What the HEIF?

HEIF (High-Efficiency Image Format) is a new image format for storing and exchanging photographs and image sequences, such as a burst of images or succession of images. In practical terms, it will reduce image file sizes while maintaining higher quality than .JPG (j-peg) files.

Continue reading

iPhone X is a 10

Naturally, we have our iPhone X, and it’s everything we hoped it would be. Getting it was almost as much fun as using it because the Apple hype machine adds so much more intrigue. I was one of 25 people who showed up at the UPS terminal in Parsippany to get our phones when the counter opened at 7:30 in the morning on a Friday, two weeks ago. The guy at the counter grumbled a bit, but they knew what to expect. We had all been waiting for our phones from the minute we placed our order.

That’s when the fun started. I was able to track my phone before Apple and UPS sent us any kind of information. Working the web, I learned when my phone left the factory in China, when it left Hong Kong for the US, and when it arrived in Anchorage – before going to Louisville and Newark and then on to Parsippany.

In reality, I can’t blame UPS and Apple for being so spare with information. A truck was robbed near San Francisco, and a number of phones were stolen. New iPhones are hot commodities in more ways than one.

So, was it worth all the excitement? Yes.

The iPhone X’s facial recognition is top notch, and I love all the features and the speed. To a geek like me, this is one step closer to heaven. The only difficulty I’ve had is getting used to the absence of a Home button, which has been an iPhone hallmark. I’m still getting used to all the gestures and swipes, and switching back and forth with Danit’s older iPhone makes it harder to settle into a routine. But, hey, I’m not complaining.

If you’re in the market for the iPhone X, the waiting time to get one is three to four weeks. If you’re trying to decide whether to buy it at an Apple store or through your cellular carrier, I’d recommend the Apple store. One big reason is that you can buy the Apple Care insurance program that’s cheaper and better than what the carriers offer.

The coverage is recommended – along with the purchase of a good case for your new phone – because the units have glass fronts and backs and are extremely fragile. They can break very easily, and a replacement screen is $579.

The iPhone X has a lot of outstanding features, and most people will find a learning curve – while getting used to the gestures and no Home button. If you have any questions about the new phone or need any help in getting it set up and integrated into your life, we’re available to help. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

iOS 11 Has a Lot to Like

Apple has released iOS 11 for mobile phones and tablets, and it has a lot of great features. For cars, we really like the “Do Not Disturb, I’m Driving” response to text messages, and for iPads, we like the drag-and-drop feature.

The “Do Not Disturb” feature has been available on Android phones, and for somebody like me, who spends a lot of business time traveling to clients while always on call, it could be a lifesaver. You can activate in one of three ways: Bluetooth, when your vehicle reaches a specified speed, or manually. I have been able to add a customized message to let texters know that they can call because I can talk while I drive. Because the screen stays dark in this mode, I am looking at the phone a lot less now, and that’s much, much safer.

The camera on the iPhone is getting better, too. You can take Portrait Mode images with optical image stabilization, True Tone flash and HDR. Memory movies are optimized to play in portrait and landscape orientation, and more memories, such as photos of pets or birthdays, are automatically created and a new technology, called High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), reduces the file size of every photo taken with iPhone 7 and newer models.

Siri has new male and female voices that are more natural and expressive, adjusting intonation, pitch, emphasis and tempo while speaking, and it can translate English words and phrases into Mandarin, French, German, Italian or Spanish. It uses on-device learning to offer suggestions based on personal usage of Safari, News, Mail, and Messages.

For AR (augmented reality), there’s a new platform for developers to create experiences on phones and tablets using the built-in camera and the latest computer vision technologies. You’ll likely see content for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.

iPad’s drag-and-drop capability across the entire system makes it easier to move images and text, and when combined with the new Files app, you can keep things in one place, whether you store files locally or in the cloud. Its new, customizable Dock and a redesigned control center give you access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen and let you move documents between apps using a split screen or Slide Over. Apple Pencil lets you draw or add notes from the lock screen through the Instant Notes feature opens Notes by tapping Apple Pencil on the display.

The new screen sharing capability, however, tops off all the new features. It enables two people to share screens in real time on any iOS-powered device. For us, that will increase our capability to help clients troubleshoot problems in a timely manner.

Make the most of your Apple devices by understanding all the features of iOS 11 and how they work. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have any questions, and have more fun with your devices or make them more useful.

Nomorobo = No More Robo Calls? We Hope It Adds Up

If you’re tired of robo calls and caught in the web of spoofed telephone numbers, Nomorobo might be the app for you. It is for us. It’s one product to help you manage your telephone.

For most of us, robocalls are a major annoyance. Even when you don’t pick up the phone, they ring and ring until your answering machine picks it up, and then you need to follow whatever instructions your answering machines provide to get rid the message.

For many others, however, robocalls are an expensive trap. Scammers posing as IRS agents steal millions every year, despite regular warnings from the real IRS that its agents will never contact you by phone if you owe them money. They send a letter first, and they tell people that if they have questions about whether they owe taxes, they should call the IRS toll-free phone number.

At one time, you could register your phone number with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to block robocalls and telemarketers representing companies with which you did not have a relationship. But VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology made it cheap and easy for scammers operating outside the US to make long-distance calls that look like domestic calls. Essentially, the same technology that gives you a free Google Voice number gives scammers and thieves the ability to reach you under false pretense. How ridiculous can it get? You can get a call from a device identified as your own phone.

As phone carriers and the FCC went ‘round and ‘round in pointing fingers and passing along suggestions for the “other side,” the logjam broke when the FCC allowed the phone companies to block robocalls. One of the industry’s concerns was that it would block legitimate phone numbers, including those used by emergency-notification organizations.

Here’s where Nomorobo stepped in to fill the breach. It won a $25,000 cash prize from the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 for figuring how to stop robo calls. The system reroutes calls to your phone number to a service that checks the incoming phone number against a database that whitelists the good guys and blacklists the bad guys. Once you sign up for Nomorobo, you need to wait until the second ring to pick up the phone. Nomorobo uses the first ring to check the incoming number against its database. If you don’t get a second ring, then you know a robo call was blocked.

In a perfect world, good calls, such as those from emergency-related organizations get through. Of course, the world is not perfect, but it is “trainable.” If you experience any problems, such as a school closing or a call from a hospital, you can report it at www.nomorobo.com/report under “A Valid Number That Was Blocked Incorrectly” and correct the database. The service won’t block charity calls, but it can block political calls. You can enable or disable this feature by clicking “Edit” next to your number.

Nomorobo is free for landlines, and it supports most carriers. It has an iOS app that costs $1.99 per month, and it plans to have an Android app soon. The company has an online help desk that covers most questions users would have about using its system or deleting it.

Nomorobo has plenty of company in the robo-blocking space, and you might find one you like better. One place to start your search is the CTIA website product listings. CTIA represents many wireless telecom companies in the US. If you have any questions about selecting a call blocker or installing on a landline or mobile device, we’re here to help. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

iPhone 7 and New Product Evolution

I have my new iPhone 7 – without the headphone jack. You know what? I have computers without built-in CD/ROM drives, and automotive entertainment systems don’t have CD players either. Get used to more with less because device makers are under constant pressure to provide more features and capabilities in the smallest possible package.

By removing the jack, Apple has freed up more room for other bells and whistles, such as the better camera system. If you’re one of those people who takes a lot of photos or video with your iPhone, that’s likely to be more important to you than the headphone jack.

Removing the jack, by the way, doesn’t mean Apple has eliminated headphones. You’ll just have to go wireless, which more and more of us are doing anyway. Just about everyone has a Bluetooth connection in their cars, for example, or a Bluetooth headset. For those who still plug in headphones or headsets, it’s just a change you’ll need to get used to.

We can look at a couple of developments to put technological evolution into context. Apple was the first computer maker to eliminate internal CD/ROM drives from its units. That allowed them to make their computers lighter and smaller. If you carry the development forward, across a number of platforms, you can easily see why tablets are replacing laptops for many people.

Tablets don’t have to hold built-in hard drives. By using either cellular or Wi-Fi networks, they connect to the Cloud, where users can access application programs and data. Continually evolving software development gives users a great deal of computing capability for mobile platforms, and you generally have the choice of using a lightweight, portable keyboard or using an onscreen keyboard and swipes to do your work or find the information you seek. In some cases, voice technology is making the keyboard obsolete.

In more technologically advanced cars, you don’t find CD players – which, by the way, replaced cassette tape players many years ago. Who needs either one of them? With Bluetooth technology, you can connect your playlist from your phone or tablet to the car’s sound system. And when you get out of the car, just switch to your Bluetooth headset and never a miss a beat.

Technology is changing the way we do business, too. For example, a kitchen designer can give a couple virtual reality goggles and let them view a potential kitchen as though they are standing in the room. From a computer, the designer can change configurations or colors of cabinets and countertops.

For some, change is intimidating and confusing. We can help you be more comfortable with selecting new technology and learning how to use the features you need or want. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a time.

OS Updates from Apple

You can look for iOS 9 for your Apple devices later this month and OS X El Capitan for your Mac computers later this fall. Here’s what to look for when you see them.

iOS 9 has been in public beta testing, and the good-and-bad of that is that a lot of testers find lots of bugs. While it generates a lot of public complaining, the process gives Apple’s developers the chance to fix “real world” problems before the great masses of “real world” people start using it.

So, let’s get our technical issue out of the way. I had problems calling my wife cellphone-to-cellphone on the Verizon network. I got a weird message about circuits being busy, and other Verizon users had trouble with voice mail. When I called Verizon, they asked if I was using iOS 9. When I told them I was, they said they were working on the issue. That’s why I like public beta testing.

Now, for the features. A recent CNET review points to improvements in Siri, the Maps app, search tools and battery life. The new iOS will be available for devices as old as iPad 2 and iPhone 4S – which may correspond to the changing world of phone carrier contracts and data rates. Regardless, here some worthwhile features:

  • Siri will be able to answer questions that relate to locations and times, such as “Remind me to call Mom when I get home,” and she’ll deliver in seconds.
  • When you launch a Spotlight search by swiping right from the first home screen or swiping down, you’ll get your most common contacts, recently used apps and other info. It could tie Maps and your location to nearby places of interest.
  • Apple now has its own News app.
  • Maps now works with public transit. Touch a Transit tab at the top to see all sorts of options to get there via public transportation. You can even tap a train station or bus stop to see all of the lines that pass through that stop or what exit to take from a station.
  • The keyboard has a system-wide font change, and it shows letters in lowercase when shift is off. The display will shift to “caps” when you tap the shift key.
  • The Notes app allows you to quickly make check lists, add formatting to notes and add images. There’s a scribble pad to draw with your finger on screen, and you can select pen types and colors.
  • The new Low Power Mode could add up to 3 hours to battery life. Flip a switch in the settings, and you can reduce or disable functions like background app refresh and visual effects.

OS X El Capitan for Mac computers is also in public beta testing. Some items of interest include:

  • A split screen lets you view two apps side-by-side.
  • Wiggle your finger on the trackpad to find your cursor.
  • Spotlight pulls in search results for weather, sports, stocks and videos. You can also use natural language to find what you’re looking for.
  • Mail borrows some swipe actions from iOS 9 and ties better your calendar.
  • Maps also picks up the iOS 9 tricks, and you can sync app results between your Mac and iOS 9 iPhone.
  • Notes borrows from iOS 9, and Safari has three new features
  • The ability to hide the menu bar is now built in instead of being a separate app – giving you every last inch of your screen if you have a compact MacBook.

If you have any questions about installing the new Apple operating systems and synching devices and computers or need help getting your systems up and running, we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – to have us talk you through the process or email us to schedule help.

Outlook App Puts Power in Your Hand

Microsoft has amped up the power of Outlook with apps for iOS and Android. They come as Microsoft prepares to release Windows 10, which is designed to work across multiple platforms, and they enable you to work more efficiently while you’re on the go.

Despite the smartphone becoming a primary screen for reading email, most people prefer to deal with action items on their computers. Sorting a lot of email, managing calendars and sharing files require too many steps or multiple apps that don’t work together well on the phone.  The new Outlook app brings together your email, calendar, contacts and files in a way to help you get more done, even on the smallest screen.

Here are some of the features that can help you be more productive with your smartphone or tablet in those short time bursts available between appointments and tasks.

Starting at the top, the Outlook app allows you to segment your email inbox into two broad categories: Focused and Other. The app uses some intelligence tools to learn what’s important to you, and it has a single-tap capability to unsubscribe from unwanted email. That’s a huge benefit when you’re trying to manage email in seconds.

From there, you can continue to use swipes to delete, archive, and move messages, and you can also “schedule” a time to handle a specific message. The feature removes it from your inbox until the time you have scheduled it to return. That eliminates a lot of extra scrolling as you move through the day. The “People” view shows you messages  that the app determines (learns) the people you’re in contact with most by email.

All of these features work across your favorite email accounts, including Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, iCloud, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail.

The Outlook app makes your calendars available within the app, allowing direct interaction with your email. The ‘Quick RSVP’ feature lets you respond to meetings (Accept / Tentative / Decline) right from your inbox, without even opening the mail. The ‘Send Availability’ feature lets you find and share available meeting times in email. Once you’ve settled on a time, you can even create a meeting invitation—all within the app. You can view meeting details, invitees and their attendance status.

Outlook simplifies sharing files stored in the cloud.  With just a few taps, you can insert a link to any file from OneDrive, Dropbox and other popular accounts in your email message. Recipients are automatically granted permission to view these files, with no extra steps. You can find files quickly by viewing your recently received email attachments, and you can search across both your cloud storage and your email attachments at once with Quick Filters to let you quickly sort by file type.

The app is free. For iPhones, it requires iOS 8.0 or later. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. For Android users, Android 4.0 or later is required. If you have questions about how to use it with your phone or tablet, call us – 973-433-6676 – send us an email. We’ll be able to answer your questions or walk you through the set-up steps.

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.

iOS Upgrade and No Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Apple just released its iOS 7.06 upgrade, and in a recent comment, someone complained about losing your ability to “jail break” your device. Well, you can unlock just about any device, but is it worth it? You could be sacrificing data security.

The more we learn about data breaches at large companies and financial institutions, the more we start to realize how vulnerable we are and how much more we need to protect our information.

Technically, unlocking phones is illegal. When you have a contract with a carrier, they essentially have offered you a discount on device, usually a smartphone, in return for using their network. Unlocking your phone or device from their network to use other carriers breaks the contract.

We don’t offer legal advice. We offer technical advice and services that we hope will make you smarter users of your devices. So, let’s look at the security aspects.

The process of unlocking your smartphone, also known as jail breaking, decrypts all the data on your phone. It also removes all of the manufacturer’s restrictions and allows a phone to be used on any network. That’s the benefit you hoped to gain, especially when traveling abroad, where different cellular protocols can be used.

However, these unlocked phones carry a higher security risk than standard phones due to the changes to the operating system needed to make this occur. Once you use that phone to access the Internet, you and your phone are open to malware, spyware and just about any other tool you can think of that hackers can use to get personal data.

If that doesn’t stop you from thinking about jail-breaking your phone and/or device, consider this: You don’t know what security laws may apply when your data are breached in another country. Even though redress through a legal system may be possible, it will be after the fact. Damage can be done, and nobody can tell you what your liabilities may be and what any redresses can cover.

If you are traveling abroad, check with your carrier about capabilities. In many cases, your phone or device will work on Wi-Fi networks – though they may be public networks just like those from your local coffee shop. Wi-Fi Internet can allow you to talk to people over through services such as Facetime, Skype or Viber, and to access your email, bank and charge accounts and business files. Of course, you should make sure ahead of time that your device will be secured, and security can be enhanced through two-factor authentication systems.

In some cases, such as traveling to China, you may be better off leaving your phone or device home or having it shut off completely. Many business and government travelers to China and some other countries simply buy or rent a phone – with none of the information on their current phones and devices – for one-time use in those countries. Vacationers should follow their lead.

Contact us – phone: 973-433-6676 email: info@sterlingrosellc.com – with any questions you have about securing your phones and devices while traveling.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

iOS 7 and Gadget Goodies

The new iOS 7 for iPhones already has wider acceptance than the upgrade from 5 to 6. While any new software has some issues – did you download the patch, too? – there’s a lot to like.

I’ve preferred the iPhone to the Android phones in part because of their tighter controls over app development. iOS 7 is the third operating-system upgrade for the iPhone and Apple devices while there have been some 10 Droid upgrades. Although open software opens up the Droid devices for more innovation, Apple developers can put more time into their efforts knowing that they will be around longer and their work more profitable.

Before I tell you what I like about iOS 7, I do have one disappointment. I bought a new car, which has the capability for Droid phones to read my email and allow me to use voice-to-text to reply. My iPhone can read the message, but Siri can only respond that I’m driving and will reply later.

With that out of the way, I like the new control center. By swiping up, you can immediately access well-used or needed functions such as a flashlight, clock and timer, calculator and camera and tweak several settings. You can also call back a trashed email message by shaking your iPhone after you delete it – something that can come in handy if you’re trying to handle email while walking.

If you combine the new phone with the new OS, you get much faster navigation. Nav is still better on the older phones, and you get a better keyboard, the ability to brighten your screen and a more functional Siri. One other really good feature is automatic updates.

And, of course, with the gift-giving holidays coming up, now’s the time to start thinking about new gadgets. We should soon be seeing a new iPad and IPad Mini along with ultra-high-def 4K TVs and smart watches.

But one of my new favorites is the Sonos Wireless Hi-Fi speaker system that works with your computer and wireless network to provide Internet radio or music stored on a device throughout your house. My system is set up with five zones, and the speakers in each zone can each play a separate channel or play any combination of channels in any number of zones. The system is controlled by any computer or device that has the software and is connected wirelessly to the router. The only cord it needs is the power cord.

What’s your favorite new gadget? How do you like the new iOS 7 or latest Droid OS? Leave a comment to share your thoughts. If you need any advice about using a device or choosing a gadget, we’re always available to answer your questions by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.