Last Minute Gift Ideas

We’re coming down to the wire with Christmas only a week away. Whether you’re still shopping for Christmas gifts for someone else or perhaps you just want to treat yourself to something nice, here are a few suggestions to consider.

Portable Battery Charger

Our smartphones have become such an important part of our every day lives. They go practically everywhere with us and we utilize them for just about everything from phone calls to messaging to GPS to streaming video to paying bills. At one point or another, we’ve drained our smartphones down to near empty levels and probably tried desperately to borrow someone’s wall charger and find an open electrical outlet to give our devices a boost of life. With a portable battery charger (available in a variety of capacities), you can easily carry extra battery power on the go. These chargers are small enough to keep in a purse, backpack or even your pocket. Portable battery chargers are great to charge your smartphones while you are in transit or simply at a location where a wall outlet is not easily accessible. Some chargers may be used to charge your portable music players and tablets as well. They make for a perfect gift for the holidays.

Streaming Media Players

We love entertainment! Music, video, apps . . . whatever your preference, we love good entertainment and how better to enjoy that entertainment than through a variety of streaming media players currently available. Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku are just a few of the streaming media players out there. Each streaming media player has its benefits so you’ll want to do a bit of research to see which device best suits your needs or the needs of your gift recipient; but regardless of which device you get, it should make for quite a gift on Christmas Day.

Rechargeable Portable Wireless/Bluetooth Speaker

While we often listen to audio using our headphones or earphones on our devices (smartphones, portable music players, laptops), there may be occasions where we need to use the built-in speakers. However, sometimes the overall quality of those speakers just aren’t up to par with the audio quality we would expect or desire. There are plenty of rechargeable portable wireless/bluetooth speakers available that you can easily find a great one to use to enhance the quality of the sound coming from your devices.

JBL, Beats, Amazon and many other manufacturers have rechargeable portable speakers that truly reproduce audio & sound the way it was meant to be heard. It makes for quite a holiday gift.

Tip: While many devices support wireless/bluetooth connectivity, consider getting one that also includes a 3.5mm audio jack to support legacy devices.

Gift Cards

If you’re really in a bind, a gift card can make a great gift as well. However, don’t just get any gift card. Some gift cards have expiration dates or charge fees after a certain period of time. Look for gift cards that have no expiration dates and do not charge any fees that reduce the value of the gift card over time (ex: dormancy fees). Also, give a gift card that someone can actually use and not one that the gift recipient will have to try desperately to use.

Amazon.com gift cards are great for this purpose and there’s a pretty good chance the gift recipient will find something to use that gift card for. Amazon has a huge selection of products to choose from including digital music & video. There should be something for practically everyone.

For Apple users, an Apple Store or Apple iTunes gift card makes for a great gift. Keep in mind that Apple Store and Apple iTunes gift cards are not interchangeable. Apple Store gift cards can only be used towards the purchase of Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple Watch, Apple TV, peripherals and accessories in Apple’s retail stores or online store. Apple iTunes gift cards can only be used for purchases in the Apple iTunes and App store.

Tech Tip: Malwarebytes & CCleaner

Two really good software utilities to have on your computer are Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org) and CCleaner (http://www.piriform.com). Both software applications are available for Windows and Mac and come in free and paid versions.

Malwarebytes is a good utility to detect and remove malware on your computer especially malware that is not typically detected by traditional antivirus software. Malwarebytes can help to compliment and supplement your antivirus software. While many software manufacturers do offer a variety of comprehensive utilities, these packages may be difficult to manage & configure and be significantly more expensive. Malwarebytes is fairly simple to use, does not require significant configuration and is effective. While the free version does not offer real-time scanning protection, it is still quite effective when run periodically as part of a preventive maintenance routine.

CCleaner by Piriform is a good utility to help keep your computer clean and free up space consumed by temporary files. Web browsers tend to keep cached temporary files for a significant period of time if you do not custom configure the settings to automatically delete the cache, temporary files and browsing history associated with those browsers or manually purge those files periodically. Application installations may store temporary files in a variety of temp folders on your computer which can consume a substantial amount of storage space and web downloads can also do the same. CCleaner will search designated temporary folders and locations and provide a list of files which can be purged. Before purging the files, you will have an opportunity to review those files before choosing to remove those files. CCleaner can also help purge registry files (Windows) that are no longer required by the OS, provides an optimization tool to optimize your hard disk (Windows, non-SSDs) and offers up a selection of other useful maintenance tools. CCleaner is another useful tool to keep and use as part of your preventive maintenance routine.

Both Malwarebytes and CCleaner receive periodic software updates so make sure the notifications are enabled and/or you periodically check for the latest software updates.

If you are not comfortable or familiar with performing maintenance tasks or using these software utilities on your computer, consult with an experienced IT professional.

Tech Tip: Save Cellular Data, Turn Off Wi-Fi Assist

Wi-Fi Assist is a nice feature added to iOS 9 and iOS 10. In the event of a poor or weak wireless connection, Wi-Fi Assist, when enabled, automatically switches over to and utilizes your cellular data in order to maintain a stable, continuous Internet connection. Instead of having a webpage load partially due to a weak wireless connection, Wi-Fi Assist utilizes your cellular data to keep the connection smooth and allow the webpage to continue to load.

While Wi-Fi Assist certainly seems nice and generally beneficial, having Wi-Fi Assist enabled can also lead to an increase in utilization of cellular data. For users with small or moderate data plans, this potentially can result in unexpected monthly data overages and hefty data overage charges on your monthly bills. Some carriers charge a minimum of $10 to $15 per additional GB of data.

Wi-Fi Assist is enabled in iOS by default. As such, to disable Wi-Fi Assist, go into “Settings” then “Cellular”. Scroll all the way down the page to “Wi-Fi Assist” and toggle the on/off button to the off position. Wi-Fi Assist is now disabled!

While you may lose the benefit of having a stable, continuous Internet connection in the event of a poor or weak wireless signal, you can sleep a bit better knowing Wi-Fi Assist is not contributing towards your monthly data overages.

DreamWorks’ Trolls

trolls

DreamWorks’ Trolls is a fun, enjoyable, lighthearted animated musical comedy film for the entire family.

In the film, the Trolls are small, colorful, lovable creatures that are in a constant state of happiness. Trolls sing, dance, hug and are just absolutely positive creatures. In contrast, the Bergens are large creatures that can never find happiness and are of the belief that their one and only source of happiness is achieved by eating a Troll. Each year, the Bergens hold a Trollstice, a festival where the Bergens eat Trolls to experience happiness.

The Trolls, led by King Peppy, manage an escape from Bergen Town and the Bergens, and find a new home where they remain safe and hidden from the Bergens for twenty years until their new home is unexpectedly revealed and discovered.

In a race against time, Princess Poppy (King Peppy’s daughter) with the help of Branch (a gray, grumpy Troll) return to Bergen Town to save their fellow Trolls. Of course, no story is complete without some twists & turns, secrets revealed and touching, emotional moments and Trolls is no exception.

The film features the voices of an all-star cast including Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, John Cleese and more. The soundtrack features a collection of fantastic, feel good and touching songs and the film reminds us about the true source of happiness. Trolls is definitely a movie to see!

Tech Tip: Installing Adobe Creative Suite 6 on macOS Sierra

Okay, so you haven’t made the switch to Adobe Creative Cloud and are still using Adobe Creative Suite 6; however, you’ve upgraded or are running Apple’s latest Mac OS, macOS Sierra, and now want to install Adobe Creative Suite 6 on macOS Sierra. Will it work?

While Adobe Creative Suite 6 is not officially supported on macOS Sierra and Adobe has discontinued updates and support for Adobe Creative Suite 6, you can install and run Adobe Creative Suite 6 on Apple’s latest macOS. However, if you run into problems, you are on your own so use it at your own discretion.

When you try to install Adobe Creative Suite 6 from your install disc or via a .dmg installer, you may run into an error message that goes something like “We’ve encountered the following issues . . . Installer failed to initialize . . .”

Adobe CS macOS Sierra

 

To workaround the issue, follow the steps below:

  1. Mount the Adobe Creative Suite 6 install disc or .dmg installer
  2. Open “Adobe CS6 Design Standard” (or whichever Adobe CS6 product you are trying to install)
  3. Right-click (or Ctrl-click) on “Install” then select “Show Package Contents”
  4. Go to “Contents” then “MacOS” and click “Install”
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to install Adobe Creative Suite 6

If all works according to plan, Adobe Creative Suite 6 should now be installed on macOS Sierra.

Note: If you already had Adobe Creative Suite 6 installed prior to upgrading to macOS Sierra, your Adobe Creative Suite 6 products should launch normally.

Tech Tip: My Apple device won’t mount in iTunes after upgrading to iTunes 12.5.3.17 on Windows 10 Pro

If you’ve recently updated iTunes to version 12.5.3.17 on Windows 10 Pro and noticed that your iPhone or other Apple device no longer mounts in iTunes, give the following steps a try . . . it may resolve your issue.

  1. Perform a search in Windows 10 for “Device Manager” then launch “Device Manager” by clicking on “Device Manager”. You can perform a search for “Device Manager” by clicking on the Start Menu button and typing “Device Manager”.
  2. After launching the “Device Manager” control panel, scroll down to “Universal Serial Bus controllers”. Expand the section by clicking on the arrow next to “Universal Serial Bus controllers” and check to see if “Apple Mobile Device USB Driver” appears in the list. If it does not appear in the list, proceed to step 3. If it does appear, this may not resolve your problem.
  3. In the “Device Manager” control panel, look for “Portable Devices”. Expand the section and locate your iPhone (or applicable Apple device).
  4. Right-click on your iPhone (or applicable Apple device) and select “Update Driver Software” then select “Browse my computer for driver software”.
  5. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\Drivers then select “Ok”
  6. The driver should install/update automatically. When the install/update has completed, “Apple Mobile Device USB Driver” should appear under “Universal Serial Bus controllers” and your iPhone (or applicable Apple device) should be able to automatically mount in iTunes.

 

Tech Tip: Rebooting iPhone 7

Have a brand new iPhone 7 and need to give it a reboot?

Well, if you’ve tried the long-standing method of holding down the Power/Lock button and the Home button, you may have realized that your iPhone 7 isn’t rebooting. While the iPhone 7 appears to have a Home button, it’s not actually a button at all. The Home button on the iPhone 7 is actually static. It is force sensitive and utilizes force touch in order to give it functionality.

So, how do you reboot your iPhone 7 without a real Home button?

Apple has assigned the previous reboot function of the Home button to the down Volume button. So, if you hold down the Power/Lock button along with the down Volume button for several seconds, you will see the Apple logo appear and your iPhone 7 will reboot like prior models.

One note though . . . When you hold down the down Volume button to reboot the iPhone 7, you will notice the ringer volume go down on the screen. This also means that when you complete the reboot, you will need to turn up your ringer volume back to the previous desired level.

Although it is not a big deal, it would be nice if iOS 10 recognized that you were attempting to reboot the phone by holding the two keys and not adjust the ringer volume settings. Perhaps Apple will adjust this functionality in a future iOS update or release.