Avoiding wake-from-sleep crashes with the TouchBar MacBook Pro

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Man this new MacBook Pro is nice. It’s light, fast, cool, sharp, and its keyboard is the best of the “flat” variety. Even the TouchBar is surprisingly useful.

But what’s this? Whenever it woke from sleep, some apps almost always crashed, including my own RegExRX. What’s that about?

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Setting up an OpenVPN server on a Raspberry Pi

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I needed a VPN server.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I had a VPN server through software running on my everyday Mac. I had set it up years ago using voodoo tricks I gleaned from the Internet, and happily used it to protect my data whenever I was connected to a public network. It worked like a charm, but only if my desktop Mac was not asleep. This was not an issue when I had a Mac Pro that was always awake, but became problematic when I replaced it with an iMac that slept after 10 minutes. If I forgot to turn off its snoozing before I left the premises, I was out of luck. So I needed a better VPN server.

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Crucial security flaw

Advice, News 6 Comments »

A patch to iOS (7.06 and 6.1.6) yesterday revealed a deep-seated security flaw within both iOS and Mavericks (OS X 10.9 and 10.9.1). You can read about the flaw here and here, but what it comes down to is a typo by one of the Apple engineers.

Whoops.

What it means for you is that all secure communications, like when you sign onto your banking site through Safari, or check your mail using Mail.app, could have been compromised by an attacker.

Note that I said “could” and not “was”. I haven’t heard reports that this flaw has been exploited in the real world, but now that the cat’s out of the bag, someone may try.

From what I can see, this flaw won’t directly lead to an attacker gaining access to your password, but rather fool your browser into thinking it has reached a legitimate site instead of a close copy set up by the miscreant. Of course, once you think you’ve reached your bank, for example, you will probably enter your password and any other information it requests.

Bottom line: Update your iOS device to the latest version as soon as you can. Update your desktop as soon as there is something available, or use FireFox or Chrome (both unaffected) when signing on to a secure site, especially on a public network.

You can confirm the flaw by using this link. If you can see that page, your browser is not performing the correct security check and is affected by the flaw.

Mavericks

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Apple released version 10.9 of their OS (“Mavericks”) on Tuesday. I’m sure it’s the greatest, biggest, and best-est release of an operating system in the history of man (just like every version that preceded it), and it’s nice that it’s now free, but I still recommend that you wait to install it until there is a version 10.9.1 or even 10.9.2. Although Apple has made some changes to the interface, included apps, and under the hood, there is nothing particularly pressing about this release, and I’ve encountered a few incompatibilities that need to be resolved.

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Beware HealthCare (.gov)

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Perhaps you’ve heard of a little site called healthcare.gov, a web site designed to implement part of the Affordable Care Act (commonly called “Obamacare”), and maybe you’ve heard that there have been one or two issues with the site. (I understand that this has been mentioned on a few of the lesser-known media outlets.) And no doubt you’ve heard the explanations of heavy traffic and glitches, so I’d like to offer my advice:

Don’t believe it, and stay away, at least for now.

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Bypassing GateKeeper in Mountain Lion

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If you’ve upgraded to Mountain Lion, you might have encountered GateKeeper, Apple’s new security scheme to protect you from malicious apps. In short, GateKeeper expects applications to be “signed” with a security certificate it recognizes and, if not, will keep you from opening the application.

The problem is, a lot of older apps that are otherwise harmless were not signed with an Apple certificate, but the warning makes it seem as if they are problematic anyway. To get around this, you either change the setting in System Preferences to disable the protection entirely (that just takes you back to the way things were before Mountain Lion), or you can get around it on a case-by-case basis.

If you double-click an app that gives you that warning and prevents you from launching it, right-click (or control-click) on the application instead and choose “Open” from the menu that appears. You will still get a warning, but this time there will be a button that will let you launch the app anyway. After that, it won’t ask you again for that application.

To disable the setting entirely, go to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy, and click the General tab. Click the lock at the bottom, left to unlock this pane, then choose Anywhere.

iDisk going away

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When MobileMe goes away at the end of the month, iDisk will go with it. Before that happens, you should copy any files from your iDisk to some other service.

iDisk is a virtual disk provided by Apple. When connected, it shows up on your desktop as if it were a hard drive, but the files you transfer to and from it are transmitted over the Internet to Apple. The advantage of this approach is that these files do not take up space on your drive and are available from anywhere in the world. The drawback is that it’s slow.

If you’ve never used the iDisk, don’t worry about it as it will be gone soon anyway. Otherwise, a great alternative is DropBox, a free service that provides a type of synchronized disk.

The DropBox software creates a folder on your hard drive that acts like any other folder except its contents are synchronized over the Internet to the DropBox service. If you add the same account to another machine (Mac or PC), the same files will show up there automatically. You can also access the files online through their web site and use it to share large files with others.

The drawback is that it takes up space on your hard drive so it isn’t truly virtual. But it is pretty fast, and it isn’t going away.

MobileMe ends in 30 days

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Just a reminder that MobileMe comes to an end on June 30. If you rely on it for e-mail or to sync your contacts or calendars between devices, you must switch to iCloud before then. And before you switch to iCloud, you must be running OS X 10.7.x (Lion) on your Macs and the latest iOS on your iPhones and iPads.

If you are using OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard), you can purchase Lion on-line by going up to the Apple menu and choosing “App Store”. Or click here. If you are using an older version of the OS, you will have to upgrade to Snow Leopard first, or buy the Lion thumb-drive installer from Apple.

If you don’t rely on MobileMe for over-the-air synchronization of that data, this really doesn’t concern you. You can make the switch to iCloud, then manually update your e-mail settings if desired.

Note that some services will be lost in the transition from MobileMe to iCloud. Among those, iDisk will go away and there will be no more web hosting. If you need these, you will have to find other services to fill the gap.

For iDisk specifically, I recommend DropBox. For web hosting, I like GoDaddy, but there are a variety to choose from.

Microsoft Word and Excel file names

Advice 1 Comment »

If you use Microsoft Word or Excel (or PowerPoint too, I guess), and have recently upgraded to Office 2011, be aware that these apps have an issue with file names that contain a forward slash (“/”).

It used to be that the only character that was “illegal” in a Mac file name was the colon, and that’s because the Mac would use that internally to designate folder paths. So if you had a “Widget” folder on your hard drive that contained the file “gidget.txt”, that path was represented internally as “My Drive:Widget:gidget.txt”.

When Apple moved the MacOS to a Unix base, they had to deal with a conflict. In Unix, the character that designates a folder is the forward slash, so the same file is represented by “/Widget/gidget.txt”. Apple dealt with this conflict by creating a layer above its Unix underpinnings that converts the colon to a slash and vice-versa. Applications could go on using the old-style designation, including slashes, without having to worry about what was going on beneath the hood.

But Microsoft is clearly doing things in a different way. Although it shouldn’t make a difference, the Microsoft apps are having trouble with the “/” in file names, and either refusing to open these files, or opening them as “read only”.

The bottom line is, don’t put slashes into your file names, whether they are meant for the Microsoft apps or not. If you have a file called “Info on 3/5/12.doc”, change it to “Info on 3-5-12.doc” or something similar.

iOS 5.0.1 and battery life

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I’m happy to report that the recent iOS 5.0.1 update has made a dramatic difference to the battery life of my iPhone 4. And I’m hearing that from various other sources too about the iPhone 4, the 4S and even the 3GS.

On Saturday morning, I unplugged my phone. Normally, even though my usage was light, I would have expected it to be all-but-dead by Sunday morning. Instead, I still had about 30% charge by the time I plugged it in again Sunday night. I have never had that experience with any iPhone model I’ve owned (this is my third) or with any previous iOS version. I’d say Apple finally fixed a major problem.

Since the battery life issue was the only one that’s been reported about the iPhone 4S, I’d say that’s resolved and, if you’ve been waiting to get one, you can go ahead.

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