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A Guide to Regular Tech Care and maintenance Tasks

Many common computer and tech problems that arise could be avoided with some basic maintenance. Here’s a list of suggested tasks to perform regularly.

As a consultant, I usually instruct people on these things whenever I meet with them – providing a personalized strategy that meets their needs.

Daily

If you use your computer regularly, it’s a good idea to have automated daily backups. In many computers these run every hour to backup any recently created or changed files.

When writing longer articles or books that are time-intensive, consider saving frequently using the Save As feature and give the file a name that includes a revision number such as My Great Book Rev 7. Each new version you save provides a backup of the work done so far allowing you to go back in time to a previous version.

A common and sad problem is when people mistakenly select all, delete, and then save their blank document or presentation by mistake. When you save overtop of an existing file, it will be very difficult to recover it.

Weekly

Computers are usually configured to update their software and operating system automatically. However, these updates sometimes don’t happen. For example, if you use your computer for short periods of time, and otherwise have it turned off completely, then the updates won’t happen. Consider leaving  your computer on overnight once a week.

In addition to operating system updates, there will be updates to Java, Adobe software, Microsoft software such as Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and others. It may be necessary to manually check for updates to these.

There are utility programs that scan your computer for software, check the versions, then check with the provider to see if a newer version is available, but this requires an additional program. Sometimes it’s easier just to simplify life and do a few things manually.

Monthly

Virus Scan. Some people seem to get computer malware quite frequently. Other people can go for years without getting malware. You’ll want to determine how often you seem to be getting into trouble with malware and scan accordingly. Monthly scanning is a good place to start. A program like Malwarebytes protects in realtime and also can conduct scanning. Some malware will remove antivirus software so make sure your antivirus is still installed and actively protecting your computer. 

Software Inventory. If you’ve ever installed some software and subsequently decided to stop using it, or gradually used it less and less, then you may want to check your list of installed programs to make sure there are no unnecessary programs. Also, it’s a good practice to ensure that no programs have slipped into your computer as the result of infected websites.

Browser Extensions, Plug-ins, and Add-ons. There are a number of names given to the software that runs within browsers. Some of these applications are useful. Others are malicious or slow down the computer. Programs like Adblock Plus and AdBlocker Ultimate are considered to be okay. Malicious browser extensions can get added without you being fully aware of what is happening. So, it’s good to check for these regularly. Antivirus software isn’t good about blocking these.

Backups. Monthly or perhaps weekly, you may want to check and make sure your backups are running. Be sure the external drive hasn’t become disconnected. Perhaps go through a trial run of restoring a file. Even if you have a cloud synchronized drive (like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or iCloud) it’s a good idea to have a local backup as well. If a catastrophic failure requires restoring terabytes of data, it will go more quickly with a local drive. Also, if you have huge files to backup, that can take a while to upload those to the cloud given that upload speeds are usually 10% to 20% of  your download speed.

Speed Test. It’s a good idea to check your Internet speed on a realgar basis. A clean ad-free way to do this is to go to Bing.com and search for speed test. You can then use the Bing speed test service.

Data Use. Being mindful of your data usage is important, both for your mobile devices and also your home internet service. Excessive spikes in data usage can be a sign that a neighbor is using your WiFi to download illegal movies that you’ll be legally responsible for, or perhaps a virus has taken over your computer for use as a global file server for illegal unsavory content. If you’re a Mediacom customer, you can go to Mediacomtoday.com/usagemeter/

Hard Drive. Checking your hard drive monthly can help you ensure it isn’t filling up to capacity with data. For each person the frequency of this will be different. If you work with video production, this could be a weekly task. For most people it could be done monthly.

Subscriptions. It’s a good idea to have a spreadsheet where you can keep track of various subscriptions for software and services that may be expiring. This could include antivirus software annual renewals. It could include website hosting and domain registration renewals. These monthly check-ins are a good reminder of when to expect certain fees to be charged. This is also a good time to check your bank and credit card statements for unexpected charges, and when you see renewals coming up, consider cancelling any services you don’t use.

  • Microsoft charges an annual $99 fee for their Office 365 subscription plan.
  • If you’re an iPhone user, check for recurring subscriptions purchased through the phone. To do this, go to Settings > iCloud (not labeled but found at the top of the Settings screen – tap on your name) > Tap on iTunes & App Store > Tap on your Apple ID email at the top of the screen > select View Apple ID > scroll to bottom of screen and select Subscriptions. From there, try to cancel any undesired subscriptions.
  • Also, make a note of any discount or free trial periods that may expire. For example, Sirius XM satellite radio has a $5 per month offer. When that expires, you’ll start getting charged $16 per month.  

Yearly

Cloud Data. Once a year, it’s a good idea to download all the data that services have on you. For example, you can download an archive of everything stored in the cloud of companies like Google or Facebook. That way, you’ll have a backup in case their systems go down, get corrupted, or get hacked.

Email Archive. Most email services maintain every email  you’ve ever sent or received. These can go back years. You may want to use an email client to periodically copy those emails to your computer. Perhaps once a year, copy all the emails that are older than one year. These could be saved on  your local hard drive and backed up. This would allow you to delete them from the cloud service. So, if your email account gets hacked, the hackers have limited access to all your personal communications. There have been billions of accounts hacked in recent years. Hackers use that information to contact all your friends with spam and phishing emails. They can also get insights into what services you use, where you bank, where you go on vacation, door codes you may have given to service people, and other details about your life.

File System. Some information on our computers grows from one year to the next, such as software that contains libraries and collections of music or photos. There may be documents and spreadsheets that contain many years of data. However, other than these dozen ongoing projects and files, there are many documents that can just as well be archived into a time capsule for the year. One method of managing files is to keep top-level folders by year that contain all the files from that year. At the end of December, copy forward any ongoing project files or folders. Leave your music and photo libraries alone (assuming you use software for these). In this way, previous years’ folders become time capsules for that year. If you keep your original photos in folders named by date and event, location, or trip, then you can leave those originals in the relevant year. It’s nice to begin each year with a clean folder structure. Using this method also makes it easier to backup only the current documents from the current year. Previous years can be copied or backed up once since they will remain mostly unchanged.

Passwords. Managing passwords is something that could be done on a monthly basis, but most people are just too busy to commit to a long list of weekly or monthly tasks. At a minimum, it’s important to review your passwords annually. Make sure you have all your login information recorded either using a password management program, or a password protected spreadsheet, or perhaps a bound book. You’ll want to date every entry in your password list. This lets you know when a password was last changed or updated. Keep all the other account information recorded as well, such as security questions. Consider changing your passwords once a year. This could be as simple as adding a unique number to the end of every password. Be sure to use unique and complex passwords for every service you use.

Continuity Planning. If something happens to you, do you have a plan regarding how you want your data and online services to be managed? Once a year, it’s a good idea to review your various online accounts. Choose one or more people to update, maintain, or shut down those accounts if something happens to you. Have a plan for what becomes of your data. For photos, writings, audio, videos, and other content that you’d like to share with family or others, consider having that information  already stored on an external hard drive, or even better, create a personal blog where you share everything in real-time. Then all your insights, humor, wisdom, and so on can be available on the web needing no additional management to distribute. Whatever you decide to do, it’s a good idea to review those plans each year.

THANKS

Thanks to Nicholas Johnson for helpful input that was used to develop this document.

DOCUMENT HISTORY

This document was originally published on 28 Nov 2018 at 1:11 PM CT. Below are notes about modifications and additions since then.

  • 20181226we1158 – Added information about checking monthly for unwanted software and browser extensions.
  • 20181225tu1205 – Added tip about checking monthly data usage.

AutoSleep App Unable to Read Apple Watch Sensor – “No Watch Data Available”

The AutoSleep app runs on your iPhone and uses heart rate and other data from your Apple Watch  to automatically determine when you sleep and wake, and also evaluate the quality of your sleep. This document describes a problem that may arise and how to fix it.

No Watch Data Available

After using the app for a while, you may get a message that the app is unable to access the watch data. This could be a result of app updates or other factors. In the app, you’ll see “No Watch Data Available” at the top.

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Wizard Reports 0% Sensor Information

If you go into Settings and run the setup Wizard, you’ll see the following message.

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Problem Resolution

To fix this problem, try the following steps:

  1. Go into the the Apple Health app (white icon, red heart), select sources tab, select AutoSleep and then turn off all of the permission switches.
  2. Reboot the iPhone:
    • iPhone 6s and earlier: Press home + sleep wake button until you see .
    • iPhone 7 volume down button + sleep wake button until you see .
    • iPhone 8/X quick press up volume, let go, quick press down volume, let go, then press and hold sleep wake until you see .
  3. Reboot the Watch by pressing the crown and side button simultaneously until you see 
  4. Go back into the the Apple Health app select sources tab, select AutoSleep and then turn on all of the permission switches.
  5. Now go into AutoSleep app and this should restore all permissions.

This often completely fixes the problem.

Additional information on this issue and how to resolve it can be found on the Tantsissa website:

http://autosleep.tantsissa.com/wtdnosensordata

Google WiFi – Removing an Inactive Network

If you’re using Google WiFi and encounter network connectivity problems, with multiple hotspots blinking orange or red, you may need to rebuild your network.

Reset your network devices by holding the reset button until the units blink blue. Then begin the setup process again using the app.

When you’re done, the old network will still show up in the app. You’ll want to remove it by following these steps:

  1. From the three horizontal line menu (top left) choose the inactive network.
  2. Of the three available menu tabs in the app, choose the right one then under Settings select Network & General.
  3. Tap on WiFi Points
  4. Tap on Factory reset.
  5. Confirm the process by tapping on Factory Reset and the network will be deleted from the Google WiFi app.

 

Evernote: How to uncheck a checklist of tasks or to do items.

One of the great features in Evernote is the ability to have checklists. Once you create and use a checklist, all the items on the list will have checkmarks. To create a new list of items without checkmarks, do this:

  1. Copy the original list.
  2. Paste it into a new note.
  3. Select the entire list, then click on the ‘checklist’ icon option at the top next to bullet and numbered list icons.
  4. This will remove all the checkboxes.
  5. Click on the ‘checklist’ icon option at the top and the blank checkboxes will appear.

Now, enjoy checking off items from your list!

Unable to login to Starbucks app – SOLVED

Many people have recently had trouble logging into the Starbucks app. Deleting the Starbucks app and then reinstalling it has been known to solve the login problem.

Note: If you tried multiple incorrect passwords to access the app, you may be locked out. According to Starbucks customer service, there is a 24-hour lockout period although the app will not give you any indication you’re locked out. However, reinstalling the app is the best way to ensure best results.

If you’re on a smartphone and login to the Starbucks website, it’s possible to use the mobile version of the website to make purchases using your Starbucks card. It’s also a way to confirm that your username and password are working correctly.

If this works for you, or doesn’t, feel free to post your experience in the comments below.

Thanks!

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Apple iCloud iPhone iPad Photos Missing Not Synchronizing

In the past three days, I’ve had three different people experiencing problems with photos disappearing from their devices and missing from iCloud. I usually hear from my Apple customers once every 5 years when it’s time to upgrade to a new device. So, hearing from three in one week, all having the same problem, seemed unusual to me.

Problems Observed

Here is some of what’s being observed regarding the iCloud Photos synchronization issue:

  • People with multiple devices have noticed that photos recently taken on their iPhone won’t show up on their iPad.
  • Photos taken weeks ago on the iPhone will only have partially synchronized with other devices.
  • Mac computers synchronizing with iCloud may not show all photos.
  • The iCloud.com website may show all photos under the Photos folder, but photos will be missing under the All Photos folder.
  • On my own iPhone recently, I took a photo, saw it appear in the thumbnail preview as it was being saved, then looked in Photos but it was missing.
  • When going to the iCloud.com website, you may see a banner alert stating “Network unavailable or slow. Photos is taking longer than expected.” This can show up even if you have a tested network speed of 200 Mbps or higher. It’s presumably not an issue with local network speeds, but an problem with Apple’s network or servers.

Synchronization issues can be very challenging because a person may not notice if a few random photos go missing, particularly those from a few weeks ago.

User Interface

It’s important to know the difference between the “All Photos” display of photos and the “Moments” display. Because Moments and All Photos are organized differently, it’s possible at a glance to think some photos are missing. In Moments view, photos are listed by the date and time associated with them. In All Photos, pictures are listed in the order they were added.

On an iOS device, Moments are accessed by tapping the Photos icon. All Photos are found by tapping the Albums icon. These are found at the bottom of the screen on your iPhone or iPad while in the Photos app. By default, an option to “Summarize Photos” is turned on in Settings > Photos as shown below.

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All Photos. Under Albums, if you select All Photos, you will see all photos in your collection listed in the order they were added.

Photos > Moments.There are three levels of zoom in Moments view.

  • Year. When viewing Moments, the overview shows groups of photos by year with individual photos representing events or collections. These tiny thumbnails are about 1/8″ (.5cm) in size, and too small to see.
  • Collections. When you tap on an image in Year view, you will then see photos grouped by location and a range of dates with individual photos representing a group of similar photos (based on location, date, time, and image). So in this view you won’t see all your photos.
    • If you tap on a location title you can explore an automatically grouped collection of photos for the location(s) and dates selected. Note that the title text is white, so the title won’t show up for photos that are predominantly white or light colored. If you tap on the title, you’ll see a slideshow of that collection.
  • Moments. If you tap on a photo in the Collections view, you’ll be taken to the zoomed in view of Moments which is all photos listed in chronological order grouped by location, date, and time. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a total count of photos and videos, as well as an indication of when the last update happened, or the progress of any current uploads or downloads.

Apple Support Experience

Working with someone this evening, I called Apple customer service (at 1-800-MYAPPLE) and was routed to what seemed to be an overseas call center. The support representative wanted the user information for the account with the corrupted photo collection. They said they wouldn’t have access to the user’s account, but they wanted the account information. The support person seemed uninformed about the nature of the problem, but said they could look into the account in more depth to try and fix the problem — contradicting what they’d said previously. Needless to say, no account information was provided to this support person.

Just to clarify, this was a call we placed to the correct Apple support number — not an incoming call from a fake support center.

System Failures

As a technology support consultant, I have an insight into wide spread epidemic problems. I’ll sometimes get a flood of support calls for similar issues and patterns of system failure become apparent. Or, I’ll write an article (like this one) about a technical problem and it will get thousands of page visits from around the world searching for an answer to a problem — which suggests many people are impacted by that problem.

Lack of Transparency

What’s frequently frustrating is that companies are very reluctant to inform customers of system failures and security breaches for fear of losing customer trust which could adversely impact the sacred ‘bottom line’ and shareholder earnings. So, there’s a lack of transparency. As a result, customers are left dangerously uninformed about massive looming data loss or privacy issues. Were customers to be informed about system failures, they could take the appropriate action to protect their data and personal information. This isn’t just a problem with Apple. It’s the nature of the self-preserving collective ‘narcissism’ found in corporate profit-driven culture. We’re all familiar with news of security breaches impacting millions of people who are only informed years later of the breach.

Actions

Here’s what I’d suggest for those experiencing the above issues or wanting to avoid them:

  • Archive Photos. In addition to using cloud synchronization, it’s a good idea to maintain a local archive of your photos. Windows users can copy photos directly from the camera. Apple users can import photos using the Image Capture program and save them to an archive folder on your computer or an external drive. You’ll want to have the optimization feature turned off (explained below).
    • In this scenario, you would use an archive location for all photos, saved by date and place or event name.
    • For editing and sharing photos, you can use your photo editing software of choice. If anything goes wrong, you can go back to the archive to get your untouched originals.
  • Backup. If you don’t already have your computer system backed up, consider setting up a local hard drive to backup your photos.
  • Check iCloud. Login to your iCloud.com account page and check to see if any missing photos are showing up in the main database. If you see photos in iCloud that aren’t showing up on your devices you might try the following:
    1. Use a friend’s computer to setup a local user account with your iCloud account.
    2. Start the Photos program and put the Photos Library on an external drive and synchronize with your iCloud photos with Optimization turned off.
    3. This process may take a long time if you have a large collection of photos in your iCloud storage.
  • Disable Optimization. When storage is limited, the photo optimization feature removes your pictures from your devices and puts the originals on Apple’s cloud servers. Thumbnail images remain. When in effect, when you click on an image, there may be a delay as the full resolution image or video downloads. If you have a slow internet connection this can take a long time. To disable the optimization feature, go to settings on your iOS device or Preferences in Photos on your computer.
    • A possible configuration would be to have a computer designated as your primary library with optimization turned off. If your mobile devices have optimization turned on, this can save space. In this way, the storage consuming photos can be on your computer’s drive or an external drive where your Photos library file can be maintained.
    • With optimization turned on, for all your devices, it means that you might not have any original photos anywhere, at least not  your entire collection. If your iCloud account gets hacked or corrupted, your photos will forever be lost.
  • Leave Computer On. If you leave your computer on, and the Photos program running (Apple users only), then the photos you take on your iPhone should appear on the computer, be stored, and also get backed up.
  • Traditional Camera. For important photos that you don’t want to possibly lose, consider using a traditional camera and manually copying all of your photos to two hard drives for redundancy.

Share Your Experiences

Please feel free to post a comment below about your own experiences with synchronization issues. Thanks!

Creating a Dedicated Research Account or Identity

The Task

Let’s say you want to research boating for a friend, so you visit lots of boating websites, and signup online for various boating newsletters to learn more. You register on websites to get more information.

The Problem

Through the above activity, you’ve now been tracked by search engines and with website cookies that now identify you as a boating enthusiast. Your email address may get sold as part of a mailing list for those interested in boating.

Now, as you browse the Internet, you’ll see boating ads on every website. You’ll begin to get plenty of unsolicited emails about boating. Targeted advertising and emails can sometimes be helpful if they are actually something we’re interested in. Otherwise, they are just a nuisance.

The Solution

If you’re someone who does research for other people, you may want to consider setting up a research account or identity.

With the help of a friend, or on your own, follow these steps to make this work:

  1. Setup a user account on your computer that’s dedicated to researching a specific topic or topics. Only use that account for research. Use your normal account for the things you’re interested in.
  2. Setup a free Gmail or Outlook.com email address for signing up to receive newsletters.
  3. Save documents, bookmarks, and downloaded PDF files to that dedicated user account.

Now, every time you login, you’ll have all the things related to the research you’re doing without cluttering up your own user account, browser, or email account.

 

Mediacom Approved DOCSIS 3 Cable Modems

Cable Modems

As of 11 Dec 2017, the following DOCSIS 3 cable modems have been approved for use with Mediacom internet service.

Downstream and Upstream Capacity

The above modems have 8×4, 16×4, and 24×8 ratings. This refers to the downstream and upstream channel capabilities. The chart below indicates speed capabilities for various systems.

Channels Down Channels Up Speed Down Speed Up
4 4 171.52 (152) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
8 4 343.04 (304) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
16 4 686.08 (608) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
24 8 1029.12 (912) Mbit/s 245.76 (216) Mbit/s
32 8 1372.16 (1216) Mbit/s 245.76 (216) Mbit/s

Apple Pay Cash Promo Video Misses Critical First Step of Instructions

With the value of Bitcoin having gone from about $4,000 to $15,000 in recent weeks, there’s  been an increased interest in person-to-person payment systems. Demand for simplified payment systems is at an all time high. On 6 December 2017, Apple announced Apple Pay Cash, a peer-to-peer payment system.

This announcement came just hours after news of a major heist in the cryptocurrency world that resulted in numerous people collectively losing over $50M in money. No doubt, consumers will be looking for more secure ways to exchange money with friends and family.

In the video below, that was posted on YouTube for Apple’s 5.6 million subscribers, the simple instructions leave out a very important step. The user must upgrade their device to Apple iOS 11.2 which adds the Apple Pay Cash capability. At present, over 75,000 people have watched the video and were likely perplexed by it since most people will not have performed the upgrade. Some older devices can’t be upgraded to iOS 11.2 so Apple Pay Cash won’t ever work on those devices.

To enjoy Apple Pay Cash, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Software Update
  2. Click Download and Install
  3. Enter your passcode
  4. Agree to the Terms and Conditions
  5. The update will download.
  6. Then the update will install.
  7. You’ll get a message “Verifying Update” and your device will restart.
  8. You’ll see the Apple logo with a progress bar.
  9. Once your device has restarted, then you should be able to follow the instructions provided in the video below.
  10. Whoever you send money to will also need to perform the above steps to get the money you send them.

Video

The Missing Announcement

An announcement on Apple’s website provides the missing information, but it should have been included at the introduction to the video or at the end.

20171207th0944-apple-pay-cash-ios-11_2

Conclusion

After some initial confusion and possibly frustration, hopefully users will figure out what they need to do to make Apple Pay Cash work.

The release of a major product feature, with incomplete information is disconcerting, particularly just weeks after a major security vulnerability and oversight in Apple’s macOS High Sierra that required an emergency update to 10.13.1. That bug allowed anybody to gain full administrative super-user control over any Apple computer from the login screen. Another less significant oversight recently was the inability to easily enter numbers into their program called Numbers.

Let’s hope that Apple does a better job going forward in fully testing everything they are pushing out to the public.

How to Cancel iPhone App Subscriptions

Some of the programs we use on our desktop or laptop computers have subscription services associated with them. An example is Evernote Premium.

Perhaps you signed up for premium service on your iPhone, and subsequently began using the product on your laptop or desktop computer. Now, almost a year later, you’re cutting back on some of the many unnecessary monthly and annual fees that can really add up to a lot. So, you’re wondering how to cancel a subscription.

You can follow these steps to review and cancel subscription services being paid through Apple iTunes. It’s a great way to discover hidden ongoing payments you may have long forgotten about. These instructions assume you have the latest iOS software update on your device and you’ve signed into your iCloud account on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings.
  2. At the top, tap on your name to access Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store.
  3. Tap on iTunes & App Store.
  4. Tap on your Apple ID displayed at the top of the screen.
  5. Choose View Apple ID from the pop-up list.
  6. Tap on Subscriptions (you may need to scroll down).

You will have now discovered a treasure trove of monthly and annual subscriptions you’ve been paying perhaps without knowing. Tap on any subscription for more information or to cancel.

Be careful to only cancel subscriptions you’re sure you don’t need. You don’t want to inadvertently cancel something and then later realize that you were using some feature or enhancement provided by the subscription.