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Should you upgrade to MacOS 11 (Big Sur)

We have been testing MacOS 11 (Big Sur) and now are running 11.1 on those systems.  This release seems mostly stable and we haven't had any major issues with 11.1. Still some minor issues with Messages and wake from sleep on some systems.  Our second monitor issues have been resolved with and with 11.2 out now we had hoped for a solid release.  Seems to be fine on integrated display systems but external monitors are problematic with resolution issues or just no video on one system.  Many issues that are reported are really not bugs but changes that are not intuitive. Searching in many new apps is baffling.  We understand it but don't like it either. I fear we may have to wait some time to see a reversal on this though and urge you to just deal with the search vs. filter concepts. 

We plan to hold off on updating our mission critical systems a bit longer and hope 11.3 solves a few more issues. We do see fewer issues on newer hardware. On a late 2019 MacBook Pro 16 we have seen very few stability issues but on older hardware, especially a 2017 iMac, stability is a major issue but is improving.  So, if you really want to upgrade and are running newer hardware you might be fine but with older hardware we might be looking at a similar situation we had last year with 10.15 where you just couldn't expect normal stability until a few updates came out.  Since we aren't seeing many issues on laptops or iMacs with only one monitor we feel we can recommend the software for those systems now.  Once the external display issues are resolved we expect to upgrade the rest of our Macs. 

If you are currently running MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) then Big Sur should run on your Mac. If you are not you may want to look at the many issues that were caused by MacOS 10.15 with regard to the 64-bit app requirement.  This was a deal breaker for some but a year in most software has been upgraded if it ever will be. If you use older software that cannot be upgraded you may lose access to this software with 10.15 (Catalina) or 11 (Big Sur).  

It seems with every OS release every vendor takes some time to iron out all of the details but so long as these issues are minor they don't seem to impact getting work done significantly.  MacOS 11 is cosmetically quite different in many ways but functionally quite similar other than some new features borrowed from iOS and iPadOS.  With 10.15 many software vendors didn't get support ready for months but this version really only required updates to deal with new features and so most third party software seems to work fine. 

Should you upgrade to iOS 14 (including iPadOS 14)?

We have found both iOS 14 and iPadOS14 to be quite stable since it's release and can recommend that customers install it. Even the beta releases were more stable than previous beta releases.  

There are few must-have features in this release but several nice features are included.  However, many of these are contingent upon apps and developer support so you may not see a huge impact right away. 

If you are a Mac user and plan to upgrade to MacOS 11 (Big Sur) this fall then you might want to get your iOS updates done soon so you can start to get familiar with some of the concepts. 

Should you upgrade to MacOS Catalina

Unless you purchased a new Mac very recently and have nothing but the latest software installed on your Mac we strongly recommend that you do NOT install MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) on your Mac just yet.  We are not having any significant issues on new systems or clean installs without any data migration but upgrading still has some issues.  If you don't have much in your iTunes library and have a small and simple photos library you are probably OK.  Hoping 10.15.2 will solve the few issues we still have with larger iTunes libraries.  

While we aren't seeing too many problems with the release software per se there are things you must check before you upgrade.  Most significantly you must understand that Catalina will not run 32-bit software - all software must be upgraded to 64-bit.  Apple has warned developers for more than 15 months about this eventuality but a lot of software hasn't yet or never will be upgraded.  If you have been getting by with that 10 year old version of Microsoft Office you are out of luck.  

To see how much this will impact you, if you are running a recent version of MacOS do the following:

  1. From the   Menu select About This Mac
  2. Click on the System Report... button
  3. Find the Software section in the right column of the report
  4. Click on Legacy Software

You will now see all of the 32-bit applications and get an idea of what software you will lose when you upgrade.  If you find that these losses are acceptable you can prepare to upgrade. 

Now that a few updates have come out Catalina appears to be stable and the issues are minimized.  Too many users are still frustrated by the loss of some legacy application but other than that we feel upgrading is safe enough.  

 Beat the Heat

With extreme heat we see more hardware related issues.  Electrical gear tends to struggle at higher temperatures. Here are a few thoughts and tips:

  • Fixed Wireless Customers - obviously your radio has to be outside your location and it can overheat in direct sunlight.  Hopefully that isn't for very long during the day.  If your radio overheats it can help to simply unplug the power supply for a period of time but be sure to look at the radio and see if it is taking direct sunlight.
  • Fiber Customers - your fiber gateway hardware is rated to perform at temperatures up to 160 degrees and so it is unlikely to be the problem even if deployed in locations without climate controls.  However, the routers and switches connected to this gear are unlikely to be rated to such a high temperature. If your gear is in a room with less than ideal climate controls you may want to look for solutions that minimize the hardware in that room.  You can run an Ethernet cable for a much as 300 feet from the fiber gateway to your router or switch if you need to.  
  • If your router and other Internet hardware is in a cabinet or enclosed area try to find more open areas for your gear.  Consumer electronics often struggle at a lower temperature than you would think and this is especially a problem when the gear itself generates heat as many networking devices do.  

Macs and Anti-Virus

Mac users have largely been immune from virus issues since their inception in 1984.  Other than some Word macro viruses and a few specific malware strapped to legitimate installers Macs have really not had to deal with security issues -- until now.  

Apple continues to do a great job of updating Macs either in the background or through security updates to protect them from most malware but no it seems to be more prevalent and we must be more vigilant.  Disabling Flash and Java prevents mitigates much of this risk but malware authors are becoming increasingly interested in the Mac and ransomware is now a real threat. 

There are a number of anti-virus products for the Mac as many players got in early with free offerings until this inevitable day arrived.  At this point the two that we have had good luck with are Webroot and Bitdefender but others are available and some are even in the Mac App Store although we feel the more complete packages are not App Store compatible.

Anti-Virus/Malware Recommendations

Did you know that OWT repairs computers too?

We don't just provide great tech support - we can fix your ailing PC or Mac as well. From virus issues and blown up Windows to replacing drives and other components let OWT get the job done right and save you money in the process. OWT has very competitive service rates and a lot of experience with both PCs and Macs. We do quite a bit of hardware repair and just about any kind of software related repair including data recovery. We can save you or your business money!

VIRUS/SPYWARE REMOVAL * UPGRADES * DATA RECOVERY * SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS MACINTOSH AND PC

Nervous about that upgrade? Let OWT take the hassles away for you. Call 783-3454 to make an appointment - we have openings just about every day!

Wireless access in your home or office

Light BulbA great many of our customers have a wireless router in their home or office location that distributes their Internet connection to the various devices they own such as phones, tablets, computers and game consoles.  This is a great technology and immensely convenient but users should recognize this is also the most likely part of their connectivity to go wrong.  Below are some quick tips to keep in mind when running a wireless access point:

  • A great many devices use similar frequencies.  Bluetooth and Wi-Fi use similar frequencies and many devices in the home or office also use Wi-Fi and it is possible for these devices to interfere with one other.  If you are having problems, try to keep these devices a few feet apart if possible.  

  • Wi-Fi is very much a line-of-sight technology but it will penetrate most walls to some extent.  Accross an open room you should have a strong signal but devices that are far from the Wi-Fi router or have a lot of metal or plumbing between them may have issues.  If it is only distance then consider a Wi-Fi extender product.  We can help with that. If there are appliances between the devices then moving the router is your best bet.  Don't hide the router underneath a desk or behind a cabinet.  Try to have the router fairly high in the room and without any obstructions and certainly away from other electronics.  

  • If there is a microwave operating nearby that will generally always kill a local Wi-Fi transmission. 

  • Generally you should be able to have a computer, cell phone, tablet and even Bluetooth headset all in close proximity to one another without interference but if you are troubleshooting minimize these issues nonetheless.  

  • If the Wi-Fi router is on a separate floor and the access point is not obstructed in anyway and connectivity is still poor consider a Wi-Fi extender placed somewhere between the two devices.  

  • Motors, refrigerators and some other appliances can interfere with Wi-Fi connectivity sometimes.  Keep this in mind when deciding where to place your routers. 

  • Wired connections are always preferred to wireless when possible.  If you digital video device, game console, computer or other device can be connected to your router with an Ethernet cable that is always preferable to a wireless connection.  If you need affordable Ethernet cables at any length we can help with that. 

Ethernet and Wireless Routers and Extenders

Sending Email to Multiple Recipients

Dealing with bulk Emailing might be one of the most challenging things an ISP has to deal with.  So many users bite on phishing attacks or are improperly protected from malware that spammers get a hold of their accounts and use it to send out spam to thousands of unlucky recipients. Sadly, these issues doesn't just impact the poor user whose account was compromised.  This impacts all users that share that mail system as a lot of the larger organizations have become weary from all of the spam complaints and so when they see bulk emailing coming from a mail server they just blacklist it and no user can send even non-bulk Email to that organization.  This is to some extent the lazy approach to dealing with spam but one of the few automated methods that works well and so this practice is unlikely to stop. Here's what you need to know if you wish to send an Email to a large number of recipients:Mail

  • Send your Email in batches of less than 50 recipients.

  • Wait a few minutes between batches. 

  • Make sure all of the recipients know you and welcome Email from you.  Some providers (e.g. AOL, Charter, Microsoft) will react to a small number of spam complaints by blacklisting a mail server. 

If our outgoing mail servers detect a batch of Email exceeding 50 recipients or too many outgoing Emails are sent in a short period of time your batch may be quarantined until a technician can approve the batch.  We just look at the subject and recipient list to make a determination that the batch is not from a compromised account. 

Should You Update to Windows 10?

Many of our customers ask us if we think they should upgrade to the latest version of various operating systems. Since so many have been released recently we thought we would share our thoughts with you.Windows 10First of all we like Windows 10. Windows 10 solves most of the problems we had with Windows 8 and doesn't post huge transition issues for Windows 7 users. Whether you should upgrade yet depends on a few variables:

  • If you are intolerant of obvious cosmetic and some less obvious but still troubling bugs you should wait. While mostly reliable there are some problems that have not all been sorted out yet. Windows 10 is being updated frequently and improving every week.
  • While we have found good application support if you have a mission critical application we suggest you check with the vendor to ensure Windows 10 compatibility. Most applications are but a few older applications may have some significant issues.
  • Check with the vendor of your computer. We have seen a few (most notably Sony VAIO) computers that do not have critical drivers supporting Windows 10 available yet. Laptops may be the most prone to these issues. These will come in time.
  • If you use an older printer or really any older device other than an external hard drive you might want to check with the vendor to ensure drivers are available for Windows 10.
  • If you use Windows 8 now you should have little trouble adapting to the new OS but it is a bit of a hybrid between Windows 7 and 8 in the way it works. This will be more daunting to Windows 7 users than Windows 8 users.

Overall we are pretty happy with Windows 10 and generally recommend it to all those using Windows 8 and most Windows 7 users. Windows 10 is a free upgrade for all licensed Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems. We wish Microsoft would extend this program to Windows Vista.

Remember that after you update you may need to upgrade your anti-virus solution! This type of software will certainly require and update. We do not feel you should rely on the built-in anti-virus/mailware capabilities of Windows 10 and suggest either Norton Internet Security or Secure Anywhere - both commercial solutions that work well under Windows 10.

With all updates and upgrades OWT is here to help.  If you are uncomfortable with the upgrade or just want to use our fat Internet connection bring your system to OWT and we can do the update for you economically.