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Assigning Macros

Elizabeth Technology April 25, 2023

If you’re getting sick of having to, say, embolden and italicize words in your program over and over, have no fear – you can reduce the number of steps you have to take to do that (and many other tasks) using macros!

How To Make a Macro

The process is simple! To add a macro to a button on your mouse for use across the computer, follow these steps as listed by Microsoft (this document has pictures): https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/how-do-i-create-macros-bd0f29dc-5b89-3616-c3bf-ddeeb04da2fb

To do so in Word, here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/create-or-run-a-macro-c6b99036-905c-49a6-818a-dfb98b7c3c9c

And Excel, here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/quick-start-create-a-macro-741130ca-080d-49f5-9471-1e5fb3d581a8

As with anything you do that could change the functionality of a button or mouse click, be very careful when assigning buttons certain actions! You don’t want to remove your ability to do something important (like right-clicking) by adding a macro that closes Word every time you try to paste something without using the keyboard.

Macros as a Malicious Entity

Programs like Word and Excel can come with macros designed to run as soon as the program is opened, and not every macro is harmless. Some do things like making hundreds of new documents, some can corrupt your drive, and most of them try to take over the other documents on the computer when they’re opened. This is why recent editions of Microsoft Office products warn you that you shouldn’t open a document outside of Safe Mode unless you trust it’s source. An ordinary-looking .XLSM document can completely brick your hard drive if it comes with the macros to do it!

This is also why you should always verify the sender of an attachment before you open an attachment, even a .pdf. Malicious attachments using macros can be used to steal the contents of the target’s email address book and send those addresses malicious emails too, continuing the cycle and spreading the document until it gets somewhere with valuable information. An early version of this, a macro called “Melissa”, would bait users into opening the document in Word, and then hi-jack their Outlook to send it’s bait email to the first fifty contacts in the victim’s address book as the victim (read more here at the FBI site: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/melissa-virus-20th-anniversary-032519). Melissa itself may be obsolete, but the technique sure isn’t.

Worse, because the macro is coming from an application, it’s already compatible with anything that’s using that application. Mac is not spared this time. A malicious macro can open hundreds of garbage word docs on a Mac too!

Maximalist Mouse – What Else Can You Use It For?

Elizabeth Technology April 20, 2023

You can bind keys on your keyboard, but you can also bind those extra keys on a gaming mouse, if you dare.

Gaming mice are designed with games that use hotbars in mind. A hotbar usually refers to the number keys across the top of the keyboard, sometimes including the F# keys as well. Within the game, you can tie specific usable items to those number keys, and simply hit the right key in the heat of battle to use the item. However, keyboards meant for gaming usually have bigger keys than ones attached to laptops or designed for travel, and sometimes it’s difficult to use the hotbar while your character is still moving – if you need a health potion for your character, but you can’t contort your hands to hit the right hotbar key, a gaming mouse with those hotbar bindings instead can save the day!

How to Bind Keys Elsewhere

Gaming mice are designed for games. Many of the games expecting a mouse like a gaming mouse will let you go into the settings and manually change the keys you need to press for certain actions, whether that’s to other keys on the keyboard or to the buttons on your gaming mouse. While most mice have two or three buttons (mice designed for Windows at least) the sky is the limit!

Be careful doing this – you don’t want to override the primary function of the left or right click buttons, just the ones that shouldn’t already have another function attached.

1) Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

2) Double-click Mouse.

3) Click the Buttons tab.

4) Under Button Assignment, click the box for a button to which you want to assign a function, and then click the function that you want to assign to that button.

5) Repeat this step for each button to which you want to assign a function.

6) Click Apply, and then click OK.

7) Close Control Panel.

That’s it! Your buttons should be working.

How to Bind Keys For Everyday Use

Elizabeth Technology April 18, 2023

Firstly, check out what bindings your operating system of choice already has built in to the program!

Here’s Microsoft’s list of pre-existing keyboard shortcuts: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/dcc61a57-8ff0-cffe-9796-cb9706c75eec

And here’s Apple’s: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236


To start, let’s look at Microsoft’s limitations. Every shortcut must start with the CTRL key. The second key must always be either ALT or SHIFT. The third key can be almost whatever you want on the keyboard (any letter, number, or punctuation mark, just not special characters) but there can only be three keys. Additionally, the shortcuts you make are going to override the originals, so it’s important to read the list above and consider which ones you’re okay with potentially overriding.

According to the Perkins School for the Blind, one of the easiest ways to set up custom bindings to open specific programs within windows is to:

1) pin the program to the task bar,

2) right click it,

3) right click it’s name in the menu that pops up in step two (may take a second)

4) left click “properties”

5) click the box that says “Shortcut Key”

6) type in the desired shortcut combination by pressing the keys

7) click ‘OK’.

After this, you can remove the program from your taskbar if you don’t want it there. The key combination should then open your desired file! Take note, though – if you used the same key binding as something already bound, it will overwrite whichever one came first.

You should also write down what you made so you don’t lose track.

Apple (Mac)

Apple’s weaknesses are different! When you create a shortcut using a binding that is already used elsewhere, the binding you make won’t work, and the system keeps it’s defaults. However, like Microsoft, you can only use a key once in a particular shortcut.

To make your shortcut on a Mac:

1) Open Settings, then tap Accessibility.

2) Tap Keyboards.

3) Tap Full Keyboard Access and turn it on.

4) Tap Commands.

5) Tap a command, then press a custom key combination to assign to it.

6) Tap Done.

You can also create keyboard shortcuts for many specific commands within apps!

1) Choose the Apple menu, go to “System Settings”, click “Keyboard” (you may have to scroll to see it), then click “Keyboard Shortcuts” on the right.

2) Pick “App Shortcuts” on the left, click the Add Button (may look like a plus sign),

3) Click the Application pop-up menu, then choose either a specific app or “All Applications”.

“All Applications” will let you set a shortcut for a menu command that appears in many apps, while picking the specific app will only set a shortcut for that app. If the app doesn’t appear in the list, hit “Other”, and find it in the box that opens there.

4) In the menu title field, type the menu command for which you want to set a shortcut, exactly as it appears in the app – including the “>” character (use ->), any ellipses, or punctuation.

5) Click into the Keyboard Shortcut field, press the buttons you want to use for the shortcut, and then click ‘done’.

Consider a Password Manager

Elizabeth Technology April 13, 2023

Alongside 2FA, making a difficult-to-guess password can stop a staggering number of cyberattacks, both brute-force and engineered.  But how exactly do you do that? The latest recommendation for a password has jumped from 8 characters to 10, 12 if you really want to play it safe, and a scrambled set of characters that meets all of a decent administrator’s password requirements is going to be difficult to remember almost no matter what! If you do make a good, memorable one, you shouldn’t be using it anywhere else. It’s also unfeasible to just reset your password every time you need access to a site. What can you do?

Get a Password Manager

Password managers bridge the gap between the passwords you want to make, the ones you can remember, and the password that meets all of the site’s requirements. This is such a common problem that it’s even built into some browsers! Firefox will save your passwords securely for you, although you can always download the third-party extensions of your choice in the Mozilla add-ons page (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/extensions/). While Chrome also has a built-in password manager, if your Google account gets hacked, all of your passwords just went with it, so in their case it’s better to go third-party.

You can download reputable password managers such as LastPass or 1Password just as easily and perhaps more securely – in all of LastPass’s existence, it’s never had its password database breached (although their dev environment had a security incident a little while ago).

DO NOT “Just Write It Down”

If you think just writing the password down on a Post-It is good enough, don’t be so sure! Social engineering is probably the easiest way to get into someone’s computer. If someone wanders into your office when you’re not there, and they spy your password written on a Post-It stuck to your desk, then boom – they’re in.

Similarly, this actually isn’t a great way to keep track of your passwords even if nobody else has access to it. For example – if you keep a Word Doc with a bunch of passwords in it, assuming nobody is going to be able to

A) find it or

B) identify which passwords you used where (assuming you didn’t write down your username with them) you can also assume you’re not going to remember them either!

If you don’t use them frequently, you’re far more likely to forget what goes where. Oh, good, a random bunch of numbers and letters just titled ‘game account’ on the front of a post-it that’s lost all it’s sticky powers. Where does it go? What is the username? Does it need a username, or just your email? Good luck figuring that out!

But the Manager is Always On!

Yes, these password managers are always prepared to fill in a blank on a webform. If you leave your office without putting your computer to sleep, then hypothetically someone could access an account of yours using one. However, this is easy to fix. If you’re not putting your computer to sleep or locking the screen when you leave for extended periods of time, you should! If you’re not doing that because your password is too long to type in every time you get up, consider setting up a login PIN instead to remove that barrier – a regular person isn’t going to be able to guess every permutation of four-to-six numbers (and sometimes letters depending on your admin’s settings!) in a reasonable amount of time. By locking the desktop, the manager’s convenience can’t be used against you. It’s more secure, anyhow. It’s actually a requirement for companies that follow HIPAA standards!

What Makes An Expert Online?

Elizabeth Technology April 11, 2023

Expert by Association

Listening to people you look up to or admire is not a bad thing by itself. Trusting someone who knows more than you do is a skill, and when you notice something they say doesn’t line up with reality as you experience it, you can personally decide whether or not this mentor figure is still worth your attention.


In an ‘attention economy’, where views are exchanged for cash, things have changed a little. Influencers don’t couch their language in ‘do this if you’re interested in X’, they say ‘buy this, it changed my life’, because sponsorships and a promise that you could live their lifestyle earns them money. They ask you to follow them.

Not every influencer is an expert in their content field, nor is every genuine expert-turned-influencer dispensing advice that any one user can always make use of – but in this new social media landscape, viewers are encouraged to look anyway. Some viewers start to parrot advice back in the comment sections of other videos, telling people something they heard from a different video even though they themselves don’t participate in the hobby. Is everyone suddenly an expert?

Who Gets to Be An Expert?

Most people are experts in at least something. Accountants, for example, have to be experts in their field to perform their job, or they could end up in jail for tax fraud if they screw up badly enough. People who like rock climbing have to be experts in their equipment, because the consequence for not noticing their rope failing or their anchor latching in poorly can be death or serious injury. However, as the consequences for a failure become less extreme, more people can consider themselves experts and give advice that might cause a headache, but probably won’t kill somebody.

When someone claims to be an expert at something mundane, it’s not outrageous to assume they might be! Even if they’re claiming something about a different field, they might have a hobby or job that’s close enough to that field that it still applies. The chef who made Pink Sauce online was a private chef, and a well-employed, well-experienced one at that, she just didn’t know anything about setting up long-term storage for her product. She would be qualified to give advice about making a fresh sauce, just not preservatives. And hey, even experts make mistakes! If she hadn’t flubbed up the packaging or the FDA approval, a lot of people would have just believed she forgot the part where the sauce needs to get through the USPS system. 

The resulting drama of debating her real experience after the fact is another part of the problem: how do you confirm or deny that someone knows what they’re doing if there’s no obvious cue, like a license? Accountants have degrees, but chefs don’t require any special license or training to call themselves a ‘chef’ (although SafeServ training is usually a requirement to work in restaurants). Anybody can call themselves a chef.

The only thing holding a lot of people back from claiming to be experts was good faith, but the potential to earn money off of views by claiming to be an expert in some accessible hobby is too much temptation now. Buy a wooden cutting board, some black nitrile gloves, and boom – expert chef. Even if you’re provably wrong, if you have good charisma in front of the camera, you can tell viewers washing chicken makes it safer to eat and a certain portion of them will believe it.

Expert By Misunderstanding

Professional equipment (pressure cookers, art resins, chemical agents like Citristrip, jackhammers, soldering supplies, etc.) is more available to mainstream consumers than ever. That doesn’t mean that mainstream consumers are experts, or that they’ll necessarily do all the research they need to before using their new equipment! Sites like Vine and TikTok encourage filming first and thinking about what’s being posted later. You can always delete a draft, but you can’t go back and film a process video once the process has been completed. Combined, these two truths result in a lot of beginner-adjacent content creators making videos using their new equipment in all sorts of ways, including incorrect ones.

This was a huge problem a while back when resin started trending on TikTok, because people would film clips of themselves mixing and pouring resin as though they’d been doing it for years, and a lot of what was made was not made of the right resin for the project – boat resin, art resin, and resin for small toys are very different. But unless an actual expert chimes in to say something or ask if they actually made these little bits of plastic regularly, nobody would have a clue whether or not they were watching someone make something of the correct quality or not. A lot of them learned about resin from TikTok itself, tutorials and all.

Expert, But Not Giving Specific Advice

Even real experts can steer viewers wrong without meaning to. A TikTok user who wanted to try ‘skin-cycling’ after watching a dermatologist for a few videos discovered it did more harm than good to the state of her skin, because she was moving through the steps too fast. She admitted she didn’t do enough research, but that’s part of the problem – how could she know she wasn’t doing it right until after she had to look up why it was going wrong? Those professional products and high concentration hyaluronic acid used in the video can literally be bought and delivered to your door the next day with services like Amazon.  

That viewer thought she had enough information to do it right. The dermatologist warned that people interested in the process needed to find a dermatologist to monitor them, but by making the videos, she accidentally granted just enough instruction to do harm. Why bother going to a professional if you think you know enough? There is no advice that applies universally to viewers outside of basic stuff like ‘wear sunscreen’, but that’s not interesting to watch. Just describing a process, even with a disclaimer, is taken as an invitation to try it in this new media landscape.

Expert Because I Watched Someone Else Do It

Listening to an expert for a short time also does not make one an expert. The TikTok style of content rewards tips and tricks and flashy, well-edited process videos, not in-depth training videos or real examinations worthy of PhD study.

 To go back to the Pink Sauce debacle one more time, a lot of people were suddenly experts in microbial growth because of a garlic confit trend a few months earlier. Garlic confit is cooked garlic in oil – and it could have turned dangerous if the people making it didn’t know it wouldn’t keep forever. Chefs and people with experience in preserving foods stepped in to warn viewers. Garlic and oil can be a good environment for botulism to grow, but oil or garlic themselves are not automatic vessels for botulism, and botulism has a very hard time growing in acidic foods.

The Pink Sauce was accused of possibly harboring botulism because of the oil and garlic in the recipe. The ingredients list also featured vinegar as well as dragonfruit, so the environment was much too acidic to actually grow botulism. There was already so much wrong with the sauce that these extra accusations were easy to sneak in (a content creator might want something new to report or speculate, if they really didn’t know better) alongside everything else.

Another trend, not food-related: building cairns, or little stacks of rocks. Some cairns are made so hikers know where the trail is, so building more can lead to confusion – especially if the stacker is trying to keep it ‘out of the way’ and off-trail. Other cairns don’t belong at all. It’s better if people don’t build them if they’re not asked to or not in an emergency situation that would call for it! To get rocks flat enough to stack means hunting for them, and walking off-trail damages the biocrust within the soil. That’s an essential, but fragile, part of the desert ecosystem. Prying those rocks up means taking shelter away from small animals like lizards and bugs as well, as they can’t hide between rock and rock like they can between rock and dirt. Any moisture that rock was protecting evaporates too. This drives the cool lizards, the birds, and all sorts of other wonderful natural wildlife away from places where people can see them on-trail.

To see pseudo-experts swear up and down that these cairns are not a big deal is… not a good sign. Yes, one cairn probably does nothing. Two does nothing. If the third person builds another one and takes a video of it to make some point about nature and balance, and they start a trend, suddenly popular hiking trails in that area are lined with knee-high tripping hazards and footprints instead of biocrust or grass, and the lizards have retreated to places they won’t be disturbed. Yes, no one cairn is responsible for the decline of an ecosystem’s health, the same way no one raindrop is responsible for a flood, but no average hiker could possibly tell whether they’re building the last okay cairn, or the first bad one. They won’t know what other people after them will do, either. “Leave No Trace” refers to more than just littering!

Wearing out Therapy Language For Funny Internet Points

Elizabeth Technology April 6, 2023

Basics of Psychology

Ah, the internet – a wondrous place where ‘fun facts’ can spread like a wildfire, only for a professional to reply and reveal the fact wasn’t showing the whole picture (if it wasn’t downright false). This was always a problem, but one that places like TikTok and Instagram made much worse; algorithms like exciting new things, so until the next creator making the correction is drawing enough attention to warrant their video showing up in a fan of the first sharer’s feed, those exciting new facts go unchecked. Ironically, this behavior is exploiting algorithms tailored to get you psychologically addicted to the hosting platform. Like a parasite on a parasite.

TikTok creators like the now-unpopular OnlyJayus seemed to reign supreme with their lightning-fast delivery of psychological ‘facts’ describing body language and turns of phrase as absolute tells instead of general guides, and then these creators were pushed off the throne by other creators with degrees in their field clarifying that no trick is absolute and you can’t “cheat code” yourself into a good, long lasting friendship or relationship – at least not forever. This phenomenon reoccurs constantly (see: food “experts” selling food only for people with SafeServ training to chime in, “professional” hairdressers giving tips on box dye only for a salon owner to tell them their chemical choice can burn hair, etc.) but every time it does, it creates a bunch of pseudo-experts out of people who were watching the conflict in the comment sections of those videos.

However, pseudo-psychology seems to be spreading further than other niches, perhaps because everyone has a psyche even if not everyone cooks or dyes their hair, and as a result, terms and facts are getting tossed about like dog toys in a park full of terriers and torn apart on the way.

A Theoretical Degree

Understanding a technical term and applying it correctly are often two different skills. Look at the use of the term ‘gaslighting’ – the name describing the phenomenon comes from a movie in which an antagonist is raising and lowering the output of the gas lights in the house the protagonist is living in, and then denying anything has changed, insisting the protagonist is imagining things or losing their mind, forcing her to rely on him to describe the world to her. This is a very specific term: arguing is not gaslighting. Exaggerating or correcting a misconception is not necessarily gaslighting. Sarcasm, jokes about the nature of reality as a whole, and other things in that family are not automatically gaslighting. Having a poor memory is not gaslighting – a loved one with ADHD or dementia forgetting something they were told is distressing, but not gaslighting. In fact, lying itself is not always gaslighting. “Gaslighting” is a form of abuse, and it’s a pretty specific one, but pseudo-psychology experts on TikTok have taken the term and applied it to any interaction where one person’s perception doesn’t match up with what another person is telling them – while that is true for some of those interactions, it’s not true for every interaction where there’s a misunderstanding or a debate over a fact. Understanding the term and applying it correctly are two separate things.

Usually, the way language works, ambiguities are just added to the dictionary definition of the word once enough people use and understand it’s alternative definition. For example, ‘literally’ can mean literally as in totally serious, completely free of exaggeration, or it can mean literally as in an exaggeration. “That literally killed me!” is a valid way to use the word now because the used meaning morphed to include the exaggeration definition! However, when it comes to clinical terms, such ambiguity can make it difficult to have a real discussion about a behavior. “Gaslighting” as TikTok uses it doesn’t actually seem so bad – most people gaslight somebody else in their life every once in a while, right? The app can’t even agree what their new meaning is, because everyone posting about mental health without a license or degree in the subject seems to have understood and regurgitated it slightly wrong in different ways. Even people with degrees won’t necessarily recognize it as described because not everyone with a relevant degree goes into the branches of counseling where they might see it. And gaslighting is not the only term being watered down like this; to pseudo-experts, narcissism and normal boundaries might very well be one and the same thing, just from different perspectives.

Sometimes the advice given to handle such situations is literally awful! A while back, a content creator got roasted for giving advice to simply not let friends share their woes for fear of suffering ‘trauma dumping’. Yes, that is a real thing, but in a real interaction with real friends, that’s just not the way. But that’s great for people who don’t know how to help somebody through a tough situation! Why not just stop talking to them until they feel better on their own? That surely isn’t going to have any lasting repercussions!

Worse, we already know how this ends. OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, has already gone through this cycle! Popular culture conflated OCD with a desire for tidiness, and that’s not what OCD usually entails. OCD also covers compulsions for a bunch of behaviors, not just cleaning ones, as well as hyperfixations and intrusive thoughts. It’s a disorder because it affects the quality of life for the person who has it – it’s not something that can just be turned off when the cleaning becomes inconvenient (or damaging). Magical thinking (if I don’t sort these pencils right, something bad will happen to my family as punishment for being lazy) and catastrophizing (if I don’t turn on the light switch just right, it will start an electrical fire) aren’t quirky or funny or easy to understand by outsiders, so cleanliness is what media creators latched onto and what viewers remembered about characters who were written to have it.  

Real Expertise Can’t Get A Word In

In the beginning ages of the internet’s meme culture, fun facts about psychology were there, but they were bothering to pull from studies. The studies themselves are coming under fire (see the Replication Crisis for more information on it) but the person sharing was trying to share correctly by citing their sources.

As time progressed, people shared facts that other people had shared, and things started going off the rails. One could point to another content creator as a source, but people sharing these facts two or three steps down were learning that people didn’t click their sources or google it themselves to verify very often. For websites focused on making money, this new style of short, snappy, exciting bites of content are better, and corrections happen in small bites as well, relegated to retweets or comment sections. Black and white thinking, absolutist statements, trolling, bad faith memes, etc. are all exciting and engaging, even if the engagement is complaining or downvotes. Including a typo in a post talking about your product used to be an easy way to boost comment counts on Facebook or Instagram, which told algorithms that your post was exciting and engaging, which showed it to more people. Getting facts wrong now is the same – if you say something exciting but not quite right, and people correct you, then yay, you got more comments. If you say something exciting, and nobody can tell it’s incorrect, oh well, you’re still getting views because you said something exciting.

Sometimes they don’t even realize that that’s why they’re getting popular! Someone like OnlyJayus who was clearly googling ‘fun facts about psychology’ and ripping those fun facts straight from the top results probably isn’t deliberately going out of their way to misinform people, they’re just trying to pump out content fast, and whether or not it’s precisely right isn’t their problem – who goes to TikTok for real psychology facts, anyway? Operating to game the system in a world where people get sponsorships based on view counts is a natural result of a system designed to keep you coming back.

As for correcting the things that weren’t quite right? Psychology is not perceived with the same respect many other fields are. Issuing a correction saying “that’s too simple of a viewpoint” is sometimes met with “well, my experience says otherwise” and being right becomes a popularity contest instead of a debate using studies, because the studies themselves are partly the source of the disrespect.

The replication crisis the field is currently facing is ironically itself a result of funding going towards fun, flashy results that make headlines and draw attention to researchers, and hard questions about the nature of space or how parasites interact with disease or almost any ‘hard’ science doesn’t have to jump that hoop, they’re exciting by default because they’re a ‘hard’ science. This system rewards unreplicable studies, which get telephoned into straight misinformation by the time those studies reach headlines and meme pages. Stretching the truth earns recognition, which earns money, which allows researchers to continue their work. A null result, while also useful, will not see any of this. The field has suffered for this need for convenient results since it’s inception! Almost everything Freud said was later discovered to be wrong  – his conclusions were altered by the people who’d invested in him (he couldn’t afford to embarrass the families who had paid him), a pattern we’re seeing repeated now.

Wanting Wrong to Be Right

Another aspect of this is that human relationships are becoming increasingly hard to maintain. Studies (and these studies are replicated successfully) show that people are growing lonelier in general. They don’t want to waste time on people who are bad for them, but it’s difficult to sort ‘good’ from ‘bad’ without investing some time into it. Worse, if someone is fine but just not a compatible friend, how could you explain that to them? How does that even happen? Fun facts about psychology promise you that you’ll be able to tell an ‘energy vampire’ from a ‘good person’ if you just follow these cute tips, and often put the reader on a pedestal to discern who is and isn’t a ‘good person’. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? That you’d be able to tell someone wasn’t going to make you happy before you’re forced to learn it the hard way?

Psychology fun facts in particular are such a plague because they’re so uniquely appealing and difficult to ‘prove’ wrong or right. Experts trying to correct misinterpretations of studies are usually just trying to inject the missing nuance back into the psychology fun-fact-osphere, citing that studies don’t have the full picture and that nothing – nothing – will make someone a mind-reader.

Meanwhile, creators relying on the field of psychology for their fun facts are reluctant to tell followers that there is no miracle cure for the spaces left between people because that’s unpleasant, and content for consumption is generally consumed faster if it’s pleasant. Even the people doing the correcting are often indulging their viewers in schadenfreude, whether they mean to or not! Being on the ‘right side’  with the experts is a sign that the content they’re watching is better and higher-quality than what everyone else is watching.

TikTok and other big social media sites are caught in a loop of ‘say something inaccurate – have that something corrected by an expert – promise to do better – say something inaccurate’ that never gets enough momentum to actually break. Even if one day psychology factoids become unpopular for sharing, something else always takes its place: before it was pop psychology, it was astrology, and before that, palmistry, before that, phrenology. When viewers get wise and stop engaging with inaccurate content, the people making it just move on to the next thing that promises them a guide.

Basic Adobe Acrobat Reader Instructions

Elizabeth Technology April 4, 2023

Adobe Reader is a free program offered by Adobe, that allows users to read PDFs. However, it cannot edit them, at least not for free!

Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat is a paid-subscription product that allows users to read and edit PDFs.

How Do You Set One As Your Default Program?

For Windows Users (10 and 11):

Right-click the PDF, choose ‘Open With’, click ‘Choose Default Program’, and then select your preferred PDF program from the list it provides. (If you have both Adobe Acrobat Reader DC and Adobe Acrobat DC, you should generally select Adobe Acrobat DC – it has more features!) If you want it to always use the program you’ve picked, select the checkbox at the bottom that says “Always use this app to open .pdf files” at the bottom, and hit ‘Okay’.

 For Apple Users:

Click the PDF file’s icon in the finder to select it. Go to ‘File’ in the top left, and select ‘Get Info’. Click the triangle next to ‘Open With’ to open the dropdown menu of programs, and select your desired program from the list (if it’s not there, it may be available under the option for ‘Other’). Click ‘Change All’.

What is WiFi?

Elizabeth Technology March 30, 2023

Wi-Fi’s older than it may seem, as it spent quite some time at the fringe of new tech. The market was already flooded with dial up internet, and replacing it was going to take quite a bit of doing. When it first launched, it had an average speed of 2 mbps, which is actually pretty good, about four times faster than dial up, which had a max speed of 56 kbps. However, systems were so heavily dependent on that dial up system that it took many years for it to become the standard.

Wi-Fi is understood to mean Wireless Fidelity, but apparently nobody in the labs that studied or made it ever designated Wi-Fi as the official shortening of that term, it just sort of happened, and then licensing and officiating went from there.

Kind of Like Radio

AM and FM radio have been around for decades, now, and they work fairly similarly to Wi-Fi if Wi-Fi did both at the same time. AM radio changed the amplitude of the waves to transmit information across different bands, where FM changes the frequency of the band. However, AM and FM stick to kilohertz and megahertz frequencies, while Wi-Fi is in the significantly higher gigahertz frequencies.

Electromagnetic Radiation is a spectrum: at one end, there is infrared radiation which is extremely low-frequency, and at the other, gamma radiation, which is extremely high frequency. Visible light falls somewhere near the infrared side, where red is closer to the low end and violet is closer to the high end. Microwaves fall on the low side. A 2.4 GHz microwave has a gap between wave crests about the size of a baseball – the waves aren’t nearly as close together as they are in visible light. (Note – a microwave oven has the same frequency, it is much higher energy than Wi-Fi. Loud sounds can be the same pitch, or frequency, as quiet sounds, the same goes for microwaves). Microwaves, just like colors, are broken up into bands, and different frequencies can do different things. For this article, we’re focusing on information transmission.

What Can Stop Wifi?

Wi-Fi does get weaker when walls or other obstacles get in the way, although this is usually a good thing – there are only so many viable ‘bands’ for Wi-Fi to transmit over, just like radio, so crowded buildings would run out of available bands if they weren’t so easily stopped. While microwave ovens use metal, eventually those same microwaves would be stopped if they came into contact with walls or other solid materials. Eventually, distance also stops Wi-Fi. The waves lose energy as they travel and then carried information is lost.

Bluetooth devices can interact poorly with Wi-Fi as well – they work on similar principles, but Bluetooth is much weaker. If your headphones are undetectable to your phone, even when your device is on, it’s possible the Bluetooth is being drowned out by local Wi-Fi. Bluetooth typically has a range of about 30 feet, compared to Wi-Fi’s much larger 240 feet in ideal conditions.

How Does Protecting WiFi work?

Wi-Fi transmits over those microwave frequencies to bring information to the computer and send it back out.

How do you protect information if it’s just being broadcast like that? Well, a couple of things. While it is very similar, it’s not exactly like radio, where the information from the station is broadcast across the city, and all you have to do is tune it. The computer has to find the network first, and as previously stated, both physical objects and distances can keep Wi-Fi from reaching a compatible device. Distance is a solid defense. If a hacker is in the same building, however, how do you protect the network then? Assuming their device is within accessible distance of the network, can it intercept information sent over that network?

The second part is encryption: it doesn’t matter if the data’s intercepted if the interceptor can’t un-scramble it. Transmitting unencrypted data over unprotected Wi-Fi can get you into trouble – see all the warnings about using public Wi-Fi to do banking – but encrypting it stops most issues before they start. Hence, the rise of VPNs. However, encryption alone won’t stop intruders, so the third part is network security.

The next logical step for a hacker is to get into the protected network and then seek out the info they want, skipping the encryption step entirely. The network itself has to be protected as well! Network protection can be passwords, or firewalls, or anything that prevents closed data ports from being opened. An open port in data security just means something that will allow packets of data to go in or out. A website has open ports so you can access the information on it, for example. If a poorly configured application on a computer has an open port, it’s looking for information, and that can be used to get into the network, bypassing the encryption.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz

Some modems allow two frequencies of Wi-Fi, a faster channel, and a further channel. The 5GHz channel is what you’ll want to use for your video streaming. The frequency is higher, and that means information is transported to your device faster. The 2.4 GHz frequency is probably what the printer in the other room is best on. It’s better at penetrating solid objects than 5 GHz, and it has a larger range, but it’s also weaker. 2.4 GHz is also more prone to interference, because many things use that frequency. Microwaves, for example. If you’ve had issues with your Wi-Fi while the microwave is on, get that microwave checked! The odds are good it’s shielding is faulty.

Modem Vs. Router

What’s the difference? A router routes traffic from your network to the internet. It’s sometimes referred to as a WLAN (or a wireless local area network) device. Most houses have a router because of the number of network-enabled devices in a modern home. Printers are rarely connected by cable to a computer anymore, for example.

A modem, on the other hand, is designed to connect devices directly to the internet. Modems are hard-wired into cabled data lines, like telephone lines, so they’re less popular than they used to be. Routers have taken their spot in-home, as dial-up internet is basically non-existent.

Routers and Wi-Fi are here to stay, at least until the next big things comes out!







Raid: Shadow Legends and Shotgun Marketing

Elizabeth Technology March 28, 2023

How did this mobile game come to dominate every corner of advertising?

The Beginning

I first noticed Raid: Shadow Legends being pitched by Youtubers. Particularly ones who may have struggled to get ads from bigger, more ‘wholesome’ companies due to either content or subscriber demographic mismatches. Raid: Shadow Legends swooped in and snatched up all of these smaller channels who wanted ad reads but couldn’t get them. They appeared on all sorts of channels, from people recording histories of the internet as they happen to gamers who critique speedrun techniques.

The Ads Themselves

Everywhere else, the Raid ads were pretty standard mobile-game ads. Plain. Green, orange, and black dominate the background colors. An attractive cartoon woman in armour with a determined look on her face sits in the middle of a landscape. Raid: Shadow Legends doesn’t stand out in stationary website ads.

Where it stands out is those Youtube ads. Youtube ad reads can vary. Sometimes the advertiser gives the Youtuber a script that they’re not allowed to deviate from, sometimes the ad only has talking points, and sometimes it’s a cross between the two. Certain products do a lot better when the spokesperson is able to add their own flair and personal experience to it – Meal delivery kits and sites like SkillShare especially benefit from the Youtuber expanding on their own experience.

Raid: Shadow Legends was so unique because the requirements for their ad reads were on the floor. “Say you get points if you join. Good. Now say our name. Good. Here’s your referral code.” And that’s basically it!

Advertisers also generally get to review the entire video before the ad-reader uploads it. It’s to be sure the ad is there and has all required parts, yes, but it’s also to review the video’s content. You wouldn’t find food appetizing after someone was experimenting with mold growth on different meats, for example, so this is critical. I’ve seen Raid: Shadow Legends on some videos that I’m certain nobody else would approve. I’ve seen skits built around the game that Hello Fresh would never touch. Coincidentally, those videos also have large young male audiences, exactly the demographic Raid is going for. By dropping their standards, they’ve accessed an entire wing of their target audience that other services refused to step foot in!

Shotgun Marketing

It’s easy to pick a precise target, with Google’s ad system. It’s entirely possible to narrow down your desired demographic too far. And just because Google helps you pick that demographic, it doesn’t mean it’s good. I could advertise to anyone specifically – I cannot sell my product if I advertise to the wrong anyone.

So, it’s often better to start broad and then go narrower based off of results that Google provides. However, depending on the product, you don’t have to narrow it down. You can advertise to basically everyone, via shotgun advertising: ‘we’ll put our ad everywhere, and we’ll get people that way’. Traditionally, it’s not super targeted. The odds are that someone who needs a razor is going to be listening to the radio at 8 AM on a Monday!

In this new age of marketing, it’s possible to be specifically un-specific. Raid: Shadow Legends is kind of doing that. Their target audience is anyone who’s interested in games, internet history, speedrunning, FC-ing Guitar Hero games, horror games, cheesy games, poorly made games, live streamers, skit actors, comedy channels, etc. etc. Basically, any channel that appeals to people between the age of 10 and 24 is getting an offer for a Raid ad-read. Any channel that’s below a certain subscriber count or doesn’t make the right kind of content for anyone else – guess what, Raid ad-read! Other advertisers didn’t bid so much for these spots because they likely thought it would be unprofitable. They’re probably right – it takes a special kind of product to appeal to people in these niches, so it was down to mobile games, VPNs, and ads for Dollar Shave Club.

Even then, when those other brands stepped in, they didn’t always pull the Raid strategy of approving anything. Dollar Shave Club had standards, as did many of the VPNs. Raid was getting the untouched zone of this chunk of digital land, and as such got exposure where others didn’t.

It left a lasting impression on the internet as a result. Is the game good? Is it well-made? Do people like it? I have no idea. When something becomes a meme, it’s ratings are unconnected to its quality.

Side Note: Bad Shotgun Marketing

Part of what made Raid: Shadow Legends work so well was that it gave creatives the option of riffing on the content of the ad. No two ads were alike! Some people played it straight, others did skits, others parodied the commercials of the ones doing skits… Raid really set itself up for success with that decision. I knew who was advertising what product, and I wasn’t bored by watching the same commercial six times in a day. Meanwhile, bad shotgun marketing over-exposes customers to the same ad over and over until they hate it. Particularly if they can’t skip! Over-bid for ad space and your target advert-watchers will hate you.

I remember getting ads for Love, Beauty, Planet over and over until I swore I’d never touch the product. The same goes for Grammarly, whose commercials appeared before every video I watched until I got ad blocker. It’s not limited to pre-roll ads, either: Hello Fresh straddled both methods for a while. I still remember the ad offering “Harissa Sweet Potatoes” because that was one of two ads that it showed me, over and over, all through the summer of 2019. It also owned all of the ad-reads for the segment of commentary Youtubers that I watched in the summer and fall of 2019, and that was significantly less annoying than those potato ads. Ad reads are a great way to mix up content if the advertiser doesn’t want to fund another ad shoot, but definitely wants to oversaturate their ad presence online.

This is great intel for Google Ad users – it is possible to outbid every competitor for a certain population until the bidder is the only pre-roll ad Youtube can show. Mix it up a little, at least. If it’s worth dropping the money to get every pre-roll ad, surely it’s worth investing in a couple of different videos so the end consumer isn’t incredibly annoyed.

What is a VPN?

Elizabeth Technology March 23, 2023

Note: this is not meant to act as a buyer’s guide. 

If you’ve been on Youtube in the past couple of years, you might have noticed an uptick in sponsorships from VPNs, making all sorts of claims. But what does a VPN do?

Location Services

Sometimes content published online is kept exclusive to certain countries. Canada, for example, has a rule that a certain percentage of their entertainment has to be made by Canadian artists, and Germany’s copyright laws are notoriously strict. VPNs can allow people to access this content as though they were from where it was made, instead of where they are actually at. American music videos and uncut Hulu channels for everyone!


VPNs are usually advertised for privacy purposes. And most work pretty well! Instead of sending the information straight through to the ISP, the VPN anonymizes the data to get it to the server. From that server, your request goes through to the content you wanted, and the content comes back to you anonymized. The ISP, which is usually responsible for restricting content, can’t see this data and therefore can’t restrict it. For privacy concerns around the ISP, that anonymizing is great.

It doesn’t stop there, either: If the VPN is encrypting the data coming to and from a coffee shop’s WiFi for your computer, it’s hiding it from anyone who has access to that network – which might be more than the ISP. If all it takes is the password on the receipt to get into the network, then in theory almost anyone who finds a receipt or buys a drink can access the network. This could become a problem if that person knows more about WiFi than the owners of the shop do.

But Branding?

How is it possible for there to be so many? Don’t they all do the same thing? Kinda. That’s also why ads for VPNs have been so incredibly choking. The barrier to entry to sell one as a service is actually pretty low. Depending on where the host buys their server space, they’re also low maintenance. Given those two conditions, the only thing that could keep someone from making money off of one is their visibility. The market’s flooded, so right now the winner of the race is the one with the most advertising dollars.

Does it do Everything?

For advertising concerns, a VPN is not the be-all end-all of privacy. There are so many devices in the average house (your phone, your WiFi enabled washer, your computer, your Smart TV, your gaming console…) that advertisers will still have an idea of who you are, which doesn’t even include things like cookies. When you’re using Google, every Google service knows what you’re interested in, unless you’re signed out and incognito – so searches you made could be used to tweak the content that appears on your Youtube’s ‘recommended’ page. Google allows you to turn off ad customization – that doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping the info.


If you have an account with, say, Amazon, they already know what you’re looking at on their site because it’s linked to the account. Or if you have a digital assistant that you regularly search or browse with, the VPN can’t help you. If you’re really interested in browsing privacy and not accessing Geo-locked content, you could download something like DuckDuckGo or Ecosia (this is not a buyer’s guide, products only used as examples). These services don’t store data on your search habits. Privacy-focused search engines aren’t foolproof, but if your main concern is privacy from advertisers and you don’t want to spend money on a subscription…

Where’s The Data?

There are also concerns about the many different VPNs themselves: you are partially anonymous to your ISP (they still know you’re using them, and for approximately how much data) but you are not anonymous to the VPN. In some cases, the website on the other end expects non-encrypted data, which means that the VPN literally cannot connect you without un-encrypting that data. To be fair, most browsers will warn you about unencrypted websites. But if you insist because you think the VPN’s keeping you safe, this is important information to know. Besides that, the VPN itself can sell your data. Or get hacked! The barrier to entry is very low, which is why this is a problem!

Long story short, when Youtubers are trying to sell this service, they don’t tell you why you might not need it. It’s not a good idea to connect to public WiFi without some sort of protection. VPNs can help. VPNs are a good service if you really want to watch the UK version of The Office. However, VPNs are not an invincible shield, and they’re not always capable of end-to-end encryption. They’re a security tool, not a comprehensive solution to your privacy woes.

As always, do your research on the brands you’re considering before jumping into it headfirst.

Remember, this is an overview of VPNs as a service, not a buyer’s guide!

Sources: https://www.pcmag.com/news/what-is-a-vpn-and-why-you-need-one

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network (Wikipedia here serves as a full explanation of what they are without the potential bias of money)