September 26, 2013

Making iOS 7 work for you

Last week iOS 7 came out.  Some people loved it, other people hated it.  Most people were grumbling because, as usual, stuff changed. This means we have to learn new things.  Most people don't want to learn new things, they like things the old way. Witness the meltdown any time facebook changes their news feed. 

Since I feel that learning new things is good for your brain, keeps it from turning to sludge at an early age, I am bringing forth a few tips to help you make the transition a little bit easier. 

In older devices the airdrop feature is not available.  The dividing line seems to be that big 30 pin connector.  Older devices with this connector will not be able to use airdrop.  My phone which is a 5 can use it, my iPad which is a 2 can not.  The interesting thing is that it can only work idevice to idevice not idevice to Mac. At the moment it appears to be a feature with more cuteness and battery drain than actual functionality. 

Let's get started with something near and dear to my heart, or head, as the case may be.  The new fonts in iOS 7.  If you are over a certain age, let's just say (kindly)  the default font sucks pond water. Apple really needs to have people over the age of 30 doing font development for them.  *sigh* 

To get round this bit of irritation (yes the font is pretty, no I can't see it without squinting) here are things that might help: 

1. Go to Settings --> General --> Accessibility

This is a lovely area with many things to tweak the phone and make it easier to see stuff.  Here are my settings, you may want to vary yours.  

I have the the "zoom" feature off.  For some reason it was on with my old phone and just having it in my purse would cause the screen to unexpectedly zoom even though it was locked.  Disconcerting.  That's the only one I wanted to warn you about since it can get you, even with the screen locked. 

I turned on "bold text".  This requires a restart of the phone, but it is worth it.  Just do it when you aren't in the middle of something else. If you don't like it, turn it off.  It made a huge difference for me. 

I also turned on Increase Contrast.  This gave things a bit of boost in those areas where the so called "flat" design just fades into the background and can NOT be seen.  (gray on gray for navigation in an app... thanks Apple, that's just peachy...) 

I also turned on  the reduced motion.  While it's pretty cool that the screen background can move on the new phones, I have better ways to waste battery life.  

2. Find a contrasty wallpaper for your home screen.  Something like this one.  Very little white in it so your labels on icons will show up better. But have a look through the whole site and see if there are others that work for you. 

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has more in their Don't Panic Guide.  They go through other things you might not have found with your new iOS that will be fun to use. 

One of the big things, as with every phone, is how to conserve battery life.  TUAW comes to the rescue again with a post on things you can do to help preserve battery life.  The only one I question is turning off wifi when you are out of the house.  


I have found the GPS feature in my phone (and likely in most every phone out there) uses wifi, even when it is not connected to a wifi spot, to help the phone locate itself.  This is a city thing, if you are in the country or a sparsely populated suburb, then do turn off wifi when leaving the house.  

As for me, I am very happy to be able to swipe up from the lock screen and turn bluetooth on and off.  That does suck battery. While I use it in the car, I don't use it much in my house. 

Check out the links, make a few changes and I hope the new iOS 7 will be easier for you to work with. 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 08:34 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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September 06, 2013

On a bit more serious note

I cringe when I see those commercials on television for one of the home alarm systems. The commercials where people are setting their house alarm from their phone and watching their kids come home from school via camera. The company advertising is not the same as the company in this story, but this would be the reason.

And yes, I put small pieces of post-it notes over the cameras on my computers.  Cameras make me uncomfortable when they are connected to the net and I'm not specifically using them.  

Me?  Paranoid? 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 09:12 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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August 13, 2013

Location, Location, Location.

There is a new post making the rounds on Facebook, the usual dire warning type post complete with many exclamation points. We all know it's bad news when the title includes lots of exclamatory-ness. Naturally I had to check it out. 

It's a link to a blog post on a news story about photo geotagging. Go watch the news story, I'll wait. 

Back now?  Okay!

Ah metadata always there to make life interesting.  I was surprised to see the story popping up now as this is old news.  I was also surprised by several things within the story itself.  

I thought most people already knew their cellphone cameras added location information (unless you specifically turn it off).  Judging from the posts of the story and the comments, guess I was wrong.  And yes, you can turn off the feature on your phone, we will get to that presently.  The only thing that didn't surprise me was the reporter going completely over the top for the presentation. 

Some people like telling all their friends exactly where they are all the time.  Other people would prefer to give out their location only at select times and to those they want to tell, not the entire world. If you prefer the second option, you need to be very proactive about looking at new devices and web services to be sure your privacy is protected. Sad to say, but almost nothing "just works" the way we think it should. It's just easier to click through the little screens that say "We'd like to use your location to make this app work better. Okay?"

In the story itself I was taken aback when the reporter interviewed the cop.  It could have been judicious editing, but it looked as if the cop had no idea this could be done.  I find it hard to believe in this day of cell phones and "find my iPhone", he has no idea that geotagging pinpoints the device exactly. If this is the case, his law enforcement education is woefully lacking.  

Then there is the mother who is supposedly handed a phone by a newsman and asked to snap many pics of her daughter for the story. I believe they specifically said she was handed the phone.  Did she want her 15 minutes of fame?  I would never take a strange phone and start taking photos of my child.  What happens to the photos after the story is done?  The pics go with the phone, unless receiving a new phone was a perk of the story.  Once they take the phone, she has no idea what else might be done with those photos (which were naturally geotagged to help move the news story along).  Perhaps I'm the only person who thinks like this.  I find her actions in putting her daughter on a news segment to be at great odds with her desire to protect her privacy.  The story did not need a cute little 4 year old to make it newsworthy, the same message could have been presented using adults.  

All that's left to say is, yes you can turn this feature off.  The place to do this is generally in the "Settings" portion of your phone.  I don't know what it's called on Blackberry, Android, or Windows phones, but on iPhone it's called "Location Services".  The latest version of iOS at this time is 6.1.4 and it can be found under "Privacy".  But, don't stop there!  You also need to look at each app you use.  For instance, if you like Instagram, you have to turn off the location option for that.  Facebook (which I believe has it's own photo app), the same. Twitter, naturally.  Any app with a "camera" feature has its own location setting.  Check them all.  Luckily iOS has them all in one spot.  

Don't turn off all the location services, they are useful for other things. 

The only camera location I leave on is Evernote.  Since my Evernote is private, I use the location feature to add things like restaurants.  Evernote Food gives me a feature that will show a map of all the restaurants I have visited in a certain area if I have made an entry from there. It's nice. 

Of course we all want things like Maps and Weather to work.  Think about how an app might use your location and whether the service for that app needs to be active. If not, then turn it off.  For example I do not use IMDB to purchase movie tickets (a new feature they offer) so I don't have location services enabled for that app.  Yes, it requires some thought.  If you aren't sure, turn it off. You can always go back and turn it on if you use the app and need it. 

Thus concludes today's short seminar on your phone and your location.  Of course this will not stop the NSA from tracking you, but we can't have everything can we. 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 08:41 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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August 02, 2013

Fixing a nagging annoyance - aka: it's all in what terms you search

It's no secret I love my iMac.  I adore its little apple shaped heart.  Most definitely.  Mainly because many people have developed such lovely apps that make it so much fun to use.  Alfred, Text Expander, Mail Act-On, 1Password to name just a few of my faves.  And Don McAllister's Screencasts Online to walk through how these work and take full advantage of the features. (BTW - Don has a free trial if you want to check it out!)

I have also been a long time user of Firefox on all my computers.  I like Firefox because it handles fonts so well. Also because Ad Block Plus works so beautifully.  

There is, however, a drawback to Firefox, especially on my iMac... it is a memory hog. Big time.  There has been much written over the years about the memory leakage. Firefox must periodically be restarted to make it give up the memory it has acquired.  For me this is a royal PITA.  

My poor old Mac is getting a bit long in tooth.  It's maxed out on memory and every OS update takes up just that little bit more.  It could be that Mountain Lion is the last OS that can be installed on this particular machine.  We shall see.  

In the meantime I have periodically tried to use Safari for my browsing.  "Tried" being the operative word.  

The problem, surprisingly (and most irritatingly), has always been with fonts.  Steve Jobs was all about the fonts... so what the hell happened to Safari?  I have no idea.  If I set a minimum font size, it messes up far too many web pages.  If I don't, then every time I open Safari or a new page/tab on Safari, I have to tweak the zoom on it.  Yes, I still have a "home page".  It's a private netvibes page I made for myself with all kinds of RSS feeds on it.  

Upon opening the homepage in Safari, the fonts are so tiny, one would need a magnifying glass and perfect vision and you'd still get eye strain!  Therefore I have to use the Cntl+  to increase the fonts. Every time for every new page. GAH! This is wearisome and should be unnecessary. 

In Firefox, opening the page shows fonts  quite nicely sized based on my font settings in my preferences.  I have no idea what the difference is between the two browsers.  Nor do I really care.  I just want it to work.  It also means I keep going back to Firefox even though I have to close it (and all apps associated with it like Evernote) every so often.  

I have done all kinds of searches on fonts and Safari and I have seen all kinds of results.  None of which helped me.  Until today.  Not sure why, but today I tried yet again with a search "Safari 6 fonts" in duckduckgo. I don't believe I have worded it exactly that way before.  

The top result was this page: 

Which led to a Macupdate page referencing this little extension for Safari:

I had never seen this before!  Where has it been? Why were the search engines hiding it from me?  I downloaded the extension and I didn't have to tweak a thing.  The extension "remembers" the "zoom" font size for every page.  

VoilĂ !  Problem solved, no CSS required.  I have opened and closed Safari and other windows/tabs and it really works!  I will have to make a donation to the developer.  

I just wish I had found it sooner.  It really is all about the search terms.   

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 11:40 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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June 12, 2013

How valuable is your email account?

I've heard some pretty dismissive comments when I tell people they need to make sure their email accounts are safe.  If you think your email account is a throw-away, first read what Brian Krebs has to say. 

The Value of a Hacked Email Account

You may not bank or shop online, but that doesn't mean there is no harm done if your email is hacked.  If you use an online service like gmail, yahoo, or hotmail, do set up the 2 factor authentication. 

Thank you.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 09:26 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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May 16, 2013

Junkware is not always considered a problem

In general I have always been careful enough when installing things to keep my system from picking up extra browser toolbars and crap like that.  Things like the very irritating Ask dot com (no I won't link to them) toolbar that installs with Java updates if you aren't careful.   They can also be very difficult to get rid of if you do pick up one of these barnacles.  

This was the topic of a rant by a caller to the Mike Tech Show podcast a couple of weeks ago.  After that lament, a number of people wrote in with fixes for the problem.  The real issue is that not everyone considers these irritations to be junk, so anti-malware/anti-virus/anti-spamware programs don't get rid of them.  

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I will point you to Mike's web page for his podcast.  He has links to the relevant removal tools and he discusses them in the podcast (near the beginning).  If you have problems with these things, go check it out. 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 10:11 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 29, 2013

And another Google Reader Alternative

In the comments to an earlier post, VW points out that Newsblur is no longer free.  I had started to check it out back when Google made their fateful announcement about closing down Reader.  

Never got much farther with it because I don't use a feed reader any more.  Too many other things going on which means I never check it.  

However, if you are still looking for an  alternative, try Feedly. They have a Firefox plug in, also an idevice app and an android app.  So far as I can tell, it's free.  Of course this means it may just go away in the future, but it is available now.  

Check it out and see what you think. 

Happy reading! 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 08:29 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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April 22, 2013

Calling all Security Nerds

Verizon just published their annual Data Breach Investigation Report. This is the report computer security geeks wait for every year. Verizon creates it and then posts it for all the world. That earns them huge kudos in the pay it forward realm.

Dark Reading has a quick overview of what can be found in the report itself.

The actual report can be found here. It's a pdf. And the numbers are fascinating.... things like

"97% of breaches were avoidable through simple or intermediate controls."

That's an astounding statistic! Well, except for the fact that most everyone thinks they are immune to data breaches. The "it will never happen to me" seems to be ingrained in people, until it does happen to them.

I would say, at least read through the stats at the beginning. Stats are not my strong suit but these are presented well. If you are the owner of a company and think you are immune, I hope this will convince you to take further precautions. If you are an employee of a company, perhaps you will cut your computer security people some slack. They have a very tough job and no one likes helping them at all.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 07:28 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 16, 2013

And back to tech...

There was a major java patch released today.  If you have java on your computer, do go get it patched up.  

Thank you! 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 08:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 09, 2013

Patchy Patchy

It's Patch Tuesday people... Windows patches released today along with Adobe Flash and Shockwave patches. If you run a Windows machine, get 'em while they're hot.

I'd be patching but my Windows are broken. I have an OEM on order, but it's not here yet. More on that when I have the time to rant.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 03:53 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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