This ‘n That



Was it something I said?  Soon after our last column appeared, Amazon was frantically trying to fix the fact that their Alexa speaker was breaking out into gales of laughter without any prompting, in a way that people described as “creepy.”  Apparently the issue is resolved.  For now.




We have never before had to include a warning in one of our columns, but if you choose to go to the current CNET article about online intolerance:  we alert you that you must be prepared for some truly unpleasant material – despite the fact that CNET has apparently deleted some of the content that is even worse.  Most experts seem to agree that it is the anonymity of the Internet that seems to stimulate such intense intolerance that it often boils over into actual physical violence.  Many online news organizations have eliminated the comments section that used to follow their articles, primarily because the comments had started to become so extreme that they were detracting from the point of the original story, and the unpleasant atmosphere was starting to become associated with the news organization itself.  We hope that legislation and the courts catch up quickly and follow some European examples of how to stomp out this abomination before ordinary people start to think that the Internet generally is so upsetting that they will avoid it completely.




Lithium batteries are considered to be dangerous goods by the Government of Canada.  A description of the issues and strategies for avoiding problems can be found at  and considering the fact that lithium batteries power a great many devices that you probably own and often carry, a bit of research on the subject is time well spent.




Trade some convenience for security.  “Two-factor authentication” is a term that we all should start to become familiar with.  Simply put, you can make use of an extra level of security for most of your online accounts, from email to banking.  Usually you would set this to kick in whenever that account was being accessed from a new device; the premise being that if a hacker wanted to get into that account they would most likely to be doing it from their own computer and if that machine has never logged into the account in the past, the bad guy is going to be foiled by a demand for information they don’t have.  Think of this strategy as multiple passwords – required only when the account is most vulnerable.  A short video by Brian Barrett of Wired Magazine at  on this and other security measures is worth a quick look.


The iHome wifi Smart Plug is the Apple version of a nifty innovation that allows remote control of any electrical outlet from an app on your smartphone.  Other manufacturers have their own variety of this handy little invention and if you live in the world of Android you might prefer one of those.  With no electrical expertise whatever required, you simply plug this cover into an existing outlet and then it can be turned on and off from your phone, tablet or computer.  The potential peace of mind from knowing that the coffee pot is not on the verge of catching fire four hours after you left the house, or that the sump pump is working while you are out of town, make this an inexpensive investment in serenity.


PogueOriginally broadcast in 2013, David Pogue’s TED Talk tech tip time-savers are still as useful as ever.    Play   a couple of times to help you remember them.

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