apple · ios 11 · mac os x · security · update

Apple Issues ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches for iOS, macOS, Safari

apple_ios_1122_mealtdown_spectre_patch_20180108

Today, Apple has posted a set of updates that are designed to patch recently reported vulnerabilities found in Intel and ARM CPU processors. These are very important security updates. You should install them as soon as you can.

Apple Software Updates

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Ready for your downloading and installing pleasure are:
* iOS 11.2.2 for iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPod touch 6th generation
* macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update
* Safari 11.0.2 for OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.6

The Apple support website always links to the latest security patch updates.

The Short Story

The vulnerability, which impacts all modern Intel and ARM CPUs, can be found in just about every PC, smartphone, and tablet on sale. Microsoft Windows, Linux distributions, and hardware vendors all need to update patches to prevent the “Meltdown” and “Spectre” vulnerabilities from being exploited and granting cyber-attackers access to highly sensitive data that is held in a computer’s protected memory space.

Confused about all of this processor vulnerabilities and patching? It’s totally understandable. If you really want to understand what’s going on, check out Rene Ritchie’s excellent Meltdown and Spectre FAQ at iMore.com.

 

airport · apple · ios · mac os x · security · tvos · watchos

With a Pair of AirPort Updates, Apple Completes Wi-Fi Vulnerability Patching

On December 12, Apple released a pair of AirPort firmware updates to close the WPA2 key reinstallation attack vulnerability. The vulnerability was first publicly announced in October, after alerting vendors of the vulnerability much earlier in the year.

Apple AirPort Extreme/AirPort Time Capsule base station firmware version 7.7.9 and AirPort Express firmware 7.6.9 both include the patch that protects against the WPA2 key reinstallation attack. The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) numbers that these patches address are CVE-2017-9417, CVE-2017-13077, CVE-2017-13078, and CVE-2017-13080.

The AirPort firmware updates can be applied using the iOS AirPort Utility, available for free from the Apple iOS App Store. If you have an Apple AirPort running in your home or office, you need to update it right away to close this serious vulnerability.

About this time last year, I wrote about my doubling-down on Apple AirPort hardware in the face of media reports (aka: rumors) that Apple had abandoned the AirPort product line. I still hold that there are much better Wi-Fi solutions available today, even for die hard Apple fans like us. The Wirecutter (https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-mesh-networking-kits/) has a very good review of mesh network Wi-Fi devices from vendors such as Eero and Netgear. You really should be running them over Apple’s AirPort at this point. Still, despite Apple reportedly walking away from AirPort, as a customer, I am glad that Apple tool on the task of releasing a pair of security updates for the aging devices. It seems only fair to customers, since Apple is still selling the AirPort hardware online and in retail stores.

What About My Other Apple Gear?

Apple updated iOS 11, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS back in October. If you are running iOS 11.1, watchOS 4.1, tvOS 11.1, or the latest versions of macOS High Sierra 10.13, Sierra 10.12, or El Capitan 10.11 you have already installed the WAP2 patch.  Use the Software Update feature of these operating systems to verify that you are up-to-date or install the latest software releases if need be.

If you are still running macOS/OS X Mavericks 10.10, you should consider upgrading to High Sierra to gain the WPA2 patch. Mavericks and earlier versions of macOS will not be patched.

What About Everything Else?

The WPA2 key reinstallation vulnerability is not a flaw or vulnerability that is specific to Apple hardware and software. It is a flaw in the WAP2 system itself. Thankfully, the flaw can be fixed with software. What that means, though, is that to improve your chances of being protected against attacks using the WAP2 vulnerability, you must patch all of your Wi-Fi equipment, including routers/modems, smart devices (i.e.: light bulbs, switches, and cameras), TVs, Blu-ray player, and gaming consoles, for example.

Learning More About the WAP2 Vulnerability

To learn more about the KRACK WPA2 key reinstallation vulnerability, and to see just how catastrophic the vulnerability can be, see Mathy Vanhoef’s summary website and Krebs’ What You Should Know About the ‘KRACK’ WiFi Security Weakness blog post.

 

apple · apple tv · apple watch · ios 10 · ipad · iphone · mac · mac os x · macbook pro

Apple Software Update Monday [Updated]

Update: iTunes 12.5.5 was also released today.

Apple gave us four updates for our iDevices and Macs today.

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Earlier this afternoon, MacOS Sierra 10.12.3 arrived offering graphics improvements for the October 2016 edition MacBook Pros.  The Sierra 10.12.3 update closed up a hole in Preview that was mucking with searching scanned PDF files.

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iTunes 12.5.5 was also released for MacOS (and Windows PC) adding “minor app and performance improvements”.

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Also arriving today was 10.2.1, a minor security and bug fix update for iPhone and iPad.  watchOS 3.1.3 tagged along to give Apple Watch owners a small tune up also.

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And, last, but not least, Apple TV got a minor bump up to tvOS 10.1.1 from 10.1.

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All of today’s updates are minor security and bug fixes, with no major features or new functionality added.

Look for the iOS 10.3 beta releases to start arriving any day now.

 

airpods · apple · apple store · imac · ios 10 · ipad · iphone 7 · iphone 7 plus · mac os x · trumbull

First Thoughts on Apple AirPods and Unboxing Photos

9469c-01_alan_airpods

Earlier this week, Apple’s wireless ear buds, AirPods, when on sale in Apple Stores.  After selling out almost immediately, I finally got mine today.  What follows is my story and first impressions about getting my pair of AirPods.

The Story

I first learned about Apple’s new AirPods wireless earbuds like many of you…while watching a recording of Apple’s iPhone 7 event back on September 7th.  I was super excited about them and was looking forward to getting a pair to go with my iPhone 7 Plus. Alas, the AirPods wouldn’t be ready until “October”.  Throw in a “We need a little bit more time to get them exactly right” from Apple PR and you end up with some disappointed customers.

Fast forward to December 13, when Apple dropped a press release stating that the AirPods where now on sale at Apple.com.  Whoa!  I totally missed the press release because, you know, work, and by the time I checked out the online store, AirPods were showing delivery dates three to four weeks out.  Having to do the responsible adult thing this past Monday meant that there was no chance of taking the morning off to get in line at one of my local Apple Stores.  Topping it all off, AirPods are showing delivery dates around mid-February.  2017. Ugh!

But my luck changed today, thanks to iStockNow.com!  Using their inventory status tool, I was energetically checking AirPod stock in Connecticut, New York City, Long Island, and southern Massachusetts.  Yes, I seriously considered driving out of state, taking a train down to Grand Central Station, or taking my car over to Long Island via ferry.

At 3:30pm, I saw that Apple Danbury received some in.  The hour drive, by comparison to getting on a ferry, wasn’t too bad, but driving back home in rush hour traffic would have been the worst.  With AirPods in my bag and my finger hovering over “Buy with Apple Pay” in the Apple Store iOS app, I chose to wait.  I decided to wait a half hour to get back to my iMac, and I told myself that if they were still available for pickup in Danbury, I would buy them and go pick them up after dinner.  When I checked the status, to my surprise, the AirPods were sold out in Danbury, but were “in” at Apple Trumbull.  I hastily changed by order and purchased them online for pick up today.  He shoots! He scores!

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Earlier today, I dropped by Apple Trumbull in Westfield’s Trumbull mall.  The store was busy, as you would expect, but not super packed.  The greeter checked me in, and a few minutes later, Joe was coming over help me finalize my order.  Joe recognized my name from the store’s grand opening event two years ago.  We got to talking and I decided to open my AirPods in the store and set them up.  Joe gave me a quick session on how to pair AirPods with my iPhone 7 Plus (Spoiler Alert: Flip open the AirPods case next to your unlocked iPhone running iOS 10) and how to use them.  There was a lot going on in the store, so I appreciated him taking some extra time with me for a one-on-one.  I also took a few minutes to talk to Mary, the store manager, just to let her know how awesome her staff is.

W1, iCloud, and the Magic of the Secret Sauce

AirPods, are Bluetooth wireless ear buds.  The bud part that goes in your ear is styled after the current EarPod wired ear buds that Apple puts in the box with the iPhone.  I always thought that Apple’s ear buds were comfortable to wear, and the AirPods are no exception.  Pairing Bluetooth devices is a real pain in the neck.  Apple solved this problem by creating the W1 system on a chip.  W1 makes pairing AirPods with your Apple devices effortless if that device is running iOS 10, macOS Sierra, or watchOS 3.  Just hold the AirPod case a few inches away from your unlocked iPhone and flip open the AirPods case.  Boom!

For devices like my 4th generation AppleTV, the pairing process is still super simple, but you must press the round button on the back of the case to initiate the pairing process.  Because all my Apple devices are signed in to iCloud using the same account as my iPhone, all my devices instantly knew about my new AirPods.  That takes so much of the hassle out of trying to use Bluetooth headphones and ear buds with more than one device.  I love my PowerBeats ear buds for working out at the gym, but I almost never bother trying to get them to connect to my iPad Air to watch a TV show or movie.  Thanks to W1 and iCloud, using AirPods with all my iDevices is really easy.

AirPods in Action

There are some cool things you can do with AirPods.  First off, if you pull one of the ear buds out of your ear, whatever you are listening too or watching will instantly pause.  Pop the bud back in, and the music or video automatically resumes.  Double-tapping either one of the AirPods will summon Siri.  You can ask Siri to raise or lower the volume, skip the current track, or read new messages.  Any command that you can issue to Siri from your iPhone, Watch, or Mac will work.  In my few hours of playing with them, I haven’t found a command yet that didn’t work.  My daughter Kate wanted to do some Christmas shopping this evening.  I brought along AirPods so I could listen to some Christmas music while walking around the local Target.  A good song came on, and I pulled out one ear bud and popped it into her ear so we could both listen.  We got an aisle length apart and her AirPod bud was still rocking out without any trouble.  While connected to my iMac (in my finished basement), I could listen to music on my AirPods two floors away in my bedroom.  That’s some really great range!  You can also use one AirPod at a time.  You won’t be listening in stereo, but that’s perfectly fine while talking on the phone or listening to spoken word content in podcasts or audio books.

In just a few hours of using them, I have had a good experience so far.  They sound pretty good.  Obviously, personal preference will come into play here.  I’m not an audiophile, and I like the sound of the wired EarPods.  To me, AirPods sound as good as the wired ear buds.  They are light weight and are comfortable to wear.  I think the best part about AirPods is that there are absolutely no wires to get tangled up in.  I won’t catch the wire around the arm rest on my office chair.  There’s no cable to bunch up behind my neck while walking or running.  And the AirPods in their case is a smaller package them my PowerBeats in their case.  The negatives I can see with the AirPods in my limited amount of testing are the purchase price ($149.00) and the fact that unlike EarPods or Beats headphones, there are no buttons on AirPods.  Volume up, volume down, play/pause, and track skipping can only be done via Siri, from your iPhone, your Watch, or another connected Apple device.  This wasn’t an issue for me.  Each time I double-tapped an ear bud, Siri correctly understood and issued my voice commands.  Even in a busy Target store.  The pause/play feature also worked well just by taking one ear bud out of my ear.  AirPods provide about five hours of continuous use, and are charged when they are placed in their case.  The case charges via a Lightening cable.  A Lightning cable is provided in the box, however, you will need to provide an adapter, like the one that comes in the box with iPhone. This might be a problem for some heavy iPhone users who may need to charge their iPhone and their AirPods/case at the same time.

But let’s cut to the chase.  Everyone I talked to about the AirPods at work, and Meghan, my Apple loving child, thinks I’m crazy for wanting AirPods because I will promptly lose one and be sad.  I baby my Apple equipment.  I can’t imagine a normal day-to-day situation where I would misplace one or both buds.  They sit nicely in my ears.  Shaking my head in a vigorous side-to-side “No!” motion does not cause them to fall out.  Walking around the mall does not cause them to fall out.  Double-tapping them does not cause them to fall out. Lying in bed watching a movie on my iPad wasn’t a problem.  Heck, I even did 30 jumping jacks without any problems.  Every ear is different, so your individual mileage may vary.  When I’m not using them, I plan on putting the buds back in their charging case, so I don’t expect to misplace either of them.  There is no “Find My AirPods” app, so you will need to remember where you put them down.

Unboxing Photos

Summary

Everything told, I’m super excited to have a pair of AirPods, especially considering how constrained supply is right now.  They sound great, the W1 chip makes the Bluetooth pairing process dead simple, and they work as advertised.  In a word, I would call the new Apple AirPods “magical” and I am going to enjoy using them.

 

browsers · chrome · edge · firefox · internet explorer · mac os x · windows

The State of PC Browser Marketshare

 

Despite hosting this blog on a Google service, Blogger, I am really not a fan of Google Chrome.  I am a paid supporter of Mozilla FireFox and I prefer Apple’s Safari.  Google already has amassed a massive profile of pretty much all of us who use the Internet, that I do not want to make it any easier than it already is for them to get an even better view into how I use the Internet.

document.getElementById(“na636038585536790000”).src=”http://www.netmarketshare.com/report.aspx?qprid=1″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qptimeframe=M”+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpsp=199″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpnp=11″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpch=350″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpdt=1″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpct=4″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpcustomb=0″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpcid=fw249659″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpf=16″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpwidth=600″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpdisplay=1111″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”qpmr=10″+String.fromCharCode(38)+”site=”+window.location.hostname

If the NetMarketShare.com desktop browser usage trending is even remotely close to accurate, I may not be able to maintain my objection to Google Chrome much longer.

Consider the embedded graphic above.  It shows that between December 2015 and March 2016 Internet Explorer dropped down to  39% from about 46% – a dead heat with Google Chrome.  But looks what happens between March 2016 and June 2016.  The downward trend of Internet Explorer accelerates, and as of about two weeks ago, stands at just below 32%.  Some of that decline, I am sure has to do with the aggressive push by Microsoft to get anyone still using Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1 over onto Windows 10, which we all know favors the new Edge browser.  If we add Edge’s 5% share to that of Internet Explorer’s 32%, we get 37% vs Chrome’s 49%.

The bottom line here is that if there are some corporate web based tool or commercial website that is flaky or if it is not supported, it probably won’t be anytime soon.  As an old Vulcan proverb goes, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. (Or the one.)  I’m just not happy with all of the tracking and profiling.

[Via NetMarketShare.com…]

imac · iphone · itunes · mac os x

PSA: Don’t Forget to Re-enable iCloud Music Library Playlist Support on Your iPhone

So, as you might have noticed,  I finally upgraded to a new iMac 27-inch with 5K Retina display recently.

While cleaning up my data for the move from my 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro, I decided to switch the email assigned to my iCloud account.  No big, right?  Well, I haven’t had any of my iTunes playlists on my iPhone since I logged out of iTunes and back in.  Try as I might to figure out why my playlists wouldn’t sync, I was getting stuck.
Until I decided to search the Apple support knowledge base for an answer.  (Article HT204406 fixed my problem.) Turns out that the problem had nothing to do with iCloud, wonky Wi-Fi connections or an alternate iCloud email address.
No, the answer was 100% user error.  The fix, a simple one, was to just turnoff the “iCloud Music Library” sync option.  D’uh!
Problem solved!
apple · el capitan · mac os x · safari

Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview

Today, Apple released Safari Technology Preview for Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11.4.  Safari Technology Preview has been released for developers and the public and is available for download from the Apple website.

The Safari Technology Preview is described by Apple this way:

“Safari is the best way to see the sites on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Safari Technology Preview gives you an early look at upcoming web technologies in OS X and iOS including the latest layout technologies, visual effects, and developer tools so you can provide input on how they are implemented and deliver a best-in-class user experience on all Apple devices.”

What’s cool is that Safari Technology Preview is it’s own app and can run in parallel with the “shipping” version of the Safari web browser on your Mac.  Safari Technology Preview is also signed by Apple, giving it the capability of participating in Apple’s web services like iCloud Drive, and bookmarks syncing.  Safari Technology Preview also gives web developers new powerful tools and tech nerds a look at the technologies that will be coming to Safari and WebKit in the future.

For those who are interested in taking Preview out of a test drive, you can download it for free from the Apple Developer Website.  Updates for Safari Technology Preview will be released every few weeks from the Mac App Store.