Say Yes to iOS (12)


The latest update for iPhones and iPads, iOS 12, is looking really worthwhile. It makes compatible devices (see below) faster and more stable, doesn’t make a lot of upsetting changes to the way things work, and includes a bunch of minor improvements, including better notifications, Screen Time management, Siri Shortcuts, parental controls and syncing Voice Memos.

I am most excited about two things:

Here’s how to get iOS 12

Make sure your device is compatible

The new update should work with everything AFTER the iPhone 5:

  • iPhone 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X

  • iPad Air, Air 2;  Mini 2, 3, and 4;  9.7 inch, and all Pro models

  • iPod Touch (sixth generation)

Back up (just in case) and then install the update

Before you install any update, always back up the device so you have a fallback plan just in case something goes wrong.

You can do both the backup and the update two ways: directly on the device, or by connecting to  iTunes on a computer. Here’s how:

Option 1:  Directly on the iPhone or iPad

First, back up to iCloud:

  • Connect to a Wi-Fi network (and power).

  • Open Settings, select your name, and tap iCloud. (If you’re using iOS 10.2 or earlier, you’ll have to scroll down and tap iCloud).

  • Tap iCloud Backup. (For those on iOS 10.2 or earlier, tap Backup). Also, make sure that iCloud Backup is turned on.

  • Tap Back Up Now.

  • Wait for the backup to complete.

Then install the update:

  • Go to Settings > General > Software Update.

  • A notification about iOS 12 should appear and you can tap Download and Install.

  • It can take a while, during which time you won’t be able to use your device, so tap Install Tonight or Remind Me Later if you want to postpone for a more convenient time.

Option 2: Using iTunes on a computer

First, back up to your computer:

  • Open iTunes on your computer and update it if you get a notification that an update is available. 

  • Plug your device in to your computer with a cable

  • Follow the onscreen steps if a message asks for your device password or to Trust This Computer.

  • Select your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch when it appears in iTunes. In iTunes 12, you click the device’s icon in the upper-right corner of the iTunes window.

  • You can save Health and Activity data from your iOS device or Apple Watch by selecting Encrypt and creating a pass code. If you don’t want to save your Health and Activity data, you can just click Back Up Now.

  • Wait for the backup to complete.

Install the update in iTunes:

  • select your device as above.

  • Click Summary > Check for Update.

  • Click Download and Update.

Finishing up

Once the device is updated, you finish the process by responding to a couple of questions. Decide if you want to allow updates to happen automatically; this is a personal preference. If you are diligent about doing updates yourself, you can say no; if you don’t always follow through, might be a good idea. Then go ahead and turn on Screen Time reports; you can always turn it off later, and you may find it interesting.

Finally, note that quick access to the settings has moved: it’s no longer a swipe up from the bottom, now it’s a swipe down from the upper right corner.

Cables Adapters and Ports, Oh My!

USB-C has gone from interesting to important.
— The Wirecutter (NY Times)
 Handy USB ports on a crosstown bus

Handy USB ports on a crosstown bus

Escaping the heat, I rode one of the new SBS buses that feature USB ports--snag the right seat and you can charge your phone as you travel! Of course, you must have the right cable with you.  If you’ve ever tried to connect one electronic device to another, you have encountered the alphabet soup of cables, adapters and ports: USB-A, B, C, 2, 3, 3.1; Thunderbolt, Firewire, Ethernet, HDMI, Lightning, DisplayPort, etc.

For many years, it has been confusing and expensive to keep your old stuff working with your new stuff when the standards keep evolving and individual adapters can run $69+. Ouch! 

Why is it so complicated? Because connectors keep shrinking to fit smaller devices, and evolving for faster speeds and greater capabilities. Recently, many manufacturers have opted for the relatively new USB-C standard as a replacement for all others, including the power cord.

    Lots of articles will help you figure out which cable/adapter to buy for which equipment, but it’s easier to shop (without getting ripped off) if you know what you are looking for! Below, a visual primer to help you identify a few key types of connectors and ports.  For a more exhaustive list (if you are trying to identify ports on an older computer or device, for example), see here.

    A Visual Primer: Ports and Connectors

    The basics

    Many cables have one connection type at one end and a different type at the other.  And many connectors have a right side up, so they can only be inserted one way; newer types like USB C and Lightning are reversible.

    A port is the hole a connector gets plugged in to. Here, for example, are the many ports on an older Mac:


    USB (the U is for Universal) a decades-old standard used by BILLIONS of electronics, comes in different types (e.g., A, B, micro) and speeds (USB 2.0, 3.0, etc.).  USB 3.0 for example can transmit data TEN TIMES FASTER than the older 2.0 standard, so if you have a computer that supports it, buy USB 3.0 devices and cables. (They'll work with older USB 2.0 ports and devices, they just won't be as fast).  How do you tell? The symbols and shape are different, and USB 3.0 connectors are often blue inside. Here's a summary chart, followed by a closer look.

    The basic shapes of USB ports and connectors. Note the different symbols, too.

    USB type A, or plain ol’ USB
    Most common type; when someone says "a USB port" they generally mean this rectangular shape.  Usually  “male” (sticks out) but can also be “female” (receptacle).  (Yes, I'm not making that up).

    USB type B (2.0)
    Squarish. Most commonly used for basic printers, so cables with one end like this and one type A, like the one pictured to the right, are often referred to as printer cables.  Note that these have a definite "up" side, where the corners are cut off.

    usb C.jpg

    USB type C
    The newest, and swiftly becoming ubiquitous.  A bit tricky, because USB C is an easily identifiable SHAPE, like a squashed letter "O," but it also comes in different, not always compatible, TYPES (USB 3.0, 3.1, Thunderbolt 3). Many new Macs have USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports; laptops may ONLY have USB C ports, even for charging.  Many newer phones (except iPhones) use this connector in place of both the charging port AND the headphone port, so your old headphones won't work without an adapter.

    A cable or device that is Thunderbolt 3 will be compatible with USB C, but not all USB C devices and cables support Thunderbolt 3.  If you have a newer Mac, be sure you are buying Thunderbolt 3 compatible devices, adapters and cables.

    USB mini 2.0
    Smaller than A or B, trapezoidal shape.  Formerly common on cell phones, portable hard drives, and the like, now fairly unusual.





    usb micro.jpg

    USB micro 2.0
    Even smaller, shaped like a flattened letter "D." Once common on cell phones, now often used for charging wireless devices like Bluetooth headphones.  




    usb 3.0 type b.jpg

    USB 3 type B

    is a newer and faster version of the B above. Not very common; a device that uses this connector will generally come with its own cable. Note that the inside is blue, like many USB 3.0 devices.


    usb 3.0 micro .jpg

    USB 3 micro

    Used for many newer peripherals like portable hard drives. Connector looks like a flattened capital letter "B."



    Other important types (besides USB)


    Apple only, used for both power and data on iPhones and iPads. Simple, reversible, and small.  Newer iPhones have ONLY a lightning connector, so you can't charge and use your headphones at the same time without an adapter.



    Wired networks and network devices use Ethernet connections, so you will find this type of port on routers, modems, network printers, desktop computers and some laptops. They look a lot like the old phone plugs that will be familiar to anyone over 30, except they're fatter. Useful, because wired networks are typically fast, reliable, and secure compared to WiFi.

    hdmi end.jpg

    HDMI: for connecting TV’s and other audio/video devices. Vary wildly in price--from a few dollars to hundreds--but overspending is usually pointless.  If you have the option of connecting with HDMI or an older type, you'll get a much better quality picture with HDMI.

    Power and Lies

    Don't worry, this isn't about politics!

    A great compact power strip for travel

    Travel Solution

    There are never enough outlets in airports and hotels. This compact power strip with two USB ports and a wraparound power cord ($18 from Amazon) was the most useful thing I brought on vacation.

    My worst mistake of 2018 so far

    Wasting an hour of my life watching Pretty Little Liars when I meant to try Big Little Lies. Oops!

    Should have checked the Vulture lists.


    Apple offers free repairs on some Mac keyboards


    Worth checking if yours is one of the affected computers. 

    Details here.

    Extortion, plain and simple

    This week, two clients received nasty messages designed to frighten them into paying up: old fashioned extortion in high tech clothes. Both kindly allowed us to share details with you, to help you avoid becoming a victim of similar attacks.

    Problem 1

    While browsing the web on her Mac, E. encountered this pop-up window.  She knew that it was a fake, but there was no obvious way to close the message and escape.

    The inescapable pop up scam

    Solution 1

    There are easy ways to fix a frozen Mac or Mac app; learn how in this quick video on our YouTube channel.

    Problem 2

    P. received an email threatening to send embarrassing video to all of her contacts unless she sent $1000 in Bitcoin.  Normally, she would dismiss the message as obvious fraud, but the writer cited part of her usual password. Scary!


    Solution 2

    A scan showed no evidence of intrusion and the password was, fortunately, an old one; this client is smart enough to change her passwords periodically.  But how did the sender get the password?

    Millions of email addresses and passwords have been exposed online; check here if yours have.  The extortionist likely picked up her info from one of those breaches. We’ve said it before:  this is why it’s essential not to use the same password for multiple accounts, and to change them if you have any reason to suspect they’ve been compromised.