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5 Terrific (and Unusual) Pinterest Boards you Should Follow Now

I recently saw a tweet from Tragically Ally, a popular champion on Twitter. And it made me laugh. It also made me think:

Turns out funeral pins are a thing. Just search for funeral pins in Twitter – some tweets are in jest, sure, but not all. I didn’t get swept away in thoughts of my own funeral. I did, however, begin to think of other Pinterest boards that might exist. Here are some eye-catching Pinterest boards. They're work safe.

1. Alternative Disney

https://www.pinterest.com/banderbear/alternative-disney/ Mashups rock, don’t they? Take a look at what characters such as Ariel and Pocahontas would look like if they were in The Walking Dead. Check out a real-life, man-sized Buzz Lightyear. And check out impressive Disney poster GIFS like this one:
disney-pin

2. Cartographic Curiosities

https://www.pinterest.com/brainpicker/cartographic-curiosities/ This board boasts more than 12,000 followers. It includes a book lover’s map of literary geography, circa 1933. It features cartographic works of art that originated in Boston and Cambridge. See a historic atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. And have a look at this visual history of mapping the universe:

3. Funeral ideas

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/funeral-ideas/ It’s not all about how folks hope to peace out of this world. Pins include balloons printed with “You are loved, you are missed, you are remembered.” Find ideas for how to display a favorite quote at the service. And peruse the collection of poems, such as this one:
funeral-pin

4. Humor fingers (dedicated to the art of finger people)

https://www.pinterest.com/dollzbyelectra/humor-fingers/ With this board I’d need both hands and feet to count my favorites. You have to hand it to people who can be so clever. Lots of people have nailed it on this board. Others kind of toe the line. Here’s a favorite of mine:
finger-pin

5. Too PRETTY to EAT!

https://www.pinterest.com/andrejcick/too-pretty-to-eat/ This board takes dessert to a sweet, creative level. Check out a detailed ruffle cake, in deep purple. There’s a jaw-dropping wedding cake that looks like it’s part of an enormous carnation. I loved this one, of Alice in Wonderland, even though I’m not sure whether to eat or pour tea from:

News

5 Awesome Sites to Boost Your Elf on the Shelf Game

As if Christmastime madness wasn’t mad enough. A tradition has emerged between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (AKA, the longest month ever when you’re 5; the shortest, as a parent):  The Elf on the Shelf. He’s an 8-inch spaghetti-armed Santa spy on a mission. He carries in his plastic noggin a dossier of iron-clad rules – don’t touch me, being foremost. Author Carol Aebersold and daughter, Chandra Bell, introduced the elf in a rhyming kids’ book. It published in 2005, and a marketing blitz ensued. When the stardust settled, the elf became an award-winning toy. All as Santa’s heavy for tracking behavior of naughty girls and boys worldwide. Parents move the elf every night around the house and into his next adventure. He often leaves clever notes (imagine an elf with a miniature surfboard and a sign that reads, “surf’s up! And you’d better be too – time for school!) Usually, the elf emerges on the day the family tree goes up. Kids find the elf each morning, revel in his antics and read his message. If they touch him, he loses his magic. This calls for an apology letter to Santa, and a sprinkle of cinnamon next to the elf’s magic-stripped body at bedtime. Ten times out of 10, he’s good as new the next day. Love him or lump him, you must give him his due. This elf has flung himself into the American mainstream holiday environment. He’s not self-sufficient, either. He relies on parents who rack their holiday-assaulted minds for clever placement and theater. Parents seek tips for colic and advice about SnapChat on the Internet. Now, too, elf ideas. Entire blog posts and Pinterest boards exist for his glory. We’ve compiled three clever elf treatments found on the web. That’ll carry you through almost a half a week! You are welcome.

For the lazy parent

Doctor’s Note

Darn Kid Reindeer live in a hostile, frigid environment. It stands to reason that environment fosters the survival of the fittest, even for ticks. Ticks cause Lyme disease, transmission to reindeer and to elves, and, well, time missed from work. Herein lies a parental work-around. This idea earns you a one-year reprieve.

For the planner

30 Days of Elf

Macaroni Kid If you’re like most parents,Elf planning, dinner planning, or – who are we fooling? – LIFE planning, a source that gives you a step-by-step guide for an entire month of ANYTHING is akin to a gift from Santa himself. Blogger Christel Hoydic. The writer behind Macaroni kid, advises rookies to start modestly. Christel’s suggestions include:*
  • Pitting the elf in a wrestling match with a gator
  • Granting him access to mom’s makeup kit
  • Throwing him into a marshmallow war with a Captain America figure
*The elf has acquired a taste for messy mischief over the years. [Check out Christel’s Elf Pinterest presence, too. #ElfLife]

For dads out of ideas

Appliances, solitude, mystery

Daddy Realness We’ve known this from Ward Cleaver to Fred Flintstone: Dads possess an alternate world view. Not down with plopping your elf in the middle of an intricate handmade peppermint forest? This blog will lend some real-life (and Breaking Bad-like) ideas. Mike’s suggestions include*:
  • Leaving the elf in the middle of the floor
  • Framing the elf with empty beer bottles
  • Forcing the elf’s antics outdoors
*Mike says “I’m not that creative. Guess I should have led off with that.” [Check out Mike’s blog, with straight talk about fatherhood.]

For the family-friendly family

Naughty-behavior strikes, flour messages, and cookie-and-pretzel dumb bells

Skinny Mom Gator-wrangling and outdoor exile aren’t for everyone. Still, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Jenna Gross writes for the blog Skinny Mom. She crowd-sourced for ideas for parents whose brains are “completely elfed out.” Her 101 ideas more than covers the season – and could spur your creativity. Jenna’s ideas include*: The elf beginning a holiday-themed coloring page for the kids to finish A rigged game of UNO with a Christmas gnome Hidding in the freezer and binging on ice cream *Jenna’s post links to tons of clever parent blogs [Check out Jenna’s posts on fitness, food and other fun.]

For the overachiever parents

Upgrades, downgrades, and ways to snuff him out

The elf is head-heavy and spaghetti-armed – if he had the mobility and strength of, say, a He-Man action figure, can you imagine? Also, you must consider the elf’s Christmas exit and farewell until next year. For some parents, though, a more permanent close is tantalizingly close, too. Check out these sites: Dirty Diaper Laundry | Kim Rosas’ tutorial will demonstrate how to give the elf’s arms some muscle – and his hands some grip. She knows | Elaina Verhoff’s suggestions include packing a suitcase for his Christmas-day departure, serving Santa his Christmas Eve cookies and milk, and the gift of pajamas for the big night. Sunshine and Hurricanes | It’s easy to find ideas for violent ends to the elf’s service. Blogger Kira Lewis simply says, “hey, elf. It’s me, not you.” She’s penned the perfect breakup letter for the elf.

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Buyer Beware: Online shopping scams and how to avoid them

Think you’re safe from online scammers? Think again. Last year, identity theft affected more than 13 million U.S. consumers.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, identity thieves have stolen a whopping $112 billion from U.S. consumers in the past six years. These days, online criminals are more likely to target you that criminals on the street. Online hackers and scammers want credit card information and scammer activity will spike during the holiday season. Here are a few easy steps to identify and avoid online scams as you scramble for last-minute deals.

Top 3 Identity Theft Scams

Gift-card Scams: A too-good-to-be-true gift-card offer is tough to pass up, especially with tons of people to buy for and shopping on a budget. An email offer that asks you to enter your banking information to claim it is a sure sign it’s fake. Trusted brands and retailers don’t ask for that kind of information. Coupon Scams: Following in the too-good-to-be-true vein, many online scammers use emails and website pop-ups claiming deals to top gifts and tech gadgets at a discounted price. Clicking on the links to these coupons will typically take you to a site asking for personal information. Thieves take the information entered to make purchases in your name, and steal your identity. Other ways to spot a fake coupon:
  • No expiration date
  • It doesn’t take you directly to the retailers’ site
  • The offer is too good- like over 50% off good
Bad Links: Online scammers who try to steal your information often do so via a method known as phishing. They use emails that mimic legit retailers, or with information that looks like it’s from your bank in the attempt to get you to enter personal information. These links can also often install malware onto your computer. Not sure you can spot a fake? This site gives you a few examples.

Ways to spot a fake:

Look for poor grammar and spelling: Oftentimes you can spot a fake email or coupon just by the amount of misspellings and over-the-top guarantees. Plus, if a link takes you to a site with tons of pop-ups, that’s another dead giveaway it’s not a legit offer. Look for safe payment systems: Apple Pay, Android Pay and Amazon Payments are all great examples of ways to safely pay online. Plus, if you are banking online, or doing anything involving a payment on the web, be sure the site has the lock icon in the link followed by http://. This indicates it is secure and that your data is private. Look for secure Wi-Fi networks: Never purchase something over public Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have the same kind of security measures in place that a home connection would, which means it’s much easier for hackers to access your phone or computer and steal personal information. Buying online can be quick and painless as long as you are taking steps to keep your information safe. Installing Anti-Virus software and Anti-Phishing software on your home computer is another great way to fight hackers and scammers. Plus, you can fight back. If you believe you have been a victim on identity theft, immediately report it here.

Sources:

https://www.rather-be-shopping.com/blog/2016/01/07/how-to-spot-a-fake-coupon/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-holiday-shopping-tips-story.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/21/one-in-people-now-victims-of-cyber-crime/

http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/identity-theft-and-cybercrime

News

What is Mirai botnet and how did it smash the Internet?

On October 21, the U.S. saw a massive outage of Internet sites. Hackers launched three waves of attacks that took out the web operations of Internet powerhouses such as Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix and The New York Times. Many people were left wondering how this could’ve this happened. Let’s take a look at who attacked what, how they did it, and what implications this could have for the future of the Web.  

Who was it?

Two hacking collectives claimed responsibility for the attack: New World Hackers and Anonymous. The groups say they carried out the operation in retaliation for Ecuador cutting off Internet access for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. However, experts aren't confident it actually was those groups. With Mirai, the open-source tool used to launch the attack, it could have been any other hacker or group.  

What broke?

The attack was on Dyn, a Domain Name Service (DNS) provider. You use a DNS provider whenever you point your browser to a URL like https://livingthetechlifeblog.wordpress.com/. Think of DNS as a switchboard operator. The operator gets your request and finds the IP address of a server that holds the website you want. Then it and connects your computer to that server. DNS is important to the web, and the blackout showed us just how much depends on it.  

How did it break?

The hackers used a technique called DDoS, which stands for “distributed denial of service.”. The "distributed" part means that the attack came from multiple computers in different locations. In any Denial of Service attack, the attacker bombards a website's server with lots of network requests. With too many requests, the server gets overloaded. It can't respond to legitimate requests and the website becomes unreachable. In the attack on Dyn, the botnet (collection of hacked computers used for the DDoS attack) comprised Internet-enabled devices such as remote cameras, baby monitors and printers. Mirai was the malware that infected them. Mirai's creator specifically targeted the security weakness of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. A hacker shared the Mirai source code with a community of hackers, giving them a powerful open-source weapon. When Mirai infects a device, the device continues to function normally in the household. But in the background, that device searches for and infects other vulnerable devices. These devices form a virtual army that a hacker can use to barrage online targets with traffic. A Computerworld article said an estimated 100,000 devices were involved in the attack, but the total number of infected devices could be half a million. The attack was likely the largest DDoS attack in history.  

Now what?

The Mirai malware is still out there. But while many devices are now infected, not all of them are controlled by the same hacker. In reality, “Mirai botnet” is many botnets that run on the same malware. Security experts have seen smaller DDoS attempts, but it seems competition among hackers to take over devices has fragmented Mirai’s power. It's unlikely that another big outage will happen from the same source any time soon. But the event should spark caution for device manufacturers and consumers alike. The IoT devices in Mirai botnets were vulnerable because they used weak or default passwords. Manufacturers should require strong, unique passwords during device setup. Users should always change the default password when setting up a new Internet-connected device.

News

The Ways to Conquer the Great Grammar Divide

My daughter actually wrote a paper for school – on her phone. I. Can’t. Imagine. I struggle with a simple text. Zeros become 9s, Ps are Os, and forget the backspace vs. M battle. Middle-aged eyes and letter keys that could fit under a chocolate chip? Not a good match. Yet, for this generation, texting and social-media posts are more comfortable than actual conversation. Forget emoticons and all-lower-case entries for a moment. Let’s not concentrate on spelling. (Although another of my kids once texted, “we picked up meet at the grocery store!”) Grammar – the framework of writing – is taking a hit. What role has social media played in this slow-burning yet seismic downgrade of grammar?

The Grammar Police

To let your grammatical guard down among friends is one thing. But what if your words represent a brand? Readers once pounced on typos in local morning newspapers. Now, some people read with similar scrutiny blogs and social media posts. They search and destroy brands who post updates with errors of grammar and spelling. Quick to grill a company for missing commas? Consider this: Brands that relate to their audience succeed. Brands such as Sephora, ThinkGeek and Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center convey personality. They connect not because of impeccable grammar, but with messages that resonate. Friends and contacts like and share content that resonates. They also frequent their content, and buy their products.

The evolving language of communication

There’s always a moment. Your grandmother sends btw in an email. Your own father uses 4 for for and 2 for too in a text. Chances are, they’d stop for a moment if they saw these deviations in ad copy for luxury cars or cereal. So why use it themselves? Corporations, small businesses and bloggers must weigh the cost of hardline grammatical compliance. Is striving for perfection best? Or is there value in a conversational tone that evokes genuine connection? Could it be that we place far too much emphasis on the written word? Our smartphones give us a free pass. We use disclaimers such as please excuse any grammatical errors, sent from my mobile device. If only we could tag this to social media posts, email and pick-up lines, too, right? Grammar sets us off, but it’s not the only evil of the English language. Blogger Mandi Castle, of Cellulite Looks Better Tan, summarized the struggle. She wrote a post titled Things You Should Have Learned in Grade School but Obviously Didn’t, In it, Mandi laments gaffes of a lot and cannot but also it’s and nother and literally and figuratively. “Feel free to share this on Facebook,” Mandi writes. “As I’m certain 99.7% of people who use it daily should have had to sit through Mrs. Lawrence’s third grade grammar lessons because they still say ‘should of.’”

Literally (or figuratively?) the final word

A teacher friend recently graded third-grade grammar quizzes. “I fear for the future of interpretable communication," she told me in a Facebook post. "Yikes.” Kids, though, have jacked up the English language for generations. We often consider it adorable, with backward letters and everything. On the surface, the divide seems sharp: Either you’re a stickler, or you wing it. There’s a lot of rules, though, and even stickler status doesn’t guarantee expertise. It’s unofficial. It seems, though, the key to forgiveness for all writing wrongs is simple: How do you feel about the person or entity who made the mistake? A fan of your favorite team can bust the “you’re-your rule” in exuberance over a victory. You’ll likely thumbs-up the comment, no questions asked. A member of an opposing political party forgets to capitalize Boise, and he'll have upon him a literary wrath of biblical proportions. It’s about how the words make you feel. Unless you’re in the grammar police. Then, you must ask yourself, has the slip-up spoiled the message? Good grammar doesn’t guarantee compelling prose. Imperfect discourse isn’t wholly deemed unfit. A messy cookie is likely more desirable than broccoli fixed to perfection, right? Maybe. I’ll text my kid and ask about that.

3 websites to boost your grammar

GRAMMAR BOOK | This site promotes a book, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, by Jane Strauss. It offers quizzes, a newsletter and a list of grammar rules to follow. LOUSY WRITER | It’s a free online resource to strengthen your writing overall. It includes how-to guides to many parts of speech, as well as tips for writing everything from a thesis to a screenplay. PURDUE ONLINE WRITING LAB | Purdue University hosts this site. It covers grammar and mechanics, job search and professional writing, and popular writing vidcasts.

Mobile & Wi-Fi

Heart, Smiley Face, High Five: Our love affair with emojis

This year, with the iOS 10 update, Apple users got new emojis – some long awaited, such as the middle finger or two-gender options for dancing twins and Sherlock Holmes – and others, upgraded, such as robot and cat emojis. Every day, worldwide, users send 6 billion emoticons on phones or mobile messaging apps. In 2016, on World Emoji Day, Twitter released data on which emojis are the most popular in each country. The U.S. uses the weary face most; France sends out the heart emoji more than any other. Where did they even come from? A guy named Shigetaka Kurita created the first emoji. He worked for a Japanese communication company, and wanted a way for mobile users to send pictures without using lots of data. Thus, the emoji was born. It became popular in the U.S., when Apple added it to their products. Did you know emojis are regulated? A nonprofit called the Unicode Consortium serves as the Sorting Hat for emojis, and they always get the final say. Wait, why do emojis need regulation? The consortium was established 24 years ago to develop standards for translating different alphabets into code. It also regulates and develops standards for software internationalization. They make sure tech products, services and codes can be adapted to different languages and cultures. The consortium gets hundreds of new emoji proposals annually. It reviews them carefully, and approves a few for the public. But some people don’t think it should be up to a high counsel to tell us what emojis we should use. They’ve discussed this at the world’s first ever emoji conference, Emojicon, in San Francisco in Q4 2016. But the consortium was like “Imma let you finish,” but here are 56 new emojis we’ve approved for 2017, and you don’t get a say. Why do we love emojis so much?     Aside from being adorable, they also help us express things we can’t always find the words for — such as during awkward or sad moments. Dr. Owen Churches is a professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. He conducted research that found we react to emojis the same way we do to the human face. They also help make users more likeable, or soften the blow of what they might be trying to say, and make you more popular on Twitter. From NBA players who tattoo them on their arms, to bedspreads and pillows, emojis have become mainstream. Plus, you can also now read classic literature translated into emoji. (Emoji Dick and Yolo Juliet). Meanwhile, English majors everywhere weep.  


Sources:

https://techcrunch.com/gallery/here-are-all-the-new-emoji-coming-with-ios-10/slide/4/e

http://www.citymac.com/blog/2015/11/02/the-history-of-emoji

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/-as-the-world-is.html

http://digiday.com/brands/digiday-guide-things-emoji/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/inside-emojigeddon-the-fight-over-the-future-of-the-unicode?utm_term=.kyA7dPOrro#.xaNd8x4EE3

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10628063/Human-brain-reacts-to-emoticons-as-real-faces.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201605/why-do-we-use-emojis

News

3 Tech Tools for a Happy, Bright Holiday

I couldn’t wait to get the Sears catalog when I was a little kid. In my preteen years, I moved up to Target fliers that I waited for with as much anticipation. In those pages I’d find dozens of gifts I wanted under the Christmas tree or stuffed in my stocking on Dec. 25. (I estimate 98.9% actually made it there.) That air of anticipation made magic out of ordinary catalog pages. Holiday Anticipation, 2016 style, is a little different. My kids can make wish lists online. Forget visions of sugarplums. Children sneak a tablet into bed and track Santa’s progress online. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could check up on St. Nick on Snapchat. Even before Thanksgiving, Christmastime seems to be here. So why not get a jump start on the season? Here are three online holiday tools for those who just can’t wait for Christmas to get here.

Online Wish Lists

I circled the NFL jackets and Star Wars ships I wanted in catalogs. Kids now can establish a registry, as you might for a wedding. A child can share his or her wish list through Facebook – which increases the chances a family member will pick up the  Wow Wee Coji with Remote at the top of the list. Giftster| For desktop or mobile, register the whole family for gift-giving perfection. Toys R Us | Sign up on the toy giant’s site for all the toys. WishMindr | It’s the app that lets you add gifts from any site – right on your mobile device.

Santa Online

For generations, kids hand-scribbled their wish list to Santa. Today, they can fill out an online form. aLetter4Santa.com promises the Jolly Old Elf will reply to letters submitted immediately. (Now that's customer care). Kids can also color Christmas pages on the site. NORAD Tracks Santa | Starting Dec. 1, check out St. Nick’s progress in his global expedition. Reindeer Cam | Watch Chris Kringle feed the reindeer three times a day. Capture the Magic | It’s the place to get pics of Santa in your living room. How? Magic. (Parents send photos in of living space as it will appear on Christmas Eve. In return, they get a photo of Santa making his rounds in the room.)

 Appy Christmas

Parents herd the kids in to watch Charlie Brown shows for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? Their parents herded them in to watch Charlie Brown shows for Thanksgiving and Christmas, that’s why. Now, there’s an app for that. A Charlie Brown Christmas ($5.99, iTunes) | It’s interactive! Christmas Crystal Ball (Google Play, free) | It’s a virtual snow globe for your mobile device. Red Stamp (Google Play, iTunes, free) | Design Christmas cards to have printed and sent. These online resources can help kick off your digital Christmas. You’re on your own for the eggnog.

News

Halloween Inspired Tech Gadgets You Have to Try

Trick-or-Treat Tech

Skeletons, costumes and bags and bags of candy. Halloween is here. And while kids and adults alike are scrambling to pull together last minute costumes and party decorations, we’re here to tell you that there’s more to Halloween than killing it at the costume game—check out these tech gadgets for a spooky and safe Halloween.

Keep track of your tiny Trick or Treaters

Family Signal Want to give your kids the freedom to Trick-or-Treat with their friends, but still keep track of where they are? FamilySignal, a location sharing app, will let you do just that. Just check out the visual map to see where they are on their quest for candy and rest easy knowing they can hit a panic button to alert you and the authorities if anything goes wrong. Glympse Another location based app, Glympse lets your kids send you “Glymses” of where they are or you can request one from them as they are on-the-go. On Halloween night you can set the app to “active” for a certain time period, then have your child select you as a “check-in” recipient through their phone. That way you can see their whereabouts while they’re Trick-or- Treating.

Spice up your desk with these spooky skulls

Skullhub USB Make Halloween great again with the Skullhub USB charger. It’s creepy and effective and you can put candy in it. The skull has 4 USB ports for iPhones and other compatible devices. Skull Speaker This small blue skull packs a punch. Great for blasting beats at a Halloween party or at work, it has a rechargeable battery, 4 hours of playback and includes a USB charging cable and audio cable. Skull Stickers Keep Halloween going all year long with spooky themed computer decals. From a vampire Snow White to skull and sugar skull decals, you can keep the spirit of Halloween alive even after October 31st.

Take your Halloween high-tech this year.

Glowy Zoey LED costume You might have seen the video of the dad who turned his toddler into a glowing LED stick figure. Well now you too can be a Glowy Zoey stick figure and the hit of Halloween parties everywhere. Choose from adult, kid and toddler costumes that boast 150-190 LED lights that can be seen from a mile away. Order yours here, in various colors and throw in some LED slap bracelets to complete the costume. Spooky Lightbulb Decor A light-bulb that plays music and is also Bluetooth capable? The future is here my friends. The Sengled Pulse Dimmable LED Light Bulb can make your porch scarier than ever. Download a freaky playlist, screw in the lightbulb on your porch and hit play from your phone. The neighborhood kids will be running away in no time, saving you plenty of candy for yourself. Vortex Tunnel Absurdly expensive, but fascinatingly fun. Might be good for a corporate Halloween party, or if you own, say, a theme park. Walk into a literal tunnel across a bridge that makes you feel like you’re spinning through time. See if “The Ultimate Tunnel Experience” is right for you.

Sources:

https://www.sengled.com/pages/pulse

https://www.techwalla.com/articles/15-killer-ways-to-spook-up-your-porch-for-halloween

http://www.safewise.com/blog/5-apps-keep-trick-treaters-safe-halloween/

http://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g2437/halloween-tech-accessories/?slide=1

http://www.popsugar.com/tech/Halloween-Tech-Accessories-42513079#photo-42513651

Mobile & Wi-Fi

3 Cash-Back Apps to Make Your Wallet Happy

The words cash back activate my inner skeptic. This especially applies in the world of mobile-phone apps. I can’t give up precious storage space on my Android to apps that could act as malware and not a money-saver. Let’s concentrate on the positives first. A worthy cash-back app should live up to its name. It should … give cash back. Its user should also not need an advanced degree in quantum physics to operate it. That’s golden. Check out these notable cash-back apps. They're worth a little home-screen territory on your phone while they help you to stockpile a little green while you shop for necessities

3 cash-back apps to check out

1. Checkout 51

Free | iOS | Android How it works: Match your grocery receipts with current offers available on the app. Certain offers specify what brand you must buy. Others are non-specific, or go for general purchases, such as bananas or milk, no matter what store you shop for them. What you receive: A check, once your account reaches $20. Does it pay? On the app’s site, The Vancouver Sun is cited as calling Checkout 51 “new-age couponing.” This app makes it a snap to gain back a little spending money on your purchases.

2. Receipt Hog

Free | iOS | Android How it works: Enter photos of grocery receipts to win coins and slot-machine spins. It’s a game, with possible payouts. What you receive: Pay Pal payment, or gift cards. Grocery and drug-store receipts can translate to coins you can use to cash out or trade for gift cards. Big-box and department store receipts earn a user slot-machine spins? for bigger savings. Does it pay? Receipt Hog accepts super-center and membership warehouse receipts, with no stipulation that you purchase food at the time. Receipt Hog keeps your personal data, but you can opt out of them having anything specific. It’s a simple way to build up your Pay Pal balance.

3. Snap by Groupon

Free | iOS | Android How it works: In Spring 2016, this app changed from cash back for product-specific purchases, to retailer-specific promotions. It features more big-ticket items, such as clothing and housewares, than groceries. What you receive: A check, once your account surpasses $20. Does it pay? Groupon’s known for discounts on goods, services, and restaurants. Snap by Groupon won’t fund your country club dues, but you could gain a little spending money.

Tips to avoid dangerous or fake apps

Not all apps on the Play Store or iTunes have undergone rigorous legitimacy tests. Actually, few have. Here’s how to stay safe.

1.      Read reviews

User reviews come by the star system, 1 through 5. The average rating means little. Dig in and read. Why are the 1s so unhappy? Chatter of data usage or text messaging ballooning as a result of this app should get your attention.

2.      Dig into the developer

It’s listed under the app name. Scroll to the bottom of the app page. Locate a link to the developer’s website, and hover over it. Does it lead to a legit website? Also, be on the lookout for a blue diamond icon on Play Store apps. That indicates a Google Top Developer. That’s a good thing. The Google Play editorial staff designates such status based on a developer’s cumulative work creating high-quality and innovative apps.

3.      Install a scam detector

Some apps are designed to steer users away from malicious apps. Some of those apps, however, are themselves malicious. The best scam detectors turn out to be phone savers. The worst among them do nothing but cause the problems you’ve hoped to avoid. On the Play Store, Scam Detector is legit. (There’s a version for iOS too).