Getting Started with 1Password – IT Services Los Angeles

We’ve long recommended that everyone use a password manager like 1Password instead of attempting to memorize or write down passwords. Although there are other password managers, 1Password is the leading solution for Apple users, thanks to a focus on macOS and iOS from its earliest days.

1Password offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Automatic generation of strong passwords so you don’t have to invent them
  • Secure storage of passwords, even if your Mac or iPhone were stolen
  • Automatic entry of usernames and passwords that’s much easier than manual entry
  • Auditing of existing accounts to see how many use the same password
  • Easy access to all your passwords from all your devices (Mac, iOS, Windows, Android)
  • Sharing of passwords among a family or a workgroup

The hardest part of getting started with 1Password, like any password manager, is overcoming the inertia of trying something new. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

1: Sign Up for a 1Password Account

In this step, you’ll decide which 1Password plan is most appropriate. For individuals, 1Password costs $2.99 per month, or 1Password Families is $4.99 per month for a family of five. For businesses, 1Password Teams adds features and admin controls for $3.99 per user per month, or 1Password Business provides significantly more admin controls for $7.99 per user per month. You can compare the individual and family accounts, along with the Teams and Business plans, but if you’re still unsure which to pick, ask us for help.

Once you’ve decided on a plan, click through to the associated page linked above and sign up. Of course, if your family or business already uses 1Password, the person who created the account should invite you first.

Make sure to create a master password that’s strong yet easily typed because you’ll need to enter it regularly (or use Touch ID, Face ID, or an Apple Watch) to unlock 1Password. Since you’re putting all sorts of valuable eggs in your 1Password basket, be sure to download and fill out your Emergency Kit in case something happens to you. It also contains the QR code that makes it easy to sign in on new devices.

2: Install the 1Password Apps and Extensions

Next, install the 1Password app on each of your devices and connect it to your 1Password account. 1Password provides instructions for each, but in short:

  • Mac: Download and install the app, sign in to your 1Password account in your Web browser, click your name at the top right, and choose Get the Apps. Click “Add your account directly,” and let your browser open 1Password. Enter your master password and click Sign In.
  • iPhone/iPad: Download and open the app, and tap 1Password.com > Scan Setup Code. Then find the Setup Code ➊ and scan it using the camera. Enter your master password and tap Done. Next, go to Settings > Passwords > AutoFill Passwords, enable AutoFill Passwords âž‹, select 1Password ➌, and deselect Keychain.
  • Web Browser: The 1Password X extension makes it easier to sign in to sites using Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Brave. The 1Password app installs the Safari extension for you; the rest you’ll need to get manually.

With any security solution, there’s a tradeoff between ease of use and security. 1Password provides options so you can adjust that tradeoff to your liking.

  • Mac: In 1Password > Preferences > Security, you can enable unlock using an Apple Watch if you have both an Apple Watch and a Mac with a Secure Enclave. Also, set the various Auto-Lock checkboxes as you desire—if your Mac is in a shared space, err on the side of more security; if only you and trusted people can access it, you can be less strict.
  • iPhone/iPad: Tap the Settings button, then Security, and enable Touch ID or Face ID. They let you avoid entering your master password to access 1Passsord while maintaining a high level of security.

3: Save and Fill Passwords

Now it’s time to start using 1Password. The first thing you’ll need to do is save your website logins as you go—you’ll need to do this only once per site. Again, 1Password provides instructions for both the Mac and the iPhone or iPad, but here’s a summary:

  • Mac: Whenever you enter your username and password in a Web login form, 1Password will ask you to save your credentials. Click the Save In 1Password button and edit the title of the login button if desired. If you don’t yet have an account at the site, enter your username, click the 1Password icon in the password field, and choose Use Selected Password to accept the strong password 1Password has generated for you. Finally, click Save.
  • iPhone/iPad: When you tap a username or password field, either in an app or in a website in Safari, the iOS keyboard will appear. Tap the key icon ➊, and then tap Create Login âž‹. Enter your credentials. If you don’t yet have an account at the site, enter your desired username ➌ and tap the gear icon ➍ to generate a strong password. Finally, tap Save & Fill ➎.

With logins saved in 1Password, when you want to sign in to one of those sites in the future, it has just become extremely easy.

  • Mac #1: If you’re already looking at a website’s login fields, click the 1Password button in a username or password field and then choose the login you want to fill.
  • Mac #2: Alternatively, click the 1Password button in the browser’s toolbar. If 1Password’s suggestions aren’t right, type a few characters from the site name in the Search field. Click the AutoFill button for the desired result to load that site and auto-fill your credentials.
  • iPhone/iPad: Tap a username ➊ or password field in an app or Web page. Your username appears above the keyboard; tap it to fill in the username and password and tap Go if necessary. If you have multiple logins at that site, tap the key icon âž‹ to choose a different one ➌.

We’ve just scratched the surface of what 1Password can do. If you explore the 1Password support site, you can learn how to enter two-factor authentication codes (1Password calls them one-time passwords) automatically, create and share vaults with others, add and auto-fill credit card information, and use the Watchtower feature to see which of your logins use weak or duplicate passwords.

(Featured image assembled from originals by 1Password)


5 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Improve Your Digital Security – Los Angeles IT Support

Happy New Year! For many of us, the start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect on fresh habits we’d like to adopt. Although we certainly support any resolutions you may have made to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise, could we suggest a few more that will improve your digital security?

Keep Your Devices Updated

One of the most important things you can do to protect your security is to install new operating system updates and security updates soon after Apple releases them. Although the details seldom make the news because they’re both highly specific and highly technical, you can get a sense of how important security updates are by the fact that a typical update addresses 20–40 vulnerabilities that Apple or outside researchers have identified.

It’s usually a good idea to wait a week or so after an update appears before installing it, on the off chance that it has undesirable side effects. Although such problems are uncommon, when they do happen, Apple pulls the update quickly, fixes it, and releases it again, usually within a few days.

Use a Password Manager

We’ve been banging this drum for years. If you’re still typing passwords in by hand, or copying and pasting from a list you keep in a file, please switch to a password manager like 1Password or LastPass. Even Apple’s built-in iCloud Keychain is better than nothing. A password manager has five huge benefits:

  • It generates strong passwords for you. Password1234 can be hacked in seconds.
  • It stores your passwords securely. An Excel file on your Desktop is a recipe for disaster.
  • It enters passwords for you. Wouldn’t that be easier than typing them in manually?
  • It audits existing accounts. How many of your accounts use the same password?
  • It lets you access passwords on all your devices. Finally, easy login on your iPhone!

A bonus benefit for families is password sharing. It allows, for example, a married couple to share essential passwords or for parents and teens to share certain passwords.

In short, using a password manager is more secure, faster, easier, and just all-around better. If you need help getting started, get in touch.

Beware of Phishing Email

Individuals and businesses alike frequently suffer from security lapses caused by phishing, forged email that fools someone into revealing login credentials, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information. Although spam filters can catch many phishing attempts, it’s up to you to be on your guard at all times. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Any email that tries to get you to reveal information, follow a link, or sign a document
  • Messages from people you don’t know, asking you to take an unusual action
  • Direct email from a large company for whom you’re an anonymous customer
  • Forged email from a trusted source asking for sensitive information
  • All messages that contain numerous spelling and grammar mistakes

When in doubt, don’t follow the link or reply to the email. Instead, contact the sender in some other way to see if the message is legit.

Avoid Sketchy Websites

We won’t belabor this one, but suffice it to say that you’re much more likely to pick up malware from sites on the fringes of the Web or that cater to the vices of society. To the extent that you can avoid sites that provide pirated software, “adult” content, gambling opportunities, or sales of illicit substances, the safer you’ll be. That’s not to say that reputable sites haven’t been hacked and used to distribute malware too, but it’s far less common.

If you are concerned after spending time in the darker corners of the Web, download a free copy of Malwarebytes or DetectX Swift and scan for malware manually.

Never Respond to Unsolicited Calls or Texts

Although phishing happens mostly via email, scammers have also taken to using phone calls and texts. Thanks to weaknesses in the telephone system, such calls and texts can appear to come from well-known companies, including Apple and Amazon. Even worse, with so much online ordering happening, fake text messages pretending to help you track packages are becoming more common.

For phone calls from companies, unless you’re expecting a call back from a support ticket you opened, don’t answer. Let the call go to voicemail, and if you feel it’s important to respond, look up the company’s phone number elsewhere, and talk with someone at that number rather than one provided by the voicemail.

For texts, avoid following links unless you recognize the sender and it makes sense that you’d be receiving such a link. (For instance, Apple can text delivery details related to your orders.) Regardless, never enter login information at a site you’ve reached by following a link because there’s no way to know if it’s real. Instead, if you want to learn more, navigate manually to the company’s site by entering its URL yourself, then log in.

Let’s raise a glass to staying safe online in 2021!

(Featured image based on originals from Tim Mossholder and Jude Beck on Unsplash)


How to Choose the Best Uninterruptible Power Supply for Your Needs: IT Support Los Angeles

With so many people working from home, lots of attention has been dedicated to making sure everyone has a functional computer, a reasonably ergonomic workspace, and a decent videoconferencing setup. One thing that many have overlooked, however, is the need for a reliable uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Particularly for those using desktop Macs or external hard drives, a UPS is essential because it protects your work—and your devices—against surges, brownouts, and outright power failures. That’s especially helpful as we head into the summer thunderstorm and fall hurricane season.

What is a UPS?

Put simply, a UPS is a big battery into which you plug your Mac and other peripherals. It then plugs into a wall outlet and monitors the incoming power. If the normal power fails, or surges or falls below a certain threshold, the UPS notices and switches the power source to its internal battery. This happens so quickly that your Mac never even notices.

How does a UPS help?

For desktop Macs, a power failure means an immediate and ungraceful shutdown. You’ll lose all unsaved work and, depending on what was happening when the power went out, your drive might be corrupted. Smaller power surges and brownouts may not cause the Mac to shut down, but they put stress on electronic components that can cause a shorter overall lifespan.

When your gear is plugged into a UPS, you get some time to save your work and shut down gracefully, ensuring that you don’t lose data or flirt with drive corruption. And by having the UPS filter out power spikes and drops, your Mac and peripherals will last longer.

What sort of UPS should I look for?

There are three types of UPS: standby, line interactive, and double conversion. The names that different manufacturers use vary slightly, but here are the differences:

  • Standby UPS: This simple type of UPS, also called an offline UPS, monitors the incoming power, and if it rises or falls beyond predetermined levels, it switches to using battery power. That happens within 5–12 milliseconds, but the computer still sees some power fluctuations. The incoming power isn’t conditioned as long as it remains within the predetermined levels. A standby UPS is most appropriate in environments where the power is clean—you don’t notice lights flickering—and goes off infrequently.
  • Line Interactive UPS: This type of UPS goes a bit further, using automatic voltage regulation to correct abnormal voltages without switching to battery. In the event of an outage, it still switches to battery, but more quickly, within 2–4 milliseconds. If you lose power more often, are near industrial machinery, or notice occasional brownouts when it’s hot out, go for a line interactive UPS. They’re the most popular.
  • Double Conversion UPS: The most advanced form of UPS, a double conversion or online UPS, always runs connected devices from the battery, and the incoming power serves only to keep the battery charged. It has no transfer time in the event of an outage and provides the cleanest power. If you’re considering a backup generator or Tesla Powerwall to deal with frequent power outages or it’s clear that you have really dirty power, you should probably get a double conversion UPS.

As you would expect, standby models are the cheapest, and double conversion models are the most expensive.

How big of a UPS do I need?

You’ll need to do some research and math to determine the capacity of your ideal UPS. The first step is to find the size of the load you’re going to connect to it. To do that, look on the back of devices or in their technical specs for a rating in watts (W) or volt-amps (VA). Theoretically, the two are equivalent—watts equals volts multiplied by amps. In reality, you also have to take into account something called power factor along with runtime—how long you want the UPS to power your system before its battery dies.

Apple publishes power consumption numbers for most recent models of the Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro. For the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, look at tech specs to find the wattage rating of the charger, which will be between 30W and 96W. Then add in any peripherals you’re planning to plug into the UPS, such as an external hard drive, Wi-Fi router, and the like. You may need to read the tiny print on power adapters and multiply volts by amps to get the wattage rating.

For instance, for a system comprising a 27-inch iMac from 2019, a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, and an external hard drive, you’d add up the following numbers:

That gives you a total of 402W maximum, although it’s likely to be lower in normal usage. Nonetheless, to convert watts to volt-amps and account for the power factor, we divide the maximum wattage rating by power factor—a safe power factor is 0.8. So 402W / 0.8 = 503VA. So at a bare minimum, you’d want a UPS rated for 500VA. For some wiggle room on adding devices, it’s worth increasing the capacity by 50–100%, bringing us up to 750VA to 1000VA.

Here’s where things get fuzzy. The next step is to take that number and plug it into a UPS selector. Major manufacturers like APC (shown below), CyberPower, and Tripp Lite provide tools along these lines.

They’ll probably recommend a UPS with a higher capacity than is necessary—they are trying to upsell you, and the calculations will be based on the maximum loads you entered. If your Mac is running flat out, you’re likely sitting there and can shut it down quickly, so a long runtime isn’t necessary. If you’re not at the Mac, it should be sleeping, leading to a much longer runtime. CyberPower provides a nice runtime calculator that lets you see how long different models will last based on the actual load.

Are there other UPS features to look for?

Although many UPS features are fairly standard, it’s worth making sure you’re getting the ones you want. They include:

  • Form factor: Some smaller UPS models look like oversized surge protectors; most larger ones are mini-towers. You’ll probably want it under your desk, so make sure it’s a form factor that works for you.
  • Power outlets: Most UPS devices have a mix of outlet types. Some are backed by the battery, whereas others merely protect against surges. You’ll want to plug most electronic gear into battery-backed outlets—make sure the UPS has enough, and in an orientation that works with wall-wart power adapters—but if you have a laser printer or a lamp that you need to plug in as well, those should go in the surge-protected outlets.
  • Display: Many UPS models have an LCD display and buttons that you can use to cycle through screens of available runtime, current load, incoming voltage, and more. We like such displays.
  • Alarm control: When the power goes out, it’s common for a UPS to activate an audible alarm to alert you of the problem. Those alarms are usually loud and piercing, so if you need to keep working briefly or leave a low-load device (like a Wi-Fi router) running during an outage, you’ll want the option of turning the alarm off.
  • Replaceable batteries: UPS batteries don’t last forever, and it usually makes sense to buy a model whose batteries you can replace after a few years when its effective runtime has dropped significantly. You can always test runtime by pulling the UPS plug from the wall. Make sure to save all your work first!
  • Software: Many UPS models can connect to your Mac via a USB cable and use either included software or the Mac’s built-in power management software to shut the Mac down gracefully if you’re not present. When the UPS is connected, look in System Preferences > Energy Saver > UPS > Shutdown Options.

Phew! There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a UPS, but feel free to ask us for help or our current manufacturer recommendations.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Your Time Machine Drive Just Filled Up. What Should You Do? IT Services in Los Angeles

It’s inevitable—your Time Machine backup drive is going to fill up. Time Machine is smart about backing up only files that have changed, but after months or years of usage, the drive will run out of space. What happens then?

Before we explain, some background. On its first backup, Time Machine copies everything on your startup drive to the backup drive. After that, Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. If you modify the same file multiple times per day, every day, you’ll have numerous versions of it in your backup set so that you can go back to any particular version.

So the first thing that Time Machine does when your backup drive fills up is start deleting those older versions, beginning with the oldest ones. It warns you when this starts happening and tells you what your oldest remaining backup is. In general, this approach works well, since you probably don’t need all the older versions of changed files as long as Time Machine always retains the most recent version in the backup.

Eventually, however, even this technique runs into the wall of hard drives having only so much capacity. When that happens, backups will start failing, and this notification will appear after every backup attempt.

Click the Details button in that notification to open the Time Machine pane of System Preferences, and you’ll learn more.

You have four options at this point, but two of them may not be all that helpful.

Delete Old Backups

One possible solution—albeit likely a short term one—is to delete old backups. You might be tempted to look in the Backups.backupdb folder on your Time Machine drive and delete some of the dated folders inside. Don’t. You have no idea what you’ll be deleting, and you’ll likely corrupt the entire Time Machine backup, rendering it useless.

Instead, use a utility like GrandPerspective or OmniDiskSweeper to identify folders or files that are both large and unnecessary. Navigate to one of those items in the Finder, select it, and then choose Enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu bar icon. Once in Time Machine, click the Action menu (the gear icon) in the toolbar and choose Delete All Backups of Item.

Alas, this approach may not have much of an effect, since it’s difficult to know how many backups Time Machine has stored.

Exclude Large Folders from the Backup

Another approach that Apple mentions is excluding items from the Time Machine backup. To do this, open System Preferences > Time Machine and click the Options button. Then drag the desired file or folder into the “Exclude these items from backups” list and click Save.

The only problem with this advice is that it’s helpful only before your backup drive fills up. Time Machine won’t reclaim space used by newly excluded items that already exist in your backup.

Start Over, Either on a New Drive or after Erasing Your Existing Backup Drive

One of the great features of Time Machine is that it stores previous versions of files, as we’ve discussed. But you probably know if you’re the sort of person who needs to go back to such previous versions, or if you just use Time Machine so you can restore all your data in the event of a drive failure. If the latter is true and you don’t much care about previous versions of files, a good solution is just to start over, either on a new drive or after erasing your current drive.

Obviously, erasing your current drive means that you won’t have any Time Machine backup at all until a new one completes, which is a risk. And, of course, if that drive filled up once, it will do so again, potentially fairly quickly unless you exclude some large folders. But, if you want to go down that path, open Disk Utility, select your Time Machine drive in the sidebar, and click Erase. Then go into the Time Machine preferences again, click Select Disk, and pick your newly erased drive. You may have to select it under Backup Disks and click Remove Disk first.

Getting a new, larger backup drive and starting over with it is easier and more sensible, though more expensive. Once you’ve connected the new drive, just open the Time Machine preferences, click Select Disk, and select the new drive.

Or, rather, in an ideal world that would be true. You need to make sure that the new backup drive is formatted properly for Time Machine. Choose About This Mac from the Apple menu, and then click System Report to open the System Information app. In its sidebar, click Storage, select the drive at the top, and make sure File System is Journaled HFS+ and Partition Map Type is GPT (GUID Partition Table).

If the drive isn’t formatted correctly for Time Machine, open Disk Utility, select the drive in the sidebar, click Erase, and choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) from the Format pop-up menu and GUID Partition Map from the Scheme pop-up menu. Then click Erase to ready it for Time Machine use. (This will, of course, delete all the data on the drive, so make sure that’s OK first!)

Finally, make sure the permissions on the new drive are set correctly. Select the drive icon in the Finder, choose File > Get Info, click the triangle next to Sharing & Permissions, and make sure the “Ignore ownership on this volume” checkbox is unselected. You may need to click the lock icon and enter an administrator username and password.

Copy Your Existing Backup to a New, Larger Drive

What if you want to retain all those old backups? That’s entirely possible, though it will take a long time to copy. Follow these steps:

  1. Connect both the old and the new backup drive to your Mac via Thunderbolt, USB, or Firewire.
  2. Make sure the drive is formatted properly for Time Machine, and if it’s not, reformat it in Disk Utility as noted above. Also, verify that the permissions are set correctly, as above.
  3. Turn off Time Machine so it doesn’t try to back up while you’re copying its data. In the Time Machine preference pane, deselect Back Up Automatically, or click the Off/On switch, depending on what version of macOS you’re running.
  4. Drag the Backups.backupdb folder from the old drive to the new one to copy it. You may be prompted for your administrator name and password.
  5. When it finishes, a day or two later, follow the instructions above to select the new drive in the Time Machine preferences and make sure to turn Time Machine back on.

One final note. It may be tempting to use an alternative method of copying the Backups.backupdb folder, but resist the urge. Time Machine uses special drive structures to work its magic, and only the Finder is guaranteed to copy them correctly.

(Featured image based on an original by Denny MĂĽller on Unsplash)