Cable Mess Before De-Teching-1040x520

De-teching – by Tom from Ontario

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.

7 thoughts on “De-teching – by Tom from Ontario

  1. George from Tulsa - November 21, 2023

    I hear you, Tom.

    My wife was an IBM systems analyst. Big Iron, yes. Routers, no.

    Do want to point out some fires you’ve potentially stepped into by escaping the proverbial frying pan.

    Last I checked Apple’s basic free iCloud / email offers a relatively sparse 5GB

    GMail is a more generous 15. I have 21 perpetual, the extra 6 as credits from buying Chromebooks.

    I filled that and was faced with pruning or buying more. I pruned.

    Over on Apple side I’ve tried to help some users who filled their iPhone & iCloud storage. Panicked, one locked herself out of both her phone and iCloud account.

    What I’d suggest you follow up on is what credit cards are attached to your various accounts, whose name they’re in, and how the survivor will – if possible – be able to continue access and, if necessary, replace payment methods.

    The credit card where my wife was primary and I was an authorized user expired when she died – and the card company wouldn’t consider making me the account owner, even after decades where I was (they of course didn’t know) paying the bills.

  2. Tom - November 21, 2023

    Hi George from Tulsa

    Those are good points and especially the one about credit cards.

    Sorry to hear about the unnecessary burden placed on you by the bank on the loss of your wife. It must be an almost universal policy with the banks both in the U.S. and Canada. I have a friend whose wife recently died. His story is very similar to your story. She was listed as the primary card holder. So although the card was paid by joint household funds, the bank considered it her card. So he is now a ‘new’ customer and was given a new card with $1,500 credit limit. They had a $14,000 limit on their joint cards and lots of accumulated loyalty points which were lost. In our case I am the primary card holder, but also the one most likely to go first. For the past year we have been working to spend more on my wife’s personal card so she will hopefully get increased credit limits by the time she needs it. That is really a totally unfair, and I think unjustifiable, policy that the banks follow.

    As for storage we both pay the $1.29 a month for 50GB which is more than enough.

  3. George from Tulsa - November 21, 2023

    Tom –

    I wasn’t so much concerned about credit limits as with what happens when a card is cancelled.

    While each of you has a separate iCloud/email account when one dies the supporting card will be cancelled. That will eventually happen from reported public records even if the survivor doesn’t notify the card issuer.

    I presume that will result in loss of access to the decedent’s paid Apple services – and other paid services,too – though Apple and others might permit a survivor with all the necessary log in credentials to substitute a different card billed in the survivor’s name.

    I just don’t know answer to that.

    I do know,that much “purchased” digital content, think now mostly audiobooks and e-books expires at death of account holder.

    Like they’re hoping for us to expire so they can expire our licenses –

    It’s all confounding, but you’re helping the Podfeet community reason through.


  4. podfeet - November 22, 2023

    Apple has the solution for this. Before you pass (like, now) you can set up a Legacy Contact. Your Legacy Contact has up to three years to get access to your data.

  5. George from Tulsa - November 22, 2023

    Allison –
    The “Legacy Contact” facility could be very valuable, but it is not comprehensive –

    “Certain information, like movies, music, books, or subscriptions you purchased with your Apple ID, and data stored in your Keychain—like payment information, passwords, and passkeys—can’t be accessed by your Legacy Contact.”

    I think I’m fairly summarizing one of Tom’s goals is for the survivor to be able to seamlessly continue access to services – which likely extend beyond Apple’s storage of
    Apple-centric content and apps on Apple gear.

    The link you posted, and the follow-up page where Apple provides instructions for survivors –

    also leave a possibly critical ambiguity unanswered – in Tom’s case he and his wife are each paying $1.29 (Canadian, US is $0.99) a month for 50 GB of iCloud storage.

    I presume that’s billed monthly and if the payment ceases so does access to the “extra” 45 GB? What I didn’t see in connection with “Legacy Contact Access” is a statement if, and how, a survivor can replace a decedent’s inactivated card with their own. I have to assume that’s possible, but I found nothing about it, or how to to it, in either Apple Support document.

    If a grief stricken spouse doesn’t deal with activating “Legacy” status before a card expires and the “extra” 45 GB is deactivated, can the clock be turned back?

    Then there’s the horrible hypothetical that wasn’t so hypothetical when two of my acquaintances were smashed two days ago at 75 mph by a driver reported to be using a cell phone on the highway. (If anyone doubts the value of safety standards imposed by governmental regulation, it was their brand new pickup that died, not them). Would there have been critical information in their Apple accounts locked away forever had each been the other’s “Legacy Contact” and their truck not given up its life for them? Would their executor be able to subpoena it?

    FWIW my critical information is stored in KeyPassXC and my daughter, who will be my executor, has a copy on a USB stick, which I update from time to time, as well as access to it on the local drive of my several computers. She has the password to my KeyPassXC file in her own, and her husband has access to hers – nothing’s perfect, but she won’t be locked out of my info when my credit card expires at my demise.

  6. Tom - November 22, 2023

    Lots of good information in the replies and there are certainly some open points. I will have to think through what information is in my Apple eco-system that would be critical to retain.

    I am operating a little on the assumption that online accounts could be renewed as needed with any credit card, mine or my wife’s, for at least a moderate amount of time, while key information is offloaded. While not quite kosher I expect we could even keep one of my credit cards going for as long as needed without notifying the card company as long as the monthly bill gets paid.

    Thanks George and Allison for bringing up these points. I really should think about resolving some of the unknowns in my plan and it is nice to know there are others thinking through these very issues. Gone are the days when the executor would have a shoebox of financial papers and some family picture albums!

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving

  7. George from Tulsa - November 22, 2023

    Tom wrote – “While not quite kosher I expect we could even keep one of my credit cards going for as long as needed without notifying the card company as long as the monthly bill gets paid.”

    Maybe, see:

    As I used to work for a bank that “fronted” VISA / MasterCard but didn’t itself offer them I do know that back in my day the credit bureaus paid to have obituaries monitored and I’m pretty sure monitored death certificates as they were filed. The article linked above discusses the Social Security Death index (USA) that is sent directly to credit bureaus.

    Lenders of all kinds, not just credit cards, are very serious about this because they need to know if they have to file a claim in an estate to protect their collateral / security interest.

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