Category: Macs

Mac Users–Benefits Of Using iCloud

Though some of you are the exception — the easiest way to make sure you don’t lose files on your Mac — is to have iCloud for Desktop and Documents turned on so it backs up and synchronizes your files.    If you are not using iCloud for your files — maybe it’s time you start. 

(If I already have you using Carbonite or BackBlaze — you are probably the exception to the rule but we can talk about this next time)

The Value Of Anti Virus and Defensive Computing Strategies

(A couple of definitions before we start. I have talked about VPN’s before, with the VPN being a piece of software that runs on your computer (or computing device) that runs your internet traffic through a private tunnel. This can be done for privacy, security or both. DNS is the “phone book” through which you look things up on the internet (domain name system). By default you use the DNS of your internet service provider. If you own your own router, you can set a custom DNS (free option) that blocks most malware.)

The best anti virus is a strategy built around defensive computing practices defensive computing practices

– If I could only choose 2 of the following 3:  (#1) VPN that has a malware block option, (#2) using Quad 9 or similar as the alternate DNS in my router (which blocks about 99 % of known malware domains) for those situations when I don’t have my VPN on or I have browser bypassing my VPN, or (#3) traditional anti virus software…..

…. I would choose the first 2. 

however since it seems like many clients want to have the additional protection of antivirus software…..  you have to remember that the typical clients I serve are older adults either at home or in their businesses who are not very technologically savvy and like a lot of customer service and handholding.   I don’t necessarily put a lot of weight on antivirus rankings and publications that claim to do those rankings because a lot of them are just paid advertisements.

Traditionally — my go to recommendation for Mac AV has been Intego.  They are a French company with local phone support based in Texas. They’ve actually removed viruses from my clients’ computers so that’s why I trust them. The phone support has been excellent when my clients have needed them.

I’ve had good experiences with ESET on the Windows side – and based on my dealings their customer support was located in Southern California even though they are also a European company. I’ve never tried them out on the Mac but I wouldn’t doubt that they are an outstanding product.

Bit Defender has a legendary reputation but I don’t have a lot of real world experience with them. However, it should be known that they provide support by chat, E-mail and phone – so another senior friendly option.   Another Mac Anti-virus that I have found valuable in the past — though they are not necessarily known for providing great customer support for seniors is Avast antivirus. I don’t know if they still do this but they had a habit of scanning websites before you visited them which I thought was great. One time a Mac client was going to upload some sensitive information to his accountants website and avast detected that it was compromised. It led to a startling revelation for the accounting firm.

An antivirus that I would like to try out but haven’t is PC Matic. You may have seen a lot of their ads on TV. They’ve recently expanded to support the Mac and they use a very different strategy than traditional antivirus by blocking you from ever accessing tons of harmful websites.

In conclusion…

1.  Use defensive computing practices, do not click on links or open attachments from people you did not expect to receive them from. Do not re-use passwords. Use an ad blocker in your browsers.

2.  If desired, use a VPN that offers malware blocking meaning they block malware domains as one of the filter options. Personally, I use Windscribe VPN but there are others that do this as well.

3.  It’s impractical to use the VPN 100% of the time. Frankly, some of my clients just won’t use one period. I actually keep mine on pretty much 100% of the time but I’m allowed to exempt certain browsers so I always exempt one browser and therefore my activity in it is outside the VPN. For those situations that is why I have Quad 9 as the DNS in my router because it blocks 99% of malware domains.  Quad 9 is free to use.

4.   Antivirus is great for when strategies one through three fail or when you’re dealing with attachments or files on the computer. I would just make sure that the antivirus that you’re using scans all files opened, and ideally that they do a little scan of websites before you visit them. If customer support matters to you, I have given you a couple options that are better in that area. 90% of my Windows clients just use the built in Microsoft Defender. This anti-virus also features Smart Screen but it really only works if you are using the Edge browser. If you are on Windows and you are not paying for a 3rd party anti-virus – consider making Edge your primary browser. It is Chrome based these days and works very much like Google Chrome.

Microsoft Word Secret Revealed

I’ve been using Microsoft Word for how long — 30 years almost!  You might think you know all the ins and outs of Word.  Today, I confirmed something that has always been true but I think a lot of Word users don’t know and would be shocked by.   Here is the big TRUTH BOMB:   With one exception ** Microsoft Word does not  — absolutely does not — auto save your document.   What?  But — I have always gone into the Word Options (File menu >> Options >> Save and set it to 5 minutes or 10 minutes).    @Look again Word users @   Even I did a double take.   You are saving Auto-Recover information to a certain location on your computer.   That is not the same as auto saving the file every 10 minutes.  Bottom line:  Word does not auto save your file — with one exception.  This Auto-Recover business is about if you were to lose power or Word was to freakishly quit in some sort of computer error — you MIGHT be able to go to the Auto-Recover folder on your computer and retrieve a recent version of your file.  MIGHT is the key word, because I have seen many instances where this does not not happen for my clients. 

Alright, alright.  So I have to keep pressing the save button on my file?  Generally, yes.  What is the exception?    The exception comes if you are saving your files in Microsoft One Drive.   One Drive is a service and a folder on your computer that synchronizes with the cloud.  It is a direct competitor of Dropbox.  It shouldn’t surprise you that it integrates very neatly with Microsoft Word and other Office programs.   One Drive works on Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android.   Don’t want to pay anything?   Don’t have to.  The free tier of One Drive gives you 5 GB of free space — that is good for potentially thousands of Word documents.   When you pay the $6 or $8 a month for Microsoft Office 365 the annual subscription to Office that I set up for many of my clients — you get 1 TB of One Drive space or 1000 GB.   That is more than enough space to likely save your whole digital lives. 

So what I am trying to say here is — if you are doing important work in Word — you should be doing one of 2 things

1) Regularly clicking Save

2) Save your documents in the One Drive folder (One Drive is built into Windows. It has to be installed on a Mac from the App Store.)

I tried looking at alternatives and here is what I found.  In the Pages word processing app on a Mac — files do auto save.   Using Google Docs in the browser — files also auto save.     You may or may not want to use One Drive.  Some of you probably should.   But now you know the truth about Microsoft Word.   One way or another — save your files!!    Utilize a backup system as well.

7 Technology Tips For August

1.  Only buy computers with SSDs (solid state drives).  It’s pretty rare to find a computer without a SSD these days.  All Mac Books have had them since 2012, but not all Mac desktops since 2020.  One of my clients is painfully aware of this.  Sometimes, at the cheaper end of computing, they are still sold with a traditional hard drive.  However, as you can see from the example above, cheap doesn’t have to mean slow.  In the larger sizes like 512 GB or 1 TB — the cost will go up but your stress will go down.  SSD or nothing.

2. The iPhone SE is a good choice for someone who needs Facetime and iMessage but does not want to spend $800 to $100 on an iPhone 13 series model.  Of course, the 13 is better.  Of course, the battery lasts longer.  However, if $429 seems like the most you would pay for a smartphone – the iPhone SE is a solid choice. 

3. The New M2 Mac Book Air – base model 256 GB  – now selling for $1199 has not been well received.  It’s not a keyboard issue or a design issue.  On that particular model, the hard drive is actually slower than the 2020 M1 Mac Book Air.  So — you have to go big or be unhappy here.  Bite the bullet and get the 512 GB M2 Mac Book Air.   It is $1499.   The 2020 M1 model is still sold and may be a good option.  Keep in mind that as it is approaching 2 years old — that may well mean 2 years less of updates than the M2. 

4.  Windows — Windows 10 / 11 does a pretty good job of updating automatically.  However, are you keeping your drivers up to day?   This is the software for your video card, sound card, WiFi.  I went through a trying exercise with a client who could not get WiFi on a 6 year old Dell Desktop.  Once, I downloaded the proper driver from Dell (onto an Android phone — then beamed to the computer, the WiFi worked.   The client had no idea that the manufacturer’s drivers had to be updated separately.  This is not an issue with Macs. 

5.  Don’t be married to your cell phone provider.  Just because Verizon was the best in 2005 (and it really was!!) doesn’t mean it is the best today.  The same could be said for ATT or even T-Mobile.  Be nimble.  Towers are changing.  Verizon has been shutting down towers and building new ones.  ATT has been shutting down towers and doing the same and so has T-Mobile.  You may have thought your coverage was perfect at your home or at your office or XYZ spot that you always go to.   It might change in 2022.  Be nimble means, don’t lock yourself into these long term financing deals on phones where you are stuck with a carrier.  Buy your phone outright or if you need payments — possibly think of the Apple Card — that allows you to finance your iPhone in 24 interest free installments.  Then you can move from carrier to carrier without being tied down by the old ball and chain (a phone contract).

6.   If I wasn’t an iPhone user — which phone would I use?  I would want a pure Android experience with nothing added on.  Today, I would choose a Google Pixel 6A which was just released.  https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_6a?hl=en-US

If I wanted a more upscale experience (like iPhone 13 quality) I would wait for the Pixel 7 which should be released by the fall.

7.  Naming Files —  I have had some instances over the years when I copied my files between different disks on various computers and the dates of the file or folder would change.  This was very annoying.  So I am now in the habit of putting the dates in my file names.   I do a lot of Print to PDF in my internet browser when saving things from my internet browser.    So if I saved a file on July 27th, I will put  “20220727” in the file name.   In some folder, I put the date first in the file name.  This way I know I can sort the files alphabetically but they will also be sorted by date in effect, even if the official date on the file changes. 

New M2 Mac Book Airs

Apple indeed released new Mac Book Airs yesterday.  They feature significantly improved M2 processors.   If you are shopping for a new Mac Book Air — these would be the ones to get.  However, even Apple customers cannot avoid inflation.    The prices have gone up to $1199 for the 256 GB hard drive model and $1499 for the 512 GB model (up from $999 and 1249 previously).  The larger hard drive model is most appropriate if there are a lot of photos and music involved.  There is also a 1 TB offering for an additional cost.

Apple is still going to sell the M1 Mac Book Air in 256 GB as a starter model for $999, however now that this model is 1.5 years old — that will mean a 1.5 year shorter lifespan with software updates.  I would only recommend this one if a client absolutely needed to save that $200.   M2 Mac Book Air should be the first choice.

New Mac Book Airs Probably Coming Monday

*I didn’t get an invite to the Bilderberg Group meeting in D.C. this weekend, so alas this is a working Saturday for me and I have an important update. 

The Mac Book Air M1 has been a very successful release for Apple has it marked their first laptop with the new in house processors.   The Air M1 has made my clients really happy  as well and has been the most satisfying Apple laptop for them in years.

However, the current model is getting a little old as Apple product cycles go.  It was released in Nov. 2020.   Apple’s WWDC (world wide developer conference) starts on Monday and there is a VERY GOOD chance that they will be announcing an updated Mac Book Air with a new M series chip.

My best advice.   Wait until Monday, feel free to ask me about the developments.  You can probably learn about new releases on Monday afternoon from sites like macworld.com or macrumors.com .   Hold off on buying that Air, there is probably a new one right around the corner.

Windoze 11? Putting Computer Shopping In Perspective

I’m still trying to keep an open mind about Windows 11.  At best I think it will be the most secure operating system Microsoft has ever offered. At worst, it could be another Vista or Windows 8.   For Chrome, Word, shopping, paying bills, and banking Windows 11 is just fine.  Many new computers sold today come with Windows 11.  However, if you still want a new computer with Windows 10 — I can find one for you.  Quantities may be limited and you have to be ready to order now.  My general guidance is as follows — a  passable / average / perhaps above average system — $900 or so,   good to great system $1500, and top of the line $2000-2200.  (Keep in mind that a Mac Book Air with 512 GB hard drive costs $1249 and a Mac Book Pro 14 costs $1999).   I just ordered one of those top tier models, a Thinkpad X1 Yoga touchscreen laptop, with a client.  It came to $2257 with tax and we are super excited about setting it up.

Mac Mini vs iMac

I just wanted to take a moment to discuss the two desktop choices that consumers or home workers such as yourself are going to consider:  the iMac and the Mac Mini.  I have shared this info in shorter form before but I wanted to unpack these possibilities a bit more.   The current M1 Mac Mini was released in the fall of 2020 and the current M1 iMac was released in the spring of 2021.  Despite their different shapes and set ups — INTERNALLY SPEAKING — the logic board, the chips, the hard drive, and the memory — they are the same performance wise.  I’m going to have you look at the configurations for the Mini https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/mac-mini and in the red trunks in the other corner, I’m going to have you look at the iMac  https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/imac

This email is going to compare the $899 Mini and the $1699 iMac.  Both systems have the 512 GB SSD hard drive and the 8 core CPU.   One is not double the cost of the other, but you may certainly perceive one as the better value or the more attractive option after reading the following.   It’s your choice.

Mac Mini — Apple has sold the Mac Mini since 2005. I remember ordering the first one.   The Mini is about the size of a small cigar box, but it packs a punch.  It is the computer “tower” only.  You must provide your own keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor – and if desired webcam.  Those accessories need not and probably should not be Apple branded if you are going for the value proposition.  A decent 21 to 24 inch monitor can be purchased for about $150 to $180.    Next I would recommend a USB keyboard / mouse – MacAlly brand on Amazon is Mac compatible — $30 to $40.  These are good for initial use and as a backup, even if you plan to use wireless later.  Decent Amazon brand speakers are $30.  Next comes a webcam if you plan to use Zoom.  The C922 Logitech is $85 and known to be compatible with the current Mac OS.  The total cost of those accessories  is $295 – $335.   With the cost of the Mac Mini being $899 –you are looking at a little less than $1299, in line with what I’ve said previously.  Note: you will have wires all over your desk, just like with a traditional desktop computer.

iMac — the new iMac has a 24 inch screen.  Everything is built into the screen.  The monitor, the speakers, the computer tower:  it’s all there.  Apple includes a wireless keyboard and mouse too.  The webcam is built in.   It’s slim, colorful, even sexy if a computer could be. There is one wire for the power cord.  Unlike the Mac Mini which has 2 traditional USB A ports, the iMac has none, which means you will probably need an Anker USB hub to plug things in. That will run you about $30 on Amazon — so your cost is about $1729.  

The choice is yours, not mine.  Do you want to save about $400 and pick your own accessories?  Or do you want to pay $400 more for style, compactness and visual appeal? Both computers are equally as fast or “good” inside. Hope you appreciated the review.  It might not be as good as Consumer Reports but I think I made a compelling case for EITHER system – if you want a Mac to begin with.

PS.  If you didn’t have hardly any photos or files you could get a slightly cheaper iMac or Mac Mini.  There is one model of each that is $200 cheaper.  You can do that math.  The same price differential and logic of this post would be true.

Lets Get Down To Business

Starting Light — Beverage Pick Of The Week

I probably have 2 alcoholic drinks a year, so my beverage pick is going to be something else.  Diet soda can be taboo, but some people just prefer it or can’t handle a regular cola.  I don’t drink a lot of soda, but I am a big fan of Polar beverages based in Worcester.  I just happened to see a liter of their Diet Cherry Soda at the grocery store.  I’m so glad I took a chance.  Its the best tasting soda I’ve ever had.  Moxie would be #2 for me. 

Tech Tips You Can Use

I think it’s a great idea to Restart or Shut Down your computer every week or at least every two weeks.   Macs and Windows PCs can be restarted.  iPhones and iPads must be Shut Down, by either going to Settings >> General >> Shut Down or by pressing the the correct buttons (hope I’ve shown you this already).   Some Android phones have a Restart feature, some will also need to be shut down.  The shut down should just be temporary.   I do not believe in shutting down the computer every night.  Repeated on and offs will shorten its life.  Just let your computer go to sleep.  This way it will get its updates.


Deal of the Day (and in General)

Fifty dollars off on a Mac computer is a deal, even in these times, but the $699 Mac Mini is priced to sell from the get go.  This model has the 256 GB SSD hard drive  and is really targeted to those  users who are doing email, shopping, browsing, and banking with small collections of photos and music (not tons of files).  Amazon often has this model for $650 which is great but while supplies last they are selling it for an amazing $570.  A steal!   Keep in mind with the Mac Mini you provide your own keyboard mouse and monitor and speakers but you can buy these economically.  Apple brand is not required.  Under $1000 for a Mac desktop all in sounds like a winner to me.  Amazon link https://amzn.to/3sxYvxs

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

Well — it should be a live streaming event and not a theater, but I expect Apple to release a new iPhone SE as soon as this month.  It is expected to feature 5G radios for the first time.   With ATT, Verizon, and T-Mobile operating only on 4G and 5G signals by the end of the year – I’ll be curious to see if Apple can include 5G for the past $399 price.  Anyway, the SE is the winner winner chicken dinner of the low cost iPhone options.  Get the 13 if you need the better cameras, but the the SE is still a fine phone. 

Song of the Week

On this back to business theme, how could I not close with a song with the chorus line of “let’s get down to business.”   Put on your dancing shoes, get up and move.  Here is a techno song from your tech guy.  “The Business” by Tiesto. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PO_d169ibZ8

Coming Down The Pike

Scams Reminder

Remember — there are no real emails from Norton asking you to pay large sums of money, no legitimate car warranties calling you, no arrested grandsons calling for money, and no legitimate popups on the computer saying you are infected with a phone number.  (I feel like I can never give these warnings enough because every week I get asked about such scenarios). 

Coming Down The Pike

iPhone SE

I have some credible rumors that Apple will be hosting a technology event next month (or just a product release) and that the iPhone SE is likely to be updated.  There may even be a new Mac Mini.  My clients were very receptive to the iPhone 8 sized SE that came out in early 2020.  While I still prefer the better battery life and features of the iPhone 13 series, a $400 SE is really all that some people need or want.  It gets the job done.  It facilitates Facetime calls.  It allows you to send those blue iMessage text messages to all of your friends (more secure text messages).  From what I’ve read, the new SE will still be $399 and should sport 5G radios.   If you are hanging on to a 7 or 8 or even want to upgrade from your previous SE — this may be the phone for you. 


Windows 11

On every Windows computer I’ve touched, I have turned out or opted out of the Windows 11 update.   Keep in mind that Windows 11 will only be available for late 2017 and newer Windows computers.  I think there will be significant updates between now and the summer.  On a new computer, we may not be able to avoid Windows 11 and that’s ok.  It’s not a disaster.  Installing a familiar Start Menu app – like Start 11 can make Windows 11 a lot more friendly.  Later in the year, I think it may be fine to upgrade to Windows 11. I’ll keep you posted. 

Updates

I always say your iPhone will update automatically, so will Windows and so will your Mac.  Then those updates don’t happen.  So I think it a good idea to check at least once a month.  You should know how to do it by now

iPhone / iPad:  Settings >> General >> Software Update

Windows:  Start Menu >> Settings (or Search)>> Update & Security

Mac:  Apple Menu >> System Preferences >> Software Update