Fake friend request plus real captain equals rude note

I ignore Facebook friend requests from strangers unless I'm sure they're faithful readers of this column. But some are tricky.

An apparent captain of an enormous shipping line requested a connection. I thought for a minute it was a legitimate request. One of my friends, a savvy public speaker, was Facebook friends with him. I decided to investigate, in hopes of warning her if he turned out to be a fake.

His Facebook photo, profile and name matched that of the captain he claimed to be, which I found on LinkedIn and on the shipping company's website. So I accepted his request. Minutes later, I decided it was a risky experiment, so I unfriended and blocked him. That didn't prevent him from sending me a rude message on Facebook Messenger. He chewed me out for blocking him. It was news to me that someone could write you from Messenger after you've blocked them on Facebook. Anyway, I blocked him from both. I can't imagine a real captain getting angry so quickly.

There's a lesson here: Identity thieves lurk in social media. I'm sure the real captain would be alarmed to know that someone is using his name and photo.

If someone steals your Facebook identity, go to the person's profile page and click the three dots to the right of their name. Then choose "report." Facebook will investigate. The three dots also give you the option to block someone.


A reader writes that he canceled his cable subscription but was unable to get PBS using an antenna. Best Buy's Geek Squad installed the in-home kind after he had already tried the outdoor version on his roof. Neither brought in PBS.

I suggested getting a PBS Passport for $60 a year but he already has that. What he wanted was his local PBS channel. He said it was easier to find the programs that way. It beats wading through the entire PBS library, he says.

I suggested he go to PBS.org, click on the pull-down menu just to the right of the search icon, then click "Live TV." Whatever's showing right now will start up. Or you can click "TV Schedules" to see the full lineup. Some programs require a PBS Passport, but many are free. While watching, if you get to a part you want to skip, use the slider to fast forward. The schedules are flexible. I started watching Rick Steves' episode on the Swiss Alps at least 20 minutes before it officially started.

The reader said: "You've unlocked a door to PBS I had no idea was there. I love being able to open the TV listings. I love seeing so many options at once, so many things I didn't know were waiting. I just watched a 55-minute program on my absolute favorite artist, Charles Marion Russell."


Want to have a tiny microscope on your phone? The iMicro Q2 fits on any smartphone lens, and can magnify objects 800 times, the Kickstarter promoters say. In tests it was shown to be as good as a desktop microscope, they say. It sticks on your phone's back camera and weighs only one-sixtieth of an ounce. It's not out yet but you can preorder one for $39 from Kickstarter.com or Indiegogo.


Years ago, I almost got a second degree in computer science. I wish I'd had a book called "How Computers Really Work," which clarifies everything.

The book, by Matthew Justice, takes you from low level circuits to high level code. The author used his own young daughters as guinea pigs. His 17 years at Microsoft as a Windows debugger and automation expert didn't hurt either.

Though it takes work to learn it all, and more patience than I have, the book is much more understandable than most books of this type, even when the author delves deeply into machine code, programming languages, operating systems and the internet. He details 41 hands-on projects, including games, running a web server, and so on. It's just right for the would-be software engineer. More details at NoStarch.com.


I promised I would tell you how it went with my sister's digital photo frame, the one I got her for Christmas. She gave it back to me.

It's not that she didn't like the Aura Carver, from AuraFrames.com. But Aura Frames are not compatible with 5G households. Hers is 5G.

The Aura Carver has an ugly power cord, but that's easy to hide if you place your frame against a wall that has an outlet. I put mine in the kitchen. The photos I'd previously emailed to the frame look great. Only one was sideways. The frame allows two vertical photos to appear side by side instead of leaving blank space. All settings are modifiable. I changed how long an individual photo displays from 10 minutes to 15 seconds.

Alternatively, you could buy an Amazon Echo Show, which has no photo size limitations, unlike the Aura, which limits each photo to no more than 9.5 megabytes. However, the Aura does allow you to display an unlimited number of photos. With the Amazon Echo Show, there is no restriction on size of the photo, or the number. And it has other features. You can watch Netflix, make video calls, play games and so on. But I like the ease of a dedicated frame.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

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