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Have Your Online Passwords Been Stolen? Here’s How to Find Out.

Data breaches have become commonplace, with online thieves constantly breaking into corporate and government servers and making off with millions—or even hundreds of millions!—of email addresses, often along with other personal information like names, physical address, and passwords.

It would be nice to think that all companies properly encrypt their password databases, but the sad reality is that many have poor data security practices. As a result, passwords gathered in a breach are often easily cracked, enabling the bad guys to log in to your accounts. That may not seem like a big deal—who cares if someone reads the local newspaper under your name? But since many people reuse passwords across multiple sites, once one password associated with an email address is known, attackers use automated software to test that combination against many other sites.

This is why we keep beating the drum for password managers like 1Password and LastPass. They make it easy to create and enter a different random password for every Web site, which protects you in two ways.

  • Because password managers can create passwords of any length, you don’t have to rely on short passwords that you can remember and type easily. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. A password of 16–20 characters is generally considered safe; never use anything shorter than 13 characters.
  • Even if one of your passwords was compromised, having a different password for every site ensures that the attackers can’t break into any of your other accounts.

But password security hasn’t always been a big deal on the Internet, and many people reused passwords regularly in the past. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if any of your information was included in a data breach, so you’d know which passwords to change?

A free service called Have I Been Pwned does just this (“pwned” is hacker-speak for “owned” or “dominated by”—it rhymes with “owned”). Run by Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned gathers the email addresses associated with data breaches and lets you search to see if your address was stolen in any of the archived data breaches. Even better, you can subscribe to have the service notify you if your address shows up in any future breaches.

Needless to say, you’ll want to change your password on any site that has suffered a data breach, and if you reused that password on any other sites, give them new, unique passwords as well. That may seem like a daunting task, and we won’t pretend that it isn’t a fair amount of work, but both 1Password and LastPass offer features to help.

In 1Password, look in the sidebar for Watchtower, which provides several lists, including accounts where the password may have been compromised in a known breach, passwords that are known to have been compromised, passwords that you reused across sites, and weak passwords.

LastPass provide essentially the same information through its Security Challenge and rates your overall security in comparison with other LastPass users. It suggests a series of steps for improving your passwords; the only problem is that you need to restart the Security Challenge if you don’t have time to fix all the passwords at once.

Regardless of which password manager you use, take some time to check for and update compromised, vulnerable, and weak passwords. Start with more important sites, and, as time permits, move on to accounts that don’t contain confidential information.


Social Media: Have any of your online passwords been stolen in a breach? The answer is probably “yes,” and today’s article helps you discover and correct your most problematic passwords.

Sneak Preview of What’s Coming from Apple This Fall

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 4th, the company unveiled the first developer versions of all four of its operating systems: macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12. They won’t be available until this fall, likely in September or October, but here is a glimpse of what you can expect.

macOS 10.14 Mojave Adds Dark Mode, Enhances the Finder, and Gains Four iOS Apps

With the update to macOS, which Apple is calling “Mojave” after the southern California desert, the company is beefing up the Finder, adding visual enhancements, and bringing some familiar iOS apps to the Mac. Apple is dropping support for some older Macs, so you’ll need a Mac introduced since 2012 to run Mojave.

Productivity mavens with messy Desktops will appreciate a new Finder feature, which, when turned on, automatically gathers all the files on the Desktop into “stacks,” sorting them by file type, date, tag, or other criteria. Click a stack to expand it, much like a Dock stack today.

Apple has replaced Cover Flow view, which combined a large preview area and a file list, with the new Gallery view. Aimed at helping you browse in a folder of images, Gallery view displays a large preview of the selected file above a row of thumbnails for other items in the folder. A right-hand sidebar in Gallery view shows more information about the current file and lets you edit or mark up the file with Quick Actions (which you can create with Automator) without opening the file in an app. Press Space bar to preview a file with Quick Look, and you can apply appropriate Quick Actions to the file as well, all from the Finder.

If you find the white backgrounds in the Mac’s windows too bright, you’ll like Mojave’s new Dark Mode (shown above), which intelligently reverses things to display white text in a largely black interface. Additional eye candy comes from Dynamic Desktops, which change the appearance of new Apple-provided Desktop backgrounds based on the time of day.

For those who take a lot of screenshots, Apple has given the Mac’s long-standing screenshot capabilities a visible interface that simplifies taking still screenshots or recording a movie of your actions. Plus, you can preview, edit, share, or delete a screenshot or movie immediately after creating it.

A new feature called Continuity Camera lets you use your iPhone’s camera in Mac apps, either taking a photo directly into a Mac app or scanning a document as a PDF.

Lastly, although Apple was emphatic that it won’t be replacing macOS with iOS, or merging the two, the company is working to make it easier for developers to create apps that work on both platforms. Independent developers won’t be able to do that until 2019, but Apple is testing the waters by bringing four familiar apps from iOS to the Mac: News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home. They look and work very much like their iPad counterparts, but rely on the mouse or trackpad, and use normal Mac interface elements like resizable windows.

iOS 12 Improves Performance, Provides Time Management Tools, and More

In the WWDC keynote, Apple emphasized that one of its main goals for iOS 12 is to improve performance, especially for older devices. Unlike Mojave, iOS 12 will support all the same devices as iOS 11, so those with an iPhone 5s or original iPad Air may benefit the most from this effort.

To address increasing concerns about how much we—and our kids—are using smartphones, Apple has made some important changes. Perhaps most important is the new Screen Time feature, which shows how often you use your iOS devices and how much time you spend in different apps. It also lets you set daily time limits for specific apps, so you can make sure you don’t spend too much time in Facebook, for instance. Even better, you can set such limits for your children’s devices via Family Sharing.

Do Not Disturb has become a more appealing feature, because you don’t need to worry about accidentally leaving it on for too long—it can now be set to turn off automatically after some time or when you leave a location, such as at the end of a class or when you leave your doctor’s office. (This feature also comes to the Apple Watch with watchOS 5.) Also new is Do Not Disturb During Bedtime, which ensures you won’t see enticing notifications on the Lock screen if you check the time on your iPhone in the middle of the night.

Getting too many notifications? Notification grouping gathers all the notifications from each app together on the Lock screen so it doesn’t fill up, but you can see them all at once when you’re ready. Plus, a new feature called Instant Tuning helps you reduce the number of notifications you see, right from the Lock screen.

If you’ve always wanted to automate repetitive actions in iOS, you’ll love the new Siri Shortcuts feature. You can use it to string together actions in different apps—send a message to your spouse that you’re leaving work, show the traffic conditions on your commute home, and start playing a podcast app—and then invoke them all via Siri with a custom phrase.

Other interesting changes in iOS 12 include these:

  • Apple has renovated the interfaces of several bundled apps, including iBooks (now called Apple Books), News, Stocks, and Voice Memos (which can now sync recordings with the Mac).
  • FaceTime is no longer limited to one-on-one conversations and can now include up to 32 people in a single FaceTime conversation. The Mac version of FaceTime gains this capability too.
  • Photos boasts improved searching, can unearth photos from your library in a new For You tab, and prompts you to share photos with friends who it recognizes in your photos.
  • Apple is working with colleges and universities to add Wallet support for contactless student ID cards so students can use an iPhone (or Apple Watch) for unlocking doors, paying for meals, and more.
  • CarPlay allows apps from non-Apple developers to take over the car’s screen so that you can use alternative mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze in a CarPlay-enabled car.

watchOS 5 Improves Workouts, and Adds Walkie-Talkie and Podcasts Apps

Apple has realized that the Apple Watch is popular primarily for fitness and communication, so the company focused on those areas for watchOS 5. Alas, watchOS 5 isn’t available on the original Apple Watch.

On the fitness side, the Apple Watch can now start many workout types automatically when it detects that you’re exercising, and end a workout automatically when it sees that you’ve stopped. It even provides retroactive credit for what you did before the workout was detected. Apple has added new Yoga and Hiking workouts, each with their own metrics, and the running and walking workouts now measure cadence (steps per minute).

For those running outside, the Workout app can also display the rolling mile pace—the pace for the last mile—and can sound an alarm if you’re going slower or faster than a specified pace. And for those who do better with social motivation, watchOS 5 provides 7-day activity competitions.

In terms of communication, watchOS 5’s marquee feature is the new Walkie-Talkie app. Once you and a friend have set it up, you can tap a big yellow button to talk to your friend—and they can reply—just as though you were using old-school walkie-talkies. It works over both Wi-Fi and cellular.

Apple is bringing the Podcasts app to watchOS 5, so you’ll be able to listen to podcasts from your wrist, assuming you have AirPods or a Bluetooth headset. Plus, watchOS 5 makes it possible for other audio apps to store audio on the watch, so it should get easier to listen to audiobooks and the like even when you don’t have your iPhone with you.

Other welcome changes in watchOS 5 include:

  • The Siri watch face has new options, including sports scores, heart-rate readings after workouts, and commuting times from Maps. Independent apps will also be able to contribute bits of data to appear in the Siri face.
  • Notifications can be interactive, so you could tap on your wrist to check in for a flight, confirm a restaurant reservation, or extend parking time. As with iOS 12, multiple notifications from the same app will be grouped.
  • Web links in Messages or email can be previewed on the Apple Watch.
  • When you raise your wrist to talk to Siri, you no longer have to say “Hey, Siri.

tvOS 12 Gains Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-on, and a New Aerial Screensaver

Although the Apple TV often receives less attention than Apple’s other platforms, it still gains new capabilities with tvOS 12. Most notable among these is support—on the Apple TV 4K only—for Dolby Atmos audio, which makes audio sound more realistic by going beyond the simple right and left channels to provide 3D sound. You’ll need an Atmos-capable soundbar too, along with Atmos-compliant video content, but Apple will automatically upgrade anything you’ve bought from the iTunes Store to the Atmos version once it’s out.

Two other new features work on both the Apple TV 4K and the fourth-generation Apple TV but require support from both apps and TV providers: Zero Sign-on and Cloud DVR. Zero Sign-on figures out your Internet provider, and if it’s the same as your TV service, automatically detects apps that need authentication and logs you in to them. It will work only with Charter Spectrum at launch, but Apple is negotiating with more providers. Similarly, the new Cloud DVR feature lets you watch TV you’ve recorded via the Apple TV, if your TV provider supports it. In the U.S., that again means Charter Spectrum to start.

Apple put some work into the Apple TV’s gorgeous aerial screensaver, introducing a new view from space using imagery taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. Also, you can tap the Siri Remote touchpad while a screensaver is showing to see where it was taken.

Finally, in conjunction with iOS 12, tvOS can autofill passwords saved on your iOS devices so you don’t have to type them on the awkward onscreen keyboard. And if iOS 12 detects an Apple TV, it automatically adds an Apple TV Remote button to Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. (You can do that now, but you have to add the button manually in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.)

Getting Ready for These OS Releases

Apple usually makes new versions of its operating systems available in September or October, in conjunction with new iPhones. That doesn’t mean you should upgrade immediately, and we always recommend that you hold off on upgrades until Apple had had a chance to address the inevitable bugs that come with the initial release of any major upgrade. So sit tight, and we’ll tell you more when the time is right.

That said, if these features sound enticing and you have a pre-2012 Mac, an iPhone 5 or earlier, an iPad that predates the iPad Air, or an original Apple Watch, some new hardware may be in your future.


Social Media: Apple has unveiled the next versions of its operating systems: macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12. Read on for the highlights of what you can look forward to this fall!

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!

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.

iOS 11.3 Introduces New Battery Health Feature, Business Chat, and More

At the end of March, Apple released updates to all four of its operating systems, but iOS 11.3 was the most notable. It boasts a variety of new features and other changes—you can think of it as the midpoint update between iOS 11’s first release and iOS 12, probably coming next September. All remaining updates to iOS 11 are likely to be minor maintenance updates. Here’s what’s new.

iPhone Battery Health

The most anticipated change is the Battery Health feature that Apple promised to add in the wake of revelations that the company was quietly reducing the performance of older iPhone models (starting with the iPhone 6) to lessen the chance of unexpected shutdowns with weak batteries. You find the new Battery Health screen in Settings > Battery > Battery Health, and Apple explains it in detail here.

If your iPhone battery is aging, you may see a lower maximum capacity, and if your iPhone has shut down because of a weak battery, the screen will tell you that performance management has been applied. You can disable performance management, if you prefer the iPhone shutting down to degraded performance, but it will turn on again the next time your iPhone shuts down. Finally, if your battery is bad enough, the screen will recommend replacement.

Also note that iPads running iOS 11.3 can better maintain battery health when they’re plugged into power for long periods of time. Be sure to upgrade if you have an iPad that stays plugged in all the time.

Business Chat

New in both iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra is Business Chat, an Apple service that lets you chat with participating companies directly within Messages. If you look up one of these companies in Maps, Safari, or Search/Spotlight and see a Messages button, just use it to start a conversation. Only you can start conversations, and Business Chat can be a fast way to ask questions, get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases using Apple Pay.

Apple’s launch partners are 1-800-Flowers, Ameritrade, Discover, Hilton, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, Newegg, and Wells Fargo, although not all of them seemed to be active out of the gate. And, of course, you can use Business Chat with Apple itself.

Health Records

Most people won’t be able to take advantage of iOS 11.3’s next new feature—medical records in the Health app—right away, but we have high hopes for it. Apple has partnered with over 40 healthcare systems to bring your medical records into the Health app, centralizing them and making them easier for both you and healthcare professionals to access. The records include lab results, medications, conditions, and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode so it remains private.

Data & Privacy

We haven’t yet seen this, but Apple says that iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.4) will display a new privacy icon whenever Apple asks for access to personal information, as it might do to “enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.” The icon should be accompanied by detailed privacy information explaining the situation. In an era when every company seems hell-bent on collecting and exploiting our personal data, it’s nice to see Apple increasing the transparency of its data collection practices.

Safari

iOS 11.3 tweaks Safari in several small ways that make it easier to use and more secure:

  • Autofill now inserts usernames and passwords only after you select them on Web pages.
  • Autofill now works in Web views within other iOS apps.
  • Safari warns you when you interact with password or credit card forms on non-encrypted pages.
  • Safari now formats shared articles sent via Mail as though they were in Reader mode.
  • Favorites folders now show icons for the contained bookmarks.

Other Improvements

Apple made lots of other minor improvements in iOS 11.3. You can see a full list in the release notes, but those that we find most noteworthy include:

  • iPhone X users get access to four new animoji: a lion, dragon, skull, and bear.
  • iOS 11.3 adds support for the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) standard, which provides more accurate location data to emergency responders when Emergency SOS is triggered.
  • Podcasts now plays episodes with a single tap, and you can tap Details to learn more about episodes.
  • Apple Music now streams music videos uninterrupted by ads.
  • Apple News has improved its Top Stories feature and includes a new Video group in the For You collection.

iOS 11.3’s improvements may not change the way you use your iPhone or iPad, but they’re welcome nonetheless, and Business Chat and Health Records should become more interesting as additional institutions sign on. And, of course, anyone with an older iPhone should check the Battery Health screen right away.


 

Apple Introduces New iPad with Apple Pencil Support, Updates iWork

At a special education event on March 27th, Apple introduced a new 9.7-inch iPad that offers faster performance, support for the Apple Pencil, and a few new camera-related features. The company also released new versions of the iWork apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—that let users draw, sketch, and write with the Apple Pencil.

Sixth-generation iPad

For the most part, the new sixth-generation iPad is the same as the fifth-generation model it replaces. Its physical dimensions are unchanged, so existing cases and accessories should continue to work. It comes in the same three colors: silver, gold, and space gray. Even the pricing and options remain the same, with a 32 GB model starting at $329—the jump to 128 GB adds $100, and cellular capabilities add $130.

What sets the sixth-generation iPad apart from its predecessor is its support for the Apple Pencil stylus, which was previously restricted to the iPad Pro line, which started at $649. Thanks to a high-resolution touch sensor in the iPad’s Retina screen and palm-rejection technology, you can now use the $99 Apple Pencil in compatible apps. As with the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil is sensitive to pressure and tilt so you can vary line weight and shading, much as with a traditional pencil.

Also new in the sixth-generation iPad is Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, with its embedded M10 coprocessor. The company claims that the new processors provide up to 40-percent faster CPU and 50-percent faster graphics performance.

The extra performance may also be related to the iPad’s new camera capabilities. Unlike the previous iPad, the sixth-generation iPad can take Live Photos and supports body detection in images along with the previously supported face detection. Also new is support for the Retina Flash feature that turns the screen into a giant flash when taking selfies.

iWork with Apple Pencil Support

If you haven’t been using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on the iPad, the latest updates may encourage you to try Apple’s iWork apps—remember, they’re available for free in the App Store. Notably, the three apps allow you to draw, sketch, and write directly within documents. Even more interesting, though, is Apple’s Smart Annotations feature, currently in beta. With it, your comments and proofing marks anchor dynamically to text, and stay with the text they were attached to even as the document changes.

Smart Annotations are particularly welcome for those who take advantage of the real-time collaboration features built into the iWork apps. This was an education event, and it’s clear that Apple is building tools that will allow teachers to mark up and comment on student documents. But the same capabilities are equally as useful in the business world. For business users, Apple also announced that the real-time collaboration features in the iWork apps now work on documents stored in the Box file sharing service. Previously they were available only for documents stored in iCloud, which has little adoption in the enterprise.

Finally, the iPad version of Pages gains features that help users create ebooks in EPUB format. And Apple added a new Presenter mode to Pages, which lets you turn your iPhone or iPad into a teleprompter for distraction-free reading.

In the end, if you’re interested in using the Apple Pencil, the combination of the sixth-generation iPad and the updated iWork apps will let you do more for over $300 less than before.


 

10 Things You Need to Know about Apple’s New HomePod Speaker

After months of anticipation, Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker finally shipped in mid-February. Reviews of its audio quality have been positive, and for the most part, it works both as advertised and as you’d expect. However, there were some surprises, most good but some bad. Whether you have a HomePod on your credenza (which may be a bad spot for it!) or you’re still deciding if you want to buy one, here are ten things you should know:

  1. Furniture rings. Let’s get this one out of the way. The HomePod can leave rings on oil-finished wood furniture because the silicone base can react with certain wooden surfaces. That has to be embarrassing for a company that prides itself on materials expertise like Apple. The solution is easy—just put something under it.
  2. Single user. Anyone in the room can give Siri commands, but when it comes to account-based connections, the HomePod is a single-user device. So if you set it up, which is astonishingly easy, it will connect to your Apple Music account, your iMessage account, your iCloud account for Reminders, and so on. That’s fine for you, but your family members won’t be able to access their Apple Music playlists, for instance.
  3. Speakerphone. The HomePod may be the best speakerphone you’ve ever used. Alas, you can’t initiate a call on it, but once you start one on your iPhone, you can transfer the call by tapping the new Audio button that replaced the Speaker button in iOS 11.2.5 and selecting the HomePod.

  4. Apple Music. The HomePod can act as an AirPlay speaker, and can thus play audio from your other Apple devices. But when you control it via Siri, the music must come from Apple Music, your iTunes Store purchases, or be matched in your iCloud Music Library. To send Mac audio from apps other than iTunes to the HomePod, get Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil.
  5. Audio power. It may be small, but the HomePod has plenty of power. At 6 feet, we measured the sound output at 100% volume at 80 decibels, which is louder than is comfortable.
  6. Volume control. Speaking of volume, you control it by percentages, as in “Hey Siri, set the volume to 15 percent.” You can also tap the + and – buttons on the top of the HomePod to adjust the volume in 5% increments.
  7. Electrical usage. The HomePod may be turned on all the time—it has no power switch—but it uses very little electricity. In our testing, it used 2.5 to 3 watts when it was idle but has been used recently, and 4 to 7 watts when playing. Leave it alone in a quiet room for a while, and its power usage drops to 0 watts with just an occasional 1.5-watt spike.
  8. Good listener. The HomePod hears your commands remarkably well, even when it’s playing music at a high volume. You shouldn’t have to shout at it.
  9. Hey Siri. If you’re within earshot of a HomePod and want to give Siri a command on your iPhone or Apple Watch, don’t say “Hey Siri” right away. Instead, to use your iPhone, unlock it first. Or, to use your Apple Watch, raise your wrist. Apple has an explanation of how Hey Siri works with multiple devices.
  10. Apple TV. You can play audio from your Apple TV through your HomePod. On the main screen of the Apple TV, press and hold the Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote, and then select the HomePod before playing a show. Or, while playing video, swipe down on the Siri Remote, swipe right to select Audio, and then select your HomePod in the Speaker list.



    Once you’ve transferred audio to the HomePod, you can use Hey Siri commands to pause and play the Apple TV content, change volume, and even rewind and fast-forward by a certain amount of time (“Hey Siri, rewind 10 seconds”). However, other things that Siri on the Apple TV can do, like tell you who stars in a movie, work only when you press and hold the Siri button on the Siri Remote.

Much as the HomePod works well right now, it stands to improve in the coming year. Apple plans to release software updates that will enable two HomePods in the same room to provide true stereo sound, and that will let you control multiple HomePods simultaneously for multi-room audio.


 

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.