Eye on 2015

Every year holds promises for new technology. Here’s what we see coming in 2015.

For Apple fans, we expect to see the Apple Watch and the iPad Pro. With the iPad model, we’re likely to go from mini to maxi. Some details are starting to leak out, including a 12” to 13” screen, which would put it into the Microsoft Surface category. Speculation includes a new processor and four speakers in the new model with a release date in early spring.

Early spring is also a rumored release time for the Apple Watch. We’ll be watching.

On the Microsoft front, we just loaded a test version of Windows 10. We’ll see how it flows and what similarities it has to Windows 8 and the things we liked in Windows 7. Rumors abound on this product, too, but we hear rumblings of a Microsoft “event” for late January. The rumor mill also points to the operating system working across all platforms, including smartphones, tablets and Xbox One consoles.

We expect a continuing trend toward more use of Microsoft Office 365. We sell it to a lot of our clients and continue to recommend it. We helped a client with Exchange cut costs from $700 to $96.

We also look for improvements to Office 365 and Outlook for the Mac. It was released on Halloween (how’s that for “trick or treat?”), and we immediately downloaded it while traveling. It has the look and feel of Office and Outlook, and while there are some differences between Windows and Mac in the way I use it, the Mac version is 1000 times better than it was. We still don’t have One-Drive for the Mac, but we’re hopeful that will come out next year.

The other tech darling of the consumer world is 4K ultra high-def TV. Flat screen TVs with 720 and 1080 resolution have gotten dirt cheap to the point that you can save a lot of space and electricity costs by junking your “tube” TV.

But if 4K TV catches on in 2015 as we expect, it’s just a matter of time until you’ll want to have it. Priming that pump will be the growth of non-cable, non-satellite content delivery technology from Amazon, Apple TV, Roku and others.

New content delivery systems are just another reminder that technology can change on a dime. So if you’re contemplating a new purchase, be sure to talk to us – especially if you’re buying technology for your office and are looking for tax-saving opportunities. If you don’t need next year’s soon-to-be latest and greatest, you can find some good pricing on this year’s technology and be eligible for applicable tax write-offs for office systems. Call – 973-433-6676 – or email to set up an appointment.

iOS 8 Family Affair

With iOS 8, Apple made great strides in helping families manage iCloud accounts and Family Share. Now, you can have separate accounts for up to six family members with parents able to control what their children buy and download.

Sharing music, apps, photos, movies and other iTunes purchases was a pain in the neck before Apple got all of its bugs out of iOS 8. We always found the biggest problems involved tracking what individuals bought in the iTunes store and then keeping adults’ and kids’ content separate. This had little to do with what’s appropriate; it was more a matter of neither wanting the other’s content.

Now, all you need to do is get iOS 8 on all devices – iPhones, iPads – and the Yosemite operating system on Apple computers. You can go to Settings on each device and enable Family Sharing and then go to iCloud settings. The set-up can be a little complicated. One person, designated as the Family Organizer, needs to go to Settings > iCloud > Set up Family Sharing… and follow the instructions, which include entering an iTunes ID and agreeing to paying for anything downloaded by the family members.

Here’s where it can get a little tricky – and there are some things we are still testing out as a family. While I am our Family Organizer, my wife and I have Approval Rights for any purchases made by our children. However, we also have it set up so that if someone – like a doting grandparent – gives them Apple gift cards, any charges for their downloaded material is drawn from their accounts before their parents pay.

We have helped a number of clients set up Apple Family Sharing, and we can help customize your set-up for your family’s needs. Just give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email for an appointment. And remember, we are available without any holiday surcharges to help you set up any electronics during this festive time of the year.

Caution is Key to Online Safety

Take a deep breath and Look Before You Click during the holiday season. More scammers, hackers and schemes abound at this time of the year, looking for holes to breach and get critical personal data. Here’s a review of our tried-and-true safety measures.

Watch your email. It’s one of the easiest pathways into your computer and all of your valuable personal data. At this time of the year, scammers and hackers take advantage of harried shoppers, who are likely balancing work and shopping and not paying full attention to all of their email.

Here are some identities a cyber-invader may assume to get inside your computer:

  • Bank or Credit Card Company
    • Do you have an account with that bank or credit card company?
    • Is it really one of their actual email addresses or domains?
    • Does your bank or credit card company normally contact you about this?

Your Best Course of Action: Close the email and go the bank’s or credit card company’s website to see if there are any alerts that match the email. If you’re still not sure it’s a fake message, get the phone number from the website and call. You can also look at a bank statement or credit card to get a customer-service phone number. Don’t click on any link in a questionable email.

  • Retailer or Shipper
    • Did you actually do business with that retailer?
    • Did you agree to use that shipper when you bought something online?
    • Are you being asked to click on a link?

Your Best Course of Action: Close the email. If you printed a hard copy of your order confirmation, you should be able to see the name of the carrier and a projected shipping date and delivery date and verify the information in the email. For protection, go to the retailer’s website and log in if you have an account. That should provide you with updated information on your order’s status. If the retailer has provided you with a shipper and a tracking number, go to the shipper’s website and enter the tracking number there. If you’re still not sure, call customer service.

  • Charitable Solicitations

Your Best Course of Action: Close the email. If it’s a charity you want to support, find its official website and give a donation there.

  • Email from a Friend in Need

Your Best Course of Action: Close the email. If you really think it’s legit, call your friend or send a new email with a different subject line. If that person is a close enough friend to send money, you should have full contact info – or know a way to get it.

When conducting business online, make sure you give your information over a secure website page. There are a couple of ways to check:

  • The website address begins with https
  • You’ll see a padlock icon in the address bar

Some other precautions to take include:

  • Buy from a large, reputable online or brick-and-mortar merchant. Generally speaking, retailers who work through Amazon or EBay have been vetted and have contact info posted online. If you’re not sure, buy from someone else.
  • Don’t send sensitive personal information by email. It’s too easy for someone to intercept it.
  • If somebody calls you about an account or purchase or charitable donation, you can ask to call that person back – and then go to a website to get a phone number you believe is trustworthy.
  • Make sure your antivirus, spyware, malware and firewall programs are up to date and running.

Above all, Look Before You Click. Make sure you understand exactly where a click will take you and what will be put on your computer. As Michael Conrad’s Sgt. Phil Esterhaus warned TV’s Hill Street Precinct police officers: “Let’s be careful out there.” And if you run into trouble, make your emergency call to us – 973-433-6676 – or send us an email.