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How to Backup your computer online for free

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Tech Guy!  Your local source for good, dependable technical support and information!  Keep up with the latest Tech news here!

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Saturday
Jan132018

How to tell if you need a new iPhone Battery

If you have a new iPhone (iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or the much hyped iPhone X), battery problems are the last thing on your mind. But for those with older iPhones, it's probably top of mind—especially after Apple admitted to secretly slowing down batteries and is now offering $29 replacements until Dec. 31, 2018.

Battery slowdowns on aging phones are nothing new; lithium-ion batteries are the best option we have for mobile tech today, but they're far from perfect. The more power cycles they go through, the worse their capacity gets.

Apple's "fix" is why many people with older iPhones report battery problems whenever a new version of iOS comes out. It's not just that iOS is written for new devices and runs slower on old models (though that's certainly part of it). It's that Apple, in its infinite wisdom, actually cripples older phones in the name of "overall performance and prolonging the life of...devices."

It's maddening. But Apple got caught when some older iPhones improved after new batteries were installed and people went public with it on Reddit. Weeks later, the company is being sued, and the battery replacement is its public relations response.

The $29 battery replacement only applies to iPhone SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, and 7 Plus. Older phones have to be covered by AppleCare or the battery replacement still costs $79—except if the battery is less than 80 percent capacity when fully charged, in which case the AppleCare battery swap is free.

To get your new battery, take an iPhone to the Apple Store's Genius Bar or mail it in. But what if you're on the fence about your own iPhone's battery? How do you tell if its capacity is low and it's gone through 500 charge cycles—Apple's somewhat arbitrary number for what it considers the lifespan of an iPhone battery?

In other words: how do you tell if you need a replacement battery?

Check Wear With an App

The easiest thing to do is download an app like Battery Life (there are multiple apps with that name, but this version, by RBT Digital, seems to be the most robust).

The first thing the app will do is display a giant front page graph showing battery wear level. Here are three versions you can compare. The first one is on a 2-year-old iPhone 6s Plus; the second is a smaller iPhone 6s purchased a year ago; the third is an iPhone X that's barely a week old.

Wear level is the battery's capacity to hold a charge compared to its capacity when brand new. For example, an iPhone X comes with a battery (the X actually has two batteries inside) with a total capacity of 2,716 milliamps per hour (mAh); according to the Battery Life app, it still has that full capacity. However, the iPhone 6s Plus has a battery that was originally capable of 2,725 mAh, but now can only hold 2,300 mAh, or 84 percent of what it once could handle.

The more you check this app, the more history it keeps, so you can check to see as your iPhone battery capacity decreases over time. That happens after more and more charge cycles are used.

A charge cycle happens every time you discharge 100 percent of a battery's capacity. That doesn't have to be all the way down to 0. If you keep your phone charged to 80 percent, then use it down to 30 percent, and do that twice in a day—using that 50 percent twice is a full charge cycle.

Apple says its batteries are good for 400 to 500 charge cycles. That usually takes a year or two—or around the time you'd upgrade iOS and see it all slow down when the new iOS detects an aging battery and reduces processor output to "help" you. It doesn't hurt that Apple would also prefer you purchase a new phone around that time, too.

No app lets you see how many charge cycles you've used on an iPhone. (Unless you jailbreak your iPhone.) Maybe that'll change in 2018. Apple is promising an iOS upgrade that will "give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone's battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance." Until then, the only way to actually check the charge cycle usage of an iPhone is with...a computer.

Check Charge Cycles on a PC

It might seem counterintuitive to require a laptop or desktop PC to check how many times you've used a charge cycle on your iPhone's battery, but alas, those are Apple's rules.

Previously, whenever developers tried to release an app that measured iPhone battery charge cycles, Apple pulled it from the App Store. With iOS 10, Apple then pulled info on charge cycles as well as battery temperatures so third-party apps like Battery Life could not get to them. Let's hear it for transparency!

However, there are some desktop programs to get you through.

On a Mac, download coconutBattery, which will also tell you all about the health of your Mac's battery.

Plug your iPhone into the Mac via the USB-to-Lightning cable, then turn on coconutBattery to get a reading on the iOS Device tab. Under the charge capacity graphs, you'll see a listing that says "Cycle Count" so you can tell how far you are from that dreaded 500. If you pay to get coconutBattery Plus for $9.95, you can monitor all this info over Wi-Fi on your Mac without plugging the iPhone in via USB.

It works on iPads as well but iPads aren't getting slowed down by iOS, even if they're older.

Windows users should turn to iBackupBot; it works on Windows 7, 8, and 10 and costs $35 after a 7-day free trial. It's ostensibly for backing up all sorts of info off an iOS device to your PC, but when you plug in an iPhone to the PC and run iBackupBot and build a phone profile, you can also access a section called More Information that clearly shows a "CycleCount" under the battery section (as well as the original DesignCapacity and current FullChargeCapacity of the battery.)

HowToGeek reports that you can also contact Apple via their support website, give them remote control of your iPhone, and they'll reveal the battery's health (albeit without specific numbers). Whether you trust that from the company that just admitted to crippling CPUs just because batteries get old is up to you.

When Should I Get a New iPhone Battery?

Now that you're armed with the info needed to measure capacity and even charge cycles, you've got to decide when to get that new battery.

Here's what I'd suggest: if you've got anything older than an iPhone 7, get the $29 battery change next time you're anywhere near an Apple Store. It's the cost of a few venti hot chocolates, and worth it to give those older iPhones another year of decent performance.

If you've got an iPhone 7 or newer, check the Battery Life app infrequently and see where things are headed. If your iPhone battery is headed to just 80 percent then look into the replacement options stat, hopefully before Apple's battery deal runs out at the end of the year. (Remember, if you have AppleCare and your battery goes below 80 percent capacity, they'll replace it free, or maybe give you a replacement iPhone equivalent if anything else has gone awry.)

Or, buy the battery replacement kit from iFixit and do it yourself. It also costs $29, but will be available after Dec. 31. And it works on older iPhones, but not iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X. The downside is you have to open the iPhone up yourself.

Monday
Dec182017

Farewell, AIM: AOL Instant Messenger has signed off permanently

It’s the end of an era that realistically ended a decade ago. On Friday, AOL shut down AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) permanently. Plans for its death were first announced in October.

When I heard the news, my mind flashed back to the boxes full of America Online CDs in every store, to the dubstep-like beeps and boops of a 28.8K modem connecting to the Internet, and AIM chat rooms providing a real-time connection with people around the world long before social networks accomplished the same task.

But the rise of social networks like Facebook and Whatsapp were the final nail in AIM’s coffin. The company acknowledges that the times aren’t just a-changing now that we’re in the smartphone era—they’ve already been altered forever. “AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” wrote Michael Albers, VP of communications at Oath (the Verizon brand that gobbled up AOL).

AOL discontinued active AIM development in 2012, and cut off third-party apps (like Adium, Trillian, and Pidgin) earlier this year. And AOL Instant Messenger isn’t the only turn of the century vanguard to fall on hard times; Microsoft shut down MSN Messenger in 2014, while Yahoo Messenger closed up shop last year.

An AOL help page says you’ll continue to have access to your @aim.com email address, but there was no way to save or export your AIM buddy list for posterity. That era is really, truly dead.

So pour one out for AIM. Who could’ve guessed that AOL’s dial-up Internet business would outlast the one-time chat giant? If you’re looking for an all-encompassing AIM alternative, this handy Chrome extension lets you access Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts, Discord, Steam chat and more from a single window.

Monday
Dec182017

Does the End of Net Neutrality Mean I Need a VPN?

With the FCC repealing net neutrality rules, you may be asking yourself: do I need a VPN to protect my privacy and keep my access to the web running? The answer is, probably not now, but maybe in the future.

The elimination of net neutrality means ISPs will be able to prioritize their own services, or services that pay them, over competitors. That means, for instance, that if Netflix doesn't pony up to Verizon, Verizon Internet subscribers would see more buffering or lower-quality video on Netflix. There's also the possibility that ISPs may outright block access to services unless consumers pay extra—for instance, demanding that you pay $5 per month more for that Netflix access, over and above your standard Netflix and ISP subscription fees.

This kind of service tiering is not happening right now. The worries about net neutrality are based on what ISPs may do in the future. But we've already gotten a glimpse of what could be; remember when AT&T forbid Apple's FaceTime from running over its cellular network for users on certain data plans?

Can a VPN Protect Me From My ISP?

If your ISP does start to slow down sites that don't give it kickbacks in favor of those who do, a VPN may help. VPNs hide your network traffic so your ISP can't tell what services you're using. (For more details on how they work, see Why You Need a VPN.) As a result, the ISP will need to treat all of your traffic on an equal basis, restoring effective net neutrality.

That said, ISPs could very well start to throttle VPNs in a non-neutral world. But they'd have to throttle all of the traffic on a VPN, not just specific websites or services. Once again, ISPs aren't doing this yet; we're speculating about what they may decide to do in the future.

A VPN expert, Max Eddy, points out that if major platform and device providers stepped up with their own VPNs, that would be a net neutrality game changer. If Apple, for instance, started tunnelling all of its traffic through a VPN, its power in the marketplace might mean the ISPs would be unwilling to face it down (or extort more money from it).

VPNs Provide Protection

VPNs also protect your privacy. Even with net neutrality, your ISP can surveil everything you do, for instance monitoring your downloads for filenames of commonly pirated movies so it can send you an angry letter if it sees you're downloading them. But Eddy warns that without net neutrality, ISPs could put privacy-oriented services in slow lanes, making it harder to get to secure services.

So the repeal of net neutrality doesn't mean you need a VPN any more than you ever did—right now. But VPNs were an important tool before the repeal of net neutrality. In addition to the privacy protection VPNs offer, it's absolutely worth shopping around and choosing one so that if your ISP does something shifty in the future, you know where to turn.

Monday
Dec042017

How To Resize An Image To A Desktop Wallpaper

Wallpapers come in different sizes. If you like an image and it’s a good, HD image you can use it on a large screen even if it isn’t the right size. Windows can stretch an image so that it fills the screen and normally, it does a good job. Sometimes though, it doesn’t work and the image is cut off at the wrong end. The best course of action is to resize an image to fit your desktop. Here’s the best way to resize an image to a desktop wallpaper.

Find Your Screen Resolution

Before you resize an image to a desktop wallpaper, you need to know what size it should be. This isn’t a one-size fits all deal. You’re cropping and resizing an image for your screen. It’s a custom job so use your screen’s resolution.

Open the Settings app and go to the System group of settings. Select the Display tab and look at the value set under the Resolution dropdown. This is the size an image should be to fit your screen perfectly.

Resizing An Image

For this, we’re going to use an image by Unsplash user John Fowler @wildhoney. This image is 4288x4800px. The width is less than the height so it’s a poor fit for the average monitor that is usually landscape oriented. There are two ways to treat an image like this; resize, or crop, or both.

You can resize the image and change it’s width to 1920px. The height will change proportionally and it will not be 1080px. When you set it as your wallpaper, some of it will still be cropped out. If this is acceptable, use IrfanView to resize the image and set it as your wallpaper.

 

Given the dimensions of this particular image, at least half of it will be cropped out even after you’ve resized it to fit the width of your screen. There’s no way around this but what you can do is crop the image so that it includes the better parts of the image you’re using.

Again, you can use IrfanView to crop it. Open the resized image in IrfanView and cut out the part that you want to include in the background. Remember to trim only from the top and bottom if you’ve already resized it to fit the width of your screen. Save the cropped image and then set it as your desktop wallpaper.

You can use this same method to crop and resize an image for your phone but you will need to get the size absolutely right. Not all phones will fit an image on the screen so it’s best to crop and resize it to fit.

Monday
Dec042017

How To Easily Back Up & Transfer Data Between iPhones For Free

Data management for iPhones is something iTunes holds a monopoly over. Unfortunately, iTunes isn’t getting better. The previous version has done away with the App Store and app downloads. The iTunes back-up is a single file; you can’t extract specific information from it, not unless you’re willing to pay for an app that can do it for you. EaseUS MobiMover can transfer data between iPhones. The app can transfer data between iPhones but it can also transfer it between an iPhone and a computer, and vice versa. It’s free to use unlike other apps in this niche and it supports the latest version of iOS. The app is available for Windows and it is compatible with the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X.

Data Transfer Modes

EaseUS MobiMover has four data transfer modes; transfer to current device, transfer to another device, transfer to computer, and custom.

The ‘Transfer to this device’ mode lets you transfer music, videos, and photos to your iPhone. You can transfer individual files, or select an entire folder of music or photos to transfer to your phone. It beats the full back-up you need to take with iTunes and you don’t have to sync your entire library every time you add a new file.

The ‘Transfer to other device’ mode lets you connect two iPhones and transfer data from one phone directly to the other. You don’t have to back up data and then copy it over to your second phone. Additionally, unlike the back-up that you get with iTunes, you can choose what data to transfer to your second phone.

For example, if you want to keep photos on your old phone, you can choose not to transfer them to the second phone.

The ‘Transfer to computer’ mode lets you move music, images, videos, ebooks, ringtones, etc to your computer.

Finally, the Custom mode gives you the option to export individual items, e.g., a single text or iMessage, or a contact to your computer. You can choose multiple items and back them up.

The time the app takes to transfer data depends on how much data there is to transfer. EaseUS MobiMover is reasonably fast but if you have a lot of videos and photos, and a large music library, transferring them all can take some time.

Disable iCloud

While EaseUS MobiMover works great, it does require that you disable iCloud when you transfer data. You don’t have to disable it completely; just for the items you want to transfer. For example, if you want to transfer your contacts to your computer, you have to disable iCloud back-up for the Contacts app on your iPhone. If you don’t, the transfer will fail. You can enable iCloud again once the transfer is complete, no harm done.

The app can detect when you disable iCloud for data. All you have to do is refresh the items within the app. There’s no need to disconnect and reconnect your device.

Viewing Exported Items

The music, photos, and videos are exported in their original format and quality. You can open them with your default app for the respective file type. The messages are formatted so that they’re easier to read. The number that sent you the message is also included with the exported text. It’s saved as an HTML file, as are your notes, reminders, etc. and you can view them all in your browser.

Deleting & Editing Data

EaseUS MobiMover is at its core a data transfer app but it has additional features that help manage data on your iPhone. Noteworthy is the deleting and editing feature that works with contacts and photos, among other things.

With EaseUS MobiMover, you can edit an existing contact on your phone and add additional details to it including another phone number, email, and even a note.

The app also has a built-in photo viewer that you can use to view the photos in your camera roll or photo stream. The photo viewer is basic but it lets you rotate photos, and delete them enmasse. If your camera roll is clogged up and your iPhone is taking too long to delete the photos in it, you can use EaseUS MobiMover to delete the photos easily and quickly.

A Simple, Free Solution

EaseUS MobiMover doesn’t do anything new, or unique. There are plenty of apps that can transfer data between iPhones but EaseUS MobiMover does it simply. Most apps that offer data transfer get so lost in incorporating multiple features that they neglect the UI. EaseUS MobiMover is easy to use regardless how good or bad you are with technology. It’s also worth noting that the app doesn’t make it easy to accidentally erase data.

EaseUS MobiMover has a paid version but you only need it if you plan to use the app commercially. If you need to use it on a home computer, it’s free forever. The app doesn’t limit you to using only a few devices so you can use it to manage every iOS device you have at home.

Saturday
Nov252017

Google Released a Tool That Lets You Backup Your Entire Computer

After a bit of a delay following its big announcement last month, Google has finally released a tool that allows you to use its free cloud storage to backup all of the files on your Mac or Windows computer.

The new Backup and Sync feature lets you safely store content from your computer's internal hard drive, or from other devices like memory cards or USB devices, in Google Drive.

It's an easy and efficient way to protect your files and photos by backing them up, as long as they're in Google Drive and Google Photos. The tool will recreate your desktop folder ecosystem directly in Drive instead of having to create an entirely new network of folders.

"Just choose the folders you want to back up, and we'll take care of the rest," Google wrote on its blog.

googleWhile free Drive accounts only offer 15 GB for Backup and Sync, you can pay for more storage to ensure all of your files are backed up.

Backup and Sync is available for download through Google Drive and Google Photos.