The heart of winter has arrived and as usual temperatures across the Northeast and Midwest have plummeted.  Just a few weeks ago, wind chills in the greater Pittsburgh went below zero degrees F.  It can be excruciating to stay outside for more than five minutes when temperatures dip that low, but many of us at the University of Pittsburgh have to brave the weather in order to make it to work due to a lack of parking spots in Oakland.  Of course, this is nothing new.  What is new, relatively speaking, is the technology that makes our morning commute in the harshness of winter more tolerable.  Unfortunately, technology loses functionality when temperatures drop below freezing.  This article’s intention is to inform you of what to expect from the various components of your devices and how to better manage them in the extreme cold.  After all, there isn’t anything that makes a commute to or from work much worse than having your devices fail while waiting for public transportation.

What to Expect

Batteries

Batteries are by far and away the most likely part of your device to fail in the cold.  This is problematic because almost every device we use is powered by lithium-ion batteries.  Lithium-ion batteries are the industry standard for personal electronics because they have high energy density and have the ability to handle both low and high currents.  These are good properties to have in a battery.  However, those same properties run into problems when temperatures dip below 32 degrees F.  The reason is because lithium-ion batteries have very little internal resistance.  Less resistance means these batteries generate less waste energy heat.  In general, this is a positive attribute to have in a battery.  However, the absence of waste energy heat means the battery is more vulnerable to cold temperatures.  In other words, the colder it becomes, the chemical reaction that occurs inside the battery gets slower.  This means the battery drains faster. Smartphones, in particular, are vulnerable to this problem because they are designed to sit mostly inactive for long periods of time throughout the day.  What this means is that their batteries do not draw enough current to heat themselves.

The performance of individual products will vary based on the manufacturer, battery model, and wear and tear on the device.  According to Apple, you should use iOS devices where the ambient temperature is between 32 and 95 degrees F.  The Amazon Kindle Oasis user guide states the same temperature range for its operating temperature.  The FitBit Charge 3 manual lists an operating temperature range of 14 to 113 degrees F.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9/S9+ user guide does not give an operating temperature range.

Screens

While batteries are the main component most likely to have issues in cold weather, LCD (liquid crystal display) screens also run into problems.  These screens are in most of the devices we use.  LCDs consist of a layer of millions of multicolored pixels.  Each one of these pixels is controlled by a separate transistor.  The pixels are switched on or off electronically using liquid crystals to rotate polarized light.  While this sounds complex, the main thing to take away from this is that the technology gets sluggish when it gets too cold.  Just like batteries, the colder it gets the slower the response is from the signal to pixel transition.  This will lead to the image on your screen becoming blurry.

Sensors

The last component that is affected by extreme cold are the sensors within the devices we use.  The sensors are designed to collect a wide variety of information from where we’re going to how many calories we burned in a day.  Basically, sensors track the orientation of the device you are using and how fast it’s moving through space.  This is crucial for navigation applications, telling time, and logging activity goals.  Like the previous two components, sensors’ performance decline when temperatures fall.  The main issue with degrades in a sensors’s performance is accuracy.  If you were to take off a digital watch and wave it around in the cold, you could very well lose seconds if not minutes of your day.  The reason for this is because the sensor, which is located on the backside of most digital watches, is calibrated to 98.6 degrees F.

How to Manage

Quite simply the easiest way to manage your device in the cold is to not use it.  That being said, there are times when you have to use a smartphone in the cold.  If that is the case try and store your device as close to your body as possible.  Simply putting it in a backpack or purse does not suffice.  Also, try and keep your time outside using the device to under 5 minutes.  Carrying a smartphone in temperatures colder than -35 degrees F will kill it completely in five minutes.  If your device does freeze, do not try and charge it will it is still cold.  Make sure it is at room temperature before recharging it.  Ignoring this advice can potentially do permanent damage to the battery.

It is no secret that mobile devices are being relied on more and more in both our personal and professional lives.  As a result of continued increased usage, the phone’s battery life becomes a key selling point.  Look no further than every time Apple has a live video conference announcing their latest phone release as evidence.  With that in mind, Apple’s most recent iOS updates have introduced new battery usage information.  This article’s intention is to help you better understand your iPhone’s iOS 12 battery health, battery usage, and how you might be able to increase your battery life.

Battery Health

The battery health feature is not new.  If your current iDevice is running iOS 11.3 or greater, you already have the battery health feature.  That being said, most people are unaware that such a feature exists.  In order to see the approximate health of your iPhone battery, go into Settings > Battery > tap Battery Health.  This screen provides two crucial pieces of information: maximum capacity and peak performance capability.  Maximum capacity is a measure of battery capacity relative to when it was new.  Obviously, a brand new battery equals 100 percent.  Phone batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they age.  This is true of all rechargeable batteries.  Peak performance capability tells you if your phone is capable of operating the short bursts of maximum power that demanding apps call for.

Battery Usage

What’s new in iOS 12 is a more detailed iPhone battery usage that explains more than simply its health.  This information is located in the same area as what was mentioned above, directly below battery health.  iOS defaults to show the last 24 hours of your phone’s battery usage in two separate graphs; battery level and activity.  Underneath the graphs, displays the total usage time for “Screen On” (actually using the phone will looking at it) and “Screen Off” (applications running while the screen is not on such as podcasts, music, etc.).  Beneath battery usage graphs displays a list of all installed apps that ran during the last 24 hours.  You can toggle this information between activity, which will display a percentage next to each app, and battery usage, which will show the amount of time spent on each app.  All of this information helps you determine the efficiency of your apps. Obviously, certain apps like games and video players will more than likely account for more battery usage than podcasts, phone calls, or music.  However, this information will allow you to make decisions about which apps to prioritize when battery life is an issue.

How to Potentially Increase your Battery Life

There are many ways to potentially increase your battery life.  Listed below are some tips and suggestions.

  1. Force quit apps when you are not using them.  Many apps will run in the background when not being used which consumes battery usage.  To do this, double-tap the home button and swipe the application you wish to close upwards.
  2. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when they are not in use.  Go to Settings > Wi-Fi/Bluetooth > Turn off (toggle bar will not be green)
  3. Turn off Automatic Downloads and Updates.  Having your apps automatically download and update is a nice feature, but it can consume battery usage at inopportune times.  It is definitely more work to manually download and update your apps, but helpful in saving your battery’s shelf life.  To turn off automatic downloads and updates, open Settings > iTunes & App Stores > turn off Music, Apps, Books & Audiobooks, and Updates under the Automatic Downloads section.
  4. Keep Display & Brightness under control.  There are a few ways to do this.
    • Keep brightness at a medium level.  Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > make sure the toggle bar is either directly in the middle of the two sun icons or closer to the left sun icon.
    • Set Auto-Lock as short as possible.  Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Auto-Lock > set to 30 seconds or 1 minute.
    • Turn off Raise to Wake.  This will keep your iPhone from turning on every time you lift the phone.  To turn off Raise to Wake, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Toggle Raise to Wake off.
    • Make sure Display Zoom View is set to Standard.  Check this by going to Settings > Display & Brightness > make sure Standard is listed next to View under Display Zoom.
  5. Allow Notifications from selected apps only.  Notifications are helpful and keep you up to date in your world but also drain your battery.  To monitor your notifications, go to Settings > Notifications and look under Notification Style.  A list of your apps will display.  Simply click on each app and turn off the switch next to Allow Notifications.
  6. Disable Background App Refresh.  Background app refresh plays a large role in keeps apps running smoothly but it is known to be one of the biggest battery usage consumers.  iOS 12 allows you to either completely turn this feature off or let only a few apps refresh in the background.  To do so, open Settings > General > Background App Refresh > either select off or Wi-Fi based.  You can also individually select which apps will and will not receive a background refresh.
  7. Disable Location Services.  Location services helps improves certain apps but it can be set to allow only while using the app.  To do this, open Settings > Privacy > Location Services > select the desired app and choose while using the app.
  8. Disable Auto-Fetching of New Data.  Go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Fetch New Data > turn off the switch next to push and select manually.
  9. Keep your apps updated.  Go to App Store > select the Updates tab > tap Update All.
  10. Keep your iOS updated on your iPhone.  To do this, open Settings > General > Software Update > Download & Install
  11. Enable Low Power Mode.  Low power mode is extremely helpful in maximizing the battery life of your iPhone but there are some downsides.  The main downside is if you need to receive email.  Enabling low power mode will stop your email from coming through.  However, it really does reduce battery consumption. To enable low power mode, open Settings > Battery > turn on Low Power Mode.

If you have any questions or wish to learn more about your iPhone’s battery health, please submit a ticket through the FIS portal.

Today continues a series of posts about Microsoft Office 365 applications that have recently become available to FIS customers.  The purpose here is to help you use these applications in a more efficient manner and make their first-time use much less imposing.  We are going to continue discussing Teams.  Part I ended with how to create a team.  Part II on Teams is going to focus on the channel spaces within the team you created.

There are three different channel spaces contained within the team you created.  The spaces are conversations, files, and notebook.  They are accessed by clicking on the team you created and selecting a channel (for example, General).  Once on the channel, the spaces are at the top of the screen.  The channel space we are going to start with is conversations because it is more than likely what you will use the most.

Conversations

Mainly, conversations allows you to live chat with other members of your teams.  If you want to address someone specifically with the teams conversations channel, type the @ symbol and a list of the various members of your team will appear.  Simply select their name and type in your message.  Everyone will be able to see the message but the person you specifically addressed it to will get a notification.  If you wanted to address your team members in a more formal way, you can use the formatting option.  The formatting option lets you add a subject to your message, change font options like color and size, and mark the message as important.  This would be useful for creating an announcement to your team.  You can also create announcements and mark them as important.  A few other less important but fun options conversations provides is the ability to add stickers, add  GIFs, and create memes.  Lastly, conversations contains a “Meet Now” icon.  Meet now works like a skype meeting.  You can record the meetings and save transcripts.

Files

The second channel space we are going to discuss is files.  Files is pretty self-explanatory.  It lets you create or upload documents.  If you are creating a document, it will open in the online version of the program you are using which doesn’t have all of the features of the locally installed versions.  However, the online versions are more than suitable to use when creating basic word documents, excel spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations.  Once the document is created or uploaded, it is stored in the files channel space.  At this point, you can open it in SharePoint and a site will be created.

Notebook

Notebook usage varies based on the team you created. Since part one of this series advised that the team you are most likely going to want to choose is PLCs, the notebook usage example will be PLCs.  The PLC Notebook is essentially a digital three-ring binder that works in conjunction with OneNote.  OneNote within Teams functions as if the program was installed locally on your computer.  You are able to create sections which look like tabs in a binder and pages within those sections.  This feature could be very helpful when dealing with large projects that involve multiple meetings.  Each meeting could have its own section and the various things discussed can have their own pages.

Thus concludes the second part on Microsoft Teams.  Please check in next week to find out more about this exciting and useful application.  For more information, please submit a ticket through the FIS portal.

Today is the start of a series of posts about Microsoft Office 365 applications that have recently become available to FIS customers.  This series intention is to help you use these applications in a more efficient manner and make their first-time use much less imposing.  We are going to begin this series with Microsoft Teams.  Part I on Teams is going to focus on what it is, how to access it, and how to create a team.

What is Teams

Microsoft’s training demonstrations describe Teams as “A hub for teamwork that provides people with a single place to communicate and collaborate with others.”  It was created and designed with the express purpose of having everything customers need to perform their job function from a single application.  Listed below are many of the features of Teams:

  • Seamlessly integrates with Outlook
  • Access OneDrive without opening a new window
  • Access all of your OneNote folders
  • Collaborate in real time with Office Suite files (Excel, Word, PowerPoint)
  • Communicate in real time with colleagues
  • Streamline workflow by using a staff notebook
  • Links to other cloud storage

We will be getting into more detail of Teams features, but that list gives you a pretty basic idea of all its capable of doing.   As a result of all those functions, it can be overwhelming when viewing and using it for the first time.  Let’s start with possibly the most important and easiest part.  How to access it.

How to Access Teams

It can be accessed by going to portal.office.com, logging in with your Pitt credentials, and clicking on the Teams icon.  This will open up Teams in a browser tab.  A desktop version is also available.  It can be installed on the machine once the browser-based version of Teams is open by clicking on the “Get app” icon located in the bottom left-hand corner.  Once it is installed, the next step towards effectively using it is creating a team.

How to Create a Team

To create a team, select the “Teams” icon located on the left-hand side and click “Join or create a team” at the bottom.   Click “Create a team” and choose between Classes, PLCs, Staff Members, and Anyone.  The teams you are more than likely going to want to choose are either PLCs or Staff Members.  PLCs should be chosen when colleagues need to work with other colleagues.  Staff Members should be created by an admin or supervisor for employees that work for them.  Enter the name of your team, an optional description, and choose whether the team is public or private.  Private means only team owners can add members whereas public means anyone in your organization can join.  The last step is to add people to your team and make them either members or owners.  At this point, the team you created will appear within the Teams section with a channel titled “General” appearing underneath the name of the team you created.  Channels are a way to organize the team you just created.  For example, if you are working on a project that involves multiple tasks, you can create various channels associated with the specific tasks of the project.  To add a channel to a team, click the ellipses icon directly to the right of the team you created and select “Add Channel.”  Enter the channel name and an optional description.

Thus concludes the first part on Microsoft Teams.  Please check in next week to find out more about this exciting and useful application.  For more information, please submit a ticket through the FIS portal.

These are the events that have helped to shape technology as we know it and they all have occurred in July.

July 1: The first Sony Walkman went on sale in Japan. This revolutionized the listening habits across the world.

July 3: The creation of the first computer network. UCLA created a network of the computers that linked together no matter the operating system or make of the computer. This was the first step in creating what became known as the internet.

July 9: Donkey Kong was released in 1981. This was the start of Donkey Kong and Mario, two of the most recognizable video game characters of all time.

July 10: The first International Communications Satellite was launched into space. This was a collaboration between US, Britain, and France to bring in a new world of communication.

July 14: Mariner 4 became the first spacecraft to perform a successful fly-by of Mars in 1965.

July 16: Apollo 11 is launched and becomes the first space mission to land men on the Moon.

July 17: The first photograph of a star was taken at Harvard Observatory in 1850.

July 18: Intel was founded on this day in 1968 in Santa Clara, California.

July 20: Viking 1 landed on Mars in 1976.

July 28: Dell Workstation 400 was introduced for mostly engineering purposes. The average cost was between $3000 and $8000.

 

Do you do your holiday shopping online? There are a few easy ways to protect yourself online whether you are purchasing items for yourself or for the University with your P-Card. Follow the tips below for a safe experience:
1. Shop with reputable merchants. Only purchase from online vendors that you are familiar with, or do some research first. If you are not familiar with an online store, use caution. Just because the website looks professional, it doesn’t mean the vendor is trustworthy or has proper security controls in place. Check an independent source that allows customers to rate their shopping experience with a vendor such as Reseller Ratings. You can also refer to the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints listed. You should also be aware that in some cases, you may be purchasing from an individual rather than business, and your legal recourse may be different in the event of a dispute.

2. Check the merchant’s customer information and return policies. Before ordering, be sure to read the terms of sale, return policies and fees, shipping methods and prices, and guarantees. Make note of vendor’s policies for storing and distributing your personal contact information. If you do not want to be included on mailing lists or have your contact information made available to third parties (spam lists), look for an option on the web site to indicate your preference. Do not provide vendors with sensitive personal information, such as your social security number or bank account numbers. Basic shipping and credit card information is all that should be required to make a purchase.

3. Be sure the transaction is secure. When you are in the checkout process, the web site should be using encryption called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL ensures secure transmission of your credit card information across the internet. You can tell if the web site is using SSL by looking for “https://” (rather than “http://”) at the beginning of the web site’s address in the browser. Another sign is the presence of a padlock symbol in the address bar of the browser. In Internet Explorer, the padlock symbol will appear on secure pages in the address bar, located to the right side of the web address. You can click on the lock symbol to verify the security of the site.

4. Never send credit card numbers via e-mail. Although it is generally safe to enter your credit card number on a secure web site, it is not safe to send it through e-mail. E-mail is sent through the internet in clear text (non-encrypted) format, so it’s possible for someone other than the vendor to see it. Sending a credit card number through e-mail is the equivalent of writing it on a postcard rather than mailing it in an envelope.

5. Keep a record of your transaction. Before you leave the transaction page of the web site, print a copy of the screen and keep it for your records. Check your credit card statements to verify you were charged the proper amount. Also, keep any e-mail confirmations about your order for later reference.

6. Use Identity Finder to protect your data. All FIS-supported computers have a program called Identity Finder installed. It will search your files, e-mails, databases, websites, and web browser data for Social Security numbers, Credit Card numbers, Bank Accounts, Passwords, etc. so you can then take steps to remove the sensitive data from your files. This program is also available for home use by contacting FIS.

7. Keep a record of your transaction. Before you leave the transaction page of the web site, print a copy of the screen and keep it for your records. Check your credit card statements to verify you were charged the proper amount. Also, keep any e-mail confirmations about your order for later reference.

8. Take action if there is a problem. If you do have a problem with an online vendor, first attempt to work it out with them directly. Don’t just rely on e-mail; call them as well. If you cannot resolve the problem to your satisfaction, you should contact your bank and ask them to stop the payment. If that’s not possible, you can use an online service such as SquareTrade to resolve your dispute. You can also file a complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office, who will investigate the case. You should also post your experience on a site like Reseller Ratings so other customers can be warned. While you may also wish to contact the Better Business Bureau, note that they have no authority over the vendor. They will simply accept your complaint and allow the vendor to respond.

 

Secure your home computer to help protect yourself, your family, and our organization!

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Get ahead this fall and follow this Digital Spring Cleaning Checklist!!

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Take this quiz, Workplace Security Risk Calculator,  to find out if you activities while at work are risky and what you can be doing on the front lines to protect our organization!

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