Blog

Brief Christmas Tech Guide

With this year’s holidays approaching fast, many people are buying new products for their homes. They can function as great gifts – if you know what you’re doing, that is. But for many new buyers, all of these new products can be daunting. So, I’ll be outlining purchase and usage guides for many of the popular products this season.

Amazon Alexa-Enabled Products


One of the many popular technology products this season is the Amazon Echo or one of the other Alexa-enabled products in Amazon’s line. With the number of different models they offer, it may seem difficult to choose at first. This guide will hopefully make it easier to choose which one is right for you.

The list of products includes:

Which one is right for you?

The Echo Dot is the cheapest option on the list and is also the smallest. This means it can be easily placed anywhere you need and can be easily hidden away if necessary. This, however, also means it does not have all of the same capabilities as the larger models. Namely, the speakers are not very loud and intended for allowing Alexa to respond to your queries, rather than play music. However, as with all of the other products in this lineup, it can connect to a better speaker or home theater system via Bluetooth or an auxiliary audio cable. The Echo is the new mainstay of the lineup, with many different customizable designs and a full speaker system for all of your audio needs, (although the auxiliary and Bluetooth options remain available). This is the most well-rounded choice, while still maintaining an affordable price tag. The Echo Plus is very similar to the Echo, although it includes a built-in smart home hub, which allows you to connect many products such as Philips Hue smart lights. The Echo Spot and Echo Show are similar, both of which maintain the full functionality of the other Echo products, but the difference is that they have screens and cameras, as well as a microphone and speaker. This means you can view information, as well as products, images, and video chats with the Spot and Show. With these two, the decision really comes down to available space and budget.

Setup

Image result for amazon alexa app

Once you make a purchase, it’s actually very simple to set one up. You will, of course, need a smartphone and internet connection. You first need to download the Alexa app from either the App Store or Play Store, and then you’ll have to sign in to your Amazon account. From there, unpack your device, and plug it in. Once it starts up, the indicator light ring will turn orange. Once that happens, you’ll need to go into the settings tab of the app, and click “Set Up a New Device.” From there, follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll be all ready to go!

A complete list of commands you can use with your new Echo

Philips Hue


Image result for philips hue

Another popular product is the Philips Hue line of smart home lighting products. This consists of LED light bulbs and light strips, as well as RGB lights. These are all connected via a link/hub. These products will function as normal light bulbs, with the advantage of being LED, energy-efficient, and connected to the internet. This means they’ll save you large amounts of energy, and allow you to remotely control your lights via smartphone, or smart home hub device (i.e. Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.). So, you can remotely control your lights, as well as put them on a timed schedule or a location-based one. These devices are relatively simple to set up. All you need to do is install the app, plug in the hub, and run the connection process. Once that is done, the bulbs can simply be screwed into the sockets of your choice. Keep in mind – in order for them to be controlled, you have to leave the light switches in the ‘on’ position.

 

 

Staying Safe Online

The internet provides you with the means to do almost anything. However, it isn’t always safe. Many people take online safety for granted, but it is important that you do everything you can to protect yourself and your information.

An important thing to keep track of is what websites you visit. Most websites are safe, but there’s never an easy way to tell. You could very easily go to a site that appears to be legitimate, but in reality, is actively installing spyware onto your computer. This is why I find it important to use an online security program that can screen the websites you are about to visit, such as Trend Micro or AVG. The program I use, Trend Micro, will “rate” links based on their trustworthiness, so you’ll never fall into a spyware trap.

internet-_safety_iStock_000048084656_Small

Now, most of these online security programs have another form of security accompanying them, usually, one that screens downloaded content for viruses and other malicious content that may already be on your computer. This is all great and will protect you from most malicious software, but there are still things that you should do on your own. For one, always make sure you know what you’re getting into when you give out private information online. Don’t enter any personal info on a website that you don’t believe to be trustworthy, or don’t give it away to anybody you don’t know.

The final piece of staying safe online is passwords. Many people say many different things about how to come up with the perfect password. Although, not all of these can be correct. The most common suggestion for creating a solid password (and the most commonly required formula) is to use uppercase, lowercase, and other random characters as well as numbers. Nevertheless, there are other alternatives that people claim to be better. Unfortunately, most websites don’t offer much of an option. Due to the popularity of the first option compared to the latter, most websites require you to use the random character method. But is that really the right choice? The problem is, there are far fewer computer characters and permutations of those characters within a 6-digit passcode than there are words in the English language. This means that a passcode following the standard guidelines will take thousands (yes, thousands) of years less to crack than three or four random words. A phrase like “hills complete downhill” is easier to remember than Ks34$5#@, isn’t it?

password1-618x336

Unfortunately, for now, we’ll just have to wait until these outdated policies get changed. Until then, stay safe on the web!