of the Villages

The Technology Page

In this section of the newsletter, I will include some items related to managing and using technology – including computers, email, the Internet, and mobile phones. I hope you find it interesting.

The best search engine

As a hobby, I maintain several websites, mostly for local associations. One of these is the Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers Association. It was recently pointed out to me that, when people searched through Google for “Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers”, what they got was the following:

As very few local beekeepers read Japanese (that’s a fairly confident guess), such a search result is of little use – although to be fair, clicking on the Japanese text did take you to the right web page!) I’ve investigated this and discovered a couple of security issues with the site, which I’ve fixed. But what was most interesting was that the Japanese link only appeared when you searched using Google on the Chrome browser.

Now that is not the way I usually search on the Internet. Google has a terrible reputation for collecting all kinds of data about its users – selling this data is how it makes most of its money. It is possible for a user to delete all this data, but the process is quite complex. So I, like many thousands of Internet users, have changed our search engines. I now use a system called DuckDuckGo, which guarantees NOT to collect any information at all from its users.

It’s very easy to set your Internet browser to use DuckDuckGo. Full instructions can be found at https://www.howtogeek.com/709072/how-to-switch-to-duckduckgo-a-private-search-engine/

Using DuckDuckGo to search for “Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers” did NOT produce the Japanese link, but the expected link. So – it’s more secure and doesn’t collect data about you. What’s not to like?

The ‘Digital Switchover’ Update

Since writing the article last month on BT’s changeover to their ‘Digital Voice’ service, I visited their event at the Shire Hall, Warwick on 26 February. Actually ‘event’ turned out to be a bit of a misnomer; rather it was two BT representatives sitting at two desks in the foyer of the Shire Hall. There were no signs or leaflets – but at least there was no queue either!

I did discover one fact that I feel isn’t obvious from BT’s website. The Digital Voice upgrade will take place using the existing copper wire infrastructure in areas that have not yet been upgraded to optical fibres. I guess this is necessary because the replacement optical fibre system will not be country-wide by the end of 2025 when the Digital Voice changeover is due to be completed.

I felt reassured that BT will provide all the support and equipment necessary at no cost to us to ensure the new service is as safe and reliable as the existing service, and with better quality of sound and hopefully fewer nuisance calls.

For further details go to https://www.bt.com/help/landline/what-is-digital-voice-and-how-can-i-get-it-

Richard Seaton

Some Smart, But Simple, Technology Tips

Technology can seem very complex and daunting, but there are actually some very simple things you can do to make it work for you. Here are a few tips that I’ve learnt (sometimes the hard way) from over 30 years of having to work with technology of various kinds.

  1. Before buying any new technology, think about what you need to do now but also what you might need to do in the future

The first PC I ever bought had 128 kilobytes of memory. I could have bought one with 256k but that cost a fair bit more. Within two months I was regretting that decision. What I learnt was that it is much better to spend a little more research time and/or money to find a device you can “grow into” than have to replace an inadequate device later. Save time and money by doing a bit of forward planning.

  1. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

It’s essential to learn some keyboard shortcuts! They can drastically increase your productivity by reducing the time you spend on common tasks. Most people know that, on a PC, you can use Ctrl + C to copy material and Ctrl + V to paste it somewhere else. But did you know that Ctrl + A selects all the material on a screen/page? Or that  Ctrl +Z undoes an action and Ctrl+Y does it again?  There is a long list of shortcuts like this on this web page.

  1. Use A Password Manager

I cannot stress this enough: Use a password manager! As a human, you cannot create randomness, and you cannot remember randomness. So, instead of trying to remember a lot of different passwords, create one very strong password to protect all of your other machine-generated passwords. The variety of passwords will limit the impact of any one data breach.

  1. Be Selective When Installing Software Apps

Excessive unused apps and background services can negatively impact your device’s performance and battery life. There are some wonderful apps around but, if you don’t regularly use a particular app, then it’s just taking up precious device space, and slowing everything down.

  1. Keep Up With Storage Management

Regularly clean up and optimize your device’s storage by uninstalling unused apps, deleting old files and clearing cache and temporary data. This can improve your device’s performance and help you avoid storage-related issues.

  1. Backup! Backup! Backup!

Backing up to cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive not only helps to keep your devices uncluttered, but also ensures your data is safe and accessible from anywhere. Cloud services are great, but having a local backup of your important files can be a lifesaver. A couple of years ago my computer was attacked by a ransomware hacker and it became impossible to regain access to ALL of my files! But I had a recent backup on an external drive and it took about an hour to delete all the hacked and corrupted files, and replace them with their backed up equivalents. Disaster averted!

  1. Shut Devices Down Regularly

There are a lot of apps that run in the background and take up memory, slowing your device and shortening battery life. You can stop all those processes by simply shutting a device down and restarting occasionally. Sometimes also a piece of software can get “stuck” and the whole device stops responding. Turning the device off and on again can usually fix this.

The ‘Digital Switchover’

For those who still use the traditional ‘copper landline network’ home telephone service, as opposed to solely mobile phones at home (possibly because the latter don’t actually work very well in the home), a change to the service known as ‘Digital Voice’ is happening gradually and is due to be completed by the end of 2025. Your service provider should contact you well in advance of these changes to find out about your current telephone requirements and if you need additional equipment.

To date, homes have been connected by copper wires to provide signals, audio and possibly power the telephone(s) unless a home ‘cordless’ system is used, in which case the power comes from the home’s electricity supply. The same wires also provide the broadband service for computers, etc. – something the wires were never designed to do, but were made to work, more or less reliably. In order to provide the best possible service the copper landline network is being updated to a digital optical fibre network capable of supporting faster and more reliable broadband and home telephone services into the foreseeable future.

This means that the way of connecting homes to the network is changing. The existing broadband and telephone connections in the home will be exchanged, and analogue telephones will be swapped to digital ones. Adapters can be provided to connect existing phone systems to the new network. No charge is being made for updating equipment, but there are risks that some services such as ‘telecare’ devices will not work on the new network. If this is the case, you are expected to contact the supplier of such services to find out what changes if any are needed. Also, telephone adaptors need to be ordered, if required.

Furthermore, the new system requires power from the home electricity supply for broadband and home telephone service, which means that in the case of a power cut, not unknown in rural areas, not only broadband BUT also home telephone services will be lost, so emergency calls cannot be made. Openreach and the other network providers are working with OFCOM (the government) and the power suppliers to make the digital network more resilient in the event of power cuts, and to ensure that access to charged mobile phones is available at all times, so that calls can still be made to emergency services.

BT says that battery back-up solutions may be purchased from them. Also, OFCOM has stated that if an ‘at-risk’ customer does not have any other means available, their telecoms provider must offer a solution to allow calls to be made to emergency services.

The replacement of the ‘copper landline network’ will be an improvement, but as with all change there may be problems. Help is available from your service provider, but it does mean we are expected to be proactive. The following links may be of some help [3].

Please note that these details were published by CSW Broadband [1] on 19 February and so the dates of the Digital Voice events [2] may have passed by the time you read this.

[1] https://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/ Connecting Solihull & Warwickshire to Broadband supports bringing faster broadband to rural areas.

[2] https://www.bt.com/broadband/digital-voice/events The Digital Voice events in our area may have passed but this list still may be of use.

[3] https://www.bt.com/help/landline/digital-voice-phones Some answers regarding the new ‘Digital Voice’ network.


Richard Seaton



OMG! IMO, texting abbreviations are the GOAT! If you have absolutely no idea what that means, it might be time to brush up on your texting abbreviations. These collections of letters, short for a single word or group of words, are so common in texting that many have moved beyond text conversations, migrating into spoken conversations. Understanding texting abbreviations like TL;DR is no longer just a technology tip—once you know them, you’ll be finding them in everyday life!


This is perhaps the most ubiquitous texting acronym. Short for “laughing out loud”, LOL is now used to express even the mildest amusement. You can respond “LOL!!” when your friend tells you a funny story, but you can also just say something like “I forgot to have breakfast today, LOL.” It’s something of a catch-all reaction. NB: LOL does not stand for “lots of love”. In the early days, when texting abbreviations were becoming mainstream, plenty of people made this LOL-worthy mistake.


You’re most likely not literally “rolling on the floor laughing” when you use the abbreviation ROFL, but it’s still a bit stronger an indicator of mirth than “LOL.” Usually, it’s a standalone response to something funny. Add exclamation points and laugh/crying face emojis as you please.


In texting terms, the second and third letters of the alphabet don’t refer to the time “before Christ.” BC is, instead, short for “because”. Often, texting abbreviations like these won’t even be capitalized. You might see something like “Wanted to see how you were doing bc I haven’t heard from you in a while”.


This one translates to “let me know,” and it’s useful in all sorts of situations for nudging or putting the ball in someone’s court. Trying to plan a group event when one person doesn’t know if they’ll be able to make it? Just tell them “LMK when you know”—and hopefully they will in good time.


Two words, three letters: NVM is short for “never mind.” You’d use it in much the same way you use the phrase in real life: “What was that restaurant we went to last week???” *five minutes later* “NVM, I found it!”


Who has time to text out “estimated time of arrival”?! In fact, you’ll certainly hear this abbreviation spoken out loud quite a bit too. You’re just as likely to hear “Looking forward to seeing you tonight, what’s your ETA?” spoken as you are to see it in a text.


This is another one that’s quite popular beyond the realm of texting. When’s the last time you heard someone say all three words: “too much information”? If your friend of a friend shares every last detail of their bout of food poisoning on Facebook, the simple three-letter response “TMI!” says it all.


This texting acronym doesn’t have anything to do with four-legged horned mammals. GOAT, almost always preceded by “the”, means “greatest of all time”. GOAT can be used to praise a friend (“Did you see Michelle’s gym programme? She’s the GOAT!”) or a superstar in a particular field (“Saw the GOAT himself,Simon Rattle, conduct an orchestra last night!”).


“TLDR” means “too long, didn’t read” and is a common response to long-winded, rambling opinion pieces. Next time your co-worker uploads a six-paragraph status about the condition of her daily reports, try commenting “TLDR, but I hope you get it all done!” Writers also often try to get ahead of TLDR too. In more formal, journalistic writing, or in a lengthy, original social media post, you may see “TLDR” (often formatted as TL;DR) followed by a quick summary, so impatient readers can still get the gist.


Consider FWIW one of the most snarky-but-still-polite text abbreviations out there, because it’s a great opener, translating to “for what it’s worth”. It’s a kinder way of preambling a strong opinion and can be used in situations like “FWIW, I never liked your husband anyway”.


IIRC stands for “if I recall correctly” and is the social media equivalent of showing receipts. It’s a little argumentative, but useful when you need to say things like “IIRC, you promised me so much more. Here’s a screenshot to prove it.”


Another one that can cause the recipient to brace themselves, IMO means “in my opinion.” The strength/controversy of that opinion can vary vastly, though. IMHO is a variation meaning “in my humble opinion.” With the addition of almost-always-sarcastic humility, IMHO is usually a little edgier, as it were.


Protect your privacy

As I said in the article last month on this topic, privacy seems an out-dated concept nowadays. We have made huge leaps in technology over the past few years, most of which have involved developing new ways of sharing information between us. This is a positive – increased social connections have to be good for us, as we are an inherently social species. Yet there is another more worrying aspect to this worldwide information sharing technology. Every social media account we create, every app we download, every phone, computer, and tablet we interact with take more and more information from us. This lack of privacy is becoming a big concern and we all, probably, need to take some positive action to protect ourselves from the negative side of information-sharing. How can you protect your privacy in this surveillance age? The actions we can take will depend upon the kind of connected devices we are using. Here, I’ll focus on mobile devices – Android and IOS phones or tablets.

Google Android Devices

Android software from Google is used on the largest number of phones around the world, and even beyond mobile phones, Google privacy settings are important things to attend to. Here are some ideas for how to protect your privacy while using android devices.

Search Data

Google is a search engine first and foremost, so the most common way it collects data from you is by recording your searches and the web pages you visit. To manage all this information there are a couple of things you can do.

(i) Delete all Google activity on your phone or on your computer

  • Use your web browser to go myactivity.google.com.
  • There are 3 types of activity on the main part of the page, each with a check circle which you can click.
  • These are Web & app activity, Location History and YouTube History. If the circles are marked Off, clicking them will probably take you to another web page where you can alter this is you wish.
  • At the top left of the page, click or tap the Menu button (often called the ‘hamburger’ button) and then go select Delete activity by.
  • In the box which pops up, you have a choice of how far back you want to go in terms of deleting activity. Click/tap your choice.
  • Confirm your deletion on the next page.

(ii) Location Information

Many of us find Google maps a very useful tool, but what we may not know is that, if your phone’s GPS is turned on, Google maps is keeping track of all the places we visit. This is good if you need to establish an alibi in a police investigation but not if you are not comfortable sharing wherever you’ve been. Luckily it can be switched off in your Google privacy settings. In the MyActivity page click on the arrow to the right of Location History. On the page which then loads, click the Turn Off button.


Amazon’s Alexa is a very popular virtual assistant that responds to voice commands to perform different activities. Connecting it to a smart device, you can use it to switch lights on or off, control your central heating, or choose music to listen to. There is, however, some controversy about how to protect your privacy with Alexa and there have been reports that the Alexa also hears and records all voices in its environment and that nobody is quite sure where these voice recordings end up.

Alexa Privacy Settings

You can limit Alexa’s ability to record voices by using the privacy settings on the Amazon website.

  • Go to https://alexa.amazon.co.uk/spa/index.html#cards. You will need to sign in with your Amazon name and password, and probably also via the authenticator app on your phone.
  • Click on Settings in the left hand menu (you may need to click the hamburger menu first).
  • Scroll down the main page to find Alex Privacy and click this. This opens a new webpage.
  • Scroll down and click on Manage Your Alexa Data.
  • This takes you to a page where you can make a number of changes to the ways that Alexa manages your voice recordings.
  • iOS Devices

iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) are less profligate with user information than their Alexa counterparts, but they still do share some data with Apple, which you may not be comfortable with.

iPhones are heavily synced to iCloud and store data with that service which goes beyond just photos and videos to include messages, contacts and emails. You may not want this information to be stored on a cloud server, especially in light of the fact that Apple can access any of this information if it wishes to. To stop this syncing is fairly simple.

  • Go to the Settings menu on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Tap the top entry in the menu, that has your name on it.
  • Tap the iCloud entry in the next menu.
  • Here you will find a long list of all the apps on your phone that use iCloud. You can turn all these off if you wish.
  • This will prevent any future information being uploaded.
  • To delete information that has previously been uploaded you will need to go through the iCloud main website (on a computer probably). Go to: https://www.icloud.com/ and sign in with your Apple ID.
  • This will eventually bring you to the standard iCloud menu where you can explore and delete any of your data.