Archive for the Tips Category

iOS 16 Releases Today…. Here’s How You Can Safely Upgrade To It

Posted in Tips with tags on September 12, 2022 by itnerd

At 1PM EST today, Apple will release iOS 16. As long as you have a supported device, it will bring you new features and improvements to your iDevice experience. If you want to see a full feature set, click here.

Speaking of supported devices, here’s what iOS 16 will run on:

  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 
  • iPhone 12 mini 
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max 
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone SE (3rd Generation)
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation)

If your phone isn’t on this list, then it’s not supported.

If you are wondering why there are no iPads on the list, that’s because Apple has spun off the iPads into a separate OS called iPadOS which is due out in October along with macOS Ventura.

Now, since this is a major upgrade there is always a chance, no matter how remote that something can go sideways. To make sure that you’re not caught out by something unexpected, here’s what you can do:

1. Update your Apps: Make sure that all your apps are up to date before upgrading by opening the App Store app and seeing if any updates are required. This is important because it is possible that the changes that Apple has made on areas like privacy and performance could break an app that you rely on. Thus I find that it is always a good idea to check for updates and install them before a new version of iOS hits the streets.

2. Dump any uneeded photos, videos or apps: iOS updates tend to need a fair amount of free space to allow for a successful installation. Thus if you have anything less than 10GB of free space, consider deleting unused apps or photos/videos. In terms of the photos and videos you want to keep, you can move them to the cloud or a computer so that they’re safely stored without taking up space on your iPhone. I personally use iCloud myself, but Google Photos is another option.

3. Backup your iDevice: If you value the data on your iDevice, backing it up is a must. You have two options for backing up your iDevice: iCloud or iTunes. Follow this guide to backing up your iPhone.

At this point you should be good to go to upgrade to iOS 16. Key word being SHOULD. Upgrading an operating system isn’t a trivial process. But if you take these steps beforehand, you should reduce the risk of any issues that you might encounter.

When Choosing A HDR Capable TV Or Monitor, You Need To Choose Wisely

Posted in Tips on August 27, 2022 by itnerd

HDR or High Dynamic Range is something that TV and monitor buyers are starting to want on their next TV or monitor. A display that has HDR will give you deeper blacks and more vibrant colors. Which if you’re watching a movie that supports HDR will make that movie look amazing. But you need to be careful because HDR isn’t a uniform standard…. If you want to call it that. Only a handful of TVs and monitors can actually do true HDR. And if you’re not careful, you might get something that doesn’t actually do HDR. Thus to save you the effort of trying to figure out what can and can’t do HDR, I’ve created this primer to help you spot a good HDR monitor or TV. Let’s start with what the display needs to have to be even in the conversation in terms of being called an HDR display:

  • HDR images are brighter than SDR, so a true HDR display needs to hit at least 1000 nits of brightness.
  • It needs to support very high contrast so that high brightness elements can be displayed alongside deep, rich shadow detail on screen simultaneously.
  • It needs to support a wide color gamut, allowing for a greater range of colors to be displayed.
  • It needs to follow HDR encoding systems like the use of the PQ gamma curve and minimum 10-bit processing.

If the display doesn’t check all those boxes, look elsewhere. Now not all TV and monitor companies disclose all that info. So there’s another way to check to see if the display that you want is HDR capable. And that is what display panel tech they use. Let’s start with best to worst:

  • OLED: Organic Light Emitting Diode displays are the top tier of displays. Because each individual pixel is self lit, the display can show perfect HDR images. So if the TV or monitor that you want has an OLED panel, you’re going to get HDR by default. There are two catches to this, cost being the biggest one as OLED monitors or TVs are not cheap. The second is burn in. Static images can create image retention issues (AKA burn in) which can make your really expensive TV or monitor look bad. But if you have the cash for an OLED display, this is the way to go to get a great HDR experience.
  • Mini-LED/Full Array Local Dimming LED: This is the next best option as this technology is much cheaper than OLED and produces great HDR visuals. It does that by having a number of “zones” for the backlighting system that can individually adjust to give you the level of light required to display the content as dark or bright as required. And the number of “zones” is what you need to pay attention to. I would say that if a display doesn’t have something north of 500 zones, you won’t get the same level of HDR quality as OLED. Or put another way, the more zones, the better the HDR performance. One thing that some people bring up as an issue is something called “blooming” where light from a zone that is bright leaks onto an adjacent zone that is dark making the dark zone not as dark as I could be. Now I have a MacBook Pro with a Mini-LED display and I have never noticed this. But others have. Thus I would also advise testing it out with a variety of content to ensure that this isn’t a potential issue for you.
  • Edge Lit LED: This is a very low cost LED technology that promises good HDR performance, but it mostly doesn’t deliver. Because the way that edge lit works is that much like Mini-LED, it has zones that can be individually be darkened or brightened. But the problem is that the zones in question either run from the top to bottom of the screen, or from left to right. And there are typically only as few as four or as much as sixteen zones. Thus there’s just no way you can get good HDR performance via this setup. Thus this is a type of display that I would avoid.

Hopefully that helps you to avoid the potential pitfalls of buying a monitor or TV. If you still have questions, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer whatever questions you have.

How To Configure PPPoE Bypass On The Bell HH4000 Hardware

Posted in Tips with tags on July 31, 2022 by itnerd

Since I got Bell Fibe 1.5 Gbps service installed, I’ve got a few questions about how I set up PPPoE bypass so that I can use my own router. I planned on doing a write up about that after I work out the speed issues that I had with my ASUS hardware, but since enough people asked about this I am doing this today.

First, let me explain why I want to use my own router rather the Bell HH4000 router, which stands for “Whole Home 4000”. I never, ever use the ISP supplied gear as that’s a way for the ISP to lock you in as it makes it difficult to switch providers. Because doing so would require you to basically tear down your network and rebuild it every time you switch. On top of that, ISP’s don’t have the best track record in terms of making their gear secure. Meanwhile most router companies spend more time and effort to make their gear secure. As long as you choose your vendor carefully, using a third party router is better from a security standpoint. Plus if you change ISP’s, at best it’s unplug one cable from the ISP’s hardware and plug the new ISP’s hardware in if you switch. At worst you have to do that and a bit of configuration on both the ISP’s hardware and your hardware. In the case of Bell, it’s the latter.

Now Bell’s HH4000 comes with the ability to do what’s called PPPoE bypass. In short, you type your PPPoE credentials into your router, and it passes them to the HH4000. Then assuming that they are correct, the HH4000 gives the router an external IP address and you’re good to go. It’s clean and simple and mostly works. I’ll explain the mostly part in a moment. But here’s all I had to do. Starting with the cabling:

  • Connect A CAT 5e or CAT 6 cable from HH4000 10Gbps Port which is the silver one on the right hand side on the back of the HH4000 to the WAN Port on the router

On the HH4000 side, I had to log into it and do some setup there:

  • Go to 192.168.2.1 and be prepared to type in your HH4000 password
  • Go to ‘Manage my Wi-Fi’ and do the following:
    • Change “Whole Home Wi-Fi” to OFF.
    • Under “Primary Wi-Fi network” click on “Advanced settings”.
    • Uncheck “Keep a common network name (SSID) and password for both 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands.”
    • Turn OFF the 2.4GHz network but leave the 5.0GHz on so that you can get back into the HH4000 if you need to.
    • Turn off Guest Network
    • Click “Save”
  • Click on “Advanced Tools and Settings”
  • Turn off UPnP, DLN and SIP ALG
  • Click “Save”

Next you have to log into your router and in the WAN section, set it up for PPPoE. How to do that varies by brand. But I will use my ASUS router as an example:

As you can see here, under “WAN Connection Type”, I have PPPoE selected. And under “Account Settings” I have my PPPoE username which starts with “b1” and password. Those have been redacted for security reasons. If you don’t have your “b1” PPPoE username and password, you can either get them from the Bell technician who does your install, or from the MyBell portal. You should also set up your PPPoE connection to connect automatically (in my case that’s the “Disconnect after time of inactivity” option) and make sure that PPP authentication is set to “auto”.

Once you do that, you should be able to connect to Bell’s network. If you get an WAN address that isn’t 192.168.2.xxx, then you’re good to go.

Here’s where I explain the “mostly” part. One thing that I noticed right away is that my upstream speed is way lower than the 1.06 Gbps that my connection is capable of. At the moment I am getting just over half that speed. And that’s likely because of how ASUS implements PPPoE. I say that because if I use DHCP to connect to the router, I get all the speed that I am paying for. Now some of you will say why don’t I use DHCP? That creates what’s called a double NAT which can play havoc with applications. If you really want to get into the weeds, you can read this but here’s what you need to know:

In a typical home network, you are allotted a single public IP address by your ISP, and this address gets issued to your router when you plug it into the ISP-provided gateway device (e.g. a cable or DSL modem). The router’s Wide Area Network (WAN) port gets the public IP address, and PCs and other devices that are connected to LAN ports (or via Wi-Fi) become part of a private network, usually in the 192.168.x.x address range. NAT manages the connectivity between the public Internet and your private network, and either UPnP or manual port forwarding ensures that incoming connections from the Internet (i.e. remote access requests) find their way through NAT to the appropriate private network PC or other device.

By contrast, when NAT is being performed not just on your router but also on another device that’s connected in front of it, you’ve got double NAT. In this case, the public/private network boundary doesn’t exist on your router — it’s on the other device, which means that both the WAN and LAN sides of your router are private networks. The upshot of this is that any UPnP and/or port forwarding you enable on your router is for naught, because incoming remote access requests never make it that far — they arrive at the public IP address on the other device, where they’re promptly discarded.

Thus a double NAT is not optimal. Now to be fair to ASUS, they are likely not the only ones with a poor PPPoE implementation in their routers. I am just pointing the finger at ASUS as that’s the router that I have and I have clearly proven that it is at fault. Which is why I have opened a support ticket with ASUS to get them to address this as in the age of 1 Gbps or faster Internet connections, having a router do what I am describing isn’t acceptable. Thus the vendor of said router should be held accountable.

Now some of you will point out that another option other than to use PPPoE passthrough is to use Bell’s “Advanced DMZ” function along with DHCP. From what I can tell from experimenting with it, it moves your router into the HH4000’s DMZ or demilitarized zone where it can give the the device, in this case my router an external IP address. And this does work as it gives my router the full speed the I am paying for. But based on my research, Bell doesn’t implement this very well as many have reported that a router that sits in the DMZ can often lose Internet connectivity every day or two which is not good to say the least. Thus this option is likely one that you should avoid. Though I may try it for giggles just to find out if the instability of this option that has been noted by others is something that I see.

Now what would be better is if Bell much like Rogers implemented a proper bridge mode. That’s a mode where the device shuts off all routing functions and basically becomes a modem that served up an external IP address to the router. But Bell wants you using their gear for everything and I guess that by not having a proper bridge mode, they force the less technical down that path and lock them into using their service.

If you have any questions about any of this, please let me know in the comments. Or if you have a 100% reliable method to bypass the HH4000, I would love to hear from you as well.

UPDATE: I did some more experimentation with the “Advanced DMZ” functionality built into the HH4000. My conclusion is that it isn’t very stable based on the fact that it broke HomeKit support and VPN connections from my network to another network would not work at all or very well. Thus I would avoid this option entirely.

UPDATE #2: There is an alternate way of doing this that appears to be stable for me and might work for you. Details are available here.

The M2 MacBook Air Buyers Guide

Posted in Tips with tags on June 11, 2022 by itnerd

Since the new MacBook Air with the M2 processor that was announced at WWDC this week broke cover, I’ve got a ton of questions about which configuration people should by, and if they should upgrade from another MacBook. Thus this buyers guide will cover both those topics. However if you still have questions, leave a comment with your use case and I will try to help you out. With that out of the way, let’s get started:

  • Do you even need the new MacBook Air?: If you do basic tasks such as surfing the Internet, responding to email, and the like, you should consider the M1 version of the MacBook Air. It’s still in Apple’s lineup starting at $999 US or $1299 CDN. That’s a tremendous value that still gives you a speedy computer while saving yourself a few bucks.
  • Ignore the base model of the M2 MacBook Air: Apple showed all sorts of graphs about how much faster the M2 version of this computer is versus the M1 version. But those graphs only apply to the 10 core GPU version of the M2. The base model only has an 8 core GPU as I explained in this article. Thus you should ignore this version because if you’re getting the base model M2 MacBook Air to save a few bucks, the M1 version is a better value.
  • Choose your charger wisely: Depending on the M2 MacBook Air that you get, you might get the option for one of up to three chargers. The reason why this matters is that fast charging is only an option with the highest watt charger. So if you care about fast charging, choose wisely. But here are your options:
    • The base model comes with a 30 watt charger with the option of upgrading to a 35 watt dual USB-C charger or a 67W fast charger for $20 USD or $30 CAD.
    • Everything else has a 35 watt dual USB-C charger with the option of upgrading to a 67W fast charger for $0.
  • Don’t go crazy on storage or RAM: Apple charges a lot for RAM and storage, and whatever the computer comes with is what you are stuck with as RAM and storage as you cannot upgrade either. That makes it tempting to max everything out. But my advice is that unless you were doing something that was RAM intensive like video or photo editing, I would stick with 16GB of RAM. That’s because 8GB is too little and 24GB is overkill. In terms of storage, I would not get more than 1TB of storage because 2TB is overkill. But here’s another way to look at this. If you have a computer where you have 256GB of storage and you are using 230GB already, then 512GB will work for you now and into the future. Thus getting anything more than 512GB or even 1TB is a waste of money.
  • Consider the 14″ MacBook Pro if you are a “pro” user: If you’re a “pro” user, and you start to spec out the M2 MacBook Air with 24GB of RAM and say 1TB of storage because you need the power for video editing, rendering graphics, or photo editing, then you might consider the 14″ MacBook Pro. I say this because a fully loaded MacBook Air can get very close to a 14″ MacBook Pro in terms of price. But you will get a more powerful computer if you get the 14″ MacBook Pro which makes it a better value. And if you’re thinking of the 13″ MacBook Pro, don’t consider it for the reasons outlined here.

That would be my buying advice for the new M2 MacBook Air. As I said earlier, if you need some help deciding what you need, leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out. Though I should note that these will not available until “next month” giving you plenty of time to ponder your choices. But if you do want to buy, you should buy quickly due to supply chain issues.

My HomeKit Setup – The 2022 Edition

Posted in Tips with tags , on April 29, 2022 by itnerd

This is an article that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and some of you have been asking for. Which is how I use HomeKit in my condo. Let’s start with what HomeKit is. This is Apple’s home automation platform which is part of iOS/iPadOS and to a limited extent macOS and watchOS that lets users configure, communicate with, and control smart-home appliances using Apple devices. It provides users with a way to automatically discover such devices and configure them. It’s got its flaws, which I will speak to in a bit, but it generally works fine.

First, let me describe my use case for HomeKit. I live in a 1000 square foot condo that has one door to enter and exit. The condo has two bedrooms. We use the master bedroom to sleep in, but we converted the second bedroom to a den for my wife and I to work in. Then we also have a living room and kitchen. The walls are concrete which makes Bluetooth and WiFi penetration a challenge. We decided that the master bedroom would have no smart home devices other than a HomePod Mini to stream audio or play a radio station. Everywhere else was fair game. We also wanted to build security into our HomeKit setup as long time readers will recall that my wife and I had a break in which cost us a MacBook Pro and a lot of jewelry among other items. While we had an IP enabled camera that alerted us to the break in, the police were not able to get there in time to capture the scumbags who broke into our place. So being able to detect when doors open and unauthorized parties are in the condo are a must. We don’t have to worry about windows as we are in a high rise.

With our use case out of the way, let’s get to the tech that powers our HomeKit setup. To fully leverage HomeKit, you will need a home hub which will allow you to control and automate your HomeKit devices from anywhere. It also acts as a connection point for Bluetooth based HomeKit devices as without it, those devices need your iPhone or iPad in range of it so that you can control them. WiFi based HomeKit devices don’t need a hub, but you may not be able to control them outside your home.

A HomeKit Hub can be any of the following:

  • An iPad that never leaves home. (I personally wouldn’t go this route because if the iPad loses power, dies or is stolen, you’re out of luck).
  • An Apple TV 4 or higher
  • A HomePod or HomePod Mini

In my case, I went the HomePod Mini route:

I have three HomePod Mini devices in my home as that was the path of least resistance for me. One in the living room, one in the den, and one in the bedroom. That’s due to the fact that I have three Bluetooth enabled devices that need something to connect to as Bluetooth signals don’t travel far in my condo due to the concrete walls that my condo has. Thus they act as repeaters for Bluetooth signals to cover use cases like mine which has the added bonus of speeding up the amount of time that it takes for a Bluetooth device to respond to commands that you give them. Thus if I could give you a piece of advice, you need to plan your HomeKit rollout to cover the use case of Bluetooth devices and purchase your home hubs based on that.

Another thing to point out about home hubs is that if you have more than one, they are used in an “Active/Standby” configuration. As in if you have two home hubs, one is actively controlling everything. But if something happens to it, the second one will take over. My use case looks like this:

You can’t choose which HomePod Mini is the one that is the “connected” one. Which seems at first glance to be a #Fail. But what I believe that Apple is doing behind the scenes is picking the home hub with the best reception and performance to the router. I’ve observed that it tends to gravitate towards making the living room Home Pod Mini the connected one. I suspect that’s due to the fact that it is connected to an ASUS mesh WiFi node that is in close proximity (as in two feet away) to the Home Pod Mini in question which has direct access to the Internet. That would make that one the logical choice to be the one that runs the show. The HomePod Mini in the den is physically closer in proximity to the ASUS mesh WiFi node that’s in the den versus the one in the living room. But because the node in the den has to connect to the node in the living room to get out to the Internet, it’s not as good of a choice to be the connected Home Pod Mini as it has to make a extra hop to the Internet that the HomePod in the living room doesn’t have to make. And the one in the bedroom is the worst choice of the three as it is a room away from the ASUS mesh WiFi node in the den which is where it connects to the Internet from. All of that means that its reception isn’t as great as the first two HomePod Mini units on top of the fact that it has to make an extra hop to get to the Internet.

Another thing that I should point out is that two of the three HomePod Mini units that I have are plugged into Uninterruptible Power Supplies so that they will stay on even when the power goes out. Which means that assuming that my Rogers Internet connection is still live, I will be able to still see into my condo if I am away from home.

So with the home hubs out of the way, let’s move onto the devices that I have. I’ll start with my door:

This is the Onvis CS1 Security Alarm Contact Sensor. This is on the door to not only let my wife and I know when the door is opened or closed (as it will give us a notification on our iPhones and Apple Watches when a door is opened or closed, not to mention chime when the door is opened), but it also acts as our alarm system when we’re away from home or asleep as we have automations to arm and disarm the alarm. More on our automations later. This is the first Bluetooth only device that I have, and it required us to get a HomePod Mini for the living room so that it could connect to it.

Next up are a pair of HomeKit cameras that we have installed.

We have two Eve Security Cameras which are both powered from an Uninterruptible Power Supply and connect to WiFi so that they stay live even if power goes out. In terms of the WiFi part, I have them bonded ASUS mesh WiFi node that has direct access to the Internet so that they can stream effectively should I need to have a live look inside my condo while I am away from home. One thing that I should note is that these cameras use the 5 GHz WiFi band which means that they are less likely to have interference issues which would be the case if they were on the 2.4 Ghz WiFi band and are fast when it comes to streaming video as well. These are HomeKit only cameras and while they are not cheap (not that you want anything cheap for home security purposes), they work very well even in the dark. They have built in motion sensors to detect movement and will send notifications to our iPhones and Apple Watches should it detect a person. When we’re away from home, I have them set to record anything it detects to iCloud using HomeKit Secure Video which is part of iCloud+. But when we are at home, there’s no recording taking place.

Now over to lighting. I only have a couple of places where I use HomeKit lighting as I feel that I don’t need to have HomeKit enabled lights everywhere. The first place that I use HomeKit light is the living room:

I have a lamp attached to this iHome iSP6X Smart Plug. It works on 2.4 Ghz WiFi and allows me to turn the lights on and off. This bonded ASUS mesh WiFi node that has direct access to the Internet so that it doesn’t roam from node to node which seems to confuse it in such a way that it requires a reboot to get it working again. For the most part, the light gets turned on via an automation in the morning, and gets turned off in the evening via another automation. In short it lives a dull and boring life.

I have a pair of Sylvania Smart+ A19 Full Colour LED Bulbs which I have set up in the Home app to be seen as a single bulb:

The reason for doing this is that it makes it easier to turn the bulbs off and on as well as tweak the colour and brightness as you’re dealing with one set of controls and not two. These are Bluetooth bulbs which meant that I had to get a HomePod Mini for the den as they had problems staying connected to the either of the other two HomePod Minis that I have. I have had some other challenges in terms of them acting weird and stability, so these may not stick around in the long term. But I will give them an honest shot to see if my experience with them improves over the next few weeks. I currently have the brightness set to 80% as that gives the perfect amount of lighting for Zoom or Teams calls.

The final HomeKit device that I have is this:

This TCL 43″ Class 4-Series 4K UHD HDR ROKU Smart TV which is powered by RokuOS got HomeKit compatibility a couple of software updates ago. Though at times, HomeKit support has been problematic. In any case it allows me to turn on and off the TV as well as control inputs. But the extent that I use HomeKit functionality is to turn the TV on and off via some automations that I have as there is no value to doing anything else via HomeKit as the support that this TV has for HomeKit is very limited.

Speaking of automations, I use four of them which I set up in the Home app:

Leave: This is an automation that activates when everyone has left home as it uses location services on our iPhones to determine where everyone is so that it can run the automation. It’s also supposed to use Apple Watches as well to determine the location of everyone, but my wife and I have never seen that work. Thus we assume it’s a bug that Apple needs to fix as according to Apple’s own documentation, that use case is supposed to work. In any case, when everyone leaves home, the following happens:

  • A notification appears on our iPhones and Apple Watches with a request to arm the alarm system.
  • If the TV is on it is turned off.
  • All the cameras are set to “stream and record” so that anything that is detected by the cameras is recorded to iCloud.

It usually activates when we are roughly a block away from home. Or I can activate it using Siri or via the Home app. If I go the Siri route, it will turn on the alarm without the need to click anything.

Arrive: This is the opposite of “Leave” and operates as follows:

  • A notification appears with a request to disarm the alarm system. There’s no way that I can find to do this automatically.
  • All the cameras are set to “stream” so that there is no recording taking place while we are home.

An interesting quirk about these two automations are that I can use Siri to run the Leave automation, but I cannot use Siri to run the Arrive automation unless I unlock my iPhone to do it. Which means I can’t use Siri while I am driving for example to run the automation. This is due to the fact that unlocking a HomeKit compatible doorknob or disarming a HomeKit compatible alarm system requires you to use what Apple calls a “personal device” to do it, such as an iPhone or Apple Watch. Likely because you have to unlock your phone to run the automation, which serves as a form of authentication. In the case of the Apple Watch, the watch locks automatically when you take it off your wrist. Thus to use it you have to put in a passcode after you put it one which is a form of authentication as well. I suppose that I can see why this use case exists as this stops someone using Siri from disarming an alarm system and opening doors via a “Hey Siri” command and breaking into your home.

Good Night: This is an automation that allows us do the following just before going to bed:

  • If the den and living room lights are on, they are turned off.
  • If the TV is on, it is turned off.
  • The alarm system is armed. We do this as we would be alerted if someone tries to break in while we are asleep.

I can activate this via a “Hey Siri” command or via the Home app.

Good Morning: This is what is run when we wake up in the morning. And it only works from a iPhone or Apple Watch for the same reasons that I described above.

  • The den and living room lights are turned on.
  • The alarm system is disarmed.

Now I will admit that my use case is pretty simple. But how simple or complex your use case happens to be will be driven by things like the number of devices and what you’re trying to do. For example if we had multiple windows that we had to monitor or multiple doors to monitor, it would make the setup a lot more complex because there would be more devices in play. My advice is to spend a lot of time experimenting until you find what works for you. I also recommend carefully picking your HomeKit devices as some are really good, and some are not as good.

So that’s my HomeKit setup. If you have any questions or suggestions as to how I can improve it, leave a comment and share your thoughts.

How Move Your Playlists From Spotify To Apple Music & Tidal…. And More

Posted in Tips with tags , , on January 30, 2022 by itnerd

Seeing as there’s a lot of people who are dumping Spotify to move to services such as Apple Music because they aren’t happy about Spotify’s stance on having Joe Rogan who spreads COVID and vaccine mis-information on his podcast (see here and here for my stories on this), it seemed inevitable that I would get questions about how to move playlists from Spotify to Apple Music or Tidal. The reality is that it is very easy. But the key thing to note is that you need to do this before you show Spotify the door. Because after you dump them, it’s too late to do this.

One of the services that is recommended for this purpose is a web based service called Soundiiz. They have a free tier of service and two paid tiers which you can see here. But if you don’t mind moving one playlist at a time, the free tier is all you need. The reason why I am recommending this service (and in the interest of transparency I am not sponsored by them in any way) is that during the research for this article, it seems to be the one that comes up a lot and people are happy with. And it supports both Apple Music and Tidal, along with a number of other services. Using it is easy via their website and they have tutorials to help you along the process. For example, here’s the tutorial to move from Spotify to Apple Music. And here’s the one to move from Spotify to Tidal. Again, if you use their free option, you can only move one playlist at a time. But unless you have hundreds of playlists, I think you’ll be fine with that.

Another option for iOS users is an app called SongShift which is in the App Store. The free version will let you transfer one playlist at a time, while upgrading to SongShift Pro lets you transfer multiple playlists at once in a wizard driven manner. Again, my research indicates that people are happy with this service and this is also worth a look. The only catch is that it supports less services than Soundiiz. But the two biggest players not named Spotify are one the list so I think that’s a non-issue.

If you can come up with alternate ways to move your playlists from Spotify, please leave them in the comments and share your wisdom with others.

Upgrading To macOS Monterey 12.1 Was A Pain In The A$$

Posted in Tips with tags on December 14, 2021 by itnerd

Yesterday Apple released macOS Monterey 12.1, and I of course tried to install it on my new 16″ MacBook Pro. The thing is, that it seemed that the MacBook Pro didn’t want it. At first, I couldn’t get it to show up in Software Update. A quick look at Twitter indicated that I wasn’t alone in that department:

His experience mirrored my experience. But there were others:

In my case, I briefly saw the update. But when I tried to download it and install it, the update failed and then caused my CPU to spike with a service called “NRDUpdateD” chewing up a massive amount of CPU time. And rebooting the Mac wouldn’t fix that. My guess was that my operating system was in some state where it couldn’t perform the update properly because the service in question was going haywire. Thus I needed to take action via reinstalling the OS.

Now the best way to reinstall macOS is via recovery mode. The reason is that the Mac boots to a completely separate OS which makes it way less complicated for the installer application to install the OS as any customizations or applications like anti-virus applications don’t enter the picture. This document details how to enter recovery mode. And once you’re in it, I started the macOS installer.

Now here’s where things get time consuming. Once you get into this installer, it will download roughly 12.5 GB as this installer always installs the latest version available. So you need to have a fast internet connection or you will be waiting a very long time. In my case, it took about an hour to download and reinstall the OS. After that, I was on macOS Monterey 12.1 and everything worked.

I am now starting to do some testing. Specifically, to see if the memory leak issue is fixed. Apple didn’t specifically say so on the release notes. But here’s hoping that it is fixed. I do notice that my MacBook Pro is running slightly cooler with less CPU being used. I’ll follow up on that front and with whatever else I find.

UPDATE: A reader asked if my data remained intact after the reinstall. It did. But it goes without saying that you should have a backup just in case.

The Most Wonderful Time of Year for… Email Fraud 

Posted in Tips with tags on November 24, 2021 by itnerd

The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s also the busiest time of the year for online shopping. It’s also the season when cybercriminals bank on people being in a rush and distracted during this hectic season, and therefore more likely to fall victim to a scam, allowing them to cash in.

Now both AARP and FBI have tips on how to avoid scams like these. But it’s not just individuals who are targets for this sort of thing. Businesses are also targets. Mike Jones, product manager at Agari by HelpSystems has this advice for businesses who want to protect themselves:

“It’s not just individuals who are at risk. Businesses often suffer insurmountable losses in brand trust, credibility, and email deliverability, as well as millions of dollars of revenue from both fraudulent and legitimate purchases. If people fall prey to someone who has impersonated a brand, that business suffers, because every real email they send may now not be trusted. Plus, loyal or new customers might not feel safe coming to the legitimate website to make a purchase. 

Employees need to think carefully before responding to emails. Would the CFO really want you to send them gift cards? Of course not, but would a trusted supplier change their bank account details? Perhaps. Suspicious emails should be reported to your security operations team immediately so they can be verified, and, if found to be a scam, other employees can be warned.”

It may be the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have your head on a swivel. Threats are out there and you need to be careful so that you protect yourself.

Do You Have A Lot Of Menu Bar Items On Your 2021 MacBook Pro? Here’s A Tip To Make Sure The Notch Isn’t A Problem

Posted in Tips with tags on November 12, 2021 by itnerd

The most controversial thing about the MacBook Pro that was just released is the notch. While it gives you insanely thin bezels, it does cut into the menu bar. That’s a problem for me as I run iStat Menus which monitors things like RAM and CPU usage as well as system temperature. If I have enough things active, it runs up against the notch:

On the left side of the screenshot is where the notch is. If anything else enters the menu bar, it goes under the notch. For example I’ve gotten rid of the Bluetooth icon for that reason as it was inaccessible at times. I needed a more elegant solution. Which is why after some research I installed a utility called Bartender. What Bartender does is allows you to take control of your menu bar so you can decide what is visible, and when it is visible. In my case when I run it, it makes my menu bar look like this:

While I clearly have a lot more space on my menu bar, you’re likely wondering where the rest of the stuff went to. Well, the stuff that I don’t need to look at on a constant basis gets placed here:

You can see that there’s a hidden menu bar with items that I don’t need on a constant basis. You can make it reappear if you click on the three dots. But the really cool thing is that they can reappear when needed. For example:

  • When I am on battery power, the battery icon will show.
  • When Time Machine is doing a backup, the Time Machine icon will show.
  • When I am disconnected from WiFi, the WiFi icon will show.
  • When my Cisco AnyConnect VPN Connection gets dropped, the icon will show.
  • When Garmin Connect has a notification, the icon will show.

The net result is that I get some space on my menu bar that allows me to see what I need to see, while making sure that the notch will not be an issue. And this setup can help anyone who doesn’t have a new MacBook Pro, but simply has a Mac with a ton of menu bar items.

Hopefully this tip helps you. If you have any ideas as to how to bring sanity to your menu bar, leave a comment or send me an email and share your thoughts.

Two Easy Ways To Easily Tell If You Are Running Mac Apps That Are Compatible With Apple Silicon

Posted in Tips with tags on November 9, 2021 by itnerd

So you just got a brand you Mac with the M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Mac processor in it. Congratulations! You absolutely made the right decision. But to fully leverage that new processor, you need apps that are designed for Apple Silicon so that you get the best performance and the best compatibility. Which means the question is, how do you make sure that your apps are ones that work with Apple Silicon? Before I get into the two ways that I would recommend to do that, let me explain the three different app types and why you should care:

  • X86-64 app running under Rosetta 2: If you’re coming from another Mac, or the developer of the app in question is on the lazy side, they may have only created an app that runs on Intel Macs that have Intel processors using the X86-64 bit instruction set. Which means that when you use that app on an Apple Silicon computer, macOS will have to use a translation layer called Rosetta 2 to allow it to run on Apple Silicon. Most of the time this works very well. However it is entirely possible that you may not be getting the best performance from the app in Rosetta 2. Also, it is also possible that you may have some issues with the app as no translation is perfect.
  • Universal Apps: This is where things get a bit confusing. Apple uses the term “Universal” for Apple Silicon/M1 optimized apps which work with Intel Macs too. But Apple uses the same term to refer to the same app being available on iOS and macOS. In this case, I am talking about the former as that form of Universal App ensures that you get good performance and compatibility with Apple Silicon Macs.
  • Apple Silicon Apps: These are apps that are native on Apple Silicon. These apps will give you the absolute best performance on your Apple Silicon Mac.

At the moment, I would expect most people who own Apple Silicon Macs to have Universal as developers really only want to write one app that works on both Intel and Apple Silicon platforms. But over the next few years, I expect that developers will transition over to Apple Silicon apps because there will be less and less Intel Macs in the market as time goes on and Apple will eventually drop support for Rosetta 2 for that reason. Thus it’s in your interest to make sure that you have as many apps that are Apple Silicon compatible as possible to stay ahead of this.

So, how can you tell what types of apps you’re running. Apple has a built in tool called System Information that can help you with that. Simply go to the Apple Menu –> About This Mac –> System Report. This will bring up System Information. Scroll down to the Software section and pick Applications. You should see this:

Here is where you will see all the apps that are on your Mac. Under “Kind” you will the type of app. In the screen shot above, you will see that I have the Apple Silicon version of Zoom, but everything else on the screen is a Universal app. You will also see iOS apps which is fine, Intel apps are ones which you should upgrade if you can, and Other. I honestly have no clue what that is. And nothing that I searched for cleared that up for me. If anyone out there has any info on this, I’d really appreciate a comment or an email with some clarification.

The second option is to use an app called Silicon which scans your computer for apps and displays everything in a user friendly way:

If you see a green dot next to the app, you’re good. If you see a yellow dot next to the app, then you need to update the app. It really doesn’t get any simpler.

Once you have an idea of what types of apps you have, I would go to the developer’s website or to the App Store to see if there is an update. If there isn’t one, I would email the developer as that may encourage them to update their app seeing as they will have to do it at some point.

Hopefully this helps you to get the most out of your new Apple Silicon Mac. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll do my best to help you out.