Category Archives: Soapbox

What happens when the computer nerd gets hacked?

Hackers are bad
Hackers are bad

I’m considered by most of my family and friends to be some sort of computer tech nerd. This means that I am supposed to know more than the average person about computer technology. So, imagine their surprise when I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago. Now imagine my surprise that I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago.

How I got hacked on Facebook

I have absolutely no idea how I got hacked. Obviously the bad guy(s) had to break through my – what I thought was strong – password. The password I’d used consisted of three joined words (comprised of both lowercase and uppercase letters), one random punctuation symbol, and four numerals. This adds up to a total of fourteen characters. Should have been safe, right? Unfortunately, no. 

It may have been easier for her/his computer hacking software (no hacker really just guesses your password) to decode my password because: 

1. I used a short phrase (e.g. “LongLiveTheQueen”). 

2. I used a popular punctuation symbol (e.g. “#”, “!”, “$”).

3. The numerical portion was a four digit combination (e.g. Such as a PIN number, or a year, like my birth year, wedding year, or birth year of a child).
 

So, what did I do about being hacked? 

Of course, the first thing I did was to change my Facebook password and apologize to all my Facebook friends for the appearance of strange Facebook Messenger texts, emails, and even phone calls from “me” asking that they become friends (strange, they already were friends)and then invest in some sort of financial scam. 

The second thing I did was to use a feature of my password manager (the software that keeps a list of my passwords) that can generate passwords that are truly random and secure. Something such as “8aE@6QQ$17+5&d”.  

This is not an advertisement for 1Password, but it could be

I’ve tried many different password managers over the years (since 1978). My favorite is 1Password. Here’s why:

1. It works on virtually every popular computer platform – Windows PC’s, Apple Mac’s, IOS (iPhones, iPads, etc.), and Android. 

2. It allows you to access all of your passwords from all of your devices with just one “master” password.

3. It synchronizes all of your passwords and user information to all of your devices.

4. Email support is extremely fast and exceedingly friendly if you have a question or problem.

5. It provides 1GB of on-line storage to securely store your documents.

6. It works with most modern web browsers.

7. It works when you are offline.

8. It has an easy to use “app” on Windows, Macs, and mobile devices (such as Apple or Android).

9. It keeps a 365-day history that allows you to restore deleted items and passwords.

10. It’s reasonably priced, at $2.99 per month for individuals and $4.99 per month for families (up to five people).

1Password keeps track of passwords, Social Security numbers, software licenses, driver’s licenses, passports, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and many other things. Their method of security is essentially bullet proof. Agile Bits, which owns and develops 1Password, scrambles your information on their servers so no prying eyes (theirs or the bad guys’) can get to it.  Check out 1Password at the Agile Bits web site: 1password.com

My family uses it so that we’re able to have access to all of our confidential information on any of our devices by simply having to remember a single password. 

Here’s my plan to remain immune from hackers 

Beginning today, I will go through all of our on-line passwords and change each to be truly unique using the random password generator of 1Password. No more using simple, easy-to-remember passwords. 

I’m starting with the important ones first (bank and credit cards, Social Security, passports, etc.), and then on to department stores, social media sites, and the rest. 

In this digital age, $4.99 per month for security is pretty reasonable, considering that most of us spend substantial amounts on computers, smart phones, and tablets. 

A final note

Secure unique passwords are only part of the not-getting-hacked story. Strong hardware and/or software firewalls and up-to-date anti-spam and anti-virus software are also part of securing your computer and mobile devices. 

Missing headphone jack? much ado about nothing!

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7

Much ado has already been made about the “missing” iPhone 7 3.5mm audio (headphone) jack when Apple introduced the two new iPhone 7’s yesterday.

Apple claimed that the reason they removed the jack was to make room for new technology in future iPhones.  I also suppose that the jack will be missing when Apple introduces new iPads in late 2016 or early 2017.

Sure, Apple saved a few pennies and gained a bit more room by removing the jack, but they spent more than they saved by including a set of earbud headphones with a lightning connector – and also included a little device that lets you continue to use your analog headphones by connecting them to the convertor and then onto your lightning connector.

Most folks would say that a digital headphone sounds crisper and clearer than an analog headphone.  So where is the harm or foul?  You can enjoy your new iPhone 7 with the included digital earbuds – or connect your existing Beats, Sennheiser, Sony, Motorola or other studio headphones to the phone with the included adapter. In addition Apple and Beats (owned by Apple) introduced new wireless headphones that can be used with the iPhone 7’s.  And finally there are dozens of Bluetooth wireless headphones already on the market that will work with the iPhone 7’s.  

Tell me again why you are unhappy?

Early on Friday morning (3 AM EDT) I’ll be placing my order for a new iPhone 7 Plus.  Am I disappointed that it won’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Nope!

Here’s Why Image Counts: Tesla 3 vs. Chevy Bolt

 

Tesla 3
Tesla 3
  
Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt
 

If you were in the market for a pure electric vehicle and the cost was the same would you buy a Tesla 3 or a Chevy Bolt?  A third of a million Americans just voted with their pocket books and the answer for them was a Tesla 3.

In comparing the two vehicles consider the following:

  • Both cost about $35,000
  • Both are total electric vehicles (no supplemental gas engines)
  • Both are made in the USA
  • Both have an electric range of about 215 miles
  • Each has a different “style” or “look” – I’ll leave which is more attractive to you, the reader
  • The Chevy Bolt will be available in late 2016
  • The Tesla 3 will be available in late 2017

If we are to believe that the two vehicles are so similar (except for that “style/look” thing) why are the following facts so dissimilar:

  • In the first week of ordering availability in late March of 2016 the Tesla 3 garnered over 325,000 pre-orders requiring a deposit of $1,000 each.
  • Since its January 2016 unveiling the Chevy Bolt’s parents (GM) has projected that it will sell 20,000 in the first year.

What?!?  How can that be??? How did the Tesla 3 beat the pants off of Chevy Bolt without any struggle at all?

Tesla basks in same sort of consumer “glow” as Apple.  Its high-end design, engineering, construction, fit and finish and a reputation for overall quality are admired by owners, and non-owners alike.  Consumer Reports magazine reviewed the original Tesla Model S vehicle and gave it the highest marks of ANY car ever reviewed.

The Chevy Bolt looks like it was designed by a committee on both the exterior and the interior.  While this is the company that brought us Corvairs and Vegas, it also brought us inspired vehicles like the Corvette Stingray. 

The Tesla 3 looks like a coordinated effort of a team that believes in synergy of both the exterior and the interior of the vehicle.  The Tesla 3 interior is of a minimalist design and the cockpit dash panel looks like an oversized iPad. 

To be successful in the long term, EV’s (Electric Vehicles) will have to be more than “boxes with wheels” that are re-engineered gas vehicles with batteries.  Only “clean sheet” electric vehicles that are designed from scratch will succeed.  And to totally succeed there will need to be nationwide electric recharging stations that can handle ALL the connectors from different EV’s and not just proprietary ones from one or two manufacturers.

We need to start thinking of personal transportation as “computers with wheels.” Those with out-of-box thinking like Apple and Tesla will most likely be the winners.  Can Detroit make the change?

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.  Thanks for reading Tom Gordon’s – The iTechGeezer blog.

I’m an autodidact.  Are you?

  

A phrase that I hear often from a senior in regards to learning about new technology is “I’m too old to learn a new thing.”

That’s crazy thinking.  Most of us are autodidacts (sort of pronounced “auto-die-dact”)  What the heck is an autodidact?

A dictionary would describe an autodidact as:

“A person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.” (For more information click here Dictionary.com reference).

By the way… Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Malcom X, Benjamin Franklin, David Geffen, Jane Goodall and John D. Rockefeller are all autodidact’s.  That doesn’t mean you can drop out of school – or not go on to higher education. There are simply two (or more) ways to become educated about a particular subject – formal (school) and informal (self-taught.)

Two things that as a geezer (look that up!) I missed out on in college were – learning about (1) stocks and bonds, and (2) information technology.  The first, even though I was a business major, I simply didn’t take in college – it was offered.  The second, quite frankly, wasn’t offered because it had not been invented yet!  The two Steve’s (Jobs and Wozniak) had not invented the Apple personal computer in 1969 when I graduated from college.

It is often said that the things we have the strongest feelings about are the ones that we are curious and passionate about.  For me that is absolutely true.  As a kid I was “into” CB and Ham radios, kits that let you build electronics, photography and gadgets of almost any kind.  I was always reading books like “How Stuff Works…” My dad bought me subscriptions to Popular Science, Popular Electronics, Popular Photography and Popular Mechanics.

When the two Steve’s started Apple (1976) and invented the Apple Computer I had to have one of the first ones (the Apple ][ in 1978.)  My passion for gadgets and electronics and reading everything I could on the new subject of personal computing has led to a forty year love affair (the only one my wife lets me have) with digital devices.  As a baby boomer (1946 – the leading edge of that movement – yikes I’m almost 70 years old!) I’ve got a leg up on most folks my age when it comes to knowledge of personal computing.

My point of all this is that I’ve never taken a formal high school or college class on computing, photography or electronics.  But I AM a autodidact – a self taught person who has read thousands of magazine articles, DIY (do-it-yourself) books, and Internet on-line “webinar’s.”  In addition I’ve simply pushed myself to learn personal computing by “doing.”  Trying new things by pushing buttons, opening programs, and just plain exploring the hardware and software that I’ve owned.

I’m not sure that we are ever to old to learn new things.  If we have a curious mind, and a high degree of interest about something new I think it is possible to learn about something that previously we didn’t know too much about.

As my last official “job” (before retirement) I worked at Barnes & Noble for six years. The first three years I sold music and videos.  The last three years I sold, serviced, supported and trained mostly “oldsters” (fifty plus years old) how to use Barnes & Noble “Nooks” electronic book readers.  The oldest person I trained during those three years was a 94 year old woman who had a passion for reading and wanted the immediate gratification of being able to buy electronic books that were cheaper than paper ones, and that she could do at home.  If she could do it, so can you!

My advice?  You are not getting any younger!  If you haven’t bought your first smartphone or tablet do it now.  Don’t buy a desktop or laptop computer – for what you will be doing 95% of the time a large screen smartphone or tablet will be easier to learn and to use. My preference is Apple.  Why? – read some of my past blog articles.  After you purchase a device sign up for an adult class at your local high school or library or the Apple Store.  Next go to a Barnes & Noble, Schuler’s Books, or any good bookstore and look for books about the device you have just purchased.  Look for titles like: “iPad’s for Seniors.”  Open the first few pages and look at the published date.  If the book is over 1-1/2 years old – look for a newer one (yes, things change that fast.)  Look for books with lots of pictures and drawings and not page after page of just text.  Look at the index in the back – make sure it’s several pages long.  Now after all that you are NOT going to read it cover to cover.  You are simply going to stick it on a shelf and use it as a reference book when you are “stuck” and can’t remember how to make text larger, or make text bolder or ??? (whatever.)

Last, you are NOT going to learn how to use your new digital gadget in a day, or a week, or a month – not even a year.  I’ve been using digital devices since 1978 and I learn something new almost every day!

Happy computing older person (myself included)!  You are also an autodidact – and darn proud of it!

– Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer

Computer “Buggy Whips” are getting harder to find each day…

Computer Buggy Whips
Computer Buggy Whips

The Good Old Days

In 1957 I was 11 years old and my dad (who loved gadgets as much as I do) ordered a “crystal” radio kit from the Allied Electronics catalog for me to assemble for a Boy Scout project.  I waited not-so-patiently for our postman to deliver the “box” from Allied Electronics in Chicago. After the “box” arrived I spent a couple of days pouring over the schematics and step-by-step instructions and then wiring and soldering the device.  A day later dad and I strung the dipole antenna from one large maple tree to another and than ran the antenna cable to my bedroom window.  I put my headphones on, and messed with the “whisker” wire over the “crystal” until I finally (and faintly) heard WOOD-AM radio in Grand Rapids.  Over the next week I listened to music, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger and other cool stuff.

In the 1960’s I spent every dime of my allowance, birthday gift money and my forty-five cent an hour soda-jerk job at the Caleldonia Rexall Drug Store on electronic kits from Allied Electronics, Layfayette Radio and Heathkit Electronics in Benton Harbor, MI.  I built Ham radios, CB radios, short-wave radios and on and on.

Over the last forty years, thanks to Radio Shack I’ve been able to find almost any electronic gadget and widget I’ve ever needed for computers, TV’s, music systems and more.

But… like horse “Buggy Whips” Allied Electronics, Layfayette Radio, Heathkit and now Radio Shack have all disappeared from our American highways and byways.

Finding “Stuff” Today

It’s not impossible to find cables, connectors, circuit boards, and other electronic parts today.  One can walk into Meijer, Walmart, and Best Buy and find the basic parts that you need.  Some of you may have a “Joe’s Electronics” (or Bob’s or Al’s) that was once a proud Radio Shack franchise.  Others on the West Coast may be close by to a Fry’s Electronics store which is similiar to a Best Buy but also carries lots of computer and electronic parts.

And of course we can’t forget that we can use Google to search for anything our hearts desire.  Then go directly to Amazon to buy it at the lowest possible price with free shipping (if we are an Amazon Prime member), and perhaps no state sales tax if you are in one of the few states left that haven’t forced Amazon to collect it.

I won’t get on my soapbox in regards to Amazon killing off local electronic merchants and other Internet merchants – I’ll save that blog for another time.

But How About Tomorrow?

Steve Jobs, one of the co-founders of Apple once remarked that digital devices should be like toasters.  Plug ’em in and push down the bread.  Steve never liked DIY (Do-It-Youself) electronics and is well known to have hated computer “ports”, switches, buttons and the like.  His minimalistic view on electronics shunned almost everything except for the machine itself.

We would not be where we are today digital electronics wise without the DIY pioneers that depended on third-party parts and supplies.  That was then, and like “Buggy Whips” – parts are still parts – but they are a lot harder to find then they used to be. Sigh…

Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a message, or ask a question – Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer

“Digital Drugs” for Seniors:  Is it really possible to Overdose?

  

In a word – YES.  For some people it’s easy to go crazy over digital technology.  Something new, something more advanced, something to talk to friends and colleagues about.

If you (or someone you love) gets a “rush” out of having to have the latest smartphone, tablet, television, or gadget you might want to have “the talk.”

Hardware “drugs”:

Quite frankly it is almost impossible to keep up with the annual (or more often) cycle of technological hardware and software updates.  It’s getting harder now that manufacturers are adapting a “lease” based scenario – where the consumer gets a new smartphone (for example) every year.  What do the manufacturers do with the “old” device? Trust me that there are plenty of world-wide secondary markets and third world developing markets that are more than happy to purchase your last years device.

This phenomenon also takes place in other markets.  Automobiles for example.  New look, new features, new safety equipment, gotta have it!  A well organized and implemented “lease” program provides a good used car marketplace.  Don’t believe me?  Ask the owner of any new car dealership – who makes the most gross profit per vehicle – new or used?  If he/she is honest the correct answer is that the used car is the most profitable.

Software “fixes”:

In the mobile technology marketplace both Android “Droid” and Apple “IOS” software is inexpensive to begin with, and in the majority of cases FREE to update to the latest and greatest software version loaded with new features and bug fixes.

Is this a bad thing? No.  We all want more features that “do” more things.  And we certainly want all “bugs” to be eliminated.  But since software “feeds” hardware it becomes a way of forcing us to buy new hardware (since the old hardware may not support the new software features) from time to time.

Standing on the “soapbox”:

Here’s how this applies to Seniors.  First, a lot of Seniors will tell you that their mobile smartphone, smart watch, e-reader or tablet is an “extention” of their brain.  Something that remembers, looks up or gives them confidence in what they are doing (email, reading maps, checking financials, et cetra).  Second, for most Seniors we live on a fixed income so that axiom of what the large print (software) gives to us, the small print (hardware) takes away – because of the continuing cost.

Bottom line:

Everything in moderation.  As a successful tech “geezer” I love new “tech stuff.”  I try to do my reading, research, and rationalization (the 3R’s) carefully and thoughtfully. Obviously all of the “below” does not apply to me – since I need new stuff to help all of you with.

For most Seniors the following hardware purchasing cycle should work well:

  • New smartphones: every 2-3 years (look for major changes to the camera, screen resolution, system RAM, amount of on-board file storage)
  • New e-reader or tablet: every 3-4 years (same as for smart phones)
  • New smart watch: every 2-3 years (since this is a fairly new market the hardware will advance quickly)
  • New flat-panel television: every 5 – 7 years (4K or 5K screen resolution, always price drops)

For most Seniors the following software upgrade and updates cycle will work:

  • Rule #1 – when your software producer says there is a new upgrade/update – wait 7-10 days to allow for “an update to the update.”
  • Rule #2 – most Android and Apple “App Store” updates are free or very low cost.  Updates are almost always a good thing.  New features, security improvements and bug fixes.

Why there are no ads on my site.

What? NO ADVERTISING!
What? NO ADVERTISING!

Those who know me are probably gagging on their fourth cup of coffee as they read this article.  What? Tom Gordon – Mr. Marketing, Advertising Agency Guru – No Advertising? Has he gone mad?

My life WAS Advertising and Marketing:

Let’s start this blog article out by saying I believe in Advertising.  I was a practitioner on both the agency side and the client side of the desk for over 30 years.  I think advertising/marketing/public relations (now all heaped together as “communications”) help companies to grow, add new employees and fuel the economy.

My university degree is a B.S.in Advertising (circa 1969 – before the word “marketing” was coined).  And no, I don’t need to be kidded about how the “B.S.” part of my degree relates to the “Advertising” part of my degree.

The first 1/3 of my career was working for advertising agencies on accounts like Dow Corning, General Electric, Magnavox and many others. The middle 1/3 was being a Senior Vice President for Marketing on the “client” side of the desk for a now deceased Fortune 500 company – U.S. Office Products. The final 1/3 was as a marketing consultant to emerging web companies.

Here is why you WON’T find Advertising and Marketing on our blog site:

Recently I’ve done a lot of soul searching concerning advertising on web and blog sites.  Quite frankly most of it is intrusive, outdated, not realitive  (to the particular site), and makes for a not positive experience.

When I started iTechGeezer.com a few years ago my mission was to provide personal technology information to Seniors.  I’ve tried to be true to that mission.

My goals are to provide accurate advice, encouragement, information and direction that you could feel comfortable in sending your parents and grandparents to with no fear of finding “naughty” things, or misleading ads that are not realitive to our mission or goals.

Sure I wouldn’t mind picking up a few bucks from advertising on our web site.  A few bucks might buy some new technology, or a great lunch with friends. But I’m fortunate that I don’t have to make a living from blogging.  I respect those that do make a part-time or full-time living from blogging it is a tough way to go.

I’m sure that I’m not as pure and pristine as Consumer Reports.  I do have my “preferences” as to hardware and software brands.  I’m a stockholder in both Apple and Microsoft. We hope you will continue to support our blog by simply reading it, recommending it to friends and realitives and maybe linking your blog to ours.

Sincerely, Tom Gordon the iTechGeezer