Overcoming software installation failures

If you're not interesting in granular technical blog posts, skip this one.  If you're somewhat curious about how to overcome any technical failure, then read on.  In this brief post I'm going to share one small example of a troubleshooting methodology that results in resolving issues quickly and efficiently, which translates into more time back to the individual who needs their computer working, and an improved bottom line for any business who needs everyone up and running to get business done.

Recently I came across an extremely bad software installation error while installing Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2017 on a brand new Windows 10 workstation.  The installation starts, then appears to go through the motions of completing several application installs.  When the installer reaches the end of the installation it presents an error "Installation Complete - some products failed to install."  Revit and several other apps fail to install.  This is Not a Good Thing.

The answer to this problem isn't something you can find on Google.  Not directly at least. This is point #1 about solving any kind of tech problem: Search strings can help you explore what other people are writing about what you're search for, but one can rarely rely on Google for answers.  

In this particular bug's case, I did scan through Google search results, and with four different search strings.  You know it's a bad problem when all the "I solved this" answers don't work, and you're six pages deep in search results.

But what search can do is give you clues.  And if you (as a tech) decided to explore how operating systems work, how applications work, and how the various components of software interact with each other, then you can formulate a series of solution steps that are a repeatable model for success.

I promised this would be a short post.  So here's the answer that worked in three separate cases and two different form factors running Windows 10 Professional 64-bit operating system.  Make sure you're installing from a user with local Administrative rights to the computer:

  1. Disable Windows firewall - completely.  Then restart.
  2. Uninstall all antivirus. In this case, I use Sophos Endpoint and Intercept X, which is the most advanced antithreat suite you can run on a PC.  Uninstalling requires discipline, patience and perseverance.  Once uninstalled, restart.
  3. With no antithreat management software present to interfere in pruning the Windows operating system, uninstall all C++ related software in the Add/Delete Programs.  There will be a lot of them.  A Windows 10 default installation includes multiple years' worth of C++ compatibility.  And some of all of it interferes with the C++ libraries that Autodesk relies on, and that install with the Autodesk software.  Once again, after this step, restart.
  4. You can install the software over a network in most cases, but if this doesn't work, copy or download from your Autodesk subscription site the installer locally to your hard drive, then install from there.

The key principle here is to reduce the problem to simple components, guided by search and discussions that can give you clues to where a problem may be.  The big problem with search is that nearly all technicians incorrectly attribute success to a specific step, without the platform and other relevant specifications and environmental factors as a context.  To follow in that person's steps is a surefire way to waste dozens of hours of time and other resources.

There are several other possible steps, depending on your platform (version of Windows, etc.). But with Windows 10 Pro, this solution works, and it works repeatedly across multiple machines. In this case the hardware installed on was all Apple: A 2015 MacBook Pro and dual late-2013 Mac Pros, all running Windows natively via Apple's Bootcamp support for Windows.

David Pogue wrote in Scientific American, November 2014: "Buggy software isn't just an occasional fluke; it's now the rule. Tech companies routinely treat their paying customers as unpaid beta testers."  This still seems to hold true in many cases, even in industries where professionals pay thousands of dollars for a single app, like Autodesk Revit.   As an employer or professional architect, you have three choices:

  1. Pay an outlandish amount of money to a software reseller for a "service level" where the software maker will answer the phone.
  2. Watch a technician or someone assigned to the task thrash in a swamp of variables until something somehow works, even though the steps were unclear (and therefore not repeatable).
  3. Invest in a tech who understands the OSI Model intimately, and can apply what's called "split-half troubleshooting" to any problem, reducing it to its core parts to isolate the issue, so the problem can be resolved as effectivity and efficiently as possible.  This doesn't come with experience.  Experience only builds on formal education, study and practice of methodologies that are part of the professionl

#3 is the best way to go.  It works.

TechRoom Podcast #001 - How a Samurai would wield an iPhone, and Overcoming Tech Distractions

I am super excited to unveil the TechRoom Podcast, where each week I uncover and share tech secrets, tools, tips and other great resources you can use to take your own technology from practical to masterful, no matter who you are, and no matter what your technical skill level is.  Listen on iTunes or Stitcher or Soundcloud.

This week I'm kicking it off with a brief discussion on distractions. Specifically, the distractions created by our technology. This week's episode was inspired by Professor Musgrave from the University of Amherst, Massachusetts who wrote on Twitter:

That inspired me to write a blog post on how much silencing your Mac pays off.  It turns out it's a lot. Like $20,000-$60,000 per year, or more, if you measure it in dollars.  And way more important than dollars is all the focused time you get back to work on things that matter.  Like getting this podcast launched. Writing your book, time to read books, or anything else you want to invest focused time into.

Do you have a question or comment about a technology you want covered on an upcoming TechRoom Podcast?  Ask me anything. Send me a message on Twitter @jamescoleman.

Silencing your Mac pays off

The "magic" of compounding interest over time.  Same applies to compounding time over time- see below.

The "magic" of compounding interest over time.  Same applies to compounding time over time- see below.

Remember the financial advice to start saving asap because of the magic of compounding interest? It's a simple phenomenon, a math pattern that produces a really great result when you take 1) money 2) earn interest on the money, adding it to the balance, then repeating 1 & 2 over time. Basically, someone who saves $5000 per year starting earlier in life will end up a LOT richer than someone who saves a lot more starting later in life.  Time is on their side.  See the graph as an example.

I think it the same "magic" of compounding interest applies in another area of our life as well: Structure. Freedom from distractions. Simply put, I think there's way more time on the table every single day than there is money to save. And remember the saying "time is money"? So let's look at how much time the average Mac user can save every day:

The Radicati Group, Inc. in Palo Alto estimates that the average person sends and receives about 120 messages per day.  If we assume half of that is inbound (it's probably more), that means that a "ding" alert sound is distracting you about 60 times per day.  That distraction is, at minimum, going to sidetrack you, and probably get you looking at email when you were focused doing something else.  Let's say you're distracted for about 2 minutes, then you try to figure out what you were doing to get back to it.  That's 120 distracted minutes, or 2 hours. A quick reality check tells us I'm lowballing it. Reuters reports that a study commissioned by Adobe Systems found that the average number of hours each person spends on email is 6.3 per day.  So 2 hours of that wasted seems like a reasonable estimate.  Sweet Christmas.

Before I started sanitizing my Mac's notification system (and my iPhone and iPad as well, btw), I used to have 10 pop-ups per day on the right hand side of my screen alerting me to upcoming meetings, appointments, etc. There is no "close all" button, so you spend 10-20 seconds clicking them all to close them out.  Add up the time doing that with all the notifications each day and you find that you're spending 5 minutes clicking on things you already know about.  EVERY DAY. Good grief.  That's over a half-hour of mindless clicking per week.

Add up the above two and we're at 10.5 hours per week. And we're not even adding into the formula how much extra time is required to get back to focus and effectiveness in the other tasks that you were distracted away from

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you didn't get much done?  It's no wonder.

Mac distractions and where to stop them

Your Mac, out of the box, is designed to distract you. Apple can't deny that. And things went from subtle to almost obnoxious as soon as the Apple watch entered the Mac ecosystem.  There are three major kind of distractions.  Want to find zen-like calm in your life?  Go to these things listed here, turn off everything or almost everything, set up your own routine for when you want to check for things or process things like email.  Then you can leave your Mac's volume up and play all the music you want.


Located under the Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Notifications.  Almost every app, by default, is set to pop up, play a sound, and the pop up doesn't go away until it's dismissed.  I turn off almost all of these, with a few minor exceptions I'll get into below (under Exceptions).

You would think that's enough, but wait, there's more.  Individual apps have controls and preferences for both how and when to hand off notifications as well as in-app handling of reminders and invitations. For example, both Apple's Calendar app as well as my calendar app of choice, Fantastical 2, have separate preferences for turning off notifications.


Sounds are notifications evil sibling. And by default they're almost all on.  Again, located under the Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Notifications.  The good news is that when you go through the list of notifications on your Mac, you can disable sounds while you're in there as well.

And again, individual apps have alert sounds as well.  The most notably irritating is Apple's Mail app.


Badges are those little red circles on the apps in your Mac's dock that alert us to the fact that there's something unread, and how many/much is unread.  Again, you can turn these off under the Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Notifications.

Third-party, non-Mac OS X distractions

I treat Chrome and Tweetbot the same way I treat all my built-in Mac apps.  I so totally dig it when someone follows me on twitter, or replies to me, or retweets me.  I really do. I just don't need the little machine that going PING to tell me it's happened. So I go into Tweetbot and turn off everything.  

Same for Chrome, which is a little more hidden, and not at all easy to find. I did some housekeeping recently after many months ago when I accepted Washington Post's and Huffington Post's request to notify me of important news.  Then the election happened and it just got depressing. I turned off the news alerts because I'd rather focus my despair in more concentrated, purposeful bouts each day instead of frequent and random despair ridiculous time-sucks.

Additional and advanced anti-distraction countermeasures

I use the Do Not Disturb (DND) feature strategically.  I set my Mac to go into full on Do Not Disturb for everything, including things I like to use my Mac for, like Facetime calls.  When Apple made it possible to use my mac for iMessage and text messages as well as Facetime, it made it possible for me to answer the phone from my Mac during the hours I wanted.  Way cool.  But there are hours, like right now as I'm writing this, where I don't want to take any calls.  

I still monitor for calls, but my personal operating procedure is simply to acknowledge my phone rang, and check on it in a reasonable period of time based on the expectations of my customer who I want to provide excellent response to.  Turning DND on my Mac means I can focus for the extra few minutes or however long I want to get something produced, and without breaking my creative flow.  A pop-up on my display with a name associated with it will still get the same response, but the difference is, I'm now mentally hijacked and can't finish my writing/creating/work/task, etc.

The magic of compound interest on time

Ok, so I promised you some magic at the beginning of this post.  How's this: Once you get a routine established to manage all the chaos on your terms, not someone else's, then with 10.5 hours back per week, that's 546 hours per year.  Now, let's assume that you can get what you want to do done, more focused in 1 hour less per day, since you're less or undistracted.  Let's just take 5 days per week, time 52 weeks in a year.  That's another 260 hours per year.  

You're up to 806 hours per year.  That's twenty 40-hour work-weeks with time to spare.

Now rank up all the projects, ideas and anything else you want to get done that requires time.  Do any of them create a return on investment for you?  Maybe another college degree?  Writing a book? Creating an online course?  Or, if you're a billable hours person, turning just half that time into labor, let's just say at $150 an hour, is an extra $60,450 per year. Wow.

I think everyone should turn off the annoying ping sound in the Mac Mail app right now

Love what you read and want someone to get on-screen and on the phone to do it with you together?  Just create a service request at TechRoom here, and I'll be happy to help you from anywhere in the world. We can even streamline your iPhone and iPad notifications at the same time.

About the author:

James Coleman is a technologist who helps people take their technology from practical, to masterful. James is CEO and founder of TechRoom, Inc. and created Tech Concierge, a service program designed to take care of all the maintenance and management of technology for busy professionals so they can focus their time on things that matter most.


Protect your Mac from viruses, phishing and other nastiness

Being a Mac user has its privileges: Macs have dramatically less problems than Windows-based PCs. And that's not my opinion, it's a fact. After 25+ years in the business of solving tech problems, and with over 100,000 tech problems, you start to see some patterns, like Macs crashing less and requiring less operating system reinstalls.

But Mac users tend to have bigger problems with other things, like viruses. Which is ironic, because the number of viruses and similar threats to a Mac are in the double-digits, just a handful. Compare that to over 17 million separate identifiable virus signatures in Symantec's recent virus software.

Last year I worked with a record number of Mac users with viruses and malware. Most of the cases were just minor nuisances, but in some situations the Mac because almost unusable until we removed the threats. But cleaning up known viruses is only half the problem.

The other problem - the much bigger problem - is what we don't know about yet. New threats yet to come. And this is where Mac users are at a pretty serious disadvantage. Most Mac users still believe viruses only affect Windows-based PCs, and that they're not in danger. Apple even marketed Macs in the past as being virus-free.  So now you've got misinformation, to which you add a strange human trait that affects everyone: Optimism bias

Do you think you're a better driver than most people? About 90% of all drivers think they're better than most other drivers.  That's optimism bias, a weird function of our brains that make us believe that because a risk is rare, it can't happen to us.

The best way to fight optimism bias is to be realistic. If you're reading this right now, and you don't have antivirus, then just plan on losing all your data. Don't convince yourself that the changes are low. Instead, pretend that it's going to happen tomorrow at 6:00AM, before you get out of bed.

What should you do right now to prepare?

First, get excellent antivirus and antithreat software.  You can use anything you want, but I use Sophos products. I use Sophos to protect every device in my family as well as the systems I use at TechRoom - both Mac and PC.  In fact, I'm so confident in Sophos' products that I use them on my data transfer and data recovery systems so that customers' virus-infected machines don't affect me or any other customer's computer on our network when it's in for service.

Sophos has several antivirus products on the market, most of which have been engineered for massively large organizations. What I like about Sophos is that they're an incredible think tank that does nothing but security, their cloud-based antivirus products are more innovative than most of the other competitors, and after several hundred installations I have never experienced a noticeably significant performance hit on a Mac.

I use a premium product called Sophos Endpoint (disclosure: I'm certified on Sophos technology and recommend their product because I use it, and I also happen to sell it as a key service I offer). This isn't just your normal install-and-go software.  It also has web browsing protections that can be configured as part of what's called a software policy.  For example, adult websites can be blocked, and even blocked on specific devices, like your kids iPhone or Mac.  Same for gambling, alcohol and tobacco, etc.  Endpoint also has protections against most phishing scams that are designed to trick you into giving the bad guys your credit card, bank account info, Amazon password, etc.  If you want to understand phishing better, I created a little video and blog post about it here.

Sophos also has a free product, which provides some basic protections.  You can find the free Sophos Home product here.


Should I buy the new MacBook Pro 2016?

What does the new MacBook Pro have in common with these shoes? Hint: More features.

That's the number one question I'm hearing since Apple announced the new MacBook Pro 2016 models last week.

The Internet's been alive with countless blog posts and podcasts diving into everything from the specifications to speculation about what if anything is Apple's strategy now, if any. And the reviews are mixed.

Some people think the new MacBook Pro 2016 is a stepping stone machine, like the first MacBook Air: Thinner and lighter, but at a price premium inconsistent with the power and specifications. Certainly $1200 for 2TB of storage confirms that.

At $1200, that's a pricey hard drive upgrade.

Other people are really disappointed.  I haven't seen this level of negative sentiment directed at Apple in a long time. Apple evolves their products in two ways: Major form factor changes, where the actual shape and physical design changes. The other way is small, iterative improvements under the hood. Things you don't always see, but often feel.  The MacBook Pro 2015 was a four-year-old form factor and due for a change.

For months the rumor mills were churning with talk of features and specifications. Liquid-metal hinges and OLED touch bar were obsessively talked about by nerds and geeks. And Apple gave them what they wanted:  The new MacBook Pro 2016 has a new hinge design, and the upper-end models have an OLED touch bar that, basically, is a glass strip that replaces the fixed function keys with a dynamic visual set of keys, depending on which application you're in.  That all sounds neat, in a very geeky way.

The other thing Apple did with the MacBook Pro 2016 was very, very Apple: They made the new MacBook Pros thinner and lighter, and replaced every port on the computer, except the headphone jack, with four USB-C ports. HDMI: Gone. SD card slot for camera memory? Gone. Standard USB ports, Thunderbolt 1/2 ports, and even the Magsafe charging port: All gone. 

And some folks are understandably confused. Apple just eliminated the headphone port on the iPhone 7, but it's the only port they're leaving on the new MacBook Pro? Some of the actual, real-life cabling situations captured in images circulating the Internet summarize the sentiment better than I could possibly write about it.

And then they revealed the pricing. At an average of $500 more at each level, the price is substantially higher than prior MacBook Pro models.  Vlad Savov at the Verge wrote a good article that explains why price increases were absolutely predictable as the personal computer market retracts. The bottom line: Apple's most profitable customers are willing to pay a much higher premium for a premium product, and Apple knows it and is pricing accordingly.

So all of this now brings me back to the original question:

Should I buy the new MacBook Pro 2016?

My answer to this question follows the same process I've used for nearly two decades.

First, do you need a new computer?

For example, I'm currently writing this on a MacBook Pro 2015. I have 16GB of RAM and the maximum storage available at the time, 1TB. All of this is more than I need. Think of it this way: My computer is probably about 50X better than the one that JJ Abrams used to actually create the first pilot episode of Lost. I'm probably using less than 1% of my computer's capabilities, and I use it for a lot: I consult with it daily, I manage the IT/tech of dozens of companies directly using it, I screen share constantly with it, I update my web site with it, I communicate in two languages with it, I tweet with it. This list goes on.

Do I need the new MacBook Pro 2016?  Is there anything it does that will make me more productive?

For me, the answers are: No and No.

Next, do I simply want the new MacBook Pro 2016?

This is the most interesting question this time, because my answer this time is different than every other MacBook made since my first Apple notebook, which was a PowerBook 100. I tend to upgrade with not just every form factor, but almost every update of every form factor.

But this time, things are different.

Let's start with form factor.

I'm not going to notice a few ounces of weight difference, or a few millimeters less thickness.

Now, regarding speed.

I'm not unhappy with my current MacBook Pro. An extra millisecond here and there will add up to a few minutes saved each day, but not hours per week.  However, if I were a production employee or self-employed artist who had to edit photographs or large video files all day long, the speed difference along makes it worth the purchase.  

Spend $4300 today, do it right now. Because at $150 per hour of billable time, you're going to make an extra $39,000 this year because of it. Very basic, simple math justifies the purchase.  Or take the extra time savings along and better yet, take a month off of work.  Does a $4300 investment pay off with an extra month to do something else?  You better believe it does.

This is the first time in years that I don't actually have any particular desire to buy the new MacBook Pro. I'm OK waiting for the 3rd or 4th generation of this forthcoming model.

What about Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) speed?

When I bought my 2015 MacBook Pro, one of the features I wanted was fast 20Gb/s Thunderbolt 2. I see it in action all the time, and I actually use it with a fantastics 12TB Lacie RAID with 2 x 6TB hard disks that are striped together, meaning, the data reads and writes across both disks simultaneously.  This allows my Mac to enjoy data transfer speed of 12Gb/s, which is twice the maximum speed of a regular hard disk.  When I'm opening up a 1.5TB Photos library, that speed makes a BIG difference.

Now do the math on what I just wrote: I justified a new computer partially based about about a 20% speed increase (in my case) above Thunderbolt 1.  I've never fully utilized Thunderbolt 2. And now they're doubling the speed again with Thunderbolt 3.  Even as I write this, no major hard disk maker has produced a simple, portable Thunderbolt 2 hard drive for Mac users.

This is the first major release of a new notebook by Apple that I haven't ordered.  I thought about very briefly, and even with the significant discount I receive through one Apple channel, it's still not enough to justify the purchase.

Way, way too many dongles in the Apple ecosystem now.

I'm incredibly happy with my MacBook Pro 2015, which I ordered about 1 month before the last set of rumors about a new notebook. Four generations into this form factor, my system is stable, rock solid reliable, and does everything I need it to do, and more. Add to that my ability to use HDMI in anyone's conference room worldwide, or to hook up to a TV in a hotel room, and my ability to plug in my iPhone with the regular lightning cable, and I'm happy I won't have to carry around (or forget) more dongles than I already have to remember.

What if you need a new MacBook Pro right now?

By all means, if you actually need a new computer because your old one is on borrowed time, then buy one.

If my MacBook Pro were 3-4 years old, then reliability starts to become more important than whether or not speed and features still satisfy. If you're in that situation, I highly recommend purchasing a new Mac.

Which leads to an interesting option I knew about, but did not consider in the past: As long as Apple still has special deals on 2015 MacBook Pros, I highly recommend considering them in addition to the MacBook Pro 2016, for all the above reasons. And if you're in the market and want to get your hands on 2015 hardware, Apple has a special site just for that.

Some concluding thoughts

Last week I wrote about the kind of announcement I hoped Apple would make. I still think the current Apple leadership has the potential to do some amazing things consistent with Steve Jobs original vision. They certainly have the cash on hand, they're making hundreds of millions of dollars in acquisitions, and they have the company that Steve Jobs built.

But Apple did not do or reveal anything strategic regarding their products.  Once again, it was a focus on features and specs. And in my opinion, as someone who has bought almost every notebook Apple has ever made, the feature set is not compelling enough to upgrade if you have a computer that does what you need it to do. I'm concerned because there are several things Apple could have done that are risky, but they didn't. I'm primarily concerned about whether or not the fear that I wrote about last week - the fear that commonly affects larger, successful businesses - has finally started set in.  I hope not.

For now, hopefully this post helps you if you're trying to decide whether or not to order the new MacBook Pro 2016.  The good news is that you have more great alternatives than usual if you're looking for them.

As for me, until Apple releases something insanely great, I'm very, very happy with my 2015 MacBook Pro and will be taking very good care of it.

James Coleman is the technologist with an MBA, and founder+director of TechRoom. He helps business owners and individuals take their technology from practical to masterful with TechRoom Concierge.

Have a question for the blog or podcast? Send James an email here.

Will Apple step up?

We keep talking about mobile replacing desktop.  

But what if Apple changes the game? What if the iPhone is really just an extension of the Mac?

I've been thinking a lot about Apple's upcoming event.  

Mostly because the last event marketing was so obvious: the blurred bokeh image elements and the tag line: "see you" at the event. To anyone who knows anything about photography, it was completely obvious that they were going to do something with photos. Combine that with the iPhone product cycle and most of the announcements were completely obvious.

This time around, most if not all of the speculation and rumors around the Apple announcements are related to projected/forecasted new hardware specifications, and maybe, at best, improved form factors (shapes) of current products.

I think we're possibly in for something much, much bigger. 

I think Apple may announce something completely new. At least, dramatically new.

At least I hope so.

Apple doesn't do anything by accident.  The logo this time clearly represents a major theme or concept. What that concept is is up to a lot of interpretation.  

Apple has been doing exactly what a company should do when it intentionally creates a product as radical, as impactful, and as in-demand within a tech-hungry culture as the iPhone: Focus on selling as much of that product as possible.  Two reasons: The first reason is, you always want to sell as much of your product as you can (duh).  The second reason: When you're first to market, it can be to your advantage in a number of ways.  Think of how locked in Apple customers are to the iTunes and App stores.  When you buy a new iPhone, you're transferring hundreds of dollars in software investments that only work with the App Store, and hundreds (thousands?) of dollars of music and other media bought in the iTunes store.  Are you going to ditch all that to buy a cheaper phone, saving a hundred or two hundred dollars?  Hardly.  Now that's strategy.

As soon as the last event was over, the blogosphere erupted - as it typically has with the past several events - with sighs, whines and gripes that Apple had continued to neglect its desktop customers. Was Apple abandoning the Mac in lieu of iOS? Are desktops dead? Questions like these get thrown around, while some of the nerds on twitter self-promote their newly configured iOS-only productivity, entirely devoid of any Macs, notebook or desktop. From a consumer standpoint, it appears that Apple's investing everything into mobile.

At least, that's what we can see.

Today's Apple doesn't have limited resources, not like the Apple of 10 years ago, and certainly not like most companies.  The amount of cash on hand (and cash flow) is mind-boggling.  Anyone involved in any growth-oriented, mature, well-managed company knows that nothing accidentally falls behind.  The MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini are not managed like the Newton team that Steve Jobs canned for missing deadlines repeatedly and producing little to nothing of value on time. No part of Apple has operated like that since the Newton team was disbanded. These teams, as well as the teams of people who have been acquired (see Apple's list of acquisitions) must be incredibly busy doing something.

The current blogosphere and twittersphere of rumors out there are boring. One of the bloggers I respect the most posted a grid of all of Apple's products, color coded for what he thinks will get updated. That's a mature company's tactical game plan (see below for more), and those kind of companies are usually about as great as they're going to get.  I don't think that's Apple.

At least I hope not.

It's my belief that there are only two possibilities about the forthcoming announcements:

The first possibility is that we'll be blown away by something really big.

I mean, really big. Even bigger than an entirely new form factor. Imagine something completely new that replaces both the Mac Mini and a Mac Pro. And what if Apple were to announce a new kind of desktop that even becomes the new Siri agent in your home (think making Alexa look like a trinket). Creepiness aside, how much could Siri really know if it can go through your bills, your photos, your email and messages. Sure, Alexa is a neat device that works really well.

Hello again.

The AI in Her did far more than just order products. It read him email while he was driving, reviewed a day's agenda on the calendar, made reservations or confirmed dates, and even more personal things.  I personally don't believe Apple's going to let Siri fail, or that Siri is the strategy.  I think Siri is only part of the strategy. What if Apple announces the first new member of your family since your last child was born?

Think about it: Apple has the technology to do this right now.  The medium of data sharing is in place (iCloud, rendezvous), the processors are fast enough, and they have been acquiring machine learning and AI companies continuously since acquiring Siri. Home kit seems to be the scaffolding they need to tie in all the disparate IoT devices into your home's new immobile (for now) robot.

The only great announcement this Thursday is one that gets an Oh myyy from @georgetakei.

Apple's announcement has to be that good. (I'll be checking George's twitter feed throughout the event)

The other, much more boring possibility

is that they release one or more computers that iterate on the past by adding neat features, improves specifications, or maybe if we're lucky some kind of major form factor or software functionality, like entirely touch oriented notebooks, iOS apps now run on macOS. 

An OLED touch bar? Longer battery life? Faster processors? Touch ID? Flatter keyboard a la MacBook? USB-C?

omg Boring.  

These feature iterations still need to happen.  Apple has two types of customers looking for new, cutting-edge features.  The first group are those who will buy the latest model of anything Apple produces, and typically the maximum configuration.  This group includes high-end affluent consumers, and to a lesser degree, techies.  The second group are those with aging Macs. There are consumers who value the longevity of a Mac.  I'm one of them: Compared to a PC, a Mac is a viable computer, much longer than a typical PC.  But there are those who look at amortizing expense, not value, and when a computer dies they're going to look for another computer, and the only thing that will woo these over to Apple will be features radically standout enough to override the "it's more expensive" argument.

Why I hope Apple surprises us

I really hope Apple surprises us. A new notebook is nice, but I don't need it.  I need them to fix the software that runs my 2015 MacBook Pro.

What's more, I see where Apple appears to be in the business lifecycle (maturing). Apple has changed and they're continuing to change, and not always in a good way. Take for example something I'm dealing with this week that would never have occurred in the old Apple: I'm waiting for a team of Apple employees to figure out how to re-ship a MacBook Pro sitting in one of their warehouses that I paid for almost a month ago.  Yes, it's my property, and sitting in a warehouse. The key issue?  Apparently two: One team at Apple can't talk to the other team other than via email, and they apparently don't. The other issue?  It's not in their process.  Yes, they've become too big for someone to go walk up to the notebook, stick a shipping label on it, and get it (the customer's property) to the customer.  Instead, corporate friction at its finest.  The Apple I remember was awesome at looking deep, enabling and empowering accountable individuals to make decisions to keep moving forward.  

Is Apple approaching - or at - middle age again?

Why is this personal anecdote relevant to my concern about Apple in its business lifecycle? Simple: Because it's a fact that when businesses become extremely successful, a kind of fear of failure can set in. Taking risks is consistent with increasing the probability of failure. The person who can and should but hasn't shipped my notebook is afraid of something.  Otherwise it wouldn't take 3-4 weeks and dozens of emails.

What if this kind of fear of failure has set in somewhere higher up?  What about higher up?  Even higher?  Afraid of the media?  Of Congress? Of all the eyes on you now that you're the biggest 800 lb tech gorilla?

I personally don't think the fear exists with Tim. I think he has something special at his core that prevents him from operating with secretive fear in control. I think he, like some other American entrepreneurs who have a certain special perspective, has the guts to bring something completely new forward.  And I think he's been hinting at it a lot lately.

But while Apple hit it big with the iPhone, and continues to produce new iterations of our favorite mobile device, Apple hasn't really done anything strategic since the App Store. In fact, when look at the innovation over the years since Jobs passing, most of it has been acquisitions of other smaller startups with a neat, nascent technology. Take Siri for example. Siri was acquired by Apple in 2010. Today, in 2016, Siri still can't understand my wife's very common Japanese name if I use Siri in English.  And if I train it to understand her name, it goes on to completely misinterpret any other Japanese person's name that starts with the same initial sound.

What have they been doing with Siri since 2010?

I hope we get to say Hello to something Insanely Great this Thursday.

The right way to switch to a new iPhone

I feel enormous guilt, even though I shouldn't. Every time a friend gets a new iPhone, it’s inevitable that I’ll get a call about some basic configuration they used to have, and need help finding out how to put back.  Then I find out they just switched phones. And by this point it’s too late: They just came back from the retail store, and the damage is done.  They won’t even know it, but they’re going to waste several hours over the next week that I could have prevented.

There’s a right way to switch to a new iPhone.  It takes a few minutes of your time, and saves you several, maybe dozens of hours of time.

Done wrong, you’ll be stressed, waste dozens of hours of your time, and possibly lose precious memories or important information.

The unfortunate reality is that most people do it wrong. In fact, I’ve been to over 50 Apple Stores in the US and abroad, and even several Verizon Wireless stores, and not only did I never once hear a customer being told how to do it the right way, but when I asked, they didn’t even know how.  

I’m going to show you the ultimate time-saver that can help you switch to a new iPhone seamlessly. Once I show you the steps, you’ll be able to restore a perfect backup to the same or a new iPhone easily by yourself, whether the switch is intentional, or an accident, like in my friend Steve’s case:

It was Saturday just after 11:00AM when my iPhone chirped. When I get calls on the weekend, they’re usually urgent. It was a long-time customer in upstate New York.

“James! I’m sorry to do this to you on a Saturday buddy… but I just made a mistake.”

“Steve, no worries, tell me what’s going on.”

He explained that he had some friends visiting, so he was mentally preoccupied with entertaining them.  Pool side.  And he had just joined then in the pool…. with his iPhone in his pocket.

I asked if he had the new one already.  He told me he just came back from the store, new iPhone in hand.  He was pretty stressed, and told me about how he dreaded going back to the busy retail store.

“Don’t worry,” I comforted him, “You won’t need to go back to the store. Let’s follow the plan.”

About one hour later, Steve’s new phone was perfect: Every app was back, located in precisely the right spot. His email accounts were perfect, as were his calendars and contacts. His photos and music were identical to the old phone.  Even the pictures he used as his wallpaper and lock screen were the same. Best of all, Steve and I spent maybe about 5 minutes in total getting the new iPhone restored.  “It’s perfect,” said Steve, “Absolutely perfect.”

What we did was simple, but the basic steps are almost never provided as an option to customers at retail stores, including Apple Stores: 

  1. We enabled iCloud backup before the accident happened.  
  2. We only used iCloud backup to restore. 
  3. We do not use iTunes.

iCloud backup, used properly to restore a new iPhone, is absolutely the best way to switch phones.  Here are the reasons why:

  • Every single app you had on your phone will be back, exactly where you had it.  Most of us get used to finding our apps with “muscle memory”.  Try finding an app on someone else’s phone without using spotlight and you’ll get a taste of how it feels to not be able to easily find things.  iCloud backup restores everything, as long as 1) it’s still an available app on the App store, and 2) you have the Apple ID and password that first bought the App or installed it on your phone.  
  • Your iPhone camera albums will be fully restored.  Not just Photostream or iCloud shared photos, but everything that you had on the other phone, no matter how many gigabytes of photos and videos you had.
  • Your Mail, Calendar and Contacts accounts will be completed restored, as well as your settings.  This is a big deal.  Remember how I shared my feeling guilty when my friends or colleagues come to me for help with something?  Well, that something is almost always a pain-in-the-ass issue with their email not being the way it was before, or their contacts not being fully complete (that’s another blog post to follow). When you use iCloud backup to restore a new phone, all you need to remember is your email account password, which you’ll need just once after restore is complete.
  • Downloaded music, playlists, ringtones, settings.. I think you get the picture.  It’s simply everything.  Even the awesome pictures you set for your lock screen and wallpaper will be restored.  

If you want a detailed, on-screen video version showing you the entire process, I’ve created a downloadable Quicktime movie you can play on Mac or PC showing you how.  Just click here to join the Switcher Genius community and get the video for free, along with other great tools to help you save time and enjoy your technology more.  

Ready for the steps?  If you’re just looking for the basic steps, here they are:

  1. Start by enabling iCloud backup in your Settings App.  Make sure you have enough storage to back up your entire iPhone and all of it’s data. 
  2. Once you’ve enabled iCloud backup, make a full backup of your iPhone.  You do this in the iCloud backup settings section. Make sure you’re on WiFi and preferably plugged into power.
  3. Once the backup is complete, you’re ready to restore to a new iPhone.  If the iPhone has already been partially set up, you’ll need to back up or safely get all the irreplaceable information off the new phone first.  That includes photos, text messages you may need, new contact information, audio memos, and anything else that you may want.  Unfortunately there is no way to merge two backups, so that means that you’ll need to start with a phone in a like-new condition, completely erased, at the initial welcome screen.  To do this, you’ll use the “Erase all contents and settings” under General and Reset within your Settings App.  WARNING:  Do not erase your phone until you’re 100% sure that you won’t lose anything.  If you need help, let me know.
  4. Once the phone is reset, you’ll be welcomed again.  This time, instead of setting up as a new iPhone, use “Restore using iCloud backup”.  You’ll need your iCloud login and password, and once you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented with a list of iCloud backups for any devices on your account.  Identify the one that you just completed for your old phone, and select it.
  5. The iPhone will go to a black screen with a white progress bar moving across it.  This is called the “Foreground Restore”, which means you can’t use your phone while it’s restoring the first part of the data.  The Foreground Restore is pretty quick, and over a decent WiFi connection typically takes between 5-15 minutes.  Once the Foreground Restore is complete, the iPhone will reboot.
  6. Next, the iPhone will boot up to what looks very similar to your backed up iPhone.  A message will appear that says the iPhone will now perform a background restore.  You can click continue or OK.  You’ll start getting prompts at this time for logins and passwords, including Apple IDs for music and Apps, as well as passwords for Internet accounts that were configured for mail, contacts and calendars on your phone.  Make sure you have all these passwords at this time and log in each account.
  7. You can use the phone to make calls, text and work the Internet while the phone restores.  As long as you’re on WiFi the phone will restore all the apps quietly in the background.  If you need to leave the network, it’s no problem.  The restore will simply pause, and then resume once you’re on a WiFi network again.  Depending on how much data you have and how fast your WiFi connection is, the background restore can take an hour to several hours.  I’ve let mine restore overnight while I sleep, but that’s because I have about 40GB of data on a 128GB iPhone, so it takes more time.

That’s it! You just switched to a new phone the right way.

A couple suggestions and precautions I recommend you take:

  1. If you have the luxury of holding onto your old iPhone for a little while, I recommend it.  iCloud restore has failed me twice, and both times I spent several hours on calls with AppleCare support, for which I’m at an advantage having not only worked with AppleCare engineers for over 20 years, but also having a background in the NetApp technology that powers iCloud.  I don’t accept no for an answer when it comes to restoring from a backup.  The point is, you don’t want to be in that position.  So keeping your original iPhone is valuable.
  2. If the switch is a proactive switch, and not the result of walking into a hot tub with your iPhone or anything else that can destroy the phone, then I recommend backing up all your iPhone data locally to your computer.  I explain the process for backing up the iPhone photos, texts and everything else in detail in my free eBook and screencast on how to back up, archive and explore the contents of your iPhone.

So why wouldn’t Apple Stores, Verizon Stores and everyone else in the business of selling and servicing iPhones inform every customer about the benefits of iCloud backup? I’ve talked with a lot of employees in both stores about this. This one key piece of information about the best way to backup an iPhone, and the best way to switch to a new iPhone, could save customers a LOT of wasted time and frustration.  

My theory is that it takes too much time to explain, and too much time to stay with the customer through the process: Restoring from iCloud backup is a multi-step process that isn’t intuitive, and requires a lot of really good communication to help the iPhone owner understand explain the benefits and be willing to make a perceived investment of time.  As for time, the process only takes a few minutes of hands-on time, but requires anywhere from a half hour to even a few hours to complete over a WiFi connection.  The retail stores just aren’t set up to do this. 

Why you need to switch your business to the cloud

It's a question I'm asked often, so I thought it may be helpful to provide some of my thoughts on the subject.  

If this is a question you've been pondering for your business, I hope this post helps you by providing some structure around the question, and explaining how I walk a business owner through determining if switching to the cloud makes sense to pursue or not.

When I first wrote this post, I got to the end having documented my entire process for working with a business owner through the process of evaluating and designing a switch to a new system, like moving from their own servers to the cloud.  Then I realized that I skipped the most basic questions people want to know.  So first, the basics:

  • Yes, you can move to the cloud and get rid of your servers.
  • In this day and age no one should own an Exchange server of their own.  It's a waste of money, time and it's slowing you down.
  • Most people don't need Exchange, they just believe they do. They think using Outlook is a reason to keep it.  It's not.
  • Any law firm or business/administrative operation can go to a cloud-based file and document storage and management system. And if it's done correctly, it will be more secure than what's in your office to begin with.
  • Only a few businesses should keep a local file server around, and in a few specific situations.  Designers and architects with complex and referenced file systems are two examples.  This may and probably will change in the future, too.
  • You'll save a ton of money and get back a ton of time if you switch to the cloud the right way.  

There's a right way, and a wrong way, which is why I've written the rest of this post.  Read on if interested!

First, clarify purpose: Why switch?

When I first meet a business owner (usually on a Skype video call, sometimes face-to-face in person) I always start with the purpose.  Their purpose. Why are you interested in switching to the cloud? It almost always boils down to two things:

  1. Saving time by not having to hassle with technology yourself
  2. Saving money by getting rid of stuff and reducing complexity

In my experience, every single business owner out there is already thinking about 1 & 2.  One of the most common statements I hear from savvy business owners is: "I'm wondering if there's a better way of doing things."

Next, imagine expected results: The Future Picture.

Once I'm clear on why the business owner is thinking about switching to the cloud, the next step is to define a Future Picture.  I've personally watched dozens of techs skip right to products (e.g. Office 365) and features (e.g. remote access, sync, etc.). This is absolutely not the time to get into products. Resist the urge to talk tech.  It's not time, and frankly, it's dangerous at this stage.

Ask yourself the question: If you switch to the cloud, if everything goes perfectly, what looks different to you when we're done? (remember, completely ignore all product and company names)

Can you imagine your employees and you getting more done each day with less hassles? Are you able to respond to your clients better?  Faster? Can you find the information you need in less time?

Do you sleep better at night knowing that you don't have the old server in the office to a) break b) fail c) be stolen or d) get hit with ransomware, shutting down your business at any moment?

Will you see your tech/consultant 50%... maybe even 90% less? Or will you have an employee currently spending time on tech get to put 100% of their time back on the job you hired them to do?

The reason you don't start naming vendors or products at this point, even if you love one in particular or think you're already sold on one, is because every tech company out there wants to sell you on their solution. Mac, PCs, smartphones and the cloud are all marketed the same way as laundry detergent and razors. And unfortunately the marketing work because we're used to buying products to fix problems. Have a stain? Buy this detergent. Need a close shave? Buy this razor. The ads focus on how fast, smooth, powerful, etc. their product is. We remember the promises and we buy it. If we like it, great.  If we don't, we buy a different product next time, until we find the one we stick it.

This works great for most things, but not tech. Every tech system, even if you're a one-person business, is an ecosystem of various parts: A computer, the operating system on the computer, applications that do things, settings and configurations that the apps need to run, fonts, network settings, browser settings, security settings, printers and other devices, email, calendar, contacts, the habits and training of the user of the computer, and more. The problem is, switching, adding or removing one piece of the system is a lot like taking medicine prescribed by a doctor: there are a lot of possible side effects from drug interactions.

Just stay focused on what you want to accomplish, without worrying about the how.  How will you measure the results when everything is said and done?  Will you get 20 hours back per week? Will your employees produce 20% more and your technology cost you the same or less per month?

Next, do an 80/20 assessment.

If you work backwards from your customer cutting you and your business a check, you'll immediately identify what products and services they are buying (or you want them to buy), and more important, you can identify what you and your employees actually do to get them to buy, and then to deliver.  In the preceding step, you starting with what you want as final results: More time, more money, happier customers, happier employees.  Now look backwards through your operations to find where things need to happen faster or more effectively.

I did this recently for a law firm of 8 people, including 5 attorneys.  The managing partner had decided to buy a new accounting system that had a lot of features that their old accounting system didn't have. The partner wanted to find out if the system was going to solve the firm's problems, so I was hired to evaluate the technology in the operations.

In my meeting with the attorneys I learned that they had daily trouble finding files for clients calling in. Email always had problems and search was next to impossible. And everyone had different workarounds for the same problems. They each told me how many times per day they experienced the issues, walked me through how they overcome the issues, and told me how many minutes it takes each time.  Did they ever mention accounting once?  It never came up.

I reported back to management: Fix the problems upstream of accounting.  The 5 attorneys can together produce $1,000,000 more per year, with no additional resources or overtime, if the problems with email and search are made to go away.  That's $1M to the bottom line that adds to your profitability.  The owner wanted to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a system that would have a 5% impact on his business, while he was missing a 20% opportunity right in front of him.

Next, project plan it. Here's where we get technical.

Fixing the email problems for the attorneys wasn't as easy as running an update or buying an application.  There were three different ways to do it, and each way would require 4-5 other major changes to make sure the entire system continued to work after the email problem was fixed.  Remember: Drug interactions.  The technical detail needs to be vetted and every possible problem, preventive step or remedy worked out proactively. The project planning stage is usually dismissed as not valuable because techs usually only place value on activities like fixing, installing, transferring and upgrading. And that's how whack-a-mole gets started. 

The best part of planning in my opinion is that opportunities to improve can actually compound. It's like writing a good paper: Once you have the complete first draft out there, you re-read it. And you notice a ton of opportunities to improve.  For me, usually I review and rework until about the 15th or 16th revision.  Sometimes even 2-3 dozen revisions later I have a plan that is ready to review with the owner.

Finally, it's time to review the plan and budget with the owner.

The plan usually presents like this:

  1. What does the current "big picture" look like?  What's working? What's not?
  2. What does the target state "big picture" look like? What works better? How will we measure it? In hours, dollars, reputation, risk?
  3. What is the strategy recommended: How will we do it?  Why is this way better than the other 5-6 or more way of doing the same thing?
  4. What products and service are required, in what order and what do they cost?  Every single line item, down to the last cable, should have a purpose and expected result identified.

When the plan is designed in line with a business owner's priorities their own business objectives, everything presented will make sense.  The key work to accomplish in this step is communication. Every business owner needs to truly understand for themselves at some level why the plan makes sense, otherwise they can't approve it.  It's my job to help them understand my thinking and alignment to their thinking.  Then they can own the plan because it becomes theirs, not mine.  My last job is usually to carry it out and deliver on the promise.

Was this helpful?

If you found this helpful, please share it with a friend using the share icon below.  And let me know by connecting with me on twitter. And please sign up for my newsletter  


This is a one-time opportunity to join me in a special class where I'll be teaching everything about Photos on the Mac, from the basics to some crazy fun advanced stuff. This course is designed for anyone who loves photos and wants to learn how to save, organize, share and do more with their photos, with no limitations. I will teach each student how to set up their own photos storage solution and I am also providing several hours of live workshop and training, including one-on-one training, as well as unlimited email support (and more).

When we're done, every student will be a master of their own photos, whether they're using an iPhone or using a sophisticated digital camera. I normally charge over $2500 for the services I'm offering as part of this course, but I'm offering the class for only $299 (with coupon code PHOTOS100) because getting student questions and input during the course is hugely valuable to me, and will be the foundation of future course content.  Sign up now. The course enrollment will close this month, so hurry and reserve your space.

What Inspires Me

I'm stressing in a good way right now to get several things done that NEED to get done:

  1. A more streamlined welcome process for the newsletter (thanks for the feedback Scott!)
  2. Some video samples for the Photos class I'm starting (by popular demand)
  3. Some answers to the really interesting questions in response to the last newsletter

I can't believe the amazing feedback. I'm stressed because it hit me all at once, while I'm juggling being a dad and taking care of customers during the day. But it's good stress. I love it. 

If you're reading this, I'm super thankful. I'm putting more effort and energy daily into this, so check back often.  Good stuff to come.  In the meantime, I want to share one of my inspirations with you: My dad performing his own arrangement of the Cantina music from the original Star Wars.  It's old and high-def wasn't available back then, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:


Apple makes a pretty bold statement that your battery "is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1,000 charge cycles".  What's a charge cycle?  There's a good description here, along with a matrix of Macs and the number of charge cycles you can expect.

In reality, I haven't experienced 80% of the original capacity, even at 500 charge cycles. I think Apple marketing sometimes gets a little too aggressive with their language. Recently my wife told me that her MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013 model) was only getting about 15 minutes of battery life on a full charge.  

Her battery had 539 charge cycles and the battery status said "service battery".  And it did cut out at 15 minutes. My battery in a MacBook Pro Retina (mid 2014 model) was at 350 charge cycles, and I was routinely getting about 2-2.5 hours of life at my normal full throttle use. That's nowhere near the advertised 1000 and 80%.

I decided to replace both of our batteries, something my team at TechRoom does routinely for customers. The results were great.  She now gets an average of 7 hours of battery life and I get well over 5 hours.

After replacing the first battery, I decided to record the second replacement to video just to show you the work involved. There are a lot of tools involved that most people don't think about: I use a Magsnap wrist strap that is properly grounded to largely prevent ESD damage, and I am very, very meticulous about the connectors.  This is not a do-it-yourself job. The smallest slip or mistake can ruin the entire computer. The entire process took 38 minutes.  This video is sped up to show the work in 5:

Was this helpful?

If you found this helpful, please share it with a friend using the share icon below.

Please sign up for my newsletter and connect with me on twitter.

Also, hurry over to my upcoming online class on Photos for MacThe first pre-release class will get several hours of live workshop and training, worth over $1,500. Sign up now before the presale ends and get $100 off using coupon PHOTOS100.