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Amazon Halo Trackers Have Been Discontinued

If you use an Amazon Halo fitness tracker, it will soon stop working. Amazon has decided to end the sale and support of these devices. Since these trackers are part of the Internet of Things, they will cease to function when their apps and services are shut down.

Other fitness trackers are alive & well and will be unaffected by Amazon’s discontinuation. If you are impacted, please know that Amazon will refund you on any Halo you’ve purchased in the last 12 months. They will also stop any recurring subscription fees you’ve signed up for. You’ll have until 8/1/2023 to move to another fitness tracker, at which time your Halo devices will be bricked.

If you need a replacement fitness tracker, please know that Google, Apple, Samsung and Garmin all sell such devices.

Free Apps for Identifying Animals

Much like the plant-ID apps I’ve blogged about, there are plenty of free apps for identifying animals. There’s no need to crowdsource your answer from Facebook. Take a pic or recording and send it up to the experts. You can have an AI or website give you the answer immediately. And for free!

Got a snake in your garden? First, be careful! Take a pic and use these apps, only if you are at a safe distance from the creature:

Looking to ID a bird in the yard? Uppload a pic or a recording of its birdsong, and these apps will give you the info:

If you’re just out in nature and wanting to identify animals & plants in general, give these apps a spin:

The Facebook User Privacy Settlement

Last year, I blogged about an upcoming Facebook settlement that might net some users a few dollars each. Well, there’s another newer Facebook settlement that you should know about. If you sign up for the Facebook User Privacy Settlement, you could get another chunk of money.

The latest Facebook settlement tracks back to the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018. While Meta expressly denies any liability or wrongdoing, a court has ruled against them, and Facebook will pay out $725M to avoid going to trial.

So, if you’ve used Facebook at any time in the last 16 years, in the USA, you are eligible to sign up for your piece of the settlement money. You can start at this website, and click the Submit Claim link to get started.

You will have to submit your name, email, mailing address and agree to a payout method (Zelle, Venmo, prepaid card, etc.). You’ll also need to supply your Facebook username. The survey tells you how to find this last info, but it is still confusing. I suggest that you go to Facebook on a computer, and click your name to the upper-left. Once your personal profile page loads, look at the address bar at the top of your browser. Your username is what comes after “”.

Live Captions on Windows 11

Windows 11 now has a built-in ability to display Live Captions for any audio you are playing. Whether it’s a YouTube video or Facebook Reel or Skype meeting, Win11 can show you captions for whatever speech is coming onto your computer. This can be extremely helpful for those who are hard of hearing, and also useful when you cannot use your computer’s audio.

Setting Up Captions for the First Time

Click the Start Button and open Settings. Go to Accessibility, then click Captions.

Across from Live captions, turn it On and then click the Download button to add this feature into Windows.

After the download completes, your computer will always be ready to offer you Captions.

How to Turn On Captions

You can always retrace your steps as above to turn on the Captions, but there are other, easier ways:

  • Press Control + Win + L on your keyboard
  • Go to Start -> All Apps -> Accessibility -> Live captions

ProTip: Right-click Live captions on your Start menu to be able to Pin it to the Start menu or Taskbar!

Using Live Captions

Windows 11’s captions are pretty straightforward, but notice the cogwheel icon to the right after you turn them on. You can click that cogwheel to customize the look and placement of the captions. There’s also an option in there to include the audio that your microphone captures, if you want the captions to include what you are saying (on a video call, for example).

Microsoft’s Live Captions are only available on the latest version of Windows 11. If you cannot find them on your Win11 machine, make sure to run Windows Updates until your system installs Version 22H2.

Microsoft Designer

Microsoft Designer is a new design app that you can use, for free, to create graphics, visual presentations and more. It’s comparable to Canva and other free design tools.

Right now, Microsoft Designer is in preview mode and you can only get in by invite. But I put my email on the waitlist and was allowed in after only a few days.

Microsoft is also baking in their AI technology, so that you can start a design with a sentence-prompt. MS Designer lets you start by typing “I want a birthday invitation for my daughter who loves ponies” or “Make me a poster that shares my guest wifi password” and MS Designer will churn out some starting points. And if you don’t care for all that AI stuff, just click Start from a Blank Canvas.

New Storage Limits on

Microsoft has made some changes to the amount of free storage you get with their email and other cloud services. If you are a paid member of Microsoft 365, you probably don’t have to worry about any of this. But free users are in a different boat. The new storage limits on email addresses are likely to cause confusion and total email blockage!

There’s a lot of confusion about it all, because Microsoft has created a very complicated problem here. I hope I can explain it a little better than they do:

The Basic Quotas

  • Free users of Microsoft storage get 5GB of storage space for their files. This is where your OneDrive files go, if you use that.
  • Free users of Microsoft email get 15GB of storage space for their emails, contacts and calendar entries.
  • Microsoft free services work great, until you exceed a storage quota. Once you exceed a quota, the service stops working until you resolve the overage.

The Confusion

Here’s where Microsoft has made things confusing: your email attachments now count against both quotas. Depending on the size of your total saved attachments, you can be under quota in, but over your quota for Microsoft (cloud) storage. I’ll paint a hypothetical for you:

Let’s say that I’ve been saving years of emails in my address, and those messages total 10GB in size. That’s fine! That’s well under the 15GB quota. But due to the new rule, those 10GB of messages have close to 10GB of attachments, and those count against the other quota. When Microsoft notices that my email attachments are exceeding my 5GB Microsoft storage quota, they shut down my email, until I fix it.

When this email stoppage occurs, you will see it when you visit your email on the web, at You may not get this stoppage alert in other email clients (Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.)! So if your address is malfunctioning, visit the Microsoft email website to see if you get an explanation there.

Resolving an Email Stoppage

If your email has stoppage due to this quota issue, you’ll see a message about it at the top, as you log into the email website. But go further to see a proper breakdown and explanation of the quotas for your account:

  • Once logged in at, click the settings Cogwheel to the upper-right.
  • Go down the list and click View All Outlook Settings.
  • On the left, click General, and then click Storage in the second column.

You’ll see something like this:

If the Total used figure is over 5GB, you have a problem to address. You can either a) start deleting emails, or b) pay Microsoft for more storage.

If you’re of a mind to delete things, click the link for Outlook (Attachments) next to Free Up Space. That should take you back to your inbox, but sorted such that the largest email with attached files are at the top. Trash as much as you can stand, and then refresh the page to recheck your quota.

Or if you prefer, Microsoft will sell you more storage for as low as $20/year. If you sign up for Microsoft 365 Basic, your email storage quota will jump to 50GB instantly.

Updating Apps using WINGET

Your PC should update the Windows OS automatically. Same goes for your Microsoft Office software and browsers. But there’s a whole bunch of other programs on your system that may not update without deliberate action on your part.

It’s often not strictly necessary to chase down these updates. But if you’re a stickler for updating everything under the sun, Microsoft has a tool for you, using the WINGET command. This is available under Windows 10 & 11. It’s not a very pretty process, but if you’re comfy typing a line of code, it can save you a lot of time and clicks.

Updating through WINGET

First, open a Command Prompt or Powershell window. There’s a variety of ways to do this:

  • Press Win+R and type cmd or powershell and press Enter.
  • Click Start and scroll through All Apps, looking for “Windows Powershell”.
  • Use the Search function on your Start menu or taskbar to look for command or powershell.

Next, you’ll type in the following:

winget upgrade –all

Note: after the word ‘upgrade’, there is a space and two dashes. On some screens, these punctuations may be hard to see.

At this point, Windows will identify and attempt to update a variety of programs on your system, ranging from lesser known Microsoft components, to things you do recognize, like GIMP and Thunderbird and Epic Games. Be prepared for many popups, asking for permission to run and make changes to your computer. Click Yes to each update that you want to allow onto your system.

Other Notes

If you aren’t intimidated by code, check out the other abilities of this WINGET function at this Microsoft page. There’s a lot more you can do with this one function.

Sometimes, WINGET cannot update everything on your system. Please don’t be concerned if this happens. If a particular update refuses to complete through WINGET, you may have to deliberately chase it down on the manufacturer’s website. As this tool is developed further, we can expect it to become more polished and reliable.

In any case, this is far better than using any of those “freeware” software updaters that are out there. I generally recommend against those, as they can slow down your system or turn out not to be free.

Dish Network Scam – “Receiver Updates”

dish receiver - it can typically update itself

Dish Network subscribers are starting to get unexpected calls about receiver updates. These are yet another scam, similar to the Xfinity Discount scam. Here’s what you need to know before you get one of these calls:

How The Scam Works

A scammer calls and identifies himself as a Dish Network representative. They’ll claim that the Dish receivers in the house urgently need a software update. “We can send a technician to your home to do this upgrade for $300, or I can walk you through it over the phone for only $199.”

At this point, the victim may object, and the scammer is ready: “But sir, it is just a one-time payment of $199.99. Without this, your TV will soon stop working!” When the victim argues further, the crook may offer to offset their fee by promising $25 discounts for several months on future Dish bills. If the victim still does not cooperate with payment, the scammer may become rude, and claim that he will just shut down the entire satellite service.

It should go without saying: If the crook gets any kind of payment over the phone, they will disappear with the money, and the victim gets… nothing. The “upgrade” was a dog-and-pony show and nothing more.

Why This Scam Is Convincing

This scam has a lot going for it, and has the potential to dupe a lot of people.

  • The scammer on the phone already knows your name, address and (obviously) your phone number.
  • Your CallerID may be spoofed to show “Dish Networks”.
  • They will instruct the victim to press buttons and navigate menus on the Dish receiver/TV with a convincing level of accuracy.
  • If the scammer learns your Dish account PIN, s/he may make changes to your account or add discounts to your billing, to “prove” they are a capable Dish rep.

Do’s & Don’ts

  • If you find yourself on this kind of call, hang up ASAP. The less you say to the scammer, the better.
  • Never antagonize or berate the caller. Remember: They have your address. These crooks can get hostile and the worst-case scenario could result in you getting swatted.
  • Don’t volunteer any extra info, especially your Dish account number or PIN. True Dish representatives never ask for this info over the phone.
  • To verify any Dish Networks communications, or to report a fraudulent call, call their main number at 1-800-333-DISH or chat them up on their website.

Steam Card Scams

Steam Cards function like gift cards: you spend an amount of money for the card, to be able to use that as a voucher on the Steam website for purchasing video games and other software. And like any other gift card, Steam Cards are often targeted in scams.

Steam Cards can be bought at physical stores or online through the Steam website. They’re often on display with other gift cards, but the scams that involved Steam cards are a little bit different than you’d expect.

Examples of Steam Scams

  • You find yourself locked out of your Steam account, and someone is contacting you to help you regain access to it. But they need you to buy a Steam Card and send them the number from it before anything can be restored.
  • Someone messages you, stating, “I accidentally reported your account and am worried that you will be banned from Steam. Contact Steam Support at this number/email and do what they say to remove the account ban!” And if you cooperate, the fake support person will threaten to delete your entire library of games unless you buy Steam Cards for them.
  • An attractive person messages you over Steam or Discord, asking for Steam Card Codes, so that they can play the same games with you. Instead of pressure tactics, they may be flirtatious or send racy photos.
  • You encounter a Bitcoin investment opportunity, where you fund it with Steam Wallet eGift Cards.

In any case, treat Steam Cards as you would all gift cards: They are equivalent to cash, and should only be given to people you know and trust. Treat unexpected requests for Steam Cards as you would any other gift card scam. Shut it down as soon as you recognize it. Block or avoid the person trying to commit the scam.

If you don’t use Steam, you may still need to be aware of all of this to safeguard any young gamers in your household. As your children or grandchildren come asking for Steam funds, make sure everything is on the level. Check that they want these cards for their own use. If you learn that they want a Steam Card for something other than just buying a game, you may have a teachable moment on your hands!

Vudu’s Disc to Digital Program

If you like to buy and collect digital copies of movies, then you need to know about Vudu and their Disc to Digital offering. Using this program, you can add a digital movie to your library for $2 or $5. This is typically far cheaper than buying a digital movie from other vendors.

How this works is based on the movies you already physically own. You are buying a digital license for a DVD or Blu-ray that you have in hand. The process goes like this:

  1. On your smartphone or tablet, go to
  2. Scroll down to the Convert Disc button and tap it.
  3. Tap the next Convert Disc button and take a picture of a barcode from a DVD or Blu-ray case that you have on hand.

If Vudu can offer that movie to you as a digital copy, you will then have the chance to pay $2 or $5 for it. If the movie is not available for this program, Vudu will let you know.

Other Details & Thoughts

Not all movies are eligible for Vudu Disc to Digital, and I can’t find any “master list” of films, showing what’s accepted or not. But Vudu Support says that if you see the Movies Anywhere logo on the case, it should work. For older movies, you can only check by scanning, to find out if it can purchased.

While this is intended for you to expand your digital library based on your physical library, I don’t see much security or restriction to how this process works. So, thinking outside the box, this program would also work for you if you checked a movie out of the public library and scanned its barcode. Or borrowed a movie from a friend, and decided you wanted to add it to your digital library before returning it. All that is necessary is that you scan the official barcode from the movie clamshell case and pay the nominal fee.

And I have to say, I was astounded by one success I had personally with this program. I have a particular movie on Blu-ray that is out-of-print. At this point, it is not available for streaming, and can only be bought through collectors & shylocks on eBay. But somehow, Vudu’s D2D program allowed me to buy a digital copy for $2. Now I can stream and download a movie that I thought only existed on disc.

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