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In this issue: Don't cook your devices; Name that tune; Apple Pay on your Apple Watch; Disable unused Sharing options on your Mac; Reaching out to MacAtoZ; Software recommendations; Hardware recommendations; Security Recommendations.
July 2021 Newsletter

Don't cook your devices

As climate change continues to wreak havoc on our weather, many areas are seeing record temperatures this summer—Salem just recorded its hottest days ever. You may be able to trade your business suit for shorts or skirts to stay more comfortable, but your electronic gear can’t do the same. Keeping your tech cool is about more than comfort—as temperatures rise, performance can suffer, charging may get slower or stop, various components might be disabled, and devices can become unreliable.
 
How Hot Is Too Hot?
You might be surprised by how low the recommended operating temperatures for Apple devices are—whether you’re talking about an iPhone 12 or an M1-based MacBook Pro, the company recommends keeping them under 95° F (35° C).

Such temperatures happen regularly throughout the summer. Even in cooler climes, the temperature in a parked car in the sunshine can easily hit 130º F (54º C) in an hour and rise higher as time passes. And no, opening the windows a few inches won’t make much difference. You know you shouldn’t leave a kid or dog in a parked car for that reason, and now you can see that leaving your iPhone in the car during an afternoon at the beach might be problematic as well. Apple says its products shouldn’t even be stored—turned off—at temperatures over 113º F (45º C).

It’s not just cars you have to think about. Temperatures in homes and offices without air conditioning can also rise higher than electronics would prefer, and that’s especially true for computers that stay on most of the time and aren’t located in well-ventilated areas.
 
What’s the Danger?
First off, remember that all electronic devices produce their own heat on top of the ambient heat in the environment, so the temperature inside a device can be much, much hotter than outside. The CPU in an iMac can hit 212º F (100º C) under heavy loads.

Temperatures that exceed component design specs can have the following detrimental effects:
  • Chips of all types can behave unpredictably as increased thermal noise (electrons vibrating more) causes a higher bit error rate. Because electrical resistance increases with heat, timing errors can also occur.
  • Lithium-ion batteries discharge well in high temperatures, but the increased rate of chemical reactions within the battery will result in a shorter overall lifespan.
  • As devices heat and cool, the uneven thermal expansion of different materials can cause microscopic cracks that can lead to a variety of failures over time.
Some heat-related problems are temporary, so when the device or component cools down, it will resume working correctly. But others are irreversible and worth avoiding.

When a Mac gets too hot, it will spin up its fans in an attempt to keep its internal components cool. (The M1-based MacBook Air doesn’t have a fan, so it won’t be able to provide the same level of advance warning.) If your Mac’s fans ever run at full tilt for more than a few minutes, first quit apps you aren’t using, particularly those that might be CPU-intensive, thus creating a lot of heat. If that doesn’t make a difference, restart it to ensure the problem isn’t some rogue process. If the fans come back on at full speed quickly, shut it down and let it cool off for a bit. In the worst case, an overheated Mac may start acting unpredictably or crash.

iOS devices don’t have fans, so they employ other coping mechanisms. If your iPhone or iPad gets too hot, the device will alert you.

Apple says you might notice some of the following behaviors with an overheating iPhone or iPad:
  • Charging, including wireless charging, slows or stops.
  • The display dims or goes black.
  • Cellular radios enter a low-power state. The signal might weaken during this time.
  • The camera flash is temporarily disabled.
  • Performance slows with graphics-intensive apps or features.
If you’re using Maps on an overheating iPhone for GPS navigation in the car, it may show a “Temperature: iPhone needs to cool down.” screen instead of the map. You’ll still get audible turn-by-turn directions, and the screen will wake up to guide you through turns,
 
How to Keep Your Tech Cool
For the most part, keeping Apple devices cool just requires common sense:
  • Avoid using devices when the temperature is over 95º F (35º C). If that’s impossible, keep usage to a minimum.
  • Don’t leave devices in cars parked in the sun for long periods of time. If it happens accidentally, let the device cool before using it.
  • Provide good ventilation so air can cool the device. Don’t block ventilation ports in the back of desktop Macs, and don’t use Mac laptops in bed, propped on a pillow, or under the covers. It can be worth blowing dust out of ventilation ports with compressed air every so often.
  • Never put anything on the keyboard of an open Mac laptop.
  • Avoid stacking things on top of a Mac mini.
  • Monitor the temperature of server closets. If they get too hot, keep the door open, add a fan, or run the air conditioning.
Luckily, the temperatures that cause problems for Apple hardware aren’t terribly comfortable for people either, so if you’re way too hot, that’s a good sign your gear is as well.
 

Using My Guides in Maps

Apple Maps allows you to organize places into collections called "Guides." These guides can be useful for listing frequently visited places or for organizing a road trip or for sharing with friends visiting from out of town. The Guides work on and synchronize between Mac, iPhone, and iPad. 

To create a new guide on the Mac version of Maps, Open Maps and choose View > Show Sidebar if the Sidebar is not already visible. On the Sidebar, go down to the My Guides section and click the + to add a new Guide. You can name it whatever you want. (I have a Guide for my frequently visited places around Salem and another for an upcoming road trip to Seattle.)

Once you've created the new Guide, you can search for various places from the Search Maps field atop the Sidebar. Say you search for "Burger King." (No endorsement of the restaurant's delicious quarter pound Whopper is implied by this example, though I recommend it without pickles or onions.) Select the specific Burger King you want from the resulting list. 

Maps will zoom in on that Burger King's location. In the top right corner, you will see an ellipsis (...) that you should click on for more information. From that menu, choose Save to Guide > [whatever you called your guide]. Fun! (And hopefully helpful as well.)

Apple has additional information about Maps and Guides. Check it out!

 

Name that tune

Don’t you hate it when a familiar song is playing but you can’t think of what it’s called? Or worse, when you hear a new track you really like but have no one to ask what it is? Never worry about that again, thanks to your iPhone or iPad.

Back in 2018, Apple bought the music identification app Shazam and has since integrated it into iOS. You can still use Shazam, but it’s easier to ask Siri, “What’s playing?” or tap the Music Recognition button in Control Center (add it in Settings > Control Center) and then let your iPhone listen to the music for a few seconds.

Siri is easiest, but the Control Center button is perfect in situations where you’d prefer to keep your question quiet. The music recognition feature recognizes only recorded music—no high school glee club versions, sorry—and while not perfect, is often helpful. Tap the notification that appears to open the song in Apple Music.

Apple Pay on your Apple Watch

With mask wearing over the past year rendering Face ID ineffective at cash registers, we’ve become fond of using the Apple Watch for contactless payments with Apple Pay. We recommend it highly since it’s so fast and convenient.

Once you’ve set up a credit card in the Wallet app on your iPhone, switch to the Watch app, go to My Watch > Wallet & Apple Pay, and tap the Add button next to the desired card. From then on, to pay for a purchase, double-click the Apple Watch’s side button and put it very close to the reader. (We generally turn our arms so we can put the Apple Watch face flat on the reader.)

It takes just seconds and tends to wow cashiers who haven’t seen it before.

Disable unused Sharing options on your Mac

Many security breaches—even high-profile ones—stem from simple oversight. There’s one spot in macOS that has long been particularly susceptible to such lapse: the Sharing pane of System Preferences.

In it, you can enable a wide variety of sharing services, some of which could allow another user to access your Mac remotely. They all let you limit access to particular users, but passwords can be stolen, accounts can be compromised, and server software can have bugs.

For safety’s sake, if you’re not actively using a sharing service, turn it off. The most important ones to disable when not in use are Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login, Remote Management, and Remote Apple Events. We also caution against leaving Printer Sharing and Internet Sharing on unnecessarily.


Reaching out to MacAtoZ

As a company we communicate through phone calls and email.

Our main phone line (503-507-0410) is staffed during regular business hours. Please call if you need help or information. If our main team is unavailable when you call we will return your call by the end of the next business day. Importantly, we do not offer emergency or same-day service

We also use email. If you're a client and have a question or problem, support@macatoz.com is your friend. This pops your email into our support ticketing system. Because we serve hundreds of clients, using this system allows us to handle incoming requests efficiently. Clients can also email with quick questions about an issue. We're happen to provide a free, quick answer if we can. 

Potential new clients can email us at info@macatoz.com

Support or information request emails to specific MacAtoZ employees are likely to delay service. (That said if you have comments for a specific staff member that are not time-sensitive, you're absolutely welcome to email them.)

Unless otherwise instructed, please do not call or text MacAtoZ employees directly

We help people with Apple technology. Thank you for working with us to maximize our ability to do this. 

 


Software Recommendations

macOS 11.4 Big Sur. We recommend Big Sur for any Mac currently running macOS 10.15 Catalina. Any Mac already running Big Sur should be upgraded immediately to version 11.4 for security reasons. Upgrade by going to System Preferences > Software Update. [Sentinel+ and Sentinel Ultra members need to click the Details link on the left side of the Software Update pane then click "Restore Defaults" to make Big Sur available.]

macOS 10.14.6 Mojave. Mojave remains secure and we prefer it to macOS 10.15.7 Catalina. If you choose to upgrade from Mojave to either Catalina or Big Sur, you should check that your important apps will run. (Apple apps are fine.) You may need to upgrade. You can check your apps here: https://roaringapps.com/apps?platform=osx 

Earlier macOS versions should be upgraded ASAP unless your Mac never goes online. You can see your Mac's operating system version by going to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and choosing "About This Mac."

iOS 14.6 Any iPhone running iOS 14 should be updated to iOS 14.6 immediately for security reasons. Note that some users have encountered a battery drain issue with 14.6, but for security reasons we need to charge (pun sort of intended) ahead anyway. If you're not sure what iOS version you have, you can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. You could also ask Siri, "Which version of iOS do I have?"

iPadOS 14.6 Similar to the iPhone, any iPad running iPadOS 14 should be immediately upgraded to 14.6. We've not seen comparable battery drain issue reports for the iPad.  

watchOS 7.5 Older versions of WatchOS acceptable if necessary; upgrade if your devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) support it. You can see your Apple Watch's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. Generally, one does not have to worry about AppleWatch software security.  

tvOS 14.6. tvOS 13.4.8 and tvOS 12 also acceptable. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do; not all channels, features, or apps will be available. You can see if there's a software update available for your Apple TV by going to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software. Generally, one does not have to worry about tvOS security. 
 

Hardware Recommendations

Macintosh
  • MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
    • Note that 2016-2019 MacBook Pro models have a higher than usual keyboard failure rate. Used 2015 models, which use a different style keyboard, may be a more reliable option. The new 2019 MacBook Pro 16" model uses a new keyboard mechanism and should be fine.
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
These are minimum hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS 10.14.6 Mojave or macOS 10.15.7 Catalina). If your Mac does not meet these specifications—that is, it will not run Mojave or Catalina—it needs to be replaced soon unless you will not be using it online. macOS 10.13 High Sierra is no longer secure.

macOS 11 Big Sur was released in November 2020 and has its own set of system requirements. 

iPhone and iPad
  • iPhone 6S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 14. 
    • iPhone 7 models have a higher than normal failure rate over time. Given the choice, we would recommend iPhone SE (2020) model as a strong alternative to iPhone 7 models. 
  • iPad Air 2 or newer
  • iPad mini 4 or newer
  • iPad Pro (all models)
  • iPad 5th generation or newer
The iPad line is made confusing by the multitude of model names and types (Air, mini, Pro, and just plain iPad). Generally speaking, devices introduced in October 2014 and later will run iPadOS. iPads that will not run iPadOS and should be replaced unless they will not be used on the internet. 

Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch Series 4, 5, or 6 or SE highly recommended.
  • All versions (Series 0 through Series 6 and SE) are secure and acceptable though Apple Watch Series 0, 1, and 2 will not run the latest version of WatchOS and therefore lack both the speed and features of later Apple Watches.  
Apple TV
  • Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV HD (4th generation) is fine as well.
  • The latest version of the AppleTV Remote is available for stand-alone purchase ($59). It works with Apple TV 4k (1st and 2nd generations) and Apple TV HD. It's a lot better than previous remotes. 
  • Older models of Apple TV do not support tvOS and cannot run Apple TV Store apps, though we are unaware of any major security issues. 
 

Security Recommendations

A secure operating system
See Software Recommendations for details. If you're not running a secure operating system, it will be difficult to impossible to protect your data. 

Encryption
We recommend using Apple's built-in whole disk encryption, FileVault. It can be turned on in System Preferences > Security & Privacy. 

Backups
We recommend and use Apple's built-in Time Machine backup system. You'll need an external hard drive so that the data is automatically saved to a second location. Off-site backup remains important in mitigating the risk of fire or theft. We use and recommend Backblaze. At a cost of $6 a month per Mac, Backblaze will encrypt then backup an unlimited amount of data from your Mac. Data has a 30-day retention window, though longer time periods are possible for an additional couple bucks. 

Sentinel, Sentinel+, Sentinel Ultra, Sentinel AM [warning: we are tooting our own horn here]
Sentinel provides professional 24/7 oversight of the health of your Mac. We're monitoring all kinds of things (RAM, hard drive, Time Machine backups, battery, etc.)—150 different data points every hour.  

Sentinel+ adds maintenance and security to Sentinel's 24/7 monitoring. Sentinel+ will handle most software updates so you don't have to and run maintenance routines to keep things tip-top. This is includes basic scanning and quarantine of malware. 

Sentinel Ultra is our top-of-the-line, four-in-one service that includes everything in Sentinel and Sentinel+. Ultra blocks malicious web sites, filters objectionable content, protects against email phishing threats, and even increases the speed of your web surfing. It's proactive security. Ultra represents our best effort and the best tool in our arsenal to keep clients safe on the web. 

Sentinel AM is our anti-malware offering. It's a $5/mo add-on for Sentinel+ or Sentinel Ultra services. 

A secure web browser with ad blocking
Firefox with the free open source content blocker uBlock Origin is our first choice. Safari with AdGuard (and blocking cross-site tracking turned on) is another fine option. AdGuard is no longer free, but Safari extensions are getting enhanced in macOS 11 Big Sur, so we're hopeful that getting uBlock Origin (our favorite) back on Safari is just a matter of time. 

DuckDuckGo
There's really no good reason to use Google, Bing, or any of the other search engines. Not only does DuckDuckGo return excellent search results, you can use commands in the search bar (like "!g"—that's exclamation point plus the letter g) to search Google anonymously. You can search other search engines anonymously too via DuckDuckGo, and DuckDuckGo won't track you. In the search engine preferences for either Safari or Firefox, you can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. 

A Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is an encrypted tunnel between your Mac (or iPhone or iPad) and another computer run by the VPN company. It protects your internet traffic so that anyone who might want to spy on your traffic locally can't. We use PIA VPN which covers multiple devices (Mac, iPad, iPhone) for about $75 a year. 

A Password Manager
We consider password managers like 1Password indispensible. Instead of having to remember lengthy passwords or reusing the handful that we can remember, we remember one password to unlock 1Password, and the program takes care of the rest. 1Password can be a little complex to set up, so we typically will help clients with that. Actual use isn't too bad though and is typically within the reach of even basic users.  

A Spam Filter
Apple's built in Junk Mail filter works for most spam assuming your email address isn't widely dispersed on the internet. If you're swamped with spam email, though, SpamSieve can rescue you.

Avoid Social Media
If you're posting to social media like Facebook, you're not just telling your friends something. You're telling Facebook, and Facebook is hardly keeping your information top secret. Want to say something privately to a friend? Use Apple Messages or Apple's FaceTime. Both are end-to-end encrypted, and not even Apple has the keys. 

MacAtoZ LLC

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Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, and remote support services for Apple products like Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

Ty Davison and Dyneé Medlock, our Apple technicians, are the only Apple-certified, Apple Consultants Network members serving both residential and small business clients in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley.

MacAtoZ has been providing computer services for clients in the Salem area since 2006 (and since 1999 as SiteRev.com). Our technicians are certified by Apple and carry $1 million in business liability insurance. We frequently present and are well-known at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). You can count on us.

Our Sentinel, Sentinel+, and Sentinel Ultra services offer home users 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, security, and web browsing protection. Join today!

Quick Links

MacAtoZ LLC: The main company web site. You can find information about products and services as well as advice here.

Amazon via MacAtoZ: Shop at Amazon via our referral link. Help us to help you. 

Offsite Backup: You should have one, and we recommend Backblaze. Only $5 a month for unlimited data. Get your 15-day free trial here. 

Salem Mac Users Group: Salem, Oregon-area Macintosh and Apple gear enthusiasts. Now holding Zoom meetings monthly. Visitors welcome! Visit the web site for details.

Apple Consultants Network: If you need help, entrust your computer and your data to professionals. 
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