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Avoid Unusual Top-Level Domains in Custom Domain Names

Remember the heady dotcom days, when businesses were desperate to get a short, memorable, easily typed .com domain? It quickly became difficult to get what you wanted—so much so that deep-pocketed companies paid exorbitant sums for just the right domain.

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Domain names are necessary because computers on the Internet are all identified by inscrutable numeric IP addresses. You can remember and type apple.com easily; 184.31.17.21 not so much. Domain names have two or more parts: the top-level domain (read from the end, such as com) and the second-level domain (like apple), plus optional third-level domains (which could give you support.apple.com).

Since the days of speculating in .com domains, however, hundreds of additional top-level domains have been opened up, including domains from .aaa to .zone. There are now top-level domains for .doctor, .florist, .lawyer, and many more, including the general .xyz. It might be tempting to switch from the awkward dewey-cheatham-howe.com to the shorter and more memorable dch.lawyer. And even if there isn’t a profession-specific top-level domain that works for you, you may think that if abc.xyz is good enough for Google’s parent company Alphabet, surely it’s good enough for you.

Alas, much as we appreciate the creativity and flexibility offered by these alternative top-level domains, we’d like to dissuade you from using one, if possible. Problems include:

  • Email deliverability: If you’re sending email using an alternative top-level domain or including links to that domain, it’s much more likely that your email will be considered spam by receiving systems.
  • SMS deliverability: Some SMS text message providers will automatically delete messages containing URLs with alternative top-level domains in an effort to protect their customers from phishing attacks.
  • Social media spam filtering: As with SMS text messages, social media posts that include URLs with alternative top-level domains may be categorized as spam or as linking to a malicious site.
  • Firewall blocking: Abuse of alternative top-level domains has become so commonplace by scammers that some companies prevent their employees from accessing websites using certain alternative top-level domains at the firewall level.
  • User perception: Although there’s no telling how anyone will react to a particular top-level domain, people won’t think twice about .com but might think .ooo seems sketchy. (We would.)

Obviously, it may not be possible to get the domain name you want in .com. What to do? There are a few strategies:

  • Expand or abbreviate: At this time, people mostly don’t see, remember, or type domains apart from those that go with businesses that do a lot of real-world advertising. So if you need to add or subtract words (or letters) in your domain to find a unique one, that can work.
  • Use a country domain: Two-letter top-level domains are restricted for use by countries, so .us is for the United States, .ca for Canada, and .au for Australia. Every country has different rules for who can register them. For instance, it’s possible to get a domain ending in .it (Italy) as long as you work through a registrar that acts as your representative there. .io (British Indian Ocean Territory) and .ai (Anguilla) are popular top-level domains among tech companies.
  • Stick with better, pricier alternatives: Not all alternative top-level domains are equally problematic. The classic .net and .org are fine, and .biz isn’t bad. But how to determine that? When you’re checking to see if a domain name is available, compare prices. For instance, at one domain name registrar, iphonewhisperer.xyz costs only $1 per year, whereas the iphonewhisperer.biz version is $4.98 per year, iphonewhisperer.net is $9.18 per year, and iphonewhisperer.studio is $11.98 per year. The more you pay, the less likely that domain has been abused by spammers and marked for filtering.

In the end, when it comes to domain names, it’s best to be conservative and stick with a top-level domain that won’t cause people or filters to think twice. That’s probably .com, if you can make the rest of the name work for you.

(Featured image by iStock.com/BeeBright)


Social Media: Tempted to get a short, memorable domain name ending in .xyz or .shop? As we explain, that’s a bad idea if you care about user perception, email and text message deliverability, and not being blocked by social media and firewalls. Details at:

When It Comes to Wi-Fi Networks, Sometimes It’s Better to Forget

It’s easy, particularly when traveling, to end up connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t provide Internet access, requires credentials you don’t have, or lacks access to the network’s printer. Unfortunately, once your iPhone, iPad, or Mac has connected to such a network, it may reconnect to it later, causing consternation when things don’t work. The solution? Whenever you realize a Wi-Fi network is worthless, forget it. (The network, that is.) On the Mac, open System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced > Wi-Fi, select the network in the list (you don’t have to be connected to it), click the – button, and click Remove. On an iPhone or iPad, when you’re connected to the offending network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button to the right of the current network, and tap Forget This Network on the next screen.

(Featured image based on images by iStock.com/fizkes and Elena Pimukova)

Messages Not Being Delivered to Blue-Bubble Friends? Check Cellular Data

Here’s a tricky situation that threw one of our clients for a loop recently. Texts they sent in Messages via iMessage (indicated by blue bubbles) to their son, letting him know they were stopping by weren’t being delivered, making their visits a surprise. But other texts worked fine. The problem, it turned out, was that Cellular Data had somehow gotten turned off in Settings > Cellular. So messages worked fine as long as the iPhone was on Wi-Fi at home, but as soon as they were on the road using a cellular connection, the iPhone could no longer communicate with the Internet. In theory, Messages should fall back to SMS (indicated by green bubbles), which doesn’t require cellular data, but that doesn’t always happen. The fix? Just enable Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data again.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Dima Berlin)

After Upgrading to iOS 15, Check Do Not Disturb in Focus Settings

In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple expanded the concept of Do Not Disturb to what it calls Focus. You can create a Focus for different types of activities, so only specific people and apps can break through your cone of silence at appropriate times. Focus subsumes the old Do Not Disturb functionality, and your settings may not transfer when you upgrade, leaving you open to being woken at night by a previously silenced notification. To check and reset things to your liking, visit Settings > Focus > Do Not Disturb. If necessary, tap Add Schedule or Automation to set a schedule or try the new Smart Activation option. Then decide who, potentially beyond those in your Favorites, should be able to get through, along with any apps that might be essential. Note that you shouldn’t enable the Do Not Disturb switch at the top—that turns on the Do Not Disturb Focus immediately.

(Featured image by iStock.com/klebercordeiro)

Losing the Occasional Important Message? Set up a Ham Filter

Although spam remains as much of a scourge as ever, spam filters have improved enough that most people see relatively little spam and lose relatively few legitimate messages (known as “ham”) to spam filters. However, good email messages are still sometimes caught by spam filters. To reduce the chance of missing an important message, consider making a “ham filter.” A ham filter looks for certain words—usually proper nouns—that are likely to appear only in legitimate messages and then marks such messages as Not Spam or moves them out of a Spam folder. (This capability is available in Gmail and can be emulated with multiple rules that you create in Apple’s Mail preferences, and likely in other systems as well; ask us about yours if you’re not sure.) Useful ham words include the name of your city, local high school or college names, club names or abbreviations, industry-specific terms, and any other words that are specific to your community or profession. Always test a possible ham word by first searching for it in your Spam folder to make sure it appears only in legitimate messages.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Fotosmurf03)

Ever Have Trouble Printing? Try a Different Printer Driver

Some clients have reported problems with HP laser printers failing to print. Sometimes there’s an error. Other times, the print job just disappears into the ether. It’s unclear why this is happening or how widespread it is, but here’s a workaround that can help. Create a new printer configuration by clicking the + button in System Preferences > Printers & Scanners and selecting your printer in the list. Then, from the Use pop-up menu, choose something other than the default Secure AirPrint driver. We’ve had the most luck with Generic PostScript Printer. Both the old and new configurations will be available when printing, so if one doesn’t work, try again with the other one.

(Featured image by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash)

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)

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:

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)

Work with iOS App Updates in Your Account in the App Store

If you’ve turned on automatic App Updates in Settings > App Store on your iPhone or iPad, you might wonder how you’d know if an app was updated or what changed. To find that information, open the App Store app and tap your avatar icon in the upper-right corner. Scroll down and you’ll see an Updated Recently list. If you pull down on the screen, that will force it to refresh, and you may see a list called Upcoming Automatic Updates at the top. For any downloaded update, you can tap Open to open it. If it hasn’t yet been downloaded, you can tap Update to update it right away rather than waiting for the automatic update. Tap More to see the full release notes. Finally, here’s a hidden tip: swipe left on any app to delete it.

(Featured image by Brett Jordan from Pexels)