Some of your iPhone call history could end up on your partner’s device and you can’t stop it if you use iCloud

iPhone Passcode

A passcode isn’t needed to access an iPhone’s call history

Without telling its users – let alone offering a way to stop it happening – it appears that Apple have been storing your iPhone’s call logs in your iCloud account (if you have iCloud turned on). Potentially, this offers security services a way of accessing a phone’s call history without having to know or hack the passcode for the device and without having to “persuade” the phone’s carrier to reveal the information (source: The Intercept).

Information stored includes:

  • list of calls made and received (over the previous four months)
  • dates and times
  • duration
  • missed and bypassed calls
  • regular calls and FaceTime calls are both included

Apple have no way of accessing the data on a recent iPhone whose passcode they don’t know. This caused a bit of a rumpus last year when the US authorities wanted Apple to help them access the phone of a suspected bomber (for a detailed description of the circumstances of this case see, for instance this “Wired” article). No such arguments exists here as Apple does have access to iCloud logs and could be forced by a court order to reveal them.

As well as the fundamental principle of privacy (yes, I do think we’re fighting a losing battle on that front – a lost cause even), this can also have unforeseen consequences in the very real world – far away from the world of spies and terrorism.

Looking at Mobiles

Are you unknowingly revealing your call history?

The point of iCloud (in case you were wondering) is that it enables data to be shared between the different devices relating to a specific Apple ID. With the latest version of IOS (iPhone’s operating system), this extends to sharing phone call histories between the different devices of a single Apple ID. This happens by syncing the call history to the iCloud account and back down to other devices using the same Apple ID. So, all of your call history can now magically appear on the iPhone of your partner! If you have any aspect of your life that you would rather your partner not know about then it is no longer enough to think that they can’t get at that information because they don’t have your iPhone’s passcode.

iCloud - Setting Up

Don’t use iCloud if you want your call history to remain private

I’m not remotely interested, here, in the morality of doing things behind your partner’s back. It’s none of my business. However, I think it’s appalling that Apple can be so cavalier with its customers’ privacy that it neither informs them of this situation, nor offers any user-defined options to deal with it. There are, of course, two simple ways of dealing with it and they are not to use iCloud at all or, even more sensibly, don’t share an Apple ID with anyone else. Whether that conjures up words like babies and bathwater depends upon your own situation but, at present, these are the only ways of dealing with this sharing of call history.

Of course, you might well say that anyone who’s playing away is unlikely to be so close to their partner as to share an Apple ID. I wouldn’t know about that, but, irrespective of individual users’ behaviour, Apple are – at the most generous interpretation – a little careless with their customers’ privacy.

You can learn more about this situation at threatpost.com.

Yes, this is me whingeing about error messages again

See, for instance, “Oh dear – error!“.

I’m not just letting off steam again for the sake of it. This is a situation that I’m sure other people come across and fail to solve (and I challenge you to find the solution among Apple help pages).

Apple ID - password wrongBack in the mists of time (about four years ago), a new computer support client contacted me with a typical list of problems. Included in the list was problems with her Apple ID(s). Specifically, she had two different Apple IDs and some apps had been bought with one ID and some with another. She couldn’t update apps bought or downloaded under the older ID. At that time, we didn’t manage to get to the bottom of her Apple ID problems (mired, as we were, in AOL problems as well).

Anyway, last week I was visiting her for some reasonably routine stuff and she wanted a bit of help setting up a brand new iPhone SE. Not realising I’d stepped into a man trap (“fools rush in..”), I got stuck in and – you guessed – the problem of multiple Apple IDs cropped up again. Now, my client is pretty compos mentis and she has a pretty good idea of the possible passwords that she might have assigned to these Apple IDs, so why on earth were we still having problems? Why were we being told that the password was incorrect?

Apple ID - password entryThis time, it occurred to me that the first thing to do in cases like this is to establish unequivocally what the password is for a given account. So, instead of vainly shouting at her brand new iPhone (albeit viscerally satisfying for me and entertaining for her), we went to a browser (on a proper computer) and tried to log into the Apple ID. We reported that we’d forgotten the password and she demonstrated her clear-headedness by knowing the answers to the security questions it asked. So we were able to re-set the password without drama. We then logged in and out of the account a couple of times so as to be entirely confident of the password.

Now, the Apple ID whose password we had just re-set and clarified belonged to the old account that she’d used yonks ago. The ID that she uses currently causes no problems and we’d restored the software from the previous phone, updated all the apps that go with that ID and everything was fine.

Apple ID - password wrongHere’s the crunch. The phone informed us that it could not update the apps acquired under the older Apple ID without us entering the password. No problem. We now knew for certain what that password is because we’d just re-set it and logged in and out a few times. So, we entered the password and – guess what – it told us that it was wrong. “BUT IT CAN’T BE WRONG, YOU STUPID PHONE”. I don’t have perfect recall of even getting up this morning, let alone what happened four years ago, but both the client and I remember that this scenario was what had us almost in tears the last time.

This time, however, I had a brief moment of clarity – we’re still signed in to the other Apple ID. So, I signed out of the other ID, into the correct one (whose password is most assuredly what we think it is) and, hey presto, the apps updated without problem.

The point of this blog is twofold:

  • Why – especially after all the years that iPhones and IOS have been around – are we STILL presented with a totally misleading error message when entering an Apple ID password? Surely it can’t be beyond the wit of the geniuses working for Apple to trap this error properly and come up with a decent message, such as “You are signed in with a different Apple ID. Sign out of that Apple ID first and then sign into this one”.
  • If, perchance, you yourself have used several different Apple IDS in the past, now you know how to keep all your apps updated without having a hissy-fit.

iPhone 5c - blueBy the by, do you happen to be in the market for an unused, unlocked, 32gb, blue, iPhone 5C? If so, the same client has one (no, it’s not either of the phones discussed above. This one is unused). Just let me know if you are and, preferably, an idea of what you’d like to pay for it, and I’ll pass the message on. It’s still got the original box and my client would despatch it by registered mail.

Does your iPhone seem a little sluggish these days?

Snail and iPhoneIt may just be one of those psychological things, that once the thought has crossed your mind that your iPhone isn’t quite as fast as it used to be, then it seems to get slower and slower. My guess is that it’s just because you start looking out for signs of sluggishness after you’ve noticed it the first time. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do to perk it up a bit.

iPhone polishing

You can also give its insides a bit of a clean

I’m not saying that each of these suggestions will have a noticeable effect on its own but, taken together, you might get a significant boost and feel happy with your iPhone for another year! Also, I’m not pretending that these suggestions are in any particular order of effectiveness. Indeed, some “authorities” contradict others – such as whether it is a good thing, a bad thing, or a pointless thing, to stop apps from running in the background. Nevertheless, the next time that Coronation Street isn’t quite as rivetting as you normally find it (!), you could multitask by giving your iPhone a bit of a springclean while you are watching it:

  • Restart the phone. This takes a minute or so, but you don’t have to engage brain. Just do it. It can make quite a difference. Press and hold the button on top of the phone. The “power off” slider appears. Slide it to the right or just keep your finger on the top button for a few more seconds. After everything has gone black, release the top button and then press it again until the Apple logo appears. Let go of the button and just wait for the phone to restart.
  • Remove apps you don’t use. Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. The apps are listed in (approximate) order of the amount of space they use up. While it is obviously better to remove larger apps, even smaller apps have an overhead on the system. Tap on an individual app to get to the link to deleting it or (sometimes) the option to just delete its data while leaving the app installed.
  • Clear out Safari temporary data. Go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.
  • Turn off Background App Refresh. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Either turn off all background refreshing by sliding the top slider to the left or choose apps individually.
  • Turn off Automatic Downloads. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Stores > and turn off automatic downloads as desired.
  • Turn off Motion. This is a bit of fanciness that “rocks” some aspects of the visual display if you shake the phone a bit. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduced Motion, and then slide the switch to the right (ie turn it on).
  • Reduce Display Transparency. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Increased Contrast and then slide the switch next to “Reduce Transparency” to the right.
  • Ensure that you have at the very least 1gb of free storage space on the phone. If you have cleared out unwanted apps (see above) then you’ve probably now got a minimum amount of free space for the phone to comfortable operate. If, however, you’ve only got 1gb or so of free space then it’s no surprise that your device is slow. If your phone is full of videos, music, podcasts, photos, then it should be easy enough to get rid of at least 1gb of such data. If you really can’t bear to be without any of your data then, assuming you don’t already have an iPhone 6 with 128gb storage, you can always go out and buy one – Carphone Warehouse are offering them for just £649 (or you could, of course, get a midrange laptop with 1tb or 2tb of storage space for that kind of price).

Go Faster iPhoneIt’s worth noting that some of these steps (such as reducing motion and turning off background app refresh) may make the battery last significantly longer between recharges as well as improving the phone’s responsiveness.

Lots of people, including Albert Einstein, have said variations on the theme of “the state exists for the benefit of its individuals. Individuals do not exist for the benefit of the state”

iPhone with Back DoorHas that view ever been more appropriate than in the current debate about whether Apple should be forced to build a “backdoor” to defeat its iPhone encryption in order to allow the US authorities to read the contents of a (dead) bomber’s iPhone? To put this “backdoor” business into simple terms, it means creating a “master key” so that the “keyholder” (in this case, the US authorities) can bypass any enryption without needing to know the password.

It seems to be the FBI who are currently shouting loudest for the need to force Apple to create the means to read the contents of encrypted phones. They are warning that strong encryption (ie encryption that they can’t break) will take us to a “dark place” where criminals and terrorists will be beyond the law. They are seeming to suggest that the only way of catching these people is by reading the content of their phones. Apart from anything else, they are ignoring the fact that if the authorities were known to have a key to the contents of the phone then the criminals would be more careful in using the phone (Gee, Ollie, I never thought of that).

There are plenty of reasons why all of this does not seem to me to be a good idea:

Tim Cook - CEO of Apple

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

  • You can not create a backdoor that just breaks open criminals’ phones. If the security services have their way in this then every single smartphone in the US (and, by extension, the world) would be an open book to the authorities. Why not take this just one step further and require every single person to wear a bodycam all of their waking lives, and to send all of the data off to the authorities? Why not? And while we’re at it, why not require everyone to register their fingerprints and DNA with the authorities?
  • You would be trusting that the backdoor (the master key) only ever remains in the hands of the right, trusted person(s). How could anyone ever guarantee that that would work? Forever. Never ever slipping up once. The key only has to escape once and that’s it. Everyone’s security and privacy has been compromised as no-one knows where that lost/stolen/copied key is going to get to.
  • Even before the genie gets out of the bottle (ie while the key remains in the right hands), how do you know that the key is only being used for legal and legitimate purposes?
  • Strong encryption already exists and criminals/terrorists are hardly likely to eschew its use just because some new law mandates that they must use smartphones that include a backdoor.
  • Just suppose that a backdoor is created and a terrorist is put on trial as a result of the evidence revealed using it. The defence may ask the prosecution to prove that the evidence is genuine and valid. This might involve giving away information regarding the backdoor (highly undesirable in terms of the security of everyone else’s iPhone), or of being so technical and difficult to understand that a jury wouldn’t be able to judge the validity of the “evidence” revealed by it (thereby defeating the object).
  • And I’m not listening to the argument that says that you could create a backdoor just for this one purpose (ie to crack the San Bernadino bomber’s iPhone). Having done it once, then the ability exists: the key can be copied – either by the authorities or by others. The principle will also have been established. You might just as well say “Give us permission to torture a particular terrorist. We’ll only do it once (we promise), but it’s necessary because we’re pretty sure we’ll get some information that we couldn’t get by other means. We really won’t ever ask to do it to anyone else. Honestly. We just need to torture this one person”.

Throwing the Baby out with the BathwaterBut why bother with what I think? For a far more informed view, see what Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has said about the encryption debate in an open letter published online to its customers.

No right-minded person wants to see terrorists flourish, but let’s just be careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s not create a society in which the interests of the state are paramount and to hell with individual rights and privacy.

I like the iPhone, but it can still send me into a hissy fit

Steve Jobs and iPhoneTo my mind, the iPhone is a lot slicker and nicer to use than any Android phone. But there’s one aspect of it that’s just dreadful and I don’t know why it hasn’t been addressed yet. This is the fact that trying to move an app’s icon from one screen to another causes a trail of mayhem as lots of other icons get moved around completely needlessly in the process. If you want to use a smartphone efficiently – or any other type of computer for that matter – you don’t want to have to search for the means of launching an app (or program) just because everything’s been moved around as a by-product of moving a single icon. It’s insane. It’s one of the many examples of computer idiocies that make me wonder if the people who make and sell us this stuff actually use it themselves or have ever listened to any feedback from anyone who does.

Rubiks Cube

Re-positioning iPhone icons can seem as frustrating as trying to solve Rubik’s Cube

Yes, I do know that it’s possible to re-arrange icons a bit more easily via iTunes, but that is definitely a case of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut when all you want to do is move one or two icons about. Besides, you want to move an icon when it occurs to you. You hardly want to send yourself some kind of a reminder to move one icon the next time you happen to be in front of computer and can connect your iPhone to your iTunes.

I’ve looked online for a better way of doing this but haven’t found one. I have, however, worked out a partial solution to the problem. I say “partial” because it might still mess up the icons on the screen(s) where the icon started and/or finished, but at least it will leave icons on the intermediate screens untouched.

What you do is use the iPhone’s dock (the bottom row of icons on the screen) as a “holding area” for the icon you wish to move. It works if you do the following:

  • Begin by going to a screen that has space for at least one more icon.
  • Press and hold (thus beginning the “move” process) on any icon in the dock and slide it up to a spare slot on the current screen.
  • End the “move” process by clicking on the “home” button. Your dock now has a spare space on it.
  • Navigate to the screen that currently includes the icon you wish to move.
  • Press and hold on the icon you wish to move, and, when the wiggling begins, drag the icon to the dock.
  • End the “move” process by clicking on the “home” button.
  • Navigate to the screen where you wish to place the icon.
  • Click and hold on the relevant icon (that is now in the dock).
  • When the wiggling begins, slide the icon up to the desired location.
  • Click on the “home” button to end the “move” process.
  • Navigate to the screen where you placed the icon that you originally moved from the dock.
  • Click and hold on that icon until the wiggling begins.
  • Slide the icon back onto the dock.
  • Click on the “home” button to end the “move” process.

Yes, that really is a list of 14 instructions just to move an icon from one screen to another.

I’ve been looking at ways to make the iPhone’s email program work better for me, and would like to pass on some tips:


IOS Mail IconOnly want to receive new emails when it’s convenient for you?

I don’t like my phone to make a noise telling me there’s new mail, only to find that it’s spam. Also, I think it’s not very good to have a phone pinging away when I’m with a client: there’s always the temptation to be rude and look at the phone (see this earlier blog on the subject of “phubbing”). If you agree with me, then you can change your settings so that you only receive email when you want it:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Fetch New Data
  • Tap on each email account in turn and tap on “Manual”
  • Scroll down to the heading “Fetch” and tap against “manually”

Now, when you open your email app and tap on the inbox (or “All Inboxes”), your iphone will fetch your email for you. It will stay calm and quiet when you are doing other things.

IOS Mail Inbox

You can see twice as many items in the inbox by turning the number of lines to “none”.


Want to see more inbox items per screen?

When you go to your email inbox(es), the app shows who a message is from, the subject, and two lines of the body of the email. This means that you can only see a few messages per screen. You can see more if you change the setting so that only the sender and subject are displayed:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down to the “Mail” section and tap on “Preview”
  • Tap against “none”


Jump straight to “Drafts”

If you tend to write emails a bit at a time, such as when you’ve got a few tube stops to travel, you will probably often wish to go to email drafts. This is easily achieved with a long press on the icon for creating a new email. Instead of starting to create a new email, a long press takes you straight to Drafts.


Reply to a specific part of an email

If you wish to send an email reply, but are only addressing one part of the incoming email, it is easy to quote just that part in your reply:

  • Highlight the text you wish to quote in your reply
  • Press the “reply” button in the usual way

You will see that only the quoted part of the original email is included below your reply.

IOS Settings

There are loads of tweakables in “Settings”, “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”


Change your email signature

If you would like a more personalised signature at the bottom of your emails than “Sent from my iPhone”, here is how it is done:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down and tap on “Signatures”
  • Choose whether to use one signature for all your email accounts or vary it by account
  • Replace the default text with your own signature(s)

When I first started using an iPhone, I was quick to replace the original email signature as I didn’t want to give Apple free advertising on the bottom of my emails. I later re-instated the default as it does indicate that the email came from a smartphone and might, therefore, be expected to be shorter than my normal longer, more considered message, would have been.


Always send a BCC to yourself

A “BCC” is a “blind carbon copy”. This means sending a copy (“carbon copy”) without the message’s recipient knowing you are doing it (“blind”). This is useful if your email account is a “POP” account as you wouldn’t otherwise have a copy of the message you sent from your iPhone in any other place (eg the email program on your main computer). It’s then easy enough to move that copy from the inbox of your “main” computer to the “sent” folder just as if you had sent it from there in the first place. To do this:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down and slide the switch to the right that is next to “Always Bcc Myself”

Have you ever wanted to increase the storage space on your idevice?

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

However much you like your idevice, it can be a pain that you can not connect either a USB flashdrive or an SD card to increase the storage capacity. This is particularly irritating at this time of year, of course, if you want to take some extra stuff on holiday with you – such as more music, downloaded movies, TV programs, and the like.

Well, I’ve found something that can go a great deal of the way to solving this problem. The specific item that I bought calls itself a Wi-Reader. There are other brands available and the specifications differ slightly.

The idea at the heart of this device is that it can read either an SD card or a USB flashdrive and transmit (stream) the contents via its own wifi signal direct to your iPad, iPhone etc. Clever, huh?

It’s not a perfect substitute for “onboard” extended storage as the contents are only available to a specific (free) app that you install on your idevice. That’s not quite literally true as you can make the contents available via FTP, but I don’t think that my own computer support clients would be likely to want to go off-piste into such rocky terrain.

I’ve been testing this device for a week now, and it works very well indeed within its limitations. The types of content that I’ve tested with it are:

  • Music – both aac format and mp3 format
  • Video – MP4 format
  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word documents (docx files)
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (xlsx files) – but it only show the first sheet in a workbook
  • Image files in tif and jpg formats

DW-17 Music View

Using the app’s “Music” view mixes all the albums together and lists tracks alphabetically…

I haven’t checked this out thoroughly, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that all of the data is available in a “read only” format. In other words, I don’t think you can use this device to create or edit files.

I have almost filled a 128gb San Disk Cruzer Blade flashdrive (mainly with music and TV programs converted from DVD format to MP4) and the response time in finding anything specific is perfectly acceptable. This 128gb flashdrive is currently available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £23.99.

The device itself is called an Apotop DW17 Wi-Reader. I bought it from Maplin for £39.99. If you look at these links, you will see that this particular model can also act as a battery charger for your iDevice. It will also work with Android devices using the freely available Android app, but I think it’s less likely to be needed on an Android device as they typically have SD or micro SD slots of their own.

DW-17 Folder View

…but using the alternative “Folder” view solves the problem

The only slight disadvantage that I’ve encountered is that you (obviously) need to connect to the wifi signal coming from the device in order to access its content. That means that you don’t have a wifi connection to the internet while you are accessing the wi-reader and the iPhone doesn’t attempt to connect to the internet using a 4G connection while the wifi connection is busy doing something else. Several times, I have wondered why I can’t check my email, only to remember that the iPhone’s wifi connection is otherwise occupied. However, that’s a small price to pay.

This solution is obviously not quite as convenient as having external storage slots available on the device itself, but it’s a very good alternative solution for anyone – like myself – who would like to have his entire record collection of about 1500 albums available with only about 120gm weight overhead in their luggage (including the charging cable and the San Disk USB drive). That comes to about 0.1gm per album, and at a cost of about 4p per album. Result!

Apple will let you have IOS 9 before it is released in the autumn

IOS 9 logoWe are accustomed to Microsoft giving the hardy among us access to new versions of their operating systems before they are “finished”, and now Apple is doing the same.

The next version of IOS (the operating system that runs on iPads and iPhones) will be released in the autumn, but you can download and install the “beta” version now if you are brave enough. Follow this link to sign up for the beta release of IOS 9.

Why would you do that?

Well, for someone like me, offering computer support and advice, it would obviously be a good idea to be one step ahead of my clients. You might also be attracted by the potential benefits of the new release and not want to wait.

Why wouldn’t you do that?

IOS 9 wallpaper

IOS 9 wallpaper

The main problem with beta releases is that they are not – by definition – the finished product. They may still have bugs and glitches and they may not be cosmetically complete. This is a risk you might feel it is worth taking, but there’s a potentially bigger problem.

The developers of all the other (non-Apple) apps that you have on your iPad and/or iPhone can not reasonably be expected to have updated their apps for a new operating system before that operating system has been completed. It’s true that they could have joined Apple’s “Developers’ Program” and had access to preview versions, but no-one knows exactly what the finished operating system will be like until it is released. If you install a beta version now, you run the risk of not being able to use some of your most useful non-Apple apps.

Apple Logo - GreenPersonally, I just don’t think that that is a risk worth taking – either as advice for my computer support clients or for myself. If I just happened to have a spare iPhone lying around (of minimum specification 4S), then I would install the beta version on this spare, but it’s not worth the potential disruption of installing it on the only iPhone that I have that would support it. And neither would I risk breaking my iPad.

So, if you’ve been bored by a smart-alec in the pub telling you he’s got IOS9 and it’s sooo coool, and you must get it, then I suggest that you do two things:

  • Bide your time for just a few weeks until the real thing arrives.
  • Change your pub.

Here’s a list of some of the changes that I understand are coming to the new version:

  • Better Siri (the voice interface with IOS)
  • Better search facilities
  • Better app switching (swapping between open apps)
  • Notes app will be able to include photos, maps, doodles
  • Public transport directions – but only for major US cities to begin with. I still find the TfL app very accurate for us Londoners – http://londontransportapp.com/
  • A news app (think I’ll stick with the Beeb, thanks)
  • “Settings” will be searchable – a very welcome update
  • A “back” button to go back to previous apps
  • A “low power” mode to extend battery life
  • The four digit passkey is being increased to six digits
  • Last – and very definitely least – an album for selfies (groan). Maybe it’s an age thing, but I just don’t “get” selfies

And which hardware will support the new operating system?

In short, any iPhone or iPad that supports IOS8 will also support IOS9. The full list is:

  • iPad Air
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Mini
  • iPad Mini 2
  • iPad Mini 3
  • iPad 4th generation
  • iPad 3rd generation
  • iPad 2
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 5S
  • iPhone 5C
  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPod Touch 5th generation

What’s the difference between iMessages and Text Messages?

If you have a Microsoft or Android mobile phone then this doesn’t apply. iMessages are only available on an iPhone.

SMS Logo

SMS = Short Message Service = text message

Whatever your phone type and operating system, sending a text message is normally handled by your mobile connection provider (Vodaphone, EE, O2 etc). They route the message through to the recipient using their own servers. Depending upon your data plan (service agreement) with your provider, you may pay individually for all text messages sent from your phone, you may pay for any text messages over a certain “free allowance” per month, or all of your text messaging may be included in your plan.

Things change slightly if you have an iPhone (irrespective of your mobile provider), but only for the text messages that you send to someone else who also has an iPhone (and irrespective of their mobile phone provider). In this case, the message doesn’t get as far as being transferred to your mobile provider for onward transmission to the recipient. Instead, Apple intercepts the message and sends it via its own servers to the recipient (with whom Apple is in communication, of course, as that recipient also has an iPhone). In this case, Apple has intercepted your message and sent it as an iMessage (as opposed to a text message).

iPhone iMessageApple chooses to provide this service free of charge. If you don’t do an enormous amount of texting and/or your texting requirements are covered by your data plan, and/or you’ve got loadsa money, then it won’t matter very much whether your message is sent for free as an iMessage or charged as a text message handled by your provider.

I dare say, though, that it does make a difference to a young teenager responsible for funding their own mobile phone usage. In which case, Apple is probably being very canny in offering youngsters something that they will value as it will undoubtedly help in building brand loyalty. Part of the reason that Blackberry mobile phones were so popular at one stage was that they had their own private messaging service (BBM – Blackberry Messenger) that allowed Blackberry users to communicate freely and privately with each other.

On that subject,four years ago when we had the summer riots in London (yes, it really was that long ago – August 2011), I suddenly noticed a large increase in visitors to my website who seemed to have clicked on my Google Ad after they had searched for the term “PC World”. At that time, I thought that it was quite clever of me to use “PC World” as a keyword (a trigger) for Google to show my ads as I thought that anyone looking for PC World might well be looking for the kind of computer support service I provide. In the end I stopped using that keyword because it became apparent from the enquiries I was getting that people searching for “PC World” thought my ad appearing must mean that I am actually PC World!

iPhone Text MessageYou’d be very surprised just how often that happened. A lot of people seem to thing of Google Search as being a telephone directory rather than a search engine. Anyway, I concluded that for that brief, tense, strange time, lots of youngsters who didn’t have Blackberrys (Blackberries?) started enquiring about getting one as they were missing out on all the news and info because they didn’t have Blackberry Messenger. So, I ended up paying Mr Google lots of money for displaying my ads to irrelevant people. My fault – not Google’s. Since that time, Blackberry Messenger has been extended so that it is now available on iPhone and Android phones as well as Blackberry.

Back to the point, you can tell whether your text message is being delivered by iMessage or text message. When you are about to compose your message (after you’ve defined the recipient), the message area rectangle will include the grey word “Message” if your message will be delivered by text message, and “iMessage” if it will be delivered by Apple to an iPhone. When your delivered message is then displayed in a speech bubble above the message area rectangle, text messages have a green background and IMessages have a blue background.

Nothing too involved today – it is a holiday weekend, after all

iPad and iPhone tip – recent list

iPhone Open Apps Image

Swipe up on the image of the app you wish to close

If you wish to return to an app that is difficult to find on your home screens then a double-click on the home key will bring up a list of your recently used apps. You can swipe left and right through this list to go backwards and forwards between the open apps. Just tap on the app that you are looking for and it will come to the front.

This is also the way that you unload a program that’s in memory. Just bring the program to be closed to the centre of the screen (as described above) and then swipe upwards. I often use this function (when I remember) to close any mapping programs I have open (such as the London A-Z). These programs track your location even if you are not actively using them (as long as they are open and the GPS feature is switched on). In my opinion this is a cheek. If I’m not using the program then there’s no legitimate reason at all for its publishers to continue to track me.

Amazon Pickup Locations
Amazon pickup locations now include post offices. This is extremely useful if it is unlikely that anyone will be at home when deliveries are attempted. Amazon send an email to tell you when the package is at the pickup location and you just collect it at your leisure (armed with the usual proof of identity and Order Tracking Number).

Post Office SignWell, that’s the theory, but I think Amazon are touchingly naive in thinking that just because they’ve delivered it to the pickup point, then it’s ready for collection. The Post Office in Clapham kept telling me last Saturday that they hadn’t received a package that Amazon said they had delivered. It took a bit of time to persuade the PO clerk to go and check for parcels they hadn’t yet booked into their system. It was there, of course.

It may be worrying that Amazon are single handedly destroying our town centres, but at least they can usually be relied upon to be efficient while doing it. You do lose the “free delivery” option when you arrange for delivery to a pickup location.

Transferring or copying Microsoft’s Sticky Notes to a different computer

A while ago (see Who Needs Word?), I blogged about the rather useful little utility built into Windows that allows you to create sticky notes on your screen and display or hide them at a keystroke. I find this so useful that I’ve got a version of it on my main laptop and also on my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The problem is that the notes are completely different from each other. I wondered if it might be possible to store the data (ie my specific sticky notes) in a Dropbox folder so that both computers would address the same data.

File Explorer Address Bar

Figure 1. Type the circled text into the File Explorer (Windows Explorer) address bar to open the folder containing the Sticky Notes data file.

This is a bit fraught with problems such as could you have the same file open on two machines, what happens if you change them both, and so on? The only way of finding out would be to try it. Well, I couldn’t find any way of easily changing the location of the file. It’s almost certainly to be found in a key in the registry but I never play with the registry unless I’ve got very good reason. What I did find out, however, was that your Sticky Notes data is to be found in one of those folders that is normally hidden. If you want to open the folder (so that you can copy the file for pasting into a different computer, or for backup purposes), then do the following:

  • Close the Sticky Notes program. Do this by right-clicking on its icon on the taskbar and left-clicking on “close window” (or you could close it via the Task Manager)
  • Open a Windows Explorer window (NOT Internet Explorer, but Windows Explorer (now known as File Explorer, actually))
  • Type the following into the address bar of the Explorer window – %AppData%\Microsoft\Sticky Notes (see figure 1) and click the enter key.
  • You will then find the file called StickyNotes.snt. This can be copied and pasted elsewhere for backup or for transfer to a different machine.
Sticky Notes Data File

The circled file is the Sticky Notes data file

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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