Yesterday, I got a call from a frantic woman who had no idea what to get for her nieces for stocking stuffers. Sure, little kids are always easy, but once they hit that pre-pubescent stage where ‘kid toys’ don’t cut it, it can sometimes be incredibly hard to find the perfect gift. I’ve been asked by several people to point out a few of my favorite tech stocking stuffers, and give people some ideas on great, practical items to round out their gift giving. Please be advised….these items mentioned below are ones I’ve actually bought, used, and recommend to others- which is really important (not ‘bought at a discount in exchange for a positive review’ or anything either). In this day and age, our Facebook and Google feeds are pushing products that the seller paid to endorse…and in many cases, those cheap products from foreign manufacturers get horrible reviews and probably don’t even work if they’re meant to work with electronic devices like cell phones or tablets, so it’s important to read credible reviews from people you know and trust before purchasing. Regardless, here are a few last minute gifts I strongly suggest picking up for those “special” people in your lives:
Dual USB Charger: The more devices we have, the more we need to plug in. Did you think they could ever perfect the small white little USB charger that plugs into the wall? They did….they gave it 2 USB ports, allowing you to charge two devices at once. It’s a necessity….right up there with food and water….(ok, but for some of us it is). This little friend from Aukey is wonderful….he actually helps charge your devices quicker, AND lets you charge two at a time through one slim plug. Grab a few….one for your laptop bag, one for that kitchen counter charging station, and anywhere else you want to eliminate clutter.
Longer & Stronger iPhone Cables: If you have a smartphone or tablet, you know how dirty or dingy and delicate those cables from the manufacturer can be. When I first saw people making reinforced braided iPhone cables, I quickly purchased them up, and to this date- and several brands later- I’m still using all of them. Do your friends and family a favor and gift them some braided smartphone cables. The key is to make sure they are Apple MFI Certified (quality parts that are verified to work with Apple products and not be counterfeit). Here’s the ones I like: Amazon Basics, Anker.
Bluetooth Speaker: I’ve had a little portable, bluetooth speaker since they first came out. Then, last year, I noticed it would no longer charge and was out of warranty because the internal parts broke. I searched high and low, tried several (and I mean TONS) of brand and non-brand name devices, and stumbled across this Anker SoundCore Sport XL. Sure, it’s portable, waterproof, and durable, but more importantly, it sounds really full- with a built-in subwoofer- and works like a charm. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase, and it comes with me on beach vacations and more.
Sleeping Headphones: I bought these Cozy Phones over the summer, and loved them so much, I just bought a pair for my daughter to use on car trips. They’re comfortable, fit like an ear warmer headband, and have little headphone speakers built inside so you can listen to music as you drift off to sleep. They’re well made, have a super-long cord, and make listening to sleep-inducing stories or meditations a breeze. Check out their adorable Kid ones, or the new Bluetooth ones!
Battery Packs: It’s inevitable….you’re running out the door, and you realize your phone or tablet has no charge. Prepare for such natural disasters by having a battery pack in your briefcase, car, or purse so you can quickly recharge on the go. They’re cheap, effective, and always a good backup plan to have. Like I mentioned above, steer clear of the super cheap models (from the Dollar Store or Five Below), as they tend to have an incredibly small battery, and might not even give a phone a whole charge. Purchasing a larger one can often times charge iPads or tablets as well, and require a recharge less often, but also take up more space, and cost more money. I have been a fan of these Anker ones (for those wanting a more battery life), and their slimmer model here to keep in my purse. Don’t attempt a day trip to a zoo, museum, or theme park without one!
Touchscreen Gloves: This might seem like a no-brainer, but this time of year, gloves are always nice. In the last few years, many gloves are coming out with ‘touchscreen fingertips’, or different fabric on the fingertip to make it so you can still use your smartphone. This is a novel idea, but I’ve noticed some work better than others. The neoprene-type gloves seem to work the best- because they’re slim fitting and have a good fabric on the pointer fingertips. Knitted or cotton options don’t work as well, and often take several tries, and I’m not a fan of those funky open fingertip gloves because your fingers still get cold and chapped. I have both the Isotoner gloves, and the Head gloves (which are at Costco), and found them both equally good.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas to help make the gift giving frenzy less stressful. I would LOVE to have you comment below about other tech gifts you have or think are a great gift for others!
Sadly, most of us have been there: you have either received a spam email from someone in your address book that they clearly didn’t intentionally send you, or worse, you realize your account has been compromised and has been sending these messages out to others. Sometimes its an obvious fake, but other times, the links or the email content can be deceiving and hard to tell if it’s really a legitimate email or not. If you’ve realized that your email address was sending spam out to others, or you accidentally clicked on a link someone sent you that you thought was valid, your first and immediate step is to CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD. Use a unique username/password combination that isn’t used at other sites for the most security, or set up two-factor authentication. Most times, simply changing your password will stop the problem, and if you have no other symptoms, no further virus checks on your machine or device are needed.
So with the thousands of emails we get daily, how do you help navigate through these emails to spot phishing/spamming emails? Here are some great tips to live by:
- Verify The Sender: is it using a valid address from someone you know? Is the sent-to field blank or filled with names you don’t know?
- Consider The Content: would this person really be sending you great deals on pharmaceuticals from Canada? Question if it seems valid before clicking on any links or downloading any files that are attached.
- Check The Link: If there’s a link in the email, hover over the link with the mouse and make sure both what is written in the email (and the link address where it will actually take you) are the same and appear to be a valid http://www site. If you’re asked to log in somewhere by following a link (like a bank), never use that link, and go directly to the website itself.
- Look At Spelling & Grammar: often times, spam will be riddled with poorly worded or spelled items, or weird characters in the email. This is often an indication that it wasn’t translated well, and should be an instant red flag.
- Be Leery of “Urgency” or Attachments: common tactics to get your attention are alerting you to an “urgent overdue bill” or something that would make you click on the attachment. If it was really that urgent of a situation, the sender would probably have called versus sending an email.
Luckily, spam filters built into most of our email programs are getting better at hiding the millions of junk and spam email messages that are sent every day, but occasionally, new ones come through the cracks. Do your part to help the spread of this….if you receive a spam message from a friend, reply to the email, or call/txt them and have them change their email right away to stop the spread of spam and harm to others. Let’s live by this rule: the only kind of spam any of us want is the kind we can buy in a can!
Software updates are never perfect, but the latest Apple iPhone 11.1 update (which added over 70 new emoji to your keyboard) also made an annoying issue for a small number of users….typing “i” auto-corrects to an “a” and a weird symbol. Apple is working on coming out with an update to correct this in the next few days, but if you’re one of the few affected, and you txt or email a lot, it is an annoying inconvenience to say the least! Here’s what you can do to fix the issue temporarily until an official fix is issued:
- Go into Settings on your iPhone
- Select General
- Select Keyboard
- Select Text Replacement
- Click “+” to add a new shortcut
- Type an upper-case “I” under “Phrase”, and type a lower-case “i” under “shortcut”
This is also a great time to look at any other words you might commonly type and want to correct. For example, I’ve set mine so that if I type “Mac” it auto-corrects to MacKenzie (my daughter), saving me some keystrokes. I’ve also done it with some frequent places or stores I shop at, and it’s a nice convenience.
If this doesn’t seem to fix your problem with the “i” issue, give us a call, we’ll be glad to take a look at it and help you out!
As of last week, nearly 50% of compatible iPhones have been updated to the new iOS 11 that was released a few weeks ago. Hopefully many of you are enjoying the new features….but more than likely you’ve noticed that since the update your battery life on your phone has significantly decreased. Sound familiar? Actually, there’s reports of this happening with any new update to a phone (iPhone or Android), so it happens to all smartphone users. We’re going to run down a few things to check with the newest iOS update…and see if we can minimize that drain with a few simple tips.
One probable cause you don’t want to discount is USER ACTIVITY when you’re checking out all those new features. You get the new software, and things look different, so you spend time logging into everything, trying apps and setting things up, and all of that drains your battery because it’s more use than normal. I know, I know….it’s not the only cause of your battery issues, but it’s definitely something to throw into the mix.
Luckily, iOS makes it easy to look at what’s hogging your battery. Go into Settings > Battery, and there’s a whole menu devoted to battery usage. See what the top apps are in both the last 24 hours, and in the last 7 days. Try uninstalling and reinstalling some of the biggest apps to see if that makes a difference (like Facebook or Instagram), as it’s possible that some apps haven’t been updated for the new operating system yet, and are inefficiently using battery. You can also get more information about an app by clicking on the biggest apps to see how much battery drain was on the screen versus in the background. If a good chunk of the battery life was spent in the background, consider disabling Background App Refresh for those apps (Settings > General > Background App Refresh).
The next thing to check is Location Services- or what’s tracking your location. Here’s where it saved me a LOT of battery life. I had several apps that were all using my location in the background all of the time. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services at the top. Review this list of your apps that can get your location, and consider shutting off access to many of them. Remember those popups we sometimes get when we first open an app? It will ask us if it’s ok to use the location- and sometimes we’re so anxious to just use the app we say yes to get into the program we don’t fully read what it says. Here’s how you can turn it off, and stop things from tracking where you are. (Do note….blocking location from weather or GPS apps significantly diminish their usability….so consider simply changing it from Always using your location to “While Using” if you’re unsure.
Similar to location is GPS programs. The biggest battery draining apps on the phone are almost always GPS programs. Sure, it’s convenient to use Apple Maps or Waze on your phone, but if you do it for a few hours, your battery will significantly be depleted. To help that, make sure you turn off the GPS app when you’re done using it (i.e. get to your destination, double tap the home button and find the GPS app, and swipe up to stop it from running at all). It won’t access your location in the background (if you set it to “while using” above), and will significantly save your battery life.
If you review these features, and make some changes, give it a day or two and see if things are better on your phone. I know in those first few days after updating, it was painfully draining….but now it’s significantly better. If you think you have a problem with the phone, and these tips aren’t helping it, reach out to Canyonero Consulting, and we’ll see how we can help!
Here’s a question we get all of the time: “My internet goes down a lot, or doesn’t work reliably….what can I do to fix it?” It’s a multi-leveled question, and not always an easy answer, but there’s a few factors to look at when talking about internet speed and performance:
- Check Your Speed. If you question your internet speed and performance, go to http://speedtest.net, and run a test of your internet speeds. It will tell you how fast you’re downloading and uploading, and it’s a good baseline to have these numbers before you start working to correct the problem.
- Contact Your Provider. Most people in our service area have cable based internet (from Comcast, WOW, etc), and it comes into their homes and businesses through a coax cable to a box called a cable modem. If your computer is hooked directly up to that cable modem and it’s having issues with speed or connecting to the internet, chances are that your first call needs to be your cable provider. If what’s coming into your home isn’t working, then they need to fix it, and likely there is no charge for this service. In many cases, you might just have an outdated box, and they can come bring you a new one, or they can refresh the service on their end to see if that helps. Once your internet provider has confirmed the internet coming into your home is good, then it’s time to move to the next step.
- Look At Your Router. Chances are, most of you have a wireless internet connection available at your home/office, and often times that can be the source of internet problems. By default, most of the cable internet providers will provide a combo cable modem/wireless router that they pre-configure for you when you first get the service and rent to you for around $10/month. Sometimes those combo units aren’t set up as strong as they can be, or they have a lot of interference (see below), or are simply older and need to be newer technology to connect reliably with newer devices. If you are renting your unit, see if your provider will upgrade/update your unit at no cost, or consider having Canyonero come out to put a higher quality external wireless router in your home. Purchasing your own wireless routers can be an inexpensive yet significant performance upgrade to the standard rented equipment. They make hundreds of different boosters and routers out there, so it’s a good idea to get professional advice before buying something new. We can also purchase a cable modem, which will allow you to forego that monthly rental fee all-together and get you newer, more reliable equipment!
- Location, Location, Location! Having a good central location on your wireless router is key in getting internet in your home. Is the wireless router located in an area with a lot of interference from other electronic devices, metals, stones or brick walls? Lots of times, the wireless signal can be affected by both walls and hard structures as well as electronic interference from things like your cordless telephone or microwave oven. Try moving the wireless router to the most central location in your home, or away from other electronics and see if that helps the speed and stability of your service. In some cases, you may need a wireless extender or 2 wireless routers if your square footage is too large or oblong for a standard wireless signal.
If you can identify where the performance problems are coming from, that’s usually the first step in the process. In many cases, a phone call to your provider can help address or identify problems, but if not, there are many things we can try to help boost the performance, speed, and reliability of your internet service.