As we said last month, our priority continues to be your well-being and safety. In that respect, we continue to be "remote only"—no onsite visits—for the time being.
We also offer the following free services for Sentinel and Sentinel+ clients:
- Set up or troubleshooting of video conferencing software (like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc.)
- If you're having email issues and you've waited a bit and rebooted the Mac, we'll do a free remote support session to fix that that too.
Last month I shared some reasons for optimism in these very dark times. I wanted to again highlight the increasing evidence that convalescent plasma therapy—the transfusion of antibodies from someone who has recovered into a seriously ill COVID-19 patient—is seeing a large degree of success. The Red Cross, the Mayo Clinic, and hospital systems across the United States are all collecting plasma for this effort, and clinical trials to firmly prove efficacy are underway. Things are moving so fast right now that all we have is an ever-growing number of anecdotal recovery stories.
One important finding, regardless of treatment type, is that generally early treatment equals better outcomes. Using convalescent plasma therapy as an example, this makes sense: It's easier for injected antibodies to beat a virus if it has not already spread throughout the body. Surely, that's true for other therapy types as well.
Complicating this are two factors: First, the early days of COVID-19 infection are largely asymptomatic. It's hard to know that you have COVID-19 until it becomes really noticeable. Second, the CDC guidance has been that people not to go to hospitals unless they have a myriad of symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, etc.). This guidance makes sense in locales where the medical system is overwhelmed; it makes less sense otherwise.
Fortunately, we have a key metric to help determine when we should talk to a doctor: blood oxygenation. Further, we have a relatively inexpensive easy-to-use device, a pulse oximeter, that can read how much oxygen is in the blood. A normal pulse oximeter level would be 95 to 100. A reading below 95 would be considered low. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and one of its hallmarks is low blood oxygenation.
So you can see where I'm going with this. I'm recommending that you add a pulse oximeter to your home medical supply kit
As we get closer to reopening parts of society, we will in the short-run at least very likely need to wear masks. Mask wearing may be limited to situations where there is a shared respiratory space, or it may be a more general societal rule. Either way, wearing a mask helps confine your germs to you, and is a relatively easy (if slightly awkward) step we can all take to help stop the virus' spread.
Audiovisual tips for better videoconferencing
Whether for work or socializing, we’re all spending a lot more time in video calls these days. But—surprise!—it turns out that many of our group video calls could be more pleasant, less embarrassing, and overall better if we follow a few basic audiovisual tips.
Make Sure You Have Decent Lighting
Natural light is best, but room light is generally fine too, especially if it’s coming from the side. Overhead light isn’t quite as flattering, but whatever you do, avoid light that comes from underneath your face or you’ll look like an old-time movie villain. Also, avoid sitting in front of a window because the bright light behind you will make you look way too dark. Pull a shade or try to put your computer against the window so the light hits your face instead.
Arrange for a Decent Background
You may not have many choices for where your computer is located, and thus for what’s behind you when you’re on a video call. If you’re using Zoom or Skype, you can employ a virtual background (pick one that’s appropriate for the context, and for goodness sake, don’t use an animated background). Otherwise, make sure that what’s behind you is tidy and wouldn’t embarrass you if the people on the call were to visit in person. Or, take it up a level and put a pleasing arrangement of art or photos on the wall behind you. Even if they are too small to be seen well, they will break up a monotonous blank wall.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Yes, it’s tempting to schlub around all day in pajamas or ratty old sweats. Resist the urge and wear the same type of clothes you’d put on if you were meeting with these people in person. That includes pants—if you get up in the middle of the call without thinking, you don’t want to advertise your taste in boxers. You don’t want your boss and colleagues to have a mental image of you as a total slob. For bonus points, avoid tops that are bright white, black, or have distracting patterns.
Think Like a Movie Director
Particularly if you need to use a phone, tablet, or laptop to participate in a video call, think about your camera angles. It’s best to have the camera at roughly the same height as your face, if possible, so if you can avoid it, don’t put your laptop in your lap or hold your phone at your waist. And if you’re using a phone, don’t walk around such that the changing background distracts everyone else.
And Like a Movie Star
It’s sometimes hard to remember that everyone can see you even though they’re not in the room, but you’ll come off as more alert, confident, and engaged if you sit up straight, get close enough to the camera so your face fills the screen, and smile. Seriously, you’re on Candid Camera, so act like it. You’ll almost always have a thumbnail that shows what you look like, so make sure you like what you see. Oh, and don’t touch your face repeatedly.
Look at the Camera, Not the Other Participants
This one is tough. The camera is usually at the top center of your screen, so if you look anywhere else, it seems like you’re avoiding eye contact. It can make you look shifty or inattentive. But it’s hard not to look at the other people or at your own video thumbnail. The best trick is to resize and position your video window so the person you’re most likely to look at is right under the camera.
Pay Attention and Don’t Multitask
Look, we get it—a lot of meetings are boring. But it’s both rude and distracting to the speakers if you are clearly doing something else or worse, leaving and coming back. Focus on the screen, and show that you’re paying attention by nodding your head, smiling, and all the other little things you’d do if the meeting were taking place in person. If you truly can’t stay engaged, turn off your audio and video so no one has to see and hear you. If you need an excuse for that, say that your Internet connection is being a little wonky, so you want to cut down on bandwidth usage.
Mute Your Mic When Not Talking
The more people on a call, the more important this tip is. All videoconferencing apps have a Mute button you can click so others in the call aren’t distracted by you coughing or sneezing, your children playing in the other room, or other extraneous noise. Just remember to unmute before you start talking. It’s hard to remember at first, but you’ll get good at it.
All this may seem like a lot to think about, but once you get your environment set up properly, you’ll be a bright spot in the video grid at your regular meetings.
We've had a lot of people ask us about Apple software updates recently. As a reminder, we will always post our recommendations in our newsletter, if not in an article like this one then at the bottom under "Software Recommendations."
While we always appreciate hearing from clients, we won't be issuing recommendation different from the last newsletter we've sent. We need time to test the new updates ourselves if we're going to be able to give recommendations in which we can feel confident.
In that respect, we are now recommending iOS 13.4.1 and iPadOS 13.4.1
. The ".1" fixed the notorious FaceTime bug among others.
macOS 10.15.4 Catalina remains not ready for prime-time
, and we continue to actively recommend against it. We've never had a version of macOS that we couldn't recommend by the ".4" release—until now. Data loss plagues iCloud, Mail, and Photos in Catalina, and it's not like the data we're talking about is unimportant.
iPhone SE starting at $399
Four years after the release of the original iPhone SE, Apple has introduced a second-generation iPhone SE with aggressive pricing that starts at just $399. Whereas the original model used the svelte, easy-to-hold iPhone 5s case design with a 4-inch screen, this new iPhone SE repurposes the larger iPhone 8 design with its 4.7-inch screen. But Apple didn’t just rebrand the iPhone 8. The new iPhone SE sports several important updates that make it a compelling purchase for the price, including a new processor and eSIM capability.
Most notably, Apple upgraded the iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic chip to the faster, more capable A13 Bionic chip that powers the latest iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models. Apart from pure speed, the A13 Bionic provides additional computational photography capabilities. Even though the iPhone SE has only a single rear-facing camera, unlike the multiple cameras on the backs of the iPhone 11 models, it still supports iOS 13’s Portrait mode and all six Portrait Lighting effects. The A13 Bionic will also likely increase the quality of iPhone SE photos beyond what the iPhone 8 could do with the same physical camera.
There are two additional changes of note from the iPhone 8, one good, one less so. On the positive side, Apple added eSIM capability, which makes it possible for an iPhone SE to support two cell numbers, each with its own carrier and plan. That’s primarily helpful for those who frequently travel overseas. Less welcome is the switch from the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch to Haptic Touch, which simply registers long presses with haptic feedback. But all of Apple’s 2019 iPhone models moved to Haptic Touch, and iOS 13 supports Haptic Touch well, so it’s not much of a loss.
Other important specs from the iPhone 8 that remain unchanged include:
- Touch ID: The new iPhone SE continues to rely on the classic Touch ID sensor embedded in the Home button for unlocking and authenticating. In a time when we may be wearing masks a lot, Touch ID may be more welcome than Face ID.
- 4.7-inch display: The iPhone SE’s screen is smaller than the 6.1-inch and 5.8-inch screens in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. But it’s still a Retina HD screen with True Tone—few people will notice much of a difference in quality.
- Cameras: The iPhone SE’s rear-facing camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, and it can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. The front-facing camera is 7 megapixels and supports 1080p video at 30 fps.
- Battery life and charging: Battery life should be similar to that of the iPhone 8, so you should be able to go all day on a charge. If you do need to top up, the iPhone SE supports fast charging, and it’s also compatible with Qi wireless charging pads.
What makes this second-generation iPhone SE compelling is its pricing. For a 64 GB model, the price is $399. 128 GB costs $449, and 256 GB is $549. In comparison, you’d pay $200 more for 2018’s iPhone XR, $300 more for the current iPhone 11, and $600 more for today’s iPhone 11 Pro. Those phones may have Face ID and take better photos, but it’s great that Apple is finally offering a budget-friendly iPhone once again.
Some people will be disappointed with the size of the new iPhone SE. Yes, it’s a lot smaller than the iPhone 11, and a bit more pocket-friendly than the iPhone 11 Pro, but it’s significantly beefier than the original iPhone SE. If you were hoping that Apple would bring back an iPhone for those with smaller hands and smaller pockets, sorry.
For the body color, you can choose black or white, or you can go for the bright red PRODUCT(RED) version, the proceeds from which will go to help the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response through September 30th.
Macs are cheaper than PCs
It’s taken as gospel that Macs are more expensive than PCs. A quick look at the Dell Web site reveals laptops for as low as $300. Sure, we can say that the configurations aren’t comparable, that macOS is better than Windows, or that Apple’s hardware quality is superior. Still, our friendly local bean counters have trouble getting past those low upfront prices.
However, unless you’re Rancho Gordo, the goal isn’t to count beans, it’s to get work done, and that’s a different scenario. Let’s look at a few ways that Macs are not just worth the money but can also be cheaper than comparable systems. We’ll start with a Forrester Research study
commissioned by Apple that compared the total economic impact of Macs and PCs in large companies with employee-choice programs. In such programs, every employee gets to choose between a Mac and a PC, providing a sizable group across which to compare numbers, but the conclusions apply to large and small organizations alike.
Deeper cost analysis
Although the Forrester Research study found that the upfront acquisition cost of Macs was indeed $500 higher than comparable PCs, when additional factors were taken into account, Macs ended up costing about $50 less.
That’s in part because Macs have a higher residual value after 3 years, meaning that you can resell a 3-year-old Mac for more than a 3-year-old PC. Pay more up front, but get more back later on.
Macs also don’t need operating system licenses, and the Mac’s better security eliminates the need for additional licenses for security software.
Reduced IT support costs
It has long been thought that Macs required less support than PCs, but only in the past few years have there been organizations with enough Macs and PCs to compare. At IBM, one of the largest Apple-using companies with 290,000 Apple devices, a 2016 study
found that the company was saving up to $543 per Mac compared to PCs over a 4-year lifespan. Forrester Research came up with an even higher number, showing that Macs cost $628 less over a 3-year lifespan.
What accounts for these reduced support costs? It takes less time to set up a new Mac, Macs are easier to manage, Macs users open fewer service tickets, and many fewer IT staff are needed. All that adds up to paying for fewer support resources. In another 2018 study
, IBM found that it needed just 7 support engineers per 200,000 Macs, compared to 20 support engineers per 200,000 Windows machines.
Improved employee productivity and engagement
Beyond reduced support costs, Mac users turn out to be more productive, more engaged, and more likely to stay with the company than PC users. Forrester Research found that over 3 years, Mac-using employees posted 48 hours more productivity (in part due to reduced downtime). That’s likely thousands of dollars more benefit to the company, per employee.
Even still, it can be hard to quantify that benefit, which is why Forrester Research compared users in sales positions. In its study, Forrester found that Mac-using employees showed a 5% increase in sales performance. That’s nothing compared to IBM, which found that its Mac-based salespeople closed deals worth 16% more than their Windows-using counterparts.
Finally, both Forrester Research and IBM discovered that Mac users were less likely to leave the company—20% less likely in Forrester’s study and 17% less likely in IBM’s research. That’s not just an indication of loyalty. There are significant costs to replacing employees who leave, so the higher the retention rate, the better it is for the bottom line.
Improved overall security
Few would argue with the belief that Macs are more secure than PCs. In Forrester’s research, the interviewed organizations said that the Mac has a fundamentally more secure architecture than Windows. In today’s world, criminals employ malware to steal information. Data breaches are costly, with a 2019 study by IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute
pegging the average cost of a data breach at $3.9 million. The amounts vary by industry and the size of the breach, of course, but the average cost per data record was nearly $150.
Security breaches can have other costs as well. With a compromised account, attackers have often been able to pose as executives and get accounting departments to wire money to offshore accounts. Plus, when news of a data breach hits, it can result in the loss of customers. In the IBM Security study, healthcare companies suffered from a 7% customer turnover after a breach.
So yes, Macs do have higher upfront costs than PCs. But savvy managers know to look past such simplistic comparisons to the bigger picture, where equipping employees with Macs both saves far more than the difference in cost between a Mac and a PC and enables employees to produce more for the organization.