Geekly Update - 22 November 2016

Category: Tech-News

Do shoppers on mobile devices get lower prices? Is your smartphone forwarding all your text messages to China? Are the geeks at Office Depot ripping you off? And are you one of the 400 million people whose username and password was just exposed? Find out... in today's Geekly Update -- it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. And it's *guaranteed* to make you 146% smarter. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

Researchers at Northeastern University found that shopping online with your smartphone may yield a lower price than shopping from a desktop computer. I tried a few hotel searches myself on Travelocity, and found that prices were about 10% lower when I did the the exact same search on my phone.

So I had an idea… I wondered if changing the UserAgent on my desktop browser would fool these sites into giving me the "mobile discount." And it seems to work. I checked the price for one night at a hotel in Orlando using Chrome on desktop: $145. After changing my UserAgent string to make my desktop browser identify as an iPad, the price showed as $131.

Office Depot staffers are accused of falsely diagnosing virus infections on perfectly healthy computers and then charging up to $200 to “fix” them. Employees say they are pressured by unrealistic sales goals to load up customers with antivirus and computer service contracts.

Geekly Update 11-22-2016

Here's another smokin' hot tip to save money when shopping online: CamelCamelCamel is an Amazon price tracking, research, and alert service that helps users get the best deals on the e-commerce giant. No idea where Camel got its triplicate name.

A backdoor program is included with thousands of Blu Products’ low-cost Android phones sold in the U. S. via Best Buy and Amazon. The secretive backdoor collects a lot of data, including the full contents of text messages, and sends it to several servers in China. But don't worry, the company that installed the spying software only wants to spy on its Chinese customers.

AT&T will throttle “most” streaming video starting in 2017, the company announced. The new Stream-Saver feature can be toggled off by users, providing full high-definition streams. But some worry this feature opens the door to “zero-rating” deals with content providers that would violate Net-neutrality principles.

"Ashley Madison, Part Deux." Over 400 million accounts from the Adult Friend Finder dating service were leaked online. Usernames, passwords, and email addresses were leaked, but not more personal data. Ummm, you think maybe logging in with one of those stolen passwords would yield any "personal data"?

Those eerily flickering “No Vacancy” signs are disappearing from American motels. Digital LED signs are driving neon repair people out of business.

Google has released PhotoScan, an Android app that helps you digitize old printed photos. The process involves taking four snapshots of each photo; then you have to move them around to line up added dots in circles. Repeat for dozens or hundreds of prints and you’ll find it’s cheaper to go buy a dedicated scanner; you’ll also get better results.

The FBI will now have access to (some of) your Tweets with the ability to filter and search them in any way. The agency is contracting with Dataminr, a data-mining firm. Twitter’s terms of service forbid using it for surveillance, but apparently Dataminr (which is part-owned by Twitter) is not so self-constrained.

Meet Miles, the talking, singing, selfie-snapping… gas pump? Yes, petroleum giant BP, in conjunction with Pandora Radio and satirical faux-news site The Onion, are testing interactive gas pumps at selected BP gas stations; only four so far, thank goodness.

AT&T customers can now send text messages hands-free via Amazon Echo. Now if only your contacts could reply via Echo.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 22 November 2016"

Posted by:

22 Nov 2016

Ok, a digital scanner is better than PhotoScan software. Where can we find a good quality very high resolution scanner to get the best results? Don't seem to find any around here.

Posted by:

Greg C
22 Nov 2016

Reg, If you absolutely need a HIGH quality scanner then buy one. BUT, if you can avoid it, please do !
I have a friend who use to buy the best of the best and consistently ran into problems. The scanner he bought about ten years ago produced magnificent results. I had him scan a very old family photo and his results were far, far superior to the photo shop's efforts.

Sadly, the scanner was only a couple of years old when it died. The company had withdrawn their North American presence and there was no way to have it repaired I do NOT know the exact price, but believe it was well over a thousand, maybe several thousand. And that was ten or so years ago.

Posted by:

22 Nov 2016

Excellent article on changing the useragent.
I have noticed that when I search for cheap airfares and leave the airlines site, when I go back to that site the prices are always more expensive (and in answer to the unspoken question, yes, Cookies are disabled). If I do my price searches using Private Browsing or Incognito then I don't get the price hike. I have never looked for airfares on a mobile device so maybe I can go places even cheaper.

Posted by:

Robert A.
22 Nov 2016

Reg & Greg C: Most scanners sold at retail are lower grade units intended mostly for scanning text and non-photographic images. These are usually in the $75 to $400 price range with a DPI (Dots Per Inch)range of 300 to 1600. For ultimate photo scanning quality you really need to use a professional photo scanner, available from Epson, Fujitsu, Kodak, Plustek, Canon and others. These units have ultra-high scan rates of 2400 6400 DPI, and 48 bit color range. But they're not cheap. I've seen some high-end units in the $2700 to $3200 range, and higher. To find these units, check out places like, and others. They deal mostly in higher end professional pieces used in business and commercial situations.

Posted by:

22 Nov 2016

Bob: Ref: changing the UserAgent Followed your link to "How To Geek" and instruction for Google Chrome. Got lost under the Console/Network Connections. What specific UserAgent from the list or copy & paste a custom UserAgent into the box?? Could you specifically indicate or spellout what the UserAgent should read?
Also once this is accomplished and I'm done shopping for the best price, do I change the UserAgent back to what it originally was or can I leave it as is?
Appreciate your reply, Gary

Posted by:

23 Nov 2016

Thank you for the info on user agents. Though I bought my first computer in the 70's and have been a user ever since this is something I some how missed. I also (one of the previous comments) have found that private browsing is better for looking for prices I was not aware of this idea. Thank you.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Geekly Update - 22 November 2016 (Posted: 22 Nov 2016)
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