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Dear Omar

I mean, that’s what we heard… from other people. Not because we did it. (Ahem.)

Photo Illustration: Save As / Medium; Source: Getty Images

Welcome to Dear Omar, a weekly Debugger column from tech expert Omar L. Gallaga. If you have questions for Omar, send them to with the subject line “Dear Omar.”

There was a kind of boredom that happened during the pandemic shutdown in 2020 that we may never feel again. It felt like you couldn’t go anywhere or do anything that didn’t involve puttering around your home like a 70-year-old. Knitting was suddenly hot. Home improvement projects abounded. Gardening was suddenly something a lot of us began to dig as a new hobby. We became more comfortable with puns.


Instagram’s latest like-hiding experiment has me reassessing my social media obsession

Illustration: Lance Ulanoff

I’m addicted to likes. The daily approbations from friends, family, and strangers that dot my social media like so much pepper in my fettuccini nourish me in conscious and subconscious ways. When my numbers are high, I smile to myself, content that I’ve connected with the world in some meaningful way. When the likes are low or nonexistent, I grow anxious and wonder where my audience has gone.

This relationship is probably unhealthy, but I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.

Across all of my social media — Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook — I have what might…

Tablets, laptops, M1, oh my

Apple CEO Tim Cook at a product launch in 2018. (Credit: Lance Ulanoff)

Apple will hold this year’s highly anticipated spring product event on April 20, 1 p.m. ET, entirely online. As anticipated as spring blooms themselves, this year’s event promises to be one of Apple’s richest in terms of product strategy and device number.

Among the categories on the table are:

  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Tablets
  • Custom Silicon
  • Tracking Tiles
  • Content

The surest bet is tablets. Most people expect Apple to update its iPad Pro line, which last saw a major update in March 2020 that added trackpad support, LiDAR, and the peppy A12Z Bionic CPU.

That silicon is now a few paces out…

Roku’s newest remote is ready to listen, hands-free

Roku’s new Roku Voice Remote Pro (Credit: Roku)

Roku just released a bunch of products and, I promise, I’m going to get to them but what I really want to talk about is remotes.

Our relationships with our television and streaming boxes are defined not so much by the interfaces, content, or even the big screens but by the remote controls. Our eyes see, but it’s our hands that touch these small pieces of plastic, metal, glass, and rubberized buttons. That tactile relationship isn’t fleeting. Raise your hand if you binge with the remote in or near your hand (how else can you go back 30 seconds to…

A sturdy wrapper around an insanely powerful LED

Photo courtesy the author

When you’re crawling through the dark recesses of your home wielding a barbecue lighter to locate the little hose spewing natural gas, you want to have a good flashlight. That’s the situation I found myself in recently when the earthquake valve on my home’s natural gas line mistakenly tripped, shutting off the pilot light in my hot water heater. Through a convergence of social media, inadvertent influencer marketing, and luck, I happened to have a ThruNite Archer 2A V3 flashlight ready to go, and it saved the day.

I originally heard about the ThruNite Archer via a tweet from Dave…

‘Hey, man, wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge?’

Photo: Ling Tang on Unsplash

“Hey, man, wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge?”

This con dates back to the turn of the 20th century, but today, thanks to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), you really can buy the Brooklyn Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, or even your own dream home. Sort of.

SuperWorld is an NFT startup that sells virtual real estate in an environment it calls the metaverse—an exact facsimile of the real world, except that every property, be it a house, commercial building, or famous landmark, is linked to an NFT and tracked via the blockchain. That allows SuperWorld’s users to virtually buy and sell nearly any…

Tech Shortcuts for Life

And your car

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium

Bad air quality can take years off your life. I used to think that air pollution was mainly an annoyance. But in doing research for an article about wildfire smoke last year, I learned that poor quality air, especially air with a lot of small particulate matter (referred to as PM2.5), can be deadly. During a recent series of wildfires in California, scientists estimated that wildfire smoke killed more than 3,000 people — about 300 times more than died in the fires themselves. Small particulates in polluted air can enter your bloodstream, and even reach your brain. Worldwide, air pollution…

The most recent breach is a stark reminder of the sorry state of our data

Illustration: Lance Ulanoff

I’ve been pwned. You’ve been pwned. We’ve all been pwned. Somewhere, somehow, some digital bit of our persona has appeared in one of countless data breaches that happen across the internet with alarming regularity.

The most recent breach—an exploitation of what may be an old and now closed Facebook vulnerability—means that records from more than 500 million users are free-floating out in the wild.

I tend to be blasé about such hacks. These companies are bad at protecting our data, and to be fair, we’ve also freely shared insane amounts of our personal information on public and only semiprivate platforms…

The $649 Roborock S7 is totally worth it

Courtesy of the author

Over the last year of working from home through the pandemic, there’s been one constant: The house is eternally messy, and we’re eternally cleaning it. Because we’re home with our two pets all the time, if we aren’t vacuuming and mopping daily, our hard floors get dirty quickly.

I’m a huge fan of robot vacuum cleaners because they make it easier to keep on top of that cleaning when you don’t have time for proper vacuuming. …

👍 or 👎?

Image: filo/Getty Images

I am staunchly against emoji reactions in online communication. In Instagram direct messages, reaction responses weaken conversations and compel participants to be lazy communicators. One-click communication, as likes and reactions are sometimes called, is cheap: easy to use, but you get what you pay for.

So when news came out that Twitter is currently testing adding reactions, including downvotes and upvotes, to tweets (not just in DMs, where they currently aggravate), my hackles rose — until I really thought about it for a minute. Part of what makes private DM reactions frustrating is that people use them, essentially, as read…

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