By Bob DeLaurentis
Senior Wire 

Grandkids' video games are an opportunity

Bob's Tech Talk


May 1, 2017

Q. A couple of times when I answered my phone the first voice I heard asked if I could hear them. It seemed harmless, but I wonder. Is it harmless?

A. No, it is likely a scam. There is a similar technique that has been making the rounds recently. It involves a friendly voice apologizing for having problems with her headset, then attempting to engage in conversation. The effect is disarming, and it took a few seconds to realize that I was listening to a recording.

As consumers become more savvy about ignoring unwanted solicitations, callers try new techniques to keep you on the line. Even worse, sometimes saying “yes” to any question is recorded and used as proof that you agreed to a purchase.

Sadly, scammers use politeness as a weapon, and your best defense is to be less polite. Be very guarded when answering the phone. Say as little as possible if you do not recognize the caller, and if the call is unwanted, hang up immediately.

Q. What is two-factor authentication and what benefit does it provide?

A. Every day hackers probe the Internet looking for vulnerabilities. They are looking for credit card numbers, weak passwords, and other personal information. Using special programs capable of scanning thousands of targets with the click of a button, one bad guy can do a great deal of damage.

To make things worse, people often choose weak passwords and today’s more powerful computers can test millions of passwords quickly. As a result a single password is no longer sufficient protection.

The solution is two-factor authentication. Two-factor adds a second level of security to a password, making it much more difficult to steal your information.

I strongly recommend using two-factor authentication everywhere it is available. If you have a Google or Apple account, turn it on today. If your bank does not use two-factor, request they adopt it soon. Two-factor authentication is so important that I suggest favoring any business that uses it over one that does not. Check out the link below for more.

Q. My grandson loves to play video games. When he visits I try to arrange a few activities we can do together, but he quickly loses interest. All he wants to do is stare at the screen. Any ideas?

A. Have you considered playing along? It might seem crazy at first, but allow me to explain. I think it is too easy to watch someone, boy or girl, engaged in a video game and dismiss it as a waste of time. On the contrary, these games can transport the player into a new world in much the same way as movies or books. And even better, they are not a passive experience.

Video games are essentially puzzles. When your grandson plays a video game, he is being challenged with a rapid-fire set of problems that require reasoning, planning and experimentation. Really fast moving games also demand an incredible degree of eye-hand coordination. Considering how little control children have over most aspects of their lives, a keen interest in video games seems natural to me.

All that aside, some video games do make it harder to use them as social activities in the same way as traditional board games. But harder is not impossible, you just have to find the right game.

There is no “one size fits all” answer here, but I can make a few suggestions.

There are three major video game consoles: Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. Unlike PlayStation and Xbox, which support very large game catalogs aimed toward teens and adults, Nintendo tends to focus more on titles that fit with families and younger children. Nintendo is also a leader in games that work with groups of players. When in doubt, I always recommend Nintendo first. And the best game to start with is Zelda. Although designed for 1-player, a second player can help, turning the game into a team effort. Next, consider 1-2-Switch.

Our grandchildren spend so much time in our world, I cherish the time I get to spend in theirs.

A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob recently released a photography book about La Purisima Mission State Park in California, and is currently developing an educational software project. He can be contacted at

Wander the Web

Two-Factor Authentication

This small but fast-growing website is an index of services that provide two-factor authentication. Sites are grouped into about thirty different categories such as Education or Investing. Search for the sites you already use, or find a competitor that delivers a similar service with better security.

The World’s Library

Worldcat is a catalog of catalogs that allows you to search through two billion items with one click. The catalog covers the stacks of books contained in more than 10,000 libraries spread across the world. When combined with your local library’s interlibrary loan system, Worldcat delivers the sum total of human knowledge to your fingertips.

Know Your Meme

They crop up daily. Those photos with a pithy text phrase at the top and bottom designed to make you laugh. Now that you know about this site, you no longer have to wait for someone to send you one on Facebook. You can amaze your friends and be the first to know by discovering the latest meme or try making one of your own.

Author Bio

A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at


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