New Mac Malware Accesses OS X’s Keychain WITHOUT User Interaction

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 2, 2015 by itnerd

Mac users beware. According to Malwarebytes, a new version of the Genieo adware has brought with it something that is extremely dangerous. It can access the OS X Keychain without user intervention. This could pave the way for other more deadly malware to do anything from steal information to pwn your Mac.

Here’s an video that shows this in action:

That video is short and quick. So I’ll explain what happened:

  • The Genieo installer asks users to authenticate with their password prior to installation
  • It then mounts a special app that asks for Keychain access, prompting a different dialog that asks the user whether to allow or deny that access.
  • The mouse cursor clicks Allow all by itself.

It happens so fast that most users would never notice. That’s the point. And what’s worse is that this isn’t exploiting an OS X flaw. Which means that preventing this from being a major threat is a bit problematic. It’s not sure if Apple is aware of this and if they are going to do anything about it at this point. But seeing as El Capitan is on the horizon, that may be Apple’s best chance of dealing with this threat. In the meantime, users should follow the usual common-sense security practices. Such as don’t download files from unknown sources and be wary of e-mails or websites that seem suspicious.

Review: Pencil by FiftyThree

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 2, 2015 by itnerd

A very cool item for iPad users that was in my iStore goodie bag was the Pencil made by a company called FiftyThree. This is a Bluetooth stylus that was designed to work seamlessly with an app called Paper for iPad by delivering an experience that feels closer to “the real thing” than any other styli. It’s battery powered and charges via a USB port in 90 minutes. Now I don’t have an iPad so to test this I had to find someone who did. Enter Mark Taylor. He’s a registered massage therapist and lover of all things Apple, including having an iPad. I handed it over to him and here’s what he thought of it:

The Pencil is a user-friendly device to compliment your tablet. I own an iPad 2 with some apps that require sketching and coloring and I found the Pencil simple to use. I downloaded the Paper app by FiftyThree and it is user friendly and straightforward to use, especially with the Pencil. The tutorial is simple to understand and helps you get a better idea of what the Pencil is capable to doing. The Pencil is sleek and extremely comfortable to hold. Very convenient that one can use either end of the Pencil for whatever they’re sketching or erasing. It seems that FiftyThree has taken a green approach with their packaging, with how they compact the Pencil, replacement tips, and user guide in a slim, paper container.

The one improvement I may suggest is being able to adjust the sensitivity perhaps through an app as I find the accuracy can sometimes be off when tapping specifically. Other then that, I would definitely recommend this product for everyone!

Paper goes for $70 CDN and clearly Mark thinks that this is something that most iPad users would use. Thus I’d take a look at it to give yourself a new way to use your iPad.

Migrating From My Old MacBook Pro To My New MacBook Pro… And More

Posted in Tips with tags on September 2, 2015 by itnerd

A lot of you might be wondering what I did with my old MacBook Pro now that I have this new one in my hands. I was going to Craigslist it. But then my wife suggested that I give it to her as it is still under AppleCare and she wanted a portable computer. I did point out the three hard drives failures as well as a failed screen as a reason to not go that route. Her response was that there was not a whole lot of risk because of the fact that it was still under AppleCare and she could use it as an upgrade from her late 2012 Mac Mini which was no longer under AppleCare. Then she could sell the Mac Mini on Craigslist. Since my wife is always right, I decided to go for it.

First, I had to move the data off of my old MacBook Pro to my new one. Fortunately, Apple has a piece of software called the Migration Assistant that allows you to move data from one Mac to another easily. You can do it over a network, via a Time Machine backup, via FireWire, via Thunderbolt, or from a Windows computer. In my case, I chose to use Thunderbolt as I thought that would be the fastest way to get this done. Here’s what I did:

  1. I booted my old MacBook Pro while holding down the “T” key which activates Target Disk Mode which allows it to be used as a hard drive.
  2. I plugged in my old MacBook Pro to my new MacBook Pro via a Thunderbolt cable.
  3. I started my new MacBook Pro and went through the setup assistant. When it asked me if I wanted to migrate data from another Mac, I said yes.
  4. When it found my old MacBook Pro, I confirmed that I wanted to migrate from it and entered my password.
  5. At this point, it asked me if I wanted to use FileVault 2 which encrypts my data and if I wanted to use iCloud to unlock my account if I lost my password. I chose to do both. At that point, I had to enter my iCloud username and password and then use two factor authentication via my iPhone to validate my identity.
  6. I then watched for 45 minutes as it pulled my data across to my new MacBook Pro. One reboot later it was done migrating.
  7. I then had to re-enter my iCloud username and password and validate my identity again via my iPhone and do a few other things to finish the process.
  8. My new MacBook Pro then booted to the finder and prompted me to enter app specific passwords for iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime.
  9. I had to then activate Find My Mac.

At this point, all the data was on my new MacBook Pro. I then had to do a few more things:

  • I had to reactivate Microsoft Office. (Two minutes)
  • I had to partially rewrite my Carbon Copy Cloner backup scripts. (Two minutes)
  • I had to update to OS X 10.10.5 (Fifteen minutes)
  • I had to reinstall Undercover and delete my old MacBook Pro from the Undercover portal. (Five minutes)

At this point I was up and running on my new MacBook Pro. Once I checked out everything to make sure I was in good shape, I then had to erase and reinstall OS X on my old MacBook Pro. Here’s what I need to do on that front:

  1. I signed out of iCloud and deleted my iCloud related data.
  2. I then de-authorized my computer in iTunes.
  3. I booted the old MacBook Pro while holding the Option and “R” keys. That boots me to the Recovery Volume.
  4. I then used Disk Utility to reformat the hard driveso that it erased everything.
  5. From there, I used the OS X installer to install OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite. As part of this, I got my wife to enter her iCloud username and password.

After 45 minutes, I had a fresh install of OS X Yosemite. Now I could move on to my wife’s Mac Mini. I followed the 9 step process above and it didn’t quite work. When I got to step 6, the Migration Assistant hung up at the end of the process. It sat there saying “about 1 minute remaining” for 20 minutes. After thinking about what to do next, I reminded myself that the Migration Assistant was just another application. So I decided to use Command and “Q” to exit the application.

It worked!

The rest of the process unfolded as I described above, with the exception of having to update to 10.10.5 as I suspect that when reinstalling OS X on this MacBook Pro, it pulled down the latest version. I did some checks to make sure all the data was intact, which it was. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m thinking that this is a bug.

I then moved on to the “few more things” that I had to do on my MacBook Pro, but this time I had to do them on my wife’s new to her MacBook Pro. After that, the only thing that was left to do after was to let FileVault 2 do its thing. On my new MacBook Pro, this process took about an hour. But on my wife’s MacBook Pro it took 6 hours, likely because of the mechanical hard drive in it.

Something that I didn’t expect was that I had to pair my new MacBook Pro to my iPhone 6 so that it would forward text messages as I noted that it broke when I made the swap. The quick way to fix this is to turn off iMessage on the iPhone and the MacBook Pro, then turn them on. Then you follow these instructions, specifically the ones under the SMS section to pair them. Strangely, I did not have to do this on my wife’s new to her MacBook Pro.

Finally, I ran Diskwarrior on both computers to make sure the data was fine by optimizing the directory and repairing permissions as well as checking all the files. No problems were found. Then I rebuilt the mailboxes in Apple Mail to make sure that they were as efficient as possible from a space perspective and were generally healthy.

Net result, both my wife and I have upgraded to a faster (in my case) or migrated to a (in her case) MacBook Pro. I call that a win-win.

Does anyone want to buy a mid-2012 Mac Mini by chance? It’s got 8GB of RAM and a 500GB HD and comes with Yosemite. Ping me if you’re interested.

The Up Light Smart LED Bulb: Sleep Deep, Wake up Refreshed

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 1, 2015 by itnerd

Lets face it, not everyone’s a morning person and waking up after little or interrupted sleep negatively affects the rest of your day and your productivity. Studies show that often times, people have trouble waking because their sleep cycle is out of sync. The Up Light is the first smart bulb designed to reset your body’s sleep cycle so you wake up naturally. It’s easy to use, just download the app, and it automatically connects via Bluetooth. Simply set your wake up time and The Up Light will gently wake you up with a stimulating sunrise. You can also adjust the color temperature for more ambient lighting during the day and in the evenings you can put it into rest mode so it’s more conducive to sleep, you can even use it as a night light that will gradually turn itself off after a period of time.

Kristin-Bulb-1024b

Features:
• Wake up to light and/or a gently increasing sound of your choice using your current lamp.
• Rest mode reduces the harmful blue and green wavelengths in the evenings so your lighting is more conducive to sleep.
• Sleep mode allows you to save energy while using your light as a night-light. It gradually shuts off after a set period of time. You can add sound such as a lullaby or white noise.
• Timer lets you set a time for it to automatically turn on and shut off.
• Energize mode: Need to energize? Great for supplemental light therapy, this mode provides the maximum white light stimulation.
• Fun: with 16 million colors you can set the lighting to match your mood. Also great for the kids when they’re roleplaying!
• Durable aluminum casing so you can take it with you when traveling.

How does it work?
We have photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells that detect certain wavelengths of light and use it to set our circadian rhythm. So when your body senses the Up Light in the morning, it not only starts waking you up, it also starts counting time so that in 16 hours your body will start producing melatonin, then 7‐8 hours after that, it will start producing cortisol to wake you up. Your body naturally wakes up when your melatonin levels are low and your cortisol levels are high – so the timing of when those hormones are released significantly impacts how you feel when you wake up.

About The Up Light
Steve Chang is an experienced software developer, designer, and product manager. After successfully testing The Up Light with his family and friends as well as consulting numerous sleep specialists the product is now ready to start its first production run. The Up Light empowers men, women, and children by helping make mornings easier.

The Up Light is currently live on Kickstarter and is great for students and working professionals who want to wake up more refreshed, for Parents who wish it was easier to get their kids out of bed, or travelers ‐ you can take it with you and enjoy wake up bliss while reducing the effects of jet lag!

Nomad Just Made The Car Charger 112x Better

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 1, 2015 by itnerd

Nomad is always looking for new ways to keep your electronics charged on the go and Roadtrip is one of our most effective tools yet. If you spend a lot of time on the road, you likely rely on those little 12 volt car chargers to keep your devices on the go. But, if you arrive at my destination before fully charged, you’re out of luck.

Roadtrip is a 3000 mAh high density Lithium Ion battery (similar to those used by Tesla) that keeps you charging once you leave your car behind. Not only does Roadtrip make your life easier on a day to day basis, but, it’s also the first car charger with enough battery to actually give your phone a full charge on the go. And, it’s one of the first smartphone accessories to incorporate USB type C for tomorrow’s electronics.

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Key Specs:

  • 3000 mAh battery
  • USB-A and USB-C Out
  • Pass-through Charging: Charges your device first, then Roadtrip’s internal battery
  • Charges in 2 hours
  • Thick walled BAYER plastic
  • Aluminum face
  • 4.6in x 1.2in (118mm x 32mm)
  • 7 oz (200g)

It’s shipping on October 30th and you can pre order it for $39.99. The price will return to $59.99 on October 15th.

Review: Apple MacBook Pro W/ Retina Display 15″ Mid-2015 2.5Ghz Core i7 Dual Graphics

Posted in Products with tags on September 1, 2015 by itnerd

I finally replaced my mid 2012 MacBook Pro with a new one that I hope that is more reliable given the bad luck that I have had with it over the last year or so. That meant a trip to the Apple Store to a look at the 15″ models that were on offer (as I wanted a MacBook Pro that could handle everything that I throw at it). After some conversation with a specialist (the Apple Store term for their salespeople), I chose the 15″ Apple MacBook Pro W/ Retina Display with the following specs:

  • 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 “Haswell” series processor which will “Turbo Boost” up to 3.7GHz
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics processor with 2 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory
  • Integrated Intel Iris 5200 Pro graphics processor
  • 15.4″ Retina Display with a resolution of 2880×1800
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Two Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • HDMI port
  • Audio in/out port
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p FaceTime HD webcam

From the outside, it looks like every other Retina MacBook Pro that has come before it. It is thin, light (as in 4.5 pounds which I will appreciate the next time I travel as that shaves a pound off of what I usually carry through airports), and lacks an optical drive and Ethernet. But there are some differences versus previous generations that will be important to buyers.

First off, the screen is glossy and you don’t get the option to get a matte display. Previous Retina displays suffered from a fair amount of glare that made them unusable for me. This one is very usable in almost every lighting condition that I tried it in with minimal glare as long as it was plugged into power so that the screen was at maximum brightness. Even if it wasn’t plugged in, it the screen was very usable. After sourcing a previous generation MacBook Pro with Retina display, I can say that this display is a bit less prone to glare than ones from previous generations. I also found the display to be extremely sharp with crisp text and vibrant colors which is clearly a product of the retina display technology that Apple pioneered. One note that I have is that you might want to keep a microfibre cloth handy as the screen does attract fingerprints.

Next is the inclusion of the AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics processor that spools up when graphic intensive applications are being used on this MacBook Pro. If you’re just surfing the net, this MacBook Pro will use the Iris 5200 Pro graphic processor which helps to limit power consumption and increase battery life. The AMD graphics processor is FAST. I was able to play Team Fortress 2 at 1440×900 at 32 bit color with all the texturing maxed out which was not possible on my mid 2012 MacBook Pro, and I was able to do so at greater than 36 frames per second. Not only that, Photoshop on this computer performed like I was using a Mac Pro as I was able to move all around high resolution pictures with ease with no waiting. If you need to edit video, render graphics, touch up photos, or simply want to pwn your friends in the video game of your choice, this MacBook Pro has to be your choice. One note for those who like to use external monitors, it can power an external 5K display at 60Hz via two DisplayPort cables.

The big news is the storage. Like other MacBook Pros with Retina displays, it has solid state storage rather than a mechanical hard drive. But this iteration puts the solid state storage on a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface which means that it is over twice as fast as the previous generation MacBook Pro and it absolutely destroys and humbles anything with a mechanical hard drive. To give you an idea of how fast it is over a mechanical hard drive, my math says it is 22 times faster than a 5400 RPM hard drive. Booting the MacBook Pro only takes seconds. Starting any application is a double click and it appears affair. Plus starting virtual machines takes seconds and not a minute or two. Trust me, this change makes a massive difference to anyone who wants a speedy computer. One note, unlike the RAM which you cannot upgrade, the SSD is in a slot that allows you to remove it and upgrade it. When someone decides to provide compatible upgrade parts, you’re set.

Finally, there’s the Force Touch trackpad. The main benefit of Force Touch is the ability to perform a force click, which activates special functions when you press extra hard on the trackpad. For example, force clicking a link on a website lets you preview that page in a small window. You can customize what the trackpad does and I am sure that applications will eventually be written to leverage this new functionality. One thing to note is that the trackpad actually doesn’t move. It senses the force you apply to it and uses haptic feedback to simulate a click. I couldn’t tell that the click was fake which is pretty impressive. Thus to borrow a Star Wars reference, I will be using the force frequently.

Here’s some other things that I found to be big difference makers for me, or are worth noting:

  • The fact that this MacBook Pro comes with 802.11ac WiFi makes up for the fact this MacBook Pro lacks built in Ethernet. You can get a Thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter (And I for one suggest that you should get it as it will come in handy if you go someplace that doesn’t have WiFi. For example, this hotel that I stayed at in Australia that didn’t have WiFi across the entire property. It’s under $40 CDN so you really have no excuse). If you have 802.11ac at your work or home, you should be able to get close to gigabit speeds if your router plays nice.
  • The battery life is insane. Apple says that you will get 9 hours. I got over 10 hours a couple of times on battery when I was just surfing the net and running apps like Microsoft Word.
  • This MacBook Pro comes with a MagSafe 2 adapter. The force required to cause the adapter to separate from the MacBook Pro is a bit less than with the previous MagSafe adapter. That can be kind of annoying. But on the flip side, I can see the reasoning behind it as it will keep your MacBook Pro from flying across the room if you trip over the cable attached to the AC adapter. It also required me to get a MagSafe 2 to MagSafe adapter to use my old MagSafe AC adapters (I have two of them). You might want to keep that in mind if you’re upgrading from a previous MacBook or MacBook Pro. One thing to note is that the MagSafe 2 to MagSafe adapter “sticks” to the MagSafe 2 connector better on the MacBook Pro than the MagSafe 2 adapter and requires somewhat more force to be disconnected from the MacBook Pro. Strange. I would have expected them to be the same.
  • The built in HDMI port will come in handy as I can simply plug into a TV or a projector without the adapter that I needed to use on the mid 2012 MacBook Pro that I am migrating from.
  • The sound coming from the speakers is improved over the mid 2012 MacBook Pro that I am migrating from. There seems to be a wider range of sound reproduction and better bass to them.
  • This particular MacBook Pro runs a lot cooler than the mid 2012 MacBook Pro that I am migrating from. This is true even when the MacBook Pro is pushed hard.

Do I have anything to criticize? Not really. But I will deal with the elephant in the room that some of the more technically inclined people will have noticed. Some readers of this review will note that the “Haswell” Intel Core i7 processor that is used in this and other MacBook Pros happens to be around 2 years old and Apple didn’t choose to use something newer. That’s a valid point. Apple could have gone with the “Broadwell” series of Intel processors which would have given them slightly faster CPU performance, but much faster integrated graphics in the form of the Iris Pro 6200 graphics processing unit that the “Broadwell” series of processor comes with. That would help with the entry level MacBook Pro which only comes with integrated graphics. But I’m guessing that the changes in terms of putting the SSD on a PCIe 2.0 x4 interface and using a AMD GPU in the more upscale MacBook Pro resulted in greater performance gains for them. Which in turn would have made putting in a processor that would have only provided a modest performance bump moot in their eyes. Plus I’m also guessing that Apple is waiting for Intel’s “Skylake” series of processors to appear which will provide a significant boost overall from a CPU and a GPU perspective.

The total price for all of this is $3049 CDN. Your do have some upgrade options though. You can go to a 1TB SSD for $600 extra and you can bump the processor to 2.8 Ghz for an extra $250. Or, if you want to save a few bucks and don’t mind a MacBook Pro with a 2.2 Ghz processor and only the Iris 5200 Pro graphics adapter installed, you can get one of those for $2449. However you decide to configure it, Apple’s latest MacBook Pro has to be considered to be one of the fastest notebooks on the market and power users will love it.

Apple And Cisco Announce Enterprise Tie Up

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 31, 2015 by itnerd

Apple put out a press release today announcing that they have entered a partnership with Cisco to create a “fast lane” for iOS business users through the optimization of Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps:

“iOS is the world’s best mobile platform, and nearly every Fortune 500 and Global 500 company today has put iOS at the center of their mobile strategy,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone and iPad have become essential tools for the modern workforce and are changing the way work gets done. Together with Cisco, we believe we can give businesses the tools to maximize the potential of iOS and help employees become even more productive using the devices they already love.”

There are likely some execs at Google who are none to happy about this. That’s because they’ve been trying to get into the enterprise using Google For Work. But Apple seems to have neutralized this with this partnership and a partnership with IBM. This may be the beginning of Apple becoming the player in the enterprise space.

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