little control over the public-hotspot feature, other than being able to turn it on and off.

And Stemme has trust issues. Of Comcast, he said he doesn't "trust their (customer-service) team to provide accurate info."

But Boschulte, the Maple Grove accountant, came to understand and appreciate the public Wi-Fi feature after getting over his initial surprise.

"I am fine with it," Boschulte said. "I think it is a great idea how to expand their service. I think it is a great way to make the Internet and Wi-Fi available to a large audience."

Xfinity public hotspots could someday proliferate to the point where tablet-toting customers could forgo pricey cellular-data plans and rely solely on Wi-Fi, Boschulte believes.

"You get access to the world without paying the extra bills for mobile and data plans," he noted.

In addition to neighborhood and small-business Wi-Fi, there is a third prong to Comcast's public wireless strategy -- extra-powerful Wi-Fi transmitters set up in major public venues, like transit stations, shopping malls and sports stadiums.

For instance, Comcast has been anointed the official Wi-Fi provider for the San Francisco 49ers and that team's new Levi's Stadium, now under construction in Santa Clara, Calif. The partnership was announced this month.

No Twin Cities public venues are blasting out this extra-powerful wireless access, which is able to accommodate many more simultaneous connections than typical Wi-Fi networks. But such public wireless networks are likely to start appearing in the metro area by later this year, the company has said.

Comcast also has seized on the coming Winter Olympics to promote its Wi-Fi capabilities. For the duration of the event, it said, its nonresidential hotspots will be available to everyone, not just its subscribers. Comcast owns NBC, which will be televising the games.

This, it hopes, will earn it the loyalty of legions after the Winter Olympics have faded into history.

Comcast isn't the only company promoting the concept of Wi-Fi sharing, though it is perhaps the

A variety of other technology companies are promoting similar wireless-sharing, via public Wi-Fi hotspots and other approaches, but are hampered somewhat at the moment because of smaller U.S. footprints.

Spain-based Fon ( is one such company. Hugely popular in European cities, such as Madrid and Paris, it distributes compact residential Wi-Fi routers that serve as public wireless hotspots, much as the Comcast variants do.

Fon's newest router, or "Fonera," is available for $49 on the Fon home page or on

Fon has tried to cultivate a U.S. following with limited success. It is making another run by partnering with major U.S. wireless carrier AT&T and its tens of thousands of hotspots in this country.

Other companies with variations on this public-hotspot theme include Karma ( and France's Free Mobile (
most ambitious and successful in the United States to date.

Martian Passport looks like a watch, acts like a smartwatch By Gregg Ellman - McClatchy-Tribune

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, there seemed to be an explosion of

I’d guess it will be like a game of musical chairs, with only a few lasting after the music stops, much like the explosion of tablets at the show a few years ago.

One I’m sure will last is the Martian Passport series, which they promote as “The World’s First Voice Command Smartwatch.”

This is a rare time that I did have to read the instructions, but they were clear and easy to follow; press this button, then that button, etc.

They do have an interesting item in the instruction book about how the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. I think that number is grossly understated, but I’m sure many of those 150 are to check the time for those with a watchless wrist.

Once you’re set up and make a Bluetooth connection with your smartphone, you get notifications of callers, email, social media, texts, calendar alerts and event-activated Siri on an iPhone.

You can respond with the watch and talk into it like you’re a secret agent or just use it as an alert to either take out your smartphone or ignore it.

If the contact information for the caller is in your phone, you’ll see that name on the watch display. If you don’t have the name entered you’ll see the phone number.

All the other information you are being alerted to is shown on the display running across the bottom of the front of the watch (96- by 16-pixel graphic OLED display).

The Martian watch also can be set to trigger your phone’s camera so you can get in the photo.

Once your watch is paired with a phone it will vibrate when you they get out of range of each other (Bluetooth range is about 30 feet), letting you know you left the phone behind.

An internal battery needs to be charged for 2 hours every few days via USB, depending on the amount of use.

I have to admit, it does take a little getting used to having your wrist vibrating for a phone call or message alert. While eating lunch with friends last week, my wrist starting vibrating and I said just that, which caused some odd looks from my comrades.

In addition to the smartphone capabilities, this is one good looking watch for keeping up with that old fashion thing of just checking the time.

Details: $299 in color combinations of black, white and silver;

Eye-Fi Mobi

I’ve been familiar with the Eye-Fi SD media cards for years and had great success with them going from a camera to a computer, but a direct connection to my iPad has been cumbersome and involved third party apps, which never seem to work flawlessly.

All that came to an end past week when I tried the Eye-Fi Mobi WiFi Camera to Phone 8GB, SDHC Class 10 memory card along with the Eye-Fi app (free for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire).

The setup is simple and it worked from the start; just download the app and enter the provided activation code.

Inside the memory card is Wi-Fi, letting you make a direct connection from the memory card to your device, so this system works without an Internet connection.

Assuming you put the memory card in an Eye-Fi compatible camera you’re all set to start taking photos.

Images are captured on the memory card along with automatically downloading into my iOS (iPhone 5s) image library, where they can be sent to social media when you switch over to an Internet connection.

Since the images are still stored on the card you will be able to download them for archiving on your computer.

This system enables you to use a real camera for optimum image quality vs. using a cellphone, which provides instant access for social media but will not be the best quality for long term use for large prints, etc.

I tested it with large JPGs on a high-end digital SLR and a point-n-shoot camera and found both to work great for photos and video.

There’s not a lot to it, which makes for the perfect accessory.

The Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB memory card has faster speeds designed for capturing HD video.

Details: $49.99 8GB, $79.99 16GB $99.99 32GB;

Portable battery pack

Paick’s new portable battery called the Noble is only a half-inch thick but has a big time 6000mAh Li-ion battery of power inside.

The company has designed the pocket-sized battery with fashion in mind, featuring an aluminum alloy high-performance case.

A dust-proof pop-up slot opens to display two USB and one microUSB ports for charging.

The iPhone 5 series can get up to three charges before the battery needs a charge; other smartphones can get two charges and an iPad once.

Details: $64.99, but a promotion has it at $49.99 through March 20;
technology-enabled watches.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The best and worst companies at protecting your passwords by Kim Komando

Until online retailers start implementing better methods, your password is still the single-greatest vulnerability in your security. Some websites do a better job making sure that password is as strong as possible. But others are so bad it's scary.

In a recent study by consumer advocate Dashlane, the top 100 online marketplaces were ranked according to password safeguards. These include criteria like refusing to accept weak passwords, length requirements, blocking login after a few failed attempts and more.

Here are the scores, ranked from best to worst. A perfect score is 100, but the worst of the worst have negative scores.

Apple 100
Microsoft 65
Chegg 65
Newegg 60
Target 60
Williams-Sonoma 55
CDW 50
Amway 45
Musician's Friend 45
Nike 45
Best Buy 40
WW Grainger 40
Walgreens 40
Express 40
Sony 35
Abercrombie & Fitch 35
Bass Pro Outdoor 35
CVS 35
MSC Industrial Supply 30
Hayneedle 30
Oriental Trading Co. 30
The Children's Place Retail Stores 30
OfficeMax 25
Nordstrom 25
Deluxe Corp. 25
Crate and Barrel 25
American Eagle 24
Ann Inc. 20
Sears 19
Dell 19
Neiman Marcus 19
Saks 14
Lowe's 14
LL Bean 10
Avon Products 4
JC Penny -5
Foot Locker -6
Costco -10
Gap -10
Green Mountain Coffee -10
GameStop -11
Chico's FAS -11
Gilt Groupe -13
Estee Lauder -15
PC Connection -18
HSN -25
Etsy -25
The Home Depot -25
Staples -30
Barnes and Noble -30
ShopNBC -30
CafePress -30
Office Depot -35
Macy's -35
HP Home/Office Store -35
Rakuten -35
Cabela's -35
Ralph Lauren -35
Build -35
Sierra Trading Post -35
Northern Tool -37
Amazon -40
Walmart -40
Kohl's -40
Fingerhut (Bluestern Brands) -40
Scholastic Inc. -40
Eddie Bauer -40
1 Sale a Day -40
Victoria's Secret -44
Overstock -45
Vistaprint -45
Fanatics -45
Urban Outfitters -45
Shutterfly -45
Wayfair -45
PCM -45
Groupon -45
REI -45
Blue Nile -45
Fresh Direct -45
RueLaLa -45
Zulily -45
1-800 Contacts -45
Disney Store -45
Net-A-Porter -45
Hulu -45
Shoebuy -45
Edible Arrangement -45
Restoration Hardware -45
1-800 Flowers -46
Vitacost -50
Nutrisystem -50
American Girl -50
J. Crew -55
Toys R Us -60
Aeropostale -60
Dick's Sporting Good -65
Karmaloop -70
MLB -75

10 Must-Have Apps for Your iPhone Richard Szpin

The basic group of apps you need on your Apple device is a subjective selection. The perfect app for one person is a dud to another; the app one person uses daily may be a headache to someone else. Risking a barrage of disagreement and discontent, I pose the following list of apps as the ideal home base for any iDevice. After years of slogging back and forth, trying this app, rejecting that one, testing this one, discarding that one, the seemingly endless task is done. Here is the final cut, the apps I found I was using over and over, without complaint, lamentation, or griping.

I do not offer these apps as a list of “the very best,” no such list can be drawn, but these apps are the “rock solid” ones. They may lack pizzazz, but they get the job done, effectively and with minimal fuss.

Here it is, the ideal list of apps for your Apple device:

Simplenote (free). Use this basic writing app to write notes, short reminders, explanations, or descriptive paragraphs. It is easy to use, visually clean, and efficiently direct, and it has an excellent search system. This appropriately named note maker is simply the best note-making app out there.

Fantastical 2 ($2.99) is a great calendar app: simple, clear, easy to use, and very practical with its variety of views and events/tasks summary. It is the reigning champ of calendars at a reasonably low price! Saying more about this app’s outstanding features and simplicity in use would be gilding the lily.

Gmail (free) is one of the best email apps on any platform. It does its job cleanly and it does it well. Its generous use of white space keeps user attention clearly focused on the message being written. Cross platform universality means desktop modifications will reach your digital device app. Google updates the app periodically and each revision seems to be a significant improvement to what is already a solid email app.

Mailbox (free) is a notable contender for the email crown worn by Gmail. This app helps you maintain a "zero” mailbox with just a gesture or two. Swipe one way, the message is archived; swipe and pause, and it is deleted; swipe the other way and your email is filed for later action or viewing at a time of your choosing. One of the handiest email apps around!

Wunderlist (free). Every iDevice user needs a good to-do list manager and Wunderlist is one of the best. An added bonus is that the app syncs seamlessly across all platforms. Users can create folders with lists of tasks and/or to do’s. Though Wunderlist lacks glitz and glamor, it does what it is designed to do solidly, without flare or bombastic flash. It is the task/to-do list manager of choice

Errands (free). Apple users have reasons to gloat as Errands, arguably the best task/to do list manager anywhere is only available on iOS devices. This outstanding app is a great alternative to Wunderlist. It is colorful without overdoing it, clean, and effective, and it does it all in a simple, utilitarian way. Because it lacks the cross-platform connectivity of Wunderlist, the championship crown stays with Wunderlist.

Alarmed – Reminders and Timers (free). My favorite app on my iPod Touch, Alarmed – Reminders and Timers is a terrific alarm app which can be customized with the dates and times of your choosing. The app is also a timer which allows you to create individualized, custom-titled timers of varying duration. This wonderful little application belies its amazingly comprehensive nature and and surprisingly effective utility.

Evernote (free). Storage is essential to good record keeping. Evernote does it all and it does it everywhere across all platforms. The free version will satisfy most users; but for a reasonable price, the premium version will satisfy everyone. The power of Evernote is appreciated only after working with it a little. It permits quick short notes or hugely detailed ones and saving of audio, photo, and text files. And its built in OCR tool handily converts copy images to text. Finally, its lightning fast search capability and amazingly effective tagging system makes it the true champion of storage apps.

Photoshop Express (free). This very useful photo editing app will help improve photos in a variety of areas: lighting, contrast, focus, and even removal of extraneous subject matter. An excellent photo editing for nonprofessionals who want to modify photos with minimal effort and ease.

Last Pass (free). Every user should consider a password manager for their device and LastPass may very well be the best. The benefit of a password manager is that you need to remember only one password to unlock all your stored passwords. The premium edition at $1 a month is your best bet. Stored passwords are encrypted and decrypted locally thereby securely locking them on the commercial server. An added bonus is that LastPass can be used across the entire spectrum of devices.