Drive-in WiFi hotspot finder

Washington State has been working on improving access to the Internet, in part as an incentive to growing the local economy and, more recently, as a means of helping residents work, shop, and attend school remotely during the pandemic. One key initiative is adding more public WiFi hotspots.

The state now has an interactive map for finding WiFi hotspots:

Clallam public WiFi hotspots, from the Washington State interactive hotspot location finder.

On the one hand, Clallam County, in particular, is not heavily covered by WiFi hotspots. On the other, it has more than one might expect, given that the county is decidedly not urban.

Sorry, no WiFi hotspots at Lake Crescent or Hurricane Ridge or Dungeness Spit. The eagles and elk and seagulls need to do more lobbying.

Apple special event: speed

Apple sent out an invitation today to a special event on October 13, 2020, 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

This is the sum total of what they are revealing at this time:

Possibilities:

  • Apple will announce its long-awaited hovercar.
  • Apple will announce the launch of its own space venture, competing with Space X, and Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.
  • Apple will announce its surprise entry into competitive bicycle racing.
  • Apple will announce its own gigabit-per-second Internet service.
  • Apple will announce a really fast computer using Apple Silicon.
  • Apple will announce it has purchased the rights to a 1994 film featuring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper.
  • Apple will do something else.

You should be able to watch the event on any Internet-connected Apple device, but if you have an Apple TV, I highly recommend watching it on your big screen TV.

Apple special event: September 2020

Apple is hosting a special event on Wednesday Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. They’ve not released one shred of information on the topic. The logo for the event,

Infinite loop Apple logo

is an infinitely-looping ribbon that forms the Apple logo. This is also a nice pun on the formal address for Apple’s old headquarters, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

Speculation, based on next to nothing, suggests it might be focused on a new Apple Watch and a new iPad Air. Exactly how a looping blue ribbon relates to watches or iPads is unknown. It is also speculated that Apple will announce formal release dates for macOS 11 Big Sur, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14.

You can watch the event by going here:

https://www.apple.com/apple-events/

or by using your Apple TV and the Apple Events app to watch it on your TV.

Free book on Zoom

Take Control Books, a highly recommended vendor of electronic books on “things computer,” and “things Macintosh” in particular, has a free new book: Take Control of Zoom Essentials. Given how much of life this year is spent in Zoom conferencing, this book is highly recommended.

It is essentially a condensed version of their longer, more comprehensive (and not free) book, Take Control of Zoom. The longer book is far more detailed, and recommended for those who want to host Zoom meetings, or use Zoom for teaching, consulting, or business.

Some of the topics covered in Take Control of Zoom Essentials:

  • What Zoom Can Do
  • Get Set Up with Zoom
  • Upgrade Audio and Video
  • Improve Your Video
  • Look Sharp
  • Identify Yourself
  • Join a Meeting
  • Adjust the View
  • View a Shared Screen
  • Interact in a Meeting
  • Stay Safe in a Meeting
  • Share Your Screen

The book is available in PDF (Acrobat), ePub (Apple Books), and Mobi (Kindle) formats. And — free.

July 2020: WWDC 2020

Notes by Kathleen Charters

In July, we had a quick review of Apple’s Keynote address at WWDC 2020 (World Wide Developer Conference 2020). But first,

Question and Answer (Q&A) session

Will you demonstrate the Big Sur developer release?

Non-disclosure agreements govern what can be said, and shown; can only repeat what Apple has said in public (with some speculation on things not yet known.)

Should I install the public beta test of Big Sur?

Best Practice: Use a Mac not used for anything important; an expendable machine should be used for Beta testing so testing will not disrupt anything; debugging code slows things down, some of the code functionality is not complete yet. Sometimes, you may have to erase a beta test machine and start over. If you aren’t willing to erase your computer, don’t install the beta test.

What about beta test of iOS?

Public Beta OS is available on the Apple site for each device (Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV). Only install beta software on a device that you can afford not to use. Keep in mind that you must complete a beta test agreement in order to be a tester, and submit bug reports to Apple.

When will these new operating systems be out?

Apple didn’t say. Traditionally, new releases come out in September-October. COVID-19 has limited developer development and interactions. New OS features may be incompatible with existing virtual conference software, for example; other developers will see a tester disappear and not know what it was that caused the crash. Not clear at all if Apple will be able to complete development, testing and certification of all platforms in time for usual fall rollout.

I did not receive a meeting announcement.

Announcements for the meeting were sent out via E-mail; if you did not receive an email and have signed up, please send an e-mail to Lawrence. Also, check your spam folder, as mail systems give a higher “spam” score for mass messages sent with addresses listed as BCC (blind carbon copies). Also also, we may not have your correct email address, as we’ve had trouble reading some things written on the sign-in sheets. Kris Eklund also posts announcements on Next Door, https://nextdoor.com/.

My Apple Watch is missing some apps after an operating system upgrade.

The Apple Watch needs memory on the computer to do an upgrade. If there isn’t enough memory to complete an upgrade properly, the operating system will delete apps from the watch. This is not really a problem, since the apps are still on your phone. Just use the Watch app on your phone to add the apps back after the OS upgrade.

When looking at Apple Mail vs Gmail on iPad or iPhone, how do I get a list of contacts?

Google is a Web services company and Gmail is Web-based, so open Gmail from a web browser on your desktop computer. In the upper right-hand corner, there is an icon of a cluster of squares, indicating other applications. Click on it, and you wil see one is for Contacts. Google’s Contacts service is shared among all Google services, including Google Docs. Google has online documentation on how to export Apple contacts and import them into Google Contacts. You can also use Apple Mail to view Gmail, in which case Apple Mail will use Apple Contacts for Gmail. On my Mac, I prefer to use Kiwi for reading Gmail, as it allows me to open and view multiple Gmail accounts at once. Kiwi is on the Apple Mac App Store.

Meeting Begins

President Sabrina Davis welcomed everyone to the meeting. Sabrina was overseas for several months, leaving before the pandemic and then getting caught up in mandatory quarantine measures.

SMUG Treasurer Annalis Schutzmann was asked: how do members pay dues when we do not meet in person? You can mail checks to Annalis; use the Contact form on the website, https://strait-mac.org/contact/ — to write to her for the mailing address.

Annalis is working with Lawrence on an online database with the dates of when dues were paid. Lawrence is going to add some logic to flag when dues should be renewed; the treasurer will then send an e-mail to tell where to send checks to join or renew.

SMUG did spend money on a Zoom subscription for the virtual meetings so we can host meetings longer than 40 minutes. Members can attend for free no matter how long the meeting lasts; you do not need to pay for an individual subscription. Lawrence was critical of Zoom’s privacy and security, but Zoom does a good job with controls for running a meeting. Zoom can also be used for troubleshooting by sharing the desktop and for teaching people how to use programs, such as how to use Zoom.

We did consider FaceTime, but while it has superb privacy and security controls, it just isn’t suited for groups of more than three or four at once.

SMUG treasury balance as of last meeting was $752; this meeting the balance was $651.08 after paying for a Zoom subscription.

SMUG elections will will be in October, with all offices open for nominations: President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

SMUG is now properly listed on the Apple User Group Resources website, https://appleusergroupresources.com/find-a-group/.

Presentation: World Wide Developer Conference 2020 (WWDC 2020)

This year, you can attend the World Wide Developers Conference for free. The Keynote can be streamed from Apple’s site, and is also available as an Apple TV application. It is two hours long, and is chiefly aimed at software developers. The SMUG presentation will touch on several topics, and add some opinions. You can download the meeting slides from here:

The presentation (sorta) follows the slides.

Apple Safari is the most popular web browser in the world because it runs on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Until recently, the underlying technology for Safari, WebKit, was also the foundation for Google’s Chrome browser.

Safari – Apple is planning some fundamental changes to Safari’s security and privacy capabilities. You can download the beta now; you don’t need to wait until Big Sur is released.

Apple Silicon – Apple is planning to finish converting all their devices from Intel and other processors to Apple processors. Apple has been using Intel processor chips for 20 years, but the architecture has run into performance bottlenecks that limit improved effectiveness. Also, last year some researchers found a (complex, hard to trigger) zero-day security flaw in all Intel processor chips — all of them — that allow machines using these processors to be compromised.

iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and Apple Watch already run on Apple Silicon processors, and Apple Silicon Processors are in some recent iMacs and MacBooks, used as security processors for encryption and filtering things coming in from the outside. That means Apple has successfully “tested” Apple Silicon in close to two billion devices; the Mac lineup is the only thing left that is still Intel-based.

Aside from security and performance, Apple can also customize Apple Silicon processors to more closely meet their needs. For example, adding video and sound processors, and video memory to the Apple Silicon processor eliminates the need for separate chips and plumbing to do these functions.

As demonstrated by the iPhone and iPad, Apple can also control power use and heat better through their custom processors. This should result in longer battery life, and less need for noisy fans for cooling.

Apple Silicon is considered a System on a Chip (SoC) processor, allowing support for 64-bit operations, graphics acceleration, WiFi, BlueTooth, control of heat, management of battery consumption, and increase speed, all on one chip.

Also in the new operating systems: new emoji, 171 of them. Personally looking forward to the dodo and ninja icons. The bubble tea icon, which looks to me more like a chocolate milkshake, will also be handy.

macOS 11 Big Sur: this will be a big change. As a clue: this is Apple’s first operating system in 20 years that isn’t named macOS 10.something.

Control Center: Control panel similar to iPad/iPhone for most common changes people make.

macOS 11 Dock – icons in Dock will look the same as in Finder, and on iOS; more consistent is better for accessibility.

Notification Center – will group items, will add control of the most useful to Control Center, and use same icons on macOS and iOS.

Safari startup: the Safari start page will have the sites you most often visit, plus any customizations. You can also customize the background image used by Safari.

Sarai tabs: hover over a tab and get a preview of the page without opening the page.

One-button web privacy report – see who is tracking you on a given site, with the ability to turn off one or all trackers so businesses cannot track you.

Safari translation – not as extensive as Google, but easy to use for selected languages. The translation takes place on your machine; if additional help is required, an anonymous packet is sent off so Apple does not know who requested the information (Google, in contrast, tracks translation requests).

Messages – able to customize Memoji (previously limited just to iOS); group member Memoji make it easier to know who is in a group conversation.

macOS Big Sur: Will support Apple Silicon-based Macs and Intel-based Macs; will run on both. Developers can translate iOS apps to the Mac; this will be a huge gain for game players on the Mac as they can move their games to the desktop with just a recompiling, and converting touch gestures to mouse gestures.

Privacy: Every app, on every Apple app store (Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV) will have a new privacy policy. You can check to see if developer uses your location pr other information in one easy to read page.

iPhone – iOS Library – if you select it, iOS will automatically group your apps into “Libraries” of similar apps such as Games, Productivity, Navigation, etc. No longer will you have to swipe through pages of stuff to find what you want.

Picture in Picture (PiP) – will allow you to continue to be in a conversation (e.g., FaceTime) and can do other things, or watch a video and write about it.

Groups in Messages – you can set up groups and easily see who is in the group by viewing their Memoji.

Incoming call – you can see who is calling and decide what you want to do about it.

The Home app, previously available only on iPhone and iPad, is coming to the Mac.

New Home screen for HomePod allows you to see what a specific device is doing and control it. The current Home screen is utterly useless…

Apple Translation is coming to iPhone and iPad, in addition to Mac.

Watch OS7 – you will be able to track and check on sleep health; sleep cycle based on personal sleep goal; tracks heart rate and .

Automatic hand washing to make sure wash hands for long enough, complete with an animation and countdown, and feedback on whether you spend adequate time washing hands; a boon for COVID-19 prevention.

These are just a small subset of the topics covered in just the keynote. A huge amount of information was provided – this covers the most useful changes for the SMUG population.

Questions:

Will these new operating systems support my device?

If you have a device with the most current OS, you should be able to run the new one, if no incompatibilities are found during beta testing.

Are older operating systems less secure?

Apple provided Security updates to everything last week going back to High Sierra; you are encouraged to install the updates; protect yourself from being hacked, do not get too far behind – invest in a new machine if cannot run Catalina.

When a new OS comes out, Apple no longer offers the old one so get up to date now.

But how do I handle my 32-bit apps?

Every Apple device will be 64-bit only; they will not run 32-bit software going forward. If you positively can’t live without a 32-bit app, find an older Mac or iPhone or iPad and use it just to run the 32-bit apps; run new apps on current OS.

Moving from Catalina to Big Sur will be a huge step – wait a week or two before downloading it when it comes out; will be released in fall (around October).

You really do what a machine capable of running Catalina right now. If you want a reliable source for older machines (with guarantees ranging from 90 days to 1 year); OWC sells older machines, and Apple sells refurbished older machines.

Apple store in University Village – how are they operating under COVID-19 rules?

Don’t know. Apple stores in Tacoma and West Seattle are the closest, but haven’t been across the Sound in months.

Costco for Apple products – does not always have the best price, only have one version and it may not be the version you want/need; may not be able to upgrade it; recommend at least 16GB memory, check on size of storage – recommend at least 500 GB or more; new machines have USB-C connections so can attach external storage; do cost comparison. Caution: Best Buy clerks and Costco clerks may not be as knowledgeable you might want them to be. When it comes to storage, keep in mind that movies and photos take up a lot of space, messages with images attached can take up a lot of space. Average mac person keeps a machine 7 years – think about the future for memory and storage.

Will the new machines require more memory?

New Macs with RISC chips – does not require more memory (outdated concept – was an issue early on but no longer a limiting factor); video audio photos use memory.

Chrome browser wants 8-10 GB memory for caching pages so runs faster, this takes memory.

Should I wait for the new computers? My current one is old.

If in need of a computer now – buy one, it will take time to have Apple Silicon Macs designed, built, and distributed, in past it took 2 years to transition to new chips.

I’m hesitant to go to Catalina – need to upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit before upgrade OS.

If you are already running in 64-bit, the app will run on Catalina; currently there is no way to safely run 32-bit programs; MS Office 2011 32 bit will not run under Catalina. Numbers is free if Excel no longer runs; if purchase MS Office 365 subscription can put it on up to 5 devices; Office Home is $69.95 – look around for best deal, comes with 1 TB cloud storage. And KeyNote is better than PowerPoint.

Will the new watchOS work on older watches?

Apple only talked about the new operating systems, and not hardware. Unless some feature uses something not on your watch, if your current watch is running the latest watchOS, it will probably work with watchOS 7.

Random comments:

Developers can purchase MacMini for development platform. The Mac mini comes with an Apple Silicon CPU, rather than an Intel CPU.

Movie on Apple TV+: Greyhound is a World War II movie with Tom Hanks; very highly recommended.

Expect first Apple machine with Apple Silicon to be a laptop since a laptop would be an obvious beneficiary from improved battery life and heat management.

Apple demonstrated some very impressive text recognition capability, which should serve as a preview for what the new iPadOS offers.

LIDAR facial recognition for iPad and iPhone may be next.

Next month

Next month: digital photography: taking photos

Future topic: Time Machine Back-ups.

Staying together using Macs, iPhones, and iPads in a time of social distancing

The title says it all: we will be having a virtual meeting on May 19 at 7 p.m., hosted on Zoom, on how to use your Mac, iPad, and iPhone to stay connected. Normally we’d meet at the Sequim Public Library, but the world is busy with other things at the moment, and the library is closed.

Since Macs, iPhones, and iPads are communications tools, there are an endless number of ways you can use them to stay in touch, but the focus will be on: email, SMS (instant messaging), and virtual meetings such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, etc. We won’t go into how to use each method, or the endless number of things you can do with them. Instead, the focus will be on which tool is best for which task, and what these tools do poorly.

Speaking of tools, we will be using Zoom. Zoom has a less than stellar reputation due to lots of past security problems (you can read an entertaining list of them here) but it is still a good tool for re-creating the kind of meeting we’ve had at recent SMUG events. The free version of Zoom is — free. But it also limits you to 40-minute meetings. We decided to pay the $16/month (including tax) for an account that allows meetings of up to 24 hours. Not that we ever intend to do any such thing…

SMUG members should receive an email message with the details. If you haven’t received such a message, please contact us.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. PT on May 19. I will fire up the meeting at 6:30 p.m., to give people time to iron out their voice and video, and we will use that half-hour for a question and answer session.

World Backup Day

March 31 is World Backup Day. While not an officially recognized holiday or commemoration, the date should serve as a reminder that you would be very, very unhappy if your Macintosh crashed, or you lost your iPhone or iPad.

While there are lots of statistics on the importance of backing up your data, here are some of the more sobering:

  • 20% of computer users have never backed up their data.
  • 10% of smartphone users have had their phone stolen.
  • Almost 100% of computer and smartphone users have been targeted by malware designed to either steal your data or corrupt it.

Fortunately, it is very easy to backup a Macintosh. Time Machine, the backup software included with every version of macOS since MacOS 10.6, requires nothing more than a spare disk, attached to your machine via FireWire, Thunderbolt, or USB 3.0. (USB 2.0 works, too, just more slowly.) You can get an external drive, inexpensively, from Other World Computing, Office Depot, Best Buy, Amazon, or even Apple’s website.

If you’ve never used Time Machine, Apple has clear instructions if you need help: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250

Backing up your iPhone, iPad, or (if you still have one) iPod is possibly even easier, and again, Apple has clear instructions: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203977

Keep in mind that your iPhone probably has your most complete list of names, addresses and phone numbers of your relatives, friends, coworkers, hair dressers and barbers, and other important contacts. Your iPhone probably has thousands of photos on it, many of them located nowhere else. Backing up all of this information to your Mac or to the cloud is — easy.

Similarly, your Macintosh probably has financial records (including income tax records), movies, photos, songs, your unfinished novel, and tens of thousands of other documents that you’d find very depressing if they disappeared.

While you are sheltering in place and observing social distancing, shelter your data: back up your iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh.

Books about Macs Black Friday sale

In recent meetings, we’ve mentioned Take Control Books. Originally done as an offshoot of one of the first Macintosh mailing lists (established in 1984), Take Control Books are electronic books dealing with mostly Mac-centric topics, such as macOS, Photos, Pages, etc.

Take Control Books is having a “Black Friday” sale on some of their most important books, including several mentioned in recent meetings. While I haven’t read most of these, I do have quite a few of their books, and highly recommend them. They cover critical Mac topics quite well.

Here is the announcement of their sale, with links:

✩✩✩

The sale is on! From now through next Monday, December 2, we’re having a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale—50% off on our most recent releases. No coupon or special links are required.

Here are the books that are on sale:

Connect and Secure Your iPhone and iPad
Take Control of Automating Your Mac
Take Control of Calendar and Reminders
Take Control of Catalina
Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13
Take Control of macOS Media Apps
Take Control of Notes
Take Control of Photos
Take Control of Upgrading to Catalina
Take Control of Wi-Fi Networking and Security
Take Control of Your Apple ID
Take Control of Your Browser
Take Control of Your Digital Photos

The sale ends promptly at midnight on Monday, December 2 (Pacific time).

✩✩✩

They have a large number of books available, covering almost any Mac or iOS topic you can imagine: https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/catalog/

The nice thing about their books: because they are electronic, you can find a book you want, buy it, download it, and be reading it almost immediately. Books are available in ePub (iPad and iPhone), Mobi (Kindle), and PDF (Acrobat) format.

September 2019: macOS Catalina Preview

The September 17, 2019 meeting of Strait Macintosh User Group focused on macOS Catalina 10.15. The meeting was held at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave., Sequim, WA. Notes by Secretary Kathleen Charters.

Business Meeting

Meeting called to order at 7 p.m. by President Sabrina Davis.

Sabrina welcomed new members and reviewed the group’s finances. In July, dues were set at $24 per family per year. Using dues collected at the July 2019 meeting, treasurer Annalis Schutmann and Secretary Kathleen Charters opened a checking account for SMUG, with a beginning balance of $414. After checks and other fees, this left the group with a balance of $386.

Vice President Lawrence Charters requested that we spend a large portion of this money to finish setting up the SMUG website on WordPress.com. While the site is working as designed, hosted for free, there are limits on what you can do with a free site: you can’t use a custom domain name (every WordPress.com site is going to end in xxx.wordpress.com), there is no technical support, there are severe limits on how much server space you can use, there are limits on how much you can customize a site, you cannot keep WordPress.com from posting ads on the site, you can’t link to social media, etc. The cost for all of this would be less than $150/year, though how much less is not certain.

There are alternatives, with the same benefits for less than $100/year. One big advantage of using WordPress.com: everything can be built and administered with only a web browser. There is no need for specialized software, no arcane knowledge of Unix or HTTP or PHP or various other odd combinations of letters, numbers and symbols, and multiple people can help populate the site with content.

There was a discussion about reusing the existing SMUG domain, straitmac.org. The site domain registration runs out in April 2020 [at the meeting, it was thought it might be December 2019, but checking, it is 4/4/2020], and the site is hosted on plypen.com. Olypen told SMUG last year that they could not support many of the features SMUG wanted without a doubling of the $100/year price.

Hosting the site elsewhere (GoDaddy, Blue Host, etc.) would be less expensive, but would require a higher level of technical knowledge, and while this wouldn’t be a problem for Lawrence, the group felt more comfortable with the idea that wordpress.com required “only a web browser,” with WordPress.com caring for the updates and infrastructure. The motion to spend the money to build out the site on wordpress.com was moved, seconded, and passed unanimously.

Sabrina asked if it would be possible to post ads to buy, sell or trade Macs and iPhones on the site, and Lawrence cautioned that, as SMUG is a non-profit, the organization has to refrain from activities that might appear to be commercial. The group discussed alternatives (Craigslist, Next Door, etc.), including possibly using the group email list. Some members expressed concern about using the email list as “one person’s ad is someone else’s spam.”

A visitor asked how to become a member, and what, exactly, SMUG did. The answer (from a number of people) was: Strait Macintosh User Group (SMUG) is a non-profit organization that meets monthly or, sometimes, bi-monthly, and discusses Macintosh hardware and software, iPhone hardware and software, iPad hardware and software, Apple Watch hardware and software, etc. Family memberships are $24 per year. At present, the major expense will probably be the website. Currently, meetings are in Sequim, but there have been some requests to hold meetings in Port Angeles. A message will be sent out to the mailing lists asking about interest in holding Port Angeles meetings.

Topics suggested for future meetings:

  • How to organize files
  • Introduction to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Google Keep
  • How to securely configure a Mac
  • How to securely configure an iPhone

Presentation: Preview of macOS Catalina

At Apple’s Special Event on September 10, 2019 (you can see the entire video on Apple’s site https://www.apple.com/apple-events/september-2019/), Apple said Catalina would be out “in October,” with nothing more specific. iOS 13 and watchOS 6 will be out September 19, and Apple TV 6 and iPad OS 13 (really, the first version, but apparently it will be called 13) should be out the last week of September.

Apple’s event was only focused on hardware and services, introducing new phones, watches, and an iPad, plus a brief review of Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade. Yet even though Catalina was only mentioned in passing, it is a huge advance for macOS, as it will be the first version of any Mac operating system that is 64-bit only; it will not run 32-bit software, or (for that matter), 16-bit or 8-bit. This is a security measure, and a powerful one.

Moving to 64-bit was first pioneered by iOS 11 on the iPhone and iPad. Since that time, iOS devices use only a 64-bit ARM processor and run only 64-bit software. These steps not only made iPhones and iPads faster, but also more secure, for reasons that are very real if a bit hard to explain. Catalina’s move to support just 64-bit processors and 64-bit applications should also see an increase in speed and efficiency, as well as security.

Lawrence did not advise anyone to install the beta of Catalina, unless they happened to have a Mac they are willing to erase at some point. Significant parts of the operating system are still in test. For one thing, any 32-bit applications they have will simply not work. Lawrence demonstrated this by showing that the scanning software he used for his scanner is dead (the manufacturer has released an entirely new suite to replace it), and Apple’s Aperture photo management software is — dead.

Aside: Asked what he uses instead of Aperture, Lawrence said that Apple’s “replacement” for Aperture was Apple Photos, which is free to everyone with a compatible Mac. Apple Photos is quite good, but Lawrence went a different route, and is now using Adobe Lightroom. For people who don’t have tens of thousands of photos, Apple Photos (available for Macs, iPhones, and iPads) is probably more than adequate.

Lawrence then demonstrated one huge advance in Catalina: all user data is on its own disk partition, separate from the operating system. Putting the operating system on its own partition, and then severely limiting access to that partition, vastly improves security. Lawrence demonstrated this by booting into Recovery Mode, launching Disk Utility from the Recovery Partition, and then showing the three partitions of the drive: the Recovery partition, the operating system partition, and the user data partition.

macOS Catalina puts the operating system in its own partition (on this machine, the partition named "Portacray"), separate from all user data (the highlighted "Portacray-Data" partition). The partition used for the Recovery Partition is at the bottom, "macOS Base System."
macOS Catalina puts the operating system in its own partition (on this machine, the partition named “Portacray”), separate from all user data (the highlighted “Portacray-Data” partition). The partition used for the Recovery Partition is at the bottom, “macOS Base System.” Click on the image for a closer look.

As soon as Catalina comes out, Lawrence intends to put it on all his machines except one (and that machine, a Mac mini, is too old to support it, anyway).

Speaking of the Recovery Partition, Lawrence strongly encouraged everyone to learn how to use the Recovery Partition before they had an emergency. The Recovery Partition allows you to launch Disk First Aid (to check the hard drive), to reinstall macOS, to restore a drive from a Time Machine backup, to get help online (the Recovery Mode can use Ethernet or Wi-Fi to reach the Internet), to use Network Utility to check network connection, and to use Terminal to use command-line utilities and diagnostics. Booting the Recovery Partition is easy: restart the machine and hold down ⌘ and R until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe. More information on the Recovery Partition can be found on Apple’s website at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201314

Not all Macs are compatible with Catalina. For a complete list, see Apple’s listing at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210222

Macs compatible with macOS Catalina, from Apple's website.
Macs compatible with macOS Catalina, from Apple’s website.

Aside: Lawrence was asked how to tell which model Mac you might have, since Apple tends to call all their Macs by certain broad names. In order to see what model you have, go to the Apple Menu, select About This Mac, and your Mac’s model and model year will appear.

Under the Apple Menu, About This Mac will tell you what model Macintosh you are using. In this case, the Mac is an iMac 21.5 inch, 2017.
Under the Apple Menu, About This Mac will tell you what model Macintosh you are using. In this case, the Mac is an iMac 21.5 inch, 2017.

Even if you do not plan to upgrade to Catalina, you should immediately go to the Apple App Store and download macOS Mojave. Once Catalina is released, Mojave will not be offered on the App Store for download.

And if you do not think you want to install Catalina, reconsider. With Catalina’s release, Apple will also release acknowledgment of various bugs and vulnerabilities patched in Catalina, and thank the developers who found them. Hackers will immediately use this list of bugs to start attacking Macs that have not been updated.

If you have an older machine that cannot be updated, considering retiring it, and getting a new Mac. Or at least getting a newer Mac. Older Macs that are compatible with Catalina are available from various resellers, or from an individual wanting a newer machine.

As mentioned earlier, Catalina will not launch 32-bit applications; only 64-bit applications. Before installing, you should check for all 32-bit programs on your machine. There are two ways to do this, one easy and another a bit more difficult. The easy way: St. Clair Software has released a free program, Go64, which will inventory every application on your machine and present a nice, neat listing of applications that are 32-bit, 64-bit, or a mixture of both. The listing is sortable, and includes the website of the developer, in case you want to go and check to see if an application has a newer, 64-bit version available. You can get Go64 here: https://www.stclairsoft.com/Go64/

The slightly more difficult way is also free. Go to your Mac’s Apple menu, select About This Mac, press the button called System Report, scroll down to the bottom, where Software is listed, select Applications, and then – wait a bit. Your Mac will build a listing of every application on your machine, and the right-most column, labeled 64-bit, will show a Yes if something is 64-bit and No if something is not. The columns are sortable, so click on the 64-bit column heading to clump all the “No” responses together. This isn’t quite as easy to use as Go64, but it is built right into your Mac.

Lawrence wanted to demonstrate a neat new feature of macOS Catalina and the new iPadOS: the ability to use an iPad as an additional screen for your Mac. Not only can you use an iPad as an additional screen, but you can draw on the iPad, and then use your drawing on the Mac (assuming the iPad and Mac have programs that are compatible with one another). This new capability is called SideCar.

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s MacBook Pro is new enough to support Catalina, but too old to support SideCar. The list of supported Macs is fairly short:

  • 27-inch iMac (Late 2015 or newer)
  • iMac Pro
  • MacBook Pro (2016 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (2018)
  • 12-inch MacBook (early 2016 or newer)
  • Mac mini (2018)
  • Mac Pro (2019)

In addition to the speed and security improvements, Catalina also comes with some revamped applications:

  • Reminders – brings some nice improvements, but Lawrence did not test it as the first thing it did was prompt him to upgrade a whole bunch of devices to iOS 13 and Catalina, which really aren’t out yet.
  • Notes: Catalina adds a nice thumbnail gallery view, which is considerably more useful than the current listing of first lines of notes.
  • Find my: this new application replaces Find iPhone and Find Friends, and now works on iPads, iPhones, and Macs. It works by mapping device locations to the closest Internet access point, which may be a Wi-Fi router in a home or a mobile telephone tower on a different continent.
  • Music: iTunes has been split apart, into a new Music application and a separate Podcast application. This closely matches changes introduced on iPhones and iPads.
  • Apple TV: an Apple TV app was added to iOS last year, and now it is available on the Mac, too. It supports Apple’s new streaming service Apple TV+, and also handles any movies you may have purchased through iTunes. Note: it does not provide local broadcast TV service. For that, look at something like YouTube TV, from Google, https://tv.youtube.com/

Lawrence recommended not connecting Macs running older operating systems to the Internet. Want to use them for playing non-Internet games? Fine. Want to use them for scanning things using an old scanner? Fine. But keep them off the Internet; no email, no web browsing. Virtually all Mac security compromises come from email or web browsing.

One individual stated that he connects multiple hard drives to their Mac, with different operating systems, allowing them to “revert” to an older operating system just by rebooting. Lawrence strongly recommended not to do this. When you boot an operating system from disk, the operating system changes how your Mac uses memory, changes what is in memory, changes how it accesses and stores things on disk, and, in newer operating systems, also encrypts memory. Switching between operating systems on the same Mac runs a high risk of corrupting data on the hard drive and losing everything stored on a drive, without hope of recovery.

One way to maintain old operating systems safely: Parallels. Parallels Desktop for Mac ($79.99) allows you to create “virtual” machines that run on your Mac. You can run Windows 10 (you still need a copy of Windows 10), Linux (you can download Linux for free), or older versions of macOS. These operating systems will run on “top” of Catalina, which was the inspiration for the name Parallels. https://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/

Lawrence was asked about Fusion, which is another software virtualization tool. Fusion is popular with system administrators because most of them are trained in Windows, and VMWare (which makes Fusion) also makes one of the most popular virtualization packages for running on Windows machines. And there is the problem: Fusion is not as fast as Parallels, and is not particularly Mac-like. But it does work. https://www.vmware.com/products/fusion.html

The meeting ended with a Question and Answer session. The rule for this section: the question and the answer should be something that can reasonably be asked in three to five minutes.

Questions and Answers

Q: How do you turn off storing the location of a photo on a specific photo? I don’t want that information uploaded with photos to social media.

A: The iPhone stores the location of where a photo was taken (or at least a guess) inside of every photo as GPS metadata. This is a good thing, as it helps you remember what and where you were when you are sorting through photos. Rather than turn on and off this setting on specific photos, it is much easier to simply remove the metadata from photos with an application. The Apple Mac App Store has free utilities to remove metadata; search for “remove photo exif” data and you should find several.

Q: What should I do if a machine is sluggish?

A: First thing: check hard drive health. Use ⌘-spacebar to bring up a search box on your Mac, type in “disk utility” and press enter. This will find and launch Disk Utility. Click on the first tab, First Aid, and have Disk Utility check your hard drive to see if the directory is healthy. If you see any errors, have Disk Utility fix them. If Disk Utility cannot, seek professional assistance.

Beyond that: most people think their computer is sluggish because their Internet connection is slow. A great many things, even searching your hard drive, trigger connecting to the Internet, and if your Internet connection is slow or unreliable, your computer will seem sluggish.

Another common problem specific to web browsers: cache bloat. Your web browser stores bits and pieces of websites on your machine, to increase the apparent speed of sites that you visit over and over. After a while, you end up with thousands, or tens of thousands, of small web bits and pieces on your computer, and it takes a while for your browser to sort through all that stuff. Cleaning the cache can not only speed up your browser, but also recover gigabytes of disk space. Note: emptying the cache may also delete cookies, and if you commonly have your browser store your password, this could keep you out of some websites.

Speeding up Apple Mail: empty out your Junk folder. Some people have tens of thousands of messages in Junk Mail. Empty it. Clearing out Junk Mail and deleting old messages greatly reduces the amount of stuff that Mail has to sort through, and speeds it up immensely.

Don’t store stuff on your Desktop. It is OK to have a document or three, but some people literally cover their desktop with documents and other things. Each time your Mac boots, or you interact with the Desktop, your Mac must sort through all that stuff.

Q: Should I wait for phones with 5G before upgrading my iPhone?

A: 5G doesn’t really exist, despite what commercials on TV might suggest. If and when 5G is deployed, it will appear in large cities long before it appears in Clallam County or Sequim. If you need a new iPhone or iPad, don’t worry about the semi-mythical high-speed 5G services; you won’t miss them, probably for several years.

Similarly, don’t worry about computers or routers supporting Wi-Fi 6. In theory, Wi-Fi 6 is 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5 (previously called 802.11ac). For virtually all of us, our home Wi-Fi router can provide far, far faster speeds than our ISP (Internet Service Provider) can support. In Clallam, most people have broadband Internet speeds of 5 to 10 Mbps (megabits per second). A Wi-Fi 5 router can support speeds of up to several gigabits per second – until it hits your ISP’s cable box, at which point it will be literally a thousand times slower.

Q: Can you use Wi-Fi to improve phone reception?

A: Yes, sometimes. Both AT&T and Verizon support what they call “Wi-Fi calling.” This essentially uses your home’s Wi-Fi and your ISP’s cable service to help send and receive phone calls. You can turn this on under Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling > On. It doesn’t cost anything extra, and for some people, it may be the only way to get mobile phone service in your home or office.

Q: [General question about 911 service and emergencies.]

A: Several people noted that the Great Washington Shakeout will be held October 17. This is a state-wide, voluntary exercise to prepare an emergency plan for your home and office, and test it on October 17. Given that Clallam County is at the edge of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and that Clallam has limited access (due to a floating bridge, mountains, an ocean, and few highways), and no electrical power is generated on the peninsula, and the nearest large city is in another nation, and … generally speaking, you should check out the website and participate in the exercise: https://www.shakeout.org

Next meeting

The group decided the October 15 meeting would be on Securely Configuring macOS Catalina. Most of what will be presented also applies to Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra, in case you haven’t upgraded by then.

The meeting will be at the Sequim Public Library, and begin at 7 p.m.

Note: SMUG received some email messages about the meeting starting “before 7 p.m.” It was explained that, during meeting setup from 6:30-7 p.m., those present did engage in technical gossip about Macs, iPhones, Apple TV, and other things, but the meeting itself didn’t start until 7 p.m., and the presentation started around 7:15. If you arrive early and want to talk about “Mac stuff,” that is fine, but the meeting and program start at 7 p.m.

July 2019: Questions and Answers

Questions were the topic of the evening for the July 16, 2019, Strait Macintosh User Group meeting. The meeting was held at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave., Sequim, WA. Notes by Secretary Kathleen Charters.

Business meeting

The meeting started off with President Sabrina Davis answering questions about recent history, covering such topics as “What happened to our treasury?” [Some former members donated it to Shipley Center, without participation by the current SMUG members or officers, and without holding a meeting.] “What happened to our equipment?”[Donated to Shipley.] and “What do we want to do going forward?”

Going forward, the group decided to hold meetings more or less monthly to get back on track, with the next meeting Tuesday, September 17, at 7 p.m. at the Sequim Public Library. Yes, this means “monthly” doesn’t include August, due to schedule conflicts.

Some members expressed concerns about meeting during the winter months, when it gets dark early and the weather might be unpleasant. This will be discussed some more, as the group is not committed to meeting Tuesday evenings; there are other perfectly good days of the week, and we could meet during daylight hours. We’ll discuss this again in September.

Funds were also an issue. There have been complaints that the new website has advertisements (as some said, “obnoxious ads”) which is a consequence of the free hosting available on WordPress.com. Fixing this, and coming up with a SMUG-specific domain name, would cost money. If we rented space somewhere, that would also cost money; the Library is an excellent location, but the meeting space is quite small (technically, we are supposed to be using only half the space we’ve occupied at the last two meetings).

It was moved, and passed, that dues be set at $24 per year. Treasurer Annalis Schutzmann collected dues from most of those in attendance. [Subsequently, Annalis and Secretary Kathleen Charters set up a SMUG bank account.]

Open Question and Answer (Q&A) session

There were two rules:

  1. The questions had to be about Apple products (hardware or software), and
  2. The questions and responses should take no more than three to four minutes to answer.

Anything more complex will have to be deferred.

Vice President Lawrence Charters conducted the Q&A session.

My Laptop can’t download mojave

Just from looking at the laptop from across the room, it is clear the MacBook Pro has an optical disc drive, which means it is fairly old, as Apple hasn’t shipped a laptop with an optical drive since 2012. As for why Mojave is not supported: Mojave (macOS 10.14) is a 64-bit operating system, and older Macs do not have CPUs (the main “computer”) capable of supporting 64-bit operations. Mojave also uses the video card as if it was another CPU, speeding up not only video but file compression, among other things, and older video cards do not support such operations. Since virtually all Macs, laptop and desktop, have a single circuit board holding the CPU, the video card, and all the supporting chips and circuitry, it isn’t economically or technologically feasible to replace the pieces; a newer machine is the only option.

Incidentally, a “newer” machine does not necessarily mean “brand new.” Apple sells refurbished machines from their websites (with new warranties).

As for why a 64-bit operating system is important: not only are these faster (allowing you to get more speed and efficiency on supported hardware), but they are also much more secure. This is true not only for Macs; iPhones and iPads have been 64-bit-only for several years, and Microsoft is now strongly pushing Windows 10 users to use 64-bit versions of Windows 10. In the Windows world, this has created massive problems, as literally a billion Windows machines are running insecure versions of Windows.

is it wise to beta-test new Mac OS?

Running beta (pre-release) versions of operating systems on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is only a good idea if a) you have another perfectly useful machine to do important work and b) you are prepared to erase everything on the machine you use for beta-testing. And “erase” means everything: all data, all applications, and the operating system itself. Beta versions of operating systems are intended to test things to see if they break, and, if they do, how they break; they are not designed for you to test drive.

Note, too, that it takes time to download beta versions of operating systems, time to install the software, and sometimes time to reinstall the software, as one of the things being tested is the installer itself. Also, Apple recommends erasing all beta versions of an operating system (which requires erasing the entire drive) before installing the release version. If you do decide to try the beta versions of an operating system, make sure you have an iCloud account with enough room on it to hold everything on your machine — all data, and all applications — as it gives you some chance to recover in case something goes horribly wrong. “Going horribly wrong” is the whole purpose of beta testing.

what about running another operating system from another drive?

You should never try and have two different operating systems installed on the same machine, even if they are on different drives, as this can corrupt the operating systems and your data. When a Mac boots, it scans all connected drives and based on what it finds, it makes changes in memory to accommodate what it thinks is appropriate for the operating system — and these changes could cause damage when you switch back and forth between the two operating systems. It may make changes to whatever drive is not the boot drive — changes in initial boot parameters, changes in which drive is booted first, changes in preferences for applications, etc. — and those changes can corrupt your data, your applications, and either or both operating systems.

After upgrading to high sierra, not able to access files

High Sierra (macOS 10.13) is much more strict about how applications perform, and if an application does things in an insecure fashion, it simply won’t allow the application to launch. High Sierra also changes the file system on the internal drive (on machines with solid-state drives), which also makes all previous disk analysis and disk management utilities obsolete. Most of the changes in High Sierra are focused on speed, efficiency, and particularly security. If your application doesn’t run anymore, you need to upgrade to a later, supported, more secure version.

I’m getting a warning my application is not optimized for operating system

I’ve run this: the scanner software for my Fujitsu scanner is flagged by my Mac as “[This app] is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated.” It is essentially a warning that it is a 32-bit application and absolutely will not run under macOS Catalina 10.15, the next version of the Mac operating system. You need to either get the vendor to update the software, or buy a new version, or find a replacement.

[Fortunately, Fujitsu did come out with a free update the next day.]

Is it important to upgrade? Are Macs really vulnerable?

Yes, you should upgrade, and yes, Macs are vulnerable. The biggest reason they are vulnerable: the Mac user “invites” malware onto their machine.

In the past, the largest source of malware (malignant software) on the Mac was Adobe Flash. Adobe has abandoned Flash (in 2017), and because it is no longer supported, it continues to be a problem. Today the most common vulnerability comes through PDFs, (another Adobe product). A PDF document is essentially a program and hackers “tag” PDF documents with programs that can compromise your Mac.

Apple operating system upgrades are free; the alternative is to never connect a device without upgrades to the Internet.

Is there something we can use to protect ourselves?

Generally don’t recommend installing anti-virus software unless you are a teacher, a lawyer, or someone else who gets a constant stream of documents from strangers. The anti-virus packages for Macs are quite good, but generally, the only things they find are Windows viruses, which your Mac ignores.

The best defense is to install the operating system and application updates as they become available. Among other things, this ensures that Gatekeeper is updated. Gatekeeper is Apple’s background technology that automatically (if you keep the operating system updated) downloads profiles of malware and malicious websites. If you try and visit a suspicious website with Safari, Safari will pop up a warning telling you to go away. If you attempt to download a malicious software package, Gatekeeper will put up a warning.

Does gatekeeper only work with Safari?

Yes, Gatekeeper only works with Safari. Chrome, however, has similar technology, and Chrome tests for updates every time you launch it. Speaking of browsers, Microsoft has released a beta version of Microsoft Edge, their browser. Like Chrome, the new Microsoft Edge is based on Chromium, which is Google’s browser technology. Chromium, in turn, was originally based on WebKit, which is Apple’s technology.

If you are interested in the Microsoft Edge beta for the Mac, visit: https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/ Note: this is a beta, so don’t use it for anything critical.

Should I use MacKeeper?

MacKeeper is not something you should have on your Mac. It is heavily advertised, and many people have installed it accidentally. If you have it, get rid of it. MacKeeper does not tell you how to uninstall it; it is complicated and annoying, and once installed, it slows your machine down and constantly prompts you to upgrade to a paid version. Many people have to pay a consultant to remove it. Here are two different sets of instructions for removing it. Pick one or the other, and don’t skip any steps:

https://www.lifewire.com/remove-mackeeper-4150011

https://www.macworld.com/article/2861435/how-to-uninstall-mackeeper-from-your-mac.html

Free software training

The Sequim Library, as part of NOLS (North Olympic Library System), has as part of its service free access to Lynda.com. Lynda.com has some of the best online software courses on how to do everything from using Microsoft Word to how to write code in PHP for building a website. Ask the library for more information; normally, Lynda.com courses are $60 or more apiece.

Have had problems uploading movies from iPhone 5s

The iPhone takes great movies — but movies are much larger than photos. To upload them, you have to spend a lot of time waiting for them to upload. If you are trying to sync them to iCloud, it can also take a long time. You also have to make sure you have enough space in iCloud to hold them.

To check your available space on the iPhone, go to Settings > General > About, and scroll down to Capacity. Just below that is Available, which displays the available space left on the phone.

To check your iCloud space, go to Settings, and right at the top, press on your name, which opens up the Apple ID and iCloud settings. Scroll down to iCloud, press on the link, and you will see the storage capacity at the top. If you only have the free 5 GB account, and it is all in use, you won’t be able to sync video to iCloud.

When uploading video or syncing to iCloud, it is best to do this from home, using your home Wi-Fi, and the iPhone plugged into power. If you try to do this over a cellular connection, you will use up bandwidth in a hurry, and the sync process is slower. Or sometimes not even available as an option.

Speaking of cloud storage, everyone should consider getting a Google Photos account. You can save “unlimited” photos at high resolution, and up to 15 GB of data, for free. Not as well integrated as iCloud, but there is no reason not to sync to both iCloud and Google Photos.

Do you use offsite storage?

There are lots of “cloud backup” vendors. The one Lawrence uses is Backblaze, https://www.backblaze.com

BackBlaze runs a daemon (a Unix background process) that scans for new files and uploads them automatically; Lawrence has 10.5 TB in BackBlaze. It is perfect for disaster planning, protecting your data in case of a local power outage, or theft, or fire, or some other kind of loss.

Since Backblaze is in the cloud, it is not subject to any household or office or even any regional disaster; you can access the backup files from anywhere on the planet that has Internet access. You can restore files from anywhere, even onto a brand-new machine. If you have a lot of data [Lawrence has a lot of data], you can pay Backblaze a deposit and they will ship a hard drive (or multiple hard drives) to you for restoring files to your machine

why is cloud backup a good idea?

iCloud, and other “true” cloud services (Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure, etc.) replicates data across millions of drives. If one hard drive fails, it automatically re-creates the data on another drive. The big cloud services are also replicated between regions. You can back up your Mac from your home in Sequim, and the cloud service will make copies of the data in other regions, so not even a regional outage will lose data.

While Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google don’t publish any figures on how their infrastructures are built, a 2016 report estimated that Google has 2.5 million servers worldwide. That is a lot of redundancy. Other estimates put the figure at closer to 10 million.

Encryption is another benefit. Apple iCloud is encrypted by default, as is Google Drive (which includes Google Photos). The encryption ensures that you are the only one with access to your data, even in the cloud. In fact, since most people don’t encrypt their laptop or desktop machines, your data may be more secure in the cloud than at home.

Next meeting

The next meeting will be Tuesday, September 17, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the Sequim Library. The topic: A preview of what is coming with macOS Catalina, and if time, information on the new iOS 13 and iPadOS.