Dec 04

There is an answer to slow internet

fast internet

If you live in the ACT there is a pretty good chance that you hate your internet.

It is slow. It crashes. It is good for – maybe – browsing the web for a few minutes before it grinds to a halt completely.

It would actually be quicker to fly to Sydney, get a cab from the airport, stop off in the CBD to pick up snacks and then go to a friends house and watch a movie on his Apple TV than it would be to download it and watch it in your own home.

And forget about trying to squeeze anything out of your 2.5Mbps if anyone else in the house is using their laptop or iPad.

In the ACT there are a few scattered and inconsistent choices available for high speed internet:

NBN – not everywhere and not likely to be soon. In fact it is a race between the NBN covering the whole of the ACT before cockroaches take over the earth.

VDSL – Very few areas but those that can get it jump at it because it is one of the best services around.

But there is a third option and I can tell you from personal experience, is fantastic. As unlikely at it seems, wireless is the answer.

The Signal Co is a company that is making its mission to bring a smile to the faces of ACT residents who have been ignored or disenfranchised by the major players.

They have several packages available for home and for business but whatever you pick the main features are the same:

  • 20+ Mbps download speed.
  • 10 Mbps upload speed
  • Unlimited upload.

Let us take my situation as an example.

I was paying iiNet $130+ a month for internet and phone, a phone I hardly use. My monthly limit was, well, unlimited, but this was useless because it was too slow. My service was reliable, not a lot of downtime, but the speed never got above 3Mbps. If more than one person in the house tried to use the net our feed would come to a very impetuous halt.

Like most people these days we have moved to digital for our entertainment. Music is via Apple Music, movies and TV are fed to us via iTunes, Netflix or Stan. There is also youtube that, as well as delivering videos about cats falling off benches, also gives us access to educational content. Let us also remember that I am trying to run a business from my home office so downloads and applying updates for clients is not unusual. All on 3Mbps if, and I do mean IF, I was lucky and if I threatened all others in the house with a horrible demise should they attempt to send an email.

I was told about The Signal Co and I investigated further, feeling sure that there was a catch. Positive that this wasn’t going to work for me. Willing to bet a body part that it would be too pricey or not much better than a Telstra 4G dongle. (Which doesn’t work in my house anyway as it happens)

Oh boy was I wrong!

I jumped on their web page and had a look at the packages and was blown away to discover that it started at just $39.95 a month for 100GB download. The installation cost (fitting the aerial on your roof) is $399.95 and they try very hard to install it so it is unobtrusive.

You can check out all their business and residential packages here.

I went for the medium business package that offers me 500GB download, unlimited upload and speeds that hover between 20 and 26 Mbps.

internet speed test

However, before you jump in, there are a couple of things to note.

You should say goodbye to your ISP (iiNet, Telstra, Optus) because this service replaces their service. But this means you will lose the email address they gave you and are, in all probability, still using. Before you make the move to The Signal Co you’ll need to set up an independent email address and alert all in-sundry. Now I have said for years that this is a good move because it unshackles you from the yoke of the ISP.

There is also the possibility that your home phone number and internet are linked so unless you are happy to ditch the landline all together you might be able to change your plan to include landline phone only and no internet.

Finally, you might need to replace your modem/router. If you are currently using ADSL on a phone line then this will be useless when your new service is installed. A very good modem router for this service would be a Time Capsule or an Airport Extreme or the monster that comes in the form of the Netgear NightHawk.

Now, please forgive me but I am off to watch an HD version of Star Wars, whilst downloading the new Sting album all while upgrading a clients iMac to Sierra.



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Dec 04

It is farewell to the Airport router

Time capsule

I don’t know why this bothers me so much but the recent news that Apple are (if the rumours are true) halting production of the Airport Router (Time Capsule, Extreme, Express) has left me feeling rather dazed.

These are excellent products. They are easy to setup, a joy to administer and they are a work of art. They are so good looking there is no need to hide them in a cupboard. I dare you to try saying that about the very excellent but catastrophically ugly NightHawk modem. It looks like a crab exploding in slow motion.

Nighthawk modem

And no product is better at extending your network through a large or wifi resistant home.

If the rumours are true then very soon these beautifully elegant and functional pieces of networking heaven will be disappearing from the Apple Store.

Now I am not suggesting that Apple don’t have something even better planned but given they have recently stopped making monitors I don’t think it is likely. On the other hand, there are devices such as the Amazon Echo that plays music, answers questions from a voice command and so on. It has been suggested that Apple are working on a Siri version of this to round out its HomeKit, Home Automation and Apple TV as the Hub concept. I guess it could back stuff up as well?

So, on the off chance that the rumours are true and there is nothing in the wings waiting to take their place I urge you – if indeed you are in the market for such a thing – to delay no longer and grab one.

I am.

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Oct 20

Change your Apple ID password today


Your Apple ID is your link to Apple and is plugged into every service from iTunes to the Appstore.

Recently reports are coming in of Apple ID accounts being hacked.


Details are sketchy because this is very new, but it seems that those affective have been reporting odd messages appearing in their phone (all written in Chinese) and notifications of foreign devices gaining access to the Apple ID.

Apple have posted a number of guides to help those affected but the bottom line is, change your Apple ID password and turn on two step authentication. Something that really should have been turned on since day one.

So as not to re-invent the wheel, here are some guides that will help.

First, changing your Apple ID password.

Then, two step verification.

Finally, a general guide form Apple on Apple ID management.

Good luck and, as always, if you need help please call to arrange a call out.


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Oct 16

New iOS 10 feature is not as daft as you think


Two things I hear a lot lately.

“I just upgraded to iOS 10.” 

“I hate the fact you cannot slide to unlock, stupidest idea ever!”

I said in a previous article that the removal of the swipe feature, more than any other, was going to take some time to get used too.

In actual fact it is not as daft as it first appears… let me explain.

Basically there are two types of iPhones out there, those with Touch ID and those without.

For those with Touch ID nothing has really changed… you tap on the button to wake up the screen and, with Touch ID being as sensitive as it is, you are logged in as well. A one step process.

For those without Touch ID, before iOS10, you tapped the home button to wake up the phone and then you swiped to the right to unlock. Then you typed in your code. A three step process.

So at the very least, this new method of tapping on the home button twice has added nothing to the process of unlocking your phone, its just the muscle memory of swiping as soon as you tap that causes confusion.

However, when you consider that there is now a Raise to Wake feature that eliminates the need to tap to wake, a step has been removed.

Having said all of that there are some things you can do to make life a little easier… at least until you wean yourself off the slide to the right habit.

Removing Control Centre

While you thumb has a mind of its own, you are going to find yourself visiting the Control centre every time you swipe to the right. To stop this you can turn off Control access doing the following:

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on Control Centre
  3. Turn off Access on Lock Screen


Make Touch ID work just the way it used too

If you don’t want to tap the home button twice, you can change the settings of the home button to react to a simple resting of the finger and the phone will unlock.

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on General
  3. Tap on Accessibility
  4. Scroll to the Home button section
  5. Turn on option Rest Finger to Open


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Oct 12

MacOS Sierra


For the first time ever, Apple are automatically downloading Sierra to your Mac ready for install.
Of course this can be ignored and your mac left untouched. However a lot of people are installing the OS update thinking it is just one of those regular updates that pop up from time to time without realising they are installing a completely new operating system.

So, to those that installed the update… relax, it seems everything will be fine. I have taken the plunge myself and I have quite a bit of old and quirky software, all of which seems to work just fine.

For those that haven’t yet taken the risk I say, go ahead and this is especially true if you are currently running 10.9 and older. If you are still on 10.6.8 you might have some software fallout but this is going to happen soon anyway so you may as well get it over with.

Who can upgrade?
The first thing to note is that this upgrade is limited to models 2009 and older. So, yes, I am sorry to say your 2007 iMac or MacBook is now on Death Row. But fear not, Apple tend to support their OS for a few years at least… 10.9 is still getting updates.

To find out what you have, go to the Apple menu and choose About this Mac.

Here is the list.

MacBook 2009 and later
iMac 2009 and later
MacBook Air 2010 and later
MacBook Pro 2010 and later
Mac mini 2010 and later
Mac Pro 2010 and later

How and where
The upgrade is available from the AppStore or you may find that the Install Sierra application is already sitting in your Applications folder patiently waiting. Double click on this (after you make sure your backup is up to date of course) and you’ll be guided through the process in the usual way. It takes about 60 mins.

What’s new?
The first thing you’ll wonder is… has the upgrade worked? The look and feel of the OS really hasn’t changed all that much, but the functionality and productivity sure has.

Siri is now, at last, thank God, about time, on the Mac. By default you’ll see a new Siri icon in the dock, as well as an icon in the menu bar.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-12-13-00-am screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-12-13-09-am

Clicking on any of these will release Siri’s fury and you can pretty much ask her to do anything.

Saying “Send an email to Stephen Fry about up and coming events” will have Siri go through the usual steps of inserting the text “up and coming events” into the subject field and then then ask for the body of the email.


Saying “When I arrive at home remind me to call my wife.” will see a reminder created on the Mac that will also, thanks to the black magic of iCloud, make it’s way to my iPhone to make sure I call her as ordered. Thus keeping her happy and saving my life into the bargain.


“List all the PDF’s about Donald Trump”  will list them and then, if it has any decency, delete them.


Hint: Go to System Preferences / Sound / Input and check Use ambient sound reduction and this will help Siri understand you in a noisy environment.

Apple Pay on the desktop
This feature is limited to a few ANZ and AMEX customers because the rest of the banks are too stupid, rigid, greedy or dull (your choice) to adopt Apple Pay. A system I hasten to add is now available in Russia, is still held up by the three of the big four banks. It has been over 2 years now!
With Apple Pay now baked into Safari, if you see something you want to buy (and that merchant supports Apple Pay) you can simply use your Watch or iPhone to pay for it. No more entering banking details.

Unlock with Apple Watch
And speaking of Apple Watch… you can now have your Mac automatically unlock as you approach if you wearing your Apple Watch. No more entering your password 500 times a day. This however is limited to newer Macs that support later versions of Bluetooth.

Documents in iCloud
Unfortunately this relies on a good quality internet and this, like a flexible and progressive banking system, is open to only the select few. Roughly speaking when you install Sierra you’ll be asked if you want to store all your desktop items and documents in iCloud.
However, before you say “yes” think about what this might mean.
Firstly, now much data is on your desktop or in your documents folder? Personally my documents folder is 251GB and that would kill my iCloud folder (unless I bought a 1TB of space at $14.99 a month) and then there is the question of internet speed and reliability.
And we all know how iffy that is.
In theory the idea of having all my documents available to me no matter what device is fantastic.
It is just a shame that it relies on Australia’s internet infrastructure… which sucks.

Hard disk management
Aside from the phrase ‘There are so many passwords these days’, the other I hear most often is ‘I am sure there is a lot of rubbish on this mac,’.
Sierra’s new disk management feature will throw some much needed light on these files that lurk in the shadows, getting fat and taking up precious disk space. But like most other automatic disk cleaning tools this can be a blessing or curse because the software can sometimes make suggestions that, should they be followed, lead to disaster.
I will give you a classic example, but first lets look at the feature in action.

1. I go to the Apple menu
2. Then I choose About this Mac
3. Then I click on the Storage tab and then Manage…


The first thing you’ll see is the offer to Store your files in iCloud, see comments above.

Next, there is Optimise Storage. Clicking on the Optimise button you’ll see that it wants to automatically remove watched movies and TV shows and only download recent attachments. This seems like sound advice, just keep in mind if you want to watch that movie again you’ll need to download it.


Empty Trash Automatically. Again, this is a good move and safe to turn on. Trash should be emptied immediately anyway, in my humble opinion, and  if the Mac is going to do it for you, all the better.

Reduce Clutter is possibly the most dangerous option.
Clicking on Review Files and you’ll get a list of all the files, grouped according to type, that are taking up space on your hard disk. Remember my Documents folder? The one that’s 251GB. Choosing this lists all kinds of files and some of these are huge.


The temptation to trash these files and eliminate all that digital flab is very strong. After all, haven’t they been highlighted as electric sheep (apologies to Philip K Dick) for slaughter?
Well the thing is these files are very important and if I did remove them there is a good chance I would cripple one of my most important applications.
As I said earlier… software like this makes dangerous assumptions.
What it does do is break down your clutter and a casual scroll through the contents can reveal all kinds of obvious and recognisable hogs that can be deleted without issue. That movie I made for cousin Martha who no longer speaks to me. Deleted. That MYOB backup from 15 years ago. Deleted.

Last, but certainly not least, are the changes made to Photos.
No, don’t worry it hasn’t changed completely like it did with the introduction of Yosemite. This is a far gentler collection of changes, designed really to eek out even more meaning from your photos.

Upon first installation the Photo app will re-index all your photos and this will render your mac very sluggish indeed. Don’t worry, it will pass.
When it’s finished you’ll have your photos grouped in such collectives as Memories and Places.
Memories, as the name suggests, are collections of photos with a common theme.


And since these photos can be dragged from the very dustiest corners of your albums you might very well see a photo you haven’t seen in ages. These groupings are guaranteed to make you go “awww”

Places, a feature from years back actually, has been reintroduced. Simply a map of the world containing all the photos with location information. Very cool indeed.


All things considered I think Sierra is a good update and unlike years gone by where I recommended a considered wait and see attitude, I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who is currently running 10.10 or 10.11.
My only concerns are really on how many of the new features rely on technologies that belong to the greedy and stupid (aka the Banks) and the utterly disorganised (aka NBN)
However, until they get their acts together there is plenty to enjoy about Sierra.

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