You are smart to be skeptical because this email, and pretty much every message you get that’s similar, is a scam. In fact, there’s a specific name for this sort of thing: a phishing scam. The idea is that the bad guys behind the campaign build a perfect mock-up of a real sign-in page, then use various channels to drive unsuspected customers to that page. Without knowing any better, those customers log in using their real credentials and get a generic message like “approved”. Meanwhile, in the background the criminals just got login and password info and as quickly as they can, they log in to those accounts and change the password and confirmation questions. If you have a credit card tied to your account then you’re really in trouble as they could buy hundreds – or thousands – of dollars worth of music, movies, apps, in-app purchase codes, even gift cards, before you realize and shut things down.
As a result, the smart strategy with ANY sort of “confirmation” request is to simply delete it. Or, if you think that there’s even a tiny chance it’s legit, go into that site through its standard home page or app (with the iTunes Store and Apple ID, that’d be through the iTunes program) and check your account status that way. No rocket science involved.
There are also strategies you can use with specific emails too, including this one, so let’s have a look more closely at it.
Here’s the message I received on my Gmail account, which is odd by itself because that’s not the email address I have associated with my own Apple ID. Still, not impossible, so here it is:
Looks quite legit, though if you’re really nitpicky you might notice that the spacing around some of the commas and other punctuation is a bit peculiar. But who reads things that closely?
Here’s the first rule of avoiding being adversely impacted by these phishing scams, however: always check the link before you click on it.
In this case it’s the “Verify Now >” link jumping out for attention. If I move my cursor over it, the Web browser (in this case “Safari”) shows where I’d go on the status bar:
“http://www.yongcharefoundry.org”? Certainly doesn’t sound like a link that Apple would use, does it?
In fact, that’s more than enough to know it’s a scam and delete the message.
But let’s say you did get suckered and clicked on the link. What would you find?
Typically, a very legit looking sign on screen:
Again, a slight hiccup on the punctuation and capitalization, but quite legit looking, especially on first glance.
Except for this, and it’s a bit hard to read here, the URL of this particular page:
I’ll duplicate it here in text:
Look quickly and “apple.com” is correct. But what’s the rest of this domain name? It’s a trick to hide the real domain name, which is always rightmost, not leftmost. So it’s actually “webd.pl”. And “.pl” is Poland. Pretty darn sure that Apple’s not going to be using a generic web hosting firm on Poland for its password verification system, agreed?
Again, caveat emptor: beware, beware, beware. Skepticism is a very healthy thing with all the criminals online and if you do think you might have messed up and been suckered by one of these phishing scams, then RIGHT NOW go and change your password and verify your security questions for every potentially affected account. Far, far easier than losing control of it.
Be careful out there, gang.
I like your skepticism, actually, because there’s a lot more that’s bogus online than most people think, and not all of it is disclosed as per Federal Trade Commission guidelines. In fact, the majority of it flies under the radar. What am I talking about? Sites with domains like “color-printer-reviews.com” (note: I’m making that domain up, I have no idea if there’s a real site, nor am I saying that the real site is bogus or not. Haven’t checked) that say proudly that “Reviews of the Best Color Printers in the Marketplace” then you find that their reviews just magically give a specific, typically obscure product far better reviews than any other product and, surprise, have an affiliate relationship or reseller relationship with that particular manufacturer. Yeah, sounds bogus, doesn’t it?
Even bigger sites can be suspect, where they have a comparative review and simultaneously have an online shop or links to let you buy the products in question. It’s just hard not to have one taint the other and if I make, say, $50 every time I push brand “A” and make a sale, but make $0 when I sell brand “B”, which one am I more likely to promote in the interest of generating revenue?
That’s why disclosure is so important. If I am biased towards brand A, wouldn’t you at least want to know about it? If it’s a “printer review site” sponsored by Epson or HP, you’d want to know that up front too, right? Now that doesn’t mean it’s a waste, there are plenty of vendor sponsored informational sites that are terrific resources if you know who’s paying the bills.
My favorite place to do research on products, however, is Amazon.com, because they have an amazing resource that most people don’t think about: the user generated reviews. It’s a gold mine of information on products!
Which isn’t to say that it is perfect. If you see a product with just a few reviews and they’re all five-star and extraordinarily positive, I’d suggest you be skeptical about that too. Could be a company – or their marketing or PR agency – being a bit too zealous. Have more than a few dozen, however, and you’re starting to learn about real users and their experiences with real products. Which is good.
So let’s dig around with that color printer purchase you want to make for your Dad. To start, just search on Amazon for “color printer”:
The first thing to notice here is that Amazon’s ridiculously smart with its search completion, even offering specific departments that could be a good match for this product search. That’s a good thing. Pick one. For my example, I’ll pick the match “color printer in Electronics”, which produces a page of results, but most importantly shows you suggested alternative searches:
Those related searches are often a better way to phrase the search you want to do.
In this case, however, not so much. Instead, the key factor in doing research on Amazon, sort by user reviews:
There are other ways you can sort your search results, of course, but “Avg. Customer Review” is my favorite, so that the real dogs, the products that are very badly rated, end up last on the list, while the best of them are on the top.
Now it’s time to look down the left side of the page as there are a zillion ways you can refine your search results. Let’s start with these:
Do you want your Dad to have to plug in to the printer to use it? Or if he has a PC and a laptop, does the printer need to be plugged into the PC at all times? If not, “Wireless” is a good choice and certainly popular. Check the appropriate boxes. In fact, every time you make a selection, the sort will redo and the results will change.
Ditto multifunction: should the color printer also be able to scan or copy documents? Not all can do that!
Keep going down that left column, though. There’s more:
If you have particularly good – or bad – experiences with a vendor, you can adjust the results to just include (or exclude) their products. For color printers, Canon, Epson, Brother and HP all have good reputations, which is why they’re at the top of this list.
One more search results refinement:
Probably the most useful of all search results constraints on Amazon, actually, this lets you see that without any limitations, “color printer” has a crazy number of matches. Why? Because of ink cartridges, cables for printers, dust covers, and a million other accessories. Constrain by feature, functionality, vendor and price, and your thousands of matches just got shrunk down to a few dozen options.
Here’s the top list I ended up with:
Now let’s pick a specific printer by clicking on it’s name. In this case, the Epson WF-3520.
What’s important to notice here isn’t the goofy long and detailed product name, but the number of reviews and overall score. 706 reviews and four stars out of five? Not bad at all.
But we’re doing research so let’s see what problems it poses. Click on “706 customer reviews”.
This is a super helpful info display because it lets you jump immediately to the worst reviews (click on “(61)” adjacent to the 1 star reviews, for example, but it also shows you the distribution. 580 of the 706 reviews give this printer a four or five star rating. Hmmm….
A bit further down the page is another gem: the most useful positive, and most useful negative review, based on customer votes:
You can see that the 1-star reviews aren’t considered helpful, so they might not be worth spending too much time on at this point. But do read both of these particular reviews and keep in mind that there’s no a single product on Amazon.com that every loves without reservation. Just the nature of things.
Dig into the top half-dozen printers, compare features and price, evaluate with a critical eye the feedback you see from customers and make a decision. Good luck and I hope it works out great for your Dad!
The combination of having the development teams from Google Image Search and Picasa has inspired the image team at Google Plus to offer all sorts of really cool features, many of which I think people don’t realize even exist. For example, upload a photo and Google Plus will automatically apply digital filters to enhance it, making the colors a bit more saturated, the contrast a bit higher, etc, depending on the image. Generally what I think happens is that people upload their pictures and don’t even realize that they’ve been “enhanced”. They just… look good.
In the same way, your suspicions are accurate and it turns out that if the image has been reduced in size to display on your screen, there’s an automatic zoom capability that’s available, though it’s typically subtle and non-intuitive (why, Google, do you have such good programmers and such mediocre user experience people on the team?)
To take advantage of this feature, when I post photos on Google Plus, I generally make them 1024 pixels wide or even wider: I know that they’ll be scaled down to fit people’s screens, but then there’s the possibility of zooming in to get a more detailed view.
For example, I recently took a photo of my games bookcase and posted it to Google+. It might have been the image you saw, actually! And it’s big. Big enough that the zoom feature is enabled…
Here’s the post in question:
Click on the image and you’ll be shown a larger version:
Look closely along the top. See the tiny magnifying glass? That’s what you want.
But rather than click on it, let’s just do what you’d think would work. Click on the image itself to zoom.
Yeah, that doesn’t work.
Click on the tiny white “x” on the top right and this time click on the magnifying glass icon.
That’s better! Notice on the left there’s the zoom interface box. The bottom portion is a horizontal zoom indicator, as you learn with a tiny bit of experimentation: slide it to the right and you zoom in more. Slide it left and you’re back to the original view.
So let’s zoom in as far as possible!
Notice now that the “view port” indicator becomes more relevant as we’ve zoomed in further.
To demonstrate, I’ll click and drag the view port on the left to the very top, and notice how what we’re viewing changes:
Ah, now you can see the tiny Cinderella figurine on top of the bookcase. Yeah, it’s my daughter’s, not mine!
If you are viewing an image and nothing happens when you click on the magnifying glass icon, it’s because it’s not a big enough image to have been reduced or shrunk down for display. But if it’s really big, then that little feature can easily become your best friend.
You’re right that the Windows App Store includes both free and paid software, but that it can be a bit tricky to figure out how to differentiate them on first glance. Worse, nowadays “free” might well mean “a small sampler of the title, but you’ll be paying lots of $$ through in-app purchases soon enough”, something that’s started to generate huge revenues for the savviest of game developers.
The biggest thing to remember as you navigate through the Windows App Store, however, is that the entire Windows 8 experience is designed for a touch screen, so if you’re on your PC you’re going to find that things are to the right, not below where you’re looking at any given time.
You’ll see what I mean as we get into things.
For now, the App Store seems to be “wider” than just about any program I’ve seen in the Win8 world, so you’ll likely find yourself click-dragging or swiping again and again as you explore what’s off screen. It’s kinda cool once you get the hang of it, actually, so don’t be put off by something new.
Let’s start on the Start Screen, appropriately. Find “Store” and click / tap it:
Now you’re in the Windows App Store, and it’s quite a big place:
Here’s where you’ll need to swipe and swipe (or the keyboard and mouse equivalent) until you get to the rightmost edge of the Store.
There you’ll find — ta daa! — the most popular free apps:
No surprise, these all have very good ratings too. More importantly, notice the fifth entry, Skype. See how it says “Installed” instead of “Free”? That means that, you guessed it, I’ve already downloaded and installed this app from the App Store. Handy to see.
To continue the demo, let’s grab a copy of Star Wars: Tiny Death Star.
To do that, click on the icon or the narrative description adjacent. It’ll show you a screen full of information, a screen capture, and more:
See the 3.7 and the stars sort of running off the right side? That’s where you’ll find ratings and reviews, so swipe over and read what others say before you decide you really want to drop this particular game on your PC.
Looks good? Okay. Tap or click on Install, the green button on the top left.
You’ll probably be prompted thusly:
Okay, okay. I’ll do so, and click “OK” to proceed, and once it’s validated…
I actually try to avoid having a payment method defined because it helps me stop and carefully consider before I decide to proceed with an acquisition or not. You might have long since set all this up and therefore don’t see the prompt.
Once that’s resolved, you’ll be back at the info window in the App Store and have no indication what’s going on.
Or do you?
Take a close look at the top right:
I don’t know why this is so subtle, but I bet 95% of people never even notice it’s here.
Eventually it’ll just vanish — *poof* — and your new game’s installed. Congrats.
But now the hard part: finding it. Games don’t just automatically show up on your Desktop any more in Windows 8, nor can the auto-appear on your Start Screen. So where the heck is it?
Well, one way you can find the new game is to go to your apps view screen, where it’s one of a ton of little icons:
Yes there’s an aqua “NEW” but, again, it’s kinda crazy subtle.
So instead, let me show you a cooler way to get your new game on the Start Screen. Bring up the search charm, which is most easily done by using Cmd-S on the keyboard. Then start typing in the name of the game you just downloaded. Like this:
Got it? Don’t click or launch it yet!
Instead right-click on the matching item, and two little options appear:
Ah, there we go! Click (or tap) on “Pin to Start” and now it’s on your Start Screen. Easy, actually, once you know what you’re doing.
Here’s what it ends up looking like on my own Start Screen in Windows 8.1:
That’s way better than the tiny entry in the all apps view, isn’t it?
Why we have to go through these extra hoops to actually have a new app be accessible, well, that’s another story entirely.
Santa's jet-skiing all the way to the North Pole from his tropical vacation
To join in the flurry of preparations for Christmas Eve, visit the Village every day through December 24. You'll have the chance to join the elves as they catapult presents and race with reindeer—and you'll be able to send holiday wishes to friends and family from Santa himself. The elves make a little more progress each day, so be sure to stop by the Village to see the latest.
Come back to Santa's Village every day to see the newest games and scenes
Meanwhile, a team of Google engineers are working hard to track Santa’s sleigh with the most advanced maps and holiday technology available. On December 24, grab some cookies and apple cider and settle down in front of your computer, phone or TV to follow the big guy across the globe with our Santa Tracker. See where Santa’s going, the number of presents he’s delivered, and what he’s thinking throughout the evening.
Keep up the holiday cheer across all of your screens. Once the elves approve, we’ll launch the Google Santa Tracker app for Android in mid-December. Use your phone for on-the-go flight practice with the elves or cozy up near the fireplace with your tablet to follow Santa around the world as he delivers presents Christmas Eve. If you have Chromecast, cast from the Santa Tracker Android app to explore the Village or track his route right from your TV. Or, worried you’ll forget the big day? Download the Chrome extension to count down to Santa’s takeoff while browsing the web for holiday gifts.
Help the elves get ready across all your devices
Download the Chrome extension for easy Santa tracking from your browser
Be sure to come back to Santa’s Village each day to find new ways to celebrate—and from all of us at Google, happy holidays!
Posted by Sandy Russell, Elf Creative Director
(Cross-posted from the Lat Long Blog)
What an extraordinary coincidence, my Dad is also asking me about this feature, so I’ll explain it for you and hopefully my Dad will be able to benefit from this tutorial too.
Anything related to the Apple TV seems to be a great mystery, actually, for reasons I don’t really understand. While there are plenty of them in the marketplace, you just never hear much about them, even during the holiday buying season. And yet, they have a lot of nice features – particularly if you’re already living in the Apple ecosystem with a Mac, iPhone, etc – that make them a good deal at the price, and doubly-so if you’re a Netflix fan.
But most people seem to just live in their favorite app, so sometimes it’s a surprise to see what other features there are. Like Sky News and its custom app.
The key thing to remember is that on the sleek silver Apple TV remote, pushing “MENU” always moves you “up” towards the main screen, the edges of the circle move you around and the center of the circle selects things.
With that in mind, turn on your Apple TV and push MENU as many times as needed until you see this:
Notice on the “Movies” button just below the poster for “We’re The Millers” that it has a blue glowing edge around it. That means it’s the selected app on the Apple TV. To find Sky News, you’re going to have to use the down button (the lower edge of the ring on the remote) to move the selector down about five or six rows.
Eventually, you’ll see this:
You can see the icon for the app we want on the lower right, with the blue edge. Notice while we’re here all the other apps available. It’s not hundreds, but there’s some surprisingly decent content here if you feel like exploring.
If not, move your selector to “Sky News” as shown then click on the middle of the circle on the remote.
You’ll launch Sky News and after a moment or three checking in with their Web server, you’ll see this:
When you first go into the Sky News app, the center of the top display should say “Watch Live”. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to navigate sideways (e.g., by using the right and left directional elements on the remote) to find that element.
Then push “select” again and the stream should go live (possibly after a short advertisement).
When I did it, I dropped right into this story:
As you can see in this photograph, it’s crisp, glitch-free and very watchable.
There ya go. Now you know how to get to Sky News streaming live – for free – on your Apple TV.
When you’re done and want to go back to the top level of the AppleTV itself, simply press on the “MENU” button on the remote a few times.
I’m so impressed at how considerate you are, wanting to resize your photographs before you share them with friends and family. Me? I seem to have friends who don’t pay attention to this sort of thing so when they share photos with me, those photos are HUGE and I end up having to resize them to even see what they’re about. You know who you are, friends ‘o mine.
There’s an easy solution for resizing images in Windows, whether you’re running Windows 7 or the more modern Windows 8, but there’s a trick to it because by default images are opened up in the “Photos” app and that has some editing capabilities but doesn’t seem to know how to resize images. Kinda daft, really, but if you want to adjust the color, contrast, or apply some fancy adjustments to your photos before you resize them, “Photos” is the app of choice.
To resize any image or picture file, the tried and true “Windows Paint” application works just dandy.
To start, right-click on the image file that’s on your Desktop and you’ll see a menu full of choices. Look for “Open With” and it’ll show you all the programs you have installed that have said they can deal with the JPG (or PNG) image you’re working with. Here’s my example, using a photo still from an early Godzilla movie:
You can see that my choices are “Paint”, “Photos” or “Windows Photo Viewer”. It’s the first of these three that I want to choose, so I do so and click.
The image is opened up in Paint, showing me quite a few options:
There are two areas I want you to pay attention to here, starting at the very bottom edge.
Let’s look just a bit closer:
As you can see from this close-up, the current image I’m working with is 1025 x 768 (always width x height). That’s a bit bigger than I’d like for an email message, so let’s reduce it down.
To do that, switch your attention to the top left of the window:
See the “Resize” option? That’s the one we want!
Click on it, and a window pops up:
Notice that by default it shows dimensions by percentage. That’s great. Logically, it starts at 100% for horizontal and vertical.
I’m going to resize by simply reducing it to 75% of the current size. To do that, I click in the horizontal percentage box and replace 100 with 75, then click “OK” at the bottom. The result is shown on the very bottom of the window:
The image itself probably looks exactly the same, actually. Easy enough!
If you don’t care about the original, larger image, you can simply press Cmd-S or click on the tiny floppy disk icon on the top left and save the new, smaller version of the image and you’re done.
That’s generally not considered a good idea because you never know when you want to access the large original image again, so instead let’s go through the steps needed to save the shrunk Godzilla with a different filename.
Click on “File” (it’s blue, on the top left) and choose “Save As…”. You’ll now see something like this:
Quite an impressive list of different image formats. You can stick with the old school JPEG, designed for photographs, but I tend to go with PNG (pronounce it “ping”), which typically does a better job with file compression, making the resultant file smaller.
Choose the format and click. Now you’ll see the usual file save dialog window:
You can see, I’ve typed in “small-godzilla” for the filename. Paint will automatically add the appropriate filename suffix.
That’s it. You can duplicate this process for lots of photos as needed.
Starting at 9 a.m. EST tomorrow on the Giving Tuesday Google+ page, you can join nonprofit organizations working to improve clean water access, eliminate bullying, and provide disaster relief in the Philippines. Learn more about their work, ask questions and connect directly to the people they’re helping. Celebrities such as Jennifer Garner, Chris Daughtry and Sophia Bush will stop by to join in on the fun, and you can also donate to the charity of your choice while watching the Hangout.
Here’s a preview of what you can do:
- Connect with people engaging in relief efforts on the ground in the Philippines through Save the Children and UNICEF
- Join conversations with the founders of Warby Parker and TOMS about gifts that give back, moderated by our partner Mashable
- Get inspired during a morning yoga tutorial with the Africa Yoga Project in Kenya
- Hear how the Malala Fund is working to promote education as a peace-building tool in developing nations
- Participate in a quick coding lesson from Code.org, Girls Who Code and Code2040 and learn what you can do to support digital literacy
We hope you’ll participate by watching the Hangout-a-thon, donating to a cause you care about and posting about the event with #givingtuesday on Google+. And to keep the giving going throughout the holiday season, download One Today, our Android app that lets you donate to a different nonprofit every day.
Posted by Ramya Raghavan, Head of Politics and Causes for Google+