What is iCloud?

What is iCloud?

Since iCloud became available on October 12, 2011 on the Mac with Mac OS X "Lion" (10.7) and iOS 5 on the iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch, many people are using it. Working with my clients on a day-to-day basis, I've come to realize that iCloud is often used but little understood. People assume that iCloud not only synchronizes their contacts and calendar entries across their Mac and iOS devices but they assume that it's also backing up both their iOS devices and their Macs.

Currently, iCloud is primarily a service that synchronizes your contacts and calendars between Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. When you first sign up for your iCloud account, Apple allots you 5 GBs of space for free (additional storage space can be purchased) across all of your iOS devices that are using the same iCloud account. The "iCloud Backup" feature, though, is only for iOS devices. When you enable this option on your iOS devices, the following items are backed up:

  • Photos and videos in the Camera Roll
  • Device settings (for example: Phone Favorites, Wallpaper, and Mail, Contacts, Calendar accounts)
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • Messages (iMessage, SMS, and MMS)
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemails

A common misconception is, though, that iCloud will back up your Macintosh.
It will not. The "Documents and Data" option in the iCloud settings refers to synchronizing data created by Apple's own apps (e.g. Pages, Numbers, Keynote) across your Macs and iOS devices. In other words, it will not backup any other type of document (i.e. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, etc.) - just files created with Apple’s apps.

Additionally, the following iOS items are
not backed up to iCloud but you can synchronize them with a computer and iTunes:

  • Music, movies and TV shows not purchased from the iTunes Store
  • Podcasts and audio books
  • Photos that were originally synced from your computer
  • Your Macintosh's hard drive

If you have multiple iOS devices that use the same iCloud account, it is very likely that you will use up that 5 GBs of storage space quickly. This is a common issue and, arguably, by design. It's based on what is known as the "Freemium" business model. In other words, they give you "X" amount of storage for free but charge a premium for additional storage space. Many companies have a similar business model (Google's GMail and Dropbox to name two others). You may need to either prune things from your iOS device or pay for additional storage space.

Should you have any questions about how iCloud works, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Monday Morsel - Considering a Laptop?

No April Fool’s Joke here!

Considerations when Buying a Laptop

Do you need/want portability?

  • Laptops generally cost more than desktops and they often are not as powerful as desktops due to their smaller size.
  • Not everyone needs portability but some like the idea of traveling with their laptops whether that’s across the country or world or from their couch to their deck. Many people don’t want to be tethered to a desktop.

What is your budget?
  • Inexpensive laptops and/or tablets/netbooks will be less than $700 generally but more powerful laptops (ones that are faster and have the latest features) may cost between $1,000-2,000.

Will a tablet or netbook suffice?
  • Tablets and netbooks are generally more consumption oriented devices than production oriented devices. In other words, people use them for surfing the ‘Net and reading email. If that’s all you need and portability’s important for you, you may want to consider a tablet or netbook.

When buying a laptop, do I buy an Apple Macintosh or some other laptop running Windows?
  • Depends on your budget and needs. Speaking generally, Macs are more expensive than their Windows counterparts. Macs, though, are typically more secure from external threats like viruses, malware and Trojan horse programs. In fact, there are no known viruses for the Mac.
  • Are their any Windows-only applications that you need that may not run natively on a Mac (e.g. Microsoft Access)? If so, you may want to consider either buying a Windows laptop or buying a Mac that can also run the Windows operating system through a third-party program like Parallels or VM Fusion.
  • If you’re currently a PC user using Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, you may want to look at Windows 8 before deciding on Mac versus PC as Windows 8 is much different than its predecessors.

How do I backup my data?
  • Wirelessly (e.g. Apple Time Capsule)
  • Wired (e.g. external USB-based hard drive)
  • Cloud (e.g. Carbonite or Mozy)
  • Thumb drives

If you’re considering buying a laptop but aren’t sure what you should consider, give me a call. Tech Me Back will be glad to help! Have a wonderful week!


Installing Adobe Flash on the Mac

How to Install Adobe Flash on Your Mac

Many clients ask me why it is that they cannot install Adobe Flash on their Macs. They tell me that the installation only goes a little more than halfway before failing. The vast majority of my clients experience this error because they have not properly quit Safari before trying to install Adobe Flash. Instead, they have closed the active window and they don’t see Safari on the screen anymore and assume, incorrectly, that Safari is no longer running at all. Safari is still running in the background and will prevent Adobe Flash from being installed.

So, how do you know if Safari is still running in the background? Just look at your Dock (see Dock screenshot below and note the red arrows). Do you see a bluish “light” at the bottom center of the Safari icon? If so, that means Safari is running in the background. To quit Safari, simply click the Safari icon in your Dock and you should now see the word, “Safari” to the immediate right of the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner of your Mac’s screen and click on the word, “Safari”. At this point, choose Quit Safari at the bottom of the window that opens. Please note, I placed an arrow by both by the Finder (the smiley face) and Safari. This indicates that both the Finder and Safari are currently running in the background. It is normal for Finder to always be running in the background.

Now try installing Adobe Flash!

Also, to ensure that you are downloading and installing the legitimate version of Adobe’s Flash, always go directly to the source: Adobe’s webpage. Here’s the direct link:

I hope this info helps! Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.


iPad-based Point of Sale System?

Today my wife and I ate some great seafood at the Deep Sea Seafood Market in Matthews! The New England clam chowder was nice and smokey tasting due to the bacon and it was nice and creamy with lots of clams. The fish and chips was excellent!

Something non-food related, though, jumped out at us: Larry, the owner, was not using a traditional cash register or Point Of Sale system (POS). Instead he was using an iPad and an app called,
ShopKeep, to run the front-end of his restaurant.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, yet easy-to-use point-of-sale system, you may want to give ShopKeep a look (click on the logo below)!

Monday Morsel - Adapt Improvise Overcome

Adapt Improvise Overcome!

There are hundreds of expensive products out there that serve as cable stays, organizers, and more. I’ve found that sometimes the best solution is an improvised solution. In today’s morsel, let’s discuss five clever adaptations that will make sure you don’t look at office supplies the same way again.

1. Prevent stress at the ends of cables

If you use an older dock-style charging cable (the T-shaped one), you’ve probably heard about (or experienced) the “stress cracking” that occurs where the cable meets the connector. Over time, this can lead to problems charging or syncing with the cable. A quick way to prevent that from happening is to use the spring from an old pen on the cable. It will prevent the cable from bending and prevent that cracking from happening in the first place. Just work it over the end of the charging cable and, voilà, an improvised cable stress reliever!

2. Binder clip cable organizers

By the time you run a cable behind your desk and down, your cables may look like a rat’s nest. If you want to prevent that from happening, snap a binder clip around your desk surface and use it organize your cables. One cable in each clip will prevent the cables from tangling. You can also use zip ties but they can be a hassle if you need to ever remove or add cables so make it easy on yourself!

3. Paper roll cable organizers

Rather than recycling your toilet paper or paper towel rolls, consider using them to contain your cables. Simply neatly roll the cable and then insert it into the cardboard tube. You can store the tubes neatly in a box or other larger container – and you don’t have to worry about the cables tangling in storage.

4. Labeling cables

If you’d like to label your cables so you know which one leads to the printer and which one leads to your modem, don’t use a sticky label. Use the plastic tab from bagged bread instead. Simply write on the back and clip the tab around the cable.

5. Post-It cleaners

Before you pitch that sticky note, run the sticky edge between the keys of your keyboard. It won’t pick up everything, but it will pick up hairs and fluff – and that’s a start!

Have a wonderful week!

Monday Morsel - Switching ISPs?

So you’re switching Internet Service Providers...

To say that the Internet plays a critical role in most households is an understatement of epic proportions! While Internet access is not an essential building-block of life, it has become a core convenience. So when you hear and see commercials and even receive mail designed to entice you to change your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to another service that promises to be faster, cheaper, more reliable, and more, it’s natural to feel ready to switch ISPs. Today’s morsel isn’t about my thoughts on one ISP versus another. Rather, it’s about the things that you often overlook when you’re making that kind of service change. In today’s morsel, let’s discuss five important considerations if you’re thinking about switching ISPs.

1. Are you under contract?

Before you decide you’re moving your service, confirm that you’re not under contract with your current provider. If you previously signed up for a bundle or promotion, you may be obligated to keep that service for a certain period of time or pay a penalty for changing your service. If you didn’t keep your contract or are unsure, call your current ISP and ask about the terms of your service.

2. What other services are dependent on your ISP?

Over the years I’ve seen many friends and neighbors get stung by this detail. The primary culprit seems to be Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone service, also known as digital phone service. If you currently have a landline phone and are switching to VOIP service, make sure that other things in your home that rely on the phone will still work. This includes fax machine, answering machines, and home security systems. You can either ask the potential ISP about compatibility or ask the service – for example, your security company.

3. How many places use your e-mail address?

Good grief, I receive A LOT of e-mail. I bet you do, too. If your mail comes through a proprietary, ISP-provided e-mail address (e.g. Time Warner Cable’s RoadRunner service), making a change may present a bit of a pickle. One reason is that if you ever forget a password or need to reset an account and you established it under an old e-mail address, you won’t be able to follow-through on your request because any e-mails would be delivered to a “dead” address. And there is no “Dead Letter Office” for e-mail – it simply disappears into the black hole of the Internet. So if you’re thinking about making an ISP change, start by ditching your proprietary e-mail address a month or two in advance. Change to an Apple iCloud account, Google Gmail account, or Yahoo account or even your very own domain name. Then, change the address associated with all your logins and your subscriptions.

4. Where do you keep your mail?

When you access your e-mail – whether that’s on your computer, your phone, your tablet, or some other device – do you download it from the server, or do you leave it on the server so you can access it later from another device or location? If you choose to leave it on the server and you’re using a proprietary, ISP-provided e-mail address, switching services could pose a problem. Specifically, any e-mails that are on the server would be lost when you switch services. So if you’re thinking about making an ISP change, download all your mail from the server and keep it on a local computer or other device instead. That will clear the way for you to make a change without losing any of your e-mail.

5. Does your ISP own your modem or router?

Some ISPs provide you hardware as part of their service – a modem or router, or in some cases, both. If your current ISP provides your hardware, check to confirm that the new ISP you’re considering does the same. If not, keep in mind that the hardware really is not expensive and can be readily purchased online or locally at an electronics store or in the electronics section of discount retailers.

If you’re considering making an ISP change, give me a call. Tech Me Back will be glad to help! Have a wonderful week!


Monday Morsel - Get the most from your laptop

Get the most from your laptop

Many of you have already made the transition from using a desktop as your primary to computer to using a laptop instead. Modern life seems to require portability and now many laptops are now powerful enough that they easily compete with desktops. The shift to portability has been building for a while, and in late 2008 laptop sales surpassed desktop sales. So because there are so many laptop users out there, in today’s morsel, let’s consider a few tips that will help you get the most from your laptop. (We’ll take up the fact that tablet sales are now on pace to exceed laptop sales in another Morsel!)

1. Buy accessories in pairs if you’re going to need one on the road

Lots of people take note of the size of my laptop bag. In my line of work, I seem to always need a cord or an adapter, which means I carry a little bit of everything. As a result, my bag resembles Felix the Cat’s bag. I don’t recommend you go quite that far with your accessories, but I do recommend that you keep a charger and any other “mission-critical” accessories in your laptop bag rather than having one that you tote everywhere. Why? Well, it’s one less thing you have to remember when you’re on the go with your laptop. Just drop your laptop in your bag and leave confidently knowing you have everything you need! Also, if you lose an accessory somewhere in your travels, you haven’t lost your only one.

2. Consider SSD

Solid State Drives, or SSDs, are gaining popularity and are now an option in many new laptops. If you have an older laptop, there are kits that will allow you to replace your existing hard drive with a solid state drive. SSDs are still expensive, and large drives are cost-prohibitive, but if you’re an average user with a average size hard drive, the upgrade is compelling for multiple reasons. First is that a solid state drive is fast – and when I say “fast,” I mean wicked fast to the point that you’ll notice the difference! In addition, it lends some stability to your computing experience. So if you’re bumped in the coffee shop, there’s not a risk of damage to your drive or a hardware failure. Finally, they’re silent and run very cool.

3. The screen is not a handle

This may sound a bit parental, but do not pick up a laptop by the screen. It stresses the screen, the hinges, and the cables that connect to the screen (and make the screen work). Repeating this bad habit will result in expensive problems. Pick up your computer by the base, or close it first.

4. Know what you need – and don’t expect to live between two worlds

One of the first things I tell people who are currently using a desktop, but considering a laptop is that once you make the change, you will probably never go back to a desktop. Once you’re experienced that convenience, you’re unlikely to want to relinquish it. If you’re thinking you’ll just use both computers, that opens up some different issues that I compare to “living between two worlds.” It will be hard to keep files in sync between two computers, not to mention constantly-changing applications like email. If you’re going for a laptop, go for it. If you feel like you need to use it as a desktop and are unhappy with your laptop screen size in that environment, hook up an external monitor and use a Bluetooth keyboard. Or consider a docking system like Bookendz or Henge. Lastly, if you feel you need both a desktop and a laptop, consider using some sort of “cloud synchronization” method between the two computers. For that purpose, I recommend
Dropbox to keep the computers synchronized.

5. Laptops are great, but not for everybody

When you look around at your computing peers, you may feel like you need to be one of the “cool kids” and get a laptop. Laptops are great, but they’re not for everybody. If you like a defined workstation or aren’t worried about computing on the go, a laptop is not for you. If you need the flexibility of adding drives, working with a lot of external devices, or just need a lot of computing horsepower, a laptop is not for you. If you need a large screen, a laptop is not for you. I love a laptop, but I also recognize that for some people, it’s a choice that may hinder your productivity. What matters most is that your computer is right for you – whether it’s a desktop or a laptop.

Have a wonderful week! If I can assist with any questions you have, please feel free to give me a call.


Monday Morsel - Make the most of your Dock

Make the most of your Dock

Whether you like it on the side or at the bottom of your screen, tucked away or always there, customized or the way Apple intended, the Dock is a powerful – and often-overlooked – part of Mac OS. Today, let’s spend some time on the Dock and talk about five considerations to help you put it to work for you.

1. Don’t overload your Dock

It’s tempting to add everything to your Dock. I’d recommend that you don’t do that – unless you truly use every application installed on your Mac. Instead, use your Dock as a tool to help you quickly access the things you use most. Instead of putting everything on your Dock, put only the things you use most often. Think of it the way you would a kitchen counter… when you’re at work making dinner, you put only the things you need on the counter, not every utensil you own. If it makes you nervous to streamline your Dock that way, remember that it’s easy to add to or remove from the Dock. It’s just a matter of dragging.

2. Arrange your Dock

The order of your Dock icons is truly a matter of personal preference. If you’d like everything related to word processing or video editing grouped together, you can do that. If you’d like your icons alphabetized, you can do that. If you’d like your Dock arranged by the order you use applications during the day, you can even do that. Although, I may be interested in talking to you about how you keep your life so orderly! To arrange your Dock, simply click and drag an icon, and let it go on the Dock where you want to icon to be placed. You can arrange and re-arrange to your heart’s contentment.

3. Learn how to do more than open an item on your Dock

Did you know that if you right-click on an icon or left-click and hold, you’ll see a range of contextual options? You can use the contextual menu to display which windows are in use and select one easily. In certain apps, the contextual menu enables you to open recent files, or even perform certain simple actions within the app. You can also use it to quit an open application, or to add one to the Dock so that it stays there even when closed.

Another Dock “do-more” tip is to use Stacks, which enable you to add folders to the Dock. Stacks can contain files, more folders, or even apps. Simply drag a folder to the right-hand end of the Dock to add a Stack. When you click a Stack, its contents appear in a pop-up window for quick access, without opening a new Finder window. I usually put my client’s Applications folder and Documents folder there for quick access to their applications and personal documents.

4. Drag to the Dock

There are certain actions to you can complete simply by dragging a file to the Dock. For example, if you’d like to open a file with a specific application, draft the file from the Desktop or Finder window to the icon on your Dock. This trick will also create a new Mail message with the dragged file as an attachment and add music tracks to your iTunes library.

Another neat drag trick is to highlight text in any application, drag it to the Dock, and watch how clever Mac OS can be. For example, drag a Web address to Safari and it will open the site. Drag text to Mail and it will create a message containing the text. Drag text to TextEdit and it will create a new document containing the text. Or, if you want a quick note, drag text to the Stickies icon and watch your computer write a note for you.

5. Use the Dock to open Panes

While I do not recommend you spend a lot of time worrying about your System Preferences, there’s a neat Dock trick that comes in handy. If you hold down Control and click on the System Preferences icon in the Dock, you’ll see a long list of the panes that reside there. That’s the express route to accessing a preference pane when needed.

If you’d like to discuss ways your Dock can do more for you – or anything else that comes up – give me a call. Have a wonderful week!


Monday Morsel - Indispensible Apps

Five great apps that help me get through each week

Last week there was major news related to Apple’s mobile devices. First, Apple’s share of U.S. smartphone sales jumped to just above 53%. That’s the company’s highest-ever share of smartphone sales. Then we learned that iOS App Store downloads surpassed the 40 billion mark, with almost 20 billion of those in 2012 alone! All that means we’re extremely connected – and that we like to be productive on the go. With that in mind, in this week’s morsel I’m going to focus on five great apps that you don’t find in top downloads. These are tools that help me get through every week, for productivity and for fun.


This summer when we replaced our garage door opener, we chose a Craftsman model that is iPhone compatible. I’m not pulling your leg! We are able to open, close, and check the status of our garage door using our phones. That means there’s no need to carry a fob or program a device in the car. The Craftsman app requires an annual subscription of $19.99, but the first year is free. It’s well worth that price!

iPhone Version:


I feel a bit like I’m cheating to include apps that are native to iOS, but sometimes those native apps are among the most overlooked and underappreciated. Contacts allows me to keep track of every phone number, address, e-mail address, and more. I now even use the Notes field for detailed information about many of those contacts. There are lots of third-party apps out there that do what Contacts does. Try Contacts first – it is a great tool.


Again, Calendar is native to iOS, and there are many third-party apps out there that do what Calendar does. I’ve tried some of those other apps, but Calendar is my bread and butter. If you add iCloud syncing to your Calendar (and Contacts) routine, you’ll immediately have your information everywhere, on your mobile devices and your computer. The combination of Contacts and Calendar helps me work more productively and efficiently.


If you’re persistent and a little lucky, sometimes you can score a great deal on the site. C•Mobile is the official Craigslist client, and it makes searching the site easy when you’re on-the-go.

iPhone & iPad Versions:

Zombie Gunship

When I need a diversion, a little “mind candy” is sometimes the best medicine. If you remember the game Choplifter from the 80s, you’ll recognize the premise of Zombie Gunship. You’re the pilot of a gunship and your goal is to protect people on the ground of oncoming zombies. It’s not high-brow, but it’s great fun!

iPhone Version:

iPad Version:

Have a wonderful week! If I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to call.

Disabling Java on Macs & PCs


Disabling Java in Apple’s Safari:

I've not used Java in Apple's Safari in eons particularly to all of the Java-related security concerns. Many have asked how to disable Java in Safari. It's easy!

While in Safari, click on "Safari" to the right of the Apple in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and choose "Preferences . . .". A little window will open and you'll see many icons along the top of it. Click on "Security" and uncheck "Enable Java." That's it!

Disable Java in Safari

Don't use Apple's Safari, but instead use Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome and want to disable Java? Here's how:

Disabling Java in Mozilla’s Firefox:

Open Firefox Preferences and under the “General” tab click “Manage Add-ons…”
Select “Plugins” and find Java (and/or Java Applet) if it’s present and click the Disable button.

Disabling Java in Google’s Chrome:

Type “chrome://plugins/” into the URL bar, locate Java (if present) and click disable.

Disabling Java on Windows-based PCs

Some Tech Me Back readers may prefer PCs to Macs and that's OK! If you're concerned about the Java security breach that's been covered by the major media outlets (and you should be!), you may be interested in the following article in
PC Magazine.

The “Java” name and logo are trademarks of Oracle.

Monday Morsel - Expanding Your Computer Skills

Good morning, friends! We’ve made it through the first week of 2013, and I feel inclined to ask how you’re doing with your resolutions. This week a good friend of ours is turning 40 and he’s struggling with that milestone. It seems like years ago he resolved to have accomplished certain things by the time he turned 40 – but his life has taken a different course.

All the talk about resolutions and milestones made me think about some of the things I try to focus on every year without making official resolutions. One of the recurring themes is to learn as much as I can. That may mean reading, taking a course, trying a new piece of software, or just having an informative discussion that opens my eyes to new things. In today’s Monday Morsel, let’s focus on five ways you can increase your technical knowledge this year.


Technical manuals are not exactly page-turners, but the Mac magazines often include great tips. If you don’t already subscribe to Mac Life or Macworld, consider a subscription. They are worth it for the monthly learning opportunities.


For every cute puppy or kitten video on YouTube, there’s at least one technical instruction video. Lots of YouTube users are working on creating virtual classrooms filled with great information. As fair warning, there are some really bad videos out there, so be prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff.


If you like more structured learning, consider a class at CPCC or through Lynda.com.

At CPCC, the class may be taught on a PC running Windows, but the knowledge you’ll gain about the specific piece of software is transferrable.

If you’ve never tried Lynda.com, you’re in for a treat. The site is a leading technology training resource that offers on-demand classes taught by experts. The library of topics is expansive – and impressive.


Some of you may be natural learners. You’re smiling because you know who you are. If you have a natural aptitude for things, just go for it. Forgive yourself mistakes you may make as you learn, but consider allotting some time every week to what it is you’d like to learn.


What’s more flattering than asking a friend or family member how to do something? You’re complimenting that person’s knowledge and also placing your trust. If you want to learn about Photoshop or Excel and know somebody who is a wiz, ask him to share his knowledge.

Benjamin Franklin once said that, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Dive in and make that investment! Have a great week – and remember that Tech Me Back is here to help. Just give me a call if I can be of assistance (or if I can help you learn something this year).