Ebitz, Mari-Elain mug 2018

Mari-Elain Ebitz

All Things Tech

Is there anything more annoying than screeching chalk on a blackboard? Yes, robocalls on my home phone!

I am really fed up with robo/spam calls.

If you use your cell phone as your home phone, there are all kinds of apps available, which I discussed in a previous column.

However, some of us do not use their cell phones as their home phone. I’m lazy and don’t want to have to carry my cell around the house or race to answer it if it’s in another room. I’d much rather be able to pick up the phone anywhere at home.

Life really was more simple back in the days of Ma Bell when the only spam calls we got were the occasional kid calling to ask, “Is your refrigerator running? Then you better go catch it.”

Today, however, there’s an endless stream of robocalls from the infamous credit card services Rachel to the lady who immediately says, “Don’t hang up.”

I’ve looked into apps for VOIP (voice over internet phone) phones like our service from Ooma or the Spectrum phone system but there just aren’t any. The stand-alone CPR V500 device would work, although it costs $100. Frankly, I don’t want to spend that much on stopping these shysters.

I did an online search and learned that cordless phones can have a call blocking feature. When I bought our Panasonic phones years ago, we weren’t inundated with robocalls. So, I had no idea whether we had that feature. Since I couldn’t find the manual, the next step was to go online where I found that our phones can block calls. Now I’m equipped to block those robocalls I know will come multiple times every day.

To learn if your phone has that feature, check your manual or go online with the brand and model number. It might help your blood pressure next time Rachel calls! Plus, it will give you, to quote Mick Jagger, “satisfaction.”

iPhone alert

If you own an iPhone and/or iPad, please note that Apple has released iOS 12.4. Don’t wait to upgrade! This upgrade fixes several very serious security flaws in Messages that can let hackers remotely take over your device and can be exploited without you even clicking on a link. Plus, there are other important fixes.

Is Alexa listening?

Those who are concerned about privacy will be pleased to learn that as of Aug. 2, Amazon has provided a new feature in its Alexa mobile app to turn off their voice recording review process. Previously, Amazon assured that they really aren’t listening to us but, instead, only review to make the app better in regard to how the devices understand the human voice. Do you believe Amazon?

If you own one of the many Alexa devices; from the pricy Echo Show to the Plus, Spot and most affordable Dot, you can now turn off their listening. To opt out of the review by humans, open the Alexa app on your phone or iPad.

Go to the upper left (bars), scroll down to the bottom to find Settings and click on it. Click on Alexa Privacy and touch the last one “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.”

Finally, at “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features” move the toggle from green (active) to gray (off).

There’s one last step — a window opens to say, “If you turn this off, voice recognition and new features may not work for you.” Click on “Turn off” and you’re done. Your privacy is now secure.

Mari-Elain Ebitz was the first editor of the Greenbelt Gazette, which serves Sugarmill Woods, and is a past member of the College of Central Florida College Board of Trustees. She also does web design, specializing in not-for-profit organizations. You can email her at chronicletech@yahoo.com.

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