Need To Call 911 – Don’t Use Alexa!

Last week I learned that you can’t use Alexa or other “smart speakers” or “virtual assistants” to call 911 in an emergency.  It seems like this would be the perfect use for such a device.  You slip getting out of the shower, without your smartphone or smartwatch nearby, and break your arm. You call out to Alexa in the next room. “Alexa! Call 911!” And it says “I’m sorry, I can’t make that call.”

Well, why the heck not? (Go ahead. Say that with Lwaxana Troi’s voice like I just did!)  It seems like that would be the perfect application for such a device.

Why You Can’t Call 911:

It turns out that the FCC needs several things in order to allow a device to access its Emergency System.  Here are the most significant requirements:Call 911 - FCC logo

  • First, it needs a two-way connection and must be able to receive incoming calls so the emergency responder can call back.  Currently, most (maybe all) “smart speakers” aren’t designed for that.
  • Also, it needs to be able to provide an exact location.  Frankly, I’m not sure what the issue is here since the location information is much more stable than your standard cell phone.  After all, you’re probably not driving around with it in your car, or bringing it on airplanes to distant cities.  It seems like you would just have to register the device to a set address and they would know where to go.  (Unless you’re using it in your RV or Camper.)
  • Finally, once those obstacles are overcome, the FCC will probably charge a per device fee.  They do this for landlines and cell phones now, so this would not be unprecedented.

Important:

If you do happen to call 911 accidentally, stay on the phone and let the dispatcher know it was an accident.  Because they need to follow up on each call, even hang-ups, it takes less time for them to receive your “Sorry, wrong number” than to try to track you down after you hang up.

I am sure that this technology will all be worked out within the next few years.  For now though, if you (or your parents) are at risk of falling, it would be better to purchase a medical alert necklace or bracelet, the kind you don’t take off for bathing.

Please forward this to your colleagues who have a “smart speaker” at home.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

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Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is normally $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

pwned? 1 PAINLESS step To Find Out If Your Email Info Has Been Compromised

Have you heard of the term “pwned”? Last week Chris shared a news item with me about a recently discovered list of email addresses and passwords.  These are for sale on hacker websites.  If you are on this list or any of the other lists of stolen emails, you have been pwned. This list, “Collection 1”, consists of 772.9 million unique emails along with 21.2 million passwords.  You might wonder why there are so many more email addresses than passwords.  That is because so many people with multiple email addresses use the same password for everything.

Don’t do that!

A little history about the word “Pwned”:

The Urban Dictionary postulates that Pwned came into use after one of the designers for the game World of Warcraft typed “has been pwned” instead of “has been owned”. Another Urban Dictionary contributor says it is actually a commonly used chess term, where you use your pawn to check your opponent. Regardless of the various definitions, this term means “you are dominated”.

Have You Been Pwned? 1 Painless Step to Find Out:Wondering if you have been pwned?

Head over to Have I Been Pwned to find out if your email address is compromised.  Many people use different email addresses for work and home.  If you have multiple emails, be sure to check each of them.

This site will also tell you on which websites or apps the data breach has occurred.  (My email is compromised.)  I immediately changed the password for both accounts.  It also told me that the breach came from my Dropbox account.  I then changed my login information on Dropbox as well. Another breach occurred on my LinkedIn account so I changed my info there too.

5 Quick Steps to keep your information safe:

  1. Change your password on each account frequently. I change my passwords every 3-6 weeks.
  2. Change your password on financial accounts even more frequently – at least every two weeks.
  3. Never use the same password again!
  4. MOST IMPORTANT: Use a password that is hard to guess.  Make sure you use at least 10 characters.  You should use at least one of each of the following: an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, a number, and a special character.  I always end with punctuation too.  Swap out letters for numbers or special characters. Lately, I’ve been using book titles to craft secure passwords.  So “The New Relationship Marketing” would become “th3NewRel@t1onshipMarket1ng;”  (Check it out.  It’s a great book by Mari Smith.)
  5. Next, always keep track of your passwords using a secure system.  I use a password protected spreadsheet. (Why don’t I recommend a cloud-based password manager?  I’ve recently heard of two people who lost access to their online password tracking system. They had to go to each of their emails and apps to change their passwords. Each One!)

Let me know if you have an effective tip for setting up great, secure passwords.

Please forward this to your colleagues who never change their passwords.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years.  His company is highly rated by both the BBB and by Angie’s List.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is normally $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Wireless Keyboard – Recommendations

We received a call recently from a long-time customer who wanted to upgrade his wireless keyboard.  That was all the push Chris needed to do some research for a new toy!  But, before I reveal what his new favorite is, let’s talk a little about the different features you might look for in a new wireless keyboard.Wireless Keyboard - Logitech Craft

Mouse:

First, you need to decide if you want the keyboard to be paired with a mouse. The benefit is that you would only have to use one USB port on your machine.  The downside is that not all keyboards come with a mouse, and you may decide that the wireless keyboard you really want, doesn’t have a mouse.

Ten-Key:

What’s your preference?  Using the numbers along the row above the letters, or do you prefer to use the number pad off to the right of a standard keyboard?

Media Keys:Wireless Keyboard - Duragadget

Do you want to manage additional tasks from your keyboard?  I like that I can control the volume from my keyboard, I can open a window to send a new email, I can open a new browser window, and so much more.

Backlight:

Do you often work in a darkened room?  You may want to consider a backlit keyboard.  The laptops that Chris has been designing recently all come with a backlit keyboard which is useful when you’re working in bed next to your sleeping spouse.  If you primarily use your wireless keyboard at your desk, you probably don’t need a back light.

Size:

How big of a keyboard do you want?  Do you want a portable one that clips onto your tablet?  Should it be foldable to fit into your backpack? Or do you want a full sized wireless keyboard that you can leave on your desk?

Tactile Response:

Clicking?  Silent?  If this is important to you, make sure you know ahead of time what the keyboard will do.wireless keyboard - logitech MK 320

Ergonomics:

If you have issues with carpal tunnel or spend all day typing, you may want to look for a keyboard that has a special design to keep your wrists in the proper position while typing.

I have a laptop.  I don’t need a separate wireless keyboard!

That’s what I used to think.  But my laptop is on the small side and the keyboard is too.  My fingers were constantly confusing keys and mis-spelling words.  Worst of all, the heal of my hand would accidentally touch the keypad and the mouse would go flying to a different part of the screen.  It was very frustrating.  I’ve since learned that I’m not the only one to experience this.  I solved this by purchasing a wireless keyboard which is the size of a conventional keyboard and works really well for me.

(As always, any links may provide a small commision to us, with no increase in price to you.)

Geek For Hire Recommendations:

  • Chris’ new favorite keyboard is called the Logitech Craft.  It has a funky knob on the top left side which allows you to adjust images in Photoshop or Illustrator. It has a backlit keyboard and (WHAT?!) can manage up to three devices from the single wireless keyboard!  It’s compatible with both Mac’s and PCs.   This one retails for $199, but Amazon currently has it priced at $175.  I’ve seen it on other sites at prices ranging from $179 to $199
  • The wireless keyboard I had been using for the past few years suddenly died last month.  I purchased a Logitech MK320. and I am loving it. It came paired with a mouse which means only one USB thingie.  That’s important to me because my laptop only has three USB ports.  It has a separate ten-key which I like.  And, as I mentioned above, I can manage more than just typing with this device! The keys are big enough that my fingers to confuse the “m” and the “n”.  Overall, I really like it and loved the price.  It retails for $40, but Amazon currently has it priced at $22.  Other sites have it for around $25.
  • And, only because I wanted a pop of color for this post, I took a look at a keyboard for kids.  I like this Duragadget keyboard because it looks like it’s great for learning, and it has some very good reviews.  Amazon has it for about $35.

Please forward this to your colleague who constantly has spelling mistakes.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is normally $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

When Should I Turn Off My Computer?

When I got my first computer, I would turn it off every time I left my office for more than a half hour. A few years later I would turn it off when I left for the day. Now, I’ll turn it off a couple of times a week. Why the change? Have you ever wondered: When Should I Turn Off My Computer? You might wonder how often you need to turn off your machine, or if you even need to turn it off at all!

Here’s what Chris says:

“I really wish Gail would turn her machine off more frequently!” When Should I Turn Off My Computer? Not as often as you think. Hint: Don't just puss the power button

Do I need to turn off my machine?

The short answer is Yes! When you turn it off the machine will clean itself, reorganize files, empty the trash, install any updates, and generally make itself faster and more efficient for the next time you turn it on. Other reasons to turn your machine off include saving power.

It’s really a balancing act. The process of turning your machine off and back on takes its toll on the mechanics of your computer. But leaving the machine on all the time does the same thing. If you use your machine constantly throughout the day, by all means, leave it on. If you access your machine from a remote location, then you definitely need to keep it on most of the time!

When should I turn off my computer?When Should I Turn Off My Computer - windows start button

Every couple of days save all of your documents, close all of your applications, and turn the machine off. Leave it off overnight, or just for a few minutes.

If you use it for only an hour or two at a time, then you should turn it off when you are done. If you know you won’t use your machine all weekend, you should turn it off.But, if you use your machine all day long, there’s really no need to turn it off every day. Turning your machine off once a week should be sufficient.

Remember, when you turn off your machine, don’t do it with the power button. Use the off button on the screen menu. This allows the machine to shut off gracefully.

General computer health & Well-being:When should I turn off my machine?

Some other things you should do for the general health and well-being of your machine are:

  • Always use a surge protector. These help even out any power spikes so that they don’t damage your machine. We also advise that you use a UPS (Universal Power Supply). This is a battery backup system that protects your equipment from power surges, and provides a limited time of battery life. This is helpful when you’re in the middle of working on a project when the power goes out. It gives you enough time to finish up and save everything. (There is an annoying and frequent beep to let you know that you are using battery power.)
  • During lightning storms, you should turn off AND unplug all of your electronics. Even a surge protector can’t always help protect your equipment if there is a nearby lightning strike.
  • Uninstall and delete any programs that you are no longer using. Even if you’re not running a program, it may still be processing in the background.  This will undermine the efficiency of your machine. (Yes, we can help you with this if you don’t feel comfortable choosing which programs to uninstall.)
  • Keep your machine clean! Periodically open it up and remove all the dust and pet hair that have accumulated. Dust tends to accumulate on the fan, which is there to keep your machine cool. If too much dust is there, the fan won’t run properly and your machine will overheat. (We can help you with this too!)
  • Finally, When Should I Turn Off My Computer?  At least once a week!

Please forward this to your colleagues who ALWAYS leave their machine running.

Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report to protect you from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is normally $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)