Hi, Allison and fellow Nosillacastaways. This is Tom from Ontario.
One issue that we all grapple with, often only in the back of our minds, is how to ensure our digital information is secure, but can be accessed by those who need it when we are having a medical crisis and can’t act for ourselves. This piece deals with that same theme, but from a hardware angle.
So what is the problem to be solved?
In our case, it started with a small problem. My wife showed me her phone which had the message that her ‘Sent’ mailbox was full, so she couldn’t send any more emails. In this case, I needed to log on to our mail server and set the system to delete ‘sent’ emails after a certain period.
But this was really a hint of a larger problem. Our emails revolved around our domain and our hosting service which only I could or, at least, was interested in accessing. So the small problem could have been much bigger for her if I had been traveling, and away from home that week.
But this then highlighted the BIG problem. I was the only, and therefore weakest link, in the entire tech setup in our home. So it was now time to confront the issue I had kept on the back burner for far too long.
I really enjoy playing with tech and have been doing the office IT and home IT for 45 years. We had registered our own domains and used them for our websites and for mail addresses. We had a basic internet configuration which included a modem from the cable company and our own router, and a large screen TV connected to a stereo system, cable box, and Apple TV.
My wife really enjoys the benefits and entertainment our tech brings us but doesn’t want to know how the sausage is made. In fact, she just wants it to work, NOW. And while I may look forward to the odd glitch that indicates a problem I can dive into and hopefully solve, there is no way my wife would be interested in learning how to connect to our domain registrar, manage our mail hosting service, configure the router, or program the universal TV remote.
She has access to my computer and all my passwords but not the knowledge of what would need to be done with them. Our kids live a long way away and wouldn’t be able to help, at least in the short term.
It has always been a risk that something would happen to me, or perhaps I would run off with Amy from the Genius Bar, and leave my wife with no IT assistance. But as I have now been collecting my government old age pension for 10 years, the odds of Amy wanting to run off with me are incredibly small and the odds of some medical issue at some point interrupting or ending my ability to keep the tech running are getting much larger.
So the issue became how to continue to enjoy all of the tech we love, but ensure that minimal effort and technical knowledge are required to keep the mail flowing, the TVs working, and the internet available around the house.
We split the project into several steps.
First was email as this was the one that would take the longest to clear up.
We already each had a .me/.Mac/.icloud account so it was a matter of contacting businesses and friends to change our email address from our personal domain email to our Apple mail account. We also set up a Gmail account which we jointly use into which we receive household bills or stuff that applies to both of us. Previous articles on the NosillaCast have dealt with the hassles of doing this.
We left the old email addresses online for about 18 months to be pretty sure we had everyone covered. Now if there is an email problem my wife can at least do a Google search and likely find an answer as both Google and iCloud Mail are such mainstream products, or a tech-savvy neighbour could perhaps step in to help.
As the email switch was going on we carried on with some of the other changes.
The wiring behind our entertainment unit was a real mess with a myriad of expensive cables running between the inputs and outputs. Also at the time we used a Logitech Harmony remote to control our TV/Stereo/Cable setup which had to be programmed and occasionally reprogrammed, and about 95% of the time it worked fine, but at times the on/off status of the devices would get out of sync. Easy to fix but annoying for a non-tech person.
Also, the replacement of any of the hardware pieces would require delving into the myriad of cables and, often, some reprogramming of the remote or the stereo receiver.
The fix for this was a smart TV. We eliminated the sound system and the Apple TV. So now we have a single remote that controls our Sony Google TV, but we don’t lose any functionality. I can still screen-mirror from my iPad or phone, we can use the Apple TV App on the TV, and coincidentally our cable company required us at the same time to replace our cable box, with an app for the TV.
So just the single TV, and its dedicated remote, do it all. The only cables now are an ethernet cable and a power cable to the TV. It was also a chance to play with Android!
We have a few Amazon Echoes and a HomePod which are nice to have but aren’t necessary. We have a couple of Hue light bulbs which we can trigger by voice but if they all stop working there is still the light switch on the lamp or the wall! So they don’t need any support plan.
The last issue we dealt with was the router. We had an Apple AirPort Extreme which was set up with a guest network and some MAC address routing. Again this would be something my wife would not want to learn, so the solution was a router from our cable company. I now don’t have any control over it, but if the internet goes down my wife only needs to call the cable company, who are very good in our area, and they can diagnose the problem and send out a tech if needed.
It has all been worth it and it was a basically stress-free experience, I think primarily because we were acting proactively.
We haven’t lost any functionality and things just run! The sound on the new TV is good enough that I don’t miss the expensive audio system. I was also finding that the frontline of technology was getting further and further ahead of me, so just enjoying the benefits of the tech working is more fun than I thought.
I feel a little like the Maytag repairman in those classic commercials. My feet up on the desk listening to podcasts while the hardware just keeps running. Our costs are down with no domain registrations and hosting service to pay and we have fewer hardware pieces that will need to be replaced at some point in the future.
Thanks for listening to this, hopefully, something in this article will resonate with a listener or two.