Questions and answers

One of our members suggested I post a link to Macworld’s 911 column. This has been an ongoing series where subscribers to the magazines ask common questions, and Macworld posts answers. The answers are well written, and (usually) very good. Here is a recent collection:

Sometimes the advertising gets in the way, but the writing is down to earth.

A tip: if you ever try to do something on your Mac or iPad or iPhone and can’t figure out how, back off a bit and try to think of the task more generically. In other words, don’t try and obsess over what you are trying to do at that particular moment but, rather, think of what other people might do with whatever tool you are using. Sometimes you may find that you are using the wrong tool, and another tool is a better choice. Or you might decide this is the right tool, but you are approaching the problem from the wrong perspective.

Such as: someone wrote to me a few weeks ago convinced that they had a virus. Their Mac wasn’t working, and everything was very slow. The answer was less scary and less intrusive: the hard disk was full. Not absolutely crammed, but too full to work reliably. (To even use a web browser, you need several gigabytes β€” sometimes tens of gigabytes β€” worth of free disk space). Copying stuff off to another drive freed up space, and the computer was faster and more reliable.

3G networks and your car

Though this really isn’t a Mac or iPhone or iPad issue, it is a good bet that you have a car. And a shutdown, today, of AT&T’s 3G network may disable dashboard telemetry, GPS navigation, the infotainment system, or a combination of all the above, on your car.

Virtually all car manufacturers (Tesla is an exception) entirely outsource their car computer hardware and software sourcing and development. Car manufacturers build cars, and while the cars may be full of computer chips, none of them are designed by the car manufacturers, and virtually all of the software comes from third-party vendors and contractors. This will probably change rapidly in the next few years because of β€” what happens today.

The FCC has been trying, for many years, to shut down the 3G telephone wireless system, and use that part of the electromagnetic spectrum for other purposes. Corporate lobbyists have pushed, repeatedly, for the shutdown deadlines to be pushed back, and have even funded advertising on television and radio telling of the horrors caused by such a shutdown. Forget, for the moment, that the rest of the world made such changes years ago without causing disaster.

But today, the shutdown of AT&T’s 3G network may disable a wide variety of systems on your car, ranging from your radio to your crash notification system. Consumer Reports has a detailed article about how this can disable the crash notification system in many cars,

The Drive compiled a list of specific models affected by this change:

“But,” you say, “I don’t use my car’s navigation system. I use CarPlay!” Unfortunately, CarPlay, while it is driven by your iPhone, uses your car’s built-in navigation system in order to work, and if your built-in navigation system is disabled, CarPlay won’t work, either.

For car owners, this is a problem that can’t be fixed by taking your car to the dealer and getting a software patch. The root problem is that the manufacturer built the car with an embedded 3G modem, which means there is a physical component of your car that needs to be replaced. As the physical component also requires compatible software, which may not even exist, this is a serious issue.

Add in a pandemic-prompted worldwide shortage of computer chips (which includes chips used for 4G and 5G modems), plus the need for software that may not even exist, a fix may not be realistically possible.

California Streaming, September 14

Apple will have a live, virtual event on September 14 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. You can read about it on Apple’s site, which says nothing at all:

Slightly more was released on Apple’s Twitter account,

It isn’t a very useful or informative tweet, but it is pretty.

What people think Apple will talk about are new iPhones and possibly Apple Watch models, plus new versions of iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS, and probably tvOS (for the Apple TV). Some commentators are speculating the event may also announce more Macs, but traditionally that has followed at a separate event in late September or early October.

Whatever they announce, we will probably talk about it at the SMUG meeting on September 21.

Urgent Western Digital MyBook alert

Many users have a Western Digital MyBook external drive, either for storing data or for use as a Time Machine storage unit. These units were routinely sold at Costco, BestBuy, Amazon, and other retailers, and offer lots of storage space at a low price.

However, while we recommend that everyone immediately erase and reformat any storage device they buy, before putting it to use, and not install any software that comes with the device, most people don’t do any of these things. This is proving to be a problem, as hackers have found a way to reach across the Internet to the MyBook drives, and use the custom software to wipe out all data.

You can find a discussion of the problem here:

What to do if you have a MyBook

If you own a Western Digital external drive, it is probably a MyBook. While the current alert is only for the MyBook Live and MyBook Duo models, the underlying software for all MyBooks is pretty much the same. Unless you are absolutely, positively certain you did erase and reformat the drive before using it, and you did not activate Western Digital’s software, you should:

  • Buy another external drive compatible with your Mac. If your Mac has USB 3.0 ports, an external USB 3.0 drive should work, regardless of manufacturer. Do not get a USB 1.1 or 2.0 drive.
  • Use Disk Utility (in your Utilities directory) to erase the drive, and then reformat the drive. Depending on which version of macOS you are using, exactly how this is presented may differ, but after erasure, you want to make sure the drive is formatted as macOS Extended.
  • After preparing your new drive, copy everything off your Western Digital MyBook to the new drive.
  • Once everything is copied, use Disk Utility to erase and reformat the MyBook. At that point, you can use the MyBook for whatever you want, including using it as a Time Machine storage.

In the words of the Mandalorian, “This is the way.” There is no simpler shortcut: you need to transfer everything off your MyBook to another drive, and completely erase and reformat your MyBook. You need to do this right now.

Note that the article mentions Western Digital considers these devices “obsolete” and they are no longer covered by Western Digital warranty or product support. It is entirely up to you to protect yourself.

Terms and Conditions game

At the last meeting, we talked about, among other things, Apple’s changes to their App Store and how they helped protect your privacy. To take the most controversial change, Apple changed the rules for iPhones and iPad applications, forcing the apps to explicitly ask to track your behavior.

Facebook has launched a massive lobbying and advertising assault on Apple, claiming this is anti-consumer, as it doesn’t allow Facebook to carefully craft advertisements and promotions to the user. Apple has pretty much ignored Facebook’s assault, focusing on explaining the change and pretending Facebook doesn’t exist.

But there is another avenue for privacy breeches that users often overlook: Terms and Conditions. Almost nobody reads these, but even worse, many people don’t pay any attention to the Terms and Conditions dialog boxes. So — someone wrote a game to show you how Terms and Conditions has, itself, evolved into a shell game.

Don’t be surprised if you get middling to low score.

Facebook page

Strait Macintosh User Group now has a Facebook page:

The Facebook page isn’t a replacement for the site but, rather, a way for people on Facebook to link to this site. If you are a Facebook user, feel free to post on the Facebook page, but note: posts will be moderated, and posts that are inappropriate will be hidden or removed.

New beginnings

Welcome to SMUG. Strait Macintosh Users Group is trying something new and different: web publishing using a content management system.

If it is difficult, you are probably doing it wrong.

— Eve

Welcome to SMUG

Strait Macintosh User Group serves Washington’s North Olympic Peninsula.

Mac users on the Olympic Peninsula are isolated from services provided by larger cities. SMUG is a place where you can expand your boundaries, stretch your Apple dollars, get information, help others and enjoy talking with those with similar interests! SMUG supports Apple users in the Sequim/Port Angeles area.

Meetings are on the first third Tuesday of even numbered months in Sequim.  Meetings begin at 7:00 PM. Meeting information is on the SMUG Forum, an online discussion area where you can post questions on everything Apple.

Sequim meetings are held at:

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church,
525 N. 5th Ave.
Sequim, WA.
Map to St. Luke’s.

Sequim Library
630 N. Sequim Ave.
Sequim, WA 98382 (see map in right column)