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Comparing Password Managers

I’d like your opinion on Dashlane, the app that Google is pushing. I held off doing anything about 1Password when we were waiting to see about the releasing of iCloud Keychain… and I never tried the free LastPass.

I always enjoy introducing people to password management. It’s an increasingly popular and necessary tool, but the whole idea of passwords is so fraught with anxiety and uncertainty that many folks have trepidation about starting to use one of the available solutions. But when they do open up to it, it relieves the headache of remembering logins and keeps their stuff secure. Just start feeding your stuff data into the app, and it starts working for you

I keep not just logins in my password manager, but also things like frequent flyer numbers, credit cards, bank accounts, my family’s social security numbers and drivers’ licenses, and other tidbits I wouldn’t want readily visible in my notes or address book (y’all know who you are). Because I know that whatever I stuff in there will be easy to get to and easy to change as needed, I no longer feel any friction or hesitation about receiving an updated credit card or being forced to change a login; I know I’ll just plug it in once on any of my gadgets, and it will be immediately available on all my others

Comparisons

As you say, Dashlane, LastPass, and 1Password are still the top contenders. As password management is so crucial to getting smoothly through a 21st-century day, I encourage anyone to jump on board with whatever service they feel suits them.

I admit to a bias, but 1Password is still my go-to for many reasons. They have thought of little details like keyboard navigation, lots of different categories, and overall integration with the Mac and iPhone operating systems. It’s pretty, clean, and smooth, and I love it. I open the app at least a couple of times a day, and I’m using it constantly even barely thinking about it via the autofill extensions.

LastPass works fine, and they have some nice enterprise-level features. I really appreciate that their free tier now syncs between devices. I have had frustrations with the interface, mostly along the lines of, “Wait, I gotta go alllll the way up there to click on that and then I gotta click on this other thing? I can’t just do this with my arrow keys and hit return?” (I’m extraordinarily lazy.)

And it’s not just me: a client recently mentioned that LastPass made an update to their browser extension that made it less convenient to use, so we installed the Mac app for him, and it refused to honor the system setting for default browser, i.e, it kept opening links in Safari even though all her other Mac apps use Chrome.

A pal o’ mine is a big fan of Dashlane. If you compare it against the other options, and prefer it, there is no reason not to use it.

Dashlane is a bit cleaner and smoother than LP, but to me they are on a par: both do the fundamentals fine, but I don’t much cleverness behind their design.

DL and LP both have one big thing that 1P does not, and that’s automatic password changing. I like that a lot, not enough for me to switch, but certainly as a boon for anyone.

1Password’s family and business plans are well-priced and sync smooth like buttah. Consider doing the family plan and getting your kids in on the action, so you can share crucial information that can be important to have on hand in emergencies.

You’ll be glad you signed up!

[Update Nov 2018: I published this a while back. iCloud Keychain is now a standard and reliable component of iOS and macOS. But it is not designed to replace these other solutions, and in fact in iOS 12, Apple has allowed third-party password managers to integrate with the keyboard, a game-changingly fantastic improvement to all of our security.]

Turn on Find My… iPhone, iPad, or Mac

Here’s the full page about enabling Find My iPhone, Mac, and other devices. In short:

On iOS

  1. Tap Settings > [your name] > Find My
  2. Ensure Find My iPhone says “On”
  3. If you’re asked to

On Mac

  1. Click Apple menu  > System Preferences > iCloud
  2. Turn on Find My Mac

Notes

If you don’t have Location Services turned on on your device, you’ll be instructed on doing that.

In iOS 13, Apple squeezed two apps into one: Find My Friends and Find My [Gadget] are now Find My. Here’s the icon you seek:

Also in iOS 13, Apple enabled Offline Finding, which gives you a chance of pinging it when there’s no Wi-Fi or cell signal. Apple’s full post on lost and stolen Macs.

And, hoping you never need it, here’s how to locate a lost or stolen device.

Turn on iCloud Backups

  1. On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup (at the bottom of the first list of services).
  2. Turn on Backup Now.

That’s it. You can read there that backups will occur when the device is “connected to power, locked, and on Wi-Fi.”


More info, for those interested:

Here’s the kinds of information it backs up.

Almost every normally used device needs more room to backup and store photos than the 5 GB that Apple includes with every free iCloud plan. Fret not: you can buy more iCloud Storage.

Many, many Mac users assume that iCloud backs up their Macs. It absolutely, categorically does not.

Every Mac or PC user should have a cloud-backup service such as Backblaze. Individually owned computers can use the Personal Backup product, while any owned by an organization can be under the Business Backup plan. [Those are affiliate links.]

Businesses might have their mobile devices signed into iCloud accounts under the user’s organizational email address. The user should know that the organization owns every bit of information on that device.

Favorite bits in iOS 13

Highlighting some of my favorite small details that may prove to be big boons.

With so many big and small improvements in iOS 13, Apple has resolved lots of deficiencies and complaints. To me, this is the year that iPhones and iPads graduate, from amazing gadgets that clever people have figured out how to use as business devices, to real productivity workhorses.

You can read about the big headlines here: iOS 13 – Apple. I just want to highlight some of my favorite small details that may prove to be big boons:


Long press is more relaxing than 3D Touch. It will become as natural as right-click. Best to standardize on it and move on.


Once again being able to triple-tap to select a whole paragraph. (Doesn’t work in all apps.)


This revised menu is great in general, but the font-size buttons in Safari are especially welcome:


This has been around but I just rediscovered it: Long press on the square at the bottom right of Safari:


A little shortcuts bar for adding and formatting content in email. A huge improvement from the old white-on-black contextual menu.

New Message.jpeg

And iOS Mail becomes a real modern email client.


Swipe-to-type has been around in third-party keyboards for a while, but Apple gave those short shrift, so having it native with the QuickPath keyboard is really huge:


The new Siri voices are really smooth and natural.


Voice Control is going to be incredible for differently abled people, but even while I am lucky enough to I have average use of my limbs in digits, I think I will probably be using it to dictate naturally without having to press the microphone button. Selecting and replacing text is as easy as it ever was with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.


This very convenient menu pops up when you tap-and-hold three fingers anywhere on the screen when you’re editing text.


How about this mini keyboard on the iPad that behaves more like the iPhone keyboard?


I’m a little surprised that this matters to me, but buttons with icons instead of words is welcome. In voicemail, the red delete button stands out better.

Buy a used or refurbished Mac

Time to update the buying guide for 2019. And even if Apple does release the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro in October, all of the following will still apply for now.

I’m fine with someone buying a used computer as long as the service they go through has buyer protection (e.g. eBay). But refurbished machines from Apple or OWC, especially ones covered by warranty, are a superb option

Base specs for any Mac

Getting less than this is wasting money and, worse, productivity:

  • At least 16 GB RAM (memory)
  • Absolutely get Flash Storage (a.k.a. solid-state drive or SSD), and not a SATA drive or “Fusion” Drive
  • At least 512 GB Flash Storage, though I prefer 1 TB for most folks
  • Make sure it is covered by the AppleCare warranty if it is younger than three years old

Laptop models

MacBook Pros with Retina screens from 2014 or 2015 are great. And the MacBook Air from 2018 is also great. Do not buy a MacBook Air older than 2018 unless you get some kind of great deal on it ($400 or less) and it has at least 8 GB of memory. 

Do not buy any laptops made in 2016 or 2017, and I generally recommend against 2018 MacBook Pros, because the keyboard is controversial-bordering-on-tragic, and the Touch Bar is kind of gimmicky, and they are generally overpriced. But if you need one and you have the jack, a 2018 MBP is basically fine.

Do not buy any year of the 12-inch MacBook, unless you have very specific needs for lightness and don’t require a great deal of power.

Desktop models

Any iMac with a Retina screen is fantastic. If you’re a professional who works with images, get an iMac made since 2016 because the color gamut of the monitor is wider.

The 2018 Mac mini is one of the coolest Mac models ever.

If you’re a professional who needs an iMac Pro or the soon to be released Mac Pro, you know who you are and you probably aren’t reading this section.

New iPad

I am thinking of buying a new iPad or gently used one. My current phone is a 64GB model and I’ve barely used half of the storage, so I think a 64GB iPad would do it. But I don’t know about cellular. What are your thoughts?

I love my new iPad Air (and the new iPadOS!), and while I might enjoy a Pro that much more, I know my personal productivity wouldn’t benefit that much from the extra performance. The new iPad minis are also super sleek and totable.

I have found that, because of better cameras that inspire more photography, and more available media to enjoy, it’s really a good idea for most people to spring for at least 128GB. That said, if your usage has not grown like that, perhaps you’d do fine with 64GB. If you at all suspect your needs might increase, get the bigger size.

Since the phones got personal hotspots, I no longer keep a cellular account for my iPad. If you’re that mobile and need the Internet always on at a moment’s notice, get the cellular, otherwise skip it.

And I’m alllll about buying refurbished devices as long as they are under warranty!

Get better battery life from your Mac

Got a MacBook Pro 13-inch 2018 2.7 MHz i7 with 16 gigabytes of ram. The battery dies crazy fast running programs like Ableton and Logic. Like in less than an hour.

I wish that were surprising, but activity like audio production is going to drain any computer’s battery a lot faster than typical use does. Also, as the Mac will scale down the performance of its processor when it’s on battery, you will find it to be a lesser experience in other ways as well.

With all that said, if you have to or just really want to do that work without being jacked into power, you’ll want to take steps to optimize the pull on your battery. Here are some good tips for that.

The suggestion of restarting is crucial. And in the special case of a focused production session, I uncheck the box to “reopen windows when logging back in,” so that I start with a very fresh system that has less stuff churning in the background. Then I only open up the apps I absolutely need to run to do that particular work.

I’ll also highlight turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Web browsing and email consume more juice than you’d think, so avoid even opening those apps at all if you can do that stuff on your phone or tablet.

Try that and let me know if you still run into issues. It’s not impossible, but real real unlikely your battery is bad, and we’d need to try these other things first before we hollered at Apple.