If you use Apple devices, there’s a new feature in the latest OS updates called NameDrop. This function allows you to quickly and easily share contact info with other Apple device users. Simply place the two devices near each other, and NameDrop will appear! Each device user will get a pop-up, asking if they want to exchange contact cards.
I want to emphasize: NameDrop always asks permission to exchange any info. I’ve got a bit of rumor control to do here, as people across the internet have noticed this new iOS addition and are reacting poorly. Misinformation and fearmongering is afoot.
If you see any posts, urging you to turn off NameDrop, take a breath and Don’t Panic. Please understand that NameDrop only works under strict conditions:
Two devices have to be very close to each other (almost touching)
The Apple devices are powered on and unlocked
Each user taps Share to authorize their data to transmit
Apple NameDrop is safe and well-implemented. I don’t see any real risk here. You are still welcome to disable the feature under Settings -> General -> AirDrop -> Bringing Devices Together. Just don’t buy into the viral hysteria; there’s no major safety loophole or hazard here.
Consumer Reports has developed a new free app called Permission Slip. They made this tool to help the average person understand where their personal data is collected and sold, and take back some control over that information.
To use this app, you do have to sign up and hand over your personal info. CR promises to not sell it or abuse it. You’ll also have to legally agree Consumer Reports can act as your “authorized agent”. It’s some serious stuff, but they ask for this so that they can advocate on your behalf.
What This App Offers
If you cooperate and agree to the app’s requirements, you can then:
Review numerous big companies and understand what personal data they are collecting and selling.
Have Consumer Reports send an official letter (on your behalf) to any of these companies, telling them Do Not Sell My Data.
Use an easy Delete My Account function, so that the company gets rid of any and all data they have about you.
You could do these sorts of things yourself. You could visit company websites, one at a time, comb through their pages and processes for the correct forms to fill out (most companies make this deliberately difficult). Permission Slip streamlines all of that nonsense for you. Once you’ve got the app up and running, it is quick and easy to browse the companies, telling each one in turn to not sell your data.
Also, amongst the recognizable companies, you’ll notice a few data brokers, like Merkle. When you spot one of them, definitely order them stop selling your data!
Permission Slip is relatively new, so its full benefit has yet to be realized. And when you ask a company to not sell their data, they may or may not comply. But I still think this tool is worth a try, as it is offered by a trustworthy nonprofit company, and using it sends a message to these companies that are profiting off of our personal data.
Also, you might feel a bit of schadenfreude when you realize that these big companies are suddenly having to deal with millions of privacy requests.
Did you know that computers offer on-screen keyboards, similar to mobile devices? They are rarely useful, since the physical keyboard is far easier to type with. But you should know where to find the on-screen keyboard on your computer. You might someday find yourself in a jam, and suddenly need it!
How To Activate
Activating the on-screen keyboard is different for each type of computer.
Microsoft describes how to open the On-Screen Keyboard at this site. But there are others ways to bring it up. If you are at the Windows login screen, you can click the Ease of Access icon to the lower-right and then click On-Screen Keyboard. You may also press WIN + R and enter “osk” in the Open field.
Once this on-screen keyboard is open, you are welcome to click on any key you see, and get the same effect as if you touched the physical keyboard’s key.
The original intent behind the on-screen keyboard is to help offer a different way of typing, in case it makes the computer more usable and accessible. Let’s say you find yourself in an arm-cast — mouse-clicking might be preferable while you heal up. But consider the on-screen keyboard also as a tool for troubleshooting:
If your physical keyboard is typing erratically, or missing keystrokes, open the On-Screen Keyboard and test with it. The results might help you figure out if you have a defective physical keyboard or a systemwide problem.
What about when your wireless keyboard depletes its batteries? You’ll be hard-pressed to log in with your PIN or password, if you’re out of AAA’s. The on-screen keyboard will help you get back into your computer and you can go buy more batteries later.
Your on-screen keyboard may help you find a hard-to-find key that you want to press. It may even offer you keys that your keyboard lacks! Example: the Scroll Lock function on my laptop was disabled. I could not turn it back on, because I had no Scroll Lock key on my laptop. But I could press that key in the on-screen keyboard and fix my situation!
Much like the plant-ID apps I’ve blogged about, there are plenty of free apps for identifying animals. There’s no need to crowdsource your answer from Facebook. Take a pic or recording and send it up to the experts. You can have an AI or website give you the answer immediately. And for free!
Got a snake in your garden? First, be careful! Take a pic and use these apps, only if you are at a safe distance from the creature:
Missing a few operating system updates on your Mac computer isn’t a big deal. You can usually poke at the Software Update function and download whatever your Mac is missing. But once in a while, I meet a older Mac that has missed out on years, even a decade, of OS upgrades. Dealing with an extremely out-of-date system is not as straightforward.
But at some point, you will have to deal with it. A several-years out-of-date MacOS leads to an out-of-date browser. And if your browser has become too deprecated, it won’t be able to load secure websites well. Such an old-timer will be rejected by modern websites and show you something like the following:
Extra Steps to Update
Unfortunately, when the Apple is this far out of date, it is also not very helpful in getting up to date. If you try the normal procedure for receiving software upgrades, the OS will lie to you and claim there are No Updates. If you contact Apple Support, they often state that you are on a Legacy device, they can’t help you and that you must buy a new computer. But that is not always the truth either. I’ll go through the extra steps you would need at this point.
Identify Your Mac
You need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what kind of Mac you have and what year it is from. Thankfully, Apple makes this easy to determine. Click your Apple menu and go to About This Mac. Here you’ll find this exact info. Take note of it!
The Bare Minimum OS Upgrade
There have been many different versions of MacOS released in the last decade. An older Mac may not be eligible to update to the latest (MacOS 13), but that’s OK. To resolve the website errors shown above, we just need to get MacOS High Sierra 10.13.2. At the time of this writing, that’s the MacOS requirement for most modern browsers to run and support updates. If you are lower than 10.13, you’re asking for trouble.
So if your Mac’s About page reports less than 10.13, it time to see if it can handle this bare minimum upgrade. Take a look on this website, and read the second paragraph about Mac Hardware Requirements.
Using the info you got About Your Mac, determine if your machine qualifies. If it does, it’s time to download the High Sierra upgrade, from this link. If your machine does not meet the requirements, it is time to retire it and buy another computer.
If you succeed in processing this upgrade, your troubles may be over! When the computer reboots and lets you back onto the internet, websites may load again as normal. If you’re using Chrome or Firefox, there may be an extra update process for those browsers. But those should process on their own after a brief wait, once they realize that the OS allows them to do so.
Beyond the Bare Minimum
Upgrading to High Sierra buys you some time, but it’s hard to say how much. You might want to upgrade your OS further, if possible.
Older Macs will not be eligible for all of these upgrades, due to their hardware. If your Mac can be only be upgraded to a certain level, you will have to accept it or move on to another machine. But upgrading to the highest OS possible for your machine will buy you the most time.
Final Note: Stepping Stones
When upgrading from a very old MacOS to a newer one, you often can’t get to the maximum in just one upgrade. For example, let’s say you have a MacBookPro that still runs 10.9, and you find out it can handle MacOS 12. The installer for 12 may refuse to run, if you try it first.
In this scenario, you have to hop from one upgrade to the next, like they were stepping stones. The 10.9 machine won’t jump all the way to 12, but it can accept the upgrade to 10.13. After that upgrade succeeds, try to upgrade to 11. If that works, next make the final jump to 12.
Oh, and after each successful upgrade, go into your Apps folder and trash the installer file for that upgrade. You won’t need it again, and it’s taking up a lot of space!
This is just for the Outlook app. If you want Word, Excel or other Office apps, you’ll still have to pay up. Or use LibreOffice.
Outlook aims to be the swiss-army tool of mail clients, with calendaring, tasks and more. If you prefer something more simplistic, MacOS Mail isn’t going anywhere. And if you need something with lots of features but want to avoid Micro$oft, there’s always the free Thunderbird email client.
Everyday, I see this posted to social media: “I found someone’s phone, anyone know whose it is?” And it rarely works. It can’t hurt to crowdsource the request, but please know that you should first check the found phone for Emergency Info.
On an iPhone, trigger the Lock Screen and tap Emergency, then tap *Medical ID.
On an Android phone, trigger the Lock Screen and tap Emergency, then tap View emergency info.
The following screen may reveal one or more Emergency Contacts. Tap on an Emergency Contact to call them on the spot. You may be able to work with them to reunite the phone with its owner!
Add Emergency Info to Your Phone
Now that you know this tidbit, your next question is probably “How do I add Emergency Contacts to my phone?”
On an iPhone, find and open the Health app. Tap your picture to the upper-right and then tap Medical ID. Tap Get Started, and fill out your basic info. Scroll down to find the Emergency Contacts section.
On an Android phone, find and open the Safety app. Sign in if prompted and then fill out your basic info. Scroll down to find the Emergency Contacts section.
Add at least one person as an Emergency Contact, and now they can be dialed from your phone, even when it is lost and locked. Note: you can only add them if they are in your normal Contacts list.
As you venture into this part of your phone, you may find a wealth of other safety features. Some phones may offer Car Crash Detection, Emergency SOS and the ability to record and store a video. Explore and learn about them, and activate any others you think are a good idea. Semper Paratus!
If you have found someone’s phone, but cannot determine the owner, then you’ll have to figure out what to do with it. Use your best judgment and factor in these items:
Apple does not typically assist with lost iPhones.
Keep the phone on and charged, if possible. The owner may call at any moment!
Turning the phone into the local police is a solid option.
Turning the phone over to a storefront might be helpful, depending on the circumstances. A phone found in a dressing room should go to the front sales desk. A phone found in a strip mall parking lot? Surrendering it to the police may be a better idea.
If you can tell what cellular provider services the phone, then you might be able to take it to the appropriate cellular storefront. T-Mobile definitely welcomes you to bring in a found phone. Others may help as well, give them a call before you make the trip.
Many people continue to use vintage computers, running operating systems that are past their end-of-support date. While I recommend that these users upgrade to something modern and more secure, I understand when they stick with their classic machines. I don’t judge.
But if those computers are going to hit the internet, they do need antivirus. And as they age, it becomes more difficult to find an antivirus software that is willing to run on a much older OS. Below are some links to free antiviruses that are compatible with bygone OSes, like Vista and El Capitan.
My favorite free antivirus for older PCs is Microsoft Security Essentials. But Microsoft pulled this from their sites, so use these links to get the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version . It will run on any XP, Vista or Win7 computer.
There’s some debate on whether Macs need additional antivirus protection. For now, I’ll say: You are at greater risk if you’re using an out-of-date computer, so antivirus becomes more relevant if you’re not running the latest MacOS. If your MacOS is so old to be completely out of service, please get some antivirus ASAP.
AVG offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or newer.
Avast offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.11 El Capitan or newer.
Wondering if that volunteer plant in your garden is a weed or not? Curious about that gorgeous tree at the park? Need to know if you’re looking at some Virginia Creeper or Poison Sumac? I know there’s some of you who won’t rest until you know the exact name of the mystery plant you’ve just spotted. And while it’s so easy to jump on social media to ask, it’s often easier and quicker to use free apps for identifying plants.
Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, these free apps can identify plants for you immediately! Take a picture of a plant using the app, and you’ll get detailed info on the spot. There are many such apps, and here a few reputable ones:
There are always new mobile apps for you to discover, and it looks like NewProfilePic is this month’s all-star. This freebie, available through the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, will transform a selfie photo into something stylized and eye-catching.
All you have to do is upload any photo file((of a single, close-up of a human face. Sorry, no pets!)) you have access to from your mobile device, and dodge a few pop-up ads along the way. The app does the rest, giving you a few different photo filters to try out. And they claim you can check back each week for new filters and tweaks.
As this app took off in popularity, some websites started sounding an alarm about its safety. Claims of data-sharing with Russia are being passed around, but I don’t see any truth to that. It looks to me like these rumors are not based on hard facts, and only being reported on clickbait and junk news sites (nothing mainstream).
In other words, whatever info-collection this app is doing, it’s certainly less invasive than, say, Facebook or Google. If you want to try out this app, feel free and have fun!