Apple has just announced end-to-end encryption for iCloud storage. Privacy proponents are praising it, and the FBI is panning it.Continue reading
Update Account Recovery Info
Facebook, Gmail, and iCloud are among the many online services that either require or strongly encourage you to have an alternate email address or cell phone number that enables you to recover your account and all the data you have in it.
We seem to value our data so much, that we’ll encrypt it to protect it from anyone who might steal it. But if we don’t handle encryption and backup properly, our data can be irretrievably lost.Continue reading
You can probably guess the age of anyone who has an email address that ends in aol.com or yahoo.com. They were around when the “Information Superhighway” . . .Continue reading
We recently added a new home-user client through the Nextdoor website, and during our initial conversations, we covered a lot of security issues. The new client, an elderly gentleman, had a really good handle on his online security. There’s a lot for us to unpack as individuals and as those who have elderly parents – though some of this can apply to everyone.
First, let’s look at passwords. While this discussion is inspired by our new client, our conversation can apply to anyone because we never know when someone will not be able to access vital personal information either stored on a computer or device or in the cloud.
When we take on a new elderly client, we spend a lot of time talking about online security, including passwords, password managers and MFA. We were heartened to learn our new client knew all about using his passwords properly. He seemed to understand the system better than many of our younger clients.
When he asked about using a password manager, a subject he brought up, we advised against it. While password managers can greatly enhance online security and can be extremely convenient (think about accessing a website from your mobile phone when you’re in an urgent situation), everyone needs to know the law of unintended consequences. Every password manager has an encryption key, and if you don’t have the master password with that encryption key, you won’t get in. That includes you as the account owner and anyone who might need to get into a website.
We told him it would be preferable to write all his passwords in a book. It doesn’t need to be locked in a safe, but it should be kept in a secure place – and at least one other trusted person should know where it is. This is critically important for the elderly or anyone else who may need someone to manage their affairs because of some impairment or death.
Second, let’s look at forms of security generally known as two-factor authorization (2FA) or multi-factor authorization (MFA).
We discussed using MFA for his online banking and financial activity, and he said: “That is so easy, everyone should be doing it.”
I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not that complicated to use it once you set it up. In most cases, you can link the authorization to a specific device or devices, such as a computer, tablet or phone. When you do that, you can sign into a website account from the authorized device(s) without going through the authorization every time – or you can set it up to require authorization every time. It becomes difficult if somebody is trying to sign into your account from another device, but of course, this is what the process is designed to do.
The way most MFA processes work is that when you sign in from a device, a code is sent by text message to a phone or to an email address. Once you receive the code, you enter it on a designated page associated with the website. The complication will come if someone is truly signing in on your behalf from an “unknown” device. That person will need access to the authorization message.
Another security measure that works for iOS devices is Apple’s iCloud Keychain. Functioning like a password manager to some extent, it allows you to use your device access code to activate a complex password to enter a secure website.
We can help you understand all the benefits and pitfalls of using MFA. The big problems, obviously, are to make sure you don’t lock yourself out of your account and know what do to if your phone is not working. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to get comprehensive information about MFA and password managers and to configure your systems to work best for your needs.
We sometimes get so hung up on not paying one cent or a few dollars more for a service that we don’t see the forest for the trees. As we make more use of technology for our business and personal lives, it’s helpful to put the economics into perspective.
We have some truly amazing technology available to us, and we’ve grown to appreciate it as we spend more time at home. But we sometimes get too hung up on keeping our costs low, and in the process, we lose performance or entertainment joys because we didn’t want to spring for more RAM, a bigger hard drive, a newer phone or better TV or content streaming plans.
The time I spend discussing the benefits of a 99-cents-per-month iCloud storage plan – at an hourly rate that’s a lot more money – is sometimes mind-boggling. That said, the plethora of choices always boggles the mind.
A lot of our consternation comes from the marketplace. Within most of our lifetimes, we had cable TV, which was provided by a carrier that won the right (or franchise) to serve a community. It was that or watch over-the-air, which in metro New York was mostly seven VHF channels and a handful of UHF channels. Cable gave you all those channels plus others, such as ESPN, CNN and a host of out-of-town TV stations, especially those that carried local baseball teams. The Atlanta Braves became “America’s team” because Turner Broadcasting System was ubiquitous. You also could add two premium services, HBO and Showtime. TV was separate from your telephone service. Your local phone company provided your internet service.
Through regulatory changes, phone companies entered the cable TV market, and cable companies entered the phone market. Satellite TV entered the market, and then the cable and phone companies each offered TV, internet and phone service, followed by home alarm systems. That led to the “triple play,” which offered bundled services at “discounted” prices. Even with packages, prices continued to rise – and keep that in mind as we go along.
When package prices rose, customers questioned the concept of paying for channels (or content) they didn’t want. At the same time, it seems like content providers decided to start their own premium channels, and many services have popped up to offer some of their own content plus “skinny bundles” of channels offered by the cable companies.
Now, you need to be selective about these factors:
- What content do I want to watch?
- What content can I give up?
- What quality levels am I willing to pay for?
Let’s unpack and repack these questions.
There is a lot of programming overlap. You need to look at what each content provider offers – and that’s an exhausting search – to see which providers have the most of what you want to watch and when you want to watch it. You can keep your cable either as a service or as streamed content, or you can subscribe to services that offer combinations of live programming, including TV programs, news and sports in addition to their own premium programming. You could wind up paying more than you pay for your cable service, and you may or may not have the same choices within your budget.
You can save some money if you are willing to give up some of your choices. If you never watch sports, for example, you can find packages without them. But if you’re getting Disney Plus, you’re likely going to need to take the ESPN package as part of it. If you want sports, that’s good. But you may also be paying for it as part of another package, such as YouTube TV or Fubo TV. You can research all the combinations until you drop, or you can just jump into the water. Most every service offers a trial period, and the best advice we can offer is sign up, try it and make sure you cancel it before recurring charges start.
Then, there’s quality. Netflix, as you know has three levels: $8.99 as of this writing for a single device, $12.99 for two devices and $15.99 for four. If you want HD quality, you need the $12.99 package. If you want 4K, you need the $15.99. If you just bought a new TV with the latest bells and whistles, why would you not spend an extra $4 per month?
Along with programming quality, remember, too, that you need to have adequate internet service to handle the bandwidth you’ll require to enjoy your content. And, you’ll need to have a good network infrastructure to handle it all, whether it’s strictly for entertainment or for business and school, too.
We’re happy to educate you about the economics of technology to help you make a smart decision. We’re also happy to work with you on the installation and configuration of whatever technology you choose. But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on your comfort level with whatever you spend. Our advice is don’t cheap out on the hardware because it’s much more expensive and difficult to change. For online photo and video storage and TV or streaming content, you can adjust up or down as you see what you need. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help make sure you have the technology you need to enjoy life during these tough times.
If you have your email with your internet service provider (ISP), it might be a good time to take a look at what you’re getting, what you could get, and what you might lose.
First, ISPs provide email as a loss-leader service to keep your internet (and maybe cable TV) business. That internet business is critical to their success because more small businesses, home offices and consumers are using more data to run their businesses or live their lives. They’ve built the infrastructure to connect to your home or office. Now, it’s mostly a matter of adding capacity at a central location and using a few keystrokes to provide you with more internet capacity for whatever you need. As a result, they pay only enough attention to your email to prevent a catastrophic failure.
We saw the ISP-email problem firsthand during the past holiday season. Our client had email from Microsoft Hot Mail, but it was through their ISP. We thought it would be an easy fix, but when the problem escalated, the ISP erroneously blamed our client’s computer. We knew it wasn’t the case because we got right down into the system’s basic commands and identified a back-end issue at the ISP. That’s one place we can’t go.
The ISP didn’t do anything, but somehow, the problem disappeared. We think it was fixed either by a reboot to fix a server problem or by someone who actually saw a problem and fixed it. We’ll never know, but regardless, our client is ready to switch ISPs and their email service.
The switch is a two-step process. The first step is to find a new provider. They abound and offer features and capabilities not found in many of the current ISP-based email programs. Here are some of the more popular and more capable choices:
- Gmail from Google has a friendly conversation-focused interface, powerful search and top-notch spam and malware filtering, which is critical. It integrates with other Google services, including Google Drive, which lets you send attachments over Gmail’s 25-megabyte limit. You get 15 gigabytes of storage, and it’s free, unless you want to create your own email domain. A downside is Google’s proclivity for collecting personal data, but you get some control through its privacy settings.
- Outlook.com is a web-based email service that’s separate from Outlook in Office. It’s the successor to Hotmail, with a better interface. It also provides 15 gigabytes of storage and integrates with Microsoft’s online Office tools. Microsoft makes a big deal about not scanning emails to serve you ads, but it does scan them to filter spam and malware.
- iCloud, Apple’s free email service, integrates with Macs and iPhones and doesn’t contain any ads, though it isn’t as feature rich as other options. It comes with only 5 gigabytes of storage, which is shared with other Apple products. You can buy more storage.
- Fastmail is a paid service that touts privacy and control. For $3 to $9 per month per user, there are no ads, and you can create an email account at any domain you want, which is great for a small business. It’s a great option if you don’t want to tie yourself to one of the big tech giants.
- ProtonMail emphasizes privacy with end-to-end encryption. However, it requires a bit more work to setup and requires your recipient to jump through the same hoops. Just remember, though, your security is only as good as the security of the weakest link among all the people you communicate with.
No matter which provider you choose, you’ll need to do a lot of preparation. The most important step is to make sure you bring all the messages you want to save to your new email provider’s service. Some ISPs will delete your address and account as soon as you end your service. Others claim they’ll provide unlimited or generous storage and long-term to lifelong access, but there are no guarantees the messages will be kept or open to your access. If someone accidentally removes your messages from a server or removes your login credentials, you’ll have little or no recourse if you’re no longer a paying customer.
Copying all your old email from your old provider to your new one can be complicated. While we don’t want to say it’s something you can’t do at home, we strongly urge you to let us do it or walk you through the process. We want to make sure you get all the messages you want to keep – AND we can help you set up a forwarding mechanism so that people can still reach you after you make the change. (See Tech DIY: Our Equivalent of Calling the Plumber or Electrician.)
One thing you will need to do on your own is make sure you notify everyone of your email change – and do it with your new email address. That will make it easier for people to change their contact list, and it will add your new email to most autofill functions.
Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss the best email options for you and to make an appointment to get you set up with your new email system.
Apple will start accepting pre-orders for its new iPhone 11 this coming Friday, and for the Rosenthal family, this meant going right up until last night to decide who – besides me – would get a new phone and what features would be on it, and who would get an older phone. I’m getting all the bells and whistles, but how did we divide up the rest of our purchases and recycling? Here’s our thought process.
I decided to get the iPhone 11 Pro because I wanted the camera. Danit is undecided, but she is leaning toward the iPhone 11 because she likes the purple case that’s available. Charlie will keep the iPhone XR he got earlier this year, and Leah will get Danit’s iPhone X.
To me, the 11 Pro’s camera is the killer technology. As we travel more, I’m less inclined to drag along my DSLR camera unless we’re going on a major, major trip – where I’ll want high-quality photos that only that type of camera can provide. Using the phone’s camera, I can store pictures directly to my electronic library – my iCloud account – instead of having to download them from the camera’s card.
The big factor on the new phone’s camera is the ultrawide lens option. It’s a triple-camera system with new Ultra Wide, Wide and Telephoto cameras that Apple touts as a pro-level camera experience designed for everyone. The Telephoto camera features a larger ƒ/2.0 aperture to capture 40 percent more light compared to iPhone Xs for better photos and videos. For video, each camera in the triple-camera system records 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilization. With a wider field of view and large focal plane, the Ultra Wide camera should be great for shooting action videos. That’s what Apple says; we’ll see if it’s true.
Audio Zoom is supposed to match the audio to the video framing for more dynamic sound. With iOS 13, we’re supposed to get better video editing tools.
If you have any questions about whether to move to the iPhone 11 or which model to select, we’re happy to discuss your needs vs. the features. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us, and we’ll chat about it.
What drives employees crazy at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar? In short, it’s all the un-genius things customers do or don’t do before they come in for help. You can get better service if you prepare your phone and account before you walk in.
A recent article in Yahoo News surveyed current and former Apple Store employees about their biggest complaints when people visit the Genius Bar at stores. The complaints involve a number of time wasters, and they revolve around all the things that customers can and should do before their visits for problems or repairs with iPhones – and likely their iPads, too.
Here’s their advice that can make you a genius in their eyes:
- Know your Apple id (hint: it’s usually your email address) and your password for your Apple and iCloud accounts. If you and Apple can’t access your data, Apple won’t do any work on your phone or device because they won’t take any responsibility for losing your data (unless it’s entirely their fault). If your device is totally inoperable, you can reset your password at home from a computer. Apple Store personnel can sometimes help you reset it, but more often than not, they’ll ask you to come back when you’ve resolved your password issue.
- Have all your data backed up to iCloud. That includes your Contacts, photos and videos and anything else that can be possibly stored on your phone. As with all computing, we recommend regular backups to protect your data. Backing up to iCloud is simple: Go into your Settings and tap your name. Then tap iCloud and scroll to iCloud Backup. Make sure it’s turned on and tap it. Then tap Back Up Now. You can also back up your device to your iTunes account. It’s a little more complicated, but Apple has a support page to walk you through the process. The reason this is critical is because once Apple opens your phone or device, all data stored within is wiped clean. If Apple (or any other seller) provides a new phone or device, they’ll transfer your iCloud (or iTunes) data to your new device.
- Make sure your device is fully charged. If it’s DOA when you get to the store, so’s your appointment. You can probably charge it there, but you’ll probably have to go the back of the line for getting help.
- Be honest about what happened to your device. On a technical level, the wrong information you provide can delay Apple employees from getting to the right diagnosis.
- Don’t ask them for help with your Gmail or Facebook password. If they have time, Apple people can usually help you out, but it’s not their job. And technically, they are not trained to solve these problems. Any organization that requires a password usually has a recovery process, and that process usually offers you an option to verify or authenticate your identity via a text message or email.
We sometimes encounter the same problems with our clients when it comes to dealing with data and password recovery or computers or devices that are “dead as doornails.” We can take the time to help resolve issues, and with devices that aren’t operating properly, we can sometimes fix software problems or help you determine the right questions to ask at the Genius Bar.
If you’re having trouble getting your Apple products ready for a visit to the Apple Store, contact us by phone – 973-433-6646 – or email for help. We might be able to solve your problem and find a solution to prevent it from happening again. Or, we may be able to help you maximize your time at the Genius Bar.
OK, I’m as the frugal as the next guy – maybe even more frugal than most. But not spending a buck or three per month to store all your vacation images in the cloud can be penny wise and pound foolish.
Let’s begin this discussion with one certainty: No matter how much your vacation costs, you’ll never be able to replicate the exact conditions or scene that you photographed or videoed. That makes your photo or video priceless.
Automatically sending your photos and videos to a cloud-based storage facility is the best insurance you can have, and for most people, spending $0.99 to $2.99 per month will take care of all your needs. We’ll talk mostly about Apple’s storage plans because more and more of you are using your iPhones (and sometimes iPads) as your primary camera and video recorder.
iPhone users typically get 5 GB of storage space in the cloud for free. That’s for a lot of photos and videos for many. For the most part, nobody pays attention to storage until you get that nasty little notice on your phone that your storage is full. The notice usually refers to your available iCloud storage, and when it’s all full, the camera basically stops recording new photos or videos until you have sufficient space. However, you can remedy that by buying extra storage space on the spot, as long as you have internet access. If you don’t know your Apple password, you can always reset it.
Your least expensive option is get 50 GB (10 times the free storage) for $0.99 per month. Two other plans are 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 2 TB for $9.99 per month. That last one may be overkill but put it in perspective. If you can travel the world and want to keep your memories safe – or share them with anyone at any time – a little less than $120 per year is a cost-effective option.
Apple and iPhones are not the only options. Android users can tap into Google Photos with Google Drive, which gives you 15 GB of free storage to use across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. You can also use Google Photos with a computer or iPhone/iPad. You can get 100 GB for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year or 1 TB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Amazon offers all its customers 5 GB of photo storage free and unlimited storage to it Prime customers.
There are also numerous websites that offer storage and the ability to share with family and friends. In addition to storage and sharing, they offer you and registered family members and friends the ability to buy photos, photo books, coffee mugs, etc. Some also will sell your photos online. Some of the better-known websites include Flickr, Shutterfly and Photobucket.
Camera technology is also keeping pace with the online world. Whether you have a compact point-and-shoot camera or a professional DSLR, manufacturers are adding wireless capabilities, so you can upload photos and videos directly to the cloud or store copies on your mobile device, though they can cut those file sizes to 2 MB. Also, be aware that when you delete photo and video files from your devices, you may also be deleting them, too, from your cloud storage. Check for settings that keep the files in the cloud, and if you can’t set that up, be careful about what you delete – though many of the servers keep your files for 30 days.
Every year, we get calls to try to recover photos and videos. Sometimes, recovery is not possible. But it is possible to prevent the problem. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you select the best available storage program for your needs or to help set up your storage. It could save your vacation.