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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jay Inslee, Governor of the State of Washington, today issued an emergency proclamation mandating an immediate two-week shutdown of all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities. Many businesses that have not shut down have told employees to work from home.
Even if you are retired, or a student, you should find this book of value. There are tips on the care and feeding of your computer, furniture you should use, the merits of an external monitor (if you have a laptop), and many other nice tips.
You might want to check out their other books, too. They are not free, but you can download them electronically; no need to leave home.
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.
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.
The November 19, 2019, meeting of Strait Macintosh User Group focused on file management using macOS. The meeting was held at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave., Sequim, WA. Notes by Secretary Kathleen Charters.
Lawrence Charters brought the meeting to order at 7 p.m. President Sabrina Davis is out of the country for three months. She has reserved the Library meeting room through January 2020. Treasurer Annalis Schutzmann reported the treasury balance as of last month was $402.59. Four new memberships have improved the balance to $498.59.
Lawrence mentioned that bbPress has been released after a six-year development (https://bbpress.org/blog/2019/11/bbpress-2-6/). bbPress is a piece of forum software that integrates with WordPress sites, such as strait-mac.org.
Good news: it should work with SMUG’s WordPress site. This would allow SMUG to have ongoing conversations online about Macs, iPhones, iPads and related topics, similar to the old SMUG forums, http://www.straitmac.org/phpBB3/. (The old forum service will probably disappear by the end of 2019).
Bad news: SMUG would have to pay more money to host the forum. Our current level of service doesn’t allow SMUG to use WordPress plug-ins (i.e., extensions to WordPress), and the amount of server space to support forums would need to be increased. SMUG members need to give some thought to this subject, and decide if the group wants to set up a new forum service.
An alternative is to use a free, if less integrated (and clunkier) service on groups.io. We’ve set up an initial page, https://groups.io/g/strait-mac — use of the service requires members to sign up and be approved.
Please give this some thought; we’ll discuss it at a future meeting.
A: In general, you should be extremely cautious (and suspicious) of any request to install software, and even more suspicious to a request to give access to your drive. But in the case of MalwareBytes (and other anti-virus and anti-malware software), the software requires such access in order to search out malware, and protect your computer from malware attacks. Being very cautious is proper, but in this case, the request is appropriate.
Q: I got an email from Apple saying my account has been frozen.
A: Apple doesn’t send out messages like that. Instead, Apple will send you messages notifying you if you’ve subscribed to things, it will send receipts for things you’ve purchased, it will send out (if you’ve subscribed; https://lists.apple.com/mailman/options/security-announce/) messages about Apple security updates, etc.
This particular email was a scam. Current estimates estimate that for every single valid email message, there are over 100 pieces of scam, spam (unsolicited commercial operations), and outright malware. Apple’s iCloud service and Google’s Gmail service have outstanding tools for flagging “junk” mail, encrypt mail from end-to-end (to keep mail from spying eyes), and are highly recommended for helping stem the onslaught. Use the controls in Mail and Gmail to flag suspicious messages; this helps Apple and Google improve their filtering.
You should also strongly consider moving away from mail systems with limited scope and resources, or long histories of problems. If you want to retain an old Yahoo or AOL or some other address, set up that account to auto-forward all messages to an Apple iCloud or Google Gmail account.
Q: I gave my old iPhone to my spouse, but left my contacts on the phone. We soon find our contacts mixed in with one another’s. I tried deleting their contacts from my phone, but this deleted them from both phones. How do you fix this?
Why the contacts are disappearing: since the phone was not erased, both phones are tied to a single Apple ID account, and Contacts is doing what it is designed to do: deleting contacts from that Apple ID account.
Since Apple ID accounts are free (up to 5 GB), erase the phone, set it up with a new Apple ID account for your spouse, and then they can maintain their own contacts, independently. If you need more space, Apple offers Family plans, allowing you to share storage across multiple Apple ID accounts, and still maintain things like Contacts independently.
Q: How do you share messages with your spouse if you have different email accounts?
A: If you want to share an incoming message, just forward it to your spouse’s email address. To share an outgoing message, cc (“carbon copy,” only without carbon paper) your spouse.
Q: What does “in the cloud” mean?
A: “Cloud” refers to the fact that small (or large) “clouds” of servers are set up to provide Internet services, and to store user information across multiple machines. This allows the service to respond faster to users, and safely store user information across many machines, protecting data from failures of individual machines or groups of machines.
When it comes to clouds, Google is not only the largest cloud service but the largest thing ever constructed by humans. Composed of millions of servers scattered across the planet, it is the most expensive, complex, and vast “machine” ever built. Apple’s more modest iCloud service is still vast, with server centers in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Q: Is there any easy way to clean up an email message that has been sent back and forth, through multiple replies?
A: In T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, the novel explains how Merlin lives backward in time, born old and gradually growing young, remembering the future and not the past. There is no easy way to read these long message strings, but you have a trick not available to Merlin: start at the bottom of the message string and read upward.
A page on the main topic, File Management, will be posted as an article when done. It is a bit too long to include as part of the meeting minutes.
At the October 2019, Strait Macintosh User Group had a brief demonstration of how to securely configure macOS Catalina. However, as the meeting was only an hour long, and there were lots of questions, most of those in attendance emerged dazed and confused. This included the person giving the presentation, but Lawrence Charters promised to publish a guide to the major points covered. He implied it would be published soon. He was wrong.
But the configuration document is now complete, and can be found at this link:
The October 15, 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.
Meeting called to order at 7 p.m. by President Sabrina Davis. Sabrina welcomed three new visitors. Treasurer Annalis Schutzmann reported the treasury stood at $386.75. In response to a question, Annalis said dues are $24 for 12 months, per family.
The November meeting will be November 19, and the December meeting will be December 17, both at the Sequim Public Library.
Before the meeting started, Vice President Lawrence Charters explained the confusion over the email meeting announcement. Sabrina asked him to repeat the story…
Wave Broadband and Google Mail in conflict
Wave Broadband, the leading Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the Olympic Peninsula, had a surplus of problems in October. Lawrence has a Fingbox which, among other things, performs network security functions, and also checks for Internet slowdowns and outages. In the first two weeks, his Fingbox recorded six complete outages of an hour or more, and dozens of slowdowns and mini-outages.
One of these outages occurred late Friday, October 12, just as he sent off a message to the 293 addresses in the Strait Mac mailing list. This one message did make it to Wave Broadband, where it was expanded into 293 messages — which were held for four hours. When they were eventually delivered to Google (the straitmac.vicepresident account is on Google Mail), Google generated a bunch of cryptic error messages and bounced them back because they were suspiciously delayed. Google Mail only allows 500 messages in a 24 hour period, and the 293 outgoing messages and 293 incoming messages effectively shut down the account for a day.
Unaware of the problem, Lawrence was surprised to get a message from Sabrina on Monday, October 14, asking about the meeting. Lawrence did some research, found out about the 500 messages a day limit, and decided to send out a second message — just as Wave had a six-hour outage. The 293 outgoing messages and 293 bounces again shut down the account.
On Tuesday, October 15 (the day of the meeting), Lawrence sent out a message from his personal (not SMUG) account, and that one, thankfully, did reach everyone.
This story prompted a number of questions about Internet connectivity on the Olympic Peninsula, none of which have particularly encouraging answers. Except: do not have your only mail account on Wave, or Olypen, or any other local ISP (Internet Service Provider).
And now for the presentation —
Securely installing macOS Catalina
Security professionals recommend the following steps to securely install an operating system:
Do a full backup of your system.
Erase your hard drive — completely.
Do a “clean install” of your operating system (i.e., do a full install by downloading macOS Catalina directly from Apple, without any remains of a previous operating system, data, preferences, or anything else).
Do a “clean install” of all your applications.
Restore your data from your backup.
Except in government and corporate environments, hardly anyone ever does this. It is a lot of work.
macOS Catalina for Real People
Most living, breathing people should do this. It is less work. It is also less secure, but not that much less.
Before anything else, run Disk Utility (you can find it in Applications > Utilities) and use First Aid to check the health of your hard drive. If your hard drive displays any problems, correct them before upgrading.
What does First Aid check? For one computer called Portacray, it checked a whole bunch of things. An “exit code” of 0 (zero) means everything was normal:
Started file system verification on disk1s5 Portacray
Verifying file system
Volume could not be unmounted
Using live mode
Performing fsck_apfs -n -l -x /dev/rdisk1s5
Checking the container superblock
Checking the EFI jumpstart record
Checking the space manager
Checking the space manager free queue trees
Checking the object map
Checking the APFS volume superblock
The volume Portacray was formatted by diskmanagemen (1418.104.22.168.1) and last modified by apfs_kext (1412.11.7)
Checking the object map
Checking the snapshot metadata tree
Checking the snapshot metadata
Checking snapshot 1 of 2 (com.apple.TimeMachine.2019-10-19-074436.local)
Checking snapshot 2 of 2 (com.apple.TimeMachine.2019-10-27-120314.local)
Checking the extent ref tree
Checking the fsroot tree
Verifying allocated space
The volume /dev/rdisk1s5 appears to be OK
File system check exit code is 0
Restoring the original state found as mounted
Finished file system verification on disk1s5 Portacray
After confirming the disk drive is in good shape:
Do a full backup of your computer. The easiest, cheapest, most thorough way to do this is through Time Machine. It comes with your Mac, it is easy to use, and as long as you don’t futz with it, it does an excellent job.
Update or remove all applications that are not 64-bit.
It doesn’t hurt to leave them as-is, but since they won’t work with Catalina, you might as well clear them out.
Got to Apple menu > About This Mac > System Report
Scroll down to Software > Applications
[Wait for the list to build then] Go to the extreme right column, 64-Bit (Intel) and sort the list by clicking on the heading. Update or remove anything important listed as “No.”
A good way to remove applications, plus their preference files: Appcleaner from FreeMacSoft. It is free.
If using the System Report is too much trouble (and it is awkward), an alternative: go to St. Clair Software, https://www.stclairsoft.com/Go64/ and download Go64. It produces a nice, annotated report, and yes, it is free.
Empty the Trash.
Clean out everything from your Downloads folder.
Empty the cache from your browsers. All of them (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, whatever).
Clean up everything from your Desktop.
Update any existing applications that need updates.
Upgrading to Catalina is relatively simple
Make sure your computer is plugged into power, your Internet connection is solid, and the weather isn’t going to futz with power or Internet access.
Download macOS Catalina directly from Apple. Under Mojave, you would do this through System Preferences > Software Update.
Once downloaded, it should take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to install Catalina, answer all the startup questions, and log in again.
After you are finished and log in, you may see a curiously named folder on your desktop, Relocated Items.
This folder is really an alias (a pointer) to information that used to be in your System folder (operating system directory), but is not allowed under Catalina. In years past, developers (Adobe, Microsoft, zillions of small developers you don’t remember, and even Apple) stuck things in the System folder, but under Catalina’s vastly expanded security, this stuff is no longer allowed there. Nothing in the folder is active or useful; Apple stuck it there in case you recognize something, and want to ask the program’s developer for an update, or advice on what to do with it. Or (most likely), you find it is no longer useful, and you just toss it.
The folder, if it is produced, has a PDF file that (sorta) explains why it exists:
During the last macOS upgrade or file migration, some of your files couldn’t be moved to their new locations. This folder contains these files.
These configuration files were modified or customized by you, by another user, or by an app. The modifications are incompatible with the recent macOS upgrade. The modified files are in the Configuration folder, organized in subfolders named for their original locations.
To restore any of the custom configurations, compare your modifications with the configuration changes made during the macOS upgrade and combine them when possible.
You can delete the alias from your desktop; it doesn’t need to be there, and deleting it doesn’t delete anything else.
Securing macOS Catalina
This isn’t very difficult, but the process requires quite a few screenshots and has been moved to a stand-alone page. Most of the material applies to previous versions of macOS, too, though the screenshots used are from Catalina. Click the link below:
Q: You mentioned you use 1Password for storing passwords. Does that mean I can get rid of Keychain?
A: 1Password is a commercial password manager for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. It has a much more user-friendly interface than Keychain Manager, or the Keychain Access management utility (located in Applications > Utilities). No, you can’t get rid of Keychain; it is the part of the Mac and iPhone and iPad operating systems that handles passwords. 1Password is essentially an easier to use editor for Keychain than Keychain Access.
Q: When you tell your browser to automatically log into a website, is that safe?
A: If the website is not something that handles your identity or reputation, or financial records, sure. But if a site deals with your reputation (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or finances (IRS, Social Security, credit unions, banks, credit card companies, etc.), no, you don’t want your browser to automatically log in. Anyone sitting down at your computer, or anyone who steals your computer, could automatically log into any of those websites.
Q: If upgrading to Catalina is a hassle, why should I?
A: It isn’t that much of a hassle. If you have a bunch of out-of-date applications that can’t be upgraded, it means they are already security threats to your machine. Current and future software vendors will not support anything except 64-bit applications, and not upgrading won’t really do you any good.
For a variety of technical reasons, 64-bit applications are genuinely more secure, as well as faster. They will also take up less space on your hard drive, since the software companies will no longer have to wedge both 32-bit code and 64-bit code into their applications.
A: Yes, but keep in mind that the way it works, it is scanning for malware constantly, even though your Mac may have never run into a piece of malware. Government agencies, teachers, accountants, lawyers, and certain other professionals should use an always-on malware scanner, but I prefer on-demand malware scanning. The one I use is called Bitdefender, available through Apple’s App Store, and it runs only when I tell it to run. I have a calendar entry to tell me to run it once a month.
Lawrence also showed the hidden, zippered pocket that he has in his polo shirt for holding his iPhone. The shirt was made by ScotteVest, which has a wide range of vests, coats, sweaters, shirts, skirts, shorts, etc., with “invisible” pockets for holding electronics. Lawrence explained that when he goes to the airport, he puts everything he wants into various pockets of a ScotteVest vest (watch, keys, wallet, passport, earphones, etc.) and, when he gets to the TSA screening area, takes the vest off and puts it in a bin. Then he picks it up on the other side of X-ray. Some of the men’s and women’s coats and vests have pockets large enough to hold a 10″ iPad.
November meeting: files
The November 19, 2019 meeting will have as the topic: organizing files. Apple tries hard to make organizing files easy, but life doesn’t necessarily easily separate things into Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, etc.
Other topics for future meetings mentioned were: Introduction to Google Drive (Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Maps, Google Sites, Google Photos, Google Keep, etc.), iPadOS (and integration with macOS), health care devices and apps, WordPress, and support alpacas. (It is possible that support alpacas don’t exist, and only Lawrence seems interested, and they probably have nothing to do with Macs or iPhones or iPads.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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.