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Tech Talk with Which? Computing

Welcome to our tech talk area! This is your place to discuss all things tech, get updates on Which? Computing, and discuss the latest goings on with our Computing editor, Kate Bevan.

Hello, world. Welcome to my tech talk area on Which? Conversation.

It’s been six months now since I took over the editorship of Which? Computing, and one thing I’m particularly keen to do is find ways to meet, chat with and learn from Which? members and our community.

I want to be able to be a bit more nimble about reacting to, commenting on and explaining what’s going on in the wider tech news world, and so we thought that opening up this space would be a great way to do that.

A tech space for everyone

This space is as much for you as it is for me. I’m not only keen to share with you what we’re working on in Which? Computing, but I very much want to hear what you’re doing with your technology; what you’re thinking about technology-focused news, and what you’re considering building, buying and tinkering with.

I’ll be posting here in the comments on a wide range of topics. Next week, for example, is Google’s annual event at which they launch their latest consumer devices. Sadly, I won’t be going to New York for that, but I will be at the London event, and I’m planning to report on that as it happens.

I’ll also be letting you know what we’re up to with planning the Computing magazine; I’ll be sharing news stories and – hopefully – helping those of you outside of the tech bubble make sense of everything that’s going on.

But most of all I’m here for the community. It’s a conversation, not a broadcast, and I hope you’ll be joining in and helping to shape it. I’m really looking forward to it.

From the Convo team

This tech-focused area of Which? Conversation is the first of its kind from a Which? editor.

Much like the Lobby, it was born out of an idea from our community – we’ve been asked for a more tech-focused discussion area in the past, and this can act as just that. This area isn’t only for Kate’s updates, but for you all to discuss the latest tech news, reviews and issues you’re interested in.

Kate will continue to write separate Which? Conversations for the ‘big’ tech stories, which we’ll also link to here for reference.

09/10/2018 All the latest from Google’s annual hardware launch

02/10/2018 Was your Facebook account accessed by attackers?

29/09/2018 A brief history of tech: what got you into computing?

16/08/2018 Do we really spend too much time on our phones?

Otherwise, for all things general tech chat and questions for Kate, feel free to get inolved!


To ensure the Computing Corner remains a healthy and friendly place for you all to share your thoughts and musings, all of our Community Guidelines apply.


Please may I revive ‘Tech Talk’?

I’m interested to know whether it is necessary or even advisable to change an email address if an account is hacked. This is obviously a safe solution but maybe a lot of work if you have to notify a large number of people and organisations and there is little doubt that some will forget about the change.

I’ve seen advice to update anti-malware software and check for problems and to renew your existing password with a new and secure one. Obviously if the attack results in spam being sent to your email address you will probably have to change it. No-one I know has had a problem with retaining their email address after their account being hacked.

I don’t have a problem but it might be interesting to discuss the alternatives.

Hi wavechange, I found some good general advice here:-https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/technology/personaltech/email-hacked-password.html.

A number of other sites also gave similar advice.

This is probably also a situation where prevention is better than cure. So any important email account should be secured via a strong password and perhaps also by two factor authentication (e.g. by mobile text messages).

Also, given the very many unimportant internet sites that invite one to register and login via an email address and password, those passwords should never be the same as ones main email password (and should all be different). Another good idea is to use a different email address for those sites.

DerekP says: Today 08:12
…perhaps also by two factor authentication (e.g. by mobile text messages).

I wish. I know we’re not alone in not having anything resembling a mobile signal here, but this move towards 2FA seems to regard mobiles at ubiquitous when, in fact, they’re far from it or at least the signal is.

Now Visa has brought it in on the ‘verified by visa’ system it makes life extremely difficult for those of us without mobile signals. To make it worse, the VbyV people will only send the code via email 5 times. Why is that? VbyV is a typical example of a bank con; presented by Visa as a way to protect the customer, it’s nothing of the sort, protecting only the banks instead. Grrrr…

Thanks Derek. Unfortunately it is necessary to register on the NY Times website and from past experience, registering with commercial websites can result in marketing emails even if you try to opt-out. My approach is not to register unless I want to use a site regularly, so I’m no further forward about whether it is necessary to change an email address if an account is hacked.

I am moving towards having different passwords for everything and stronger passwords though I have never heeded the common advice to change passwords periodically. For unimportant sites I do use a different email address.

For the context of emails, I’ve yet to see a provider that has made two factor authentication compulsory.

For those in notspots but with working landlines, there may also be some tech solutions, for example:-http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/9043/~/set-up-and-use-bt-text

In the next incarnation of the Apple OS system, Apple will be providing disposable and entirely fictional email addresses which will be redirected to your Apple email account. Meanwhile, E4ward does this already, allowing you to invent email names which redirect and if you wish to remain utterly anonymous, you can always use Proton Mail.

wavechange, sorry – I didn’t have to register or login to see that post. I wonder if my Privacy Badger add-in got around that trap?

Here’s an alternative:-https://www.kaspersky.co.uk/resource-center/threats/what-to-do-if-your-email-account-has-been-hacked

Problem is, Derek, that requires a text compatible ‘phone. But thanks, anyway.

My bank will use my cardreader. Seems a good option.

That is a far superior option, Malcolm, but will they use it for the Verified by Visa problem? If they will, then it’s a ‘phone call to my bank later today.

The main practical snag I’ve seen with text message two factor authentication is when folk don’t have the corresponding mobile phone with them. This might happen because they’ve changed their mobile and not told their email provider or because a family member has set up the email account for them and used a different mobile number when that was done.

For folk that really struggle to remember and/or type passwords, some online accounts can also be set to use text message authentication as a single primary security check at login.

I’m not so sure. If you go away on holiday, are you more likely to take your mobile phone or a card reader?

Perhaps the intelligent approach is to standardise on offering both options to suit the needs and wishes of users.

Derek – Thanks for the alternative link, which confirms my understanding that it might not be necessary to change an email address because an account has been hacked. What I would do if it happened to me remains to be seen…

My bank will use it for my debit card. The device reads the chip so different cards will require their own readers. Let’s hope it becomes a general alternative. My credit card provider currently will use a mobile as a contact, with email for only a limited number of OTPs. If I don’t have a mobile or have a bad signal I’m advised to phone them – which requires a landline.

I thought that card readers were being standardised. Here is advice from my bank:

“Can I use someone else’s card-reader, even one from another bank or building society?

Yes, if you have a card reader from us, you can use that, or most card readers from other banks.”

That does appear to be so. At least for those readers that use the same system. I’m intrigued to know how that works as the 8 number code produced by the reader has to be recognised by your bank. Putting my credit card into my bank’s reader does produce a code. Is that code potentially capable of verifying a transaction? So could readers be used across the board?Another option is for the code to be sent via landline and “read out” – i.e. spoken.

Am I alone in thinking that – while at home on LAN and in a notspot (lovely word – not seen it before the above), that two-stage log-in is actually less secure in the round than the single-stage status quo? Let me explain..

At present I log in almost every day to check things are as they should be on all my accessible accounts (current, savings, credit etc) – it is almost as routine as turning off the lights. I would, I think, spot a rogue transaction pretty quickly.

One establishment – Nat West – now insists on 2-stage authentication using a card reader, which if dodged presents a crippled service – balance and almost nothing else – couldn’t even order a replacement cheque book. I no longer look in each day – and am going to turn paper statements back on.

I have received – but long-fingered – letters from Santander spinning out a new improved log-in procedure. Once that bites, I expect I’ll stop doing daily checks on that too. This of course will mean that fraudulent transaction may be up to a month old if I rely on statements through the post.

Yes there is a tiny risk of a snooper or shoulder surfer with my current modus operandi – but I think the risk of a fraudulent – or even wrong but innocent transaction – will be greater with my much reduced log-in frequency.

I have a NatWest account too, Roger, and on logging in, NatWest sends a passcode to my mobile phone. I find that more convenient than having to use a card reader and my debit card. I do need the card reader to set up new payees.

A building society that I will not name has uses date of birth as part of its secure login and the the password can be as few as eight characters, which no special characters permitted and upper case and lower case letters treated as identical. Perhaps I should close that account.

I usually check my NatWest account about once a week and savings accounts less frequently. I’ve been having fun with Santander recently after it turned out that I had four savings accounts containing a combined total of £0.10, presumably because I had moved money out of non-current accounts.

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Perhaps I’m living on borrowed time but I manage my current account and other accounts online. I use my most recent computer and it has up to date OS and protection. I get phishing phone calls and emails, but never do anything financial unless it is me that has made contact with a company. So far I have not lost a penny and I hope that most people who take reasonable precautions can enjoy the benefits of doing transactions online. Despite all the warnings about the risks of contactless payments, I have not lost any money there either. When I replace my old smartphone I might risk using that for contactless payments.

Thanks for these sage words, Duncan.

I am not “government involved”. Not sure where that came from – unless it was products I was involved with when at work – nothing of that nature any more (and there was no connectivity with any of the products I had a hand in).

My LAN is probably insecure – and as it does have a dedicated link to a switch managing a separate subnode, I guess I should call it a WAN. I have a standard ISP-provided router, and all ports are locked out except those which I have specifically enabled for various peripherals I want to access from away. I have changed its WiFi password and management password to fairly secure values. The wireless has probably a dozen insecure el cheapo peripherals on it to turn lights on and off by App (accessed by UDP over 80 if I remember rightly) and a couple of IP Cameras (RTSP and TCP over dedicated 4 or 5-digit ports). The port 80 light switches I cannot do anything about – if they have back doors, and they probably do, I am vulnerable there.

There is a single Cat6 cable from the ISP router to a bank of linked 1000 base T switches, some PoE others not – all managed and with reasonable lock downs and passwords. There are three WAPs – encrypted with reasonable passwords – connected to the switch bank, another dozen or so Jinvoo light switches accessed via these WAPs and a dedicated wireless link with focussed antennae to a distant outbuilding – from where I distribute on a different subnode.

Everything else is radial Cat 6 wired to one or other switch via patch panels. Thus includes a fair bit of what used to be called HiFi (TCP over port 80 I think), several (decent) IP Cameras each with dedicated ports and strong passwords (but with P2P available on some), a heating system (Neo somethingorother using UDP and TCP over 80), a couple of NASs (port 80 again) – and half a dozen computers!

Mobile devices roam from WAP to WAP depending on where we are in the estate.

I am sure a determined miscreant knowing my ISP IP address and the nature of peripherals attached could get in my LAN from afar – much in the same way that a determined thief who knew where I lived would be able to defeat the locks on our doors and windows – but I am banking on being able to spot it (in both cases).

I do not have a “red button” LAN disable. Perhaps I should – it would be pretty straightforward to install.

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In case anyone is interested, this:-https://www.tcsusa.com/services/tbd-security/tbd-local-area-network-lan-security/ is the weblink to the advice/advertorial posted above by Duncan.

Under the aegis of full disclosure, the follow text also appears on that cited page “TCS has over 28 years of experience in managing our client’s networks and we can help you to secure your network against malicious intent and foolishness by those who don’t know any better. Call us today for a free no-obligation consultation 336.804.8449 or fill out a form here to be contacted by one of our representatives.”

I think most of the advice on that page should now be “old news” to anyone who works for any kind of IT-savvy UK business.

For home users, I’d say the biggest system vulnerabilities usually arise from human errors, especially if the “system owner/manager” makes any serious mistakes.

I believe all the available research confirms that view, Derek. In fact, I’m not sure I can recall a major leak that hasn’t occurred through human error.

Elsewhere we have been discussing cheap laptops with little storage spare. An increasingly popular solution is to use cloud storage, which obviously requires online access. I use it because it allows convenient file sharing between my phone and computers using iCloud, and for years I have used Dropbox for file sharing with others. I have backups of my files on external hard drives too.

One of the main criticisms is that accounts could be hacked and that is why I don’t put anything sensitive into cloud storage. It would be interesting to know more about the risk of hacking of cloud storage and whether some services are less safe than others.

There is a bit on Cloud here but unfortunately undated (as far as I can see), something Which? should address.

I think it was Lauren Deitz who responded to my criticism of the lack of dates in articles – something that has been repeatedly raised by us and others. I cannot remember the explanation but still feel that it is unprofessional not to indicate when articles are revised.

Having said that, I cannot see any significant problem with any of the information provided by Which?, probably because cloud storage is well established.

Cloud storage can be used for different purposes. Some users will use it to share data across their phones, computers and tablets. Others will use it primarily to share data with others, in some cases allowing more than one person to work on a document. To provide a Which? percentage rating for different cloud systems seems a bit pointless. My preferred option is to use one system for personal use and another for sharing with others.

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I use secure passwords (14 or more characters) though should probably change them more frequently than I do. If I do not use cloud storage for anything that needs to be kept private, the only danger seems to be that someone could access my computers. That has not happened yet, though maybe I am living on borrowed time.

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I was alerted to some of these risks before either of us posted on Convo, Duncan. Very sadly the person who warned me now works in data gathering and his clients include a large supermarket with a US parent. If I had my way it would be illegal for any organisation to put a cookie on anyone’s computer. I used to refuse to accept cookies but finally succumbed when I wanted to order something from John Lewis for collection at Waitrose. We are all familiar with the notices about cookies at the bottom of web pages. Most of us click ‘OK’ or ‘I’m happy to accept cookies’ even if they don’t want advertising because it is the quickest way to use a website. I’m sure that it would be easy for business to use statistics to ‘prove’ that most people are happy to accept their cookies. 🙁

Meanwhile back at cloud storage. The reason I use it is for convenience. It means that I can access a large number of photos and other files wherever I am. In a meeting I can pull up a conservation management plan, heritage protection agreement or minutes of an earlier meeting, there and then. I no longer have the problem that what I’m looking for is on the other computer. I do not use cloud storage for any information that I consider to be sensitive, including emails, letters and forms. I do my back-ups on external hard drives. The advice from Which? in their article about external hard drives vs cloud storage is: “Both systems have their own advantages so our advice is use them in combination.” That’s what suits me.

I’m here to learn and am well aware of the fact that what happens in the UK often follows the US.

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Apple’s cloud security has a good track record.

I have used it since the days of MobileMe without any problem.

Duncan – I am not sure what we as individuals can do to put an end to tracking and I doubt this is within the remit of Which?, other than push government to take action where appropriate. Which? can and does provide us with useful advice on computer security.

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I cannot offer any useful comment, Duncan. I don’t have problems with malware, even though I do order some things online and track the deliveries.

I have read your discussions with Derek and have picked up some useful tips but most of it I cannot relate to. I am sorry, but I don’t think I can make any further contribution to what you are keen to discuss.

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The take over of Twitter Boss Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account was down to – as in most cases of ‘hacking – human fallibility. He was a victim of Sim Swap Fraud.

I suspect that as long as humans are involved, no computer-associated system is ever totally secure. Apple has, in a sense, done most in this by using end to end encryption for which the secure keys are only with the user.

I have used Microsoft Office 2011 for years and decided to give Office 365 a go. The first thing I wanted to do was to show paragraph markers, spaces, tabs and page breaks in Word, which are immensely useful when working on anything other than the simplest document.

Unless I have missed something, I assume that Word in Office 365 is a cut down version of the standalone version.

A quick play online seems to confirm that, at least, the zero cost version does not have such a “show formatting characters” feature but at least one other online word processor, Zoho Docs, does.

Thanks Derek. My more recent Macs came with office software. Pages is the equivalent of Word and that shows formatting characters and page breaks and save in Word format, but I have become accustomed to Word.

If I had paid for access to Office 365 I would have been disappointed. I have ordered a standalone copy of Office and hope that it has retained the features I’m accustomed to.

Pages seems to be a decent word processor but it’s native files can be difficult to read on non-Apple platforms.

On one of my clients sites, I have just been migrated to W10 and one of the latest versions of MS Office. It seems to continue to support all my favourite obscure features, but can make them hard to find.

‘Numbers’ – the Apple equivalent of Excel – really messes up the layout of Excel files that I receive weekly. Even those who use Excel complain about having to make adjustments to suit their screen resolution. I wish people who circulate documents could be persuaded send pdfs when there is no need to edit the files.

Software is available at sensible prices to qualifying charities. For example Microsoft Office costs £25 + VAT from Charity Digital.

I always send PDFs when I can. I also make extensive use of Libre Office, which is reasonably good at reading and writing simple Excel files. But when it comes to charts, there are noticeable incompatibilities between Libre Office Calc and Excel.

As a footnote to this thread, I can now confirm that the paid-for version of Office 365 does indeed contain fully featured versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Thanks in part to lockdown, my generous employers are now giving me full access to this software.

As regards smartphone apps, surely the most important one is the browser used for W? C.

There’s also the Which? Reviews app, which is handy if you see a real bargain price (e.g. a display model) and want to know if it might be worth buying.

I was not aware of a Which? Convo app, but I spend more than enough time on the website. 🙂

Some data on the relative use of web browsers is available here:-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers

I found that page after reading about the beta release of Microsoft Edge, i.e. the new version that is now based on Chromium, the open source project behind Chrome.

If correct, the data on that page shows that smart phones are now established as the most prolific way of accessing the internet. I think the data also shows Google’s Chrome is pretty much established as the web browser of choice, much as Microsoft Office is the office suite of choice.

The figures for mobile browsers will include tablets and the desktop browsers will include commercial users, where many employees have a desktop computer or laptop on their desk.

I would not be without a computer but know an increasing number of people who are happy to use phones and tablets most or all of the time.

As more folk use phones, more websites must become usable on phones – there may even be a tipping point where it becomes easier to use most sites from a phone rather than from a PC.

It also occurs to me that, once the average phone really does have enough power to serve as a small PC and once most users have good enough internet connections and enough trust in the cloud, then home PC’s will become extinct, much as VHS recorders have done.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but what I’m doing right now could be done just as easily by casting an iPhone screen to a bigger monitor and using a decent wireless keyboard.

I know there are some tech products that already offer this kind of function, but they have yet to become universal.

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…and may be available by 2030, see:-https://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/6G

I wonder which is better from a sustainability point of view – a phone kept for a couple of years, or a laptop or desktop computer kept until it can no longer be updated to keep it secure. Perhaps the phone users are using fewer resources and generating less waste.

My phone is 6 years old (well, the newer one, the others go back 15 years and are still in use) and I see no reason why I should discard it after a couple of years. My laptop is 15 years old and still works; I don’t use it online, my 3 year-old pc does that job.

I don’t use a phone for secure business so It’ll keep going until it no longer does its job. Hopefully the pc has plenty of life left.

I think what is unsustainable is the concept that we should discard working products every couple of years. We should be working on evaluating and promoting “durability” of products if we really want to pursue the idea of “sustainability”.

In computing terms the model to which software companies subscribe makes that difficult. Our newest Mac Pro is a mid-2013 model; Macs tend to have very long useful life spans and, as testament to that, we have three other Mac Pros still fully functioning.

So why did we need the latest (2013) one? Well, I do a lot of video editing and processing and the hardware needed to do that ages rapidly. That, combined with the simultaneous increase in demands made on that software by faster frame rates, greater resolution and consequent increased rendering times means that standing still in a rapidly developing field simply doesn’t work.

If all one does is read the news, answer a few emails and contribute to W?Cs then a six year old model is fine; anything more, however, and the age of the hardware starts to show.

The other three Mac Pros have all been re-purposed. One manages the server, with its 24TB of video and music, one manages a single screen in the outer entrance hall and provides music and video on demand and one is simply backing up other HDDs.

In my experience, old PC’s can be kept secure for 10 or more years by upgrading them to newer OSes, including both Windows 10 and appropriate versions of Linux, when their original proprietary OSes are no longer supported.

In practice though, modern websites seem to be much more demanding in terms of the computer power that they expect to find on client PC’s, so old PC’s eventually become too slow to be of much use on the internet.

As an example of that, I have a 2006 Acer laptop that has been progressively upgraded and now runs W10, but it does run rather slowly in that role. An even older Sony Vaio was recently upgraded from XP to MX Linux because it was really far too nice nice to bin, but again, it is rather slow by modern standards.

From the point of view of use of materials and how much waste is generated, how much we use our products is relevant. My ten year old desktop Mac used offline for DTP, large spreadsheets and financial records is not used much compared with my laptops and phone, which are in daily use. As Ian says, you need more modern kit to do some tasks and as I have pointed out you need a phone that will run up to date software to keep it secure.

If someone manages to run their life on a phone, without the need for laptop and desktop computers, they are likely to be getting very good use from their phone and perhaps it is the more sustainable option.

A lot of the folk I help in Gloucester Library either have no home PC or no landline broadband. But urgent (and other) emails can reach their smart phones and, if so required, they can then pop into their local library to use the PC’s, printers and scanners there.

I’ve been helping a recently retired friend to set up a printer at home. Prior to that, the occasional document or email was printed at work. Neither of us has a new enough phone to print from the phone, so that feature remains to be used in the future.

At the same time I had to explain why audio book CDs would play in the car but not in an old home stereo.

Further to recent mention of the nation’s favourite PC retailer elsewhere on these pages, it seems Dixons have been in dispute with McAfee, see:-https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/mcafee-sues-dixons-carphone-in-software-dispute and:-https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/08/28/dixons_mcafee_30m_antivirus_lawsuit/

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From a broader consumer perspective, I think it is enlightening to learn that Currys have a preferred and supposedly exclusive agreement to only sell McAfee security software in their stores but then violated that deal for W10S PC’s.

I suppose Currys don’t need an equivalent deal for Microsoft Office, as, these days, there are not really any obvious viable mainstream paid-for alternatives to sell in its place.

I don’t like it when schools push Office onto to their pupils, but I do understand that they may see Office skills as a pragmatic real world need, for anyone who may need to use business PC’s in their subsequent employment. It certainly now seems that pretty much all job seekers now really need the ability to produce and email and/or upload electronic CV’s.

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From an ISP point of view, it is probably good sense to provide customers with easy access to decent security software, not least as a means of reducing traffic to customer care teams, if and when malware infestations occur.

One of my tech savvy corporate clients uses McAfee – it certainly works acceptably there.

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I remember blocking animated gifs in the Netscape browser, back in the 90s, but don’t often encounter them these days. Occasional user jjmmwgdupree had an animated cat avatar, but that was before Convo moved to the present website, which probably blocks animation.

Back in the days of Macintosh System 7, irritating people would install the ‘Oscar the Grouch’ extension and Oscar would pop out of the bin and sing when you emptied the bin.

I used to use a few nice animated gifs on some of my PowerPoint slides, but I seldom ever do that now.

Personally, I either don’t visit websites that use any animated gifs, or if there are any, I really don’t notice them at all. Also, quite a few websites are already hard enough to use, even without tweaking browser setting to change the way the site is displayed, away from what its author intended , so I wonder if turning off ALL animated gifs might increase the difficulty of using some sites.

There are some that are useful, for example showing how to tie a knot.

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As ever one, should never click on links in suspect emails, see:-https://isc.sans.edu/forums/diary/DHLthemed+malspam+reveals+embedded+malware+in+animated+gif/23944/

But if those links only lead to Windows malware, then risks will remain negligible for users of other OSes.

These days, browser malware is of wider concern. I’ve seen several cases of that infecting Linux systems.

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I’ve certainly found that Chrome on a Chromebook blocks a lot of known dodgy URL’s. Nonetheless, I think it is still possible to fall prey to dodgy browser add-ons and other malware under Chrome, if you go to dodgy places on the net. In particular, I always think that sites which appear to offer “something for nothing” may need to be treated as suspicious.

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Well, Facebook’s continuing its tradition of deceit, misrepresentation and data grabbing. The latest innovation is their iOS app, which silently turns on the camera of the device from which it’s being used.

Kevin says:
13 November 2019

Is Mark Suckerberg [sic] the poster boy for nominative determinism?

He’s certainly amassed the largest mountain of suckers in history. I’m amazed by apparently sensible people still using this platform. I’m sure in the future Facebook users will come to be viewed as smokers are today, willing participants in an activity which is plainly harmful to them, but they just can’t break the habit.

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I read that MZ keeps a plaster stuck over the camera lens on any device he is using.

I think anyone with a camera on their device should keep it physically blanked off unless they’re using it.

Especially the front one, to help rid the world of selfies, one pose at a time. 😎

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Duncan has brought to our attention the travails of the tech industry in developing the latest fads and gimmicks in folding smart phone technology: See – https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/the-newsroom/#comment-1581126.

I thought Kate had reported on this some time ago but I cannot find it. I am always amazed at how the industry giants are constantly trying to differentiate their products from other manufacturers’ models and pouring huge amounts of research, manufacturing prowess, and expense into developing increasingly irrelevant features. The fish and the bicycle analogy springs to mind. In a sustainable world, should there be room for this kind of “innovation” which consumes resource and adds barely a smidgeon to the sum total of human happiness? I suppose people have always hankered after show-off gadgets and the latest kit, and for most citizens this kind of development is priced out of contention, but it feeds envy which leads to a black market and prompts crime.

It will be interesting to see whether people really think this is a worthwhile development.

In the light of this I would refer to a Conversation piece that Kate wrote just over a year ago called “How can a smartphone design really stand out?” in which she wrote “smartphones these days are simply black fondleslabs, are all much the same size – and they’re all pretty similar under the hood, too” See –

So now we have folding fondleslabs; wonderful.

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I’m surprised that this Convo has not proved more popular, since many of us need or can offer advice about computers.

I would like to ask if there are security risks in using old routers. A friend has been using the same one for years and does online banking, shopping and buying and selling shares. I used to have the same router but have had two new ones since then. I’ve suggested asking the ISP for a new router.

I am strongly in favour of using products for as long as possible but draw the line where there might be a security risk. Can anyone suggest an a reliable source of information about whether a newer router is significantly more secure, preferably not too technical?

I’m not an expert in this field, but here is a recent non-advertorial report by ACI:-https://www.theamericanconsumer.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/FINAL-Wi-Fi-Router-Vulnerabilities.pdf

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to acquire a much newer but secondhand PlusNet router for £5. So that had replaced the oriiginal PlusNet route than I first got over 10 years ago. As a bonus, using Which? Speed Test, this upgrade seems to have increased my download speed from ~10Mbps to near the theoretical maximum of ~15Mpbs for my broadband service.

Thanks very much Derek and Ian. I will do some reading.

I would have thought that ISPs would be in a good position to advise their customers on security risks of equipment they have supplied. I do remember receiving an email about a security problem, though it was not relevant to my router.

Those with unsupported phones and tablets may find this advice useful:https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phones/article/mobile-phone-security-is-it-safe-to-use-an-old-phone

If you’re tech savvy you can change the Android OS for one that’s kept up to date. See https://www.lineageos.org/ . Be warned that it’s not simple.
Back everything (apps & data) up before you start – I’ve used Easy Backup to do this.

Rob, that is an interesting option, at least if if you have a supported device. Unfortunately, none of my old phones are supported there.

In the article “Cheapest vs most expensive laptops on test: what’s the difference”, Michael Passingham compares the Dell XPS 15 9500 with the Acer Swift 3 SF314-42. When talking about the processor, he says “However, for intensive tasks, this laptop may not be able to keep up to its 4GHz clock speed for long, while the Dell’s Core i5 is designed to keep things running faster for longer.”
The Acer has an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, with a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 15W, while the Dell has an Intel i5 10300H processor with a TDP of 45W. Given that the Dell generates 3 times as much heat as the Acer, which one is more likely to have to “throttle” – i.e. run more slowly – to avoid overheating?

Rob, I guess that may also depend on the capabilities of the respective CPU coolers.

I have an old Dell Vostro i5 which now happily runs flat out, after an appropriate overhaul.

I also have a ThinkPad i5 that self limits to 30% full load under Windows 10, but easily runs at 100% under Linux.

I have an old copy of Adobe Acrobat running on an old Mac. I no longer need it to produce pdfs because Macs can create pdfs without additional software but Acrobat allows me to make pdf files smaller. I am frequently asked to to compress pdf files of a society’s magazine because some of the recipients’ email systems cannot cope with large files.

Can anyone suggest inexpensive (preferably free) software that will compress pdf files?

I have suggested that the chap who produces the magazine should change the settings on his DTP package but he cannot cope with such technicalities.