Big TVs, voice assistants, preserving online accounts
Bob's Tech Talk
December 1, 2019
Q. TVs in my price range are twice the size they were a few years ago. What should I keep in mind when buying one of these big sets?
A. There are two measurements to focus on, screen size and resolution.
The ideal screen size mostly depends on the room size and how far away viewers will sit. It is difficult to imagine how a TV will fit in a room without measuring the space where it will be placed, so start there.
Sitting too close to a very large screen can be as uncomfortable as sitting in the first few rows of a movie theatre.
There are screen size and resolution charts online. As a good rule of thumb, if you sit about eight feet away from the TV, a reasonable size would be a TV that measures about 55 inches.
Resolution is a little bit easier. Avoid the older standards like 480p or 720p in favor of a minimum of 1080p (HD) or even better 4K (Ultra HD). Everyone’s eyesight is different, so what looks sharp to one person might easily look less so to someone else. Personal preference is your best guide.
Unless you have a specific need, you can skip premium features like high dynamic range and curved or OLED screens.
The bottom line is that most TVs deliver quality images, and an excellent home viewing experience is now more affordable than ever.
Q. How do I protect my privacy with smart speakers like Alexa?
A. After a number of missteps, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice recordings can finally be managed by users. Privacy remains a concern, but the new settings allow us to protect our conversations from review by the people working on these services.
Alexa is managed on Amazon’s Web site under Settings -> Alexa Privacy. From this page you can access your recordings and delete one or all of them.
Google Assistant settings are a bit harder to find. Log in to your Google account, and click on Data and Personalization in the sidebar. Under Activity Controls, select Web & App Activity and then Manage Activity. Here you can delete individual recordings, or use the “delete all” choices located in the “More” menu (the icon with three horizontal lines).
For Siri, after upgrading to the latest version of iOS, you will be automatically asked during the initial setup if you want to allow your data to be shared with human reviewers. To change this setting manually, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Analytics & Improvements -> Improve Siri & Dictation.
Q. How should I prepare my online accounts in the event of my death?
A. My father passed away suddenly years ago. Building a picture of his affairs was as simple as looking in his checkbook register and collecting mail from the post office.
Since then, personal business has become more complex as more services move online. Today a sudden illness or death can mean the loss of treasured photographs or vital records.
Each person’s situation is different, but there are a few steps everyone can take to protect their digital assets.
Organization is key. The more organized your records are, the easier it will be for someone to understand them.
The single best way to stay organized is to feed everything into a program like 1Password for Families, and share access with several trusted people. If you store your vital data in one place, and keep that data up to date, it will be a gift to your loved ones.
1Password encourages you to keep records in categories. Use the categories as reminders of the kinds of information that should be recorded. Online accounts are important, but so are things like cloud storage and device passwords.
One last suggestion: make a note inside 1Password titled “Start Here” that provides an overview of the items stored in 1Password.
This kind of preparation is vital for your peace of mind now, and someday it will help your family cope with the difficult days ahead.
Wander the Web
Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:
Home Theatre Help
This site publishes very detailed product reviews for TVs, monitors, headphones, and sound bars. Be sure to check the sections on Tools and Popular Articles for things like a size calculator and explainers for complex topics like refresh rates. http://www.rtings.com
Documentaries on Demand
This online service streams thousands of documentaries. Plans start at $2.99 a month for all you can watch. Unfortunately, the table of contents is behind a paywall, but the service does offer a 7-day free trial.
Some websites do one thing really well. The next time you need a brief respite from the real world, distract yourself with this 2019 Webby Award Winning Weird Website. This might be the reason the Internet was invented.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.