Name That Tune with Siri or Control Center

Don’t you hate it when a familiar song is playing but you can’t think of what it’s called? Or worse, when you hear a new track you really like but have no one to ask what it is? Never worry about that again, thanks to your iPhone or iPad. Back in 2018, Apple bought the music identification app Shazam and has since integrated it into iOS. You can still use Shazam, but it’s easier to ask Siri, “What’s playing?” or tap the Music Recognition button in Control Center (add it in Settings > Control Center) and then let your iPhone listen to the music for a few seconds. Siri is easiest, but the Control Center button is perfect in situations where you’d prefer to keep your question quiet. The music recognition feature recognizes only recorded music—no high school glee club versions, sorry—and while not perfect, is often helpful. Tap the notification that appears to open the song in Apple Music.

(Featured image by Laura Balbarde from Pexels)

Two Important Tips for External Storage Devices

It’s tempting to think that most external storage devices—whether simple hard drives or more complicated network-attached storage (NAS) units—are relatively similar because they all do roughly the same thing. However, a recent problem with older Western Digital My Book Live NAS devices highlighted that there can be large differences. In that case, hackers figured out how to cause a factory reset that wiped the entire drive of all files. (If you have one, note that Western Digital recommends disconnecting it from the Internet immediately.) Two tips: Although no one could have anticipated this particular problem, ask us before buying external storage because we may be able to recommend known good products or warn you away from sketchy manufacturers. Also, if you store unique data on an external drive, you must back up that drive just like your Mac’s internal drive or risk losing everything, like these My Book Live owners did. Backup, backup, backup!

(Featured image by Western Digital)

Live in the Future by Using Apple Pay on Your Apple Watch

With mask wearing over the past year rendering Face ID ineffective at cash registers, we’ve become fond of using the Apple Watch for contactless payments with Apple Pay. We recommend it highly since it’s so fast and convenient. Once you’ve set up a credit card in the Wallet app on your iPhone, switch to the Watch app, go to My Watch > Wallet & Apple Pay, and tap the Add button next to the desired card. From then on, to pay for a purchase, double-click the Apple Watch’s side button and put it very close to the reader. (We generally turn our arms so we can put the Apple Watch face flat on the reader.) It takes just seconds and tends to wow cashiers who haven’t seen it before.

(Featured image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

Disable Unused Sharing Options on Your Mac If You’re Not Using Them

Many security breaches—even high-profile ones—stem from simple oversight. There’s one spot in macOS that has long been particularly susceptible to such lapse: the Sharing pane of System Preferences. In it, you can enable a wide variety of sharing services, some of which could allow another user to access your Mac remotely. They all let you limit access to particular users, but passwords can be stolen, accounts can be compromised, and server software can have bugs. For safety’s sake, if you’re not actively using a sharing service, turn it off. The most important ones to disable when not in use are Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login, Remote Management, and Remote Apple Events. We also caution against leaving Printer Sharing and Internet Sharing on unnecessarily.

(Featured image by Morgane Perraud on Unsplash)

Reopening Your Office? Now’s a Great Time to Evaluate Your IT Infrastructure

As vaccination rates climb, many businesses are starting to think about reopening their offices and bringing back employees who have been working from home for the last year. That’s a big decision that will undoubtedly vary from company to company, but we’d like to suggest a few things to consider. Please contact us early in such deliberations so we can provide guidance before problems crop up.

Full Return or Hybrid Model?

Perhaps the biggest question firms will have to answer is if they’ll require all employees to return or if some can continue to work remotely. Many organizations have discovered that physical presence isn’t as important as they thought it was. In a post-pandemic world, many employees may prefer to continue working from home if they can, at least for a while.

If you decide on a hybrid model, you’ll want to put some thought into what technology you’ll need to enable hybrid meetings, with some people connecting remotely via videoconferencing software and others gathering in person. Large screens, specially mounted cameras, and dedicated speakerphone hardware may be necessary to conduct a hybrid meeting effectively.

With some workers remaining at home, it will also be important to ensure that everyone has appropriate access to on-premises servers. Obviously, that has been a problem for the last year as well, but it may be tempting to revert to old approaches upon reopening an office. That may not be effective in a new hybrid workplace, so check with us on cloud-based alternatives that could work better in the new world order.

Consider Your Physical Space

Particularly if you do decide on a hybrid model, it’s worth evaluating whether you need the same amount and type of space as you did before. There’s no single answer here. You don’t want to downsize your physical space only to discover in a few months that some of those employees who swore that they never wanted to come back feel that they’re missing out. Simultaneously, if your offices are a warren of small, poorly ventilated rooms, employees may be even more hesitant about returning.

Plus, your physical space is inherently related to your IT infrastructure, so don’t ignore the costs surrounding an office move. A new space might require pulling new Ethernet cables, testing Wi-Fi signal strength to ensure sufficient coverage, evaluating the cleanliness of the electrical power, and more.

We don’t mean to dissuade you from moving offices if that’s what makes the most sense for the future of your company, but talk to us before signing any new leases so we can help identify and head off any technical problems with the physical plant.

Finally, this isn’t related to IT, but if your existing office space has been entirely vacant for the last year, it’s worth reading the information that the Centers for Disease Control puts out to help employers create safe and healthy workplaces. Buildings don’t do well with prolonged shutdowns.

Does Network Infrastructure Need Updating?

Before you bring employees back, at least en masse, it’s also worth touching base with us about your IT infrastructure. If you’ve been limping along with sketchy Ethernet cabling, or if you have dirty power that could be damaging your Macs and peripherals, it’s a great time to consider addressing such problems. Pre-pandemic, attempting to install new electrical circuits or pull new network cabling might have been too disruptive, but with an office that’s empty or nearly so, such work can be done more quickly and cheaply.

Similarly, this could be a good time to replace aging computers, printers, or even phone systems. Such infrastructure upgrades and transitions can cause interruptions in normal times, but if you’re bringing people back, wouldn’t it be nice to have the office provide a better IT experience than it did before?

(Featured image by Shuki Harel from Pexels)


Social Media: If you’re having discussions about when and how to reopen your organization’s office, it’s worth thinking—and talking to us—about the role your IT infrastructure plays in such discussions. Learn more at:

The Ten Upcoming Mac/iPhone/iPad Features We Think You’ll Most Like

At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 7th, Apple shared details about what we can expect to see later this year in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and HomePod Software 15. It was a firehose of announcements, but one thing became clear: Apple wants to spread its technologies across its entire ecosystem of devices. Although each platform—Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod—retains its unique qualities, nearly every feature that the company announced works across as many platforms as make sense.

Before we get into the ten features that we think you’ll most like when everything ships in September or October, we should note that Apple was surprisingly silent on one topic: future Apple silicon chips. Many observers had expected Apple to announce an M1X or M2 chip that would power professional laptop and desktop Macs. We’ll have to satisfy ourselves with the impressive performance of the M1-based Macs we have now and wait a little longer for whatever comes next.

On to the hot new features!

Account Recovery and Legacy Contacts Simplify Recovering Account Data

It’s all too common that people forget their Apple ID passwords and can’t access their accounts. Apple hopes to make that a little less stressful with Account Recovery Contacts. Specify someone as your Account Recovery Contact, and they’ll be able to help you reset your password and regain access to your account, with no need to call us or Apple for assistance.

Also welcome will be the addition of Legacy Contacts. Once this feature is available, everyone should make sure they have appropriate family members or friends set as Legacy Contacts. Then, in the event of your untimely death, your Legacy Contacts can access your account and personal information. Using Legacy Contacts will be far easier than having to provide the legal paperwork to Apple to request access to a deceased family member’s accounts.

FaceTime Gains Features That Make It Competitive with Zoom

During the last year, we’ve all spent vastly more time in videoconferencing apps for work, school, and socializing. Alas, Apple’s FaceTime has been a weak entry in that market. With the features Apple is now promising, however, it should compete well with the likes of Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet. FaceTime will finally get a standard grid view, blur your backgrounds with Portrait mode, and offer two microphone modes: Voice Isolation to cut down on background noise (for standard meetings) and Wide Spectrum to leave ambient sound unfiltered (for performances, say). FaceTime will even be able to alert you when you’re talking but muted.

More important yet is the fact that you’ll finally be able to invite Windows and Android users to FaceTime calls using standard Web links. Non-Apple users will have to use a Chrome-based browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Brave. Plus, when you create an event in Calendar, you’ll be able to make a Web link for the call that you can share. And when it’s time for the call, a Join button makes it easy to get in.

Universal Control Lets Macs and iPads Share a Keyboard and Pointing Device

With Sidecar in macOS 10.15 Catalina and iOS 13, Apple made it so you could use an iPad as a secondary screen for a Mac. In macOS 12 Monterey and iPadOS 15, Apple is taking that concept further. With Universal Control, if you merely set a Mac and an iPad next to each other, you’ll be able to use the Mac’s keyboard and mouse or trackpad to work between the two devices (in fact, Universal Control supports up to three). No setup is required—just move your pointer to the edge of the Mac screen and push it “through” the edge to move it to the iPad screen. You can even drag and drop content between devices.

Live Text Lets You Work with Text in Images

Have you ever taken a photo of something just to capture a phone number or address? We have, for sure. Apple’s new Live Text feature treats text in images just like text you type, so you can use functions like copy and paste, lookup, and translate. Live Text will work in Photos, of course, but also in Quick Look, Safari, and Screenshot, and in live Camera previews on the iPhone. It’s an impressive use of image recognition technologies.

Along the same lines, in Photos, you’ll also be able to use the information button on any photo to highlight recognized objects and scenes and get additional information about them. Apple says you’ll be able to learn more about popular art and landmarks, plants and flowers, books, and pet breeds.

Siri Gets Faster, More Reliable, More Private, and More Useful

Thanks to the ever-increasing power of the Neural Engine in Apple devices, Apple says it will bring all processing of Siri requests onto your device. That may not sound like a big deal, but it means that Siri should work faster, more reliably, and more privately. It will be faster because there’s no need to send speech to and from Apple’s servers for processing. It will make Siri work more reliably when your iPhone doesn’t have strong cell service and enable offline support for many types of requests. And Apple won’t know what you’re saying at all.

Other Siri improvements will include the capability to announce reminders when you’re wearing AirPods, improved conversation context so you can refer to what you just asked, and support for controlling HomeKit devices at specific times. HomeKit developers will even be able to add Siri support to their products through a HomePod.

Improved Multitasking Controls Come to the iPad

The big problem with Apple’s multitasking options on the iPad has been remembering how to use them. With iPadOS 15, Apple hopes to solve that with a new menu that will appear at the top of apps, with buttons for entering full screen, Split View, or Slide Over.

Apple also added a new multiwindow shelf that appears at the bottom of the screen at launch and provides a Dock-like view of all the open windows in that app. If you ignore it, it fades away quickly, but it should help you remember which windows you have open and access them quickly.

The iPad Finally Gets the App Library and Home Screen Widgets

Last year, in iOS 14, Apple introduced the App Library and Home Screen widgets. The App Library holds all your apps so you can declutter your life by removing them from the Home Screen. And Home Screen widgets let you add app-specific widgets that provide at-a-glance information. Sadly, iPadOS 14 didn’t include those features.

iPadOS 15 rectifies that oversight, adding both the App Library and Home Screen widgets, complete with some larger widget sizes for the larger iPad screen. They’ll work just like on the iPhone. It’s about time!

Locate Lost AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with Find My Network Support

As it stands now, you can theoretically find AirPods using the Find My app. However, it shows only the last position of the AirPods at a general level, and you have to get within range of them to play a sound. In the future, however, the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will support the Find My network, so other people’s devices can report their location generally, and once you get within Bluetooth range, you can play a sound to locate them.

Hopefully, that will happen less often thanks to new separation alerts that, when enabled, will alert you when you leave an Apple device, AirTag, or Find My-compatible item behind.

Private Relay Protects Safari Traffic for iCloud+ Subscribers

Apple has been adding lots of privacy-protecting features over the past few years, but Private Relay goes even further to ensure that even your ISP can’t track where you go on the Web and sell that data to advertisers. Private Relay encrypts your Safari traffic and passes it through two Internet relays. No one—not even Apple—can then use your IP address, location, and browsing activity to create a detailed profile of you. Everyone who pays for extra iCloud storage will transition to the new iCloud+ for the same cost and will get Private Relay for no additional fee.

While we’re talking about iCloud, Apple also says that you’ll be able to get custom domain names for iCloud Mail addresses and invite family members to use the same domain with their iCloud Mail accounts.

Use AirPlay to Send Audio or Video to Your Mac

Many people have discovered how neat it is to use AirPlay to display photos or videos from an iPhone or iPad on a TV attached to an Apple TV. Macs could also broadcast their displays to an Apple TV. But what you couldn’t do is use AirPlay to send audio or video from another Apple device to a Mac. With macOS 12 Monterey, that will become possible, enabling you to use a Mac’s large screen to play a video, share a Keynote presentation, and more.

Apple’s upcoming operating system releases boast many other new features, and we plan to explore more of them once everything ships in a few months. We’ll let you know when it’s time to update!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, Apple announced a boatload of new features that we’ll see in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 later this year. Here are the ten features we think you’ll most like:

Pin Your Chats in Messages for Faster Access

A new feature of Messages in both iOS 14 and macOS 11 Big Sur is the option to pin up to nine conversations at the top of the conversation list for easy access. No longer do you have to worry about them scrolling out of sight. On an iPhone or iPad, touch and hold a conversation and tap Pin in the menu that appears; on a Mac, Control-click the conversation and choose Pin. (Remove them by repeating the action and choosing Unpin.) Each of your devices can have different conversations pinned. If you are used to scanning the left side of Messages for blue new-message indicators, also be sure to look for those blue dots amongst your pinned icons at the top of the screen. Also, note that on the Mac, it can be a little too easy to see a notification banner about a new message, switch to Messages, and type in the currently selected (but wrong) conversation.

(Featured image by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels)

Two Tricks for Fixing a Mac That’s Restarting Unexpectedly

Although extremely uncommon, it’s not unheard of for a Mac, particularly an older model, to restart unexpectedly. If it happens once, chalk it up to cosmic rays and move on. But if it happens multiple times, try these two things right off. First, use compressed air to remove dust from cooling vents or the inside of the Mac, if you can open it up. Dust can cause heat buildup, which can in turn cause restarts. Second, try plugging the Mac into a different electric circuit or, ideally, into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Dirty power can provoke all sorts of undesirable behavior—including unexpected restarts—and shorten the lifespan of the Mac’s electronic components. Remember, clean air and clean power make for a happy Mac.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Looking for More iOS 14 Widgets? Be Sure to Launch Seldom-Used Apps

Home screen widgets are one of the coolest features of iOS 14. They enable apps to offer quick access to features or at-a-glance previews of changing information, such as the Weather app’s widget providing a quick look at upcoming weather. What you may not realize, however, is that an app’s widgets become available for adding to your Home screen only if you have launched the app since upgrading to iOS 14. (To see the list, press and hold on an empty part of the Home screen and then tap the + button in a top corner.) For instance, if you haven’t traveled since the pandemic started, you might not realize that the Kayak app has a handy price alert widget. Just launch the app once, and you’ll see its widgets the next time you look through the complete widget list.

(Featured image by Omid Armin on Unsplash)

Share Your Apple Card with People in Your Family Sharing Group

Apple did a good job rethinking some aspects of credit card use with the Apple Card, but one omission was the inability to share it with other family members. With the new Apple Card Family, once everyone has upgraded to iOS 14.6, you can add members of your Family Sharing group to your Apple Card account as either Co-Owners or Participants. Co-Owners can merge their credit lines, manage the account together, and build credit as equals. You can also invite children over 13 and young adults as Participants. For their accounts, you can set spending limits and receive real-time notifications. Participants over 18 can build their own credit, something that can be difficult for young people. To get started, go to the Wallet app on your iPhone, open the Apple Card, tap the ••• button, tap Share My Card, follow any prompts, for the person you want to share with, and select either Co-Owner or Participant.

(Featured image by Apple)