Preparing Your Digital Legacy

MacMad Meeting Topic September 2023

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.

How to add a Legacy Contact for Your Apple ID

If someone has died without a Legacy Contact, you may still, in some circumstances, get access to their account.

How to request access to a deceased family member’s Apple account

Make a List

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?

What’s in the List

  • A descriptive name, e.g. A fabulous Example Site
  • The URL of the Web Site, e.g. example.com
  • Username, e.g. John Doe
  • eMail address associated with the account, e.g. [email protected]
  • Password, e.g. monkey123
  • 2FA info, e.g. This site doesn’t support 2FA
  • 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.

Password Managers

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.

Popular Password Managers include:

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.

Precautions

  • 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, except Authenticator App data, and the Apple Wallet.

Other Accounts

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

Financial Accounts

  • Banking
  • PIN
  • Investment
  • Insurance
  • Cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges
  • PayPal
  • What will your heirs need in order to pay all the bills?
  • Retirement accounts
  • IRS.gov, ID.me accounts. Heirs need to file your final tax return.

Home

  • Alarm Codes
  • Keypad codes (door locks)
  • Safe combinations
  • Websites for alarm systems
  • Solar generating systems
  • Home Monitoring services

Cars

  • Pin and Keypad codes (yes, some cars have these)
  • On-line account credentials (yes, some cars have these)
  • SiriusXM subscription
  • Dashcam account
  • SunPass account (toll transponders)

2FA Keys

  • Physical Keys, (Yubikey)
  • 2FA Apps
  • 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
  • Amazon
  • music, photos, videos, books

What would your heirs need in order to sell your computer?

iPad and iPhones, Apple Watch

Digital Media (usually can’t be officially transferred)

  • Purchased Music
  • Purchased Movies & TV Shows
  • Purchased Software (Software Licenses)
  • Purchased eBooks

Social Media Accounts

  • How your heirs might notify folks of your passing
  • Heirs might want to close the account(s)
  • Access to photos stored on-line
  • If you didn’t use your real name/birthday on FB or others, your heirs might not be able to delete or memorialize the account because the details on the death certificate don’t match.

Clubs and Organizations

  • Club accounts
  • Webmaster signons
  • Treasury accounts
  • Domain name registrar accounts

Brevard County Sites and Apps

MacMAD Meeting Topic, April, 2023

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.

Location (print link)Printing email addresses
Suntree/Viera[email protected],
[email protected]
Eau Gallie[email protected]
[email protected]
Melbourne[email protected]
[email protected]

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.

LibbyeBooks, Audio BooksLibby iOS App
HooplaTV shows, movies, ebooks, Audiobooks, MagazinesHoopla iOS App

Space News – Local Launches

Keep up with the ever changing launch schedule with the Next Spaceflight iOS App.

The app shows 3 upcoming launches from Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center, with dates, times, and descriptions and photos of the rocket type to be used.

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.

The Space Flight Now web site has good general coverage of space topics, as well as a good launch schedule page.

Local News

Spectrum News 13 has a Brevard County page. That’s useful to everyone. If you are a Spectrum TV subscriber, you may find the Spectrum News App useful. There are iPhone, iPad and Apple TV versions.

Florida Today is our only major local newspaper. There is a Florida Today iOS and iPad App. The print edition is available as a separate App. The web page and app feature both public and subscriber-only content.

The Brevard edition of Hometown News is a small, but nice local paper. Their “E-Editions” show an image of the print version of the paper. From their homepage you can sign up for daily news emails.

Weather, Traffic & Emergencies

The National Weather Service has a Melbourne office web page with forecast information.

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 AlertsNixle.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.

It’s worth spending a little time learning to navigate the map. Some nice instructions are provided in this PDF.

The Hotel Melby in 2023.
The same location in 2018 was a parking lot.

WiFi Hotspots

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.

Digitizing Old Photographs

MacMAD Meeting Topic February, 2023

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?

Pile of photos

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.

Flatbed Scanner Ready to Scan 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.

Sample Workflow

  • 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?)
VueScan’s Complex “Professional” Options Scanning Negatives
Useful Filter Options in VueScan

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.

Image Capture Screen and Options

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

Flatbed Scanner Example

Epson Perfection V600 $276 at Amazon – Scans Photos, Negatives and Slides

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.

Scanning Software for Mac

VueScan Software Versions $24.95 to $99.95

VueScan works with almost any scanner model and is kept up to date.

Image Capture (User Guide) – (Image Capture is included with MacOS)

Affinity Photo 2 Photo Editor $69.99 (Not for scanning, just for editing afterwards.) A powerful image editing program.

Mail-In Digitizing Services

Kodak Mail-In Digitizing Box

Memories Renewed – Well Reviewed by Consumer Reports and Wirecutter

Scanning Software for iPhone

PhotoScan IconPhotoScan – (Google) Free in App Store. Removes glare from scan.

Camera App (built-in, comes with iPhone)

Introducing Passkeys

Why are they better than passwords?

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.

This video from the Apple Developer Conference gives a good overview of passkeys in the first 7:30 or so. After that, the video goes deep into developer technical details.

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”.

Right now, just a few web sites support passkeys, but the list is growing.

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.

Password Managers

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 Galore: Charging and More

90% of all Problems are Cables”

MacMAD Meeting Topic Oct. 18, 2022

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:

Rat’s nest of obsolete white cables

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

The Familiar USB A Plugs and Jacks – Blue Indicates USB 3 Compatibility

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 B Jack and Plug for Printers

USB C is the Most Common Connector for New Devices

An Apple USB C to Lightning Cable

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

USB Speeds Increase Dramatically with Recent Versions

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

Use an Adapter Appropriate to Your Device
Apple Brand USB Chargers 5 Watts, 18 Watts and 30 Watts

Which MagSafe Do You Mean?

Incompatible MagSafe 3 and MagSafe 2 Power Connectors (MagSafe 1 not shown)

Apple has had five different, incompatible things all called MagSafe: three cable types and two wireless chargers.

MagSafe and Qi Wireless Charging Pucks (Notice they all have wires)

Don’t Let Junky Power Damage Your Device

Flea Market Bargain Bin Chargers

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

Clean Dust Bunnies Out of the Lightning Port With a Toothpick

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.

iPhone Overheating Warning Screen

Fire Safety

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!

12 Volt Accessory Outlet to USB Adapter

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.

Adapters for USB C to A and vice versa

Web Browsing With Safari

Here are the slides from the May, 2022 MacMAD meeting on browsing with Safari.

Web Browsers: Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox
Search Engines
Anatomy of a URL
Top Level Domain, e.g. .com
Domain Name
Subdomain
Your Internet Environment
ISP: Internet Service Provider
Email Provider
WiFi
Web Sites
Password Manager: Apple Keychain

I Want to be Notified

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.

Financial Institutions

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.

BofA App Security Alerts Configuration Screen

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.)

Nixle Text Alerts for Controlled Burn and Atlas Launch

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.

On the City of Melbourne’s web site you can subscribe to email notifications for traffic advisories, etc.

Rocket Launches

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.

Favorite Launch Locations Selection

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.

Custom Searches

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:

iPhone site:macmad.org

Will find the word iPhone, but only on macmad.org.

Other Notifications

  • Weather – The Dark Sky app, now owned by Apple, has timely, local notifications
  • Package Delivery – Amazon, and UPS can notify you of package deliveries
  • Mail – USPS Informed Delivery sends you a daily preview of your mail
  • Utilities – FPL can notify you of power outages and power restoration estimates
  • 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:

Settings->Notifications

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:

Mail App->Mailboxes->VIP->ⓘ

Then you can allow VIP-sent emails to give you different notifications than your other routine emails:

Settings->Notifications->Mail->Customize Notifications->VIP

This can make important notification emails pop up an alert right away.

The Best of the App Store

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.

Apps can have a price, or the word “GET”, or a cloud download symbol.

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

  • Social Media
  • Games
  • Shopping
  • 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.

Some Favorite Apps

  • Next Spaceflight – Always know the next rocket launch
  • Mactracker – Guide to the many versions of Apple hardware
  • AnyList – Handy Family Shopping Lists and Checklists. iOS and Mac

Password Managers

I recommend you use some sort of password manager. Apple’s built-in Keychain feature is improving, but if that isn’t good enough for you, try these. No particular order:

Books and Reading

  • Apple Books – Apple’s own, pre-installed Book reader and Store
  • Libby, by Overdrive – Free eBooks from Brevard Libraries
  • Audible – Purchased and Subscription Audio Books, High Quality

iPhone Super Powers

A day of acquaintance,
And then the longer span of custom.
But first —
The hour of astonishment.

– Bill Atkinson, c. 1987

This post is from MacMAD’s presentation meeting for Tuesday, March 15, 2022. See also The Best of the App Store.

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.

List of nearby aircraft in flight

Siri automatically invoked Wolfram Alpha in this instance, but Wolfram Alpha is a website which can answer many types of questions. It is primarily oriented towards mathematics and engineering, but can respond to a fantastic variety of queries about factual information. There is also the Wolfram Alpha App ($2.99 + extras), and the free Wolfram Alpha Viewer App.

What is that Song?

“Hey, Siri, What Song is Playing?”

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.

Shazam Icon in Control Center
Song identified as “You’re Still on My Mind” by The Byrds

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.

Seek App identifying Indian Hawthorne Shrub

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.

Merlin Bird ID identifying Yellow-Throated Warbler