How to Encrypt a Flash Drive

Mac

Use the macOS Disk Utility app.

  1. Insert your USB flash drive.
  2. Open Disk Utility, select the flash drive, click Erase.
  3. In the pop-up window, specify Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and GUID Partition Map.
  4. Click Erase in the bottom right to format the drive.
  5. Right-click the drive in Finder, select Encrypt, and add a password.

The process starts instantly and can take a few minutes, depending on the size of your USB stick. Be sure to record your password because there is no way to recover if you lose it.

To use the encrypted drive, insert it in the computer and enter the password. After it is open, you can read and write files like normal. When finished, just eject the drive.

Windows

Use the Windows 10 BitLocker app.

  1. Insert your USB flash drive.
  2. Select Control Panel > System & Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption.
  3. Select the flash drive (usually D.).
  4. Select Turn on BitLocker.
  5. Select Use a Password (must be at least 8 characters).
  6. Save your recovery key — save to a file or print.
  7. Select Encrypt Used Space
  8. Select Compatible Mode.

The process starts instantly and can take a few minutes, depending on the size of your USB stick. Be sure to record your password because there is no way to recover if you lose it.

To use the encrypted drive, insert it in the computer and enter the password. After it is open, you can read and write files like normal. When finished, just eject the drive.

Save Individual Files With a Password

You can’t safely password protect your entire USB stick without using encryption. However, if you shy away from the time-consuming encryption process for entire folders and need a quick way to only protect a few selected files, some applications such as Word, Excel, Numbers allow you to save those with a password.

Back Up Your Photos to Google Photos

By Phil Davis – 2019-05-10

Requirements

One of the many features of a Google account is the capability to automatically back up the photos on your computer or mobile device. Here is what you need.

  • A good internet connection.
  • A Google account (username and password). If you don’t have one, open google.com and create a new account.
  • Photos and videos. Photos must be under 75 MB or 100MP. Videos must be under 10GB.
  • RAW files from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and all DNG files.

Download the Apps

  1. Open photos.google.com/apps.
  2. Download and install Backup and Sync app on your computer (Mac or Windows)
  3. Download and install the mobile device app from the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).

Using Google Photos

When you open Google Photos, you’ll see all the photos and videos on your device and, if you turned on “back up & sync,” anything else synced to your Google Photos library.

When you first run the app on your computer or mobile device, you will be asked to select the quality of photo storage.

  • High Quality — free, unlimited storage. Photos are compressed to save space if they are larger than 16MP. You can print good quality 16MP photos in sizes up to 24 inches x 15 inches.
  • Original Quality — 15 GB free, additional storage available. All photos and videos are stored in the same resolution that you took them.

Learn more: Google Photos Help.

Deleting Photos

When you install the app, the default setting will be “Don’t remove items everywhere.” You can change this — choices are:

  • Remove items everywhere
  • Don’t remove items everywhere
  • Ask before removing items

Learn how: Change the delete options.

Download Photos and Videos to Your Device

It is easy to copy photos and videos back to your computer or mobile device.

Learn how: download photos.

Move Photos to Archive

You can hide photos from your Photos view and move them to archive. This can help you organize your photos and hide any photo that you don’t want to see often.

Any photos that you archive:

  • Will still be in any albums that they were added to, search results, and folders on your device.
  • Won’t be used to create movies or animations.

Learn how: move to the archive.

Two-factor Authentication Explained

Michael Simon
Staff Writer, PCWorld
April 10, 2019 11:51 PM PT

If you aren’t already protecting your most personal accounts with two-factor or two-step authentication, you should be. An extra line of defense that’s tougher than the strongest password, 2FA is extremely important to blocking hacks and attacks on your personal data. If you don’t quite understand what it is, this article breaks it down for you.

Two-factor authentication is basically a combination of two of the following factors:

  1. Something you know
  2. Something you have
  3. Something you are

Something you know is your password, so 2FA always starts there. Rather than let you into your account once your password is entered, however, two-factor authentication requires a second set of credentials, like when the DMV wants your license and a utility bill. So that’s where factors 2 and 3 come into play. Something you have is your phone or another device, while something you are is your face, irises, or fingerprint. If you can’t provide authentication beyond the password alone, you won’t be allowed into the service you’re trying to log into.

So there are several options for the second factor: SMS, authenticator apps, Bluetooth-, USB-, and NFC-based security keys, and biometrics. So let’s take a look at your options so you can decide which is best for you.

Read More: Two-factor authentication explained: How to choose the right level of security for every account | PCWorld

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

By Phil Davis
January 12, 2019

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been in the news a lot recently so you may be wondering just what it is, how it works, and whether or not you should be using one. With the government allowing your internet service provider to sell your web history, it may be a good time to start looking for a good VPN product. 

Normally, anything you send or retrieve from a website is sent in the clear. Anyone intercepting it can view or capture it – they can see exactly what you send or receive from a website. A VPN can make surfing on unsecured networks more secure by encrypting all of your traffic on that network and then decrypting it before sending it out – It’s a middleman between you and the internet. Your ISP can only see a bunch of encrypted traffic that looks like random characters and it looks like you only visited one website, your VPN server.

Figure 1 shows what happens when you use a VPN. I used dnsleaktest.com to detect my IP address in three ways: with no VPN, a VPN server in the midwest, and a VPN server in New Zealand. The VPN service that I use has over 35 other choices for servers in many other countries. Although I have blanked out the IP address with no VPN, it is just the IP address that my ISP automatically assigns when I connect.

 

Figure 1. IP Cloaking

A VPN connection (Figure 2) is like having a really long ethernet cable from your computer to the server on the other end. VPNs are not new. Businesses have used them for many years to ensure the privacy of their communications and allow employees to access their work network securely when they’re away from the office. 

 

Figure 2. VPN Diagram

One misconception about VPNs is that they provide user anonymity. Jeremy Campbell, the creator of DNSleaktest.com, has said that “Using public VPNs for anonymity is foolish and potentially dangerous, no matter how securely it’s configured, simply because the technology was not designed at all for anonymity. VPN services require that you trust them, which is a property that anonymity systems do not have.”

Using a VPN On Your Computer (or Mobile Device)

Choosing a trustworthy, reliable VPN service provider can be hard, but Reddit user That One Privacy Guy collected virtually everything there is to know about most large (and many small) VPNs and put them into a single color-coded chart that’s easy to read and understand. This online chart outlines VPN business practices, logging, service configuration, and other features, pinpointing contradictory policies and misleading claims of 100 percent effectivity by some of the services. 

Tip: Be careful when selecting a VPN provider. Although the traffic is encrypted, be sure that you select a company with a good reputation, rather than one that looks a little too good to be true!

Although there are free VPN services available, most experts caution against using them because they may not provide the best security. It is better to pay for your VPN service which can be as little as $40/year. 

Most VPN providers offer their own desktop clients that make it easy to connect to the service. Simply install the software that they provide and set some preferences. From there it is usually automatic. Most services let you pick a server location and set some networks to be trusted at all times.

I recommend using the VPN Comparison chart to select one or more products to test. Most of them will have a free trial so you can see how they work, see where their servers are located and test the impact on your internet connection speed (should be minimal). 

Occasionally you will find a site that doesn’t work well with your VPN. If this happens it is easy to turn the VPN off temporarily. I tried several services before I settled on the one I use now. Make sure you select one that allows you to use the service on several devices, including your iPhone, iPad, and Android device.

Here are several providers that have a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy:  Private Internet Access, NordVPN, Cloak, and Tunnelbear, but do your own research before you make a decision.

Learn more about choosing a provider from That One Privacy Site, 

Where Are My iCloud Documents?

By Phil Davis
2018-08-08

Here is the scenario.

You have spent many hours creating an important Keynote presentation that you plan to present to a local Service Club. You know that you have the ability to create iWork documents on your Mac and have them immediately available on your Laptop, your iPad, and your iPhone. All is good with the world!

You carefully test the presentation on all your devices, spend time polishing and practicing, and are all set for the big day. Grabbing your laptop you set off to the meeting room, plug the laptop into the projector and open Keynote.

Whoops! Nothing is there. Someone forgot to tell you that the meeting room has no Internet access, WiFi or otherwise. Your beautiful presentation is floating around in the cloud somewhere, probably on an Apple server in North Carolina, and you have no access to it! iCloud is great, as long as you can connect to the Internet.

Your immediate thought is “I am doomed”. Then you remember the tech tip that you read about how to find your iCloud docs from a hidden directory on your laptop. Luckily you saved that tip on your file for reference.

Tip: Find Your Hidden iCloud Documents

All your iCloud documents can be found locally in a carefully hidden folder in your user library called:

~/Library/Mobile Documents/

If you open this folder in the Finder (remember to use OPT+GO to reveal the Library folder), you will see all the sub-folders containing your iCloud resident files. To find the keynote file that you need for your presentation just go to the folder containing the Keynote files:

~/Library/Mobile Documents/com-apple-Keynote/Documents/

Voila! A disaster has been averted because you can now open your Keynote presentation without the Internet!

Bonus Tip

You can add this hidden folder to the Finder Sidebar for easy access. To do this you:

  1. Create an alias for the Mobile Documents folder.
  2. Then select the alias icon and drag it to the list of Favorites in the Finder Sidebar.

What to do if your computer is slowing down

Updated 2018-08-08 …

With a new operating system on the horizon (Mojave), you might be thinking about ways to optimize and speed up your computer. Here’s a list of things that are always good to keep in mind.

Note: this is based on an article in Tech Tails #689, by Ed Shepard in 2012. It is interesting to see that the recomendations are still relevant in 2018.

Unfortunately, mysterious computer slowdowns can be difficult to diagnose. Overstuffed system cache, old temp files, corrupted preferences, a hard drive in the early stages of failure, and faulty RAM are always candidates for causing this problem. Here are some suggestions to resolve system slowdowns.

Important — make sure you have a solid backup of your Macs important data before proceeding.

Any Mac will slow down when its hard drive is almost full, regardless of processor speed. Simply moving some of your data (especially media files like movies, video podcasts, etc) to an external drive can greatly improve a Mac’s responsiveness.

Clear your Mac’s desktop. The OS has to draw each of those icons as separate windows, so when you have dozens of files littered on the desktop the system is taxed. Clearing the Macs desktop is proven to improve system performance.

Make sure your computer is up to date with all the latest software and firmware updates from Apple. This can go a long way to improving system performance. To check this, click the Apple in the top left corner of the screen and select “Software Update…”

Run a maintenance program such as Onyx or Clean My Mac. This can often help bring a sluggish and flakey machine back to speed. These programs force the Mac’s regular Unix maintenance scripts; normally these run daily, weekly, and monthly early in the morning.

Check the health of your hard drive. Run Onyx to verify the S.M.A.R.T. status of my Mac’s hard drive. Immediately back up your computer if you think there’s a real issue with the drive. Then consider using a dedicated drive diagnostic/repair tool such as Disk Warrior If the drive is having issues and you’re going to replace it, consider using a SSD drive. You will see a significant increase in processing speed.

Check the health of your Mac’s RAM. There are several ways to test the health of your Mac’s RAM. I use Rember, which is a free program that is a front-end GUI to a basic Unix ‘memtest’ command.

Remove unused applications. I use AppCleaner to do this.

Many apps install helper programs that run by default whenever you start up your Mac. This typically happens in the background, without the user having to confirm anything. Often these aren’t needed and can hog system resources without having anything to show for it. To disable startup items you don’t use, navigate to System Preferences > Accounts > Login items and uncheck the list.

Finally, any active, running application uses system resources including CPU cycles, RAM, and disk activity, even when it is in the background and you’re not using it. Some programs leak memory when they are running, which makes them gobble RAM over time.

Anaylyze system processes. Use Activity Monitor and iStat Menus to see which system processes and applications are hogging system resources.  Activity Monitor is found in the Applications/Utilities Folder in macOS.

Programs that automatically perform syncing, indexing and backup operations on your Mac can occasionally slow it down. They can sometimes cause minor drags that slow the system for a couple of seconds at a time.

Use TextExpander to Simplify Your Work

Updated 2018-08-08 …

Are you tired of typing the same phrases over and over in your email messages or in documents that you are creating?

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Sincerely yours, [your name]
  • Links to a website
  • Common phrases that you use often
  • Standard paragraphs
  • and more …

Do you often make common spelling mistakes like “acheive” rather than “achieve” or “accomodate” rather than “accommodate?”

If so, then you might be interested in a program called TextExpander from Smile Software.

TextExpander is an application which enables you to type strings of words or sentences with just a few letters and a keystroke. What it does is create snippets (shortcuts) for longer pieces of text. It can also automatically correct for common spelling errors. Once you have installed TextExpander it runs quietly in the background giving you access to a library of snippets that can be personalized and used anytime you are writing an email or creating a document.

The program comes with a number of built-in snippet groups and, more importantly, you can create your own snippets. These can be abbreviations for words and phrases, boiler-plate paragraphs, email signatures, or images. TextExpander is also for the  iPad and iPhone from the AppStore 2. If you want to give it a test drive you can download a trial version of the Mac app 3.

Creating a Snippet

  1. You can open the TextExpander editor and create a snippet from scratch.
  2. You can select some text and use a keyboard shortcut to send it to the editor where you can decide on the shortcut code to use.
  3. You can save text to the clipboard and send it to TextExpander as a new snippet.

For instance, if you have an email signature, just save that signature as ‘,es’ and you will only type ‘,es’ instead of ‘ John Doe, jdoe@somewhere.com, (555) 555–5555 ‘ from now on! Your shortcut can be anything you want, but you should use combinations of keys that don’t normally appear. Instead of ‘,es’ you could have used ‘/es’, ‘es,,’ or any other uncommon key combination that is easy to type.

Creating a snippet is easy. With the app running, you can select a piece of text and create a snippet from this selection and save it to the snippet library. If you save your snippet library in a Dropbox folder, it will be available for use on your other computers and on your iPad.

Be creative! Think of forms you fill in multiple times or of text that you write a lot.

Snippet Examples

  • /tx = Thanks for your email.
  • wwbr = With best regards [my signature] (use a scanned image of your sig)
  • /ph = [phone number]
  • /em = my email address
  • /addr = street address
  • ddate = today’s date
  • ttime = current time
  • acheive = achieve (correct common spelling mistakes)
  • /cmd = ⌘
  • ,,heart = ♥

Next Steps

  • Download the trial version of TextExpander.
  • View the tutorials.
  • Create snippets from selected text using this shortcut ( ⌥ ⌘ T).
  • Try creating your own snippets.

What To Do After You Backup Your Mac

Updated 2018-08-08

By now all you Mac users have realized the necessity of backing up your files on a regular basis. You may use Time Machine to make versioned backups, Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) or SuperDuper to make cloned backups, or services such as Backblaze to make backups in the cloud.

You may even be as paranoid as I and follow the 3–2–1 backup plan. Have 3 backups — 2 on-site, 1 off-site. As I have written before I follow the 3–2–1 plan plus I use DropBox for work-in-progress.

However, making regular backups is only the first step in the overall process. It may be the most important step, but it isn’t enough. You need to do two more things. I call this the 3–2–1-Plus Plan.

  1. Test your backups and learn how to use them. If they don’t work or you don’t know how to use them then the backups are useless.
  2. Time Machine backup. Learn how to use TimeMachine to find older versions of files and folders and restore them to the current state. The simplest way to do this is to find a file that you don’t want and delete it. Then use TimeMachine to find an earlier version and click “restore.” http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1427
  3. Clone backup. Shut your computer down and restart it from the external clone backup. To do this hold the option key down when restarting and select your external drive as the boot drive.
  4. Cloud-based backup. Learn how to find and restore files and folders using the tools provided by your backup service. Each service will have help files and instructions for doing this.
  5. Have a printed copy of the instructions. If your computer crashes, then you won’t be able to access stored instruction files or access the Internet. One alternative is to have a PDF copy of the instructions in a DropBox or iCloud folder that can be accessed from your iPad, iPhone, or another working computer.

“Your mind is working at its best when you’re being paranoid. You explore every avenue and possibility of your situation at high speed with total clarity.”

― Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Get Information About Your Mac

It is important to have a record of some of the basic information about your Mac. You should collect the information when you first set up your Mac — update it whenever you update your operating system or change peripherals.

Click on the Apple icon at the left end of your menu bar and select About This Mac.

Record the information in a text file and save it to use when you have a problem. You can also create a screen capture and save it as a PDF file. I recommend that you create a special folder in iCloud or Dropbox called System Configuration and save the information there. This will ensure that it is available from your mobile devices in the event of a computer crash.

Examples:

From the Overview tab:

  • Model (e.g. Mac mini (Late 2012))
  • OS version (e.g. macOS Sierra 10.12.6)
  • Memory (e.g. 16 GB)

From the Storage tab:

  • Storage (e.g. 1 TB)
  • Free space on your drive (e.g. 650 GB)

Do you have a current backup? If so, what type:

  • Time Machine
  • Bootable Clone
  • In the “Cloud”


Another source for information about all Macs is the free Mactrackter program. Download Mactracker.

Mactracker is a database that provides detailed information on every Apple computer ever made, including items such as processor speed, memory, optical drives, graphics cards, supported Mac OS versions, and expansion options.

Mactracker also includes information about Apple mice, keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, digital cameras, iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, Wi-Fi Cards/Base Stations, Newton, and Mac OS versions.

Why does my screen go black?

Question

Occasionally my monitor (MacPro) goes blank for no explainable reason. I jiggle the mouse and it comes back on. I still do not know why this happens but I now know when it happens. I can control it. When I mouse over to and off the bottom or top left corner of the screen, it goes black. Not the left side – just the extreme corners. This does not happen on the right side. Any ideas??

Answer

That might be your settings for Mission Control. You probably have the left corners set to “put display to sleep”

  • Open System Preferences > Mission Control
  • You probably have the left corners set to “put display to sleep”
  • Change the Active Screen Corners to “-”  (no action)