Month: June 2015

Photos, Photos, Photos

It seems like every week there is a new option for storing and organizing photos. Just to name a few there is Flickr, Apple iCloud Photo Library, Google Photos, and Dropbox. Roughly speaking these can be divided into two categories free and not free.  Flickr (owned by Yahoo) and Google are free (with some restrictions).  Apple and Dropbox give you a small amount of free storage and then charge for space.

Flickr and Google also have more built-in features for managing your photos.  You can read a good comparison here. A few highlights: Google offers unlimited storage but has a limit of 16MB per picture and they compress your images.  This is bad news if Google Photos is your only storage medium for photos. The compression is not lossless (Anyone watch the HBO show Silicon Valley?) which means that you loss some of the fidelity of your image.  This is not a big deal for viewing on the computer or for small prints.  But if you want larger prints at some point this is a big deal.

Flickr has a total storage limit of 1TB but stores your photos in their original format with no loss of data.

Another thing to be concerned about is the license agreement for these services.  Normally we all just check Agree when the paragraphs of legalese pops up for us to approve.  However, if you are concerned about your privacy and ownership you should pay attention.  Some of these services (Google) claim the right to use your photos anyway they choose. Further, Google has and continues to develop very sophisticated recognition software.  You may upload your latest vacation pics from Hawaii and then notice Google displaying ads about Hawaiian real estate for sale or vacation deals. Or they may notice who you spend time with, where you eat dinner, etc.

Apple has two ways of managing your photos: iCloud Photo Sharing and iCloud Photo Library. With Photo Sharing all the pictures you take with your iPhone are shared to all your other devices.  Every device will have its own copy of each photo, and every device will have it’s own organization of photos.

iCloud Photo Library works differently.  All photos will be sent to iCloud and will not reside on any device. iCloud will be your central repository for all your photos and they will be accessible from any of your devices.  This has two advantages: 1) All your photos are safely backup up in one location, and 2) You only need to organize your photos once.

What the Apple iCloud Photo Library service has going for it is seamless integration with the entire Apple ecosystem. So if you have MacBooks, iPhones and iPads and use Photos to organize and view you pics then the Apple iCloud service is the easiest way to go but you will pay for storage.

As for privacy, to my best understanding, and at least for now, Apple says that as long as you keep your pictures private it will not do anything with them.

Dropbox, where you also pay for storage after using your free allotment, has the advantage of sharing.  Apple allows you to share albums but the Dropbox sharing is great for collaboration like if you hire an organizer to help you with your thousands of photos.

Bottom line, there is no right answer here, just lots of options with trade offs.

Apple News – New OS, New iOS and New Store

It seems like you just finished updating all your computer to Yosemite and your mobile devices to iOS 8, and now Apple goes and announces new versions of everything.

Coming soon will be their new desktop OS named El Capitan (the new code names are all national monuments.)  You can read about some of the new features here and here. The basic look and feel of the new OS will not be a big change from Yosemite.  This is a release with a lot of small improvements.  Two features that I am looking forward to are running two applications side-by-side, split screen and the enhanced version of Notes.  Notes, borrowing a lot from Evernote, will allow for more grouping and saving of information from different sources including text, photos, websites and hand drawn pictures.

iOS 9, likewise, will not be a major redesign.  You can read about some of the new features here. iOS 9 will contain a smarter version of Siri, better search, and better maps. If you have an iPad you’ll be able to split the screen and run two apps side-by-side. Apple is also introducing a news reader, kind of like Flipboard, that will aggregate news from many different sources. Apple will also be encouraging you to create a 6 digit passcode instead of your 4 digit code. (It was smart of them not to have a 7 digit code. I think too many people would just use their phone number.)

Finally, for all of you on the UES there is a new Apple store at Madison and 74th, opening not without typical NYC controversy.

Lastpass – Hacked

Maybe you have heard by now that Lastpass was hacked. You can also read about it here.  If you use Lastpass, your passwords were not revealed.  However, your email address and master password hint were taken.  This exposes you two ways: 1) you may get bogus email that looks like it’s from Lastpass, and 2) if your hint is too descriptive, some hacker may be able to figure it out.

The first thing you should do is change your master password and your new hint should be cryptic enough so that some stranger cannot guess the password. Second, with any email you get from Lastpass, verify the sender, but more importantly, do not click on any links in the email.  Go directly to the Lastpass website to make any changes that are requested.

This, of course, raises the question of the safety of using services like Lastpass, Dashlane, 1Pass, etc. My feeling is that they are still worth it for a few reasons:

1) Most importantly, the passwords themselves were not compromised with the hacking. This is because they are encrypted.;

2) Using one of these services, it’s easy to have different passwords and stronger passwords for every site. This is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself online.  Using the same password over and over really exposes you to fraud and identity theft.

3) Keeping a list of passwords on paper can work but then you have to travel with it, which is a risk. Also, I have witnessed with many people, the list gets out of date. Alternatively, keeping you passwords on your computer or your mobile device in a document or in your contacts exposes you to tremendous risk if you are hacked.

I use Dashlane, and for now, I’m sticking with it. For me the pros outweigh the cons.  If I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.

Finally, if you do not use one of these services, here is a short video on creating secure passwords. Also, you may have heard about something called two-factor authentication.  Here is a article about it. It’s something you may have already used if you’ve ever signed up for a service and had a code sent to your phone that you then entered on the website.

Windows 10 the Free Upgrade

As I wrote about before, Windows 10 will be here soon – July 29th to be exact.  In the meantime, you may have notice a new icon on your menu bar.  By clicking that icon you can reserve your free upgrade.  Read about the process here.

If by some chance you do not have the icon, Microsoft explains your options here.  The first thing to try is to install all the latest Windows updates for your version of Windows, hopefully 7 or 8.x.  (If you are still on XP, please, please, please speak to me about your options. Your computer is not safe on XP any more.)

If updating Windows does not cause the icon to appear, doing the other suggested steps are rather complicated and I do not recommend you doing them on your own unless you fully understand the instructions.  You will have a chance after July 29th to get the upgrade.

Battery Power

If you notice your iPhone running low on battery power, there is a quick way to see what apps are sucking up the juice.  This can be useful if you need to squeeze a bit more time out of your phone before you get to recharge it.

Select Settings -> General -> Usage -> Battery Usage

This will display, in descending order, the apps using the most battery.  If you want to close the battery hogs, double click the home button, scroll to the app to close, and swipe it up on the screen.

Another good trick for extending battery life is to lower the screen brightness.  The screen brightness setting can be found by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen.

Electric Power

Ever wonder what effect all the new electronic devices you own are doing to your electric bill?  What they are doing is costing you, even in sleep mode. I came across this Washington Post article about MEL – miscellaneous electrical load.  Here’s an excerpt:

Meet the problem that energy researchers call MEL — the “miscellaneous electrical load.” Its name says it all: It refers to all the power use from miscellaneous electronics and other objects in your home that are not major appliances, lighting, or heating and cooling. Many of these additional devices spend most of their time in standby mode; others are wirelessly communicating all the time. They use a constant stream of power, even when you’re getting nothing out of them. Even when you’re sleeping.

Even those phone chargers that you keep plugged into outlets, when not in use, are drawing small amounts of power.  If you’re concerned about your power bill or the environment, it’s worth reading.

New Mac Trick for Renaming Files

Have you ever had a group of files that you want to rename?  For example, you might have 25 pictures from your trip to Paris and they are all named something like IMG_234, IMG_235, etc.  Not very descriptive.

In Apple’s latest OS, Yosemite, it’s really easy to rename all 25 pics at once.  In Finder, highlight all 25 IMG files, right-click, select Rename 25 Items.  A small window will pop up that will allow you to type in a master name, like “Paris”.  If you leave everything else the same you will now have 25 pictures named Paris_1, Paris_2, etc. Easy!

On Chrome the Browser

Chrome, the browser by Google, is my go to choice.  I like it’s simple interface and speed (admittedly, the big browser developers are constantly one-upping each other over browser speed.) One problem with Chrome, and other browsers, is the amount of memory they use.

In the good old days of internet browsing, like ten years ago, browsers basically displayed static pages of text with some graphic elements.  Now, they are chocked full of little programs, videos and advertisements – all of which hog computer resources. And, over time, if you open many tabs, your computer memory will be used up and you’ll notice a slow down, spinning wheels, and the like.

If you are interested in how Chrome operates under the hood, here’s a good article – it’s not too techie.

The article mentions a little add-in that can keep Chrome operating at more optimal speeds when you have lots of tabs open.  It’s called The Great Suspender and you can read about it here.  It’s a very simple add-in that puts a tab to sleep, freeing the memory it uses, after a set period of inactivity.  The tab is still there, so when you return to it, one click and it’s activated again.

If you really want to see what is using up memory in Chrome, click the Menu icon on the Chrome tool bar (that’s the icon on the far right that looks like 3 stacked lines), select More Tools -> Task Manager.