iOS 12 — what’s new in Apple’s iPhone system upgrade

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Sep 172018
 

It’s that time of year again. New Apple devices. New iPhones and watches, and new versions of the stuff that makes them work. MacWorld highlights the best new features in iOS 12 in this article: “How to use the coolest new features in iOS 12” (September 17, 2018).

At last, iOS 12 is here, bringing a batch of new features to tinker with. Most (if not all) of these features aren’t exactly earth-shaking, in part because Apple spent much of its development process cleaning up the relatively buggy mess of iOS 11 and turning its sequel into something worthy of the Apple name. In fact, many already exist on competing operating systemsin some form or another.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re not fun or useful, nor does it mean that they’re not welcome. We here at Macworld have spent the last several months tinkering with all of these new options in the iOS 12 beta, and over that time a few have emerged as our favorites. Once you get used to them, iOS 11 feels ancient and inefficient by comparison.

Read the full article to determine if there are any features which may appeal to you.

 

Aug 202018
 

I’ve followed this topic for years: When and how often to charge your smartphone’s battery. What to do and not — in order to prolong the usable life of that battery (and so not worry about replacing the battery before you’re ready to get a new smartphone, eh).

For many of us, charging the battery on our smartphones is a daily ritual. Sometimes more than once a day, as we do more and more on our smartphones that we used to do on desktop/notebook computers. One basic question is whether to use your smartphone until the battery charge level is so low that your device shuts off automatically (or at least until you get a warning).

While there remains some debate about charging practices (versus battery chemistry per se), I found this recent Lifehacker.com article a good summary: “Stop Letting Your Smartphone’s Battery Die Before You Charge It” (August 17, 2018).

You can charge your smartphone whenever you want. Your device’s lithium-ion battery doesn’t care if it’s at 10% or 80% capacity; it will charge just fine without destroying your device’s longevity.

It’s true that a lithium-ion battery will diminish over time, … the capacity of a lithium-ion battery “diminishes slightly with each complete charge cycle.”So, if you’ve overusing your smartphone because you think you’re better-maintaining its battery by doing so, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. Stop adding unnecessary charge cycles by draining the battery. Just charge it.

In particular, the article references a YouTube video from the American Chemical Society with tips on making your smartphone battery last longer.

As for all the other battery myths out there, everyone seems to have a different take on what you should do with your device—when to charge it, when not to charge it, what battery level to charge to, et cetera. … the general recommendation is that you keep your smartphone’s battery around 50 percent if you aren’t using it for a long time (as in, months) …

How Can You Make Your Smartphone Battery Last Longer?

  • Avoid heat
  • Avoid fully discharging the battery — to the point that your device shuts off
  • Store at 50% charge

There appears to be one area of some contention:

But what about the dreaded “trickle-charging” issue you’ve probably heard of? That’s the one where you’re not supposed to keep your smartphone plugged in at night because it will constantly “charge” whenever it drops to 99 percent. That’s not exactly a myth, according to multiple sources, but there’s still a lot of contention over what you should actually do …

Personally, whenever I can (and it’s convenient), if I notice that my smartphone is 100% charged, I disconnect the charger.

Be more conscious about when your smartphone is plugged in, and you’ll likely reap what little benefits you can—assuming your efforts aren’t overshadowed by the fact that your smartphone’s battery will simply get worse with age, period.

Note that because many other devices use lithium-ion batteries, these tips may apply to them as well. And remember to follow your device manufacturer’s guidelines and use their provided chargers in most cases, since quality matters regarding the interplay of device and charger.

Phishing attacks — fake “Apple” emails

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Mar 282018
 

I’ve noticed these types of scams for awhile: email messages (supposedly) from Apple purportedly about a payment or Apple ID or login from another device (which in fact you may not own). More and more email apps (especially on mobile devices) do not permit examination of the raw message text, which often permits detection of the fraud. So, what to do?

This Vipre Security News blog post (March 16, 2018) is a good summary of the situation: “Apple Phishing Attacks Prompt Advice From Tech Giant.”

Apple customers don’t get phished quite as much as Microsoft ones, but they do face a fairly annoying variety and frequency of fake emails. The problem stems from the fact that Apple sends emails to its customers quite regularly, thereby making the millions of Apple customers juicy targets for the bad guys.

There are three basic fake emails going around. The first appears as an email invoice for your “recent Apple purchase.” Another is a “Reminder” notifying you of an account login from an iPad in Monaco. The third, and possibly most alarming, is a text message informing you that your Apple ID is expiring today.

If you’re not sure whether an email about an App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchase is legitimate, these tips from Apple may help.

As in all phishing scams, these fake messages want you to click on a link or open an attachment (which may include further fake links) and then trick you into providing personal or account information — which (genuine) “App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchases will never ask you to provide.”

Checking or updating any account or payment information should only be done in the Settings on your Apple device.

Best TV streaming service?

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Jan 312018
 

PC World, January 31, 2018: “Best TV streaming service: SlingTV vs Hulu vs PlayStation Vue, and all the rest.”

Which streaming TV bundle is the best deal for cord cutters? Our head-to-head reviews hash it out.

When you “cut the [cable TV) cord]” and keep your high-speed Internet service, whether you also switch to over-the-air (OTA) channels, what over-the-top (OTT) service do you subscribe to? There are quite a few choices. Not all choices are available everywhere.

Personally, after reactivating my old TV antenna for OTA reception, I chose YouTube TV. Is YouTube TV perfect? Nope. Does the service have all the OTA channels? Nope. Do I like it? Most definitely.

The PC World article cited above is an excellent guide for choices: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Philo, and more. Channels, prices, features, device compatibility.

To see which local stations are available in your area, visit the websites for Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, FuboTV, and YouTube TV.

 

Patches for Spectre — impact on your iPhone?

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Jan 172018
 

Much in the media still about global computer security vulnerabilities Meltdown and Spectre. Apple, among other companies, released patches to mitigate the risks. This PC World article (January 16, 2018) summarizes the situation for Apple’s mobile devices — your iPhone: “Apple’s iOS 11.2.2 Spectre patch probably won’t slow down your iPhone, but here’s what to do if it does.”

Last week Apple pushed out iOS 11.2.2, which seeks to mitigate the risks associated with the Spectre chip flaw via a security update to Safari and Webkit. Since a Spectre attacker is most likely to attack your system via a Javascript vulnerability, Apple has addressed the issue in iOS 11.2.2 to make your system more secure.

The patch doesn’t actually fix the issue, however, and it’s unlikely Apple will ever release an iOS update that will. While researchers and programmers are actively working on ways to reduce the likelihood that your iPhone will ever be exploited using the Spectre flaws, Apple and others have made it clear that these are merely mitigations and not outright fixes.

We tested an iPhone 6 with an original battery both before and after installing iOS 11.2.2, and the results were much more in line with what Apple told us. … That’s roughly a 2.5-percent performance hit …

If your iPhone’s performance feels different, the article reocmmends:

  • Restarting
  • Checking storage
  • Resetting Safari’s cache
  • (Temporarily) disabling Javascript
  • Checking the battery for possible replacement
Jan 052018
 

Much in the media this week about an industry-wide problem with all devices using Intel processors — CPU chips, and perhaps those from other manufacturers as well. A security vulnerability: Meltdown and Spectre. It’s like Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow walking through the dark forest in the 1939 classic The Wizard of OZ and chanting “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

PC World’s been covering this situation with a bunch of articles. Here’re a few links:

Massive security vulnerabilities in modern CPUs are forcing a redesign of the kernel software at the heart of all major operating systems. Since the issues—dubbed Meltdown and Spectre—exist in the CPU hardware itself, Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, Chromebooks, and other operating systems all need to protect against it. And worse, plugging the hole can negatively affect your PC’s performance.

Everyday home users shouldn’t panic too much though. Just apply all available updates and keep your antivirus software vigilant, as ever. If you want to dive right into the action without all the background information, we’ve also created a focused guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre.1

Intel said the patches for the CPU vulnerability, due next week, would bring a negligible performance hit to the average user. Claiming that the patches can make PCs “immune” from the vulnerabilities is a first, though.

Intel may have dominated most of the news surrounding the kernel bug in processors, but it’s not just Windows and Macs that are at risk. In addition to Meltdown, there is also a “branch target injection” bug called Spectre that affects mobile ARM processors found in iOS and Android phones, tablets, and other devices that could also expose your data. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

We’ve been waiting to hear from Apple ever since we first heard about the far-reaching Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws earlier this week, and the company has finally responded with some not-so-good news: All Mac and iOS devices are affected. That’s right, all of them. However, Apple ensures us there’s no reason to panic.

So, the bottom line is that this vulnerability is serious. Lots of manufacturers of the hardware and software that make your devices run are working on the fixes. Some patches already have been released. So, just be ready for the updates. It’ll take time for everything to settle down. The major concern is impact on performance. Ironically, the vulnerabilities were a result of long-standing techniques to improve performance. As PC World stated:

“We feel your pain. But security trumps performance, so we’d rather our PCs be a little slower than exposed to hackers.”

In summary:

  • Update your operating system
  • Check for firmware updates
  • Update your browser
  • Keep your antivirus active

 

[1] That PC World article notes that:

  • Microsoft pushed out an emergency Windows patch [Windows 10 ‘1709’ edition KB4056892 patch] late in the day on January 3.
  • Apple quietly worked Meltdown protections into macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, which released in December. [Also iOS 11.2.]
  • Intel also released a detection tool that can help you determine whether you need a firmware update.
  • The major PC web browsers have all issued updates as a first line of defense against nefarious websites seeking to exploit the CPU flaw with Javascript.
  • The Google researchers who discovered the CPU flaws say that traditional antivirus wouldn’t be able to detect a Meltdown or Spectre attack. But attackers need to be able to inject and run malicious code on your PC to take advantage of the exploits. Keeping security software installed and vigilant helps keep hackers and malware off your computer.

UPDATE: I haven’t tried Intel’s detection tool, but today (January 17, 2018) Senior Editor Brad Chacos at PC World published an article about a 3rd-party tool which checks whether your system has been patched to protect against the flaws: “Is your PC vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre CPU exploits? InSpectre tells you.”

Gibson Research recently released InSpectre, a wonderfully named, dead simple tool that detects if your PC is vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre.

InSpectre is a small 122 KB program that doesn’t need a formal install and scans your computer for Meltdown and Spectre susceptibility in mere milliseconds. When it’s done, the program pops up with clear, easy-to-read information about the security status of your system.

This is the sort of software Microsoft or Intel should have released to help clarify the murky, convoluted patching situation around this devastating duo of CPU exploits.

Personally, I’ll wait for these tools to evolve further.

iOS 11 Upgrade — new features for iPhone and iPad

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Sep 192017
 

Starting today (September 19, 2017), the iOS 11 upgrade for iPhone and iPad will be available on your Apple devices. There’s lots of coverage of this release. Here’s one (Macworld) article reviewing the changes and new features: “iOS 11 review: Apple’s most ambitious and impressive upgrade in years.”

If you’re an iPad user, download iOS 11 immediately. It’s a huge update that makes major improvements to the two-year-old multitasking features, and drag-and-drop and Files have the potential to transform iPad productivity.

If you’re an iPhone user—well, who are we kidding, you’re almost certainly going to upgrade to iOS 11, too. And you’ll be right to do so. This is a great collection of new features, Apple’s best iOS upgrade in years. The new, customizable Control Center is a winner. Do Not Disturb While Driving will make the roads safer. And ARKit threatens to kick off a revolution in augmented-reality applications. This is all great stuff.