Tech Tips

Ransomware: Should You Be Worried, and What Protective Steps Should You Take?

What is Ransomware?

Malware makes headlines regularly these days, and although Macs are targeted far less than Windows PCs, Mac users still need to remain vigilant. A particularly serious type of malware is called ransomware because once it infects your computer, it encrypts all your files and holds them for ransom.

Luckily, despite the virulence of ransomware in the Windows world, where there have been major infections of CryptoWall and WannaCry, only a few pieces of ransomware have been directed at Mac users:

  • The first, called FileCoder, was discovered in 2014. When security researchers looked into its code, they discovered that it was incomplete, and posed no threat at the time.

  • The first fully functional ransomware for the Mac appeared in 2016, a bit of nastiness called KeRanger. It hid inside an infected version of the open source Transmission BitTorrent client and was properly signed so it could circumvent Apple’s Gatekeeper protections. As many as 6500 people may have been infected by KeRanger before Apple revoked the relevant certificate and updated macOS’s XProtect anti-malware technology to block it.

  • In 2017, researchers discovered another piece of ransomware, called Patcher, which purported to help users download pirated copies of Adobe Premiere and Microsoft Office 2016. According to its Bitcoin wallet, no one had paid the ransom, which was good, since it had no way of decrypting the files it had encrypted.

Realistically, don’t worry too much. But it’s likely that malware authors will unleash additional Mac ransomware packages in the future, so we encourage you to be aware, informed, and prepared.

What steps can I take to protect myself?

First, let’s explain a few key terms and technologies. Apple’s Gatekeeper technology protects your Mac from malware by letting you launch only apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, or those that are signed by developers who have a Developer ID from Apple. Since malware won’t come from legitimate developers (and Apple can revoke stolen signatures), Gatekeeper protects you from most malware. However, you can override Gatekeeper’s protections to run an unsigned app. Do this only for apps from trusted developers. Even if you never override Gatekeeper, be careful what you download.

Apple’s XProtect technology takes a more focused approach, checking every new app against a relatively short list of known malware and preventing apps on that list from launching. Make sure to leave the “Install system data files and security updates” checkbox selected in System Preferences > App Store. That ensures that you’ll get XProtect updates. Similarly, install macOS updates and security updates soon after they’re released to make sure you’re protected against newly discovered vulnerabilities that malware could exploit.

Also consider running anti-malware software like Malwarebytes Premium or Mac Internet Security X9. That’s not absolutely necessary, like anti-malware solutions are for Windows, but doing so can provide peace of mind, particularly if you regularly visit sketchy parts of the Internet or download dodgy software.

Although regular backups with Time Machine are usually helpful, KeRanger tried to encrypt Time Machine backup files to prevent users from recovering their data that way. Similarly, a bootable duplicate updated automatically by SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner could end up replacing good files with encrypted ones from a ransomware-infected Mac, or a future piece of ransomware could try to encrypt other mounted backup disks as well.

If you ever are infected with ransomware, don’t panic, and don’t pay the ransom right away. Contact us so we can help you work through your options, which might entail restoring from a backup or bringing files back from older cloud storage versions. There are even descriptors for some Windows ransomware packages, and such utilities might appear for hypothetical Mac ransomware as well.

To reiterate, there’s no reason to worry too much about ransomware on the Mac, but letting Apple’s XProtect keep itself up to date, staying current with macOS updates, and using an Internet backup service will likely protect you from what may come.

That’s it from this week’s simply blog! Make sure to stay tuned for more useful security tips!

By: Dan Daly

What You Need to Know about Face ID on the iPhone X

Apple’s new iPhone X does away with the Home button, which has been a fixture since the original iPhone and has long served as the Touch ID sensor. To replace Touch ID, Apple developed a new facial recognition technology called Face ID. With Face ID, the iPhone X scans your face to authenticate you instead of using your fingerprint. It is truly amazing technology, but we’ve been getting questions that we’d like to answer here. If you have others, get in touch!

How does Face ID work?

Magic. Well, close. As science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Face ID is cutting-edge technology that uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system to project over 30,000 invisible dots onto your face. Then it illuminates your face with infrared light and takes an infrared image. Finally, it translates that image into facial recognition data that’s encrypted and stored within the iPhone’s Secure Enclave (the data never leaves your iPhone).

Face ID updates its mathematical representation of your face over time to keep up with how your appearance changes.

How secure is Face ID?

Extremely. Apple claims that Touch ID’s false positive rate—the number of people who would have to try logging in to your iPhone before someone would succeed randomly—is 1 in 50,000. In contrast, Apple says that Face ID’s false positive rate is 1 in 1,000,000. It can’t be fooled by a picture or a simple mask, although a high-enough quality 3D reproduction of your face might get past it, just as a sufficiently good cast of your fingerprint could fool Touch ID.

However, Face ID has trouble distinguishing between identical twins and siblings who have nearly identical features. So if you have an evil twin, stick to a Touch ID-based iPhone or your passcode! The probability of an incorrect match is also higher with children under 13, since their facial features haven’t become sufficiently distinct yet.

By default, Face ID works only when you look at the iPhone X—it can’t be unlocked by your face when you’re sleeping.

How fast is Face ID?

Not quite as fast as Touch ID in current iPhones, but fast enough that you likely won’t notice. When you pick up your iPhone X so you can look at it, Face ID will, in most cases, have already recognized you.

This quick recognition is possible in part because the iPhone X can start scanning early, thanks to iOS’s Raise to Wake feature and a new Tap to Wake feature that automatically wakes the iPhone X when you touch the screen.

What if Face ID doesn’t work?

First off, things like wearing a hat, scarf, or glasses won’t confuse Face ID, nor will growing or shaving a beard. Thanks to that infrared camera, it even works in complete darkness. However, Face ID does fail occasionally. One reason for a Face ID failure is holding the iPhone X too close to your face—this is easy to do accidently if you’re nearsighted and not wearing your glasses. (Some sunglasses prevent Face ID from seeing your eyes, but you can work around that problem by disabling Require Attention for Face ID in Settings > Face ID & Passcode.)

To make Face ID retry a facial scan, hold the iPhone X at a normal viewing distance, tilt it away from you, and then tilt it back to your normal viewing position. If that doesn’t work, or if you want to let someone else use your iPhone, enter the passcode. Entering the passcode is always an option.

Alas, unlike Touch ID, which let you enroll up to five fingers (so family members could unlock your iPhone without using the passcode), Face ID lets you have only a single face.

Can I use Face ID for anything besides unlocking?

Yes, Face ID completely replaces Touch ID, so you can use it to authenticate when you’re using Apple Pay, or the App Store or iTunes Store. Plus, apps that previously relied on Touch ID, such as the 1Password or LastPass password managers, will automatically use Face ID instead.

We hope Apple can make the hardware necessary for Face ID cheaply enough to bring it to other devices as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk up to your Mac and have it automatically unlock because it had recognized your face? That’s it for this blog! Stay tuned for more tech tips!

by Dan Daly

Watch Out for Phishing Attacks Hidden in Your Email

What is a Phishing scam?

One of the most important things you can do to stay safe on the Internet is to be careful while reading email. That’s because online criminals know that we’re all busy, and we often don’t pay enough attention to what we’re reading or where we’re clicking.

To take advantage of our inattention, these Internet information thieves forge email messages to look like they come from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, along with well-known banks, payment services, retailers, and even government agencies. Even more dangerous are messages that appear to come from a trusted individual and include personal details—these messages are often targeted at executives and company managers. Generally speaking, these attacks are called phishing—you can see examples here.

The goal? Get you to click a link in the message and visit a malicious Web site. That site usually continues to masquerade as being run by a company or organization you trust. Its aim is to sucker you into revealing confidential information by asking you to log in, pay for a product or service, or fill out a survey. The site—or an attachment in the email message—might also try to install malware. Although macOS is quite secure, if you approve security prompts, it can still be infected.

The telltale signs

Although phishing is a huge problem that costs businesses hundreds of millions of dollars every year, you can easily identify phishing messages by looking for telltale signs:

  • Be suspicious of email messages, particularly from people you don’t know or from well-known companies, that ask you to click a link and do something with an online account.
  • Look closely at email addresses and URLs (hover the pointer over a link to see the underlying URL). Phishing messages don’t use official domains, so instead of, the addresses and links might use—close enough to pass a quick glance, but clearly a fake.
  • Watch out for highly emotional or urgent requests. They’re designed to make you act without thinking. Take any such messages with a grain of salt.
  • Channel your inner English teacher and look for poor grammar or odd phrasing, which are red flags for phishing messages. Email from real companies may not be perfect, but it won’t have multiple egregious errors.

So, how do I avoid them?

So what do you do if you get a message that may be phishing for sensitive information? Most of the time you can just ignore it. If you’re worried that it might be legit, instead of clicking any links in the message, navigate to the site in question manually by typing the organization’s URL into your browser—use a URL that you know to be correct, not the one in the email message. Whatever you do, do not open attachments that you aren’t expecting and never send confidential information via email.

If you think you’ve fallen prey to a phishing attack and given away a password, you’ll want to change passwords on any affected accounts. If you’ve opened any attachments or approved any installs, run anti-malware software to determine whether your Mac has been infected. Contact us if you need help. And remember, regular backups protect you from a multitude of sins.

That’s it from us this week, remember to stay safe out there people and if you have any concerns we offer malware removal and data back-up services.

By Dan Daly

7 Cool New Features in watchOS 4

With watchOS 4 now arriving on Apple Watch users’ wrists, it’s time to make sure you aren’t missing out on any of the important features—and to share a few tips for how to use them. watchOS 4 works on all Apple Watch models, even the original Apple Watch. It does require iOS 11, so if you’ve been using your Apple Watch with an iPhone 5 or 5c, you’ll need to stick with watchOS 3 until you get a new iPhone.  

#1: watchOS 4 Dock Scrolls Vertically instead of Horizontally

Press the side button to see the Dock, and you’ll notice that it now scrolls vertically—this makes sense since one of the ways to scroll it is by turning the digital crown. You can now arrange Dock items (using the Watch app on your iPhone) based on either your favorites or which Dock items were used most recently.  

#2: Useful and Fun Watch Faces

The new Siri watch face doesn’t add new speech capabilities, but it does show timely information, pulling in personal details and suggestions from apps such as Calendar, Reminders, and Photos. It also shows Now Playing controls when you’re playing audio on your iPhone, along with Apple News headlines and stock tickers. We liked it more after customizing its Data Sources in the iOS Watch app. When you want something whimsical on your wrist, there’s now a Toy Story face. Or, try the trippy new Kaleidoscope face that changes slowly as time goes by—you can speed it up by turning the digital crown. simply computing watch OS 4 features  

#3: App List Supplements Icon Cloud

The App screen’s icon cloud looks impressive, but it can be challenging to locate and tap a specific app. We’re appreciating the new List view, accessed by force-pressing the App screen, which displays apps alphabetically. simply computing watch OS 4 new features  

#4: Flashlight on Your Wrist

Swipe up to find and tap the new Flashlight button in Control Center, which turns the screen bright white. Swipe left to access a flashing option, designed to make you more visible at night while walking or running. Press the side button or digital crown to turn the flashlight off.  

#5: More Fitness Encouragement and Options

The Activity app is now more chatty and will make suggestions in the morning to inspire you. It will also remind you at night if you are close to closing a ring. Apple gave the Workout app some attention, too. Starting a workout is easier than before: it now requires only one tap, Do Not Disturb turns on automatically, and your default playlist can even start playing. With the workout underway, you can now switch easily to a different workout type (swipe right and tap the + button), and see a multi-workout analysis at the end of the entire session. simply computing best new watch OS 4 features Swimmers using an Apple Watch Series 2 or 3 can now track sets and rests, pace for each set, and distance for each stroke type. Apple also has added a High Intensity Interval Training workout type. Finally, your Apple Watch can connect with some gym equipment, like ellipticals and indoor bikes, allowing it and the machine to share data. Look for an NFC label on your machine, and tap it with your watch.  

#6: Multiple Playlists On the Go

The Apple Watch is great for playing tunes to AirPods while you work out, but with watchOS 3 you were limited to just one playlist. With watchOS 4, you can sync multiple playlists and albums via the Music settings in the iOS Watch app. Plus, for Apple Music subscribers, your automatically generated favorites mixes can sync automatically.  

#7: More App Enhancements: Phone, Timer, and Camera

Other apps also receive improvements in watchOS 4. You can dial phone numbers manually with a new keypad in the Phone app. Timer now has a Repeat button, so you can repeat a timer with a single tap. And the Camera app offers some new remote options, including support for starting and stopping videos. simply computing watch OS 4 new features All-in-all, watchOS 4 is a solid upgrade, and the changes will make your Apple Watch both more useful and easier to use. Want to read more about some of Apples recent software updates? Check out our blog on the best new features of iOS 11 or, more specifically, how they can improve your iPad experience. Read more about Apple Watch models on our online store!
by Dan Daly

Why iOS 11 Is the Most Important Version Yet for iPad Users

Why iOS 11 Is the Most Important Version Yet for iPad Users

  Apple has long argued that you can use the iPad for productivity but hasn’t backed that claim up with the necessary features in iOS. Until now, that is, with the new iPad-centric capabilities of iOS 11. These changes mean that an iPad running iOS 11 is more like a Mac, and that’s a good thing for those who want to do real work with their iPads.  

Dock and Multitasking

The new iOS 11 Dock is easy to find at the bottom of the Home screen, just like before. But it’s better and more Mac-like than before—the left side shows apps or folders you’ve placed there by dragging them on (no need to touch and hold until icons shake anymore!) while the right side helps you get around more quickly by displaying recently used apps and any Handoff apps from your other Apple devices. Most importantly, you can now view the Dock within any app, without the contextual shift of returning to the Home screen as in previous iOS versions. Just swipe up slightly from the bottom of the screen in any app, and the Dock appears so you can switch apps with a single tap right away. Or—this is fabulous!—drag the app where you want to go up from the Dock to open it in Slide Over or Split View. Now you can work back and forth between two apps at once on the same screen.  

Control Center and App Switcher

Switching apps with the Dock like you do on the Mac is easy, but when you invoke the App Switcher by swiping up to see the Dock and then continuing to swipe up (or by double-pressing the Home button or swiping up with four fingers), it now shows large thumbnails of the four most recent apps (or Slide Over or Split View screens) and the new Control Center. Tap one to switch to it. Remember that you can customize the buttons that appear in Control Center—visit Settings > Control Center > Customize to make it look the way you want.  

Drag and Drop

With iOS 11, Apple finally brought drag and drop to the iPad! Touch and move text, graphics, or files between apps—you can even pick up an item with a finger and use your other hand to reveal the Dock and switch to your destination app before dropping the data. Use this maneuver in situations where you would previously have used copy and paste or the awkward Share sheet—or just given up! Practice a few times to accustom yourself to the two-handed process.  


Just like the Mac, the iPad now provides a single place to browse and open all your files, and you can open a file with a single tap. All this goodness happens in the new Files app, which replaces the iCloud Drive app with a broader view of your files, providing access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive. (To add a sharing service whose app you’ve installed, tap Edit in the left-hand Browse panel).  

Keyboard Flick

On iPads other than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, iOS 11 simplifies typing on the virtual keyboard. You can now type numbers and many punctuation characters by swiping down on the appropriate key, rather than switching keyboards. Swipe down to see the key turn gray and show only the desired number or character, and then lift your finger.  

Apple Pencil

In iOS 11, the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil becomes even more useful. Want to start a note? Just tap the Lock screen and start writing. Want to search your handwritten notes? Pull down on the Notes list to type your query, and Notes will find handwritten terms. A new scanning feature in Notes makes it easy to bring a paper document into the iPad, where you can sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. We also like the new Instant Markup feature that lets you write on a PDF or screenshot easily—tap the Pencil icon at the upper right of the screen to start writing and to access the controls for color and tip below. With iOS 11, Apple has finally acknowledged that the iPad needs its own features to be a productivity machine—it’s not just an iPhone with a larger screen. With a little practice, you can be using an iPad, particularly an iPad Pro, for all sorts of serious tasks like email, word processing, Web research, and more.
by Dan Daly

The Top Features To Try in iOS 11

Even if you’re not buying a new iPhone this year, you can still enjoy a hefty dose of “New and Improved!” with Apple’s iOS 11, which provides a host of new capabilities. Hold on tight, there’s a lot to cover!

Getting Started with iOS 11

After installing iOS 11, you’ll notice a few things right off. Dock icons no longer have names, and many Apple apps now have the bold text design Apple brought in for the Music and News app in iOS 10. Although the new Automatic Setup feature won’t help you today, when you next get a new iOS device, it can transfer many settings from an older iOS 11 device automatically. Similarly, the new Share Your Wi-Fi feature lets you send your Wi-Fi network’s password to another iOS 11 device that tries to connect. You may not need a new iPhone or iPad anyway, since iOS 11 can help you recover precious space. Choose Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage and you can offload unused apps (while keeping their settings and data). Delete old Messages conversations automatically, and see how much space each app consumes. Deleting music from the Music sub-screen (tap Edit) will help too.  

Special Screens

Apple redesigned Control Center, which most people still get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPad users keep swiping up after the Dock appears, and iPhone X users will have to swipe down from the right-hand top of the screen). It’s back to a single page of icons, and you can access additional options by pressing and holding on any set of controls.  The Lock screen is all you’ll see while in the car by default now, thanks to the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. It blocks notifications and prevents you from using your iPhone while at the wheel. All while auto-replying to people who text you. Calls still come through to your car’s Bluetooth system, and texts from people designated as favorites can break through the texting cone of silence. Passengers can disable Do Not Disturb While Driving easily from a notification on the Lock screen.  

Smaller Changes:

A few smaller changes that you’ll appreciate include:
  • Siri sounds more natural, can do translations, and uses on-device learning to understand you better and provide more useful results.
  • On an iPhone, a new Emergency SOS feature will call 911 and notify your emergency contacts of your location after you press the Sleep/Wake button five times quickly and swipe the Emergency SOS button. Tap Settings > Emergency SOS to set this up.
  • The password auto-fill feature now suggests stored login information for many apps right from the QuickType bar above the keyboard. Manage this in Settings > Accounts & Passwords > App & Website Passwords.

App Updates:

  • Camera: New file formats will make your videos and photos take up less space. There are a few new filters, and Camera can finally scan QR codes, which simplify loading Web sites, getting contact info, and connecting to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Photos: You can now edit the video in a Live Photo and apply looping, bouncing, and long exposure effects. Photos can at long last play animated GIFs and has a new Animated smart album to hold them.
  • Files: This major new app replaces the iCloud Drive app. Look in Files for access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device. Like other cloud sharing services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Messages: A new app drawer at the bottom of the screen tries to entice you to use iMessage apps. Most are just stickers, but some are useful and Apple provides a new Apple Pay app here that lets you make person-to-person payments.
  • Maps: Apple has added indoor maps of some airports and malls to Maps. Maps also now provides lane guidance on more complicated roads.
  • Notes: The new Instant Notes feature make starting a note as simple as tapping the Lock screen of an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. A note can now look like lined paper or graph paper (tap the Share button, then tap Lines & Grids). You can also now scan a document. The idea is that you then sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. Notes can also now find text in Apple Pencil handwriting.
Take some time to explore—we’re liking these new features and we think you will too! It’s likely safe to upgrade to iOS 11 now, but check our upgrade advice first. by Dan Daly

Apple Introduces iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K

At its highly anticipated product announcement event at the new Steve Jobs Theater, Apple didn’t disappoint. The big news was the revolutionary iPhone X, which eliminates the Home button and unlocks by recognizing your face. Apple also announced the evolutionary iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus; a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3; and the Apple TV 4K, which supports 4K HDR video. The company said that iOS 11 and watchOS 4 would ship on September 19th, and later noted that macOS 10.13 High Sierra would arrive September 25th.  

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Add Wireless Charging

Rather than calling the new model the iPhone 7s, Apple jumped to the iPhone 8 name to acknowledge significant hardware changes, notably a mostly glass case designed to allow wireless charging. Otherwise, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus largely follow in the footsteps of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, featuring the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively. They’re almost the same size as the previous models, varying only by fractions of a millimeter in different dimensions, and are water and dust resistant too. Although the iPhone 8 models still sport a Lightning port (and come with a headphone jack adapter), you’ll charge them by setting them on a charging pad based on the Qi wireless charging standard (Qi is pronounced “chee”). Furniture retailer IKEA has even built such chargers into some of its tables. In 2018, Apple plans to release an AirPower charging mat that will charge an iPhone 8 or iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and AirPods with a new charging case—all with no cables. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus screens now support Apple’s True Tone technology, which changes brightness and color based on the ambient light. Plus, their stereo speakers are 25% louder than in the iPhone 7 and have deeper bass.

Under the hood, the iPhone 8 models include a new A11 Bionic chip that Apple claims is the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone. The chip’s performance will particularly benefit games; apps that rely on machine learning; and apps using augmented reality, which can seamlessly place virtual objects in live video of the real world. Although the basic rear-facing camera in the iPhone 8 is still 12 megapixels, it uses an all-new sensor that captures 83% more light and provides deeper pixels, a new color filter, and optical image stabilization, all while using less power. That adds up to pictures with better color saturation, a wider dynamic range, and lower noise. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 Plus sports dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, one with an ƒ/1.8 aperture and the other at ƒ/2.8. Those cameras have the same new sensor, and iPhone 8 Plus owners will be able to try a beta of Apple’s new Portrait Lighting feature, which lets you apply studio-quality lighting to your scene as you compose the shot. You can even change the lighting afterward.

Both iPhone models boast improved video capture as well, in part due to a new image signal processor that provides faster autofocus in low light conditions. You can now shoot 4K video at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second, up from just 24 fps in the iPhone 7. And, you can capture slo-mo video in 1080p resolution at 120 or 240 fps, whereas the iPhone 7 was limited to 120 fps.  

iPhone X Introduces Face ID and Super Retina Display

The iPhone 8 may be a small step up from the iPhone 7, but the new iPhone X is a giant leap into the future, setting the standard for the smartphone of tomorrow. Pronounced “iPhone Ten,” Apple’s new flagship iPhone boasts a stunning, edge-to-edge screen that fills almost the entire front face and eliminates the Home button. It shares the iPhone 8’s glass back and support for wireless charging. Although the iPhone X’s 5.8-inch screen is physically larger than the iPhone 8 Plus’s 5.5-inch screen, losing the bezel means that the iPhone X is just a few millimeters larger than the iPhone 8 and just a bit heavier. The extra size must have given Apple more room for the battery, since the iPhone X is supposed to last 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7 or 8. You’ll see more on the iPhone X’s OLED display, which Apple dubbed “Super Retina,” since it has more pixels—2436-by-1125 at 458 pixels per inch—than any previous iPhone. In comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus is only 1920-by-1080 at 401 ppi.

With no Home button, you’ll interact with the iPhone X in different ways. You can wake an iPhone X with the Raise to Wake setting or by tapping on its screen. You invoke Siri with “Hey, Siri” or by pressing the new side button. To unlock the iPhone X, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen while looking at the iPhone X, and it uses Apple’s new Face ID technology to recognize your face, much like Touch ID did with your fingerprint in the past. Swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone X screen works across the system for jumping back to the Home screen or (if you pause briefly) opening the app switcher. Face ID seems like magic, but it relies on the TrueDepth front-facing camera system—that notch on the top of the screen—which includes a 7-megapixel camera, infrared camera, flood illuminator, dot projector, and more. Face ID can recognize your face even in the dark, and it continually adapts to your changing look, so it can handle glasses, hats, beards, and more, all without being fooled by a photo of your face. Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X sports a pair of rear-facing cameras, but with slightly different specs. One has an ƒ/1.8 aperture, but the other is ƒ/2.4, as opposed to f/2.8 on the iPhone 8 Plus, and lets in 36 percent more light. The iPhone X also offers dual optical stabilization (on both lenses) for better low-light photos and videos.  

Apple Watch Series 3 Adds Cellular

The original Apple Watch couldn’t do much more than tell time when separated from its companion iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 2 gained a GPS to track your location on its own when you were running or biking. But now the Apple Watch Series 3 includes a cellular chip that allows it to make phone calls, get messages, use Siri, stream tunes from Apple Music to AirPods, and more all while your iPhone sits safely at home. It uses the same phone number but will cost extra per month from your carrier. To make untethered communication possible, Apple built the cellular antenna into the display and developed a special electronic SIM that’s about one-hundredth the size of an iPhone’s nano SIM. The Series 3 also boasts a faster processor that speeds up app performance and allows Siri to talk back you, along with a barometric altimeter to measure relative elevation. Amazingly, the Series 3 case is the same size as the Series 2, although the back crystal is a hair thicker. Battery life in mixed use remains at up to 18 hours, though you’ll get only an hour of battery life when making phone calls. The Apple Watch Series 3 has an aluminum body in three finishes: gold, silver, and space gray. For a different look (and potentially a lot more money), you can get Nike+ aluminum models, Hermès stainless steel models, and Apple Watch Edition ceramic models. Apple is also now offering a new Sport Loop band that’s meant to be light, stretchable, and breathable.

Pre-orders start September 15th, with general availability on September 22nd. Apple no longer sells the Series 2 but has dropped the price of a Series 1!  

Apple TV Adds Support for 4K Video

Apple’s set-top box hasn’t seen many changes of late, which makes the new Apple TV 4K all the more welcome for video buffs. The new device now supports two key video technologies: 4K and HDR. 4K video provides about four times as many pixels as are in 1080p video, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) supports more colors. The result is video that looks fabulous, with more detail, deeper colors, and better contrast than ever before.

To see all that goodness, you’ll need a 4K TV that supports either the Dolby Vision or HDR10 standard—in other words, unless you’ve bought a TV in the last year or two, you’ll probably need a new one. Check the specs carefully! The third part of the puzzle, after you have a 4K TV and an Apple TV 4K, is 4K HDR content. Apple is working with major movie studios to bring 4K HDR video content to iTunes at the same price as HD movies. You’ll even get an automatic upgrade to 4K HDR versions of iTunes HD movies you’ve purchased, when they become available. Netflix 4K HDR streaming is expected immediately, and Amazon Prime Video should offer 4K HDR video on the Apple TV later this year.

Dealing with all the 4K HDR video requires beefier hardware. The A10 Fusion chip doubles overall performance and quadruples the graphics processing speed over the fourth-generation Apple TV. The Apple TV 4K also sports faster and more modern networking connections: Gigabit Ethernet, simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. A 32 GB model of the Apple TV 4K costs $229, and a 64 GB model is $249 (stick with the smaller model unless you play large Apple TV games). You can pre-order it on September 15, and it will be generally available a week later. The fourth-generation Apple TV remains on sale for $199. Although Apple said nothing about when tvOS 11 would be available, it seems likely to ship with iOS 11 and watchOS 4 on September 19th.  

Whew! That’s a lot of new hardware from Apple in one day. If you’re considering buying an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, you can now choose from new models with tempting features or time-tested older models at reduced prices. And if you’re confused by all the possibilities, feel free to contact us for advice!

by Dan Daly

Apple OS Upgrades – When Should You Update Your Device?

When Should You Upgrade Your Apple OS

It’s that time of year again! When Apple harvests the fruit of the last year and releases new versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS!

This is no big surprise, since the new versions were announced in June and public betas have been available since that announcement. But once macOS 10.13 High Sierra, iOS 11, watchOS 4, and tvOS 11 become available for free download, you’ll need to decide when you’re going to install them. So read on for our recommendations on when you should update your Apple operating system.

(Note that we say ‘when’ and not ‘if’. There’s no harm in delaying major operating system upgrades until Apple has had a chance to squash the initial bugs and you have time to focus on the task. But waiting too long puts you at risk from security vulnerabilities. It also prevents you from taking advantage of new integrations between Apple’s devices. Plus, should you have to replace an Apple device unexpectedly, you will likely be forced to use the current operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t ready for the upgrade.)


The hardest decision to make is with macOS 10.13 High Sierra. In keeping with Apple’s cycle of macOS upgrades, High Sierra focuses on under-the-hood enhancements. Most notably, the switch to the new APFS file system and behind-the-scenes HEVC/HEIF formats for videos and photos. But apart from improved performance and reduced storage needs, neither of those changes will impact your everyday Mac experience. Tweaks to apps like Photos, Safari, and Messages will also be welcome but are far from essential. So our recommendation is to wait until at least version 10.13.1 or even 10.13.2 before upgrading. That gives you time for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems.


What about iOS 11? Although iOS 11 has received good reviews from beta testers, if you rely on an app that isn’t compatible, you may want to delay your upgrade. Check the App Store listing for each of your key apps, and if they’ve been updated recently, you’re probably OK to upgrade.
If you use an iPad, install iOS 11 only once you’re ready for a major interface change. Such as the new Dock, the redesigned Control Center, the new Files app, and improved multitasking and drag-and-drop. It’s all good, but it’s noticeably different. Apart from that, we see no significant reason to hold off on iOS 11—you’ll likely appreciate most of its new features.


The question of when to upgrade gets easier with watchOS 4. Although it has some nice new features, like a Siri watch face improvements to Activity, more workout features, and better integration with Apple Music, it’s not a sea change.With no notable downsides to upgrading, it’s easy for us to recommend upgrading your Apple Watch as soon as you take your iPhone to iOS 11.


The easiest upgrade decision is moving to tvOS 11. If you have a fourth-generation Apple TV, either let it upgrade itself to tvOS 11 or invoke the upgrade manually from Settings > System > Software Updates. Since tvOS 11 is a minor update, upgrading is unlikely to cause any problems. You’ll just enjoy the automatic dark and light mode, support for AirPods, and AirPlay 2.

As much as change can be hard, we’re excited about Apple’s new operating systems. Like you, we probably won’t end up using all the new features. But some will definitely enhance the experience of being an Apple user. That’s it from the Simply Computing blog this week, stay tuned for more tech tips on all things Apple!

by Dan Daly

Get Ready for iOS 11 by Identifying Old Apps that Won’t Work

By: Dan Daly

Get Ready for iOS 11 by Identifying Old Apps that Won’t Work

Now that Apple has released a public beta of iOS 11, we have confirmation that Apple is kicking some old apps off the back of the train. If you’ve been using an iPhone or iPad for more than a few years, it’s possible that some of your apps won’t even launch in iOS 11. Here’s what’s going to happen, and what you can do about it.

Through the iPhone 5, fourth-generation iPad, original iPad mini, and fifth-generation iPod touch, Apple used 32-bit processors. However, in 2013, Apple instead began putting 64-bit chips in all new iOS devices. The company encouraged developers to make their apps run in 64-bit mode but kept iOS 7 compatible with older 32-bit apps. Starting in 2015, Apple required apps to run in 64-bit mode to receive App Store approval. And iOS 10 initially warned that 32-bit apps might slow down your device and later said that 32-bit apps would need to be updated.

First off, don’t worry about what 32-bit and 64-bit mean—all you need to know is that 32-bit apps are old and won’t run in iOS 11, and that 64-bit apps will continue to work as they always have.

How do you know which of your apps are 32-bit? For apps that you use regularly, you’ve probably seen one of those warnings. But other apps you may open only occasionally—how can you figure out which of those are destined for the chopping block?

In iOS 10.3, Apple added a feature to call out these apps. Navigate to Settings > General > About > Applications to see a list of 32-bit apps that don’t have direct updates available (if Applications isn’t tappable, either you still need to upgrade your device to iOS 10.3 or your device doesn’t contain any 32-bit apps). Tap an app in the list to load it in the App Store, where you may be able to find more info or a support link for the developer. Unfortunately, many old apps aren’t in the App Store anymore.

Now that you know which of your apps won’t survive the transition to iOS 11, what should you do? You have a few options:
  • Delete the app. If you haven’t used an app in years, or don’t remember what it does, there’s no reason to keep it around. To get rid of it, back on the Home screen, press and hold on any app icon until all the icons start to wiggle, and then tap the X badge on the icon you want to delete. Press the Home button to stop the wiggling.
  • Look for an update that’s a new app. Because Apple doesn’t let developers charge for updates, many developers have been forced to make their updates into new apps so they can afford future development. To see if this has happened, search in the App Store for the app and see if a new version appears. Or look for information on the company’s Web site.
  • Look for an alternative app. Few iOS apps are truly unique, so you may be able to find an alternative that does basically the same thing.
  • Don’t upgrade to iOS 11. Or, at least, don’t upgrade right away. In general, you should stay up to date with new versions of iOS to ensure that you’re protected from security vulnerabilities that Apple has discovered and patched. But there’s no harm in delaying an upgrade for a little while as you wait for an app to be updated or look for an alternative.
  • Stick with an older device. If you have an extra iOS device that can’t run iOS 11 anyway, keep the app on that device. This approach may not work for an app you need on your primary iPhone, for instance, but it would for an old game that you could play on an elderly iPad 2.

Take a few minutes now so you won’t be surprised if one or more of your favorite apps can’t make the transition to iOS 11 when it ships in a few months!

That’s it for this week! Stay tuned for more great tips and tricks from Simply!

Flying with Technology: Using phones in the air

By Dan Daly

Flying with tech: what’s the deal with airplane mode?

Since 2013, we’ve been able to use handheld electronic devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Kindle at pretty much all times during airplane flights, including takeoff and landing. That was a big change from previous policy, which banned the use of personal electronic devices below 10,000 feet, forcing passengers to occupy themselves with books and magazines at the start and end of flights

Simply Computing Airplane Mode But now flight attendants ask us to put our devices into “airplane mode.” You probably know how to do this on your iOS device, but if not, here’s how. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Center and tap the airplane button at the top left. Alternatively, you can open the Settings app and enable the Airplane Mode switch (it’s the first switch in the list). When you land, use the same controls to turn it off again.

What does airplane mode do? It disables certain wireless features of your device. Specifically, it turns off the cellular voice and data features of your iPhone or iPad, and on all iOS devices it turns off both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, only the cellular features are important to your airline—you can re-enable both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at any time. That might be useful if you want to use the airplane’s Wi-Fi network for Internet access (usually for a fee) or Bluetooth to play music over wireless headphones.

To turn these wireless features back on, tap the grayed-out Wi-Fi and Bluetooth buttons in Control Center, or flip their switches in Settings > Wi-Fi and Settings > Bluetooth. Don’t bother turning them on unless you’re going to use them, though, since you’ll save a little battery life by leaving them off for the duration of a long flight.

Why do the airlines care about cellular? It has little to do with airplane safety; the prohibition originated from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, not the Federal Aviation Administration. The reason is that fast-moving cell phones used high in the air may light up many cell towers at once, which can confuse the mobile phone network.

Simply Computing Airplane MOde The technical solution is akin to what the airlines do to provide Internet access now; a device called a “picocell” would be installed on the airplane to provide connectivity with the phone network, and cell phones on the plane would communicate with it instead of individual cell towers on the ground below. Will it happen, though?

In the past, there have been proposals to allow cell phone use on properly equipped planes. However, the thought of fellow passengers having non-stop phone conversations during flight fills many people with dread. Many lawmakers in the United States oppose allowing passengers to make and receive phone calls during flight, citing concerns about cabin safety, a worry echoed by the flight attendants union. Even former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler acknowledged this, saying “I get it. I don’t want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else.” So don’t expect that rule to change.

If you’re allowed to use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, why do the airlines make you stow your MacBook Air during takeoff and landing? It has nothing to do with the technology—the airlines ban laptops during times when there could be an emergency landing because they could, like carry-on luggage or lowered tray tables, impede evacuation.

That’s it for this week! Stay tuned to the Simply Blog for more great tips and articles on all things tech!