Using the Cloud for Backup

The purpose of many cloud services like Dropbox, One Drive and iCloud is for storing files in order to retrieve them from any device. In other words, you explicitly save documents to the cloud, usually by saving them to a special folder i.e. Dropbox, iCloud, etc., and after that the files reside on the cloud, not on your computer.

As I’ve written about before, other cloud services like Mozy, Carbonite, etc. are for emergency backup purposes, typically backing up your entire hard drive, not for document retrieval from all your devices.

There is a tricky, hybrid way to use the Dropbox and iCloud type services for both document retrieval and automatic backup. There is a little tool called MacDropAny that will link any folder on your computer to one of these cloud services. Once you do this, all the files within the linked folder will reside on both your computer and the cloud service. (As you can probably guess by the name, this tool only works on Macs.)

I link my Documents folder to Dropbox. In this way, when I make changes to a document on my computer it automatically syncs with the copy in Dropbox. For anyone who is lazy about backing up their computer this is an easy way to at least backup the import stuff.

One very important note of caution: make sure you know the amount of data in the folder you link and keep it within the limits of your cloud data plan. I link folders that only contain documents and spreadsheets, no photos, music or movies, which for me, is only a few gigabytes of data.

Gmail – The Dreaded Cannot Get Mail

On my iPhone I used to get this message a lot: “Cannot get Mail. The mail server is not responding …” Have you ever seen that? It’s not consistent, it seems to come and go on a whim.

I believe I found a solution to this problem. Google has tightened the security settings on gmail access.

If you login to your Gmail account through a browser, click on the little round picture of yourself on the upper right, select My Account.

Under Sign in & Security select Connected apps & sites. Where it says “Allow less secure apps”, turn it to ON. The Mail app on your iPhone is a 3rd party app to Gmail.

This seems to have solved my problem. I have not seen the message since but, yes, it does make using Gmail a bit less secure.

Dell and Time Warner Security Breaches

There are two important security breaches that you should be aware of: Dell and Time Warner.

Someone hacked Dell’s customer database. It is being used to contact Dell customers about bogus tech support problems. The callers know a lot about your set up, if you have a Dell computer. As with other scams, it is important to remember that no one from Dell is calling you about some problem with your computer. If anyone calls you to tell you that you have a problem with your computer, just hang up. Don’t engage, don’t ask questions, just hang up. You can read about it here.

The Time Warner hack resulted in stolen passwords. You can read about it here. If you have an online account with Time Warner or you have a Time Warner/Roadrunner email account you should immediately change your password on the account.

TV News

CES the Consumer Electronic Show is happening in Las Vegas. Lot’s of new tech toys being announced. One thing that caught my eye could simplify the remote control lives we have. Samsung announced that their smart TVs will be coming with a universal remote that will be capable of controlling all your devices. I have not been a big fan of universal remotes but am hoping that Samsung delivers a product that just works without complicated programming and a clumsy interface.

If you are in the market for a new TV, maybe you have seen the hype about 4K TVs. The 4K refers to the resolution of the screen. These new TVs have twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the previous generation of TV. The problem is that they are more expensive and there is very little programming available at that resolution, plus many of us will be hard pressed to really see a big difference in picture quality. You can read more about it here.

Emergency Medical Information

Did you know that you can store emergency medical information on your iPhone? There is something called the Medical ID where you can store emergency contact information, information like blood type, are you an organ donor, allergies, etc.

Here is an article that explains how to set it up and how it is accessed.

One note of caution: since anyone can access this information be careful what you store. Do not include your social security number or other information that should remain confidential.

Digital SIgnature

Here’s a relatively easy way to add a digital signature to any document on a Mac. This method works with any PDF document. Keep in mind that if you have a Word document you can save it as a PDF and then apply this method.

The first step is to create your digital signature. To do this launch the Preview program.

Next, select Tools->Annotate->Signature->Manage Signatures->Create Signature.

You now have an option of using the Track Pad or the Camera. I used the camera. Scribble your signature on a piece of white paper and hold it up to the camera and take its picture. Your signature is now stored in Preview. Yeah!

Open up any PDF you want. Select Tools->Annotate->Signature and click on your signature. That will place it in the PDF document and you can move it to the proper location. That is it. Of course, don’t forget to save the file.

So Many Duplicates

I know that many of you have very large Photos libraries. If your libraries are like mine, you probably have lots of duplicates or lots of very similar photos. How many times have you taken three photos in row thinking you’ll only keep the best but you keep them all?

A $10 program called PhotoSweeper can help. It has settings that let you decide how similar two photos should be to be considered duplicates. You can read a review of it here. This is a nice app for decluttering your photo library and freeing up disk space.

El Capitan Update

El Capitan version 10.11.1 is out. It fixes a few minor problems with the original release, including the Microsoft Office 2016 problem I mentioned here.

If you are running version 10.11 you should definitely update to 10.11.1.

If you are running Yosemite 10.10.x, there is no reason not to update. It has some nice features. Here is another explanation on why.

If you are running older versions you can check with me to see if it is recommended for your computer. In most cases it will be.

To see what version you are running click on the little apple on the left of the top tool bar. Select about this Mac.

As always, remember to back up before you upgrade.