Mac: Changing default browser

Tonight I got a message from a client.  “Help.  Web pages are not properly opening in Chrome.”   We all use a browser to access web pages on our Macs.  Many of you use Apple’s default browser — Safari.  However, Google Chrome is also extremely popular (and the #1 browser by worldwide usage).  A handful still like Mozilla Firefox.   You might ask, why wouldn’t everyone just use Safari?  While it is on par with other browsers today, Safari used to be quite lacking compared to Chrome and Firefox.  Some users like Chrome because it syncs with their Google account.  Firefox used to tout that it was easier to customize. Today, they want to be known as the faster and more privacy conscious browser.

Regardless of your browser of choice, you should have more than one installed on your Mac. At some point, you may have a security issue with your browser.  No problem. Fire up browser number 2.  Additionally, you may want to use multiple browsers for convenience issues.   You could do personal browsing in one browser and work / special purpose browsing in another.  You can keep multiple websites open at one time in each browser, in separate windows.  

It’s good to have a second or even a 3rd browser on your Mac.    You can install Chrome from and Firefox from .

As was the case of my client, your default browser may fail you.  We needed a quick solution tonight.  It was too late for her technology consultant to come over and take a look at the problem.   You too should know how to change your default browser on the Mac.  You may do this for short term reasons or permanently.  The process is the same. It’s a quick fix that you CAN do.

Steps to Changing Default Browser on the Mac

1. Open Safari  (You may have to go to Finder >> Applications if Safari is not on your Dock at the bottom)

2.  Click on the Safari menu at the top if the screen

3.  Click on Preferences

4. In the box that opens, click on the General tab

5.  Chose a different default browser from the menu

6. That browser will now be your default browser.   It is the browser that will open when you click on links in Apple Mail or Outlook. 

7. You can change your default browser at any time.


Backing Up Data on a Windows PC

Part I — The Hardware

Most of you have data (pictures, documents, songs, and videos) that are important to you.  You want this stuff backed up.  In addition to any possible online backup / sync services you might be using, the foundation of your backup scheme should be a local, USB connected external hard drive.  These drives are cheap and compact in size.  You should have at least one and possibly more than external hard drive to back up to.

You can’t go wrong with the Western Digital My Passport drives.  Here is an Amazon link for easy ordering.  A 1 TB drive will cover basic needs.  Get a 2 TB or larger if you have a lot of data to back up.  These backup drives should be replaced every 2 to 3 years.   If its been that long, order yourself one or more. 

Part II — The Software

Windows does not have great backup software built into the operating system. Mac users have a built in app called Time Machine from Apple.  However, there are some great utilities for Windows that are available at no cost should you want a 0 dollar option.

First, you have to decide if you want to do a CLONE BACKUP or SYNC BACKUP.  You may want to do both.  Let me explain.  A clone is an exact copy of your hard drive.  A clone can be restored from if your computer crashes or dies.  Your computer can be fully restored to its last backed up state from a clone backup.   It is possible to restore just a folder or a file from a clone backup, but it takes a couple of steps.   The main purpose of a clone backup is to restore the entire computer.   My baseline for clone backup software is Macrium Reflect.  Despite the “Mac” in the name, they are a Windows product.  This is the backup software I have installed on many of your computers right now.  The free version works nicely for many.  Some of my clients have opted for the added benefits of the paid version.

A SYNC BACKUP is going to compare files and folders between your computer’s internal hard drive and external hard drive and make sure they are identical.   For example, if you have a folder called Documents on your computer with 300 documents and sync it to the external drive drive you will also get a folder called Documents with 300 documents.  Future synchronizations will only update the changes that you’ve made.   Sync backups are very accessible to you.  You can simply go into your external drive in File Explorer at any time to drag files out or work with them on the drive.  You can easily restore individual files and folders from a sync backup. It is a drag and drop process.  A sync backup is not meant to be used to restore your entire computer.  You could also take your external drive with the sync backup and easily use it on another computer.   My favorite utility for sync backups (Mac and Windows versions available) is called Free File Sync.


Whether you use one or more backup drives, do a clone backup, sync backup, or both — please back up to an external drive.  Buy new drives regularly.  Get professional help should you need it.

Welcome 2018 – Best of 2017

“Welcome 2018:  Best of 2017”

2017 was a year where we moved more towards mobile, privacy, sharing, and shopping online. The PC is not the primary computer even for many of us with a desktop or a laptop.  Our use of smartphones and tablets is only going to grow in the future.  A troubling trend in 2017 was the threat to our privacy.   The loosening of regulations on internet providers being able to sell our usage history and the end of net neutrality should be two things that we really keep an eye on this year.  While there are some independent internet providers in Connecticut, where most of my customers are based, none can compete with the speed that Frontier and Comcast offer.  That’s too bad because we really need a company in the northeast like Sonic that puts customers and their privacy first.


Here are some of my best picks from 2017.


Best Bargain Smartphones

I’m going to put the Motorola G Series at the top of my list once again. Their Android based G5 Plus phone can be purchased unlocked from for just over $200 (outright no payment plan). It is compatible with all major carriers including Verizon.    I’m going to include the iPhone SE from Apple on this list as well.  While a new model has not been released since March of 2016, Apple doubled the storage on the base model in 2017 and cut the price to $350. This phone is also compatible with all major carriers including Verizon and is best purchased directly from Apple without any need of a payment plan. If you like a smaller 4 inch phone that can fit in a shirt pocket, this is the phone for you.


Best Smartphones

I’m going to go with a safe pick on the iPhone side for 2017 and recommend the iPhone 8 Plus.   It has an awesome camera that is truly an improvement over its 2016 predecessor and does not demand the learning curve that the iPhone X requires.  It seems likely that all of our iPhones will not have a home button and will feature face unlocking in the future, but for now I’d like to steer my clients down a familiar path.  


On the Android side of things, Google’s second generation Pixel phones were a disappointment because they were plagued with nagging flaws from the time of release. Most of those issues have been fixed with subsequent software updates, however you  don’t always get a second chance to create a first impression.  I’m going to take the go-big-or-go-home approach with Android here. As long as you can tolerate a 6.3 inch diagonal phone, which is almost like a mini tablet, I’m going to call the Samsung Galaxy Note 8  my Android phone of the year.  Expect a refresh on the slightly smaller Galaxy S line in the early spring.


Best Laptops

If you have to buy a Mac laptop then go out and buy one but I can’t recommend the 2017 Mac Book Pro models.  While the 2016 lineup was  refreshed quickly in 2017 to fix some reliability concerns, they still feature a keyboard that leaves a lot to be desired.  Furthermore, how can you call it a Pro model  when the only kind of port is the USB Type-C port?  Mac Book Pro users need to buy one or more dongles to connect things like backup hard drives and even their iPhones.  Sadly, I don’t think Apple is going to reverse course and give us a Mac Book Pro like the 2015 model ever again.  The Mac Book Air is still alive and kicking. It received a minor update in 2017, but it is truly not an upgraded model.  It received a small speed increase to its 2015 processor (CPU). I think the Air is dead going forward.  


I can enthusiastically recommend business class laptops that are durable and have pleasing keyboard experiences.   My picks for you are the Lenovo Thinkpad T470 (or its slightly slimmer cousin the T470s. Note: The updated T480 line is coming soon.), the Dell Latitude 5480 or Latitude 7480.  These laptops are not sold in stores and are best ordered from Lenovo’s and Dell’s websites.  They generally run about $800 to $1500.  As I mentioned to a client the other night, you can often find a bargain on the aforementioned models in the Dell or Lenovo outlets.  I am talking like $500’s and $600’s, with at least a 1 year warranty on certified refurbished or returned models.  


If you are looking for a stylish laptop, like a Mac Book Air with modern innards, you should consider the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon or the Dell XPS 13 or 15.  


Best Desktops

There isn’t a lot of innovation in desktops to write home about.  I think a workable hybrid solution is to purchase a laptop, an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  When you don’t want to be chained to the desk, you can take the laptop to the couch, coffee shop, or on the road.  I will not deviate from past picks and continue say that the Lenovo ThinkCentre and Dell OptiPlex desktops are solid choices.  These systems are not the same as the Dell and Lenovo PC’s sold in stores.  Apple refreshed its iMac lineup in 2017.  I consider it a top pick in performance and and design.  Just be sure to order it from or ask for some help in ordering.  The iMacs sold in stores are the SLOW hard drive models.  You will want a custom order with a solid state drive (SSD).  The Retina 4K 21 inch iMac, with a 256 GB SSD will cost you $1499.  

Looking forward to a great 2018 together!!

Technology Update 12/12/17

As the year draws to a close, I start thinking about best and worst experiences with technology.

Laptop Mag is a website that puts out in depth reviews of laptops all year.  Just this week, they published an article on the best laptop keyboards of 2017.  Some of you need to type a lot of documents or emails on your laptop.  You may not use your laptop so much for media consumption, but see it as a productivity device.  For you the keyboard is going to be very important.   Laptop Mag did not try all of the laptops on the market, but they have seen enough of them to make some serious recommendations at various price points should the keyboard be a deciding factor.  It’s no surprise that Lenovo’s Thinkpad T series comes in at #1.  The Thinkpad line is put out by IBM’s former business computer division which is based in North Carolina.  Their keyboards are a typist’s dream.    A $299 Chromebook also makes the list.   While Dell’s business class Latitude 5000 and 7000 series laptops are not included, I would definitely move them to the front row of the class.   Interestingly enough, Apple’s 2017 Mac Book Pros are not on here.  Apple did make minor improvements to the keyboards this year compared to their pitiful 2016 cousins, but they cannot compare to the typing experience of the 2009 – 2015 Mac Book Pros or even the Mac Book Air — which is still being sold.  Check out the article for yourself for the complete survey.

It is going to be a “worst experience” for you if your computer crashes and you don’t have a proper backup of your data.  In addition to online backup and sync services that you may use, an external hard drive is an essential component of your backup scheme.  How usable is your data if your backup drive is no good?   Therefore, if your drive is more than 3 years old, you need to buy a new one.  While there are other brands I can recommend, you really can’t go wrong with a WD My Passport.  They are easy to buy and priced right.   A 1 or 2 TB model should serve most of your needs.  Here are the Amazon links for easy purchasing. 

Windows formatted:

Mac formatted:

Technology Update 12/5/17

Go With a Laptop ? 

Clients often ask if their next computer should be a laptop.   If you like the idea of being portable, then YES, I think it would be a good idea.  If you think you may want a bigger screen at times, you can easily connect a monitor to your laptop.  To keep things on a budget, a 22 or 24 inch monitor from Best Buy or NewEgg will more than serve your purposes.  Those monitors run $150 or less.  It’s much less than buying a separate desktop and laptop. 

A Classic Mouse is Back

1995 is calling and they have brought a great mouse back.   Whether you are working on a desktop or laptop, a functional mouse is a key tool to have.   Microsoft has updated and re-released their IntelliMouse, now called the Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse. It is the ideal WIRED mouse for Windows or Mac.   About $40.  Here is the Amazon link

Mac Security Scare

There was a major security scare in the Mac OS world last week.  Mac users with the latest operating system could have had operations executed on their systems, such as copying / erasing data or installing rogue software, with no password required at all.   Bad actors would have needed physical or remote access to your system to pull this off, but even with that, it means Apple was asleep at the wheel.   Apple pushed out a fix the next day and claimed the fix would automatically install.   Please make a regular habit of clicking on the Apple Menu (top left of screen), clicking on App Store, and then checking for updates. Install all available updates.   Do this right now if you haven’t lately and then check periodically.   Your Mac should install these updates automatically, but I know some of you turn your systems off or delay the updates.  

iOS 11.2

Apple pushed out the latest minor update to their iOS over the weekend.  With it came the roll out of a major new feature — Apple Pay Cash.  Once it is set up, which seems like it could take 15 minutes, iPhone users will be able to send and receive payments to each other through an iMessage (iPhone text message for those of you not up on the lingo).  Watch out Pay Pal?  Maybe so. 

Apple pushes “automatic” fix

For your reading pleasure. See my comments below….

Make sure your Mac is online. Simply let it go to sleep when you are not using it. They are doing this for only the second time in their history —— reaching into users computers to fix a critical issue. No check of the Mac App Store is required. Just make sure your Mac is not off.

To 4K or Not to 4K

As I walked through Best Buy several times this past weekend, I saw that 4K televisions were the hottest item.  People were scooping up 43 inch models on Friday for less than $300.  These were not the highest quality units available, but that wasn’t stopping anyone.

Fact:  4K is our TV future.  The best models are going to have 4K and a feature known as HDR (high dynamic range).
Should you buy one and can you really benefit now?

1.  A 4K TV will allow you to future proof.
2. However, you may not see any benefit in the present.  There is currently no cable TV (ie. Comcast) transmitted in 4K.  Comcast is rolling out limited trials of cable boxes that will support HDR and eventually 4K programming.
3.  To get meaningful use of 4K today, you need to be a user of streaming video services.  This could be Amazon video, Netflix, Hulu, or Apple TV content.  Some TVs are smart meaning they can play this content already, but many of my clients prefer to use an Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire — which are boxes or little sticks that plug into the TV.   You need to be a streamer to get 4k content.
4.  Finally, you need to have a powerful internet connection.  Most cable connections will suffice.  Fiber optic connections from the phone company may also work.  Basically, you need an internet speed of 25 mbps or higher.  You also need a modern router, capable of transmitting data using the latest protocols.
To 4K or not 4K, that is the question.