Sunday, February 17, 2019

SellBroke buys your gear, even if it's broke

An older laptop PC had been stashed in a closet ever since its hard drive decided it no longer wanted to boot up. I was about to give it to a charity resale store when I went online to see if it might be worth a few dollars.

I found a site called SellBroke that not only offered me money for my unresponsive computer, it also promised to send me a free shipping label for UPS or FedEx. I don't know how selling unwanted gear could be any easier.

The SellBroke website lists a wide range of gadgets that it will buy. In addition to laptop and desktop computers, it also buys mobile phones, GoPro cameras, gaming consoles and Apple or Samsung smart watches. 

For each device, SellBroke asks you to fill out a short questionnaire. Is your device like new, in good condition or does it have defects? Will it power up? Does the battery work? Is the display broken?

As soon as the form is submitted, users get a price quote based on their responses.

The deal isn't sealed until SellBroke gets the device and checks it out. Payments are sent using PayPal, Google Pay or check. And the company says it will erase customer data on each phone, tablet or computer.

For more details, check out the video below, visit the SellBroke website and follow @SellBroke on Twitter.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Petey Vid drills deep for online videos

When I recently did a Google search search to find videos about the Bonnarro music festival, nine out of ten hits on the first results page pointed me to content stored at YouTube.

That's not too surprising. YouTube is a huge video archive that might host the majority of public videos on any topic.

But YouTube isn't the only place that stores digital videos. Facebook, Vimeo, Twitch and many other sites have their own video collections. The challenge is getting past the YouTube crowd to find the others.

That's where Petey Vid comes in. It's a search engine designed specifically to locate and link to videos that aren't on YouTube.

The search service was developed by Erie Data Systems, the folks who created, a search tool that helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing find and play videos that have closed captions.

In addition to Facebook, Twitter and other well-known platforms, Petey Vid collects links to videos on DailyMotion, Internet Archive, Metacafe, Instagram and Veoh. It also combs video-focused networks such as Brighteon and Bitchute.

Petey Vid showed me pages of videos from Daily Motion and Vimeo along with some interesting audio files from Internet Archive.

You can run searches for free at the Petey Vid website and follow @PeteyVid on Twitter. Petey Vid says it will not save or use your search data.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Boxaid offers remote PC repairs

All computers have occasional problems. The challenge for the owner is finding the fastest, most convenient and most affordable way to get it fixed.

Over the years, I lugged my computers to various repair shops, including those guys in the white shirts and black ties. But the most satisfying repair experiences I've had occurred when I didn't leave the house. Instead, I connected online and on the phone with a skilled technician who takes control of my ailing computer.

That's how the people at Boxaid operate. Anyone with a PC problem can call the company's toll-free number and get connected to a technician based in the US. You can describe and discuss the problem to see if it's a software issue that can be repaired by remote and decide if you want to proceed.

If you agree to use the Boxaid service, the technician will have you download and install software that creates a secure encrypted connection between the tech and your PC. You can watch each step of the process.

The Boxaid techs will tackle simple problems such as an error message, printer connection or an application issue for $29.95. A 60-minute tune-up that covers sluggish PCs, network issues or email troubles costs $59.95 while a complex virus removal runs $89.95. I've paid considerably more for similar work done in repair shops.

In each case, the tech will provide a price quote before any work begins. And you're not asked for  a credit card until after the work is completed and you're satisfied with the outcome. When everything is finished, the tech will permanently disconnect from your computer.

The Boxaid website includes recording of audio reviews by Boxaid customers, links to reviews on Facebook and Yelp and a reprint of a Wall Street Journal article that tested Boxaid and three other similar remote repair services.

For more details, check out the video below and visit the Boxaid website. You can also follow @Boxaid on Twitter.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Socialman makes online giveaways easy

Online giveaways are great traffic builders because who doesn't like free stuff?

One of the more popular features of the news website I managed some years ago was the weekly prize drawing. But in those days, we had to write custom code to collect user data and select winners. And our homemade giveaway  only worked on our website - not on the fast-growing social media channels.

Now there's a giveaway tool called Socialman that lets users run giveaways on all the major social media platforms with no programming required.

The Socialman giveaway app required no programming skill. It's a giveaway app that is installed by copying and pasting a block of code into a blog, website or social media page. The widget works on all of the top social media platforms, from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to Vkontakte, Steam and Discord.

Once the widget is installed, users are ready run giveaways with their own images, text and branding. Socialman has a dashboard to manage campaigns, preview new giveaways before they are launched and track their performance after they go live. It will also select a winner based on the users preference - top point scores or a random draw.

Socialman supports 14 different languages, so giveaway campaigns can be customized for different target markets around the world, and the dashboard can toggle between four languages.

A basic Socialman package that includes Facebook and Twitter support and CSV exports is free. Upgrade options include a version with detailed analytics and custom mobile apps. All versions are available for a free 30-day test drive.

For more details, visit the Socialman website.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

AstraChat offers secure group chat

Every time I hear a report about someone's private chats getting hacked or snooped I wonder why some talented programmers haven't created a secure alternative to the common chat programs we all use.

It turns out that the coders at Rockliffe Systems have done just that. Their product is called AstraChat. It lets users communicate securely in real time using almost any platform, from iOS an Android mobiles to Windows, Mac and even Linux desktops.

With AstraChat, users can communicate one-to-one or in groups both small and large. In addition to sending and receiving text messages, they also can exchange photos and conduct VoIP conference calls.

A key element in the AstraChat structure is its use of its own enterprise server instead of using a commercial chat platform with a cloud installation or a proxy server.  AstraChat clients support SSL and TLS encryption and optional encryption using OTR (Off the Record).

The AstraChat client software is always connected to an XMPP server running in the background to provide immediate push notifications of new messages. And the elimination of a proxy server add enhanced security.

Client apps are available for free from the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store.  The apps connect directly to the AstraChat server and do not require users to sign up or create an account.

For a closer look, check out the video below and for more details, visit the AstraChat website.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

App lets parents manage what kids see on YouTube

When my grandchildren got Amazon Fire tablets a few months ago, they quickly gravitated to YouTube and its vast library of videos. Among their favorites are videos that teach letters and numbers and sing-along cartoons, including endless variations of Baby Shark.

But YouTube has billions of other videos, including some that would probably not be welcomed by parents of young children. While YouTube tries to keep out nudity and overt sexuality, videos featuring violence, profanity and provocative dress are allowed.

So how can parents take charge of what children see on their devices? A mobile app called Safe Vision lets parents manage a child's access to YouTube videos and block those with questionable content.

With Safe Vision, kids can watch only YouTube videos and channels that have been approved by their parents and added to a safe list. The adults can select individual channels to appear on the list and choose channels from Safe Vision's collection of pre-approved channels. They can also lock and unlock individual videos.

Versions of the app are available for Fire tablets in the Amazon App Store, for iOS devices in the Apple App Store and for Androids in the Google Play Store.

The app is free but limits some functions. A upgrade version allows parents to create profiles for multiple children, unlock more than five channels and have more control over how many hours per day that their child is allowed to watch videos.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Chatbot automates insurance marketing

When one of my insurance policies was up for renewal a few months ago, I did some comparison shopping to see if I could find a better deal. My search involved a lot of late-night Internet browsing, many Google searches and encounters with some very frustrating websites.

At a typical insurance agency site, I would be asked to send an email or fill out a long questionnaire. And there were a surprising number of sites that just said call us during business hours. I'm sure that meant their business hours, not mine.

My quest would have been a much more pleasant experience if I had encountered an agent that used Leadsurance to build its online presence. Leadsurance is a platform that uses artificial intelligence and automated quoting to generate sales leads. It also gives potential customers what they want: a smooth and frustration-free route to price quotes on the policies they want - regardless of the time of day or night.

To get a first-hand look at the platform, the folks at Leadsurance set me up with a demo account. That's where I met Scott Stewart, or Scott the Bot, as he calls himself. Scott was on duty and instantly available, even while I was watching one of the late-night talk shows.

Scott's chatbot window appeared as soon as I clicked a Get Quote button that offered "a great rate in just a few seconds." In conversation bubbles, he offered rate quotes, answers to my questions or help with a policy.

Since this was a demo account, I didn't get any real quotes. If I had knocked on the digital door of a live account, my queries would have been routed to live quoting engines and delivered to a live insurance agents in real time. Agents who use the Leadsurance platform can get notifications delivered to their mobile phones or tablets, even while they're watching the same late-night shows.

The agents can also get a dashboard that collects and organizes leads with contact information and other details provided by potential customers. Agents and their offices can use the dashboard to track site traffic, manage search engine visibility and publish content. They can also analyze social media data and customer reviews.

The basic Leadsurance package costs $99 a month and includes a custom website, hosting, instant lead alerts and social media management.

The chatbot, analytics dashboard and SEO optimization are among the features included in an upgraded package that costs $199 per month. Both packages have 24-hour support.

You can get a closer look at the service in the video below and more details on the Leadsurance website, which includes a blog and a an interesting look at how chatbots are being used in the insurance industry.  Leadsurance is also on Twitter @Leadsurance

Monday, December 24, 2018

This site helps you avoid scam vendors

Whenever we go looking for a new service provider or vendor, we make a visit to the Better Business Bureau website one of our first stops. We know the BBB checks out the companies on their list and we feel confident that we won't be pointed toward anyone with a sketchy reputation.

But the bureau's website is not especially easy to navigate. So I wasn't surprised to find that the site called eLegitimate has created a new and enhanced online database of BBB accredited companies.

At the eLegitimate website, users start by selecting one of 11 top-level categories, then drilling down to a subsection. For example, a user would start with the Automotive category to find Walmart and The Tire Rack among accredited tire dealers that have a national presence win the web. Each listing on the site contains a link to the company's website.

Other categories include Financial Services, Health & Beauty, Gifts, Tech & Communication, Home and Travel.

The eLegitimate site also has a collection of articles to help people avoid scams and fraudulent websites. Here's a sample of topics:

  • How to Find Out If a Website Is Legitimate or Not
  • The Effects of Falling Victim to a Scam
  • Common Online Scams to Be Aware of
  • What Is a BBB Accredited Business?
  • The Sad Truth behind the Trustworthiness of Online Reviews
To see the full list of articles and vendor categories, visit the eLegitimate website.

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