Solar Eclipse

There's been a lot published recently about the solar eclipse tomorrow. Here is yet another article with helpful information. NASA apparently is going to broadcast the eclipse from Carbondale, IL. The full eclipse will occur at 11:20 am there, which is 9:20 am in Prescott. The article states NASA will follow the eclipse across the U.S.

And when you click the above link, it will take you to the Live Science website where you can also watch the eclipse on your computer. Lots of venues available. 

There is a NASA app available for download if you want to watch the eclipse on your iPad. And one solar astronomer recommends not trying to photograph the eclipse, and here he explains why.

Jim Hamm

Siri and Your Alarm

Have you ever used Siri to set the alarm clock on your iPhone or iPad for a wake up call in the morning? Well, I hadn't either. No particular reason except I just never think of using Siri -- I just do it manually. After reading the following blog from the Kibbles & Bytes Newsletter #1049, I decided to give it a try, and it worked! 

As the article mentions, every time you do this a new alarm setting will be added to the list. To keep these from building up, swipe the alarm from right to left and tap delete. Pretty slick. Give it a try.

Jim Hamm

 

"y iPhone is the best alarm clock that I have ever had. I don’t have to hit a button 37 times to get to the right minutes in the hour I want an alarm to go off. I can have multiple alarm times set, I can program weekday alarms, weekend alarms and everything in between. One of my favorite features is that I can set any sound I want for my alarm. I prefer to wake up to music over a buzzing sound. Even my Sonos speaker can be programmed to turn on via an alarm! OK, so you get it now, my iPhone is quite possibly the handiest gadget I have ever owned. A few taps and my alarm is ready, but does it get even easier than that? It sure does!

 

Siri can actually set your alarms for you in one quick step. Sorry old alarm clock but I don’t see a space for you ever opening up again on my night stand. Plus, you can use alarms like you might reminders or calendar events. Consider setting an alarm to remind you about meeting someone for lunch or perhaps that extra motivation to remind you you should be exercising. Here are some tips for using Siri to set your alarms.

You can say, “Hey Siri, set an alarm for 7 AM” or even “Hey Siri, wake me up tomorrow at 8:45 AM.” When you do that, though, Siri creates a new alarm each time with whatever sound you last chose. Make a habit of that command, and you’ll end up with hundreds of alarms in Clock > Alarm, all of which will have been used only once. (Delete one by swiping over it from right to left and then tapping Delete.) There’s a better way—follow these steps:

  1. In Clock > Alarm, tap the + button in the upper-right corner to create a new alarm.
  2. Tap Label, and enter a name for your alarm, like Wake Me Up or Morning Walk. Avoid words like alarm or clock in the name, since they tend to confuse Siri.
  3. Tap Sound and pick your desired sound, and enable the Snooze button if you wish.
  4. Tap Save in the upper-right corner.

Notice in these steps I didn’t bother to set a time, that is because you’re going to have Siri do that for you. Now all you need to say to set your alarm, say the one to wake you up with, “Hey Siri, change wake me up to 8 am.”

If you said things correctly and clearly you should hear Siri respond with a confirmation like “ok, I changed your wake me up alarm to 8 am” or you can go into Clock > Alarm and you should see the change there. "

Passwords

We all use passwords for security purposes. How should they be composed? Following is an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal. If you read it, then you can decide if you should or want to change your passwords. 

I volunteer at the Prescott Library helping people with questions/issues with their Apple products, and password problems (forgotten, mostly) account, I bet, for over half the problems people are having.

Jim Hamm

 

Never Mind Old Password Rules…   Wall Street Journal 8/8/17 p. A-1   Expert who touted mixing letters, digits, symbols now regrets it

BY ROBERT MC MILLAN

“The man who wrote the book on password management [now says]: He blew it…   Back in 2003, as a midlevel manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Bill Burr was the author of ‘NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.’ The 8 page primer advised people to protect their accounts by inventing… new words… with obscure characters, capital letters and numbers— and to change them regularly. The document became… the go-to guide for federal agencies, universities and large companies looking for a set of password-setting rules to follow…  

“The problem is the advice ended up largely incorrect, Mr. Burr says. Change your password every 90 days? Most people make minor changes that are easy to guess…   Also off the mark: demanding a letter, number, uppercase letter and special character such as an exclamation point or question mark…   ‘Much of what I did I now regret,’ said Mr. Burr, 72 years old, who is now retired…. In June, Special Publication 800-63 got a thorough rewrite, jettisoning the worst of these password commandments…   The new guidelines… drop the password- expiration advice and the requirement for special characters…   Long, easy-to-remember phrases [are now recommended] over crazy characters, and users should be forced to change passwords only if there is a sign they may have been stolen, says NIST, the federal agency that helps set industrial standards in the U.S….”

“Academics who have studied passwords say using a series of four words can be harder for hackers to crack than a shorter hodgepodge of strange characters…   In a widely circulated piece, [it was] calculated it would take 550 years to crack the password ‘correct horse battery staple,’ all written as one word. The password Tr0ub4dor& 3—a typical example of a password using Mr. Burr’s old rules—could be cracked in three days, according to… calculations, which have been verified by computer-security specialists…”

Public Wifi

If you occasionally use public wifi, you realize your computer is subject to possible hacking -- someone being able to 'see' what you're doing. If you should have an interest in reading three articles about how to protect your computer, read here and here and here.

One of the ways to protect yourself on public wifi is never enter anything on your computer you wouldn't want the world to see. A better way, though, is to protect yourself by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), as the last article mentions. The article mentions two free VPN's that are available to be used: Hotspot Shield and CyberGhost. 

I have both of these installed and use one or the other when I'm on public wifi. Is it necessary to use a VPN, you might ask? It depends on you and how secure you want to be. Both these programs are easy to install and use, and they're free (although paid versions are available, of course). What's not to like about this scenario? Free protection.

When you first open CyberGhost you'll get a notice that you can't use the free version right away as there are people in line waiting to use it. In my experience it only takes about a minute or two and your turn will come up. Now, why are these VPN's providing a 'free' service? They obviously can't stay in business doing this for everyone. They have advertising on the free versions, and they hope you will eventually upgrade to the paid version, which I've done.

Just some thoughts for your protection on public wifi.

Jim Hamm

Wireless Charging

One of these days we may be able to charge our devices without plugging them in. At least that's a possibility David Pogue is discussing in this article. A startup company, called Ossia, has developed a technology to do this, and presumably the next step is to get FCC approval. Ossia then plans to license this technology to other companies.

Will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

Jim Hamm 

A Lesson Learned

If you use a VPN, my experience may save you a future problem. I bought a new 10.5" iPad Pro recently, and when I got it home I couldn't connect to the internet. I could pick up the wifi signal but couldn't get on the internet. 

After 40 frustrating minutes, including a discussion with an Apple tech, I noticed something: a VPN  app was trying to connect to the internet and blocking everything else until it was connected. A VPN will do this as a protection so we don't get on the internet until the VPN is connected. I quickly turned the VPN off and got connected to the internet right away.

I had forgotten I had this VPN turned on on my iPad, and it was trying to do its job. I use a VPN on my computers and will get a dialog box informing me that the internet is blocked until the VPN is connected. Apps such as Dropbox and my antivirus program are clamoring to get on the internet when I fire up my computer, but they can't until the VPN settles in. 

Jim Hamm

 

Kaspersky Free AV

For your possible interest, Kaspersky has just announced a free version of their antivirus program. Comments from Eugene Kaspersky can be read here. If you want to try it, the free download is here. It is available for both a PC and Mac.

I've downloaded it, but haven't installed it yet, but probably will soon. Over the years Kaspersky has gotten good reviews as being an effective AV program. For example, read here. And you've probably read recently about whether Kaspersky could be spying for Russia. Eugene, of course, soundly denies this allegation and has offered to make his program code available for review.

Being on the curious side I'll give Kaspersky AV a try for both my Mac and PC. Will be interesting to see what I think about it. Presently I run both Avast AV and Avira AV, and have been pleased with both. I do get a popup ad occasionally wanting me to upgrade to their paid version. Can't blame them for that.

Jim Hamm

Flash Player

Adobe is ending support for Flash at the end of 2020. Article here. This should help in cutting down on the number of malware and virus attempts through this program.

The article expressed some concern about the great number of early-days legacy programs using Flash, and which are still available. The author wonders if we will lose access to these?.

Jim Hamm

Mac Malware

There have been several articles recently about a type of malware on the Mac that apparently has been around for some time. Here is one article describing the malware, titled by some as FruitFly. Another article I read said that Apple has released an update to prevent future infections.

Malwarebytes anti-malware for the Mac  (here) will detect and presumably remove the malware. A 'techy' article for the nerdy can be read here. Although there have been no reports of damage done by this malware, you could scan your Mac with Malwarebytes to see if you've been infected.

Jim Hamm

Charger Safety

You may have read about the recent tragic electrocution of a young girl while she apparently was handling a phone while in her bathtub. Here is an article by a noted RV electrician on the safety aspects of chargers and phones. I encourage you to read it. More articles from this gentleman can be read here.

The following statement from the article really caught my attention:  "all phone chargers will energize the metal of your phone with around ½ of the line voltage, albeit at an extremely low current." 

Frequently chargers for your electric device -- whether it be a phone, tablet, or computer -- can be purchased at flea markets at a very cheap price. This is especially true for Apple devices. My recommendation is don't ever buy these imitation copies. They probably are cheaply-built and dangerous. Pay a bit more and buy these from Apple or a reputable dealer.

Jim Hamm  

Acronis True Image 2017

Newegg has the Acronis True Image 2017 backup program on sale for $9.99 after a $30 mail-in rebate. See here. It is for one device, and works for a Mac, PC, or iOS device. 

I've used Acronis to backup my PC for a long time, and it seems to work well (in theory, anyway), because, thankfully, I've never had to use it to recover from a failed disk. I've not used Acronis on a Mac, but I'm sure it would work just fine, as Acronis has a good reputation.

Just FYI, be aware that probably next month Acronis will come out with their 2018 edition. This won't negate the effectiveness of the 2017 version. Whether you use Acronis or another backup program, I highly recommend that you do a clone or image of your hard drive just in case you might have a hard drive failure.

Is this likely? No. Is a fire on your house likely? No, but you carry insurance just in case, don't you? That's why I'm a big believer in a full, bootable backup for my hard drive. If your hard drive failed, could you easily live with this, or would this cause you considerable anguish.

Jim Hamm

Print at the Prescott Library

If you are at the Prescott Public Library and would like to print something using your computer, here are some instructions you can use.

Jim Hamm

With our new MobilePrint Service™, you can print from your personal computer or mobile device to the library's printer from home, office or anywhere you happen to be. Simply choose one of the three options below and come to the library to pick up your document at the main level public printer. For more information, contact the Ask a Librarian Desk at 928.777.1526

Option 1: Send your print jobs through this link.

Option 2: Install and use the PrinterOn app.
iOS app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/printeron/id406584999?mt=8
Android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.printeron.droid.phone

Option 3: Email your print jobs directly to the library's printer: 
For black and white printing, send to this email address: 
prescott-public-library-midlevel-bw@printspots.com/
For color printing, send to this email address: 
prescott-public-library-midlevel-bw@printspots.com/

How much does printing cost at Prescott Public Library?
Black and white—10¢ per page
Color printing—50¢ per page
Print jobs that are $1 or more can be paid for with a debit or credit card at the library. 

Windscribe VPN Review: The Cold Hard Facts You Need to Read

Again, I'll mention briefly that if you're connecting to a public wifi network you might consider using a VPN just to be on the safe side. There's no major downside to doing this, and it may protect you from a 'sniffer' or 'hacker'. Now, I'm not paranoid about this -- just cautious. I use public wifi a lot in RV parks, for example.

One that I've downloaded and installed, and am using right now, is Windscribe VPN. Here is a review: https://securitygladiators.com/windscribe-vpn-review/ Now, I don't need a VPN on my home network, but am using Windscribe just to try it out. So far so good.

The free version gives one 10 GB of data/month, which is plenty for occasional use. Not only will it work on a PC or Mac, it will work on an iOS and Android device. And it is available as an extension for the Chrome Browser, which I installed as well. Installation of both the program and extension is dead simple. 

And so far it is working great. Another aspect I like about Windscribe is it is based in Canada, and not another foreign country, many of which I don't trust. Here is their website: https://windscribe.com/

This morning, when I opened my computer, I noticed that it didn't connect to the internet right away, as it usually does. I looked at Windscribe, and it blocks access to the internet until I open the program. This is for my protection. It can be set to open every time I open my computer, which I haven't done yet.

To sweeten the pot even further, for a limited time one can buy the full, unlimited-data version, for only $50. See here. In theory, this is for 'lifetime' -- is that yours or theirs, one might ask? Of course there's a risk this VPN -- or any other, for that matter -- might close shop in the near future. But, all one is risking is fifty bucks, not the end of the world, if you purchase the full version.

If you have an interest, I'd suggest giving the free version a spin, then decide from there if you like it or not.

As with using any VPN it will slow your download connection some, but I haven't found it onerous.

Jim Hamm

Back Up Your Mac

If you have a Mac you probably use Time Machine, which is great to recover a lost file or so. But what if your storage drive (HDD or SSD) failed, which is rare, but can happen. Could you then recover everything you've lost? You could if you've done a clone of your drive to an external drive. 

This is a simple process, and external drives are quite reasonable in cost nowadays. There are many programs available to clone your Mac, and here is an article comparing the different options. I've used Super Duper for years, and thankfully have never had to test it. If, say, the drive in my Mac should fail, I would replace it (an SSD), then plug my external drive in and reload everything I had previously on the drive -- OS and everything! I'm up and running again.

You hear the terms clone and image when referring to backups. What's the difference, you might ask? Well, you probably don't even care, but if curiosity prevails, read on.  Here is an article that describes the difference in the two processes. 

The important thing in all this is to have a bootable clone of your hard drive. If catastrophy should strike, you can quickly recover.

Jim Hamm 

Quartz: The New iPad Pro

If you think the new iPad Pro might be in your future, then read this article. My wife and I plan to buy one for each of us this fall, but we don't expect it to replace our Macs. We'll accept it for what it is, and what it isn't  -- it isn't a replacement for a Mac. We will be happy having a nice, new iPad to take with us as we travel, and appreciate the strengths it does have, and not commisurate over it not being a full-fledged computer.

Jim Hamm

 

The new iPad Pro is pretty great—if you accept it for what it is
Quartz

I’m trying to write this review of the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro using only the iPad itself and Amtrak wifi. It’s a struggle, to say… Read the full story

Avira Phantom VPN

Lets say you're traveling, whether it is in a car or RV domestically, or perhaps going overseas, you're probably going to want to use a public wifi system occasionally. That's the time when you may want to protect your computer or tablet from a hacker 'sniffing' (breaking into) your wifi access. That's where a VPN (virtual private network) can be of help.

There are many VPNs available, either for free or monthly rental, and many articles giving reviews of the VPNs. You can search for these yourself, so I'm just going to mention two free ones you might consider when you want a bit more privacy.

One that I plan to try is the Avira Phantom VPN. A review of this VPN is here. And you can download it here. Some important considerations for me are where is the company located and does it own its own servers? A bit about Avira can be read here. I like everything I've read on their website. And, I'm using Avira's anti-virus program on my PC right now.  It has -- in theory, anyway -- been doing a good job of protecting me from viruses.

Now, I don't plan to use the paid version of the Avir VPN, only the free version, which gives me 1GB of data per month. That is plenty for the occasional times when I want a secure connection.

The other option I'll use is the Opera browser, which has a free VPN feature contained in the browser. Review here. There is no monthly data cap, and I've been using it occasionally. So far it's worked fine. In fact, I'm on the Opera browser now, ownload the Opera browser here.

So, if you're traveling and would like a bit of protection while you're browsing the Internet, the above gives you a couple of free options to consider.

Jim Hamm

Email Trackers

Of course there have been many articles written about robocalls and how they are becoming a pain. These primarily are from marketers wanting to sell you something. Well, here is an article about a somewhat similar situation of what marketers are up to in emails: embedding trackers in their email so they'll know when you open one from them. 

Here's how it might work: say I've ordered wine from a winery in the past, and they send me an email with a pricing incentive to order more wine. I open the email and read their offer. Suddenly my phone rings. I answer and I hear a nice voice saying, "This is the ABC Winery, and how do you like our new pricing offer?" What? How did they know I just opened their email? By an email tracker. The article explains more about how this works.

Now, so far I've not been bothered by an email tracker -- and you probably haven't been either --  but this is just something for all of us to be aware of. I use Gmail, and perhaps Google is doing some screening of emails to prevent trackers. Maybe/maybe not.

Jim Hamm 

HEVC and HEIF

When Apple releases iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra later this year, they will include two new image capture programs (HEVC & HEIF), as explained in this article (http://tidbits.com/e/17310#). Now, for the non-technical readers, or for those that don't care about such things, your eyes may glaze over a bit as you read the article. I can understand this, but these two new codecs are going to be quite helpful for you.

The article mentions that video streaming (think Netflix) comprises 70% of evening internet downloading, and is soon expected to reach 80%. Do you care? You bet! We just received a message from Cox Cable that our internet access will soon be limited to a download of one TB/month. Exceed that and we pay more money. I bet other internet providers will follow suit.

If these two codecs are used, you can store roughly twice as many pictures for the same quality and space as is presently the case. Think how your iPhone and iPad will appreciate that. Or get better video streaming at half the bandwidth usage. A big win for all of us. 

Questions remain: will this be available for PCs as well as Macs? Don't know yet. Will your existing stash of pictures and videos be automatically converted to the new format? Don't know yet. Stay tuned -- there will be more info coming down the pike.

Jim Hamm