Advice on Windows, email addresses and smartphone backups
Bob's Tech Talk
July 1, 2018
Q. What is the single most important piece of advice every smartphone owner should know?
A. Back up your phone, especially photos. Your smartphone will eventually become the most important tech device in your life. All the gear that a generation ago filled a Radio Shack catalog is now contained in that single, slim, pocket-sized device. The longer you have it, the more the vital bits of your life will collect there. Once-in-a-lifetime photos, family snapshots, messages from loved ones.
The smartphone has become the center of the technology universe, the ultimate personal computer. Treat it as such.
Ask a tech friend or the person who sold you the phone how to enable automatic backups, and how to make sure they are working day in and day out. Next, use the cloud photo libraries from Apple or Google. Finally, learn when to use iCloud Drive or Google Drive to store files. It is that simple.
I cannot express how much pain I have encountered in my career because of lost data. Lingering near an Apple Store Genius Bar is a bit like being in a hospital emergency ward filled with desperate souls hoping for a miracle. Do not become one of the unlucky people who have lost years of memories - or more - in an instant. Back up your phone. Every. Single. Day.
Q. Should I upgrade my PC to Windows 10?
A. System upgrade questions never have simple, one-size-fits-all answers, but I think Windows 10 is fantastic. In the last three years it has proven itself to be a mature, stable workhorse. If your computer is new enough to run the latest release, it is a worthwhile upgrade.
Desktop computers in the home are in a sharp decline, and laptops for personal use are on the same path. In the last year, several of the websites I track get more than 50 percent of their visitors from mobile devices. The trend toward smartphones and tablets is only going to accelerate.
After a series of lackluster versions over the last decade, Windows upgrades have often been more trouble than they are worth. That has changed with Windows 10. A lot of messy plumbing underneath the floorboards has been upgraded. The interface has evolved nicely. And the security enhancements make it a good citizen on modern networks.
The downside to Windows 10 is not the software, but the cost of upgrading and the road ahead. If a personal PC is still the centerpiece of your tech world, Windows 10 is the best available. But tablets and smartphones are nearly as capable, easier to maintain, and far less complex to use.
It is not an easy choice.
Q. I want a separate email address to help avoid junk email. Is a second address worth the money?
A. There have been times during my life when I used a half-dozen different email addresses at the same time. In the days before spam filters, I found multiple addresses helpful. Today, not so much.
Two addresses might mean twice as much spam, since keeping an email address completely secret is impossible. Moreover, the complexity of setting up and maintaining another mailbox can be daunting. Multiple mailboxes make every interaction a little more confusing. You have to remember to reply from the correct account, who has which address, and so on. No matter how good your email program is at making things simple, I think multiple mailboxes are not worth the effort, with one exception.
Disposable email addresses are great for situations where security is not a concern, and you would prefer to avoid sharing your permanent address.
Disposable addresses and email aliases come in many different forms. (An alias is a different address that is delivered to your existing inbox). And now that you know what to call them, they can be found in many places. Google Gmail lets you create unlimited aliases. Apple Mail has a similar feature, which can be accessed via the Mail settings on the iCloud.com Web page. There are also disposable address services like GishPuppy.com and spamgourmet.com.
These services work best for things like newsletter subscriptions, information requests, trial accounts, and so on. Some addresses expire after a short while, so they are truly disposable. Whichever type of address you choose, the fewer people who know your actual address, the less junk mail you will likely receive. That makes a disposable address your best option.
Wander the Web
Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:
ReviewMeta is a consumer education website that analyzes Amazon product reviews and draws conclusions about their accuracy. Paste in a URL from an Amazon product page to learn how likely the reviews are reliable. It is not foolproof, but it can be helpful.
Fakespot is similar to ReviewMeta. In addition to Amazon, it attempts to rate reviews about Apple, Yelp, TripAdvisor and several others.
Strobist is the original online resource for great photo lighting education. The site is crammed with useful tutorials, but I want to point you to this how-to for stunning eBay or CraigsList images using only a shower curtain, a smartphone, and the sun. If you sell items online, it is a solid investment.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.