Email aliases, search fraud and new computers
bob's Tech Talk
October 1, 2017
Q. A few months ago I used my email address to gain access to a website. It turned out I was not interested in the site, but I am still flooded with junk email from the site despite using the “Unsubscribe” link. Is there anything else I can do?
A. Sadly some companies are more lax than others when it comes to respecting your email privacy. If a company fails to honor an “unsubscribe” link, your options are limited. Stop clicking unsubscribe and just delete the message without opening it. Mark it as spam or create a mail filter rule that sends any messages from that address directly to the trash.
Although it is too late this time, in the future you may wish to consider a service like mailinator.com. They are a fee-based email host, but they offer free temporary email addresses that are handy for confirmation messages.
Some email providers give their customers email aliases. An alias lets you receive email without revealing your “real” address. Check with your service provider to see if they offer that feature.
Q. Your recent tips for Google search were very helpful, but I still have problems searching for things like telephone numbers, especially when I need tech support.
A. Telephone tech support peaked in the 1990s and has been in decline ever since. Today, many tech companies do not even publish their telephone numbers. There is a chance that the reason you cannot find a number is simply because there isn’t one.
To make matters worse, on occasion search results for a popular tech support topic contain fraudulent contact information set up by criminals seeking to steal your identity. Keep in mind that the Internet mirrors the real world, for good and ill.
The best way to search for contact information for a product or service is to start with the vendor’s main website. Use Google to connect with the main page of a company’s website, then use that page to find tech support options and contact numbers.
Fake search results are not just created to spread bogus telephone numbers. There are countless fakes hiding in many different types of web searches. It takes experience to spot fake search results, therefore awareness is your first line of defense.
These scams usually depend on some degree of anonymity. Try to confirm general information from a company’s website as much as you can. Or avoid web searches for sensitive information. For example, I would trust the telephone number on the back of my debit card before I would trust a search result for it.
The bottom line: fake search results are a real thing, and a little skepticism is a healthy Internet habit.
Q. I would like to get my granddaughter her own computer for Christmas. Which one should I get?
A. You did not mention your granddaughter’s age. If she is old enough, she might have preferences of her own. However, if that is not a factor, the good news is that I have the same answer no matter what her age. The very best all-around computer available right now is a 10-inch iPad Pro.
Every ten years or so a new computer design appears that is so perfect that it becomes almost universally suitable.
Before the age of high-density displays, the perfect computer was the MacBook Air. Flip the calendar backward from 2010 and models come and go, from 1998’s iMac to the 1989 Compaq LTE. Moving forward, the future is touch, which means smartphones and tablets.
I have been using the iPad Pro 10.5 with iOS 11 for several months now. It is nothing less than amazing.
Most of the differences between traditional computers and iPads no longer matter, including the capability to run two apps side-by-side and the ability to drag-and-drop from one document to another. If your granddaughter is a little older and knows how to touch type, add an external keyboard. Consider an Apple Pencil if she likes to draw. If she is very young, I recommend the least expensive iPad you can find and an Otterbox case to protect it.
In short, a new iPad or iPad Pro will take care of her computing needs for years to come.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wander the Web
Google is pretty much the first site everyone thinks of when it comes to search, and it has a lot of tricks hidden under its cursor. But Wolfram Alpha is worth a look also, especially for the kinds of questions that stump Google.
A Good Book to Read
Looking for a good book to read? Try searching whatshouldireadnext.com, a book search engine. Using over a decade’s worth of data voluntarily collected from other book lovers, it creates a list of titles based on an author or book title you already like. Think of it as asking a few thousand of your closest friends for advice.
We have all doodled on a pad of paper to pass the time, maybe while we are on hold with tech support. This site creates drawings with a few mouse clicks. It might not help create your next masterpiece, but it’s a fun way to waste a few minutes. Be sure to save some drawings to print out and hang on your refrigerator.