Just when it seems my laptop and iPhone are running smoothly, I get a notice that there's an operating system update available. (The operating system is what runs our smartphones and computers.) The temptation for me is to ignore it. Why should I take the time to disrupt what I'm doing for something that may end up costing me more time? It can be a hassle if something goes wrong.
Part of me worries that the newest operating system will make my computer or iPhone run more slowly. Or it will be full of bugs. Or it will force my older apps into obsolescence. While these ill effects can happen sometimes, the more rational part of my brain reminds me that, given the right conditions, updates are good. They provide upgraded features, fix existing bugs, and implement security patches to keep my devices safe.
I recently upgraded my eight-year-old MacBook Air to the latest operating system, called Catalina. In general, I keep my apps and operating systems updated to within a couple versions of the most recent. This ensures that those apps are optimized for the operating system and vice versa. It's like going to the gym: I know it's good for me, but there are times I feel it would just be easier to skip it. In the end, though, I go, and I stay in shape. This system of updating has been working for me without issue. Until now.
As I clicked the Install Catalina button on my Mac, up popped a warning that my Microsoft Office programs would no longer work if I continued. It seems that my versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (all part of my MS Office 2008 suite of productivity programs) were too old for this dashing, young Catalina. I left the message staring at me on the screen as I hurried to look up what my options were with using MS Word et al. in the future.
Programs, such as the MS Office Suite, undergo minor version updates. These are free to download. Once in a while, they have major redesigns and are given new names–like MS Office 2008 became MS Office 2016, which later became 2019. These you have to pay for. After a while, enough re-designs have occurred that the oldest ones just no longer work with modern operating systems.
In the end, I decided to proceed with the installation, basically giving up my usage of Microsoft Office for the near future. I only did this because I knew that I could buy MS Office 2019 if I wanted to. In the meantime, though, I'm not sure I need it. I have other productivity programs and apps that I like better. And they're free. But that's a story for another time.
When it comes to major overhauls of operating systems, like going from Mac's Mojave to Catalina, or Windows XP to Windows 10, I like to wait a couple of months before committing to be sure that there aren't any big bugs in the new version that can be more trouble than they're worth. As far as minor updates to operating systems (like Catalina 10.15.2 to Catalina 10.15.3), I generally download these when they're available. These little updates are beneficial adjustments to make your system run more efficiently.
Bottom line, when it comes to deciding whether to update apps and operating systems, in general, I believe it's a good idea. It keeps your system running smoothly and securely. The trick, however, is understanding that it sometimes comes with unintended consequences. Sometimes your latest version app will be too advanced for your operating system, and sometimes your latest operating system will be too advanced for you app. That's why I try to keep them all as current as possible.
Not sure whether to update or not? Contact me. I'll go over your situation and help you decide. Then, we can walk through the process together!
This morning I gave a talk on "Keeping in Touch with the Grandkids" at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at Burns Park. The focus of the program taught grandparents how to use various video chat apps to communicate with their children and grandchildren. This lesson can easily be applied to stay close with any family member or friend.
Let’s face it, we don’t always get to see our family and friends as often as we’d like. Busy schedules and geographical distances can keep us apart. However, recent advancements in video chatting have made it so anyone can see and talk to their loved ones from just about anywhere. There are so many different apps out there, and each one is a little different. Here are a few that I like:
Apple's FaceTime: This is the easiest of them all to use. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It works seamlessly with making and receiving calls on your iPhone, and you don't have to download anything. You can even video chat with multiple people (if your phone is running iOS 12 or later). The only problem with FaceTime is that it only works on Apple products. So no Windows, no Android.
Skype: One of the first on the market to offer video chat. It works across all platforms--iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, etc. I don't, however, find Skype as easy to get set up. First, you need to create a Microsoft account (they own Skype). Then you have to make a Skype username. Anyone you want to contact also has to have a username. And, you need to know their username to ring them up. It's not as simple as calling someone's phone number. Oh, and that person needs to be signed into Skype in order for them to see your call.
WhatsApp: This is the most popular chatting app in the world. It became so common overseas due to the expense of sending text messages in other countries. In the U.S., most of our cellphone plans include texting and sending multimedia. What I really like about WhatsApp, though, is that it's easy to use, and it's ubiquitous overseas--perfect for communicating with friends and family when you're abroad, or they're abroad.
Amazon Alexa: When used in conjunction with an Echo Show, Alexa can become a video chat device. The Show is a small screen (my dad's is 8") that can sit on your shelf or counter. Go to the Alexa app on your phone and use the Drop-In feature to contact another person's Echo Show. The beauty of this product is that the person receiving the call doesn't have to do anything. For people like my dad, who live in assisted living and have trouble working a device like an iPhone or iPad, the Show automatically turns on the call. We dial up my dad and say "Hi." He sees us, and the video chat begins. No fuss, no muss.
Now the question becomes for so many of us, which one is right for me? There are a lot of different video chat apps out there. I've only touched on four. At Keen Focus Technology Tutoring, I help people research which ones are most appropriate. The answer almost always boils down to whichever one your family and friends have, and you find the easiest to use.
I've noticed that most of my clients take a suspicious eye toward emails that don't look right. This is a good thing. When in doubt, delete it. Knowing that people are trying to scam us by sending fraudulent emails can be unsettling. Sometimes, though, it can even make us fearful of using our technology. This is not a good thing. I'm going to attempt to strike a balance between vigilance and paranoia in this article, and tell you how to identify bogus emails known as phishing scams.
Phishing emails are those that use trickery to get us to fork over personal information that allow the bad guys to steal from us. Like the name suggests, phishing requires bait. In the subject line, these emails usually say something is wrong, such as " Your credit card has expired ," or "Your account will be closed." These statements can evoke a response that gets us to bite--to click on that link where we need to enter our credit card or Social Security info to make everything right. Always be suspicious of any email asking you to go to a website to give out any personal information.
That was Lesson #1. If the email asks for personal information, it's likely phishing. In Lesson #2, we'll check the sender's email address as another test. Take a look at this email I recently received:
In this case, my Mail program suspected this was junk and flagged it. But even without this aid, I was first alerted when I saw the subject line reading, "Payment Problem." Next, I took a look at the recipient's email address under "To:." It might be reasonable to think that a large company would use some weird email code to keep from publishing your personal email address. Maybe. So, to be sure, I clicked on the sender's name--Netflix Inc. (See image below.)
When I clicked on it, a window popped up revealing where this email actually came from. That's certainly not a @netflix.com email address!
Lesson #3: Chances are, if you've received a fraudulent email like this, other people have too. These scams often get reported to watchdog groups like Snopes.com. In fact, here is a link to their writeup on fake Netflix emails: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/netflix-users-update-payment/
Lesson #4: If you're still not sure, you can always go to the official Netflix website and contact them through there. (Important: Type the address directly into your browser window. Do not click on any links in the email.)
Being aware of fraudulent emails is a great first step. Knowing how to identify them using several different methods is even better. I don't know if we'll ever be able to get rid of people who try to scam us, but at least we can get rid of the fear they cause us when it comes to using our technology. All it takes is some knowledge in how to identify them to build that confidence.
It's not something we like to talk about, let alone think about. However, we must ask the question: What happens to my Facebook page when I'm gone? Sure, many of us have gone through the painful task of drawing up a will. Many of us have arrangements for our bank accounts, homes, businesses, and pets. But what about our social media accounts? No, Facebook doesn't know when you pass away. Neither do Twitter, Instagram, or other such companies.
When our social media pages outlive us, it can create some sticky situations. Many of us have seen a Facebook page belonging to a deceased friend or loved one. If only someone knew Uncle Joe's password so we could get in and post an announcement, give a tribute, or even close it down. Whatever you'd like to see happen with your pages, you'll need to plan for it.
Fortunately, Facebook has a setting that takes care of this very issue. It's called Memorialization Settings. In this setting, you can designate another person to:
Whatever you decide to do with your accounts, just plan ahead. Most other social media companies have forms for a trusted person to fill out in order to take over. Leaving an account unattended opens it up to unscrupulous people who can use it for their own nefarious reasons.
Yes, even in death, you can still be hacked.
If you own an iPhone from Apple, you may have noticed that there is a new operating system available for the phone. (Apple calls this an "iOS," as opposed to just "OS" for their Mac computers.) The latest is iOS 13, and before you upgrade to it, there are a few things to know first.
Apple touts this iOS as their best yet--and it eventually may be. However, since its launch, users are reporting many bugs. One of the worst quirks is dropping calls. I'm of the generation that bought a phone to use as a phone. You know, to talk to people. If I can't call someone, then the device isn't much use to me.
As a result, Apple is releasing a lot of updates to fix them. The most recent is iOS 13.1.2. While I haven't actually experienced these dropped calls with the upgrade, I have noticed, though, that Apple apps, such as Mail and Photos function a little differently. So there's a small learning curve involved. Some of the changes seem like change for change sake, like when you "flag" an email, the little flag is now on the right-hand side of the message instead of the left--where it's always been. Why? (Maybe some programmer in California needed to make his mark. I dunno.)
I will say, however, that I am LOVING a new feature that sends unknown callers straight to voicemail. I get about 5 robocalls per day that tell me the IRS is coming to arrest me, or that there's something wrong with my student loans. (I didn't know I had any!) So this new fix is a godsend to me. No more stopping what I'm doing to check my phone, only to find out it's some scammer trying to trick me into giving them my social security number.
Overall, I do like most of the upgrades that Apple has made to this operating system. It did take me a little time, though, to notice and figure some of them out, including an enhanced Apple CarPlay screen that surprised me when I plugged it in while driving one day. I was so excited, I had to pull over to explore it, just like any tech geek would do--even if it made him late for the dentist.
For a rundown of all of the new features of iOS 13, click here: https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-13/
Let’s face it, technology is a great thing--when you know how to use it. Many of us want to take part in the digital age, but with rapidly changing tech, it’s hard to keep up. In addition, even if we have no interest in the latest and greatest devices, sometimes we are required to learn new technology.
Don’t believe me? Your boss just told you and your co-workers that you’ll have to keep track of your leads using a new app. Your new Ford Escape comes with a beautiful display screen, but you have no idea how to use the navigation. Or you really would like to make calls while driving, but that would require using Bluetooth and pairing your phone to your car to make it work. Your new TV has a sharp High Definition screen, but the remote has way too many buttons. “I just want to turn it on and watch Dancing With the Stars, dammit!”
Yes, like it or not, we are living in a high tech society. One that requires us to know a few tricks to make our devices work. If any of the above instances sound familiar, you are not alone. Most of us--on at least some level--have struggled to get our WiFi working or our printers to print. My dad is the ultimate Luddite. He always says, "No computer; no viruses!" But even he has an iPhone.
This is where Keen Focus Technology Tutoring comes in. We can come to your home to help. We can take the mystery out of the process. We can even help you enjoy your technology again.
If you are like President Skroob in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (who had his luggage combination set to 12345), I highly suggest you change it. Fast.
According to Ars Technica, Gizmodo, and even the New York Times, 12345 has been in the top 5 of the most commonly used passwords for years. Do you know what's more common than 12345? 123456. Go figure. Other frequently used passwords that folks like to use are "password," "qwerty," "football," and "baseball." I seriously hope I haven't mentioned yours yet. It wouldn't take much for someone to guess these passwords and steal your information.
Even if you have a less common password, here are a few cyber security tips that I tell my technology tutoring clients:
1. Choose passwords that you can remember, but don't make sense to anyone else. Avoid words that are in the dictionary.
2. Add symbols and numbers to your passwords. A random series of letters, numbers, and symbols is usually best.
3. Change your passwords frequently. The longer a password has been in existence, the likelier it is to be hacked.
4. If you have a ton of passwords and can't remember them all, use one of the many apps that specialize in keeping/generating passwords. These apps only make you remember one password to access all of your other passwords.
5. When at a Starbucks or other places with a public wifi, unscrupulous hackers could capture your information if you offer it up freely. There are many ways to protect yourself while using the public wifi, but that's a conversation for another day. In the meantime, here's a basic precaution to take: don't log in to your bank account or other password protected sites on a public wifi.
I am by no means trying to be an alarmist. I also know that most people will read this and think, "Ugh! Why does it have to be so complicated?" It's the world we live in. We need usernames and passwords for just about everything. However, if you start with these 5 basic online security tips, you will be well on your way to enjoying your devices and keeping your information safe.
A study of what adults fear conducted by researchers at Chapman University found that, out of a list of 88 different things, people fear technology more than anything except man-made disasters. Technology beat out other areas such as crime, public speaking, romantic rejection, government, and clowns! — Possibly even clowns in the government.
Granted, much of the technology focused on things like cyber-terrorism and corporations tracking personal information. However, people tend to be afraid of things that they heavily depend on, but can’t control. This describes technology to a T. It’s embedded in nearly everything we do these days: finding your favorite TV channel, making a phone call, sending an email or text message, taking a picture, operating your car, checking out at the grocery store, checking the weather. The problem is, we don’t have any idea how all of these things work.
It really doesn't have to be this way. All it takes is a little bit of time learning the basics to help remove these fears. All it takes is a little bit of time learning about our technology to start having more fun with it!
Remember that feeling? You know, the one you got when you first powered up your brand new Mac? The windows popped open instantaneously, apps ran smoothly and efficiently, the desktop was free of clutter. Everything was shiny. Heck, it even smelled new and fresh--in a techie sort of way.
What about now? Do windows seem to take forever to open? Do you see spinning beach balls in your nightmares?
It's okay. It happens to all of us, er... to our computers anyway. The good news is that there are quite a few "fixes" you can use to reinvigorate your old Mac. Here is a link to a great article on CNet.com with 10 tips. Of course, if you don't want to do it yourself, that's where I can help!
You'd be surprised by how often simply shutting down your device or machine actually fixes the problem. Network printers frequently get stuck with some job that holds everyone else's job up. You think, "Wow! Barry's sales report must be a billion pages long with huge graphics." Meanwhile, that isn't the case at all. Barry's print job is stuck floating around the ether world, causing the printer's brain to spin and spin and spin and spin. When this happens, turn the dang thing off. Count to 30 (this lets both you and the printer clear your minds before blowing up), then turn the printer back on. You and Barry may have to reprint your jobs, but at least they will probably work this time.