Tag Archives: Mac

Don’t Take Your PIN to the Grave

On Sunday morning, I received an early phone call from the son of a client, informing me that his father, my client, had passed away. It was sad news, but not shocking; he had been ill for some time. The primary reason for calling me, however, wasn’t just to inform me of the loss. The son was locked out of his father’s iPhone, where critical documents and photos were kept. And despite having worked with me earlier to document his passwords for services like Netflix and Gmail, my client never shared with me the PIN to unlock his iPhone.

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Nobody here needs their passwords anymore.

When we set up devices like smartphones, we are typically asked to enter a small (usually 4- to 6-digit) sequence of numbers. This is our Personal Identification Number (PIN), required to unlock the phone. Newer models add to this security by incorporating biometric methods like fingerprints and even facial recognition; but at the end of the day, that PIN is still there, keeping that critical data safe.

For more, here is Apple’s page: “Use a passcode with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.”

In many cases, users can “opt out” of assigning a PIN to their phones; but by default, the step of setting up a PIN is part of the “new phone setup” process. At that point, we just type in whatever number we usually use, and we almost never write that number down.

Don’t laugh; yours probably isn’t that much better.

I have clients who type their PINs so often and so rapidly, the process is now muscle memory. If asked what that number is, they actually have to take a moment to recall it.

In fact, Vanderbilt University performed a study in 2013 on the typing muscle memory phenomenon.

Instinctively tapping the keys in the correct pattern may make for a speedy unlocking process, but it does nobody any good if the phone’s owner takes that PIN to the grave.

When Syed Rizwan Farook died in a battle with police following his December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the first course of action the police took was to attempt to unlock his iPhone, hoping to learn more about his motivations for killing 14 people and injuring 22 more. Unfortunately, the iPhone’s security measures meant that they would not be able to get in through conventional methods. 

From the Wikipedia article on the attack:

On February 9, 2016, the FBI announced that it was unable to unlock one of the mobile phones they had recovered because of the phone’s advanced security features. The phone was an iPhone 5C. … The FBI first asked the National Security Agency to break into the phone, but the NSA was unable to do so. As a result, the FBI asked Apple Inc. to create a new version of the phone’s iOS operating system that could be installed and run in the phone’s random access memory to disable certain security features. Apple declined due to its policy to never undermine the security features of its products.

The struggle between the authorities and Apple led to a public debate over safety vs. privacy, one that continues to this day—despite the FBI eventually employing third-party methods to unlock the phone.

If even the FBI has to undertake extraordinary measures to unlock a phone, it’s not going to be any easier for a layperson—and certainly not a layperson who is also coping with the death of a loved one.

While my client’s son had been led to believe that he may be able to convince Apple to unlock the phone by presenting them with a death certificate, I’m honestly not so sure. This relevant 2013 discussion on the Apple Communities page goes into the details on why the system works the way it does, and why it’s not as simple as having the store “unlock” it, the way they can unlock, for example, a Macintosh computer.

For the record, this is NOT how you get into a Mac without a password.

The lesson here is that a PIN is just as important as every other password you use on a daily basis, if not more so. So when you’re compiling your list of passwords (and here’s my article about how and why to do so), start by writing down all your PINs. 

Your loved ones will thank you for sparing them that extra grief.

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“I miss you, Grandpa… but at least you kept all your passwords and PINs somewhere safe and accessible!”

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Can You Handle macOS Sierra? Okay, But Can Your Mac?

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Apple will release “Sierra,” the latest iteration of their popular Macintosh Operating System (macOS). And for the first time in my life as a Mac user, I will not be upgrading my Mac to it.

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Nice view, isn’t it? Shame I won’t be going. (Source: TechRadar.com)

I can hear the gasps now. “Is this a form of protest?” “It can’t be about money, isn’t Sierra going to be free?” “Are you abandoning Apple and going back to Windows? Is Windows 10 really that good???”

In order: No, this is not a protest. Indeed, it’s not about money; and even if they did charge for it, I believe in paying for good software. And finally, no, I am neither abandoning Apple, nor is Windows 10 that good—and stay tuned for a future blog post about that topic.

You see, I won’t be upgrading to Sierra, because Apple won’t let me. And it’s possible they won’t let you, either. (Apologies in advance: this is going to be a long post. To skip the history lesson, and to get to how this may affect you, click here.)

Some backstory: my first Mac was 2002’s Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors). Compared to the PC it replaced, it was like going from a boxy white van to a luxury sports car. It came equipped with one of the earliest versions of the revolutionary-for-its-time Mac OS X (pronounced “ten,” as it’s the Roman numeral), 10.2, “Jaguar.”

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The Power Mac G4 Mirrored Drive Door. (Source: Apple-History.com)

A quick word about naming: Apple’s naming system for OS X took after big cats from 2001’s 10.0, “Cheetah” until 2012’s 10.8, “Mountain Lion.” In 2013, they switched to California landmarks, with 10.9, “Mavericks.”

Every time Apple issued a new OS, I would buy it, sometimes waiting in line outside the Apple Store for the privilege. And these weren’t free updates, back then (circa 2003); 10.3, “Panther,” cost a cool $129 in the US. Every other year, I would upgrade: to the aforementioned “Panther” (2003); “Tiger” (2005); and “Leopard” (2007); each for $129 a pop. And I was happy to pay up, if it extended the usability of my Mac and kept it current with all the latest features.

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Apple’s “Big Cat” Operating Systems, from “Cheetah” to “Mountain Lion.” (Source: MacWorld.com)

This was the reality of my life as a Mac user, until the G4 succumbed to old age and exhaustion in 2008. I had gotten my money’s worth out of that Mac, due in no small part to the OS upgrades, so I was eager to move forward and start the cycle anew.

In early 2008, I bought Apple’s top-of-the-line tower, the Mac Pro. Weighing in at over 40 lbs., this thing was massive. If my last Mac was a luxury sports car, this was a Humvee. I had no doubt it would handle anything I threw at it, not least of which OS upgrades.

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The Mac Pro tower. (Source: MacTracker)

The best thing about my Mac Pro tower was its upgradability. It initially shipped with 2 gigabytes (GB) of memory—more than adequate for the time—and a 320GB hard drive. But the magic of this model was its room to grow over time. With its eight memory slots, it had the capability to support a maximum of 32GB of memory! That’s still on the high end today, but in 2008, it was an absurd amount.

For hard drive upgrades, I wouldn’t have to touch the drive that came with the computer; there were three empty drive bays in a row next to it, to which I could add new drives for my data. Were I feeling adventurous, I could even put in a new drive with an entirely different OS on it. This was the dawn of “Boot Camp,” which let Macs natively run Windows for the first time. A dedicated hard drive for that purpose made a lot of sense.

Finally, the Mac Pro’s tower form factor kept it competitive with Windows PCs from makers like Dell. I could add component cards as new standards were introduced, so I could augment the computer’s capabilities beyond its original design. For example, the Mac Pro shipped in early 2008 with USB 2.0 ports. November of that year would bring USB 3.0, capable of speeds about ten times as fast as the USB 2.0 standard. Luckily, several third-party manufacturers would jump on the opportunity to sell USB 3.0 upgrade cards for Mac Pro towers.

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So much room for activities! (Source: EveryMac.com)

As you can imagine, over the past 8 years, I’ve upgraded my hardware as needed (and sometimes, as not needed): my memory is now at a healthy if not outrageous 10GB. I have two hard drives running in tandem: a super fast Solid State Drive (SSD) for my OS, and a large Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for my files. I’ve added cards for USB 3.0 and Serial ATA ports. I even upgraded my graphics card to support Apple’s 27” LED Cinema Display, which requires a Mini DisplayPort connector, not standard in my Mac’s model year.

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The 27-inch Cinema Display (right), next to the Mac Pro. (Source: TurboSquid.com)

Along with those hardware upgrades, I made sure to keep the OS up to date. The good news is that when Apple released 10.6, “Snow Leopard” in 2009, they slashed the price to a mere $29 for a single-user license. With 2011’s 10.7, “Lion,” Apple stopped selling their OS upgrades on a disc in a box, altogether; this was their foray into selling the upgrade on their Mac App Store for $29.99. In July of 2012, they sold 10.8, “Mountain Lion,” for $19.99, an unheard-of price for an OS not named “Linux.”

Apple would double-down on the generosity by issuing their first “California” themed upgrade, 10.9, “Mavericks,” for free. And this wasn’t just “free to upgrade;” it was the full-fledged software, capable of being installed on a blank hard drive with no previous version on it. (Below, watch Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, wow the crowd in 2013 by announcing the new pricing scheme.)

After “Mavericks” came 10.10 “Yosemite” in 2014, and 10.11, “El Capitan,” in 2015, each still free. I downloaded each with gusto from the Mac App Store and upgraded as fast as I could. Most recently, I used the DiskMaker X app to create a USB installation stick; I installed a new SSD in my tower; and I installed El Capitan directly from the USB installer onto the clean drive. There’s just no substitute for a fresh OS install on a clean drive, something I heartily encourage for computers as old as mine had become. And it had indeed become old, despite all my tweaks and upgrades.

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DiskMaker X (click the logo for its site, DiskMakerX.com).

That’s the insidious truth of computers: eventually, no matter how many component cards you add; no matter how big or fast a hard drive you install; no matter how much memory you put in; there’s going to come a time when at its core, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) just can’t keep up with the latest software. Which brings us to the present.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s release of Sierra for free download, I went to Apple’s Sierra page on their website: http://www.apple.com/macos/sierra/

The headline there reads, “What can your Mac do now? Just ask.” This is in reference to the arrival of voice-interface Siri to the desktop (and laptop), when it had until now existed on every other Apple platform: iOS, watchOS, and most recently, tvOS.

The thing is, in my case, it might as well have said, “What can’t your Mac do now? Don’t ask.”

I took a good look at the system requirements for Sierra, and I was shocked at what I read.

“Chances are, your Mac can run macOS Sierra,” the page read, optimistically. “Mac computers introduced in late 2009 or later can be upgraded to macOS Sierra.”

I’m sorry, late when?

I couldn’t believe that my 2008 Mac Pro, which has handled El Capitan so masterfully, would have any trouble meeting Sierra’s requirements. Scrolling down, I found the “Mac Hardware Requirements” list:

• MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
• MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
• MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
• Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
• iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

For the record, there have been nine Mac Pro models since the line debuted in 2006. Mine was the third model, and Sierra won’t work on anything older than the fifth model, released only two and a half years later.

I am must admit, I was in denial upon reading this news. After all, when the first Macs with Intel chips came out in 2006, ingenious programmers found a way to run Microsoft Windows on them, not at all sanctioned by Apple or Intel, to say nothing of Microsoft! But within mere months, Apple would include official support in the form of Boot Camp, allowing Windows to run on Macs on its own, without emulators or virtual machines. Perhaps this enterprising spirit would help me to run Sierra on my obsolete er, “vintage” Mac Pro?

Indeed, there is a method for shoehorning Sierra onto unsupported Macs, thanks to the fine folks at dosdude1.com (a URL that honestly, doesn’t instill the most confidence, but hey, beggars and choosers…)

I was preparing to run this patch. I was even going to go out and buy a new SSD for it, as I didn’t want to endanger my current El Capitan installation by running this potentially shaky upgrade on top of it. But then I gave things a second look.

TrustedReviews.com is where I found the dosdude1.com link in the first place, but they placed this warning before the link:

All the usual caveats apply: installing macOS Sierra on an unsupported computer could bork it (and your data), as well as likely voiding your warranty.

On certain devices, too, the workaround will kill your Wi-Fi functionality. These are the late-2008 and mid-2009 MacBook Air, early-2008 and mid-2008 MacBook Pro, early-2008 iMac and early-2008 Mac Pro.

Barring a completely successful installation, at best I was looking at losing wifi functionality (a nonstarter in this wireless age); and at worst, a “borked” computer.

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With all due respect, Chef, nobody wants a “borked” Mac. (Source: Benjamin Higginbotham, MacDesktops.com)

It was at this point that I stopped shopping for a new SSD (and the required bracket to get it to fit in one of the available drive bays in my tower). I made the decision not to invest any more money in this tower. In whatever remaining time it has left, I’m going to stop trying to soup it up; El Capitan will be its last OS upgrade. It doesn’t need any more memory or upgrade cards. When the time comes to sell it, I’ll take out my drives and install a clean drive with none of my data on it (always good advice before selling a computer). Until that point, I will continue to use it as I have been, without spending too much mental energy on keeping up with the proverbial “Joneses.” This computer has not only served me well day in and day out since 2008; it still serves me well, and I expect it will serve its next owner well, into the future.

“That’s great,” you’re saying. “Good for you for coming to terms with the ‘circle of computer life.’ But what about MY Mac???”

(And if you skipped to this point, welcome back.)

 Again, here’s Apple’s official list of Macs that can run Sierra:

• MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
• MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
• MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
• Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
• iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

This is the first place to start, but it isn’t the last. You see, once meeting Apple’s hardware requirements, there are still the software features in Sierra that your Mac may or may not run.

Below is a chart I’ve made, covering the six models of Mac (three notebooks and three desktops), based on the new features at https://www.apple.com/macos/how-to-upgrade/

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The upshot of all this is, if your Mac is from 2013 or later, you’re in luck. Depending on what features you can live without, many models can go even older than that. The one model with tighter restrictions is the MacBook, and that’s only because Apple hadn’t made any new MacBooks between July 2011 and April 2015.

If you’re not sure which Mac you own, click the Apple icon at the top left of your screen, choose “About This Mac,” then choose “More Info.” If you still can’t tell from that point, contact me, and I can look it up for you.

Looking closer at the requirements for the Mac Pro to get the most out of Sierra, even if I were somehow able to get it to run on my tower, the best stuff only works on the redesigned Mac Pro cylinder from late 2013. And frankly, that’s a pretty major upgrade ($2,999 at its cheapest) just so I can run the latest OS from Apple.

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The compact, new Mac Pro cylinder (left), next to its big brother. (Source: MacWorld.com)

My next computer will likely be an iMac or a MacBook Pro, unless something amazing happens with the Mac mini line (and I’m not holding my breath). I’ll miss being able to upgrade the internals as needed, but Apple’s trend away from internal upgradability isn’t exactly new. Eventually, I predict everything will be sealed with no option to add or change out parts (much to the chagrin of DIY sites like iFixit). In many cases that time is already here: none of Apple’s laptops can have its memory upgraded anymore (the last being 2012’s MacBook Pro). Macs mini have been sealed since 2014; same for the 21.5-inch iMac. 27-inch iMacs and the Mac Pro cylinder can still have their memory upgraded, and it is even possible to upgrade the storage inside the Mac Pro—but Apple would encourage you to use the zippy Thunderbolt ports on all their models and add external storage, instead.

With external storage, to say nothing of cloud-based solutions like Dropbox and Apple’s own iCloud, I could foresee a future in which the files that make our computers unique are no longer kept in internal storage where the OS lives, but outside. When it’s time to upgrade, no longer would it be a question of, “can my hardware handle the software?” Instead, we would lease our computers, the way many of us have begun to do with our iPhones, through the iPhone Upgrade Program. When the new model comes out, featuring updated hardware and software alike, we can just turn in our old model, and pick up the new device, syncing it with our externally-stored files without missing a beat.

It’s strange to think of a future where we wouldn’t own our computers; but then, the future is always hard to imagine until it’s staring you in the face, telling you your computer is too old.

Hit the Road, Jack: Saying Goodbye to a 3.5mm Hole

On Wednesday, Apple announced that their new iPhone 7 would be the first in the line not to have a dedicated headphone jack. This was met with some controversy and consternation, and I wanted to offer some brief thoughts on the matter.

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The lonely Lightning port of the new iPhone 7. (Source: WhatHiFi.com, click photo for their article.)

This is Apple’s M.O.

The first thing that surprises me about the response, honestly, is anyone’s surprise at the move. Apple is notorious for moving away from older technology when they create new devices, or new versions of existing devices. Here’s a brief timeline:

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The original Macintosh (right) and the first iMac (left). (Source: MacWorld.co.uk)

1984: While IBM-styled PC manufacturers are still including 5.25” floppy drives, Apple unveils the first Macintosh computer, equipped with the smaller, yet higher-capacity 3.5” diskette drive. Apple’s last computer with a 5.25” drive would be in their II (“two”) series, the last of that line being 1988’s  Apple IIc Plus. PC makers would eventually phase out the 5.25” floppy by the early 1990s.

1998: With the iMac, Apple courts controversy again by removing the 3.5” diskette drive from this new all-in-one form factor, opting strictly for optical media; first in the form of CD-ROM, then DVD-ROM, and finally, rewritable DVD “SuperDrive,” first appearing in 2002’s Flat Panel iMac. Apple would remove the “floppy” drive from its laptops, as well; 1999’s PowerBook G3 would be the first Apple notebook to exclude the diskette drive, in favor of an optical drive.

2008: Speaking of laptops, Apple invents a new model, the MacBook Air (below), boasting unprecedented (for Apple) thinness and lightness in a fully-featured computer. One feature that is notably absent is its optical drive.

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2008’s wafer-thin MacBook Air. (Source: nextmedia.com.au)

Apple is confident, not only that users could rely upon the optional USB SuperDrive for their disk-based needs; but that program installations and media downloads would be performed over the internet, instead of coming from CDs and DVDs. This change coincides with the growth of the iTunes Store (selling music in 2003, TV shows in 2005, and movies in 2006); followed by the arrival of the App Store in 2011, from which users could download their programs directly from Apple, instead of having to insert an installation disc. Ambitiously, Apple both predicts and precipitates the massive shakeup of the disc-based media and software industries.

Apple would eliminate optical drives from its iMac and MacBook Pro in 2012, and it would redesign the Mac Pro desktop tower in 2013 and MacBook in 2015, each without optical drives as a matter of design.

2015: The aforementioned MacBook (below) marks another design change by tossing out all ports but one universal USB-C port for both charging and data interface.

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2015’s redesigned MacBook. Note the single port on the corner. (Source: abc.net.au)

This move would be a boon to the after-market USB hub industry, for users who need to plug in more than one device at the same time, to say nothing of charging the battery in the process.

As history has shown, the iPhone 7’s removal of the headphone jack is just the latest in a long string of bold moves. Anyone who wasn’t prepared for it just hasn’t been paying attention.

Thin is In

During his segment of the keynote, Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, asked the question outright: “Why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone?” He would go on to answer:

Our smartphones are packed with technologies and we all want more. We want bigger, just brighter displays. We want larger batteries, we want faster processors, we want stereo speakers, we want Taptic Engines, we want all of that and it’s all fighting for space within that same enclosure. And maintaining an ancient single purpose analog big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium.

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Phil Schiller’s inside look at the new iPhone 7. (Source: Reuters)

And he’s right. We demand a certain thinness from our mobile devices (as long as they’re not prone to bending, as was the case with 2014’s iPhone 6 Plus, shown below).

Removing the analog headphone jack not only frees up that much space on the phone’s shell, but it also allows for further technological expansion inside the phone. This could result in longer battery life, more processing power, or ideally, both.

This also means the removal of an oft-taken-for-granted component in all other smartphones: the digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Translating digital audio to conform to analog headphones requires a dedicated chip. Apple has this time opted to leave the audio processing to the headphones; be they from Apple, or from other manufacturers who can focus on higher-quality DACs without the limitations of an iPhone’s internal real estate. These chips can be built in to the plug, the cord, or the headphone itself. Some predict this will mean higher quality sound than an iPhone’s native DAC could have generated. Time will tell.

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An X-ray of last year’s iPhone 6S. Note the headphone jack in the lower-left. (Source: iFixit.com, click photo for their full teardown.)

Moving Toward A Wireless Future: CHARGE!

Apple doesn’t expect its users simply to use the iPhone’s built-in speakers for all future audio needs. After all, not only are they bundling with the new iPhone wired headphones that connect directly to the multi-purpose Lightning jack, but they’re also including an adapter (below) to allow users to plug their existing analog headphones into that jack.

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Apple’s included Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter (Source: Apple.com)

Third party companies like Belkin have already announced splitters, such as their RockStar™ (below) to allow for lightning headphone use while simultaneously charging the iPhone.

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Belkin’s Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar™ (Source: Belkin.com, click photo for their page.)

But wired headphones may themselves be the next thing to go. At the same keynote where they announced the iPhone 7, Apple unveiled AirPods (below): wireless earbuds that promise high-quality audio while leaving the Lightning jack free for charging (or other purposes, like an SD Card reader).

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Apple’s wireless AirPods. (Source: Apple.com, click photo for press release.)

But what if the iPhone didn’t need to plug in a cable even to recharge its battery?

Apple’s latest gadget du jour, the Watch, doesn’t require a cable to be inserted into a hole to recharge its battery; it uses a magnetic pad placed on the bottom of the watch (shown in this video narrated by Apple designer Jony Ive).

Likewise, Apple’s latest flagship tablet, the iPad Pro, features the “Smart Connector,” a row of three small circles (shown below), through which electricity can travel from the iPad to devices like keyboards; or to the iPad, from devices like the Logi BASE Charging Station. In both cases, the power goes strictly through touch, through the process of “inductive charging.”

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iPad Pro’s new Smart Connector on the edge. (Source: MacWorld.com)

Third-party manufacturers have been working toward a future with touch-only charging for years. Mophie’s Juice Pack battery case now comes in a model allowing for wireless charging, through their “Charge Force” line (see their video below to learn more).

Even furniture maker IKEA (below) has gotten in on the trend, selling wireless charging pads, and building the technology into some of their lamps and nightstands.

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IKEA’s SELJE Nightstand with wireless charging. (Source: IKEA, click photo for its page.)

I predict that iPhones will eventually have built-in wireless charging technology to take advantage of these options without needing a special case or adapter, just like some Android phones do already.

Eventually, the iPhone may not have any holes for any purpose: not charging, headphones, or anything else. This could bring about a near-hermetically sealed iPhone, with greatly improved water and dust resistance.

Conclusion

I don’t expect the removal of the headphone jack to go over smoothly, and I encourage debate on the subject. I just think that knowing Apple’s history, design philosophy, and ambitions for the future have made this a foregone conclusion. Personally, I’m ready to have one fewer wire to have to untangle.

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New Year’s Technology Resolutions, #3: Uninstall What You Don’t Use

Now that you’ve gotten your system fully caught up, it’s time to think about what programs you use, and to uninstall the ones you don’t use.

Before you remove anything from your computer, make sure you have the necessary disks or other backups in case you remove something you decide you’d want after all later, or essential system software. More and more these days, the manufacturers are leaving out the recovery CDs, counting on you to burn your own. If you don’t want to bother with that, in many cases you simply need to contact the manufacturer and have them mail you recovery CDs.

The uninstallation process is pretty straightforward in Windows XP. Go into your Control Panel (click the Start button, then click “Control Panel”), then click “Add or Remove Programs” from the screen that comes up. If you’re in Classic View, “Add or Remove Programs” is still there, between “Add Hardware” and “Administrative Tools.” Go ahead and double-click the “Add or Remove Programs” icon to see the list of programs installed.

First, identify the programs you recognize. It’s easiest to start with the big names. For example, let’s say you want to remove Mozilla Firefox. It’s a popular web browser, but maybe you’ve decided you’re going to stick with Microsoft Internet Explorer, or try Google Chrome. Click once on Mozilla Firefox, then click the “Remove” button. Follow the procedure that follows, and restart the computer if prompted. Repeat for all the programs you know, that you know you want to remove.

In Windows 7, the procedure is nearly identical. Go to Control Panel from the Start (or “Windows”) button, then find the “Programs” icon, where it says “Uninstall a program.” From there, you’ll see the list of programs, but when you click on one, instead of getting a “remove” button, you’ll have to click “Uninstall” at the top of the list, or simply double-click the program you’ve selected to begin the removal process. Again, follow that through until you’re told it’s successfully removed, then repeat as desired for the other programs you know.

Identifying the ones you don’t know, on the other hand, can be tricky. When you buy a new computer, the manufacturer may load it up with trial versions of otherwise useful software, samples of programs you’d never use, and games you have no interest playing. If it’s a brand new computer onto which you haven’t put anything of your own yet, go ahead and remove anything undesired, but remember my warning at the beginning of this post about having the important disks in case you later want or need something you’ve removed.

On a Mac, the process is straightforward. Find your “Applications” folder in “Finder” (the blue happy face on the left side of your Dock), then drag the program you want to remove to the Trash (or right-click, or control-click and choose “Move to Trash,”) then empty the Trash. There are many third-party programs dedicated to clearing out the supplemental files you may miss when dragging the main program to the Trash, but since Mac OS X does not include its own uninstaller the way Windows has since ’95, I’m content with just dragging the application icon directly into the Trash. If you want to be extra tidy, simply search Download.com’s Mac section for “uninstall.” There you’ll find programs like CleanMyMac, AppCleaner, AppZapper, etc.

Deleting Apps from iPods, iPhones, and iPads is even easier still. Simply press the icon for the app you want to remove and hold until all the icons start to jiggle, then click the X in the upper-left corner of that icon to delete it. Once it’s gone, simply hit your device’s home button at the bottom of the front, to stop the jiggling.

As always, these are general tips, and your specific case may need more in-depth explanation. I am available by e-mail for any specific questions you may have, and you can also comment below. Enjoy freeing up some space for the new year!

UP NEXT: Resolution #4, Back It Up