By Bob DeLaurentis
Senior Wire 

Disinfecting phones; HBO; how to avoid data caps

Bob's Tech Talk


July 1, 2020

Q. How do I disinfect a smartphone or tablet?

A. Manufacturers usually publish guidelines for their products, and you should follow them.

The most common advice is to avoid using too much liquid by applying it first to a clean, lint-free cloth. Use a disinfectant solution that contains at least 70% alcohol. Never use bleach or similar strong chemicals.

Products intended for cleaning screens do not disinfect, even if they contain alcohol.

I usually use a pre-moistened alcohol hand wipe and wait a couple of minutes for any liquid to evaporate, followed by a clean cloth to polish away any leftover streaks. A minimal amount of liquid and the right cloth can do wonders to keep a device looking great and reasonably well disinfected.

Q. What is the difference between HBO Now and HBO Go?

A. Science fiction movies love to use popular brands to make the future seem familiar. A classic example was “2001: A Space Odyssey,” where names like Hilton and Bell Telephone implied that the future will resemble the past.

Here in the present, HBO is now owned by AT&T. You read that right, the company formerly nicknamed “Ma Bell” is now a media conglomerate. And HBO is no longer constrained by the cable box, it is a line of services paraded under the HBO banner.

HBO Now and HBO Go are for different audiences. The HBO Now app provides a way for cable-cutters to access HBO without cable, while HBO Go allows cable subscribers to access HBO on phones and tablets. Both of these services are not going away anytime soon, but the times they are a-changin’.

Enter HBO Max. Launched in late May, HBO Max joins Disney+ and AppleTV+ in the on-demand streaming market currently dominated by Netflix and Amazon. If you have an HBO cable subscription, HBO Go is free. If you have HBO Now, you may be offered an upgrade to HBO Max. If you are new to HBO, jump straight to HBO Max.

HBO’s future beyond cable is a premium-priced service with a mix of legacy titles and new programs.

Q. Occasionally I get warnings that I am close to hitting my data cap. What can I do to lessen data use?

A. Although everyone uses the internet differently, video streaming almost always takes up the overwhelming share of total data use.

The most obvious way to use less data is to watch less video, but there is another, often overlooked approach: switch to a smaller sized stream.

Video size is not very prominent to most users. The stream for your device is selected automatically, based on app preferences, the speed of your connection, and the screen size of the device. That works most of the time, but it can result in a stream that consumes more data than necessary.

Take a look at a YouTube video. Under a small gear icon is a popup menu that includes an item titled “Quality.” Usually you will see a range of choices that start around 300 and go up to 1080 or more. These numbers describe the resolution of a video stream, but the effect is to change the total number of data bits that fill the video frame.

The “Auto” option will make its best guess for what you need, but often you can go a step or two lower without diminishing the viewing experience.

“Quality” settings exist in most streaming apps, but too often they are hidden away and hard to find.

How much you can lower the quality depends on many factors, including the content itself, the screen size, and the distance to the screen. Even the quality of your eyesight plays a role.

Now that you know what is possible, try experimenting with the services you use most. The data needed to view one two-hour Netflix movie on a wall TV will be cut by two-thirds by switching from HD to Standard Definition. That is a lot of data.

Wander the web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Crash Course Science

I have written before about the high quality of Crash Course videos, and these are no different. While the intended audience is children, watching a few together with your grandkids might kick off some interesting conversations.

Learning with ThoughtCo

Check out this expert-created site for information on various education-centric topics. Or search for my favorite article, “Kitchen Science Experiments for Kids.”

Find a Therapist Online

This site combines a searchable directory of in-person and online therapists with general info about mental health. The link below is a noteworthy page that compares two popular online therapy services.

A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at

Author Bio

A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at


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