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.

 

Magnetic Car Mount for iPhone

I like this small magnetic mount to hold your phone on your car dash. It clips onto the air vent. The magnet only grips your phone because you must stick a piece of steel (supplied) onto the back of your phone. That metal piece is thin enough so that it doesn’t interfere with even the very thin Apple iPhone case.

Mount clips onto air vent

Mount clips onto air vent

The magnetic attraction is strong enough to hold your phone in place unless you crash.

The clip holding the mount to the air vent isn’t quite as strong. It has beefy rubber jaws and a strong spring, but sometimes the mechanism sticks, resulting in a less-than-tight grip. I lubricated mine with some silicon spray and worked it back and forth, and it gets a good grip now.

iPhone stuck to magnetic mount

I like this mount because when you get in the car, you can just stick the phone up there. No fooling around with clamps, etc.  — it just sticks on and you are ready to go. In most cars, it won’t block your view out the windshield or your view of the instruments. It’s ideal if you use your phone for navigation. You have a few inches of flexibility up or down as to where you place the phone for the best positioning in your car.

 

Use Apple Pay at Gas Stations

contactless

I like the convenience of Apple Pay and have been looking for places that accept it. It seems like paying for gas at the pump with Apple Pay would be convenient and more secure than using your credit card directly.

Gas purchases are unlike other purchases because you normally have to present (scan) your card before pumping gas, and before the total value of the purchase is known.

There seem to be three levels of support for Apple Pay at service stations:

  1. Go Inside and Prepay ,”Preauthorize”, a maximum limit (BP, Kangaroo, CircleK, WaWa)
  2. Download an App that works with Apple Pay (Exxon-Mobile’s Speedpass+ App)
  3. Apple Pay works at the pump (requires new hardware at the pumps) (Texaco/Chevron)

Method 1 is  pretty useless. Any convenience factor is destroyed by having to go inside first. At BP, Discover actually rejected the transaction, but it went through on Visa. After pumping gas, I went back inside to get my receipt. The clerk was unable to print a final receipt. The only reason I would ever do this again is if my phone was the only method of payment I had with me.

When I heard about the Speedpass+ App in method 2, I was skeptical about needing an additional app, but it does have advantages. Since it doesn’t require any new hardware at the pump, it can roll out immediately to all Exxon Mobile stations. The App knows which station you are at via GPS. You tell it what pump you are at, and you can complete the transaction without holding your phone up to the pump. So, you can pay without getting out of your car, if you want to.

Method 3 is probably what you were expecting from a gas station that accepts Apple Pay at the pump. You hold your phone near the pump. Your phone and the pump talk to each other via NFC. Once you begin the transaction, you have 45 seconds to start pumping gas. Chevron/Texaco is leading the pack by rolling this out extensively.

Any method of using Apple Pay is more secure than swiping your card and will prevent your card number from being stolen by scanners on the pump, or by hacked or compromised pumps. This is because Apple Pay does not give the merchant your real credit card number, but rather a one-time credit card number valid for that transaction only.

 

 

 

 

Tutorials Online

There are several sources of helpful Macintosh and iOS (iPhone and iPad) tutorials available to you online.

Apple has a series of short tutorials on various subjects. They used to have video tutorials. I don’t see those anymore. Instead, they have short well-illustrated tutorial pages. These are accessible from the Apple Support page.

If you prefer video tutorials, take a look at www.themacu.com . The videos on their Quick Lessons blog are free. There’s a nice list of interesting topics. You can buy their longer tutorials through the App store. Their App is called TMU Tutorials. Macintosh “All Access” is $19.99.

ScreenCastsONLINE has quite a complete collection of thorough Mac and iOS tutorial videos. A subscription to ScreenCasts Online is $21 per quarter.

There is also a free ScreenCastsONLINE YouTube channel with useful tips of the week.

If you watch someone else using an App, you usually have that Aha moment when you think “I could do that!”.  So, take a look at some of these useful tutorials and get more out of your Mac, iPad or iPhone.

 

 

VPN – Virtual Private Network Meeting Topic

MacMAD’s October, 2016 Meeting topic is VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Here are some accompanying links and information.

People generally use a VPN for these reasons:

  • Security and privacy when using a public network, such as at a coffee shop or hotel.
  • To allow access to online content which is subject to geographical restrictions.
  • To allow remote access to a private local network such as your home network or your employer’s network
  • Provide privacy at home (prevent your ISP from knowing what you are up to)

VPN Features to Look For

  • Automatic connection and reconnection – prevents accidental leakage of unencrypted data
  • Choice of VPN endpoint – What country would you like to be in today?
  • Self Installation/Configuration – Avoids lots of technical settings

Client and Server

VPNs follow a client-server model. The client app usually runs on your computer or portable device. The server can be either a commercial VPN service or you can run your own VPN server at home on your router (some models) or on another computer. There are many (hundreds) commercial VPN providers. The following list is not at all complete.

Commercial VPN Providers

VPN Software

VPN Protocols

Your choice of protocol will probably be determined by what your server or provider supports.

  • PPTP – (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) Old, do not use. No longer supported in macOS Sierra. or  iOS 10.
  • L2TP – (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) needs IPSec or similar to be secured.
  • IPSec – (Internet Protocol Security) A modern protocol.  Can work in conjunction with L2TP.
  • IKEv2 – (Internet Key Exchange version 2) A modern protocol.

Here’s the MacOS VPN Dialog in System Preferences

vpn-dialog

MacOS Network Preferences — adding a VPN interface

 

openvpn-1

The iOS app OpenVPN

I tried out the Drop Tech Case for iPhone 6 from gumdropcases.com . [Disclosure: MacMAD received a review copy of this product.] Gumdrop makes a variety of case sizes and styles for various devices. This particular case fits the iPhone 6 or 6s.  It currently [Oct 2016] retails for $39.95.

Like many rugged cases, the Drop Tech case is a two-part case with an inner and outer case. In this case, the inner case is hard plastic, and the outer case is softer and more resiliant. This is opposite of some cases which feature the softer case on the inside. I think the inner and outer cases are a good idea, but don’t think it makes much difference which is on the outside.

Immediately on opening the package, I encountered the problem of how to open the case to install it. There were no printed instructions. I visited the web site and watched the install video, which still didn’t make  it clear. I had to email the company.

To install or remove the case you need to stretch the outer case over the inner case. The outer case is quite rigid when new and difficult to get hold of.  The tip I got from Gumdrop was to open the flap that protects the lightning connector, and begin to stretch the case at the thin section near that connector. With this hint, I was able to open the case.

Gumdrop Drop Tech Case

The Drop Tech cases are available in a good selection of colors. It’s nice to be able to get something that differentiates your phone from all the other phones out there. There are two bad things that can happen to your phone. First, it can get broken in a fall or similar accident. Second, it can get lost. Bright case colors help you see your phone, say, in a dark restaurant and make it less likely it will get lost.

Back of the case has heavy texture and bright colors

The case has plastic flaps that close off external ports on the phone. It won’t  make your phone waterproof, but it should certainly improve resistance to rain.

Gumdrop case bottom

Bottom of phone with protective flaps over ports.

Pros

  • Sturdy case protects against drops and other damage
  • Built-in Screen protector
  • Nice choice of colors
  • Removable Belt clip/holster/stand included (not shown)

Cons

  • Expensive (more $ than some Apple cases, which set the standard for high prices)
  • Too thick for many pockets and purse slots
  • Impairs access to Touch ID (a problem shared by many iPhone cases)
  • Difficult to install or remove

Bottom Line

If you are the kind of person who breaks your phones or subjects them to a lot of drops and falls, this is a good case for you. If your usage pattern is more gentle, this case will probably be unneccessarily bulky.

Quicken For Mac Discussion

The following is a transcript of a disucssion we had with a prospective Mac user about Quicken financial software.

Sue:

Hello, I have been considering purchasing a Mac for a long time, but am reluctant to do so because I hear that Quicken does not work well on a Mac. Can you provide any information regarding this issue?

Dennis:

I have been using Quicken on a Mac for years and while they had some problems a few years ago the new release of Quicken for Mac 2016 works fine. I would not hesitate to purchase a Mac because of a perceived problem with Quicken.

Jamie:

My wife is a heavy Quicken user and she was not happy about Quicken for the Mac. It works well for a new user, or a light user, but if you are used to advanced features on the Windows version, you’ll be disappointed.  The solution we came up with is to run Quicken for Windows on the Mac using Crossover. That combination has been very faithful and reliable, and I’ve had no complaints from the wife. Crossover is an emulator. Unlike BootCamp or Parallels, you don’t need a copy of Windows, and [therefore] it will be cheaper.

Sue:

Thanks for the great input. How would you define a “heavy” Quicken user? I use it for downloading transactions, sending online payments, and sometimes for transferring funds. Also, will I be able to transfer my Quicken info from my PC to a Mac?

Jamie:

The Windows Bill Reminders feature allows you to estimate bills. The estimate can be based on your credit card balance. This feeds into the “Bills Projected” feature which shows you your upcoming cash flow. The Mac version accepts only fixed, exact estimates, therefore the bill projections can be wildly incorrect.   The Mac version requires you to enter some amounts as Debits or Credits, which many users will not understand. The Windows version did not.
 
Quicken has a conversion tool program to convert data from Quicken for Windows to Quicken for Mac. Get this — it only runs on Windows! It is riddled with errors and won’t work on some older Windows systems (XP). I eventually got it to run. It spewed error messages, but eventually produced output. 

Here is direct quote from Quicken tech support: “Converting from Windows to Mac often takes a long time and can be complex. We offer a free service to help with the conversion process. If you send us your data file we will do some of the conversion for you and send you back a file ready to be used in Quicken for Mac 2015. It will save you some time and make the conversion easier for you. ”

We did NOT send them our data.

After conversion, there were many problems and issues, I think mostly with various securities and transactions(e.g. mutual funds). [Edit: These problems were realtively minor. The reason we gave up on Quicken for the Mac had more to do with day-to-day usage and relearning.]

Sue:

Ugh. That sounds way too frustrating for me, thus adding to my reluctance to
purchase a Mac. Thank you for the info.

Jamie:

But, none of that was a problem using the Windows version of Quicken on the Mac in Crossover.

July 2016 Security & Backup Meeting Slides

We’re trying something a bit different this meeting. So you don’t have to take notes, we’re putting the presentation on-line. And we’re doing it the Apple Way – using iCloud. You should be able to view these links on Mac or iOS. They are Keynote documents.

Here are the slides for tonight’s meeting as a shared iCloud (Keynote) document.

And here are the slides from November 2015’s Security presentation.

After clicking one of these links, you will be able to view the slides in your web browser, or you can download and open a copy in Keynote. Here’s what that looks like in iOS:

iCloud Share

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.