Apps I Use – LastPass Password Management System

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I used to one of those people that would use the safe two or three passwords for all of my accounts, beca

use who has the brain capacity to remember different passwords for so many different apps and services! I also had an Excel spreadsheet (that was password protected) that housed both my usernames and passwords for said various apps and services. I knew it was wrong to use the same password(s) for multiple log-ins, but like many Americans, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of having to think of creative, hard-to-crack passwords for all my accounts.

Thankfully, I came across LastPass while browsing the Apple App store. LastPass is a password management platform that stores your usernames and passwords in an encrypted system. Your data is encrypted and decrypted at the device level. According to LastPass, “Data stored in your vault is kept secret, even from LastPass. Your master password, and the keys used to encrypt and decrypt data, are never sent to LastPass’ servers, and are never accessible by LastPass.”

LastPass’s password management system also allows you to;

  • Store other digital records, such as Insurance cards, memberships, Wi-Fi passwords, et cetera, in their secure Notes section of the system,
  • Generate strong passwords through built-in password generator that creates long, randomized passwords that protect against hacking,
  • Log in and go once a password is saved to LastPass, usernames and passwords will be quickly accessible or automatically filled in to credentialing fields (depending on the app or site),
  • Prepare for the unknown by letting your friends and family access your LastPass account in the event of an emergency or crisis.

The company offers a free version of its service, which is the option that I use. For $24.00 dollars annually, you can;

  • Share passwords, Wi-Fi logins, memberships and other items with as many people as you want for easy access.
  • Create your digital contingency plan with emergency access for loved ones.
  • Plus, advanced multi-factor options, priority tech support, LastPass for applications, and 1GB of encrypted file storage.

If you want to bring the family on board with your newfound sense of password security importance, LastPass has a family plan for $4.00 per month that gives you all the features listed here plus unlimited shared folders and family member management.

LastPass in available through the Apple App Store, Google Play, Microsoft Store, as an extension for your favorite browsers, and online through lastpass.com

There are other password management services available, such as 1Password, but I did not bother with this service because it does not offer a free version that is feature packed like LastPass. Do you use a password management system? If not, what do you think about LastPass? Let me know in the comments section!

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Surface Go – Microsoft’s Answer to the iPad

 

 

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Image Credit – Microsoft

On Monday Microsoft announced its new Surface Go tablet. With a starting price of $399.00, this new tablet is set to take on Apple’s iPad. The immediate benefit of this new 10-inch device is that you can take advantage of the full power of Windows, as this tablet is powered by an Intel Pentium Gold processor. You will have the option of purchasing a Surface go with entry level specs of 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. If that is not enough power for you, Microsoft will offer the tablet with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This better option will run you $549. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not include a keyboard, which will cost you an additional $100.00.

Microsoft currently offers a 12.3-inch Surface Pro computer that is ultra-portable and is offering a bundle that includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage with a keyboard for $799.00. Usually, this bundle will cost you $ 1,159.00. I would opt for this option because you get a faster computer with a bigger screen at a price difference that is easily justifiable. Remember that the best part of owning a Microsoft made computer, is it is not preloaded with bloatware! Read my blog post from June 24, 2018 to see why this is important.

I require more power and screen size for what I do. I would say that this device is geared towards students and people who are not power users, i.e. only use their PC to surf the web, send e-mails, use social media, et cetera. Personally, I would opt for an iPad which gives you the ability to do all of those things, but also gives you access to Apple’s incredible App Store. Will you be picking up a Surface Go? Tell me about it in the comments section!

The Future (of Payments) is Now with Apple Pay

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Image Credit – Apple

Apple Pay is a mobile payment and digital wallet service that is built right into your iPhone, Apple Watch or MacBook Pro with Touch ID. It is handsdown one of my favorite features as well because of how easy it is to set up and use. You can make secure purchases in stores through any terminal or credit card machine that displays a near field communication (NFC) or Apple Pay logo, in apps, and on the web. I consider Apple Pay to be simpler than using your physical card. It is certainly safer!

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Image Credit – Apple

Recently, Apple launched Apple Pay Cash, a service that allows you to send, receive, and even request money with Apple Pay. Sending and receiving money is quick and simple, as Apple has baked the functionality right into the messages app. Here are instructions from Apple on sending, receiving, and requesting money with Apple Pay Cash. I recently used this service for the first time by sending my cousin some money for her birthday. I think she forgot that I had sent it to her because after some time went by, Apple notified me that the money was being returned to my bank account! Guess she didn’t want it LOL.

This technology is being adopted worldwide. I recently went to Italy and was able to pay for goods and services at some local retailers and at McDonalds using my iPhone with Apple Pay. It was a great feeling not having to worry about skimming devices implanted to seal my credit card information. According to Apple, When you make a purchase, Apple Pay uses a device-specific number and unique transaction code. So your card number is never sto

red on your device or on Apple servers, and when you pay, your card numbers are never shared by Apple with merchants.

Instructions on setting up your device to use Apple Pay are available here. If you own a business and would like to begin accepting Apple Pay, apple provides some helpful information here.

Apple provides a list of devices that are compatible with Apple Pay here. If you recently bought a new iOS, WatchOS, or MacBook Pro with Touch ID, you can bet your device will work with the service. Additionally, a list of merchants that provide allow you to Pay with Apple Pay are listed here.

Are you using Apple Pay on your device now? Let me know about your experience with it in the comments section and how you think it could be improved, if at all. Happy shopping and payments!

Find my iPhone: Simply, yet Powerful

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Image Credit – NewAge ADS, LLC.

One of the features I make sure to verify my friends and family are using if they own an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, or even AirPods is the Find my iPhone app. When you activate your band new iPhone iPad, iPod touch, or Mac you will be asked if you want to turn on the Find My iPhone feature. Turning this feature on allows iCloud to help you get your Apple iPhone or other stated device(s) back if it is missing. If you experience

the unfortunate event of having your device stolen, the app’s Activation Lock feature keeps your information safe and makes it difficult, if not nearly impossible for anyone to use or sell your device.

I had the misfortune of having my MacBook Pro stolen back in 2015. Thankfully, I had the Find my Mac feature turned on and was able to quickly log into the Find My iPhone from my iPhone and lock down my mac remotely with a passcode. I was also able to display a custom message on the screen that read something like, “Thank you for finding my missing MacBook Pro. Please contact me at (phone number) so that my computer can be returned to me.” Long story short, I ended up getting in touch with someone who claimed they bought my computer from someone else and I ended up paying what they paid for it, about $300.00. Though my computer was turned off when it was stolen, as soon as the thief turned it on and got online, my Mac connected to iCloud and was immediately locked down.

If you only have one Apple device that is lost or stolen, you can sign in through iCloud.com to find your device on a map. Once you are signed in, click on the Find iPhone icon and a map will appear with the location of your registered device(s). To see the full list of registered devices, just click on the heading labeled All Devices and a dropdown menu will appear with said devices. When you click on the device that you misplaced or stolen device, you are given three options;

  • Play a sound – If your Mac is nearby, you can have it play a sound to help you or someone nearby find it.
  • Lock your iPhone (or other device) – You can use Find My Mac to remotely lock your Mac with a passcode. You can also display a custom message on its screen.
  • Erase your Mac – You can use Find My Mac to remotely erase and deleteall your personal information from your Mac.

For iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch owners, Activation Lock is a feature that is also available that prevents anyone else from using your device if it is ever lost or stolen.

Apple includes detailed steps for locating your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch,  Airpods, Apple Watch, and Mac.

Just like the tile states, Find my iPhone is a simple, yet powerful feature. I know this from my firsthand experience I detailed. It is also one of the reasons I am such a loyal consumer of Apple products. Have you ever had to use the Find my iPhone feature? Tell me in the comments section!

What can the iCloud do for You? Just About Everything!

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Image Credit – the Mac Observer

Apple’s iCloud service is more than just online storage for your files. It is a means to store all of your data on Apple servers for download to your iOS, macOS or Windows devices. This data can be shared with others, and help you manage your Apple devices if they are lost or stolen.

If you own an Apple device(s), iCloud is a no-brainer. Just look at these features;

  • Backup and restore
    • Allows users to back up settings and data. Specifically, data includes photos and videos in the Camera Roll, device settings, app data, messages (iMessage, SMS, and MMS), ringtones, and Visual Voicemails. Backups occur daily when the device is locked and connected to Wi-Fi and a power source or on demand my going into settings. If your Apple device breaks, during the restoration process, iCloud can restore all data along with App data only if the device was synced to iCloud and backed up.
  • Back to My Mac
    • Allows users to log in remotely to other computers configured with the same Apple ID and have Back to My Mac
  • Email
    • You can create an @icloud e-mail address that can be accessed using any standard IMAP-compatible email client. You can also access your iCloud e-mail address via iCloud.com. Additionally, iCloud email is push-enabled on any iOS device.
  • Find My Friends
    • Users can share their location with other friends or family using the feature.
  • Find My iPhone
    • This is my definitely the most valuable feature of iCloud, as I have first-hand experience using this which I will share some other day. This feature allows users to track the location of their iOS device or Mac. Users can see a device’s approximate location on a map (along with a circle showing the radius depicting the margin of error), display a message and/or play a sound on the device (even if it is set to silent), change the password on the device, and remotely erase its contents.
  • iCloud Keychain
    • Password management system in macOS and iOS. In macOS, keychain stores a variety of data fields including a title, URL, notes and password. Only the passwords and Secure Notes are encrypted.
  • iTunes Match
    • iTunes Match adds all of your music to your iCloud Music Library using iTunes on Windows or Mac. This service is included with an Apple Music subscription or can be purchased as a standalone service.
  • iCloud Photo Library
    • Stores all of your photos while maintaining their original resolution and metadata. You can access your library via any macOS, iOS or Windows device.
  • iCloud Drive
    • Similar to Dropbox or OneDrive, iCloud Drive allows users to store any kind of file, including photos, videos, documents, music, and other data files, in iCloud Drive and access it on any macOS, iOS, or Windows device.
  • Messages on iCloud
    • Messages on iCloud is a feature which keeps all of a user’s iMessages and SMS texts stored in the cloud. Messages are synced across Macs, iPhones and iPads.

Apple offers iCloud in four different tiers;

  • 5 GB
    • Free
  • 50GB
    • $0.99/month
  • 200GB
    • $2.99/month
  • 2TB
    • $9.99/month

The 5GB option is a joke. I subscribe to the 50GB a month plan, which is enough to hold all my photos and documents. I don’t need to worry about Music taking up storage because I use Apple’s Apple Music subscription service at a discounted rate. Are you using Apple’s iCloud service? If so, what do you or don’t you like about it? Let me know in the comments section!

Student Discounts for your Favorite Services: Spotify + Hulu (Equals LOVE)

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Good things come to those who wait, and this blog post is certainly no exception. Today I bring you what is quite possibly the best student discount for entertainment; Hulu + Spotify. For $4.99 you get Spotify Premium for Students and Hulu’s Limited Commercial Plan.

Hulu Limited Commercial plan includes streaming of Hulu original series (The Handmaid’s Tale, Casual, Difficult People, and others), movies, and other programming. Spotify Premium for students gives you all of the same benefits as Spotify Premium; Downloading music, ad free listening, unlimited skips, and access to over 30 million songs. Additionally, both of these services offer apps on all popular platforms; iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, online, et cetera.

What if I already subscribe to Hulu?

If you currently subscribe to Hulu Limited Commercial plan sans add-ons (HBO or Showtime) and you are subscribed directly through Hulu, not through a third party, your plan can be merged and begin to take advantage of the great pricing.

So am I eligible?

In order to be eligible to take advantage of these services you must be a student enrolled at a US Title IV accredited college or university, and above the age of 18. You’ll need to subscribe directly to Spotify and not through a third party (e.g., a cell phone provider). Existing Hulu Limited Commercials plan subscribers without Premium Add-ons are eligible if billed by Hulu (not a third party). Spotify will have you verify your student status through a service called SheerID.

When you graduate from school you will continue to get access to Spotify Premium for Students with Hulu Limited Commercial plan for up to 12 months from the last time your student status was verified. At the end of this period, you will automatically be switched to Spotify Premium and lose your access to Hulu. Spotify Premium will set you back a cool $9.99 per month.

As someone who is heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, I don’t plan on switching to Spotify, but I will sign up for this service before I graduate to take advantage of Hulu’s service. What about you guys? Will you be signing up for this service or are you already taking advantage of it? Let it be known in the comments section!

Avoiding Bloatware: Finding a Computer with no Unwanted Apps Preinstalled

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For me, buying a new computer is exciting. This excitement can be ruined quickly during the first few minutes of using a new computer that includes preinstalled software (aka crapware or bloatware), such as McAfee or Symantec anti-virus software, AccuWeather, Nero Platinum 2018, Candy Crush, et cetera. Many of these programs will nag you continually through notifications asking you to buy the full version. Worse yet, your new computer’s performance is significantly reduced because of these programs running in the background!

 

Hardware makers get a cut from the makers of the software that that they preinstall on your new computer and lie to you by stating that this software brings additional value to your purchase. With the exception of Apple, preinstalled software helps PC makers make up for low profit margins of the PC’s they sell. Removing the preinstalled software one application at a time can be a time-consuming process that still leaves behind traces of files that take up valuable space and can continue to slow the performance of your PC.

So what are your options?

I am not going to recommend purchasing a program that clears out crapware because the makers of the preinstalled software and the hardware makers that install said software have created workarounds for these solutions by again, leaving behind traces of the preinstalled software. If you buy a new PC today, it will come preinstalled with Windows 10. Thankfully, Microsoft introduced a new for download that allows you to refresh Windows. This tool is great not only for removing preinstalled software, but also to give your PC a fresh start if it begins to slow down, as should be expected over the course of using it. The tool and corresponding steps to take to refresh your PC are available from Microsoft here.

Another more stress-free option is to purchase a computer without crapware installed on it. Apple has always offered a great experience out of the box and allows for easy removal of its own apps you may not find useful. For example, one of the first things I did was remove Pages, Numbers and Keynote by replacing it with Office 365 for Mac. Another option is Google Chromebooks. I don’t have much to say about Chromebooks, as I personally prefer Apple and Microsoft products. Lastly, Microsoft offers what they call Signature Edition PCs through their online store that offer a crapware-free experience right out of the box! These devices include their own Surface line of PCs and PCs from other manufacturers.

In summary, I will continue to stick with buying Apple computers as I have always had a great out of the box experience with them. What about you? Have you purchased a PC with crapware installed on it? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below!