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Gobble, Gobble

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No, that’s not the sound of your Thanksgiving turkey, now long forgotten in this winter’s single-digit, frigid onslaught.

Nope, it’s the never-ending sound of Internet companies swallowing other Internet companies.

What brings this on is the news that Expedia bought Travelocity from Sabre for $280 million, thus ending a bit more competition. In essence, it just removes the illusion of competition: Expedia has powered the Travelocity web site since 2013, sharing hotel information and such. But now, it owns it outright.

Sabre now goes back to providing back-end systems for selling airline tickets (to travel agents and approved others), hotel rooms and rental cars, as it has for decades. Expedia already owns Hotels.com, so it’s consolidating its piece of the market.

Interestingly enough, its main competition now (besides Priceline and Orbitz) is TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor was originally part of Expedia, but was spun off in December 2011 in an initial public offering. TripAdvisor has been No. 1 in “unique Internet visitors” up until now, with Expedia no. 2 and Priceline No. 3. The merger of Expedia and Travelocity probably will alter those facts.

Oh, and Priceline owns Kayak, rentalcars.com and Open Table, the restaurant-reservation site. TripAdvisor has more than 25 different brands, including many overseas, such as BookingBuddy and SeatGuru.

Overall, the mergers and acquisitions of technology companies in 2014 were at the highest levels since the dot-com boom of 2000. It’s enough to make you say, “I need a vacation.”

Yes, It’s Free

Microsoft has announced a free upgrade to Windows 10 for Win7 and Win8 users, at least for one year after Win10 launches, which will probably be this summer. Sorry, no soap for those still hanging on with XP, since they want that to fade away. After all, Win7 came out in November of 2009, so it’s been more than five years since a newer version has been mainstream.

While I can understand the desire of Win8 users to move on (is there anyone who “upgraded” to 8 who didn’t regret it?), it’s less apparent for Win7 users. Microsoft has pledged support for Win7 until January of 2020. That certainly seems like enough time for the majority of computers to either die or be replaced on their own. No need to hurry because you think your operating system is obsolete or unsupported by patches and other security upgrades.

As always with a new version, my advice is to not (repeat, not) jump on it right away until you’ve heard some feedback from those not beholden to Microsoft, who likely would gush about its perfection.

The Inevitable

Death and taxes, right? It probably wasn’t on Mark Zuckerberg’s mind to deal with what happens to your account when you die when he was in college designing Facebook. But in recent years, the proportion of 55-plus users has exploded as they realize it’s a great way to keep in touch with distant children and grandchildren.

So what happens when you’ve made your last posting, so to speak? Users have been wanting some control over that.

The old option, which is still available by default, is that your account can be “memorialized” by anyone after your death, if that person provides proof to Facebook. This freezes everything as-is; no changing posts or even logging in.

You can now also designate that Facebook delete your account when you die. Again, this can be instigated by anyone who proves to it that you are deceased. I don’t want to know how you do that. Talk about an ultimate privacy issue.

The big change is that you can designate a “legacy contact” who can manage your account when you die. S/he must already be a Facebook user (Facebook lets you choose from among your friends whom to designate) and can pin posts to your timeline and grant permission to others to add things as well, and can change your profile picture and cover photo.

Your timeline also will change, since your name now will be preceded by “Remembering,” as in “Remembering Cliff Feldwick.”

Your legacy contact can also download an archive of your information, such as photos and postings.

Now or Later?

When you set this up, you get the choice of notifying your legacy contact immediately or waiting until you die. If it’s immediate, you get to edit a message to the honored one, which is probably a really good idea, since I just designated my daughter and didn’t want her to have a “what the Hell is he saying?” moment. You can also change your contact at any time and the individual won’t automatically be notified —which is probably handy, in case of divorce or breakup with an old girlfriend.

This feature just debuted in February, so it probably will be tweaked as time goes on. To access it, go to Settings, then Security and look for Legacy Contact at the bottom.

Now, if we could only deal with

taxes ….

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, data retrieval and network setups, when not hoping to be “memorialized” on Mount Rushmore. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are available at http://feldwick.com.