In this issue: Covid and onsite visits; Having trouble finding files on your Mac?; Managing your Apple purchases and subscriptions; Spring Break; Reaching out to MacAtoZ; Software recommendations; Hardware recommendations; Security Recommendations.
March 2021 Newsletter

Covid and onsite visits

We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. Case rates are dropping as the population gets inoculated, and there are good reasons for optimism. At MacAtoZ, we curtailed our onsite visits early last year when we recognized the danger of the virus. Many of our clients fell into the high risk category. Imperiling their lives seemed a poor business strategy.

We will continue approach home visits with caution. For example, I am not vaccine eligible until June 1. Assuming that I were inoculated that day with dose #1, I'd need to wait several weeks for dose #2, then wait two weeks after that for full immunity. Under Oregon's current guidelines, at best I'm not fully inoculated until mid-July. (We will not be sending out any employees for at home visits until they are fully inoculated.)

One piece of good news is that Oregon's timeline is conservative. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has announced that by April 21 they will have sufficient vaccine doses from the federal government to inoculate everyone who wants a shot. Unfortunately, having enough doses isn't the same as actually distributing those doses, and thus far the OHA has a poor distribution track record. Still, I think the eligibility time frames will get moved up. 

Something that's important to know about the vaccines is that they don't provide sterilizing immunity. That means that while the vaccine makes it highly unlikely that an inoculated person would get and transmit the virus to someone else, it is possible. The best real world data we have on this is probably out of Israel, and the news is very good: If I'm inoculated and you're inoculated, there's almost no chance of either of us having or passing the virus to one another. In fact, even if only one party is inoculated, the transmission looks unlikely. Again, it's not perfectly safe in that latter scenario, but as I write today it certainly looks like the vaccines are breaking the transmission chains of the virus—which is why case rates are declining. So far this appears to be true in the United States even in the face of the more infectious B117 Covid variant, though it's still early to say this is definitive. 

What all this means for us is that we plan to resume in home residential visits later this year, probably late summer. It will be after our employees have all been vaccinated. At first visits will only be for those clients who have been vaccinated as well. Eventually, though, we anticipate that the in-community transmission rates will drop to very low levels, and we'll reopen home visits to everyone. 

This past year has been difficult, but there are sunnier times ahead. 
Having trouble finding files on your Mac?

For the most part, Spotlight works well. Press Command-Space or use the Search field in a Finder window, and it finds everything that matches your search term.

Sometimes, however, Spotlight fails to turn up a file that you know is present, likely due to index corruption.

To fix the problem, you can force Spotlight to rebuild its index. (Don’t do this unless it’s necessary since reindexing can take a long time and may impact the performance of your Mac while it’s happening.)

Open System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy, and then drag your drive (or the drive on which Spotlight isn’t finding files) into the list of locations that Spotlight shouldn’t search. That deletes the old Spotlight index. Still working in the Spotlight Privacy list, select the drive and click the – button below the list. Spotlight now reindexes the contents of the drive and should find your files properly in the future.

Manage your Apple purchases and subscriptions 
Last quarter, Apple’s Services segment generated a whopping $15.8 billion in revenue, 14% of the company’s total—sales of apps, media, and subscriptions are a big deal to Apple. And if you’re like us, you’re probably now paying Apple for services like Apple Musicextra storage for iCloud Photos, various app purchases and subscriptions, and perhaps the new Apple Fitness+.

It’s a lot to keep track of, but particularly with subscriptions, it’s essential to stay on top of the charges and make sure you’re paying only for services you’re still using. Happily, Apple enables you to do that on both the Mac and the iPhone/iPad.

Review your purchase history
On a Mac running macOS 11 Big Sur or 10.15 Catalina, you can see your purchase history in the Music app. If you’re running an earlier version of macOS, you’ll use iTunes instead. In either app, choose Account > View My Account. Scroll down to Purchase History and click See All at the right.

In Purchase History, you’ll see every one of your purchases from Apple, whether it’s an app from the App Store, a book from Apple Books, or a subscription like Apple TV+ (even when it’s free). You can click the More link to the right of any purchase for a few additional details (in the screenshot below, these are showing for iCloud) or click the blue Order ID link for even more details. Also hidden inside the Order ID information for any item you paid for is a Resend link that sends you another email copy of the invoice for that purchase.

On an iPhone or iPad, navigate to Settings > Your Name > Media & Purchases > View Account > Purchase History (you’ll need to scroll down for the last one). The Purchase History screen shows the same information as on the Mac, and you can tap the Total Billed line under each item for the equivalent of the Order ID details, complete with a button for resending the email invoice.

Apart from merely displaying your purchases, the Purchase History screen can raise two other questions:
  • Why isn’t an item I purchased showing up? The main reason why this happens is if the purchase was made with a different Apple ID. If you have two or more Apple IDs, that could explain it, or if you’re participating in Family Sharing, a family member might have made the purchase. In either case, you must sign in with the appropriate Apple ID to see the purchase. 
  • What are these purchases that I don’t recognize? The most likely explanation is that someone in your Family Sharing group made a purchase without telling you. You can turn on Ask to Buy if you have children in your family. If you’ve shared your Apple ID and password with someone else (never do that!) who has bought items without your knowledge, we recommend changing your Apple ID password immediately. If you still can’t figure it out, contact Apple Support.
Manage subscriptions
For the most part, app, book, and other purchases aren’t that expensive, but subscription fees can add up quickly. We recommend checking your subscriptions periodically to make sure they’re all still relevant and canceling any that aren’t. Here’s how.

On the Mac, you can manage your subscriptions in the Music app in Big Sur or Catalina, though Apple recommends the App Store app. In the App Store app, click your name or picture in the lower-left corner and then click View Information at the upper right. In the window that appears, scroll down to Manage and click the Manage link to the right of Subscriptions.

Next, you’re shown a list of all your active and expired subscriptions.

To see more details about a subscription, click Edit to the right of the subscription’s listing. You can now change your billing period using the radio buttons and cancel the subscription by clicking Cancel Subscription.

On an iPhone or iPad, it’s a little more straightforward. Tap Settings > Your Name > Subscriptions to see a list of all your subscriptions. Tap one of them to change the billing frequency or cancel it.

Although it’s easier to manage subscriptions on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, you can also cancel subscriptions from the Apple Watch or Apple TV. Here’s what to do:
  • On the Apple Watch, open the App Store app, scroll to Account and tap it, tap Subscriptions, tap the desired subscription, and tap Cancel Subscription.
  • On the Apple TV, you can see subscriptions only for installed tvOS apps, and thus only for the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. (For the third-generation Apple TV, use a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to manage subscriptions.) Open Settings, select Users & Accounts, select your account, select Subscriptions, choose the desired subscription, and select Cancel Subscription.
Finally, what if you don’t see the subscription you want to cancel? There are a few possibilities: We hope this article has shed some light on purchases and subscriptions you make through various Apple online stores.


Spring Break

MacAtoZ will be on a limited service status for the week of March 21-27 so that our employees can enjoy Spring Break with their families. We will continue to monitor, maintain, and secure Macs for our Sentinel clients. We will continue to return your call or email by the end of the next business day. The only disruption, if there is one, is in our ability to schedule remote appointments for that specific week. We'll be back at it on March 29.  

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, 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

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 10.14.6 Mojave. We are not crazy about macOS 10.15.7 Catalina. It's had a lot of reliability issues and still has a Mail app bug that can cause the loss of email when a user moves a lot of messages. That said, Catalina is acceptable from a security perspective. We do not (yet) recommend macOS 11 Big Sur. If it comes on your new Mac, it's unavoidable and that's fine. Just be prepared for the glitches and bugs inherent in all new operating systems. macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra (and earlier) is no longer secure. It and earlier 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." Again, we DO NOT recommend macOS 11 Big Sur yet. Among other things, Big Sur has the same email bug as Catalina and issues corrupting PDFs.

iOS 14.4.1 Any iPhone running iOS 14 should be updated to iOS 14.4.1 immediately for security reasons. 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. 

iPadOS 14.4.1 Similar to the iPhone, any iPad running iPadOS 14 should be immediately upgraded to 14.4. 

watchOS 7.3.2 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 14.4. 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

  • 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.
  • 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. 

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

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 as well as run maintenance routines to keep things running 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. 

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. 


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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 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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