Pepper the Robot

Pepper is a humanoid robot. It is able to recognize emotions and interact with you. Pepper can move around, recognize your face, speak to you conversationally. Whether you dance or chat, Pepper is ready for you. Pepper is 1.2 meters tall.

Pepper is capable of performing customer service. He can interact with customers, help with appointments, direct to where they need to go.

Pepper is a product of SoftBank Robotics. He says she was born in Paris. SoftBank Robotics has offices in Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco and Shanghai. They also have previously developed a smaller robot called NAO about 58cm high.

With its open SDK you can enhance him as well.

Here is Tech Insider’s experience with him:

Here is SoftBank’s promo:

Find out more

Say Farewell to StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon has been around since the early 2000s. In the early days it was a fun site to just be taken to a random site. Until June 30, 2018, you can still do this. If you go there now, they will encourage you to Join Mix. Mix is a related service. You can join Mix with your Facebook or Google account or with an email address.

You can use StumbleUpon.com before it goes away this week. But you’ll have to remember your old login. Assuming you may have joined at one time and no longer use it.

How it worked is, you would go to StumbleUpon.com and join, then slick on a button to find a random cool webpage. The company that owns Mix.com, Expa, wants to take Mix.com to the next level and combine social and semantic personalization to the user experience. They want to make it easy to organize your content into collections. They will be transitioning StumbleUpon accounts over to Mix.

Some other companies under the Expa umbrella are Uber (driver service), Haus (helps you sell your own house and keep more of the money than through a broker), Prefer (a way to grow your business through referrals), Ando (food delivery service), Spot (a way to find things to do based on referals), Operator (a way to find what you are looking for). These are a few of Expa companies.

Funny how things never change…

The Victor crew happened upon a an article about an article. TheVerge.com showed a clipping of a news article from a 1996 copy of the Wall Street Journal. The clipping shows that even back in 1996, there were privacy concerns.

Concerns with privacy about such things as cookies, encryption, junk email. We recently wrote about the blast of Terms of Service you’ve been seeing. Most of them address all these issues within them.

The only way to truly protect your privacy is to be aware of what is being collected. Don’t just shrug off all those terms and privacy legal pages. Read them. If they want something you don’t want to give, then just stop using that service, app, website, etc. If the site or app has privacy settings, go into them and limit your exposure. Limit who can see your posts, photos, or information. Sometimes you can even set it so you need to approve who can friend or follow you.

View the original full Wall Street Journal article here.

Need Ideas for Father’s Day?

What dad doesn’t like tech! The Victor crew thought they would look for ideas that are out there just in time for Dad’s special Day this week. This list is not exhaustive but maybe it will spur something you hadn’t thought of.

TV streaming device:
Roku
Apple TV
Chromecast

Headphones/Earbuds

eReader:
Nook
Kindle Fire
Kindle Paperwhite

AI device:
Google Home
Amazon Echo
Apple HomePod

Fitness Tracker

Video games

Charging dock for all his gadgets

Subscription service:
Amazon Prime
Spotify
Sirius XM
Pandora
Hulu
Netflix

Does 2-Factor Authentication Keep You Safe?

Not always. The Victor crew found an article/video that demonstrates how you have to be very careful even if you use 2-factor authentication in place. The trouble can occur when a user clicks a link sent in a phishing attack. The email may look legitimate but it may have the real site name misspelled.

The most important take away it to stop and think before click a link even if you think it comes from a legitimate source. If you receive a message from a major site, most likely you can just go to that site, log in, and see any notifications someone may have sent rather than looking at emails that are generated.

You can see how it 2-factor authentication is bypassed in this demonstration by Kevin Mitnick from KnowBe4.com.

BattleBots

“It’s robot fighting time!” That’s what you hear at the of BattleBots. People make robots and fight each other in an arena.

The show started on Comedy Central in 2000 and ran for five seasons ending in December 2002. It was briefly revived in 2015 for six episodes on ABC. It ran for a seventh season in 2016. It then found itself on both Discovery Channel and Science channel for its eighth season just this month.

Many of the robots are back again. They are run by engineers, MIT students, plumbers, just to name a few. BattleBots is an offshoot of Robot Wars. When Robot Wars disappeared, some of the robot builders left behind started BattleBots, Inc.

Just like other matches, there are weight classes. Lightweight is about 60 pounds, Middleweight is 120 pounds, Heavyweight is 220 pounds, and Superheavyweight is 340 pounds. They last three minutes per round and are done in a 48′ x 48′ glass box. Not only do the robots battle each other but there are a few obstacles in the arena as well such as a sledgehammer in the corner, spinners and spike strips and in floor, augurs that roll around on the sides that opponents try to push the robots into.

Some contestants have mini-bots that roam around too. Sometimes you will see sparks, flames, smoking, or even tears (from the drivers.) It’s a fun watch so try to see it sometime.

Terms of Service

It seems we’ve all been just bombarded with Terms of Service. They may be from credit card companies, banks, apps, or anything else you may get emails from or are signed up to. So why so many and why now?

The answer is most likely GDPR. This stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is something that the EU (European Union) has adopted for web directives to protect its citizens’ data. This is going into effect May 25, 2018.

When you give personal data, it is their right to know what is collected, why, for how long. It also gives the user to withdraw their consent at any time. That means they may ask a company to delete their information or stop using it.

This all applies to any company whether they are in the EU countries or not. EU countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.

Find out more here:
ec.europa.eu/

The New Gmail

Gmail rolled out the new Gmail recently. We thought we’d give it a try. It didn’t really look any different once we set it up. Until we wanted to check in our contacts. We no longer could just click on the name Gmail on the top left to get to our contacts. This meant a Google search to try to find it.

Here is where it is – on the top right is the app grid. Find contacts in there. You may need to move it up to the top so you can access them quickly. If Contacts icon doesn’t show, click More at the bottom of the first page and you should see it on the second. You can simply grab it and move it to the top.

The first image shows the grid without the Contacts app. The second image shows it on the second page under More. The third shows the Contacts app on the top right.

Gmail App Grid Gmail App Grid Gmail App Grid

Another difference we found is that Labs was missing. Labs were experimental addons you could enable to try different things.

Blast from the Past

Websites have changed over the years. The Google.com of today isn’t quite like the one of yesteryear. Same with Amazon.com or Netflix.com or Facebook.com and many others. A video editing company by the name of Kapwing has been curating websites for their Museum of Websites. You will also find Reddit.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Twitter.com, and Pinterest.com and more!

They have a section within their website with a gallery of how famous websites have changed over the years. They are slowly working on getting more and more. The oldest one is Yahoo!, which has been around since 1995.

Somehow, we don’t think the earlier craigslist.org will show much change over time. It seems its retro look hasn’t changed much since the first time we’ve seen it.

You can join the email list to know when they put new ones up

Does Windows 10 really shut down?

Windows 10 uses something called fast startup mode. By default, this is enabled and it does just that – allows you start up faster. What you are really doing instead of shutting down is hibernating. It caches everything so it will all load faster when you “turn it back on.”

To control what happens you can go to Control Panel > Power Options > and click “Choose what the power button do” and you can change what you want to do. If you are on a laptop, you can choose what happens when you close the lid as well.

If you really want to shut down, you will have to do a restart. This makes the old “if you have problems, reboot” really mean it.

If you are feeling adventuresome, you can create your own power plan as well.

Windows Defender Browser Protection

There is an extension for the Chrome browser called Windows Defender Browser Protection. It extends your Defender protection to include your browser. It will keep you from accidentally clicking to phishing site. You can also turn the protection on or off. If you click to a link from an email it will help by reporting to you that the website is unsafe.

After you install it on your browser, you will see a small defender icon on the top of your browser. You can click it and then you will see the dropdown (shown below). You can turn on or off temporarily.

Windows Defender Chrome Addon

Get the extension for Chrome here.

Learn more about how it works from Microsoft.

Beginning days of Email

Remember when people were first getting connected in the late 90s and early 2000s? Emails would travel round and round to everybody and their friends and family. No one would think twice about getting a joke and feeling the obligation to pass it on to everyone in their address book. Not so much anymore.

I wax nostalgic remembering all the emails and then going to Snopes.com to look up the stories to see if they were true. Snopes was the “fake news” buster everyone would check with. Fake news can come in different format these days. It can be a tweet, a post, or even a news article. Snopes still has it covered. They have changed the format of their website quite a bit. They have sections called What’s New, Hot 50, Fact Check, News, Video, and Archive. They even have a Random button that will bring a different item every time you click it.

While looking at their site, we found they are trying to raise some money to keep going. You can visit their GoFundMe page.

So whether it’s a preposterous post, nonsensical news, or a totally thin tweet, you can still look it up at snopes.com!

Duolingo

Duolingo is a way to learn another language online…for free. You can do it through your browser or their app. They have Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese (Beta), Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Turkish, Norwegian, Danish (we like cheese, please), Polish, Korean (Beta), Hebrew, Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, Esperanto, Welsh, Ukrainian, Hungarian (Beta), Romanian, Swahili, High Valyrian (really?), Czech (Beta), Klingon (Beta). Indonesian, Hindi, and Arabic are also in the works and coming soon. These are listed in order of how many people are currently learning these languages. Spanish has the most with 120 million people learning.

Wait! Klingon? Yes they have Klingon in Beta with 40.6K learners already. All these languages are currently on the website but not all are available through their apps yet.

The languages offer different rates of learning. They start at Casual for 5 mins per day, then Regular is 10 mins per day, Serious level is 15 mins per day and Insane is 20 mins per day. They will gear the lessons to your time level. You will need to make a sign-in to keep your place. You can create a separate login or use Facebook or Google account login.

April Fools 2018

So this year, April Fools Day was on a Sunday. Easter Sunday no less. So some of us may have missed some of the jokes on the Internet. Here are a few you might have missed.

From Google Israel:
This one is about Hummus API – groundbreaking technology!

Here is the Bad Joke Detector:
Clean your device of bad jokes.

From Google Japan:
Gboard – a keyboard you can use in different ways (subtitled)

From ThinkGeek:
A Rick and Morty Screaming Sun Alarm Clock (rather annoying)

From DuoLingo:
Brewolingo – learn a new language while you drink

http://brewolingo.duolingo.com/

Tired of Ads?

Some sites make their money with ads. But lets face it, sometimes they get to be too much and intrusive. With Chrome tightening rules on ads, there are still sites with ads if you use Safari on your iOS device. The Victor crew has a few solutions for you.

Try using a different browser. Especially if there’s a site that has ads that tend to redirect you. Browsers we have tried and had good results with are:

Adblock Browser:
Made by the people who make AdBlocker extensions.
AdBlock Browser in App Store
AdBlock Browser for Android

Brave Browser:
Made with built-in AdBlocker, tracking and security protection
Brave Browser in App Store
Brave Browser in Google Play Store

Try using Adblock extension for Safari:
Simply install and then go to settings >> Safari >> Content blockers >> turn on AdBlocker extension.
AdBlock extension for Safari on iOS

Other things you can do – turn off javascript from Safari:
Settings >> Safari >> Advanced. Turn off JavaScript.
We’ve used this to keep ads from redirecting to other sites.

App Updates Stuck?

So the Victor crew had an interesting problem. The update in the App Store on one of the apps got stuck. It kept spinning and spinning. For days. Tried closing the app in the app manager. Tried closing the App Store app in the app manager. Opened up the app store again. Still spinning.

Of course we “Googled” the problem to see if anyone else had this problem. Some suggestions were to stop the automatic updates in the settings but that didn’t help. Some were to delete the app and redownload or remove the app data. We chose a different way. We rebooted the iPad. That did the trick. So the age-old fix for just about anything is reboot it.

Standing Desks

So you’ve probably heard about standing desks and the benefits of using them. New studies now show they may actually be detrimental. They are said to increase pain and slow down mental ability. They are thought to increase awareness of being sedentary but are causing other problems. Certainly sitting most of your day isn’t goo either.

In the study they found that standing for two hours increased lower back and leg pain, and also that it can cause swelling of veins. Also after standing about an hour and fifteen minutes, mental reactiveness slowed down but creative decision making marginally improved.

So what should you do? Try to make a conscience effort to get up more if you sit for a while – go make a cup of tea. Stand for shorter periods at a time and alternate sitting and standing. Try to get in exercise before or after work.

Source

Vaunt Smart Glasses

Most of us have heard of Google Glass. There is another type of smart eyeglasses that you can get. They look more like regular eyeglasses. You can use head motions to show or dismiss displays. It uses something called VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) to shine into your eyes and projects to the back of your retina (retinal projection). It is made by Intel.

You can see the text just below your usual line of site. They are working to perfect them to be able to show you what you want when you want it. Maybe you are near a couple restaurants. It can show you the yelp review. Or you ask Alexa for a recipe – you can see it on your glasses. They look pretty lightweight next to Google Glass. Only you know you are reading them.

Cryptocurrency Mining

Cryptocurrency is the term given to currency such as bitcoin, ether, or any of the other digital currencies out there. So how does this work?

Cryptocurrency runs on what is called a blockchain, a ledger or document that is duplicated over networks of computers. As this is updated, it is made available to the holder of cryptocurrency. Every transaction is recorded of every cryptocurrency. The blockchain is run by miners. Their computers tally up the transactions. They update the transactions and also make sure of the authenticity of the information received. In payment, miners are paid fees for each transaction. The buyers and sellers agree on the value of the cryptocurrency as it fluctuates.

The transactions are made peer-to-peer without a mediator like a bank. The buyer and seller do not know who the other is, but everyone in the blockchain knows about the transaction as they are made public.

If I wanted to buy something that costs $10,000, and find a seller that accepts cryptocurrency, I would try to find out the current exchange rate get the public cryptocurrency address, say bitcoin, and we would stay anonymous to each other. I would then have my Bitcoin installed to his computer, say 10 bitcoins rated at $1000 each. My bitcoin client would sign the transaction with his private key. The transaction would be verified and transferred and recorded.

Cryptocurrency mining includes adding transaction to the blockchain and releasing new currency. They use special computers, hardware and software, to do this. Lately they’ve taken to using browsers and apps for cryptomining. There is a javascript that they can add to your website. Sometimes they will let you know they are using this, sometimes not. When it was first used it didn’t generate that much money for the miners but now that bitcoin rates have increased, it seems there has been another surge with it.

Coinhive is an alternative to browser ad revenue. They have a javascript for people to put on their website. They are using your computer to mine the bitcoin. Mining takes a lot of power so they look for other ways to use it. A good ad blocker can prevent you from using some of these types of sites. I just got the message from my adblocker when trying to get to coinhive.com. It is used to mine a cryptocurrency called Monero. The owners of the site get 70% of the currency and Coinhive gets the rest. You may never even know it is taking place if you visit a site using this, except maybe your computer runs a little slower. Users with WordPress can even get a plugin for using Coinhive.

One month last year, Malwarebytes blocked 248 million attempts to borrow resources from the Coinhive script. Many of the sites using Coinhive are porn sites or heavily covered with ads anyway. A good antivirus or ad blockers can help. You can also turn off javascript from your browser. Download and use Opera which will block cryptocurrencies.

Coinhive cryptomining scripts were found recently in 19 apps in the Google Playstore. One of the apps had over 100,000 users. They have since been removed from the store.

Here are some of our source articles to find out more:
https://www.benzinga.com/
https://www.symantec.com/
https://www.pcmag.com/
https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/
https://thenextweb.com/

Google Chrome and Ads

Starting February 15, 2018, Google Chrome has begun some ad-filtering. They won’t be blocking all ads but the ones that do not pass the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. They are targeting the most intrusive ads like the full page ads that block you from seeing the page content and flashing animated ads. In other words, they aren’t out to remove all ads but just the most annoying ones. They are also looking at the number of ads on a page.

You can also install ad blockers in your browser or visit YourAdChoices to optout of ads from the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Shipping with Amazon

If you are a Prime member or already shop with Amazon, you know your packages will come via UPS, FedEx, or even USPS. Amazon is going to launch their own package delivery service called Shipping with Amazon (SWA) as reported Friday. They will roll out in Los Angeles first over the next few weeks then to other cities across the U.S.

They plan to start with third-party Amazon vendors who are already registered. They may also open up to other businesses eventually to directly compete with the other shippers.

To keep your delivery safe from porch pirates, Amazon already has a program called Amazon Key In-Home Delivery. You have to purchase the Amazon Key In-Home Kit, the necessary equipment for $249.99. It includes an indoor security camera and compatible smart lock. They will come and install these for you if you want. When a delivery is made, you will an alert on your smart phone and you can watch the entire delivery.

Difference between Office 365 and Standalone Office Program

You can purchase Office [Year] as a standalone program or purchase a subscription service to Office 365.

Office 2016 (current edition) will run $149.99 and licenses one user on one PC. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Office 365 Home or Personal will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. It also includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space and 60 minutes per month of Skype calls per user. This will run $99.99/year (or $9.99/month) for Home and $69.99/year (or $6.99/month) for Personal. Personal is for 1 user only. Home is for up to 5 users. It also includes apps for devices (including Apple products).

When you have Office 365, you also get the latest Office software. It also has automatic billing so you won’t ever run out. With Office 365, you also get support for any issues.

When Office 2019 is available later this year, it will require you to have Windows 10.

Sources:
Office Support
Microsoft Blog

Living in “Gatesville”

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, Bill Gates bought land in Arizona to build a smart city. He has invested $80 million already in a high-tech planned area near Phoenix of almost 25,000 acres.

Actually called Belmont, it will be designed to have high-speed Internet networks, self-driving vehicles, data centers, and new technologies for manufacturing. Building it from scratch, he is hoping to make it more cost-efficient rather than trying to redo an existing area.

Jody Victor crew learns about Amazon Go

Imagine you are in a rush and need to go to the grocery store. With Amazon Go, you can walk in, get your stuff and walk out. In fact, they call it their Just Walk Out Shopping experience or Just Walk Out Technology.

When you walk in, you use the app to check in (kind of like when boarding a plane) and then do your shopping. Forget your bag? There are plenty of reusable bags for purchase. You will also need an Amazon account.

They offer many ready-to-eat meals and snacks. They want to focus on making healthful meals.

They currently only have one store open to the public in Seattle, WA open 7am-9pm M-F. They do have people in the store to help you, stock shelves, etc. The store was opened last year for its Seattle employees while testing. It just opened to the public recently.

Learn more.

Has this ever happened to you?

You are browsing the Internet and maybe you look at some items and then it seems every where you go you are seeing the same things or related items that you just looked at. Maybe you abandoned a shopping cart or changed your mind about the purchase. Maybe you started filling out a form and stopped in the middle of it. They can’t possibly know what you typed, right? Or can they?

In an article by Motherboard.com, they cite a study done by Princeton University about boundaries. Or rather “No Boundaries.” How do you think Pinterest or Facebook or other social media sites get the information? There are sites such as FullStory that allow website owners to capture every keystroke a user makes. They use “session replay” scripts to capture what the customers are doing on their sites. You can see some of the major companies who use fullstory.com here.

Now more than ever it is important to read websites’ terms and conditions. They may collect things like medical conditions, personal data, credit card info. Passwords may even be “accidently” included in the data.

So what can you do? Run AdBlock Plus in your browser. According to the Princeton study, AdBlock has been updated to block all these scripts, thanks to the study.

This video shows FullStory capturing a user’s data as it is being entered into a form.