Category: Google (Page 1 of 2)

Free Apps for Identifying Plants

Wondering if that volunteer plant in your garden is a weed or not? Curious about that gorgeous tree at the park? I know there’s some of you who won’t rest until you know the exact name of the mystery plant you’ve just spotted. And while it’s so easy to jump on social media to ask, it’s often easier and quicker to use better tools.

Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, free apps can identify plants for you immediately! Take a picture of a plant using the app, and you’ll get detailed info on the spot. There are many such apps, and here a few reputable ones:

There are also websites for this as well, like Pl@ntNet and Plant.id!

I Can’t Get Gmail’s New Integrated Layout!

A few months ago, Google rolled out a new look for their Gmail website. It’s very pretty and everyone should have it by now.

Except, that didn’t happen, some people missed out. If you didn’t get this option, it’s probably because Google’s Chat feature was turned off. That causes this update to hide and never offer itself to you. Here’s how to turn that on:

  1. Go to Gmail.com in your computer’s browser.
  2. Click the cogwheel icon and click See All Settings.
  3. Click Chat and Meet, click the bubble next to Google Chat, and click Save.

This should cause Gmail to refresh and reload. Now, when you click that same cogwheel, you’ll now see an option to “Try out the new Gmail view”. Give it a whirl, and if you need to switch back to the classic mode, just return the to cogwheel for that option.

The NewProfilePic App

There are always new mobile apps for you to discover, and it looks like NewProfilePic is this month’s all-star. This freebie, available through the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, will transform a selfie photo into something stylized and eye-catching.

All you have to do is upload any photo file((of a single, close-up of a human face. Sorry, no pets!)) you have access to from your mobile device, and dodge a few pop-up ads along the way. The app does the rest, giving you a few different photo filters to try out. And they claim you can check back each week for new filters and tweaks.

As this app took off in popularity, some websites started sounding an alarm about its safety. Claims of data-sharing with Russia are being passed around, but I don’t see any truth to that. It looks to me like these rumors are not based on hard facts, and only being reported on clickbait and junk news sites (nothing mainstream).

In other words, whatever info-collection this app is doing, it’s certainly less invasive than, say, Facebook or Google. If you want to try out this app, feel free and have fun!

Spam Text Messages

Here are options for dealing with spam received via text message:

Forward the Message to SPAM

When you get a spam text, forward it to 7726 (SPAM). This helps your carrier know about what spam is spreading where, and they’ll study the trends to prevent more spam from reaching you.

To forward a message on Apple devices, consider the section at this page titled “Forward older text messages.”

For Android devices, try these steps to forward a message any spam text to 7726.

Block the Sender

Most phones allow you to block a specific number from sending you texts. So when that annoying spam message arrives, block the sender’s number.

Here are the steps to block a text sender on iOS. On Android, try these steps or maybe these will help.

Note: If a spammer is spoofing your number, so that the text looks like it is coming from you, don’t block it. Just forward it to SPAM as described above, and contact your provider if it keeps happening.

Contact Your Provider

Each cellular provider offers different free tools for blocking unwanted calls and texts. If you are receiving a high level of spam messages, reach out to them. Ask them to review your account and phone settings, to be sure that all possible features are enabled, to block the maximum amount.

Report Spam to the Government

You are welcome to report unwanted communication (calls OR texts) to the FCC and the FTC. The DoNotCall Registry also wants your reports of spam.


Caveats

When acting on a spam text (to block it), take care to not tap on any attached files or links.

Do not reply to any spam text with any complaints or commentary. Do not try to unsubscribe, as this may create more spam for you!

Back Tap on Smartphones

iPhones

Most iPhones have a largely unknown feature called Back Tap. If you turn on this special ability, Back Tap will let you trigger an app or function when you tap the back of your iPhone. Back Tap can open Settings, or the Facebook app, or your Camera, whatever you yoke it to.

It’s like you have an invisible button back there that can do anything! Back Tap can be setup on any iPhone 8 and up that is running iOS 14 or newer. For detailed steps, check out these articles for how to set yours up.

First-time users of Back Tap are recommended to keep an eye on it for the first week or so, in case of accidental triggers. If you notice any misfires with Back Tap, you can modify the settings (Double or Triple Tap) or turn it off.

Android Phones

This feature is called Quick Tap on Android phones, but is not widely available yet. So far, it’s showing up only on select Google Pixel phones. Other manufacturers are slow to incorporate this into their phones, but you can always check your phone for this feature under: Settings -> System -> Gestures. If your phone supports Quick Tap, it will be at the top of the Gestures options list.

A warning: internet searches for “Android Quick Tap” will quickly reveal a workaround app called Tap Tap. BlueScreen Computer does not recommend this app. It does not come from the Google Play Store. It has not been vetted by Google. Installing Tap Tap requires you to hamstring & bypass your phone’s security. Please don’t risk it! If your Android phone doesn’t offer Quick Tap, you’re better off waiting to get it on a future phone.

Scan QR Codes with Your Phone’s Camera

The title says it all, but I’ll go into more detail: When you see a QR code in public, use your cellphone’s camera on it.

If you open your camera and point it at a QR code, the camera software can “figure it out.” Watch for a clickable link on your screen (you do not need to actually take a picture). If you tap the link that appears, it will do whatever the QR code is programmed for (take you to a website, start an email, etc.).

Do NOT download and install any 3rd party app for QR code reading. Those apps are wholly unnecessary at this point, and can contain adware or worse.

Google 2FA Becomes Mandatory

2FA is shorthand for Two-Factor Authentication. It’s an extra security feature to protect an online account, and is offered by many companies for their users. But soon, Google is making this feature mandatory for its Google and Gmail accounts. If you aren’t already using 2FA to protect your account, you may soon get an email like this from Google:

Google 2FA Email Notice

This requirement has been in the works for a while now, and Google is just now rolling it out. I want to assure you that the above email is legitimate, if you receive it. You can click the Turn On Now button and fulfill the 2FA setup, or you can visit this link to learn more and get started.

Not sure if you have 2FA turned on yet? Go to the Google Security Checkup page to determine this.

Reach out to me if you need help with this process!

Google Opinion Rewards

Most of the time, online surveys are a waste of time, or worse. They serve to collect & sell your information, while giving nothing back to you, or increasing your spam. But Google Opinion Rewards is an exception, and one that I can vouch for personally.

This app is free to install on your smartphone, and you will get paid for occasionally answering a brief survey. And by brief, I mean 10-30 seconds of your time. The questions are varied and not too personal, but might include things like:

  • Did you visit any of the following stores recently?
  • Are you a college graduate?
  • Have you watched the following video on YouTube and did you like it?

Surveys can be easily answered, skipped or ignored and are not intrusive. And for each survey you answer, you get a bit of money, usually between 10ยข and $1.00. While this cannot be withdrawn as real cash, it does accrue for you to use to buy anything from the Google Play Store. You can use your earnings to buy Games, Apps, Movies or eBooks from Google.

If you don’t want your info being collected any more than it already is, then pass on this app. But if you want to earn a little something when the big tech companies study you, give this a try. In 4 years, I myself have gathered almost $380 in credits from this app. That’s a lot of digital movies!

Google Opinion Rewards for Android

Google Opinion Rewards for iOS

Privacy-Oriented Search Engines

Most searches on the internet are carried out through Google Search. But not everyone wants to use Google, Bing or the other big search engines. These companies usually track you through your searches, and use that information to better advertise to you.

If you’re looking for a search engine that respects your privacy more or collects less of your data, here are some safe & easy alternatives to try:

DuckDuckGo

Ecosia

You.com

Brave Search

Startpage

Swisscows

These search engines may still rely on Google search results or other big engine technology. But if you read their promises, they’ll still gather less info on you, and prevent the big companies from studying you as you search the web.

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