What do YOU want for Christmas: Apple Products Edition

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apple xmas blog

Since I write a lot about how much I love my MacBook Pro and the various Apple Products (my iPhone 5s is my go-to for everything), I was asked about what cool new Apple Product might I want for Christmas. To be honest, the answer might surprise you.

Really, nothing….

Every year Apple releases a handful of products, new iPhones, new iPads, etc., and none of them really strike me as something I would be dying to have. I think Apple is doing something to the market, and I don’t know if it will continue to work: they are basically releasing a newer, updated version of the same product every year. And while, sure, the iPhone 6 does have new features that make it very ideal, I just don’t care. Because I still like my iPhone 5s.

I think Apple is doing kind of like what the Call of Duty franchise did for gaming. For the first few games everyone was hooked. I was hooked, I was buying these games every single November, and was really excited to play them. Then after a few years, sure, I was getting a better game — with new levels, updated graphics, better game play — but in the end, it’s still the same game, and I got tired. Now, that isn’t to say I won’t go out and get the new COD, but I will wait a few years most likely. I will wait until that $60 game goes down to $20.

I feel the same way about Apple products.

I would like the new iPhone 6, and someday I will get it. But I probably will wait until next year, when iPhone 7 or 8 comes out and the iPhone 6 is less in price, but still a great product. I am OK with this. I am the type of technician who doesn’t need the latest and greatest (which many tech types probably will say that doesn’t make me a technician at all). I was the type of person who, when the Nintendo 64 was coming out, I was getting my first Super Nintendo. I don’t mind being behind by a few years. I am moving at my pace and loving it.

With that said, I still wanted to give you all a product from Apple that, if I had to put one on my list, I would choose the Apple TV.

apple_tv-q410-angled-lgThis picture makes it look huge, but it’s actually very tiny and very affordable, with models floating around $99.

The Apple TV fits into my way of thinking, too. This device has been in its latest incarnation since 2012, so it has a few years of trial, compared to the rest of the products — and it’s a sleeper for Apple. It just passed the 1 billion mark in sales, compared to the bazillion the rest of the company makes, and I see a future for it.

I got rid of cable. The bill was way too high, just so my wife could watch Hardcore Pawn every two weeks. I have found ways to watch shows online, through our TVs. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you do have to occasionally wait for the show to load, but we can still keep up on a lot of great shows. And most, if not everything, is commercial free. During this election season, while everyone was inundated with commercials on candidates bashing each other, I never saw a single one! It was great!

That is why I like the Apple TV. It has potential. I think Apple is going to move into doing great things with it, and, albeit it isn’t there yet, it will be. I have had a chance to test out the Apple TV at my uncle’s house. It is pretty cool. It allows all of the standard apps, Netflix, Hulu, etc., and it has a lot of great sports apps too. My favorite is the MLB.tv app. I use that religiously to watch my Tampa Bay Rays, since I can’t get them on TV here. With the Apple TV, it’s right there waiting for me, along with the rest of the baseball teams.

Another cool feature we use with the Apple TV is Airplay. My uncle is very sentimental, so he likes to put photo albums from his iPhone onto his TV. When guests come over, it’s like a revolving picture frame.  With the Apple TV, it is simply a click of a button. He can also control Pandora over his iPhone to his Apple TV. He has a very nice sound system and likes playing it through there. (Apple TV has the Pandora app too, but he likes feeling like he has control in his pocket.)

For you tech-types, here are the specifications on the Apple TV (all specs are for the latest rev. 3 product):

Processor: Apple A5 (ARM Cortex-A9) Single core (Redesign from A5 dual core).
Graphics: Apple A5 (PowerVR SGX543MP2)
Memory: 512 MB
Storage: 8 GB NAND Flash for Cache
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Micro-USB (reserved for service and diags.), HDMI, infrared receiver, optical audio
Networking: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), 10/100 Ethernet
Video Output: 1080p/720p/480p over HDMI only, HDCP capable
Audio Output: Optical audio (48 kHz fixed sample rate), HDMI

I would like to say that maybe next year an Apple product will come out that will blow me away, and we can write about that. But let’s see where the Apple TV goes. With my preferences to stay in the back of the pack, so to speak, I am OK with that.

Happy Holidays! Have fun shopping!

 

Mac Tips for Techs: NetSpot

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A while ago at Everon I had to troubleshoot a pretty complex wireless system, set up by Cisco. I had to call Cisco to discuss their setup, and I was fortunate enough to get a technician who was so passionate about his job, he decided that once the issue was resolved, he would like to give me a 1-2 hour lesson on wireless technology, regardless of the Cisco brand. For the 1-2 hours he spoke to me on the phone, I feverishly tried to write down notes on every single thing he said. I wish I’d had a record of the call we had together, as I would go in and make better notes. It was one of the best lessons I have ever received.

Technicians who work on certain brands, whether it is HP, Dell, Cisco, whatever… in my experience they all seem to be reading off of a sheet and don’t really care if you understand what they are discussing, as you blindly follow their instructions. And, for the most part, I do blindly follow their instructions. (Because how can I argue about the results? Its their equipment!) But occasionally you will find that one technician who is so passionate about his (or her) field of expertise, that he would like you to experience it as he does. I was so fortunate to have this experience come to life a few months back. (In all honesty, I think that is the way some of our engineers operate here, at Everon, as well. We don’t have rigid scripts, we get a call, and we work on it based on our own, personal knowledge, the knowledge of our peers around us, and various tools, so every interaction can be different and exciting. If you are excited to learn what we are doing, we are equally as excited to teach you!)

Anyways, that is my tangent on technicians, now back to wireless technology….

Out of everything the Cisco engineer showed me, one thing he said needs to be done before you purchase any wireless equipment is a wireless site survey. I had never thought of that previously, but it makes sense. How do you know what you need? How much ground do you need to cover? What type of signal strength can you get by with? All of these questions can be answered by a professional who does site surveys for a living. However, if you were interested in doing one yourself, or even if you needed to troubleshoot your existing wireless, what tools do you have at your disposal? It isn’t like you can actually see wireless to be able to troubleshoot, so what can you use to help you understand wireless? (There are many different products for Windows machines, none of which I will get into here, as this article is for the Mac engineer who is in need of troubleshooting wireless.) I encounter instances like this all the time, where I am sent out to a client’s location, and I have to troubleshoot much more than a simple Mac. Sometimes I will need to troubleshoot their environment and, for wireless environments, I find the best tool for anyone with a Mac is NetSpot.

NetSpot can be downloaded here for free: http://www.netspotapp.com/netspotpro.html

NetSpotThe Pro version is for commercial use. The free version can only be used on you and your friends’ home networks. My advice would be if you are going to begin doing site surveys, spend the $149.00 and get the Pro version. The Pro version also includes unlimited data points in every zone (the free version allows 50), flexible grouping of various items in the survey such as APs, SSIDs, channel, vendor, etc (free only allows grouping via SSID), and much more.

However, if you are learning how to do wireless site surveys, the free version is great. It gives you a ton of information on your wireless network, such as the SSID, band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz), security (WEP, WPA, etc), vendor, mode (b/g/n), level (signal to noise), signal percentage, the noise in DBm, and much more. It updates in real time, and doesn’t take up much battery life on your Mac. Using this app is a great first step into reviewing a network, as it will easily allow you to see any issues without the need to jump into the AP or wireless router.

Check out this tool, and if you would like to discuss it further, any of our engineers at Everon would love to talk wireless! Call us at 888-244-1748.

 

Mac OS X Yosemite is available!

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YosemiteApple’s latest operating system, Mac OS X (10.10) Yosemite, is now available for free in the App Store. For anyone running Mac OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or later, you can now download the free OS.

There are some restrictions, as Yosemite will only work on the following models:

  • iMac (Mid-2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or later), (15-inch, Mid/Late 2007 or later), (17-inch, Late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
  • Mac Mini (Early 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

You also need 2 GBs of RAM to run the OS and 8 GBs of hard drive space available. If you fit these requirements, then go get the new OS! It was just unveiled this week, after the latest keynote speech had finished (they mentioned it would be available immediately after the speech ended, however it took a few hours to get the download fully online).

There are many small improvements to the OS – the most notable one that a lot of Apple enthusiasts are excited about is the ability to make phone calls with your iPhone using your Mac. Apple worked quite a bit on trying to make the integration between the two devices seamless and more integrated. They also finally included AirDrop, between the iOS and the OS X systems, allowing you to easily share files now between your phone or tablet and your Mac.

The Notification Center has also received a hefty update, making it infinitely more useful. For anyone who enjoys staying connected to the outside world, you now have the ability to share your notifications on the various social media sites out there.

You can further review all of the really interesting upgrades, and download your copy of the new Mac OSx, Yosemite here.

 

5 Things You Need to Know About the BashBug

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1. Don’t Panic.

As our favorite galactic traveler’s companion reminds us (ref. Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy), It’s important to keep problems in perspective. The Heartbleed Bug incited widespread panic for what turned out to be limited reasons. This new security bug is reported to be even bigger than Heartbleed, but it, too, has a relatively limited reach. It only affects Unix-based systems that use Bash. The best way to address it is to keep updated on the patches which are sent out. Some routers are also affected, and so updates will be pushed out to handle those as well.

2. What is the BashBug?

Bash is one of the central programs to the modern Unix operating system. It’s used to issue commands to the kernel of the OS. It is a little like the Windows command line. Mac’s desktop operating systems are built on Unix, and that’s why people are concerned. The BashBug is an exploitable nuance of the Bash shell that someone could use to observe and possibly modify an unknowing computer’s information. Basically, it’s like leaving your car window down.

3. I have an iPhone, should I be worried?

No. The iOS is a different operating system from the Desktop OS of MAC, known as OS X.

4. What if someone w/ a Mac emails me? Will my company be at risk? Can I “catch” the Bug this way?

No. The vulnerability is specific to Unix-based OSes. It can’t be transferred between operating systems. Windows has a fundamentally different underlying program, and it does not include Bash, which is the host for this bug.

5. What’s this thing about routers? 

Some routers run on a variation of Linux. Manufacturers will also be pushing out updates to resolve this. Please contact your system administrator (which might be us) to resolve it if you have concerns. We can be reached at 888-244-1748.

BashBug

Mac Tips for Techs: Onyx for Mac — your #1 cleaning tool

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OnyXOnyx for the Mac. If you are not a Mac Genius, but you know a bit about IT, you may have wondered how to clean a Mac like you can a PC. This is the tool that can take you where you need to be!

Onyx has been likened to Piriform’s C-Cleaner tool, however, this tool has many more functions than the Piriform tool you are used to using on a PC. First off, you can get the Onyx download from here. (Take note of your OS, as you must download and install the Onyx version that works with your OS. You can also use that link to get some older versions of Onyx for the older Mac OSes as well.)

When you launch Onyx for the first time, you are immediately requested to check the SMART status of the hard disk installed in your Mac. This is highly recommended and only takes around 30 seconds, so let that scan. It will let you know if there is anything it finds that needs to be resolved. From there you can use the Disk Utility application to resolve SMART errors on the disk. Regardless of whether you have SMART errors, you can still proceed to work within Onyx for other items.

The latest version of Onyx has many tabs: Verifying, Maintenance, Cleaning, Utilities, Automation, Parameters, Info, and Log. Onyx is well known for its Cleaning tab, in which you can choose to clean your System cache, User cache, Internet cache and cookies, Fonts cache, Logs, Mics items, and Trash. (In the trash tab, you also have a chance for securely deleting the trash, which means the files deleted are securely overwritten with jumbled data.)

In addition to the Cleaning tab, you can also do so much with the other tabs:

The Maintenance tab allows you to repair permissions, build and run scripts and rebuild aspects of the OS.

The Verifying tab runs the same SMART and structure checks of the hard disks and partitions that run on start-up of Onyx, so if you need to re-run those commands, you can run them from there.

The Utilities tab has many sub-tabs with a wealth of functions. I would suggest you go through this and see for yourself what you can do, as there are too many to name here. You will need to understand IT quite a bit more than normal, however, as some of the commands in the Utilities tab can be a bit daunting.

The Automation tab allow you to do several of the Onyx options all in one. It is very helpful if you want to set up a bunch of tasks to run off of one push of the button.

The Parameters tab is one of my favorites. This tab is really good for customizing your Mac, as you can set up animated desktop backgrounds, customize Finder and Dock options, and even edit options for some of Apple’s most-used applications (Safari, iTunes, Quicktime). You also have the ability to edit and display messages on login, and customize the spotlight, mission control, and others.

The last two tabs are self-explanatory: Info and Log. Both display exactly what you expect them to. The Info tab shows model information, processor, RAM, disk info, OS, profile, antivirus protection information, and whole host of other info. Basically, anything and everything you might be looking for to learn about the Mac will be stored in here. The Log tab shows the logs that are written based on the functions of Onyx, in case you need to review why a function did or did not work.

This is an extremely powerful tool that should be a part of any Mac IT engineer’s repertoire. It is even a great tool for anyone with basic information on Macs, as it can help keep your mac clean and healthy for years to come.

If you would like to review Onyx on a Mac, feel free to call in to our Mac engineers at Everon IT: 888-244-1748.