Written: August 7, 2019

Reducing the amount of SPAM email sent from web contact forms

My business clients love it when prospects or customers contact their web forms, which then sends an email message, But what do you do when a malicious person has a bot that is visiting your contact pages and filling out bogus web forms?

Who wants to receive that many bogus email message?

Our friends at Google have managed to figure out a way that auto-detects when a computer bot fills out your forms, instead of a human, and they call that technology reCAPTCHA. Best of all, this technology is free to use.

For my WordPress client web sites I typically use a plugin for forms called Contact Form 7, and it has a net integration with Google reCAPTCHA. So, my first step is to browse https://google.com/recaptcha/ and then add my client web site, which then generates two keys:

 

I just click the Copy Site Key, then over in WordPress I find Contact> Integration, then paste in the two values:

 

Once those two keys are installed, then I just browse the client site, and double check that the special Google icon appears in the lower-right corner of every web page, telling me that I’m protected from most SPAM fields.

 

When you hover the cursor over the Google icon, it expands to provide more information:

protected by reCAPTCHA

Try this approach, and see if it doesn’t cut down the amount of spam email messages being sent from your web site forms. My customers love it.

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Is that Web Password Safe or Hacked?

I read almost every week about a data breach at some large company, so then the bad guys may now have another one of my passwords, but what can I do about it? Well, Google has a list of all known data breaches and when you add their new extension to the Chrome browser and visit a web site that has been breached, it will alert you to change your password.

I’ve been using this Chrome extension for a couple of weeks now and just yesterday it alerted me to change my account password on a particular web page that I use about once per year:

Kudos to Google for making this password checking feature free to Chrome users. At least I know that my old password has been hacked, and that it is time to update it before some bad guy steals my identity for that particular web site.

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Goodbye Google+

Social media over the years has taken many twists and unexpected turns, so it was not too surprising to hear that Google decided to shutdown its social media platform named Google+. I did open a Google+ account for myself personally and a Google+ Page for my business, Tualatin Web. One of the issues that I quickly saw with Google+ was that they didn’t allow you to auto-post to their platform, unlike Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Google+

Here’s the official goodbye letter from Google:

You’ve received this email because you have a consumer (personal) Google+ account or you manage a Google+ page.

In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted.

As early as February 4th, you will no longer be able to create new Google+ profiles, pages, communities or events.

See the full FAQ for more details and updates leading up to the shutdown.

If you’re a Google+ Community owner or moderator, you may download and save your data for your Google+ Community. Starting early March 2019, additional data will be available for download, including author, body, and photos for every community post in a public community.  Learn more

If you sign in to sites and apps using the Google+ Sign-in button, these buttons will stop working in the coming weeks but in some cases may be replaced by a Google Sign-in button. You’ll still be able to sign in with your Google Account wherever you see Google Sign-in buttons. Learn more

If you’ve used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by February 4th and other sites by March 7th. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting April 2, 2019. Learn more

If you’re a G Suite customer, Google+ for your G Suite account should remain active. Contact your G Suite administrator for more details. You can also expect a new look and new features soon. Learn more

If you’re a developer using Google+ APIs or Google+ Sign-in, click here to see how this will impact you.

From all of us on the Google+ team, thank you for making Google+ such a special place. We are grateful for the talented group of artists, community builders, and thought leaders who made Google+ their home. It would not have been the same without your passion and dedication.

Google LLC 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google+ Page, product or account.

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Nest Thermostat – Not So Friendly

My wife exclaimed, “Our thermostat won’t do what I want it to anymore. It’s time to replace it.”

She was referring to our 20+ year old Honeywell thermostat that came with our home. I agreed and had already researched the new crop of “Smart Thermostats”, deciding to go with the chic Nest unit, now owned by Google. My local Home Depot store had it in stock, although I had to visit the Service Desk to actually get the unit because they don’t keep them out in the open, just in case a thief wants to walk out of the store with one.

Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat

Removing the old thermostat and mounting the new Nest was straight forward, however during the setup process the Nest device tried to connect or our WiFi called PAYNE. First attempt to connect was met with the error message, “Failed to connect”. OK, so I re-type the password, still no connection. Next I tried a second network named PAYNE-5G, same issue of “Failed to connect” for two attempts.

I visit the Next web site, find the support page, and give them a phone call. The recorded voice says that I have to wait about 10 minutes. No problem. On the web I visit their FAQ section and click around on WiFi issues, where they have six recommendations, none of which helps my unit to connect. After 10 minutes my support phone call is abruptly disconnected, having never reached a live person. Huh, this is not going well today.

Then I started to wonder why the Nest device couldn’t connect to WiFi, maybe I could change something on my WiFi router to make it all better, so I login to my router and notice that I can choose which Channel my WiFi is using. So I change from channel 3, to 4 to channel 5. Bingo, because now I could finally connect the WiFi on the Nest device to my home network. No thanks to the Nest phone support system or their web site FAQ, I had to figure it out myself and that took about 60 minutes of sleuthing and trying various combinations of settings.

Now that the new thermostat is installed and working I’m supposed to achieve some energy savings as this system learns our heating and cooling habits and preferences. I also applied for $50.00 cash back from the Energy Trust of Oregon, so that will help sweeten the deal a bit. Our family can also use an App on our Android phones to view the thermostat settings and control it remotely, kind of cool. We have officially started to build our Smart Home, so let’s see where this journey takes us.

Eco mode for energy savings

Eco mode for energy savings

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What About that New Google Logo?

I’ve been a loyal Google user for many years simply because their free search feature provides me the answers to my questions very quickly, and accurately. The folks at Google have a sense of humor and history, so they often show a different logo on their site to commemorate something important or fanciful. Recently they decided to change their iconic logo. Here’s the familiar, old logo with a serif font style:

Old Google logo

I like the serif font choice because it adds a touch of class to the logo, and is easy to read.

Now for the new Google logo with san-serif font:

New Google logo

With this new font the logo looks more child-like and simple, not at all sophisticated. There is a general trend now on the web to make graphics and logos super-sized, which to me looks a bit childish and doesn’t appeal to my sense of design. Of course, this is just my impression about the graphical feel for the new Google logo, others may just love it.

So it goes with your web site, the decisions that you make for your logo, font colors and sizes, type face, and combinations of graphics with text will all combine to create a feeling for your visitors. Do you want to come across as business-like, or playful? It all depends on your market place. A CPA or banker will want to appear more formal, while an author of children’s books may want to be rather playful in appearance and content.

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New Facebook Timeline = Google+

I try just about every social media at least for a week or so, just to see how it feels and to learn something new every day. Well, today Facebook launched a new timeline and instantly I had deja vu, because I’ve already been using Google+ and it appears that Facebook copied the Google+ look. Enough talk, here’s a comparison and you can decide:

 

The similarities:

 

“Imitation is a kind of artless flattery.”

Joseph Addison, 1776

From a user perspective I find that more of my high-tech, geeky, Google-loving friends and professionals are attracted to Google+. My personal friends and family tend to be using Facebook. There you have it, both social media channels will continue to grow, innovate, imitate, and on occasion innovate.

If you want a visual treat, then give Google+ a try on your iPad or Android tablet, it is gorgeous with how the images are positioned on the display.

iPad version of Google+

iPad version of Google+

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