Setup An Out Of Office Message In Gmail

If you have a Gmail account or a G Suite (formerly called Google Apps) email account, then you ought to know how to setup an out-of-office message. This feature is sometimes also called an auto-reply. Google calls it a Vacation Responder. Regardless of what you call it, here is how you can configure it.

  • Open a web browser and login to your Gmail account
  • Click the gear icon in the upper right corner and select Settings
  • Click on the General tab.
  • Locate the Vacation Responder section and click on the button to turn it on.
  • Type in an appropriate subject, such as Auto-Response as well as corresponding message text.
  • Select dates for the start and end dates of the auto-responder in the First Day and Last Day fields.
  • Click the Save Changes button.

For more detailed instructions and information about other related options read this LifeWire article.


Using The iPhone’s Do Not Disturb Feature

Turn on the iPhone’s Do Not Disturb feature to completely silence your iPhone (or iPad). This feature can be very handy if you sleep with your iPhone or iPad close to your bed. I typically have my iPhone’s ringer set to Silent mode, but if I’m in a meeting and I don’t want my phone to buzz or ding at all then I will enable Do Not Disturb. Read More

ScamZapper Prevents Bogus Warnings In Safari

Have you been annoyed by bogus pop-up warnings while viewing web pages in Safari? These bogus warnings typically use very dire wording. They often implore you to call a 1-800 phone number. These warnings have become increasingly common over the past 2 years. I previously wrote about these bogus warnings and how to deal with them if you see one on your Mac. If you’d like to avoid getting these warnings please install ScamZapper. ScamZapper for Intel Macs requires OS X 10.6 or higher. ScamZapper for older PowerPC Macs requires OS X 10.2 or higher. ScamZapper is a free application and the download pages provided detailed installation instructions if you need some guidance. If you like the product please consider donating a few dollars to support this products development.

Fix Common iPhone Backup Issues

Is your iPhone or iPad configured to backup to Apple’s iCloud servers? If so, your iOS device should automatically get backed up daily. If your iOS device is displaying a message indicating that it has not backed up in a few weeks (or more), here are some basic items that you should review. Read another Tech Tip if you want to learn more about how to setup iPhone backups to iCloud or your Mac.

Read More

Recycling CFL, HID or Fluorescent Light Bulbs In Seattle

Washington State now has over 200 drop-off sites for recycling compact fluorescent lights (CFL), high-intensity discharge lights as well as fluorescent tubes. In a previous Tech Tip I listed how to recycle CFLs in Seattle. The drop-off locations listed on the websites mentioned in this older Tech Tip are no longer the only locations. All recycle locations are listed at LightRecycle Washington. Specifically, you can enter your zip code to find the location nearest you.

Comcast’s 1 Terabyte Data Plan

Is Comcast, aka Xfinity, your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? If so, you should be aware that starting November 1, 2016 they’ll be implementing monthly data caps in some cities. You can get the full details in this Business Insider article about Comcast. In a previous Tech Tip I wrote about Comcast implementing and then removing monthly data caps. Comcast is again implementing data caps but the cap is currently quite generous for most people. Comcast permits 1 Terabyte of data per month. 1 TB equal 1000 GB of data. (If you’re unclear about all of these terms, please refer to my How Big Is A Kilobyte article.)

A Terabyte of data is a very large amount of data, at least by today’s standards. Comcast lists what you can do with 1 Terabyte of data, if you’d like some concrete examples. Comcast also offers their customers the ability to monitor their monthly data usage. They also offer a tool for estimating data usage. I’ll mention that my average monthly usage for the past few months has about around 260 GB. Thus, I’m not overly concerned about a cap of 1 Terabyte per month but this is a change of policy since Comcast didn’t have monthly caps for many years. As video and music streaming services become increasingly common and software is most commonly bought online, we should all be aware of how much data we use each month and about data caps implemented by our ISPs.

Searching Your iPhone or iPad

If you don’t know how to use the search feature on your iPhone or iPad, I think you are doing yourself a disservice. The search feature is easy to use and powerful. Here are instructions for using it.

  • Wake up or unlock your iPhone (or iPad).
  • Place your finger in the middle of the screen and swipe down on the screen. [Note: If you place your finger near the top of the screen and swipe down you’ll open up the Notification Center.]
  • The Search field appears. Let’s imagine you’re looking for the Settings app because you can’t find its icon. Simply type Settings into the Search field. The search is performed automatically as soon as you begin typing.
  • You should see a results section titled Top Hits which lists the Setting app. Tap on it to open it.

Searching is that simple!

Let me give another example so you can see how useful it is.

Let’s imagine that you want to search your iPhone for a good friend named Tim Hannon. Swipe down on your device’s screen to access the Search field and then type in Tim Hannon. The search results will list the Tim Hannon that was found in your Contacts list. It’ll also show you email messages or text messages from Tim Hannon as well as calendar events that include Tim Hannon in the name or notes. The results could also include Tweets from Tim and any files that contain Tim Hannon in their name or content.

The search function will search through all types of data (apps, contact records, calendar events, notes, text messages, tweets, files, photos, etc) for the word or words that you type into the search field. In addition to searching your device itself, search will also the Internet. If you were to search for the word sushi, the results could include any of the following:

  • Sushi restaurants in your Contacts
  • A note the you have about sushi
  • The names of sushi restaurants close to you.
  • The names of Apps for sale on the App Store that contain the word sushi in their name
  • Songs, Albums, TV Shows or Movies available in the iTunes store that reference sushi
  • Websites about sushi
  • NYTimes articles about sushi

The Search function is really powerful. The results you see are affected by which apps you have installed on your device. If you don’t have a Twitter app setup on your device then you wouldn’t see tweets. If you don’t have the NYTimes app on your device then the results won’t list NY Times articles.

You owe it to yourself to experiment with iOS’ search feature. It’s fast and powerful.

When and Why Would You Want to Use Webmail?

What is webmail and why would you want to use it? Webmail is a term that is commonly used in two ways. It’s used to describe web-based email services like Yahoo Mail and Google’s Gmail. Webmail is also used to describe web-based access to any email account. For the past decade or more, nearly every ISP or email hosting company has provided web-based access to their email accounts. Thus, webmail is a convenient way to access your email account from nearly any computer anywhere in the world.  Read More

Configure Time Machine To Use a New Hard Drive

Do you need to reconfigure Time Machine to use a new external hard drive? If you read my Tech Tips regularly then you’ll recall that I strongly recommend that everybody setup automatic and redundant systems to backup his or her Mac. If you use Time Machine to backup your Mac to an external hard drive then you either have or will replace the external drive when it dies. Here are instructions on how to reconfigure Time Machine to use a different hard drive.

Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences

Click on Time Machine

Click the Select Disk button. [Note: If your Mac is configured to backup to 2 or more backup drives then the button will be labeled Add/Remove Backup Disk.]

In the Backup Disks section, click on the name of the external hard drive that has died and then click the Remove Disk button.

In the Available Disks section, click on the name of the external hard drive that is replacing the dead hard drive then click the Use Disk button.

Click the red dot to close System Preferences.

Within a couple of minutes, Time Machine will initiate a backup to this new hard drive. Let this backup run in the background. It’ll likely take many hours to finish since it needs to backup everything on your Mac.