Have Some Last-Minute Holiday Shopping to Do? Check Out These Great Deals Going On Now

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Excited to get your hands on some of Apple’s new shiny? Never fear! AppleInsider has long been a trusted source for holiday deals and discounts on Apple Products, and there are still some great deals out there on the latest iDevices. AppleInsider has long been a trusted source for holiday deals and discounts on Apple Products, and there are still some great deals out there on the shiny new iDevices. Although you can often find great deals coming and going in Amazon, the price fluctuations make the experience inconsistent. As a result I generally steer folks towards two of my favorite vendors who generally offer more reliably reduced pricing — Adorama and B&H Photo in New York. Both maintain a great stock with solid discounts, plus free shipping and $0 sales tax! The result can be a significant savings. Here are some of the best deals out there as of this writing:

MacBook Air and Mac Mini Refreshed

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In a surprise move that’s left some fans baffled and others delighted, Apple announced a refresh of two of its oldest remaining products – the MacBook Air and Mac Mini.

Sporting a sleek new space gray finish, latest-generation processors, and blazing fast Solid State storage, the new Mac Mini is both a beauty to behold and built to perform. Unfortunately, for many fans of the original Mini, all that shiny new swag has a heftier price tag. Starting at $799 for just 128GB of storage (which will likely feel confining for all but the most minimalist users), a mid-range Mini will cost $1700+, and still require you to supply an external monitor, keyboard and mouse — meaning budget users who loved the previous generations of Mini for their affordability may feel they’ve been left in the dust. This means budget users should now look to the iMac — which for that same price tag or less can get you comparable performance, but with a gorgeous 21.5” 4k retina screen.

Even more confounding, however, was Apple’s decision to update the MacBook Air. Introduced in 2008, Apple’s super-thin notebook continually ranked as the best-selling Mac laptop, managing to stay relevant with minor performance bumps and steady price drops even as the form factor and screen resolution continued to age. Then, in 2016, Apple released the 12” retina MacBook, which weighed in at just 2 lbs. and featured a stunning retina display. Although initially a bit anemic in performance and steep in price compared to the Air, analysts predicted subsequent releases of the MacBook would allow it to usurp the Air and become Apple’s new darling low-cost ultrabook…until the Air came back with a vengeance! Offering a 3-pound form factor with 3 choices of aluminum finish, speedy new processors, a stunning 13” retina screen, Touch ID on the keyboard, and a starting price of $1199, the new MacBook Air is truly impressive. It is so impressive, in fact, that it has immediately all but cannibalized the MacBook, which starts at $1299, yet sports a smaller screen and weaker processors. Thus, at this point, most consultants agree it no longer makes sense to buy the MacBook — unless the lighter weight is worth a higher price and less speed.

Interested in discussing the right machine for you? Reach out for a chat and we can discuss!

Apple Watch Series 4 Gets My "Holiday Gift of the Year" Recommendation

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As exciting as it’s been to see new iPads, Macs, and iPhones, my favorite product from Apple this year by far is the Apple Watch Series 4. I’d owned a Series 2 Apple Watch ever since it was released in 2016, and although I’d been quite happy with the features, I knew I’d be waiting until they updated the form factor before upgrading again. The watch looked and felt bulkier on my wrist than I’d like, and the screen real estate felt a bit cramped to want to interact with it more than checking the time, seeing the identity of an incoming call, or quickly reading an incoming text or news headline. I watched as Series 3 came and went last year, adding optional LTE/Cellular on the Watch — allowing you to make calls or listen to music using your Watch and some Airpods without bringing your phone — but still no change to the form factor.

My prayers were answered this year, however, with Series 4. They were able to make the Watch 10% thinner — a modest but welcome improvement — while narrowing the bezel around the edge of the screen enough to increase visible real estate by 30% without increasing the size of the face. The screen is also much brighter, more colorful, and — with the addition of several lovely new Watch Faces (2 of which are optimized to take advantage of the Series 4’s additional real estate) — very pleasant to look at. I opted for the silver Stainless Steel finish with a black leather band, and am really appreciative of its sharp and clean look.

Beyond its dapper looks, however, the Series 4 sports some seriously cool new features, focusing especially on health and fitness. These offerings now include:

  • a better and more accurate heart rate monitor

  • an app that allows you to give yourself an ECG and send it to your health care provider.

  • improved workout interface, including automatic workout detection and more fine-tuned features for different types of exercise

  • slip and fall detection — a new feature that determines if you’ve taken a fall, asks if you’re ok, and calls emergency services & contacts if you don’t reply

With all of these innovations, Apple’s wearable is increasingly moving into “must-have” territory, especially for those who want to work smarter or be more proactive about monitoring their health and fitness. I couldn’t be happier with mine, and I recommend it highly!

If you have been considering an Apple Watch for yourself or a loved one, feel free to reach out with any questions and I’d be happy to discuss!

The 2018 iPad Pro Dazzles -- Can it Finally Replace the Laptop?

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Drawing on the design aesthetic of the iPhone X, Apple’s latest iPad iPro is a thing of beauty — featuring an edge to edge display and Face ID to unlock. Under the hood, too, the new iPad Pro is impressive, with a powerful processor capable of outpacing many contemporary full-sized computers. But has it reached the “holy grail” point yearned for by many creatives and working professionals of becoming a full laptop replacement? Feedback is still mixed!

On the plus side, the iPad Pro offers all of the sleekness of an iPhone X, with the firepower of a MacBook Pro. It comes in 2 screen sizes, 11” and 12.9” (the latter of which has a much smaller form factor than the previous model, while maintaining its display size), allowing you to pick the device best suited to your work style. In conjunction with Apple’s newly redesigned Apple Pencil 2 (which can recharge magnetically on top of the iPad rather than plugged into the bottom) and the latest Apple Smart Keyboard connecting seamlessly and requiring no recharging, this latest tablet can truly be an effective productivity machine.

Initial reviews of the Pro have been spectacular among artists, creatives, and designers alike — though many working professionals are saying that the limitations of iPad’s OS prevents them from feeling 100% comfortable to to make the “ultimate” productivity switch that many have been yearning for — to ditch the laptop and go “full iPad.”

Last year, I tried a “tech experiment” where I took a (10.5” 2017) iPad Pro with me everywhere and left my laptop at home. After a couple of months of working with it, I could comfortably recommend it for doing most of what the majority of folks will want to do on a laptop, including:

  • email, word processing & writing (when keyboard is connected)

  • web surfing

  • watching shows & movies

  • taking & editing photos/videos

  • drawing & creating digital art (with Apple Pencil)

Like other professionals who attempted this, however, I also ran into some predictable snags as a result of iPad’s somewhat limited OS:

  • running apps side-by-side — although iOS 11 introduced split screen for iPad, this still feels slow compared to MacOS and multiple windows are not possible

  • managing & organizing files — again, the introduction of the Files app made this easier, but it’s still cumbersome compared to Finder

  • selecting on-screen items without touch — perhaps one of the biggest productivity downsides is the need to use a finger or stylus, rather than adding mouse support

  • spreadsheets — somewhat painful and tedious to do on a smaller screen without a mouse

  • handling more complicated workflows with digital media — reliance on the Photos app can hobble those who need more complicated digital media workflows

All in all, folks are saying that the iPad Pro is by far the very best tablet money can buy — however at the end of the day it’s still a tablet, and as of yet not ready to be a true laptop replacement.

If you are considering getting an iPad for work or personal use and are curious about what might be the best choice for your work-flow, feel free to reach out and we can discuss!

iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr (and 7 & 8) -- Which is Right for Me?

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Apple has just released brand new iPhones, including the Xs (pronounced "ten S"), Xs Max, and Xr. It's also still offering both the iPhone 7 and 8, while killing off the small-sized iPhone SE — making Apple's iPhone line-up its largest ever, both in physical size and number of options available. Read on for a quick buyer’s guide!

iPhone Xs — this phone is the successor to last year’s iPhone X. Sleek and elegant in every way with its edge-to-edge display, glass front & back, and stainless steel sides, the iPhone Xs feels like a truly premium handset. It has a gorgeous Super Retina OLED display with deep & rich colors (think Plasma TV compared to LCD). The double camera on the back takes stunning pictures, especially with the portrait mode that now has an adjustable depth of field. The Xs also features the same Face ID authentication system of its predecessor, a super convenient way of unlocking your phone without mussing with fingerprints or passcodes. I’d recommend this phone highly to anyone who wants a premium iPhone experience in a mid-sized device that can still be used mostly one-handed. The Xs starts at $999.

iPhone Xs Max — the Xs Max is identical to the Xs, except it’s bigger! Whereas the iPhone Xs features a 5.8” display, the Xs Max offers a massive 6.5” display. To imagine the size of the Xs Max compared to the Xs, think of the size of the iPhone 6 Plus, 7 Plus, or 8 Plus compared to their standard-sized counterparts. This phone is perfect for folks who are wanting to get as much screen real estate as possible on their iPhone, either for viewing photos & video content or for those who need larger text for reading. The Xs Max starts at $1099.

iPhone Xr — the iPhone Xr is Apple’s newest design, offering many of the features of the Xs at a more affordable price point. It sports a similar all-screen display and Face ID as that of the Xs, and you can choose from 6 sweet new aluminum finishes. The phone is about the same physical size as the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus/7 Plus/8 Plus, with a nearly edge-to-edge display that gives you 6.1” of viewable screen. This means it will feel a bit larger and clunkier if you’re used to a mid-sized phone like the standard-sized iPhone 6/7/8. The display on this device is an advanced LCD called Liquid Retina, not as gorgeous as the Super Retina screen in the Xs, but quite beautiful nonetheless and a definite step up if you only had an iPhone 6 or earlier previously. The camera on the Xr is only a single camera, compared to the double camera on the Xs, but they compensate for this with some fancy technology that gives the ability to adjust the depth of field through software. I recommend the Xr for anyone who wants the latest iPhone tech but doesn’t want to pay $1000+ for a cell phone. ;) The Xr starts at $749.

iPhone 8 — Apple does still sell the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 is the final iteration on the form factor offered since the iPhone 6. The 8 has a 4.7” LCD display while the 8 Plus has a 5.5” display. Both have the classic home button with Touch ID. I would only recommend the 8 or 8 Plus if you’re not tempted by the latest features and price is a concern. The iPhone 8 starts at $599.

iPhone 7 — iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are the iPhones released 2 years ago. They will be a year older, slower, and $150 cheaper than the 8, starting at $449. Since cell phones are generally only relevant for 2-4 years tops, I’d recommend against getting one of these unless you must.

Monitor & Manage Device Usage with Screen Time

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Whether you’re a parent of young people glued to their screens, or just someone who wants to be more mindful about their own screen usage — Apple’s new Screen Time feature offers a greater level of insight into, and control over, the technology in our lives.

Setting aside any prescriptions for the “right” or “wrong” amount of device usage, I think we can all agree that we’d like ourselves and our loved ones to have a healthy relationship with technology. I frequently hear from parents who want to be able to help their kids establish those healthy tech boundaries, and up until recently this is something you’d need to set up third party apps such as Our Pact to manage. I’ve also heard from business people and working professionals who tell me it would be great to have a little more self-control with their own device usage, however apps such as Freedom that do offer a certain amount of oversight are not free, and are also limited due to being non-native to iOS.

Now, with the release of iOS 12, iPhones and iPads have a baked-in feature called Screen Time. With Screen Time you can:

  • see detailed information about your device usage, including the number of times you’ve picked up the device, as well as duration of time on specific apps and categories of apps (e.g. social media or politics).

  • initiate “down-time” to schedule time away from the screen, meaning only certain apps are usable for a set amount of time.

  • set time limits for certain apps and/or app categories.

  • block inappropriate content.

  • enforce “Do Not Disturb While Driving”, and more.

The system is not perfect, so it’s helpful to know a few of the downsides:

  • it only works on iPhone and iPad, and not Mac.

  • the categories of apps are unable to be edited, so if for instance you are using Twitter for a work account and Facebook for home, you won’t be able to identify how much time is “slacking” vs. working.

  • apps cannot be excluded from being counted, so if you drive around with GPS all the time like me you could see a lot more screen time than you actually are consuming.

  • there are hacks (of course) that kids are figuring out to work around these restrictions.

If you’d like to learn more about how to set this up for yourself or your loved ones feel free to reach out and we can discuss in greater depth!

Use 1Password to Generate Unhackable Passwords for your Important Sites

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Many of you have worked with me in the past for help securing and organizing your passwords with my favorite password manager, 1Password. For those of you unfamililar with the app, 1Password is a cloud-based password management platform. There are two levels the app is capable of working on: the “basic” level, which simply offers the convenience of a secure digital vault for your existing passwords, and the more “advanced” level, which can help protect your online accounts by generating very complicated passwords for you.

At the basic level, 1Password shines as a highly convenient digital “notebook” designed to securely store your passwords and sync them across all of your devices. Setting up an account and installing the apps take just a few minutes, and the browser extension will immediately begin prompting you to remember passwords that you enter into your browser. Once your passwords have been entered into the vault this way, you can quickly use the app to log you back in to those sites with either a click of the 1Password browser extension symbol, or simply hitting Command and \ on your keyboard. Since your Master Password is all that’s needed to log in to any website, this level of usage allows you to go ahead and “forget all your passwords”, as 1Password’s website teasingly invites you to do. A downside to this approach is that most of our passwords are often an iteration on one or two different passwords that we’ve used for a long time, meaning they are not very secure should there be a breach.

The more advanced level of usage of 1Password entails utilizing the app’s Password Generator to create unique, complicated passwords for each website you wish to secure. This will both ensure that your passwords will be harder to compromise through “brute force” hacking, and also limit potential harm from a data breach to a single website’s login. I consider this level of use to be more advanced because it requires an added layer of trust in 1Password, since the passwords it creates are complicated and unable to be effectively memorized or guessed by design. Because of this, I often set people up with the first level initially, then once the comfort is there to use and trust the platform, I go back to help them with level two in a subsequent session.

If you would like any assistance with 1Password — whether it be a simple refresher course on your existing setup or a deeper dive to convert your passwords to stronger ones — reach out to us and we’d be happy to help!

Post a Review -- Be Entered to Win a Free HomePod!

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Apple released HomePod, its awesome new "smart speaker," in February -- and the reviews have been incredible. With such a small speaker size (less than 7" tall) you'll be surprised at the gorgeous, rich, room-filling sound it can generate. Plus, with integrated Siri functionality you can ask it to do a slew of neat things like play your favorite song, check the weather, or give you the score on a sports game.

I love the HomePod so much, I want to gift one to a lucky supporter of Tech Hero as a way of expressing my appreciation!

If you'd like to be entered for the giveaway all I ask is for you to post a quick shout-out for Tech Hero on one or more review sites, hopefully making this an awesome win-win for all. 

Here's how you can win:

  1. Post me a lovely review on any of the following 5 sites, and get 1 entry per site:
  2. Send me an email to ari@bayareatechhero.com and let me know which ones you posted (if you've already reviewed me in the past, please let me know which sites you've posted to previously and those will count towards your entries).
  3. If you have any questions or aren't sure how to do something, feel free to ask and I can help.
  4. Wait for the drawing 7/1 to see if you won!

Quick Tip -- if you want to easily post in multiple sites you can write the first review, then highlight your text, hit Edit > Copy, then go the next site and hit Edit > Paste. 

*An important note about Nextdoor: Before you post a review to Nextdoor, please do a search in the top search window for "Tech Hero" and check to see if anyone has posted already in your neighborhood. If you do see someone has written about us in the last week, out of courtesy to your neighbors please simply add your agreement as a comment, rather than creating a new post. 

 

Airport & Time Capsule are Discontinued: Here are Some Awesome Alternatives

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Since their inception in 1999, Apple's Airport devices have been a mainstay in our homes and small businesses -- offering a smooth and seamless wireless internet experience. In 2008, the product became even more invaluable when Apple announced the Time Capsule, which allowed automatic wireless Time Machine backups whenever you were in your home network. Now, however, the day has finally come, and Apple has discontinued production of Airport and Time Capsule devices, clearing the way for a surge of amazing new home wifi products. What does this mean for you?

The good news here is that although Apple had ceased to develop or update these products since 2013, there are several other vendors out there offering similar products that are cutting-edge and very "Apple-like" in the experience. Below are my favorites:

  • WiFi -- for home WiFi, the top dog is definitely Eero. Many of you have heard me sing their praises before, but this is for good reason! Eero is easily the simplest and most robust WiFi solution out there. The product consists of a single Eero gateway unit that connects to your router, as well as 1 or 2 satellite units called Beacons that plug in strategically around your house. Together these units form a powerful seamless mesh network with a single WiFi network name and password, eliminating the need for extenders or switching between multiple networks. Additionally, Eero also offers an amazing service called Eero Plus, which for $99/year delivers home internet Ad Blocking, management of your family's internet usage, and a family pack of several of my favorite services bundled at a great rate, including:
    • the epic password manager 1 Password
    • the best malware removal app available for Mac Malware Bytes 
    • and a cool VPN security app for safe & secure public internet browsing called Encrypt.me.
  • Wireless Backup -- with cloud storage becoming increasingly cheaper and now being easily configured to backup your Mac's Photos, Desktop & Documents in MacOS, people are relying less and less on wired backups. Still, particularly if you're using some specific software with customized settings, it's nice to have a full Time Machine backup of your computer in case things go sideways. That means going back to the old method of plugging a hard drive into your computer with some regularity, which for a laptop can be a hassle to remember. Without the Time Capsule, however, doing this wirelessly will now require a new piece of hardware. For this, I recommend a device called DiskStation made by Synology. The units are fairly simple, but offer powerful functionality and versatility. I could spend a whole article discussing the cool features on these things, but for the purposes of today let's just say they're really neat! Let me know if you're interested in learning more and I can help you find the right one for your needs.



 

Prepare Yourselves for Gigabit Fiber (a.k.a. Blazing Fast Internet Bliss)

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I have helped many of you with your internet connection over the years, and the consensus is nearly unanimous -- Internet Service Providers are costly, unpleasant to interact with, and can be a headache for the whole household to try and troubleshoot... Enter Sonic Gigabit Fiber! This friendly neighborhood ISP had previously been limited to piggy-backing off of AT&T's DSL phone lines, but is now aggressively building out a super high-speed fiber optic network throughout the Bay.  This offering is going to be amazing because it's the best of all worlds:

  • Unbelievably fast speeds -- Sonic offers a "symmetrical" 1000 Mbps, meaning that you can both send and receive data at equally crazy speeds. In comparison, AT&T generally caps out at 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload, while Comcast generally caps out at 250 down/5-10 up. You'd really notice this difference if, for example, you wanted to share a big video or home movie you made on your phone with your family -- with AT&T or Comcast that upload could take hours, whereas with Sonic it would be minutes.
  • Great customer service -- If you have ever tried to deal with AT&T or Comcast customer service, you'll probably feel an internal groan of frustration upon learning that need to call them up. Sonic brands themselves as the friendly "hipster" company that wants to talk with you. It's very pleasant talking with them, and you feel like they care.
  • Jaw-dropping affordability -- so what's the catch? Clearly a product that delivers up to 50x better performance coupled with great customer service is going to cost a fortune, right? Wrong. Sonic Gigabit is rolling out at $40/month. To me, this is the definition of both "having cake" and "eating cake". ;)

They are working to roll the service out in the East Bay through the Fall, but many areas may not actually have access to them until 2019, so the only reason not to go with them is that you can't have them yet. ;) If you'd like some help looking into this, talking with them, or just have any questions about what this might entail for you, please reach out and we can chat!

Smite the Scourge of Robocalls Forever with Nomorobo

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Has there ever been a more dystopian experience than hearing your phone ring a dozen times per day, and choosing not to answer because you know it's a Robocall? Are you one of those folks that are choosing to keep your landline for a "just in case" scenario, but are at your wit's end? Then brace yourself for the game-changer that is Nomorobo.

Nomorobo is a call-blocking service that integrates seamlessly with your phone provider to kill those pesky robocalls before they arrive. For most folks it's completely free and works great, so it's definitely a "no-brainer"! They do also offer an iPhone app to block robocalls coming to your cell phone, although they charge a small monthly fee for that portion of the service (so worth it!). Reach out to me if you'd like some help getting it set up for your landline or cell phone. :)

Ready to Cut the Cord? We've Got You Covered.

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Cable TV for most people is one of those life expenses that feels both unreasonably hefty, and non-negotiably necessary. I get it -- you gotta watch your shows and sports! However in recent years there has been a wave of interest in the idea of "cord-cutting", canceling your cable subscription and getting all the content you need from various internet-based platforms. In years past this meant relying on services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. More and more movies and shows are becoming available on these platforms, however up until recently you were still stuck in the lurch if you wanted regular TV programming like sports games or MSNBC. The great news here is there are now some awesome new "internet TV" services that let you have all of your shows, but at a fraction of the price. All you need is your TV, a streaming device like AppleTV, and an internet TV provider. Here are a few of the top contenders:

  • YouTube TV -- for $40/month with no contract, YouTube TV is an amazing deal. They offer a wide range of channels and programming, a "cloud DVR" which can save shows and watch them later, and the ability to watch it all on your TV as well as any internet-connected device such as your laptop, smartphone, tablet.
  • Sling -- while YouTube TV is a more "one size fits all" approach, Sling offers a little more granular control of your packages and pricing. By splitting up cable packages into "Orange", "Blue", and "Combination" plans (for $20, $25, and $40 respectively) they are trying to get you only the things you need with less of what you don't. 
  • DirecTV Now -- offering even more choice than Sling, DirecTV now has 4 packages, ranging from $35-70. A benefit of this service is that the premium "add-on" channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Starz are available for the lowest prices of all the other competitors.

If you'd like to learn more about cord-cutting and finding a good fit for your needs I'd be happy to help! 

iOS 11 Arrives

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The new operating systems are here, and with them come plenty of change. Apple has released iOS 11 for the iPhone and iPad, and High Sierra (10.13) for the Mac. Here are a few of the takeaways:
• High Sierra – other than an update to the way Photos looks, High Sierra is mostly an "under-the-hood" improvement for Mac – meaning it won't change the way things look and feel very much, though it improves the functionality and stability of your Mac. I generally recommend people wait a couple of months before updating to the newest operating system though, as there are occasionally last-minute tweaks that go in to improve the operating system right after it comes out.
• iOS 11 on the iPhone – there are some visual tweaks to the iPhone, though things will look and feel mostly similar to before. The App Store looks more like a story board, and now when you take a screenshot you can edit it on the fly and decide whether or not to keep it! Perhaps most changed is the Control Center, which you can read about below about below.
• iOS 11 on the iPad – most changed of all is the way iOS looks and feels on the iPad. This is a big development for Apple, as they are pushing hard to brand the iPad as a laptop replacement. Here are some of the more significant upgrades!
1) Files – the new Files app brings all your files together, allowing you to easily browse, search, and organize all your files in one place. This is especially convenient to locate files that live in iCloud Drive, but also works great with other services like Google Drive and Dropbox.
2) Dock – the iPad now has a Dock, much like on the Mac! The Dock is easily accessible with just a swipe up from the bottom of the screen, allowing you to quickly get you to your most recent apps or a set of apps of your choosing.
3) Multi-tasking – with Multi-tasking you can have multiple iPad apps on the screen at once. Activate Slide Over view by dragging an app from the dock to the left or right side of the screen, or drag the app to the furthest edge of the screen to activate Split Screen view.  
4) Drag & Drop – with Drag & Drop you can now drag an image from one app to another in either Split Screen or Slide Over view. 
5) Control Center – the Control Center has been wildly redesigned, as all of the controls can now be seen by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen, rather than having separate control and music panes when you swipe up. 

These are just a few of the great features and upgrades available in the new operating system, so if you're excited to learn more please feel free to book a session I'd be happy to show you the ropes!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (your inbox)

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One of life's great hassles is dealing with an out-of-control inbox, and 90% of the culprit is commercial mail – coming from companies that you've likely bought something from in the past, and have taken it upon themselves to email you forever after that. Never fear though! I'm a huge fan of helping people manage their inbox, and I'm happy to share one of the coolest life hacks I've learned by far with you today, called "Inbox Zero" Ready for a method of inbox zen that can help clear the way for maximum focus and productivity?

The philosophy is simple: your inbox is a To Do List, and each item therein is a task on your list. Essentially there are 4 main actions to take on an email:
• Delete – puts the message into your Trash folder. This is the recommended choice after you have read an email which has as its sole purpose to convey some information (especially time-sensitive). Most commercial mail falls into this category, as companies are generally trying to sell or inform you of something that will not be very relevant after a certain time period.
• Folder – removes the message from the inbox and puts it in a folder of your choosing. This is the most granular and organized way to deal with email, but can feel a bit tedious if you feel you need to sort every message into a specific folder. It's best to "gut check" yourself here, as it's tempting to create a ton of folders if you have a burst of inspiration, but doing so can leave you paralyzed to maintain that system for the long run. 
• Archive – removes the message from your inbox and stores in an Archive folder (aka "All Mail" in Gmail). This option is recommended for messages that you don't want to delete, but don't need a specific categorization. Most people I tell about this worry that removing a message from the inbox will make it harder to find, but email search is unbelievably fast these days, and an email will be just as easy for your computer to locate in the Archive as it is in the Inbox! 
• Snooze – temporarily removes the message from your inbox, and brings it back at a date and time of your choosing. This is one of the coolest features of modern email apps, and one reason I like to explore different options than the simple Mac Mail offering installed on Apple computers by default. Snooze is exactly like it sounds, allowing you to decide to deal with a message at a later date or time. 

Using these 4 tools combined you can eliminate everything from your inbox, except the items that actively require your attention in the moment. If you're curious to learn more about inbox mastery please do reach out and we can help you get to the coveted Zero Inbox in no time. ;)

iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X – Which is Best for Me?

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iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X – Which is Best for Me?

Last month Apple released three new iPhones: the 8, 8 Plus, and X. You may have been considering an upgrade for a while, and if so one of these three will be a great fit for you! Fundamentally, the 8 and 8 Plus are an incremental update on the 7 and 7 Plus, with a few cool feature upgrades. Like the previous generation, the 8 and 8 Plus are top-of-the-line smartphones with excellent cameras, a high-resolution screen, and offer water and dust resistance. The new models now feature a glass back, which gives an elegant hand-feel and allows wireless for ultra-fast charging as well as wireless charing (though the wireless charging mats are sold separately). Additionally the displays on the newer phones are greatly upgraded, showcasing a brighter and wider color spectrum while softening the edges during the evening to make it easy on the eyes. The newer cameras perform even better than their predecessors, especially in low-light. They also incorporate more powerful processors to allow "Augmented Reality" apps – meaning the apps will overlay fictional visual elements onto the real world. Some crazy sci-fi stuff is in the works, folks. ;)

But that's not all! The iPhone X (pronounced iPhone Ten) is being touted as the phone of the future, featuring a gorgeous and giant edge-to-edge bezel-less display, amazing facial recognition capabilities (allowing you to unlock the phone by looking at it as well as emojis that can mirror your facial expressions and talk with your voice), dual rear cameras, as well as the same wireless charging and high-end processing abilities in the phones above. 

So which is the best phone for you? Well this brings Apple's current iPhone line-up to 8 models. Here is a quick break-down of the models and their features:

- iPhone SE: small phone size and low price point – great if you want a small phone that still has some great capabilities, a headphone jack, and don't want to spend too much.
- iPhone 6S/6S Plus: mid- and large-sized phones from two years ago – still have some nice features and a lower price point, as well the last remaining mid- and large-sized models with a headphone jack.
- iPhone 7/7 Plus: mid- and large-sized phones from last year – offer a performance boost over the 6S models, as well as greatly improved cameras and dust/water resistance. The headphone jack was removed, meaning you'd need either bluetooth headphones or a dongle connector to use your old ones. The 7 Plus model also introduced a dual rear camera, allowing for dramatic "portrait mode" photography.
- iPhone 8/8Plus: mid- and large-sized phones now being offered – similar to their predecessors with a nice performance boost, more beautiful displays, glass backs and capable of both fast-charging and wireless charging. 
- iPhone X: mid-sized phone with "Face ID" facial recognition and a very large screen – a futuristic new concept that removes the physical "home button" and relies instead on gestures and facial recognition, features the fantastic dual camera of the previous Plus models, but on a mid-sized phone. Price point will be about $1000 for the entry-level model. I'd only recommend this phone if you're excited to be an "early adopter," otherwise probably best to wait for next year's model to see if they need to work out any kinks! 

Let me know if you have any questions about the iPhone line-up and are wondering which would be best for you. I'm happy to advise!

Equifax Data Breach – How to Protect Yourself

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Equifax has suffered one of the largest data breaches in US history, affecting an estimated 143 million people. According to a statement by Equifax, hackers managed to exploit a vulnerability in the company's website, allowing them to gain access to personal information – including names, birth dates, social security numbers, and addresses – for about two months. Additionally, over 200,000 credit card numbers were compromised. The company has been widely criticized for its handling of the breach, due in no small part to its vagueness in providing solid information to consumers concerned that their data had been compromised. This of course wasn't made any better when word got out that three top executives sold millions worth of stock days before the announcement!

Here are some steps you can take to protect your identity and sensitive data:

1) TrustedID Premier – as ironic and unsettling as it may seem, Equifax is offering a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection via their TrustedID Premier program. It offers an Equifax credit report, Equifax credit report lock, monitors activity of your Social Security number as well as up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance.

2) Watch your accounts – make sure to monitor your bank statements for any suspicious activity. 

3) Freeze your credit report – this is a great way to prevent any unwanted activity – especially if you aren't planning on applying for a new credit line any time soon – as you will be provided a PIN upon freezing your credit, and anyone wanting to unfreeze it will need to provide that PIN.

4. Change your Equifax password – this is a bit of a no-brainer, but of course the username and password you use for Equifax could easily have been compromised, so you'll need to change it on their website. Beyond that, if you did have a login on the Equifax site, I would go ahead and change the password for every other website where you use that same password. 

5. Be vigilant during tax season – the bad guys may try to use your stolen social security number to file fraudulent tax returns or get refunds

6. Watch out for scams – be cautious if you receive any suspicious or unrecognized phone calls, text messages, or email saying you must pay your taxes or debt immediately, even if they provide your personal info!

If you need more information or support around this please let me know and I'd be happy to help. 

 

Can Macs Get Viruses like the WannaCry Ransomware? (the short answer is no).

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Worried about the recent talk on the news about the WannaCry encryption worm that struck computers all over the world last weekend? Never fear! This was a virus that targeted Windows machines only, and Macs have amazing built-in security – so you're safe from this one. But this is a great time to get a few pointers about how to best protect your Mac from malicious software. 

1. Enable Firewall. This is a basic security setting designed to block unapproved connections from coming in from the internet to your computer, which for some reason is often not enabled by default on some Macs. To check if it is, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall and make sure it's turned on. 
2. Always keep your Operating System up-to-date. This doesn't mean upgrading to the newest Operating System (e.g. Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra), but if you see a red number badge above the App Store in your dock it means software updates are ready, and it's a great idea to download and install the ones pertaining to your system software right away.
3. Scan for Malware. The only "malicious software" that you'll probably ever encounter are in the category known as "Adware," which is more of an annoyance than actually harmful. Adware most commonly infects your machine by way of bogus Adobe Flash pop-ups that install code in your browser, causing it to re-direct to certain paid search results (aka "enhanced results"). The easiest way to deal with these pests is to clean them out with Malware Bytes. This free, no-frills program does an excellent job of squashing those annoying bugs, and there's even an automator script I made (if you're interested, ask me how to help you set it up with Keyboard Maestro on your machine) that can schedule the scanner to run on a regular basis.
>>Quick note: if Malware Bytes does find and delete some malware from your machine, your web browser's search engine and home page will probably still need to be reset. Please let me know if you'd like and I can walk you through this.<<
4. Resist the temptation to "Optimize." Seemingly helpful programs like MacKeeper, MacDefender, and Mac Adware Cleaner are in fact themselves Adware! There are a couple of programs like Drive Genius out there that will legitimately optimize and clean up your machine, but they are few and far between. If you feel your device is moving slow and you want to speed it up, ask me if you'd benefit from a tab manager like One Tab for Chrome, or if you need a RAM or hard-drive upgrade on your older Mac. 

Mac Businesses – Meet Your Newest IT Superheros

I'm very excited to announce I've teamed up with local Mac Rockstar Matt Moglia of Easy Mac Support in order to expand my expertise to offer next-level networking and Business IT support. He's got over 12 years in the business, is one of the highest-rated technicians in the East Bay, and with our powers combined we're excited to be able to offer best-in-class service for small businesses and startups with up to 30 Macs.

If you or anyone you know is running a business, then you know how important it is to have your machines be running optimally. Managed IT is a service we provide that allows us to do monthly monitoring and optimization of your machines to proactively diagnose potential issues and prevent them before they happen. We also offer prioritized scheduling, remote monitoring and help desk support, so if an issue does occur we can get to it as quickly as possible. Click here to read more about what Matt and I can do for your business IT needs. 
 

Eero 2.0 Released

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In my last newsletter I talked about Eero, the amazing WiFi mesh system that blankets your home in WiFi coverage and obliterates dead spots. They have just released a brand new version of their product with even more power, so if you haven't had a chance to check it out, I recommend you do so! 

The product works spectacularly, and allows you to manage your network seamlessly using the handy dandy iPhone app. 

Click here to watch their hilarious promotional video. You will either laugh or cry when you watch it, depending on how much you relate to these poor people trying to get WiFi coverage in their house. ;)

There is a bit of a waitlist on the new Eero (estimates on their site and Amazon are putting the delivery window at 3-5 weeks), so if resolving your WiFi woes feels important to you I'd recommend speaking to me soon about which Eero setup is right for your home.

You'll Never Need a Backup for Your Computer...Until You Do!

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Although backing up your computer can seem a bit tedious and unnecessary, the experience of losing precious data can be a stressful and expensive (in the thousands! 💸💸💸) affair. If you don't have a hard drive backing up your computer, I recommend you get one as soon as possible to prevent future heartache! Below is a quick and easy guide for backing up your data:

For equipment, I recommend a simple external drive, with 2-3x the amount of storage than that you want to backup. So for example, if you have a 1TB internal drive, I'd recommend purchasing a 2-3TB external hard drive. Something like this drive by Seagate would work splendidly.

For software, Time Machine is the simplest way to safely back up your data on your Mac, and is already baked in to the operating system of your Mac. To set up Time Machine simply plug the hard drive in to your computer, then follow the prompts. Once it's configured it will automatically back up your machine every hour, and keep a catalog of backups going back in time to the date of the first backup. 

If you have a desktop computer, simply leaving the drive plugged in will do the trick. If you have a laptop, you'll need to make yourself a reminder to plug in the backup drive to allow the backups to happen (I recommend at least once per week). 

If you'd like the very convenient option and would like to set up all the Macs in your house for a seamless wireless backup, a Time Capsule is the way to go. Time Capsules are made by Apple, and once they are installed they will wirelessly back every machine configured to do so, whenever they are on your WiFi network.

If you have a LOT of data to back up (more than 1-2TB), if you have a ton of media files (such as videos), or if your data is very important for work or otherwise, you might want to consider a fancier setup called a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) backup. This is something that requires a bit of expertise to get started, but once it's set a RAID backup is definitely the safest way to secure your data, as it will spread out the information among more than one hard drive, allowing any drive in the array to fail without needing to worry about data loss. The best RAID storage devices are configured through units called network-attached storage (aka NAS), and the industry-standard producer of NAS devices is Synology. Let me know if you'd like to get a NAS device picked out and set up and I can help you out.