Google Duplex Is Real and It’s Pretty Amazing; The Best Utilities for PCs and Macs; More in Five for Wednesday

woman asking google duplex to make a dinner reservation

      1. More than a few people thought Google might be up to something sneaky when they demonstrated their human-sounding voice AI Duplex, but it’s real, it’s coming soon, and it’s amazing.
      2. Want to get more out of your computer? Tech site The Verge has great recommendations for PC users as well as for Mac users.
      3. Not sure if we’re surprised by this, but people spend almost as much time on Instagram as they do Facebook, and Snapchat isn’t far behind either. Check out what’s happened with social app traffic over the last 12 months.
      4. Google Earth can now calculate both distance and area; all you have to do is put down some anchor points.
      5. Lastly, letters in different alphabets can look identical, which makes it easier for scammers to get you to visit a phishing site. Learn more here, and be careful out there.

Big Changes Coming to MS Office; Wire Transfer Thieves Busted; More in Five for Wednesday

scissors cutting a red ribbon

      1. Microsoft is rolling out some big changes to Office.com and Office 365. You’ll notice the changes mostly in the tool bar / “ribbons” for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the like. We really hope they get this right, because those ribbons have been pretty unwieldy for some time.
      2. Everyone in real estate knows fraudulent wire transfers are a big problem, so it’s nice to hear 74 of the bad guys just got nabbed by the FBI.
      3. Google Translate is now available in downloadable versions of 59 languages. If you’ve never used Translate, it’s amazing and makes things like foreign travel so much better.
      4. Need to touch up the paint on some of the houses in your inventory? Using one of these color sensors will make the job a lot easier (and better looking).
      5. Microsoft hasn’t been in the hardware game for very long, but they do seem to be up to some interesting things. More Surface devices are on the way, including (we hope) the two-screened device they taunted us with back in 2009.

The Best Virtual Private Networks, Why Net Neutrality is Important for REALTORS®, and More in Five for Wednesday

neon sign spelling VPN

      1. More people are using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to stay safe online. If you’re interested in using one to protect your privacy, remember at the very least this one thing: a paid VPN is better than a free one.
      2. VPNs, part two: The Wirecutter has a great roundup of the best VPNs. Spoiler alert: there’s not a single free one on their list.
      3. Net neutrality has been given a second chance at life by the US Senate. If you’re still wondering if net neutrality is important for REALTORS®, take the time to watch this video. And if you’re moved to take action and tell your House representative what you think, here’s an easy way to do it.
      4. Yay, technology: an app for Microsoft’s Hololens combines 360-degree sound and its knowledge of where objects are to help blind people navigate through homes and buildings.
      5. Boo, technology: a marketing company in Philadelphia geofences hospital emergency rooms and sends targeted ads to patients inside.

The Toughest Phones, What People Really Think About Facebook, and More in Five for Wednesday

photograph of cracked smartphone screen

      1. Everyone drops their phone eventually, but if you’re chronically slippery-handed, find out which smartphones are the hardest to break.
      2. Facebook has had a rough couple of months. Mozilla asked 47,000 people what they thought about the company and their role in protecting themselves online. The results are really interesting, and there’s an interactive tool you can use to look at the results.
      3. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be able to predict when arguments online are about to get nasty.
      4. Tech companies have been selling facial-recognition systems to police departments, and it appears that at least one has implemented real-time analysis from cameras positioned in their city.
      5. Tread lightly with this one: PassProtect is a Chrome browser plug-in that will tell you how many times a password has been exposed in a data breach. PassProtect’s maker says it safe, but we’d probably use it at first just to see how many people really use “qwerty” or “letmein” as their passwords.

The Philippines’ Pollution-Free City, Twitter’s Move Into Encrypted Messages, And More In Five For Wednesday

illustration of pollution being erased from a city skyline

      1. Would you move to a city that is dedicated to sustainability, permits only electric cars, and reserves two-thirds of its land for parks and other green space? New Clark City in the Philippines plans to be exactly that.
      2. Love Twitter direct messages but worried about your privacy? Twitter appears ready to tackle encryption-friendly competitors such as Signal.
      3. Not all Internet of Things (Iot) devices provide a strong defense against hacking, so new products that warn you if your smart home has been compromised are really nice to see.
      4. Speaking of smart homes: smart switches are a great place to start, but there are some things you should know before you buy and install them. (You can also read our guide to smart switches, part of CRT Labs’ Smart Home Simplified series.)
      5. Lastly, Apple is getting serious with apps that share your location data with third-parties, removing them from the App Store and forcing companies to resubmit their apps for review after they’re brought into line with Apple’s policies.