Problems with Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

imageQ: I have had increasing issues connecting to WiFi with my phone from free access locations at airports and motels. I get messages like “server not available” or “cannot connect to server”. So far, I have gotten around the problem by turning off WiFi and relying on cellular connection. However, I want to solve the problem, because once we are traveling to Canada we will rely on WiFi to send emails. Any explanation or suggested remedy?

A: I often times see the same thing coming from free wireless connections. In many cases you have to chalk it up to you get what you pay for. These free Wi-Fi connections are many times not very good and even more often don’t work. I find this to be very prevalent in airports.

But there are a couple of other things to consider when you connect to the free Wi-Fi hotspot. I’m finding more more often that these hotspots require you to open the Safari browser after you make connection to them and agree to some hold harmless agreement. I think the lawyers have gotten involved and people who offer free Wi-Fi are afraid someone will use the Wi-Fi for illegal purposes.  They allow you to connect, but unless you immediately go to Safari and agree to their license agreement, which often comes up automatically if you run Safari immediately after connection, you don’t actually have any Internet access.

The other possibility is that some of these are not truly free Wi-Fi sites. They may be connections other people are offering from their computers in the hopes of someone connects  Then, once connected, they are able to scan their computer for private information. It’s very hard to do this on the Mac, and nearly impossible on an iPhone or iPad, but on a Windows machine if you connect to one of these fake hotspots, and don’t have your firewall turned on, a thief can scan your computer for all kinds of private personal information. People create these fake access points hoping to get unsuspecting individuals to connect to them.  Nothing to really worry about with a Mac or an iPhone, but frustrating because they act exactly as your are describing when you try to connect to the Internet.

Finally, many free wireless hotspots, particularly at hotels, will not allow you to send email. They block the email ports in the Internet connection to keep you from using their systems to send out spam. I found this happen a lot in nicer hotels.  In fact, when I was traveling for business, it almost went without saying that if you paid for Wi-Fi at a hotel, it would always have mail blocked.

The best thing I can tell you, is to only connect to the  hotspots that your sure are legitimate. If a business says they offer a hotspot, it’s usually a good one to connect to. But if you see one named something similar to “Free public Wi-Fi” I find 90% of the time these are scams so only connect to one that you’re familiar with.  Also keep in mind that the only benefit of providing a free Wi-Fi connection to a business is marketing, so restaurants, and hotels, tend to put their names in the Wi-Fi connection. If you see an unlocked connection with an odd name you’re not familiar with it’s probably not one you want to connect to.

Those are just some of my thoughts.  Rest of shared, it’s not you or your devices that are having the problem, Everybody sees the same thing and has the same problems.

 

Google photos: the photos service that Apple should have developed

imageThe world of photos storage and manipulation, for the average user, has been turned on its head this spring with Apple releasing its new photos app to replace iPhoto, and now google introducing its own photos service that replaces Google+ photos and Picassa. Also the spring, Yahoo has greatly enhanced it’s Flickr service as a competitor to both the big dogs. With all these options for photo storage and manipulation, how does a person make a choice?

So let me start off by being perfectly clear. If you’re a Photoshop user these are not competitive products to you. If you use Lightroom to store your photos, then these are probably not services you’re going to have interest in either. If you were an Aperture user and Apple abandoned you, you’ve probably already looked into lightroom and likely selected it as your new system. But if you were in iPhoto user, someone who uses Windows Photo Gallery or still a Picassa user, the time is right to look at your other options.

I’ve written about Apple photos before and described how it was a good start at a new photo application for Apple. If you’re a Mac User this may be all you need. But if you’re a Windows user, or you’d like to get your photos into the cloud for storage without paying an arm and a leg, the other options are quite compelling.

imageNow I like Flickr. Flickr is very well developed and with its new release has many features that people will find very useful for dealing with their photos.  If your a Flickr user and have already worked out a workflow for putting your photos up at Flickr, then I see no reason to make a change. But if you have photos on your computer, that are haphazardly stored in folders, Google photos maybe just the ticket for you.

Like most Google services, Google photos is available as a web service in your web browser. First off you have to have a Google account to use the service. If you have a Gmail address you already have the account set up.  Once you connect to Google photos you have the ability to be able to put photos into the service and have them backed up. One of the benefits of Google photos is that they allow you to store up to 16 megapixel images uncompressed for free. If you’re using a camera that takes larger images, photos will down sample the image to that size or you can choose to pay for storage space to store full size images. For most users using the free unlimited storage is good enough.

So what makes Google photo special? Google photos has a lot of intelligence built-in similar to what iPhoto users had been used to with faces and places. Google photos gives you the ability to put photos up and then Google uses their algorithms to scan those photos to help organize them in a very simple way.

imageGoogle has made available a small application for both Macintosh and Windows users that allows you to automatically upload any photos on your computer. This application runs in the background and will send any new photos up to Google photos as soon as they’re on your computer. This makes using Google Photos extremely easy. You basically continue to work with photographs the way you always have and Google Photos sends copies of those photos up to their web service and stores them for you as a backup. If you’re in computer user that has photos stored on your computer and is not religious about backing them up I see no reason to not use Google photos just for that service. Even if you do nothing with the photos you put up in Google photos, just allowing Google to back them up for you at no cost is a big win. To do this you don’t even have to go to the website, you can just download the small application, run it, and let the backups begin.

But some of the real power of Google photos begins once your photos are stored with Google. As your photos are put online in an area that is secure and only accessible to you, Google analyzes these photos both by reading the metadata and also by analyzing the image itself. From this Google automatically creates things called stories that are basically short booklets of images that are related often by time or location. You really have to see this in action to understand it. I’ll tell you upfront I was pretty amazed. In addition Google organizes photos by peoples faces, locations, and generic terms such as lakes, mountains, flowers, and helicopters. I am certainly not very good at tagging my photos but the way Google analyze them and puts them into groups was amazing.

imageHere are some of the things googles literature says that it does.

• VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the people, places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description. Note: Face grouping is not available in all countries.
• AUTO BACKUP: Keep all your photos and videos safe and accessible from any device. Choose free, unlimited cloud storage available at high quality, or store up to 15GB original size for free (shared across your Google account).
• SAVE SPACE ON YOUR DEVICE: Google Photos can help you clear safely backed up photos and videos from your device so you never have to worry about deleting a photo to make space.
• BRING PHOTOS TO LIFE: Automatically create montage movies, interactive stories, collages, animations, and more.
• EDITING: Transform photos with the tap of a finger. Use simple, yet powerful, photo and video editing tools to apply filters, adjust colors, and more.
• SHARING: Share hundreds of photos instantly with shareable links and use whichever apps you’d like to share.
You can read more about some of the amazing things Google photos can do on Google’s website at http://www.google.com/photos/about/

Google currently has applications for photos on the iPhone, iPad, and android devices. And for first releases, they are very good.  They also promise native apps for Macintosh and Windows coming soon.

So if you don’t have a photo storage strategy, or your strategy has been blown apart with the discontinuing of iPhoto, or even if you just want to try a good way to back up your photos automatically, I highly recommend Google photos as your new photo storage service. I’m not completely counting out Apple photos at this point, but Google photos is the app Apple should have released. So I’ll continue to use the Apple photos app in addition to Adobe lightroom to manage my imagery, but I’m going to let Google backup my photos because I can see the amazing potential of what they released this week.

New Mediacom Mail Server allow for IMAP mail

If you are a subscriber to Mediacom, you may have gotten an email telling you that your mail account has been moved to their new server. Typically they send an email about a week before they’re going to do it and then again I’ll follow-up email telling you they’ve completed it. The email that you get for completion may look like this.
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One of the features provided in Mediacom’s new mail service is the ability to use IMAP mail.   These days most of us look at mail on more than one device. IMAP email allows you to leave your mailbox on the server rather than downloading all your mail to each device. This way if you delete one message from any device it gets removed from all devices.

You can set this up on your iPhone or iPad but it does require a little bit of trickery to get it to work. Setting it up on a Mac needs to be done in the same way.

The first step in the process is to go into settings: Mail contacts and calendars: and remove your existing Mediacom account from your device. Any mail you have left on the server Will come back down when you readd the IMAP account.  But if you have mail that’s fairly old it may have been deleted from the server so be sure you’re willing to do without that if you delete your account.

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With your account deleted you’ll need to go through the process of setting up a new mail account on your iOS device.

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Go to Settings: Mail Contacts and Calendars and select Add Account.

IMG_1717Select Other for the account type

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Select Add Mail Account

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Now here is where you need to trick the iOS mail setup application.  Apple’s auto mail setup goes out to look for the correct settings and unfortunately defaults to setting up the email as a POP account again.  So we will use a fictitious email address to trick it.

Enter your name and then enter an email address where the first part of the address is incorrect.  Be sure to use the correct portion of the address that comes after the @.  For instance, I entered gk@mchsi.com but you could also use something generic like xx@mchsi.com too.  Enter your password correctly and give the account a descriptive name.

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after a few seconds of looking out the server information, you will see the cannot get mail dialog popup.  This error is correct since you used an incorrect email address. Press OK.

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Next change the toggle at the top from POP to IMAP.

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Finally the last step is to correct the fictitious email address you used.  In each of the three locations, edit your email address to the correct one. Press Next in the upper right corner.

You should see blue checkmarks next to the user name and password fields to verify you got them correct.

IMG_1723You will see that the account is setup for mail and notes.  Notes will allow you to share notes using the mediacom server between all your devices.  You can choose to leave it on or turn it off but if left on the notes show up in the Notes application on your devices.  Press Done and you are finished.

I have also tested this process for adding the account to my Mac and it works basically the same.  I suspect Windows will work similarly also.

With an IMAP account now you only have to look at your mail in one place and delete it one time and it will be kept up to date on all your devices.

Apple needs to deal with phishing and junk mail on its iCloud servers

Phishing scams through email continue to be one of the biggest problems related to email today.  My email account sees dozens of these and quite often are able to deal with them as junk mail and get rid of them. But a real growing problem I see, is related to Apples iCloud email and pfishing.

imageiCloud email has never been very good at dealing with junk mail. Unlike Google who has extensive junk mail filtering enabled on their servers, at times Apples email system seems to just send everything through. You certainly have the ability, if you’re on a computer, to mark email as junk and hope that matching emails get put into the junk folder when they come in. Unfortunately, if you’re on one of apples premier iOS devices, you have little to help you because junk mail filters don’t exist. But more and more it seems like Apple with his iCloud email services are doing nothing at the server level to stop you from getting this junk mail and phishing scams. Email that is sent to a third-party provider may be difficult to filter  because that provider cannot determine if the email in legitimate but email that looks like it comes from Apple should be simple for Apple to filter out at the server level and save its customers the risk of mistakenly believing Apple is in contact with them. Here’s a glaring example.

Nearly every day I get at least one email that looks very similar to this. The people sending the email obviously want to make it look like it’s from Apple. But if you look closely, you can easily determine that it’s a scam. My real question for Apple is why they can’t determine these are scams and delete them before sending them to me. I am a savvy enough user to realize that this email is fake. But many users may not realize it that easily.

If you look at the email closely, the look and feel of it looks very similar to the minimalistic email formatting thatimage Apple commonly uses. It’s only when you look at the link that the scammer is attempting to get you to click on that you see that it’s actually fake.  If you actually click that link it takes you to a page that looks just like the Apple account sign in page. I always check these links before I click on them by holding my finger down on the link if on an iPad or iPhone until it shows me where it’s taking me. You can also click and hold with a mouse on the link and see the same thing if you’re on a computer. These kind of emails come from all different companies and always look as if they’re real. But here’s my real issue with Apple.

I can see no reason why a mail provider, that is hosting email itself such as Apple, can’t determine these phishing scams are being sent out in its own name. It would seem to me that Apple would want to stop these at the server level rather than subject users to the risk of accidentally clicking. But that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

So it bears recommending one more time for users to be extremely careful of the email that comes to them. It only takes one casual click, and the entering of your ID information, to allow someone access to your credit cards, your stored identity information, and cause you all kinds of problems that you’ll then have to deal with.

Remember, think before you click and make email safer. But I still believe, email providers need to step up and deal with this problem. It makes perfect sense to me that Apple does so little filtering at the server level when they can’t even filter out email that looks like it’s coming from them.

More Questions on iCloud Drive

Q: I am not really clear on the iCloud drive. Am I correct with this? First, you need to put items in the icloud drive by dragging them there? Then they should show up on the iPhone but where? Is there supposed to be an icloud drive on the phone? or the pad?  Or would the files just be available, for  example, on pages on the iPhone, since that’s where I worked on them?  This is not totally clear for me.

A: What you say makes perfect sense. Unfortunately that’s not exactly how it works.

The part on the Mac is correct drag things to the iCloud drive icon that’s in your Finder sidebar and that puts them and iCloud Drive. On your Mac you can select iCloud drive and finding those items to open them.

But on the iPhone it’s not that simple, on an iOS device the application has to support iCloud Drive. When it does it creates its own folder on iCloud drive for its specific needs.  Here is a screenshot of my my iCloud Drive.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 4.01.31 PM

Each of the folders with specialized icons is created by an application on the iOS device. Then to access the files in a particular folder, such as pages, you run the pages application on the iOS device. There is no place on the iPhone or iOS platform to look at everything that’s on iCloud drive. You also cannot look for files in other folders. For instance, if you created a home folder on your iCloud drive your iOS apps could not see it.  Each app in iOS only looks in its own folder.

And if that’s not enough, each app from iOS can only look at the root level of that folder.  If on the Mac you create subfolders, iOS cannot see them.

To be quite honest, Apple needs to clean a little of this up before it becomes really useful. For now, I only use it for apps on the phone that I want access to the files on the Mac. Not the other way around.

Hope this clears it up. But it’s not you, it’s confusing by its nature.

Apple has a page on their website that helps clear some of this up.

I’ve lost the predictive text bar in iOS 8

IMG_1375So here’s one that’s kind of easy to miss. People of told me that they can’t find the predictive text bar above the keyboard in iOS 8. They tell me it used to be there but now it’s gone. First I direct them to the settings under keyboard to make sure predictive text is turned on. But typically it is.IMG_1376

What normally happens is your finger accidentally slips when typing on the keyboard and makes the predictive text bar become minimized. If you notice just above the keyboard there may be a small bar at the center of the keyboard area. This bar is a slider that you can click on and drag upward to turn the predictive text bar back on. It’s pretty easy to miss, but once you notice it’s there and turn it back on it’s easy to see how he could accidentally be turned off.

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Not Enough iCloud Storage

imgresHave you ever seen the message on your iPhone or iPad that tells you it was unable to back up to iCloud?   This is a common message that seen often and there are a couple ways to deal with it.

The simplest way is to simply go to the iCloud storage settings and purchase more storage. Apple makes additional storage available at an inexpensive cost. You can update from the 5 GB Apple provides to 20 GB for only $.99 a month.

Alternatively you can’t remove items from your phone to make your storage needs smaller.

You can use these steps to see how much iCloud storage is available in your account:

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:If you’re using iOS 8 or later, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage.
If you’re using an earlier version of iOS, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.
On your Mac, go to Apple menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then click Manage.

The next thing you should probably do is to go into Settings > General > Usage and see what is using up the space on your phone.

Apple has a great technical note describing what gets backed up that’s called, “iCloud: iCloud storage and backup overview”.  From this note here’s what iCloud backs up:

  • Purchase history for music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books

Your iCloud backup includes information about the content you have purchased, but not the purchased content itself. When you restore from an iCloud backup, your purchased content is automatically downloaded from the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. Some types of content aren’t downloaded automatically in all countries, and previous purchases may be unavailable if they have been refunded or are no longer available in the store. For more information, see the Apple Support article iTunes in the Cloud availability by country. Some types of content aren’t available in all countries. For more information, see the Apple Support article What can I buy from the iTunes Store in my country?.

  • Photos and videos on your iOS devices
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail
  • Your iOS device backup only includes data and settings stored on your device.

It doesn’t include data already stored in iCloud, for example contacts, calendars, bookmarks, mail messages, notes, shared photo albums, iCloud Photo Library beta, My Photo Stream, and documents you save in iCloud using iOS apps and Mac apps.

The bottom line usually comes down to this. If you don’t have room to back up your phone it’s likely because you have too many pictures, or you have received many pictures and messages and have not deleted those messages. Generally if you clean out those two items you’ll have enough space in iCloud to be able to back up.

Pages templates show in a foreign language

IMG_0308.JPGApple’s Pages application provides a number of high-quality easy to use templates to create documents quickly that look very professional. One of the things I often get a question about when people begin to use these templates is why Apple creates them in some foreign language. Here’s the question I usually see:

Q:  Hey George, one thing I don’t understand is why all the text is in a foreign language when I use a template in Pages. Why doesn’t Apple just use English?

A:  Pages templates contain placeholder text, entered to show what a block of text will look like on the page without the distraction of holding any specific meaning.  This text is called lorem ipsum.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it.

“In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is a filler text commonly used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation. Replacing meaningful content that could be distracting with placeholder text may allow viewers to focus on graphic aspects such as font, typography, and page layout.

The lorem ipsum text is typically a scrambled section of De finibus bonorum et malorum, a 1st-century BC Latin text by Cicero, with words altered, added, and removed such that it is nonsensical, improper Latin.”

The language of that text (Latin) is immaterial, as it is intended to be replaced with whatever words you want to put on the page.

To change this text, you simply click on a block of text in the templets.and start typing.

Alternatively, you can click on the text, go Edit > Paste and Match Style to replace it with text you have copied from elsewhere.

New Home Control Products

imageThe home control market is in the process of exploding. Many vendors are trying to create products that allow people to create their own smart home and control it from an application on their phone or computer.  Having more products in the market is always great, but determining whether those products really work in your home is another story. I had the opportunity to test a couple more of these products that I’d like to tell you about.

The first of these is called a Lutron Caseta dimming switch and remote. This switch replaces a light switch in your home with a switch that can be controlled from your iPhone, iPad, or android device. For the switches to work you have to have some type of a central home hub that provides control. The home hub I’m using is the Wink hub and I’ve written about it in previous posts.  The switches wirelessly connect to the hub and allow Wi-Fi connected devices to control actions. They give you the ability to be able to create what are called robots to perform functions in your home. An example of this is what I’m using to control my outdoor driveway lights. I installed one of the switches and created a robot script that tells it went to turn the driveway lights on and when  to turn them off.

The switch was easy to install by just removing the existing light switch and wiring this new switch in using the same wires and connectors that were in place. Once installed you use the app on your iPhone or android device to connect to the switch and pair it to the hub.  Once paired with the hub you have control over that device. Then you can create your scripts for how you want the light to function. You also have the ability to turn the lights on and off from any place that you’re on the Internet. This switch comes with a small remote but allows you to have remote control without the use of the phone. So far I’ve been very please with the switch and it’s ease of installation and function.

The other device I had the opportunity to test was a GE link lightbulb. This device is basically a lightbulb that imagescrews into a light socket and allows you to control the light in the same way as the Lutron switch did. It’s installation is even simpler in that you basically screw it  into a light socket and turn on the light. You then use the app, the Wink app  in my case, to pair the lightbulb with your system. At that point you have control of it in the same way as the Lutron switch.

One nice thing about the ability of the Wink hub is the ability to program conditional Robots. In my case, I have my lights set that when I turn a particular light on it automatically turns on this lightbulb. This allows me to control lights based upon the condition of other lights in the house. I can’t say enough about this lightbulb in the fact that it is simple to operate easy to install and works flawlessly. The bulb itself is an LED bulb and provides a nice warm light. This bulb was also relatively inexpensive at less than $15.

I really enjoy making my home smarter. When I pick devices to purchase I try to ensure that I select devices that have a good likelihood of being compatible with many other systems. That way I maximize my use of home control today and prepare for future developments that might come tomorrow.

Capture your iOS Device Screen on your Mac in Yosemite

Q:  Somewhere I saw that with Yosemite I will be able to mirror and capture my iPhone screen (if cabled to to my MB). You might have to show me how that works if I haven’t figgered it out by the time I see you.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.59.52 PMA:  Yes, that is one of the new features in Yosemite.  Just connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using the Lightning connector and it will be automatically available as a video camera.  Run Quicktime and select “New Movie Recording in the File menu.  Now change the recording source to your phone .

Now the live view of your phone will show on the Mac and can be recorded if you like.

This makes it easy to record video of your phone screen to a file on your Mac.  Right now in Yosemite 10.10.0 it seems to be a little buggy. If you close iTunes before opening QuickTime it seems to work a little better.

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