Mac Ranch Steamboat will be closed on Friday, February 26. We resume normal hours next week (Monday-Friday 10:00-4:30). If you were hoping to stop in Friday, please give us a call at 970.879.1270 to make other arrangements. We apologize for any inconvenience and wish everyone a great weekend!

Here at Mac Ranch, we frequently take computers in for repair and notice a trend: people like to put tape, stickers or even plastic covers over their FaceTime camera. We understand some of the concern surrounding this issue; articles make the rounds every so often about some new virus that allows people to access your camera without your knowledge. The idea that someone is using your camera illicitly is also a popular threat in scam emails – a scammer will insist they have somehow compromising footage of you, and will post it publicly if you don’t pay them. Hence the popularity of covering one’s camera.

A whole cottage industry has sprung up around these things

Here’s the thing: Macs have excellent security. Consumers’ privacy and security are major concerns for Apple. One of their efforts to address those concerns is the camera indicator light. Whenever your FaceTime Camera is active, there is a small glowing green light next to it. If the camera is on, the light is on – full stop. If your Mac’s camera indicator light is on when you don’t think it should be, that’s something to look into (but don’t panic yet; you may just have a Zoom window open in the background somewhere…); but there is no risk of the dreaded hackers turning that camera on without you knowing about it.

Using a cover like this also introduces a whole new problem into your life: they can break your display. Mac laptops are designed to close perfectly; it’s a very tight, precise fit. Any material that interferes with the computer closing properly can potentially damage the display – a rough closure with some sort of covering in place, and you might even crack the display. Even if it’s a thin cover, like a sticky note or piece of tape, that’s still a risk: the adhesive can interfere with your camera’s image quality, and trying to remove those traces of adhesive again poses the risk of damage to the display.

It’s worth noting at this point that a display is generally the most expensive part of a Mac to replace. And I don’t just mean it’ll hurt your wallet; I mean it’s occasionally cheaper to buy a new computer than to replace a display. So if you’re concerned about the security of your Mac’s FaceTime camera, please, folks, don’t put weird things on top of it: just come talk to us, we’re here to help.

When iOS 14 was announced last summer, it flagship feature was the privacy upgrade Apple planned to roll out to iPhone users with opt-in tracking. Working out the logistics of that upgrade has delayed its release slightly, but recent updates to iOS 14 have laid clear groundwork, and the full update is expected early this spring. So what is these nebulous upgrade, and why should you care?

There’s an adage that’s been thrown around for decades (no one’s quite sure who first said it): If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product. In the 70s and 80s, the line usually referred to television advertising. The idea was that the true customers of commercial broadcasting were the advertisers, not the people watching – the people watching were the product being sold. In recent years, a newer interpretation of this adage has arisen, with regards to data collection in the information age.

“Data collection” is a loaded phrase in and of itself – you immediately wonder: what data? Who’s collecting it? Why?!? The short answer is Facebook iPhone apps can get more money from advertisers if they can offer targeted advertising. This means knowing more about the consumer: your age, your gender, where you live, what you like to do, what products you’ve bought in the past. Some iPhone apps utilize user-tracking to get this information. To be clear, this isn’t really malicious – it’s just a way for app developers to make money. Thing is, a lot of people think it’s also invasive and just kinda creepy.

This finally brings us to Apple’s big new privacy feature: apps can’t simply track you anymore – they have to ask permission first. It’s a fundamental switch in attitude towards data collection – instead of having to figure out how to opt-out of tracking, apps will be forced to ask you to opt-in. If it’s an app you like and trust, and that you haven’t already paid for in some capacity (ie: a paid app, or a paid subscription/feature within the app), consider opting-in – app developers have bills to pay, too. But if it’s FACEBOOK a developer you’re more leery of, feel free to opt-out. This is what Apple’s offering with the upcoming iOS 14 update: the ability to make that choice, which I for one appreciate having.

The relevant settings have already been updated – full implementation for apps comes this spring.

Some other neat privacy features have already been rolled for iOS 14:

  • Location tracking now has an option to give an app only your approximate location, not precise.
  • Your iPhone now lets you know whenever your camera or microphone are active – a green dot in the upper right corner for the camera, an orange dot for the microphone.
  • When giving an app access to your photos library, you can select photos individually, instead of providing access to the entire library.
  • Security recommendations for your passwords are now available in settings – they’ll let you know if a password is weak or has been compromised.
  • Safari can now block cross-website tracking, and provides a Privacy Report on pages you visit to let you know what trackers have been blocked.
The camera indicator

There’s been some uproar in the tech industry about some of these privacy changes, but I’m afraid if I say bad things about Facebook then Mark Zuckerberg will put a hit out on me this post seems to have gone on long enough already…

PS: Another fun feature coming to iOS 14? If you have an Apple Watch, you’ll soon be able to use it to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask (in lieu of having to type in your passcode). This applies for users with an iPhone X or later and an Apple Watch series 3 or later. The Watch will need to be on your wrist, nearby, unlocked and passcode-protected.

As always, if you have any questions about iOS 14 features, or need help getting your iPhone updated, give us a call or stop by the shop, we’re here to help!

The Mac Ranch Steamboat will be CLOSED on Thursday, November 26 and Friday, November 27 for the holiday. We resume normal hours (Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 4:30pm) on Monday, November 30.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Apple’s public release of MacOS Big Sur on November 12th was… not quite as smooth as their usual standard. Nonetheless, we here at Mac Ranch think it was worth the journey! Although some users experienced temporary issues with their Macs during attempts at download and installation of the update, Apple had the issues ironed out by Thursday evening. The more fun news is: what’s new in Big Sur?!

My favorite feature so far: the new app icons. No, really – I know this is totally insignificant and a purely cosmetic feature, but for some reason I find them delightful. Everything looks so sleek and uniform – and yes, strongly reminiscent of the iPhone, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. Over the last few years, Apple has created an immersive sort of ecosystem with their devices – everything syncs so smoothly between the iPhone, iPad and Mac that I don’t mind the Mac coming to look more like the iPhone.

But how about some more substantial new features?

Control Center is a nice new functionality to have – it houses many of the Mac’s most commonly used settings, now easily accessible from the drop down menu, rather than requiring opening System Preferences or using individual menu bar icons.

Messages has seen some major updates too, including pinned conversations (if you’ve already pinned conversations in iOS 14 on your phone, you’re already set – they sync to the Mac now!), memoji stickers, and message effects. Message effects are those animations, like balloons or confetti, you can send with a message on your iPhone – and now on the Mac as well. They exist on a sliding scale of cute to obnoxious, and considering how often I text from my Mac, all of my friends are going to really hate them within about a week.

Safari has also seen some major updates in Big Sur. The home page has been redesigned for easy access not only to your favorites, but to your reading list as well – and to Safari’s new Privacy Report feature, which identifies and prevents trackers. The home page wallpaper can be customized. Improvements have also been made to Safari’s overall speed and efficiency.

These are some of the highlights, but MacOS Big Sur comes with lots of other improvements, including updates to the Maps application, increased transparency regarding privacy in the App Store, and updates for developers related to the other big ticket item in Apple news recently, the M1 silicon chip Macs.

If you have questions about upgrading to Big Sur or encounter any problems in the process, stop in at Mac Ranch – we’ll get you up to date and ready to go!

Okay, so technically Apple announced the new iPad Air last month. We’ve been busy, what do you want from me?

Ooh, pretty colors…

Here are some of the new features we’re excited about:

  • The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
    • This display is larger and sleeker than that of the previous generation iPad Air, and has an all-screen design reminiscent of the iPad Pro
  • Touch ID
    • But Touch ID is a feature of the Home button, right? The new iPad Air doesn’t have a home button! And this is true, but it does have a sleep/wake button at the top of the iPad – and that’s where Apple has integrated the Touch ID sensor. How cool is that?
  • The A14 Bionic chip
    • This processor is the newest available in an iPad, and wicked fast. It will provide a massive boost in speed and performance from the previous generation
  • Updated accessory compatibility
    • Unlike the previous generation of iPad Air, and even the current generation iPad, the updated 2020 iPad Air is compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil, the Magic Keyboard, and the Smart Keyboard Folio
The Magic Keyboard. If I only had $300 lying around for this baby…
  • Improved speakers
    • The new iPad Air features stereo speakers in landscape, for better quality and more immersive sound while watching video
  • Improved cameras
    • The back 12 megapixel camera with stabilization and wide color capture, as well as 4K video recording, puts it on par with the iPad Pro line. The front camera has been upgraded as well to the FaceTime HD camera at 7MP, also with wide color capture and 1080p video

In short, the new iPad Air is awesome. In the past, the iPad Air line was in a weird limbo – not nearly as powerful as the iPad Pro, but a little souped up over the iPad. With this update, it’s practically an iPad Pro for $200 less and will make a stellar tablet for many consumers. If you’re interested in discussing a purchase, stop by at Mac Ranch – we’re happy to help you figure out precisely how to configure an iPad Air to meet your needs.

One of the major announcements at Apple’s 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference was their transition from Intel chips to their new Silicon chips for future Mac product lines. The goal of the new processors is to increase performance while reducing power consumption. They will be similar to the A-series chips used in iPhones and iPads. They are also expected to provide exceptional graphics performance.

As an indicator of the improved performance expected from the Silicon chips, consider the performance of the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models, with the A12X and A12Z chips, respectively – they’re close in speed to the 2018 MacBook Pro. Apple has also been using their Silicon T1 and T2 chips to power certain components of several Mac models for the last few years, so the change isn’t as abrupt as it might appear. Using their own technology, rather than Intel chips, will also allow Apple more control and regularity in their update schedule.

This transition is set to occur over the next few years, with the first Silicon chip Macs expected in late 2020. The transition will be an interesting time for software developers. When Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel chips in the mid-2000s, it was with the aid of a Mac application called Rosetta, which effectively translated software from one system to the other. A similar transition tool will come available with the upcoming release of MacOS Big Sur this fall. It is called, predictably, Rosetta 2 (hey, Apple’s technology is innovative – their product naming conventions, maybe not so much). It’s reported that Adobe and Microsoft have already begun updating their applications to run natively on Apple Silicon.

For anyone who has recently purchased an Apple computer, fear not, you’re not being left out in the cold: Apple will continue to support and release software updates for the Intel-based Macs for years to come. Nonetheless, this is an exciting announcement for Apple fans, and we at Mac Ranch look forward to watching this technology evolve over the next few years. If you’re having trouble with an older Mac and considering holding out for the Silicon chips before you buy new, stop in at Mac Ranch – we can tune up your current machine to get you by until the new generation. You just have to promise to bring in your new one for us to play with!

iOS 14 Arrives!

On September 16, Apple released iOS 14, the latest iPhone operating system. It was released in conjunction with iPadOS 14, the iPad’s operating system and they include many of the same upgrades, with the iPad version being optimized for the iPad’s larger display. Here are some of the exciting new features!

  • Widgets!
    • You can now add widgets to your phone’s home page. Widgets are larger versions (small, medium or large) of an app’s regular icon, that show a preview of that app’s most useful information without having to actually open it. Widgets are currently available for many Apple apps, with other app developers expected to start updating with widget functionality soon
    • My personal favorites so far are the music and podcast widgets, which show what you’ve been listening to most recently, and the weather widget, which shows a handy little blurb of the next few hours’ forecast
Admittedly, widgets seem easy to get carried away with…
  • New features in Maps
    • The Apple Maps app can now provide cycling directions
    • It also includes new features for electric vehicles, include route mapping for charging stations and accounting for charging time (…is this relevant in Steamboat? Can an electric car get up Rabbit Ears? Has anyone ever tried??)
    • Apple is gradually rolling out their new Guides feature for certain cities, which include recommendations on places to eat or shop and other local attractions
  • App Library!
    • The App Library is a sort of extra home page, which appears at the right of your rightmost page. It shows all of your applications by category, and can show you recent apps even if they’re not currently installed on your iPhone, making it a handy way to access apps that you use very infrequently and don’t want cluttering up your home page the rest of the time
A legitimately useful feature for the 3 times a year I want the iTunes Store.
  • The new Translate app
    • …I don’t think I actually have a blurb for this one. It does what it says on the tin, folks.
  • Compact calls!
    • An unexpectedly nice feature of iOS 14 is the new way incoming phone calls are handled – they now appear as a little window, like a notification, at the top of your screen, rather than taking over the entire phone screen. You can answer a call and put it on speaker from that little window, without ever interrupting whatever you were looking at when the call came in
    • Another thing you’ll notice on calls is a new security feature, where you get a tiny green dot in the upper left corner of your screen when your microphone is in use. The dot turns orange if the camera is in use, too. So if that dot ever pops up when it shouldn’t, you know an app is being sneaky
Much better than monopolizing my entire phone screen
  • New Safari features
    • Safari now includes a Privacy Report feature, which lets you know how many and what kind of trackers Safari has blocked recently. iOS 14 also includes other nice privacy features, like privacy reports on an app’s App Store page, and increased control and transparency regarding apps’ tracking permissions. These features haven’t been fully implemented yet, but should arrive in coming months
    • Safari also has a new, very useful password monitoring feature, which alerts you if any of your web passwords may have been involved in a data breach
  • Pin conversations in Messages!
    • This is, hands down, my favorite iOS 14 feature. It’s SO HANDY. You can now “pin” certain conversations to the top of your conversation list in Messages, so that they’ll always be there for easy access even if they’re not your most recent conversations. You can pin up to nine conversations
I don’t actually have 9 people I want to text that regularly,
but that says more about me than iOS 14.

These are just some of the highlights of iOS 14. If you have an iPhone 6s or newer, you can upgrade! If you’re not sure how to go about it or have questions about iOS 14, give us a call (970.879.1270) or drop in here at Mac Ranch (Monday-Friday 10:00-4:30) and give me an excuse to geek out!

Here at Mac Ranch, we get a lot of customers who come to us after getting fed up with tech support. Apple’s phone support is better than some (I’m looking at you, Comcast…), but it can still be a slog to work with. Wait times can be very long, and have only gotten longer with Covid. With an especially tricky problem, you may get bounced around between different departments and levels of their support hierarchy. Worst of all, you run a major risk: tech support scams.

Here’s the thing about Google: they like to make money. So when you run a Google search for, say, Mac computer help, the first result isn’t necessarily the best result (ie: Apple), it’s just whoever paid to be the first result (ie: just some guy). If you follow that first result and call a number, suffice to say the person at the other end does not have your best interests in mind.

See that weird international number? Danger, Will Robinson!

Another option for tech support for your Apple products is, of course, an Apple store. You know, like the one in Denver. 150 miles away. And when you get there, you’ll need to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. You think I jest, but I recently spoke to a customer who spent 6 hours(!) in line at the Apple store.

This sort of dramatic alert is another red flag!

So what’s the alternative to these unreliable, tedious options? Your friendly neighborhood computer shop, of course, the Mac Ranch. If you’re having trouble with your Apple computer, don’t waste your time and energy on a phone support line. Solving computer problems is what we do! Just give us a call at 970.879.1270 or drop by the shop on 12th Street. We’re here to help!

Early this week, Apple hosted their 2020 World Wide Developers Conference. The yearly WWDC has been Apple’s major media event since it began in 1987. This year’s conference brought news of exciting upgrades coming to Apple software, including improvements in the upcoming iOS 14, iPadOS 14, MacOS Big Sur, and watchOS 7.

Some of the major iOS updates will include:

  • Widgets on the home screen, which will provide little blurbs of important info – like a weather widget to see the current forecast without having to open the app
  • A picture-in-picture feature that will shrink a video down to a little floating window, so you can leave your video playing but look at something else on the rest of your iPhone screen – or even leave the audio playing, but shrink the video down to just a button
  • A digital car key feature that will allow you to use your iPhone to unlock and start cars of compatible models/manufacturers
  • More Memoji (the delightfully stupid name for those little customized emojis that look like you) with fun features like emotions and less fun features like little face masks (I’m honestly not sure how to feel about that particular new feature…)
  • The ability to set a default browser and email app
  • A dedicated cycling view in Apple Maps, and another view showing charging stations for drivers of electric vehicles (as someone who’s driven across Texas far too many times, I assume that particular state will just be labeled “NO”)
I’m not much of a cyclist, but this actually looks pretty neat

Next up, some iPadOS 14 updates (which should technically be iPadOS 2 in my book, but apparently Apple is less pedantic than I am).

  • Pretty much all the same new features of iOS 14
  • Plus a new sidebar for easier app navigation
  • A redesigned search feature
  • And a cool new feature called Scribble, which converts writing in a text field with the Apple Pencil into text, detects context, and opens the appropriate app. This feature will support multiple languages
  • Widgets will come to iPadOS too
Nifty new features!

Some other exciting announcements:

  • The AirPods Pro (very cool, but still a stupid name) will provide spatial audio for a more immersive experience
  • watchOS is getting new features for tracking sleep, hand washing, and even dancing as a workout type (now they just need to track snow shoveling!)
  • Apple computers will be switching from Intel-based processors to their own silicon in future models. The complete transition is planned to take two years

So who else is excited for the new features? If you’ve got questions on how these upgrades will impact your Apple devices, or have been inspired to check out getting a new one, give us a call or stop by at Mac Ranch so I can geek out at you!