Tech Friday

Tech  Gifts for Christmas:

  • Cool stuff:

    • Meural Digital Art Frame: You can curate an entire gallery of art within one Meural digital art frame. Either upload personal masterpieces or subscribe to Meural's library and then control what you see with an app or just by gesturing near the frame. $495
    • Plume: The Plume is a router replacement that promises to boost Internet access throughout your home and look good while doing it. One Plume puck goes into a modem and the rest plug into outlets, distributing Wi-Fi. The hexagonal discs are attractive and come in champagne, silver, and onyx.  $329
    • ISELECTOR Wi-Fi smart socket: Control it from an app. It works with Android and iOS devices. $16.99
  • Kids and Teens:

    • Lego Boost: Lego's more accessible coding kit and playset includes hundreds of bricks and instructions to make multiple robots and toys out of the box: a rolling robot, a cat, an electric guitar, and even a mini-factory. $160
    • Nintendo Switch: Play all your favorite Nintendo titles on the small portable screen or cast it to your TV.  The controllers are removable and can be used independently for two-player games. $299
    • Raspberry Pi 3: The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. $34
  • Adults:

    • Trackr Bravo: find and track anything on your smartphone with this small coin-sized beacon.  $30 each, buy 3 get 2 free.
    • Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter: Add wireless audio from phones, tablets or computers to any device with an auxiliary input. $20.
    • Google Wi-Fi: With all those IoT devices in your home these days you need to make sure your Wi-Fi signal reaches the furthest corners of your domicile.  The Google Wi-Fi mesh routers allow you to extend your signal using multiple units placed anywhere in your home that needs Wi-Fi.  $118 each.
    • Roku Express: Dirt-cheap, fast enough and crammed with every streaming video app you'll care to name, the Express is the perfect stocking stuffer for Netflix, YouTube and Hulu fans. $30
    • Amazon Fire HD 8: A simple and inexpensive tablet that’s event better with Amazon Prime. $50.
  • The privacy minded:

    • Bitdefender Box Smart Security Hub V2: The Bitdefender Box pugs into your existing router and protects an unlimited number of devices both Wi-Fi and wired.  It also includes Bitdefender Total Security Unlimited antivirus and malware protection for all of your other devices like PCs and Macs.  At $250 it’s a bargain!
    • Nord VPN: Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are one of the only surefire ways to keep your internet traffic anonymous and secure in 2017. NordVPN is a robust VPN service with an excellent collection of features and a worldwide selection of ultra-fast servers, all wrapped in a slick Windows client that can easily secure your online activities. It's a PC Magazine Editors' Choice winner that also has dedicated plans for small businesses and enterprises. $3.29 per month
    • Silent Pocket Faraday Phone Sleeve: block all signals to and from your phone. $70
    • Norton Core: A smart home Internet router that provides complete home network protection with its built-in firewall, parental controls, IoT device protection and an unlimited number of connected devices like PCs, tablets, etc.  $280
  •  Worst Gifts:

    •  Unnecessary IoT devices (thermostats, cameras, etc.) and smart appliances (washers, refrigerators, etc.)
    • Anything that listens all the time like Alexa or Google Home

"Grinch Bot" drives up toy prices:

  • Scammers are using bots to buy up the most popular toys as fast as possible so they can sell them at a large profit on 3rd-party sites like eBay and Amazon
  • Scalpers have been using this technique for years but it has just recently been applied to toys
  • "Grinch Bots" are software agents that can find popular toys online and rapidly purchase as many as they can
  • The toys are often sold at astronomical prices well beyond the reach of the average person
  • Here's a few example: 
    • Fingerlings, which typically sell for $14.99, can be found on eBay for up to $1,000.
    • The popular Super Nintendo NES Classic Edition which is often out of stock and sells for $79.99 can be found for up to $13,000.
  • Senator Chuck Schumer has taken note of this and recently said "Simply put: It is high time we help restore an even playing field for consumers by blocking these holiday bots," 
  • In 2016, Schumer supported the Better Online Ticket Sales Act (BOTS) which was designed to solve the BOT based ticket scalping problem, but it does not regulate other products such as toys
  • Schumer has called on the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to build safeguards that would prevent bots from getting all the most popular toys
  • "There is simply no competition between a bot and even the most organized human," Omri Iluz, co-founder and CEO of PerimeterX, a Silicon Valley-based startup that designs anti-bot technology, told Consumer Reports, adding that bots aggressively mine thousands of sites at hundreds of times per second, preparing to pounce when a product is launched
  • Research the price of a toy before you shop online to avoid being scammed
  • You may have to actually visit a brick and mortar retail store to find some of the most popular toys

Save time and money this holiday season with web browser extensions:

  • A report by Forrester Research Inc. says that online sales in the United States are expected to reach $523 billion by 2020. An annual survey by analytics firm comScore found that out of over 5,000 shoppers, around half make their purchases online
  • Here are some browser extensions that can help you save time and money this season (and year round!):

General shopping tips:

  • Get the best deals:
    • Don't go with the first deal you find
    • Search product name and compare prices
    • Search by specific model number or SKU to ensure you get right product
    • Check prices at the manufacturer's site
    • Use Shop Savvy, PriceGrabber, or Red Laser to scan an item's barcode to check if the item is cheaper online
    • Price out bundled items individually to ensure that you're getting a good deal on each item 
    • Many experts say that slow summer travel should lead to spectacular travel deals tomorrow
  • Security:
    • Avoid public Wi-Fi, especially when purchasing things or doing sensitive transactions such as accessing your bank account
    • Stick to reputable vendors for purchases
    • Only purchase from secure sites. Look for the "https://" in the URL and/or a padlock in the browser
    • Beware of spam and phishing (e-mail, text or social media) offering deals that are too good to be true
    • Use unique credentials (user name and password) on each web site you visit. Ensure that you use a $tr0ng3r password for each site
    • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) if available
    • Only download apps from legitimate app stores and check out the reputation first (Use ZDNET, or CNET)
    • Supply as little personal information about yourself as possible. Consider creating multiple profiles and e-mail accounts
    • Monitor your bank account for unusual transactions. Turn on notifications
    • Use a credit card rather than a debit card to limit your exposure to fraud
    • Consider using mobile payment apps such as Apple Pay or Android Pay
    • If you use a debit card, consider a separate account with a limited balance
    • Look for Safe Internet Shopping Exchange zones when meeting up with someone you met on the Internet to buy or sell something
Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Based in Cincinnati, OH, the Brian Thomas Morning Show covers news and politics, both local and national, from a conservative point of view. Read more


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