Update Your Zoom Application

Do you use Zoom? If so, you should be sure to update it regularly. Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed due to all of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Zoom application has a history of security and privacy issues. Thus, I strongly encourage you to regularly check for Zoom updates and install them if they’re available. If you care to read about the plethora of issues, please read this excellent Tidbits article which summarizes every Zoom security and privacy flaw as of April 2020.

Please follow these instructions to update the Zoom application on your Mac. Make sure to check for Zoom updates frequently. While the rate at which Zoom is updated may slow down in the future, Zoom was updated roughly 30 times between the middle of April 2020 and the end of June 2020.  Read More from “Update Your Zoom Application”

Extend Backblaze’s File Retention From 30 Days To 1 Year Or Forever

Do you use Backblaze to create an off-site backup of your Mac? If so, it’s important to know that by default, Backblaze only stores older versions of your files as well as recently deleted files for 30 days. A 30-day retention period may be sufficient for many, but some will want to extend this to either 1 year or forever. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about then please read Backblaze’s more detailed explanation about version history and file retention. If you’d like to increase your file retention then make sure you’re using version 7.0 or higher, login to your Backblaze account, and click the upgrade button that appears in the Overview section. Use the image below as a guide to locate the upgrade button. There you’ll see the costs for upgrading your file retention.

Backblaze Upgrade Version Retention

COVID-19 Exposure Notification Apps For The iPhone

Are you familiar with COVID-19 exposure notifications apps for the iPhone? Many states and foreign countries are developing such applications. Here’s a brief introduction to what these apps are and how you can determine if your state or country has developed or is developing its own COVID-19 exposure notification app.

We have all heard the recommendations about how we can reduce our risk of exposure to COVID-19, but we all assume some amount of risk of exposure when we interact with family, friends, neighbors, and unknown people at the grocery store or at our jobs. How would we ever know if we were exposed to the virus? Certainly, if we’d been close to a family member or friend or neighbor who later tested positive for COVID-19, they would notify us. However, the problem is that there’s no current way for us to know if we’ve been exposed to the virus by a stranger. This is where exposure notification apps enter the picture.

Apple and Google teamed up to design and build the foundation for an exposure notification app. The technical term for this foundation is an API (Application Programming Interface). They didn’t build the complete app. Instead, they built a framework that they’ve integrated into the Android and iOS operating systems (starting with iOS 13.5) which can be used by healthcare agencies to build an exposure notification app. Read 9to5Mac’s article to get a detailed explanation of Apple and Google’s system works. Briefly, their system would allow people’s smartphones to exchange anonymous identifier tokens with other smartphones. Then, if a person subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, that person could tap a button in the app to indicate this on their phone. The phone would then notify other people’s phones, using these previously collected identifier tokens. Thus, you could get a notification that you’ve possibly been exposed. This notification might recommend you watch for symptoms or that you go get tested. This system does not track or store information about when or where the exposure occurred. The healthcare authority, who builds the app, also gets to control the parameters that define exposure. I believe the Apple and Google framework suggests that exposure be defined as two smartphones that are close to each other for at least 5 minutes.

Some countries have opted to leverage the framework provided by Apple and Google. Other countries have opted to build their own exposure notification app, from the ground up. In the U.S. no nationwide app is being developed. Instead, it’s being left up to each state to decide if they want to build an app or not. Review this list to see if your country or your state plans to use the framework built by Apple and Google.

Washington State, where I live, indicates that it’s going to build it’s own app. This Q13Fox article indicates that this app is being built by a partnership between the University of Washington and Microsoft as part of the CovidSafe project. Subsequently, the CovidSafe project has transitioned to being an open source project named CommonCircle built in conjunction with the Brotman Baty Institute.

As of late June 2020, a few countries have released their exposure notification apps based on the Google and Apple framework. Once these applications are available, regardless of whether or not they use the Google and Apple framework, they’ll only be effective if large numbers of citizens have smartphones and choose to opt into using the app. I encourage you to pay attention to news regarding these exposure notification apps.

Update Your AppleWatch Via Wi-Fi

Do you have an Apple Watch? Have you been inconvenienced by the fact that you need to use your iPhone to install watchOS updates onto your Apple Watch? Apple changed this with the introduction of watchOS 6 in the fall of 2019. You can now directly update software on the Apple Watch. You can use Apple’s support article to learn how to update your Apple Watch using your iPhone or directly.

The process is pretty straightforward. Make sure your watch is connected to a wifi network. Put your Apple Watch on its charger and make sure the battery is charged to at least 50%. Locate and open the Settings app. Tap on General, then tap on Software Update. If an update is available, you will be able to tap the Install button. After that, follow the onscreen prompts.

The first time I tried this I was upgrading from watchOS 6.1.3 to 6.2. I started the installation and when I subsequently returned to check on it, I was notified that an error occurred. I resolved this glitch by restarting my watch and then trying again. It worked successfully the second time. It’s very nice to not have to tie up my iPhone during this Apple Watch upgrade process.

How To Set Up BackBlaze On Your Mac

Backblaze is an online backup application. I use it and recommend it for many residential clients. Some clients might prefer CrashPlan for Business, which is a competing online backup service I also use and recommend. In my experience Backblaze is a bit easier to setup and monitor. CrashPlan’s appeal is that it offers longer file retention capabilities, however it also costs more. This Cloudwards article provides a thorough comparison of Backblaze and CrashPlan.

To get started with Backblaze you can either buy a subscription using my referral link (so I get a free month of service) or try their 15-day free trial. A Personal subscription costs $60/year as of mid-2020 and provides unlimited storage space. Backblaze performs backups on a continuous basis.

Here are some brief instructions that’ll hopefully get you started.

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Reduce The Likelihood That Emails You Send Are Marked As Spam

Would you like to reduce the likelihood of having your emails marked as spam? Would you like to try to prevent others from being able to send emails using your email address? If so, you should add SPF and DKIM records to the DNS records for your domain name and consider enabling DMARC. It’s important to note that these suggestions only work if you use your own domain name such as SoundSupport.biz or YourCompanyName.com. My suggestions aren’t applicable if your email address ends with gmail.com, comcast.net, outlook.com, iCloud.com, etc.

This Tech Tip is the first in a series. Subsequent Tech Tips will talk about how to setup and validate your SPF, DKIM and DMARC records.

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Word For Mac Can Now Convert PDFs to Editable Word Documents

Do you use Microsoft Word on your Mac? Did you know that in October of 2019, Microsoft quietly enhanced Word so it can open PDF files, convert them to Word files, and edit them? Yes, that’s right, Word can now edit PDF files. This feature was added to Word 2019, specifically version 16.30. To determine which version of Word you’re using, please open Word, then click on the Word menu and select About Word. If you have an older version, consider upgrading.

Users have asked for the ability to edit PDFs for years. Previously, users could do some annotating of PDFs using Apple’s free Preview application, but to do serious editing one would need a more robust tool like PDFPen. So it’s pretty amazing that Microsoft quietly added this feature to Word. In my limited testing this feature works pretty well. Give it a try to see if it meets your needs. If not, please consider an application like PDFPen.

Granting BackBlaze Or CrashPlan Full Disk Access On Your Mac

Do you use either CrashPlan or Backblaze to backup your personal data files on your Mac? Starting with macOS Mojave (aka macOS 10.14), Apple implemented tighter privacy restrictions. Consequently, you now need to explicitly grant permissions to CrashPlan and Backblaze so these applications can access all of your files and folders on your Mac. Here are instructions on how to grant these permissions. Read More from “Granting BackBlaze Or CrashPlan Full Disk Access On Your Mac”

How To Add A Comcast IMAP Email Account To An iPhone

Here are instructions on how to add a Comcast account to an iPhone or iPad. Comcast, like most email providers offer a type of email account called IMAP. These instructions apply to any IMAP email accounts, not just Comcast. For simplicity, I’m going to write iPhone instead or iPhone or iPad, but the instructions are identical for an iPad.

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How To Add A Second Hard Drive to Time Machine

Do you use Time Machine to backup your Mac? There’s an adage that goes if it’s worth backing up once, it’s worth backing up twice. Thus, I backup my Mac to two different hard drives as well as backing up my data to the cloud using Backblaze. Here are instructions for configuring Time Machine to backup to two different hard drives. Read More from “How To Add A Second Hard Drive to Time Machine”