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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)

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)

Privacy Tip: Don’t Post Vaccination Record Cards on Social Media

So you’ve gotten your COVID-19 vaccination. Congratulations, and thank you for nudging the planet closer to the herd immunity needed for life to return to normal! It’s a good idea to take a photo of your card as a backup before filing it with your other important papers, just in case. (If you lose the original, you may be able to get a new one from the site where you got the vaccine or through your state’s Immunization Information System.) However, we do want to offer a note of caution. Resist the urge to post that photo—or one of you gleefully brandishing your card—on social media. The cards include your name, date of birth, vaccine location, and other personal information that could be used to steal your identity, and any digital miscreant worth their salt is already trawling through your social media feeds for as much personal information as they can find.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Learn How to Paste Text So Its Style Matches the Surrounding Text

When you copy text from a Web page, PDF, or word processing document, macOS usually includes the associated formatting, so the words you paste may end up in 68-point blue italic if that was what the source text looked like. That’s often undesirable. More commonly, you want the text to take on the styling of the text where you’ve pasted it. In most Mac apps, there’s a quick trick to achieve this goal. Look on the Edit menu for the Paste and Match Style command (sometimes called Paste and Match Formatting, Paste Text Only, or Paste without Formatting) to paste the text such that it matches the style of the surrounding words in the destination. Apple’s standard keyboard shortcut for this is Command-Shift-Option-V, though some apps use Command-Shift-V. If you regularly need this capability in an app that lacks native support for it, consider using a clipboard utility app, like Keyboard Maestro, to make your own universal Paste Text Only hotkey.

(Featured image based on an original from Pixabay)