Tag Archives: AirPort

A crack at KRACK


The WPA2 encryption your Wi-Fi basestation uses isn’t as secure as you thought. Security researcher Mathy Vanhoef revealed a flaw that makes any WPA2 encrypted data on a WiFi network hackable, regardless of what operating system you use.
KRACK flaw makes WPA2 hackable on any WiFi network. The flaw, called Key Reinstallation attack (KRACK) takes advantage of a flaw in the WPA2 standard that lets an attacker decrypt the data flowing through the wireless network.

Here’s my advice: OK, so Apple is the least vulnerable here, but still – it depends what serves your WiFi, an Apple AirPort or something else, do you know? If it has been updated recently, it should be OK, but if you installed it a couple of years back and have never looked at it since, maybe not.
If it’s an Apple AirPort, the updates should appear and be installable should you launch the AirPort Utility in the Utilities folder in your Applications folder (or Finder, Go menu>Utilities).
Either way, if any new security updates come for whatever devices you use to create your WiFi zone, you should update them immediately. 
On the upside, it’s extremely unlikely you are a target considering whoever tries to hack into your zone needs to be within 50 metres of your WiFi server (modem, AirPort, whatever) and have the know-how to do it.
This would be much, much more likely if:
1/ You are known or suspected to have something people would really want to steal, and
2/ You were in a highly built-up area, say in an urban apartment complex. 
Another vulnerability is WiFi-ready environments including cafes, libraries and airports. Who knows how good they are at updating their stuff, and who else is sharing that network?
Your home network is probably pretty much off the radar – of course, if you’re a well-known currency trader working from home, with easy access to someone sitting in a car with a laptop or iPad within 50 metres, that might be a different story.

For now: I would be more inclined to make sure the Firewall is on (System Preferences>Security and Privacy, Firewall tab) and keep monitoring the Apple news. I mean, it’s easy to imagine swarms of hackers out there converging on your house, butit’s SO unlikely in real life, Busy internet cafes, sure.
Also, using a VPN neatly sidesteps the issue completely, although it slows things down to a quarter speed.
For example, this deal at Apple World Today couldn’t be more timely.

Five Tip Friday ~ Safari, privacy, wiFi and the Help Viewer


1/ Zoom in Safari using a Magic Trackpad — In the Trackpad or Mouse system preference pane, click the Scroll & Zoom tab, and then you can opt to check or uncheck Smart Zoom. Now, when you double-tap with two fingers, Safari and other apps will zoom the item tapped upon to fill the screen. Two-finger double-tap again, and it zooms back out to the normal view. This zoom remains preserved when you go back a page and back forward.
Apple also offers a systemwide zoom in the Accessibility preference pane: open the pane, select Zoom, and you can opt to enable or disable the Use Scroll Gesture with Modifier Keys to Zoom. (The Control key is the default modifier.)

2/ Prevent tracking in Safari —  macOS High Sierra will have a feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention, and Sierra already has some anti-tracking abilities. Safari uses machine learning to prevent tracking in the browser, specially cross-site tracking. Open Safari and go to Preferences (press ⌘+,, or Safari > Preferences in the menu).
Click on the Privacy tab in the window that pops up.
You’ll see a new Website Tracking section (shown above) with two items: ‘Prevent cross-site tracking’ and ‘Ask websites not to track me’. The latter is also found in macOS Sierra and is equivalent to a Do Not Track setting. However, most websites won’t voluntarily honour this setting, and aren’t even legally obligated to do so.
(Apple also streamlined cookie blocking in Safari 11. Instead of having the usual settings like Always block, Allow from current website only, Allow from websites I visit, Always allow, in macOS High Sierra you will also just get the option to block all cookies, since Intelligent Tracking Prevention does the rest.)

3/ Use Modifier Keys with Safari history — You can click-and-hold on Safari’s back button to see a list of where you’ve been (above). This lets you quickly jump back to somewhere without hitting that back button several times.
There are a couple of things you can do with this button to make it even cooler: if you’re looking for URLs instead, hold down the Option key on your keyboard before you click and click-and-hold the back button to do just that.
If you want to keep your existing page as a tab or a window before you open something from your history, that’s easy too. Obviously, when you click the back button without holding it, Safari will go back to the last page you visited. Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click that button, and the browser will instead open your last page in a new window. If you hold down Command, your last page will open in a new tab.
This Shift-or-Command trick also works if you have the history view open (History menu>Show All History). If you click-and-hold on your back button to bring up that little popover, holding down Shift and choosing any of the pages you visited opens it in a new window; Command opens it in a new tab. This behavior is actually all through Safari: shift-click a bookmark or a history item, and it’ll open in a new window; Command-click a link, and it’ll open in a new tab.
(If your version of Safari isn’t behaving in the way described here, be sure to check out your settings at Safari > Preferences under the Tabs section.)

4/ Changing your WiFi Password on an AirPort device — Sometimes you’ve may want to change your Wi-Fi password – perhaps you gave it to someone you now wish you hadn’t, or maybe your roommate moved out, but you’ve seen them outside your house leeching off your connection. (I’m sure that’s happened to someone.) If you have an Apple router (like a Time Capsule, AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express), it’s really simple to change this.
Launch AirPort Utility (it’s in the Applications > Utilities folder, which you can easily get to using Finder’s Go menu.)
When AirPort Utility opens, click on your AirPort device and choose Edit.
You may have to enter the password for your device to do this; this is usually the same as your Wi-Fi password, but if it’s not, then…uh…just keep on guessing until you figure it out. Fingers crossed. (You might consider going and checking your keychain to see if it’s stored there if you’re having trouble.)
Once you click Edit, choose the Wireless tab at the top. There you’ll find your wireless password.
So just type what you’d like your new one to be into both the first password box and the Verify Password box. Be sure that the ‘Remember this password in my keychain’ choice is on, too, but don’t mess with any other settings there unless you know what you’re doing.
After your options are set, click Update. AirPort Utility will then of course warn you of what you’re about to do, and restart the device – full service will recommence after reboot.
Keep two things in in mind: first, changing your Wi-Fi password doesn’t change your base station device’s password; if you’d like to make that the same, head over to the Base Station tab within AirPort Utility.
Secondly, everything you own that connects to your Wi-Fi – iPhones, iPads, computers, Apple TVs, and printers, for example – will need to be reconnected to your network afterward, so don’t undertake this task lightly as you’ll be typing the new password into all those devices. It’s no fun to spend the evening changing passwords on printers if you haven’t planned for it.

5/ Use Terminal to send the macOS Help Viewer to the back — You can access your Mac’s built-in support info by choosing Help from the menu at the top of any program. There is one irritation, though: the Help Viewer window always sits on top of everything else, even if you switch programs. It will stay in front until you close it (although you can Minimise it into the Dock by clicking the orange button at top left). Staying on top of everything can be frustrating  when you’re attempting to try out a solution that the help pages suggest.
Luckily, you can change this behavior through Terminal (it’s in your Utilities folder inside the Applications folder). To do so, copy the following command…

defaults write com.apple.helpviewer DevMode -bool YES

…and paste it into the Terminal program after the flashing prompt. When the command is pasted in, press Return, and then the Help Viewer window will behave just like most of the other windows on your Mac: if you click on another window or program, it’ll move to the background.
If you decide you want to put things back the way they were, just go back to Terminal, replace the “YES” with “NO” in the command, and press Return:

defaults write com.apple.helpviewer DevMode -bool NO

Tuesday Talk ~ Are we happy yet? Yes we are!


Brilliant! (Image from Apple NZ’s iMac page)

For months now, commentators have been  lambasting Apple for not updating Macs and for ignoring the pro users. I have regularly been a minor part of that pool of despond in this column.
No more! We’re (mostly) happy. Apple’s June 5th WWDC hardware announcements delivered a  gulp of elixir – the Apple Koolaid was back and we were slugging it down. For a heady day or two, anyway. I immediately, gleefully ordered a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The Kaby Lake CPU was the tipping point I was waiting for. It wasn’t even that Kaby Lake gives a significant increase of power – it doesn’t. It’s just that I didn’t want to drop cNZ$5k onto a new Mac without Kaby Lake when I knew it was available, and already populating many PC models. I can hardly wait for my new Mac to arrive, since my current model is 5 years old – that’s a very long life for a Mac for me (and truth be told, it’s still a wonderful laptop).

But the really big news, for the pros, was the iMac Pro. Although this will cost over NZ$8000, by current exchange rates, it’s not for the typical iMac users – they have been catered to with new iMacs anyway, with even better screens and Kaby Lake and at much more affordable prices. Even these will very handily handle major Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere tasks without breaking a sweat.
But the iMac Pro is aimed at the very serious user, as the bedrock to, for example, an audio, audio visual or video/TV/film editing studio, and although that’s a lot of money, hey, it already has a fantastic screen and has real grunt. Even more interesting, perhaps, is that unlike the current Mac Pro (tower), it’s almost impossible to put together a similar PC and monitor setup for less than what the iMac Pro will cost – in fact, Apple’s new machine, due in December, is actually a bargain. And despite it, Apple has also announced it is working on a new, user-upgradeable Mac Pro tower.
Good timing, too, since for the first time in a long time, it looks like the PC market will start growing again.
So yes, Apple, were happy – and, sincerely, thank you!

But … no word on the Mac mini. If Apple’s keeping it in the Mac lineup, surely it deserves Kaby Lake? 
No mention of AirPort, which I think Apple is mad to drop if  the company wants us to have seamless wifi connectivity with our Apple devices to the new HomePod it also announced, and if Apple is thinking of palming this off to a third part5y router supplier, then I visit the ghost of the LG 4k monitor debacle on you, Apple! (If you want something done properly …)
No Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar – this looks like a brilliant idea, and you’d expect it if the Touch Bar is appreciated on MacBook Pro, but I suspect the connectivity and functionality over Bluetooth might be the stumbling block. I still want one, though! If you have one on your MacBook Pro and then go to use, say, Final Cut on a Mac, surely you want that feature?
And no iBooks Author update. Apple has let its brilliant and dreadfully under-appreciated eBooks platform languish far too long.

Still — a new iPhone has still to emerge (September, people reckon). Apple will doubtless have more news for us as the year progresses. For Mac users, the happy times are here again.

Tuesday Talk ~ What happened at Apple in 2016?


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What happened at Apple in 2016? New products were released, and they were good, but they seemed slow in coming. Some ship dates slipped considerably: the Pencil in 2015 and then AirPods (which have only just started arriving) last year. There have been supply misjudgements which is odd for a company run by the supply-chain expert (Tim Cook), once heavily leaned-upon by Steve Jobs.
The much-anticipated late-2016 MacBook Pro certainly arrived late in the year, and although it debuted a truly useful new technology (the Touch Bar), it seemed like Apple was waiting for new processors and eventually couldn’t wait any longer. This was in the face of criticism that the MacBook Pro hadn’t been updated significantly for four years (four years!), quite a hiccup in this most stellar line of Macs. Meanwhile, iMac has started to noticeably lag, the mini looks like a very stagnated platform – and don’t even mention the overpriced, underpowered Mac Pro.
iPhone SE clearly surprised Apple with a much higher demand than expected. Forecast models seem out of sync with buyer demands, and you have to think Apple can afford great depth of talent here.
iPad (and, to be fair, all other tablets) have been languishing in sales, seemingly failing to reach the potential once promised. It’s a closed platform (of course). As the Mac Observer has observed, “Like the original Mac, Steve Jobs conceived of the iPad as a closed, friendly, appliance” but now its arc has hit the same limits the original Mac hit.
AirPort has been languishing and then, unannounced, Apple seems to have dropped its entire AirPort team, making people wonder just what is in store for their easy-to-set-up and almost flawless, not to mention attractive, Apple wifi network devices AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule. Perhaps the Apple display partnership that sees the Apple Thunderbolt Display gone and the company touting products by LG in its stead (the 4K and 5K UltraFine displays) will become the new business model across wifi too. But does that mean Apple is losing its grip, or simply concentrating where it should be?
Apple has always shifted  its focus around product groups, but it’s hard to believe resources are so  constrained at the tech giant it can’t actually cope with long-standing product lines any more. Former Apple employee Chuq Von Raspach thinks Apple’s view of its users doesn’t match its actual users, which is quite an indictment of a company that has always excelled at using data to sell data platforms.
Apple’s approach has been super successful over the decades, and some companies like Pearl Automation have taken aspects of the Apple process and ditched others. But this poses another concern – this is yet another company created by former Apple employees.

Let’s hope that Apple has been putting its house in order for 2017.

Goodbye to AirPort?


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Apple dissolves AirPort team — While the company hasn’t said anything publicly, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman (who has a goodtrack record with Apple rumours) reports that Apple’s wireless router division has been disbanded. The engineers who were working on products like the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule have been moved to work on other projects over the past year, according to Gurman.
Apple’s work on routers has been relatively quiet recently. The AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule last received updates in 2013. These routers are strong enough, but you can get better performance and features elsewhere. However, Apple’s software makes setting up AirPort products simple enough for novices, and once configured they run without any need for maintenance. [Nooo! My whole house is AirPorted up the wazoo!]

Here are some alternatives — not all will be available in New Zealand though.