Communications, on the move

Communications - on the move

First of all, I use Signal Messenger as my SMS program for texting. The reason I chose this is that, if both parties have Signal, the message is encrypted. I am into politics and the people I contact have also moved to Signal so our messages are private.

Signal Messenger is OpenSource, which means one can download the source code, check through for trap doors, and compile and use. Not insurmountable, if someone in your group has programming knowledge. I do, so I check, compile and send copies to colleagues.

Signal Messenger is an SMS app with secure messaging included. If the other person is not on it, it is just an SMS app.

I have recently looked at Pulse for SMS and it has similar encryption, is available on all your equipment, including Desktops and your TV). It has other good points in that you can put the people you text in your own designated folders, but it is not opensource or I would move over to it. If I ever retired from politics, I'd switch.

For email, Aquamail wins hands down. You can connect all your email addresses to it, and they show on the opening page, you can colour code them for ease, and I give dark colours for ones I hardly use and brighter colours for the ones I use often.

If you have your own domain, and have "identities" the software allows for those. I haven't tried this yet: but a normal Gmail address allows you to add a + followed by a word before the @ sign, and this might word as an identity.

There are dozens and dozens of switches within the app to enable you to tailor the app to do just what you want it to. Signatures can be set up for each address and each identity and allows bold, italics, different fonts and size text.

The best launcher I have used to date is Action Launcher and this allows me total control of the phone’s home screen. And a lot more besides, you can have as many as 12 app icons in a row across the screen if your eyesight permits it!

Whenever I need a new app, I download all the different apps for that process and delete them one by one until I settle on what, I consider, is the best. Believe me, it is worth taking the time to do this! And, you end up with the best!

I also use WhatsApp, but only for keeping in regular contact with non-secure subjects. It can be very useful for keeping in touch, but after reading of Facebook (owners of WhatsApp) spying on children (headlines in the London Metro this morning) I don't totally trust it and would never use it for what I need as security.

I have Skype but it seems to be dying under Microsoft’s control, and is just there for people in my distant past who may get back in contact.

For browsing on the Web, I use Firefox Focus. I particularly like this browser, over the normal Firefox browser, and other browsers because as soon as you exit the app, it deletes all your history for that session.

I also have apps such as Nest, which allows me to change my house temperature wherever I am. For example, when we went to China, I turned the central heating down to 10º C and on our return at Heathrow Airport, I turned the temperature up to 23º C and we returned to a warm house. In addition, I also have Nest cameras that show any movement in or around the house.

I have a 'Ring' video doorbell and when we were in Beijing, a friend called, and I told him we were in China but would be back next Wednesday! He was astounded, and I'm not sure whether he believed me!

I also have Smart Home, with our lights set up for both Google Home and Amazon Alexa. So when we go out in the evening, I have programmed different house lights to turn on and off at different times.

When we wake up in the morning and, still in bed, we have Alexa say Good Morning, then it gives us a weather forecast for our local area, then reads the latest news with newspapers I had previously set up. Finally she turns on lights in the lounge, the bathroom and the hall. Then plays soothing music whilst we get up. I'd do more but at 80, can't be bothered to do any more in-depth studying!

I use Google Home Hub in the study as it has a small but clear screen and if I ask for my emails I can see them on the screen. Also it's useful for the regular Dr Steve Turley videos I love to watch.

For security I use a VPN locked on to America so my emails and texts appear to come from America; sometimes I use France, Germany and other countries to confuse trackers.

I have a Gear 3 watch and on my phone I have an app which uses Google Maps to enter an address, then it sends directions to my watch of when to turn, how far it is to the turning and which direction etc. Useful if, like me, you prefer walking. However, it would also work if you are driving your car.