How to avoid a surprising bill due to Wi-Fi Assist

Christina Farr, a health and technology senior writer at Fast Company, had an unexpected bit of coal in her end-of-year stocking: A bill for cell data overage charges. But, she noted on Twitter, she takes care in staying on Wi-Fi and not using the cellular network. Most of her usage was at home or a Starbucks.

The culprit? Wi-Fi Assist. This feature added in iOS 9 is intended to make your Internet experience more consistent. When you’re on a Wi-Fi network that has erratic service, such as Internet connection dropouts, Wi-Fi Assist uses the cellular network as a secondary data source.

Apple notes on its site that Wi-Fi Assist has a lot of options to prevent excessive data use. It only engages for foreground apps, not background tasks; it doesn’t kick in for third-party audio and video streaming apps; and email attachments aren’t automatically downloaded.

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What to do when your iPhone battery is draining faster than usual

A reader—my father, in fact—asked why, after upgrading to iOS 9.2, his iPhone’s battery started to drain rapidly. Was there an issue with the update? Not that I knew of, but I’ve seen many times, including a few instances recently, that iOS gets itself into a battery-draining mode that can’t be explained.

iOS does report the percentage of power use by app in Settings > Battery. This feature is a nifty way to see if anything has run amok. You can toggle between Last 24 Hours and Last 7 Days, which helps see if any particular app’s usage has spiked. Tapping the clock icon toggles between showing the way an app uses the battery other than in the foreground (Audio and Background Activity), and a display of the amount of time the app was in use on screen in the foreground and handling activities in the background.

This can be a clue as to whether something’s gone amok, especially if you see heavy background time use for an app you’re not aware has much or any background activity. (It can also reveal your habits, like Twitter usage.)

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How to edit PDFs when switching from Windows

Joseph A. Pobiner is a switcher (from Windows to OS X), and he wonders how to get the same Adobe Acrobat features he has right now:

One thing I do on a regular basis is use Adobe Acrobat to assemble PDFs for distribution for work. This includes primarily removing old pages and inserting new ones—very rarely use any other content editing functions. Is there an app that will replace what Acrobat was doing for me?

Adobe does make Acrobat Pro (now called Acrobat Pro DC) for OS X as well as Windows, but you may be concerned about the cost involved. The list price is $450 outright or $15 a month as part of a Creative Cloud subscription that includes other items. However, Adobe and many other companies offer cross-grade options, where owning a product on one platform lets you swap a license at no cost or at a significant discount for another. Adobe has a documented process for requesting a cross-grade.

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How to deal with two identical Gmail mailboxes

Renee C. Jackson is seeing double:

I upgraded to El Capitan and now I have 2 Gmail mailboxes showing in Mail. One is POP and the other is IMAP, and they don’t even show the same number of messages. Same address on “both” mailboxes. How can these be merged?

This is an odd glitch related to the legacy support in Gmail and many mail hosting services for POP (Post Office Protocol) mail retrieval. IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) evolved alongside POP, but it’s considered more modern, despite its many drawbacks and inconsistent implementations.

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Why is iCloud storage occupying space on my hard drive?

Bruce Beck wrote in with a question that at first had me scratching my head, and then nodding with understanding. He wonders about duplication of storage between iCloud and his local drive:

I’m paying for 200GB of iCloud storage, but I am showing 36.43GB of photos in Photos for OS X residing on my hard drive. If I open [Photos on the drive], it opens my iCloud photos that I thought were only in the cloud. I could use 36GB of hard drive space. Why is this happening and what can I do?

The reason I was confused is that I’ve spent so much time writing about and testing this stuff that I forget it doesn’t always make sense to folks who just use the technology.

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Is it sensible to combine backup types on a single drive?

Reader George Lai queries the following:

I have been using Time Machine for years. I am now considering adding SuperDuper and/or Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) as additional backup tools. Can I just use these on the same external hard disk drive as where my TM backups reside or do I have to partition it?

I have a bit of philosophy to go along with the pragmatic answer. The philosophy is: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Having incrementally updated full-drive Time Machine backups on the same physical volume as drive clones seems like a fundamentally bad idea. If something goes wrong with the physical mechanism, it renders both kinds of backups bad.

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How to disable unconfirmed contact email suggestions

Henry Crun is fed up with suggestions. He writes:

How can I get rid of all the email addresses iOS has collected and insists on offering up when i’m trying to select something? Personally, I only want iOS to offer addresses that are listed in my Contacts app. i can see some wanting more but what iOS currently offers is the kitchen sink.

If you toggle off Contacts in Mail in Settings, Apple claims it’ll delete any unconfirmed contacts. But “unconfirmed” by whom? Apparently not by me, because it’s off and yet all those unwanted contacts still show.

Henry also finds that if he sets up an iOS device from scratch, iCloud syncs all those addresses, too.

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