Tag Archives: TECH TALK

OCTOBER TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: MORE ON DATA SEARCHING…

Some Additional Thoughts on Data Searching, and its Implications

Back in November or December, I wrote an article regarding computer searching, starting off by defining web browsers (I recommend Chrome as Edge is not yet really ready and Chrome has half the market) and Google as the search engine because they represent 75% of the market.  My opinion has not changed despite Microsoft’s advertising

The first thing you quickly learn about Google is that it is able to make a lot of intelligent assumptions about what you want.  There are two reasons for this.  First, it can work around your mistyping or misspelling.  Second, it remembers (unless you instruct it not to remember) what you have looked for in the past.  This is a mixed blessing, mostly good.  But here are a few reasons that it could turn out to be a problem.

  • If an account is used by multiple family members, then the other person knows what you looked for. Like the birthday gift that you found and bought.  Or the porn you viewed.  Or the hotel room or jewelry you bought for the girlfriend.  Or things you don’t want the grandkids to see when they are using your computer.
  • Google uses the information in your previous searches to direct advertising towards you. So if you bought a cane, do not be surprised if you get ads for a wheelchair or another cane.  If you booked a room in Newport, do not be surprised if you get ads from other Newport attractions.  This is viewed by many as a feature, but I find it irritating.  Each of the browsers gives you an option to delete the list of searches you have made.  I do this frequently.
  • If you are doing a BOLLI paper on bombs and go to dozens of sites on bomb-making, do not be surprised if you receive a visit from Homeland Security. They and NSA have the ability to watch internet and phone traffic (do they utilize it???).  The problem, of course, is that, though your search history may have been deleted from YOUR files, it doesn’t mean that GOOGLE or Comcast doesn’t have the data on its servers.  Each year, Google gets many warrants for data and, for the moment, rejects most of them.  That may well change.

Let’s take a simple example.  You get onto the Amazon website to see if you want to purchase some shorts.  You’ve used this site before and have set up shipping addresses for a number of members of your family.  What might happen next?

  1. Amazon and other on-line purchase sites know about ALL your previous purchases AND those things you have merely looked at. They will use this data to recommend other things for you to purchase, either during this browsing session or in subsequent ones.  But Amazon and other companies have Artificial Intelligent systems studying your purchases, trying to further understand what makes you tick.  A few years ago, there was a story about a woman who made a bunch of purchases, and the company (Target) calculated that she was pregnant (she didn’t know) and started sending her baby things.  That surprised her father who was upset.  See https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/#78ba7db16668

“As Target’s computers crawled through the data, it was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed it to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score.  More important, it could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”

This is pretty scary!  If you buy a swimsuit in April, should you be targeted with ads for sunscreen in July?  I’ll have an article on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning soon.

  1. Don’t be surprised if company A sells its purchase data to company B. I do not believe that Amazon sells their data.
  2. Your browser knows where you have been, unless you delete the entries.
  3. Your provider (like Comcast) is collecting this data.  AND, they might be selling it.  There is a lot of money available for buying focused lists.  The Obama administration tried to put in legislation to stop the selling of private data.  The Trump Administration plans to roll that back.  (See my past article on Net Neutrality for more information on this subject.)
  4. The government can request access to this data though it involves multiple legal issues. Remember a year ago when the government tried to get access to a protected Apple phone and Apple refused to provide the access?

Bottom Line: forget about privacy.  It is a myth.  Sorry.

“Tech Talk” and “Chef’s Corner” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .   John.rudy@alum.mit.edu

 

 

Leave a comment for John below–

 

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SMART DEVICES

SMART DEVICES

By John Rudy

A new term is The Internet of Things.  Many years ago when the internet first appeared. it was a means of connecting computers.  What is now changing is that computers are being embedded in everyday objects.  Your car has dozens of them, and even your thermostat has them.  As computers become less and less expensive, it becomes easier to install them in refrigerators or washer/dryers– maybe even in light bulbs.  But the latest in technology isn’t just about computers.  It is about sensors gathering data which can be analyzed by a central computer and accessed over the internet.

Let’s take a simple example.  Last April, I took advantage of MassSave and had three new replacement thermostats installed.  The thermostats were wired to a hub and then connected to my router–that meant they could be found on the internet.  I could install an application on my cell phone that let me remotely view and control them.  Most thermostats allow one to program them these days, but with these, I can turn up my heat on my way home so that the house is warm when I get there.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that the thermostats may have inter-connection problems and shut down as they did when we were in Jamaica.  That particular problem required that I physically disconnect and reconnect them, so even though I knew there was a problem, I couldn’t resolve it.  This never happened with the old thermostats.

But there is a bigger fear, and that is that bad people are increasingly getting into the many systems on the internet.  Would you want someone to turn your thermostat off?  Of course, there is a password, but we know that passwords have been stolen.

In a few years, expect to see internet controlled door locks or ovens that you can control from a distance.  A few years ago on Showtime’s Homeland, a piece of the plot revolved around a pacemaker that was hooked to a computer.  The bad guys used this to kill the vice president.   Insulin pumps are already connected to computers.

Your car hosts dozens of computers that manage everything from ignition to gas mixture to steering.  There were some stories about a year ago about hackers taking over a car.  It was overblown and not totally accurate, but in a couple of years, it just might be possible.

Now, let’s look at some really positive things learned from an article in Wired magazine.   “When we rebuild bridges, we can use smart cement: cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks, and warpage.  This is cement that alerts us to the need to problems before they can cause catastrophes.  And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure.

If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car.  Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him.  This is just one of the ways that sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge connect to machines in the car: we turn information into action.”

Amazon Echo is already with us–and more is on the way.

“Tech Talk” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

 

 

 

AUGUST TECH TALK: NET NEUTRALITY

NET NEUTRALITY

by John Rudy

For a few years, there has been a fair amount of coverage regarding what is called “net neutrality.”  Unless you tend to pay close attention to the computer world, you may be unaware of what this is or how it matters to you.  The Obama administration took a position on NN two years ago, and the Trump Administration has already announced that they are going to reverse it (presumably after the community has an opportunity to provide comments).  But this is something that is important to you, so here is some information that should enable you to follow net neutrality issues in the press.

What is Net Neutrality?  The principle that Internet Service Providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.  Some governments regulate Internet services in the same ways that their public utilities (electricity, gas, and water) are regulated.  This also involves limiting providers and regulating the options they can offer.

The Issues: Can a service provider slow down or speed up your service because it is better for them or because you pay them to do it?

Some Examples:

  • Could Netflix pay Verizon to provide more bandwidth to their movies?
  • Could Verizon give more bandwidth to a service they provide compared to what is being made available to a competitor?
  • A widely-cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was when Comcastwas secretly slowing (“throttling”) certain uploads. Comcast didn’t stop blocking these protocols until the FCC ordered them to do so.

2014 Obama decision

For three months, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 3.7 million comments to change the Internet to a telecommunications service, which would allow the FCC to uphold net neutrality.  In February of 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996 to Internet service providers.  In April of 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new regulations which took effect on June 12, 2015.   

What is the FCC Doing Now?

FCC Chairman Pai claims he wants to end the “utility-style regulatory approach” to the Internet and “re-establish” the power of market forces in regulating the Internet. Details of his proposal include the reclassification of broadband access as an information service and a decrease in legal regulations on Internet service providers.

Pai says the reversal will increase infrastructure investment and innovation among broadband companies. In his proposal, he also suggests redirecting authority from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee privacy practices. Pai advocates ending the broad Internet conduct standard that allows the FCC to intervene if they deem that a broadband provider either acts in a harmful fashion or is anticipated to do so.

In a 2-1 decision on May 18th, the current FCC voted to proceed with the motion to scale back the net neutrality protections put in place in 2015.

Bottom Line

  • In April 2017, an attempt to compromise net neutrality in the United Statesis being considered by the newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai. In  May, a process began to roll back Open Internet rules that had been in place since 2015.
  • A decision will be made soon and whether or not the FCC takes the millions of comments seriously will be known in time.
  • See https://www.aclu.org/feature/what-net-neutrality for a lot of information favoring net neutrality.
  • Who wants net neutrality? Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix
  • Who is opposed to net neutrality? National Cable and Telecomm Association, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast

My opinion

I don’t trust the cable providers.  If they think that they can make more money by selectively providing better service to someone who will pay them more, they will.  The FCC can’t wait until there is a violation and then spend months, or years, to address it.  Then if Comcast, say, takes money from Netflix to move their movies faster than, say, Hulu, will you switch your service to Netflix?  Netflix doesn’t want to be put in the position where they have to pay off the many service providers.  See the names above for who is pro and who is against the change.

Our “Tech Talker” John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

 

 

 

JULY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: MOOCS

MASSIVE OPEN ON-LINE COURSES (MOOCS)

For centuries, people traveled to school to take courses from professors.  About 30 years ago, though, some companies started taping courses and selling the results as VCRs.  They were relatively expensive (hundreds of dollars for a course), but they required significantly less money than attending a university.  Some had homework, but most did not.  There were no tests, and you could listen to the recordings whenever you wished, or listen to them multiple times.  Some years ago, VCRs were replaced by CDs and then by DVDs.

About 5 years ago, the paradigm changed once again.  Now, courses are recorded and provided through the internet, usually with quizzes and tests.  I have taken a dozen courses on CD or DVD through The Teaching Company and another dozen as MOOCs.  Quality is somewhat variable, but the companies selling these products are quite discriminating, and, as a result, the quality is excellent.  I have obtained The Teaching Company courses through my local library, and because the libraries are linked, nearly all of the courses are available.

  1.  Of course there are also a lot of courses on DVD from The Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series, and the library has (or has access to) all of them–500 at this time. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/

  1. There are also many MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available–more than 3000.  The first course I knew of was on Artificial Intelligence given by Stanford which was made available through Coursera. Over 100,000 people signed up for it. (I have heard that only 5-10% finished the course–but that is still over 5000 people.)  I have taken technical courses like MIT’s course on Genetics (from edX, the Science of Cooking from Harvard, and two courses on the Civil War.  Visit the following sites to see what they have available.

https://www.coursera.org/

https://www.edx.org/

https://www.udacity.com

A longer list can be found at https://beebom.com/sites-like-coursera/

“Tech Talk” feature writer, John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

MAY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: NEED A FIX?

COMPUTER REPAIR

One might think that, as an IT professional for 45 years, I would know a lot about fixing computers.  But I was a manager and not close to day-to-day machine operation.   And even if I had known about making repairs then, technology changes rapidly.  It involves constant relearning.  So that, friends, gets me to the topic for today’s discussion.

When I purchased my last computer a little over three years ago, I was faced with having to transport a huge amount of material (files, emails, etc.) from my old machine to my new one.  Further, I knew that many of the pieces of software I owned were not up-to-date and that some would not run on the Windows 8 system that I was buying.  I purchased my computer from Best Buy and decided to purchase their Geek Squad policy and their conversion assistance.  It was an excellent decision.

They took my old computer, made a list of all of my software, and shared it with me so I could tell them what no longer wanted.  Then, they ported over what they could.  My version of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) would not run on the new machine, so I bought the upgrade.  It really made my life easy.

But Part 2 is really the important part.  During the first month, I kept running into subtle little issues.  The way that Word and Excel operated, for example, was not the same as it had been with my previous environment.  I called the Geek Squad, and they helped me through every problem.  When it was time to go to Windows 10, I had them do it.  I’m sure I could have done it myself, but I decided to avoid any potential hassle.  Yesterday, my Windows Live Mail (through Comcast) stopped working.  I tried everything I could think of—to no avail.  I called the Geek Squad, and they fixed it.  It turned out that Comcast had changed port numbers, and even when I called the company, they gave me the wrong information.  The Geek Squad, though, had the correct data.  The guy I was dealing with was in the Philippines, but his English was excellent.  After gaining some basic information, they (with your permission) gain access to your machine and do a full scan.  Subsequently, the agent used his access to my machine to work out and solve my issue.  I slept better last night.

TECH TALK feature writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

APRIL TECH TALK with John Rudy: Screen Sharing?

SHOULD I LET YOU LOG ONTO MY COMPUTER?

The simple answer is NO, but, as usual, nothing is simple. There are three circumstances I can think of (and there are probably more) when this should be fine and actually even beneficial.

  1. I have a yearly contract with The Geek Squad, an organization that is part of Best Buy, for support of my computer. For a reasonable rate, they will support up to 3 computers for me and take as many calls as necessary. Sometimes a call to them is sufficient to get an answer to your question, but at other times, you might have a complex question that requires someone to log onto your machine in order to fix it. Of course, you can take the computer to a store, but it is more convenient when, given permission, they can log in to fix whatever ails the machine. I have received similar service from Comcast.
  2. Occasionally, you might call a friend and ask how to do something, like work on a Word document. They say that they’ll be over next week. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to collaborate in real time?
  3. You want to share something, maybe pictures, with someone, and the file is too large to easily send. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just see them on your machine? There are a number of software products that accomplish this. You can check with the Geek Squad and Comcast or your own service provider to see what they deem to be safe.

Here is an article on a variety of tools. http://www.online-tech-tips.com/cool-websites/5-free-remote-desktopsharing-and-screen-sharing-solutions/  that you can choose from when looking for options like this.

I use Teamviewer (the current is version 12) because it was recommended to me a couple of years ago, and I find it easy to use. It is free and available at https://www.teamviewer.com/en/download/windows /

When using Teamviewer, you provide a code to the person to whom you are allowing access and then either they or you can move the cursor on your screen. At the end of the session, they log out and cannot get in again until a future session is initiated by you.  So it is safe. They have full documentation available on their site.

Having said all this, be very selective about allowing others onto your machine. They would then have access to material that you might rather keep private.

TECH TALK Feature Writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

FEBRUARY TECH TALK with John Rudy: MAKING TRAVEL PLANS

THE NEW WORLD OF ONLINE TRAVEL PLANNING

It used to be that, whenever I wanted to take a trip, I drove into Lexington and visited Colpitt’s Travel where Marilyn would help us make reservations.  Unfortunately, she often had to deal with airlines that didn’t answer the phone and hotels in places she hadn’t visited.  The situation today is very different, and most of the readers of this blog already probably take advantage of some of the tools out there.  The purpose of this entry is to provide you with some ideas you might not be familiar with—and, of course, what I provide here is just a small piece of what is available.  Be sure to use the comment box at the end to add your ideas and/or ask questions!

Step1:

Where/when do I want to go?                                                                                 Do I want to arrange for airfare or a package with car and/or hotel?     Do I have flexibility for travel dates, times of day, locations?         What am I willing to give up for the lowest price out there?                 Do I want trip cancellation insurance?

Step 2:

Pick one of the travel tools that are available online.  Various review sites contrast the different tools, but there is some consensus that www.booking.com is the best overall site and www.Priceline.com is the best for last-minute deals.

Other popular sites include: Expedia, Cheap Air, Travelocity, Trip Advisor, and Kayak.

These sites allow you to 1) search across many different airline or select specific ones; 2) deal with specific or flexible travel dates; 3) sort information by date, price, time, and number of stops.

Be sure to look carefully at car rental information, especially at drop-off fees.  Also be sure to note whether or not the site will alert you if there are price changes and if you will be able to take advantage of that information.  Be aware, too, of the busiest airports.  Smaller airports (like Providence) may be available near your destination—prices, though, might be higher, and they might have less availability.

Get Money for Change Flights

Airlines overbook assuming that they will have no-shows.  Many times, they provide offers for volunteers willing to take different flights.  Offers go up when there are no takers.  But be sure to ask questions.

Sometimes, the offer provided can only be used with a full-fare ticket.  The offer may not apply to your whole group.  What if the next flight is also fully booked?  Ask for a flight guarantee within X hours.  If the delay to a substitute flight turns out to be X hours long, will they reimburse an overnight hotel bill?

Many years ago, I met someone who located the busiest American Airlines flight to LA and booked it to visit the grandchildren.   He always got bumped.

When Should I Fly?

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least expensive days on which to fly; then Saturday.  Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive.  Very early morning, late night, red-eye, and mealtime flights are cheaper than other flights.

When Should I Book?

According to FareCompare.com data, the best time for booking in the U.S. is on Tuesday at 3 p.m.  Many airlines release their weekly sales late on Mondays or early on Tuesdays.  By mid-afternoon on Tuesdays, then, the competing airlines have matched the lower prices.

U.S. domestic tickets: Shop between 3 months and 30 days before departure. International fares: Shop between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure. Peak travel: During peak seasons such as June, July and August or the December holidays, purchase tickets two months in advance.

The large companies from whom we used to buy travel books now have elaborate, comprehensive web sites.  These are particularly useful when trying to get detailed data on a location.  Browse them and see what is available.  These include, but are not limited to:  http://www.fodors.com/  and https://www.viamichelin.com  as well as https://www.lonelyplanet.com

One last item:  Google is pretty good.  If you type in, say, “American Airlines 145,” you will get the status of that flight.  If it is already airborne, you will get its ETA and the arriving Gate Number–some airlines even make it possible for you to track their in-air flights!

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402

JANUARY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: PHISHING

DON’T FEED THE PHISH!

By John Rudy

Many of you have heard the term Phishing.  And phishing works like this.  You receive an email that looks like it came from a company you trust.  Typically, it indicates that there is a problem with your account and asks you to click on a link to resolve it.  Sometimes, it indicates that you have a gift waiting for you and asks you to click to receive it.  Any time you receive an unsolicited email like this, you should be suspicious.  Is it really from a site you can trust?  Once you click on one of its links, it is too late.  So, Message #1 is Do Not Click.

Then, look at the email address it came from.  In many cases, the words after the @ do not look  like those from the website you know.  Let’s take a simple example.  If you use PAYPAL, you know that their site is www.paypal.com.  I recently received a message, purportedly from PayPal, which came from noreply@gator4248.hostgator.com.  I think we can all agree that this doesn’t look as if it came from PayPal.  Recently, there have been a lot of phishing attacks purportedly from Amazon and PayPal.  Kim Komando has written an excellent article which should be required reading:   http://www.komando.com/happening-now/382417/top-story-paypal-and-amazon-phishing-scams-spreading-now/all

Kim Komando’s newsletter is free, and I recommend signing up to receive it.

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John Rudy, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: Printing

                    GETTING BETTER USE OUT OF YOUR PRINTER                     (and Using Less Paper)

printers

Today, people are concerned about the amount of ink used to print large documents because ink costs more than the printer itself.   Here are some tips for saving ink.  (Note that not all of these fonts may be available to you.)

  1.  Avoid printing in color unless you really need color.  See #3 for directions.

2.  Only use BOLD when you need it; it uses a lot more ink

  1. When you print a document, you have the option to print it in DRAFT.  Depending on the operating system/version and your printer,  there are a number of ways to control this.  After you click on Print, go to Printer Properties.  Then go to Paper Quality and click on Draft.   Also click on Black and White, not color.

draft

  1. Not all fonts use the same amount of ink. My favorite font is Arial because it is so clean and easy to read.  But Times New Roman uses 27% less ink.  Calibri and Century Gothic are also good.  Here, in large letters, is a comparison using 24 point type so it is readable:

 

fonts

  1. This article is written in 12 point type (except for the examples above).  I use 12 point because I find it to be readable with my 71 year old eyes, but you might consider 14 point when printing for seniors or 10 point where you want to reduce the number of pages. Just going to 11.5 point saves about 5% of your ink.
  1. When you print, look at the default margin you are using. You have considerable flexibility. For example: 1” on all sides gives you a 6.5” x 9” area (58.5 square inches).  Using a ½” margin gives you a 7.5” by 10” or 75 square inches or 28% more space per page
  1. On occasion you have a document that goes just over a page. There are also options to “shrink to fit” as well as other approaches.
  1. In Word documents, you have the ability to specify whether you want double space, 1.5 space, or single space between lines.  But you can even make it tighter, like .9 space.  Going to “paragraph,” you have this option and can alter it either for the whole document or for portions of it.
  1. I have noticed that when people respond to emails, they retain the whole previous string. In most cases, that can/should be deleted. This is particularly important if you only want to print the beginning.
  2. Be careful to print only the pages you want.  The other day, I needed to print the confirmation of theatre tickets I had bought. Without thinking, I printed the whole thing; three pages.  But I really only needed the beginning.  It is a good idea to print only those pages you want.  A similar thing happened when I printed a journal paper.  The first 4 pages were the bibliography.

Taking just a little more time to select your printer options with a bit more care can save ink (and money!) in the long run.

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this item  or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: Searching is Not for the Faint of Heart

This month’s tech offering is all about the art of searching the internet–which is not really as daunting as it may seem.  

search 1

Let’s start by getting a bit of terminology out of the way.

web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for retrieving, presenting and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web.  The most common are Chrome and Internet Explorer though there have been many issues with Explorer so Microsoft is switching to Edge.  But Edge is not ready for prime time.  I suggest you all use Chrome though Safari and Firefox are good alternatives.  Chrome has about half the market.

web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the Web, returning pages that meet specified criteria Google is the clear winner here.  Bing and Ask are becoming intrusive and sometimes you’ll find them taking over (the subject of a much longer discussion.

pie chart

There is a lot of data out there to search.  The following snippet is old and is probably off by a factor of 10.  BUT  ….   Luckily Google runs “web Crawlers” at night to make it easier to find data amongst all this.

search question 1

It is expected that by the end of the year there will be a zettabyte of bytes moved every year.   That is a million times bigger than a Petabyte.  Most if not all of you use Google but it turns out that you can use it better.  There are books and articles with hundreds of examples of things that you can do; I’m just going to mention a few.

  • Put your most important search term first
  • “George washington” (caps don’t matter) is NOT the same as George Washington.  Putting quotation marks around the words indicates that you want to find the two words together in the page.
  • Take advantage of exclusion. “George Washington” –bridge will exclude all references that include the word bridge
  • Google makes a lot of smart guesses. Delta 1431 will get you the status of the flight.  02420 will get you the zipcode and bring up a map of Lexington.  781 will bring up the area code.  You can even put in Fedex or UPS numbers.  Put in Red Sox and you will get the information on the current game including a link for box scores, etc.
  • When you return a search, the words Search Tool is near the top. Click on that and you will see the words “any time” with a downward arrow.  Click on the arrow and you’ll see that you can restrict the time range for the search.  This is very important as it removes a lot of obsolete information.
  • For those with a mathematical bent, you can set up a Boolean Search, viz: snowmobile and (snowblower or Green Bay). But you don’t need the “and”
  • The asterisk is a wild card. The search for three * mice will allow any middle word
  • Define happy goes out to the dictionary for the word happy.  (I used that a lot when I was reading The Iliad.)
  • You can do math or currency conversion . You can even say 176 in roman numerals, and it returns the right answer.  1 a.u./c returns 8.31675359 min, with “a.u.” meaning “astronomical units” and c is the speed of light.
  • If you type in a location, you can get directions, a map, and  markings for traffic problems. You can even ask for a walking or bicycle route rather than a car route.
  • You can ask questions: double quarter pounder with cheese has * calories

search 2

This is just scratching the surface.  We could have a 1-2 hour talk on the subject!

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on searching or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)