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.
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?
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.
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.
Cables are the unwanted stepchildren of our digital lives. More things are becoming wireless, but, we can’t get away from cables entirely. There are a bewildering variety of cable types, which are ever-changing. I’m sure many of you have a box of obsolete Apple cables like this one:
USB – Universal Serial Bus
USB (Universal Serial Bus) is probably the most-used cable and interface type you will come across. The secret to understanding USB naming is that, generally, USB numbers have to do with speed, but USB letters tell you the connector type. So, USB 3 is faster than USB 2, which is faster than USB 1.
The ABCs of USB
If you bought an iPhone in the last 10 years, it came with a lightning connector, and a lightning-to-USB cable. These were USB A cables for older iPhones, and USB C since (about iPhone 11?).
USB B was mostly for Printers – Rarely Used Now
USB C is the Most Common Connector for New Devices
USB C has two popular features: The connector is very compact, and the connector is symmetrical, meaning that it will connect in either orientation. The USB C connector also carries the high-speed Thunderbolt hardware interface which used to require a separate cable and connector. Thunderbolt is used primarily for display devices and high-speed mass storage. The complex USB and Thunderbolt standards appear to be merging such that USB 4 is the same protocol as Thunderbolt 3.
The 1,2,3s of USB Speed
Choose Your Power
Recent iPhones and iPads may not have come with a power adapter, so it is up to you to make sure you have an appropriate one. Apple currently sells a bewildering variety of power adapters. Considering only the USB power adapters, there are are adapters with power ratings of 5W, 12W, 20W, 30W, 35W (dual), 67W, 96W, and 140 Watts. These are all USB-C, except for the older 5 and 12 Watt models. These are all for household plug-in use and do not include adapters for use in the car. A similar range of compatible adapters are also available from other companies.
Your device will not be harmed by a higher-wattage adapter. It will only draw the amount of current it actually needs. If you connect your device to a lower powered adapter, it may charge slowly, or not at all. If you connect your device to a higher powered adapter, it will charge faster, up to the device’s maximum charge rate.
USB is a complex standard which includes multiple data and multiple power standards within the one USB name.
You may “know” that USB provides 5 volt power. However, for adapters providing more than 15 Watts, USB adjusts to 20 Volts. For power above 100 Watts, USB uses 48 Volts. This is all while maintaining compatibility with older 5 Volt devices.
If you still have the power adapter from a phone you got 10 years ago, even if it is “perfectly good”, it is probably not sufficient for your newer devices.
Recommended Power Estimates
Which MagSafe Do You Mean?
Apple has had five different, incompatible things all called MagSafe: three cable types and two wireless chargers.
Don’t Let Junky Power Damage Your Device
Choose reputable cables and power adapters. Apple offers the “MFi” (Made for iPhone/iPad) certification to other vendors. These products have been tested and are up to standards.
Not all cables that look alike work alike. Older or cheaper cables may work with low power devices, but may perform poorly or not at all for higher power modern devices.
Reputable brands include, in alphabetical order: Ainope, Anker, Amazon Basics, Apple, Belkin and MonoPrice. Look for emphasis on safety and clean power. Look for “MFi”. Look for USB C and USB 3.x compatibility. Beware cheap deals that come in a six-pack.
Having Problems? Clean Your Lightning Port
Beware of Heat
Your device may get hot when charging. Keep it out of the direct sun, especially on your car dashboard. In the car, positioning your phone in front of an air conditioning vent can keep it cool. A hot battery may charge more slowly, if at all.
Don’t charge your device on the bed or upholstery, especially overnight.
Throw away old, frayed, melted or intermittent cords.
Throw away power adapters that have overheated.
Charging in the Car
Modern cars probably have USB ports for charging and for Car Play or for playing audio. Cars tend to lag behind in technology. Many still have USB A ports. It pays to check your owner’s manual to find out which USB ports in your car will charge more quickly. My Honda has low-powered ports in the front, and higher-powered (12.5 Watt) ports behind the center console. Devices can charge twice as fast plugged into those ports.
Most cars have a 12 V accessory outlet somewhere (aka, the old cigarette lighter outlet). These can supply plenty of power. You can find modern adapters to get the USB power you need from these. They are much cheaper than a new car!
The World is Moving Toward USB C
But, USB A will be around for a long while. You should get yourself some USB A to C adapters ( both directions) to make the transition easier. They are cheap.
This post is part of the presentation for MacMAD’s meeting for Tuesday, March 15, 2022.
There are a number of Apps, web sites and cloud services that provide useful notifications. Of course, there are many, many Apps dying to notify you about trivial things. In this post, I’ll give you a few ways to be notified about interesting things in the real world that may be useful to you.
Heart Health Notifications
This is first, because it could be very important. If you have an Apple Watch, be sure to turn on the notifications for irregular rhythm in the Apple Watch App->Heart on your iPhone. These notifications have probably saved lives by prompting people to get prompt medical attention. You might want notifications for unusually high or low heart rates also.
Your bank, credit union or brokerage may support various notifications. These can range from conveniences to important security notifications. For example the Bank of America (BofA) App has notifications for various security alerts. Make sure the alerts you want are turned on in the App, and also check that your Settings allow notifications from that App. In this case, under Settings->Notifications->BofA.
Local Emergency Alerts
The web site Nixle.com is used by local governments to broadcast emergency and other information of local interest. You don’t need to sign in or anything. If you send your zip code by text message to 888777, that will subscribe you to text notifications for your local area. What that means depends on where you are. Not all locations in the U.S. use the Nixle service, but many do. Here in Brevard County, you’ll get texts notifying you of things like road closures, brush fires, hurricane information, and Rocket Launches. (The Brevard Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activates for each launch in case of a launch accident.)
Roads and Traffic
Your local governments may provide notifications of traffic problems in your area.
Here in Florida, the site FL511.com provides very specific customizable alerts for traffic problems on Interstates. It is only for the Interstates and other major roads. Here in Brevard it applies to I-95, US-1, A1A, and maybe the major causeway roads. You have to create an account, and sign in, but then you can create favorite routes and set up alerts for those routes in case there are any “incidents”, etc. You can specify to be alerted only within certain hours, and certain days of the week or month. You can also specify to be alerted only when travel times are expected to exceed a certain percentage of normal. Notifications can be by text or email.
The Next Spaceflight App is great for those of us on the Space Coast who like to follow local rocket launches. Because the App covers rocket launches world wide, you will probably want to specify your favorite launch sites so that you are not bombarded with launch notifications from distant continents.
You can specify to be notified a day before each launch, an hour before the launch, or 10 minutes before the launch, or any combination of those.
You can save a specific search on eBay. This can be helpful if you are looking for something that rarely comes up for sale. When your search term is matched, you will get an email. If you save a search for a common item, you will get eBay notification messages every day. The usefulness of this may depend on how carefully you choose your search terms. Remember, you can include a minus sign to exclude certain words from your search.
Of course, you must have an eBay account and be signed in to create saved searches. I use this to search for items that may be relevant to my family genealogy. I have found several interesting items by this method.
You can also use Google Alerts to perform similar searches on any web site or on the web in general. You can focus your search more exactly using hints from Google Advanced Search. Again, it might be helpful to exclude common but undesired words with the minus sign. You can limit your search to a particular site with the site: keyword. For example, searching for:
Will find the word iPhone, but only on macmad.org.
Weather – The Dark Sky app, now owned by Apple, has timely, local notifications
Package Delivery – Amazon, and UPS can notify you of package deliveries
Security – Burglar Alarms, Security Cameras, Motion Sensors, your car, etc.
Customize your Notifications
You can customize notifications to your preference for iOS and iPadOS in:
In the Notifications settings, you can adjust the settings individually for each app, specifying whether it is allowed to send you notifications, and what type (badges, alerts, sounds and or banners). For notifications sent by email, you can prioritize them by adding the sender to your contacts list and marking them as a VIP (with the star). Add contacts to your VIP list using:
Then you can allow VIP-sent emails to give you different notifications than your other routine emails:
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.