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

You’ve chosen the 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.


Our Four Favorite Features of watchOS 7 – LA IT Support

The small screen of the Apple Watch prevents new watchOS features from being as obvious or splashy as those in iOS and iPadOS. But watchOS 7, now available for the Apple Watch Series 3 and later when paired with an iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14, has quite a few notable changes. Here are our favorites: Family Setup, sleep tracking, handwashing reminders, and new watch faces and complications.

Family Setup

Since the original Apple Watch, Apple has required that every Apple Watch be paired with an iPhone to simplify setup, reduce the reliance on power-hungry Wi-Fi in favor of the more efficient Bluetooth, and more. However, cellular-enabled Apple Watch models can do a lot without their iPhone companion nearby. In watchOS 7, Apple has taken another step toward a standalone Apple Watch, with Family Setup.

The goal behind Family Setup is to make it possible for children or seniors to benefit from an Apple Watch without needing their own iPhones. You pair their watches to your iPhone, but they get their own phone numbers and use their own Apple ID on the watch. Family Setup works only with cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 4 models or later, and although a cellular plan isn’t required, many features won’t be useful without one.

The most compelling benefits of Family Setup are that you can easily see where the people wearing the watches are and communicate with them via text messaging and phone calls. You can also control with whom they can communicate and enforce a restricted Schooltime mode that helps kids stay focused. Apple Cash Family lets you send money to kids that they can spend via the contactless Apple Pay system. Fall detection, high and low heart rate notifications, and Emergency SOS might be welcome for seniors too.

Unfortunately, some desirable Apple Watch features aren’t available without a paired iPhone, so Family Setup members won’t be able to take advantage of irregular heart rhythm notifications, ECG, Cycle Tracking, Sleep, Blood Oxygen, Podcasts, Remote, News, Home, and Shortcuts.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep deprivation has been deemed a public health epidemic, with a third of US adults reporting that they usually get less than the recommended 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Too little sleep causes losses of work productivity and increases in motor vehicle accidents, and it’s linked to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

watchOS 7’s new sleep tracking function helps you get on a healthy sleep schedule, tracks your sleep, and shows you sleep trends in the Health app on the iPhone. You can most easily set up the new Sleep mode in the Watch app on your iPhone (My Watch > Sleep), and an option there lets you enable charging reminders, since you can’t charge it while you sleep with it on—while you get ready for bed at night and while you’re getting dressed in the morning will be enough.

Flip over to the Sleep options in the Health app to create sleep schedules—which can be different by the day—set sleep goals, and configure a Wind Down period that enables Do Not Disturb and alerts you when it’s time to start winding down.

Of course, sleep tracking requires that you wear your Apple Watch in bed, so Sleep mode simplifies the watch face and keeps it dark until you tap it. Even then, it shows only the time at a very dim illumination level. In the morning, the watch wishes you a good morning and shows you the remaining battery life to remind you to charge it while getting dressed.

To see your sleep data, in the Health app, tap Browse > Sleep (you can tap a star under More to add it to your Favorites so it appears in the Summary screen too). It reports how much time you spend asleep versus just in bed, shows your average sleep times, and even records your heart rate while you’re sleeping.

Keep in mind that this data—however interesting—is useful only if you can leverage it to improve your sleep. Remember, the goal is 7–8 hours of sleep on a regular schedule, so you’re not messing with your circadian rhythms too much. You might also consider third-party apps that promise to apply machine learning to your data to recommend changes in behavior—look for Sleep++, SleepWatch, Sleep Cycle, and more.

Handwashing Reminders

Although current research seems to be focusing on airborne transmission of the coronavirus, those droplets and particles still fall on surfaces that we touch, ensuring that handwashing remains important. watchOS 7 includes two features designed to help you remember to wash your hands when necessary and to do so long enough that it helps.

In the Watch app, in My Watch > Handwashing, you can enable the Handwashing Timer, which detects when you’re washing your hands and starts a 20-second timer. That’s helpful, although the cooks among us may find themselves ignoring it as they rinse their hands repeatedly while preparing dinner. The Handwashing Reminders setting alerts you if you haven’t washed your hands shortly after returning home. Of course, if you were just out for a bike ride or never got out of the car, those notifications might be annoying.

More Faces, More Complications, and Face Sharing

The details here are way too varied to get into, but suffice it to say that with watchOS 7, Apple has once again increased the number of watch faces among which you can choose. New faces include Artistic, Chronograph Pro, Count Up, GMT, Memoji, Stripes, and Typograph, all shown below.

Many of these faces have slots for numerous complications, and with watchOS 7, you can now add multiple complications from the same app if you wish. If you spend a lot of time getting a watch face just right, you can now share it with an Apple Watch-using friend by tapping the Share button when customizing a face (press hard on the face of the Apple Watch to enter customization mode).

Those are our favorite features, but they’re by no means everything in watchOS 7. Other features include support for four additional workout types (Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and a post-workout Cooldown), support for cycling directions in Maps, translations in Siri, and improvements in hearing health. Once you’ve upgraded, check them all out!

(Featured image by Apple)


Apple Releases Four iPhone 12 Models and the HomePod mini: IT Services in Los Angeles

For the second time in less than a month, Apple has made a splashy announcement. In its “Hi, Speed” event, the company unveiled a new lineup of four iPhone 12 models along with the new HomePod mini.

HomePod mini

Just as Apple did in its event, let’s get the HomePod mini out of the way first. The HomePod mini is easy to explain—it’s just a smaller, cheaper HomePod. For $99, you get a flat-topped sphere that’s about half the height and two-thirds the width of the HomePod, which currently lists for $299. It works just like a HomePod, accepting commands via Siri and integrating tightly with the rest of your Apple and HomeKit devices. You can even combine two HomePod minis into a stereo pair, though you can’t combine a HomePod and a HomePod mini in this way.

The only technical advantage the HomePod mini has over the HomePod is Apple’s U1 chip. Apple promises that, later this year, the U1 chip will improve the handoff experience when transferring audio playback to or from an iPhone by holding it near the HomePod mini. Otherwise, as you might imagine, the larger HomePod has better sound thanks to its additional speaker hardware and spatial awareness capabilities.

Apple is also introducing an Intercom feature that makes it easy for family members to send voice messages from any HomePod to another. Intercom also works with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and even vehicles equipped with CarPlay.

It may not be world-changing, but we’re bullish on the HomePod mini thanks to its lower price. It will be available for pre-order on November 6th, with delivery and general availability starting the week of November 16th.

iPhone 12

Given how important the iPhone is to Apple’s business, it’s not surprising to see the company pulling out all the stops with the iPhone 12 lineup, split between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro. It includes four different models, incorporates support for the emerging 5G cellular networking standard, introduces the MagSafe wireless charging and accessory ecosystem, and delivers the most advanced camera systems ever. And all that comes in a flat-edged industrial design, last seen in the first-generation iPhone SE, that many people thought prevented accidental drops. (If you do drop an iPhone 12, its new Ceramic Shield front glass promises that cracks will be up to four times less likely.)

For those with smaller hands and pockets, the biggest news may be the iPhone 12 mini, with a 5.4-inch diagonal screen. It’s the smallest iPhone we’ve seen in years, measuring in at just a bit bigger than that first-generation iPhone SE. It’s joined by the larger iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch screen, the similarly sized iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which boasts a 6.7-inch screen. Speaking of the screens, the Super Retina XDR OLED screens are gorgeous, and they all incorporate a notch for the Face ID cameras. Alas, there’s no Touch ID, which would have been nice while we’re all wearing masks in public.

Apart from the size differences, camera systems, storage options, and battery life, the four iPhone 12 models have very similar specs (battery life will be fine for all of them, but the larger the phone, the longer the battery life).

They all support 5G cellular networking, which promises significantly faster speeds than today’s LTE. However, what counts as “5G” varies between cellular carriers, coverage is weak in many parts of the world, and the real-world performance may be significantly less than promised. That’s not to say that 5G is bad, just that it may not make any difference to you in the near future. Further out, it will likely be a big deal, so it’s good that the iPhone 12 is hopping on the bandwagon.

Another innovation is MagSafe, a circular magnetic coupling and wireless charging technology built into the back of each iPhone 12 model. A $39 Apple MagSafe Charger snaps on to the back for wireless charging at 15 watts, and Qi wireless charging is still supported as well, at up to 7.5 watts. MagSafe also enables an entire ecosystem of accessories, including chargers, cases, car mounts, and wallets. Apple even briefly showed a charger that could charge both a MagSafe iPhone and an Apple Watch. You can still charge with a Lightning-to-USB cable, but Apple no longer includes a charger and EarPods in the box, given that we all have so many of them around.

Regardless of which iPhone 12 model you pick, you won’t be making any performance tradeoffs. That’s because they all rely on Apple’s newest chip, the A14 Bionic, for the utmost in performance and the most advanced computational photography.

The camera systems are what separate the iPhone 12 Pro models. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have a dual 12-megapixel rear camera system with ultra wide and wide cameras with 2x optical zoom. They have optical image stabilization and support Night mode and Deep Fusion, which provide better photos in low-light situations. They offer 1080p and 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second and introduce HDR video recording with Dolby Vision at up to 30 fps, which provides higher quality video in challenging lighting.

That sounds impressive enough, but the iPhone 12 Pro models go further. Their triple 12-megapixel camera system has ultra wide, wide, and telephoto cameras that provide better optical zoom among much else. A new LiDAR Scanner gives them faster autofocus in low light and Night mode portraits. They also support a new Apple ProRAW format that provides professional photographers with the benefits of Apple’s computational photography combined with the flexibility of a raw image format. In terms of video, the Pro models enhance HDR video with Dolby Vision to 60 fps. Finally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max also features something Apple calls “sensor-shift optical image stabilization” for both photos and video—it promises better optical image stabilization than the iPhone 12 Pro.

If you’re a pro photographer or videographer who’s already invested in the iPhone as a working camera, the iPhone 12 Pro models will provide the ultimate in camera capabilities. For others who are curious about how these new iPhones stack up against previous models, the photography sites will undoubtedly be publishing head-to-head comparison shots soon.

When can you get your hands on one of these iPhone 12 models, and for how much? You can pre-order the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro starting at 5 AM Pacific on October 16th, with delivery and in-store availability beginning on October 23rd. They come in five colors: black, white, Product(RED), green, and blue. In contrast, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available for pre-order at 5 AM Pacific on November 6th, with delivery and in-store availability on November 13th. Their colors include silver, graphite, gold, and blue.

Here’s how the costs break down by storage level:

  • iPhone 12 mini: $699/$729 (64 GB), $749/$779 (128 GB), $849/$879 (256 GB)
  • iPhone 12: $799/$829 (64 GB), $849/$879 (128 GB), $949/$979 (256 GB)
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999 (128 GB), $1099 (256 GB), $1299 (512 GB)
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1099 (128 GB), $1199 (256 GB), $1399 (512 GB)

There are two prices for each storage level of the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 because AT&T and Verizon customers pay $30 less than everyone else. Apple hasn’t said why.

In the end, Apple has once again released new iPhones that advance the state of the art. The diminutive iPhone 12 mini is particularly welcome for those preferring a smaller phone, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts the most capable camera systems available on any smartphone.

(Featured image by Apple)


Scribble: Why the Pencil Is Mightier Than the Finger in iPadOS 14: Tips from LA IT Consultants

With iPadOS, you have to remember that it shares most of its capabilities with iOS. So if it seems that iPadOS 14 doesn’t have as many major new capabilities as iOS 14, that’s not quite fair—many of iOS 14’s new features also appear in iPadOS 14. You’ll get pinned conversations in Messages, cycling directions and city guides in Maps, privacy reports and translation capabilities in Safari, and much more. Sadly—and oddly—missing from iPadOS 14, however, are iOS 14’s App Library and Home screen widgets.

The must-try new feature in iPadOS 14 for those with an Apple Pencil is Scribble. In the past, the Apple Pencil has been limited mostly to particular apps, and many of them have leveraged it more for drawing and painting than writing. No more—with Scribble, anywhere you can type, you can handwrite with your Apple Pencil. That means you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between your Apple Pencil and the keyboard. When you first use your Apple Pencil with iPadOS 14, it will give you a quick Scribble tutorial, but it’s easy to ignore or dismiss accidentally. Happily, you can get it back in Settings > Apple Pencil > Try Scribble.

Scribble’s handwriting recognition is pretty good—vastly better than the days of the Newton and the Doonesbury “egg freckles” cartoon from 1997—although its accuracy does improve with the legibility of your writing, much like Siri’s recognition improves when you speak clearly. You shouldn’t have to adjust how you write too much, since Scribble accepts both printed characters and cursive writing, and even a mix of the two. Where it really shines, though, is in the ways it lets you edit your text when mistakes do happen, either due to its recognition or you changing your mind about what you’ve entered.

To try Scribble, bring up any app with a text field, such as Maps, with its search field. Instead of tapping in the search field and typing, simply write your search terms in the field with the Apple Pencil. (It’s OK to rest your hand on the screen—iPadOS is good about ignoring input from your hand when you’re using the Apple Pencil.) As you write, after you finish a word or two, Scribble will convert your words to text. (Apps do need to support Scribble, so it may not work in older apps.)

How you enter text into text-oriented apps varies a little by app. In Notes, when you tap the pencil button in the upper-left corner, and in Pages, when you tap the screen with your Apple Pencil, a toolbar appears at the bottom, and you have to tap the icon of the Apple Pencil with an A on it to enter Scribble mode.

Notice that when you’re writing, another floating toolbar appears, likely at the bottom of the screen, although you can move it. The actions available in the toolbar depend on the app you’re using, so when handwriting in a search field, the toolbar will likely contain a Search button that you can tap to execute the search, much like pressing Return on a keyboard. When handwriting in Mail, the toolbar provides formatting options, controls for inserting attachments, and more. You’ll also often see a left-pointing Undo button, which is useful if you accidentally delete or replace some text while writing.

So how can you edit text you’ve entered? Here’s what you can do:

  • Delete a word: Scratch it out with an up-and-down motion.
  • Insert text: Touch and hold where you want to create some space, and then write in the space that opens.
  • Join or separate characters: Draw a vertical line between the characters. Think of the act of drawing a vertical line as deleting a space (joining) or inserting a space (separating).
  • Select text: Either draw a circle around the text or draw a line through it. You can extend the selection by dragging from the beginning or the end of the selected text. To select just a word, you can also double-tap it, and to select a paragraph, triple-tap it.
  • Replace selected text: In case it’s not obvious, after you select some text, just write more (anywhere there’s space) to replace what you have selected.

We won’t pretend that using Scribble with the Apple Pencil will necessarily be faster than typing, particularly when using a physical keyboard. But it may be more fluid and intuitive, if you’re already using the Apple Pencil heavily, to use it for short bits of text when you would otherwise have to tap the letters in one at a time or set the Apple Pencil down to type. Of course, the converse is true too—if you’re typing on an external keyboard, you won’t want to pick up your Apple Pencil just to edit text.

If, after all this, you decide that you find Scribble intrusive, you can disable it in Settings > Apple Pencil. But do give it a try and see if it fits with how you like to use your iPad.

(Featured image by Salomé Watel on Unsplash)


Too Many Home Screens in iOS 14? Here’s How to Hide Them! IT Services Los Angeles

The App Library in iOS 14 ensures that you can find all the apps installed on your iPhone without having to hunt through Home screens. So if you already have a lot of Home screens that contain a random assemblage of apps, it might be easier to hide those screens than to remove all the apps on them. To do this in iOS 14, touch and hold any empty spot on the Home screen to enter jiggle mode. Then tap the lozenge around the dots that represent your Home screens. In the Edit Pages screen, tap the checkmark under any Home screen to hide it (or tap an empty circle to add a checkmark and show that Home screen). To save your changes, tap Done. As a bonus tip, notice that swiping on that lozenge of Home screen dots is now a quick way to navigate between the Home screens.

(Featured image based on an original by cottonbro from Pexels)

Want Better Goals? Customize Your Move, Exercise, and Stand Rings in watchOS 7: LA IT Consultants

Ever since Apple introduced the Activity app to watchOS, you’ve been able to adjust your Move goal, which is measured in kilocalories, but your Exercise goal was locked at 30 minutes and the Stand goal at 12 hours. In watchOS 7, you can finally change these last two. In the Activity app on your Apple Watch, scroll to the bottom and tap Change Goals. Then, for each screen, adjust the goal numbers in whatever way will most motivate you. Some people like setting the goals higher than they’re likely to reach so they can more easily see how well they’ve done as a percent of the whole, whereas others might like to tweak them so the goals are just a little out of reach.

(Featured image by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels)

Stop Snoops with Private Browsing and by Clearing Your Web Browsing History: IT Services in Los Angeles

With so many of us working at home these days, it’s worth remembering that spouses, children, and housemates may have easy physical access to your Mac. And, particularly if you share a Mac with them, you might want to consider how you protect your browsing privacy. Even if you wouldn’t be embarrassed if your spouse were to see what sites you visited, you might not want a nosy pre-teen or housemate’s snoopy friend scrolling through your browser history. Or you may just want to keep research into someone’s birthday present a secret.

All major Web browsers provide two features to help you protect your privacy from people who can access your Mac: private browsing and clearing your browsing history.

After you invoke private browsing, the browser doesn’t store the URLs of visited pages in your browsing history. This makes it so others can’t go back through to see where you’ve been. Private browsing also avoids recording your searches so they don’t pop up for future search suggestions, doesn’t store the names of downloaded files, and more—the specifics vary a little by browser. In short, if you ever anticipate visiting a website that you wouldn’t want someone else with access to your Mac to know you had visited or don’t want to be embarrassed by a search suggestion when someone is peering over your shoulder, use private browsing.

What if you forget, or realize only after you’re done that your browsing history might reveal something you’d prefer stayed private? In that case, you’ll want to clear your browsing history, a feature that all browsers provide.

You should keep two important facts in mind when using these features:

  • Both of these features are focused on reducing privacy worries related to someone accessing your Mac. They do not, for the most part, keep your activities private from your ISP, the organizations whose websites you access, or advertisers (through ad trackers).
  • Neither of these features is meant to protect state secrets, sensitive journalistic research, or important business plans. If you’re interested in that level of security, contact us for personalized advice about what apps and devices to use.

Invoke Private Browsing

The hardest part of invoking private browsing is merely remembering to do so. In Safari, Firefox, and Brave, simply choose File > New Private Window to get a new browser window with private browsing enabled. Slightly different are Google Chrome, where you choose File > New Incognito Window, and Microsoft Edge, where the command is File > New InPrivate Window.

In all cases, the browser alerts you that you’ve enabled private browsing, are in a private window, or have gone incognito. Safari is the most subtle (top left, below), whereas Firefox (bottom left, below), and Chrome (right, below) make it painfully obvious and provide links to additional information about precisely what is protected and what’s not.

Additional tabs you create in that private browsing window are also private, so you don’t have to keep making new windows as you browse, although there’s no problem with opening multiple private windows at once. The main annoyance of using private browsing is that websites won’t recognize you or know you’re logged in.

To leave private browsing, simply close that window.

Clear Browsing History

How you clear browsing history varies by browser. Although they all let you choose how far back to go, only some give you choices about what type of data to clear.

  • Safari: In Safari, choose History > Clear History. A pop-up menu lets you clear your history from the last hour, today, today and yesterday, or all time. Happily, Safari also clears your history from other devices signed into your iCloud account.
  • Firefox: In Firefox, choose History > Clear Recent History and select the information to remove. You can clear data from the last hour, two hours, four hours, within the last day, or everything.
  • Google Chrome: With Chrome, choose Chrome > Clear Browsing Data. You can switch between two modes: Basic and Advanced, the latter of which gives you more control over exactly what you’re removing. Chrome provides the most flexible time periods from which to remove data: the last hour, the last 24 hours, the last 7 days, the 4 weeks, or all time.

The history clearing interfaces in Brave and Microsoft Edge are similar to Chrome since those browsers are based on the same underpinnings. However, both add an On Exit mode that removes the specified types of data every time you quit. Firefox also offers the option to clear cookies and site data every time you quit, but remember that doing so will sign you out of all websites.

In the end, don’t get too caught up in a Spy vs. Spy scenario with your browsing history. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your birthday present research private or working to avoid an embarrassing situation with a search suggestion, but it’s better to have and build trusting relationships than to worry constantly about someone discovering what you’re doing.

(Featured image by Robinraj Premchand from Pixabay)


Remember to Enable Text Message Forwarding When You Get a New Mac or iPad: IT Support LA

You’ve long had text messages forwarding from your iPhone to your Mac and iPad, but after you get a new device, it might be a while before you realize that it’s not receiving texts sent to your iPhone. It turns out that, when you get a new Apple device, you must manually enable it to receive forwarded texts from your iPhone—the setting is off by default. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding, and flip the switches for the new devices.

(Featured image by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels)

Make Your Finder Window Columns the Right Size: Pro Tips from Los Angeles IT Consultants

We’re big fans of column view in Finder windows (choose View > as Columns). You never have to worry about missing icons that are outside the window, everything is sorted alphabetically, and selecting a file shows a preview. But the column widths can be too thin, such that they cut off file and folder names, or too wide, forcing you to scroll unnecessarily. You probably know you can drag the handles at the bottom of the column dividers, but that’s fussy when you have lots of columns. Instead, double-click a column handle to expand or shrink the column so the longest name fits perfectly. Option-double-click a column handle to do that for all the columns showing. If you forget, Control-click a handle to see commands for Right Size This Column, Right Size All Columns Individually, and Right Size All Columns Equally.

(Featured image by nonbirinonko from Pixabay)

Our Four Favorite Features of iOS 14

Harvest season is here again, and Apple has deemed iOS 14 (along with iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14) ready for the picking. Although the betas have been pretty stable and no major problems have appeared in the first few days, we still recommend waiting at least a few weeks before installing via Settings > General > Software Update. In large part, that’s because many developers were taken by surprise by Apple’s release, so they’re working hard to release updates that work properly with iOS 14 and take advantage of its new features.

When you decide to take the leap and install—be sure to make a backup first, just in case—here are four features we recommend you check out right away.

App Library

If you’re like us, your first Home screen or two are well-organized, and after that…where did all those apps come from? We find ourselves searching for little-used apps (swipe down on a Home screen) but wish we could see a list of all installed apps. With iOS 14’s new App Library, we can.

A new screen to the right of your last Home screen, the App Library collects all your apps into folders. At the top, Suggestions includes four suggested apps based on time, location, or activity, and Recently Added shows the apps you’ve downloaded lately. The rest of the folders, which, unfortunately, you can’t rename or rearrange, organize apps by category. In a folder grid, tapping a large icon opens that app, while tapping the group of four small icons in the lower-right corner opens the folder. To see an alphabetical list of every app, tap the search field at the top. You can type to narrow the list.

The App Library is tremendously useful because it contains every app and is always in the same place. That enables you to more easily find apps that you’ve removed from your Home screen. It also works well if you choose to hide entire Home screens, another new iOS 14 feature. Note that you can copy apps from the App Library to a Home screen, which can aid in creating your own organizational scheme.

You might even find that you like having just a couple of Home screens and leaving everything else in the App Library.

Home Screen Widgets

Nothing prevents you from whittling your set of Home screens down to just one, but another new iOS 14 feature might encourage you to have a few more. For some years now, apps have had widgets. Widgets are little summary interfaces accessible in Today View, which you access by swiping right on the first Home screen. In iOS 14, you can now place some of those widgets directly on a Home screen.

Widgets come in three sizes: a small square that occupies the space of four normal app icons, a horizontal rectangle that’s the size of two rows of apps, and a large square that takes up the space of four rows of apps.

To add a widget, touch and hold any empty spot on a Home screen, tap the + button in the upper-left corner, and drag the desired widget out to the Home screen, where you can continue to drag it to your desired position. When viewing the widget collection, tap a widget to see all its available sizes.

Right now, most widgets are from Apple apps, but we anticipate many developers adding widgets for their apps in the coming months. You can have as many widgets on a Home screen as will fit, and there’s no problem mixing widgets and apps within the available space. Think about what information you like to get from your iPhone, and then go nuts creating custom Home screens that show what you want at a glance.

Shrunken Siri and Phone Call Interfaces

In previous versions of iOS, when you invoked Siri, the interface completely took over the iPhone screen. It turns out there was no need for that, so in iOS 14, Apple shrunk the Siri interface so it appears at the bottom of the screen, on top of whatever app you’re using. If Siri’s response requires giving you feedback, that appears on top of the current app as well.

Plus, when you receive a phone call, instead of the call taking over the entire screen, you see a dark banner at the top of the screen with red Decline and green Accept buttons. Tap either of those buttons, or tap or swipe down the banner to reveal the full-screen call interface, where you can also tap to answer. Want to delay? Swipe up on the banner to shrink it to a button in the top-left corner of the screen.

These small changes make using Siri or answering phone calls feel much more fluid than the approach of taking over the entire screen.

Pinned Messages Conversations

We all have individuals and groups that we converse with regularly in Messages. It’s frustrating to hunt through the list of conversations to find them, so iOS 14 adds the concept of “pinned” conversations. Touch and hold on any conversation in the list to bring up a preview of the last few messages and some commands. Then tap Pin to add the conversation to the top of the Messages screen as a circular icon. From then on, tap that icon to enter the conversation quickly.

iOS 14 sports many other features as well, and we’ll be sharing more about them in future articles. Remember, it’s worth waiting a bit to install, and note that iOS 14 is compatible with the iPhone 6s or later, including the first-generation iPhone SE, and the current seventh-generation iPod touch.

(Featured image by Apple)


When Should You Upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14?

Apple has already released a new major version iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS and will soon—either this month or next—be pushing out a major upgrade for macOS. Apple previewed these new versions at its Worldwide Developers Conference back in June, and they’ve been in public beta for a few months. Now that Apple has made iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 available and with macOS 11 Big Sur coming soon, the question looms large—when should you install them?

(Note that we say when and not if. There’s no harm in delaying a major operating system upgrade until Apple has squashed early bugs. But waiting too long puts you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevents you from taking advantage of compelling new features. Plus, when you buy a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad after these operating systems have shipped, you’ll get the new version, and it may not even be possible to downgrade. It’s best to be prepared in the event that you’re forced to replace one of your Apple devices unexpectedly.)

macOS 11 Big Sur

We’ll start with the hardest decision—when should you upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur? Last year, macOS 10.15 Catalina shipped with quite a few problems, and we recommended holding off on the upgrade for most people for at least several months. Even now, we have people for whom we’ve recommended staying on 10.14 Mojave for the time being. It’s too early to have a sense of how stable Big Sur will be, but we hope that Apple will have learned its lesson with Catalina and will ship a more stable release.

Note that Big Sur requires a Mac released in 2013 or later; some 2012 models that were compatible with Catalina won’t be able to make the trip to Big Sur.

The change that puts the “big” in Big Sur is the one you’re least likely to notice at first: support for a Mac with Apple silicon. As we’ve mentioned before, Apple has promised to release a Mac using a custom Apple CPU instead of the Intel chips that have powered Macs for years. Only Big Sur will work on that Mac, whatever it turns out to be. But that’s no reason to upgrade your current Intel-based Macs right away.

More obvious is that Apple has put a lot of design effort into the user interface of Big Sur. Windows, menus, dialogs, sidebars, and even icons have all received design updates. You may or may not like the new look more than the old, but again, it’s not a big reason to upgrade quickly for most people.

On the plus side, Apple has worked on smaller features that might improve your everyday user experience. A new Control Center, much like what you’re accustomed to on the iPhone and iPad, provides quick access to controls from System Preferences in a single place. Notifications are now grouped by thread or app, and interactive notifications let you do more without opening the associated app.

Apps see minor enhancements as well. Safari receives a new start page, shows more tabs at once, displays a preview of a site when you hover over a tab, translates pages into seven languages, provides more privacy details, and checks if your passwords have been involved in a data breach. Messages lets you pin important conversations, thread messages in group conversations, and direct messages to individuals in a group conversation with an @name. Apps such as Photos, Reminders, and Notes also get enhancements, and your AirPods will switch between your devices more seamlessly.

Nonetheless, we recommend waiting until at least version 11.0.1 or even 11.0.2 before upgrading. That gives you time to make sure your key apps are fully compatible with Big Sur and for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to ask for personalized upgrade advice given your particular needs.

iOS 14

While we urge caution with macOS updates, iOS updates are an easier decision. In part, that’s because Apple usually releases new iPhones simultaneously and the company wants to make sure the new version of iOS works well for those who buy new hardware. iOS 14 runs on the same devices that can run iOS 13; basically the iPhone 6s and later.

iOS 14 brings some of the most significant changes to the user experience that Apple has made in years. You can now embed widgets—in different sizes—on your Home screen, so you can see your calendar, weather, or headlines at a glance. A new App Library automatically organizes your apps and provides a full list. Plus, you can hide Home screens that hold seldom-used apps. Apple also shrunk the interfaces for phone calls, Siri, and searching, so they no longer take over the entire screen.

As in Big Sur, Messages gets pinned conversations, threaded conversations, and mentions of specific people. Maps gains cycling directions, alerts for speed cameras, routing for electric vehicles, and guides for the best places to visit in cities. The Camera app can take photos more quickly; you can put FaceTime calls into thumbnails using Picture in Picture; and Music now lets you search for songs by genre, mood, and activity.

There are new features too. App Clips are small parts of an app that let you accomplish a task—renting a scooter, ordering from a coffee shop while waiting in line, getting more info about a museum exhibit—by scanning an NFC tag or a QR code. A new Translate app lets you converse with someone in one of 11 languages with real-time translation. With new cars that support it, Car Keys lets you unlock and start your car using your iPhone. AirPods switch automatically between your devices, and the AirPods Pro gain “spatial audio” that provides a movie theater experience by placing sound within a space.

No single feature of iOS 14 may be life-changing, but we anticipate that lots of people will appreciate its enhancements. We think it’s a good upgrade. Give it a few weeks to make sure there isn’t a major gotcha that Apple missed, but after that, install when you have some time to play with the new features.

iPadOS 14

Remember, despite the different name, iPadOS is basically iOS with added iPad-specific features and a few iPhone-specific bits removed. So most of what’s new in iOS 14 is also coming to your iPad in iPadOS 14. Plus, Apple has updated the iPadOS interface in ways, such as the increased use of sidebars, that make it more Mac-like. As with iOS 14, iPadOS 14 runs on all iPads that support iOS 13.

One of those iPad-specific features is Scribble, which lets you handwrite in any text field with an Apple Pencil. You can also select and delete words with Scribble, and touch and hold to add a space. Notes also adds numerous Apple Pencil-related features, including smart selection of text, a Copy as Text command for converting handwriting to typed text, dragging to select, and even shape recognition that cleans up roughly sketched shapes.

For those who already rely heavily on the Apple Pencil, we think iPadOS 14 will be a no-brainer upgrade. As with iOS 14, though, it’s probably best to wait a week or so to install, or at least until you’re certain that your key apps have been updated to be compatible.

watchOS 7

Once you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 14, there’s no reason not to update to watchOS 7, assuming you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or later. As with previous upgrades, it’s not huge, but you might like some of the new capabilities. Chief among them is sleep tracking for those who either need help getting a good night’s sleep or are curious about how they’re sleeping. watchOS can now tell if you’re washing your hands for the requisite 20 seconds and even remind you to do so upon arriving home.

Apple has renamed the Activity app to Fitness and turned it into a streamlined fitness dashboard. The Workout app can now track core training, dance, functional strength training, and cooldowns. And finally, a new hearing-related feature can tell you how loudly you’re listening to audio through headphones and when such levels could cause harm.

tvOS 14

Apple doesn’t say much about tvOS 14. This new operating system version will install itself at some point after release. It features a new Home app for those who do HomeKit-based automations, can display video from HomeKit video doorbells while you’re watching TV, extends its Picture in Picture capabilities, lets you use two pairs of AirPods to listen simultaneously, and supports more gaming controllers. It also reportedly provides better 4K video support and lets you stream 4K video from an iPhone. It will work on the fourth-generation Apple TV (also known as the Apple TV HD) and the Apple TV 4K.

Upgrading to a new operating system can feel like a big step, but this batch of upgrades looks like they’ll be easier to get used to than most. We think they come with a low risk of trouble, a nice collection of enhancements, and reasonable design tweaks that move the interface forward. But even still, make sure your essential apps are compatible and update your backups before you consider upgrading!

(Featured image by Apple)