Is HomeKit set to take off?

I don’t think Apple said squat about it last Wednesday. But something is clearly happening here. For all its prettiness, this page is pretty vague. Also interesting that it’s under /ios:

A bunch of great accessories here…

Yet Philips has only said:

We are working hard on integrating Philips Hue lighting system for the home with Apple HomeKit, in time for this Fall.

Whilst the details are being finalized we can confirm that existing Philips Hue lights will work with Apple HomeKit, and any necessary upgrade to the system will be fully supported… More details will follow from September 2015 onwards.

But I don’t get why Apple would highlight this company’s kind of silly products:

I’m just thinking, this space is gonna blow up this year.

Modern email hosting

My current email service stinks. Three different people reported to me recently that they had emails kicked back from my address address. I spoke to my host, who said they were doing maintenance over the weekend.

I really can’t have an email address that is subject to occasional maintenance. Do you have a suggestion as to where I can host it? I was with Network Solutions but had problems with them as well. I’m seriously thinking about just going with my gmail address for business and everything.

Here’s the scoop: We now have two excellent and similarly priced options for hosted email: Microsoft Office 365 or Google for Business.

I’m a Google reseller, and I’ve used and loved their product for years now. All my email goes through Google, and I can use any email software or the super-powerful Gmail web site to get at it. Great collaborative calendar stuff, and a whole ecosystem of third-party apps to tie into it.

Microsoft has made a quite amazing turnaround in the last couple of years, and their Office 365 reflects that. People who want a true Exchange experience (in many ways still the best in the industry) no longer have to own and maintain their own server. And if you pay a bit more, it can include your license for Microsoft Office, in keeping with the new software-as-subscription model adopted by Adobe and many others.

Really, I can recommend either of those solutions. Let me know whenever you want to make the switch. You’ll never look back.

Hangout: Cure your website woes with Squarespace

If you need a website, or if you have a site that you’re unhappy with, you have got to try Squarespace. Squarespace makes creating a site easy, fun, and satisfying. Apple Consultant Jonathan Marcus will show you how to get started with Squarespace, and some important tips for building your content with Mac and iOS.

Thursday, Nov 21, 1pm CST, on Google+

Original event

A Tech Support Joke

A chemist, an engineer, and a computer scientist are driving through the desert, and the car breaks down.

A punchline to remember when you’re having a tech meltdown:

A chemist, an engineer, and a computer scientist are driving through the desert, and the car breaks down.

The chemist says, “Look, guys, it’s probably something with the fluids. Let’s get out of the car, pop the hood, check the fluids, top ’em up, get back into the car, and I’m sure it’s gonna work.”

The engineer says, “No, guys, I bet it’s something mechanical. Let’s get out of the car, walk back, find the part that fell off the car, walk back, put it on, get back into the car. It’ll fire right up.”

Then the computer scientist says, “No, guys, guys, guys, listen: Let’s get out of the car, get back into the car, get out of the car, get back into the car, get out of the car, get back into the car… and then it’s gonna work fine!”

So, here’s troubleshooting 101:

  1. Whatever is not working, turn it off for 10 seconds, then turn it back on. (The geek word for this is “power cycling.”)
    • Sometimes this means force-quitting an app (in the Apple menu). Sometimes it’s unplugging your modem. Target the thing that’s causing the problem.
  2. Check all cables, everywhere. I know this sounds like an obvious one, but it is often still overlooked.
  3. Restart the computer. We know this sounds like number one, but if quitting an app and firing it back up doesn’t work, it’s always worth a wholesale restart of your computer.

Prepare for iOS 7

iOS 7 should pop up as an available update on September 18, 2013.

The new mobile operating system from Apple promises to be as new, revolutionary even, as the original iPhone. I, for one, am damned excited about it.

So’s ya know, you do NOT have to upgrade to 7 right away. The safe bet is to wait at least a few days, to see if any debilitating quirks squirmed their way through the testing process.

But for all you early adopters…

Let’s do some simple steps to make sure your iPhones, iPads and iPods touch are all ready for Apple’s latest mobile operating system.

Check compatibility

Your device will need to be compatible. Techcrunch has the skinny on that.

Back it up!

On your device, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup (at the bottom).

Swipe to the bottom of the page, and tap Backup Now.

Backup to iCloud

You can also be more thorough by doing a backup using iTunes.

Since you’re also going to update iTunes on your Mac, make sure Time Machine or your backup scheme of choice are working.


Run Software Update on your Mac, from the Apple menu. That will get you the latest iTunes.

Also, tap the App Store on your mobile gadget. Tap Updates, and then Update All.

All set

Now you’re ready. On your device, go to Settings > General > Software Update, and let the crayon-colored magic begin!

What’s with this Google Fiber?

Nu, what’s with this Google Fiber?

Google recently entered the ISP business, they held a contest in which one small US city would get gigabit internet for its citizens. Kansas City, both KS and MO, won. And they are lucky bastards.

First, definitions:

“Fiber”, a.k.a. fiber-optic a.k.a. FIOS a.k.a. fiber to the home, is simply a faster land-based internet connection.

In order of speed, we have had:
First dial-up, then what we have called “broadband,” including ISDN (rare in a home) > T1 > various flavors of DSL > cable > T3 > fiber-optic

Wireless broadband comprises internet connections delivered through the air.

Wifi strictly means wireless networking on a local network. Wifi doesn’t deliver internet to the home or business; it distributes network resources, including the internet connection or a server or networked printers, to devices at the home or business.

You can think of wifi (I guess it’s “Wi-Fi,” but I say that’s fucking stupid, as is hyphenated “e-mail” or capitalized “Internet”)…You can think of wifi as the same link in the chain as an ethernet cable, more convenient, more hip, less secure, less reliable, and possibly more expensive or possible cheaper.

Random bonus jargon: WiMAX is more comparable to Google Fiber or cable internet, a “last-mile” solution for Internet deliver to the home that hasn’t really caught on.

webopedia: internet connection types
wikipedia: internet access

Finally, and real crucially, gigabit means 1 million bits-per-second1, or 1Gbps. That’s a Dr. Evil-level number. Means fast fast fast. My home broadband connection, currently from Grande, is 30,000 bits-per-second = 30 megabit = 30Mbps. It’s satisfyingly fast. But gigabit will, reportedly, blow the face off all the internet to which we’ve so far been accustomed. It’s well above the norms of Japan or Europe, behind whom the US currently lags.

Google has always said, and loudly, that the more time that people spend on the Internet, the more money Google makes. Hence the Google Fiber contest, and the implication on their page that Kansas City is simply the first of many. I hadn’t seen the hardware they’ve developed, the stuff they pitch on their fiber page. Looks cool, at least.

Whatever the benefits for Google, faster internet is good for the nation.

1 Bits-per-second can be called baud. The term no longer appears much, but when dial-up was common, modems were measured in baud. Imagine a time when you might brag about your 2400-baud modem! So “gigabit” is a foreshortened term, but who’s gonna say “gigabaud”?

J2 News: Prevent Someone From Becoming You

Black HatIf you got my last newsletter, you know that this is the year when we all — the whole internet-using universe — become targets for bad hackers. We’ve already learned how they will try to get at our Macs. Now we need to look at how our online accounts and identities are vulnerable. Please at least read the first section, on passwords.

Got GSP? Picking a Good, Strong Password

You know how, recently, you might see a spate of emails from a friend that you know are junk — invitations to off-shore pharmacies and the like? And then that same friend emails everyone in his or her address book, to the effect of, “Sorry, someone hijacked my email!”?

Well, that happened because your friend had a password that was too simple, too easy to crack, and someone cracked it and took control of the mailbox.

This intrusion is not just an inconvenience to your friend and the people in their inbox. If someone has your email password, they can get passwords to ALL of your other online accounts, including possibly banking. And hackers make money — more than you might think — by acquiring access to things like passwords, online accounts, credit card numbers, etc. (Hackers commit other kinds of crimes, too, but let’s continue.)

How do they do it? I’m not a hacker, but I can abstract it: The bad guys have their computers scan the internet for, say, addresses. Then they point other software at the Gmail servers, and run software to try to log in to known accounts by guessing all the possible password permutations. Unless you’re famous and being specifically targeted, they’re not researching the names of your kids and pets. They just run through the dictionary, and common names, and number sequences (e.g., “1234”), and their bots work really fast. If your password is more simple than what I’ve outlined below, they can guess it.

Here’s a real disconcerting site, which I found by googling “crack gmail password.” There are others.

So, I’ve already posted this, but it’s well worth restating:
Please — as in, umm, now — please create a Good, Strong Password for your email and any other important online accounts.

A Good, Strong Password contains:

  • at least 10 characters of both letters and numbers
  • at least 1 capital letter, preferably in the middle
  • at least one non-alphanumeric character, preferably in the middle
  • no recognizable names or words.

Microsoft words their recommendations slightly differently, and offers one tip for creating a password. I like their suggestion of choosing a memorable phrase and building the password from there. I even think that choosing a full sentence with capitals and punctuation might be a good way to remember the password; a bunch of recognizable words would be safe-ish. I also like passwords that are easy to type, as long as they don’t contain keys in order, such as “fghj.” Here are some other tips.

I have met every different kind of personality when it comes to creating and remembering passwords. And believe me, I have every sympathy for people who feel they have more important things to do with their brains. Unfortunately, we have come to a time when, from here on out, you either keep your digital stuff locked tight, or you get your life messed with.

Keeping Track

The natural question that follows is, how do I keep up with all my passwords? Fortunately, your Mac has an excellent built-in device for this, called the keychain. Several software packages are also available for Macs and PCs. Check out my full write-up on the keychain and other options.

Do the It’s-Really-Me Two-Step

There is another method to lock your ID even tighter. It’s called “two-factor” or “two-step” authentication. Not every service offers it, and I won’t lie and say it ain’t for those who like to keep technology simple. But Google has rolled it out, even to their free accounts, and it is as smooth as I could expect something like this to be.

You dance the Google two-step like this: When you sign into a new computer — or every 30 days on your usual computers — besides accepting your password, Google sends you a text message with a code. You have to enter that code on the Google web site to continue.

Google two-step verification

Also, for all your other apps that access your account, such as an email or calendar program, Google will generate a single-use “application” password that you only have to enter once; it will get stored by your computer or phone, and if said device gets stolen, you can revoke permission.

“Gosh, this sounds like fun!” you’re saying. You can’t wait for us to come over and show you this awesome new computery thing. Just wait! There’s more…

Google offers a couple of backup verification methods in case you can’t get a text: You can receive a voicemail with the code, or your phone can run an app that generates a code for you, or you can carry a piece of paper with 10 “backup” codes on it. Really, I’m not kidding.

They also will do a retinal scan and test your DNA against a sample they keep in a cryo-vault… OK, that time I was kidding.

Enabling Two-Step Verification for your Google account is in your Account Settings. It’s a bit of a process, and I recommend reading carefully each step of the way.

Facebook also does this login two-step now, which is good because 750,000,000 accounts are a terrifically big honey pot, and we all know someone whose account got hacked. Go to the Account Security section in Account Settings, and make it look like this:

Facebook Account Security settings

Facebook should already know your cell number, and will text you a code to enter.

I dearly wish more services were doing the two-step. Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Apple iTunes — they should all get on this bandwagon. But the smart ones are at least starting to require Good, Strong Passwords.

Welcome to the Age of the Hack. Don’t shoot the messenger.