Net Neutrality Is Being Killed. Now We Have To Work Harder To Protect The Free Internet.

Today the FCC announced its' plans to roll back the rules on Internet Service Providers, commonly called Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that an ISP can't descriminate against the data on your network. This means that they can't look at what websites you're using slow down or speed up connections depending on what it is. If they were allowed to do this, it could go wrong in several ways. Comcast could slow down a network with content they disagree with, or that competes with services they offer, unless you pay them more. They could separate websites into different categories and charge you bundle prices for those categories like they do cable channels.

Right now, thanks to the current Net Neutrality laws, they can't do they. They can only charge you for how much you use, not the content. Similar to how your water or electricity bill works. If you use 3 gallons of water to take a shower, it costs the same as if you use 3 callons of water to water your lawn. The water company can't charge you a different price for that water based on how you use it.

Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and all the other large ISPs would love to change this. They'd like to double dip. They'd just love to charge you for how much you use, and what you use it on. To make matters worse, most of the large ISPs also sell services that many internet companies compete with them on. So they can slow Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu down so that their cable subscription looks more appealing. Of course Netflix could pay to get around the artificial slowing, but then they'll pass that cost onto the consumer anyway.

There are ways to combat this. First of all, we can make a comment at the FCC's website. We can also try to get our local governments to make municipal networks to enforce Net Neutrality on a local level, along with offering an alternative to the large ISPs we're stuck with.

I'm working on that right now. A friend and I spoke to the Keizer City Council a while back and got lukewarm response. The news today has reinvigorated my interest in pursuing a municipal network in Keizer. We've since started a website to organize our work. I'm going to start a Facebook page to more easily reach out to people and get a conversation going in the town. We can make this happen, we just have to work at it.

I encourage people to talk to their friends and families about Net Neutrality and work on getting the word out to their representatives that this is unacceptable. The internet is important and needs to remain a fair and free place.

Passwords and How To Manage Them

Passwords are an awful reality of using computers these days. Many phones, and even some computers like Apple's new Macbook Pro, have fingerprint scanners now. But passwords are going to be something we have to deal with for a long time. Unfortunately they're also the weakest point in everyone's personal security.

Multiple accounts means multiple passwords

The big problem is that most of us have a ton of accounts all over the place, so to reduce the risk of being unable to login, many people resort to reusing the same password for every account. Some people might be thinking "Well I have a good password, so what's wrong with reusing it?" The problem is that while even if your password was 100% impossible to crack (it isn't) it becomes completely useless if it gets out. This means that once someone has your password for one account, they've got the password for all of them, and you're not the only keeper of your password, the sites you use that password on also have a responsibility to keep it safe, and there are many incidents where sites have stored these irresponsibly and the passwords have gotten out. The most secure way to protect your accounts is by using a different password on every site you use.

The only secure password is the one you can't remember

If you can remember it, it's likely not a very secure password. Computers are very good at repeating patterns, and humans are very bad at remembering things that don't have patterns. This means that your passwords need to have as much randomness or "entropy" as possible. It should also be as long as possible. The longer the password is, the harder it is for a computer to crack by guessing every possible combination of characters a keyboard can type.

Another factor keeps you in control

Most websites today offer an extra layer of account security often called Two Factor Authentication, Two Step Authentication, or Multi-factor Authentication. What this means is that not only do you need your password to log into your account, but a second code that can be obtained in a variety of ways. Most of the time you can receive a text to a registered phone number, sometimes they will deliver the code over an audio phone call, and most offer the ability to use an app like Authy to generate the code on your smartphone. Using Two Factor Authentication means that not only does somebody have to steal your account credentials, but also your phone in order to login.

Password Management

Using a different, strong password on every site would be hard or maybe even impossible for you to remember. This is why I highly recommend using a password manager app. They store all of your account credentials, generate strong passwords, and even type them in for you at sites you've been to before. There are also many options on the market. I haven't used them all, since there are many, but I'd like to go over the services I am familiar with so you can at least see some of the options out there.

iCloud Keychain (Free)

Apple offers a decent password management tool for free with iCloud. It securely stores passwords for you and syncs them across each Apple device you've logged into with your iCloud account. It will generate strong passwords for you automatically and type them in for you while using safari. It will also remember things like credit cards and form information and type them for you as well. Pretty standard stuff for a password manager. The big downsides are that it doesn't work with Windows, Linux, or Android, and only supports the Safari web browser. This means that if you regularly use a device other than an iPhone, iPad, or Mac it can be hard t access your accounts.
 

Pros

  • Free with iCloud
  • Part of iOS & macOS Setup Assistant, making it easy to setup and use.

Cons

  • Doesn't support Windows, Linux, or Android devices
  • Doesn't support 3rd part web browsers

LastPass (Free, $1/mo)

LastPass is a fully cloud based password manager. It stores all your account securely online so that you can access them from any device so long as you have your Master Password. It also stores notes and form information that supports attachments so you can save pictures of important documents online securely. It comes in at the low price of free that includes syncing to unlimited devices. It supports Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as iOS and Android. It also supports all the major web browsers on each platform. It's very easy to use, and has become a lot more attractive in the last several years. LastPass also offers a great 2FA iOS app that has a notification when you need a code, and some sites will let it type in the code for you.
 

Pros

  • Low barrier to entry
  • Good cross-platform support
  • TouchID support on iOS
  • Quick syncing

Cons

  • Not the prettiest interface (See 1Password)

1Password ($2.99/mo)

I've actually been using 1Password for several years. It's got a great iOS and Mac app that sync in their new subscription service. 1Password recently switched from a license-based software purchase to a subscription service that includes the software for free. This is a great option, and the license is still available if you ask for it, but it's on the pricier end of the password manager spectrum. They also have Android and Windows apps that can be synced with as well. While I can't speak to the Android app, the Windows version is a lot clumsier than the iOS and Mac versions. It gets the job done, but still has a long way to go. 1Password definitely has the most attractive interface. It's very sleek and has a ton of different categories to use and has a great tagging system that I don't take advantage of, unfortunately.
 

Pros

  • Really nice interface
  • TouchID on iOS (and soon macOS)
  • Great support
  • Tons of organization options

Cons

  • More expensive than alternatives
  • Windows app not as good as Mac and iOS versions
  • Slow syncing in my experience

Wrap Up

The most important thing here isn't which option you pick, but that you start using a password manager. Create a good master password; the below Jonathan Mann song has some great tips on doing this. Then go around and change all of your passwords to something generated by your password manager. While you're there, check if that service offers Two Factor Authentication and turn that on. If you'd like a free month of LastPass premium click here.

Online security is one of the best things you can do for yourself in this computer age, it won't take up too much time, and will save you a ton of headaches in the future. Go ahead and make this change for yourself and let me know in the comments below! Thanks, Dylan Juran

How To Manage Storage with a 16GB iPhone

I was recently volunteering at an event my church puts on every year called ServeFest. It's a neat event where instead of having church, we give to the community we're a part of by providing free clothes, school supplies, vaccinations, haircuts, family photos, food, bike repair, and other great things. It's often an event where people take a lot of photos, usually on their phones. During the event, one of my friends tried to take a video on her iPhone 6s Plus and got the message that she was out of storage. Since she had a 16GB iPhone, it wasn't that hard to do. iPhone 6s (plus) has a 12 megapixel camera and the ablity to shoot 4K video, which can take up a lot of storage very quickly. After looking in a couple places, there wasn't a whole lot we could do to remedy her situation. After realizing that this is a big issue, probably for a lot of people, I looked into the best ways to handle having an iPhone with low storage. Here are the options and suggestions I found to be the best way to go.

 

Google Photos

Google Photos might be the best option for most people. It has free unlimited storage for photos up to 16MP and 1080p video. Aside from the 4K video on iPhones 6s and up, all iPhones including 7 and 7 Plus fit under the banner. Not only will it sync and store all of your photos, but it also offers the option to "Free Up Space" which will delete all of the photos on your phone that it's already uploaded to Google. This means the full versions are actually deleted from your device, and only very small cached versions are stored on your iPhone. The biggest downside to Google Photos is its massive privacy implications. Google's privacy policy states that they're collecting your information, and are allowed to use it basically in any way they like, without your permission, forever. This mostly means that they'll just be using it to improve their algorithms and make searches and facial and object recognition better, but for some people (like me) it's a little too invasive of personal privacy. If you're okay with Google's policies, their photo technology is not only powerful, but incredibly slick.

iCloud Photo Library & Optimize iPhone Storage

Apple's own iCloud has some options for photo management and storage saving, but to be honest, they're not as effective at saving space, and they're not free. iCloud comes with 5GB of storage for free, but this is shared with your emails, documents, contacts, iPhone backups, and other data. I don't know anyone who is doing iPhone backups and photos storage in iCloud that is able to stick with the free option. The lowest paid teir is 99 cents per month for 50GB of storage. This is a competative and good price for storage and should work for most people. The optimal settings for using iCloud to save local storage on your iPhone is to enable iCloud Photo Library in Settings > iCloud > Photos and have the option for Optimize iPhone Stoage selected. Doing this, I've got my whole photo library stored online which takes up about 26GB of my iCloud storage. Checking locally, the photo library takes up about 13GB on my iPhone even with it being "optimized." So about half of the total library is stored locally. If your photo library isn't that big, maybe you can get by with a 16GB iPhone, but my friend's iPhone wouldn't be able to store even my "optimized" library locally.

Delete Old Photos

One thing you could be doing is deleting your photos you don't need around anymore. I personally don't like to delete photos very much because I'm a digital hoarder, but if you don't mind doing some clean up every now and then, you could save a ton of space. If you've got a lot of photos you want to delete at once, you can tap the select button in the top right corner of the photos app when you're in the Moments view, then tap each photo you want to delete, then tap the trash can in the bottom right of the screen. Even quicker bulk selecting can be done by tapping the first photo of a group, then dragging left or right to select all the photos between the first and last photos touched. This even works when dragging up and down on mulitple rows, but you have to first drag left or right, then up or down.

Delete Apps

One way to save space quickly is by deleting unneeded apps that take up a lot of space. The quickest way to do this is by checking in Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage. This shows you a list of all the apps on your iPhone in order of most to least storage used. That way you can either delete the app, or go into it and delete documents or data it's got lying around. Some apps might take up a bucnh of storage even though they shouldn't; Snapchat on my friend's iPhone took up a whole gigabyte of storage for seemingly no reason. The easy fix was to delete and redownload to shave off almost 90% of that gigabyte down to about 120 megabytes.

Get A Bigger iPhone

I know this doesn't help those of you who already have a 16GB iPhone, and Apple doesn't even sell 16GB iPhones (except the iPhone SE) anymore since the release of the iPhone 7, but one of the best ways to remedy a phone with low storage is to upgrade to a bigger phone when you've got the chance. I think you'll fine the extra $100 to have been worth it when you realize the luxury afforded of never needing to delete your photos, manage your apps, or get annoying popups when you want to take a video.

Thanks,
Dylan Juran

Sort Email Automatically Using iCloud Rules

Many people know that they can use rules or smart mailboxes in Mail for Mac to automatically sort their emails, but one of the biggest downsides to that method is that your mail only gets sorted when your Mac is on with Mail running. If you have an iCloud email, you can actually set up some basic rules to do some sorting for you at the server level, meaning it gets sorted before it ever even gets to your iPhone, Mac, iPad, or any other device. I personally use these rules to sort automatic emails I get that I don't need to read. Things like automatic statements from my bank get sorted into a specific folder or forwarding emails from a specific sender to another email address.

To do this, first login to your account at icloud.com, then go into the Mail app, once in your inbox, click on the gear in the bottom left-hand corner. If you don't see the gear, you might need to show the sidebar by clicking on the arrow pointing right at the top left-hand corner about your inbox email list. In the gear's menu click on the Rules option.

In this page you can view rules you've already made, or click Add a Rule... to make your first rule. You're fairly limited in what choices you can make, but there's still the potential for some powerful management of your emails. You can select for any email from, to, or CC'd to a specific person or any words in a subject to be moved to a folder of your choice or trash or forwarded to any other email address.

Apple doesn't provide a lot of options for iCloud email rules at the moment, but I'm hoping they improve them in the future. If this tip helped you, or you have some good rules ideas, let me know!

Thanks,
Dylan Juran

How To Prepare Your iPhone for the Worst

Yesterday I received a call from my mom, asking me to help her with her iPhone. She said she had been locked out of it and needed help getting back into it. Her password had somehow changed without her knowledge, and since she'd tried a couple times, she was locked out for 5 minutes, and every time she tried the timer got longer. I drove to her house to figure this out, and unfortunately she had no iCloud backups, and the password she was using definitely wasn't working. We had to wipe the iPhone and set it up like new. I don't know what it was that caused her password to change for no reason, and some poking around I did on her iPad indicated that it actually hadn't changed, but still wasn't working along with her thumbprint for Touch ID. This could happen to you too. Maybe your password won't change for seemingly no reason, but you could drop your phone in some water, it could be stolen or lost, or many other terrible things that happen to people's phones all the time. Here are the things my mom could have been doing to make her situation better.
 

Backing Up to iCloud


If you already have an iCloud account, you should be backing up your iPhone to iCloud. You can do this in Settings > iCloud > Backup.

Once this is turned on, your iPhone should back up automatically every time it is connected to wi-fi and plugged into power for a long enough time, usually about 30 minutes to an hour should be good enough.

I would recommend making sure your phone is connected to power and wi-fi every night before you go to bed. This way, the worst amount of time you could lose is the current day, and you can restore from the last night's backup should something have gone wrong.

If you can't get to power for a long enough time, or you want to just do an extra backup just in case, you can go back into the settings for iCloud and tap the "Back Up Now" button.

If you'd prefer not to backup to iCloud, you can manually backup to iTunes instead. This also allows you to encrypt your backup if you're more security conscious.

To backup to iTunes, just plug your iPhone into your computer and click on the little iPhone icon near the top of the iTunes window and under Backups choose This computer. If you also want to encrypt your backup check the box Encrypt iPhone backup. Then click Back Up Now.
 

Using iCloud Photo Library


One of the things people care most about losing is their photos. While iCloud backup will save your photos as well, you can have a second layer of defense against losing them by storing your photos in iCloud.

In Settings > iCloud > Photos you can turn on iCloud Photo Library. This saves all of the photos you take to iCloud automatically the next time your phone connects to Wi-fi. This has the added benefit that you can view your photos from any of your iCloud connected devices.

If you'd rather not use iCloud Photo Library, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox all offer camera upload features in their apps for saving your photos. Google will store all your photos for free and even makes them more easily searchable and sometimes upgrades them in fun ways, but compresses them a little bit; OneDrive and Dropbox have limits that you can pay to expand, just like iCloud.

Read More About Apple Backup Options

Syncing Important Data with iCloud


iCloud doesn't just store your photos and backups online, it also allows you to sync your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and other items to other devices. This is another layer of protection because on top of the syncing with all your devices that it normally does, it also serves as an additional layer of backup for those items. You'll also be able to see all those items from iCloud.com from any internet connected device.

Simply go into Settings > iCloud and turn on all the switches for syncing to iCloud. After that, all your things will sync to iCloud.

If you're not an iCloud user, many of the sync features work with most email services too. You can find these sync features to enable in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Your Email Account

Hopefully nothing bad ever happens to your phone, but if you've done the things I suggest in this article, you shouldn't have to worry that all your pictures are gone forever when your iPhone flies out of your pocket while you're riding the Batman ride at Six Flags.

Thank you for reading,
Dylan Juran