Category Archives: iCloud

The Best Shared Shopping List App You Already Have!

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.

Here’s an overview from iMore on how to set Reminders up for sharing.

A couple of tips:

  • You can have more than one list.
  • Remember the name of your lists: “Shopping List” and “Grocery List” aren’t the same to Siri.
  • When you invite someone to share your list, they may have to sign on to iCloud on the web the first time to accept the invitation, but after that it can be strictly iPhone-to-iPhone.
  • Everyone invited has equal ability to add, delete and edit items on the list.
  • Tap at the bottom of the reminders App screen to see your other reminder lists.

Enjoy!

Fight Calendar Spam

Recently, I have been receiving mysterious spam calendar invitations like the one below. You may have received them also.

fullsizeoutput_6b35I never saw a corresponding email. Even worse, the only options are accept or decline. Either one sends a message back to the spammer, confirming my email address! This junk is coming through your iCloud account. Here are instructions for preventing this type of spam from The Dangling Pointer blog.  

Since this is associated with your iCloud calendar, it affects both iOS and Macintosh.

They probably didn’t get your email address from anywhere. It appears they are trying big lists of likely email addresses @icloud.com.

 

Beginner’s Guide to Email Usernames and Passwords

Email is one of the most basic services that people expect on their Mac, iPhone or iPad. It is also one of the things that many beginners have trouble with. If you have a good understanding of your own email accounts you will have an easier time using all on-line services.

The Basic What’s What of Email

Email Address

An email address is a string of characters that the email system can use to send or receive email. Usually an email address belongs to a single person or to a company.

Here is a typical email address:  somebody@example.com

Email addresses must be in this specific format:  The first part is a username then one at sign: @, then a domain name. Email addresses must not contain any spaces.

Email addresses are usually given in all lower case.

When you create a new email address, always create it in all lower case

However, the part of the email address after the @ is not case sensitive for the purposes of sending email. So, mail sent to any of the following addresses should all reach the same recipient.

somebody@EXAMPLE.COM

somebody@Example.COM

somebody@example.com

The username part of an email address (the part before the @) is often treated as case sensitive by email clients and servers, so always use the same capitalization.

Email addresses are public. They are not secret. They should not be used as passwords.

Your Email Provider

You should know who your email provider is. It is usually a well known company.  Most people have email provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Many people have email accounts with more than one provider.

Sample email addresses for common email providers:

Google – examplename@gmail.com

Apple – examplename@icloud.com

Yahoo! – examplename@yahoo.com

Notice that the email domain is not necessarily identical to the company name.

Customers of Bright House Networks in central Florida have email addresses like:

examplename@cfl.rr.com

The rr stands for Road Runner, which is Bright House’s name for their internet service.

Remember your Email Address and Password – Exactly

It seems obvious, but you need to memorize your email address and password or write them down someplace safe, preferably both. If you can’t access your email, you may lose access to other services as well. Your email account is the key to your on-line kingdom. Pay attention.

Your Email Password

After your email address, the other thing you’ll need to access your email account is your password. When you first create your email account you will be asked to create a password. You should do so very carefully, and write it down in a safe place. Passwords should be kept secret.

  • Capitalization of characters in passwords always matters

  • Do not reuse any part of your username or email address in your password

  • When logging on, your password must match exactly the expected password

Unfortunately the exact rules for what is allowed or required in passwords varies depending on the site or email provider you are using. The following rules are a good starting point.

  • Create a password at least 10 characters long

  • Use a mixture of UPPER and lower case letters, numbers and symbols

  • Avoid dictionary words and names

Example passwords:

Randomly generated: Nm4$tL&vWv

Easier to type on iOS: mtvv4$&NLW   (don’t need to shift keyboards as often)

Too Easy to Guess: ABC.def.123

Very bad: 7/December/1941    (especially if that’s your birthday)

Watch out for letters and numbers that can be easily confused. Is that a lower-case ell or a one?  A zero or an oh? It might be best to avoid using these confusing letters/numbers in your passwords. Be sure to be extremely clear about these distinctions when you write down your password, so you can decipher it when you need to enter it again.

Logging On

You will want to log on to the Mail app on your Mac or iPhone. Your credentials will be your email address and password.

Most email providers also provide a web mail service where you can connect to their mail system directly without using an app. Usually this is good for situations when you want to read your mail while using someone else’s computer. However some people use email that way all the time — it’s your preference.

For example, if you have an email account through Google’s gmail, you can log on at gmail.com, or mail.google.com. There you should enter the same email address and password you created initially.

Confusion with Other Services

Many web sites, maybe most web sites, want you to log on using an email address even if that site has nothing to do with email. Why do they do that? Because it identifies you uniquely — no two people can have the same email address. That makes it easy for the site to keep you separate from all the other people using the site, and to recognize you when you return.

For example, eBay is an auction site. It has nothing to do with email. It invites users to sign in using their “Email or username”.

You may use your email address as your username on some site, and others insist on it. Almost all sites want to you to enter your email address even if they give you a different username. This is so they can use email to help you reset your password if you forget.

Here’s the important thing:

Even though you may logon to a site using your email address, that’s just a coincidence.

Do not reuse your email password at a different site – Make a new password

Ultimately you should have a different password for each site you use, e.g. one for Facebook, one for Yahoo!, one for eBay, even if you use the same email address to log on to each one. I know it can be difficult to remember these. So, you must have a system for writing them down or remembering them.  This is why password manager apps are so popular.

For Beginners: Write down your usernames & passwords neatly for each site

There’s a lot more to say about email, but this is enough for one beginner article.

 

Apple ID Sanity Check

If you will be buying a new Mac or iOS device soon, it really pays to get your ducks in a row as far as your Apple ID goes. Your Apple ID is more important than ever in the new operating systems, Yosemite for the Mac, and iOS 8 for the iPhone and its ilk.

Apple ID Is Your Single Credential for all Things Apple

If you have, or have ever had an iCloud account, Dot-Mac account, or Me.com account, you have an Apple ID.

Your single Apple ID is used for all these things:

  • To access your email
  • To buy music, movies and books & iOS apps from the iTunes Store
  • To login to your computer
  • For instant Messaging and FaceTime
  • To access iCloud, including Photos and Find My iPhone and Find My Mac
  • To buy hardware from store.apple.com
  • To buy Mac software from the App store
  • To sign in to the Apple Support Communities
  • For Apple Pay

I’m probably forgetting something that should be in this list. It’s also used for developer access, if you are a registered developer with Apple.

Decide Which ID You Want To Use

If you’ve been using the Mac for a while, you may have more than one Apple ID. You probably want to settle on a single ID for your on-line life.

If you have been sharing an Apple ID with a significant other, you should get separate IDs. (It’s not that I don’t love you, but how can I send you a message if you don’t have your own ID?) Apple’s family sharing lets you share iTunes purchases with family members with their own accounts, so there’s no reason to use the same ID any longer.

Email Addresses

Although Apple has changed their mind several times about what domain they want users to use for email, they have done a good job of making it transparent. Email sent to johndoe@me.com, or johndoe@mac.com can be received at johndoe@icloud.com. John Doe  can also use any of those to log on to his one iCloud account.

Apple could phase those older domains out some day, so use @iCloud as much as possible going forward.

It’s good policy for personal email addresses to belong to one and only one person. Some couples share an email address, but it’s a bad idea. One person can miss an email because the other one read it or deleted it. It can be awkward for your friends who are not sure which person they are addressing in an email. It’s certainly awkward if a couple separates for any reason — Who gets the email address?  And, when the inevitable happens, and one person passes away, it can be extremely weird for you to send, or your friends to receive, email from the account of a dead person.

Use Really Good Password Practices

The strength of your password is the only thing keeping bad guys from buying a new Mac and charging it to your credit card. Since your Apple ID is so important, you want to make sure you have a good password. Don’t use the same password for your Apple ID as you use for any other service! I’d say that 10-12 characters is long enough for a password these days. Make sure your password or simple modifications to it are not in any dictionary.  Mix in some numbers, caps and special characters.

In new installs, your login password on your Mac is  your Apple ID password by default.  That’s a pretty good idea, because it makes  you remember your Apple ID, since you’ll use it every day to login. If you just set up a new Mac, or just installed a new OS from scratch, you’ll likely get to a point where the machine restarts, and you are asked for a login password. If you’re like me, you’ll think “Panic! I don’t know the password because I haven’t created a password for this machine yet.” Well, don’t panic. The login password is your Apple ID password.

For greater protection,  you can enable two-factor authentication (aka two-step verification) for your Apple ID. This provides much better security for your Apple account. It eliminates social engineering attacks where the attacker is able to find out the answers to those lame security questions  (your mother’s maiden name, etc.), and get Apple to reset your password. With Apple’s two-step verification, your security becomes entirely up to you. Apple cannot help you if you forget. You are responsible for remembering your password. You will also be given a recovery code which you are responsible for keeping in a safe place where you can find it if needed.

Two-factor authentication isn’t for everyone. Read the instructions carefully before enabling it. You will have to use application-specific passwords for certain things. Make sure that doesn’t scare you before you commit to the change.

 

How to Get Files Out of iCloud

Apple is doing its best to get users to use iCloud. It does have its uses. iCloud saved my day when I was able to open Keynote as an iCloud web app on a Windows PC, and do my presentation from iCloud just like I was in Keynote on my Mac. That was nice.

Sometimes, though, there is just no substitute for having your own files on your own hard drive. There’s no place like home. Apple makes it surprisingly hard to move files between iCloud and your own storage. Unlike, say, Dropbox, iCloud doesn’t integrate with the Finder. Really? Third party software works better with MacOS than iCloud does? Don’t ask me why Apple would ever do that.

The document-oriented Apple apps that use iCloud are Preview, TextEdit, iMovie, Keynote, Pages and Automator.

Instead of using the Finder, iCloud documents can only be manipulated from within Applications. You can use the Move To… or Export… menu options to move or copy a single open file from iCloud to local storage or vice versa.

The screenshot below shows how to drag multiple files from iCloud to the Finder. The window on the right is the open-file dialog for the Preview Application. On the left is a finder window. The default behavior is to move the files. If you want to copy instead, hold the option key while dragging.

Dragging files from Open-File Dialog to Finder

Dragging files from Open-File Dialog to Finder

Since each application can only see its own files in iCloud, you must repeat this operation in each application that has files to be moved.

You may notice that there are no folders or directories in iCloud — just a big list of files.

Apple seems determined to move users away from the file system paradigm. Since the file system is probably the most successful and widely used abstraction in all of computing, it’s certainly daringly Avant Garde of Apple to try to ignore it. However, I’m afraid that they are doing so to increasingly limit user’s options and further corral us into Apple’s walled garden.

The file system is a powerful abstraction in which the relationship between files and applications that act on those files is not pre-determined. It puts a lot of power into the hands of the user who gets to decide who does what to what file, and which file goes where. The current, featureless iCloud takes that power away.