November 16, 2021
Has your wireless network (Wi-Fi) hardware been sticking around a little too long? When was the last time it was refreshed? In case you haven’t gotten out much lately, the deal is that in 2021, “mesh” is the way to go!
Don’t know what a mesh network is? Find out here! Now – with more work-at-home/school-from-home business happening, a stronger, greater-covering wireless internet connection is mandatory.
OK, so what’s involved in getting a mesh network? Is it complex? Hard to set up? Will it work with all my stuff? Does Apple make a mesh Wi-Fi? (Sorry, Apple is no longer in the networking game…)
In short, yes, it will work with your stuff. Unless your stuff includes an Ethernet-connected printer that’s old, maybe a couple of decades or so. And the mesh system replaces all your existing network hardware, routers and extenders. Everything except the modem.
Buying a mesh Wi-Fi network is easy – all of the big retailers stock them. There are a number of brands – and so far, all of them seem worthy and reasonably simple to set up. That’s because the way they’re configured – is by downloading an app to your smartphone. Yes, it’s simple enough (so says the tech guy!) – but there are a couple things to know:
The average mesh network covers around 3000 – 4000 square feet – so larger houses should get a model with greater coverage.
You have to reconnect EVERY device that’s attached to the internet to the new network. That includes phones, tablets, streaming media players, smart TVs, Sonos units, alarm systems and such.
October 13, 2021
It happens all the time – I’ll get a call – “my Wi-Fi isn’t working!” And, of course, it comes at the most inopportune moment – before a deadline, a looming Zoom call, etc.
But let’s stick with first things first. Let’s differentiate Wi-Fi from internet connectivity. The internet is a large computer network that enables communication between devices. To be connected to the internet at your home or office (or home office), you need a “provider” – a company that connects your building to the rest of the world. In most cases around here, it’s Optimum (formerly Cablevision), but it could be Xfinity, Frontier or a number of other companies.
Now Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is a type of computer network, but instead of wires connecting the computer to other nodes, it’s all wireless. (For the record, Wi-Fi really isn’t short for anything.) Your Wi-Fi network (protected by a password) is your own private little network.
OK, so now you’re up to speed on that minor detail, and you can’t connect to the internet, there are four points that could be a trouble spot:
• Your computer
• Your wireless router
• Your modem
• Your provider
But now that I’ve introduced some new terms to you, let’s go over them.
Your MODEM is the hardware device that enables the internet cables (from the outdoor utility poles) to allow your home or office to access the internet. In most instances, the modem is owned by your internet provider, and they charge you a monthly fee – usually around $10 – for that privilege. (You do have the option to BYO Modem and save on that fee – but more on that in a future post.) However – unless you’re only using one computer that is hardwired to the modem, you’re going to need a router.
Your ROUTER is a hardware device that allows you to connect multiple devices (computers, smartphones, game consoles, streaming media players and smart TVs) to the internet. You can also connect Wi-Fi enabled printers to your network. Your router creates your own private network, and you need to enter a password on any device that wants to join it. Your router may have been supplied by your internet provider or you may have purchased your own. (If you have one of the mesh networks – then you’ve purchased your own!)
Note: The router supplied by your internet provider is usually subpar. Look into replacing it!
So – if you are unable to get on the internet, try to find exactly where the problem is.
First step: Check if your computer is able to see your local network. That’s the pie-shaped icon in the upper right corner of screen, to the left of the time. If your bars are gray, you’re not connected to your Wi-Fi network. If they’re black, you’re connected. (But click on the Wi-Fi icon to confirm you’re on the correct network.) Also know that even though your wireless network is working, you are not necessarily connected to the outside world.
Quick tip: If you can’t connect to your local network, try rebooting your computer. If you still can’t connect, go to the next step.
Reboot your router: Your router is connected to your modem using an Ethernet cable, which looks like a phone cord but is thicker. Unplug your router from its power supply (either from the router itself or from the wall), wait 30 seconds and then reconnect it. Wait until all the lights settle and attempt to connect again.
Reboot your modem: Same goes with the modem. Rebooting often cures what ails your network connectivity. Disconnect the power supply from the modem and wait for 30 seconds, then reconnect.
Another quick tip: If you’re finding your internet speed slow, reboot both your modem and router.
Couple of things:
- Some modems have a battery backup, so you’ll have to disengage the built-in battery. It has an easy-to-find clip on the side. Just make sure all the lights go out before replacing the battery and power cable.
- If you have telephone service through your internet provider (Optimum Triple Play, for example), any phone calls you’re on will be instantly disconnected once you power down your modem.
One last tip: This month, TWO clients have called about not being able to connect to the internet. In both instances, Optimum failed to process a payment (and didn’t give any warning about a pending termination of service), so consider that if you find you’re not connected.
September 17, 2021
It’s been a big week in the world of Apple. Some good news, some bad.
It’s been a big week in the world of Apple. Some good news, some bad.
On Monday the 13th, a security flaw in Apple products was revealed; on Tuesday the 14th, it introduced its new products – iPhone 13, the new iPad and iPad Mini and the Apple Watch Series 7. All of which can be found here.
But more importantly, back to the security flaws. It’s scary stuff, but then again, we live in a world where the media is always pushing stories designed to keep us up at night – murder hornets, thousands of sealed indictments, a Mötley Crüe reunion and security issues ingrained within the devices we depend on the most.
To update your iOS (iPhone and iPad) device to the latest version (14.8), do the following:
Tap SOFTWARE UPDATE
A couple of things to know: First of all, you must be connected to Wi-Fi (a private connection, like your home or work Wi-Fi is preferred); also, if your battery is at 50% charged or below, you’ll have to connect your iPhone or iPad to a charger. Expect the entire process to take 15-20 minutes.
To update your Mac, do the following:
Pull down on the apple in the upper left corner of the screen and select SYSTEM PREFERENCES. There, click on SOFTWARE UPDATE, and you’ll see what updates are available. Similar to the iPhone update, you must be connected to Wi-Fi and if you’re using a laptop, be connected to a power source.
August 9, 2021
It happens to iMacs as well as laptops – they both have the same the issue at times. With a laptop, sometimes allowing the air to flow underneath it solves the issue. Older laptops? Sometimes it’s a sign that things are getting near the end.
Same with an iMac. Grab the top of the computer – left side first. Is it hot? Slide your hand along the top and see what happens. Hot computers, if left on too long, tend to bonk and you have to allow them to cool down before you can use them again.
But – short of upgrading, what can you do if your iMac is getting hot?
Other than a sign of old age, the biggest thing I’ve found that helps is blowing out the vents with a can of compressed air. It is available everywhere, CVS, Staples, Wal*Mart, etc., so finding it isn’t a tough task.
So, once you have the compressed air in hand, it’s time to blow the dust out of your iMac. The three places you want to concentrate on: The horizontal “strip vent” on the back of the iMac, near the top (turn the computer around, you’ll see what I’m talking about); the circular, louvered vent behind the stand; (and for older iMacs, the type the with the built-in DVD drive), the underside, the bottom mesh.
And do yourself a favor. Since the dust really flies during this process, take it outdoors before you perform this task. And blow away from yourself. When this stuff gets in your nose, it’s not pleasant.
July 15, 2021
OK, so you just spend some righteous bucks on a new computer. Expensive, but worth it! And it works far better than your eight year-old computer, right? Of course, it does! I’ve never met anybody who replaced an old computer with a new one and regretted their decision.
But – after paying what it costs isn’t the end of the story as far as whipping out your credit card. There are more costs? What else do I have to buy? How much more do I have to spend? The money you paid to Apple isn’t the end of the story. There almost always ARE additional costs when replacing an older computer.
And what are these costs?
Adapters: Apple laptops haven’t had a standard USB port for years, and the recent desktop models (iMac and Mac mini) have gone the same way, with only a USB-C port. Which is fine, but if you need to use an old-school USB drive or other item, you’ll need to spend a little more on an adapter.
Software: Gone are the days where you could install Microsoft Office or even an old version of Adobe Creative Suite on your Mac. Today’s computer won’t run these legacy programs, and if you want Office or Adobe CS on your Mac, you have to subscribe to them. Plus, a lot of older software isn’t compatible with the new hardware and operating systems.
Setup: Getting your data from there to here is another cost. Even if you’re able to get an appointment to The Apple Store, they’re now charging to do a data migration. (You shouldn’t use Apple’s Migration Assistant to bring your info to your new computer, but that’s a topic for another day.) That said – unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to getting your new Mac up and running with all the files and functionality of your old computer (but working faster!), you’ll have to hire somebody who knows their way around the Mac.
Bottom line: The fiscal pain doesn’t end the moment you pay for your new computer. There will be more money to pay going forward. Plan accordingly.
June 18, 2021
Keeping your pictures organized on your computer isn’t a task for the faint of heart. Years of upgrading computers, the switch from digital cameras to iPhones and a change of Apple photo software (iPhoto to Photos) can certainly make a mess of things.
So now, you may have multiple “libraries” of pictures, legacy iPhoto libraries that may (or may not) have been imported to your current Photos library. Not to mention photos that have the incorrect date due to the time/date not configured on the digital camera at the time. Plus, those crazy old family photos that were scanned. And the photos that were emailed to you. And sent via text. And are my Google Photos still available?
OK, first things first. Apple’s picture storage software is called Photos, which superseded its previous product, iPhoto. Both iPhoto and Photos work as an album – meaning all the pictures are into one big file. And when I say big, I’m not kidding, these things can easily exceed 200 GB. Yup. So, a Photos library is one big file.
Now, you may have multiple Photos libraries as seen the illustration here. There is no right or wrong; some people like dividing their photos into eras. (I do, so it must be normal!) I do that so things don’t get too bloated. I don’t fully trust the Apple people with a huge Photos library, so I keep mine small. And back them up regularly.
BUT – if you want to combine multiple libraries into one huge one, do this:
Pick one library (the biggest one is your best bet) to be the “master” Photos library. Then, open one of the smaller ones.
- Click on “Library” in the left-hand column.
- Select all the photos in your library by pulling down the EDIT menu and selecting “Select All.”
- Pull down the FILE menu and select “Export.”
- Select a destination for the exported photos. (Usually, a new folder on the desktop is your best bet.)
Allow the exporting process to finish. If there are thousands of pictures, it could take hours.
Once it’s over, open the “master” Photos library and do the reverse: Pull down the EDIT menu and select “Import.” Navigate to the folder on your desktop and import those pictures. Note that there might be duplicate pictures in the two libraries; opt to “skip” those.
May 18, 2021
Now that summer is rapidly approaching, the only beach ball any of us wants to see is at the beach, and certainly not on our computer screen. But for most of us, this is a common occurrence unfortunately.
What causes the spinning beach ball on the Mac?
According to MacWorld, it’s because your Mac’s hardware can’t handle the software task at hand. Which makes sense, but is annoying when it’s a simple task, something mundane like launching Google Chrome. Short of throwing your computer out the window, is there anything you can do? Is it avoidable? Something you can easily remedy?
Here are some tips to help keep the beach ball out of your Mac:
Zap the PRAM: Kind of like an exorcism for your Mac, it’s a simple process. Restart your Mac, and THE SECOND it beings to boot up, hold down the following four keys: P, R, Command and Option.
You’ll need to be prepared, because things move quickly. If you use your right hand, put your pinky on the P, your index finger on the R and your thumb on the Command and Option (which are to the right of the space bar). Let the startup chime sound three or four times.
Note: Some wireless keyboards have trouble with this. Use your charging cord to connect it to your Mac if you can, otherwise try with a wired keyboard.
Clear the Cache: This one not only helps with speed, but also can help solve a nearly-full hard drive. In FINDER, pull down the GO menu while holding down the OPTION key and select LIBRARY.
The Library folder is full of stuff that helps your computer work but is also the repository for a lot of garbage too. Once the Library folder is open, look for a folder called CACHES. Open CACHES and select all of the items inside and drag them into Trash. (You may need your computer’s admin password to proceed.) Empty the trash and restart your computer.
(Important) note: Don’t trash the CACHES folder itself; simply the contents within.
Run Disk First Aid: Open your UTILITIES folder (inside APPLICATIONS) and find DISK UTILITY. Launch DISK UTILITY and select your hard drive from the list on the left. (It’s usually the top one.) Click on First Aid on the menu bar and confirm you with to run First Aid. This can knock off some permissions problems. If you’re able to boot your Mac from an external (or recovery) drive, that will do a more thorough job.
Note: Confirm you click on First Aid and NOT Erase. That is the recipe for a horrible day.
April 14, 2021
If you’re losing sleep over the fact that your files and user data on your Mac aren’t particularly secure, perhaps it’s time to enable FileVault on your Mac.
What’s FileVault you ask? Well, FileVault is Mac’s built-in disk encryption feature, and when enabled, it password protects all your data. It’s been part of Mac OS X since shortly after the beginning. And what does it do? Without getting into too much geekspeak, it makes your data unreadable to anybody who doesn’t have the password to access it. In short, it secures your data from those who have no business sticking their noses into it.
Like any other functionality on the computer, there are a strong set of pros and cons for users to consider before enabling it. How do you enable it? And what are these pros and cons?
- Easy to enable – doesn’t take a tech genius to set up.
- Encrypts all your data – keeps your information private if your computer falls into the wrong hands.
- You can store your recovery key in iCloud if you want.
- If you lose your password, you’re hosed; even I can’t help you there!
- Can slow things to a crawl when encrypting.
- One thing that can make it less secure: You can store your recovery key in iCloud if you want.
So it’s six of one, half a dozen of another. It’s easy enough to do if you have the time and you’re conceited enough to think your private data is worth anything to anybody anyway, but I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes if you forget the password. Plus, I’ve seen some pretty nasty stuff happen to people who DIDN’T forget their password. Me, I’ll pass, but I have more tech common sense than most!
March 11, 2021
There once was a time, way back when, that space on your hard drive seemed infinite. In those days, 500 photos and 250 songs were considered a lot, and nobody had tens of thousands of unread emails and life was good. Installing software on your computer warned you how much space it would take in megabytes, not gigabytes.
And even though hard drives have dropped in price in the last several years, computers (of all makes and models) these days are coming with smaller internal storage, for a few reasons. One is that the standard “hard drive” with spinning platters and moving parts (with the occasional grinding noise as well) are pretty much a dead issue. Instead, solid state storage is the way to go. Of course, these drives are more expensive on a price-per-gigabyte basis, so smaller is the trend.
Then, of course, a lot of the media we consume is streaming, meaning it’s nothing we have to store on hard drives. Movies and music take up a lot of space, as do pictures and other stuff. But that aside, sometimes you CAN run out of internal storage. No shame with that, of course, but knowing how to properly fix that situation for either a “quick fix” (to get you through a work deadline) as well as a “permanent fix” (to prevent this issue from coming back anytime soon) will pay dividends, as least when it comes to the time you would spend trying to figure this mess out.
Places to look for space hogs:
Located on the right (or bottom) of your dock, this is where a lot of no longer necessary files reside. You’re put your stuff in the trash, but now you have to EMPTY it. In Finder, pull down the FINDER menu and select EMPTY TRASH.
Located inside your home folder. This is where your downloads end up. In there are probably a lot of Adobe Flash Player installers, Zoom installers and other assorted stuff that you no longer need. Note that photos and files you download from the internet (bank statements, for example) wind up here. Pull all the unneeded files into the trash.
Also located inside of your home folder. A typical large, no longer relevant file is an iPhoto Library that has ALREADY BEEN MIGRATED into Photos. This can be a huge file – but before trashing it, confirm it has already been migrated into Apple’s replacement for iPhoto, which is the cleverly-named Photos. Again, trash it if you want to get rid of it.
Located in the Application Support folder, which is inside Library folder, which is inside of home folder (though it could be hidden). This is the folder where your iPhone or iPad backups reside (if you elect to back them up to your computer instead of iCloud), so there may be multiple folders inside there. One problem – these folders don’t identify the name of the device that is backed up (they have names like 00008030-000924CE0A00802E), so you’ll have to go with the “date modified” to find out if they’re relevant folders. If you do delete a current iPhone backup, don’t worry, next time you connect your iPhone, the folder will repopulate.
NOTE: If your Library folder is hidden, you can still access it. In Finder, pull down on the GO menu while holding down the OPTION key, and you’ll be able to see the Library folder in the menu.
Microsoft User Data
Located inside the Documents folder, which is inside of your home folder. For users (or ex-users) of Microsoft Office 2008 and Office 2011, this is where your mail database (actually all the mail files) were located. If you’ve graduated to Office 365, then you can trash the entire folder. However, if you’re still using Office 2011, you can trash the Office 2008 folder. If you’re still using Office 2008, well, you shouldn’t be, but if you are, that isn’t your biggest problem.
Look inside your Applications folder and see if there are any packages you no longer use. Apple won’t let you toss any of its applications (Safari, for example), but any third-party stuff can chucked. Also trash anything that has a slash through it, as that’s stuff that is no longer compatible with your operating system.
There are also other files that can be expunged, like everything in the Caches folder which is inside of the Library folder but venturing in there is where angels fear to tread. One false move and you can be in the middle of an inconvenient tech disaster.
February 10, 2021
One subject I’m often asked about (and I am constantly asked about stuff – I was called DURING the recent Super Bowl as well as on Christmas Day last year, but that’s another story!) is about OS (operating system) updates.
It would seem logical that the latest and greatest is the way to go. In theory, yes, but there are all sorts of conditions that go along with it. For example, a software package you’re using might not be compatible with the latest version of the OS (or worse, not work at all), so you’ll be forced to buy an upgrade of your software package. But if that software is Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, then you’ll be subscribing to them just to keep working, as there is no more “buying” these software packages, only renting them.
OK, first of all, understand there are TWO different types of OS upgrades: There are VERSION upgrades – where you go from one version (OS X Catalina to OS 11 Big Sur). These are major upgrades, and you have to download the installer from the App Store.
Then there are the INCREMENTAL upgrades: These are the “fixes” that Apple offers in between the versions of the software. These are usually minor security tweaks, but sometimes they’re larger.
So how do you handle OS upgrades?
Go ahead and accept the incremental upgrades, they’re not likely to change anything in a major way. In fact, if you want to have them download and install automatically, go into SYSTEM PREFERENCES > SOFTWARE UPDATE and enable AUTOMATICALLY KEEP MY MAC UP TO DATE. That will free you up from having to sweat out the smaller updates.
As far as installing version updates goes, it’s best to hold off for a while, especially if you’re running any third-party software. There’s nothing worse than having to pay for a new version of your software because the old version isn’t compatible with the new OS. Or worse, having to “back down” your Mac to its previous OS. A totally time-consuming (read; expensive) process that nobody wants to do.