Off Topic

An Easy Way To Send Confidential Information Online

One of my interests is security and today I wrote An Easy Way To Send Confidential Information Online. However, it is not a genealogy article so I will not publish it in this genealogy newsletter. If you have an interest in sending secure email messages, you might want to read my article in the PrivacyBlog at http://privacyblog.com/2015/08/13/an-easy-way-to-send-confidential-information-online/.

Avoid Advertising Email Messages with 10 Minute Mail

Did you ever give your email address to a web site in order to retrieve some information and then the site bombards you with advertising messages for weeks? Yes, me too. There is one rather unique tool that will reduce the filling of your in-box: 10 Minute Mail

10MinuteMail is a secure, temporary email service. This means that it lets you have a private email address that anyone can send mail to. The email message and the address both self-destruct in 10 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about SPAM or anything like that.

Never Pay For Mobile Phone Service Again

Note: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy and history articles, I suggest you skip this one. However, this article reflects one of my other interests: telecommunications, especially low cost or no cost telephone services. I feel that we are being “ripped off” by telephone companies and by cell phone companies. A few smaller companies offer much cheaper services that work just as well as the service from the big conglomerates. If you are interested in reducing your present telephone expenses, you may be interested in this article.

Scratch Wireless is a new start-up that claims to be offering free mobile phone service. In fact, it will be free for many people but I would prefer to call it “free or low-cost” mobile phone service (after purchasing a $99 mobile phone). Let me explain…

The Scratch Wireless service uses Wi-Fi whenever possible. Scratch refers to that as “Wi-Fi First.” However, if there is no Wi-Fi around, the mobile phone will (optionally) use the Sprint nationwide cell phone network as a back up. The phone only uses cellular to fill the gaps. Even then, the use of cellular connections is optional: the Scratch Wireless customer may elect to fall back to (paid) cellular service or to only use free wi-fi connections.

Use a Secure (and FREE) Computer for Banking and all other Finances

If you have been reading this newsletter for some time, you probably already know that I am very concerned about online security and privacy. If you are also interested in similar topics and especially if you want to keep your banking, credit card, and stock brokerage transactions private, you might be interested in an article I wrote entitled, Use a Secure (and FREE) Computer for Banking and all other Finances. Since it is not genealogy-related, I published the article on my other blog, the Privacy Blog, at http://privacyblog.com/2015/05/02/use-a-secure-and-free-computer-for-banking-and-all-other-finances.

Lost in the Fifties – Another Time, Another Place

How many of these things do you remember?

(I like that Thunderbird!)

If the above video did not display in your web browser, go to https://youtu.be/jjj9VKKSV2g.

 

Free or Nearly Free Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Telephone Calls

Earlier this week, I published a brief article in this newsletter (at http://goo.gl/8oF3Nn) about a new cell phone service from Google. I mentioned that I thought it was overpriced at $20 to $30 a month or more. For more than two years, I have been using a similar service from a small-time cellular service provider that provides essentially the same service. I usually pay $10 a month for unlimited voice minutes and text messages but occasionally upgrade to $25/month for a week or two when traveling and expect to use the wireless data plan frequently. When I return home, I then “downgrade” to $10/month again. The service has proven to be very reliable and I am happy with it.

I also found this to be a great tool for placing free calls back home when traveling internationally, instead of paying the normal, outrageous international roaming charges often associated with using cell phones when traveling in foreign countries. I used this cell phone several times last week while in England to call back to my family in the U.S. at no charge.

Google’s new Project Fi: A low-cost Cell Phone Service

As rumored for months, Google today announced its new cell phone service. At first glance, it looks good and is very low-priced compared to the major U.S. cell phone providers. However, a comparison shows that several of the low-cost cellular providers already offer better deals.

Google’s new cell phone service, called Project Fi, is not yet available to everyone. It is available only in an invitation-only basis. Next, it works only on Google’s (expensive) Nexus 6 Android phone. It will not work with any other cell phone. Service will be made available through both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks.

The big advantage of Project Fi is that it marries together normal cell phone networks and wi-fi networks. When you’re connected to wi-fi, for example, all of your voice and data activities will use that network. If you are not in range of a wi-fi network, the software in the cell phone automatically switches the call and data to Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s networks. The service costs $20 per month for unlimited voice minutes. If you want data, you will be charged an additional $10 per gigabyte that you use.

In other words, it works just like the cheaper cell phone service that Republic Wireless has offered for more than two years now.

Why You Need a Temporary Credit Card Number

This may not be a genealogy issue but it certainly is important for security and peace of mind.

One of the things I detest about many web sites is that when you sign up for a subscription and pay with a credit card, the site automatically renews your subscription when it expires. Some web sites will automatically renew without even the courtesy of notifying you in advance. They keep on billing, and you cannot easily shut down the offending vendor.

Of course, you could cancel the credit card itself, but that usually isn’t convenient.

Another risk, although rare, is that someone might obtain your credit card number surreptitiously and make illegal charges against it. While all online charges are insured by the credit card companies so that you will never lose any money, going through the process of filing a claim and getting your money back can be inconvenient, at best. I think it is better to stop such an illegal transaction BEFORE it occurs.

Luckily, these problems are easily prevented if you take appropriate steps in advance.

Graves4Sale.com

I thought I had seen all sorts of “real estate” advertisements, but a new one caught my eye this week. This online real estate service advertises very small plots of land for sale. Very small.

Many people own cemetery plots that are no longer needed or wanted. If you contact the cemetery office, you probably receive a reply that they do not repurchase cemetery plots. Why should they? After all, the cemetery’s owners probably have more plots of their own still for sale.

Today is Pi Day

March 14, 2015 can be written by North Americans as 3.14.15. That is also the digits used to represent the Pi: 3.1415. (Most other countries would write today as 14.3.15 so let’s just ignore everyone else, OK?)

In fact, today is the one and only Pi Day in the next 100 years that will actually reflect the first five numbers in everyone’s favorite irrational number, pi, which is 3.1415. The next time pi lovers will see such an event will not be until March 14, 2115.

Ooma is now Available at the Lowest Price Ever

Note: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy articles, I suggest you skip this one. However, this article reflects one of my other interests: telecommunications, especially low cost or no cost telephone service. Then again, genealogists do make many phone calls in pursuit of relatives and information. If you are interested in reducing your present telephone expenses, you may be interested in this article.

I fired the local telephone company years ago. I replaced the old-fashioned telephone service with a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone that connects to the Internet router in my home. There are no telephone lines connected to my house. The VoIP system works well, providing crystal-clear voice calls and also works perfectly with security alarms, FAX machines, and more.

Over the years, I have experimented with a number of different VoIP services. Back in the “old days” when VoIP was new, making phone calls meant leaving your computer powered up and online 24 hours a day and wearing headphones when you wanted to talk on the phone. Thankfully, those days are over. Almost all of today’s VoIP providers use normal telephones, such as those you purchase at the local computer store or department store.

Happy New Year

Buy a Chromebook and Receive 1 Terabyte of Free Google Storage for Two Years

Are you thinking of storing a lot of files in a cloud-based file storage service, such as Google Drive? Here’s a deal for you: buy a Chromebook.

Google is now offering one terabyte of storage FREE of charge for two years to anyone who purchases a new Chromebook laptop computer and redeems the offer by January 31, 2015.

Get your calculators out and do the math: one terabyte of storage on Google Drive normally costs $9.99 per month. Multiply that by 24 months for a total of $239.76. Let’s round that up to $240 for simplicity’s sake.

Seattle Mayor Pardons “Tofurky”

This has nothing to do with genealogy. However, since I am a vegan and won’t be eating turkey on Thanksgiving, I had to smile when I read about Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proclamation at City Hall on Friday. He proclaimed, “I, Mayor Murray, pardon Braeburn the Tofurky.”

Mayor Murrary pardoned the tofu turkey and challenged the Seattle City Council to a food drive.

“Only in Seattle,” tweeted the Washington Secretary of State office.

Talk to Your Family This Holiday Season

Many of us will be enjoying dinners and other festive occasions with our relatives during the next few weeks. I would suggest this is a great time to compare notes with the relatives. Indeed, older members of the family may know a few tidbits of genealogy information that you have not yet found. However, there is another, more serious, reason for comparing notes with relatives: family health hazards.

Compiling a family tree can offer more benefits than discovering stories of war heroes or family dramas; science and preventive medicine are getting a look in, too. The skeleton in the cupboard could be a genetic predisposition towards disease that, once uncovered, might provide potentially life-saving indicators.

Announcing the new Privacy Blog

If you have been reading this genealogy newsletter for a while, you probably know that I often write about privacy and security-related topics. These articles usually have nothing to do with genealogy but are topics that I feel strongly about.

I am dismayed by what I see, read, and hear in today’s world. Edward Snowden has revealed the abuses by governmental agencies in snooping on its citizens. Other governments do the same. Cyber criminals frequently hack into servers and individual desktop computers around the world. Corporations snoop on your buying habits, your political and religious beliefs, and more in order to learn about you and to inundate you with “targeted advertising.” Potential employers snoop to find private information about potential job candidates. Retailers do not protect your credit card information properly; we often read about hackers stealing millions of credit card numbers from retailers’ servers.

And then there is Facebook…

Luckily, these problems are easily avoided if the user understands the solutions available.

Have You Talked with a Streetlight Recently?

Verizon knows something about technology. The company also spends a lot of time and effort studying future needs of the country. After all, Verizon needs to always be prepared for the future. Now the company is planning to build new or to modify existing streetlights to become serve as emergency call stations for endangered pedestrians. Press a button on the streetlight and be instantly connected to the closest 911 operator.

The same streetlights also could have signs attached that would communicate with traffic control centers via wireless networking and display traffic information and suggest alternate routes. A streetlight-mounted sign also could display up-to-the-minute information, such as the predicted arrival time of the next bus or subway train, as well as weather alerts. The same lights could display advertising or play music.

Update: Your Cell Phone is Tracking You

Click on the image to view a larger version.

I posted an article yesterday about an invasion of your privacy created by the cell phone you carry. “Your Cell Phone is Tracking You” is available at http://wp.me/p5Z3-KK. Shortly after I posted the article, a newsletter reader using a pseudonym of “outsidethemarginals” posted a comment at the end of the article mentioning a recent BBC2 Horizon documentary on privacy, called Inside the Dark Web. It focuses not so much on cell phones but more about Internet eavesdropping by governments and also about Bitcoins, a new virtual currency that is untraceable.

A quick search shows that Inside the Dark Web is also available on YouTube at http://youtu.be/nW4LZqusWHE.

I watched the program on YouTube and found it to be very revealing. It covers many privacy issues. It focuses on the U.K. but most of the insidious issues it describes are equally true in the U.S. and in many other countries. I strongly recommend the video to anyone concerned about privacy and is questioning who is spying on all of us.

Your Cell Phone is Tracking You

NOTE: The following article has nothing to do with genealogy. However, it concerns me and I think everyone should be aware of these invasions of privacy.

You probably have a tracking device in your pocket. You are helping government spies, hackers, burglars, and cell phone companies track your every move. Every time you place your cell phone in your pocket or purse, you are on the radar and your movements, position, orientation, and conversations are all open to someone. In fact, that happens whether you place a call or not.

The “smart phones,” such as an Android or Apple phone, provide the most information about your movements and activities, but even the so-called dumb phones are almost as bad. All cell phones track your location. The “smart phones” simply provide additional accuracy as to your location. Instead of tracking you plus or minus a mile or so, a smart phone or even a dumb phone that has a built-in GPS will identify your location within a very few feet at all times.

Want proof? Look above and to the right to see a map available on Google that tracks my recent travels with an Android phone in my pocket. Click on the map to view a larger version. You can see where I traveled in considerable detail.

How to Fix a Poor Web Design

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.

A newsletter reader wrote today to tell me of a recent update to a very popular genealogy web site. In short, the web site reportedly has been converted from a very useful genealogy resource into something that is nearly unusable. I won’t mention the web site but will quote a few sentences from the message (with minor editing for readability reasons):

“The old account information won’t work, you need to establish a new account which means anything you had stored under an old account won’t work. They won’t let you put in a full first name on a basic search and the “narrow search” function is awful. The documents fly around the page so fast it is hard to zone in and read about person you are researching. To contact them with issues etc. is difficult. The contact page on the web site is limited to 200 characters, so you cannot send them much of an email message at all.”

I guess I have been in the computer business too long and have heard similar stories far too often. Yes, I suspect this complaint is valid, as are hundreds of other complaints I have heard over the years about other web sites, software applications, and more. My experience is that such problems usually get fixed although never with the speed that customers expect. Here is my response to the person who wrote me today:

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