This is a live demonstration meeting covering Procreate for iPad. There is also a version of Procreate for the iPhone.
Our presenter this month is Ann Posner. She says:
The Procreate app is a powerhouse assistant in my career as a professional artist, as well as in my personal life. I recommend the Procreate app for any computer users or artists from beginners to experts!
The video of this meeting is now on-line here. The audio is low, so turn it up. The actual presentation starts about 4 minutes in.
In today’s rapidly advancing digital age, smart home technology has become increasingly popular among homeowners. Users need an overall smart home system to control their many devices. There are several to choose from, and Apple is by no means the leading provider:
Amazon Alexa and Google Home are the most popular, and there are others, such as Samsung SmartThings. Apple’s HomeKit is arguably the most privacy-focused system, and is convenient for users already in the Apple ecosystem.
Apple HomeKit is a framework developed by Apple that allows users to control and automate their smart home devices using their iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or even Siri voice commands. It provides a unified platform that simplifies the management of multiple smart devices, ensuring compatibility and ease of use.
Features and Benefits:
Centralized Control: With HomeKit, you can control all your HomeKit-enabled devices from a single app, eliminating the need for separate apps for each device.
Automation and Scenes: HomeKit allows you to create automation routines and scenes, enabling you to customize your smart home experience. For example, you can create a “Good Morning” scene that automatically turns on the lights, opens the blinds, and starts playing your favorite music, all with a single command.
Remote Access: HomeKit enables remote access to your smart home devices, providing convenience and peace of mind. Whether you’re at work or on vacation, you can monitor and control your devices from anywhere using your Apple devices.
You need to have a WiFi network (a router) to use HomeKit.
You must have at least one HomeKit hub for HomeKit to work. Hubs keep your home automation working while your personal devices like an iPhone or computer are turned off or away from home. Hubs are presumably plugged into power, and stay on 24 hours a day.
Your hub can be a HomePod, Apple TV or iPad. A HomePod or Apple TV is probably preferable to an iPad. Only the Apple TV 4K Wi-Fi + Ethernet model (128 GB) is compatible with Thread networking. Get that one if you want to future-proof your setup, even if you don’t need Ethernet or the extra memory. The HomePod Mini also has Thread. (See below.)
You may also need one or more hubs for specific products. For example, I have a hub for my Phillips Hue light bulbs. You don’t need to interact with these hubs. They just need to be connected to Ethernet, and can live in a closet somewhere.
Competing Standards Replaced by Thread and Matter
When shopping for smart home devices you must navigate a tricky compatibility maze. Many products are compatible with some of the competing smart home frameworks, but not others.
HomeKit users need to shop for devices that specifically state they are compatible with Apple HomeKit. That list is surprisingly short, but growing. Here is Apple’s own list of HomeKit-compatible accessories. There are many others available which are not on that list, but this is a list of solidly-compatible devices.
Hopefully the compatibility situation is improving with the introduction of the smart home interoperability standards called Thread and Matter. Thread and Matter devices interoperate between competing home automation systems like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. You should soon be able to buy one device and know it will operate with any of the systems.
Thread is a wireless technology. It requires special radio hardware. That’s why you need a special hub, like the HomePod Mini or the latest Apple TV 4K Wi-Fi + Ethernet model (128 GB), to use Thread. Thread is slower, cheaper, and lower-power than WiFi, which makes it appropriate for inexpensive devices which don’t need to send much data.
Getting Started with HomeKit
The foundation of your Home Automation system is your WiFi network. You want to start out on a firm basis. It will become increasingly difficult to change your Network name (SSID) or password as you add more devices. You want to think ahead and establish a Network name that is not unique to you, is not embarrassing, and that could be transferred to another person if you sold the house. You also want to have a really long, secure password which is also something not embarrassing to tell the buyer of your house, or the installer of equipment that uses WiFi.
Once you have dozens of Home Automation devices using your Network and password, you really won’t want to have to change them all.
Home Automation will soon be a consideration for home sales contracts. Contracts will likely specify what devices will stay with the house, and which will not, and may require the owner to transfer the WiFI credentials. Since many devices are attached to the house, like switches, cameras and doorbells, they will probably stay with the house. I know if I was a buyer, that’s what I would want.
You might want to have a separate WiFi network for your home automation, or IoT “Internet of Things” devices. You don’t have to do that right away. If you create a second network later, you can leave the home automation devices on the existing network and put your computers on the new one. It is much easier to change the WiFi connection on a few computers and phones than on numerous light bulbs, etc. Having a separate network reduces the risk of rogue or poorly secured devices by isolating them from your more important personal devices.
Your First HomeKit Device
If you are just starting out with HomeKit, I suggest you start with some smart plugs like these from VOCOlinc.
These are not expensive. I found them easy to set up. You don’t need any electrician skills. You just plug them into an outlet, and plug your device into them. These have their own App, but you don’t need to use it. They will work directly with HomeKit.
In-Wall Light Switches
Since many of your lights and fans are built-in, you may want to replace manual wall switches with smart switches. This is about the same difficulty as replacing the switch with a dumb switch. Smart switches are bigger, so the space for wiring can be very tight in the outlet box. If in doubt, consult an electrician.
I have been using Meross brand switches, both simple on-off switches and dimmer switches. I have found these reliable and usually easy to set up, but I had one or two that were very reluctant to join my HomeKit home successfully.
Again, Meross has an App, but you don’t need to use it except during setup.
If installing a dimmer switch, make sure that your light bulbs, especially LED bulbs are dimmable. Some LED bulbs are not designed for dimmers and will flicker wildly on a dimmer switch.
Hot tip: when setting up your devices make sure your phone is connected only to the WiFi network you want your devices to adopt. (Your Internet-of-Things network if you have one.) The devices will learn the WiFi network and credentials from your phone.
It’s Not for Everything
Not all your devices need to be smart devices, need to be connected to HomeKit, or even connected to WiFi.
Some things are probably better off as dumb devices.
I took this photo in an appliance store of a new “smart” refrigerator displaying an error about an out-of-date security certificate. No matter how nerdy you are, you probably don’t want to be debugging certificate errors on your fridge.
I have several smart home devices that are not on HomeKit, and probably shouldn’t be: Robot Vacuum cleaner, Solar Power System and Clothes Dryer, for example. Those things have their own apps and that’s probably how it should be.
It’s Not Forever
The lifetime of smart devices is unpredictable and is probably shorter than their dumb counterparts.
Reasons that smart devices can stop working:
Device Needs a software update, but manufacturer doesn’t provide one
App Needs a software update, but manufacturer doesn’t provide one
The Cloud is down (e.g. mfg. bankrupt, doesn’t pay their hosting bill)
Deliberate abandonment/sabotage by manufacturer
Virtual Supply Chain problem (some cloud or network provider goes away)
I am now wary of devices that require an account to operate. Obviously, if that account stops working, so does the device. Unfortunately that describes most devices sold recently.
Advanced HomeKit Compatibility with Homebridge
Homebridge is a software package that supports plug-ins that extend HomeKit in various ways. As its name suggests, Homebridge acts as a bridge between HomeKit and devices that would not otherwise be compatible with HomeKit. There are many such plugins for both real and virtual devices.
Homebridge can run on various devices and operating systems, including MacOS, Windows, Linux and Synology. Like other “bridges”, Homebridge is probably something you want plugged in and running all the time as part of your home automation setup.
I am currently using Homebridge for three things:
My Eufy Doorbell / Camera
My Garage Door (via ratgdo hardware)
A virtual device to schedule triggering of other devices
A few months ago, my Garage Door, which had been working in HomeKit via Homebridge stopped working via HomeKit because the manufacturer, Liftmaster/Chamberlin (may the fleas of 1,000 camels infest their armpits), deliberately revoked their API which many of their customers had been using for that purpose.
It’s not clear why they did that. Possibly for marketing reasons. Possibly they wanted customers to be forced to use their own app (which shows advertising) to control the garage door. It’s weird because they also discontinued their own HomeKit interface box.
To restore HomeKit functionality, I bought and installed a hardware device called ratgdo. (GDO=Garage Door Opener). It was specially made for just this purpose; allowing Liftmaster garage doors to again be used with smart home setups.
Ratgdo is a bare circuit board powered via a USB cable. It connects to the garage door opener by three wires. It is an entirely local device which requires no connection to the cloud, and no App or account. It does connect to your WiFi network. (Notice the gold antenna trace at the top of the photo.)
With this hardware and the Homebridge Ratgdo plugin, my garage door is again fully HomeKit compatible.
Such are the adventures of HomeKit early adopters.
Computer users are frequently asked to enter passwords. They are often confused by these requests. Their two most common questions are:
Which of my many passwords does it want?
Is it legitimate and safe to enter my password here?
The MacOS System Permission Dialog can help you with the answers.
Which Password does it want?
When you see a dialog similar to this, you know it is from your own Mac. It wants either the username and password that you use to sign onto your Mac at startup, or the credentials of an administrator account on the computer.
So, don’t enter your iCloud password, or the password to any of your other on-line accounts. You should use a username and password for the Mac that you are sitting in front of at the moment.
The details of this dialog may vary. It might say Installer, or some other program, and the wording may vary depending on the situation.
Is it safe?
How do you know it is safe to enter your account password in this dialog? With MacOS, Apple controls the type of dialog boxes and windows that programs are allowed to display. Programs are not allowed to display windows without title bars. That is reserved for system dialogs. Apps can ask the system to display dialogs on their behalf, and text from the App may be included in the dialog, but the overall dialog is controlled by MacOS. You will notice that these system permission dialogs do not have title bars at the top. The usual red, yellow and green dots are not present.
This could still be spoofed to an extent. After all, you are looking at such a dialog box right now, displayed on a web page. Would it be safe to enter your password here? No. Web pages can and do display whatever they want, as do application programs.
Although they will probably pop up in front of some other window, legitimate system dialog boxes can be dragged to the desktop, where they will display in front of your desktop pattern, without any title bar, as seen above. Malicious web sites or programs cannot duplicate this behavior.
However, to make it tricky, you may have to grab them by the very top of the window, where the title bar would be, in order to be able to move them.
The other safety test is really up to you. Even though the dialog itself is legitimate, it may be asking you for a permission you don’t want to grant. For installer permissions, only grant permission if you are knowingly in the process of installing or updating a program. Don’t agree to install a program just because a web site told you to.
Think twice before giving programs special permissions. Does a word game legitimately need permission to access your microphone and camera? Probably not. You shouldn’t grant it unless there is some real, unusual reason.
Above, the application Carbon Copy Cloner is asking for Administrator Privileges. This is a very powerful and sweeping request. You should trust the program and it should have a very good reason before granting this request. Carbon Copy Cloner has a long and good reputation, and it is performing system-level functions, so I choose to give it permission.
There is an exception to every rule. The legitimate dialog below from the System Settings app cannot be moved or dragged. Because it appears in the context of System Settings (a built-in and integral part of MacOS) I trust it anyway.
I hope this discussion has given you some useful hints about entering passwords on your Mac. I hope the computer elves were good to you this Christmas and happy New Year to you.
Text messaging of various types has become very popular since the beginning of mobile phones. The popularity of chat apps has really taken off with additional features such as group chat, photos, and audio and video chat.
The line between Chat Apps and social media such as Twitter (X), has become blurred as more features are added.
Popular Chat Apps
Why Choose A Particular App?
Convenience: Messages is built into your Apple products. It’s easy to use. There may be no reason to change, especially if your friends use Apple devices also.
Security and Privacy: Signal is your best choice for absolute security, with end-to-end encryption, a security-focused company, and publicly reviewed code. Apple’s Messages is also very secure, but perhaps less so against governments. The Signal protocol has also been adopted by WhatsApp and Google Messages (on Android).
International Travel: WhatsApp is popular overseas and with travelers. You can use WhatsApp with an international data plan. Since it does not use conventional SMS text messaging, you won’t get charged for the texts. WeChat is nearly universal in China and the far east. It is widely used for checkout and payments as well as messaging. Telegram is popular in India, Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.
Broadcast to large group
Stickers, emojis, reactions
Document Sharing/Team Collaboration
Under the Hood
The original text messaging protocol was SMS (Simple Messaging System). You’re probably still using SMS if you exchange messages with non-iPhone users (probably Android). SMS has a 160 character limit for each message. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) is an extension of SMS which allows “texting” of photos and videos (Low-resolution). SMS and MMS messages count as “text messaging” on your cellular plan, and do not use your data plan.
RCS (Rich Communication Services) is a more modern protocol widely used on Android phones. Apple has announced that its Messages App will be compatible with RCS beginning sometime in 2024. RCS messages use cellular data (or WiFi) (not “texts”). However, none of the chat App protocols will probably make a significant dent in your cellular data usage. When RCS is available in Messages, Apple users and their Android friends will see an improvement in the quality of photos and videos sent and received.
The other Chat Apps are each using their own protocols to exchange messages using Internet data over cellular or WiFi. The quantity of data used is probably insignificant.
What happens to your digital possessions after your death? How can you make sure that they are available (or not available) to your heirs as you wish?
The same preparations that will help your heirs after your death can help you while you are alive. They can help with disaster recovery after a fire, flood, etc. They can help in the event you have to go to the hospital or are temporarily incapacitated. They can help if your phone or computer is lost, destroyed or just quits working.
Apple ID and iCloud
For Apple users, the obvious place to start is your Apple ID. This single ID controls your Apple email account, your iCloud on-line storage and many other things you may or may not be using.
If your heirs know your Apple ID credentials, they can access your stored photos and documents, read your email, unlock your locked devices and prepare computers and devices for sale. Without your Apple ID, they may be completely locked out of doing any of those things.
Apple has a Legacy Contact Provision that you can use to designate a person to have access to your Apple ID after your death.
Make a list of your on-line accounts and keep it in a safe place for your heirs. Note that probably every company you do business with has an on-line account. The list can be on paper, or in digital form. Just make sure that your heirs will be able to access the list.
You should make some notes as to the purpose and significance of each account. If you have an account at foobar.biz, will your heirs have any idea if that’s important, or why you had it? In a year or two, will you yourself remember why you created that account?
Notes, e.g. A social media site primarily for dogs
Note that your Username on a site might be an email address or not. Note that the site probably doesn’t have anything to do with the email domain (me.com, in the example), unless the site is an email provider.
Passwords are case sensitive. For handwritten lists, make sure your writing is clear, and that upper and lower case letters are clearly distinguished. One convention is to underline capital letters. eMail addresses are never case sensitive, and are usually written in all lower case.
A password manager is essentially a place to keep a list of all your accounts, while keeping the passwords safely encrypted. This is ideal information for your heirs, if they can get access.
Legacy access is just another reason to use a password manager.
You may be able to establish an emergency or legacy contact for your password manager. You may be able to have shared password vaults with your family members, so that they always have access to those accounts.
Things You Should Keep On Paper
You should keep a paper copy of at least your most important accounts and passwords. This would likely include your password manager and passcodes to your devices. You should include backup 2FA (2nd factor Authentication) codes, if you use 2FA for those accounts. Don’t forget to mark on the 2FA codes exactly which service and account they are for. Put all these papers somewhere like a safe or safety deposit box.
eMail Accounts Are Important
You might think that your email is unimportant — just a pile of silly memes and spam. But your email is often the key to accessing your other, more important, accounts. Most accounts require an email address to sign up. If you forget your password (or your heirs don’t know it), the forgot password password recovery process uses your email to reset your password.
This is why you should use strong passwords and good security on your email accounts, and also why you should make sure your heirs can get access.
Keep accounts separate from your spouse
Death is another good reason not to use shared email and other accounts. You don’t want your account to be closed because your spouse has died.
Your Phone is Important
Your phone is another way to access your accounts. The account sign-on or recovery process often includes a text message or phone call with a sign-in code. If you or your heirs lose access to your phone, that process will be stymied.
Apps on your phone are often the easiest way to access your accounts. If you have authenticator app(s) (for 2FA codes) on your phone that you use to sign in, how will your heirs sign in without access to your phone?
Google, LastPass, Microsoft and others have stand-alone authenticator apps.
The Apple Wallet App is probably only accessible on your iPhone or Apple Watch. Your heirs might need that to pay the credit card bills.
Back up your iPhone periodically, either to your computer, or to iCloud.
Make sure your heirs can find your iPhone passcode.
Consider adding your spouse’s fingerprint or face ID to your device
If you need to restore a phone because of a forgotten passcode, almost everything will be restored, exceptAuthenticator App data, and the Apple Wallet.
Every web site and company will have its own methods for account security and recovery. There are a few things you can do to make account recovery easier for you and for your heirs.
Establish backup email addresses, and backup telephone numbers if the site supports them. Add your trusted spouse’s phone, for example as a secondary method of receiving login codes.
Similar to your Apple ID, your Google account is multifaceted. It governs Gmail, Google Photos, Google Pay and Google Drive (and more). Many people have important documents and precious photos in Google Drive and Google Photos.
If you can’t or don’t want to provide credentials to your account to your estate, you can set up a policy with the Inactive Account Manager. You can specify what happens to your Google account when it becomes inactive for a specified time — presumably when you have died. You can give access to specified people, and/or specify that your account is to be deleted.
Many accounts have no legacy or inheritance feature. The survivors have to go through a process with a death certificate or letters of administration to gain control of the deceased account.
What’s Most Important to Your Heirs
Where’s the money?
How can I get access?
Where’s the tax information for final IRS return?
Where are the family photos?
How can I delete or close the account?
How can I sell the device?
How can I cancel the subscriptions?
Other Things to Consider
Cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges
What will your heirs need in order to pay all the bills?
IRS.gov, ID.me accounts. Heirs need to file your final tax return.
Keypad codes (door locks)
Websites for alarm systems
Solar generating systems
Home Monitoring services
Pin and Keypad codes (yes, some cars have these)
On-line account credentials (yes, some cars have these)
SunPass account (toll transponders)
Physical Keys, (Yubikey)
BACKUP CODES – make sure you have printed out backup 2FA codes for your accounts and stored them safely
Other Companies & Web Sites in General
Frequent Flyer Miles, Travel Points (can be valuable) Airline miles – often not “officially” transferable, but can be if you have the credentials
do you have an email account at your ISP that you use?
Genealogy – you did it for your heirs, right?
Access to family tree
Access to DNA test results
music, photos, videos, books
What would your heirs need in order to sell your computer?
I had a chance to try out the new feature of the Find My app that lets you send your location via Satellite. This is perhaps not so easy to demonstrate, since it requires you to be at a location without WiFi or cell service. I was traveling in some areas of North Carolina without cell coverage, so I took advantage of that to try out this new feature.
iPhone 14 or 14 Pro (or later, presumably)
iOS 16.1 or later
Friend(s) previously added to “Share my Location” in Find My
Be away from cell and WiFi coverage
Be outdoors with a clear view of the sky
Sharing your location via Satellite in Find My doesn’t send your location to anyone in particular. It just makes your location available so that friends who already have access to your location can access it. It never asked me who I wanted to send it to. Sending your location is a one-way transmission. You do not receive anyone else’s location, or any other data, except a confirmation that your location was sent.
You start off by pressing Me at the bottom of the Find My app.
You will then see an option to Send My Location under My Location via Satellite.
Note the little green satellite tracking icon at the top.
Tapping the tracking icon brought up this screen. You turn to face left and right to keep the white dot centered in the green arc. The iPhone acquired the satellite and sent my location quickly and easily. It seemed like it would have worked without me doing anything special to aim my phone.
I hope this little preview gives you some idea of what to expect if you ever need to send your location via satellite. The most important thing is that you must set up sharing your location with friend(s) in the Find My app before leaving on your trip to a remote location.
For our April meeting, we’re covering sites and apps that might be especially useful to those living in Brevard County, Florida.
Printing at the Library
The Brevard County Libraries allow you to print on their printers for a small fee. (10 cents per page for black and white, 50 cents for color). If you have a printer at home, you might not need this. But, if, like me, you have a monochrome printer, and only occasionally need a color print, this is a great option. Also, if you are away from home when you realize you need to print something, you can pick it up at the nearest library, which may be much closer than your house.
Printing at your library is accomplished through services known as printeron.net and printspots.com. You must know the unique web address or email address for your desired library branch. They are different for each of 17 branch libraries. If in doubt, contact your local library. Here are a few sample links.
If you print via email, give your email a descriptive subject line so that you can recognize which print job(s) you want to pay for and print. When you go to pick up your print job, look for the coin operated machine like this.
This should be next to a computer that you can use to select the job to be printed.
To begin, enter your email address. I did not have to enter a library card number to print. You can pay for your print either using coins and bills in the machine, or you can pay the reference librarian. If you are already at the library when you send the print job, just be aware that it does take a few minutes for the print job to be ready.
Libby and Hoopla Media Apps
Our libraries also offer two nice services that allow you free access to ebooks, audiobooks, movies and TV shows for free on your device. You can use these from your computer, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV. Hoopla is better for TV, Libby is for books. These are connected to your Brevard County Library account, so you need a (free) library card.
I highly recommend the Next Spaceflight app. Because it lists upcoming launches from all over the world, you should probably set your favorite launch location(s) to Florida, and whatever else interests you in order not to be overwhelmed by distant launches.
Text Alerts from the Brevard County Emergency Operations Center – You can sign up for alerts which you can opt to receive by email, text or phone. These alerts include severe weather, fires, rocket launches, boil water notices, law enforcement alerts, etc.
The Florida 511 page might be useful to people who drive a lot. This site has more to it than you might expect from a state agency. You can create a free account, and set up alerts for various specific traffic situations. For instance, you can ask for notifications when traffic is unusually slow on particular routes, on particular days of the week and at specific times. If there is an incident, construction zone, road closure or unusual congestion affecting your route you will be notified by text or email. The site only handles routes involving Interstates or major highways.
Nixle Public Safety Alerts – Nixle.com handles public safety alerts for many cities and counties in the US. You don’t need to create an account. To sign up for alerts, text your zip code to 888777.
Maps and Photographic Views
The Brevard County Property Appraiser’s Office has a lot of information which might be interesting to homeowners, home buyers and sellers. I was very impressed with their Map View page, especially Eagle View. You can take a look at any property in Brevard County from various angles, and going back in time as far as 2007. The image resolution is much better than you would get from satellite coverage from Google Maps, for instance.
Publix, Home Depot, McDonalds, Brevard Public Libraries and many other businesses have free WiFi hotspots. Quality and convenience varies. Publix and Home Depot are public guest networks, with no password required. Once you have connected your phone to one of these, it will automatically be used next time you are in range. The Brevard Libraries use a captive portal design, where you must visit a sign-in page each time you connect. Even though no password is required, this creates a lot of friction and makes the network less useful.
If you are a Spectrum Internet or Mobile customer, you can use their network of thousands of WiFi hotspots around the country. They have plenty in popular locations here in Brevard. You can check Spectrum’s WiFi map here.
Spectrum’s network includes WiFi networks named Spectrum, Spectrum Free Trial and Spectrum Mobile.
You can connect automatically to Spectrum hotspots if you use the My Spectrum App to install the Spectrum Config Profile. The profile gives your phone a list of WiFi networks to connect to automatically, and provides your credentials automatically, so you don’t need to log in each time.
You can also log in to the WiFi access points each time, which is obviously less convenient. The trick to logging into the App, or logging into the Spectrum access points is to use the correct username and password. You may have more than one. You want to use your account password — the one you use for billing purposes. This might be identified as a Spectrum or Brighthouse “My Services” account, or “Account Partner”. Your Spectrum email account and password is probably not the right one. Once logged into the App, you can turn on Face ID or Touch ID, so you can easily log in again.
The profile that the App installs contains certificate information which expires every six months or so. You will need to occasionally delete the old profile and install a new one from the App. They are not automatically updated.
If you have photographs taken before you started using a digital camera, probably before about 2005, those photos may never have been digitized and are not available for viewing and sharing in your on-line digital world.
What’s your best strategy for getting those digitized and into your computer or phone?
This Could Take a While
Even the small pile of pictures above contains over a hundred photographs. You should expect that digitizing them all will take a while, even in the best case.
Service, Camera or Flatbed Scanner?
There are three basic strategies:
1.) Send them out to a service to be digitized
2.) Digitize them with a flatbed scanner
3.) Digitize them using your iPhone camera or another digital camera
Digitizing services can be expensive but are worthy of serious consideration. They can save you a lot of time and frustration. Because they charge by the photo, you should be selective as to which photos you send them. This is by far the fastest method. If you have a lot of photos and don’t want to spend years working on them, just get your wallet out.
A flatbed scanner gives high-quality results and you are in charge of the quality, the cropping and everything else. You’ll get the best results that your originals, your equipment and your abilities allow.
A scanner with a transparency feature allows you to also scan slides and negatives.
Using your phone or a camera to “scan” or take a photograph of the original can produce reasonably high quality copies. This method has some advantages you should consider:
It’s faster than a scanner
Can digitize large or awkward photos that don’t fit on the scanner
Can digitize photos in a frame
You can digitize while traveling without a flatbed scanner
Can produce better results for originals printed on matte paper
Works if you don’t own a computer
Using a phone or camera can also produce poor results unless you take the time to get proper lighting.
Organize – Before and After
As you take your originals out of the albums or envelopes to be digitized, look for context. Who’s in the photos? Where were they taken? What was the date? You should write on the back of the originals for future reference. Don’t just write “grandmother”. That’s not very helpful. Maybe “Mrs. Mary Jane (Doe) Smith” would be better. Use a non-smearing ink pen that doesn’t require too much pressure to write. I like Bic Round Stic ball-point pens for this.
After digitizing a photo, write something on the back of the photo saying so, like “digitized in 2023”. This will keep you from wasting time or money scanning the same photo again.
Assign long meaningful file names to your photo files. If you give them meaningful names, you and your descendants might be able to find them later. VueScan will create files with a serial number like 2023-02-17-0007. This would be the seventh photo scanned on February 17, 2023. I keep those serial numbers as a suffix to my file names to avoid having multiple photos all with the same name. Suppose I have a bunch of photos of John Doe, all taken in 1999. If I name them “John Doe, 1999”, they would all have the same name which will cause problems when I try to put them into a folder together. But if they have a unique suffix, no problem.
Long file names are allowed, so take advantage of it.
The Best Way to Restore an Old Photograph is to Find a Better Original
Prioritize and Select
Take some time to find the best existing versions of your photos to digitize. That version may be a print, or a negative, or a slide. In the 2000s, some film development services included a CD-ROM with your photos on it. If you find one of those, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble, although the CD images may not be high-resolution by today’s standards.
Prioritize slides. Slides are often photographic gold. Usually whoever was shooting slides had a nice camera and was a better-than-average photographer. Slides often haven’t been seen since the slide projector broke decades ago. So, there could be some nice surprises. And, if they have been stored in a closed box, they might be cleaner and in better shape than prints which might be torn, faded and dirty. Slide film often captures and preserves color better than print film.
Sort your photos so you are digitizing a batch of similar photos at once. It is easier if you don’t have to change your settings between photos. So, separate the black and white photos from the color photos, and the 3x5s from the 4x6s.
Be selective. Many of your photos are losers. Skip them. Digitize the best versions of each series.
Scan with VueScan to TIF files in Downloads Folder
Add descriptive filenames
Crop, adjust and clean-up in Affinity Photo
Export final photos as JPG into Download Folder
Copy final JPGs to preferred storage folder(s)
Delete temporary TIFs and JPGs from Downloads
(you do have a backup plan, right?)
The Infrared clean option is good on negatives and slides. It largely eliminates dust. It does require an extra scan step, so takes twice as long to scan. I think it’s worth it for almost all slides and negatives. A similar option is available in other software.
Restore colors and Restore fading can be amazing for old prints. You have to try these to see if they help your specific photos or not. The Restore colors option does a better job than I have been able to do with photo editing software.
Above is the Image Capture software included with MacOS. It is easy to use, and automatically identifies multiple images to be scanned.
Tips for Digitizing with your phone or camera
Find good lighting. Indirect sky light is best, but avoid direct sun. A shady porch where lots of sky is visible is ideal.
If you are setting up your own lights try to position them off to each side of the photo shining at a 45° angle. If you only have one, that’s okay, but one on each side is better.
Don’t use flash unless:
You have an off-camera flash
You are using the PhotoScan App or similar with anti-glare feature
Epson makes good scanners, but their software support for MacOS is pretty terrible. You should plan on using 3rd party scanning software (below) eventually. The Epson scanning software is pretty nice, but whether or not it will work on any given version of MacOS is a gamble.
You tell Gemini which folder or folders you want it to scan, including your Photo library. It scans them pretty darn fast.
It finds duplicate files of all kinds, not just photos.
You can sort and search these in various ways. You can then select groups of the duplicates for deletion.
You should be very cautious about deleting duplicates en masse. The duplicates may be in folders belonging to specific applications which expect to find them in those locations. Or, you may want to have duplicates in specific locations for your own organizational purposes.
It probably isn’t worthwhile trying to remove all duplicates. If you can find a few large files that can be deleted, or find entire folders that you no longer need, you may recover a lot of space with a minimum of effort and risk.
Gemini 2 is available on a subscription basis starting at $19.95 per year, or an outright purchase starting at $44.95. It is also available through a subscription to SetApp (also from MacPaw).
In the coming months, you will probably change how you sign on to your favorite web sites.
Passkey support is coming to your devices and web sites to provide a sign-on process that is both more secure and more convenient than the familiar but annoying username and password system.
Passkeys were developed and supported jointly by Google, Apple and Microsoft through the FIDO Alliance.
Passkeys are superficially similar to the Logon with Apple or Logon with Google buttons you may have seen on some web sites. Passkeys, however, represent a single, unified standard logon mechanism that a web site can implement once, which then supports all platforms. The buy-in from major tech companies means that passkeys will probably be widely adopted.
This short video from iThemes (2:58) gives a quick overview of Passkeys. Although it is specific to WordPress and iThemes Pro, most of what is described is general-purpose.
To use passkeys to logon to a site, passkeys must be supported by both the web site and by your device. For a device to fully support passkeys, it must have biometric authentication. On Apple devices, that means Touch ID or Face ID.
However, you can use your phone (which has Touch ID or Face ID) to logon to a web site on a computer that lacks biometric authentication. You will simply scan a QR code presented by the site with your phone, and passkeys can log you in.
Biometric authentication is used only to identify you to your device. Your face or fingerprint is never transmitted to the website or outside your device.
To sign in, you will first enter your username or email address as usual. But, instead of entering a password, you will simply click Login with Passkeys, and your device will log you in securely. Since you don’t have a password, it can’t be stolen, either from you, or from the web site.
Once you have set up a passkey for a site on one of your Apple devices, it will be automatically available on your other Apple devices through iCloud. Remember, that it can only work on newer devices that have Touch ID or FaceID.
At present, there is no way to share passkeys between platforms, so your Passkeys created on an Apple device won’t easily transfer to your Microsoft Windows PC, or vice versa.
PassKeys is already supported in current versions of iOS (iOS 16.x) and MacOS 13 (Ventura). Microsoft’s implementation of passkeys is part of “Windows Hello”.
If you want to try passkeys yourself, there is a demonstration web site which lets you try creating a passkey and logging on with it.
Whatever password manager you are using, don’t get rid of it yet. Some sites will continue to use passwords. Passkeys will work in conjunction with Apple’s own password manager, Keychain. The popular password managers, Bitwarden and 1Password will probably have some sort of support for passkeys in the future.
If you are in the habit of writing your passwords down in a little black book, all you will need to record is the name of the website, your username or email, and “Use passkeys”. Anyone looking at that book would not be able to logon as you, because they won’t have your device or your face or fingerprint.
The same (lack of) information is probably what would be recorded in a password manager app. Again, it’s nice that there is no password for anyone to steal.