Tag Archives: wifi

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.

US$1000 iPhone X, Square iPad POS, Ford Expedition with AirPlay and WiFi

Square has launched a Point of Sale combo for iPad
Square has launched a Point of Sale combo for iPad

Apple’s 10th anniversary ‘iPhone X’ could cost more than US$1000 — A new high-end, top-of-the-line iPhone featuring an OLED display and an all-new design is expected to debut later this year with a similarly premium price tag, which one ‘report’ [ie, it’s a rumour] claims could start at more than a thousand US dollars.
[US$1000 is about NZ$1391.]

Square launches iPad app with point-of-sale, store management system for retailers — Commerce company Square has launched a new set of tools to help medium-sized businesses manage their affairs, with Square for Retail combining a point-of-sale app with other important business functions, including managing employees and inventory.

2018 Ford Expedition features Apple CarPlay, wi-fi hotspot, wireless mobile charging — Despite working on its own SmartDeviceLink, Ford continues to offer Apple’s CarPlay in its new vehicles, with the 2018 Expedition including the technology alongside a wi-fi hotspot.

Review Epson L455 Ecotank colour printer: a new old idea

Click the image to see this in high definition.

Here’s a new old idea. I mean the idea is old as it seems obvious: a printer with ink tanks you can fill up  yourself instead of self-contained ink cartridges. It’s new because no vendors have really offered it. And you know how the economic equation works these days: you buy a printer for $79 because your last one broke and it’s not worth fixing these days, and you happily print for what seems like only weeks before the ink needs replacing. You buy four (or whatever) cartridges, and all up they cost more than the printer. Repeat, until the printer gets replaced again because it wears out fairly fast. And you think to yourself ‘these guys are making a mint from all these damn cartridges’ while trying to track down the particular ones for your particular model, as that hardly seems to be a standardised thing, either.
This purchasing model makes lasers seem good as the toner carts might be fiddly and you should recycle the old ones diligently, which isn’t always easy, and as with the colour cartridges above, that all adds up to travel time, and or time online finding the correct replacement – at least lasers got for months or more on one toner cartridge.
Of course, a laser printer usually costs hundreds rather than tens of dollars, and colour lasers more still.
So, Epson has created this: you pay $470 or so for the printer, but even that initial set of supplied inks lasts about two years and does reams of A4 before you have to buy more. Epson reckons you’ll get 4000 black-and-white pages and 6500 in colour – impressive. Want some even better news? Because you’re probably thinking at that point you run out of ink, you will have to trade an arm and maybe even some leg for one of those ink bottles, but no – they’re under NZ$20 each!

Setup and operation — The tank farm for this is on the right side of any of the three models available in now GodZone. This has a lid on top and the whole rectangular unit flips outwards for the filling operation.

Just squirt the right colours into the right tanks
Just squirt the right colours into the right tanks

Yes, you can do it without getting a drop of ink on your hands. No, it’s not very likely. Gloves – good idea. As even with Swarfega, this ink does not come off! On the good side, that proves it’s pretty permanent ink …
Don’t rush this job! Apart from general spill-and-messyness potential, you’d really hate to get the wrong ink into the wrong tank, assuming you’re not an abstract expressionist artist, anyway. Patence is a virtue anyway – and it’s a 20 minute process to ‘charge’ the inks after you turn it on and confirm the tanks are filled. (I’ve always wondered what ‘charge the inks’ means, apart from being noisy and lengthy.)
I had the lesser of the three models to evaluate. But the word  ‘lesser’ doesn’t really do it justice: the L455 has built-in wireless for cable-free printing – and this includes from mobile devices via Epson Connect, Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. It has a 1200x2400dpi A4 scanner plus copy function, a little TFT (1.44-inch) LDC screen and even an SC card slot. It holds a 100 sheets of standard A4 paper and can manage smaller sizes plus 20x25cm envelopes.
The colour model is CMYK, for cyan, magenta, yellow and black tanks to fill.

Print quality — This is not a photo printer as such, it’s a home/small office printer for that kind of job: graphs, forms, letterheads, homework projects. You can put Epson photo paper in as stock, but it won’t do the marvellous job that modern, dedicated photo printers do these days. Or so Epson maintains, and so you’d think …

The difference between colour prints on ordinary A4 (right) compared to photo paper.
The difference between colour prints on ordinary A4 (right) compared to photo paper.

Colour — On ordinary A4 paper, the L455 does as well as you can expect: acceptable for letterheads and business graphics. Because of the dull, porous nature of bog-standard paper, you can’t expect much from any colour printer on this kind of paper stock. But printing to Epson Glossy Photo Paper is a revelation of clean, crisp, bright, detailed colour. But please note, this ink-tank ink does not have the colour fastness and long-life you get from dedicated photo printers. Your print will not last as long without fading, particularly if they’re on display and in the light.
Epson has been very clear to state this is a home/small business printer and not a photo printer, but I have to say, the results on good paper are remarkably and surprisingly very good. You can’t set up a proper colour/print profile, as the pros like to do, but for ‘just’ having a nice image for something, this thing has you covered in style.

I am very pleasantly surprised at the print quality on photo paper
I am very pleasantly surprised at the print quality on photo paper

What’s great — Two years without buying ink! Cheap ink! Surprisingly wonderful colour prints on photo paper! Wifi! Scanner!

What’s not — The ink tank really does kind of hang off the side. You wouldn’t want to knock it too much and break it off, so try and place it somewhere where knocks are less likely to occur. Don’t let the colour-blind fill it and don’t try this in a hurry – if you get the wrong ink in the wrong tank … ouch!

Mac NZ’s buying advice — If you can afford the initial entry price, you will love the quality, features and world-beating convenience of this line of printers.

Epson ecotank L455 colour printer, NZ RRP $479

System — Mac OS X 10.6.8, 10.7x, 10.8.x, 10.9.x, although drivers for 10.10x are online  (and Windows XP/XP Professional x64 Edition/Vista/7/8/8.1), wireless 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and ethernet 100BASE-TX/10BASE-T plus USB 2 (but no cable is included).
Available from — Harvey Norman and other electronics retailers.
More info — Epson NZ Ltd.