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Welcome to this week's edition of the Computer Kindergarten Newsletter.
Today is Sunday, August 4, 2013

In this Issue:
Special Feature: When a Retailer Asks, ‘Can I Have Your ZIP Code?’ Just Say No
Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How to Report Spam with SpamCop
Special Series: Windows 8 - Start at the Start Screen
This Week's Topic: Does It Matter Which Charger I Use?
Special Feature: iPad Basics - Getting to Know Mail
Websites of Interest: My First Garden; Pill Identifier; Senior.com Internet Community; Sketch Toy


Special Feature: When a Retailer Asks, ‘Can I Have Your ZIP Code?’ Just Say No

Question: Why do stores ask for my zip code? Is it some kind of scam?

By Martha C. White of time.com

Most of us have, at some point, been asked for our address, ZIP code, phone number or e-mail address while buying something. What's the deal with that?

Urban Outfitters was hit with a lawsuit charging that the trendy clothing retailer tricked customers into providing their ZIP codes by leading them to believe the information was necessary to process credit-card transactions, when the company really just wanted the information so it could mail them ads.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., says customers started getting marketing materials from the company even though they’d never asked to be placed on a mailing list or given their full addresses. “Once the customer provides his/her ZIP code, the retailers have all the information they need to secretly obtain customers’ home/business address,” the suit says.

The suit sheds light on common but little understood data-collection practices by merchants. Most of us have, at some point, been asked for our address, ZIP code, phone number or e-mail address while buying something and wondered what the deal was. Here’s what you need to know.

Why do stores want the information? To try to sell you stuff, for the most part. But in some cases, retailers want to know where their customers are coming from so they can figure out the best place to open a new store. “There are others that perform analytics on the information, which is what’s alleged in a lot of these cases,” says Aaron Simpson, a partner in the privacy and cybersecurity team at the law firm of Hunton & Williams LLP.

“It’s a question of transparency,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Scott Perry told Buzzfeed. Some stores are up-front about it and will ask you if you’d like to give them your information so you can get flyers or coupons. The problem comes when retailers don’t make that clear to shoppers.

They don’t need your whole address to find you, either, thanks to the growing sophistication of big data. A Forbes article last month highlighted some of these companies’ marketing claims. One says, “Users simply capture name from the credit-card swipe and request a customer’s ZIP code during the transaction,” which lets stores “identify customers easily with accuracy rates close to 100%” and send them “dynamic, personalized marketing.”

There’s also the more remote but more troubling possibility that stores collect this data in order to either sell it to a data warehouser, or buy additional data from one of those companies to create a more detailed profile of who you are, says Evan Hendricks, publisher of Privacy Times. ”They want it because they want to start building a profile,” he says. “I think it’s true sometimes they just want to send you a promotional flyer, which isn’t a burning privacy issue … But the trouble is, once they get your information, there’s very few restrictions on what they do with it.”

Do you have to give it to them? Generally, no. But like many other consumer-privacy issues, laws pertaining to it are made at the state level, creating what Simpson calls a “patchwork.” In other words: it’s a mess.

In the following states, it’s illegal for a clerk to tell you they require personal information to run your credit card: California, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin, plus Washington, D.C.

Elsewhere, a state might be running afoul of their merchant agreement with the card network, but they’re not breaking the law. For instance, MasterCard says, “A merchant cannot refuse to complete an in-store MasterCard transaction if the cardholder declines to provide this information to the checkout clerk.”

American Express lets stores call the shots, though. The company says, “It is the merchant’s discretion whether to process an American Express transaction if the cardmember refuses to provide his or her ZIP code.”

Are there any exceptions? If you swipe a card at a gas pump, you might get a prompt asking you for your ZIP code. This kind of transaction is generally exempt from laws about personal information, as are purchases that require delivery or installation, since the company needs to know where to send the package or technician.

When it comes to gas purchases, National Association of Convenience Stores spokesman Jeff Lenard says the ZIP code is a security measure. “Oftentimes, thieves test cards to see if they are still live at places where they don’t have to engage in a face-to-face transaction, such as at the gas pump,” he says. “Someone with a stolen card would be less likely to correctly enter the ZIP.”


Tips & Tricks: Top 25 Most Popular Anti-Spam Tips, Tricks and Secrets: How to Report Spam with SpamCop

Spam, spam and spam. How to avoid spam, how to filter spam, and how to complain about spam are the items on this menu of junk mail fighting tips. With the help of Heinz Tschabitscher of about.com, we are presenting an ongoing series of tips and tricks that you can use to minimize the amount of junk mail that you will receive in your email inbox.

There are strategies to avoid unsolicited email, and you can filter it away or ignore it.

Why Reporting Spam Makes Sense

One of the best things you can do about spam, however, is to receive it and complain about it. Spammers will consequently lose their Internet access and pay for their breaking an ISP's acceptable use policy.

Identifying the right people to complain to about spam and writing complaints efficiently unfortunately is not a trivial matter, however, and it takes a lot of time.

This is where SpamCop can help. It analyzes your unsolicited email messages and sends sensible complaints to the right authorities on your behalf.


Report Spam with SpamCop

To submit a correct and efficient spam report using SpamCop:

* Open the source of the junk email in your email program.
* Highlight the full source and press Ctrl-C (Windows), Command-C (Mac) or Alt-C (Unix) to copy.
* Paste the source of the spam you received in the SpamCop input field.
* Press Process Spam.
* Click Send Spam Report(s) Now.

It's usually best not to change anything about the complaints unless you have a good reason to exclude or include a specific email address not preselected.

In our next edition: How Long, Complicated Email Addresses Beat Spammers


Special Series: Windows 8 - Start at the Start Screen

From cnet.com

Once you log in to Windows 8, you'll be facing the new Start screen. This is where your Metro apps live, and where you'll be doing the vast majority of your navigating.

The Charms bar lives hidden under the right edge of your screen. On touch screens and touch pads, you can reveal it by swiping in from the edge. With a mouse, move the cursor to the upper-right corner and it will appear. Hot keys on your keyboard will work, too. Win + C will open the Charms, and there are specific combinations to access its features -- such as Win + Q for Search.

Opposite the Charms bar, the left edge lets you flip through recently used apps. Swipe in from the edge to go to your last app. If you make a sharp U-turn with your finger, you'll get the recently used apps sidebar. If you're using a mouse, move the cursor to the upper-left or lower-left corner to reveal the sidebar.

The Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 is remarkable for its unique interface, its fast page-load times, and its surprisingly effective security policies. It also has Do Not Track turned on by default, setting the stage for a battle between Microsoft and advertisers.
Interestingly, it's IE 10's hardware acceleration and JavaScript engine that power the smooth app transitions on the Start screen.

Socialization, sync, and sharing are big parts of the Windows 8 experience. The People app is where all your contacts will integrate from across multiple services.

The Windows Store, with its hidden top-edge navigation pulled down in this screenshot, is where you'll go to get the new Metro-style apps. Unlike Google and Apple app stores, though, the Windows Store is really for apps only. Confusingly, Music, Video, and Xbox games -- but not Windows games -- must be purchased through their built-in app marketplaces.

One of the coolest things about Windows 8 apps is the semantic zoom. Pinch to zoom on the screen or a touch pad, or use the scroll wheel on your mouse, and many apps will reveal a top level to their content that allows you to easily jump around within the app. This can also be used on the Start screen to skip across app groups.

On Windows 8, the Windows 7-style traditional interface lives as an app called Desktop. Many legacy programs, and some advanced Windows configuration tools, will launch into the Desktop. It still has Charms and recent-apps bar access, though, so it's quite easy to jump between the two.

After almost 20 years, the Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) gets rebranded as File Explorer in Windows 8. It also introduces some excellent new tools specific to each library.

From the moment the Start screen is staring you in the face, you can start typing away. It's a subtle but incredibly powerful search tool that makes the Metro interface much more accessible to keyboard junkies.

The Devices Charm comes preloaded with support for extending your display to a second monitor.

You can right-click with a mouse on your apps to get extra context-menu style options for them. But how do you do it by touch? It's quite simple: just swipe down on a tile to select it, and swipe down again to deselect it.

Windows traditionally gets bogged down in its own muck over time, with clean installs generally performing better than older ones. It's not clear if that'll happen with Windows 8, but in case it does, Microsoft has included in PC Settings two options for renewing the OS's lease on life.

Refresh keeps your files as it reinstalls Windows 8, while Remove everything and reinstall wipes the slate entirely clean. Convenient!


In our next edition: The Charms Bar


Today's Topic: Does It Matter Which Charger I Use?

Question: I have old chargers for cell phones, laptops and other devices lying around. Can I use these as extras when I get a new cell phone or device? Does it matter which charger I use?

By Thorin Klosowski of lifehacker.com

Yes, the charger does matter, even if the charger fits.

Make Sure the Plugs Are Right

The first thing you really need to consider when you're grabbing a charger is the most obvious: if the connector fits. That means the plug on the end of the charger actually fits into your gadget properly.

For something like a cell phone, this is usually a USB cable (of which various sizes exist), unless it's an Apple device with a special 30-pin or Lightning connector. Older phones might have a cylindrical connector. Likewise, laptops have all kinds of connectors, and many of them are proprietary to the manufacturer. In some cases, you'll need to order a special charger just for your device.

What all this means is that if you have a charger that fits into your gadget, you're on the right track, but you're not done yet. It's time to look at the technical details.

When Voltage and Amperage Matter

After you've figured out that you can actually connect the charger to your gadget, you need to figure out if doing so will make it explode or not. This means checking the voltage and amperage on your charger to make sure it'll work with your device.

On most chargers you'll find the voltage listed somewhere on the power brick. Voltage is what pulls energy into the device. If the voltage is too high, you might end up shorting out your devices because you'll overload the circuits. For mobile phones and other mobile devices like the Kindle that charge with USB, the voltage is typically 5V. A laptop charger might be as high as 20V or 25V. You can usually find the voltage your device needs on the device itself, on the battery, or if all else fails, on the manufacturer's web site. You'll almost always find the voltage supplied by your charger on the charger itself. You want the voltage on your device to match the voltage provided by the charger.

Likewise, amperage is just as important. Amps are the current that's supplied to your device. Think of it like a river, and the amperage is how fast that river is. Amps are usually listed on your power supply as something like, 2.7A or 1A. This regulates how much power flows through from the power supply to your device. The amperage listed on your power supply needs to match or exceed the amperage required by your device.

When to Stay Away from Knockoffs

Chargers can be expensive for no good reason, but you're better off sticking with official chargers as opposed to off brand chargers or knockoffs.

The reason is that counterfeit and off brand chargers are poorly made, and that means they put your device (and your house) at risk. Many ignore safety standards completely, but they also just don't charge your devices that well because they don't push the amount of power they're supposed to. This means you're spending more time with these devices plugged in, which causes a larger risk to your safety, as well as your device.


Special Feature: iPad Basics - Getting to Know Mail

From gcflearnfree.org

As you already know, the Mail app is different on each device—but there are many similarities when it comes to basic tools and features.

Use the Mailboxes button (top left) to access different parts of your email account. For example, you can navigate to Drafts, Trash, and other folders that you've created.
This is also where you can navigate between different accounts (for instance, work and home), if you have more than one email address set up in the app.

Use the Search feature (right below the Mailboxes button) to search the entire contents of your email. This is useful if you're looking for a specific message, and you can't find it. Just enter your search terms in the box, and the app will list the results below.
You can confine your search to a specific area (From, To, or Subject), or search through everything (All).

Tap Edit (to the immediate right of the Mailbox button) to quickly manage all of your messages at once. From here, you canArchive, Delete, or Move multiple messages, so you don't have to manage them one at a time.

Reading Messages
To read one of your messages, tap it in the left pane. It will open on the right, where you can access several other options (including delete, reply, and more).
If your inbox is particularly full, you may need to scroll up and down in the left pane to view all of your messages.

Icons on the top, right, working left to right:

Flag or Mark as Unread
Use this icon to flag the current message as spam, or mark it as unread.

Move to Folder
Here, you can move the current message to another folder.

Delete or Archive
To delete the current message, use this icon. If your email service supports archiving, the Mail app will default to archiving instead.

Reply, Forward, or Print
Use the arrow icon to reply or forward the current message. You can even print the message if your device is connected to a printer.

Compose New Message
Tap this icon to compose a new message. The new message screen and the keyboard will open automatically.

Insider Tips
Once you know your way around the app, consider these tips for getting the most out of Mail.

Receiving Messages
If you receive a new message, and you don't currently have the app open, your device can notify you several different ways depending on your settings. By default, you should see at least the badge app icon whenever you have a new message waiting. That’s the small, red circle with a number in it.

Visit the app's settings to customize your notifications, or set up even more alerts.

Adding Another Email Account
If you have more than one email account—for example, one for personal use, and one for work—you can add them both to the Mail app. This will make it possible for you to access all of your email in one convenient place, even if they're from completely different services.
To get started, navigate to Mail, Contacts, and Calendars in your device's settings, then choose Add Account. Follow the instructions to enter your information, and your second email account will be synced. You can add as many additional accounts as you want.


In our next edition: Siri and Voice Dictation


Websites of Interest:

My First Garden
A children’s guide to gardening.

Pill Identifier
Not sure about those leftover pills still in the bathroom cabinet? This site can tell you what they are.

Senior.com Internet Community
This site is dedicated to providing useful information, news, articles and much more to seniors, friends and family.

Sketch Toy
Do you like to draw? Try it online. This site offers some fun colors and drawing tools.