Category: iOS

Free Apps for Identifying Plants

Wondering if that volunteer plant in your garden is a weed or not? Curious about that gorgeous tree at the park? 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 better tools.

Powered by AI and plant photography catalogs, 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 also websites for this as well, like Pl@ntNet and Plant.id!

The NewProfilePic App

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!

Spam Text Messages

Here are options for dealing with spam received via text message:

Forward the Message to SPAM

When you get a spam text, forward it to 7726 (SPAM). This helps your carrier know about what spam is spreading where, and they’ll study the trends to prevent more spam from reaching you.

To forward a message on Apple devices, consider the section at this page titled “Forward older text messages.”

For Android devices, try these steps to forward a message any spam text to 7726.

Block the Sender

Most phones allow you to block a specific number from sending you texts. So when that annoying spam message arrives, block the sender’s number.

Here are the steps to block a text sender on iOS. On Android, try these steps or maybe these will help.

Note: If a spammer is spoofing your number, so that the text looks like it is coming from you, don’t block it. Just forward it to SPAM as described above, and contact your provider if it keeps happening.

Contact Your Provider

Each cellular provider offers different free tools for blocking unwanted calls and texts. If you are receiving a high level of spam messages, reach out to them. Ask them to review your account and phone settings, to be sure that all possible features are enabled, to block the maximum amount.

Report Spam to the Government

You are welcome to report unwanted communication (calls OR texts) to the FCC and the FTC. The DoNotCall Registry also wants your reports of spam.


Caveats

When acting on a spam text (to block it), take care to not tap on any attached files or links.

Do not reply to any spam text with any complaints or commentary. Do not try to unsubscribe, as this may create more spam for you!

Back Tap on Smartphones

iPhones

Most iPhones have a largely unknown feature called Back Tap. If you turn on this special ability, Back Tap will let you trigger an app or function when you tap the back of your iPhone. Back Tap can open Settings, or the Facebook app, or your Camera, whatever you yoke it to.

It’s like you have an invisible button back there that can do anything! Back Tap can be setup on any iPhone 8 and up that is running iOS 14 or newer. For detailed steps, check out these articles for how to set yours up.

First-time users of Back Tap are recommended to keep an eye on it for the first week or so, in case of accidental triggers. If you notice any misfires with Back Tap, you can modify the settings (Double or Triple Tap) or turn it off.

Android Phones

This feature is called Quick Tap on Android phones, but is not widely available yet. So far, it’s showing up only on select Google Pixel phones. Other manufacturers are slow to incorporate this into their phones, but you can always check your phone for this feature under: Settings -> System -> Gestures. If your phone supports Quick Tap, it will be at the top of the Gestures options list.

A warning: internet searches for “Android Quick Tap” will quickly reveal a workaround app called Tap Tap. BlueScreen Computer does not recommend this app. It does not come from the Google Play Store. It has not been vetted by Google. Installing Tap Tap requires you to hamstring & bypass your phone’s security. Please don’t risk it! If your Android phone doesn’t offer Quick Tap, you’re better off waiting to get it on a future phone.

Scan QR Codes with Your Phone’s Camera

The title says it all, but I’ll go into more detail: When you see a QR code in public, use your cellphone’s camera on it.

If you open your camera and point it at a QR code, the camera software can “figure it out.” Watch for a clickable link on your screen (you do not need to actually take a picture). If you tap the link that appears, it will do whatever the QR code is programmed for (take you to a website, start an email, etc.).

Do NOT download and install any 3rd party app for QR code reading. Those apps are wholly unnecessary at this point, and can contain adware or worse.

Don’t Panic: Pegasus Spyware

There’s a lot of news about the powerful spyware named Pegasus. And it is some nasty stuff, being able to infect a phone without anyone clicking anything! You can read about some basics about Pegasus here.

Unfortunately, this is one of those news topics where the media can be more inciteful than insightful. For example, the NYTimes has a long write-up on Pegasus that might make you a little anxious to read. By the 6th paragraph, they mention that “more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable”. They don’t mention what you should do until the final (33rd) paragraph.

What should you do? Try my two-step plan:

1) Don’t Panic. 2) Update your iPhone.

The first step is because you’re probably not affected by Pegasus. This spyware, while it can do everything it says on the tin, was probably not something that was unleashed on the entire world. Instead, researchers are fairly sure that it was deliberately used against specific people. World leaders, politicians, activists or billionaires were the likely targets.

I’ll go out on a limb and wager that most of my readers don’t fit those categories. And for any who is a Pegasus target, they’ve probably already had their iPhone replaced or wiped.

Anyhow, the second step is what can give you full peace of mind, and may have already happened automagically. Many iDevices update on their own, and the latest iOS 14.8 update will patch iPhones against Pegasus. So go ahead and check for updates on your iPhone, and then put this nasty business out of your mind.

PS: Android phones might also be vulnerable to Pegasus, but the news media is not reporting a whole lot on that. I still recommend you Don’t Panic.

PPS: Yes, you can check your iPhone for Pegasus, but it rather involved and possibly not worth the effort. Still, if you are interested, here’s one method that appears to have no cost associated with it. I do not see any way to check an Android phone for Pegasus.

iPhone Profiles and How to Remove Them

Smartphones are pretty well-defended against viruses, but there are a few ways to abuse them that avoid detection. One of the ways that iPhones get hijacked is through “Profiles”.

The Profiles part of the iOS is typically only used by employers or schools on iPhones that they assign to their staff. For some companies, there is a legitimate purpose for installing Profiles on iPhones. iPhone Profiles might help them monitor the phones and how they are used.

But on a personal or store-bought iPhone, you should never see any Profiles in the Settings panel. The presence of Profile on your personal iPhone is a sign of spyware. Some apps or websites may sneak a Profile onto an iPhone, for the purpose of collecting or sending info from your phone without you knowing. An unknown Profile can turn your iPhone into a keystroke collector or spam relay!

The good news is that Profiles are easy to check for and remove, if any are present. For most iPhones, you may open your Settings icon and tap on General. Scroll up and down, looking for Profiles. If you cannot find Profiles on the General menu, then none are present on the phone and you are clean! But if you do see Profiles, tap on it and remove anything listed inside.

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