Saturday, May 29, 2010

You'll be Surprised what Facebook and Others Know About You, Boomers

As you know I've written about privacy a few times in this blog. I really think you have to keep on top of the privacy settings in social network sites. But it is abundantly clear that sites are collecting lots of information that we don't really know about. 

While much of that information is harmless, some can be used to attack you. And I'm not talking about kids who post pictures of drunken parties on the web and expect that their job hunt will go well. I'm talking about you, Boomers, as this Washington Post article makes clear.  

To sum up the article, a woman's two relatives were hurt in an electrical explosion while conducting routine maintenance at Walmart. They sued the company. The defense went after the woman's online life. Through a subpoena seeking information about what was said about the men's injuries, Walmart's defense team got full access to her Facebook and MySpace accounts "every public and private message contact and photo for the last 2 1/2 years."

The Washington Post article says that many online sites are building dossiers about their users, and while some are making the information anonymous, others are not. Some retain detailed data for a year, others for a month. The amount of access to that data is increasing, as attorneys use subpoenas to get access to the data for divorce and other suits.

Here's the key thing to remember. If a lawyer wants to access your laptop, he or she needs a warrant, and that's hard to get. If he or she wants access to your online life, all that is needed is a subpoena, which is easy to get. Google keeps track of search queries from a particular IP address; XBox users: Microsoft knows what game you played and how long you played it.

Facebook keeps a record of  the IP address used to access your account, the date and time you went on and exactly what you did. Facebook now knows that I am addicted to their Zynga Scramble game!

With all that in mind, I urge you to check your Facebook privacy settings yet one more time.  Facebook actually changed the privacy settings to make them simpler to use. All you have to do now is go to Facebook and go to the Account tab in the upper right corner. You'll see a pull down menu that has a Privacy tab. Hit it.

The photo below tells you what Facebook recommends for your privacy settings.


I say don't do it. Change them.  Be more careful who you open up your life to. And even while you use Facebook, remember that every snarky comment you make could be held against you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cooking Allergy Free--An App for That

A couple of years ago I joined a group of women who play Mahjong. We meet every week, and someone cooks dinner. We eat and laugh, and then we play. We decided to cook dinner because everyone was eating too many snacks during the course of the night, and we wanted to be healthy.

However, after two years, cooking dinner is a bit of a challenge. Some members of our group don't like certain food items like soup or even Brussel sprouts. Everyone is on a diet at one time or another and can't have carbs, fat, sugar, or something else! And others have food allergies. I think that food allergies, sensitivities, and auto-immune diseases like Celiac, have become more prominent in our Boomer generation. They are more easily diagnosed, so more people know they have them.

A recent entry to the iPhone App family called "Cook it, Allergy Free" was developed by Kim Maes, who is getting her masters degree in nutrition. Kim wanted to help people who want to cook taking allergies into consideration.  I like this app. The recipes look good and easy to follow and the amount of information given is amazing. Unlike many of the apps I've reviewed here, this one isn't free. It costs $4.99. If I make a number of the recipes and it helps me deal with the food allergy problems of my friends, then it will definitely be worth it.

When you first open the app you are greeted by a list of food types: Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast, Vegetables, Main dishes etc.

I decided to tap the Main Dishes tab, and I found that further broken down to Chicken, Beef, Pork and Seafood. Since chicken is a dish everyone will eat, I took a look at the chicken dishes.

The first one was Apricot Chicken with Almonds, which looked like a good prospect.

But what was I going to do about those pesky Almonds? One of my group can't eat them. Should I leave them out?  Well, this app provides a great list of items that can be substituted for almonds in this recipe. I'll pick one of those.

The app also has a way to create a grocery list for the ingredients, and can place the list by grocery isle, making picking up the ingredients easy. I don't know about you, but after all these years of grocery shopping for my family, I'm getting tired of it. Anything that makes it easier is appreciated.

If I were to have one criticism of this app is that I wish the nutritional information had been included. I'd like to know how many calories are in a serving, how much fat etc. Someone in my group is always on a diet and would like to know. However, in general, I'd say this is a good way to find new recipes and still accommodate dietary difficulties. I'm glad to have it and I thank the developers. For more information and additional recipes, check out the blog and website at Cook It Allergy Free.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There is a New Web Site for Boomers

It seems that Boomers are getting a little respect now --at least for our buying power. Procter &Gamble and NBC just launched a group of web sites aimed at us called Life Goes Strong at Boomers seem to have $1 trillion to spend, so P&G and NBC thought these sites would be a good bet.

One of these web sites, called Tech Goes Strong,  might put this blog out of business.

The site has articles about technology aimed at baby boomers. So far there are only a few articles up on the site, but I urge you to take a look at it. It's a bit different from my take on things, but interesting nonetheless.

In one of the articles, author Erin Joyce gives Boomers some tips about starting out in Facebook. She quotes an expert as saying Boomers tend to be lurkers, who consume their media more than they engage. They read blog posts, listen to Podcasts and watch videos.

However, some Boomers jump in to social media with both feet and share too much. Facebook isn't a place to put up all those old jokes you used to pass around via email. It's more of a place to share what you are doing these days, something that is catching your fancy, or how you are feeling at a particular moment in time. It's also a place for people to interact with you and for you to interact with people.

So if someone posts, "I got a clean bill of health at the doctor." You can post that you "like" this revelation, comment with a wish for continued good health, or continue the conversation with something relevant to your health. This is a way people keep in touch with each other on Facebook.

You might want to post a favorite quote that gets you through the day, or something you recently read that surprised you. These kinds of posts get online conversations flowing.

One of the experts quoted in the article advises new users not to worry about how many followers they have or their level of popularity. I had to laugh when I read that. I don't know any Boomers who go to Facebook to collect new friends. They all are there to connect with old friends and acquaintances or far flung relatives. If you know someone who uses Facebook as a way to enhance their popularity  in this way, let me know, will you?

Another of the experts quoted in this article points out that you can control the level of privacy on Facebook. For myself, I've decided that Facebook is the place where I play, and LinkedIn is my professional network. Therefore, I control my privacy settings on Facebook, vigilantly.  I interact with friends and family there and really don't want anyone else on that page, so I ignore friend requests from colleagues or suggest we link on LinkedIn. However, I'm always careful about what I say and consider Facebook semi public.

Which brings me to another piece of advice in the article. Everything you do online is public and getting more so each day. If you haven't carefully adjusted your privacy settings, you may find something you post on your "wall" found via a search engine. So think before you post.

This was not in the article: Some people I know don't think the lack of privacy is worth the benefits of being on Facebook. I'm not one of them. However, if you ever want to leave, you may run into some trouble Officially Facebook says  you must "deactivate" your account, not delete it.  However all those pictures you posted and conversations stay online. Plus, Facebook gives you a guilt trip on the way out, saying things like "Esther Surden will miss you."

So if  you ever want to sever your ties with the social networking site permanently and without the guilt trip, take a look at this Facebook page. It will tell you how to permanently delete your account.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How does that iPhone App Open that Trunk?

I was watching a little TV one day when an ad came on for the Apple iPhone. If you've been reading this blog, you know I love my iPhone and like to search out new and useful apps. The one app that caught my eye this week was in the commercial called "Family Man". You can see the commercial I'm talking about here. Clearly, it shows a man, using his iPhone, to open the trunk of his car. Well, my question was "how did he do that?"

The key to this action is an app called Viper developed by a company called Directed, which does a lot of things: start your car, open your trunk, lock and unlock your car etc. Very cool, right?

However, all the stars have to be aligned correctly. First, you need a car that is "compatible" with the device. Then you have to buy a hardware device for $299 from Best Buy and install it in your car. (Installation is another charge. On the Apple Web Site, a reviewer said it cost him $199 to get the device installed.) If you don't have a compatible car, you can get the functionality through a "complete smart start system," which costs in the neighborhood of $500.

After you've chosen which device you need, you can use the "free" Viper SmartStart App to unlock your car, start it remotely on cold days,  trigger the panic alarm etc. Oh, yes, after the first year there is a yearly charge of $29.99 for the privilege of using a 3G network to pop the trunk on your car.

Is it worth it? You'll have to decide. You can activate the system from anywhere, so I can imagine that people who travel often and worry they didn't lock the car might go for it.  There is a security advantage. If someone steals your car, you can activate a "kill switch" and  as soon as they hit the breaks, the car shuts off. You also have to realize that this app is only as good as the network. AT&T has some problems in some areas, and it might not be worthwhile to install this app where you know the network gets overloaded and drops calls.

The bottom line, Boomers. Viper is cool, for sure, but also pricey. The company says it also has modules that are compatible with Blackberries. I'm holding off on this one. It's just not worth it to me.

Viper has a good demo of its system at this website.