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.

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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.

Deleting Incomplete Time Machine Backups

Does Time Machine continually display a status message of Preparing Backup and, thus, it fails to ever complete its current backup of your Mac? If so, you might need to delete the InProgress backup file. These InProgress backup files are created as part of Time Machine performing a backup. However, if the backup fails or gets interrupted then these incomplete backups can get in the way of Time Machine being able to successfully complete a backup until this InProgress file is deleted. Read More

Disable Your Mac’s Automatic Installation Of Mac OS Updates

Please make sure that your Mac is not configured to automatically install operating system (OS) updates. Since Apple recently released a major update to the Mac operating system, now is a good time to make sure your Mac doesn’t automatically install this update. The reason why I advocate this position is that major updates often introduce significant changes to how things look and operate. Additionally, some of your applications or peripherals may not be fully compatible with the new operating system. Most people do not want to unexpectedly have to learn a new way of doing things or deal with the inconvenience of a critical application not working properly.  Read More

How To Reveal Missing Mail Folders

Are you missing your email folders in Apple Mail? Did these folders disappear after you upgraded your Mac’s operating system or after you migrated your data to a new Mac?  mail-folder-listIf so, there’s likely an easy fix. Apple added a Show/Hide button to Apple Mail. I believe they added it to Mail starting with OS X Lion (aka OS X 10.7). This button can be used to either show your mail folders or to hide them. This button can be quite vexing because this button is not visible all of the time. In fact, it’s invisible by default. It only becomes visible when you move your cursor on top of it. The red ovals in the image to the right show where this Show/Hide button is located.

In the image you can see that the mail folders in my On My Mac section are currently displayed. Thus, if you move your cursor to the circled area you’d see a Hide button. If you click this button your folders would disappear.

Similarly, the mail folders in the iCloud section are currently not displayed. If you moved your cursor to the circled area you’d see a Show button.show-mail-folders

The image to the right shows you what the Show button looks like. If you ever discover that all of your mail folders have vanished, please locate the Show/Hide button and click on it to see if your folders magically re-appear. If this is not the solution to your problem, then please quit and re-open Mail since this can also sometimes help folders re-appear.

 

 

 

Everybody Should Have Off-Site Backups

Everybody should have an off-site backup of their data. Off-site backups are good protection against fire, floods, burglaries, earthquakes and similar events. These are rare events, but over the past 20 years, I’ve seen all of these events occur and affect client data.

As you design your backup system keep in mind the primary 3-2-1 rule. You should have 3 copies of your data. The original plus 2 backup copies and 1 of the backup copies should be off-site.

The two most common types of off-site backups are a Time Machine backup stored on an external drive and a cloud-based backup. There are pros and cons to each of these. Personally, I use both of these as off-site backup systems.

I have two external backup hard drives. Every Sunday I take one of my hard drives to my off-site storage location which is a few blocks from my home office. I drop off the drive and pickup the drive that has been sitting safely off-site for the past week. I bring that drive back to my home-office where it’ll become my active drive. I’ll use it to store backups made by Apple’s Time Machine. Then, at the end of the week, I’ll drive this hard drive off-site and begin the process again.

I also subscribe to a cloud-based backup service, CrashPlanPro. You can also use CrashPlan for personal backup. Collectively, I’ll refer to these two related services as CrashPlan. CrashPlan is a cross-platform cloud-based backup services. It supports Mac OS, Windows and Linux. CrashPlan, and all cloud-based backup services are only able to effectively backup user data, such as email messages, PDF files, JPEG files, Word files, music, etc. In other words cloud-based backup systems can’t effectively backup your computer’s operating system or applications. This is in contrast to Time Machine which can backup the Mac operating system and applications.

Another important difference between Time Machine and cloud-based backup systems, like CrashPlan, is the amount of Time needed to complete initial backups and/or restore data. For example, if one has 100 GB of stuff on his or her Mac’s internal hard drive, Time Machine could copy all 100 GB onto an external hard drive in a few hours. Cloud-based backup systems would need at least several days and possibly a week or even several weeks. The amount of time would depend largely upon the upload speed or one’s Internet connection.

Similarly, it can take much longer to restore a lot of data from a cloud-based backup system, like CrashPlan, compared to the time it takes tor restore data from Time Machine. This is why I recommend that everybody use Time Machine as their primary (on-site) backup system. If you have the discipline to manually swap hard drives and thus create an off-site Time Machine backup, that is ideal. If you do not have the discipline to create an off-site Time Machine backup, or even if you do, I think a cloud-based backup system, like CrashPlan is a good secondary backup that’ll create an off-site backup.