Concerned by the Privacy or Results of Google Search? Try These Other Search Engines

Google is big. Google Search generated $225 billion in revenue in 2022, thanks in part to being the default search engine on all Apple devices. To retain that position—and continue to reap the ad revenue that it generates—Google pays Apple about $18 billion every year. Along with Apple, Google pays billions to phone manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola; major wireless carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon; and browser developers like Mozilla and Opera.

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No, NameDrop in iOS 17 Isn’t a Privacy Concern. Here’s How to Use It

One of the prominent new features in iOS 17.1 and watchOS 10.1 is NameDrop, which makes it easy to exchange contact information with someone merely by putting your iPhone or Apple Watch next to theirs. When you do that, you can share your contact card and receive theirs, or just receive theirs—nothing happens unless you initiate an action.

Unfortunately, some police departments have posted warnings about NameDrop on Facebook, insinuating that it’s a privacy concern. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, NameDrop requires the devices to be almost touching, so it’s implausible that it could be triggered inadvertently, and second, you must unlock your iPhone and tap a button to share your contact information with the other person. If you lock your iPhone or move it out of range, Apple says the transfer will be canceled.

There’s no harm in turning NameDrop off by default other than losing access to the feature, but it’s a sufficient win that we encourage you to leave it enabled.

Imagine you meet someone new at a conference and want to share contact information. Previously, you would have had to find your contact card at the top of the Contacts app or Phone app, tap Share Contact, choose which fields to share, tap Done, and then share it via AirDrop (which may require them to enable their receive settings in Settings > General > AirDrop > Everyone for 10 Minutes), Messages (after entering their phone number), Mail (after typing their email address), or another method. It’s a pain.

Here’s how sharing contact information with someone new works in NameDrop. (It only supports sending new contact information, not updating an existing contact.) Both of you must have an iPhone running iOS 17.1 or an Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch Series 7 or later, or second-generation Apple Watch SE running watchOS 10.1. To get started, either:

  • Share from an iPhone to another iPhone or an Apple Watch: Hold your unlocked iPhone close (almost touching) to the top of the other person’s iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • Share from an Apple Watch to another Apple Watch: Open the Contacts app on your Apple Watch, tap your picture in the upper-right corner, tap Share, and then put your watch close to the other person’s Apple Watch (Apple’s animation shows them being positioned face to face).

Keep the devices close together until NameDrop appears on both screens. On the iPhone, tap Share to exchange contact information or Receive Only to get theirs without sending yours. On the Apple Watch, you have only a Share button.

Next time you meet someone new and want to exchange contact information, give NameDrop a try. Alas, if they’re an Android user, you’ll have to fall back on the old, clumsy methods.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Caiaimage/Martin Barraud)


 

Networking Gear Does Wear Out—Suspect It in Internet Slowdowns and Dropouts

We’ve helped some clients recently with networking problems that seemed to be related to Internet connections. Most notable was intermittently slow Internet performance, causing the client to call their ISP to upgrade to a higher bandwidth connection with guaranteed throughput. But that extra monthly expense turned out to be unnecessary once we tracked the problem to a malfunctioning cable modem. Other problems we’ve seen involved occasional network dropouts (a bad Ethernet switch), flaky Wi-Fi access (a dying AirPort base station), and Internet slowdowns (squirrels gnawing on an outdoor coaxial cable).

Networking infrastructure is often the very definition of “out of sight, out of mind.” Modems, routers, and switches are usually hidden away in corners, closets, or machine rooms where few people notice them regularly. In addition, most users rely on Wi-Fi–equipped laptops, tablets, and smartphones and put no thought into how those Wi-Fi connections get their Internet access. Nor do many people realize the extent that physical cables—Ethernet, coaxial, fiber optic—are required.

Plus, because network cables and gear are so hidden, they tend to stay in place for years. For the most part, that’s fine. Most network devices other than those involving network-attached storage have no moving parts to fail, and cables that aren’t exposed to extreme environmental conditions or physical movement will last for a long time. But even solid-state electronic devices wear out, and while cables seldom degrade on their own, they’re easily damaged by movement. And never underestimate the damage mice and squirrels can inflict!

It’s worth making sure you or someone in your organization has a solid knowledge—and documentation—of your network infrastructure. For instance, can someone answer these questions:

  • Where does your Internet connection come into the building?
  • What cable modem or other router are you using? Do you own or rent it?
  • Does your network rely on multiple Ethernet switches? Other networking gear?
  • Is your Ethernet cabling Cat 5 (obsolete, limited to 100 Mbps), Cat 5e (capable of 1 Gbps), Cat 6 (up to 10 Gbps), Cat 6a (10 Gbps at longer distances), or Cat 6e (a meaningless marketing term)?
  • Where is your Ethernet cable strung, and is it reasonably accessible? Can you isolate portions of your network for testing?

We also recommend putting an installation date sticker on the bottom of your network devices. That way, if you’re troubleshooting a problem like poor performance or intermittent connections, you can check quickly to see if any suspect devices are truly ancient. Even when older devices like cable modems seem to be working correctly, they may lack support for newer standards or firmware updates that provide better stability and throughput. We’ve also seen that issue with powerline networking adapters that are useful for extending connectivity to areas that can’t easily be served by Wi-Fi or Ethernet—newer adapters can provide significantly more performance. Plus, hardware does degrade over time—in particular, we’ve seen Ethernet switches and Wi-Fi routers get flaky as they age.

Finally, if solving a network problem requires new gear or cables, we strongly encourage purchasing quality hardware and cabling. Spending a little more upfront can save a lot of money in troubleshooting down the road, especially when it comes to pulling new cables. We are here to help!

(Featured image by iStock.com/klmax)


 

Use iOS 17’s Check In Feature to Reduce Worry

We’ve all had a friend or family member say, “Text me when you get home,” because they want the peace of mind from knowing you arrived safely. But what if something goes wrong—or you forget—so they never receive that text? They’ll be worried and won’t know where you are, if you’re OK, and so on.

In iOS 17, Apple has introduced the Check In feature to provide peace of mind—or in the worst case, to help emergency services. It’s conceptually simple. Before you leave to go somewhere, you create a Check In with someone—call them a safety partner—in Messages. You specify where you’re going and whether you’re driving, taking transit, or walking. Then, when you arrive, the Check In automatically ends, alerting your safety partner that you arrived. If you’re delayed en route, Check In takes that into account and extends the expected arrival time appropriately. If you fail to arrive, Check In shares your location and route with your safety partner. Also, if you make an Emergency SOS call or your iPhone or Apple Watch calls emergency services automatically during the Check In, it notifies your safety partner.

Not all situations revolve around following a specific route to a location, so Check In also supports timers. Perhaps a college student is going for an hour-long trail run and wants a friend to check on her if she’s not back as expected. She can use Check In to set a timer for 1 hour, share it with her friend, and when the timer ends, either tap the End button if she’s back or add more time if the run is going fine but taking longer than expected.

Although Check In may seem targeted at friends and family, it could have business uses as well. For instance, a destination Check In might work well for keeping tabs on a colleague traveling to a make-or-break pitch presentation.

Before you start using Check In with someone—in either direction—explain Check In to them and discuss an appropriate response if you or they fail to end Check In successfully. Responses should probably start with a quick text, followed by a phone call. If initial efforts to reach out are met with silence, contacting other people—friends, family members, neighbors, etc.—may be appropriate. At some point, depending on various factors, it will be time to call law enforcement. Of course, if the other person triggers an Emergency SOS during the Check In, call law enforcement immediately. At least in the US, if the person isn’t in your area, don’t call 911. Instead, find the law enforcement website for where the person is and call that organization’s 10-digit number. And here’s hoping it never comes to that!

Create a Check In

To get started with Check In, follow these steps:

  1. In Messages, open a conversation with the person you want to be your safety partner (Check In doesn’t currently work with group conversations).
  2. Tap the ⊕ button to the left of the message field, tap More at the bottom, and tap Check In.
  3. The first time you invoke Check In, Messages walks you through a series of explanatory screens, one of which is important—the privacy level of the data shared with your safety partner if you don’t arrive. Select Full—we can see almost no reason why you wouldn’t want that person to be able to share your exact location and route with emergency services if something has gone wrong. (If necessary, tweak this setting later in Settings > Messages > Data.)
  4. On subsequent uses of Check In, an unsent card appears in the Messages conversation, usually set for an hour in the future. The card isn’t sent automatically so you can customize it before sending it.
  5. Tap the Edit button to adjust the timer or destination.
  6. To change the timer duration, use the time picker and tap Done. Skip to the last step in this list.
  7. To set a destination instead of a timer, tap “When I arrive” at the top of the screen.
  8. Tap the Change button, and in the map, either search for a location or find one manually by pinching and zooming—touch and hold the map to drop a destination pin. At the bottom of the screen, select Small, Medium, or Large to set the size of the area in which you’ll arrive.
  9. Tap Done to close the map and then select Driving, Transit, or Walking so Check In can estimate your arrival time based on your method of transportation.
  10. If you want additional buffer time, tap Add Time and give yourself 15, 30, or 60 minutes beyond when Check In thinks you’ll arrive. This shouldn’t usually be necessary.
  11. Tap Done.
  12. Once you’re back to the Check In card in the Messages conversation, tap the Send button to start the Check In.

Note that safety partners can’t reject Check In cards.

End a Check In

Once you trigger a Check In, it can end in a few ways. First, you can cancel it before the timer completes or you arrive at your destination. Second, it can end successfully when you tap End when the timer finishes or when you arrive at your specified location. Third and finally, there’s the core purpose of the Check In, which is to alert your safety partner if you fail to respond to a timer or arrive where and when you said you would.

  • Cancel: To cancel a Check In, tap the Details button on the Check In card in Messages, tap Cancel Check In, and agree that you don’t want your safety partner notified. Timer and destination Check Ins look slightly different but act the same way. Your safety partner will only see that the Check In card in Messages says it has ended.
  • End successfully: For a timer Check In to end successfully, you must respond when the iPhone prompts you (below left). All your safety partner sees when that happens is a note in the Check In card that the timer ended (below right). You don’t need to interact with your iPhone for a destination Check In to end successfully—just arrive at the specified location. The safety partner’s Check In card updates to say that you arrived.
  • Check In fails to end (initiator): If you don’t arrive at your destination or fail to tap End when prompted, Check In gives you the option of adding time (below left) but after 15 minutes, tells you that it has alerted your safety partner (below center and right).
  • Check In fails to end (safety partner): More interesting is what your safety partner sees if you fail to complete a Check In. They’ll be alerted and can tap Details to see your location, when your devices were last unlocked, and more. They then have to figure out the best way to respond given your setup conversation.

It can take some practice to become fluid with Check In, so it’s worth testing it in everyday situations before using it when it might really matter. Once you use it a few times, you may notice Siri Suggestions offering to start it for you, making it even easier to initiate regularly. We hope you find that it provides some peace of mind and, in the worst-case scenario, helps someone in need of emergency services.

(Featured image by iStock.com/PeopleImages)


 

Forget Your Just-Changed Passcode? iOS 17’s Passcode Reset Has Your Back

The hardest time to remember your iPhone or iPad passcode is right after you’ve changed it. Generally speaking, there’s no reason to change your passcode, but if you inadvertently or intentionally shared it with someone with whom you wouldn’t trust your bank account information, changing it to something new is a good idea. We could also imagine a child who knows your passcode changing it on you as a prank. For whatever reason, if you can’t enter your new passcode, a new iOS 17 feature called Passcode Reset lets you use your old one for 72 hours. Once you’ve tried the wrong passcode five times, tap Forgot Passcode , enter your old passcode , and create a new one . If you’re certain you know the new one, you can expire the old one sooner in Settings > Face ID/Touch ID & Passcode.

(Featured image by iStock.com/NazariyKarkhut)


 

Beware Executive Imposter Scams Aimed at New Employees

We’re hearing about new hires who receive an email or text from someone claiming to be the CEO of their new company, asking the employee to carry out some small task like sharing personal information, purchasing a gift card for a client, or wiring funds to another business. The new employee, eager to make a good impression and lacking the context of what’s reasonable, is tempted to do as asked. (The scammers seemingly gather the necessary information by scraping LinkedIn for job changes and corporate titles, then cross-referencing with email addresses and phone numbers stolen in data breaches.) To reduce the chances of such a scam succeeding, train new employees during onboarding not to trust unsolicited messages from unfamiliar addresses or numbers, be wary of unusual requests, and check with a trusted source within the company before replying in any way.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Ton Photograph)