MacBook Pro Battery Replacement

If you have a Non-Touch Bar 13" MacBook Pro and it was produced within a certain time frame, it may be eligible for a free battery replacement. The following article provides more details:

https://tidbits.com/2018/04/22/apple-rolls-out-replacement-program-for-faulty-batteries-in-non-touch-bar-13-inch-macbook-pros/

I just now checked my 13" MacBook Pro and it isn't eligible -- nor does it need -- a battery replaced.

Jim Hamm

Opera's Free VPN

For some time Opera has offered a free version of their VPN (Virtual Private Network) for iOS devices. Soon it will no longer be available. Following is an article that discusses this:

https://askbobrankin.com/is_operas_free_vpn_going_away.html

It's expensive for any company to maintain a VPN network, and unreasonable for them to offer it free. How can a company afford to do this? The desktop version of the Opera Browser does continue to offer a free built-in VPN, but I'm guessing Opera is doing this to try to increase market share for their browser. How long they'll continue to do this is uncertain, though.

Jim Hamm

Glims Plugin for Safari

Because Safari may not be as versatile as other web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, it needs plugins to expand its features and capability. One commonly used plugin for the Safari web browser is Glims. Glims’ main objective is to enhance the search capability of your Safari browser, but it also features other functionalities as well, like bookmark management, search suggestions, and more. But with these enhancements also comes advertisements, which can be a little too frequent and annoying. If you find these ads too intrusive when you’re doing searches, and already affects your browsing experience, you can just easily uninstall Glims, and remove it from your Safari web browser.

Additionally, Sophos on my computer found four viruses in Glims. 

To find out how to remove Glim from Safari, see this article:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.wikihow.com/Remove-Glims-from-Safari%3Famp%3D

 

John R Carter Sr

Chrome Phishing Protection

If you use the Chrome Browser, you will want to read this article on possible phishing protection:

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3269264/web-browsers/microsoft-boosts-anti-phishing-skills-of-chrome-the-ie-and-edge-killer.html

Since Chrome will be doing extra work in scanning for phishing attempts, I wonder if this feature will somewhat slow down one's browsing experience? Best way to find out, I guess, is to try it, which I plan to do.

Jim Hamm

How Strong is Your Password?

A recent Wall Street Journal interview (https://curiosity.com/topics/the-real-rules-for-strong-computer-passwords-go-against-everything-youve-been-told-curiosity) about passwords indicated that a password like “correcthorsestaplebattery” is stronger than “Tr0ub4dor&3”. So I checked it out with a password strength checker (http://www.passwordmeter.com/). Wrong! The long password was rated weak with a score of 25 and the shorter password was rated very strong with a score of 100! The reason for the low score of the long password - no numbers or symbols and all lowercase. Just using one uppercase letter and adding one number gave it a rating of very strong with a score of 100. What this means is that you can use a string of unconnected words - at least three - with at least one uppercase and one number or symbol to make up a memorable password. Trouble is, you need to make up a LOT of passwords - one for every account you have. So the easy way out, as suggested by the article, is to use a password manager where that memorable password gives you access to the password manager and let the password manager make up complex passwords for each of your accounts. Done! Only one password that you need to remember.

And then I checked out my favorite combination password, a pattern like lllnlllnLLLn, where lll are lower case letters, n is a number, and LLL are uppercase letters. 12 characters in all. It was rated very strong with a score of 87. Adding just one more character, either another number or a symbol, changed the score to 100.

If you want to test your password, use the above link - but don’t use your password verbatim. Just use the same pattern with different letters, numbers and symbols.

Oh, did I say that you only need to remember one password? Not quite right. You need to remember your computer login password also.

John R Carter, Sr.

Apple Wireless Ear Buds

Do you have a pair of those very expensive wireless ear buds? If so, then you’re probably also wondering just how much power they use. I started with a fully charged pair and watched an hour long video with great sound coming through the ear buds. Then, when I opened the case and inserted the ear buds, I noticed a new graphic pop up on my iPad screen. With the case open and the ear buds inserted, it was showing me the amount of charge left on the ear buds and on the case. The ear buds were showing 94% charge. Now that’s not bad for a one hour video. And the case was showing 74% charge - and that was after topping off the charge on the ear buds.

So how do you find out when the ear buds have depleted their charge? Simple! First one ear bud stops working, and then soon after the other one stops working. And you’ll also notice that the quality of the sound - when talking on the phone - gets a little weird.

The ear buds can be programmed to respond to a double tap, and each one can be programmed for a different command. For instance, double-tapping on the right bud can answer a phone call and then hang up, or, if not answering a phone call, it will raise Siri. Double-tapping on the left bud can advance to the next song in your playlist - when you’re playing music, or, like with the right bud, will raise Siri if you’re not listening to music.

John R Carter, Sr.

Convert an old Mac to a new Linux

What can you do with an old Apple laptop or iMac that can’t be updated anymore?

You can completely uninstall the MacOS system and install a distribution of Linux. I did this on a MacBook Air recently that only had 2GB of RAM and a 60 GB internal drive. The system works incredibly well. The distribution that I chose was Ubuntu Desktop because it is most like the Mac.

To install Linux, you first need to download an ISO file from the Internet and install it on a CD  or bootable thumb drive. Okay, for most people, that’s not going to happen. So I am offering PMUG members to do the conversion of their old Mac to a new Linux for free. I do recommend Ubuntu Desktop.

Find out more about Linux Ubuntu here.

John R Carter Sr

 

Free Version of MS Office Online

Did you know that you do not need to have MS Office on your computer?

There’s a FREE version ONLINE with your Microsoft account. All it takes is that you have a Microsoft account (a yahoo.com email address) and have installed OneDrive on your Mac (free). If you don’t have a Microsoft account, you can create one at the time that you download the OneDrive app. 

With OneDrive you get 15GB of free storage space online. That’s 10GB more than iCloud. You can add the OneDrive app to your iOS devices. You are not limited to just documents in OneDrive. Anything is allowed. You can share a link to a file or folder with anyone. Do you have a short video you want to share on Facebook? That and more can be done.

All the documents that you have in OneDrive (presuming that they are MS Office or compatible documents) can be accessed with the online version of MS Office.

Here’s how:

  1. On your Mac, click on the OneDrive icon in the Menu Bar. You’ll find it on the right side. 
  2. Then click on the gear in the upper left of the drop down window.
  3. In the new drop down window, click on “View online”
  4. Safari (or your default browser) opens a window with all your OneDrive documents showing.
  5. Double-click on the document you want to open. It will open with Word or Excel or PowerPoint as appropriate.

So if you already have a Mac version of MS Office and you are asked to pay for an update to MS Word, you really don’t need to. In fact, you can delete the MS Office apps without fear of losing anything - as long as you have OneDrive.

There is a downside - or course. The online version of Word and Excel do not have *all* the features of the paid for version. You probably won’t even miss them.

There’s a *free* app that you can install on your Mac that does everything that MS Office does - almost. I’m sure you have heard of it: OpenOffice. You can save your OpenOffice documents ( the default extensions are .odt for Writer and .ods for Calc) as MS Office documents (the defaults are .docx for Word and .xlsx for Excel), and they will open up with the online version of Word and Excel. One word of caution here: not all features of MS Office are available in OpenOffice, and some formatting and styles may change in the conversion.

But anyway, with the online version of MS Office, I really can’t see why anyone would need anything else. You can unlock more features of the online version of MS Office by paying a nominal monthly fee. You need to be a real power user to need to do that.

John R. Carter, Sr.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

Are you using a Solid State Drive (SSD)? SSD drives do not work the same way that hard drives work. When you delete a file, that space is not automatically used by a newer file. When you increase the size of a file, the additional space needed may be in a non-contiguous location, and that could slow things down. On an SSD, collecting unused space and optimizing files is called garbage collection. Older SSD drives might not have come with a garbage collection routine (Crucial SSD’s do). The older Mac versions needed to use a separate TRIM utility to do garbage collection. Again, with macOS X High Sierra and the new APFS file system, there is no need to be concerned about performing garbage collection on an SSD because as long as the computer is on and not busy, SSD garbage collection is done in the background, and it works even with older SSD drives but ONLY if the SSD has been reformatted as APFS. If you upgraded to High Sierra or purchased a new mac with High Sierra, the reformatting of the internal drive is done for you (except for some third party SSD’s). So you just need to be aware that any external drives may not be formatted as APFS, and you have to do that yourself. There are many additional features of APFS that work in the background for you, and it’s worth knowing something about those features - even if you don’t care to know.

John R Carter Sr

Can You Defrag/Optimize MacOS High Sierra?

There was a time when you could speed up the Mac by running a defrag and optimize tool. Not all tools will do both, and if both aren’t done, the speed improvement may not be realized. So that was then, with the older versions of macOS X. What about now?  The latest file system is now APFS. The APFS file system does an intelligent defrag that works in the background, and this may still require that your computer is not turned off or put to sleep. There are two sleep modes in macOS X. One is to put the display to sleep, and the other is to put the computer to sleep. Check System Preferences -> Energy Saver. It’s okay to allow the display to sleep. If you want to ensure that the computer has plenty of time to perform, don't let the computer go to sleep.

John R. Carter, Sr.

 

Is Your Hard Drive Filling Up?

If your hard drive is getting full, it is recommended by some to keep at least 20GB of free space on your hard drive. The main reason for this is to be able to have enough room to do another upgrade of the operating system. Each new upgrade requires a minimum of about 6 GB of space just to download the file, and some additional free space is needed for the final installation. A full hard drive does NOT mean your Mac will run slow, but it could also be that the files on the drive are not optimized and/or contiguous. 

John R. Carter, Sr.

Is Your Mac Running Slower Than It Did When You First Bought It?

If that is the case, chances are that you have clogged up your Desktop with dozens of files. Placing all your "must have” files on the Desktop isn’t the best way to use your Mac, but if you insist on doing it that way, you’ll see some improvement in speed by collecting those files into categories and creating folders for each category. The fewer files and folders you have in the Desktop, the faster your Mac will run.

Sometimes simply restarting the Mac will improve speed performance.

Another option is to perform a PRAM reset (NVRAM on SSD’s) and a SMC reset  Check the links here for additional information and instructions on how to perform the task.

Try this: log out of your normal account and log in with a different account. If that other account seems to be running fine, then you need to perform some system maintenance on your account.

More memory does not necessarily speed up a computer unless you have the minimum or less than what the OS version requires. Even then, more memory is really only for the gamer or video editor. I always recommend the maximum memory for any computer just to be totally certain that low memory is not going to be a problem. If you’re running several applications at the same time (when it is loaded into memory, there’s a dot under the icon in the Dock) and you are low on memory, the system has to temporarily swap them out to the hard drive to make room for the one application that you are actually using. This swapping back and forth slows things down considerably, and more memory can improve on that.

Replacing a hard drive with an SSD will speed things up, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of why your computer is slow.

If you have installed additional fonts on your computer, that will definitely slow down starting up the computer and starting up applications that use fonts, especially word processors. Use Font Book to remove fonts that you really know you’re not about to use, but be aware that you cannot remove any system fonts.

Declutter your disk by emptying your Trash often, including the Trash in Mail - they are not the same Trash.

Perform routine system maintenance. Junk accumulates on any computer. You might have deleted an application by just dragging it to the Trash - and that does not delete all the files associated with the application. Cache files and log files build up over time. Really old email messages and messages with attachments simply use up space, although they can slow down a search somewhat if you have thousands of old emails hanging around. A free utility called ONYX can do the job, but takes some manual intervention. There’s a different version for each version of mac OS X starting with 10.2. CleanMyMac 3 does all the same things with a single click and has some additional utilities that are well worth the price.

Do you shut off your Mac every night? That might not give Spotlight the time it needs to build a snapshot of the files on your Mac. If Spotlight doesn’t have a current build, it takes longer to find things on the Mac. It might take a couple of days for Spotlight to build a complete snapshot on a large file system, so be sure to give Spotlight plenty of time to do its job - and often!

Malware on a Mac can slow things down because some Malware constantly runs in the background snooping on what you are doing and reporting back to its owner. Malwarebytes (not free) or Sophos Home or Avast can ensure that malware doesn’t stay on your computer. Do NOT use more than one anti-virus application on your computer (such as Sophos Home and Avast). Malwarebytes isn’t an anti-virus app, so it can run alongside an anti-virus app. However, do NOT let Malwarebytes run in the background as this will slow down your computer. Only run Malwarebytes manually when you feel like letting it check out your computer’s status.

For additional tips, see MacAttorney’s “Macintosh OS X Slowdown Solutions.”

John R. Carter Sr.

Mac Malware Getting Serious

While some of our members do not have anti-virus software to protect their Macs, below is a link to an article that identifies the increase in threats on the Mac, and what to do about those threats. While the article has been sponsored by an AV software company, that does not reduce the threat. This can provide more information, and let you take the necessary steps to reduce the threat if they feel the need.

Frank Croft

https://www.macworld.com/article/3253252/macs/mac-malware-getting-serious-security-no-longer-optional.html?idg_eid=1b312b3c0065bf5e76ab46a3564f0441&email_SHA1_lc=9ff332797cb2efd63c49060f6dada67f462d8c64&cid=mw_nlt_mw_macweek_html_2018-02-07&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MacWeek 2018-02-07&utm_term=mw_macweek_html

Hotspot Shield VPN

Here's an interesting (to me, anyway) bit of trivia about the use of the Hotspot Shield VPN, which I just experienced. Typically when one uses a VPN for security purposes over a public wifi network, the download speed usually drops -- for several reasons. This is expected, and is just part of the price one pays for additional security and to prevent hackers from 'sniffing' your computer or tablet.

I'm presently on a secure wifi network in our condo and don't need to use a VPN. But from time to time I like to check out various VPNs to see how they perform. Using Cox Cable I just now got a download speed of 28 Mbps, which is perfectly usable for normal computer use. I then opened the Hotspot Shield VPN, selected a server in the U.S., and after a few moments it got connected. I don't know where the server was located in the U.S., just that it was connected.

I did the download test again and got 42 Mbps -- a significant improvement and a nice surprise. I did this same test earlier this morning and got similar, favorable, results. Hotspot Shield VPN is available for a Mac, PC, iOS and Android. They offer both a free and paid version.

https://www.hotspotshield.com/vpn/vpn-for-mac/       https://www.hotspotshield.com/vpn/vpn-for-windows/

So, if you occasionally use public wifi, I suggest that you use a VPN, whether it be this one or another.

Jim Hamm

Apple's 1st Quarter Financial Results

Here is a blog (from Smalldog.com) about Apple's financial results for the last quarter. Amazing at the $ rolling in. Plus, take a look at the repatriation of cash they had deposited overseas. That will infuse $38 billion of taxes into the federal coffers. My wife and I have done our share to help Apple out -- we each bought the new iPhone X this last quarter. Ouch!

Jim Hamm

I caught a news story about how archaeologists have used new laser technology to discover a huge Mayan settlement in Guatemala. A huge city with elevated streets, canals, etc. Elevate became the word to describe Apple’s 1st quarter financial results. The newswire was full of stories about how Apple was not going to hit their numbers, that no one was buying iPhones and then, boom, the facts are released.

Apple posted the best-ever quarter in the company’s history with sales of $88.3 billion and a profit of $20 billion on those sales. At a profit of $3.89 per diluted share both revenue and earnings were a record. Keep in mind that this year was a 13 week quarter vs. a 14 week quarter a year ago when Apple posted revenue of about $10 billion less and $0.50 less earnings per share.

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Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the three months and their installed base of devices is up to some 1.3 billion units. Tim Cook said that the iPhone X, which everyone had been trying to say was a failure, has been the top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped.

Apple Watch was also up significantly. Although Apple does not report unit sales of Watch they did indicate that this was the best quarter ever for the Watch with Apple Watch Series 3 sales up more that 100% over Series 2 sales last year. This is our first year of selling the Apple Watch, and I have been amazed at just how strong the demand is for the Apple Watch.

This was also the third consecutive quarter of revenue growth for the iPad, with an astonishing 13.2 million iPads sold. Mac sales slumped a bit with sales down about 4.8% with 5.1 million Macs sold. We are seeing more and more customers that are finding that the iPad meets all their computing needs so increasing iPad sales and declining Mac sales are not that surprising.

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Apple services revenue was up by 18% year over year at around $8.5 billion and other products which include Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats, iPod and a few others was up 36% at $5.49 billion.

Apple guidance for the next quarter (ending in March) was a bit below what some prognosticators are pulling out of their ears. Apple projects revenue of between $60 to $62 billion which is still about 12% higher than last year’s numbers.

Apple also indicated in the follow-up call that they will be re-patriating their cash horde and paying $38 billion in taxes to do so. With about $163 billion (net of debt) in that stockpile, Apple indicated that their goal was to get to net zero on the stockpile of cash and will be updating their capital return program and M & A activity.

Congratulations to the entire Apple team for a job well done and an amazing record-smashing quarter. Apple is one of the world’s largest companies and owns some of the world’s most important social responsibilities because of its huge impact upon society. I am pleased to see Tim Cook recognize that when he said business can be a force for good in the world.