Our MacMAD meeting topic this month is iTunes. There are some interesting changes in the latest version. In particular, Apple has removed the purchase and management of iOS Apps from iTunes. This is a good step in the right direction to make iTunes less complicated and more focused.
In the process of helping older people with their iPhones and iPads, I have noticed certain problems common to many older users and solutions for some of those problems.
The first type of problem is unintended actions. This is when someone intends to do one thing, but accidentally does another. This can be as simple as typing the wrong character, but often includes major things like accidentally opening another app or pressing delete instead of save. I often see accidental swipes. The user intends to press a button or icon, but, perhaps due to poor motor control, instead swipes. Depending on the context, and where a swipe occurs, surprising things happen: the search window pops up, an email is deleted, etc.
One person asked me what the control center was and why it keeps popping up from the bottom of the screen. This was happening when she accidentally swiped up from the bottom of the screen invoking the control center.
You can make this less likely by turning off the control center from within apps. It can still appear on the home screen, but won’t pop up within any app. This setting is in Settings:Control Center:Access Within Apps.
I turned that off on my own phone and realized that I had probably been invoking Control Center more often by mistake than on purpose.
Another very useful setting is in Settings:General:Accessibility:Touch Accommodations. If you turn on Touch Accommodations, the whole touch screen interface becomes less sensitive, and requires more deliberate actions. Buttons and other controls won’t activate until you press them for at least 1/10 of a second. That doesn’t sound like very long, but it makes a huge difference. Many accidental swipes and clicks will be eliminated.
Once enabled, you can adjust the delays. The default durations are probably okay for most people. If the user has severe tremors, then these settings can be increased. It might take a little bit of time to get used to this mode, but it can be worth it.
The second category of problem is the “Oh, I didn’t know you could push that.” problem. iOS conceals many options behind innocuous looking symbols or words which are actually buttons that you can click, leading to useful functions. Often, people don’t notice those, or don’t realize that they are buttons.
There is a setting, General:Accessibility:Button Shapes, which outlines text buttons with a grey shape, making them look more like buttons. For example, notice how the word General has a gray background in the screen shot below.
Try these settings for yourself or for your older friends and relatives. They could lead to a calmer, less frustrating experience with the iPhone or iPad.
I have been given the opportunity to review Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software. The Stellar Data Recovery Home page claims the software will perform safe and accurate recovery of lost documents, photos, music files, or videos that have been accidentally or intentionally deleted from Mac computer. While I did not review all the claims made by Stellar Data Recovery I did test the ability to recover deleted files.
I deleted some photo, Word, music and PDF files from my iMac and three days later tried to recover them. I was skeptical, so prior to deleting the files I copied them to a flash drive to insure they would not be lost. I ran the software, selected the appropriate drive and to my surprise all the deleted files were recovered and retained the original names.
The software comes with an online User Manual. Although the software is slightly expensive the cost is offset by the ability to recover priceless photos or documents.
Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software is a good product and does what it claims.
Your Apple ID is your single set of credentials for everything from Apple, including:
iCloud files, calendars, contacts, etc.
purchases on the iTunes store
buying hardware on the Apple Store
This is pretty important stuff, right? You don’t want your credentials to fall into the wrong hands! Until recently, those credentials consisted of only your username and password, which seldom change. If a bad guy got hold of those, he’d have complete access to your Apple identity.
To help prevent that, Apple set up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). With 2FA, in addition to username and password, you must also give a verification code. Verification codes are sent to your phone or other trusted device. The verification code is different each time you log on.
Two-Factor Authentication is optional for users. However, you may now be forced to use it if you use certain apps — those which access your iCloud account.
Some apps require access to your files in iCloud, and therefore need your iCloud credentials to do so. This is fine, but you don’t want them to have the keys to your entire kingdom, do you? You don’t want a calendar app to order a new Macintosh, or delete your photos.
To control such apps, Apple now requires them to access iCloud using a One-Time password. This allows them to bypass 2FA, but using a special password which is only useable by that app for limited purposes. Once you give a one-time password to an app, and it uses it, it can never be used again for any other purpose.
You do not need to store or remember one-time passwords. If for some reason you need to re-authorize an app, you can simply generate a new one-time password for it. Dennis explains how to do all this in these slides from this month’s meeting:
If you go to Walt Disney World this summer, I think you’ll find that all the credit card terminals there accept Apple Pay. At Epcot, I paid for a tee shirt with Apple Pay, and even for a coke from a refreshment stand. That saved me from ending up with a bunch of small change.
The San Angel Inn Restaurante in the Mexico pavillion at World Showcase also accepted Apple Pay. I had already paid with a physical credit card when I saw the contactless payment logo. The waiter brought the portable terminal to the table European-style. He confirmed that they can accept Apple Pay. “It’s faster, too.”
When you are in an unfamiliar store, you can get a pretty good idea of whether to try Apple Pay based on the credit card reader you see. If you see a Verifone brand credit card reader, especially if it looks like this, it is very likely to accept Apple Pay. Recognize it by the slight hood over the keypad. Some merchants have these machines and the clerks don’t even know that Apple Pay will work until it happens.
On the other hand, if you see Ingenico equipment, which is very common, Apple Pay will definitely not work at that terminal.
I set out recently to find a shared iOS shopping list App to replace my family’s paper grocery shopping list. I had some pretty simple requirements:
Easy-to-use sharing between family members using different iCloud accounts
Ability to review the list in the store and mark items off
Ability to review and revive completed items (We’ve got milk this time, but we’ll need it again soon)
I spent some time in the App store looking at reviews and didn’t see anything I wanted to buy. Some otherwise useful apps had a bad reputation for crashing. Others were just too complex. Some needed a subscription and a sign-on for sharing to work. It’s just creepy that the vendor would be watching everything on your shopping list.
Eventually I found it. An app that was already on my phone that met all my requirements and didn’t need any additional sign-ups, plus you can use Siri to add items to the list by voice.
The app is: Reminders — the humble Apple Reminders app that comes with iOS.
When the new version of Numbers for the Mac came out some features were dropped. Most of them have not been added back in. Reviews of the apps have been definitely mixed. Numbers only gets a 3-star rating on the App store (both versions).
Two-and-a-half to three stars is a pretty terrible rating, especially for an Apple app. As you can see, the ratings are very mixed with most reviewers giving either one star or five-star ratings. The ratings for the iOS version are very similar.
The one-star reviews are mostly from people upset about advanced features removed from the previous version. The five-star reviews tend to be from people who have come to the application fresh, with no special expectations.
Numbers includes hundreds of distinct features. The chart below highlights just a few of my favorite features as compared with Microsoft Excel.
Documents, Sheets and Tables
Numbers documents can have multiple sheets. Each sheet can have multiple tables. When you create a new Numbers document, it has one sheet with one table on that sheet.
If you have used Excel, having multiple sheets should be familiar. The main difference is that the sheets appear at the top of the window instead of at the bottom.
The concept of having multiple tables on a single sheet may be new to users of older spreadsheet programs. It is a very nice feature, which allows you to separate groups of data or formulas which are of different types instead of lumping them all into the same grid of rows and columns. You can arrange the tables on the page however you like.
Numbers uses a consistent set of formatting controls very similar to those in the Pages word processor we discussed last month. These are presented in a pane on the right hand side of the window. These controls look simple, but all together, they have a lot of power. In addition to the pre-defined Table and Text styles, you can create and save your own preferred styles.
Type an equals sign to enter formula editing mode for a cell. Color coding appears showing the source cells used in your formula. This makes it easier to understand if your formula is correct or to see the source of errors.
When you copy or fill a formula into additional cells, Numbers automatically adjusts cell references relative to the current cell. If you want to override that to select an absolute row, absolute column, or absolute cell, you can use the Preserve Row/Preserve Column options.
Importing Files From Excel
A common task in Numbers would be to open an Excel document created by someone else. This can work fairly well, but is not completely painless.
This imported okay, and the amortization calculations agreed, but the date formulas were not imported correctly and would have to be re-done in numbers.
One of our members asked how Numbers was at handling large files imported from Excel. To test this I created a large spreadsheet in Excel with 40,000 rows and about 14 columns. The file size in Excel was 3.7 Megabytes. Numbers opened it without complaint, but it took about 30 seconds. When saved as a native Numbers document, its size increased to 6.3 Mbytes, but the native document opened in Numbers in about five seconds.
Although I didn’t get any warnings in Numbers, I did get one “Not enough memory” message in Excel while cutting, pasting and filling to create the document. Excel handled it gracefully without crashing.
iOS Numbers App
The Numbers app on iOS is deliberately very similar to the version for Macintosh.
FYI, Excel also has an iOS app which is free in the App store. It looks like this:
The Excel app is apparently read-only until you register for and log in to a Microsoft Office 365 account.
If you want a spreadsheet program to perform the usual tasks of calculation, sorting and organizing, and you don’t have much prior experience with spreadsheets, you will find Numbers a very useful application. It’s especially easy to learn because of consistent controls across Mac and iOS versions and consistency with Pages and Keynote.
If you know what a pivot table is, or have a lot of spreadsheets already in Excel format, you may be dissatisfied with the limitations of Numbers.
[Bright House Networks, now Spectrum, is the near-monopoly provider of “high-speed” internet in the Brevard County, Florida area. This article may or may not apply for other regions or providers.]
If Brighthouse was your Internet Service Provider (ISP) you have probably heard that they are changing identities to Spectrum. Here is what I know about the change that may affect our members in the Brevard County area.
Brighthouse’s “Lightning” internet service (50 Mbps) is now the default Spectrum service, and the speed has been bumped to 60 Mbps (Megabits per second)
For customers subscribing to internet only (no bundled TV or phone, etc.), Lightning service formerly cost $74 per month. The new 60 Mbps service is priced at $59.99. (January 2017)
If you subscribed to a lower speed, it looks like your price went up from $54, but your speed also went up. A lot.
If you already had a cable modem capable of the new speed, you do not need to get a new modem.
You do not need to subscribe to Spectrum’s $5/month WiFi if you already have your own WiFi router.
If you are paying the old, higher, price for Lightning, you need to call Spectrum and ask in order to get the new lower rate. They will really push their TV bundles and other options. Make sure you know what services you actually want to buy before calling.
When we called to get the new rate, they said okay, but you have to get a new modem, but there’s no charge for the modem, and they will come out and install it for free. I had purchased my own cable modem previously, but we agreed to the new one.
So sure enough, a tech comes out and hooks up the new modem. The thing is enormous!
The white modem is the one I bought, which works up to 100 Mbps. The big black one is about three times the size. I had to build a shelf for it in my closet. It doesn’t mount on the wall.
Next, we find out that in addition to the agreed rate for internet service, Spectrum is now charging us $5/month for WiFi, which is provided by the black behemoth. That was a surprise, and we called back and insisted that we didn’t want to buy their WiFi service. Spectrum says okay, but you have to return our modem. I had come extremely close to selling my own modem on eBay, but I still had it.
I think Spectrum would have sent someone out to pick it up, but my wife took it to the office in person. There was a big, slow line at the customer service desk.
At least some of those people said they were cancelling their service, probably due to price increases on their service(s). The good news is that someone poked their head out and asked if anyone was simply returning equipment. They went ahead and processed those quickly. If you do take something back to Specturm, be sure to get and keep a receipt for it.
Spectrum told a friend that Spectrum had unnecessarily installed a lot of modems because they had been mis-trained for the transition from Brighthouse. That’s believable, but I could also believe that they just wanted to upsell customers to their WiFi service and that they lied by omission to get it onto customer’s monthly bills.