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In this issue: Buy Apple gear through MacAtoZ—if you want; Group FaceTime bug fix coming soon; Ignore unsolicited calls and texts; Winter weather warning: Keep your tech toasty!; Software recommendations; Hardware recommendations.
February 2018 Newsletter

Buy Apple gear through MacAtoZ—if you want

As some of you know, we've long been contractually barred from selling Apple equipment to residential users. Presumably Apple felt like they could do a good enough job there themselves with Apple.com and the Apple Retails Stores. 

So MacAtoZ could sell to businesses and nonprofits (and if we finessed things a bit, education), but most  home users were out of luck if they wanted us to handle things directly. 

That was unfortunate, because we've long found that the more we're involved in our clients' computer experiences the better it is for them. Although Apple frequently does a fine job selling their stuff, occasionally it's confusing and you don't exactly get unbiased advice from an Apple sales person no matter how well-intentioned he or she might be. 

Well, good news: MacAtoZ can now sell Apple gear to our residential clients. If you want to buy Apple gear through us, you can. 

A couple of caveats: We will only sell products to existing business clients and to Sentinel and Sentinel+ members. We are not opening a retail shop and welcoming all-comers. This is a benefit exclusively for our clients. 

Second, we are not a sales-driven organization. If you'd prefer to buy directly through Apple.com, Apple Retail Stores, or even Best Buy, we have no problem with that. We hope you'll talk with us prior to purchase because we've got opinions and recommendations about products, but we have no problem whatsoever with a client purchasing gear elsewhere. Either our buying service is helpful to you or it's not, and if it's not then we encourage you to purchase wherever is best for you. We remain fervently in your corner, and you will never find us trying to "make a sale." 

Our hope, though, is that our new buying service just adds one more way in which we can serve you better in your Apple-related endeavors. 
 

Group FaceTime bug fix

The new Group FaceTime feature of iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 got a lot of unwanted publicity recently.  It was discovered that it was possible—through a complicated series of steps—for a caller to hear the audio on the other side of the call prior to the call being answered. Exciting! Especially for a service that is otherwise highly secure (end-to-end encrypted). 

Regular one-to-one FaceTimes did not have this same bug, by the way. And FaceTime remains much more secure than regular phone calls, texts, Skype, and so on. 

Apple shutdown Group FaceTime last week until relaunching it today with a fix in the iOS 12.1.4 and macOS 10.4.3 updates. If you're running iOS 12 and/or Mojave you can download those updates today. (Note our Software Recommendations at the end of this newsletter for more details on updates.)

Ignore unsolicited calls and texts
We don’t want to belabor the point, but multinational tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google will never call or text you personally out of the blue.

So if you get a call or text purporting to be from such a company, it’s 99.9% likely to be a scam, and you should ignore it regardless of whether the caller ID seems legitimate.

If you’re still worried, look up the company’s tech support phone number separately—never respond directly to such a call or tap a link in a text—and discuss the situation with the support reps. Or contact us, and we’ll talk it through with you.

 

Winter weather warning: Keep your tech toasty!

When it’s cold out, you can always throw on a sweater to stay warm. But your electronics are more reptilian—they can get sluggish or even fail to work in freezing weather. Worse, charging batteries at low temperatures or moving tech gear between extreme temperature ranges can cause damage.

There’s a difference between temperatures your devices can withstand when you’re actively using them and when they’re just being stored. Manufacturers usually publish the environmental requirements for devices, though it may take a little searching to find the details. Here are the ranges for the devices you’re most likely to care about:
  • iPhone/iPad: Operating temperatures from 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C) and nonoperating temperatures from −4° to 113° F (−20° to 45° C)
  • MacBook (Air/Pro): Operating temperatures from 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C) and storage temperatures from −13° to 113° F (−25° to 45° C)
It’s easy to imagine wanting to use an iPhone in temperatures below freezing or a MacBook outdoors on a crisp autumn day. And in fact, they probably won’t stop working entirely. After all, putting your iPhone in your pocket next to your body will keep it warmer than the outside air, and it will take a while to cool down. But you shouldn’t be surprised by crashes, shutdowns, or other unusual behavior if you do use your device below its recommended operating temperature for a while.
 
Batteries Hate Working in the Cold
The main problem is that batteries prefer to be used in moderate temperatures (they hate heat even more than cold). When batteries get cold, they appear to discharge more quickly. That’s because the chemical reactions that generate electricity proceed more slowly at lower temperatures, and thus produce less current. The weak discharge fools the device’s power management circuitry into thinking that the battery is nearly dead; hence the shutdowns. Once your device has had a chance to warm up, the battery should revive.

However, don’t charge batteries when it’s very cold, as in −4° F (−20° C). Doing so can cause plating of the graphite anode in the battery, which will reduce battery performance.
 
Other Technologies That Dislike Cold
Two other standard bits of technology don’t like operating in the cold either: hard drives and LCD screens.

Hard drives aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, particularly in laptops that are likely to be left outside in cold cars. Most have a minimum operating temperature of 32° F (0° C), and you’re unlikely to want to use a laptop in temperatures lower than that. In very cold temperatures, the lubricant inside the drive can become too viscous to allow the motor to spin up the platters. Although solid-state drives have no moving parts, most are rated for the same minimum operating temperature, oddly enough.

LCD screens can also have problems. Extreme cold can slow their response times, leading to slow or jerky screen drawing. OLED displays, such as in the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, withstand cold significantly better—some OLED displays are rated for temperatures as low as −40º (which—trivia tip!—is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius).
 
Avoid Temperature Swings
Regardless of whether you want to use your devices in cold weather, you’ll extend their lifespans if you don’t regularly expose them to significant temperature swings. There are two reasons for this: condensation and thermal expansion.

Those who wear glasses know that when you come into a warm house from the cold, your glasses immediately fog up with condensation. That’s true even though most houses are quite dry in the winter. Wait a few minutes and the condensation evaporates back into the air. The same can happen with any electronic device that’s open to the air, and moisture inside electronics is never good. It’s thus best to let electronics warm up slowly (and in their cases or boxes) to reduce the impact of condensation.

Finally, as you remember from high school science, objects expand when heated and contract when cooled. The amount they expand and contract may be very small, but the tolerances inside electronics are often extremely tight, and even the tiniest changes can cause mechanical failures, particularly with repeated cycles of expanding and contracting. Try to avoid subjecting devices to significant temperature swings on a regular basis or you may find yourself replacing them more frequently than you’d like.

In the end, our advice is to keep your gear warm whenever possible, and if you must use it in temperatures below freezing, be aware that battery life and screen responsiveness may be reduced.
 

Software Recommendations

macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra. macOS 10.12.6 Sierra is acceptable. Earlier versions should be upgraded ASAP. We do not recommend macOS 10.14.3 Mojave at this time. 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." If you have already upgraded to Mojave or have a new Mac that came with Mojave, you should upgrade to 10.14.3. 

iOS 12.1.4. No other versions are acceptable. Any device that can run iOS 11 should be upgraded to 12.1. You can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version.

watchOS 5.1.3. Older versions 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. 

tvOS 12.1.2. Apple TV models that run tvOS should upgrade to this version. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do. You can see if there's a software update available for your Apple TV by going to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.
 

Hardware Recommendations

Macintosh
  • iMac: iMac10,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • Mac mini: Macmini4,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • Mac Pro: MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • MacBook: MacBook6,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • MacBook Air: MacBookAir3,1 (Late 2010) or newer
  • MacBook Pro: MacBookPro7,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
These are minimum hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS 10.12.6 Sierra or macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra). 

The following are the macOS 10.14 Mojave system requirements. If your Mac does not meet these specifications, it will need to be replaced by fall of 2020, when High Sierra will no longer be secure.

macOS 10.14 Mojave system requirements
  • MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)
  • Mac Pro (2010 or later with Metal-compatible GPU)
iPhone and iPad
  • iPhone 5S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 12.1 which is the only secure version of iOS. 
  • iPad Air or newer
  • iPad mini 2 or newer
  • iPad Pro or newer
  • 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 2013 and later will run iOS 12.1. Earlier devices will not run iOS 12.1 and should be replaced unless they will not be used on the internet. 

Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch Series 4 is recommended; all versions are secure and acceptable.
Apple TV
  • Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV (4th generation) is fine as well.
  • 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. 

MacAtoZ LLC

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Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, web design and hosting, 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 and Sentinel+ services offer home users 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, and security. Join today!

Quick Links

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

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Salem Mac Users Group: Salem, Oregon-area Macintosh and Apple gear enthusiasts. Meets monthly. Visitors welcome!

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