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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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Reset your routers to avoid malware attack, FBI warns

Russian hackers may be coming for you, and there’s one way to stop them: Turn off your Wi-Fi.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday anyone with a small office or home router should reboot it to stop the spread of malware. A potential attack had infected hundreds of thousands devices across 54 countries with software called VPNFilter, which was traced back to Ukraine where it was first found in 2016, it said.

The software had not had any negative effects yet, but would allow devices to be hacked for a number of nefarious purposes. Ukranian officials said in a statement they suspect Russia is behind the attack.

To thwart it, the FBI has instructed Americans to do what many IT professionals ask you to do when you have a problem with your Wi-Fi: Turn off your router and then turn it back on again.

“The FBI recommends any owner of small office and home office routers reboot the devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and aid the potential identification of infected devices,” it said in a statement.

While the hack does not affect all routers, experts suggest everyone upgrade their home and office internet security, install the latest firmware and change the default password, said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at security firm Sophos.

The  FBI said last week it had seized the domain used to issue instructions to the infected devices. When users reset their machines, the traffic will reroute through the bureau’s site to clean them up.

This particular kind of vulnerability is alarming because it can be used for a number of attacks, said Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence at IBM IBM, +0.27% It allows the machine to install additional software or internally change devices rendering them unusable.

“Think of it like a garage door — once you have access to it, you can drive anything from a bicycle to a bus into it,” he said. “It is up to the adversary to decide what to park in that garage.”

The hack underscores ongoing issues with the security of routers, which rarely automatically update with patches for vulnerabilities. Experts suggest not using routers issued by your internet service provider and instead buying more expensive, and more secure devices.

“This should be the default moving forward,” said David Ginsburg, vice president at Cavirin, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of cybersecurity. “We’re used to this with our smartphones and laptops, and think nothing of updates.”

Paul, Kari, “Reset Your Routers to Avoid Malware Attack, FBI Warns” Marketwatch.com, May 30, 2018

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10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations

“Oh no! Not another boring PowerPoint presentation! My eyes, my eyes…!!!”

How much does it suck to be in the audience for yet another drawn-out, boring, lifeless slideshow? Worse yet, how much does it such to be the one giving it?

The truth is, bad PowerPoint happens to good people, and quite often the person giving the presentation is just as much a victim as the poor sods listening to her or him.

Here are ten tips to help you add a little zing! to your next presentation. They are, of course, far from comprehensive, but they’re a start. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments.

1. Write a script.

A little planning goes a long way. Most presentations are written in PowerPoint (or some other presentation package) without any sort of rhyme or reason.

That’s bass-ackwards. Since the point of your slides is to illustrate and expand what you are going to say to your audience. You should know what you intend to say and then figure out how to visualize it. Unless you are an expert at improvising, make sure you write out or at least outline your presentation before trying to put together slides.

And make sure your script follows good storytelling conventions: give it a beginning, middle, and end; have a clear arc that builds towards some sort of climax; make your audience appreciate each slide but be anxious to find out what’s next; and when possible, always leave ‘em wanting more.

2. One thing at a time, please.

At any given moment, what should be on the screen is the thing you’re talking about. Our audience will almost instantly read every slide as soon as it’s displayed; if you have the next four points you plan to make up there, they’ll be three steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up rather than listening with interest to the point you’re making.

Plan your presentation so just one new point is displayed at any given moment. Bullet points can be revealed one at a time as you reach them. Charts can be put on the next slide to be referenced when you get to the data the chart displays. Your job as presenter is to control the flow of information so that you and your audience stay in sync.

3. No paragraphs.

Where most presentations fail is that their authors, convinced they are producing some kind of stand-alone document, put everything they want to say onto their slides, in great big chunky blocks of text.

Congratulations. You’ve just killed a roomful of people. Cause of death: terminal boredom poisoning.

Your slides are the illustrations for your presentation, not the presentation itself. They should underline and reinforce what you’re saying as you give your presentation — save the paragraphs of text for your script. PowerPoint and other presentation software have functions to display notes onto the presenter’s screen that do not get sent to the projector, or you can use notecards, a separate word processor document, or your memory. Just don’t put it on the screen – and for goodness’ sake, if you do for some reason put it on the screen, don’t stand with your back to your audience and read it from the screen!

4. Pay attention to design.

PowerPoint and other presentation packages offer all sorts of ways to add visual “flash” to your slides: fades, swipes, flashing text, and other annoyances are all too easy to insert with a few mouse clicks.

Avoid the temptation to dress up your pages with cheesy effects and focus instead on simple design basics:

  • Use a sans serif font for body text. Sans serifs like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri tend to be the easiest to read on screens.
  • Use decorative fonts only for slide headers, and then only if they’re easy to read. Decorative fonts –calligraphy, German blackface, futuristic, psychotic handwriting, flowers, art nouveau, etc. – are hard to read and should be reserved only for large headlines at the top of the page. Better yet, stick to a classy serif font like Georgia or Baskerville.
  • Put dark text on a light background. Again, this is easiest to read. If you must use a dark background – for instance, if your company uses a standard template with a dark background – make sure your text is quite light (white, cream, light grey, or pastels) and maybe bump the font size up two or three notches.
  • Align text left or right. Centered text is harder to read and looks amateurish. Line up all your text to a right-hand or left-hand baseline – it will look better and be easier to follow.
  • Avoid clutter. A headline, a few bullet points, maybe an image – anything more than that and you risk losing your audience as they sort it all out.

5. Use images sparingly

There are two schools of thought about images in presentations. Some say they add visual interest and keep audiences engaged; others say images are an unnecessary distraction.

Both arguments have some merit, so in this case the best option is to split the difference: use images only when they add important information or make an abstract point more concrete.

While we’re on the subject, absolutely do not use PowerPoint’s built-in clipart. Anything from Office 2003 and earlier has been seen by everyone in your audience a thousand times – they’ve become tired, used-up clichés, and I hopefully don’t need to tell you to avoid tired, used-up clichés in your presentations. Office 2007 and non-Office programs have some clipart that isn’t so familiar (though it will be, and soon) but by now, the entire concept of clipart has about run its course – it just doesn’t feel fresh and new anymore.

6. Think outside the screen.

Remember, the slides on the screen are only part of the presentation – and not the main part. Even though you’re liable to be presenting in a darkened room, give some thought to your own presentation manner – how you hold yourself, what you wear, how you move around the room. You are the focus when you’re presenting, no matter how interesting your slides are.

7. Have a hook.

Like the best writing, the best presentation shook their audiences early and then reel them in. Open with something surprising or intriguing, something that will get your audience to sit up and take notice. The most powerful hooks are often those that appeal directly to your audience’s emotions – offer them something awesome or, if it’s appropriate, scare the pants off of them. The rest of your presentation, then, will be effectively your promise to make the awesome thing happen, or the scary thing not happen.

8. Ask questions.

Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and engage audiences. So ask a lot of them. Build tension by posing a question and letting your audience stew a moment before moving to the next slide with the answer. Quiz their knowledge and then show them how little they know. If appropriate, engage in a little question-and-answer with your audience, with you asking the questions.

9. Modulate, modulate, modulate.

Especially when you’ve done a presentation before, it can be easy to fall into a drone, going on and on and on and on and on with only minimal changes to your inflection. Always speak as if you were speaking to a friend, not as if you are reading off of index cards (even if you are). If keeping up a lively and personable tone of voice is difficult for you when presenting, do a couple of practice run-throughs. If you still can’t get it right and presentations are a big part of your job, take a public speaking course or join Toastmasters.

10. Break the rules.

As with everything else, there are times when each of these rules – or any other rule you know – won’t apply. If you know there’s a good reason to break a rule, go ahead and do it. Rule breaking is perfectly acceptable behavior – it’s ignoring the rules or breaking them because you just don’t know any better that leads to shoddy boring presentations that lead to boredom, depression, psychopathic breaks, and eventually death. And you don’t want that, do you?

Wax, Dustin. “10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentation” Lifehack, Technology 2018

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How to Make Your iPhone Battery Last Longer

Smartphones help us check our email and upload photos, watch movies and even navigate our way through France. Given all that, it might not come as a massive shock when your phone dies after an intensive day of use, but it’s still a major inconvenience if it dies when you’re still miles from your destination or just minutes away from taking an important phone call.

Though the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus boast the best battery life yet of any Apple phone, if you use your iPhone a lot, you probably want its battery to last longer.

The most common battery drainers are the features that make smartphones so great: GPS that lets you post geotagged photos and call taxis, internet connections that let you stream YouTube on the go and apps that work in the background to alert you to everything from friend requests to your preferred airline’s flash sale.

We know you love your smartphone and all its smart features. That’s why our tips for saving your iPhone’s battery power focus not on turning off these essential features but on using them more efficiently.

Tweak your settings

Check what’s sapping the battery. In iOS 11, head to Settings > Battery and scroll down to see a list of which apps are using what proportion of the battery power when the phone isn’t charging.

Shut down background app refresh for apps that don’t matter. If you discover that the most battery-sucking apps are apps you really don’t need updates from (for example, I found that eBay was siphoning 11 percent of my battery power, compared with WhatsApp, which only used 2 percent), head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh to manually toggle each app’s auto-refresh. This prevents apps from constantly checking their servers for updates or notifications to push to your phone — another battery-drainer. Even if an app doesn’t appear on the list of apps using your battery power, it’s worth going through the list and turning off background app refresh for apps you don’t use.

Check how much battery power notifications are costing. Push notifications are real-time alerts from an app, useful for new email, less so for new coins in Candy Crush Saga. Each new notification uses battery power to light up your home screen and pop up an alert. You can see how much battery power your notifications are costing by checking what percentage of the battery is being taken up by Home and Lock Screen (Settings > Battery). This indicates how many times the display is being awakened, either by your turning it on or by notification alerts. If Home and Lock Screen is hoovering up far more power than any other app, your battery would probably benefit from disabling push notifications from some apps.

Stop notifications from apps that overdo it. Each notification wakes the device for five to 10 seconds, costing your battery life five to 10 seconds. If you’re receiving Twitter mentions, new email, game alerts and Facebook likes or mentions, it isn’t hard to rack up 50 notifications; that’s four to eight minutes off your battery life. And that doesn’t take into account updates from the apps you don’t actually use. To turn off extraneous apps, head to Settings > Notifications, and scroll through the list to manually disallow alerts app by app.

Turn off Push email. When you set up your email account/s, you had the option to turn on Push email, where your phone checks for email in the background and downloads it for you. This constant polling for emailing can drain your battery. Instead, head to Settings > Accounts & Passwords > Fetch New Data and turn off Push. Then for each account, you can select how often your phone will reach out for updates or whether you’ll need to manually check.

Enable airplane mode in areas of poor reception. When your iPhone detects a low signal, it increases power to the antenna so it can stay connected to the cellular network. If you’re frequently in an area where the signal is so bad that calls rarely get through or if you don’t need to make or receive calls, turn on airplane mode by swiping up from any screen and tapping the airplane icon. This disables all connections, but you can re-enable Wi-Fi by tapping the icon.

Deal with the display. A dim screen uses less power, so if you find your battery is on its last leg, swipe up from any screen and drag the brightness slider all the way to the left. You can also turn on Auto Brightness (Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier > Auto-Brightness) so that the iPhone automatically adjusts the screen brightness depending on how much power you have left.

Use Wi-Fi instead of cellular internet. Apple suggests using Wi-Fi where you can because it uses less power than a cellular connection.

Turn off wireless connections you’re not using. Bluetooth uses battery power by scanning for nearby Bluetooth devices to connect to. The same goes for Wi-Fi and AirDrop, the feature on iPhone 5 and newer that connects the phone to nearby Apple devices. If you’re not using these connections, turn them off by swiping up from any screen (or swiping down from the right corner for the iPhone X) and tapping the relevant icon.

Tweak which apps get to use your location. If you head into Settings > Privacy > Location Services, you’ll see a slew of apps that are tracking your location. Some, like Google Maps and Instagram, have obvious functional reasons for using your location, but others may simply use location services for targeted advertising or unnecessary features they call “delivering a better experience.” Chrome uses location information to deliver tailored content as well as ads, while apps from my bank and Starbucks probably use it for advertising or customer profiling. Location tracking eats away battery life, so turn it off or choose “While Using the App” for the apps that don’t need it for a good battery boost.

Update to the latest OS. If your iPhone supports it, update to iOS 11, which features the best power management features yet. In general, OS updates bring tweaks that improve your phone’s performance, so it’s a good idea to check if there’s an update you haven’t downloaded (Settings > General > Software Update).

Smart practices that save power

Don’t quit apps in multitasking. You’d think flicking away an unwanted app in the iPhone’s beautifully smooth multitasking view (accessed by double-tapping the Home button) would help save power, but  it actually costs battery life. Flicking away an app closes it and takes it out of the phone’s RAM (easily accessed memory). The next time you need the app, the phone has to load it all over again, using more power than it would have to simply pull the app out of its open stasis. In any case, iOS automatically freezes apps when they’re not being used, so leaving an unused app open isn’t a battery crime.

Keep the phone cool. Excessive heat can damage the battery’s capacity and shorten how long it can power your device on a single charge. Apple suggests http://www.apple.com/batteries/maximizing-performance/ that you avoid exposing your phone to temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Centigrade), so don’t leave your phone on your car dashboard on a hot summer’s day, as distant a dream as that may seem at the moment.

When charging by computer, make sure the computer has power. If you’re charging your phone by USB on a computer and the computer goes into sleep or standby mode, it could actually drain your iPhone battery. Make sure the computer is plugged in and that the USB port remains active even if the computer goes to sleep.

Some cases aren’t made for charging. Certain styles of cases may insulate your iPhone so well that it causes the phone to heat up as it charges. Check your phone while it’s charging, and remove it from its case if it’s heating up.

Store your phone at 40 percent power. If you’re not using your phone for more than a few days — say, if you’re off on a week-long meditation retreat — power it down after charging it about halfway. An empty battery could fall into a state Apple refers to as “deep discharge,” rendering it incapable of ever holding a charge again. On the other hand, turning off your phone for more than several days at 100 percent battery power can also damage the battery capacity and shorten battery life. If you’re storing your phone for longer than six months, Apple recommends turning your phone on every six months and making sure your phone is charged to 50%.

Is your battery draining too fast?

If you’re using iOS 11, there’s an easy way to check if your battery drain rate is normal.

Head into Settings > Battery Usage and tap the clock icon next to “Last 7 Days.” Scroll all the way to the bottom and note the usage and background times. Then turn your screen off for five minutes. When you come back, check the usage and standby again.

If your device is going into sleep mode properly, the usage time should not have changed, while the standby time should have increased by five minutes. If you find your usage time has gone up by a minute or more, your device isn’t going into sleep mode properly and you may need to take the phone in for repair.

Stokes, Natasha. “How to Make Your iPhone Battery Last Longer” Techlicious.com, June 11, 2018

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13 Tiny Surprises in Latest Windows Update

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6 New Gmail Features Worth Trying — and how to get them now

On the surface, you could easily mistake the new Gmail for the same web-based email you’ve been using for years.

But looks can be deceiving. This week’s major revamp packs in powerful, helpful and overdue new features. It’s the right balance of new and familiar.

If you haven’t gotten a notification to test out the new Gmail, you can be proactive.

Click the gear icon in the top right corner of the web-version of the platform. Select “Try the new Gmail” and poof, you have a refreshed inbox. (If you don’t see the option, check again soon).

 

1. Make your emails self-destruct in 5…4…3…

The star feature of the redesign is Confidential Mode. If you’re sending sensitive information or are worried about sappy love letters haunting you a few years from now, you can pick a day when you want those emails to disappear. The recipient won’t have access to those emails anymore either — unless they took some screenshots.

Click the lock icon in the bottom right corner of any email you’re composing. A pop-up window will give you the option to pick when it expires, from one day to five years. If you know the recipient’s phone number, you can add an extra layer of security by requiring them to enter an SMS passcode to read your message.

2. Unsend a message

You can take back access to emails sent in confidential mode anytime before they are set to expire. Go into your sent folder, find the message, and click “remove access.” If you change your mind or if it expired too soon, click “renew access.”

Note: The recipient will still see that you sent them an email, including the subject line, but if they try to click it, they’ll be told “You don’t have access to this email.”

3. Make more room for your inbox

This tiny tweak is hiding in plain sight. Google has added the ability to collapse the left navigation bar to make more room for your list of unread emails. Tap the menu icon in the top left corner (a stack of three lines), next to the Google logo and it will disappear.

4. Don’t open your emails

It’s the ultimate productivity tip: instead of opening your emails, don’t open them. If you hover over a message in your inbox, four icons will appear. You can archive an email, trash it, mark it as read or unread, or snooze it, all without opening it. If you select snooze, you can choose a certain day or time to be reminded of its existence — or select the mysterious “someday” option.

Bonus: You don’t need to open an email to see its attachments. They now appear as small icons in the main inbox view under each email, so you can quickly open them without digging through a chain of emails.

5. Let Google answer for you

When you can’t find the words, let Google answer for you. Gmail’s new Smart Reply feature scans incoming email and suggests three possible replies for simple enough conversations. For example, if a friend emails to ask if you have any pepper jack cheese for a picnic, Gmail might suggest “I do!” “I do indeed” or “No, I do not.” You can edit or add to the text before hitting send.

Google has been working on its Smart Reply feature for years, starting with the Inbox app in 2015. The feature is also available in Gmail’s Android and iOS apps.

6. Stay on task with a brand new app

There’s a new sidebar on the right side of Gmail that shows a mini version of your Google Calendar, Tasks and other apps. If you use the Tasks list for keeping track of what you need to do, check out Google’s new standalone Tasks mobile app. You can create simple lists with radio buttons to tap when you complete something. These items will automatically sync between the app and Gmail.

Kelly, Heather. “ 6 new Gmail features worth trying — and how to get them now”

 

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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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