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Sat, March 23

App can locate users if they're lost

Q: My elderly father takes long walks and sometimes gets lost. I have convinced him to carry a smartphone, but he won't call when he is lost. I hate to be always calling to see if he is ok, but how else can I monitor him?

A: A smartphone usually includes a GPS unit that tracks its own location. Several apps have been developed that will share that location information with others. The two free apps that are most often recommended for your situation are Family Locator by Life 360 and GPS Tracking Pro. They work with Apple or Android phones.

Both apps follow the same format: identify the group to be involved and the program emails them to ask if they will accept being involved. If the person agrees, an icon for that person is added to the map, and, if that person's phone is on, it shows their location. There are buttons to send email to "check in," request help or indicate when the person reaches a designated place. You can create more than one circle, so that only people in each circle will get messages for that group. There can be up to six people in a circle. It is possible to turn off monitoring if a person wants privacy. You can also track your phone if it is stolen or lost and the thief does not turn this feature off. Accuracy is good but can be a few hundred feet off.

A paid version allows the user to contact a live person for information or to get roadside assistance. The paid version will also work with regular phones and store more history of locations. The cost is $5 per month or $50 per year. There are other versions including one new set of children's phones dedicated to tracking. This last product received an award at the recent Consumer Electronics Conference. The Prescott Computer Society will discuss tracking programs and other innovations at its meeting on Feb. 15 at the Prescott Library.

Q: I frequently do Google searches, and I am not always pleased with the results. I know the answers are out there. How can I get more appropriate results?

A. I sometimes find that my initial Google results are several years old. That's fine if I'm searching for something to do with history or archeology and such. But if it's a technology search, I want the latest results only. There is a way to fix that.

First, enter your search query into the Google search box and hit enter. On the results screen you should see a gear-like icon in the upper right. Click on that and you will be presented with a drop down list that includes: Search Settings; Languages; Turn on SafeSearch; Advanced search; Web History; and Search help. Click on Advanced Search and you will be presented with a new screen of search options.

On this screen, you can further limit your search in many ways. First, you can click the drop down arrow next to "last update" and choose something more appropriate than "anytime", such as "past 24 hours," "past month," etc. This will give you a better chance of getting recent results. Also, under "Find pages with ...", you can specify that you want to only find documents with an exact word or phrase or even with none of certain words included. This can assure that you get more appropriate results. When you are satisfied with your choices, go to the bottom of the screen and click on "Advanced Search," and view your new, more precise results.

Another interesting item on the drop down list from the gear icon is "web history." Click that and sign in with your Google ID, and you'll see a detailed history of your Google searches. This could be handy if you wanted to revisit a past search, and you forgot exactly how you got there originally. I used that recently after I searched for a list I wanted to print, and then got interrupted before I printed it. It was easy to go back and relocate the site.

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group founded in Prescott 25 years ago. Our monthly Saturday meetings help you get more out of your computer while keeping it safe from virus attacks. For further information, visit www.PCS4me.com. Email questions for future columns to PCSquestions@gmail.com.

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