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.
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.
This post is part of the MacMAD presentation meeting for Tuesday, March 15, 2022. See also iPhone Super Powers.
The Best of the App Store for iOS
Many iOS/iPadOS Apps are free. Most Apps that are not free are less than $3.00. Some are more expensive, or have in-App purchases or subscriptions.
Many people consider that one of the best decisions made by Apple was to allow 3rd party apps on the iPhone. It’s hard to believe that when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Apple wasn’t initially sure Apps would be supported. The App Store was only introduced in 2008.
There are now about 2 million Apps in the iOS App store. Because it is so easy to buy and install Apps, even the most technophobic of iPhone users have typically installed several favorite Apps. Many iPhone users have so many Apps installed that they have trouble keeping track of them all.
You Must Setup a Credit Card
Because it is a store, and you might buy things, you need to setup a credit card under
Settings ->Apple ID
Once you have done this, you are ready to shop for Apps.
There are three categories of Apps with different information in the “Price” button.
In the App Store, you will see some apps with the word GET instead of a price. Those apps are free. If you see In-App Purchases, then there are aspects of the App you will be asked to pay for later, while using the App.
If you see the cloud download symbol, that means that you already own that App, but it is not currently installed on your device. Maybe you bought or downloaded it on a different device, or maybe you previously had it installed but deleted it. In any case, you can click the icon to download it now for free.
In the figure above, you will see how to spot a reputable app. An App with the Editor’s Choice notation is highly recommended. An App that has hundreds of thousands or millions of downloads and four or five stars is also a very reputable App. Be a bit suspicious if an App only has a small number of downloads, or is “Too new to rate”, or has a low star rating.
Check the Developer/Seller’s Name
If you are expecting the App to be something specific, make sure that the Seller and Copyright fields are what you are expecting. Some Apps have similar names or icons to other, more popular Apps.
Popular App Categories
Audio, Video and Books
Travel and Navigation
Office Apps – Microsoft ‘s Office, Apple’s Apps
Consider Getting Apps for…
Favorite Stores & Restaurants
Local News, Weather and Information
Your Car and Home
Some car brands have their own apps. For your home, some devices such as locks, cameras and energy monitors have their own Apps. Of course, there is also Apple’s own Home App for all your HomeKit devices.
These are some capabilities of the iPhone that typically make people’s jaw drop in amazement and say “It does what?” the first time they hear of them.
Your iPhone Receives Signals from Russian Satellites
It also receives signals from US military satellites, and those of the European Space Agency, and Japanese and Chinese governments. These are all part of the navigation features usually lumped together as “GPS”.
GPS – United States Global Positioning System, originally military only
GLONASS – Russian Navigation Satellites
Galileo – European Space Agency Global Navigation System
QZSS – Japanese Satellite Positioning System
BeiDou – Chinese Navigation Satellite System
iPhone uses all these systems as required to determine your position as quickly and precisely as possible.
What is that thing?
Your iPhone / iPad can often answer questions of the “What is that thing?” variety. Sometimes an App is required, and sometimes you already have what you need.
What is that Airplane?
“Hey Siri, What Airplanes are overhead?”
The response comes back in tabular form from Wolfram Alpha, listing nearby flights and their positions in the sky.
Siri can identify a song playing on your device, or a song playing nearby from another source. For music in the room, Siri invokes Shazam. Or, you can Shazam a song from the control center. Or, you can use the dedicated Shazam App.
What is That Plant or Animal?
You can identify plants and animals with the free Seek App. Seek is from iNaturalist. There is also an iNaturalist web site and iNaturalist App, where you can submit your observations to a crowd-sourced body of observations, where the species will be confirmed or identified by other human observers.
Seek uses artificial intelligence to quickly identify a plant or animal through your camera. You don’t even need to take a photo to get the ID — just viewing the specimen through Seek will produce a likely identification.
What Bird is Making that Sound?
The free Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell Labs can identify many bird species from their songs or calls. You can record the bird call from right within the app. You can then select a part of the recording that is the bird you want, free of background sounds. The App will then suggest a species. This is basically Shazam for birds.
I have a MacMini which has no built-in camera. During the pandemic, I have been doing more on-line teleconferencing (mostly Zoom and Facetime meetings). I have used various cameras and various software to connect them to my computer.
I recently came across Detail, from Detail.co . This application allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a web camera for your Mac. This is the best solution I have seen yet, and the iPhone has a good-quality camera, so my video looks good.
The Mac application does much more than that, which is both an advantage and disadvantage. It is a disadvantage in that it makes it harder to learn to use. There is a video tutorial on the site. The quick summary is to download the Detail app from the iOS or iPad OS App store on your iPhone or iPad, and also download the app for Macintosh from the web site. The app can work wirelessly, or via a USB cable (recommended).
You may want a tripod adapter for your phone. I bought this one and it seems like a good one. You might want to use that with a small desktop tripod like this, if you don’t have one.
Detail is not free, and they are kind of cagey about the price. I actually don’t know how much or how often they charge. There is a 14 day free trial period. I discovered and got access to Detail through my Setapp subscription, which is excellent for just-in-time discovery of useful, curated apps.
You had an important file, but now you can’t find it anywhere. In this article, we’ll look at tips for finding that lost file. First, for MacOS, and then for iOS/iPadOS.
Finding a file on MacOS
Searching with Spotlight
You might be tempted to search with Spotlight (the magnifying glass icon in your menu bar). Spotlight might find your file, but by default, it returns a lot of results other than files and folders. You might not be able to see the tree for the forest in your Spotlight results. If you visit Spotlight in System Preferences, you will see that Spotlight returns results in up to 20 selectable categories, many of which are not relevant. For instance if you had a file related to a jacket in size 42 long, you might search with Spotlight for 42L. Spotlight will unhelpfully inform you that 42L = 1.48 cubic feet.
You can perform a search in any Finder window by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the upper right of the window, and typing your search term. This is different than Spotlight, and it searches only files.
In the example above, you have typed “42L”. You will see that it has found two files, neither of which actually have 42L in the filename. However, there are two clickable options here that you should consider. If you click the dimmed word Filenames, the search is restricted to only filenames. Otherwise it will find any file that contains the search term. To start with, the search only includes the folder you happened to start in. In this case, that is the Documents folder. If you click “This Mac”, then it will expand the search to your entire computer.
Also, if you click the + to the right side, next to Save, you will get the option to further restrict your search by Kind, Last Opened Date, Last Modified Date, and a great many other attributes. For example, you could select documents whose Kind is Image. That would find only photographs or drawings.
By clicking the column headers in the Finder you can sort by Name, Size, Kind, DateLast Opened, etc. This can help bring likely files to the top. Consider searching by Kind, Date, Size, etc., without using a search term. You may have forgotten what the file was named exactly, or it may have been accidentally renamed. By doing this, you may find a file whose name was mangled somehow. If the file is fairly recent, it pays to look at the Recents icon in the Finder sidebar. Maybe you will recognize your file in that list. Again, you might want to sort the list.
Don’t forget to check the Trash. Files in Trash should show up when searching This Mac, but it’s worth a look.
Check the Desktop. Don’t just look at your desktop on the screen. MacOS has a feature called Stacks, which tends to hide things on your desktop. You either need to expand each of those stacks by clicking on them, or else open a Finder window, and visit your Desktop folder directly.
Plan B: Other Places to Search
Maybe the file isn’t actually on your computer, but it exists somewhere else. For example, a lot of Apps like to save files on Cloud Storage of some kind. Here are some ideas of places to look:
USB Stick/Flash Drive
Your other computer or phone or tablet
Camera Memory Cards
Virtual Machines (files in a Virtual Machine won’t be found when searching outside that machine.)
The cloud storage services are often mirrored to your local system, but not always. So, you may need to sign into their web interface and browse the files there.
Plan C: Files in Transit
Think about where your file originated in the first place. Most of the files on your computer, you didn’t create. They came from somewhere else. If someone sent you that file, it may still be available. If it’s not too embarrassing, you can always ask the sender to send it to you again. Otherwise, check your messaging apps and services:
Apple Messages App
The file may still be in the message by which it originally arrived. If you originally downloaded the file from the internet, it’s probably easiest to just find it again with Google and re-download it.
If you created the file locally, did you ever send it to anyone else? If so, a copy of the file may exist in your outbox on one of the above services. Or, you can ask a recipient to send you back a copy.
Searching for a lost email is another topic in itself to be covered in a later post.
Plan D: Recover from Backup
Maybe the lost file used to be on your computer, but it was accidentally deleted. This is the scenario where backups come in handy, especially Time Machine backups. You have been performing regular backups, right?? Well, even if you haven’t, there is a good chance that Time Machine has saved your bacon. By default, Time Machine keeps some backup versions of files on your local computer even if you have never performed a Time Machine backup to an external drive (like you should!).
To recover files from Time Machine, it helps if you have some idea where in your file system the file was located. If you’re not sure, you can start with the usual suspects like the Documents folder, the Desktop or the Downloads folder. Open that folder now, in the Finder. Attach your Time Machine backup drive if you have one. Make sure that your folder of interest is the active Finder Window.
Click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar (it looks like a clock). Select Enter Time Machine. This will open sort of a time-tunnel view of that particular Finder window.
You can navigate back to some older version(s) of that folder and look for your file. If you haven’t backed up to an external drive, there may be very few snapshots available for viewing.
Finding a File on iOS or iPadOS
The key place to look for files on iOS is the Files App. It has a blue folder icon. Like MacOS, it has a Recents view which can be helpful. It can show files stored directly on your device as well as files stored on iCloud Drive. You may also have various other cloud services folders under Files. There are also the Shared, Recently Deleted (Trash), and Downloads folders. These are all worth checking.
In iOS or iPadOS, you can search for a file by swiping down from the center of the home screen. This will bring a search text box onto the screen as well as an on-screen keyboard. You can then search by typing or by voice.
I hope you were able to find your lost file, or at least to find some hints useful for next time.