A warning on older Mac apps

If you’re getting all of the automatic updates to your Mac, you should be on version 10.13.4 right now.   If you’ve been a Mac user for any length of time, you may start to get pop up messages saying that the app you are trying to open is not optimized for your Mac.   Don’t worry, you can still open and use that app — FOR NOW.

Macs have featured 64 bit processors for years.  Your mac OS software is also 64 bit.  However apps designed to the old 32 bit standard have been allowed to exist until the present time.  In the very near future, 32 bit apps will be blocked.   I don’t know all of the software that each of you have installed on your Macs, but it is possible that you have some of the old apps.   Two that I know for sure are Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2011.  The solution to that problem is easy — upgrade to Office 2016. 

If and when you are prevented from using 32 bit apps on your Mac, you will have 2 choices.

1) See if if you can live without the app

2) Upgrade to a more modern version of the app

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Technology Encouragement

What I really wanted to do today is give you some technology encouragement.  I was asked what I do recently. Very simply, I said, “I help people improve their lives through technology.”  Even considering all of its flaws, technology makes our world a better place.  It allows us to see pictures of loved ones easily and promptly, even from far away.  It allows us to communicate using a medium that is convenient for us on flexible time schedules.  Computers and computer like devices cater to our physical limitations as well.  Technology has given us chance to expand our intellectual pursuits, serve others through community outreach, and pursue new careers.  We feel less alone, we learn, and we grow.   There is no need to fear trying new devices or services.   There is a process of trial and error.  If something doesn’t work, there is probably a new solution right around the corner.  The experience can and should be personal and customized to our needs.  If we get frustrated, we can always put down our device for a few hours or restart it.  Quirks work themselves out.  Through endurance new possibilities abound. 

Facebook and Google Privacy

If you are a Facebook user, I would encourage you to tweak your privacy settings or get some help doing so.  From the computer, when you are on Facebook.com you need to click the triangle in the upper right corner of the Facebook page.  From there click on Settings.  Then click privacy.  Those settings can be tweaked to your liking. I  think the most important one is the setting all the way down at the bottom.   Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?  That should be set to “No.”   After you have adjusted those options, you will also want to look at Apps and Websites from the Settings page.   There you will see all of the websites and apps that you have given access to using your Facebook account.  Some of these may be valid, but there may be some that you want to revoke.   In the Security and Login section you can turn on two factor authentication for your Facebook account.   I highly recommend it if your Facebook account is important to you and you want to prevent unauthorized access.   Finally, you need to go to your Facebook profile page by clicking on your name at the top of the screen.  You should go through each entry in the About section and decide whether info like your birthday, employers, Likes, and so on are shared with Only Me, Friends, Friends of Friends, or the whole world.   It’s time for a tune up!   You may need to put the same effort into your Google account as well. 

Windows 10 version 1803

The latest installment of Windows 10 will be available soon, version 1803.  I have advised my clients with Windows 10 Pro to delay the upgrade by up to 120 days so that all of the quirks can be worked out.  This option can be set in Start Menu >> Settings >> Update & Security.  Users with the Home version of Windows 10 will get the upgrade when Microsoft pushes it out to their computer.  This could happen in a period of days to months.  As always, Windows users can manually install the upgrade at any time.  Make sure you have a full backup of your files using Microsoft’s built in File History or a 3rd party program.

Mac Books and Their Keyboards

I wanted to revisit a subject that I covered in the near past — current Mac Book Pros and their “wonderful” keyboards.  https://theacronym.com/2018/02/02/ipad-pro-best-mac-laptop/

Apple came out with a substantial redesign of the Mac Book Pro in 2016. These new systems featured a radically different keyboard than the one that Mac laptop users had come to love in the 2015 and many prior generations.  The keyboards were panned by reviewers and users had their troubles as well.  They suffered from an unusually high failure rate.  For what reason?  Apple wanted to shave a couple of millimeters off of the overall thickness!  Apple rushed out an updated model that looked identical in June 2017.  Customers are still having issues with the keyboards in the 2017 models and they cost close to $600 to replace out of warranty. 

I have some Mac clients who will likely be looking for a new laptop this year.  If using an iPad with a keyboard as a laptop is not the right solution, I want to share some honest thoughts. 

I spent more time with a 2017 MacBook Pro and I really wanted to give it an objective try.  The keys do not travel like they do on the laptops that are known for better typing experiences.  However, Apple has offered up a trick and it seems to work. The keys make an unusual clicking sound when I pressed them, giving the allusion that there is more depth than there is in reality.  So, the truth is, I could likely live with the keyboard on a long term basis.  I still have serious doubts about their reliability. 

I think the 2017 Mac Book Air is a better laptop for consumer use than the 2017 Mac Book Pro.  Best Buy was recently selling it for as low as $699.  If you are not married to specific Mac applications, I can think of a couple other Windows laptops that are better than the Mac Book Pro.   

-Lenovo Thinkpad T, Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon

-Dell XPS 13, Dell XPS 15

-Dell Latitude 5000 series, Latitude 7000 series

With all of this cold water being thrown at Mac portables, I still think a custom ordered iMac is one of the best desktops on the market.

Ultimately, I know there are some clients who are joined at the hip with certain Mac apps or have a massive library that has already been organized in Photos.  The Mac Book Air may be discontinued later this year, so the Mac Book Pro could be the only option. You’ll live with the keyboard, but If you buy it, you must get the 3 year, Apple Care warranty.  It is your firewall against expensive repairs due to design flaws. 

The old phone company

Today’s topic should give you some food for thought – Can you trust the local phone company?  Are they still relevant as an internet provider?

This article signals to me that Connecticut’s local phone company is “on the ropes.” How long can they keep it up?

http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20170918/PRINTEDITION/309149914/loss-of-landline-customers-gives-frontier-early-headaches-in-ct

I would like to share a couple of anecdotes.  I have one customer who was promised 6 mbps (megabits per second) by the phone company and is barely getting 1. At times their service is so bad, they have no connection at all.   Another client is being promised 12 mbps, but may only get 8 or 9 on a good day.  They also have no other hope of wired internet service internet service in their neighborhood.  Ma Bell customer #3 is stuck with with 7 mbps of internet speed and the cable company is nowhere to be found on their street.   As a point of comparison, you need to know that typical cable internet speeds are 50 mbps and higher.  The vast majority of my customers have cable internet.

The speeds of 6 or higher that I have mentioned, if consistent, are fine for basic Google searching, e-mailing, and a low res video here or there.   However, these slow speeds really hamper the playback of high quality video streams on services like You Tube, Hulu, and Netflix.  Furthermore, major software updates can be a real time warp. 

I worry about the local phone company’s neglect of copper phone lines.  It seems like they are committed to their fiber optic areas, but some neighborhoods will never be upgraded to these high speed lines.   Wireless may be the only option for old phone lines that are beyond repair.

Technology Update for March 20th

Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.

1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider

For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode.  However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers).  PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not.  They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm.  I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization.  With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone.  You can only imagine the transactions that followed.  This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider.  It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.  I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast.   Stop using the last 4 of your SS#.  Act now.

2. Facebook data collection nightmare

The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network.  By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook.  I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support.  There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook.  However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days.  Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model.  Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests.  Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account.  Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties.   It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.

3. Net Neutrality:  Bye Bye

Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections?  The end is near.  Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes.   If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage.  Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix?  We will charge you more!  You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period.  Use a VPN – a virtual private network.  A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service.  It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically.  There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully.  They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear.  These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.  They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month.  Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.