Are You the Victim of False Alarms?

It was the day before the big January snow and I was simply replying to an email on my iPhone. Yes, it was from an odd location – a grocery store in a neighboring city. But instead of a satisfactory “swoosh” after I touched Send, a message popped up on my iPhone. “Someone just used your password for (my gmail address)” with a link to a specific Google page. Ugh!

You may be wondering if this was some kind of spam message, but I wasn’t worried about that. It was a text message with a Google site for me to visit for more information. Plus, you cannot get a virus from visiting a website on an iPhone unless you’ve done something called “jailbreaking” to it.

Touching the link and reading the explanation, I was directed through Google to review the recent suspicious account activity. I was horrified to see that an Unknown Device located five hours away in Nashville, TN had attempted to log into my Google account!

I immediately followed the instructions to change my password, all while grocery shopping. Google definitely created a sense of urgency in me to prevent the unknown culprit in Tennessee from hacking my account.

Later, at home, I sat down with my computer to review my Google security settings and recent activity. It appeared that Google thought my iPhone was the Unknown Device, but that did not explain why it showed my iPhone in a completely different location. What I did understand, though, was that immediately changing my password had NOT been required.

This little event reminded me of a concerned client who inexplicably kept receiving email alerts on her iPhone that her Facebook account had been accessed from strange locations. The first time she received the disconcerting message, she thought her Facebook account had been hacked and so she changed her Facebook password. But then it occurred again, and again. After studying her email alerts, I decided that she did not have an account security problem, but the location of her iPhone was somehow off.

Having my own little security incident in the grocery store, I felt that the cause of her alerts and mine were related. So, I turned to Google for some answers. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a solid answer from a good source, but here is what I think happened.

Your cell phone is constantly connecting with different cell towers as you change your location. Every time it connects with a cell tower, your cell phone is assigned a number that is kind of an address for that cell tower’s location. It’s called an IP address. Only, in the case of cell towers, the geographic location may or may not be accurate. In fact, it’s inaccurate as much as 50% of the time.

So, hypothesizing that the security alerts my client and I experienced were the result of an inaccurate location being assigned to our cell phones, was there anything we could do to prevent these false alarms?

Google 2-factor authentication

The answer for my Google security alert was to add a Google-supplied feature called 2-factor authentication. I had previously avoided this because I thought it would require me to enter a special code every time I used my email, but I was wrong. It’s very easy to set up on computers and mobile devices and I highly recommend everyone who uses Gmail to use it.

Here is an excellent article with pictures to guide you through setting it up: http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-set-up-googles-two-step-verification/

Once in a while you may have to re-enter the security code that is sent to your mobile phone, but it’s a small price to pay for securing your Gmail account.

Facebook trusted devices and login approvals

For my client’s Facebook login alert emails, after she changed her password and continued to receive alerts, the easiest solution would have been to train Facebook for her trusted devices. But, the more secure solution is to require something called Login Approvals. It sounds laborious, but it’s not.

Facebook’s instructions are easy to follow (except for explaining how to go to Security Settings).

From Facebook on your computer:

Once your browsers and devices are trusted, you should only have to enter a security code when you log into Facebook from a new computer, mobile device or browser.

Whether you’ve been a victim of these false alarms or not, I encourage you to spend a few minutes and set up your Google and Facebook accounts for this extra level of security.

It’s called peace of mind.

Pocket that!

Bad habits are hard to break, especially digital bad habits. We don’t even realize we are creating these habits until we are overwhelmed by our inability to find anything on our computers and mobile devices.

In fact, most of us treat the information on our computer like a stranger unloading our dishwasher and putting all the glasses, dishes, pots and cutlery in the closest cabinet or drawer, with everything mixed up higgledy piggledy.

Thankfully, organizing files on a computer imitates the old-fashioned act of naming paper folders to hold documents in filing cabinets. It’s not difficult; it just takes discipline.

Conversely, the habit of keeping catalogs, magazines with dog-eared pages, and sections of old newspapers to be read “soon” has never seemed to lend itself to a practical filing system. And, therefore, trying to organize the digital equivalent of our stacks of periodical clutter is often done by creating bookmarks. A practice I have found unsatisfactory for short-term saving and, more importantly, finding at a later date.

I was notorious for keeping dozens of tabs open across my web browser. Maybe you do this too. You find an online store or article and don’t have the time to fully explore or read it, so you keep the tab open. As you add more tabs, your browser becomes so slow that it freezes or crashes and you wonder why. Or, you try to find a particular tab that you just know you left open – unsuccessfully.

A few months ago, I stumbled across a pretty fantastic solution, and it’s called Pocket. Pocket is an app that lets you save specific website pages and articles that you want to view later. And it’s synchronized across all of your devices. You can “pocket” a site from your computer and pull it up later from your smartphone or tablet.

While Pocket does not have a filing system per se, you can add tags to each page you are saving to help you find them later. For instance, if I was gathering information for an upcoming trip to New York, I would add the tag “New York” to every webpage that I wanted to save as a reference for planning my trip. When I am doing research for an article and saving references in Pocket, I tag each saved site with the topic of my research.

To find a saved site in Pocket, I select the correct tag first and then can find the specific saved site more quickly. It’s not unlike choosing a folder and then the correct document within the folder.

Whether you use a PC or Mac computer, Android or Apple mobile devices, getting started with Pocket is free, quick and easy. Here’s how to get it.

On your computer

  1. Go to https://getpocket.com/ and create an account. If you have a Gmail account, choose “Sign Up with Google,” otherwise choose “Sign Up with email.”
  2. Install Pocket in your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera) using these instructions. If you use Internet Explorer, use these instructions.
  3. Install Pocket on your computer. For Mac computers, use these instructions. For Windows computers, use these instructions.

On your smart phones and tablets

  1. On iPhones and iPads, go to the app store and search for the Pocket app. This is the correct symbol Pocket icon for the app. Download it and log in with the account you set up on your computer.
  2. For Android devices, download Pocket from the Google Play or Amazon Appstore.

Using Pocket

For detailed and advanced directions for using Pocket, I recommend that you browse through Pocket’s Help Center. The topics are well-organized and the instructions are easy to follow.

My quickstart instructions for Mac, Chrome and iPhone

How to save to Pocket with Chrome on a Mac:

  • When you are on a webpage that you want to save for later, click on this symbol Pocket extension iconthat will be near the top right, just past the address bar.
  • Wait for this popup to appear in the top right.
    Pocket page saved popup
  • I recommend that you type a category or topic in the “Add Tags” field and click on Save. This will make it much easier to find later.

How to save to Pocket on an iPhone:

  • From Safari, touch the Share-button button at the bottom of the screen. From Chrome, touch the Chrome vertical dots in the top right and then the Share-button button.
  • Touch the Pocket app icon. You will see this popup that it has been saved.
    iPhone pocket saved popup
  • To add a category or topic, touch the tag symbol. Enter or select your “tag” and then touch Save.

How to read your saved pages on a Mac:

  • Open the Pocket application from your Applications folder or the Launchpad.
  • To search for saved items with a particular tag, touch the tag symbol at the bottom of your list and select a tag.

How to read your saved pages on an iPhone:

  • Open the Pocket app.
  • Touch Pocket menu iconin the top left.
  • Select a tag.

Once you get in the habit of using Pocket, you will feel so smart!

Comparing the Top Cloud Storage Services

In a perfect world, there would be one cloud storage service that worked equally well for Apple, Android and Windows devices. It would have the capacity to save all of your photos, videos and documents in the cloud and show up-to-date copies of every cloud-stored item on your computer, smartphone and tablet. A feature commonly called synchronized, or synced.

In addition, this perfect cloud storage service would allow you to easily share photos, videos and documents with friends, family or coworkers. You could even craft and edit documents (collaborate) with others – from mundane guest lists to committee reports.

And of course, all of this would be available for free.

Instead, there are so many cloud storage choices, that it would be impossible to even try to compare them all here. According to a recent Cnet article, the most popular cloud storage plans are Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive and Copy. I would add Apple iCloud Drive to that list.

To refine my comparison of this group of top cloud storage services, I won’t include Microsoft OneDrive, Box and Copy. They were developed for and are primarily used by businesses for employee file sharing.

Of the four remaining in our original list, Google Drive and Apple iCloud Drive are the most like my hypothetical perfect cloud storage service.

Google Drive is included with every Google account. You are given 15 GB of free storage and more can be purchased. Google Drive works well on Apple, Android and Windows, syncs photos, videos and documents automatically to all your devices and is the easiest cloud service to use for emailing attachments with Gmail. Its real power lies in its ease of file sharing and collaboration.

Apple iCloud Drive is the new file storage product included in the Apple iCloud umbrella of services. Formerly, iCloud could only sync and save Apple documents created with Apple software. Now, you can store any kind of file and access those files from Apple, Android or Windows devices. When you create an Apple account, you are given 5 GB of free iCloud storage to be used for any of the Apple iCloud services: iCloud Drive, iOS backups and the new iCloud Photo Library. It’s inevitable that most photo-heavy Apple users will run out of this free storage and then a decision must be made. Should you purchase more iCloud storage? If you do purchase more storage, Apple iCloud Drive is a good option for all the files you want to store in the cloud. Not just your photos. Unfortunately, file sharing and collaboration are not available yet.

In comparison, DropBox is a simply designed service that also lets you store any kind of file, but it falls short of the feature-rich Google Drive and photo management simplicity of Apple iCloud Drive. Amazon Cloud Drive is basically an off-site storage service without the file syncing capabilities of the other services reviewed here. Its key advantage is inexpensive backup storage for photos and videos.

 FREE STORAGESYNCINGCOLLABORATIONFILE SHARING
Google Drive15 GBYesYesYes
Apple iCloud Drive5 GBYesNoNo
DropBox2 GB up to 16 GBYesPaid plansYes
Amazon Cloud DriveUnlimited Photos & 5 GB for Prime SubscribersNoNoYes

I am often asked which cloud storage service is the best or, is it possible to use just one? The bad news is that there is no simple answer that will fit everyone. It depends on your reasons for using cloud storage and your willingness to sacrifice simplicity for savings.

  • Do you only want to save copies of all your photos and videos in the cloud or do you want your photos saved and synced across all your devices?
  • Do you need accessibility to certain documents from any device or location?
  • Do you need to share large files with others?
  • Do you want to collaborate on a document or spreadsheet with others?
  • Are you an all-Apple user or mixed between Apple and Windows?

I created the table below to help you decide.

 SAVE & SYNC
PHOTOS/VIDEOS
SAVE & SYNC FILESSHARE FILESFILE COLLABORATION
Simplest for Apple UsersApple iCloud DriveApple iCloud DriveGoogle DriveGoogle Drive
Simplest for OthersGoogle DriveGoogle Drive or DropBoxGoogle Drive or DropBoxGoogle Drive
Least Expensive for AnyoneGoogle DriveGoogle DriveGoogle DriveGoogle Drive

If you are an Apple user, you will spend about twice as much for cloud storage with Apple iCloud Drive as with Google Drive, but we’re only talking about a $10/month difference at the 1 TB level.

 STORAGEPRICE
Apple iCloud Drive20 GB/200 GB/500 GB/1 TB$.99/$3.99/$9.99/$19.99 per month
Google Drive100 GB/1 TB$1.99/$10 per month

After a lot of trial and error and analysis, these are my recommendations for cloud storage services:

  • If you use two or more Apple devices and you like to take photos on your iPhone/iPad and keep lots of those photos, then Apple iCloud Drive is the simplest solution for your photo management. If you need to share or collaborate on files, use Google Drive for those.
  • If you only use one Apple device, it’s probably worth the minor inconvenience to set up Google Drive for storing and syncing your photos as well as sharing and syncing all other types of files.
  • If you are all Windows and Android devices, Google Drive is the best.

Do You Care About Your Digital Afterlife?

About a month ago, I received an email notification that it was a Facebook friend’s birthday. I get an email like that almost every day because I have my Facebook account set up to remind me when one of my friends has a birthday.

The person for this particular birthday reminder was actually a friend of my parents and I did a double take when I read the email reminder.

You see, this gentleman was deceased and had been for over a year.

I was a little shocked at the thought that probably all of his Facebook friends were receiving an email to say “Happy Birthday” to him on his page.

In this particular instance, I suspected that the remaining family had no idea how to remedy this situation, so I decided to contact Facebook on their behalf. Facebook has an online page for submitting this type of information and will memorialize a deceased person’s account with a valid request which includes a link to an obituary or other official documentation about the death.

A memorialized Facebook account can still be used by friends and family to remember the loved one with postings, but friend suggestions, ads and birthday reminders will stop. The word “Remembering” will be added next to the person’s name on their profile.

There are other options for Facebook accounts after death. Verifiable family members can request to have an account completely removed from Facebook, but don’t you want to be in charge of your digital afterlife?

This got me thinking about end-of-digital-life plans and what you can do to protect your social digital remains and make it easier on your loved ones after you are gone. Currently, Facebook and Google seem to be the most proactive and allow you to edit settings about what will happen to your account after you die and who you give permission to facilitate your wishes. For example, you can choose to have your account deleted or name a legacy contact who can download an archive of your posts, photos, emails, etc.

LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest depend upon family and friends to contact them after a death, with supporting documents, to close an account. Hopefully, these popular online sites will add the capability for users to leave directions for after death account closure or access.

How to specify digital afterlife settings in Facebook

Facebook allows you to either specify a contact to manage your Facebook account or to completely delete your account after you die. Any of your contacts or family can report your death with supporting documentation, which Facebook reviews and then approves. Your selected legacy contact can post a message on your page, change your profile picture, respond to friend requests and download your shared posts and photos. Unfortunately, you can’t choose to have a legacy contact and to eventually delete your Facebook page.

  1.  Go to https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=security.
  2. If you want to have your account managed and remaining on Facebook, click on Legacy Contact. More information about legacy contacts is here.
    • Enter the name of one of your Facebook contacts. You will have the option to immediately send a message notifying that person that you have selected him/her as your legacy contact, but you don’t have to send one.
    • You can choose whether or not to allow your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook.
  3. If you don’t want your account to remain on Facebook, do not enter a legacy contact. Instead, check the box for Account Deletion.

How to specify digital afterlife settings in Google

I really like Google’s method. They call it the Inactive Account Manager because it only activates after there has been no activity with your account for an amount of time that you specify. Once that amount of time has passed, Google will attempt to contact you (in case you’re still around!) and secondary contacts that you name. You can specify that all or parts of your account are automatically deleted or allow for your legacy contacts to download your account data.

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/settings/account.
  2. Under Account Tools, click on Inactive Account Manager.
  3. You may need to enter your mobile phone number and verify it.
  4. Choose the amount of time your account can be inactive before Google attempts to contact you or your legacy contacts.
  5. Add trusted contacts, one at the time. You will select which Google services they can access. They will have 3 months to download your data.
  6. Compose an email that will be sent to your contact upon your inactivity. (This was quite hard for me and emotional!)
  7. You can add up to 10 trusted contacts with separate emails for each.
  8. Set up a general auto response to incoming emails once your account has been inactive for the specified period of time. I recommend selecting to send this response only to those who are in your contacts.
  9. You can choose to have all of your account data deleted once your requested actions have been completed.
  10. Once you have completed your Inactive Account settings, click on the Enable button.
  11. You can edit or disable your Inactive Account settings at any time.

Links to digital afterlife policies for other sites

Here’s a helpful article I just found on how to create a digital estate plan. This site also provides other information and services, like links on how to close over 100 digital services.

This isn’t a particularly cheery subject – to contemplate the end of one’s life. But, if you are proactive enough to have a last will and testament in place, then you should also be proactive with your digital estate planning.

Google is Paying You to Review Your Account Settings

Apparently, February 10 was “Safer Internet Day.” I guess I never got the memo!

I did, however, find out that in honor of “Safer Internet Day,” Google will give you an extra 2 gigabytes of storage for reviewing security features on your account. It’s quick, easy and well-worth three minutes of your time. This is a time-limited offer, so I want to be sure that all of you with personal (not business) Google accounts take advantage of this free cloud storage giveaway.

If you want to read Google’s article, it’s here.

If you want to just go ahead get it done, click here.

Google will step you through about four screens for you to review, edit and approve various security settings for your account. You’ll know you’re done when you see a screen like the photo above.

This offer from Google expires Tuesday, February 17, 2015 and your account storage will be increased on February 28, 2015.

Don’t miss out on this free storage. Review your security settings NOW!

Hoping to get control of your Inbox in 2015?

Each late December, when the new year is approaching, I instinctively think about goals for the coming year. Of course, that leads me to think about the resolutions I made for the current year and whether or not I accomplished them.

Many of my goals are technology oriented. You may have some technology goals yourself.

I often hear clients say that they want to learn how to use their iPhone or iPad better, or learn how to use cloud storage.

I must confess that I had mixed results with my resolutions for 2014.

These were my successful intentions for this past year:

  1. Get my husband’s and my computers set up to automatically back up in the cloud.
    Unlike an external hard drive, it’s the easiest and most cost effective way to protect your digital files from a disaster like fire. After extensively researching our options, I chose a service called Crashplan. Now, all of our files, folders and photos are constantly backed up on Crashplan’s remote computers somewhere.
  2. Learn something new on my iPhone, iPad or computer.
    This was easy because it has become a daily habit of mine. I am constantly looking for time saving apps or tips to make my life easier. And keeping up with all the changes those updates bring is mandatory for me.
  3. Create some online classes.
    I really loved creating video courses on “How to Create an iPhoto Slideshow” and “How to Use Your iPhone for Free (or nearly Free) in Europe.” Self-paced, online learning is a great way to learn a new skill, idea, hobby, etc.

My difficult and incompleted goals for 2014 were:

  1. Clean out and organize my digital closet (aka computer).
    Get files organized into folders, clean out the Downloads folder and delete old files. This is about as much fun as cleaning out the basement or garage! I started my digital de-cluttering, but it’s just so hard to finish it!
  2. Clean out my overwhelming Inbox.
    Delete, delete, delete old emails and organize the others into email folders. This might even be worse than organizing the files on my computer, but I’ve come up with a trick that might help me for 2015. I am going to have the computer automatically file emails from past years into folders labeled “Inbox 2014,” “Inbox 2013,”, “Inbox 2012,” etc. It will make the current Inbox look manageable and make it more rewarding as I tackle and clean out each old Inbox. It’s all a mind game!
  3. Organize my digital photos and video clips.
    I use an awesome program on my Mac called iPhoto (there are similar programs for PC’s). It can categorize pictures by date, location, event and who’s in the photo.

Which leads to my 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

Yes, I will continue to work on my digital housekeeping and I intend to create some more online classes.

The topics I’m considering will help you

  • learn how to use iTunes
  • learn how to organize and store iPhone/iPad photos, and
  • learn how to use the upcoming, new Photos program for Apple computers.

What about you? I encourage you to come up with some technology goals of your own.

The important thing is to keep learning, or at least striving to learn.

To help us both get started, here is my “Empty Your Gmail Inbox Mind Game!

How to Organize Your Family Vacation

Ahhh, summertime in the South. For many of us, that means multi-generational, family beach trips. And that means divvying up who’s bringing what and who’s cooking when.

My family’s annual beach trip is in its 75th year this summer. It began two decades before I was born. I guess we could it call the Diamond Anniversary Beach Trip.

This year, we will have fourteen adults and five children between two houses. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and food to coordinate!

Thankfully the internet and particularly Google Drive is making the back and forth tweaking of “the beach list” easy. Google Drive is an amazing free service for anyone with a Gmail address or a Google account.

It’s cloud storage, a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and more, all rolled into one.

The way we use Google Drive for our beach trip is that one person creates a document or spreadsheet with columns which list the items each attendee has agreed to bring. On a second page, the daily mealtime cooks are listed.

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My Latest STSM&D (Save Time, Save Money & Delight) Tips!

This summer is flying by and, not to be corny, if you’re making reservations involving flying, be sure to see my tip below. There’s also an awesome trivia game that you play with Google Maps, a citizen science site where you help with real research projects and beautiful backgrounds to customize your Gmail page.

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