Tuesday, January 17, 2017

AirPods...A 1 month review

After months of delay, Apple finally released the wireless/Bluetooth Air Pods in late December.  Thanks to my good friends at Apple, I was able to get my hands on them about a week after their release, even though I wasn't too sure if, or how much use I would put them through.  Initially, I was ambivalent to the wireless headphones.  In the eight plus years that I've been an iPhone user, I never really used the air buds that came with the device, short of to listen to music.  The Air Pods represented an opportunity, though.  That opportunity is to truly have your iPhone (or other smartphone) be hands free in the car and beyond.

The Air Pods come housed in a sleek white case, that doubles as a charging device for the Pods when you slide them in.  The case comes equipped with a lightning charger (same as all the new iOS devices) that you can plug in anywhere you'd plug in your iPhone or iPad.  The Air Pods connect to an iPhone 7 seamlessly (also connects very easily to any iPhone).  You simply open the case near your iPhone and the iPhone recognizes the new Air Pods and connects instantly.  It's really that easy.  On a side note, the Air Pods will work with any Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet device, not just those from Apple.  The Air Pods can also be connected to any Mac.

Once connected to your iPhone, you'll get a message similar to the one below on your iPhone.

The Air Pods are super ease to use, once placed in your ear, you'll hear a quick hum, letting you know they are connected and ready to go.  Then you simply double tap either bud (near the top of the bud) and Siri is enabled.  Then you give it commands like "call mom", or "text dad", or "I need directions to Whole Foods", without having to say "Hey Siri".  If you place a call, to end it, simply double tap one of the Air Pods and your call ends.  It literally couldn't be easier (and safer).  If you need to know how much charge is left in the Air Pods, you can simply place them in their case, leave it open near your iPhone and you'll get a window (like the one above) providing you with them amount of charge not only in the Air Pods, but also in the case.

The cost of other Bluetooth headphones range anywhere from $38, to well over $200.  The Air Pods come in towards the higher end price range, at $159.  After the first month, I am happy to say they are well worth the price.  

I hope this helps you if you are considering the Air Pods, and if you are on the fence, I would suggest getting them, you'll be happy you did.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, best to you and your devices!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wait iOS 10 does What?

Apple recently released iOS 10 to the masses.  For those whom change is, well challenging, the numerous changes in iOS 10 I'm sure have you longing for iOS 9.  As you all should have come accustomed to by now, change is one of the many constants that you should expect from Apple.  Here are some of the biggest complaints I've heard (to this point).  "I hate that there is a new way to unlock my iPhone!"  Next, "All the sudden my family is getting overage charges on our data, why?"  Finally, "Why did Apple change the way my email comes in??

I hear your pain, all valid arguments.  One of the reasons we love our devices is that we know how to use them.  When Apple, or some other developer decides to shake things up and tell us how to use our devices better, WTF?  Right?  Well, we can sit around and complain about the new features and functionality, or, we can adjust and learn the new ways of our devices.  I recommend the later!

Thankfully I have fixes for a few of these changes.

First there is no way to bring back the "Swipe to Open" feature.  You can however make the opening of your iPhone a little easier.  Here's what to do:  1.  Make sure you have enabled Touch ID (setting up 1 or more fingerprints to use as a Passcode).  2.  In Settings, go to General > Accessibility> Home Button > enable the Rest Finger to Open setting.  This will make opening your iPhone a bit less "painful."

Next, has anyone in your family been hit with crazy data overages since iOS 10 came out?  Here's why!  Somehow Apple sneaked a new setting into the "Agreement" we all have to agree to when we update.  That unknown agreement is in the Cellular setting of your iPhone and is called Wi-Fi Assist.  Here's what it does (and it doesn't assist your Wi-Fi!).  The setting is defaulted to On.  What it does is this.  When you are in a Wi-Fi environment, and the Wi-Fi is "weak", it flips you off of Wi-Fi and onto Cellular!  That is the assist!  It's a sneaky horrible feature needs to be turned off!  It should be called Carrier assist, as it does nothing but put money into the Carrier's pockets by taking you off of Wi-Fi.

Finally, Apple decided that when you have a chain of emails, your newest email should now end up on the bottom, instead of the top!  Frustrating, but at least there is a way to remedy this unnecessary situation.  Go to the Mail setting, slide down to Threading, and enable the Most Recent Message on Top setting.

This should help you "deal" with these frustrating new "features".  Hopefully you've found some of the great new features in Messages, Maps and Photos, useful.  As well as the new Widgets, which present data from your apps in a quick and useful way.

As always, thanks for reading, and please share with others people who will find this helpful.  Until next time, best to you and your devices!

Monday, October 3, 2016

New Siri Features for iOS 10, macOS Sierra and Apple TV.

For many of iPhone users, Siri has been nothing more than a nuisance since it's arrival in iOS 5, way back in 2011.  Perhaps it never understood what you were asking, perhaps you never understood how best to speak to it.  Whatever the reason most iPhone users have never really got the full benefit of Siri.  
I've witnessed Siri work and I've gotten quite a laugh when Siri doesn't understand what it's been asked.  The key to it's use though simple, is not easy.  It requires a good deal of inflection in your voice, and some patience.
Siri for iPhone and iPad
This past summer, Apple introduced a SiriKit SDK (system development kit) in iOS 10, which allows Siri to be integrated into third-party apps for the first time. What does that mean for you?  Well, with third-party app support, Siri can now do more than ever before. For Uber users, speak a command such as "Get me an Uber to Wrigley Field" or "Send John $100 with Square Cash" or "Call dad with Skype" are now all possible. Siri's new functionality is long over-due and a feature that makes the personal assistant much more useful in our everyday lives.
Siri's new integration is available for six different kinds of functions: ride booking, messaging, photo search, payments, VoIP calling (for apps like Skype and WhatsApp), and workouts. What this means for us, is that Siri can now send messages, book rides, search photo apps for videos and images, make and request payments, place calls in apps like Skype, and initiate workouts. If your car has Apple's  CarPlay, there's also specific functions for accessing climate controls as well as adjusting radio settings.  
For you LinkedIn users, you'll now be able to use Siri to send a message by simply saying "Hey Siri, send a message to Bill that says, Thanks for the great referral today."
Another great new feature gives You the ability to ask Siri to locate pictures from a trip by saying, "Hey Siri, show me pictures from Italy in 2016."
                                       Siri For macOS Sierra
Siri is now also available on your Mac with the update to macOS Sierra.  After you've upgraded your Mac, Siri will live on the Menu bar, between Spotlight Search and Notifications.  

Similar to how you use Siri on an iPhone or iPad, you can now use Siri for tasks like searching for movie times, calling and messaging people, even toggling settings like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off!  One of my favorite features in Siri for Mac is being able to search for files using Siri by saying "Show me the document I was working on last night" or "Find photos I took last month at Wrigley Field."  You can even use Siri to search for information and pin the search right into a document you are currently working on!  
Siri for Apple TV
Finally, I'd like to discuss Siri for the Apple TV (4th Generation).  If you've purchased a new Apple TV (one with 32GB or 64GB of Storage), it now comes with Siri support that is accessed using the brand new remote control.  

  Apple has done a great job integrating its virtual assistant into the Apple TV.  You can use Siri for things as mundane as asking Siri to play your most recent iTunes playlist, to asking Siri to search for movies staring Marlon Brando.  If you are not sure what the source for a movie or TV show is, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime, you can simply ask Siri to search for a title like "I want to watch Field of Dreams", and Siri will show you the Apps that have that particular movie and you can choose the source to play it!  If you are not sure what you'd like to watch, say something like this:  "Show me something Funny", or "Show me the new releases", and Siri will create a list of Comedies and new releases for you to choose from.  And hows this for cool?  You can say things like "Turn on Closed Captioning", or "Fast Forward 3 minutes" and Siri can do those for you as well!  Siri can search YouTube for videos, search the App Store for games, and if you have HomeKit running through your Apple TV, you can tell Siri to set the home temperature by saying "Set home temperature to 70 degrees".
Wow, Siri sure has come a long way since it's inception.  Yes it's not perfect, and yes it can and still is getting better, but Apple has given you a wonderful tool in Siri, and I highly recommend you take advantage of all it has to offer.  
Those are just a few of the ways that Siri can assist you.  I hope you found this blog helpful, if so, please share.  Until next time, best to you and your devices!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

iOS 10 New Lock Screen Functionality

There are some tremendously useful, cool and fun new changes coming soon in iOS 10.  In this blog, I'm going to cover some great new features coming to the Lock Screen.  

In iOS 10, the Lock Screen has been given a major overhaul, with the removal of the iconic "Slide to Unlock" feature, a new Widgets side panel, a redesigned Control Center, as well as new and revamped notifications.  The Lock screen also has a crisp new look and feel, as notifications no longer dim the wallpaper. With the availability of Touch ID in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, many users were skipping their Lock screens and ended up missing their notifications, so Apple happily implemented some changes to help prevent you from missing them. 

A new feature called "Raise to Wake" activates the Lock screen of the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE when picked up, displaying all information on the screen without the need to put a finger on the Touch ID home button.

The famous "Slide to Unlock," the feature that let you swipe right to access the passcode screen, has happily been eliminated. The Lock screen now informs users to "Press home to unlock" on a device that has yet to be unlocked with a finger registered to Touch ID or "Press home to open" on a device that has been unlocked but not opened to the Home screen.

On pre-iOS 10 devices, Touch ID used to simultaneously unlock a device and open it to the Home screen (when a finger was placed on the Touch ID button), but now a physical press is required as an extra step. This way, your notifications can be read in full before a device is unlocked, preventing them from being missed.  

Apple has replaced the old "Slide to Unlock" screen is a new Widgets panel, activated with a simple right swipe. The Widgets panel displays all of the widgets that were previously available in the Today section of the Notification Center. iOS 10 brings some welcome "new" built-in widgets, including Mail, Maps (Destination, Nearby, and Transit), favorite contacts, Music, Notes, and Photos (Memories).  Widgets are not available in the Notification Center when on the Home screen, but when in an app and accessing the Notification Center, widgets continue to be available through a right swipe on the screen.  My favorite new feature on the lock screen is the new Left swipe, which brings up the camera, making it so much simpler to quickly take a photo.

Another great feature has Apple adding 3D touch capabilities to Notifications on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (and the coming 7 and 7Plus), allowing you to do more without having to leaving the Lock screen, like viewing photos and videos and responding to incoming text Messages. Notifications have also been streamlined across watchOS, tvOS, and iOS. 

The Notification Center no longer has the "Today" view, now offering up a simple list of all incoming Notifications and a search bar for quick access to Spotlight search. 3D Touch in the Notification Center now offers up an option to clear all notifications at once, a nice change for faster management of your notifications.

Well those are some of the great new features coming soon to the Lock screen in iOS 10.  Thanks for reading, and come back next week for some additional great iOS 10 features.

Until next time, best to you and your devices!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Coming soon in iOS 10

With every June, comes the Apple WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference), which brings us news of the great things to come for all our Apple devices.  This past Monday, the WWDC kicked off with a 2 hour Keynote presentation about all the cool new features coming for our iPhones, Macs, Apple Watches and iPads.  Today I'm going to focus on some great new features coming this fall in iOS 10.

For starters, theres some great new functionality coming to SIRI.  You'll be able to use SIRI to book a ride with your favorite ride service, like Uber or Lyft.  You'll be able to use SIRI to search through your photos, make payments through apps like Cash, PayPal and Square.  You'll be able to have SIRI check your calendar availability and it will even support multi-lingual questions!  And that's just a small list of new Siri features coming later this fall.

One of our favorite things to do with our iPhone is take amazing pictures and videos.   For iOS 10, Apple is making the Photos App better and easier to use!  Some of the great new features include facial recognition, object and scene recognition.  Photos will be able to sort your pictures by trips, date and even the people who took trips with you, a super cool new feature!

Also updated for iOS 10 is Maps.  Maps has been totally rewritten and now provides better navigation, with the ability to zoom in and zoom out for traffic.  Maps will be able to proactively provide you with better and alternative routes if the one you are taking has say an accident, or tons of traffic.  How about being able to book a ride with Uber directly from Maps?  Well that feature has been added as well, to allow you to do so much more without ever leaving the Maps app.

Apple Music has also been redesigned with some subtle changes, starting with a fresh new design to show your Library and the items in it; Playlists, Artists, Albums, etc.  I will focus more on these design changes in a blog later this summer, but you'll love the new look and feel of the Music App.

The Phone app has a handful of great new features, the biggest being you can get your voicemails translated to text, so you don't have to press the play button to listen, a great addition to the Phone app.

The biggest update from an App perspective comes to Messages.  I'm going to point out some of the highlights, but will also create a blog later this summer dedicated solely to Messages.  To start, for those of us that can't see so well, you'll get emojis that are 3X larger!  You'll also be able to easily add emojis to your text, once you've typed, tap the emoji button, and words in your text that can be replaced by emojis will be highlighted.  Next you tap those words and they'll get replaced by an emoji!  It's super cool and will make more sense when you see it.  You'll be able to add cool new effects to emojis, created invisible ink text that the receiver can swipe to show what you've sent them, that's an awesome new feature.  You'll be able to hand write texts, create full screen texts and more.  Those are just some of the great new features coming.

I hope you are excited, look for more blogs to come on the new macOS features, watchOS features and tvOS features.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The brilliance of iCloud Photo Sharing

How often do you find yourself running low on space on your iPhone or iPad?  When that happens, do you know what to do?  Do you end up deleting apps you don't frequently use, or even worse, do you end up deleting things you do often use, but have no choice because you are constantly running out of space thanks to the great pictures and video that your new iPhone/iPad take?    Fear not, you are not alone!  Ok, you say, what are my options outside of buying a device with more internal storage?  You have options, or at least AN option.  That option is a great one, and believe it or not, it's a free option at that!  

A few years back, Apple quietly introduced something called iCloud Photo Sharing.  Perhaps you've experienced this (if you are a client of mine, you most certainly have).    On your iPhone or iPad, you get a notification that someone has invited you to their shared photo stream.  If you are in the know, you quickly accept the invitation to view the photos that have been shared with you.  No emailing, texting involved, someone simply creating a shared stream, and inviting you to join and view their photos (and even videos).  Wait you say.  Sharing pictures and videos without emailing or texting (or using Dropbox, or Shutterfly)?  Sound to good to be true?  Well it is!  Apple has given you free space in the cloud to share, are you ready for this?  Up to 500,000 pictures and videos, and wait, it gets better, FOR FREE!  Whoaaaaaaaaaa.  This can't be...Well yes it can be, and it is!  Apple has provided free space for you to create 100 shared streams (or albums), each containing up to 5000 pictures and or videos (the videos can be up to 4:59 in length, anything over will not get uploaded).  If you calculate this folks, Apple has given you space for 500,000 pictures and or videos to store and share in iCloud, FOR FREE!  I can't stress the last part enough, IT'S TOTALLY FREE!  

Why haven't you heard about this?  I wish I knew.  Short of the fact that it's never been advertised, I quietly found out about it and decided it should be shared with the masses.  

So how does one go about creating a shared stream?  It's quite easy.
From your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos > enable iCloud Photo Sharing.  

Next, head to the Photos App.  You can choose pictures either from an Album, or the Photos tab (they are the same pics, under the Photos tab, they are sorted).  Click Select (top right), then choose your photos and or videos (remember, if you want to upload a video, it MUST be under 5 minutes in length).  This next part is crucial to remember.  You can upload up to 1000 pictures an hour, and no more than 10,000 a day.  If you go over 1000 in an hour, the uploads simply stop.  So please remember to keep that in mind.  Ok, now that you've selected your pictures and videos, tap the Do-More icon (on your iPad it's on the top left, on your iPhone it's on the bottom left, it looks like a square with an arrow out of the top).   Next, tap iCloud Photo Sharing,

The next few steps are critical.  If you have either never created a shared stream, or never been invited to a shared stream, when you do create one, you simply give that stream a name.  However if you've created or been invited and joined one, the next step is important.  What happens is that when you click iCloud Photo sharing, it wants to put those newly chosen pictures into the last Shared Album you either created or were invited to.  So you MUST then tap where it says Shared Album.  

From here you can either click the + to create a New Shared Album,  or add the pictures you've recently selected to an existing Shared Album.    If you choose to create a New Shared Album, you'll give it a name, then tap next.  

Here you have the option to share your newly created stream with other Apple device users, or not.  If you choose not to share, the stream is still shared, with any devices you own.  

So let's review a few things here:  Apple has given you free space in the iCloud for 500,000 pictures!  You can create 100 shared streams, each containing 5000 pictures and videos (videos can be up to 4:59 in length).  Crazy.  What's even better is that even though you are allowed to only create 100 shared streams, there is no limit to how many streams your friends and family can share with you.  If you have 5 people in your immediate family, each of you can have and share 100 shared streams with 5,000 pictures and videos.  That's more pictures and videos than you'll ever be able to view!  Let's not forget your friends with Apple devices, so theoretically there's endless free space for pics and videos in iCloud for you, your friends and your family!

So what are you waiting for?  Start sharing your pictures with friends, family and loved ones around the globe!  

I hope you found this blog useful, if so, please share with others who may find it helpful.  Come back shortly for part II.

Friday, February 5, 2016

How to browse the web anonymously.

If you like your privacy, you better think twice about which browser you use to to access the internet.  Web browsing can be a very scary thing.  Websites track your surfing session.  Social networks, search engines, your Internet provider, even the government may be tracking you online as well!  They may be collecting what they consider valuable marketing data, or trying to prevent potentially dangerous criminal activity, regardless, what you do online, in the so called privacy and comforts of your home, sadly folks, is anything but private!  For this post, I've gathered some tips and tricks to help you browse anonymously, should you care to.

Do you ever wonder about the ads you get on your Facebook page, or other sites you visit?  How they are seemingly tailored just for you?  Well, THEY ARE!  Your searches, and the sites you visit get captured (via cookies and other browser tools) to help the sites your visit to understand your online “tendencies”, which are for nothing more that their benefit.  To help avoid sites knowing "who you are", or better, who your computer is, one thing you can do is use anonymous proxy software.  What is proxy software?  Anonymous proxy software is a great way to mask, or hide your IP address online.  However, even using this type of software, there is still plenty of information about your Web-surfing habits stored on your computer — which could also be viewed over a network, say, at the office, by your IT department (that's right folks)

Thankfully, its very easy to manage your privacy settings right in your Web browser, unless the company you work for does not give you admin privileges, which you need to make changes to your browsers settings.

A great thing to do is to disable the cookies in your browser.  A browser cookie is a tiny text file that gets stored on your computer.  It has information about where you've been online, your passwords, and other information as well.  You should also delete your browser history to make certain to cover your tracks! Every major browser, from IE, Chrome, Safari or Firefox allows you to delete your browsing history.  All you need to do is go into the Options or Settings on your favorite browser and you'll see how this is done.  In Safari, Apple makes it very easy.  Click the History Menu option and you'll see a menu like the one below pop up.

You'll click the Clear history option (last item you'll see on the pop-up menu), then a window will appear like the one below.

From there, you can decided if you’d like to clear the last hour, today, today and yesterday, or all history.  I recommend doing this weekly, and choosing the all history option. 

Another tip...Turn off Auto-complete functionality on your browser. If Auto-complete is turned on, someone could jump on your computer, type in a few letters of a Web Address (URL) bar, or in a search engine and any recent places you've visited could be automatically filled in!  And NEVER click "Remember my password" for any private or financial institutions (or anything else for that matter, see my blog/post about 1Password).  Doing so could grant a hacker access to your most precious information.
Ok, there is another, very easy thing you can do.  Most browsers allow for private surfing.  If you are a Safari user, click on the File menu option, and choose New Private Window.  Enabling this feature will stop your browser from saving any history, search queries, cookies or passwords.  

Ok, now let's discuss search engines.  If you think the web is a great place to search for things, you are correct!  I don’t believe what you search for should become the property of the search engine you use!  So what are your choices?  Try using the DuckDuckGo search engine.   DuckDuckGo is an Internet search engine that protects searchers' privacy.  DuckDuckGo distinguishes itself from other search engines by not profiling its users and by deliberately showing all users the same search results for a given search term. DuckDuckGo emphasizes getting information from the best sources rather than the most sources, generating its search results from key crowdsourced sites such as Wikipedia and from partnerships with other search engines like Yandex, Yahoo!, Bing, and Yummly (taken directly from their web page!).

Finally and sadly, you may (or may not) have heard that Facebook shares your Web-browsing history it collects with advertisers to display more targeted ads — yes, even on non-Facebook sites you visit. Thankfully you can opt out of this within Facebook's Privacy settings.

Speaking of Facebook, how on earth does Facebook know to show you ads for your local gym or supermarket? In part it's because your computer's unique Internet Protocol (IP) address, assigned by your Internet provider, which reveals your geographical location. Unfortunately, even if your computer generates a different IP address every time you boot up or log online, this number (e.g. still tells your general location.  There are a slew of solutions that allow you to hide your Internet connection, allowing you to remain anonymous while online.  One solution is to use a free "online proxy servers" to conceal your identity. Simply point the Web address (URL) to the proxy server and surf right from its website (for help with this, check out proxy.org for a list of great options).  Or, you may wish to download Virtual Private Network (VPN) software that encrypts your browsing sessions.  The browser-independent Hotspot Shield from AnchorFree (anchor free.com), for example is available for Windows, Macs, iPhone and Android channels all Web activities through a personal VPN and secures Internet communications by turning all HTTP traffic into the safer HTTPS (which is what your bank uses for a safe connection). You can purchase an ad-supported free version and a beefier "elite" option ($29.95/year) with more bells and whistles.

Similarly, Tor is free software that protects you against Internet surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy. TOR is short for "The Onion Router" — which gets its name for its "layered" approach to the encryption process — TOR (torproject.org) provides online anonymity as the software routes Internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers to conceal your location as well as your online browsing patterns.

Lastly, I will cover USB sticks.  Aren’t USB sticks for storage you ask?  Well yes, but they also can be used to help you browse the web anonymously!  In some cases, software to encrypt your connection is kept on a USB drive.  These can be fantastic when you  wish to remain safe and secure when using a public PC.  Check out the SurfEasy Private Browser ($69.99 one-time fee; surfeasy.com).  Its a tiny USB key that fits into a credit card-shaped case to be kept in your wallet. When you plug it into a PC or Mac it immediately launches its own password-protected browser and you're good to go (no proxy or network settings to configure).  Your browsing session is handled through SurfEasy's fast and secure private proxy network. Your IP address will be masked throughout your browsing session.  SurfEasy  also has a new downloadable product called SurfEasy VPN that can protect not only computers, but your iPhones, iPads and even Android devices as well!  You may also wish to check out Tails (tails.boum.org), which can be downloaded and installed onto a USB stick to run independently of the computer's original operating system. Similar to SurfEasy, it allows you browse the Web anonymously, on virtually any computer as all connections are channeled through the earlier mentioned TOR network.

It is crazy how much information gets collected about us online, and if you didn’t realize how unsafe your browsing was, hopefully this blog clued you in.  You may choose to do nothing, just be aware that you are being "followed" and "watched".  There are things you can do, and things I hope you do to help protect yourself.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me for assistance!  

Until next time, best to you and your devices.  And Safe Browsing to you all!