Archive for Macintosh

Fake Flash Update Targets Unsuspecting Mac Users

Posted in Commentary with tags , on February 8, 2016 by itnerd

This can’t be good. Security types have spotted a scam that targets Apple users that features malicious code signed with a legitimate Apple developer certificate. The code in question poses as a Flash update that is offered to you via a browser pop up. Now a real copy of Flash is downloaded so that you don’t suspect anything. But at the same time an application is downloaded that starts to generate fake prompts that something is wrong with your Mac and that you need to by software that does nothing of any value to fix it.

The developer certificate (assigned to a Maksim Noskov) has yet to be revoked by Apple, according to an alert by Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center. The question is, why hasn’t Apple revoked it as that would mitigate this attack? Clearly it seems that Apple is once again asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting it’s users.

In any case, the usual advice advice applies. don’t download software from untrusted sources, and never take “help” from websites. Ever. Having up to date anti-virus software is a must as well. Finally, since this seems to be tied to Adobe Flash, you should consider dumping Flash as your computer will thank you.

Mac OS X 10.8.2 Is Out For New Mac Mini and MacBook Pro 13″ Owners… Problems Persist Though

Posted in Commentary with tags , on December 1, 2012 by itnerd

If you’ve been following the saga of my wife’s new Mac Mini, you’ll know that I’ve had problems updating to Mac OS X 10.8.2. I did find out that Apple had pulled the update for these computers and there had been suggestions that there were problems with video via the HDMI port. That changed yesterday. The update has been reposted. I note that the update is about 1MB bigger based on the older version of this update that was floating around (which you should not use by the way). It’s also a different build. So there must be some fixes in this build though it’s not clear what they are other than what’s listed by Apple on the download page. But here are the areas where problems persist for my wife:

  • I was not able to download this via Software Update. I had to do it separately via the download link. That’s because I kept getting this error message when trying to do it via Software Update: “The operation couldn’t be completed (nsurlerrordomain error -1012). A Google search shows that this seems to be a common issue. Too bad there isn’t a common fix for this. I’ve tried most of the fixes suggested as this appears to be a DNS related issue. But I have not had any success. There’s also the suggestion that this is an Apple issue, but I have no way of confirming this. Update to come.
  • HDMI issues weren’t fixed. Intel says that a fix is inbound. But they don’t say when.

Thus, we’ll have to wait to see how those items play out.

An Update To My Issue Regarding Updating My Wife’s Mac Mini to OS X 10.8.2

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on November 26, 2012 by itnerd

Frequent readers will recall that my wife got a new Mac Mini a couple of weeks ago and I had an issue updating to OS X 10.8.2. I did some research and found this thread on the Apple Support Communities regarding this issue. It seems that there was a specific update for the new Mac Mini and MacBook Pro 13″ with retina display. What I’ve found out since then is the following:

  • That update was apparently pulled due to some problems with the update. This site references problems with the HDMI port, but there’s nothing definitive as to a reason.
  • The Apple Support Communities thread that I referenced earlier makes mention that there’s an update coming this week to fix that.
  • There is a update that came out for those who have already installed the 10.8.2  update. But it seems to address Keychain related issues and not the HDMI problems that I mentioned earlier.

Also of note is a suggestion by many on the Internet to find a copy of the update and install it as is still apparently floating around some non-Apple sites. I would strongly suggest that you not do that. You’re likely going to be introducing issues that may not be fixed easily. Though Apple’s silence is far from cool, it’s a safe bet that they’re working on this and some sort of fix will appear. So I would suggest waiting for that fix.

Having said that, it seems beyond bizarre that the owners of Apple’s latest and greatest hardware can’t install the latest bug and security fixes. Apple really needs to address this sooner rather than later.

Hey IT Nerd! When You Moved Your Wife To Mac, Why Didn’t You Use The Apple Migration Assitant?

Posted in Tips with tags , on November 21, 2012 by itnerd

Good question!

First, let me describe what the Migration Assistant is. Apple includes a utility called the Migration Assistant on every Mac to move your files from either your old Mac to a new one, or from a PC to a Mac. The instructions are pretty straightforward to get the job done.

Now why didn’t I use it in this case? If I was moving from one Mac to another, there is value in using this because user accounts, user files, applications, printer selection, network settings and other system and user settings from one Macintosh computer to another computer, or from a Time Machine backup. That’s a huge time saver.

However on the PC side of the fence, it’s slightly different. It will move stuff like mail messages, accounts, contacts, documents etc into the right places. But they will only move into the equivalent Mac application. For example, if you’re moving your mail messages from Outlook, they will go into Mail. If you are moving bookmarks from Internet Explorer, they will go into Safari. If you want them to go into some other application such as Outlook 2011 for Mac or Firefox, then you’re out of luck. Thus I prefer to move stuff manually from PC to Mac. It does require more work and some extra technical knowledge to get it done, but I feel more comfortable doing it this way.

I’m Shocked! My Wife Actually Made The Move To Mac!

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 18, 2012 by itnerd

Okay. I have to admit that I am shocked. I never thought she would make the move to Mac. I even put that in writing. But yesterday afternoon, we went to the Apple Store in Yorkdale Mall in the suburbs of Toronto and after taking a look at the new Microsoft Store and Tesla Motors dealership, she walked out of the mall with a new Mac Mini. I guess her experience with the iPhone 5 has been so positive that she decided to make the switch. Somewhere above us, Steve Jobs cracking a smile and someplace near Redmond WA, Steve Ballmer is about to throw a chair.

Here’s the configuration she got:

  • 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 8GB memory
  • 500GB hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • OS X Mountain Lion

Basically, she took the base model and upgraded the RAM to 8GB as 4GB isn’t enough RAM as far as I am concerned for a Mac or a PC. She also got a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter so that she could hook up her widescreen monitor, along with Apple Care as I always recommend Apple Care for any Apple product. Since she was moving from a PC with PS/2 ports, she also needed a mouse and keyboard. I am lending her my full size Apple USB keyboard and Logitech V270 Bluetooth mouse until she decides if she wants a Magic Mouse or Trackpad. Finally, she wanted to have the ability to use CDs and DVDs. Since this Mac Mini doesn’t come with a built in drive, she went with an external SuperDrive.

Now it was my job to move her stuff from her antiquated PC and set it up. To do that I leveraged the fact that I had a Apple Airport Extreme network and I plugged the Mac Mini into my HDTV via the HDMI port in the back. That way I didn’t have to pull a spare monitor out of storage. Then I turned it on. It booted but sat at the spinning wheel screen for a very long time. As in 30 minutes. While I didn’t like doing this, I decided to power it down and try again. This time, a progress bar appeared at the bottom of the screen and after five minutes, the Mac turned itself off. I powered it back on and then it did what I expected it to do which was go through the set-up wizard.


After creating an account, I tried to update the software. Two problems emerged. First, iPhoto would not update because the Mac Mini had OS X 10.8.1 on it and it required OS X 10.8.2. That’s when the second problem emerged. I could not install OS X 10.8.2. After doing some Google searches, I discovered that I was not alone. This thread on the Apple Discussion Forums shows others with the same issue. This problem also affects the new MacBook Pro 13″ with the Retina Display. There is currently no fix. The net result of this is that besides not being to update to the latest version of iPhoto, I could not add my wife’s iCloud e-mail account to Apple mail and syncing of notes via iCloud to her iPhone won’t work. Hopefully Apple fixes this issue quickly as it seems pretty dumb to me that the latest bug and security fixes are not available to owners of the latest and greatest from Apple.

Now onto the stuff that did work. I installed all the applications that she used like Microsoft Office 2011, Skype, and eWallet and made sure those were up to date. I also tossed in FireFox for web browsing and VLC for media content playback. From there, I had to migrate her data.

First, I was able to move her contacts, calendar items, and to-do items. via iCloud. I simply had to enable syncing via iCloud on her iPhone for all her items. They then simply appeared in the Contacts, Calendar, and Reminders. Next was her existing e-mail. That took a bit of work seeing as she was using Outlook 2003. Here’s what I had to do:

  1. Install Thunderbird. On first launch, I told it to import from Outlook (not Outlook Express).
  2. Copy the Thunderbird profile (XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<your userid>\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\<your profile>.default, Vista/7: C:\Users\<your userid>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\<your profile>.default) to the Mac.
  3. Start the Mail application and go to File > Import.
  4. Select Thunderbird and I pointed it to the profile folder that I copied to the Mac. The imported mail was under “On My Mac”.
  5. To be safe, I went to “Mailbox > Rebuild” inside Mail to make sure there was no corruption resulting from the import.

This worked and it cost me nothing which was good. Then I went about copying all her files across. Over 802.11N, it took 3 hours to copy 35GB of data across. I didn’t feel like relocating things to plug it into Gigabit Ethernet, so that was fine with me. Plus I could go do other things while it copied.

When it was done, I could then move her files to where they should be. For example her Word and Power Point files went to the Documents folder. Movies went to the Movies folder. Photos got imported into iPhoto. When it came to her music, I had to import it into iTunes and somehow preserve her playlists. Here’s how I did it:

  1. I located her music in Documents and Settings\yourusername\My Documents\My Music\iTunes and used the network to move it to the Mac Mini
  2. I then made sure I had an up to date copy iTunes installed on the Mac Mini (strangely I didn’t even though iTunes 10.7 came out in September and this computer has only been out for a few weeks) and I opened it. I then went to the Music folder on the Mac and confirmed that there was an iTunes folder in it.
  3. After closing iTunes, I copied the iTunes folder from the PC into the Music folder and opened iTunes again. All her music and playlists appeared.

I then did a sync of the iPhone and made sure that that worked. Along the way I had to authorize the Mac Mini to use the content that she had purchased from the iTunes and App Stores. But it all worked fine.

With that out of the way, I could set up eWallet on her computer and made sure that synced with her iPhone. I also moved her Firefox Bookmarks across and most importantly, I set up SuperDuper to back up her computer automatically. With all of that done. I unplugged her PC and put the Mac Mini in its place.

Now all that’s left is to teach her how to use it. That should be fun.

How To Fix “The Disc Can’t Be Burned, Because The Device Failed To Calibrate The Laser Power Level For This Media” Error On Your Mac

Posted in Tips with tags , on August 6, 2012 by itnerd

Tonight I went to update my copy of Diskwarrior to version 4.4. That required me to download an updater from the Alsoft website and then I needed to insert my original DVD and once it copied and modified it, I needed a blank DVD to burn the updated DVD. I’ve done it before so I didn’t really think twice. That is, until it wouldn’t burn on my MacBook Pro. I tried three different brands of DVDs and got the same result. I then decided to burn straight from the Mac OS X operating system and got this error message:

That’s an error message that sounds pretty terminal. Given that my Macbook Pro is three years old, I first assumed that it was a hardware problem such as a bad DVD drive. But I decided to take a crack at trying to fix it myself. I reasoned that because the DVD burner could read discs, it wasn’t dead. I also used it infrequently (like 4 or 5 times a year) to burn discs so I reasoned that I didn’t kill the drive from overuse. Thus It seemed reasonable to assume that perhaps the lasers that were responsible for burning were dusty or something like that. I had seen that in other computers before so it made sense. So I checked to see what DVD burner was in the MacBook Pro using System Profiler and found that it was a “MATSHITA DVD-R   UJ-868” drive . I Googled the drive for some pictures and found that the lasers were about a inch inside the drive slot. Armed with that info, I tried using compressed air to clean the lasers. That’s something that worked for me on other computers, but it didn’t work this time. When I tried to burn a disc, I got the same error. So I tried something different. I took a thin microfiber cloth and made it moderately damp with alcohol. I then wrapped it around a credit card so that it was flat enough to fit into the drive slot. I slid the credit card wrapped in the damp microfiber about a inch into the drive and moved it back and forth for about 3 minutes. I then let it dry for about 5 minutes and tried burning.

The result: Success! I could burn from OS X and I could complete the update process of Diskwarrior.

I can only assume that even though there’s what looks like to be two pieces of felt covering the drive slot, dust and other contaminants must be able to sneak into the drive which affects how the drive operates. That says to me that perhaps Apple needs to redesign this slot so that it keeps dust out. I’ve seen one of the latest Macbook Pros and it’s still the same sort of design. Perhaps if Apple is reading this, they might want to consider it the next MacBook Pro they make.

Apple Is A Decade Behind Microsoft When It Comes To Security Says Kaspersky

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on April 26, 2012 by itnerd

I hope the fanbois are listening. OS X which they tout is so much better from a security standpoint than Windows isn’t as secure as they think it is. At least that’s what Eugene Kaspersky who is the top guy at Kaspersky says:

“I think they are ten years behind Microsoft in terms of security,” Kaspersky told CBR. “For many years I’ve been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows. It’s always been possible to develop Mac malware, but this one was a bit different. For example it was asking questions about being installed on the system and, using vulnerabilities, it was able to get to the user mode without any alarms.”

Oh and here’s the killer statement:

“Apple is now entering the same world as Microsoft has been in for more than 10 years: updates, security patches and so on,” he added. “We now expect to see more and more because cyber criminals learn from success and this was the first successful one.”

I guess that the fanbois will have to run out and get Anti-Virus software. They can choose from the list that I’ve complied to protect themselves. But the message really is that Apple has to get serious about security. To be fair, Mountain Lion the next version of OS X due out this summer does step things up on the security front. But I’ve been saying for a while that they need to do more. Otherwise, all the gains that they’ve been making will be for naught.

Oh while I’m at it, I’ll also mention that security software company Symantec says that Flashback infections have dropped from half a million infected Macs to a mere 140,000 or so. That shows that there are at least 140,000 users who really have to get their act together on the security front. I guess they’re either unaware that they’re infected, or they’re in denial. Not a good place to be if you ask me.

Sophos Releases FREE Anti Virus Software For Mac

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 3, 2010 by itnerd

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The reality distortion field generated by Steve Jobs isn’t going to protect your Mac from viruses and trojans. That is a growing threat that Mac users need to pay attention to. Now I’ve been running ClamXav for a while now, but I’ve decided to give a new entrant to the market a try. Sophos has come out with a free anti virus application (as long as you’re a home user). My take? I have installed this application and I see no slow down in my system and it doesn’t get in the way. Exactly what I’m looking for in an anti virus app. Plus it comes from one of the better known anti virus companies around which gives it some serious street cred. I’ll continue to run it and I’ll let you know what I think, but so far it looks like a winner to me.


Apple Quietly Drops Support For Boot Camp On Some Macs

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 24, 2010 by itnerd

When Apple switched from the Power PC to Intel processors, they promised users a lot. One of the key selling points were that you could run Windows on your Intel Mac via an application called Boot Camp. Users who wanted to switch to Mac at their own pace were overjoyed. But a support document has appeared on Apple’s site saying that Boot Camp support is being dropped on several Mac models that ship with OS X Server.

Now one has to wonder why “The Steve” would do such a thing to his beloved Fanbois. Perhaps there is some sort of difference in the server version of OS X that keeps Boot Camp from working properly. It might be helpful if Apple clarifies things so that the Fanbois are reassured.

Safari For Mac Has A Serious Security Flaw…. Fanbois Cry In Despair

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on July 22, 2010 by itnerd

As if problems with iPhone antennas wasn’t enough, Apple now has a new worry. A serious security flaw with their Safari browser that only affects Mac users. Jeremiah Grossman found the flaw and describes it in his blog:

Right at the moment a Safari user visits a website, even if they’ve never been there before or entered any personal information, a malicious website can uncover their first name, last name, work place, city, state, and email address. Safari v4 & v5, with a combined market browser share of 4% (~83 million users), has a feature (Preferences > AutoFill > AutoFill web forms) enabled by default. Essentially we are hacking auto-complete functionality.

Charming. But Grossman did the responsible thing and reported it to Apple. But…:

I figured Apple might appreciate a vulnerability disclosure prior to public discussion, which I did on June 17, 2010 complete with technical detail. A gleeful auto-response came shortly after, to which I replied asking if Apple was already aware of the issue. I received no response after that, human or robot. I have no idea when or if Apple plans to fix the issue, or even if they are aware, but thankfully Safari users only need to disable AutoFill web forms to protect themselves.

Lovely. Another example of Apple dropping the ball when it comes to security…. Again. It gets worse. There’s proof of concept code floating around for this. Just go to this website to see the exploit in action. Just bring Safari on your Mac and see what happens next.

If you want to protect yourself, you have two choices:

  • Go to preferences > Auto-fill, and uncheck “Use info from my Address Book card” if you want to keep using Safari on your Mac
  • Switch to another browser. Chrome and Firefox would be my choices.

Choose wisely.