Want an Early Warning System for COVID-19 Infections? Install NOVID! IT Consultants in Los Angeles

With vaccinations underway, there’s light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel. But given the enormity of the task and the unknowns surrounding coronavirus variants, we’ll still be in this tunnel for some time to come. Happily, there’s a new app called NOVID that, if you and your friends (and their friends, etc.) install it, provides early warning as COVID-19 infections creep closer in your personal network of connections. It’s like weather radar for disease.

Developed by a Carnegie Mellon University math professor, NOVID is a free app for iOS and Android that relies on roughly the same smartphone proximity detecting technique as the Apple/Google exposure notification technology. If your phone can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ultrasound to detect another nearby phone with NOVID installed, the two phones record that completely anonymous interaction.

However, where the Apple/Google technology notifies you only if you have been directly exposed at some point in the past, forcing you to quarantine and get tested, NOVID helps you look into the future and evaluate your personal risk of being infected. That’s because the Apple/Google technology stops at 1 degree of separation—you only learn about exposures to people with whom you have directly interacted, and only well after the fact. NOVID goes way beyond that, tracking infections out to 12 degrees of separation and showing you how far away they are.

Think about what that means. If a friend’s father gets sick, you probably wouldn’t hang out with your friend until it was certain that she wasn’t also infected. That’s 2 degrees of separation. Imagine 3 degrees of separation—another friend’s spouse works in an office where a colleague tested positive. That still feels pretty close, and you’d probably take more precautions than normal with your friend.

Beyond 3 degrees of separation, however, it’s unlikely you’d ever know about infections. Plus, you would only learn about infections that are 2 or 3 degrees of separation away from you if everyone involved knows each other. What if that 3rd-degree infection was a guy at a bar that an appliance repair person chatted with several nights before fixing your friend’s dishwasher? That’s where anonymous smartphone proximity sensing comes in.

NOVID solves these problems by building your network of personal interactions out to 12 degrees of separation, showing you both how many connections and how many infections are at each level of your network. As infections get closer, you can take more precautions to reduce your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.

What’s most fun about NOVID is that its statistics show it working. It tells you how many other NOVID users you meet each day, and tapping the graph even tells you how NOVID detected their presence (ultrasound is more accurate than Bluetooth, and Bluetooth is more accurate than Wi-Fi).

NOVID also provides some community-level statistics if users choose to provide the first three digits of their ZIP codes. You can see how many people are in your greater ZIP code, how many cases are in the community, the size of the average user’s network, and even the iOS versus Android breakdown.

The key to making NOVID useful is adoption, so here’s our pitch. Install NOVID and ask a couple of friends or family members with whom you come into contact to do so as well. Then ask them to encourage a few of their friends or family members to install it and keep recommending it. Think of it as an early warning system that leverages the same kind of person-to-person transmission exploited by the coronavirus itself. And if a city—like Santa Fe—or a college campus—like Georgia Tech—were to recommend NOVID more broadly, that would be a super-spreader event on the positive side of the balance sheet!

We’ve all installed NOVID. Will you join us in building a network for community-wide early warning of approaching COVID-19 infections?

(Featured image based on an original by Kate Trifo from Pexels)


What Are Those Orange and Green Dots in Your iPhone’s Status Bar? Los Angeles IT Consultants

In iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, Apple added two new status indicators to the right side of the status bar at the top of the screen. They’re designed to give you feedback about what an app is doing. An orange dot indicates that an app is using the microphone, and a green dot means that an app is using the camera (and possibly the microphone as well). They’re subtle and shouldn’t be distracting, but if you ever notice them when you don’t think the camera or microphone should be in use, look for apps that might be using them in the background.

(Featured image by Bruno Massao from Pexels)

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)


Need to Save Bandwidth on Your iPhone? Try Low Data Mode – IT Services LA

Even as we get 5G cellular connectivity and high-speed Wi-Fi networks, there are plenty of times when you might want to reduce your data usage. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid running over a data cap while traveling, or maybe you’re sharing a Wi-Fi network with a very slow Internet connection. Either way, you can prevent your iPhone from using more data than necessary by enabling Low Data Mode. For cellular, find the switch in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. For Wi-Fi, in Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button next to the network you’re using. In either case, make sure to turn Low Data Mode off once you no longer need it to avoid getting confused about why background sync tasks don’t complete.

(Featured image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay)

Overwhelmed by Apps? Use iOS 14’s App Library to Manage Your Home Screens – LA IT Consultants

Many of us have been using iPhones for years, and apps we bought or downloaded long ago molder in corners of our Home screens. Even if you haven’t played Flappy Bird in years, its pixelated icon still stares glumly at you every time you peer at its Home screen, and it’s far from alone. To find out how many apps you have, go to Settings > General > About and look next to Applications. So where are they all?

Unless you’re one of those highly organized people who keeps every app in a folder (we’re jealous), you probably have quite a few Home screens holding all those apps. The first one or two may be nicely laid out, with your most frequently used apps close at hand. But after that? We can never find little-used apps on the fourth or sixth Home screen. Instead, we search for such apps—swipe down on a Home screen and type a few characters from its name. But wouldn’t it be nice to see an alphabetically sorted list of all your installed apps?

That’s what iOS 14’s App Library provides, though it may not be evident at first glance. (Sadly, the App Library isn’t available in iPadOS 14.) 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 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. When in jiggle mode, you can also drag an app out of the App Library to a Home screen or tap the X badge on an app icon to delete it.

Since you can’t rename any of the App Library folders or move apps between them, most of them aren’t that useful for finding something quickly, though you may enjoy browsing in them. However, if you tap the App Library search field at the top, it displays a lovely alphabetical list of all the apps installed on your iPhone. Finally! You can tap a letter on the right to jump to that spot in the list (D in the left-hand screenshot below), or enter a couple of characters to filter the list by name and category (which is why a search for “Flight” also finds travel apps like Kayak and Expedia in the right-hand screenshot).

Perhaps most important, you need to understand that the App Library always contains all the apps installed on your iPhone. If you delete an app from the App Library, you’re deleting it from your iPhone.

Now that you know what the App Library is, what does it enable you to do?

Remove Apps from Your Home Screens

Because all apps are accessible from the App Library, they no longer need to be on a Home screen. That means you can take seldom-used apps off your Home screens and access them from the App Library. To do this, first touch and hold an empty spot on any Home screen to enter jiggle mode. Tap the minus sign – badge on any app ➊, and then tap Remove from Home Screen ➋. That’s effective but slow, since you have to remove apps one at a time.

Here’s a faster approach. In jiggle mode, start dragging an app with your thumb. Then, with another finger, tap other apps to add them to the stack. Once you’ve collected all the apps you want to remove from the Home screen, drag them to the right (or swipe left on the Home screen with another finger) until you get to the App Library. Then lift your thumb.

If you’d rather sweep your apps under a virtual rug, you can hide entire Home screens. They still exist; you just don’t see them until you reveal them again. (You could also create a Home screen that contains just travel-related apps and show it only when you’re on vacation.) When in jiggle mode, tap the lozenge that indicates the number of Home screens (➌ above) and then tap the circle ➍ under each Home screen thumbnail to show (checked) or hide (empty) it. Tap Done when you’re finished.

Organize Your Main Home Screens

Before the App Library, creating focused Home screens was a nightmare because you had no idea where the apps you wanted to bring together might be located. With the App Library, that’s no longer an issue. Try these steps to create a new Home screen that contains a particular subset of your apps.

  1. In the App Library, tap the search field to display the alphabetic list of all apps.
  2. Touch and hold the app you want to add to a Home screen.
  3. Keep your finger down without moving; you should feel a tap of feedback and a menu will appear.
  4. Continue holding down on the app without moving your finger; a second or two later, iOS will display the rightmost Home screen.
  5. Lift your finger to drop the app; it will show up in a few seconds.
  6. Swipe back to the App Library and repeat these steps.

That approach is effective but a bit slow. Here’s a faster way. Enter jiggle mode, go to the App Library, navigate into a folder, and start dragging an app with your thumb. iOS will immediately send you to the last Home screen, but use another finger to swipe left so you go back to the App Library. Then navigate into a folder and tap desired apps to add them to your stack. Once you’ve collected everything, swipe right with your other finger to return to the last Home screen and lift your thumb to drop all the apps.

Once you’ve populated the Home screen with your desired apps, rearrange them as desired while still in jiggle mode. Remember that you can also create folders by dragging one app onto another, and put apps in folders by dragging them in.

Focus on Newly Downloaded Apps

The App Library also addresses the problem of what to do with newly downloaded apps. Previously, they’d show up at the bottom-right of some Home screen, but you couldn’t always predict which one. In iOS 14, you can now control that behavior in Settings > Home Screen. If you select Add to Home Screen, iOS will continue to add apps that you download to a Home screen. But if you prefer a clean screen, select App Library Only instead.

In the latter case, newly downloaded apps appear in the Recently Added folder on the main App Library screen, with the three most recent apps represented with large icons. Remember that you can tap the large icons to open the associated app or tap the four small icons to open the folder. The folder shows only the eight most recently downloaded apps, sorted alphabetically. And, of course, all the new apps also appear in the App Library’s alphabetical list and in the appropriate category folders.

If you’ve been suffering under the cognitive load of numerous unorganized Home screens, think about how you can use the App Library in iOS 14 to streamline your iPhone experience. You might even find that you like having just a couple of Home screens and leaving everything else in the App Library.

(Featured image by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash)


How to Make Sure Your iPhone Doesn’t Make Noise in the Night – IT Consultants in Los Angeles

You likely know that you can use Do Not Disturb to prevent random notifications on your iPhone from waking you at night—it’s easy to set a Do Not Disturb schedule for your usual sleeping hours. Another setting in there is important but often overlooked. If you ever use your iPhone during those Do Not Disturb hours—perhaps to read a book while a partner or roommate is asleep—you don’t want it to make any noise. To prevent that, in Settings > Do Not Disturb, make sure to set Silence to Always instead of While iPhone Is Locked.

(Featured image by Kristina Flour on Unsplash)