Shopping for less

We are all feeling the squeeze at the moment, but what can we do?

I’ve been working with a number of internet tools that may help.

Firstly we can get cashback with a number of sites like topcashback. You download their browser addon and create an account which give you – cash back – when you shop online across thousands of sites like Currys and Argos.

Second is voucher collectors like pouch, which is another extension. When you are at the checkout, this looks for vouchers across the web to get your price down.

Thirdly is camelcamelcamel, a price tracker for Amazon. This has a number of features.

One shows you the price history of the item you are looking at (either by their website or the Camelizer extension) so you can see whether you are getting the bargain you hoped for.

What I find more interesting is that I can set price drop alerts. Select the product in question and set as target price. When the item goes below that, then I get an email.

Passwords – again

To mark World Password Day, I thought I’d run through some statistics and hints:

  • 76% of people use the same password up to 14 times;
  • The average password has 8 characters or less;
  • 68% of people are worried that they will forget their login information;
  • 92% of passwords include readily available information.

Which means if a hacker gets hold of your simple password they could get into every on-line account you have!

So use a combination of UPPER and lower case, numbers and symbols, like 0C^7G0xSaqoqB9st. OK, quite hard to create or remember yourself but password managers generate and remember them for you.

So use a password manager like bitwarden (free) or lastpass (mostly paid for).

And if you can, turn on 2FA (two-factor authentication) where after login you are, for example, sent a code by SMS that you enter to prove it is you. Some people say 2FA by SMS is insecure but it is better than nothing.

Dispose of USBs and memory cards

It’s easy to just throw these in landfill but that can cause problems if they are burnt. There are better alternatives.

This symbol means that the item is covered by the WEEE directive and will be recycled:

WEEE symbol

If the devices still work, then make sure you securely wipe them with a tool like Disk Wipe – there are others. Then you can sell them or give them away.

If they are dead in the water then they can be taken to somewhere that recycles electronics (find them at recycle your electricals), and it’s not just council places.

Use your TV as a computer monitor

I have three monitors but one of them went on the blink. They aren’t made any more so I decided to replace them all (Don’t worry, they went to good homes).

Maybe one of those fashionable wide monitors could replace all three? It would be an elegant option, but looking at the cost made it very unattractive and I would still be stuck with a limited vertical height (which isn’t so good when running simulations).

Three monitors would be cheaper but what else could I do? I’ve had a 55” 4K television for a few years and plugged my laptop into it as a test. Incredible! Nice and crisp text when up close and so immersive. Now your computer may not be capable of 4K or UHD resolution (3840*2160) so do check what display resolution you are getting.

You could just stop at this point and use the TV as an occasional monitor but my main computer is in the office and I needed one there. So I did some measuring up and saw that I could fit a 43” 4K TV onto my desk.

Next stage, look at prices to find they are much better value than monitors. Measured where the screen would be relative to me sitting down both vertically and horizontally, then down to the TV shop to see which suited me best. I got some odd looks with my tape measure out but I needed to be sure.

You need to check that the TV will take a 4K HDMI input (HDMI 2.0 or higher) and that it actually does have a 4K display. Then see if it has a gaming preset that will speed things up. Finally to make things crisp, turn the TV’s ‘sharpening’ to zero, which is a bit counter-intuitive.

So now I have a massive screen where I use four windows for general work or a big single one for video editing, etc. Oh, yes, I bought a Hisense 43A7GQTUK.

Happy days!

Better character map in Windows 11

The Character Map is where we go to include special symbols in our epic works, like è, æ, and .

Previously it was quite a task, but the improved clipboard in Windows 11 makes it easier. Open the clipboard with the Win key + v. Along the top of the window you can see emoticons, emojis, GIFs and special characters that can be searched or browsed by category to find the one you want.

If you use certain characters a lot, consider using autocorrect in your word-processor, for example, to replace the character what you type with the character(s) you want. For example, if I type -> it gets replaced with → on my word processor.

Just what to watch on the TV?

It seems that we have so much TV that it is hard to find something to watch.

OnTvTonightUK is an app that shows you what’s showing in your region on free digital channels including FreeSat. Select the channels you want to know about, then browse or search.

ReelGood is all about series and films across the major streaming services.

Flixi is about you rating whatever you watch. It then uses this information to recommend new series and movies to you.

Let important contacts make your phone ring even on silent

It is often important to put our phone onto silent but then we can forget to put the sound back on. And then an important (to us) contact rings but we don’t know.

On an Apple phone, tap the phone icon and then find the contact you want. Now edit → ringtone and turn the emergency bypass on.

For Android, select the contact and then make a favourite by the heart at the bottom or the star at the top. Once you have got the favourites you want, go to the phone settings → sound and vibration→ do not disturb. Now scroll down and set ‘notify about ‘from starred contacts only’. At least that’s how it goes on my phone. You can also ask to be notified if the same number rings back within fifteen minutes.

Just remember that your phone is now no longer totally silent at that funeral.

Feeding the birds

I’ve got some bird feeders in my garden and I’ve seen an early announcement of the Bird Buddy, which is a bird feeder with a video camera. But that’s not all, oh no. It has a microphone, sends an alert to your phone over wifi when a bird lands on it, identifies the breed of the bird and allows you to rewind the video in case you miss the feathered visitor.

All this for a projected $199 and they seem to have enough kickstarter funding to start work.