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

March Meeting Notes

In our March virtual meeting, we talked about Continuity Camera and on-line user guides for Apple devices.

With Continuity Camera, you can use your iPhone to scan documents directly into apps on your Macintosh. It is particularly useful in Mail, Notes and Preview. If you scan paper documents into Notes in this way, they become searchable in the Notes app.

The answers to many questions about your device are contained in the user guide for your particular device, e.g. iPhone, iMac, or iPad. Apple has the user’s guides online. Apple doesn’t keep the user’s guides for older versions handy, so if you are planning to keep a device into vintage or obsolete status, download the applicable user guide before it goes out of date.

I will give you some links, but they are likely to go out of date. The consistent way to find the user’s guides is:

  1. Open https://support.apple.com/
  2. Click on your device at the top
  3. Scroll down. Near the bottom of the page, you will see something similar to this. Click on the User Guide link.

iPhone User Guide

iMac User Guides

MacBook Air User Guides

iPad User Guide

Virtual Zoom Meeting Oct 20, 2020

MacMAD will hold a virtual presentation meeting on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 7:00 PM. This is our usual Tuesday night meeting date.

Eric Emerick will present on recent system changes and announcement from Apple.

The meeting will be via Zoom. You can participate via your iPhone, iPad or Macintosh.

We will send out an email to all members before the meeting with a link and Meeting ID you will need to join the meeting.

If you haven’t used Zoom before, it is a popular video conferencing App and platform. It would be best if you downloaded, installed, and tested the app before meeting time.

To get started, visit https://zoom.us/download#client_4meeting

Zoom is popular because it is easy to use. They have good instruction videos on the Zoom web site.

However, If you need help getting Zoom set up on your device, please contact me well in advance (days) of the meeting and I will help you get started.

For help, email [email protected]

or, call Jamie Cox
321-432-0878 (leave a voice message)

Or, you can download the free book, Take Control of Zoom Essentials.

https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/zoom-essentials/