Turning off auto-play; PhotoStick; home inventory
Bob's Tech Talk
January 1, 2022 | View PDF
Q. When I visit certain web pages, a video starts playing automatically. Is there a way to disable this annoying behavior?
A. The simple answer is yes, there is probably a setting you can adjust to stop most videos from automatically playing. Where things can get messy is finding the right setting. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari each have preferences that block video auto-play everywhere, and they can also selectively block auto-play on specific sites. These options can be found in the browser’s preference (settings) screen, under the heading Privacy or Media, depending on the browser.
The story for mobile devices adds another wrinkle. Mobile devices are usually on cellular data plans. Videos, even short ones, can consume your data allowance fast. In addition to the advice above about web browsers, also look for options to prevent loading video while using cellular networks.
Annoying auto-play behavior is not limited to browsers. Apps like Facebook and Instagram can consume tremendous amounts of data by automatically showing video and high-res photos. These kinds of apps usually have settings that let you trim their appetite for data, with the added benefit of stopping most auto-play behavior.
The bottom line is that most videos can be silenced automatically. But it will take some patience to configure the right settings for your device.
Q. I have an older smartphone I no longer use, but it has photos that I would love to see again. Can I copy the images to a new phone?
A. Check out the PhotoStick line of products. They have models that work with computers and smartphones. The smartphone versions are available at getphotostickmobile.io.
The phone cannot be too old. And it has to turn on and hold a charge long enough to copy the photos off it. It also requires a compatible connector, such as iPhone’s lightning port or USB on Android. If these requirements are met, you can insert a PhotoStick into the phone’s connector and it will make a copy of all the photos on the device.
PhotoStick is reusable, which is handy if you have more than one smartphone.
One mild downside is that PhotoStick will copy every image. So it might sweep up odd images you do not want. It avoids making duplicate copies of the same image, and there is always a chance that an image might be missed. But overall it is a reasonably easy to use tool that can rescue photos from an out-of-date phone.
Q. Do any of your New Year’s resolutions relate to tech?
A. After years of pairing the best of intentions with middling outcomes, I avoid New Year’s resolutions. However, this January I do have an important new goal: take a photo and video inventory of the contents of my home.
There are so many good reasons to do this. For me, I want to be able to look back and see what my house looked like in 2022. I want help to keep track of my belongings. And as a bonus, detailed records are a life saver for insurance claims.
There are a number of apps available to create home inventories. An app that guides you though the steps needed to make a list of everything is undoubtedly useful, but be cautious. Will the app continue to receive updates in the future? How can you backup or export the data you have collected?
There are services that cover these contingencies and, depending on your circumstances, one of them may be right for you. For example, check out sortly.com, binaryformations.com (iPhone), and mementodatabase.com (Android, plus Windows, Mac, and Linux).
While dedicated apps and services intrigue me, they are not especially budget friendly.
To keep it simple and inexpensive, I plan to use my smartphone’s built-in features. I will make an album in the photo library for each room in the house to organize images. I will note vital info in the photo’s title and caption fields and keep related notes and receipts in a word processing document. Because my data is stored in the cloud, it will be safe if something happens to the device.
Wander the Web
Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:
A Site for Curious People
For 20 years this unique news and information site has entertained and informed readers. The archives bulge with topics with everything from history to pop culture.
Weapons Grade Weather App
This app for both Android and iPhone is arguably the most entertaining weather app available anywhere.
Awkward Family Photos
This site keeps turning up fresh batches of cringe-worthy images. Consider it a recuperative respite from the holiday season.
Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.