Application Specific Passwords for your iCloud Account

App-specific passwords allow you to sign in to your account securely when you use apps that don’t natively support two-step verification or two-factor authentication. There has been quite a bit of conjecture on the internet that very soon, any non Apple application that access iCloud data, like Microsoft Outlook, and specifically Windows machines accessing iCloud information will be required to use an application specific password.

Before creating app-specific passwords, two-factor authentication must be enabled for your Apple ID. As of iOS 10.3 and later, two-factor authentication is automatically setup for new Apple ID accounts. iOS 10.3 also auto-prompts existing accounts to upgrade. This makes sense as apple has been pushing people to use two-factor authentication now in many ways.

To make an app-specific password, do the following:

  1. Sign in to your Apple ID account page at https://appleid.apple.com
  2. In the Security section, click Generate Password below App-Specific Passwords.

  3. Fill in a name for the password you are creating so you can remove it if you desire later
  4. A dialog will come up and show you the password that was generated

  5. After you generate your app-specific password, enter or paste it into the password field of the app as you would normally.

You can have up to 25 active app-specific passwords at any given time. If you need to, you can revoke passwords individually or all at once.

If you want to revoke one of these application specific passwords, in the security section of your applied management page, click on edit.  Then under App specific passwords, click View History.  You will be shown a list of all the application specific passwords you have used.  Click on the one you want to remove and click to remove it.

Get used to this because tighter security is coming to an iCloud account near you very soon.

How to Backup your Critical iCloud Information

icloud-experiencing-issuesIn the early days of iCloud, it was very common for something to go drastically wrong and iCloud and delete or scramble your data. After seeing this happen many times, I had gotten into a routine where I would back up my critical information by hand from iCloud.  For the last few years I haven’t seen this problem and have become quite complacent about it. Unfortunately, complacency generally feeds disaster, and in my case that almost happened.

The great thing about iCloud is that you can change something one time and it synchronizes around to all of your devices keeping them all up-to-date. Unfortunately that’s also the Achilles’ heel. If something goes wrong on anyone device or if you accidentally delete something from one device it synchronizes to all your devices and the information that you had before may be permanently lost. Such was my recent case with iCloud.

Somewhere along the line in updating to iOS 9.0 or 9.1, and updating my Mac to El Capitan, I came to notice that my Safari bookmarks or not the same as they used to be. Looking at them closely I saw that many of my bookmark categories had been duplicated, others had been rearranged, and if you were missing entirely. It seems that one of those upgrades did something nasty to my bookmarks. And since I had gotten out of the habit of backing up my critical information by hand, my only choice was to go back and fix them all by hand and let them sync again. So that’s exactly what I had to do. I set down at my Mac and made all my changes to get my bookmarks back as nearly as they had looked before the problem.

While investing a couple hours and cleaning up my bookmarks was probably not devastating, it did point out to me that continuing the routine of backing up your critical iCloud information makes good sense.

So what information do you consider critical? For me, that would be my contacts, calendars, Safari bookmarks, and my notes. Apple provides a method to back up by hand the first three but unfortunately the new notes application lacks that ability. So here’s how to handle a back up of the first three pieces of critical information that iCloud stores:

Contacts
Open the contacts application on a mac and go to the file menu and select export. Next select export archive from the menu. Pick a location to store your back up, and name it something that has the date included. This way you’ll be able to tell the newest one if you need to recover.

Calendars
Again on a Mac, open your calendars application go to the file menu, select export, and export a calendar archive. If you’ve been keeping track of calendars for a long time this may take a few minutes. It will again ask a location and I typically use the same naming convention I did with my contacts.

Safari bookmarks
Open Safari on your Mac, and select File and then Export Bookmarks. Pick the same location to store your back up, and name it something that has the date included.

Notes
When it comes to notes that’s another story. You can export individual notes as a PDF file but backing up hundreds of notes that way would be difficult.  If you want to dig down into the bowels of your computer, your notes file is actually stored in…

~/Users/<username>/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes

Once you selected that folder, you can simply go to the edit menu and say copy. Then paste that file into your backup location. If you can’t find it from the path you probably don’t need to be down in these folders in the first place.

Next I set a calendar alarm to remind me to do this once a month. By doing this monthly I am sure myself but for some reason iCloud has a hiccup, my information will be easily recoverable and reloadable.

My iCloud doesn’t seem to be syncing any more…

imgresHere’s a problem that a number of people have seen since upgrading their Mac or iOS device.

Have you ever wondered if your iCloud information is truly syncing? Sometimes you add a new contact, or a new bookmark, and can’t seem to get it to move to your other devices. ICloud is supposed to sync automatically and normally it does. But once in a while, particularly after an update, I find that parts of iCloud seem to stop syncing. So what’s a person to do.

The easiest way to get iCloud to sync again is to simply toggle off the offending item, such as contacts or bookmarks in the iCloud settings on either your phone or computer. By simply turning it off, and then turning it back on, often times the sync resumes normally. Generally, when you turn the sync back on for the particular item such as bookmarks, iCloud will ask if it’s okay to merge the information from your device with the information in the cloud. Since most of the information is the same, merging will accomplish the sync that you’re looking for and put all of the information on your device. So when asked, Tell it that it’s okay to merge.

While we all realize, we shouldn’t have to go through this process, this is certainly a simple method to get all of your information in iCloud back in sync on all your devices.

Dealing with junk mail in iCloud

spamYou don’t get any junk mail do you? Well I sure do. Each mail account that you have deals of junk mail a little differently. You can collect junk, spam, or just a long waste of your time, it all ends up the same, you want to get rid of it.

One of the primary addresses I use is an iCloud account and here is what Apple says about dealing with junk mail in iCloud.

iCloud automatic junk mail filtering

To minimize junk mail, iCloud uses techniques such as trend analysis, dynamic lists, and content filtering to automatically detect and block junk mail before it reaches your Inbox. However, no strategy for managing junk mail is 100% effective, so some junk mail may still reach your Inbox. The information below may help you reduce the amount of junk mail that you receive.

If you think a message may be junk mail, don’t open it

Sometimes the seemingly innocent act of opening a questionable email can alert spammers that their message was received and opened at an active email account. This can encourage more junk mail. To avoid this, you can delete any messages that look like junk mail before you view them.

You can also use the Mail app to mark messages as junk so that later messages from the same sender are automatically marked as junk:

  • In iOS 7 or later, open the message, tap the flag icon at the bottom, then tap “Move to Junk”.
  • In OS X, select the message and click the Junk (thumbs down) icon in the Mail toolbar.
  • At iCloud.com, select the message, then click the flag icon and choose “Move to Junk”. Or just drag the message to the Junk folder in the sidebar.

Spammers can use the email image-loading feature to determine whether your email account is active. Here’s how to keep images from loading automatically:

  • In OS X Mail, choose Mail > Preferences. In the Viewing tab, deselect “Display remote images in HTML messages”.
  • In iCloud Mail, choose Preferences from the Action (gear) pop-up menu in the sidebar. In the General tab, deselect “Load images in HTML messages”.

So those are the basics, but Apple has many other ideas that can assist you in dealing with junk mail problems in your iCloud account. Take a look at their support document for more information.
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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.