You have likely noticed that the banner ads and other forms of advertisements on many of the web pages visited appear to “coincidently” be for many of the same items that you have recently searched for online. You may even notice that many of these ads are also from many of the same online sellers whose web pages you have recently visited. In some cases, you may also see online ads for direct competitors of previously visited websites, offering many of the same or similar products that you have looked at on other websites. It should not be surprising that the owners of many websites, as well as many third party advertisers, use a variety of tracking technologies to gather information on you, as an individual, the types of websites that you visit, and the products and services viewed. While many users find this targeted advertising interesting and useful, and even possibly necessary in order to support “free” web sites and online services, many others consider the gathering of such personal information as a gross violation of personal privacy.
Almost every Android device came with a version of Google Maps installed. One of the most popular apps in the world, Google Maps has between 1 and 5 billion copies downloaded from the Google Play Store, with millions of other copies downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store.
Most people know that the mobile version of Google Maps can recommend driving routes between points, but it can really do a great deal more, now becoming so powerful and feature rich that it could conceivably threaten the market for the dedicated dashboard GPS devices.
The much ballyhooed release of Windows 10 is nearing, as Microsoft polishes its features and adds devices to the list of compatible hardware that can run the new operating system. While Microsoft has not yet publically announced an official release date for its newest operating system, several media sources, including the respected PC Magazine (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2483522,00.asp), are reporting that the initial release for personal computers will be this summer, with other versions of Windows 10 being released for other devices shortly after the original PC release.
In the not too distant past, we communicated with each other with the spoken and written word, telephone, telegraph, and real paper “snail” mail complete with a postage stamp. Fast forward a few decades, and now, in terms of personal communication, we use satellite dependent cellular phones, e-mail, texting, video conferencing, social networking, and other forms of digital media. While generally very efficient in terms of time and energy, these new digital communications technologies have also made us somewhat lazy, something that countless others and I are guilty of. Just tonight, for example, I was grilling dinner on the backyard grill; my wife was doing school work in the bedroom on the opposite side of the house. Rather than shouting, or getting up from my patio chair to come into the house and verbally inform her of when dinner will be ready, I sent her a text message from my smart phone to hers; millions of dollars worth of technology were utilized to send just a few words about 20 yards in distance, telling her that dinner would be ready at about 5:30. Now the realists among you will admit to it – that you have done similar “lazy” forms of communication.
Several weeks ago in this column I reviewed several Android and iPhone apps that can be used to possibly locate lost or stolen phones and tablets. While several of the apps were free, most were limited in capabilities unless a paid, usually nominal, subscription fee was paid. Now, Google, known for its innovation and services, recently (April 15) offered a pair of very simple and free ways to locate almost any lost or stolen Android device, totally for free. The Android user actually has an option from Google where the user can choose and install the free Goggle app “Android Device Manager” (last updated April 9), or can simply update the integral main Google app to the one dated April 15, 2015, or later.
You have probably seen the multitudes of TV commercials touting the paid online subscription service offering referrals for home improvement and maintenance services through Angie’s List, and its primary free competitor Home Advisor. Not to be outdone by competitors in the growing field of offering prescreened home services, in late March the powerhouse Amazon publically announced its aggressive entry into the field by offering the public its new Amazon Home Services (www.amazon.com/services).
I have been vehemently advocating for many years that all computer users (including MAC users) absolutely need a comprehensive security suite in order to protect them and their machines from the malware that has become endemic. While I have one of the top rated commercial (paid) comprehensive security suites on all of my computers and other smart devices, I am also cognizant that for a myriad of reasons, there are many who prefer one of the numerous decent security suites that are available for free. In past columns I have written about the very good free security products from Comodo, Avast, AVG, Outpost, and other purveyors, and now I am adding another free security suite to the list, Tencent PC Manager.
As many of you have seen firsthand, I have been doing a series of free presentations for local and national groups titled “Are We Under Cyber Attack?” With the constantly increasing volume of information that has indicated that we are indeed under an increasing level of cyber attack, it has been difficult for me to keep my presentation up-to-date without it becoming an excessively long presentation. Sadly, most of us are blissfully unaware of the degree and scope that our computer systems are being hacked and penetrated, with massive amounts of personal, technical, and other sensitive information being stolen. It is not just the massive theft of computer data that has been damaging our national security and economy, but the increasing number of cyber attacks that have threatened our critical infrastructure as well as jeopardized our collective personal safety.