In a situation that may be familiar to many TidBITS readers, I’ve recently found myself providing technical assistance to an elderly neighbor—call her Beverly. I suspect that she’s in her 80s, and while she claims otherwise, everything I’ve observed suggests that she’s plenty sharp mentally. What she’s not, however, is expert in the use of her Apple devices: an iPhone 12, a 12-inch iPad Pro, and an Apple Watch Series 6. And she does lose things—on my second visit a few weeks ago, I helped her order a new sport loop-style Apple Watch band so she would be less likely to take the watch off and forget where she’d put it. At the time, I didn’t realize this might be a trend.
Nevertheless, it’s rewarding to help her solve problems and show her what her gear can do for her, partly because doing so gives me insight into places where Apple’s interfaces are confusing or overwhelming for someone like her. And because she thanks me with pie. You can’t go wrong with pie.
Beverly called me Monday in a panic. Over the weekend, she had been at a dog obedience competition with her poodles on the other side of the state, staying overnight at a small hotel. When she got home, she couldn’t find her iPad Pro anywhere, so she assumed that she had left it in the hotel. When she called the hotel, the people at the desk weren’t helpful or reassuring. Hence her phone call to me.
Most of the time, when someone calls me with a problem, they’re overreacting, but there were two facts about her iPad that caused me to worry for real. I hadn’t previously internalized that she traveled with it or I would have said something on my previous visit.
- The iPad’s passcode was 1234, which is so common that the very first person who heard this story interrupted, “And let me guess, her passcode was 1234.” If you or anyone you know has a passcode that’s sequential numbers or all the same number, encourage them to change it immediately—those are way too easy for anyone to guess.
- On the inside flap of her iPad case, she had taped a piece of paper that listed all her passwords. Writing down passwords is far from ideal, but as long as the paper is securely stored, it’s not the end of…