Expercom Blog

Tips and resources from Apple Pros

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers. This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services. This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacy page, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.” Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen—in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of data on hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch! Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.

Siri and Dictation

The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work, thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.

Touch ID and Face ID

When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry about that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures. And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.

Health and Fitness

People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a potential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.

App Store Guidelines

A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc.). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app <cough>Facebook<cough> to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service. In the end, only you can decide how much information you want to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.


Here’s Why You Should Always Keep the Find My iPhone Feature Enabled

On the face of it, Apple’s Find My iPhone feature does what it says. If you lose your iPhone, you can identify its last known location by looking in the Find iPhone app or on the iCloud Web site, and you can make it play a sound. It’s great for tracking down a missing iPhone, whether you misplaced it in the house or left it behind at a restaurant. But Find My iPhone does much more! For starters, it works with nearly any Apple device. You can use it to locate a missing Mac, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and even AirPods. Find My iPhone also helps protect your data if a device is stolen. It even works with Family Sharing to locate devices owned by anyone in your family—a boon to any parent with a forgetful teenager. You must turn on Find My iPhone before your device goes missing!

  • In iOS, tap Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Find My iPhone and enable Find My iPhone. (On the iPad, it’s called Find My iPad.) Also on that screen, turn on Send Last Location. Finally, go back to the main level of Settings, tap Privacy > Location Services, and make sure Location Services is turned on.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and select the Find My Mac checkbox—if you see a Details button beside Find My Mac, click it and follow its instructions for setting necessary preferences.
Be sure to practice viewing where your devices are located and playing tones on them so you’ll know what to do if a device goes missing. Find My iPhone has a few tricks up its sleeve for when you want a device to show a message or if you think it was stolen:
  • Lost Mode: When invoking this mode for an iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll be asked to enter a phone number where you can be reached and a message. After that, Lost Mode will kick in as soon as the device is awake and has an Internet connection. Anyone who tries to use the device will see your message along with a place to enter the device’s passcode. If you get it back, you can enter the passcode to dismiss the message and use it normally.
  • Lock: Available only for the Mac, the Lock feature enables you to protect an entire Mac with a 4-digit custom passcode. You can also enter a message that will appear on the Lock screen. This is a good choice if you think you’ll get your Mac back but would prefer that nobody mess with it in the meantime. Note that if you lock a Mac, you can’t erase it, as discussed next, so lock it only if you think it can be recovered.
  • Erase: Even if your device has an excellent passcode or password, you might worry that a thief will access your data. Fortunately, you can erase your device. Erasing a device makes it impossible for you to see its location in Find My iPhone, so it’s a last-ditch effort.
  • Activation Lock: If the stolen device is an iOS device or an Apple Watch, when you turn on Find My iPhone, you also enable Activation Lock. This feature prevents someone who has your passcode but doesn’t know your Apple ID and password from turning off Find My iPhone, erasing the device, or setting it up for a new user. In other words, Activation Lock makes it so there’s little reason to steal an iOS device or Apple Watch, since the stolen device can’t ever be used by anyone else. If you get the device back, you can restore your backup—you do have a backup, right?
Find My iPhone works only while the device has power, so if you think you’ve mislaid a device, try locating it right away, before the battery runs out. But even if you are unable to retrieve a lost device, you can prevent others from accessing your data or taking over the device.


Let Your Fingers Do the Walking: 13 Essential Trackpad Tricks for Mac Users

A trackpad is not a mouse. In some ways, that’s obvious—you swipe your fingers on it, rather than dragging it around. Less obvious, however, are the many gestures that make using a trackpad on your Mac faster and more fun. These gestures aren’t limited to laptop users, thanks to Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2, which brings gesturing goodness to any desktop Mac. Here’s how to put your fingers to work.

Four Fingers on the Trackpad

The four-fingers-down gestures are dramatic and an easy way to appreciate the power of trackpad gestures, so we’ll start with them. Say you have a lot of windows open, and you want to move them all aside quickly so you can open a file on the Desktop. Place your thumb and three fingers together on your trackpad and then spread them outward. Your windows scurry to the edges of the screen. To bring the windows back, reverse the gesture, pinching your fingers in toward your palm. If you haven’t moved windows aside, pinching your thumb and three fingers together instead opens Launchpad, which shows icons for installed apps. Click an icon to open that app, or use the spreading four-fingered gesture to exit Launchpad.

Three Fingers on the Trackpad

Move three fingers horizontally on your trackpad and either nothing will happen, or you’ll switch to a different “desktop space.” This state of affairs is most easily seen by making an app full-screen. For instance, open Safari and click the green full-screen button at the upper left of the window. Safari takes over the entire screen, including the menu bar (to put it back, hover the pointer at the very top of the screen to see and click the green button again). Now swipe left and right horizontally to switch in and out of the Safari space. As you make more apps full-screen, they’ll each create their own space. (If you’ve enabled Apple’s Dashboard, you may see it at the far left.) What if you swipe vertically with three fingers? Swipe up to enter the All Windows view of Mission Control, which shows all open windows as thumbnails, plus desktop spaces in the top bar. Click any thumbnail to switch to it, or jump to any space by clicking it. You can also click the plus button at the upper right or drag any window into the top bar to create a new space. To move a space’s apps back to the current space, hover over a space on the top bar and click the close  button that appears. To exit All Windows view, swipe down with three fingers. If you haven’t invoked All Windows view, swiping down with three fingers instead invokes App Exposé view, which displays thumbnails of all open windows in the current app. Click any one to switch to it. Swipe right or left with three fingers while in App Exposé to switch between apps. Finally, on older MacBooks that don’t have Force Touch-capable trackpads, tap with three fingers on words to look them up, on files to preview them with Quick Look, and more. With newer MacBooks, if you have “Force Click and haptic feedback” enabled in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click, you can instead “force click” with one finger for these features. That involves clicking on something and then pressing firmly without letting up.

Two Fingers on the Trackpad

The two-fingered gestures are easy to get your head around:
  • In Safari, swipe left on a page to go back in that tab’s page history or right to go forward.
  • Also in Safari, tap two fingers on the trackpad to zoom in on the content. Another two-fingered tap zooms back out.
  • In Photos, and some graphics apps, zoom in and out by pinching with two fingers, and rotate selected objects by putting two fingers on the trackpad and turning them. A two-finger pinch also zooms the page in Safari.
  • To open Notification Center quickly, swipe left from off the right-hand edge of your trackpad. Swipe back to the right to close Notification Center.

Changing Your Preferences

If you need a refresher on all these gestures, open System Preferences > Trackpad. Look in the Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom, and More Gestures panes to see a video for each gesture. You can also adjust which ones are active and how many fingers they require. With so many gestures on offer, it’s worth your time to explore everything you can do with your trackpad.


Apple Is Discontinuing Its Photo Printing Services—Here Are 7 Alternatives

Sad news: Apple is discontinuing its photo printing services, which enabled you to create and order physical prints, cards, calendars, and books from within Photos on the Mac. If you’re building such a project right now, be sure to place your order before September 30th, 2018. After that, Apple is directing users to download a Photos Project Extension from the Mac App Store. You’ll see this dialog whenever you click a project in Photos. When you click the Open App Store button, Photos opens the App Store app and shows available Photos Project Extensions. (If you need to open this Mac App Store screen manually, search on appex:com.apple.photo-project.) Most of these extensions are free, since they’ll make their money when you order projects. These extensions aren’t exact replacements for Apple’s projects, so let’s look briefly at what they provide.

Mimeo Photos

The extension that comes closest to providing the same products and features as Apple’s print projects is Mimeo Photos, which can create cards, calendars, and books. It offers a wide array of themes.

Motif

Motif looks quite similar to Mimeo Photos, also enabling you to create cards, calendars, and books with selected photos, and it comes from RR Donnelley, the company that was previously Apple’s partner for print projects. It doesn’t offer as many themes or options as Mimeo Photos, but it has a better interface.

Shutterfly

Even though the popular Shutterfly photo service’s Web site lets you go beyond the basics to put your photos on a vast number of objects, such as pillows, candles, and trivets, the company’s Photos extension is limited to photo books. Happily, it provides quite a few different sizes and bindings, and numerous themes for each.

Fujifilm Prints & Gifts

The Fujifilm Prints & Gifts extension lets you order prints, cards, wall art, mugs and drinkware, magnets, T-shirts, puzzles, iPhone cases, and much more. However, it has a non-standard interface (basically the company’s Web site), and every time we switched out of the extension, it crashed and forgot which photo we’d had selected.

Mpix

Although Mpix seems to focus on prints, if you scroll down in the project list, the final option is Browse Mpix, which provides more possibilities, including photo books, calendars, collages, foil art prints, posters, keychains, magnets, playing cards, and business cards. Confusingly, with some of these items, Photos acts as nothing more than a window onto Mpix’s Web site, with no awareness of the photos you’ve selected.

WhiteWall

WhiteWall focuses entirely on prints, with high-end choices for exotic papers and options for mounting and framing. Supported sizes range from 8″ x 6″ up to 48″ x 36″. Unfortunately, the WhiteWall prices seemed high (a framed photo was between $130 and $530, depending on size), and once you select a particular paper or frame choice, there is no way to try another with the same photo without starting another project.

Wix

Unlike all the others, the Wix extension doesn’t put photos on physical products at all. Instead, it’s designed to create on-screen photo albums for Web sites designed with the Wix service. As such, it’s potentially extremely useful for Wix users, but not at all for everyone else. It’s too bad that Apple is getting out of the print project business since the interfaces from these extensions tend not to be as good as what we’re used to from Apple. But if you like making yourself a calendar every year, you’ll probably do fine with Mimeo Photos or Motif, and the rest of the extensions do extend Photos’ printing capabilities in a big way.


Tired of Skewed Lines in Your Photos? Use the Camera App’s Hidden Level.

If you’ve ever photographed a sheet of paper or some other rectangular object, the image may have come out skewed because you inadvertently tilted the camera. The iOS 11 Camera app has a level feature to help you avoid this problem, but it’s so subtle that you may not have noticed it. To use it, first go to Settings > Camera and turn on the Grid switch so thin white lines divide the viewfinder image into a grid of nine rectangles. Then, to access the level, hold the iPhone or iPad flat, so the camera points straight down toward the floor (or straight up toward the sky, if you’re photographing a ceiling). Notice that two crosshairs appear in the middle of the viewfinder, a yellow one that marks the position where the camera will be level and a white one that shows the camera’s current angle. Tilt the camera until the crosshairs merge into a single yellow image, and tap the Shutter button.