What Is a “Managed IT Department” Model and Why Is It Important for Your Business?

You’ve chosen Apple devices to run your business. That’s great, but are you still dealing with each of those devices individually? If you hire a new employee, do you go to the Apple Store to buy a new Mac, bring it back to the office, spend a few hours installing the right software, and then sit down with the employee to get them started with email accounts and other logins?

That self-support approach can work when your company has only a few users, but as your business grows, how much of your time can you afford to spend on IT? You might enjoy it, but it distracts you from what you need to do to make your company thrive. Sure, you might think you’re saving money by doing this work yourself instead of hiring an IT professional, but that amount may pale in comparison to the amount you could make in your primary role. There’s a better way: a managed IT department with device-management software.

In essence, with a managed IT department, we become part of your team, creating systems that simplify and speed up the process of onboarding new devices, monitoring their usage, ensuring their security, and providing ongoing support. Here are some of the ways a managed IT department model can help your business.

Faster and More Accurate Setup

With a managed IT department and properly configured device-management software, you can order a Mac or iOS device from Apple (through an Apple Business Manager account) and when it arrives, your employee can take it out of the box, log in, and have the entire device automatically configured over the network with required apps, server settings, security policies, and more.

If you’ve spent several hours configuring devices manually, it’s magical to watch a device pick up apps and settings automatically. And it’s not just for new devices. If an employee leaves or you need to repurpose a Mac or iOS device, device-management software can automatically wipe it and set it up for its new role with minimal effort.

Increased Security

An important aspect of switching to a managed IT department model that relies on device-management software is requiring security policies. If you’ve ever worried about an employee losing a company device containing confidential data, device-management software can eliminate those concerns by automatically enabling FileVault for Macs or enforcing non-trivial passcodes on iOS devices. Lost devices can even be locked or wiped remotely from a central management console.

Also, device-management software can restrict what apps users may install, so you don’t have to worry about apps that could leak confidential information or malware that could be stealing passwords.

Proactive Monitoring

A managed IT department support model lets your users focus on their work, rather than on their Macs. Monitoring software can report if Mac hard drives start to fail, when laptop batteries start to go, if RAM is faulty, and more. It’s better to know that a drive is dying before you lose data.

Monitoring software can also check on important events, making sure that backups are happening regularly, warning if a user has downloaded a potentially problematic operating system update, and making sure anti-malware software is up to date.

Proactive Maintenance

Monitoring helps identify issues early on, but perhaps the most important aspect of a managed IT department solution is how it combines proactive monitoring with proactive maintenance. It uses software and services that go beyond identifying problems to fixing them—blocking undesirable software upgrades, automatically deploying essential security updates, and removing malware—before they impact your workflow. This saves your users downtime and frustration, and lets you focus on your work rather than troubleshooting problems.

Improved Reporting

It may not be difficult to keep track of a handful of Macs and iPhones, but as your business grows, inventory can become daunting. A managed IT department solution helps you know exactly what devices you have, who is using them, and more. It can also report on installed software to make sure you’re in compliance with your software licenses.

Predictable Pricing

If your company pays for support on an hourly billing model, there’s no way to budget accurately for expenses, since no one can predict what will go wrong. Plus, it takes longer to investigate and resolve problems because of the time necessary to figure out the status of the device in question. Solving complex or recurring problems can get expensive in such a scenario.

With a managed IT department, we instead charge a flat monthly fee based on how many devices you have. Thanks to proactive monitoring and device management, we can fix many problems before the user even notices. And if a user does need in-person support, it’s faster and easier to help them when we know exactly what device they’re using, what version of the operating system it’s using, what software they have installed, and more.

A managed IT department model isn’t for every situation, but if your business has more than a handful of Macs, iPhones, and iPads in use by your employees, it could reduce downtime, save you money, and increase security.


Apple Releases Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, new iPad Air, and Subscription Services

In its “Time Flies” special event on September 15th, Apple cleared the decks of some secondary releases to make room for the anticipated unveiling of the iPhone 12 in a few weeks. Secondary though these products may be compared to the iPhone, the new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, fourth-generation iPad Air, and eighth-generation iPad are nothing to sneeze at.

Apple also announced a new subscription service, Apple Fitness+, and three discounted Apple One bundles of its subscription services.

Lastly, Apple said that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 would ship on September 16th, and they did indeed. We’ll have more about those releases soon, but we recommend that you wait at least a few weeks before updating devices you rely on. Although the betas have been pretty stable, nasty bugs may surface as millions of users start using the new operating systems.

Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

With the Apple Watch, Apple usually makes incremental enhancements that improve each successive generation, and the Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. Most notably, it includes a Blood Oxygen sensor and app that report on the oxygen saturation of the wearer’s blood. Low readings can indicate problems with health and fitness, and research suggests that blood oxygen numbers may help identify COVID-19 or flu infections. Low blood oxygen levels could also encourage those who are infected to seek additional medical attention.

The Apple Watch Series 6 also features a new S6 chip, a next-generation always-on altimeter, and an enhanced Always-On Retina display that is up to 2.5 times brighter than the Series 5 display outdoors when the user’s wrist is down, so it’s easier to view in bright sunlight.

Prices for the Apple Watch Series 6 start at $399 for a 40mm GPS-only aluminum model, with cellular capabilities adding $100. The larger 44mm model costs $30 more, and you can spend more on stainless steel (+$300) and titanium (+$400) cases and various watch bands. The aluminum model comes in silver, space gray, and gold, plus (PRODUCT)RED and a new blue color. The stainless steel model comes in graphite or gold, and the titanium case in natural and space black.

If $399 is too high of a starting point for you, consider Apple’s other new model, the Apple Watch SE. Based on the S5 chip used in last year’s Apple Watch Series 5, the Apple Watch SE includes some of the sensors in the Series 6, such as the always-on altimeter, and it supports fall detection, but it lacks the Series 6’s ECG and Blood Oxygen capabilities. Nor does it have the Always-On Retina display—its display goes black when the user’s wrist is down.

Those tradeoffs drop the Apple Watch SE’s starting price to $279 for a 40mm GPS-only model. A larger 44mm watch bumps the price up by $30, and cellular capabilities add another $100. You’re limited to aluminum cases in silver, gold, and space gray, but any of the Apple Watch bands will work with it. Is $279 still too expensive? The Apple Watch Series 3 remains available in a GPS-only model starting at $199.

The Apple Watch SE might be particularly attractive to families or those caring for seniors, thanks to Apple’s new Family Setup, which lets you manage cellular Apple Watches (Series 4 and later) for others from your iPhone instead of each person having to manage their Apple Watch from their own iPhone.

Apple also introduced two new bands: the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. Both have no buckles or clasps and come in nine available lengths—they expand to fit over your hand and contract to fit snugly on your wrist. The Solo Loop is made of soft silicone, and the Braided Solo Loop combines 16,000 polyester yarn filaments with ultrathin silicone threads—it costs an extra $50.

New iPad and iPad Air

On the iPad side of things, Apple’s first announcement was the simplest. The new eighth-generation iPad replaces the previous seventh-generation model and sports only a single change. Instead of the 4-core A10 Fusion processor in last year’s model, the new iPad relies on the 6-core A12 Bionic processor. It promises up to 40% faster CPU performance and twice the graphics performance of the seventh-generation iPad. Otherwise, it retains the 10.2-inch Retina display, capable cameras, and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil ($99) and Smart Keyboard ($159). Its price also remains the same, starting at $329, with education pricing for a broadly defined set of individuals at $309 and education pricing for institutions at $299.

More interesting is the new fourth-generation iPad Air. The third-generation iPad Air was essentially a stripped-down version of the older 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and the fourth-generation model continues that trend with the current 11-inch iPad Pro. The new iPad Air features the same squared-off design, full-screen display, and 12-megapixel rear camera, and it has an almost identical form factor. It’s compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil ($129) and both the Magic Keyboard ($299) and Smart Keyboard Folio ($179). Finally, it swaps the traditional Lightning port for the USB-C port also used by the iPad Pro.

However, the new iPad Air also features Apple’s newest chip—the A14 Bionic—and eliminates the need for a Home button by building a Touch ID sensor into the top button. That clever approach lets Apple reduce the size of the bezels around the screen while avoiding the cost of the TrueDepth camera necessary for Face ID and simultaneously making the iPad Air easier to use for those wearing masks.

The new iPad Air with 64 GB of storage starts at $599 for Wi-Fi–only models and $729 for cellular-capable models. Bumping the storage to 256 GB adds $150 to the price. It’s available in five colors: space gray, silver, rose gold, green, and sky blue.

Apple Fitness+ and Apple One Bundles

Finally, Apple unveiled its latest subscription service: Apple Fitness+. It’s a “workout experience” that combines metrics from an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with studio-style workouts that you view on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. World-class trainers present classes across a variety of disciplines, including cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core, and mindful cooldown. For novices, there’s an Absolute Beginner program.

When you start a workout on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type automatically starts on your Apple Watch. While you’re exercising, heart rate and workout times are shown on the screen. When Apple Fitness+ launches, sometime before the end of the year, it will cost $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, and you’ll be able to try it free for a month.

If you’ve found yourself subscribing to multiple Apple services and paying for additional iCloud storage, you may be able to save money with the new Apple One bundles:

  • Apple One Individual: For $14.95 per month, you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage, a savings of $6.01 per month.
  • Apple One Family: For $19.95 per month for up to six family members, you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200 GB of iCloud storage, a savings of $8.01 per month.
  • Apple One Premier: For $29.95 per month, you get everything: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, and 2 TB of iCloud storage, all of which can be shared among six family members. That adds up to a savings of $24.95 per month.

Of course, these bundles are worthwhile only if you’re interested in all the included services, but for those who are already paying for a collection of Apple services, they provide a nice discount.

(Featured image by Apple)


Are You Making the Most of the Touch Bar on Your MacBook Pro?

In 2016, Apple introduced the Touch Bar with the MacBook Pro. It’s a long, thin display above the number keys on the keyboard that shows a variety of buttons and controls. By default, it changes depending on which app you’re in, and it also displays the Control Strip, a collection of controls that roughly mimics the functions accessible from the F-keys that traditionally live in that position. Finally, it includes the Touch ID sensor that brings fingerprint authentication to the Mac.

Since its launch, however, the Touch Bar hasn’t migrated to any other Macs or keyboards, although the MacBook Air picked up a Touch ID sensor without the rest of the Touch Bar. As a result, developers haven’t been as enthusiastic about supporting the Touch Bar as they might have been. Nevertheless, it provides useful shortcuts in many apps, and you can customize it more to your liking. (Plus, although we’re not going into those details here, Apple is making the Touch Bar even more useful and customizable in macOS 11 Big Sur.)

Choose What the Touch Bar Shows

You may never have noticed the Touch Bar’s settings because Apple has hidden them in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. Logical, but perhaps not where you might have looked first if you were thinking of the Touch Bar as an extension of the trackpad.

You have two choices here, what appears in the Touch Bar normally, and how it changes if you press the Fn key in the lower-left corner of the keyboard. Your options include:

  • App Controls: The controls that appear when you choose this option vary by app. This option is the most generally useful, though how much so depends on whether the apps you use support the Touch Bar in helpful ways.
  • Expanded Control Strip: The Control Strip, which appears by default on the right side of the Touch Bar, lets you adjust common settings like brightness and volume. The Expanded Control Strip option fills the rest of the Touch Bar with more buttons.
  • F1, F2, etc. Keys: Aimed at keyboard traditionalists, this option mimics the F-keys that occupy the Touch Bar’s position on every other keyboard in the universe. People often use these keys as hot keys with macro programs like Keyboard Maestro.
  • Quick Actions: Want to create your own custom buttons for the Touch Bar? In Apple’s Automator app, you can create workflows as Quick Actions, which then appear on the Touch Bar when you choose this option.
  • Spaces: Those who are big users of Spaces in Mission Control might appreciate this option, which lets you switch between different full-screen apps and Split View spaces.

In the Touch Bar Shows pop-up menu, you should choose the set of Touch Bar buttons that you’ll find the most useful most of the time. That’s probably either App Controls or F-keys for most people, unless you do a lot of your own automation (choose Quick Actions) or regularly use full-screen apps (choose Spaces).

The Press Fn Key To menu basically gives you a second choice—press that key, and you can display whatever set of buttons you’d find next most useful.

Finally, notice that there’s a checkbox for Show Control Strip. If you want to take over its space on the right side of the Touch Bar for other buttons, deselect the checkbox. One useful approach is to disable the Control Strip in general use, but show the expanded Control Strip when you press Fn.

Customize App Controls

App controls are in many ways the most interesting because they change not just when you switch between apps, but also based on what you’re doing in an app. Take Pages, for instance. If you’re working with text, Pages configures the Touch Bar to show buttons that let you switch between paragraph styles, apply character formatting, and tweak horizontal and vertical justification. That button on the far right displays auto-complete options for the word you’re typing. But if you have a text box selected, Pages instead provides buttons for opacity, various colors, and line strokes. Select a table, and Pages immediately offers options for adding and removing columns and rows.

Even better, some apps, like Safari, let you pick which buttons appear in the Touch Bar, just as you can pick the controls that appear in window toolbars. In apps that allow this, choose View > Customize Touch Bar. A selection of available buttons appears at the bottom of the screen. Drag one of the buttons off the bottom of the screen and—really!—onto the Touch Bar, where you can drag it into different spots. When you’re done, click the Done button.

While you’re customizing the Touch Bar for an app, you can also rearrange buttons by dragging them left or right (with either the pointer or your finger) and remove buttons by dragging them (with the pointer) from the Touch Bar to the MacBook Pro’s screen.

Note that the Touch Bar is only so big, and the Mac won’t let you populate it with more buttons than it has room for. If you try, the new button will replace one of the current buttons.

Customize the Control Strip

You’re not limited to choosing which app controls you’d like to see in the Touch Bar. In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, click Customize Control Strip to bring up a similar collection of controls that you can add to the Control Strip. Plus, you can rearrange and remove buttons from the Touch Bar’s Control Strip just as with the app controls.

Try Third-Party Utilities

As you might expect, clever Mac programmers have extended the ways you can use the Touch Bar beyond what Apple provides. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • BetterTouchTool: For $8.50, this general-purpose customization utility gives you control over various input devices on your Mac, including the Touch Bar. It lets you completely customize the Touch Bar, add and customize the appearance of buttons for all sorts of built-in actions, create dynamic widgets using AppleScript and other languages, and download ready-to-use presets.
  • Pock: Want to recover the screen real-estate occupied by the Dock? The free Pock puts your Dock items in the Touch Bar for fast app switching. Plus, it provides useful widgets, including a handy Now Playing widget that can show the title of the current song.
  • Haptic Touch Bar: Although Apple built the Touch Bar so it could provide haptic feedback—making it feel like you’ve pressed a key down when all you’ve done is touched a flat glass surface—most controls don’t provide it. The $4.99 Haptic Touch Bar utility makes all Touch Bar buttons pretend to be physical buttons, with haptic and audio feedback.

If you’ve been ignoring the Touch Bar because it didn’t work the way you wanted, or if you’ve liked using it but wished it could do more, give these customization options a try!

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

 

Advice for Successful Online Schooling

In a normal year, most kids would be back in school by now. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many schools to offer online instruction, and many families are now settling into a remote back-to-school arrangement. We’ve provided some advice on working from home in previous posts, but what about schooling from home? Here are some suggestions.

Create a Dedicated School Workspace

It’s hard enough for kids to pay attention when they’re in school. Just think how difficult it will be for them to pay attention to online classes if they’re surrounded by distractions. Even worse, just as you need to create some mental space between home and work, your kids need to separate home from school.

To aid in that, set aside a dedicated space for each kid, with a desk that’s used solely for school work. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but kids shouldn’t have to share with each other or work at the kitchen table. If you have multiple children, try to separate them as much as possible so they can focus on their individual work without bothering each other. Putting them in corners of different rooms can work well; just make sure there are outlets available for iPad or laptop chargers. You’ll need your own space too, of course, but remember that it may be necessary for you to pay attention to what they’re doing throughout the day to keep them focused.

We recommend outfitting each desk with three things: a clock with easy-to-read numbers, a class calendar, and a desk organizer. The clock is key, since it’s all too easy for kids to lose track of time and show up late for online classes. Schools will probably provide an online schedule, but a printed schedule taped to the wall helps both you and your child keep track of which virtual room they should be in. Even with virtual learning, there will still be paper, particularly for younger children. (You do have a printer, right?) And where there’s paper, there are pens and pencils. Make sure that you have plenty of extras because kids tend to lose them at inopportune moments.

Make Sure You Have a Fast, Reliable Internet Connection

We realize this may not be easy, but it’s worth making sure that you have as fast an Internet connection as is reasonable. Videoconferencing apps can usually adjust to lower bandwidth connections, but grainy pictures, frozen video, and stuttering audio will make it significantly harder for kids to learn effectively.

Also pay attention to your Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an access point from your Internet service provider or an ancient AirPort Base Station, you might want to upgrade. Newer access points can provide faster performance and greater range, and mesh systems are particularly good at extending coverage. Get in touch to see which Wi-Fi systems we recommend and how we encourage connecting them in your home.

Get the Right Devices and Accessories

Many schools will provide devices for your kids, either iPads or Chromebooks, in most cases. Unless you have something newer or better already, you’ll probably want to stick with the school-provided devices. If you do want to use your own devices, check with the school first, because it will likely require certain software or configurations.

If your children are using iPads, consider buying physical keyboards, particularly for older students who need to hand in writing assignments online. External keyboards are not only easier to type on, they also free up more on-screen space for content. An Apple Pencil might be helpful, but check with the school to make sure before buying one.

High school students might do best with a full-fledged Mac, but they probably don’t need the latest and greatest. A hand-me-down MacBook would likely be more than sufficient. Be sure to set it up from scratch for them, so they’re not dealing with old software and strange configurations that might cause instability.

Lastly, headphones or earbuds, especially for older children, are essential for reducing the noise level from multiple people participating in virtual calls all day long.

Find Your Tech Support Hat

Most schools offering online classes will have tech support available. Make sure you know where to call or how to get in touch with support, since you may need to work quickly to help a child avoid missing a class.

Don’t assume that the school’s tech support can do everything. We recommend spending some time learning the main applications that the school uses before classes start, so you’re ready to help your kids with any problems they may run into. In particular, make browser bookmarks to all the school sites that your children will have to visit repeatedly so they can get where they need to go with a single click.

It’s worth making sure that you have login credentials—usernames and passwords—written down in an easily accessible spot in addition to storing them in your password manager. We normally don’t recommend writing down passwords, but when it comes to getting into school accounts, younger kids won’t be able to use a password manager and you might have to move quickly between systems.

Provide Structure and Downtime

Finally, it’s worth remembering that you’re going to have to play the roles of both parent and teacher. Everyone’s situation will be different, but you might find that it works well to simulate a normal school day as much as possible, with explicit snack breaks and time for lunch. Homework can happen in the evening, as it would in normal times, but let the school day be over when it’s done. It’s tempting to pile on more work to keep them busy, but kids need time to relax and just be kids. The pandemic is as hard or harder on them than on adults, and we need to be sensitive to that.

In the end, we’re all in this together, and if you need help on the technical side, don’t hesitate to contact us.

(Featured image by Wokandapix from Pixabay)


Reduce Arrival Time Anxiety by Sharing Your Location Temporarily

If you’re flying, driving, or biking to visit an iPhone-using friend or family member, you can reduce anxiety related to arrival time or pickup plans (and perhaps provide amusement) by sharing your location temporarily so they can watch your progress. The easiest way to do this is to go into a Messages conversation with that person on your iPhone, tap their picture at the top, tap the i button that appears, tap Share My Location, and then tap either Share for One Hour or Share Until End of Day, whichever is appropriate for the length of your trip. They can then see where you are by going into the same Messages conversation, tapping your name, and then tapping the i button. And, of course, if you’re coordinating an airport pickup, it’s a help if the other person shares their location with you too!

(Featured image by slon_dot_pics from Pexels)

Rename Bluetooth Devices for Easy Management

It’s all too easy to end up with a boatload of Bluetooth devices connected to your Mac. Apple devices will likely have sensible names, like Magic Mouse 2, but what if someone has given you a device with their name in it? Or you’ve ended up with a device called something really random like f023cp37. Happily, macOS lets you rename most Bluetooth devices, including pointing devices, keyboards, earbuds, and headphones. Open System Preferences > Bluetooth, Control- or right-click a device, and choose Rename. In the dialog that appears, enter the new name.

(Featured image by insung yoon on Unsplash)

Did You Know You Can Close a Mac Laptop When It Has an External Display?

We wanted to make sure that those of you who work on a Mac laptop with an external display know that you can close your laptop’s screen and keep working. Apple calls this closed-clamshell or closed-display mode. Of course, it requires that you connect an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad, via either USB or Bluetooth, and the laptop should be connected to power as well. Apple also recommends putting the Mac to sleep before disconnecting the external display. Why would you want to use closed-display mode? Mostly to conserve desk space when you have another preferred keyboard and pointing device, although it might also help graphics performance by allowing the Mac to focus on driving only the external display. There are lots of stands that hold a MacBook in a vertical orientation so it takes up less desk space.

(Featured image by Bundo Kim on Unsplash)

What’s the Deal with All the Privacy Requests in Catalina?

Over the last few releases of macOS, Apple has been beefing up the Mac’s privacy controls so they more closely resemble what the company has done in iOS. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that when you first launch a new app on your iPhone or iPad, it often prompts for access to your contacts or your photos, the camera or microphone, and so on. The idea behind those prompts is that you should always be aware of how a particular app can access your personal data or features of your device. You might not want to let some new game thumb through your photos or record your voice.

macOS has been heading in this direction too, with macOS 10.14 Mojave upping the stakes and 10.15 Catalina forcing apps to play this “Mother, May I?” game in even more ways. As a result, particularly after you first upgrade and whenever you install a new app, you may be bombarded with dialogs asking for various permissions. For instance, the Loom app that helps you make quick video recordings of your screen requires lots of permissions. Grant them and Loom won’t have to ask again.

Loom’s requests are entirely reasonable—it wouldn’t be able to do its job without such access. That applies more generally, too. In most cases, apps will ask for access for a good reason, and if you want the app to function properly, you should give it access.

However, be wary if a permission dialog appears and you don’t recognize the name of the app making the request or if you aren’t doing anything related to the request. Apple’s hope is that you’ll deny access to requests from malicious apps.

The problem in Catalina is that apps have to ask for permission for so many basic capabilities that users become overwhelmed by all the dialogs. A good app, like Loom, will walk the user through accepting them on its first launch, but even still, answering four or more requests can be confusing.

You might be tempted to deny access categorically. That’s fine from a privacy standpoint, but not when it comes to functionality—when you deny a permission request, you prevent that app from working as you anticipate. Fortunately, you can always grant (or revoke) permission later. And remember, once you’ve granted permission, you won’t have to do it again for that app—it’s a per-app request, not a per-session request.

To see which permissions you’ve granted or denied, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. A list of categories appears on the left; click one to see which apps have requested access. If you’ve granted access, the checkbox next to the app will be selected; otherwise it will be empty.

You’ll notice that the lock in the lower-left corner of the System Preferences window is closed. To make changes, click it and sign in as an administrator when prompted.

Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but it might not always be obvious why an app wants permission. In the screenshot above, for instance, Slack has been granted access to the Mac’s camera. Why? So its video call feature can work.

Annoyingly, giving access often requires that you quit the app in question before the permission takes effect. That’s awkward on the first launch of a new app, since you launch it, respond to a bunch of dialogs, and then have to quit and relaunch before you can use it.

There are some categories (including some not showing above) that could use additional explanation:

  • Accessibility: Apps that request accessibility access want to control your Mac. In essence, they want to be able to pretend to click the mouse, type on the keyboard, and generally act like a user. Utility and automation software often needs such access.
  • Full Disk Access: This category is a catch-all for access to areas on your drive that aren’t normally available to apps, such as data in Mail, Messages, Safari, Home, and more, including Time Machine backups and some admin settings. Backup and synchronization utilities need full disk access, in particular. An app can’t request full disk access in the normal way; you must add it manually by dragging its icon into the list or clicking the + button under the list and selecting the app in the Applications folder.
  • Automation: The Mac has long had a way for apps to communicate with and control one another: Apple events. An app could theoretically steal information from another via Apple events, so the Automation category lets you specify which apps can control which other apps. You’ll see normal permission requests, but they’ll explain both sides of the communication. (System Events is a behind-the-scenes macOS utility that helps with scripting and automation.)

So if you’ve been seeing repeated requests for permission in Mojave and especially in Catalina, now you know why these dialogs keep popping up. They’re a bit irritating at first, but the added privacy is worthwhile, and once you’ve granted permission to an app, you shouldn’t hear from it again.

(Featured image by Jason Dent on Unsplash)


Beware iCloud Phishing Phone Calls!

We’ve been hearing reports of an uptick in the scam phone calls that claim to be from Apple. If you answer, an automated message tells you that your iCloud account has been breached and asks you to call a provided 1-866 number. Do not do this! Apple will never call you unprompted. Unfortunately, the criminals behind this particular phishing attack are spoofing Apple’s phone numbers effectively, so the call looks legitimate. Be very careful about which unrecognized phone calls you answer, and if you’re ever asked for personal information like a bank account or credit card number during such a call, hang up, look up the institution’s phone number elsewhere, and verify with someone at that number rather than one provided by the caller.


(Featured image by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels)

Want to Make Your iPhone and Apple Watch Easier to Read?

If you have 20/20 vision or are still wondering why your parents have reading glasses, count yourself lucky. But if you’re like many people—over 60 percent of the population by some estimates, including most people over 45—reading the tiny text on your iPhone or Apple Watch might be impossible if you don’t happen to have the right pair of glasses handy.

What we really want is a screen that corrects automatically for its user’s individual vision problems—research into such technology has taken place at UC Berkeley and the MIT Media Lab, but real-world products are probably years off. Until then, those of us who need a little help seeing our screens will have to rely on features Apple has built into iOS and watchOS. Try these options:

Increase Text Size

Although not every app supports it, Apple has a technology called Dynamic Type that lets you set your preferred text size. In Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size, you’ll find a text size slider, and you can see how it affects text in the iOS interface by moving around in the Settings app or looking at Mail.

If you want a size even larger than is available from the Text Sizes screen, you can get that in Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Larger Text. Turn on Larger Accessibility Sizes, and the size slider adds more options.

Bold Text

Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much the size of the text, but how light it can be. In Settings > Display & Brightness, there’s a switch for Bold Text. Turn this on, and all the text on the iPhone will become darker and easier to read.

Where Bold Text really shines for many people is on the Apple Watch. You turn it on in the Accessibility settings in the iPhone’s Watch app. It does require restarting your Apple Watch, but that’s a minor inconvenience. As you can see in the normal (left) and bold (right) examples below, enabling Bold Text can make a real difference when reading text on your wrist.

Display Zoom

If you have difficulty with aspects of the screen other than text, you can use iOS’s Display Zoom feature to expand everything by a bit. The trade-off is that you’ll see less content on the screen at once, of course, but that’s a small price to pay if it makes your iPhone easier to use.

Display Zoom is available on every iPhone since the iPhone 6s except the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone 11 Pro.

To enable Display Zoom, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > View. Once there, you can compare three sample screens—most notably, you’ll lose a row of icons on the Home screen when zoomed. If you think zoomed view will be easier to read, as in the right-hand screenshot below, tap Zoomed and then tap Set. Your iPhone has to restart, but it’s quick. Unfortunately, if you decide to switch back to standard view, you may need to rearrange your Home screen icons again.

Zoom

The iPhone’s full Zoom feature is particularly useful in two situations. First, it’s easy to invoke and dismiss if you need a quick glance while wearing the wrong pair of glasses. Second, if Display Zoom doesn’t magnify the screen as much as you need, the full zoom may do the job.

Turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Zoom and zoom in by double-tapping the screen with three fingers. By default, the Zoom Region is set to Window Zoom, which gives you a magnifying lens that you can move around the screen by dragging its handle on the bottom.

Tap the handle to bring up controls that let you zoom out, switch the region to Full Screen Zoom (which can be harder to navigate), resize the lens, filter what you see in the lens (such as grayscale), display a controller for moving the lens, and change the zoom level. To get back to normal view, double-tap with three fingers again.

The Apple Watch features a cut-down set of zoom controls that you can access in the iPhone’s Watch app, in Accessibility > Zoom. All you can do on the Apple Watch is double-tap with two fingers to enable or disable zoom, or drag with two fingers to scroll around while zoomed. Honestly, it’s pretty tricky on the tiny Apple Watch screen, but if you need it, you need it.

So, if you want to be able to use your iPhone and Apple Watch more easily when your reading glasses aren’t handy, try the features described above and find the right mix for your eyes.

(Featured image by Bogdan Cheșa on Unsplash)


Use This New Setting to Prevent iOS Updates from Consuming Precious Space

People whose iPhones or iPads have relatively little free space have long struggled with the fact that iOS likes to download updates so they’ll be ready for installation. “Who wants to wait for a long download?” Apple thought. Unfortunately, lots of people do. The problem is that if you don’t want to update right away, that download consumes precious gigabytes of your free space in the meantime. In iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6, Apple has finally provided a setting you can disable to prevent iOS from downloading updates ahead of time. Find it in Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates, where you can turn off Download iOS Updates to be sure an update won’t chew up your free space. But yes, you do have to update to 13.6 to get it.

(Featured image by Julia Joppien on Unsplash)