I am emailing this to a select group of you who have reported problems backing up to your external hard drive while on Mac OS 10.15 (also known as Catalina).
Catalina hasn’t been a great OS in my opinion and I have tried to keep as many of my client on OS 10.14 as possible. Nevertheless, either because of a feature like (Apple TV) or just because the updates were hard to avoid — you are on OS 10.15.
I was with a 10.15 client yesterday. Her Mac hadn’t backed up since December. She manually clicked on the Time Machine symbol (up by the clock in the top right area) and clicked Back Up and her Mac did indeed back up to the external hard drive. If you have a laptop and do not leave that hard drive connected at night as you might with a desktop, you should manually trigger the backups.
Apple just pushed out an update to Mac OS 10.15.4 on 3/24. Please make sure your Mac is up to date. Click the Apple Menu — top left. System Preferences and Software Update on the 3rd row down. Install the updates, if available. Computer should restart.
Try your backup again.
Now for the Positive News — From Apple
Failing computers or the need for upgrades are not going to end during this time. I know some of you were holding out for quality Mac computers that are new and improved. Apple surprised me on a couple fronts this week. Here are 2 big reveals
1. The Mac Book Air has been updated for 2020 — WITH THE GOOD KEYBOARD. Thank God! The scissor keys that we all loved are back. And guess what? They lowered the price to $999 and they doubled the storage (hard drive) to 256 GB on the base model. That is awesome because that 128 GB storage model was a joke. Clients were always running out of space.
2. The Mac Mini desktop has been updated — it still starts at $799 but storage has also been updated to 256 GB. Double wow! The Mac Mini is still at the top of my “best desktops” list. It can be used with any keyboard monitor and mouse of your choice. Apple does not even manufacture monitors anymore.
These Macs are available for shipment now.
Edit: I should say – Apple does not make monitors that an ordinary consumer or business owner would think that its reasonable to purchase. They are making a $5000 + Pro Display these days.
Happy President’s Day!
Taking Notes Electronically
I have taken notes on my computer and smartphones for more than a decade. I love making little journal type notes, writing lists, and making agendas with note taking software. I know some of you even keep passwords in Apple’s Notes app on your iPhones (Yikes!). You don’t have to take all of your notes on paper or think you have to create a Word document and save it in a folder. Use a note taking app! Add pictures and attach files. Some examples I am very familiar with —
1. One Note from Microsoft. FREE. iPhone / Android apps, Mac and Windows apps, Via web browser @ Onenote.com
2. Apple’s Notes. FREE. iPhone / iPad apps, Mac app, Can use in Windows via web browser @ iCloud.com
3. Google Keep. FREE. iPhone and Android apps, Via the computer at keep.google.com
4. Evernote. Can use apps for free on 2 devices, Can use for FREE via web browser @ evernote.com, Paid options available for power notetakers
3 Reasons Why I Always Recommend Windows 10 Pro (as Opposed to Windows 10 Home – shipped with most consumer grade PC’s)
– Prompt for Credentials can turned on — This means that your password needs to be typed in whenever new software is installed or major changes are made to the system. This is very secure (just like on the Mac). You need the Pro version of Windows for this feature. The default option is just YES or NO, not good enough. The password prompt makes you stop and think.
– Windows Feature Updates (ie. New Versions) can be delayed by up to 365 days. Don’t be a guinea pig for Microsoft. I like setting a 120 day delay at a minimum.
-Bit Locker can be turned on. Bit Locker is similar to File Vault on the Mac (which is included for Free by the way). It encrypts your hard drive. Therefore if a bad guy steals your computer – they can’t easily get at your files.
* If you get stuck with a computer that has Windows 10 Home, you can still upgrade to Pro. However, it is a $99 charge. Pro can be activated through the Microsoft Store app. It’s a quick process and takes less than 20 minutes. It’s better to order a computer with Windows 10 Pro from the beginning.
Best Moment of Oscars
Filmmaker Taika Watiti (short interview clip – via link), instead of talking about his work, took the opportunity to slam Apple on their awful keyboards in their recent Mac Books. Can you believe it? This event was supposed to be about the films, the actors, the great production staff — and it’s Apple’s keyboards that he really to speak of. Going back to early 2018, I have been really hard on Apple and I have let you know it. Some of you simply had to get new Macs over the past few years and I was very straight with you, even when Apple wasn’t. I let you know about the 4 year warranty from date of purchase on the keyboard replacements. I have also let you know that a Lenovo Thinkpad or Dell Latitude would be a much better investment, if you could see yourself switching from Mac to Windows. There will likely be some good news around the corner, however. Between March and June — I expect Apple to release new 13 inch Mac Air and Pro models with the “classic keyboard”. That would be a keyboard similar to the 2015 models, the last good Mac laptop keyboard. When those products launch, I will be telling you it’s time to buy.
The Cadillac of VPN’s
This is a message for the more privacy focused among us. You may travel a lot. You may use WiFi at coffee shops and hotels. You may just not like the idea of your internet service provider knows everywhere you go online. If you are one of those people, you need a VPN. A VPN is a little app that runs on your computer, smartphone or tablet that creates an encrypted tunnel for all your traffic to flow through. It’s simple to use, you turn it on and you turn it off. Your internet provider will never see any of the sites that you visit. A good VPN will cost $8 to $12 per month, give or take. The best of them will never keep any logs of your activity. I used to recommend 2 particular VPN services. I have refined my picks, due to experience. The Cadillac of VPN’s — the best you can get right now, Is a company called Express VPN. They are so easy to use. and they offer 24 hour technical support (via chat on their website). I know that older technology users like good customer service. Current pricing is $12.95 month to month and $100 if you paid for 12 months. My second choice, let’s call them the Volvo of VPN’s, is Private Internet Access — PIA. PIA’s commitment to privacy has held up in court. However, like Volvo, they were recently sold to a new company but have promised to keep their past commitments and maintain their legacy. PIA is cheaper than Express VPN. It remains to be seen, if there will be long term changes under the new management. If I could tell you to go with only one VPN — go with Express VPN.
Financial Safety Tip of the Week
This is a really simple tip, but very relevant to the scam calls that are going around today. You may get a message saying they are from your credit card. Do not call back or answer the call. Call the customer service number on the back of your card or on your statement. If you are the type that likes to throw everything out, always keep the last statement of all of your bills in a folder. That way you have a good number to call. Not everyone can see the numbers on the back of a credit card without a magnifier.
Social Media Tips of the Week
I don’t know if you are on Instagram but I decided to sign up a few years ago due to the fact that I had some clients on it who needed me to teach them a thing or two. I don’t actually post anything on there but I use it to follow personalities in the realm of health and other fields. It is sort of a “one way Instagram for me.” On Instagram you can share or view photos from family and friends without the mess of Facebook or nastiness of Twitter. One account that I like following is @poetic_outlaws. The account owner always posts timely, thought provoking content from writers who lived on the edge (ie. Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Mary Oliver, Ayn Rand, etc). If you like a daily dose of stimulating quotes, check it out.
End of Windows 7
Since half of my clients use a Mac, I did not share this with all of you last week. However, January 14th marked the end of life for Windows 7. It will no longer get security update from Microsoft. Therefore, users should either upgrade to Windows 10 or buy a new computer. In case you are unaware, Windows 7 was released in late 2009. It is truly one of the best operating systems of the past 20 years and was the last Windows operating system written solely for the computer (with no tablets or smart stuff in mind). Here is my somewhat sentimental, somewhat humorous tribute on the passing of Windows 7 — https://theacronym.com/2020/01/15/celebrating-the-life-of-windows-7/
Mac OS 10.15 – Catalina
I think I have discussed this a bit in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to bring it up again with a new spin. Mac OS 10.15 is the latest yearly operating system released by Apple. It came out in the fall of 2019. While browsing the internet and emailing and other basic functions work just about the same as they always have — there are major changes under the hood. This operating system, coded named Catalina, only runs 64-bit Mac apps. That means all of the older 32-bit apps will not run in this OS. If you depend on old software that has never been updated by the developer or software that you are not ready to purchase / learn / install an updated version of — I don’t think Catalina is ready for you right now. Furthermore, it has come to light that some devices on the Mac — critical ones — like PRINTERS — don’t always play nice with Catalina. Today, I was all set to recommend a very new model of HP printer to a client. Then I read that in order to get basic features to work — an app called HP Smart needed to be installed from the Mac App Store. HP Smart is actually brilliant app in Windows, but has been poorly executed on the Mac thus far. I’m glad I recommended a different printer.
I believe I have told this to many of you already — but if I have worked on your Mac since the fall — I have actually blocked Mac OS 10.15 from installing. I did you a favor. You are fine with OS 10.14 for now. It is still getting security updates. You are current. 10.14 (aka Mojave) was the OS that came out in late 2018. Unless there is some feature that you are dying to have in 10.15 Catalina — let’s keep holding off. We should talk about getting you on the latest Mac OS at the end of 2020 or early 2021 if you are going to stick with your current Mac. At that time an upgrade to 10.16 will likely be in order.
I want to let you know what equipment is truly required to become a cord cutter or at least a video streamer in 2020
Comcast Sticking It To Us
I don’t know if you noticed this with your December Comcast bill, but I wasn’t too pleased to see what they are doing effective 12/20/2019. Although I am under an existing contract for a guaranteed price for my internet and TV through May 2020 — my fees will be going up. I believe they can raise the fees portion of the bill even if you are in a contract. If you are not in a contract, your fees will definitely be going up. So here is the damage — Broadcast TV fee (designed to capture what local stations charge Comcast for transmitting their feeds to us) $10 to $14.95, TV box fee (charge for that 1st cable box) $2.50 to $4.60, and the remote fee is going up from $0.18 to $0.40. So this looks like an additional $7.27 if I did the math correctly. Are the retransmission fees that Comcast is charged by the local stations going up? I don’t know. I also know that prices of most internet packages are going up $3 per month, however, I don’t think this applies to me as I am in a bundled promotion. More and more people are cutting the cord and going with internet only. Comcast is looking to make up for their loss in subscribers one way or another. For a lot of customers in Connecticut, there isn’t much choice outside of areas where Frontier has fiber optic service. The non-Fiber frontier service is pathetic. There really is no alternative but Comcast. Some of you have the ability to choose Go Net Speed. They are available in limited parts of West Hartford and the New Haven area. Hopefully they will be rolling out beyond their existing footprint soon. A great choice for Internet only!
Best of 2019
I used to write this up in more of a newsletter format, but I just wanted to give you a brief sampling of some of the best products and services I worked with all year.
Best Premium Smartphone: iPhone 11 — Apple really got this one right and they lowered the starting price by $50. It’s an easy choice for iPhone owners
Best Mid-Range Smartphone: Google Pixel 3a — Google brought out these phones mid-year that were in the same spirit as their old Nexus phones. They are under $400 with a lot of premium features and they still have a headphone jack. I hope we see a Pixel 4a in 2020. We may also see an iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 9 sold in this price range next year.
Best Laptops: Unfortunately — I can’t say that any Apple laptops are among the best of 2019. However I really like 2 product lines the Lenovo Thinkpads and the Dell Latitudes. Specifically I am a fan of the Thinkpad T490, E490, and X1 Carbon 7. In terms of the Latitudes, I favor the 5000 and 7000 series. They are solid, have great keyboards, and are built for the long haul.
Best Desktops: I still like the 2018 Mac Mini and hope Apple keeps it updated for years to come. I am also partial to Dell’s Optiplex and Lenovo’s Think Centre desktops, properly equipped of course.
Best Backup Service: Keep in mind that iCloud, Dropbox, or One Drive are not true backup services. They are online file synchronization services. This means that if you delete a file it will be deleted in other places. You should have an opportunity to restore the deleted file within a period of time. I still love all of those services but they are not true backups. If you have a lot of data that you can’t afford to lose, I highly recommend Backblaze or Carbonite. Either service is $6 / month for personal use.
As we come to the end of the year, we also come to the end of the 2010’s. (Whether or not it’s truly the end of the decade, may be a technicality. Some of my elementary school teachers would have said that the decade is 2011-2020), but for all intents and purposes many in the technology community are looking at how far we have come in the last 10 years.
I will just give you a few of my thoughts. I will also ask you, how has your use of technology changed in 10 years?
-The iPhone was not Apple’s bread and butter in 2010. In the USA, it was still an AT&T exclusive. Verizon users were being pushed to get a DROID, which was special branding put on Android phones made specifically for Verizon. Big iPhone competitors that year were the Motorola DROID, the DROID X, and the HTC DROID Incredible. As a Verizon customer, I could not get an iPhone. My first smartphone was the Incredible. Everything opened up in early 2011 when Verizon came to an agreement to sell the iPhone on their network. I got my first iPhone in the fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back.
-The 2010’s were also the decade of the iPad. I acquired my first iPad in 2010. To be honest, I didn’t see much use for it in the beginning and I sold it in about 6 months. Today, we see the iPad as the tablet done right. It does not run a full, traditional computer operating system (now called iPad OS) but it gets the job done well enough for quite a few folks as a primary computing device and nearly everyone else as a “secondary screen”. Want to use it in the hand? You can check email, shop, bank, read books, and watch TV / video. Want to use it with a keyboard? It is a near laptop. When Apple came out with the iPad Pro a few years back — they really blurred the lines between Mac and iPad. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though I would still prefer a full Mac / Windows computer as my #1 device. There was a lull in the iPad market in 2015 and 2016. It seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere. But then, Apple lowered the price of the “standard iPad” (9.7 inch, now 10.2) to $329 in 2017 and sales have gone up like wild flowers.
-10 years ago — many people thought the PC (personal computer) would soon be dead. Remember when netbooks were a big thing? These were small – 9 or 10 inch — very underpowered Windows laptops that were meant for travel and quick browsing or e-mail. I fondly remember — hacking a Dell netbook and putting the Mac OS on it. It ran well for a while. The keyboard on that netbook was excellent, though cramped. Fast forward to 2019 and the PC is not dead. The industry has innovated. In late 2010, Apple released a timeless design with its 2nd generation Mac Book Air. This Ultrabook design helped change Windows PC’s for the better. No longer did a powerful machine have to be a big clunker. Microsoft also got into the market in 2012 by releasing its own line of tablet computers called Sufrace. The original Surface concept (which ran a limited version of Windows RT) was a flop, but the Surface Pro (which runs full Windows) has been a huge success. This 12 inch tablet, with keyboard has aged with conservative design changes and is really the gold standard for small, sub-13 inch computers. Consumers with simpler needs have moved to the smartphone and the iPad, in some instances – exclusively, but the PC market is still here. The premium PC market is strong.
-During the past 10 years — especially 2016-19 — Apple lost its perch in the laptop market. Beginning in 2016, they wanted to get so thin and light in order to shave a couple of millimeters that they released a horrible keyboard design. Many claims of defects were made and lots of warranty work had to be done. The problem became so bad that in 2018, Apple decided to give all owners of the new Mac Book Pros a 4 year warranty on the keyboards. This special warranty now covers the late 2016 to 2019 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pros and the 2018 and 2019 Mac Book Airs. Good news! Apple has seen the error of its ways and recently came out with a new 16 inch laptop with the old 2015 style keyboard. Hallelujah! We can only hope that Apple will revise the 13 inch Mac Books (models my clients would be most likely to buy) accordingly next year.
-On a personal note, I just want to say that I have learned over the course of 10 years that not everything online is better. 10 years ago, I was actively pursuing my Bachelor’s degree online (with a few on campus courses mixed in). That evolved into an exclusively online Master’s for the academic portion, with some in-person internship or practicum experiences. It was a colossal $60,000 mistake. Some day, I should write an article or short guide about online college studies. Ultimately, what I learned is that online education is not appropriate for all learners and career objectives. Just because it’s more convenient or you are a technologically savvy person or you can express yourself more freely by typing — does not mean an online degree is appropriate. Online education would be appropriate for someone who is already established in an industry, even in an entry level way, and they are aiming for their degree (hopefully with the encouragement of management) in order to advance in that field. Online degrees are right for someone with an established network that is using that degree to get a bump in pay due to that accomplishment (ie. a teacher getting a salary increase for a Master’s). Online coursework would not be appropriate for someone looking to blaze a new path in a field where they have no relationships. That is where I got lost in the maze. I also believe formal college education is not right for everyone and that trade schools and apprenticeships are a very sustainable path for our young workers. It makes me think of a picture that you have problem seen passed around in chain e-mails depicting two “learners.” Jim — 4 year degree in Philosophy – $100K in debt, no job. Joe — 4 year paid apprenticeship. No debt. $80K a year salary. Today, Joe works for the electric company and cut off Jim’s lights for non-payment. Sad, but could be very true.