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What You Missed - November 25, 2020

It is the day before Thanksgiving and what better way to celebrate early than a MacNexus virtual meeting! Several members had festive or decorative Zoom backgrounds this evening. Ken’s was a picture of himself from his younger (not so long ago) days skiing downhill. He answered a question before the meeting about how to turn off phone calls on an iPad that you want to answer on an iPhone. On the iPad, go to Settings > FaceTime and turn off Calls from iPhone. Ken got a question about Big Sur. He said it seems to be doing better than Catalina was at the same point in its release, but he was going to wait a while longer before switching.

Ken greeted everyone as he started the meeting with “Happy Thanksgiving” and a quick pause to make sure he turned on the recording of the meeting. In current news, Apple had been very busy with announcements over the past few weeks. They had “One More Thing” to announce, new computers with Apple designed M1 chips (instead of the usual Intel chips). They are in a new MacBook Air, a 13” MacBook Pro and a Mac mini. All are selling well with deliveries out to mid-December if you order now. They are fast and have improved battery life. They also announced that Big Sur is available for download.

Al Trivett was up next with the latest Apple news (see links below to the stories). The Macs with the M1 chip are flying off the shelves. The Apple designed chip is outperforming the Intel versions with much better battery life. iMazing has a site/app called Silicon (see links) which will tell you if your apps will run natively on the M1 chip. The M1 chip allows you to run iPhone apps on your computer. There is a rumor from a source that is usually reliable that Apple may have a Christmas surprise in December. There are a few products that could be announced. Apple released the HomePod mini and the reviews have been good. In Big Sur, Apple Maps has “Look Around” which is similar to Googles Street View. It also has indoor maps for some locations. Apple is going to cut the commissions developers pay to the Apple App Store from 30% to 15% if they do less than a million dollars worth of business with the App store. Ken pointed out that Apple does pay costs for providing the App store, processing credit cards and curating submitted apps so you are secure in knowing the apps won’t do bad things to your Apple devices.

The first M1 chip only supports two displays — the built-in display and one external display. The thought is that when the desktop computers with the M1 chip come out they will be able to support more displays. The MacBook Air does not have a fan and tests have shown that the fans in the 13” MacBook Pro and the mini only come on occasionally when the computer is working hard.

In Q&A tonight, I asked if it is necessary for my wife and I to each have an Apple ID (we have shared one since they started Apple ID). Ken said if you want to share a Photo library, you probably will want to share an Apple ID. Having different Apple ID’s would allow you to have separate Contacts, Mail, Notes and Reminders. A member was experiencing the Status bar disappearing on their iPad about once a day. Ken suggested doing a hard reset to see if that fixed the problem. A member had been experimenting with the message reply function and was stuck in the reply bubble screen. Ken said force quitting the app should restore it to normal. A member was using a Gmail account for personal email and an AOL account for non-personal email. They deleted AOL account from the computer because it was getting too much spam, but it was still showing up on their iPad. Ken suggested going to Settings > Mail on the iPad and deleting the account there also.

Just before the break mention was made that several long time members have passed recently including Jim Bean and Betty Coppola.

After a brief break, Ken started his Home Automation talk. Home Automation has changed dramatically in the past few years. When it first started, products were hard to find and there were competing standards and systems. Now Apple’s Home Kit, Amazon’s Alexa system, and Google’s Assistant all are stable platforms. You will have to choose where you want to be on the spectrum from convenience to security. Apple’s Home Kit is probably the most secure of the three major players. Security cameras will be directed to your iCloud account not to an external website. You will need to make sure the devices you pick are compatible with the control system you are using (Apple, Amazon or Google). Initially, it was hard to find HomeKit compatible devices, but there are a lot more now. The “Home” app formally HomeKit aggregates your devices into one place for control. You can set “scenes” in the Home app to have a group of devices perform an action like turning off all your lights, lower the temperature on the thermostat, and locking the doors when you go to bed. If your cameras are compatible with HomeKit, you can have them display on a TV hooked up to an Apple TV.

Ken uses the Ecobee thermostat in his house. It is compatible with Home KIt, Amazon and Google. It has sensors you can place in different rooms so they are the sensor that controls the heating/cooling. Ken has one in his master bedroom, which gets the hottest in the summer and has the Ecobee set to use it to control the cooling in the house in the summer. If you have SMUD, they have an energy store ( ) which has good prices on the Ecobee and other energy saving devices. For sprinkler control, Rachio seems to be the brand most often mentioned. Once you have connected the wiring from you sprinkler valves, the app will ask you questions about each zone, what type of soil, is it sloped, etc. You can take a picture of each zone so you can easily see it in the app. The Rachio controller will find a nearby local weather station and use it to turn off the sprinklers automatically when it is going to rain or freeze. The app also allows you to control your sprinklers remotely.

Smart plugs: Plug something into them and use the Home app to control the item. There are both indoor and outdoor (good for Christmas lights) plugs available that are compatible with Home Kit. You can set a schedule in the Home app for lights to come on when it gets dark and shut off at a set time. You can also get Home Kit compatible light switches and “Bond” devices that let you control things like ceiling fans or motorized screens remotely. The Bond devices are not compatible with Home Kit but do have an app you can use with your iPhone/iPad (they do work with Amazon and Google). When Ken was setting up the ceiling fans in his house, he set up one in his master bedroom; all went well. Then, when he was working in his living room, he heard a loud whirring noise when he turned on the fan. After a little searching, he found out that the automatic soap dispenser in his kitchen was turning on when the fans were turned on. He decided that the that the dispenser’s motion sensor was sufficient. He turned its remote ability off and all was well. The Bond devices learn commands from the remote you already have for your devices.

There are garage door control devices that are compatible with Home Kit. Some replace the up/down switch or have other functions. They will alert you when the door opens and if the door is open for more than a set length of time. Amazon offers a service that works with the MyQ devices that allow the Amazon driver to open your garage door, place the package and then close the garage door. The driver’s device has will not show the next delivery until your garage door is closed. It is a service you sign up for and you get a credit almost equal to the price of the MyQ device. With most devices, there is an app for your phone that has an account that you can use that when multiple people will be using the device. Kwikset makes a Home Kit compatible lockset that replaces the existing deadbolt. You can set a code (it has a keypad) that can be used only for a specific time or for specific people. It also has a regular key in case you forget to charge the battery. Ring makes a door bell camera that replaces the peephole in your door. It has a flap to cover the peephole so no one can see in through. They make several other versions that the doorbell. There are even smart ovens that can be controlled with Alexa. You scan the food package and the oven will set itself for the correct temperature and time.

In Q&A after Kens talk, people asked if you can get a double light switch. Ken pointed out that you just buy two single light switches and use the same cover plate. Karen Downs noted that through several moves, she had misplaced the codes that came with some of her devices so she can no longer add them to Home Kit. She recommended that you some how save the codes (some are on the device itself but many are not) either by taking pictures or saving them in a special place. You scan these codes with your phone to add devices. A member asked about home alarm systems being compatible with Home Kit. You have to check with the company usually to determine this. Apple has a list of compatible devices at that is undated as more devices are added. Another question was about a non-iCloud cloud backup for several computers, Ken suggested BackBlaze as a Mac compatible service whose pricing seemed reasonable.

Amazon is offering a new service named Sidewalk. Their description: “Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers, Sidewalk can help simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices, and help devices stay online even if they are outside the range of their home wifi. In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices to help find pets or valuables, to smart security and lighting, to diagnostics for appliances and tools.” It offers to create a mesh network of devices like the Ring doorbell so if your WiFi is weak, the mesh would supplement it. It is not out yet and Ken didn’t know enough about it to comment on it.

Ken uses the wireless Ring doorbell mounted on his door. It has a rechargeable battery accessible from inside the house. The wired versions typically mount where your regular doorbell would be.

After the questions, it was time for the raffle. All members attending the meeting were in the raffle (47 of us tonight). So Ken used Siri to choose random numbers from 1 to 47 to award the four $25 Amazon gift cards and the two $100 gift cards. The able co-hosts quickly matched up the numbers with the member’s names. As usual, Ken stayed online for a while after the meeting ended answering questions. I can be reached at and I look forward to seeing you at the next meeting.

Tonights links:

Al Trivetts Links

Some of the Devices Ken Showed


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