App Store permissions, internet self-care, new drive storage
Bob's Tech Talk
April 1, 2020
Q. I was tempted by an app on the Microsoft App Store but stopped when I saw the permission list: “Access all your files, peripheral devices, apps, programs, and registry.” Do I have to let them breach my security?
A. Any sort of restriction on applications is a new development. Since the early days of personal computing, every app had access to everything on the device. Computing devices now record more sensitive personal information than ever before. This new reality imposes fresh challenges for device manufacturers and app developers alike.
To cope with these changes, developers have to justify why each app needs specific capabilities, and these justifications have to be presented to consumers. Only you can decide if an app’s features are worth its intrusions into your personal life.
The system we have now needs to get a lot better. App permissions often read like a word-salad of tech speak. Users are asked to approve activities with little context about the real-world implications of each request.
Unfortunately, apps need access to private information in order to function. Drawing the line between what is acceptable and what is not will take years. About the only reasonable option for most people is to choose apps from companies with reputations for honesty.
I am hopeful that in the long term permission lists will help users better protect their privacy.
Q. When the internet connection in our house stops working, is there anything we can do before calling tech support?
A. Despite the wide variety of service providers, there are some universal steps that will clear up the majority of outages.
When the internet stops working, check to see if the problem is a single device or all the devices on your home network. Make sure the devices you check are using the house Wi-Fi. Some devices will fall back on a cellular connection if the Wi-Fi is unavailable.
If a single device is acting up, restart it. That fixes the problem in a lot of situations.
Let’s assume the problem is not limited to a single device. That means the problem is the network.
Typical residential internet connections use a modem and router. The modem connects the router to the outside internet. The router shares the Internet across all the devices in your house. (Sometimes the modem and router are in the same box.)
As soon as you read this, go find those boxes. Look at the lights on the front. Take a picture or a short video for future reference. Awareness of what they look like when everything is working teaches you how to spot problems. For example, my Eero router has a green status light that turns orange if the modem connection is offline.
If the internet is not working, restart the modem and router. If you cannot find a switch, pull the power plug for a few seconds. These devices are designed to reset when the power cycles, and they take about a minute to restart.
If restarting the devices does not work, it is time to contact your service provider. Slap a Post-It note on the router with the contact number for tech support today, because locating that number once Google is inaccessible can be difficult.
Q. The storage on my laptop is nearly full. Is there reliable external device I could use to expand my available space?
A. I am a huge fan of the Samsung T5 SSD. These range in size from 256GB up to 2TB. The best value right now is the 1TB size, which is usually available for less than $100.
I have been using several of these drives for nearly two years now, and they have performed flawlessly. The USB 3.1 Gen2 port is very fast. The T5 is compatible with Windows and Mac. It does not require a separate power cord, which is especially convenient.
About the only concern I have is that the T5’s small size makes it somewhat easy to misplace. The device is not much larger than a couple of USB jump drives.
I suggest you move a category of less-used files onto the T5. That way you do not need to keep the external drive connected all the time.
Wander the Web
Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:
If you need an activity to keep the grandkids busy, show them Peep and the Big Wide World. It uses short videos and simple games to teach science. Best for ages 3 to 5. http://www.peepandthebigwideworld.com
Sharpen Your News Sense
The News Literacy Project is a site dedicated to helping people learn how to evaluate the quality of news. http://www.newslit.org
Looking for simple answers to complex situations? Try this humor-filled site dedicated to Murphy’s famous Law and its countless corollaries. http://www.murphys-laws.com
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.