Family photos, iCloud scam, Google tricks
Bob's Tech Talk
September 1, 2017
Q. My family is spread all over the country, but we keep in touch on Facebook. Do you have any suggestions for things we could do online together?
A. My mother, who will turn 80 next year, used Facebook to help her create the ultimate family photo album.
Once a week she would select an old family photo and upload it to Facebook. Uploading is easier than ever, since smartphone cameras can digitize images as well as scanners once did. Once online, she would caption the image to identify who was in it, where they were, the date, and any other detail she could remember.
She soon discovered that many of the younger family members were excited to discover previously unknown pictures of their parents as children and their grandparents as young adults.
Before long others would post the photos they had stashed away, and again old photographs found a whole new audience. Each time a new image surfaced, Mom downloaded a copy into a folder for use later.
This routine has been repeated many times over for months now. Each photo kicks off discussions of events past, or places long since forgotten. Bit by bit the puzzle pieces of everyone’s collective memories fill in the blanks. The results have delighted everyone and brought the family closer together.
Sometimes the most average looking photo transforms into a treasure, when someone recognizes a landmark that has long ago faded into a memory. It was as if a time capsule had been unearthed. Many grandchildren and great grandchildren get a fresh look at their aunts and uncles as children.
But Mom has more planned.
Now that she has a rich collection of images, she is going to publish a photo book online. Costco, Wal-Mart and most drugstore photo labs offer photo book printing. Once the book is made available, anyone in the family can order a copy via print-on-demand.
Q. A recorded voice left several messages on my answering machine warning that my iCloud account was compromised, and I should call tech support right away. Have you heard of anything like this?
A. This iCloud scam has been quietly building momentum in recent months. At my house, the scammers left over a dozen messages on my machine during the course of a week.
The fake calls were very deceptive. The caller ID showed the caller as “Apple.” The message sounded like countless other formal voice mails we have heard time and time again.
The only obvious way to know calls are fake is an awareness that legitimate companies generally do not notify customers one-on-one via the telephone. If you get a call like this, assume it is fraudulent.
Never use the contact number left in a suspicious voice message. When you doubt that the message is real, find the company’s main telephone number and contact them directly.
Q. If a Google search does not find what I am looking for, what should I try next?
A. There are many ways to help Google better understand what you are looking for and increase your likelihood of success.
If you have several words that make up a phrase, try putting them in quotation marks, like a title. If that does not work, mix and match words in different combinations and see how the results change. Consider a quoted phrase followed by a word or two that narrows the phrase’s scope. For example, a search of “three blind mice” nonfiction will find the book by Ken Auletta instead of a list of nursery rhymes. Words like lyrics, wikipedia, or a city name are excellent search query add-on terms.
You can also subtract words from a search. Put a minus sign before any word to tell Google to skip any page with that word. A search for jaguar -car will show you animals rather than automobiles.
At the top of each page of search results, Google has a tabbed menu of categories. The Shopping category is useful for finding products. The Maps category is helpful for any sort of location. The News category focuses on current events.
One trick I use often, especially when I do not have a specific name, is to search images. I can find many items by looking at the image results of a search rather than the text. Try a search on gourmet mustard and click on the Image category at the top of the search results to see a sample of what I mean.
That plain white Google search page hides a lot of power. It is worth learning a few tricks to make searches more effective.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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