Web blockers, Cellular 911, new laptops

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. Is it possible to block a website from view?

A. Yes, but like so many questions, the how-to part of the answer begins with “it depends.”

There are many different apps that filter website content. They use various methods behind the scenes and sometimes provide unexpected results.

The different methods include apps that block specific sites and apps that filter certain types of content. For example, in one case you may only see a “page not available” message, in another case you might be forwarded to a different page. Other utilities can rewrite a page before it is displayed. Ad blockers do this by stripping out the ads as the page is loaded.

When it comes to search results, Google itself has a SafeSearch feature that can help. It is not perfect, but it will filter out most explicit materials. Check the gear icon on most search results pages, inside Google Chrome preferences, or visit google.com/preferences.

Another option is to install a browser extension such as “uBlacklist.” This extension will silently suppress any content from the designated website before it is displayed.

You can also block multiple websites with uBlacklist. However, it does not prevent another browser on the same device from accessing blocked material.

My general advice is that blocking and filtering are useful within their limitations, but keep in mind there will never be a 100% effective safety net.

Q. Does 911 work on a cellular phone?

A. Yes, but there are a few things you should know.

When you have a choice, use a landline. Landlines make it easier to route calls to the proper agency, and first responders are better able to pinpoint your location.

But cellular has advantages too, not the least of which is that you probably have a phone on your person at all times. The network providers do their best to route calls to the proper agency, but if the call is suddenly disconnected, they may not know where you are or be able to call back.

The best practice when using a cell phone is to tell them the city you are in first, and then the type of emergency (such as a fire or medical). The quicker the operator can determine where you are, the better.

The new mental health crisis hotline, 988, is also active on cellular networks as of July, 2022. These calls will be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The bottom line is that both 911 and 988 cellular service is available nationwide, and the call centers are continuously improving their capabilities to help.

Q. I am in the market for a new laptop. The new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are the same price. Is one better than the other?

A. The 2022 MacBook Air is the best laptop by a wide margin. The Air is a perfect blend of form and function. It is powerful enough for just about everyone, and it is my first answer whenever anyone asks for purchase advice.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is just about the last computer I would ever advise anyone to buy. Although it features the “Pro” label in its name, the 13-inch laptop is effectively less powerful than the MacBook Air. It uses an older design from the previous era of laptops, and is not an especially good value.

Unfortunately, while the devices themselves have never been better, 2022 has been a dismal year to buy new laptops. Supply chain constraints are wreaking havoc and items are frequently out of stock. The best suggestion I can offer is to cultivate patience. Unless you are forced by circumstances to make a purchase immediately, avoid taking a model that does not meet your needs.

When you can find one, the 2022 MacBook Air is the best computer for nearly everyone, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best computer for almost no one.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Customer Service on Speed Dial

This website helps you find the best way to navigate automated customer service telephone systems and speak to an actual person. https://gethuman.com

Free N95 Masks

Follow this link to a CDC website which lists locations that provide N95 masks free of charge. Or call 1-800-232-0233. http://www.bit.ly/FREEN95MASKS

The Cosmic Photo Gallery

View an official stream of images produced by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasawebbtelescope/

Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at techtalk@bobdel.com.

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