There's no place like home for the holidays, and certainly no place else where you're likely to encounter so many of your family members at the same time. Chances are, the advice and assistance you provided last year on the technology front has faded into memory just like a wilted poinsettia plant -- but there's still time to get folks off the naughty list and onto the nice list for 2014. Here's a quick few suggestions for low-impact, high-value help.
- Check the backups. Is Time Machine in play? CrashPlan, Backblaze or Carbonite online backups more your thing? Whichever approach your folks are using to protect their data, please check the setup, verify the backup drive and make sure nothing has gone off track since you got it working originally. Test restores are always a good idea, or make a quick clone of the Mac boot drive for offsite safekeeping with Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper! or ChronoSync.
- iWish you a merry iCloud. Has your mom's iCloud storage allocation filled up with video clips and zillions of photos? Make sure that Photo Stream is landing someplace other than just the phone, and that iCloud backup is turned on for any iDevices (unless they're syncing locally, which is a good idea at least once a year). If your relatives don't already have Find My iPhone turned on, insist that along with the figgy pudding they have an ounce of device loss prevention.
- Apps and iOS updates. Just like visitors and uncooked fish, stale apps begin to emit an unpleasant reek after some time has gone by. Take a moment to verify that the folks are running the current iOS, OS X and app versions available. If they tolerate change well, you might even turn on automatic app updates in the Mac and iOS App Store to help keep them current.
- Scanning for Santa. Document scanners from Neat or Doxie may have shown up under the Christmas tree, but even the lowly iPhone's camera can help organize files and photos when paired with a savvy app like Evernote. Take a few minutes to discuss where key family documents are stored, and see if you can work out a better system than "somewhere in the basement near the water heater."
- Passwords be with you, and also with you. Using the same three passwords for every website is like walking under a ladder carrying a broken mirror on Friday the 13th. Get those cousins and kin thinking about a better way to manage their website credentials with 1Password, LastPass or iCloud Keychain, and suggest that they consider two-factor authentication for those critical accounts like Google or iCloud. If they really want to feel like they're living in the future, show them the device unlock magic of Clef plus Waltz.