Cable Companies – A Personal Note

I am a FiOS customer. Our two year contract came to an end about six months ago. I called them to see what kind of deal, equipment upgrades, faster internet, maybe less money I could negotiate for signing a new two year contract. Nada is what I got. I could pay the same price on a monthly basis or sign a two year contact. There was no point signing a new contract.

A few weeks ago we had an issue and my wife called Verizon. The Verizon rep solved the issue and told her that if we signed a two year contact we would get a better DVR capable of recording more programs, faster interent speed and new much smaller cable boxes for the additional TVs all for $10 less than we were currently paying. What?

It’s really nice that Verizon is offering this and we took the deal but it would have been even better if they contacted us with this offer.

Bottom line, it really pays to call your cable company now and then to see if they are offering any better deals.


iOS 10 iPhone and iPad

I previously wrote about the new iPhone operating system, iOS 10. It has been out for nearly a month now and for a major upgrade the transition has been pretty smooth. There was an initial installation glitch that was quickly resolved and other than that I have not run into nor read about any major problems.

If you have not upgraded your iPhone to iOS 10 it is safe to do so.

I do have a few notes about the new OS:

1) After you install the new OS you may notice that your iPhone battery drains quickly. It will do so for a day or two and then return to normal. This happens because the entire phone is being reindexed for fast searching. The reindexing takes place in the background draining power until the process is complete in a day or two. You can read about it here.

2) One of the first changes you will notice is how you unlock the phone. No more swipe right to reveal the keypad. Now, whether you type in a PIN or unlock the phone with your thumbprint, you need to press lightly on the home button. Trust me, it may take a while to retrain your thumb memory to get used to this.

3) When you do swipe right from the homepage you will see a new notification screen. Personally, I like it and find the new layout useful. If you scroll to the bottom there is an edit button that will allow you to customize the page. You will also notice that when notifications display, such as incoming email or messages, the format is clearer.

4) Messages has undergone major change giving you the ability to clutter up your text messages with pictures, GIFs, hand drawings, little bubble replies and page filling ballons. How exciting! Perfect for satisfying our inner 13 year old self.

5) Here is something I do like: voice mail messages are transcribed. It just happens when you open the Voice Message page and click on a new message.

6) One thing that is a bit more difficult is saving pictures from Mail. The button to save no longer displays by default. Why? Who knows? To display the save button you will need to press, sometimes hard, on the picture. The picture will pop-out and display the button to save.

There is a lot of other stuff for you to discover. Have fun.

MacOS Sierra

The OS for all Macs is also out. Lots of little nuggets of gold to uncover.

First, it is okay to upgrade? There are no major problems. One caveat is if you use some sort of specialized software such as accounting software or Adobe Creative Cloud. Make sure to check for any compatibility issues. Otherwise, go for it.

This release will not significantly change the way you do anything. One of the big changes, if you like the idea of talking to your computer, is the integration of Siri. Siri is now available on the Mac for you to ask questions, run programs, etc.

As for me, I have boundaries, and when I choose to speak to the inanimate objects in my life I prefer that they don’t talk back. But I do fully respect those who choose either through choice or necessity to fully embrace the power of our future overlords.

More seriously, with the new OS, Messages contains the same enhancements as the iPhone.

iCloud has a big upgrade with a new feature that makes it more like Dropbox. You can choose to have it store your Documents folder and Desktop in the cloud. This has some pros and cons. On the plus side, all your documents will be stored locally and on iCloud. On the minus side, the local documents are no longer stored in your Documents folder but in a obscure location on your hard drive. The way to access these files is to open them from iCloud->Documents. And unlike Dropbox, this new feature is all or nothing. You either store the entire Documents folder or nothing.

Another plus, if you have multiple computers, using this feature will keep your Documents folder and your Desktop in sync on all your computers.

You can read more about iCloud here and here.

If you have concerns about cloud security you can read more here. The biggest vulnerability of cloud storage is your password. Make sure it is unique and hard to figure out.

Big warning: if you decide to try this feature, use it for a while, decide you don’t like it, and turn it off, be very careful. It is very easy to delete all your files. You must manually save the files from iCloud back to your hard drive before turning off this feature.

However, know this: iCloud does save deleted files for a while. So when you discover that they are gone, they can be restored.

iCloud has another new feature to optimize your hard drive. When you start to run out of space, iCloud will determine what files have not been used for a long time and move them from your hard drive to iCloud to free up space.

If you decide you really don’t want to upgrade here is how to turn off the automatic upgrade.

Again, lots of new stuff. Have fun!

Password – again.

So you heard about the big Yahoo hack that revealed more that 500 million passwords. I’ve harped on and on about this topic. How you need to have unique passwords for each email account, each financial account, and any site that stores your credit card. Plus the passwords should be hard to crack.

Here is a recent article about password managers. These tools will also generate unique passwords for you. Personally, I use Dashlane. Another option, if you only use one browser is to let the browser remember your passwords. This is reasonable except for two issues, the browsers will not generate passwords for you, and in more cases you cannot see the passwords. With the password managers, like Dashlane, you can see the saved passwords — a big plus if you need to share it with someone like your spouse or partner.

Finally, as I said before, use 2-step authentication wherever you can.

MacBook Pro

A quick note: if you are contemplating a new Mac laptop, wait a few weeks. Apple should be announcing new versions of the MacBook Pro ine before the end of October.

Also, pure speculation, but chances are that the MacBook Air will be phased out in favor of the MacBook and the MacBook Pro lines.

Protect Your Email from Hackers

I’m writing this post because of an increasing number of clients who have had their email hacked. And it’s not just my clients as you can read here.

In some cases they have been locked out of their email when the perpetrator has changed their password. In other cases, the password has not been changed but the hacker has sent malware laced email from the hacked account. In all cases, somehow, the hacker has figured out the password.

There are some steps you can take to protect yourself. The first is to have a good strong password. Ideally, it should not be a real word and it should be longer than 8 characters and it should be a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. And most importantly, the password you use for email should not be used for any other account. If you have multiple email accounts, they should each have their own unique password.

The second thing that I am recommending is 2-Step Authentication. This prevents someone from logging into your email account if they do not have access to your smartphone.

When anyone, including you, attempts to login to your account from a new device, a code is sent to your smartphone that must be entered, like a second temporary password, in order to complete the login process. The result is if a hacker figures our your password and attempts a login from their computer they will be blocked because the code will be sent to your cell phone and not to them.

The added benefit of this method is if you receive a code, which comes via text message, and it’s not you attempting to login, you will know that someone is trying to hack your account.

2-Step Authentication is not an iron-clad guarantee against hacking but it is good enough to protect your email from all but the most determined hackers.

I strongly encourage you to consider this.

Here are instructions for setting this up:

Instructions for Gmail.

Instructions for Yahoo Mail.

Instructions for AOL.

As usual, I am here to answer your questions.

Just in case you missed my last newsletter or you want to see any back issues you can find them here and if you are not a subscriber you can sign up.

Apple Contacts Sync

Some times the obvious thing is not the true thing. A case in point is contact syncing on Apple devices, particularly between an iPhone and an Apple computer.

You might think that if a contact is in Contacts on your iPhone, and you have iCloud contact syncing checked on for both your iPhone and Mac, that all contacts in Contacts will sync to your computer. This is not necessarily true.

If you, like me, use Gmail or other non-Apple email accounts, and access email through the web, you may notice that when you add a new contact on your phone it does not sync with Contacts on your Mac. If this is the case I will tell you the settings to check.

1) On your iPhone, go to Settings->iCloud and make sure Contacts is ON. On your Mac, go to System Preferences->iCloud and do the same.

2) On your iPhone, go to Settings->Mail,Contacts,Calendars. Scroll down to the Contacts section. See what you have listed as your Default Account. That is the account that contact changes will sync to. If it is a Gmail account, for example, any new contact will sync to Gmail contacts. It will also show up in the Contacts app on the iPhone, but will not sync to Contacts on your Mac. (I agree that this is confusing).

3) To get contacts to sync to your Mac, on your Mac go to System Preferences->Internet Accounts. Check to see if your Gmail account is listed. If not, add it by clicking Google in the right pane and follow the instructions for adding the account. Once you have the account, select it and make sure that Contacts is checked. You can uncheck all the other settings unless you are using these other Google services and want them synced to your Mac. Chances are you don’t since you have not missed them.

These steps should solve the problem and now all contact changes made on your iPhone will show up in Contacts on your Mac.

I know this might seem confusing and not very intuitive. If you have further questions about this feel free to contact me (no pun intended!).

Everything Windows

There is a lot of new, but not major news concerning Windows.

First, Microsoft recently released a free upgrade for Windows 10, the Windows Anniversary Edition. There are no major changes but a few enhancements. Cortana has more features. Edge, Microsoft’s new internet browser, works better with add-in apps. And if you have a touch screen, you have more options with Windows Ink for drawing and annotating documents. You can read more here and here.

If you are still on an older version of Windows, you have missed the cut off date for getting a free Windows 10 upgrade. If you want Windows 10 it will now set you back $119.99. I did warn you in a previous newsletter. However, all is not lost. There is a loophole.

Microsoft is allowing people who require assistive technology to continue to download for free. Assistive technology is for people who may have issues with their eyesite or other conditions that may make using a computer difficult — and who doesn’t have difficulties with computers. The page for the free download is hidden from the general public. I’m going to tell you the secret.

If you want to get a free copy of Windows 10 go to this site. You’re welcome.

Finally, one problem with PCs is that many manufacturers load up their computers with junky software, also known as bloatware. It’s all mostly useless and often slows down your computer.

Microsoft recently released a tool that will do a clean install of Windows, keep all your personal data intact, and eliminate all the bloatware. If interested, check it out here.

Google Duo — Better than FaceTime?

Google recently announced Duo, a video chat app. If you have used FaceTime you may have run into the problem that it only works with Apple products but the friend you want to call has an Android phone. Google Duo solves this problem. They released versions for both Android and iOS. The reviews say it is super easy to use. Check it out if you want video chat for everyone. You can read more here.