Apple & Computing Feed

Just another warning about being careful in your use of technology

A year or two ago someone tried to get into my Amazon account & because I had 2 factor authentication, I got the request to verify my intent to sign in [which I had not] so of course I changed my password and all has been fine.  2Factor has saved me there and elsewhere.
Then, it happened again:  Yesterday within the span of 15 min. I received 3 2-Factor pins = one PIN from a phone #, then the same PIN a minute or so later from a different phone # and the 3rd about 10 min later with a different pin - since I had not been on the internet going into a 2-factor site I knew that those attempts were not me = but now what?  I was going to ignore it but thought I might try to figure out if any of those phone # were at all legit ==I did a quick google search on all 3 phone# and ended up not clicking on any of the alleged links to find out whose number it is - first because if it was Amazon or some recognized vendor it would be clear and second, all the URLs of the various links were really weird and themselves something not to become involved with.
The upshot is, someone was trying to get into one of my 2Factor’d accounts and as I go along I probably should just change passwords and maybe also user ID/email for the account — and be glad I had 2Factor set up… I encourage you to set up 2-Factor authentication on your most important accounts, at least, AND get a password manager [1Password, LastPass or another quality manager]
[Image from trip to Grand Teton 2+ yrs ago]

IMG_5812 - Version 2 web

Thought I would report back on my efforts, so far, to trim my email

A few days ago I posted about my plan to cut down on things which land in my email Inbox.  I have done this in the past, but not as single-mindedly as this year.

First, I have my computer[s] backed up of course and I also use a program [EmailArchiverPro] to regularly back up to PDF my emails.  So I've spent the past few days basically deleting as many emails as possible from my email program since I do have a copy of them also saved in PDF and easily searchable. [I also get rid of some of these PDFs as time goes on and I realize I don't need them.]

Second, in Mail I create a Smart Folder called "unsubscribe" which collects inside it every email/newsletter which comes in with the "unsubscribe" link - as of right now I have 70 emails in that folder - am unsubbing where possible but it's slow going because I really do want to receive some of these newsletters.  But am trying to be more dedicated to unsubscribing.

Slow going, but progressing and a good way to start the new year.

Year-end and Year-beginning Goals. . .

At the end of each year, I try to cut down on emails, newsletters and the like.  I didn’t say I was successful, just that I try to do it, and have for the past several years.  Basically I delete as many old emails as possible and unsubscribe to as many emails/messages as possible.  For some messages I do a backup before deletion, for others which I can find via Google search, I just delete them.  As I was researching this topic I came across this rather simple, straightforward and helpful article on backing up your Mac[s].   The day will come when your Mac/Device is lost, stolen, breaks, is destroyed - and if you don’t have a backup there is absolutely nothing you can do.  For that reason, one end of the year prescription is to Back Up your computer[s].  Then go on with your cleaning!
How to back up your Mac 2020 | iMore

Taking back your life....a good way to end the year, each year.

This is something I have done each January but now I'm starting in December and hoping there will be positive results in the new year.

Basically, I go through all the emails I receive as they come in [and then work back through those which have piled up] and if they are from non-personal/friend&family sources, decide which I want to still receive in the new year.  I then unsubscribe to as many as possible.  After all, if I miss the newsletter I can always sign up again.

I have an app which is part of Mail [MailButler] which does much of the unsubscribing for me, but I also have used - a website that will do much the same thing.  There are no doubt other ways of handling unsubscriptions, but this is what I do at the end of the year.

As for snail mail, that's a different thing to tackle, and a separate post.  In the meantime, a little hint of spring to keep people smiling.


Turn on Two-Factor Authentication ASAP!

Sitting here quietly and my iPhone beeped and a text message came in - "841138 is your Amazon security code" --BUT I have not been on the Amazon site for any purpose today or over the past several days.  I immediately went there and changed my password then called Amazon customer service.  As the lady explained, someone may have obtained my email and password in some fashion [how I don't know and I had an excellent password, I thought] and tried to buy something or get into the account for some purpose.  Thus, since I had 2-factor authentication set up, they couldn't enter because the text came to me with the code, not to them.  I know I harp constantly about passwords, password managers and security, but this is additional proof of the need to prevent easy access to one's accounts.  

SkyTripping versus Do it Yourself - screensavers

My sister told me about an app on her office's conference room that showed lovely aerial views of wonderful places around the world with or without background music.  I found the app which can be downloaded and used on AppleTV.     Skytripping

It does cost about $4 a month, but on the other hand if you want something lovely to soothe your soul, it’s a great option.

On the other hand, I have now set up something in my home office - I got an open box Apple TV and using iTunes on my iMac selected a photo folder to use via home sharing, selected music to play on my iTunes, and as I sit here, it’s playing my music and showing my photos from the selected folder….not quite HD Aerial View but really pretty cool anyway = I love the music in my library and now I can see what my images look like on a TV screen.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Using an iPhone overseas

A friend called me asking how to use her iPhone 6 while on a trip overseas.  Having just returned from a trip  for abou two weeks and spending a month in Venice last year, I have some personal experience.  But also found an article in MacLife [July 12] magazine on the topic of taking an iPhone overseas.  There are a variety of ways to deal with this issue, depending on where you are going and how long you will be there.

1.  The first thing to remember is that wifi is almost everywhere [and if there's a McDonalds or Starbucks in the area, those usually supply free wifi].  You would want a VPN to protect yourself from hackers and security issues.  But, using wifi should not be an issue in most places overseas.  That will help limit the need for data access.

2.  However, if you are on the road and need to make a call or use your GPS or search for something online, you will need a data and call plan of some type.

3.  For shorter trips, you can work with your carrier [i.e., Verizon, ATT] to get a data and call plan for a flat amount that would provide you with the ability to make and receive calls or texts, etc.  I've found also that if you run over the plan by mistake, or through not turning off roaming etc., your carrier will work with you to have you buy a plan and have it retroactively apply [which can be a great savings].

4.  For longer trips or if you think you'll be using data, text and calling more than on a limited basis, you can and should get a prepaid [rechargeable] SIM card from a carrier covering where you are visiting.  If you'll be in Europe, there are carriers in each country which will cover you wherever you travel in Europe.  To do this you will need your phone unlocked, but as I found out recently you can go into the cell store [in my case it was Orange in France] and they'll be able to unlock it for you and then sell you a SIM.

The main caution I  have is before you leave the US, be sure you turn off your Data, Cell, and Roaming - or turn on your Airplane mode.  And don't turn anything on unless you are on WiFi or have a good plan.  Because, not only would calls come in and cost you, but data as well [such as apps updating].  


Heard from a friend this morning in an email at about 3 a.m. - 

"I just realized a short time ago that I probably left my I-phone at Jordan Creek....  I know I was using it about 7 p.m. when I wrote a message to you.  Can't find it and I  can't sleep.  Of course, I did not set up the Locate My Phone function!"

Luckily she found it back home, but it goes without saying that there's no sense in having a Find my iPhone function if it's not used.  If you have it, you can send a message to the phone [a reward to the finder?], you can send a loud beeping noise to help you find it if you did leave it in your home, you can wipe the contents if it is out of your control, you can track it and let the Police know where to find the thief...but if you forget to set up the security, you're S.O.L.

So do it now!


Gas & Fuel apps

Both AAA and AARP have helpful apps but you can also try to find good fuel prices by using dedicated apps:  AccuFuel, GasBag and GasBuddy [which I’ve used most of the time].  It’s silly to drive way out of the way to find a gas station and save a few cents per gallon.  But at least being able to see how much higher the ones in your area are from the lowest might justify stopping and getting gas right there.


Maps & Helpful Apps

There are all sorts of applications to provide maps for locations, so I'll just focus on a few that I've used.  You might want to check with some of the review sites or articles as to which will meet your needs.  

I use the iOS Maps app quite a bit.  It provides everything I might want, or almost everything.  I especially love it when I'm traveling and can watch the little blue dot move across and down the streets or highways to where I'm headed.  I find I use Maps to plot my route, to find out where I am and to find resources [hotels, restaurants, etc.] in an unfamiliar area.  Another alternative is MapQuest, which I haven't used much.  One nice feature is that it gives you buttons at the bottom of the screen to hit and find some basic catories of places.  However, since many seem to be copyrighted images [i.e. Holiday Inn's "H"] that's probably how MapQuest is paying for the app, which is free.

I also have CityMaps2Go which allows you to find maps to cities and regions in many countries [incl. the US] all over the world.  You need to have an internet connection to download them, but then they reside on your iOS device and you can use them offline.  You can also decide to pay $3 to get WikiPlus for your map, which will provide even more articles, lists of attractions, and images for your map.  This might prove quite useful if you want the information handy.  I did note, however, that the downloaded [free] map included "POI" [points of interest] which at least gives you some guidance before you choose to purchase WikiPlus.

A similar map app which allows offline access to information is 700CityMaps. The price is also $3 per map for offline reading and includes additional information for each map.

I just found AllTrails which is free and looks quite helpful for when you're hiking and trekking out in the countryside.  There are a number of other apps which will provide trail guides and park information [I have Chimani which focuses on national parks - and each of those detailed apps was free on Earth Day, when I downloaded them all!]

Apps to help with Travel Recordkeeping & Tasks

If you need a place to hold  your travel materials [tickets, itineraries etc.], Trip Case is one such app as is Tripit’s [which has an online component].  You can also transfer to your iPhone or iPad documents in PDF for later use, either in preparation for the trip or while on it through FileApp, Air SharingDropbox or Evernote or such cloud resources.

Other helpful or even essential apps are those for Translations, Currency Conversion, Unit conversions of all kinds, scanning barcodes and QR codes, apps which give you a flashlight or other utilities.  For the latter especially I like AppBoxPro, which comes in a free edition [AppBox] and also a paid one, which I have and use.  There are plenty of fine free apps for these uses, though.

For conversions I've been using Convex which has all sorts of unit choices [radioactivity, speed, temperature, time and a whole bunch more] and which is great for the visually/graphically inclined.  Of course, my favorite [AppBoxPro] has all those functions as well as many others.  

[Again, search for the above names of apps to find them in the iTunes App store]



News apps for iPhone & iPad travel

If you want to keep up to date while traveling, using various iPhone apps to do so is simple and, usually, sufficient.  I also use RSS feed readers [mainly Feedler] on my iPhone and iPad, but going to the actual source sometimes is necessary.  For direct news sources, then, I’d suggest:  BBC News, CNN, USAToday, NYTimes and NPR, and the apps such as Flipboard and FLUD which will let you aggregate sources in a visual fashion.


Apps for Travel with an iPhone or iPad

I thought I'd do a series of comments about applications for the iPhone or iPad which relate to travel, either to the places we are going or to help with getting or being there.  So this is the lst in a series of such.  All apps can be found at the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad [I would imagine there are others for Android to be found, if need be].  I'll highlight the names and you can search on those names in the search box.

Passing the Time

Downtime is one negative about traveling;  waiting impatiently to get where you’re going or to pass the time while you’re traveling.  One way to control your impatience and, possibly your temper, is to find something else to do with yourself if you can’t or don’t want to pass the time in conversation with others.  

Reading is one obvious way of passing the time and there are loads of apps for both the iPhone and iPad which will help with that goal.  All of these can be found through easy searches at the App Store in iTunes.  There are many others and you can search them out in the various magazine reviews or app review sites.

My two main reading apps, on both the iPhone and iPad, are iBooks and Kindle.  Both allow you to read downloaded/purchased or free books, magazines, and PDFs.  There are other apps as well [B&N’s Nook, and other ereaders], but I don’t use them as much.  Also, you can buy digital magazines and materials to read through and you can also read them with your Zite app.  

Another app is Stanza, but it apparently doesn’t currently work seamlessly with iOS5, so you might look for an alternative.  And if you want to convert readings and materials into an epub [rather than PDF], you can do that Calibre, which will also assist you in finding books to read in a number of locations

What to do to recover lost files and images if [when] disaster strikes.

I prepared a three page memo of what happened to me, recently, trying to recovery lost images and it's available here with links [PDF]:  Download Blog on Disaster Recovery   In sum, there are 4 rules to remember about data of any type:

  • At some point, you will lose data [files, pictures etc.]  Disasters happen.  So you need to take steps to protect against irretrievable loss
  • The best protection, really, is backing up your data.  If you can, have multiple backups.  There are online storage entities [such as Dropbox, SugarSync] which will give you a free 2Gb of online storage so you can test the waters.  Hard drives to back up to are fairly cheap now, so having at least that backup is a help [only if you have a strategy that backs up at regular intervals].
  • Have some sort of cataloguing program which will allow you to fairly easily find your files/pictures among your backups.  I use CDFinder, myself.
  • There are file recovery methods that can help in a pinch.  FileSalvage will scan and recover the contents of drives, as will Rescue ProFilerecoveryPro allows you to ‘drill down’ within folders on a drive to find a more precise set of items to scan and recover.  Of course, these programs can’t promise to recover items, but if there’s data there, they probably can.  All provide free demos to see if a scan will work for you.