Jan 15

POS for the rest of us

Ok, picture this. You have a small business, or you sell cakes at the bus depot markets or do anything that requires the taking of money. In the past you have been limited to cash or spending bigly (thank you Mr Trump) on renting a credit card machine from the bank. If you are running a small business this might just be worth it but you’ll have to sell a shed load of sticky buns to make it worth while. And this nothing of the numerous charity events that are forced to do everything manually.

Thing is cash is getting  a little 20th century all of a sudden. What with Android pay (20c in very dollar going to the Russian mafia), ApplePay, parking machines that don’t require change and pay wave, carrying cash is feeling as in vogue as wearing a top hat.

But there is a solution, and I am not talking about the banks.

The answer is a service called Square and it comes in two distinct parts.

The hardware

You’ll need a reader and this can be purchased from Square or, more conveniently, from somewhere like Officeworks. A small card reader (swipe) will set back about $20, the pay wave version about $60. And the best news…? This isn’t a rental… once you buy it, it’s yours with no more to pay. This is a happy day indeed considering a reader from the bank can cost an eye watering (especially if you are selling cup cakes on a tight margin) $12-$35 a month!

Your Account

Your account is the process thats takes the most time, primarily because Square needs to talk to your bank and verify your credentials. But fear not, seconds after you have started your account and the ball is rolling you can begin accepting payments via the web or your Square reader. Then, once the bank has gotten over its tweediness, the funds will roll into your account.

The end result

When it comes down to it with Square you end up with a once only payment for the reader, multiple ways of accepting payments, intelligent and engaging receipts (aka, built in feedback) and the fees are typically less than those charged by the banks. (1.9% as opposed to 2.6% in some cases) AND the money arrives in your bank account the very next day. If it sounds like I am raving, its because I am… this really is a great alternative – no replacement – for the typical merchant facilities available from the banks.

If you are thinking about taking this up you  can start your Square account here using my official invitation and buy your reader of choice later from the following places:

Apple

Bunnings (believe it or not)

Harvey Norman

Officeworks

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/pos-for-the-rest-of-us/

Jan 11

Meltdown and Spectre

Another year and another round of exploits and serious ones at that.

This time it’s the fault of Intel and over curious security experts that have discovered a serious flaw in the very chip that powers almost every device on the planet.

IBM, Dell, Acer, and sadly Apple are embroiled in this very serious security risk that, aside from new hardware, has no real cure.

That said, everyone is rushing out software patches that will go someway to mitigate the threat but in the end these measures are about as significant as fitting a deadlock to a front door made of drinking straws. If the bad guys really want in they could find a way, that is until your chip has been replaced- in other words a new device. On top of this, Windows users have reported that software patches issued by Microsoft have been slowing down their devices between 5%-30%. Happily this appears not to be the case for Apple users.

The first of these nasties has the catchy moniker of Meltdown. This allows malicious code to read memory inside your Intel chip, meaning that passwords and other data is ripe for the picking.

The second is called Spectre and this can, without getting geeky, fit itself in-between application processes and force them to give up whatever data they might have on hand at the time and send it back to the scumbag at the end of the line. Eeeck! This one, Apple claims, is the hardest to patch but it is also the hardest for the bad guy to actually implement.

But as new impervious chips don’t exist yet all we can do is fit the current defences made of gossamer and hope for the best.

Mac, iOS users. 

Apple have released software updates for 10.13 for Mac and 11.2.2 for iOS as well as updates for Apple Watch and AppleTV. These should be downloaded and installed ASAP. Don’t wait. Updates for Safari have also been released but specific security patches for 10.11 and 10.12 are yet to be announced. If you are worried then updating to 10.13 is the fastest way to protect yourself, in much the same way as the recent wifi bug.

To apply an update for the Mac, click on the Apple menu, choose AppStore and then Updates.

To apply an update on your iPhone and iPad, tap on Settings, then General then Software Update.

To apply an update on the Apple Watch tap on the Watch App on your iPhone, tap on General and then Software Update.

Chrome users 

Even after you have installed these updates, Chrome  – if you use this browser – has released further protection that should be installed as soon as possible.

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. Go to chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process
  3. Then click enable on Strict Site isolation.
  4. Close and reopen Chrome

As always, these kinds of exploits rely on infected applications being installed on your Mac or you visiting dodgy websites. So if you only download and install software from trusted sources and follow these simple rules – in combination with these updates – you should be as right as rain. Until the next down pour.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/meltdown-and-spectre/

Jan 01

You want a website?

 

 

There was a time, not that long ago actually, that websites were just for the wealthy.  Just as salt in the 1700s was something only the fabulously wealthy could afford, so too was a good website in the modern era. If you were in business and you had a website people knew  you were serious because that website was the digital equivalent  of a pound of flesh.

Even after the DIY website builders like wix.com came along, it was still a choice between something put together by a plumber on the weekend or something that looked professional and cost upwards of $10,000. In no time at all the web was full of sites that made it look like the inside of a pre-schoolers art room and no one, aside from the professional website builders who were paid to fix them, were happy.

I am often asked, “do you know a good website designer” and all I can do is shrug my shoulders and divert their attention until I can slip out of the room. It was that, or refer them to the aforementioned designers and that always ended the same way.

Then comes along a business like Flat Gecko Design. I first saw their handy work when I was asked to have a look at Symmetry-IT’s website. I was impressed to say the least but immediately jumped to the conclusion that my colleague was missing a good kilo of flesh.  However, when I found out that not only was it designed and managed at a very reasonable price, I decided to look into it further. I discovered that all of the SEO tricks, Google analytics, and all the other things that make a modern website tick, were installed and up to the second sharp.

Inspired I rang and asked how they might help my website and it was then that I realised that not only are Flat Gecko good at what they do, and reasonably priced, they are also ethical. You see my particular wish was to sharpen my website and have it look more modern. However, after they looked at my website forensically ,they informed me that what I needed was coming in a free upgrade to my website theme. They also told me that fancy SEO would cost me far too much for what it would do for me and that if I kept posting articles my ranking would remain OK. In short, honest, friendly and very comprehensive advice. (They had an SEO expert call me who was equally honest and forthcoming.)

One other thing Flat Gecko has given me is an out. These days, when asked if I know who can do a good website, I no longer have to create a diversion and jump out the window… I just give them this web address.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/you-want-a-website/

Jan 01

Apple is slowing down your old iPhone

 

In late 2017 it was discovered that Apple had been writing code in the iOS that deliberately slowed down your phone. This was first discovered with anecdotal evidence and Apple denied that it was doing anything wrong. However, and some might say inevitably, hard facts surfaced and Apple were forced to come clean.

I write this with conflicting emotions. On one hand I can absolutely see Apple deciding to slow down your iPhone when the battery threatened its stability. After all in the 90s and early 2000s they purposely put in slower CD/DVD  drives into their Macs because faster ones had a much higher failure rate. As Maxwell Smart would have said, “Its the old we’d rather it be slower than unstable. ” trick. And I agree with that… overall customer satisfaction is number one. This is why you cannot tinker with your iPhone the way you can with an Android because that tinkering will lead to instability.

But what I cannot reconcile is the deceit. I cannot imagine why Apple didn’t come clean to the millions of people who undoubtedly walked into an AppleStore and said “I think this phone is getting slower”, and tell them this is a feature and why.

So, what to do now? Do you think your iPhone is getting slower?

Well the good news is that all you need to do is have the battery replaced and it will fly like a new one but first lets see if it needs to be replaced.

  1. Fully charge your iPhone.
  2. Download CoconutBattery.
  3. Plug your iPhone into your Mac.
  4. Launch CoconutBattery.

5.  If your Full Charge Capacity (in mAh) is significantly lower than that of your Design Capacity (in mAh) then its time to look for a new battery… IF you also feel as though your iPhone is slowing down.

Now the next question is… where do you go to get this done? Well the answer is definitely  NOT  “anywhere is good”  because a badly fitted battery or one of lesser quality can turn your phone into a bomb. (see Samsung website for more details)

Instead, I recommend Universal Mobile Solutions in the Canberra Centre, Mac1 or your local AppleStore.

My iPhone battery is ok at the moment and so is my wife’s so for now I am going to reflect on this and move on. However I think it is worth shelving in the back of my head for when the next “ridiculous” conspiracy theory comes to light.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/apple-is-slowing-down-your-old-iphone/

Dec 09

Should you buy an iPhone X

There are literally thousands of videos and articles about the iPhone X so I am certainly not going to cover their ground here.

Instead, I am going to try and answer a very simple question… should you buy one.

Well, its the heaviest phone in a while and it feels thicker in the hand. But this is not a return to the days of the brick, its still very easy to hold and you still forget its in your pocket. Instead, the weight and its very very slightly thickened girth give this phone a sense of quality and purpose.

The screen going from the very top to the very bottom of its 5.8 inch body is bright and beautiful and gives you as much workable screen size as the bigger iPhone 8 Plus. And if you have been reading about the notch at the top, I promise you, you stop noticing it within a few minutes of use.

As always they have improved the camera over last years model with improved portrait mode, slower and crisper slow-mo, and more editing affects. You can also shoot video in 4K.

The missing home button takes about a minute to get used to and you’ll find the new gestures almost second nature. The phone actually feels smoother and the experience more fluid because your fingers aren’t moving from screen to tactile button all day.

The full screen and the technical issue of having it read fingerprints lead to FaceID as Apple’s now preferred way of using biometrics.

It is very easy to setup and I found it just as quick as TouchID. Most articles and video bloggers have bemoaned the process of looking at the phone, the phone unlocking and THEN swiping up from the bottom to unlock the phone. I, on the other hand, have found that if I tap the screen and then swipe up, FaceID will – in the split second it takes my finger to swipe upwards – read my face and unlock the phone… all in one fluid movement.

FaceID is powered by some pretty incredible front facing cameras that mean they can be useful for better AR. This means that applications that allow you to choose glasses frames and virtually try them on is now possible. And because we are talking about very precise tracking, the glasses move with your movements and you actually look as though you are wearing them.  Same can be said for hair colour or trying makeup or seeing if a beard will suit you. The positioning of furniture in a room or measuring a doorway without a ape measure. Endless possibilities really.

Of course one of the most talked about advantages of accurate face tracking are Animojis. These cute little faces that very accurately mimic your facial expressions whilst recording your voice makes for a whole new way to communicate with friends and family. Since getting my iPhone X this is the only way I now communicate with my wife…. which can make meal times a bit awkward.

And, to top it all off, the battery life is phenomenal.

So, should you buy one?

Well, no… not really.

A client innocently and genuinely asked me, not long after I started bragging that I had one, what are the advantages. I started rattling off everything I have just said but then I concluded that these weren’t really advantages but rather features.

FaceID isn’t any better than TouchID its just different. The rear facing cameras are just as good in an iPhone 8 and the full screen isn’t a clear advantage over the screens we become used too. Wireless charging is also something that comes on both models but again, isn’t a massive feature above plugging in your iPhone 6 the old fashioned way.

So for now an iPhone 8 will be just fine and save you a bit of money in the bargain.

However, it should be noted that the iPhone X is an example of the future. Some day, soon I guess, all phones will be full screen with FaceID and wireless charging. They will all have a camera that takes the kinds of photos you used to pay hundreds of dollars for.

So if you’d like to get familiar with the future today, get ready for the shift in gesture control and all the marvellous things IA for will do for us,  then the iPhone X is the perfect way to start.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/2985-2/