How to Stop Telemarketers & Scam Phone Calls on Your iPhone

While this post is written for iOS/iPhone there is likely a similar feature on Android.  I do not know the step-by-step process for that system, but if you do please leave a comment.

Ugh… telemarketers and robocalls are the worst.  You have just drifted off to sleep or sat down to eat when your phone goes off.  You don’t recognize the area code, it must be a telemarketer.  If you are like me, you find it infuriating, but what can you do?

I have had my phone number for about eight years now.  I shouldn’t have to change my number to avoid getting called two or three times a day.

Do Not Call Registry

“The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls”

This government run consumer protection program lets you register your phone number with the FTC.  Legitimate telemarketers will check the government list and avoid calling your number if it is on there.  You can check if your number is registered or not by going to donotcall.gov

I checked my registration while typing this post and it said I registered on 9/2/2009, but the screenshot I posted above with all those telemarketer/spam calls was taken just this week.  So what gives?

How to Block Robodialers and Scammers

While the Do Not Call list is great for stopping respectable companies, it does nothing to stop unscrupulous scammers.  If you block one number they just call from a different one.  You need some way to only allow known good numbers through.  We can do that by setting up a whitelist.

Here is how I put an end to scammers on my iPhone 4S running iOS 9.

First, go into Settings > Do Not Disturb

Then turn on “Manual” and set “Allow Calls From” to All Contacts.

Scroll down and set “Silence” to Always.

There.  Now only numbers in your address book can call you and make your iPhone make noise.  All other phone numbers will be silenced automatically.

That is all well and good, but what if you need to get a phone call from someone not in your address book?

Extra Bonus Step

Let’s say that you are selling something on Craigslist and you want strangers to be able to text or call you.  How can they, if you don’t know their phone number to add it to the whitelist?

The answer is pretty simple.  We just need to setup a free Google Voice number that forwards to your phone.  While that may sound tricky it isn’t too complicated.

Create or login to your Google account.  Go to https://voice.google.com

From there you can setup a new Google Voice phone number.  Then you link your existing phone number and set the Google Voice number to forward calls and messages to your existing phone number.

Finally, add your new Google Voice number to your address book on your iPhone.  Now you can hand out your GV number to strangers without risking your primary phone number.  The best part is that GV includes a spam filter.

If you ever do start getting bombarded with scammers on the GV number and Google doesn’t automatically filter them out, you can change your GV number for a small fee.  Your family and friends will always have your primary number which won’t have to change.

How many scam calls do you get a day?  Have you found any other solutions to getting rid of them?  Leave a comment.

Upgrading a 2010 Macbook’s RAM and Hard drive

You may have heard of Moore’s law, in simple terms it was an observation made 50 years ago that computers would become twice as fast every two years.  For the most part, this ‘law’ held true for the past fifty years thanks to scientific and manufacturing advances in semiconductor technology.  Companies such as IBM and Intel were able to cram more transistors onto a silicon wafer by shrinking down the transistor size.

Over the past few years, Moore’s Law has been proclaimed dead or failed a dozen times by pundits.  The real laws of physics seem to have caught up with transistors and they simply cannot be shrunk down any further before the electrons traveling inside start to do funny things, like teleporting.  The result is a stagnation in computer CPU performance.

For example, consider the 2010 Macbook and its 2016 descendent.  According to benchmark tests, the 2010 laptop scores 1536.  By Moore’s Law, every two years, that score should double.  You’d expect the 2016 to score 12,288, but it actually only scores 3221.  So a six year difference only amounts to a doubling in CPU performance.

So why would you bother buying a brand new laptop if it is not leaps and bounds faster than a six year old machine?  Well, typically because other components are leaps and bounds better.  The two biggest areas are in Random Access Memory, RAM, and storage space, i.e. hard drives.  Usually, both of these items are user upgradeable, so you can take that six year old machine and make it very competitive with a brand new machine.

The 2010 Macbook comes with 2 GB (gigabytes) of RAM, and a 250 GB spinning disk hard drive.  For $100, you can upgrade that to 8 GB of RAM and a 250 GB solid state hard drive (SSD).  A solid state hard drive is faster, lighter, and more robust than the traditional spinning platter hard drives of old.  The computer will boot up faster, apps will start quicker, and the whole feel of the computer will be ‘snappier’.

Doing these upgrades on a 2010 Macbook is extremely simple.  Use a philips screwdriver to undo the bottom cover screws.

img_1298

You can see the blue RAM chips in the right side of the picture.  The silver hard drive is in the bottom right corner.

The two RAM chips will pop right out from the motherboard.  The hard drive has a couple additional screws holding it in place.  Installation is the reverse.

img_1301

After replacing RAM, it is generally a good idea to run a test.  MemTest86 is a free piece of software that will do an exhaustive battery of tests.  The setup instructions are a little technical, but once you have made up the flash drive or CD, the test itself is incredibly easy to run.

img_1303

TADA!  You now have a cheap laptop that is almost as good as a brand new expensive one.  What a great deal for an ‘obsolete‘ machine.

Building a New Desktop Computer

Desktop tower computers have gone the way of pickup trucks.  You can still see them chugging along in work environments, but you probably won’t find many in homes unless they are ancient and collecting dust.  Most consumers only need a machine capable of browsing the internet, playing videos, and sending emails and those types of machines can easily be crammed into a touchscreen tablet (a convertible) or a laptop (sedan) or even a smartphone (mini smart car).

The last computer that I built was put together in 2011.  I needed something cheap to do eight hours of work on a day.  I believe I spent $700 on parts back then and it had served me well enough as a stop gap.  Five years of constant use can be tough on a computer, just like it is on a truck.  Eventually the physical hardware was just falling apart.  I could have thrown parts at it, but computers age like large breed dogs.

IMG_0214

I knew this day was coming over a year ago when my first DIY computer build was starting to give me signs of failure, so I had been setting aside money to fund a replacement.

This time around, I splurged, and spent about $1100 on parts.  So what does that get you in 2016?  (Yes, this should be a funny post to re-read in 5 years).

  • Intel Core I-7 6700 Quad Core processor @ 3.4 Ghz (4 real cores / 8 threads)
  • 2×500 GB SSD (solid state drives)
  • 32 GB of DDR4 RAM @ 2400 Mhz
  • BluRay optical drive
  • Motherboard
  • Case
  • 550W Modular Power Supply
  • 200 mm case fan
  • NH-D9L CPU heatsink
  • 22″ Monitor

I salvaged the following parts from my first computer

  • NVIDIA GTX 960 SSC Graphics Card
  • 2 Monitors
  • VESA 3-way Monitor Mount
  • 2.1 Speaker Setup
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • 1 250 GB SSD
  • 1 320 GB HD
  • 1 500 GB HD

I trashed the old case and sold the old motherboard, CPU, RAM, and heatsink on eBay for $80.

IMG_0195

My goal for this build was to make a compact, powerful, and quiet running system.  I chose an itx motherboard and case.  ITX just describes the size of the case and motherboard.

IMG_0196

I liked working with this particular case because it was very flexible.  For instance, both hard drive cages could be removed to make extra space.

IMG_0197

The motherboard only has two RAM slots, so I won’t be able to add extra RAM later on.  I feel that 32 GB or RAM should be enough to get me through the next five years.

IMG_0198

The CPU came with a heatsink and fan (below left), but I purchased an aftermarket unit (below right) that does a better job of cooling the hottest part of the computer.

IMG_0200

Installing the CPU into the motherboard is a simple affair.  It only fits one way.

IMG_0201

Then you lock it down with the little metal lever and spread some thermal compound on top of the CPU.  The thermal compound is a heat conductive material that helps transfer the heat from the CPU to the heatsink.

IMG_0203

Then the heatsink gets installed on top of the CPU.

IMG_0204

The two sticks of white RAM get installed onto the motherboard next.

IMG_0206

With the CPU, heatsink, and ram installed, it is a good time to install the motherboard in the case.

IMG_0207

Next I installed a couple of SSDs on the case side panel.  Storage options have really taken off over the past few years offering larger drives with faster speeds.  The particular motherboard that I selected even has a port on the backside for a super fast blade style M2 drive.

IMG_0208

The power supply and case fans get installed next.

IMG_0210

Then once you connect all of the cables, the user manuals make it clear as to what goes where, you can boot the computer up for the first time.

You’ll likely see the BIOS screen.

IMG_0212

This is the little operating system that comes with the motherboard.  You can configure some of your hardware with these screens and the motherboard manual will have more information on all of the options.

Turning off the computer, I installed the 3 salvaged hard drives and the graphics card.

IMG_0269

IMG_0271

The BluRay drive also gets installed and then the whole thing gets closed up.

IMG_0273

IMG_0275

Hook up all the cables in the back and you are ready to install your favorite OS.

IMG_0213

My new computer is about 5 times faster than the old one.  I did use all 32 GB of RAM when I was working on a promotional video for one of my Apps.  Adobe After Effects is a memory hog.

As a strange tangent, I did recently read about one crafty individuals experience creating a ‘new’ computer in the Cloud so he could play the latest and greatest video games without having to build a new physical computer.  You can read more about his 60¢/hour Cloud gaming rig here.  Forewarning, it is pretty technical jargon heavy!