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Tired of “Sent from my iPhone” as Your Email Signature?

When you use Apple’s Mail app on your iPhone to send email, the default signature is “Sent from my iPhone.” If you’d rather not advertise that fact with every email, or would prefer to change it to something more personal, don’t bother poking around in the Mail app itself. Instead, go to Settings > Mail > Signature, where you can change the signature to anything you like or delete it entirely. If you have multiple email accounts configured, such as one for work and one for home, you can also set a different signature for each.

What OS Version Are You Running? Here’s How to Find Out.

In Troubleshooting 101, one of the first questions is always, “What version of the operating system are you running?” There’s a big difference between Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the solution to any particular problem will likely revolve around knowing what operating system is in play.

The same is true of Apple’s other operating systems: iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And, although they aren’t quite in the same category, Apple’s AirPods and HomePod both have system software that can be updated as well.

For the next time you’re experiencing a problem, here’s how to find the version of each of Apple’s operating systems.

macOS

On the Mac, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. A window opens, displaying the name (macOS High Sierra shown here) and version (10.13.4) of the running version of macOS.

Every now and then, it can be important to learn the build number too—it’s one step more specific than the version number. A new Mac may have a different build number of the same version of macOS, for instance, or Apple may push out a silent security update that changes the build number. To find the build number, simply click the version number—the six-character build number (17E202) appears in parentheses, as above.

iOS

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you find the version number in Settings > General > About. Scan down the screen until you see the Version line, which tells you both the version of iOS and the build number.

watchOS

There are two ways to find the version of watchOS running on an Apple Watch:

  • On the watch, open the Settings app, scroll down to and tap General, tap About, and then scroll down until you see Version.
  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and make sure My Watch is selected in the bottom button bar. Then go to General > About to see a screen that displays much the same information as the Settings app on the watch, including the version number.

tvOS

By now, you can probably guess that on an Apple TV you go to Settings > General > About to find the tvOS version. Apple is nicely consistent in this regard. That said, only the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K run tvOS. The obsolete second- and third-generation Apple TVs are instead based on a stripped-down version of iOS, and the first-generation Apple TV is an entirely different beast yet, with its large white case and internal hard drive.

AirPods

You’re unlikely to need to check the version of your AirPods, but if it ever comes up, make sure the AirPods are either connected to their host iOS device or in their case with the top open. Then, on the host iOS device, go to Settings > General > About > AirPods and look for the Firmware Version line.

HomePod

Although the HomePod shipped only recently, Apple has promised software updates that will allow two HomePods in a room to provide true stereo sound and support multi-room audio if you’ve sprinkled HomePods around your house. To check the version of the HomePod software, open Apple’s Home app, make sure Home is selected in the bottom toolbar, and then press and hold on the HomePod’s tile until it opens. Then tap the Details button in the lower right and scroll down until you see the Version line.


Social Media: Quick! Can you find the current operating system version for all your Apple devices? Learn how to carry out this essential troubleshooting task—it’s easy!

Teach Siri How to Pronounce Names Properly

Siri is supposed to be a competent voice assistant, but sometimes Siri can’t even pronounce your own name correctly! Luckily, it’s easy to fix Siri’s pronunciation for any name. Just say to Siri, “Learn how to pronounce Jill Kresock.” (Siri defaults to “krehsock” rather than the correct “kreesock” in this case.) Siri first asks you to say the person’s first name and then presents a list of options for the best pronunciation. Tap the play button next to each option to hear it, and tap Select for the one you like best. If none are good, tap Tell Siri Again and say the name again, perhaps changing your enunciation slightly. Once you’ve set up the first name, Siri will ask you to say the person’s last name, after which you can pick the best pronunciation for the last name.

Moment Helps You Gauge Your iPhone Use and Offers Parental Oversight Option

Smartphone addiction is real. Do you check your iPhone before you get out of bed? During family dinners? Right before you go to sleep? Constantly during the day even when you’re on vacation? If you—or your family members—feel that you’re disappearing into your phone too often or at inappropriate times, it may be time to do something about it.

To start, you might want to quantify the problem, and for that, you can turn to a free iPhone app called Moment. Written by developer Kevin Holesh, Moment is designed to track three key pieces of data:

  • How often you pick up your iPhone every day
  • How much time you spend on your iPhone
  • Which apps you use the most

It then uses that information to paint a picture (well, not literally) of your iPhone use. Most people underestimate how much time they spend on their iPhones by about 100% (the average Moment user uses their iPhone for nearly 4 hours per day!). Knowing how much time you spend is the first step toward using your phone intentionally, rather than as a conduit to a constant stream of social media updates (look at the stats shown below), email messages, and quick-hit entertainment.

To get started, use the App Store app to install Moment, and then launch the app. It starts tracking your usage immediately, although once per week you’ll need to take screenshots of Settings > Battery so Moment can figure out how long you use each app. Then ignore Moment for a few days so it can gather some data.

On the main Screen Time screen, Moment shows how much time you’ve spent on your phone today, along with a scrolling bar graph of how much time you spent every day since you installed Moment. Don’t get too hung up on these raw numbers, though, since Moment tracks every second the screen is on. You probably aren’t concerned about time spent reading an ebook or working out with an app that talks you through a routine.

To view both a breakdown by app and a timestamp for each time you picked up your iPhone, tap any day’s entry, and to see how much you use a particular app on average, tap it in the day view. You can answer a Yes/No question about whether you’re happy with how much you use the app, which informs the Time Well Spent aggregate data about which apps people are and are not concerned about.

All that is helpful, but for a more useful overview, tap Insights and then Week. You’ll see graphs of your usage patterns for screen time, waking life, pickups, most used app, and sleep (this depends on your first and last pickups of the day, so take its data with a grain of salt). Tap any graph to see more detail, but wait until you’ve used Moment for a while.

Everything we’ve described so far is free, but Moment offers additional features for a one-time $3.99 in-app purchase. They let you exclude certain apps from the app-use detection, if you don’t want to be dinged for using apps that are necessary or otherwise positive. You can receive quick reminders about your usage, and set daily time limits. There is even a 14-day Phone Bootcamp course that helps you rethink your relationship with your phone.

More interesting for parents is Moment Family, a subscription service ($26.99 for 6 months or $44.99 for 12 months) that allows you to monitor your entire family’s screen time with Moment, set phone-free dinner times, and enforce daily limits.

So if you’re perturbed by the amount of time you spend using your iPhone every day, give Moment a try. On its own, it won’t solve your problem but by showing you exactly how often you turn to your phone—and for what apps—it can help you regain control over your usage patterns. And if others in your family have trouble putting their iPhones down at dinner or to do homework, Moment Family could be the answer.


Social Media: Bothered by how much you find yourself using your iPhone for social media? Use the Moment app to quantify the problem. An added subscription can also help an entire family reduce excessive iPhone use.

Solving the Mystery of Missing Messages Notifications

A client got in touch recently with a maddening problem. When he received texts on his iPhone, Messages displayed notifications for messages from everyone…except his wife! Needless to say, this was a problem. Since notifications appeared correctly for other people, it wasn’t related to overall settings. It turned out that he—or someone else, or iOS gremlins—had inadvertently enabled the Hide Alerts switch for the Messages conversation with his wife. To fix it, all he had to do was display the conversation in Messages, tap the i button at the upper right, and disable Hide Alerts. (In the Mac version of Messages, click the Details button and look for the Do Not Disturb checkbox.) It’s a good feature designed to let you mute a chatty group conversation, but it can cause stress if applied to the wrong conversation accidentally.

Wondering Where Your Past Events in the iOS Calendar App Have Gone?

When it comes to calendars, we’re mostly concerned with the future. But sometimes you want to travel back in time too, to see when you had that doctor appointment or last went to the gym. If you scroll back in the Calendar app in iOS, you might discover, to your consternation, that after 2 weeks back, the only items in your calendar are old repeating events. What gives? Weirdly, since calendar events consume almost no storage space, iOS lets you select how far back to sync events from your master calendar. Choose a time period in Settings > Calendar > Sync, or to eliminate any possibility of confusion, just select All Events.

Need to Do Some Simple Math? Get Siri to Do It!

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re not in elementary school, but it’s still easy to end up with a bunch of numbers you need to calculate. Perhaps you’re trying to total receipts for an expense report, average your kid’s report card grades, or split a restaurant bill. Either way, instead of launching the Calculator app on your iPhone (it’s oddly missing from the iPad), get Siri to do the math for you. For each the above examples, try the following, making sure to speak the decimal point as “point” or “dot.” “What is 113.25 plus 67.29 plus 89.16?” “What is the average of 92 and 96 and 82 and 91?” “What is 235.79 divided by 6?” Siri always shows you the calculation, so you can verify that it heard you correctly, just in case you’re doing this in a loud restaurant.

Create and Name Reminders Lists to Use Them Via Siri

Do you create reminders with Siri on the iPhone? Those reminders are automatically added to your default list, which you set in Settings > Reminders > Default List. That’s great generally—“Hey Siri, remind me to update watchOS tonight at 11 PM”—but less good when you want to maintain different shopping lists. For instance, create a list called “Grocery,” and then you can tell Siri, “Put chocolate-covered bacon on my Grocery list.” Want to get fancy? Make a list called “Hardware,” and then tell Siri, “Add birdseed to my Hardware list, and remind me when I arrive at Home Depot.” You may have to pick the correct Home Depot location from a list, but then you’ll receive an alert reminding you to buy birdseed when you pull into the parking lot. To look at any list via Siri, just say something like “Show my Grocery list.”

Install Minor Operating System Updates to Maintain Herd Immunity

It seems like Apple releases updates to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS nearly every week these days. It has been only a few months since iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra launched, and we’ve already seen ten updates to iOS and seven updates to macOS. Some of these have been to fix bugs, which is great, but quite a few have been prompted by the need for Apple to address security vulnerabilities.

Have you installed all these updates, or have you been procrastinating, tapping that Later link on the iPhone and rejecting your Mac’s notifications? We’re not criticizing—all too often those prompts come at inconvenient times, although iOS has gotten better about installing during the night, as long as you plug in your iPhone or iPad.

We know, security is dull. Or rather, security is dull as long as it’s present. Things get exciting—and not in a good way—when serious vulnerabilities come to light. That’s what happened in November 2017, when it was reported that anyone could gain admin access to any Mac running High Sierra by typing root for the username and leaving the password field blank. That one was so bad that Apple pushed Security Update 2017-001 to every affected Mac and rolled the fix into macOS 10.13.2.

Part of the problem with security vulnerabilities is that they can be astonishingly complex. You may have heard about the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities discovered in January 2018. They affect nearly all modern computers, regardless of operating system, because they take advantage of a design flaw in the microprocessors. Unfortunately, the bad guys—organized crime, government intelligence agencies, and the like—have the resources to understand and exploit these flaws.

But here’s the thing. Security is an arms race, with attackers trying to take advantage of vulnerabilities and operating system companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google proactively working to block them with updates. If enough people install those updates quickly enough, the attackers will move on to the next vulnerability.

The moral of the story? Always install those minor updates. It’s not so much because you will definitely be targeted if you fail to stay up to date, but because if the Apple community as a whole ceases to be vigilant about upgrading, the dark forces on the Internet will start to see macOS and iOS as low-hanging fruit. As long as most people update relatively quickly, it’s not worthwhile for attackers to put a lot of resources into messing with Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

That said, before you install those updates, make sure to update your backups. It’s unusual for anything significant to go wrong during this sort of system upgrade, but having a fresh backup ensures that if anything does go amiss, you can easily get back to where you were before.