Category: Google (Page 1 of 3)

Low on Google Storage Space?

If you use Gmail or have an Android phone, you might someday see a message that you are low on Google Storage space. Because this often comes as a surprise to some, I thought I should explain it. And give you some tips on what to do:

The Basics

An Android or Gmail user must have a Google account. This is often the same as your Gmail address. And with each Google account, you get 15GB of cloud storage for free. If your data in Google’s part of the cloud gets too close to 15GB, you’ll start getting warnings about your usage. If you eat up your entire quota, then your Gmail will stop working until you address the issue.

But your Google storage is more than just your saved emails. Everything you save in 1) Gmail, 2) Google Photos and 3) Google Drive combined counts toward that 15GB limit. So if you find yourself maxing out your allotment, you must first figure out what’s using up the most space!

You can quickly get a storage breakdown, if you know where to look. On your computer, one way is to open your browser and go to your Gmail . Log into your account and once you see your Gmail inbox, scroll down to the bottom. Beneath your message is a small quota notation and you can click on it for more info. You can also click this link, or open the Google One app on your phone. You want to be at this sort of screen, to know how data you have stored and where it is:

Low on Google Storage Space?

Managing Your Storage

You are always welcome to click the Get More Storage button and pay Google for more space. I certainly do, because I keep a wealth of data safe in my Google account. But many people don’t want another recurring tech fees, or didn’t mean to packrat so much data, so here’s how to manage things and get your storage under the 15GB threshold.

Next to each category of storage is a blue pop-up button. You may want to target the largest offender first. Click the blue pop-out to visit its storage category, and you’ll be able to find things to delete. Whatever the category you visit, we should search for the largest files for deletion.

  • If you click the Google Drive popup, look first for a Clean Up Space button. That tool can quickly help you find the biggest files to delete, as well as empty your trash.

    Unfortunately, the Google Drive website is not very helpful for searching for your largest files. But if you use the Google Drive software on your computer, you can open File Explorer or Finder, and use its search functions to suss out any monster-sized files.
  • If you use the Gmail popup, it simply takes you back to your Gmail page. That’s not very helpful! But once there, look at the search field above your Inbox messages. You’re going to click and use the Advanced Settings button at the end of the Search Mail field.

    On the complex search tool that appears, you want to home in on the line for “Size”. To the right of “greater than”, type in a number between 1 and 25. (Maybe start with 20, and you can repeat this search again later using 15 or 10.) Click the Search button, and Google will then show you all of the largest messages in your account. Start deleting!
  • If you hit the Google Photos popup, you find yourself looking at your photos and videos in chronological order. Again, you want to target your largest files here, so click your search field at the top and type in “video”. When you search on that, Google Photos will show you only the videos in your account. Those are the largest things in this area, so focus on deleting any unwanted videos before you cull any photos.

Google also offers a storage management page for you to use, but I tend to like the more granular approaches above.

Buying Storage Space

If deleting a lot of stuff doesn’t appeal, you should consider buying more storage with Google. It’s actually fairly affordable — just remember to click the “Annual” price button to get the best deal. Right now, you can up your Google Storage to 100GB for just $20/yr. And if you become a paid Google subscriber, they let you share that storage pot with up to 5 other people.

YouTube vs. Ad Blockers

Google is taking a more visible stand against those who would block their ads on YouTube. Many people are meeting with special notices as they visit YouTube, if Google detects any kind of ad-blocking going on. The battle of YouTube vs. Ad Blockers may evolve further, but I’ll explain what I can, for right now.

Ad-Blocking Technology

I’ve been strongly recommending ad-blocking for a long time now. Most of the malware, adware and scams that I help people with are attributable to some ad or pop-up that they encountered. And most of those malicious ads come from normal, trusted websites, or appear at the top of ordinary, everyday search queries. I generally prescribe a free ad blocker in each person’s primary web browser, and I consider it their second-level of protection (their antivirus being the first).

Most ad blockers install right into the browser, as an extension. Many ad blockers are offered for free, although some offer a paid/premium option, if you want to support them monetarily. Also, some browsers come with ad-blocking already built-in (Brave browser, Opera browser). Also be aware that some protection-extensions, like MalwareBytes Browser Guard, strive to suppress ads as they guard over you.

I’m mentioning three avenues of ad-blocking explicitly, because any one of them can trigger warnings from YouTube:

YouTube’s New Warning Notices

If your browser is suppressing advertisements, you are likely to see this kind of warning as you use YouTube:

YouTube vs. Ad Blockers

You can close it and continue. If you do, expect to eventually see another warning:

If you keep ignoring Google’s messages, then you will probably find that stops working for you.

I should also mention that defying Google’s edict on ad blockers could also result in this pop-up:

Widevine is a type of DRM software, and will help Google “fingerprint” your machine, so they can control more of what you do on YouTube. I do not recommend that anyone install this, if asked.

Do’s and Don’t’s

I hear a lot of grumblings from people over these notices, and sympathize with everyone. Ad blockers are a way of internet life, and they keep people safe. Forcing people to watch ads when they don’t want to is going to cause some people to take action, to “go off the reservation”. We need to discuss your options. Before you react, let’s go over your good and bad options:

Bad Idea: Ignore the messages and carry on with blocking ads. You’ll eventually hit a wall with Google, and be unable to play a YouTube video.

Good Idea: Allow ads on YouTube. Click on your ad blocker while on the YouTube website, and unblock Your ad blocker will continue to block ads everywhere else you go, just not on YouTube. Please know that while many ads lead to danger, the advertisements on YouTube are well-vetted and not going to infect your system.

Protip: Return to your ad blocker a couple of weeks later and turn it back on for YouTube, as a test. Sometimes, silent updates will improve your ad blocker, so that it no longer triggers the YouTube warnings.

Bad Idea: Install some kind of script or advanced browser code to block ads, using TamperMonkey or scripting extensions. I suspect that YouTube will catch you on this, if not now, then soon. I worry that if Google catches you playing this game, they could ban you from YouTube or take more serious action against you and your Google account.

Good Idea: Consider paying for YouTube Premium. If you are a paying member, ads go away. You can also stream music and enjoy other perks with YouTube, under their premium plan. Check out the prices and details here.

Other Ideas (YMMV):

  • Try using a different browser, just for YouTube viewing. I’ve tested various browsers, and found that ad-blocking may still work well in Firefox (with AdBlockPlus or uBlock Origin) and also in the Opera browser.
  • Watch YouTube videos in Incognito/InPrivate browser windows. Note that you may need to adjust your ad blocker to run in these private browser modes.
  • Experiment with using a VPN. I don’t fully endorse this strategy, but it is possible that it could help. If YouTube sees you viewing videos from another country, it might respond to your ad-blocking differently. But I don’t fully endorse this tactic. It’s probably safe enough. But I say: if you’re willing to spend money to not see ads, I’d sooner spend that money on YouTube Premium than I would for a VPN.

The Permission Slip App

permission slip app

Consumer Reports has developed a new free app called Permission Slip. They made this tool to help the average person understand where their personal data is collected and sold, and take back some control over that information.

To use this app, you do have to sign up and hand over your personal info. CR promises to not sell it or abuse it. You’ll also have to legally agree Consumer Reports can act as your “authorized agent”. It’s some serious stuff, but they ask for this so that they can advocate on your behalf.

What This App Offers

If you cooperate and agree to the app’s requirements, you can then:

  • Review numerous big companies and understand what personal data they are collecting and selling.
  • Have Consumer Reports send an official letter (on your behalf) to any of these companies, telling them Do Not Sell My Data.
  • Use an easy Delete My Account function, so that the company gets rid of any and all data they have about you.

You could do these sorts of things yourself. You could visit company websites, one at a time, comb through their pages and processes for the correct forms to fill out (most companies make this deliberately difficult). Permission Slip streamlines all of that nonsense for you. Once you’ve got the app up and running, it is quick and easy to browse the companies, telling each one in turn to not sell your data.

Also, amongst the recognizable companies, you’ll notice a few data brokers, like Merkle. When you spot one of them, definitely order them stop selling your data!


Permission Slip is relatively new, so its full benefit has yet to be realized. And when you ask a company to not sell their data, they may or may not comply. But I still think this tool is worth a try, as it is offered by a trustworthy nonprofit company, and using it sends a message to these companies that are profiting off of our personal data.

Also, you might feel a bit of schadenfreude when you realize that these big companies are suddenly having to deal with millions of privacy requests.

iOS download

Android download

Google Safe Browsing

Google does a whole lot to protect us as we surf the web. They study web activity the world over, analyze traffic and trends, and then use that info to protect us from harmful sites. They call this service “Safe Browsing”, and it comes built into the Chrome browser and other Google products. If you’ve ever seen a scary red screen from Google, that was Safe Browsing, stepping in to save you from harm:

google safe browsing

Levels of Protection

But Google offers different levels of Safe Browsing protection. You should know a little more about them and choose one that feels best for you.

  • Enhanced Safe Browsing
  • Standard Safe Browsing
  • No Protection

Enhanced Safe Browsing is the highest level of protection you can choose in your browser/Google account. But it involves allowing Google to see more of your browsing activity, in real-time, as you surf the web. I use this option myself, but if you have privacy concerns, you may prefer to remain at the Standard level.

Standard Safe Browsing is still a good level of protection. Google will help warn you about phishing websites and malicious downloads, as you use the internet.

No Protection is not to be used. Please don’t opt for this. I suspect it is only there for development and testing purposes. Unless you a tech professional and know what you are doing, ignore this option.

Where to Check Safe Browsing Settings

On a computer, open Google Chrome and go to the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner. Click Settings, then click Privacy and Security (on the left), then click Security (in the middle). You’ll see this sort of screen, where you may adjust your protection:

On a mobile device, the steps are very similar: Open Google Chrome and go to the 3-dots button in the upper-right corner. Tap Settings, then click Privacy and Security, then scroll down to Security and tap Safe Browsing.

You can also turn on Enhanced Browsing for your entire Google account, if you have one. This extends your protection into other apps and services you may use with Google, and may also alert you if Google notices your info in data breaches. This link should take you directly to the relevant panel in your Google account.

Final Tidbits

If you check or change this setting, please review it on all of your devices and computers. In my experience, setting it on one device does not automatically carry over to others.

Most browsers offer extra protection in this way, and many use Google’s Safe Browsing service, albeit under a different label. You can open a different browser and go into its Settings -> Security panel to see what’s offered.

I generally recommend setting this browser protection to its maximum level. I see a lot of infected computers in my daily work, and I do suspect that some of the malware I remove might’ve been stopped by stricter browser security.

If you ever want to check a specific site against Google’s Safe Browsing list, go to this page and paste in any URL you want. It’ll tell you if they think the site is safe or a phishing hazard. And if you have found a dangerous site that you wish to report to Google, submit the URL at this page.

The Google Referrer Header Settlement

The Google Referrer Header Settlement

The latest class action lawsuit to ding the finances of Big Tech is going to cost Google $23 million. The Google Referrer Header Settlement is upon us, and you may be able to get $7.70 out of it.

The suit claims that Google violated users’ privacy as they used Google’s search engine. Google may have revealed (without your explicit permission) the text of your search queries with the owners of the websites that you clicked in their search results. (Sorry for the word salad; it doesn’t get much simpler than that.) In any case, Google admits no wrongdoing. They’re settling and paying out this money to get things resolved.

Are you eligible for your share of the Google Referrer Header Settlement? The answer is Yes if you used Google Search and clicked on a result between 10/26/2006 and 10/30/2013. If you’re reading this, I bet you qualify.

The Claim Process

To start the claim process, go to this site and fill it out with your information and click the Submit button at the bottom. Check your email, and you should have a new message with a Class Member ID in it. Highlight and copy that code.

Next, visit this site and paste the ID into the first field. Login and fill out the information, choose a Payment Option, and “sign” at the bottom. All done!

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!

Free Apps for Identifying Animals

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? Upload 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:

If you use other free apps for identifying animals, please drop me a line about them. I’ll test them out and add them to this post!

Check Mail from Other Accounts with Gmail

Google has built in a very useful feature with their email service. In Gmail, you can configure something called “Check Mail from other Accounts”, and then Google will continually pull in the messages sent to another email address you control. You can do this with one or many other email addresses!

The Steps

Before you start, make sure you know your full email address and its login password.

  • Go to your Gmail at on a computer.
  • Click the cogwheel icon.
  • Click See All Settings.
  • Click Accounts and Import.
  • Scroll down to find the subsection labelled Check mail from other accounts.
  • Click Add an email account and fill in an email address. Click Next.
  • Choose Import mail from my other account (POP3) and click Next again.
  • Adjust the Username field to show the entire email address that you want Google to check.
  • Type in its password in the second field.
  • You may want to check the box next to Label incoming messages so that the incoming messages stand out from the ones sent directly to your Gmail.
  • Click Add Account to finish.

Disclaimers & Cautions

If that final setup screen did not fill in the POP server field automagically, you may have to figure out the correct server name to enter. You may also have to double-check the port number. That may mean calling your ISP or doing some research. Reach out to me if you need help with this!

This process can result in you importing a lot of email. If the other address has a lot of email in the inbox, you can expect a lot to arrive in your Gmail. But it shouldn’t hurt anything. At the worst, you’ll just have a lot of unneeded messages to delete.

This only brings messages. Contacts, Calendar entries or Notes are separate and would involve a different set of steps to bring over.

Google only checks the other email once an hour for new messages. That means that as people email your other address, they will arrive in your Gmail inbox, but there may be a time delay of up to one hour.

What Good Is All of This?

People most commonly use this feature when they are switching from an old email address to a new Gmail. It’s really helpful, because all of the old email dumps into the new Gmail inbox. Now you only have one inbox to check! And the label feature helps you determine who is still using the old address. You’ll know form that whom to contact, to let them know about your new address.

You might use this feature, even if you plan to keep the other email address, long-term. It may be too much work to abandon the other address, but it may still help to have everything arriving in one inbox.

Also, Gmail’s spam filter may be the best of its kind, at least amongst free offerings. Routing a spam-laden email address into your Gmail inbox can filter out a horde of nastiness.

Lastly, I often recommend this approach when mail forwarding is not working for someone. If you had set up mail forwarding in your other address and it wasn’t reliable, you can turn it off and try this method instead. Google will get the job done properly.

YouTube: Closed Captions & Transcript Features

When using YouTube, please know that many videos allow for Closed Captions. Just click the CC button below the video to turn closed captions on or off.

If a YouTube video offers Closed Captions, then it also has a transcript. To see that, look a little further down and to the right of the CC button, for a 3-dots button. Click that and then click Transcript. You’ll see something like this to the right of the video:

This view is useful for scanning through and finding specific information in a video. You can click on any line of text to jump to that point in the video. But it may not be the easiest to use, if you want to read the entire transcript.

For that purpose, you could consider copying all of the text into a Word document:

  • Click the 3-dots button in the corner of the transcript.
  • Click Toggle Timestamps to hide those numbers.
  • Click and drag to highlight all of the transcript text you want.
  • Press Control + C on your keyboard.
  • Open a blank Word document.
  • Press Control + V on your keyboard.
  • Edit or format the text until it is readable!

I Found Someone’s Phone

I Found Someone's Phone

Everyday, I see this posted to social media: “I found someone’s phone, anyone know whose it is?” And it rarely works. It can’t hurt to crowdsource the request, but please know that you should first check the found phone for Emergency Info.

  • On an iPhone, trigger the Lock Screen and tap Emergency, then tap *Medical ID.
  • On an Android phone, trigger the Lock Screen and tap Emergency, then tap View emergency info.

The following screen may reveal one or more Emergency Contacts. Tap on an Emergency Contact to call them on the spot. You may be able to work with them to reunite the phone with its owner!

Add Emergency Info to Your Phone

Now that you know this tidbit, your next question is probably “How do I add Emergency Contacts to my phone?”

  • On an iPhone, find and open the Health app. Tap your picture to the upper-right and then tap Medical ID. Tap Get Started, and fill out your basic info. Scroll down to find the Emergency Contacts section.
  • On an Android phone, find and open the Safety app. Sign in if prompted and then fill out your basic info. Scroll down to find the Emergency Contacts section.
  • Add at least one person as an Emergency Contact, and now they can be dialed from your phone, even when it is lost and locked. Note: you can only add them if they are in your normal Contacts list.

As you venture into this part of your phone, you may find a wealth of other safety features. Some phones may offer Car Crash Detection, Emergency SOS and the ability to record and store a video. Explore and learn about them, and activate any others you think are a good idea. Semper Paratus!


If you’ve lost your phone, I’ve already blogged about how to track it down. Make sure to use those methods before you report the phone as lost and disable the SIM.

If you have found someone’s phone, but cannot determine the owner, then you’ll have to figure out what to do with it. Use your best judgment and factor in these items:

  • Apple does not typically assist with lost iPhones.
  • Keep the phone on and charged, if possible. The owner may call at any moment!
  • Turning the phone into the local police is a solid option.
  • Turning the phone over to a storefront might be helpful, depending on the circumstances. A phone found in a dressing room should go to the front sales desk. A phone found in a strip mall parking lot? Surrendering it to the police may be a better idea.
  • If you can tell what cellular provider services the phone, then you might be able to take it to the appropriate cellular storefront. T-Mobile definitely welcomes you to bring in a found phone. Others may help as well, give them a call before you make the trip.

Free Apps for Identifying Plants

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? Need to know if you’re looking at some Virginia Creeper or Poison Sumac? 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 free apps for identifying plants.

Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, these 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!

Update: there are similar apps for identifying mushrooms, as well:

  • Mushroom Identify, for Android
  • Mushroom Identificator, for iOS

If you use other free apps for identifying plants, please drop me a line about them. I’ll test them out and add them to this post!

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