Apple event: Spring Loaded

Apple has sent out an invitation to attend, virtually, an event on April 20, at 10 a.m. PT. The only thing they’ve released is this logo,

Apple event: Spring loaded
Apple event: April 20, 2021

which is obviously designed to look like a spring coiled into something similar to the Apple logo.

There is also a link to a page on Apple’s website,

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

which says nothing at all, other than inviting you to stop by on April 20 at 10 a.m.

Speculation

  • A new iPad Pro. The current iPad Pro has face recognition, several cameras, a nifty pen (that they call a Pencil and you have to pay extra to get it, but it is nifty), speech synthesis, lots of storage and RAM, etc. There isn’t much left to add except possibly: it hovers in the air! it floats in the water! you can play 3D games on it, just like in the first Star Wars movie! (Wookie not included.)
  • A new iPad mini. The iPad mini falls in a useful space between the size of an iPhone and the size of an iPad. The mini is just about the size and weight of a paperback book, and I used one of the earlier iPad minis as my reading library of choice for years.
  • Air Tags. The Find My app included on the Mac, iPhone and iPad was recently modified with a new option to find “Items.” This is sort of spelled out on an Apple documentation page, https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211331 — except that Apple (so far) has no tags or widgets that use this capability. Presumably, third-party suppliers will make such tags or widgets, but Apple might, too.
  • A new Apple TV. While the Apple TV is quite spiffy, the Year of COVID has revealed that it could be more. Maybe.
  • New Macs. So far, three computers with Apple Silicon CPUs have been released, the new Mac mini, one MacBook Pro, and a new MacBook Air. But it would make sense to add some larger MacBook Pros and iMacs and whatnot.
  • Apple Aircar. For years, industry pundits have been talking about a forthcoming Apple Car. But this is Apple; I’ve been predicting an Apple Aircar. It will fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and park in a standard driveway, no airport required. It will run on batteries, and can be recharged using a USB-C charging cable. True, it takes about a day to recharge unless you get the optional charging station. For some reason, it also offers the Apple Pencil as an option.

The Strait Macintosh User Group will meet that evening, and we will probably gossip about what was presented.

Flash: make it go away

Action: what you should do

If you have Flash on your computer — any computer, Mac or Windows, laptop or desktop — remove it. Now.

Background

Adobe announced in July 2017 that Flash was going away. Not fading to the background, but going away, forever. They even gave a date: December 31, 2020.

Once upon a time, Flash was a Big Deal. Introduced by Macromedia in November 1996, Flash was an audio and video technology that allowed developers to websites, games, and other multimedia content, complete with embedded scripts. Click on a button, for example, to fire a laser at an alien spaceship, or play the latest Tori Amos song.

By the time Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005, Flash was everywhere. And so were problems: the programming language behind Flash was complex, and many developers published poorly written animations or applications that didn’t work, or crashed the visitors web browser, or in many cases crashed the visitor’s computer. If that wasn’t bad enough, hackers used vulnerabilities in Flash to inject code that changed how Flash websites and applications acted, or even allowed a website to inject malware into the computer of a website visitor.

Monthly security updates could barely keep up with Flash vulnerabilities, but the real enemy turned out to come from a different direction entirely: Apple’s iPhone and iPad could not run Flash. Millions of websites and billions of dollars in development were off limits to iPhone and iPad users. Adobe tried to brush this off as a minor issue; there were over a billion installations of Flash on computers around the world. Who cares if it didn’t work on iPhones and iPads?

But people did care, and companies and governments were greatly concerned with the constant stream of Flash-based computer hacks. Companies and governments soon banned the installation of Flash on their computers. Google Chrome and Safari blocked the use of Flash, further restricting the scope of Flash-based projects.

The introduction of new web standards, including HTML 5, WebGL, and WebAssembly, reached the point that almost anything done in Flash could be duplicated using common, open standards rather than Adobe’s proprietary system.

What if I have a lot invested in Flash?

Write it off. There are ways to convert some Flash content to something more modern, but it is late in the game for such an effort, and it is difficult and time consuming.

How to remove Flash

This page,

https://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/end-of-life.html

gives Adobe’s view of the problem, and (in section 4 and 5) tells you how to uninstall Flash.

Can I just leave Flash on my machine and not use it?

In a word: no. Just having Flash on your machine can make your machine vulnerable to external attacks when you visit websites, or open up attachments in email, or open documents given to you.

To be safe, remove Flash from any and all of your devices. Now.

iPhone and COVID-19

Apple and Google collaborated in the spring of 2020 (long, long ago) to create a “passive” COVID-19 exposure system, which was released on May 20. It is “passive” in that, once it is turned on, you really don’t have to do anything for it to work. But – you do have to turn it on.

It also requires— because this is the United States and instead of one government, we have over 50 — that a given state set up the necessary infrastructure to handle the tracking. The tracking is entirely anonymous, and the only person who gets notified of your exposure is — you.

You can read more about Apple and Google’s work on this innovative system in Wikipedia’s article on Exposure Notification.

Requirements:

  • You need an iPhone
  • It needs to have a current version of iOS
  • You need to turn on Exposure Notifications (go to your iPhone Settings > Exposure Notifications)

Exposure Notification

There are just a few settings, essentially telling your phone to accept notifications, and to verify that you are in Washington State (or wherever you happen to be).

Settings under Exposure Notification

Virginia was the first state to support Exposure Notifications. Since then, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, the District of Columbia — and Washington State — have added support.

How it works: your phone will use near-field communications (NFC), a very low-power radio signal, to take note of other phones that you come near. If at some future date the owner of one of those other phones reports a COVID-19 exposure, the Exposure Notification system will alert you. All of this is done anonymously, and voluntarily. Obviously, in order for the technology to work, literally millions of people need to turn on the notifications, and then also share that they’ve had a COVID-19 diagnosis, if they do get a positive test.

You can read about Washington’s program, called WA Notify, on the Washington State Department of Health website.



Addendum: WA Notify was announced on Monday, November 30. Within 24 hours, more Washington State residents had opted in to the notification system than any other state. By Friday, December 4, more than a million residents were using the system.

Ideally, notifications should be activated on at least 70% of all mobile phones in the state — Android and iPhone — for peak effectiveness. Ask your friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and others to participate. When it comes to the pandemic, the entire planet is in this together.

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.

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.

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.

Working from home temporarily

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.

But what is involved in “working from home?” Take Control Books has an answer: today they issued a new book, Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily, by Glenn Fleishman. Best of all, it is free.

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.

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.

macOS Catalina 10.5 configuration

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:

Securely Configuring macOS Catalina 10.15