Archive for Apple

BREAKING: New CPU Vulnerability Disclosed. Patches From Microsoft And Apple Inbound

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on May 14, 2019 by itnerd

There’s a new CPU vulnerability that has literally just been disclosed by researchers. It’s called ZombieLoad and it is similar to the Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws that popped up a while ago. Here’s what you need to know:

“ZombieLoad,” as it’s called, is a side-channel attack targeting Intel chips, allowing hackers to effectively exploit design flaws rather than injecting malicious code. Intel said ZombieLoad is made up of four bugs, which the researchers reported to the chip maker just a month ago.

 Almost every computer with an Intel chips dating back to 2011 are affected by the vulnerabilities. AMD and ARM chips are not said to be vulnerable like earlier side-channel attacks.

 ZombieLoad takes its name from a “zombie load,” an amount of data that the processor can’t understand or properly process, forcing the processor to ask for help from the processor’s microcode to prevent a crash. Apps are usually only able to see their own data, but this bug allows that data to bleed across those boundary walls. ZombieLoad will leak any data currently loaded by the processor’s core, the researchers said. Intel said patches to the microcode will help clear the processor’s buffers, preventing data from being read.

Speaking of those patches….:

Intel has released microcode to patch vulnerable processors, including Intel Xeon, Intel Broadwell, Sandy Bridge, Skylake and Haswell chips, Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, Whiskey Lake and Cascade Lake chips are affected, and all Atom and Knights processors.

But other tech giants, like consumer PC and device manufacturers, are also issuing patches as a first line of defense against possible attacks.

Computer makers Apple  and Microsoft  and browser makers Google and Mozilla  are releasing patches today.

So as soon as those patches appear for your Windows 10 computer or Mac, I would install them to protect yourself. I’ll update this post as soon as patches pop up.

UPDATE: Apple just put up this page addressing this issue:

In short, Apple released mitigations when they released 10.14.5 as well as other software updates for older OSes that they still support.

UPDATE #2: Google has confirmed it has released patches to mitigate against ZombieLoad. The Chrome team has a technical advisory out that says that users should rely on patches for their computer. “Operating system vendors may release updates to improve isolation, so users should ensure they install any updates and follow any additional guidance from their operating system vendor,” said Google. In other words, make sure your Windows PC or your Mac is patched. Though I will point out that a new version of Chrome just hit my PC and Mac.

UPDATE #3: Microsoft has put up a document on this. And patches have apparently been released via Windows Update. Microsoft also has a page with guidance for how to protect against the new attacks. Meanwhile over at Amazon Web Services, AWS has been updated to prevent attacks.

UPDATE #4: VMware has released software updates for vCenter Server, ESXi, Workstation, and Fusion to mitigate this threat. Details here.




Now Would Be A Really Good Time To Buy Apple Branded Accessories As Prices Are Likely To Increase In America

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 14, 2019 by itnerd

Have you had your eye on an Apple USB Charger or perhaps an Apple Case for your iPhone? Well, if you’re American you might want to pony up for them now. The Verge is reporting that some accessories are now taxed at 25% because of the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Specifically chargers and phone cases:

But the codes involved in Apple’s “adapters, chargers, cables and cords” stayed on the list, and, starting last September, they have been taxed at a 10 percent rate when they entered the US from China. The same is true for iPhone cases and the iPad’s leather covers, both of which are also subject to the tariff, per Apple’s letter. On Friday, that jumped to 25 percent. (Apple declined to comment when reached by The Verge.)

So far, that cost has been born entirely by Apple and its suppliers. The prices listed on Apple’s website haven’t budged since the tariffs went into effect. At $70 for a charger (which would cost you as little as $11 under other circumstances), it’s possible Apple’s margins are wide enough that they’re able to simply eat the extra cost. It’s also possible that Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partners were willing to offer a slight discount in light of the tariffs. It could even be that, since September, Apple has been able to shift its supply chain around enough to dodge the impact of the tariff completely. But given Apple’s massive scale and intense quality demands, such a move might have been more expensive than just paying the tariff.

So, the bottom line is that you should expect prices to increase. And what’s worse is as this trade war escalates, other Apple products will start to get hit. And Apple would not be able to dance around this which means you’ll pay more. Plus, it is likely other companies will start to feel this as well which means that you as the American consumer will ultimately lose.

Apple Recalls Some Older Three-Prong Wall Plug Adapters Due To Risk Of Electrical Shock

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 25, 2019 by itnerd

Apple is recalling three prong power adapters that are meant for use in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong because they may break and cause a risk of electrical shock. If you got one of these with a Mac, an iOS device or via the World Travel Adapter kit between 2003-2010, then you are likely affected. The linked document will tell you how to identify the problematic ones (Which by the way you should stop using now…. As in right the hell now) and how to get a replacement.

I am pretty sure that I have one of these so I will be making a point of confirming that when I get home and taking action immediately.

UPDATE: I checked and I am affected by this. I used the link above to make a Genius Bar appointment on Saturday afternoon to get this addressed.

Apple Might Start Offering One Day Repairs For MacBook Keyboards Affected By #KeyboardGate

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 25, 2019 by itnerd

It seems that Apple is trying to mitigate #KeyboardGate by offering next day repairs of #KeyboardGate affected MacBooks. At least that’s what a memo obtained by MacRumors is saying:

Apple’s memo, titled “How to support Mac customers with keyboard-related repairs in store,” advises Genius Bar technicians that these keyboard repairs should be “prioritized to provide next-day turnaround time”:

Most keyboard-related repairs will be required to be completed in store until further notice. Additional service parts have been shipped to stores to support the increased volume. 

These repairs should be prioritized to provide next-day turnaround time. When completing the repair, have the appropriate service guide open and carefully follow all repair steps.

Apple did not provide a reason for this change, but the company is known for customer satisfaction, so it could be trying to speed up the process a bit to alleviate frustration. 

I’ll note that this has the feel of a Steve Jobs type of memo which is that he would want a certain end result and your job as an Apple employee is to simply make it happen any way you can and the details be dammed.

Part of the pain of having a #KeyboardGate affected MacBook is the fact that it takes so long to get them repaired. That’s a huge issue for people who rely on their MacBooks to make a living. So this move will buy Apple a limited amount of goodwill. However, some of my clients are on their second or third keyboard as Apple is replacing a known to be problematic keyboard with another known to be problematic keyboard. Thus to people in that boat, it doesn’t matter if they get the computer back the next day as the problem will simply happen again.

Perhaps Apple should just apologize for these crappy keyboards and for the negative experience of MacBook owners and actually come out with better ones to install into customer’s computers? Just a thought.

Apple Providing Free Data Migration With A Mac Purchase Or Repair

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 10, 2019 by itnerd

Something that has always people about the Apple Store is that they were always hesitant to swap your data from your old computer to your shiny new Mac for free. That’s a total non issue for yours truly, but for many users it is a roadblock that may cost Apple a sale here and there. And let’s be honest, it’s not the hardest thing to do and doesn’t require a lot of work seeing as Apple has tools to do that built into the OS that savvy users would use instead. I guess that Tim Cook and company figured that out because Apple is now offering data migration services for free when customers purchase a new Mac or need to have a Mac replaced for repair reasons. Prior to this month, data migration was priced at $99 USD:

Beginning April 2, there will be no cost for Data Migrations with the purchase of a new Mac or Data Transfers with a repair. Data migration was included as a feature in Apple’s One to One program, which was shut down in 2015. One to One allowed customers to pay $99 when purchasing a new Mac to get a year’s worth of instruction and help. When Apple ended One to One, data migration was still available as a one-time $99 service.

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Apple is using this to get people into the store and make sure that they actually buy a Mac as opposed to saying “what you want to charge me for moving my data over” and walking out. It may also be a shift to diversify their income stream away from the iPhone by trying to sell more computers. Plus it gives them an advantage over the Microsoft Store who charges for this sort of thing. Will it work for them? We’ll have to see.

My Wish List For iOS 13

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 8, 2019 by itnerd

iOS 13, the next major version of Apple’s long running iPhone OS is almost certainly going to be announced at the World Wide Developer’s Conference in June. And Apple are likely going to announce new features and cool things. But if I were in charge of putting together the requirements for iOS 13, here’s what I would include:

  • Dark mode: The top of my list is dark mode. Having a dark mode isn’t just about coolness. It’s about battery life and limiting screen burn in on Apple’s OLED screen. Apple’s iPhone X series phones (with the exception of the XR) have OLED screens that would suck a whole lot less power if they had a dark mode as it would turn off pixels that aren’t in use. Which in turn saves battery life. Plus they would be less likely to burn in which means the screens would last longer. To be truly effective, it has to be system wide so that affects any iOS app.
  • A better camera app: Let me be frank, the iOS camera app sucks because it is so simplistic. Pretty much any Android phone allows you to customize settings from within the app. But strangely you can’t do that in iOS. That makes no sense. This has to change. And while Apple is at it, how about the ability to save photos in RAW format?
  • How about customizing the home screen?: Again, pretty much any Android phone allows yo auto customize the home screen in some fashion. iOS really needs to get with the times as this would allow iPhones to be way more useful.
  • Time for a new UI: The current iOS user interface has been around for a while, and frankly it’s showing its age. Apple would be well advised to revamp the user interface to be way more modern. Just like Android phones.
  • Real multitasking on iPhone: It’s high time that Apple had iOS do real multitasking on the iPhone as you’ve now that 6.5″ screens that fall well into “phablet” territory. Thus they should really take advantage of that by giving users of those phones iPad split screen style multitasking.
  • CarPlay improvements: CarPlay needs some improvements from a user interface perspective just to modernize it as it is a bit clunky at the moment. But it also really needs some simple tweaks such as a battery status indicator and a weather app which Android Auto has had for years. HomeKit support would be a nice to have as well along with Siri Shortcuts actually working properly in CarPlay. Because at the moment, Siri Shortcuts in CarPlay is a non-starter which makes no sense.

That’s it for me. But is there anything that you’d like to see added to iOS 13? Leave a comment and share whatever thoughts that you have.

My Wish List For watchOS 6

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 6, 2019 by itnerd

watchOS 6, the next major version of Apple Watch software is almost certainly going to be announced at the World Wide Developer’s Conference in June. And Apple are likely going to announce new features and cool things. But if I were in charge of putting together the requirements for watchOS 6, here’s what I would include:

  • Mirror the notification sound settings of your iPhone: This has to be at the top of the list as every Apple Watch sounds exactly the same. Which is stupid considering that Apple has had five versions of watchOS to get that right. The simple solution is to have the Apple Watch mirror your notification settings from your iPhone. That would allow you to use notifications you are already familiar with. Plus the notification sounds would not take up a whole lot of space on the Watch. Apple, you seriously need to get on that. Like right now.
  • Customizable screen on times: When you flip your wrist or tap the screen. The screen can stay on for either 15 seconds or 70 seconds. I don’t get why Apple has such arbitrary figures for the screen on time. Why not allow the user of the Watch to customize it from anything from say 15 seconds to say 70 seconds or longer? I get that this is an OLED screen and burn in might be an issue. And I get that longer screen on times affects battery life. But seriously Apple, the one size fits all approach really isn’t for everyone.
  • Watch faces that are far more customizable: This is one area where Apple really needs to up their game. Apple needs to provide more watch faces that allows a user to customize a watch face to their needs. For example, I’d love to create a watch face that has a background from my Photos app with five or six complications that I could position anywhere that would be aesthetically pleasing relative to the background. That would not only be something that users would like, but it would take away the need for Apple to open things up to custom development. Or put another way, they could maintain control. That’s a win/win.
  • Sending messages with Siri needs improving: If you send a message using Siri, there’s a delay unless you click the Digital Crown. Which to be frank is not the most logical thing to send a message. Instead, Siri should ask you if you want to send this message, you say yes, and it goes. Much like how CarPlay works. This should be simple for Apple to address.
  • The ability hide to tiles Control Center like Walkie Talkie status would be appreciated as that would build on the ability to move them around from watchOS 5.

That’s it for me. But is there anything that you’d like to see added to watchOS 6? Leave a comment and share whatever thoughts that you have.