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:
Go to Gmail.com in your computer’s browser.
Click the cogwheel icon and click See All Settings.
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.
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 fileof 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!
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.
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!
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 backof 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 thesearticles 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 10¢ 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!
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:
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.
Are you selling items on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist? Then watch for this scam!
A potential buyer contacts you and asks for your cellphone number. Once you share your contact info, a text comes in from Google Voice. It contains a 6-digit verification code, and your would-be buyer quickly asks to know what that code is. The verification message says NOT share that code with anyone, but the buyer will insist it is to verify your identity and legitimacy.
The person contacting you is trying to create a new Google Voice number. But Google requires that the new number be attached to an existing US phone number. The verification code is the last step in creating that Google Voice number, and will bind the Google Voice number to your phone number.
What Use is a Google Voice Number?
The potential buyer is actually a crook, looking to use a Google Voice number in his/her scams. Essentially, the bad guy gets a brand-new phone number (that won’t be on any spam lists) that can be used anywhere in the world, on any computer or mobile device. It’s kind of like buying a burner phone, except with Google Voice, there’s no physical phone and the new number is free. It’s a burner number, to be used, abused and discarded.
Who knows what scams or harassment will be carried out over the new number. But it will be very easy for the criminal to later stop using the number and cover their tracks. And as they scamper off without a trace, you might not be in the clear. If the authorities investigate illegal activity on the Google Voice number, they may track down the owner of the linked phone number. That would be you, if you were duped into giving over the verification code!
It gets even worse if you’re already using Google Voice. If you fall for this scam on your Google Voice number, the scammer may succeed in stealing your phone number from you!
If your cell number was used and linked to an unwanted Google Voice number, there is a complicated process to follow to unlink your number. Check out this forum for the steps, and feel free to contact BlueScreen Computer if you need extra assistance.
If someone stole your Google Voice number from you, you’ll want to act quickly to reclaim your Google Voice.
When selling goods online, be choosy about where you give out your mobile number. And never share verification codes that come to your phone or email. When a verification message says Don’t Share This Code, they mean it!