Apple’s Version of Life Alert

If you already have an Apple iPhone, and you are getting older (as are we all), this new feature built into the Apple Watch is a mighty helpful addition.
If you have an Apple Watch running the newest operating system, you can hold down the side button until it offers you a choice to declare an emergency.  If you do, then it will contact 911 and the loved ones that you have added beforehand, telling them your exact location.
So, instead of paying for a monthly service, an Apple Watch can stand in for one of those single-use devices you keep on your wrist, or hanging around your neck.  AND, it’s a mighty useful health-monitor and workout log.  It’s immersible to a depth of three feet for half an hour (150 feet on the newest model), so showering with it is no big deal.
Last time I checked, Best Buy was still selling the first generation of Apple Watch (the one that I use, and love) for as low as $189.  The Target Express at 3030 Grape St, San Diego, CA 92102 (the corner of Fern and Grape) is usually a good source for the excess inventory of the older Apple Watch model.
Dennis and I are going to be traveling in Europe, and this feature even works in any country, automatically!
I even went into the Health app on my iPhone and entered my emergency information, that will be sent to 911:
– I am diabetic, and penicillin will send me into toxic shock
– I am willing to be an organ donor, and
– My husband’s contact-info.
I’m in pretty good shape, but both of my parents died at this same age.  You can’t be too careful!

UPDATE your Apple devices, RIGHT NOW!

This is true for Macintoshes…as well as iPhones and iPads:
In short, an Israeli security-hacking company has created a three-part way to hack into Apple devices, but has been selling it to despotic governments who want to spy upon dissidents and journalists, and to take over every part of their devices.  Once it is in the larger environment, bad people can use it to go after YOU.
So, the answer is to UPDATE your Apple-brand computing equipment, and right away.  All of it:
– On the Mac, pull down the Apple menu, go to Software Update, and perform every update.  If you are not running El Capitan yet, it’s time.
– On your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, go to Settings -> General -> Software Update.
The updates are free, and will improve your life.

From Paula:
I have OS X (.7.5), which I know is old in computer years, and Software Update tells me it’s up to date, i.e. no updates.

From Tony:
The only difference between 10.7 and 10.11 is that there are more bug fixes, and better security. If your Mac is happy with 10.7, it will be quite happy with El Capitan.
In YOUR case, go to the Finder.
Pull down the “Go” menu at the top of the screen.
Choose “Applications”.
Open “App Store”.
Download and install the free El Capitan update.

Don’t Be Fooled!

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.08.51 AMI’m seeing a lot of my clients needing to have adware removed from their Macs these days. They are being fooled by big, eye-catching graphics on a web-page, saying “You need to upgrade your Flash Player”. DON’T BE FOOLED. The real agenda for those “alerts” is to trick you into clicking on the button, and getting the process started.

Sure, your Flash Player will be updated, but you will ALSO get some nasty, additional features that you never wanted:

– Constant, annoying ads
– that horrid MacKeeper starts yelling at you to pay for it, and
– your web-browser brings you to Yahoo’s search page, instead of Google.

I’ve gotten pretty savvy at rooting-out such things, and yes, it is a (tiny) source of income, but I would honestly prefer that people avoid it in the following way:

First, upgrade your Mac to El Capitan 10.11.5. That’s the version that roots out adware, every time that you restart.

If you MUST upgrade your Flash Player, there is only ONE safe place to do it: Pull down the Apple Menu, go to System Preferences. Click on Flash Player in the bottom row, then on “Upgrade” in the top row. Click on “Allow Adobe to install updates”, and click on “Check Now”. If it says “Update Available”, click “Yes”.

This should bring you to your web-browser (preferably Safari), and a big, yellow button saying “Update Now”.  Click it!

HOWEVER, this next part is what baffles people, so let me clarify. The Adobe Updater has been downloaded, and it is in your Downloads folder. Many folks get lost at this point, and will repeatedly download the same file a dozen times, hoping for a different result.

In Safari, look on the upper right side of the window, and look for a square with a downward-pointing arrow. Click that. You will see your AdobeFlashPlayer file at the top of the list. Click the magnifying-glass next to it, and TA-DAA! – There’s your file – double-click it and complete the install.

As long as you are being wary, DON’T trust any downloadable program unless it is directly downloaded from the Web site that it originates from.  Don’t download something randomly off of the internet, and then install it unless you really know what you are getting.  Beware of MacUpdate and other “free software” sites.  They are major offenders.

Instead, pull down your Apple menu, open up the App Store, and search THAT for what you want.  You will be protected from the random bad guys on the Internet..


If I had any hair on my head, it would be on fire right now.  I want to warn everybody about a subtle change that has happened recently, and now I am starting to see a big problem:

When people upgrade to a later version of the operating system, Apple now asks a simple question: Do you want to turn Filevault on?  It’s one of multiple questions during the upgrade process, and the default is “Yes”, so most folks don’t give it a second thought.  They are in a hurry to get back to their normal routine. They just click “Continue”.

What folks don’t realize is, they are being asked if they want to encrypt everything on the entire hard drive.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, if you forget your password, YOU CAN’T GET YOUR DATA BACK.  Nobody can.  Not even Apple, or the FBI or the NSA.  Imagine losing your college thesis, your family’s genealogy, your baby pictures, or your wedding pictures.  Forever. Imagine what it would cost you to start over from zero.

In the midst of the whole computer security controversy, Apple is tightening security even more. This is all very virtuous, but it scares the crap out of me when I find somebody who has no backup for their computer. So, let’s fix that, and NOW:

  • Walk into your local Costco (my favorite source) and buy the biggest hard drive they sell.  At the moment, it’s a Seagate 5-Terabyte drive, usually around $129.  If you don’t have a Costco membership, get a really big drive at Best Buy.  There is no such thing as a “Macintosh” drive (they all work). There is also no such thing as a bad hard drive brand or model.  They are all excellent in 2016 – The technology has been perfected. Finally, there is no point whatsoever to getting a smaller, cheaper drive.  They cost almost as much as the bigger drives. You’re worth it, so don’t cheap out on yourself.
  • Plug the drive into your Mac.  Your Mac’s operating system contains a free, built-in and automatic backup system called Time Machine.  It should immediately ask you if you want to use the hard drive as a backup drive.  Agree with that offer.  It should then warn you that the drive will be erased.  That is fine with you, so go ahead and agree.
  • Leave the drive connected overnight, and don’t shut down the Mac.  It will stay awake until the first full backup is complete.
  • If you have a desktop (non-laptop) Mac, then NEVER DISCONNECT the drive, ever, for any reason.  Don’t shove it in a closet. If you leave it connected forever, then it will silently and perfectly keep your backup fresh.  That way, if the computer dies some day, you hook up the backup drive to a new Mac, and agree to restore, and it will operate exactly as before, only faster.  You will never lose data, ever again, if you have a backup
  • If you have a laptop, then get in the habit of plugging the backup drive to your laptop every time that you plug it into power.  The BEST way to back up a laptop is to use Apple’s own Time Capsule wireless router.  That way, you are getting backed-up automatically and wirelessly.  The second-best choice is to hook a hard drive to the USB port on an Apple Airport Extreme wireless router (any model, even old ones) – That’s a less-expensive way to accomplish wireless backups.  The least-convenient choice is to hook your laptop to an external drive, but it is far superior to having no backup at all!

Really Good News About Nasty Pop-Up Ads and Scareware

This is a great bit of new information for Mac users who might suddenly see a pop-up message (or a LOT of them) while browsing the Web.  The Mac operating system is really, really secure, but… horrid people (most of them living in India, it appears) have found ways to insert nasty bits of unwanted programs that have been difficult to get rid of. Maybe you downloaded a “free” bit of software, or fonts, and extra programs sneaked in as well.


This “adware” or “shareware” wants to frighten or annoy you into spending money to MAKE-IT-GO-AWAY.  Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a penny.  Just update your Mac’s operating system to the newest version.  Every time you restart your Mac after that, the operating system scrubs out any possible newly-installed bits of unwanted crapware, leaving your Mac sparkling clean!

In case you are not clear on the concept, here is how you get the NEWEST operating system:

Pull down your Apple menu, and choose “Software Update”, if it shows up.  If you only see “App Store”, then choose that, and then click on “Updates” at the top.  You should be able to find “El Capitan” pretty easily.  Go get it, for free, and install it.

If it runs slowly after that, follow the instructions in my article that tells you how to speed up your Mac for free.

If you are unsure about a message that you see via email or the Web, and you want an expert, highly-biased opinion, take a picture of the message with your phone, and text it to me at 619-804-4627, and say “what do you think?”.  I see this kind of stuff every day, and I don’t charge for the advice.  Why?  Because I need to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening from day to day, and I never object to dispensing advice!

Possible Fix for Cox Internet Flakiness

A LOT of my clients are complaining about their Macs losing Internet connection on a constant basis, forcing them to re-start the cable modem… Sometimes, several times a day. These are folks using an Apple device (Airport Extreme, Time Capsule, or Airport Express) for their wireless network.

Right now, Cox is telling folks to beware of the problem when installing new, bought-separately cable modems, and that they are working with Apple on a fix.  Personally, I think that their programmers are lazy, but that’s another topic.


At the moment, I believe that the problem all relates back to “IPv6” – What the heck is that?  It’s the far, FAR better way of dealing with the Internet as it matures and grows.  However, many companies are resisting the change-over to the new system, which allows for vastly more growth in numbers of connected devices, worldwide. Modern companies have made the awkward change to the new system, but not everybody.

In the meantime, here is a possibility for making things more stable:

On your Mac, close all windows.  Click once on the colorful desktop. At the top of the screen, look for the “Go” menu.  Pull it down, and choose “Utilities”.  Double-click on the “Airport Utility” program, and then follow these instructions to downgrade your Airport’s firmware:

Apple Airport/Time Capsule 7.6.3 update breaks IPv6 tunneling, fix is downgrading

If it doesn’t make a difference, then you can always switch it back.  Let me know if it helps!

Update from Darren:

I may have a solution for you, because I had the exact same problem. For months, I would have to reboot my modem and Airport router intermittently but persistently, sometimes once a week, other times more than once in a day. I tried resetting the modem using Cox’s automated system, I tried 3 different Airport routers to see if that was the problem…. I even rigged up a remote control just as Tony did, to turn the modem off and on. 

Finally, at the end of my rope and without much optimism, I called Cox tech support. On the call, a helpful (!) support person and I half-accidentally stumbled on the issue. The problem in my case was that I had a modem (Motorola’s SB 6121) that wasn’t able to handle the level of service I had ordered from Cox (I have the next tier down from their top speed, whatever that’s called). So I ordered a new Surfboard 6183 modem, got Cox to initialize it, and haven’t had the problem since. 

I imagine if you didn’t want to buy a new modem, you could always downgrade your service speed to achieve the same effect. Seems worth a try, anyway. I suppose I could still blame Cox for not being savvy enough to know that I needed a better modem for my service level, but for now I’m just happy that things are working properly.

Update two:

I just went to look at my cable modem, which is an old Motorola Surfboard 6120 – probably six years old.  I’m severely tempted to order a newer 6190, or the 6183, which is sold at Costco.

SB6190 SURFboard® Cable Modem

Update three:  I bought the Surfboard 6190 a while ago, right after writing this article.  I’ve been serenely happy with the results.  My previous modem wasn’t particularly OLD – It was more middle-aged.  It seems that a NEW, properly-sorted-out-for-2016 modem is what was needed.

Cox Cable Glitches


Susie wrote:
Hey Tony,

I have a Motorola modem (from Costco – as you advised awhile back) combined with an Airport Extreme to supply the wireless internet throughout my house.
For several months we have had the issue where the internet connection goes down periodically  (once every couple of weeks) and we need to unplug things, then replug them and the problem is solved.
Recently however, the problem occurs almost daily, sometimes several times a day.
Any ideas?  Time for a new Modem?  Airport extreme?


It seems like it should be the cable modem, based upon what you say, and it is time to run a test:
Connect JUST the cable modem to a power-strip with an on/off switch.  If the Internet connection is lost, flip the switch off, then on again.  If the Internet runs smoothly from then on, we might have our culprit.
HOWEVER.  Save the receipt and the packaging if you buy a new cable modem.  Cox Cable, the Internet providers, are being pretty glitchy lately, as a service.
The white box shown above my keyboard is a remote-control, and it allows me to do the same power-reset of the modem remotely (my network hardware is under my house). I have to do it this at least twice a week.  I bought a package of three Capstone Indoor Wireless Remote Outlets from my local Costco for under twenty bucks, and they work GREAT!

Clever Laptop Accessory, Coming Soon For $20

I see an awful lot of zany product ideas in my daily online research.  This one stands out.  It also makes me wonder why Apple never thought of it…
It’s a piece of plastic that allows your charger (for ANY Apple laptop) to lay flat behind your couch, or next to your chair, without protruding so much. Being a Proud Oafish American, I have broken several such power-bricks in my life, by pivoting in a swivel chair, without paying attention.

Blockhead – Turn your charger so it fits in more places