Woody Leonhard's no-bull news, tips and help for Windows, Office and more… Please disable your ad blocker – our (polite!) ads help keep AskWoody going!
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • Patch Lady – second day of Christmas

    Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 19:00 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    On the second day of Christmas we bought a lot of gift cards.  And many of us end up not using those gift cards as billions end up not being used.  And worse yet (as what happened to me and my gift to my Dad) they can end up being ripped off and used and by the time you go to use the card, the value is gone.

    So here are some tips as you buy gift cards this season:

    1.  Check the expiration dates.  In the State of California where I live, one can set a redemption date on the gift card, so don’t assume that they are good indefinitely.
    2. Make sure the packaging looks okay, the PIN number isn’t scratched off and in general the card looks “okay”.
    3. See if you can find a place that sells gift cards behind the counter so they aren’t tampered with out in the open.
    4. Buy a gift card  online if you can, it’s less likely to be scammed.
    5. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  Don’t go for discount cards, as it’s more than likely to be a scam.
    6. and …. don’t wait a year to use the Ruth Chris’ steakhouse gift card that your daughter gave you and someone already ripped off and used when you went to go pay for your steak dinner.  If the card has been around for a while, check the balance before you go and attempt to use it.
    7. Oh and… in the case of the daughter…. don’t throw away your purchase receipt.  Not saying that I could have gotten or done anything a year after I bought it, but given that I have no evidence whatsoever that I bought it, I’m out $200 for your gift, and you were out $200 buying that steak dinner for you and your friends.  (Ouch)

    Bottom line, while gift cards can be a great gift, they can also be easily scammed.  Scammers are now guessing the card number sequences and making their own usable gift cards from the numbers they determine are valid and have dollars attached to them.  So check that balance if you don’t plan to use them right away.

    Right, Dad?

  • Patch Lady – twelve days of Christmas

    Posted on December 13th, 2018 at 15:07 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Please note:  I’m starting a series of twelve “gifts” that I think are worthy of paranoia and protection.  I will say up front that many of these gifts involve protecting children and while I am personally not a Mother, I know a lot of friends and family members with children.

    On the first day of Christmas I would recommend the following gift:

    A router, firewall or Internet service that allows you to turn off the internet for certain times of the day. 

    My Xfinity wifi does this, also the Disney Circle device (which is now embedded into several routers also do this).

    Bottom line in this day and age of always on Internet, we need to take a break and get OFF the Internet, especially in the Holiday season.

    How many times have you walked into restaurants, and even homes and found every face down in a phone looking at the screen and not talking to each other.  Recently I watched the host of NPR’s “Wait Wait don’t tell me” talk about how we need to “escape our “digital dystopia” of electronic screens and constant notifications by running outside”.  Now I’m not going to suggest that we all take up running immediately (for one it’s too cold and snowy for some of you to attempt to go running), but we definitely need to get off of our devices and stop rewiring our brains attention spans.

    So on this first blog post of Christmas gifts… my recommendation if you have children and grandchildren… and even yourself… make sure you build in time OFF of technology and review your options to have the ability to set such times in your firewall or routers.

  • Fred Langa answsers: “Do I risk damage to my hard disk if, when I travel, I keep it in my bag?”

    Posted on December 11th, 2018 at 06:45 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    More down-to-earth advice from the LangaList legend.

  • Patch Lady – we’re looking at this patching wrong

    Posted on December 7th, 2018 at 23:00 Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    We got a new Roomba robot for home and like everything that has software these days, it needed an immediate update.  I had to laugh at the graphics they used to represent updating….


    So I had to laugh at the graphics — see patches are gifts!

    And unlike Windows updates and smaller hard drives, iRobot stomps on the patching “gifts” to make sure they fit.

    Perhaps Microsoft can take a page out of the iRobot playbook and convert our updates to gifts?

    Seriously we purchased a new iRobot Roomba because we replaced our family room area rug with a dark rug and found out the hard way of an implementation bug – the older models have edge sensors that would sense the black rug as an “edge” and would stop cleaning.  We found the only way to ‘trick it’ was to cover up the edge sensors with a combination of tape and tin foil (I’m not kidding).  So recently iRobot has come out with a new i7 model and sure enough it will clean a black colored carpet without covering up the sensors.

    Now I am reviewing privacy issues, end user license agreements etc,  and obviously now have to worry about updating and patching the device.  But obviously, I accept the risk because I want the convenience of having my rug cleaned automatically.



  • Marriott data breach is enormous

    Posted on December 3rd, 2018 at 07:50 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Catalin Cimpanu, now on ZDNet, has the news that

    Hours after announcing a data breach on Friday, two Oregon men sued international hotel chain Marriott for exposing their data. Their lawsuit was followed hours later by another one filed in the state of Maryland.

    Both lawsuits are seeking class-action status. While plaintiffs in the Maryland lawsuit didn’t specify the amount of damages they were seeking from Marriott, the plaintiffs in the Oregon lawsuit want $12.5 billion in costs and losses.

    That’s a paltry $25 for each record that’s been purloined. 500 million hotel guests, starting in 2014. “name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.”

    Quite a haul.

    Check your credit cards, folks. And push for a US-based GDPR.

    UPDATE: If you haven’t seen Brian Krebs’s take on the big breach, look here and here.

    I got quite a chuckle when I checked my old messages and came across this one from May:

    Marriott Rewards

    As we continue to integrate Starwood Hotels with Marriott®, we wanted to let you know that we have updated our Global Privacy policy.

    What’s Changed?

    Our updated Global Privacy Statement now reflects the combination of Marriott International, Inc. and StarwoodHotels & Resorts Worldwide, LLC (formerly known as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.) and their affiliates.
    Our updated Global Privacy Statement makes it easier to understand the types of data we collect, how we collect data, with whom we share and how we use it (e.g., to offer personalized stay and travel experiences based on your personal preferences).
    Our new Privacy Center provides helpful information about how you can express your preferences, from what and how much you share with us, to when and how you hear from us.
    We’re making these updates as new data protection regulations come into effect in the European Union, and we are confident they will make it easier to understand the choices available to you.
  • Anybody out there using the anonymous web serving part of Startpage?

    Posted on December 3rd, 2018 at 07:37 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Günter Born and Kirsty pointed me to this from Paul Hill at Neowin:

    The private search engine, Startpage, has announced a new feature called Anonymous View that allows users to protect against tracking when they visit a website. The new feature is essentially like other proxy services but takes more action in order to stop browser and device fingerprinting by altering the JavaScript to protect privacy…

    Anonymous View offers even more protection than VPN services because VPNs can’t mitigate against browser and device fingerprinting.

    Sounds interesting. Have any of you tried it?

  • Fred Langa: A reader asks, “Why won’t my laptop charge when it’s running?”

    Posted on December 3rd, 2018 at 07:05 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Another great, no-nonsense answer from the LangaList legend.

    On Langa.com.

  • Chag urim sameach!

    Posted on December 2nd, 2018 at 17:08 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Photo by Gil Dekel.

    Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating the festival of lights.