Laptops, Ads, & Being Controlled by Two Dudes With a Podcast

I didn’t post last Wednesday. Did you notice?

Okay, tell the truth. Do you even know I post on Wednesdays?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Well, I do. Usually. This time I didn’t on account of computer problems. Don’t get me wrong, I have access to working computers.

My problems were… okay, here’s the thing: We have two desktops in our home office. They’re old, but they work. The problem is our home office. It’s a mess. And the thing is, it’s not my mess. If I clean it, I hear things like, “Hey! Where’s that vitally important document I need?! It’s supposed to be right here in this pile of dirty dishes!”

Which brings me to my next problem: they eat while they’re on the computers. Sometimes the mouse is sticky.

I don’t do sticky.

So our desktops are out, but I could have used a laptop. Every member of the family (except me) owns one. I’m certain that had I asked someone would have loaned me theirs, but I never asked. To me, laptops and cellphones are personal items. I’m not comfortable borrowing one.

Plus, you know, sticky.

And while I know I can post from my cell phone, and have done so, I’d just as soon not. That leaves my work laptop and up until this last week, it served me fine.

But then it happened, my friends. Darkness descended upon the workplace. Terror seized our hearts. It was IT!

The social misfits also known as “tech support” arrived on campus. They seized our MacBooks, threatened to erase all files if we didn’t upload them to the mysterious “cloud.” And then… and then… They re-imaged every one of them!

What did this mean, this re-imaging? None of us knew. Not truly.

What I do know is that when my laptop was returned and I logged on to my work email, this was the message it gave me:

You are signing in with a managed account and giving its administrator control over your google Chrome profile. Your Chrome data, such as your apps, bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings will become permanently tied to (my work email address). You will be able to delete this data via the Google Accounts Dashboard, but you will not be able to associate this data with another account.

It was the “managed” and “control” parts that made me uneasy. I felt like I worked for the government!

Oh wait… I do.

It wasn’t that I had anything to hide, and I rather doubt our district office is too concerned about a secretary blogging from her home. Writing about a trip to Target, going to the theater, or showing pictures of her cat.

Merricat

Even if her cat is better than their cat.

And yet: “a managed account” … “administrator control” …

I’d been saving up for a laptop. This seemed like a good excuse to buy one. Trouble was, I had my eyes on this baby:

Spectre

Was it what I needed? It was way more than I needed. It was also waaaaay more than I wanted to spend.

But just look at it! Ain’t it gorgeous?!

As I was discussing my computer woes with Husband, Daughter walked into the room. “You mean the family member who knows the least about technology is talking about technology?”

(Daughter has a snarky side. I have no idea where she gets it.)

She added,  “All Mom needs is a laptop that’s pretty and has a nice keyboard.”

I should have been insulted. But, um, yeah. She gets me.

After a lot of searching, Husband found a laptop in my price range at Costco. It had a full-sized keyboard and… oh! It comes in blue!

I ordered it online and had it within two days. For the more tech-savvy among you, I’ll include the specs:

Not gold trimmed like the other, but for almost 1,000 bucks less? I’ll take it.

You may have noticed that both laptops are HPs. There’s a reason for that. Apparently, I’m a sucker for ads made by dudes with a podcast.

The podcast to which I refer is Reply All, with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s highly entertaining. It also has one or two ads placed midway through, also done by PJ and Alex, also funny and informative. You find yourself listening just to hear what goofy things they’re going to say.

I first started listening to Reply All about a year or so ago, and I spent a lot of time listening to past episodes as I refinished our kitchen cabinets. Meaning I listened to a lot of ads about HP products, over and over again. All while inhaling toxic fumes. And when the time came to buy a laptop, HP was the only brand I wanted.

This is difficult for me to admit, I want you to know that. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who’s impervious to advertising. I’m far too smart to be snookered into buying something I don’t want or need. And from what I hear, most everyone thinks they’re immune to ads.

(Kinda makes you wonder why they bother spending so much money on them, doesn’t it?)

To some extent we are immune to ads, at least the first time we’re exposed to them. It’s seeing them repeatedly over a period of time that makes them stick. Especially when they’re for products we know little about, or feel intimidated buying. Or when the ads use people we know, or at least feel like we know. We trust them. We trust what they tell us. And we do it without thinking.

Or at least, most of the time we do it without thinking. This time, I thought about it.

When Husband was doing his laptop search, he showed me many different brands – Asus, Dell, Lenovo. All ones he owned at one time or another, all ones he liked.

“But aren’t HPs better?”

He shrugged. “Depends on what you want. Why are you so stuck on HP?”

“Um…”

I couldn’t exactly tell him it was on account of these two guys:

PJ and Alex
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, hosts of Reply All and HP pushers.

Admitting you can be manipulated by ads is a hard pill to swallow. A bit of an ego buster. But no worries, I can rationalize it! The ads I heard were smart, informative and amusing. The ads did not, repeat, did NOT prey upon my emotions or feelings of inadequacy in any way. No way, no how. I am soooo above that sort of thing.

Or am I?

It’s my work laptop that is being managed and controlled. Not me.

Right?

The lesson I want to leave with you is this: Stay aware! Know what ads are selling and how they are influencing you. You are not immune to them, any more than I am. (Otherwise, why would it be a 70 billion dollar industry?)

Oh, and one more thing: After a full week of using this laptop, I can report that it is all I hoped for, needed, and is super sweeeet!

That’s the main thing. The fact that HP owners are smarter than everyone else? That’s just bonus.

Gmail Spy Thwarted!

Breaking news y’all!

As an update to my previous post on Gmail’s Covert Spy, Google recently announced they will no longer be reading your emails in order to send you targeted ads. Read their blog post here.

An excerpt:

Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization. G Suite will continue to be ad free.

In other words, while they won’t be targeting their ads by your emails, they will still use your search history, YouTube browsing, basically any Chrome activity you do while signed into your account. You are able to change that if you so desire, though they don’t make it simple.

Fortunately, one of my favorite things to do at work is make how-to-guides no one wants. And since I’m on summer break, I’ll make one for you.

Here’s how to keep Google’s Spy from personalizing your ads:  Continue reading “Gmail Spy Thwarted!”

Gmail is Watching You

I’ve known for a long time they were monitoring my emails.

It started a few years back when my sister and I were exchanging updates on our ongoing projects. She sent me a picture of a blanket she knitted for her grandson.

Fingers typing on keyboardThere, on the side of the screen next to her note, was an ad for a yarn company.

I dismissed it, thinking it was coincidence. After all, when I signed up for Gmail, it’s possible I filled out an interest survey. I didn’t remember filling out a survey, but hey. It’s possible. No need to get paranoid over it.

Then my sister emailed with the idea of visiting a local winery together. Next to her note were two ads for wine. One of them was for the winery. Continue reading “Gmail is Watching You”

FYI: Technology and Snot Don’t Mix

The following is a true account of what happens when snot meets technology. Despite our most incredible advances, it is crucial for technology to remain snot-free.

Consider this a Public Service Announcement…

Continue reading “FYI: Technology and Snot Don’t Mix”