Pencil me in

Pencil me in

IT’S BEEN nearly a week since last Wednesday’s announcements, and despite all the attention the media is lavishing on new iPhones w/3D touch, gigantic iPads and a pretty remarkable upgrade to the Apple TV, I remain enthralled by the introduction of a $99 iPad accessory whose appearance truly came as a complete surprise to everybody (more on the surprising aspect later).

I refer of course to the new Apple Pencil which, though it assumes the moniker of its patently analog ancestor, shares precious little with its wood and graphite counterparts beyond their dimensions. Unlike other tablet stylii, Apple’s version approximates the size and weight of an actual pencil, making it quite comfortable and natural to hold and to use.

Of course, at a $99 price point, we’re not seriously comparing Apple’s device to a $1.79 12-pack of yellow No. 2s from Staples. No, the real, er, point of the Apple Pencil is that it harbors powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal fingers when it comes to interacting with the new 12.9˘ iPad Pro. And there are quite a few compelling arguments the new Pencil makes in that regard.

FOR ONE, it’s incredibly precise when stacked up against our own comparatively clumsy digits. How precise? According to Apple’s specs, it can select an individual pixel on the Pro’s display (as in one discrete pixel out of the new iPad Pro’s 5.6 million). And since the iPad itself scans the Pencil’s tip 240 times per second, you can be sure it’s going to be pretty accurate in terms of your input.

As with many third-party iPad stylii, pressing down firmly on the Pencil draws thicker lines, while a lighter touch gives you thinner strokes. But unlike those others, Apple’s offering sports two tilt sensors within the tip which, along with the iPad Pro’s multi-touch display, calculate its precise angle and position. That means you can create shading effects simply by tilting the Apple Pencil sideways, just as you could with old-school charcoal pencils, chalk or pastels.

And yes, there are other high-end graphics tablets out there (the Wacom Cintiq comes to mind) offering similar capabilities, but for me what sets the Apple Pencil/iPad Pro combo apart from the pack is that instead of rejecting accidental input from your palm, it graciously invites you to use your fingers at the same time. This opens up entirely new vistas of options, like repositioning or rotating your workspace with your left thumb and forefinger, while drawing/sketching with your right.

THAT’S ALL well and good, I hear you saying, but this “Pencil” needs to be charged up in order to let me do all this amazing stuff, whereas my $6.99 Amazon Basics stylus will never run out of juice. Well, Apple has addressed this concern by enabling the Pencil—courtesy of the magnetically-capped Lightning connector on its “eraser” end—to be jacked directly into the iPad for high-speed charging.

And by “high-speed,” how does 15 seconds of charging in exchange for 30 minutes of use sound? I think it’s safe to say that would probably exceed even the most jaded tablet user’s definition of “high-speed.” Apple claims you’ll get approximately 12 hours of tapping, sketching and/or pointing on a full charge.

So why was this announcement so surprising? For one thing—unlike the iPhone 6s/6s+, the iPad Pro and the overhauled Apple TV—it was very low on the list of predicted product announcements, with only a smattering of prognosticators (KGI Securities’ Ming Chi-Kuo was one of the feweven bothering to afford it a mention. 

THERE’S A good reason for that, of course, given that Apple—and by “Apple” I mean Steve Jobs personally—made it pointedly clear that a stylus was not even on the radar when it came to Apple’s iDevices. As in:

“Who wants a stylus? You have to get ‘em, put ‘em away. You lose them. Yuck.”


“If you see a stylus, they blew it.”

But here’s the thing. Steve was specifically referring to devices that require stylii for everyday functionality, whereas Apple’s iDevices—and in particular the new iPad Pro—have always been remarkably functional and versatile sans stylus. In the case of the Pro, the Pencil just sets it that much further above and beyond the competition.

And speaking of competition, Microsoft—makers of the “iPad killer” Surface 3 tablet— were enthusiastic participants in the iPad Pro segment of the event, showing off their latest updates to Word, Excel and PowerPoint that enable them to integrate seamlessly with the Pencil. Apple’s Pages/Numbers/Keynote triumvirate were nowhere to be seen, perhaps so as not to steal any thunder from Microsoft’s demo.

OR FROM Adobe, who introduced three brand-new, iPad-only apps that all take unique advantage of the iPad Pro/Apple Pencil’s capabilities: Adobe Comp CC, Adobe Photoshop Sketch, and Photoshop Fix. Fix in particular is worth a look, if only for its wow factor in terms of how far we’ve come in the realm of image retouching; you can judge for yourself whether the demo was “sexist” on Adobe and Apple’s parts.

In any case, I think I’ve made my point about the Pencil, even at the risk of giving short shrift to the remainder of the announcements. So let’s address them briefly here while space permits:

New iPhones—As predicted, the 6s/6s+ offer faster processors and “3D touch,” which provides added/alternate functionality based on how hard you tap or press on the screen. Oh, and a 12MP camera along with 4K video capture. 

New Apple TV—Looks just like the current model, albeit a shade taller. But with a dedicated App Store, a new Siri remote that allows you to voice-search content across multiple providers (Netflix, Hulu, iTunes Store, HBO & Showtime), plus Wii-like gameplay, it’s anything but the incremental 2nd to 3rd gen Apple TV upgrade we saw in early 2012.

iOS 9—Coming September 16 to an iDevice near you. Enough said (for now, anyway).

Mac OS X 10.11, aka “El Capitan”: Apple managed to make a molehill out of this mountain by completely ignoring it throughout the course of the proceedings. We only learned from a press release issued later in the day that El Capitan’s scheduled release date is September 30.

WHILE I freely concede that OS X 10.11 may represent the most underwhelming upgrade to an operating system since OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released back in 2009, I thought it merited at least a few moments of attention, given that it will be upon us in just over two weeks.

But if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain… well, then I’ll just have to blog about it next time around 😉

Playing catch-up

Playing catch-up

LOOKS AS IF we’re both playing catch-up lately—Apple and I, that is. For me, it’s just another long-overdue blog entry that’s finally been posted to a site that still sports a collection of wintry imagery up top (working on that too, I promise). Hey, it’s been a very busy summer so far, and helping all of you folks out comes first 😉

That’s my excuse, anyway. Like me, Apple’s been playing catch-up as well, at least when it comes to their iDevices. iOS 9 is due to arrive in early September, and though there are a handful of innovative new features that are arguably Apple-specific (the ability to make room for updates by automatically removing and then restoring data on the device, for example), the lion’s share of the update appears intent on addressing those capabilities that have have been the sole province of Android and/or Windows devices up until now.

These improvements include a split-screen/multitasking mode, so you can not only see two apps at once, but actually operate them concurrently (iPads only, sorry), comprehensive and very precise mass transit info/directions all baked into the Maps app, a much more proactive Siri, low-power mode to bail you out when your battery dips below the 10% threshold, keyboard shortcut icons (cut/copy/paste, attach a file, etc.) and last but not least, picture-in-picture mode for watching a video while you finally respond to those last few messages in your Inbox.

WHILE THESE FEATURES are all very welcome, they’re also very… overdue. Fact is, Android phones/tablets have had these options for quite a while now—some for 2-3 years or more—and because of that, many of them are more refined and advanced in their capabilities than even those to which Apple plans to introduce us in September.

For example, Samsung introduced Pop-Up Play, its version of picture-in-picture, to Android users way back in 2012; Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana (which debuted on Windows phones well over a year ago) and Google Now on Android devices are both more advanced than the current iteration of Siri. Sure, Apple is beefing up Siri’s powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men in iOS 9, but it’s still playing catch-up with both Microsoft and Google’s proactive personal assistants. 

Nonetheless, it’s reassuring to know that the latest iOS update isn’t too proud to, let’s say appropriate a few items here and there from its distinguished competition. Or, as Steve Jobs himself famously noted, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”—a quote he attributed to Picasso, but which incidentally has a fascinating history of its own if you’re up for a little exploration on the side.

BUT AS IS my wont, I digress. There are some notable additions in iOS 9 that were not “stolen” outright from Google or Microsoft, among them a dedicated iCloud Drive app for those of us using Apple’s cloud storage for Keynote, Pages, or other Apple-centric apps, along with a much welcome change to the onscreen keyboard such that each key appears in upper- or lower-case based on the status of the shift/caps lock key. For those of us who too often find ourselves typing an entire line of uppercase characters before realizing the caps lock is on, or worse, not even sure whether the shift key is active or not, this one is a godsend.

The Notes app has also gained superpowers with this latest update (a new toolbar with drawing tools, camera/photos access, “to-do” checklists and more), and now rivals dedicated note-taking/scrapbook apps like OneNote and Evernote. A dedicated “back” arrow in the upper left corner of the screen now enables you to return to the previous app you were using, and if you find yourself unable to manage the sheer volume of selfies you just can’t resist capturing, the Photos app will now graciously offer to auto-organize them into a new Selfies album for your viewing pleasure.

Finally, in the unlikely event that the aforementioned thefts/additions to iOS 9 have persuaded any of you Android users to come over from the Dark Side, Apple’s got your back with a new “Move to iOS” app. Coming soon to Google’s Android Marketplace, it eases the transition to an iDevice by wirelessly importing your contacts, messages, photos/videos, bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, and more.

iOS 9 WILL BE arriving on an iDevice near you somewhere in the neighborhood of Sept. 9 and, as is customary with Apple, will be accompanied by new iPhone 6s and 6s+ models along with a few other goodies. If your iDevice is running iOS 8 now, it will be fully capable of using this new system. In fact, I’ve even heard whispers about iOS 9 improving performance on older models like the 4s and 5 as well as the iPad Mini—all of which seem to have grown slower with each successive update from iOS 6 on. 

As always, your mileage may vary, so I’ll be very interested in hearing from all of you on your experiences with the new iOS once it appears on your iPhone or iPad over the next month or so. There’s also a new Mac OS X on the way, but that’s a subject for my next missive; for now, suffice to say that Apple’s also indulged in some petty larceny for OS X 10.11 “El Capitan” as well.

Major Insecurities

I’D LIKE TO pass along some recent news on the online security/password front, given that this has become a topic we really can’t afford to ignore these days. First off, the online password management system known as LastPass experienced a breach back in June in which subscribers’ information, including (encrypted) master passwords, was acquired by hackers. While I am a huge proponent of password management—as I have doubtless pointed out ad nauseum to most of you—I am not a fan of services that store your data online (Daahlane, LastPass, etc.) for this very reason, regardless of whether or not the data is encrypted.

Unfortunately, that’s a fairly benign revelation when compared to the recent experience of a writer whose Comcast email account was hacked—not in any unique or heretofore unseen strategy—but merely by calling Comcast and asking for the password. What information did the Comcast rep need in order to give the “hacker” control of the account? The current street address and the last four digits of the writer’s SSN; information that could be gleaned about virtually anyone without great difficulty, as many legal documents posted online contain SSNs. I’d love nothing more than to spend the next 3-4 paragraphs skewering Comcast over gross negligence and dereliction of duty, but I suspect they are by no means the only company guilty of this type of malfeasance.

Lastly, this posting just wouldn’t be complete with my harping on the only subject to which I devote more syllables than password management—and that is, of course, backup. Rather than my lecturing you any further on the hazards of incomplete, unverified or outright non-existent backups for all your devices, I’ll let the title of this piece from TidBITS writer Joe Kissell say it all:

11 Stupid Backup Strategies

THAT ABOUT WRAPS it up for this go-round, folks. I’ll be back next week with a preview of OS X 10.11 “El Capitan,” which is scheduled to arrive alongside iOS 9 and the latest iPhone models (and just maybe, a whole new Apple TV too). While you’re waiting, why not avail yourself of the latest Yosemite update (10.10.5) which, among other bug fixes, allegedly cleans up some long-standing issues with Gmail/IMAP mail. In the meantime, I’ll get some seasonally-appropriate imagery on this site—just in time for…autumn ;-(

Picture perfect(?)

Picture perfect(?)

In which we hail the recent unveiling of the new Photos app, and the imminent demise of Apple’s heretofore dysfunctional photo-management ecosystem

THE END is near. Finally. The end of the current sorry state of photo management on our Macs and iDevices, that is. All thanks to iOS 8’s iCloud Photo Library and the unveiling of the new Photos app for Macs.

Taken together, these two technologies herald the end of the bewildering Photo Stream/iCloud Photo Sharing/iPhoto boondoggle, a scenario so singularly complex that–although I’ve developed a pretty firm grasp on how it all works–I’ve found it nigh impossible to explain in a way that makes sense to anyone but me.

iCloud Photo Library, by contrast, requires no explanation. Just turn it on in Settings–>Photos & Camera, and every picture taken on every iDevice you own will be uploaded to the Apple cloud. From that point forward, each iDevice will have the same exact set of pics and videos. That’s it!

YOU CAN also tell each iDevice whether you want it to keep resolution-optimized versions (meaning perfectly sized to your device to save space) or full quality versions. Either way, the cloud will maintain your original shots in all their 3264 × 2448 pixel glory. Even better, any edits you make to your photo library will be replicated instantly across all devices without your having to lift a virtual finger.

Granted, you may require a bit more space than iCloud’s default 5GB to handle all those fab pix and videos, but Apple has drastically reduced iCloud storage pricing in honor of this new revelation. For less than a buck a month you can avail yourself of 20GB of storage, enough for approximately 10,000 photos. If your storage needs go beyond that, for $3.99/mo you can upgrade to 200GB, and there are even 500GB ($9.99/mo.) and 1TB ($19.99/mo.) plans available.

BUT WHAT ABOUT all those images in the iPhoto library on your Mac? Alas, even the most recent version of iPhoto was conceived well before iCloud Photo Library was but a gleam in the collective eye of Apple’s iLife programming team. That’s just one reason why Apple elected to scrap iPhoto (and Aperture) in favor of the new Photos app, which is fully iCloud-aware, yet retains all of the functionality of iPhoto (including Books and all other project types) and will happily import all your photos, albums, and keywords.

The only things it won’t import are star ratings and Events, which nobody seemed to care for anyway. It will instead auto-organize everything into Moments, Years and Collections, just as iDevices do now.

FOLLOWING THE initial import from iPhoto, Photos will then upload those images to the cloud, where they can finally be seen by all your other devices. Unless–for whatever reason–you don’t want to utilize that feature, in which case you can instruct Photos to maintain the images strictly on your Mac. What’s really remarkable about the import process is that you can continue to use iPhoto and Photos simultaneously; the only hitch being that, going forward, edits you make in either app will appear in that app only, and not in the other.

So what’s not to like about all this? Well, there is one relatively minor disclaimer I am bound to note at this juncture: Photos will require that you upgrade to Yosemite if you haven’t done so already, and because the app is still in beta, it won’t be available to any of us until sometime this spring when Apple releases the latest version of Yosemite (10.10.3). Nevertheless, the reviews to date are universally positive (here’s David Pogue’s take) and we’ve only another few months at most to wait.

Rejoice and be glad. The end of this confusing mess is quickly coming into focus.

CAN’T YOU JUST… picture it?

In brief:

Apple’s been very busy lately. In addition to expanding Apple Pay across the entire U.S. National Parks system, pre-ordering upwards of six million Apple watches for their expected April debut, selling 39 iPhones per second, and adding Touch ID to the next generation of MacBook Airs and mice/trackpads, they’ve allegedly begun work on a self-driving electric car. It is a $500 billion market, after all…

Using the new Office apps on your iDevices? You should be–they’re free and amazingly full-featured. With the latest versions (released today) you can now choose from among DropBox, Google Drive and/or iCloud to store your files.

OK, so you really want to upgrade to Yosemite, but just can’t abide the new system font and icons? Fear not–there’s an app for that too.

And finally, speaking of apps, it appears that those Top Ten rankings on the App Store may not be 100% legit 😉

May You Always…

May You Always…

Recycling a holiday classic

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS come and go, and one that has certainly come and gone is the annual airing of “May You Always,” a two minute, forty-two second spoken holiday greeting performed by legendary DJ Harry “The Morning Mayor” Harrison and broadcast regularly on New York’s WCBS-FM 101.1 oldies station.

Although it hasn’t graced the airwaves in a good twenty years or so, in its day “May You Always” garnered a cult following among those who snickered at its shameless sentimentality, as well as those who waited eagerly for its first airing each year to bask in the glow of Harry’s genuinely warm and heartfelt delivery. A user by the name of “Sock Hop Saturday Night” even went so far as to post a recording of “the original Amy 45 (the non-politically correct version)” to YouTube in 2009.

AS YOU MAY HAVE surmised from last week’s songfest, we here at AltiM@c are powerless to leave a perfectly good holiday message unsullied by the spirit of parodies present. In fact, I went so far as to pen and even record my own Apple-flavored version of “May You Always” way back in 2005. But since precious few of you have known me for that long, I feel justified in recycling it for 2014–with a few updated tech references to make it seem all shiny and new. So here’s take #2 on this long-lost holiday classic. Enjoy!

May You Always (MYA_2014.mp3, 3.92MB 192kbps MP3 file)

As holiday bells ring out the old year, and sweethearts kiss,
And Mac users struggle through the Yosemite and iOS 8 updates
May I wish you not the biggest and best technology has to offer
But the small victories that make owning all these gizmos worthwhile.

Sometime during the New Year, just to prove you can do it,
May you manage to update Adobe Flash Player without calling anyone for help.
May you find a little island of time to actually read that “Read Me” file,
Or to delete all those duplicate pictures from your iPhoto Library.

May you be able to explain the difference between POP and IMAP without Googling it
May you go through an entire day without once looking up a password
May you know the correct answers to all three of your online banking security questions
May all those people who told you to back up refrain from saying, “I told you to back up.”

May your iPhone enjoy an entire year without being dropped into a public toilet
May that expensive AppleCare support contract rescue your MacBook Pro from an untimely death.
In a time of rampant viruses and spyware, may your Mac be rampant-virus-and-spyware free.
May you be able to pass your old Macbook on to your kids, so they quit screwing up your new iMac.

For a change, on a day when your Mac seems to be working as advertised
May a friend or colleague call on you for help with their computer!
When you zap your PRAM, may it stay zapped!
And, if you happen to mistakenly delete an important file
May you be able to restore it from a Time Machine backup–without calling me to walk you through the process.

May that long and lonely night be brightened by a visit from a FiOS repair technician.
When buying that new iPhone, may you discover that your old one is worth hundreds on eBay–or $10 on
When you crash in a 28-page Word document without saving, may there be no one watching to laugh at you–or feel sorry for you.

And sometime soon, may you
Post a video to YouTube successfully
Hold less than five minutes for Comcast tech support
Be told by your grandson that your Internet is “wicked fast”
And be mentioned by Tim Cook in a keynote address.

More than this, no one can wish you.

Happy New Year from the employees and staff of AltiM@c Consulting!

2014: The year in song (sort of)

A recent MacWorld article entitled “Apple’s 10 biggest hits, misses, and head-scratchers of 2014” brought to mind just how many significant announcements, products–and problems–the good folks from Cupertino bestowed upon us this year.

So, as my holiday gift to you, I invite you to join me on a musical journey through the best and the worst that Apple brought us in 2014. It’s perfectly OK if you want to sing along; just make sure that nobody’s within earshot or you’ll most likely have a great deal of explaining to do.

Happy Holidays from the employees and staff of AltiM@c Consulting!


Apple Pay is Coming to Town
to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

You’d better watch out
You’d better not buy
With plastic, nor cash
I’m telling you why
Apple Pay is coming to town!

Whole Foods is on board
Starbucks and BJ’s
Panera, Chevron
Duane Reade and Subway
Apple Pay is coming to town!

McNuggets from McDonalds?
Just use your Touch ID
At Macy’s, Staples, Texaco
Even Sports Authority

To use Apple Pay
The iPhone’s a must
So upgrade your plan
To the 6, or 6+
Apple Pay is coming to town!


Yosemite, Yosemite!
to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”

Yosemite, Yosemite,
What features wilt thou bring me!
Yosemite, Yosemite,
What features wilt thou bring me!

Thou sports AirDrop,
Markup in Mail, and
Yosemite, Yosemite,
What features wilt thou bring me!

Yosemite, Yosemite,
Thou torments me to upgrade
Yosemite, Yosemite,
Thou torments me to upgrade

Of Mavericks
I can’t enthuse
Yet still thou beckons me
To use
Yosemite, Yosemite,
Thou torments me to upgrade

Yosemite, Yosemite,
How this upgrade doth vex me!
Yosemite, Yosemite,
How this upgrade doth vex me!

Will Bluetooth fail
To work with thee?

Yosemite, Yosemite,
Thou torments me to upgrade…


iOS 8, iOS 8
to the tune of “Silent Night”

iOS 8, iOS 8
Gil had urged
Us to wait
Now my WiFi performance is poor
Have to do
A backup and restore
That’s what they said
At the sto-oooore,
That’s what they said at the store

iOS 8, iOS 8
Don’t they test
These updates?
Now my Camera Roll is no more
Seems to me it was there
Just before…
Why is this iPad so slo-ooowww?
Why is this iPad so slow?

iOS 8, iOS 8
Hard to keep
The versions straight
Just updated to eight one point two
How’s that version
Been working for you?
Camera Roll
Is resto-oooored!
Camera Roll is restored!


iPhone 6: The Holiday Medley
I’m Dreaming of a White iPhone | Can You Bend This iPhone? | It’s The Most Wonderful Phone Of The Year | The iPhone 6? Thou Art Too Large | Buy Yourself An iPhone 6 This Christmas

I’m Dreaming of a White iPhone
to the tune of “White Christmas”

I’m dreaming of a white iPhone
Is that an Apple Store? I’m there
Where the iPhones glisten
I stop and listen
To hear
Of bargains in the air…

I’m dreaming of a white iPhone
But these new 6-es, I’ve been told
Much to my chagrin
Will be
offered in
Just three versions–
Silver, grey or gold

I’m dreaming of a gold iPhone…


Can You Bend This iPhone?
to the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Said the British teens to the Apple tech
Can you bend this iPhone?
Right here in the store, Apple tech
Hey, let’s bend this iPhone
Look here, look here
We bent it ’till it broke
What a tale this fiasco provoked
What a tale this fiasco provoked

Said the bloggers to their visitors online,
See me bend my iPhone
Here’s a YouTube video I made of mine,
See me bend my iPhone
It bends, it bends,
When the pressure’s far too great
Seems a costly way to demonstrate
Seems a costly way to demonstrate

Said Cupertino to the people everywhere,
You can’t bend our iPhones
Nine complaints, of all the phones out there?
You can’t bend our iPhones
They’re strong, they’re strong
Ignore the clueless throng
‘Cause Consumer Reports confirms they’re wrong
Yes, Consumer Reports confirms they’re wrong


It’s The Most Wonderful Phone Of The Year
to the tune of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”

It’s the most wonderful phone of the year
It’s much bigger
Yet thinner
HealthKit looks like a winner!
The new 6+ is here!
It’s the most
Wonderful phone
Of the year…

A much faster processor
Than its predecessor,
It’s better in every way
Capture hours of video
Then watch it in slo-mo
On the five-and-a-half inch display!

It’s the most wonderful phone of the year
Apple Pay’s time has come
Buy one now
With your thumb!
Before they disappear…
Grab the most
Wonderful phone
Yes, the most
Wonderful phone
Grab the most
Wonderful phone
Of the year!


The iPhone 6? Thou Art Too Large
to the tune of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”

The iPhone 6? Thou art too large
For my front pants pockets to hold
I found thee awkward, and cumbersome
A right clumsy object of gold

Thy screen enthralls
And thy camera’s swell
Fain would I explore Apple Pay
But ’twasn’t long ‘ere
I soon returned
To mine old iPhone 5 in dismay…


Buy Yourself An iPhone 6 This Christmas
to the tune of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Buy yourself an iPhone 6 this Christmas
Make your wallet light
Then, upgrade in two years
For more gigabytes…

Buy yourself an iPhone 6 this Christmas
Make the Yuletide pay
From now on,
You’ll keep those liquids
Miles away…

Trapped no more, as in olden days,
With that cheap flip phone of yore
Cases, apps and accessories
Find you spending more,
And more

Through the years,
When added all together
You’ve dropped five grand, somehow
Is this gizmo something you could
No! Buy yourself
That 64 gig iPhone

Pre-Holiday Bits & Bytes

While hard at work on an AltiM@c holiday greeting for your reading (and perhaps even singing) pleasure, it struck me that there are more than a few Mac-specific concerns deserving of at least some mention here, before we find ourselves ringing in the New Year.

So without further ado, here’s a quick Q&A focusing on the issues many of you have been encountering as of late:

Q. Is it finally safe to upgrade to Yosemite?
A. That’s a qualified “yes.” Now that Apple has released the 10.10.1 bug fix, I can’t find any compelling argument against making the jump to Yosemite. My only note of caution would be that those of you still using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard) with pre-2008 versions of some programs (Office 2004, Adobe Creative Suite 2 or earlier, Quicken 2007 to name a few) will need to buy some newer software. Hey, at least Yosemite itself is free…

Q. What about iOS 8?
A. Now that they’ve put the Camera Roll back, and the iCloud Photo Library seems to be working quite well, I absolutely think you should move up to iOS 8. Users of the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4s who are concerned about performance with the newest iOS have little to fear, since the iOS 8.x bug fixes rectified those issues for the vast majority of users. Then again, if you’re using an iPhone 4s you’re way overdue for an upgrade anyway. Speaking of which…

Q. Should I get the iPhone 6/6+?
A. I’m kinda mixed on this. Yes, they are both awesome in terms of speed, display quality and camera, and the iPhone 6+ screen is massive in comparison to its forebears. My concern with the 6+ is that it’s just too big to handle comfortably in one hand, and presents a challenge to those who spend some part of their day inserting and removing their phone from their front pants pocket. Even the 6 is on the tall side…

My advice would be to get the 5s while it’s still available and $100 less, since the only really significant feature missing from the 5s versus the 6 is the ability to use Apple Pay. But hey, if you really want/need a larger screen and you don’t keep your phone in your pants pocket, don’t let me talk you out of a pretty remarkable piece of hardware.

Q. Why do I keep getting “blocked plug-in” messages?
A. You can thank the Adobe Flash plug-in for that, as well as all the Web site developers who still insist on using Flash for video and other content on their sites. Given that the iPhone and iPad, as well as the vast majority of Android tablets, seem to get along just fine even though they can’t even run Flash, I eagerly await the day when Flash no longer exists on any platform.

But until that glorious day arrives, you’ll have to keep checking your System Preferences–>Flash Player settings to ensure you have the latest version. In some cases Flash will update itself without troubling you with error messages, but when there is a significant update to the plug-in, you will need to manually install it in order to banish those infernal “blocked plug-in” messages. At least, until the next update.

Here’s some helpful guidance on keeping Flash up to date, courtesy of Adobe. Hey, it’s the least they can do.

Q. What’s the deal with those special eyedrops you were getting?
A. Oh, thanks for asking. I’ve been using them for a few weeks now and I can’t really say that I have seen any significant improvement, but since everyone’s immune system is unique (not many more so than mine) my immuno-ophthalmologist really couldn’t tell me exactly what to expect in terms of efficacy or a time frame. So we’ll, uh, see…

Q. Can I ask one more “computer” question?
A. Sure.

Q. Thanks. I know I should be backing up my iDevice, but should I back it up to my Mac or to iCloud?
A. Definitely to your Mac (or Windows PC, if that’s how you roll). Why? Storage on your computer is free, as opposed to your having to pay for additional room on iCloud for all those fab pix and videos you have on your iDevice(s). And the local iTunes backup is more complete than the iCloud backup.

But… if you can’t be troubled to plug your device into the computer once a week or so, and/or you’ve already ponied up for extra iCloud storage, then iCloud is just fine. What’s important here is that you are backing up your iDevice(s) somewhere.

Q. OK, I think that’s it for now.
A. No problem, give a shout if you have any other questions.