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We compared 3 of the most popular note taking apps for iPhone — but the winner depends on what you want to do

I shudder to think where I would be in life if it were not for my smartphone note-taking apps.

Surely, I would have forgotten hundreds of tasks over the years, misplaced hundreds of paper shopping lists, or lost hours-worth of notes taken at work. All those brilliant screenplay ideas that I’ve had while riding the bus or at the gym or somewhere else where I couldn’t easily get to a more traditional word processor would be simply gone forever, if it were not for my note taking apps.

There are tons of generic note taking apps for iPhone on the app store, and they’re all pretty good at the basics. However, I’ve been using Apple’s built-in Notes app, Google Keep, and Evernote for a long time now, and have found that these three stand above the rest, each for unique reasons.

And while I’ve tried (more than once) to consolidate my usage to a single app, I’ve found that each of these meets a specific need in its own way, and I truly do rely on all three for nearly everyday use.

Rather than arguing that one should be the ubiquitous note-taking solution, I’ve pitted these three apps against each other, identified each of their strengths and weaknesses, and identified which you should use based on which kind of notes you’re taking.

Cost Comparison (Luckily, all three of these apps have a free version for iPhone.)

  • Apple’s Notes app comes pre-installed with every iOS and OS device. So if you use an iPhone, congratulations! You’re already a third of the way there.
  • Google Keep can be downloaded from the app store for free on iOS mobile devices, and a desktop version can be installed as an extension of Google Chrome, also for free.
  • Evernote has a free mobile and desktop version for Apple devices, but reserves several features and extras for premium (paid tier) customers.

Ease of Use:

Apple’s Notes app essentially acts and looks like a very minimal word processor which anyone can use with little to no instruction, although some of the most powerful features are a bit harder to get to for a first-time user.

The app allows mobile users to format their text (with bold text, italics, headings, etc) very quickly and easily on mobile, but doesn’t offer any instructions or labeling for many of the buttons, making many of the features (like check lists, photo embeds, and sketching) harder to identify.

Notes can be placed into different folders, so you won’t mix up your work notes with your screenplay ideas, and can be sorted based on the device on which you wrote them.

Google Keep offers a sleek and straightforward take on note-taking, which heavily focuses on images, lists and color-coding.

Rather than organizing your notes in a bare bones list format, Google’s Keep works a lot like cork board covered in post-it notes.

Images, check lists, maps, sketches, and regular ol’ text entries are kept on the static front page, rather than tucked away into folders, so you don’t have to go digging for that entry you made last week. Just scroll down until you see the big headline on the appropriately color-coded tile.

While Keep doesn’t offer the same formatting options for text, it does make the other features more prominent and easier to get to, so I’m more likely to open up Keep when I need to make a quick shopping list or want to draw a picture.

This view can be much more appealing on the eyes, but is clearly not ideal for long-winded musings or journal entries.

I suspect that fans of Pinterest will prefer this approach to notes, while Facebook fans might not.

Meanwhile, Evernote is ideal for long, organized notes that you can keep coming back to, rather than jotting down quick entries or to-do lists.

Evernote is easily the most fleshed-out between the three, and offers the most extensive service. Although, with more features comes added complication, and the app definitely takes some getting used to for new users.

If Notes feels like a lightweight word processor, then Evernote’s powerful formatting capabilities are giving Microsoft Word a run for its money.

To put it simply, the makers of Evernote have thought of everything. The app can easily replace every need for a paper notebook or filing system, by allowing the user to store documents, capture audio, organize and tag their own notes, and even chat with collaborators right there inside the app.

Organization:

Apple’s Notes app lets users sort their entries into folders, so you can easily keep your work notes separate from your to-do lists or quickly-scribbled thoughts. They also allow you to “Pin” individual notes to the top of the app with a swipe.

Google Keep allows you to “label” all your notes, for ease of sorting and finding them again, as well as archive old ones that you might not need anymore.

Evernote smartly uses a “notebooks” system, which allows users to sort their notes by topic, and share entire collections of entries with their collaborators.

In addition to Notebooks, Evernote also includes the ability to tag individual posts and create shortcuts to your most frequently-visited entries.

Search Functions

Notes allows the user to search for keywords through their text and attachments, but that’s about as far as this feature goes for the built-in service. I’ve had multiple frustrating experiences trying to unearth very old writings that I remembered taking down, but couldn’t remember any of the words in the actual text.

Google Keep lets users narrow their search by filtering the type of note (text, check lists, those containing images, etc), as well as searching by label, in the event that you can’t remember any of the right keywords.

Evernote has easily got the other two apps beat in this category, by offering a whole array of search options, including by tag, notebook and source, as well as the time the note was created or last modified, to name a few.

The app can even search for keywords among notes hand-written with a stylus or scanned in through the camera.

Which app is superior to the others?

Actually, these three apps each have invaluable qualities that I believe are unique for the function that they do best. For that reason, I think they are each superior when it comes to specific tasks.

  • Google Keep is best for making lists
  • Apple Notes is best for jotting down thoughts on the go
  • Evernote is best for taking notes at work or school

So, depending on what you need to accomplish one of these apps should suit your needs! As the title of the article states, in comparing three of the most popular note taking apps the winner depends on what you want to do!

Fagen,Kaylee. 2018, August 1 “We compared 3 of the most popular note taking apps for iPhone-but the winner depends on what you want to do,” content taken from Business Insider https://www.businessinsider.com/compared-top-3-iphone-note-taking-apps-evernote-google-keep-apple-2018-7

 

 

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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Getting the most from OneNote, Part I: A hidden Office gem

The more information you put into OneNote the more useful it is. You can tag, flag, recognize, record and search just about anything.

Microsoft’s cross-platform notebook tool OneNote has long been a hidden gem in Office. In the last few years its success in the education market has prompted Microsoft to invest more in the application. As well as adding specific Learning Tools. Microsoft is bringing the Mac and web versions closer to parity with the desktop Windows version of OneNote, improving the iOS and Android mobile applications and building a brand-new Windows Store OneNote app that will soon replace OneNote 2016. It’s also making OneNote notebooks part of every SharePoint team site and Teams team. But what can you actually do with OneNote and how do you make it useful?

OneNote is ideal for storing unstructured information — not just the notes you take in lectures or meetings, or digital versions of Post It notes, but also photos, videos, receipts, emails (and attachments), web pages, PDFs, presentations, your optical prescription in case you break your glasses, the frequency for your favorite radio stations in cities to which you travel. In short, anything you can print, write down or photograph and might need to refer to one day.

Individual notes live in the sections of a notebook; you can have multiple sections in multiple notebooks that you keep private or share with colleagues and sync across devices. You can open a notebook that someone else has shared with you and have it fully synced on your own device, making it easy to collaborate. As you can rename and move all of these, you don’t need to get the perfect structure straight away. Instead, the first step of making OneNote useful is to put as much information that you might need later as possible in there, so that you can search for it.

Send everything to OneNote

You can type, handwrite, record audio and video, and paste in text, images, video and other content in OneNote. You can even do simple math in OneNote; just type in the equation, followed by ‘=’ and OneNote will work it out for you. You can also share and print from other applications straight into OneNote, but the different tools give you slightly different results.

OneNote 2016 has a snipping tool (trigger it from the toolbar, the Windows system tray or make a keyboard shortcut for it) that lets you drag to select an area and choose the notebook section or even individual page where you want to save an image of what you snip. You can find the section or page by searching for the title, so you don’t have to scroll through long lists of sections and pages.

In the Windows 10 OneNote app, you can use the Windows snipping tool, then either find the note you want and paste in by hand or open the Screen Sketch tool then use the Share charm (which can only target the current page or notebook section).

You can print from any application using the OneNote printer drivers. The OneNote 2016 printer driver is automatically installed and can print into any page or notebook section, which you choose in the same snipping dialog. The OneNote Store printer driver you have to install yourself from the Store, and can only print a new page into notebook sections, which you have to painstakingly navigate to rather than being able to search for. Both drivers save images of the individual pages you print. You can also import files into the current page in OneNote 2016 as printouts or attachments. Outlook on Windows (and Mac for Office 365 users) has a Send to OneNote button that copies email text and attachments, or the details of meeting attendees, into OneNote. You can also grab the details of an Outlook meeting that you want to take notes on from inside OneNote 2016 and OneNote 10, to get the list of everyone who’s there quickly.

If you use the OneNote Web Clipper extensions for Edge, Chrome and Firefox, you get the editable text and images (you can choose whether to clip the whole page or just the main content); you can clip into any notebook section that’s stored in OneDrive or OneDrive for Business (even ones that are shared with you) if you don’t have the notebook open on your device, but again not into existing pages. If you have a lot of notebooks and sections, having to scroll through the alphabetical list is much slower than the OneNote 2016 word wheel search. You can’t clip PDFs, so if you’re viewing them in a web browser, print them to OneNote instead.

OneNote is also a share target in the iOS and Android browsers, although that saves a printout rather than the editable text of the web page.

Microsoft’s Office Lens app on iOS and Android (and Windows Phone) can save images directly into OneNote sections, which is a good way of capturing whiteboards, presentations, business cards and documents. (The Office Lens feature is also built into OneNote on iOS and Android, so you can snap photos on your phone and have them show up in the right place in a note you’re editing on your Mac or PC).

OneNote is also an  “If This Then That” target  (IFTTT) so, you can do things like archiving tweets, RSS feeds, Reddit posts, DropBox files, starred Gmail messages or articles from Pocket, Feedly or Instapaper into OneNote. This isn’t always reliable and high-volume archiving will quickly hit the size limit of OneNote sections, but it’s very convenient when it does work.

If you record audio or video into OneNote (on Windows or Mac), any notes you take while recording or playing back the recording are time synced, so you can easily jump to the most important section of a meeting or lecture. (OneNote can also record unlimited audio on iOS, but you can’t take notes at the same time.) The audio is also searchable in OneNote 2016, but as it’s just matching the sounds of words it’s not very accurate.

Searching in OneNote

OneNote 2016 has one search box and two keyboard shortcuts for searching: Ctrl-E searches across all your notes (or a subset that you choose), while Ctrl-F searches within the current note. OneNote for Windows 10 has the same keyboard shortcuts, although they select from a unified search dropdown. Either way, that makes it easy to find the right note and then the right sentence. Both versions of OneNote use the same Ctrl-M shortcut to open a new window, so you have multiple notes open at once.

You can also see a list of recently edited notes, as a way of getting back to what you were working on recently. In OneNote 2016 you can pick multi-time periods (from ‘today’ to the last six months or even a chronological view of all notes in the section) or search for changes by specific people.

If you have a digital pen, or a touchscreen PC or iPad, you can draw and handwrite notes, and OneNote uses handwriting recognition to make them searchable even if you don’t convert them to text. If you want to draw with your finger, turn that on in the Draw toolbar — and then turn it off again when you want to go back to using your finger for scrolling. If you want more space for drawing, both OneNote 2016 and OneNote 10 have a full-screen mode that hides all the toolbars and other controls.

Images in OneNote are automatically OCR’d, so you can search for text shown in an image or a printout. You can also right-click on them to copy the recognized text to use elsewhere, making this a quick way of scanning paper documents.

Image OCR and handwriting recognition work locally in OneNote 2016, which also gives you the widest choice of where to store notebooks — in OneDrive, on your local PC or on a network file share. Notebooks stored in OneDrive can sync automatically to your other devices and you can share them with colleagues for live co-editing. Content syncs right into the page, marked by the initials of the person adding it. Notebooks stored on a network file share can sync onto other PCs that have access to the network, including over a VPN, but you can’t open them on other devices.

Branscomb, Mary. “Getting the most from OneNote, Part I: A hidden Office Gem” TechRepublic July 30, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Make your Android or iPhone’s Fingerprint Reader Work Every Time

This dead-simple trick will keep you from wanting to throw your phone across the room.

Raise your hand if this is you: The fingerprint reader on your iPhone or Android phone fails often enough on the first try that you’re starting to wonder if you’ve been cursed with weird fingers.

Relax; there are plenty of reasons why you may not get an accurate read your first try, besides your mutant appendages.

  • Your fingertip hasn’t fully covered the sensor
  • You have wet hands
  • The phone didn’t get an accurate read when you first registered your print
  • The phone maker’s implementation may make the reader more sensitive, like if there are more demanding layers of security built into the software

This tip won’t help with all of those, but it definitely helps.

If you’re up to here with trying to unlock your phone so many times that you have to revert to a password or passcode, stop. Take a deep breath. And try this dead-simple solution that really works.

Register the same print two or three times. I do this with the phones I review and it makes the devices much more likely to unlock the first time around. For example, I’ll scan the finger I usually unlock the phone with at least twice — say, my thumb — and then scan a second finger that I might use to also unlock the device, like my index finger. I’ll usually also scan the index finger of my non-dominant hand, which has bailed me out more than once when I had my hands too full to unlock the phone as I normally would.

The reason multiple scans of the same finger works is because when you register your fingertip the first time around, it isn’t always clear which parts of your print the software has captured. A nominally helpful animation will urge you to lift your finger to capture more area, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the data your phone’s actually storing.

By laying down the same fingerprint more than once, you’re doubling or tripling the chances that your phone will capture enough data.

Of course, adding duplicate digits won’t solve your unlocking issues if you constantly struggle to reach the reader, or if your hands are too wet for the phone to register your print.

How to register multiple fingerprints on your phone

Most phones give you a maximum of five fingerprints for security reasons. The more fingers you wave through, the higher the probability the phone will unlock for false positives, the reasoning goes.

On Android phones:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Security
  • Tap “Fingerprint”
  • Re-enter your PIN
  • Tap “Add fingerprint”

On iPhones with Touch ID:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Touch ID & Passcode
  • Enter your passcode
  • Under the section “Fingerprints” tap “Add a Fingerprint

Dolcourt, Jessica. “Make Your Android or iPhone’s Fingerprint Reader Work Every Time” CNET July 5, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Change the Safari Download Location on Mac OS

By default, the Safari web browser for Mac will download any files to the Downloads folder of the active user account. Most Mac users will likely be satisfied with that, but some may wish to change the file download directory in Safari for Mac OS to another directory. Likewise, if you have changed the Safari download destination, you may wish to revert back to the default download folder for Safari on the Mac.

This tutorial will show you how to change the Safari downloads location in Mac OS. You can change it to any directory or folder you have access to, or you can revert back to the default Safari downloads destination of the user Downloads directory.

Making this adjustment will change where all downloaded files from the Safari web browser go to on the Mac. It will not impact other applications and where they download files.

How to Change the File Download Location in Safari on Mac

  1. Open the “Safari” web browser on the Mac if you have not done so already
  2.  Pull down the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”

3.  Go to the “General” tab and then look for the “File Download Location” section and click on the Downloads dropdown menu.

4. Choose “Other” to change the downloads destination in Safari.

5.  Navigate to the directory you want Safari to download files to and choose “Select”

6.  Exit out of Safari Preferences when finished.

Now all future downloaded files or items from Safari will go to the folder or directory you selected.  for example, if you selected the Desktop, then all Safari downloaded files will appear on the desktop of the Mac.

Changing the download destination for Safari only applies to downloads and files going forward, any flies downloads before this change was made would appear in the location set prior to any adjustment.  If you aren’t sure where a particular file downloaded form Salari is located, you can search on the Mac with Spotlight for the file name, click the magnifying glass button in the Safari Downloaded Items List or manually ivenstigate the user Downloads folder or whatever you had/have selected as the Safari download location.

How to Change Back to the Default Download Location in Safari on Mac OS

If you had prviously customized the location of the Download directory away from the default (downloads) and to another directory, you can change it back as follows.

From the Safari browser, go to the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”

    1. From the Safari browser, go to the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”
    2. From the “General” tab look for the “File Download Location” section, and then click on the Downloads dropdown menu and choose “Downloads”
      • If “Downloads” is not in the dropdown menu, choose “Other” and navigate to your user Home folder then select the “Downloads” from from there
      • Exit out of Safari Preferences when finished

    That’s it, now the Safari downloaded file destination directory will be reset to default ~/Downloads folder on the Mac.

    Most users are better off keeping all downloads in the Downloads folder of Mac OS for consistency sake, because it makes keeping track of downloaded files particularly easy if all apps are downloading all files into the same location. By default, most Mac apps that are able to download files will use the user Downloads folder as the destination for those files, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, most SFTP apps, and even file transfer features like AirDrop saves files to the Downloads folder by default on MacOS.

    Of course this applies to Safari, which also happens to be the default web browser on a Mac, but if you use a different web browser then changing the default download location would be different.

    And in case you were wondering, yes this guide applies to both regular Safari, Safari Beta, as well as the Safari Technology Preview builds. The download settings will be similar but slightly different if you happen to be running Safari on Windows PC but since that Windows-specific software build is no longer actively developed it’s usage is debatable.

  1. Horowitz, Paul. “How to Change the Safari Download Location on Mac OS” OSX Daily July 1, 2018

Posted in: Mac OS, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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7 Passwords You Should Never Use at Your Small Business

Owning a small business means owning data. You’re constantly acquiring new information related to your customers, your financial details, and all the vendors and contractors with whom you work.  One cyber criminal, though, one lucky hack, and you’ve just exposed your business to a major blow. From lost trust among your clients to costly lawsuits for the damage done, protecting your company from data theft is among your most important responsibilities.​

A lot of it comes down to one simple choice you make:  passwords.

“Overall, passwords still present the biggest challenge for businesses of all sizes,” said Ron Schlecht, founder and managing partner of BTB Security. Businesses hire Schlecht’s company to test their digital security for weak spots and, he said, “you can’t imagine how many times we still break in to companies because of a bad password.”

If you want to avoid weak passwords at your business, start by steering clear of the following list. Read on for seven passwords you should never (ever) use.

Password

Arguably, this is the number-one and most common bad choice. Also prevalent are variations such as P@ssword and P@55w0rd!. These might be easy to remember, but they’re also among the first options hackers will try.

QWERTY

Easy-to-guess passwords often take root because they’re simple to remember. That’s the story with this hacker-friendly option constructed from the sequence of letters at the top left of the typical computer keyboard.

12345

Or, 98765. Or, 4567. You get the picture — no consecutive numbers (and the same goes for sequential letter combinations). You can only count on passwords such as these to expose your business to digital theft.

BusinessName1

If your shop is called Serafina’s Weddings, don’t set your password as SerafinasWeddings1. That would be a early choice for hackers looking to break into your valuable data.

Business Address

Skip it entirely, when it comes to passwords. Also avoid trying to mash together similar details, such as your street name and street number — i.e. Main215. 

Date of Birth

Thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t take much effort to find a person’s DOB. Birthdays, birthdates, years of birth — all of them make for readily attainable passwords and are poor choices for your company.

Simple Dictionary Words

Especially if they’re related to your business, don’t use them. No baseball, football, or soccer for your sporting goods store. No muffler, tire, or spark plug for your auto garage.

 And so, what should you do when it comes to picking a password?

A key approach starts with thinking of a passphrase. Next, substitute letters, characters, and abbreviations for parts of it. For example, my first car was a Honda in 1990 would be easy enough to remember, if that was the case in your life. Now, change it to my1stc@r=honda90.

Steer clear of the not so magnificent seven above, and protect your data with hard-to-guess constructions. With a strong password strategy, you’re well on your way to foiling online attacks.

O’Brien, James. “7 Passwords You Should Never Use at Your Small Business” The Hartford, Small Biz Ahead. June 2018

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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How to Block Annoying Robocalls

  • Robocalls can originate from anywhere and are hard to fight.
  • There are apps you can download to help prevent them, and steps you should take when you receive them.
  • Here’s how to stop those annoying robocalls.

If you’re like me, chances are you’re constantly getting bombarded by robocalls. You know the type: You pick up the phone only to hear some pre-recorded message — sometimes not even in English — about how you owe someone money or you’ve won a free vacation to Barbados.

These sorts of robocalls are smarter than ever, too. Spammers are capable of spoofing the area code where you live so that it appears to be a local call or even one from a legitimate business you’ve used. And of course you answer: Maybe it’s a neighbor, the drug store or a doctor calling.

Usually it isn’t.

I’m going to walk you through how some of those calls happen in the first place, and how to start blocking them.

Where Robocalls Originate

Anyone can pay to make millions of robocalls. There are legitimate businesses that follow the law which you can pay to have your message sent out to people around the globe. Advanced tools let you pick the area code the call originates from, so someone can target a specific area and use a local number.Other people and groups around the globe don’t necessarily care about US laws, so they’re able to call you from pretty much anywhere — but with similar tools to what legitimate businesses offer. They usually call for private info such as social security numbers and bank accounts, or cash, with the hopes they’ll trick you into giving it away.

Current scams listed by the FTC include people impersonating the Chinese Consulate and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, for example.

What to do when you get one

If you see a number you don’t recognize, even if it’s from a local area code, let the message go to voicemail. If it’s important — say a message from a school nurse — you’ll get a voicemail.

If you pick up, you should end the call immediately after you realize it’s a pre-recorded message.

“Hang up the phone,” FTC attorney Kati Daffan advises. “Don’t press one to speak to a live operator. And don’t press any other number to get off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.”

How to avoid them

Your first line of defense is to sign up for the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry. It’s illegal for telemarketers to call you if you’re on it, though plenty still do.

Sign up for the FTC’s Scam Alerts. This will help you know about current robocalls and scams that have been reported to the FTC, such as the two I mentioned above.

You should also download apps that have frequently-updated lists of known robocall numbers that are automatically blocked. The US wireless industry group CTIA recommends several apps for Androidand iPhone, including the app Mr. Number, which is highly rated in both app stores.

I downloaded Mr. Number and it offers a lot of options, including the ability to automatically block known scams, block suspected fraudsters, block numbers that are hidden on purpose, block numbers that aren’t in your contacts and more.

Some wireless carriers also offer services that can help cut down on robocalls. AT&T offers a Call Protect app and T-Mobile has a Scam Block tool.

How to block a number

It’s almost impossible to completely avoid robocalls — unless you block everyone who’s not in your address book with an app — since it’s easy for scammers to create a new number and call you again. Still, you should know how to block a number on your phone. Here’s how to do that on Android (the steps might vary by device) and on the iPhone:

On Android:

  • Open the Phone app
  • Tap the number that just called you
  • Tap “Details”
  • Tap “Block number”

On iPhone:

  • Open the Phone app.
  • Tap the “i” icon next to the number that called you.
  • Scroll down and select “Block this caller.”

Report them to the FTC

If you follow the steps above you should receive fewer robocalls. If you still get them, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Doing so can help the FTC detect patterns and potentially stop whoever’s sending those calls in the first place.

 

Haselton, Todd. “How to block the annoying robocalls that you keep getting” CNBC.com, Tech May 5, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Backup your SMS Text Messages on Android

Much of the world has moved on from SMS, but it’s still one of the most popular methods of sending messages in the US. It’s an unfortunate requirement here for many, and it probably will be until RCS gets off the ground. And if you’re the data-hoarding type, then you might want to keep those SMS messages around for later reference—either in cold storage or an easily accessed format. But even bringing them with you from device to device isn’t actually that hard, and we’re glad to walk you through the different ways to do it. 

Of course, Google’s Pixels (and a handful of other Oreo-powered devices) include built-in SMS backup these days, as well as a tool during the setup process for migrating messages over to a new phone, so let’s cover that first.

Android’s built-in SMS Backup

As of Android 8.1, you can now restore backed up data (including SMS messages) after the initial setup. Unfortunately, it’s not a manual process like the other items on this list. It’s only available if the “Finish setting up” screen is shown at the top of your settings panel. Tap that “Finish Setup” button, and it’ll perform the same restoration maneuver it typically would on initial setup, which can include restoring previously backed up SMS messages from your devices.

The data comes courtesy of Android’s automatic backups, and they’re stored on Google Drive. You can view them (but not their contents) via the Android app, and they can’t be copied off or moved elsewhere.

The built-in system is useful and automatic, but without a way to manually trigger the restoration process or view the backed up contents, it’s of limited utility. For instance, you can’t read those messages off-device, and you can’t save them long-term. In such cases, this automatic system might not fit your needs, but there are alternatives.

There are a lot of individual apps for backing up and restoring your SMS messages, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to two well-known and high-quality free apps we’ve covered in the past: SMS Backup+ and SMS Backup & Restore. They both let you back up and pull down your messages with a bit more control than the stock system, but each is suited to a slightly different use case.

SMS Backup+

If you’re mostly interested in keeping your messages around somewhere (without necessarily having local access to them), then SMS Backup+ is probably your best choice. The app is open source and allows you to automatically back up your SMS, MMS, and call history to your Gmail account, presenting your messages there in a convenient “SMS” label, laid out in the same format as email conversations, accessible anywhere via phone, computer, or tablet.

The app is free with in-app purchases, and although there was a couple year gap in updates, it still remained functional during that time (if somewhat dated looking). Now that it has a slightly more modern aesthetic, there’s no reason not to use it.

The setup process is simple. Once you have the app installed, fire it up, and jump past the changelog splash screen to the main app. There you toggle the “Connect” switch, grant the app access to your contacts, select the Gmail account you’d like to have your messages synced to, and decide if you’d like all your current messages to be backed up or not as it pulls SMS permissions. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

You can set the app to automatically back up messages with a configurable schedule. I’ve always found the default settings—which back up incoming messages every minute and outgoing messages every two hours—to be fine. Data used by the app is pretty minimal, but if you are concerned, you can set it to only make backups on Wi-Fi. It’s also able to broadcast an intent at the time of backup for third-party app integration.

The backup process for SMS Backup+ is pretty slow, but since messages really only need to be backed up once—and since that can be done as they come in without you even noticing—it’s not really a problem. It is much more of a concern, however, if you plan on using the system to migrate between devices, as the restoration process is quite time-consuming.

In fact, if that’s your intention, there’s another app in this guide which might suit you a bit better.

SMS Backup & Restore

SMS Backup & Restore has changed hands a few times in recent history. It was bought by Carbonite and later sold to SyncTech. But none of that really matters, it’s just a good, free app for exporting SMS and MMS messages in a single file.

On first launch, SMS Backup & Restore has a nice little walk through that explains which permissions it needs to request and why, at which point it asks for the whole bundle at once before dumping you on the main screen.

Hager, Ryne. ” How to bck up your SMS text messages on Android” Android Police, April 27, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Get Better Wi-Fi

The cable plan you signed up for promised up to 300 Mbps of blistering Internet speed, but reality has proven to be somewhat different. You’re barely topping 25 Mbps, Netflix doesn’t work upstairs and by 7 p.m., no one seems to be able to stream anything at all.

It’s quite possible to boost your Wi-Fi speed yourself, with the solution being as simple as moving your router or as persnickety as switching Wi-Fi frequencies.

The distance between the router and connecting devices, as well as the number of walls and floors in between, make a big difference. While a Wi-Fi signal can travel hundreds of feet in an unobstructed space, walls and floors can cut that distance by half or more.

Your connection speed can also be influenced by your router—how old it is, how good its processor and antenna are, how good it is at picking up wireless signals and how many devices are using it.

In some cases, your connection speed may even come down to your service provider’s preference for certain kinds of traffic. Service providers prioritize voice traffic first, then their own video services.

What actions can you take to increase your Wi-Fi performance and get your streaming speed back up to par?

1. Check the router

The IP connection between your device and the router or between the router and Internet can get hung up. A restart of the router reboots all its systems, including the network processor and wireless radios.

If your router has a reset button, hold it down for a few seconds. If not, restart it by removing the cable from the power socket, waiting half a minute and then plugging it in again.

If that doesn’t work, check to make sure the router firmware is up to date. Look for the update option under “System” in router software you have installed on your computer. Only download router firmware updates from the manufacturer’s website.

You may also find that resetting and reinstalling your router software may do the trick. For most routers, this is accomplished by holding down the reset button and then reinstalling the software.

2. Turn off Eco mode

Some routers have a power-saving or Eco mode that’s on by default. Eco mode can slow down your Wi-Fi and the actual power savings are minimal. In your router’s settings, look for Eco mode or power-saving mode and turn it off. Also, check to see if your router has an Automatic transmission setting and make sure it’s at 100 percent.

3. Move the router

Most good routers have antennas that try to provide a symmetrical ‘donut‘ of Wi-Fi coverage, so when possible,place the routerin an open space centrally located in your house, equidistant from its farthest locations.

Place the router up high to help avoid obstructions.

The materials surrounding the router matter as well. Metal interferes with Wi-Fi signals, while wood does not. Positioning the router’s antenna vertically rather than horizontally also increases signal strength.

4. Check to see if other family members are streaming

Intensive activities like streaming HD video or file sharing can take its toll on Internet speed. Routers can support hundreds of devices connecting, but it’s more about what each device is doing online. For example, if everyone is watching Netflix at the same time, this can cause an overall slowdown.

Distance from the router is important as well. If four people are streaming video but they’re all close to the router, you may not experience any slowdowns. So if everyone simply must watch Netflix or play Fortnite separately and simultaneously, try to move the devices closer to the router with as little wall or floor obstructing the path as possible.

5. Check if your ISP is having a hard time keeping up

Another bottleneck is the speed of the service coming from your service provider. A lot of ISPs oversubscribe, so you can feel the lag in the afternoon when everyone gets home.

Test your connection by running a speed test from a site such asSpeedTest.net at different times during the day (There can be confusing ads on this page, so don’t click on anything but the big “Go” button). You don’t want it to fluctuate too much over the course of a day. The speed should always be at least 80 to 90 percent of what your service provider promises. If that’s the case but you’re still not satisfied …

6. Run a ping test

While a speed test gauges the speed possible based on available bandwidth from the service provider, a ping test gauges latency, which is the delay in communication between your computer (or phone) and a particular website on the Internet. It can tell you how good the quality of your Internet connection is.

Head back toSpeedTest.net, where you’ll receive a ping figure measured in milliseconds. In general, lower numbers are better, but anything under 50 is considered good and under 100 is average.

7. Check to see if you’re on an overcrowded channel

Slow Wi-Fi speeds may be the result of interference from your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks as all the devices compete to use the same channel.

All routers support the 2.4Ghz frequency, which distributes traffic among a handful of channels. Dual-band and tri-band routers also support 5GHz frequency, which contains even more channels. That frequency tends to be less congested and therefore usually allows faster connections. And with tri-band routers, you get two separate data streams, which can help if two devices are accessing the router on the 5GHz frequency simultaneously.

You may be able to increase your speed by switching to a less busy channel. Download a wireless channel analyzer app such asWifi Analyzer for Android(no equivalent for non-jailbroken iPhones) or a desktop program such asNirSoft’s Wi-FiInfoView for Windows. Macs have the tool built in; hit Option and tap the wireless icon in your top toolbar, then click Open Network Diagnostics. Open the menu and select Utilities. Select the Wi-Fi Scan tab and choose Scan Now. You’ll see the best 2.4 and 5GHz channels.  These programs show each channel on each Wi-Fi frequency and which ones nearby networks are using.

8. Switch to a different channel

If you discover you’re on an especially crowded channel, you can manually change it. Type your router’s IP address into your web browser. (The IP address is usually on the back of the router, or you can google your router’s model.) You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password, after which you can click through to Wi-Fi settings and select the channel recommended by your Wi-Fi analyzer program.

Check for interference from a nearby cordless device

Baby monitors, older cordless phones, microwave ovens and wireless speakers are just some of the common household gadgets that also use the 2.4Ghz frequency. These can interfere with the wireless signal from your router.

Deal with the conflict by moving the router away from these devices and ensuring that no devices that could potentially interfere lie in a straight line between your router and the gadget you’re trying to get online with.

Stokes, Natasha. “How to Get Better Wi-Fi” Techlicious, Internet & Networking, Tips & How To’s, May 1, 2018

If you have any questions, we can have one of our professional network engineers evaluate your needs, and identify any areas that can be improved.  Email us at support@trinityww.com or give us a call at 732-780-8615 to get more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.

Posted in: IoT, IT Support, Mobile Computing, Networking, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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6 Cool Things in Windows 10 April 2018 Update

Microsoft no longer releases major overhauls to its operating system. Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows, and Redmond now releases upgrades to it on a semi-annual basis instead of one huge upgrade every few years.

The latest, out today, lacks a descriptive name; it’s just the April 2018 Update. But while it’s smaller than previous releases, there are several noteworthy goodies available to Windows users, many of which aim to save you ti me or help your manage time better.

Speaking of time, the update will roll out slowly, first to the most compatible PCs. The whole roll-out process can take months, but you can install the April 2018 Update manually via the Update Assistant utility from Microsoft’s website.

But unless you’re super-stoked to get the new features, you’re actually better off waiting for the normal Windows Update process, as your machine may not be ready to run the new software reliably. In fact, if you’d rather put off the update, you can go into Settings > Windows Update > Advanced Settings and defer the update for up to 365 days. You’ll still receive security and reliability updates.

1. Timeline

The biggest feature of the April 2018 Update, Timeline was originally planned for the Fall Creators Update. It takes over the OS’s multiple virtual desktop button to add the element of time. For me, usurping the multiple virtual desktop feature for Timeline cluttered up the interface, but your desktops still appear across the top clearly. Only activity from the last 30 days is included.

A plus is that Timeline includes activities you performed on your iOS or Android smartphone if you’ve installed Office or Edge there. It will take time to build up some history with Timeline to see whether the feature really delivers. For it to work between devices, Timeline must store your activity in the Microsoft Cloud; if you don’t want that, you can disable it in Settings or set it only to work on the local machine.

2. Nearby Sharing

Apple devices like Mac computers and iPhones have long included the nifty though underused AirDrop feature. This lets you send a photo or document to someone nearby who’s also using an Apple device. It doesn’t require internet connectivity, just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (though you don’t even need to be connected to a Wi-Fi router).

As with AirDrop, you need to turn on Nearby Sharing, in this case in the Action Center right-sidebar. And as with Apple’s feature, when you tap an app’s Share icon, nearby recipients with the feature turned on appear as targets. It’s a convenient way to get pictures, websites, and documents to someone nearby without having to email or message.

3. Focus Assist

With all the constant bombardments hitting knowledge workers these days—from Slack, email, social networks, and more—the new Focus Assist feature can help you get things done and take control of your time use. Windows 10 already had a “quiet hours” feature accessible from the Action Center, but the new feature adds the ability to schedule focus times, provides a summary of what you missed when you return from focus, and lets you designate contacts who can still reach you during focus time. You can also allow alarms during focus if you choose.

4. Dictation Anywhere

Microsoft has long been strong in speech technology, with dictation an option for over a decade, and Cortana listening for her name and your command. But now you can enter text with your voice in any text entry area you see, simply by hitting the Windows Key-H hotkey combination. This feature has already made it into some pre-April 2018 versions of Windows, so give the key combo a try. One shortcoming is that it doesn’t punctuate what you say—something I’d expect in this day of speech AI.

5. Edge Browser Improvements

Edge already lets you see which site tabs are making noise on your PC, but with the update, you can now silence them by clicking the mouse cursor on the small speaker icon that appears in the offending tabs. With the update, Edge also gets full-screen capability for PDF and ebook viewing (What? You didn’t know that Edge also had ebook capability, and even a bookstore?).

The April 2018 Update adds the ability to store payment information to speed up online transactions. Printing webpages also gets better with a new clutter-free option. And finally, a Grammar tool shows learners syllable breaks in words as well as parts of speech, such as adjective or noun.

6. Cortana Smart Home Control

Don’t feel like buying another gadget to control your smart home? The Windows 10 April 2018 Update lets you do it from your PC, using Cortana. Just say, “Hey Cortana, set the lights to 25 percent” and your Philips Hue bulbs respond appropriately. Ditto for ecobee, Nest, or Honeywell smart thermostats. Of course, if you don’t want to leave your PC on all the time, you could also do this through the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker.

 

Muchmore, Micheal. “6 Cool Things in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update” PC Magazine, April 2018

Posted in: IT Support, Mobile Computing, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to export saved passwords from Chrome to a CSV file

This process shows you how to export your passwords stored in Chrome into a CSV file, so that you are able to import your account credentials into a password manager. However, there’s one big caveat.

At first blush, you may think I’ve lost my mind. Wouldn’t exporting passwords to a text-based CSV file be insecure? Although that may be true, when you want to migrate your passwords from Chrome to a password manager (especially when you have a large number of passwords), the last thing you want to do is rely upon your memory to recall all the URLs, usernames, and passwords. And if you’re migrating away from Chrome—which you might be so inclined to do after reading this piece—you’ll want to export those passwords, such that they can be imported into your password manager of choice.

I’m going to walk you through the process of exporting your password information from Chrome. How you then import that information into your password manager will depend upon the tool you use. Fortunately, many of the better password managers are capable of importing CSV files.

With that said, let’s take care of this.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a working version of Chrome. That’s it. As long as you’ve stored your passwords with that browser, you should be good to.

A word of warning (IMPORTANT!!!)

This exported CSV file stores all your information in plain text. The idea here is to export the file, import it into a password manager, trash the exported CSV file, and then undo the process. If you leave that CSV file on your hard drive, you run the risk of leaving yourself exposed. If you don’t undo Chrome’s ability to export, someone could come along and export the file (more on that danger in a bit). Because of that, it is very important you delete that file after you’ve imported it into your password manager. Or you can always save that file to a USB drive, and then lock that drive up in a safe. Either way you go, make sure to protect that file at all costs.

Exporting

The first thing to do is enable password exporting. To do that, open Chrome and type chrome://flags/ in the address bar and hit Enter. In the resulting window type Password export in the search field. When the search result appears, select Enable from the drop-down.

You will then be prompted to restart Chrome. When Chrome restarts, click on the menu button (three horizontal lines in the upper right corner) and click Settings. In the Settings window, click Advanced and scroll down to Manage passwords. Click the three vertical dots associated with Saved passwords and then click Export.

When prompted, click the EXPORT PASSWORDS button and save the .CSV file.

You can now import that newly downloaded file into your password manager.

Undoing your work

First off, remember to delete that file or tuck it away for safekeeping. Once you’ve done that, go back to Chrome, type chrome://flags in the address bar, search for Password export, and disable the feature (set to Default). Relaunch Chrome and the feature will no longer be available.

THE BIG CAVEAT (IMPORTANT!!!)

Unfortunately, Chrome no longer allows the browser to use a password for profile locks. Because of this, you might consider deleting Chrome from your desktop, if you are migrating to Firefox for example and aren’t planning on using Google’s browser. Otherwise, someone with the understanding of how to export passwords could gain access to that data by following the above process.

In the end, the last thing you should do is allow Chrome to save your passwords. If you do, and a malicious user has access to your browser, there’s nothing keeping them from exporting your passwords to a file and using them to gain access to your accounts. Lock those passwords away in a password manager, and remove the passwords from chrome (Chrome | Settings | Advanced | Manage Passwords).

Consider this a word of warning.

Wallen, Jack. “How to export saved passwords from Chrome to a CSV file” TechRepublic, March 22, 2018

Posted in: IT Support, Mobile Computing, Security

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