Amazon Intercom

A new feature for Amazon’s Alexa devices has been enabled in the UK today. You can now use them to call other devices through your contacts. So if friends and family have Alexa devices you can call them, for free. They need to have that feature enabled (and the Alexa app up to date).

If you have more than one device in your home, you can also use them as an intercom system. Simply say ‘Alexa – Drop In Kids Bedroom’ and their device will ring. I’ve tested it and it works pretty well so long as you’ve got your devices with unique names.

It’s a bit of an update on the home intercom systems of the 60s and 70s!

Read more on how to set it up here.

https://www.cnet.com/…/how-to-use-drop-in-with-your-amazon…/

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Breaking News Checklist

When big events happen, the early reports are often sketchy and sometimes downright untrue. The flames are fanned by well-meaning people sharing information from any source they can find, despite that source’s credentials. It’s a fake news creator’s dream when these things happen.

Here’s a handy guide called “The Breaking News Consumers Handbook” – some very useful tips and suggestions on finding the truth amongst all the crap. Share it with your friends, especially those who are prolific ‘big news posters’.

HANDBOOK

 

Death of a hoaxer?

Is it actually true or another one of his hoaxes? That’s the trouble with so many fake news and satire sites, it’s hard to believe what is real anymore. Even when a story appears totally legitimate, you question its authenticity.

While I wouldn’t wish the death of anyone, if he was that prolific at spreading hoaxes, maybe the internet will see a noticeable reduction for a while.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41422827

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Don’t Make The Same Mythstakes

We all know someone that continues to fall for hoax after hoax. Facebook will start charging you, like-farming pages, false celebrity deaths and more. Here are a few of the big ones that just will not go away. How many of them have you seen?

http://www.thatsnonsense.com/6-internet-hoaxes-just-wont-go-away/

 

 

 

No such thing as a free RV, flight, holiday…

Big companies such as British Airways, Air Canada, Tesco, Disney etc. do not go around giving free things to every single person to celebrate something. That’s a “too good to be true” thing and should immediately raise concerns.

DO NOT CLICK LIKE. DO NOT CLICK SHARE. DO NOT THINK ‘OH JUST IN CASE IT MIGHT BE TRUE’.

At the very least you will look a bit silly and you might have friends like me who are more than happy to tell you off for doing it. Worst? Facebook could shut down your account for sharing spam posts and the people behind these posts could steal your personal details.

If you see any of your friends doing this, give them a virtual smack around the head and tell them to read this story:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/free-spam-scam-facebook-1.4285985

Welcome to the Echo Show

It’s been around barely two years but your current Amazon Echo is being updated.  Welcome the ‘Echo Show’.  The what now?  Yes, Echo now comes with a screen and is being released in the US in June.

New-Echo-Inline It could be argued that this is just a fancy tablet, and that if the Echo is meant to be voice controlled, why would one need a screen?  A screen would simply add more functionality.  Think of all the cat photos you can look at while never having to type a single keystroke! Of course, there are more sensible options, weather, time, videos and the like.

Personally, I like the idea.  I have three Echos in the house already, but one with a screen would be useful, especially in the kitchen which is usually the ‘hub’ of any house.  Yes, I have an iPad that I bring into the kitchen for recipes or watching the news while I cook but I like the idea of a screen on a wall that’s voice activated.

There’s still room for improvement – at the moment, the Echo is still a one user device – it won’t work with multiple calendars for example but the good thing is the Echo has always been open for expansion and improvement.  Skills can be written and added just like your apps on a smart phone or tablet.  I’m looking forward to its release and seeing where Amazon take this device next!  Wired’s article on the Echo Show is worth a read.

Taking the Mickey…

As the saying goes “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog…“.  It’s far too easy for people to pretend they are someone or something they are not.  Sometimes, that’s a good thing, but more often than not, it’s bad.  Anyone can create fake profiles on social media and use them to fool people into parting with their money.

This is why social media sites like Facebook and Twitter created ‘verified’ profiles. You can be sure if someone has a blue tick beside their name, they are who they say they are.  This is very important if you’re going to share a post, provide personal details or enter into a financial transaction.

These fake sites will often use a legitimate business name to fool people.  Let’s use Disney as an example.  Everyone knows the name, Disney. It’s a worldwide brand with a certain degree of trust associated with it.  This is how fraudsters take advantage of people.  They create a fake page and get you to share its post or provide your personal details. Then you wonder why you’ve never one a holiday or a cruise or free tickets. Disney isn’t the only victim, there are well-known pages claiming to give away RVs or cars, all using the same tactics.

In almost all cases, these big companies will never ask you to share a post to win something.  If they do, be sure the page is the real one.  Look for the blue tick beside their name.  Please note, the tick mark should NOT appear as part of their profile image.  Anyone can put a tick in an image using simple graphics software.  The tick will be beside their name only.

In the image below, you can see a common trick fraudulent pages use – a full stop (or period) after their name.  Both fake Disney pages on the left have one, and in addition, the bottom one shows irrelevant category.  These are common tricks used to fool people.

disney-tick

Both Facebook and Twitter have a process that allows you to request verification.  This isn’t available for every page but is very useful for big brands, business and celebrities.

If you see your friends sharing these sorts of fake pages, let them know they are scams and likely to compromise their personal information. And of course, tell them about this blog, and Phil The Geek on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube in Trouble

Google-owned YouTube is in trouble.  A number of high-profile brands pulled their advertising from the site over the last week or so.   There have been complaints that these adverts are being shown alongside extremist content – whether that be terror related, homophobic, anti-semitic or white supremacists.

Brands such as The Guardian, M&S, BBC, AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson have all pulled, or temporarily halted their ads for the time being.   Obviously, no brand with any sense wants their image associated with such undesirable content.

The problem is the automatic placing of the adverts – there’s little ‘human’ control over where the adverts get placed. The software that determines the placement of ads isn’t smart enough to realise the type of content.  Understandably, advertisers have had enough.

Google has apologised and promised to give more control to the advertisers allowing them more control where their ads appear.  How soon this happens remains to be seen.

Google and YouTube need big advertisers, as do the many users who create money making content.  They can’t afford to be so complacent in the future.

 

 

Don’t Add Fuel To The Fire

Social media goes into overdrive during large-scale events – whether that’s a sporting match, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.  It can be of tremendous help, but it can also cause problems.

The speed of the internet allowed up to the minute details of yesterday’s attack in London to be quickly broadcast.  It also meant individuals were able to let their loved ones know they were safe.  Using the internet to do that can be faster and more effective than calling or texting as the ‘bandwidth’ for the voice calls will be needed by emergency responders.

The downside: it also allows the easy sharing of rumours and speculation.  That can lead to confusion and the wrong people being identified.  That turns into witch hunts, and ruins lives, both the accused and the accusers.  In the recent past, people have been prosecuted for spreading ‘witch hunt’ type rumours over the internet.

When terror attacks happen, it’s all too easy to let your heart lead instead of your head.  You’ll find pages on Facebook specifically set up to take advantage of this.  Clickbait sites can quickly gather followers and popularity by posting images that speak to your emotions.  “Share this photo to show respect / catch the killer” is a common approach.  They tug at your heartstrings and hope you’ll share it without a second thought.

That is exactly what they want.  It leads to false information being spread, the vilification of specific groups of people and of course it raises that page’s profile.  Clickbait pages can take you to other suspect sites, generating revenue for them, and could compromise your profile information.

A good example: the right-wing group, Britain First has been using the image of the murdered soldier, Lee Rigby, on its social media platforms to further their cause. This is in spite of repeated requests from his family to stop using his name and image to fuel their agenda.

Even high-profile media sources can get it wrong sometimes. So unless you’re 100% certain you can trust the source (and maybe verify elsewhere), just scroll on by and don’t share the information.

Buzzfeed has published an article about the misinformation spreading online about this attack which is worth a read.

In distressing times, don’t let the bad guys win, you could be doing more harm than good.

 

Instagram – “Hide” Your Hashtags

Do you have an Instagram account?  If you do, no doubt you’ve seen many photo descriptions ‘lost’ amongst the hashtags.

Header-HashTag-100214While hashtags are an important part of Instagram, there’s a better, more tidy way.  Place your hashtags in a comment, immediately after you post your photo and description.

It will look much better.  Here’s how:

Open ‘notepad’ on your iPhone (or similar app on other smartphones).

Type a full stop ” . ” or dash “-“then press return.  Do this four more times, then type your hashtags on the sixth line.   You’ll get something like this:


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#hashtag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag


 

Then copy all that and paste it into a comment.  If you use the same set of tags often, save your note and reuse it the next time you post.

When someone looks at your Instagram photos, it will appear less messy but the hashtags will still be there to do their job!

Keep in mind you’re only allowed 30 hashtags per post and they should be relevant to your photo.

If you really want to have them in your photo description, only use a few, then put the rest in a comment.

If you’ve found this tip useful please share it below!