Zoom in hot water over Mac webcam exploit

Apple have issued a silent update for video conferencing software Zoom, following discovery of a major webcam security vulnerability affecting Mac users.

Zoom issued an emergency patch for the problem two days ago – in a rapid response Apple was still concerned might not reach enough users.

The controversial web server installation – originally designed to save Mac-based Safari web browser users from additional clicks and make video conferencing easier to use, was shown to create a potentially serious vulnerability whereby Zoom calls could be launched from any website with the camera turned on.

In bizarre scenes, technology journalists researching the problem were even paired up in video conferences with other unknown individuals doing the same.

Believed to put at risk more than 4 million webcams globally, the zero-day exploit was discovered by security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh – who originally gave Zoom 90-days to resolve the issue prior to publication.

zoom tweet

Leitschuh has since praised Zoom’s willingness to do a public ‘about face’ with the emergency patch, and Zoom’s CEO taking direct video calls to discuss the problem.

Nevertheless, Apple’s decision to step in to protect Mac users remains an embarrassment for the previously very successful video conferencing solution.

Additional problems include Mac versions of video conferencing software which use Zoom’s underlying services for white-labeled video calling – such as Ringcentral.

Instead of patching the problem, Zoom’s permission to turn on the webcam can also be disabled manually, via Settings > Video > ‘Turn Off My Video When Joining a Meeting.’

 

For software expertise and support, please contact Lineal today.


The power of mac taken further with macOS Catalina

Due out this Autumn (2019) is macOS Catalina – Apple’s latest new operating system for the Mac range.

MacOS Catalina is currently in Beta, so it’s unclear exactly how the final update will look. However it appears once again that Apple are increasingly blurring the boundary between Mac and iPad, as well as doubling-down on a rich media experience:

…MacOS Catalina gives you more of everything you love about Mac. Experience music, TV and podcasts in three all-new Mac apps. Enjoy your favourite iPad apps now on your Mac. Extend your workspace and expand your creativity with iPad and Apple Pencil.  Discover smart new features in the apps you use every day.  You can now take everything you do above and beyond.  With macOS Catalina, the apps you love are now more beautiful and intelligent making your everyday tasks easier than ever.”

Apple’s decision to replace iTunes also receives its own sales pitch as part of the new operating system’s roll-out:

… iTunes forever changed the way people experienced music, films, TV programmes and podcasts. It all changes again with three all-new, dedicated apps — Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts — each designed from the ground up to be the best way to enjoy entertainment on your Mac. And rest assured: everything you had in your iTunes library is still accessible in each app. iCloud seamlessly syncs everything across your devices — or you can back up, restore and sync by connecting the device directly to your Mac.”

In addition, some of macOS Mojave’s ‘focus’ tools are being extended, in the hope of making your Mac use more productive – in addition to advanced voice control.

… macOS Catalina brings all your favourite Screen Time features to Mac, giving you greater insight into how you’re spending your time. Monitor usage, schedule downtime, and set limits for both apps and websites across all your devices. Enhanced security features better protect macOS against tampering, helping to ensure that the apps you use are safe, giving you greater control over access to your data, and it’s even easier to find your Mac if it’s lost or stolen.”

Apple is expected to release macOS Catalina free of charge to all users, and is currently in a testing phase. We do not recommend Apple users seek to move to Catalina just yet, as final version bugs may still be identified during the public beta.

 

For Apple hardware, expertise and support, contact Lineal today


Rumours point to new Mac Pro to be launched at WWDC next month

The current Mac Pro computer debuted back in June 2013 with an upgrade consequently in the winds.  Reports suggest that a fresh model may finally see the light of day in the first week of June. According to sources, Apple will be revealing its new Mac Pro at the World Wide Developers Conference. 

Given that the Pro targets demanding pro-users, like Architects and Developers, it makes sense for the new Mac to be revealed here.  With super fast processors, more maximum RAM, better GPUs, and a slew of other improvements, almost certainly make this the most powerful and capable Mac Pro Apple have ever launched.

The new design will better accommodate future upgrades and higher-end hardware. Apple says the design of the current high-end device has restricted the company’s ability to upgrade it, necessitating a total redesign.  Internal expansion and dual-processor options are key aspects on the wish list of improvements.  The actual capabilities of the most recent creation are however still a mystery.  

Aside from a revised Pro, there are rumours that Apple is developing a high-end high-throughput modular system.  This will facilitate regular upgrades to meet the needs of Apple’s pro user base. It will ship alongside an upcoming Apple-branded pro display, which rumours suggest will be 31.6 inches with a 6K resolution.  With “outstanding picture quality” enabled through a new Mini LED-like backlighting design.

For IT expertise please contact Lineal Software Solutions Ltd


Apple fixes MacOS Root Password security blunder

Apple have issued a fix for yesterday’s severe security alert, after it emerged the tech giant’s High Sierra operating system would allow access to many users’ MacOS Root User without entering a password.

The story caused alarm around the world, as Mac users discovered full administrator control of their device was available to anyone within reach of the keyboard.

Discovered by a Turkish developer who tweeted it to Apple Support, Lemi Ergin, the widely publicised fault is believed to affect all Apple MacOS devices (such as the iMac and MacBook ranges) running version 10.13.1 or newer.

Mr Ergin has since published an article on Medium defending his decision to flag the vulnerability publicly, arguing that despite the security flaw being public knowledge on the Apple Developer Forum since 13th November, Apple had failed for resolve the issue.

Yesterday Lineal published guidance to all our Mac clients, advising caution over the physical security of Apple hardware, and explaining the need for users to set a new root password to temporarily secure their Mac while Apple worked on a security fix.

Security update 2017-001 is now available via the App Store, and Apple have even taken the almost unprecedented step of forcing 10.13.1 devices to update automatically.

MacOS root

The failure to set a random default MacOS root password (a fundamental technical security feature) once again calls into question the recent competence of Apple’s historically excellent quality control and product testing, and may slow the adoption of the firm’s latest flagship operating system. The widespread media publicity surrounding the story is also likely to undermine Apple’s long-held reputation for security on Mac devices.

Apple issued an apology, stating ‘We greatly regret this error and apologise to all Mac users.”

 

For Apple assistance and support, contact Lineal’s IT team today.


Apple iPhone 6S “3D Touch” Screen can measure ingredients

3D Touch

3D Touch technology shows potential

Apple’s iPhone 6S pressure sensitive 3D Touch screen can even be used to weigh small quantities of materials using a third-party application, users have discovered.

An iPhone 6S screen can be used to hold a measuring container, re-calibrated to zero with a tare function via a web app, and set to display the mass of ingredients placed in the container by measuring the downforce they exert on the 3D Touch screen.

An interesting proof of concept, expect to see this useful bit of technology spread beyond Apple’s iPhone – rumours have been circulating online that Samsung’s next flagship smartphone will also have a pressure sensitive screen.

For now the technology is not necessarily practical for actual cooking (unfortunately illegal uses might be entirely possible) because the maximum accurate weight is only 385 grams.

Expect to see more sensitive screens and wider measurement ranges in future iterations of the 3D Touch, and similar screens from rival smartphone makers as a new standard feature.

Now if only it could mix the ingredients too!

 

With over 25 years of experience – contact Lineal today for Apple IT Support: 01271 375999 or [email protected]


Why your AirDrop isn’t working (and how to fix it)

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AirDrop must be prompted to recognise older Apple devices

Apple’s AirDrop tool has been a much praised addition to Apple’s software lineup – allowing Mac users to wirelessly transfer files from one Apple device to another in close proximity.

However users often report that their new Mac is unable to ‘see’ adjacent Mac devices, preventing them from using AirDrop.

The solution is surprisingly simple: look to the bottom of the AirDrop window on the newest manufactured device, where a small link reads “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” clicking this opens a new option “Search for an older Mac”, which widens the search to older devices running OS X or iOS.

There’s been no explanation from Apple as to why Airdrop is set up in this way, but enabling ‘Search for an older Mac’ allows a 2015 Macbook to find a previously invisible 2011 Macbook with ease, allowing you to begin transferring files.

Happy AirDropping!

 

Lineal have over 20 years of Apple expertise: contact us today via 01271 375999 or email [email protected]


Personal Computing with Mac just became less personal

iMac

Here at Lineal we’ve generally been impressed with the release of OS X El Capitan – but the release of Apple’s latest operating system has not come entirely without pitfalls.

Some of our own staff experienced printing problems for the Mac version of Microsoft Office 2016 – these have fortunately already been rectified in update version 10.11.1 by a humbly apologetic Apple.

One of the most notable surprises however was the outright removal of functionality that long-time Mac users have had from the earlier days of personal computing.

Apple’s Disk Utility app update has removed the ability to verify and repair disk permissions on your Mac, leaving users with no way to verify incorrectly installed programs with the correct disk permissions to read/write to their hard drive.

At Lineal we’ve always advised users to verify and repair disk permissions after major updates, and even some Apple software regularly flags up as in need of verification.

Apple has made two sweeping generalisations: firstly, that Mac users only need to run software that immediately cooperates with their hardware (a big assumption) and secondly that users will be content to let Apple worry about the details of their computer maintenance.

Personal computing today feels a little less personal. Mac users have become used to the idea that Mac updates are very reliable, and worthwhile installing promptly – yet the sudden removal of longstanding features puts this in doubt for the first time.

Should we all trust manufacturers? A question for Volkswagen.

Lineal can offer Tech Support for a range of Apple devices: get in touch with us today via 01271 375999 or contact us online. 

Flickr: M Dreibelbis

View from the top: Lineal Reviews OS X El Capitan

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Apple launched the new OS X 10.11 El Capitan to Mac users yesterday, in the latest free update of its trademark operating system.

The new offering is not a revolution, but an evolution of Apple’s OS X Yosemite released last year, with the newest version including a host of tweaks to improve performance and ease of use.

Having test-driven the software, Lineal staff had the following initial verdicts on El Capitan:

  1. Immediate downloads are for die hard fans – even with 60+ Mbps download speeds, it took us several hours to download the full version today, less than one day after release. Conversely, some of our team managed to download it hours after release in under 20 minutes. Early download performance seems very inconsistent, presumably due to global load on Apple’s servers. For a more user-friendly experience, be patient and download over the weekend.
  1. We liked the new multitasking tools, including the Split View window management system highly reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 10, but even more useful on Apple’s smaller screen MacBooks.
  1. El Capitan improves performance behind the scenes, loading a test PDF file around 50% faster, and improving battery life in the process. Finder also shows a greater initiative, intelligently understanding ‘edited yesterday’ and similar phrases to speed up searching for your files.
  1. Safari finally gets a refresh that includes pinned tabs, allowing for a more efficient way to keep persistent information open. This has been possible in Chrome and Firefox for some time so it’s good to see improvements to Safari to complete the user experience compared to the rivals.
  1. Several of Apple’s most basic apps have received an overdue refresh – for example Notes, where users will find they can now add hitherto excluded images and video if needed, along with a few basic formatting options. Shake your mouse cursor and it will swell in size so that you can find it easily. Apple hasn’t changed – these are thoughtful touches.

Overall OS X El Capitan is a solid, if somewhat modest, revision to Apple’s software range, which clearly has not been rushed to release. The new features have been developed with care and the real draw is increased performance. Both are worth waiting a day or two for though, giving other users time to test the new system, and yourself a less stressful update.

Lineal can offer support and expertise for a range of systems, including various Mac devices – get in touch with us today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Smarter working: why you need Office 2016

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Microsoft Office 2016 is here: the staple of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation work everywhere is now available for single purchase on Windows 10 and Mac OS X.

Office 2016’s apps will look very familiar to existing customers – but Office 2016 is undoubtedly ‘smarter’ than any previous version of Office, with its most impressive new features aimed at boosting productivity for both home and business customers.

Take Microsoft’s new ‘Smart Lookup’ function for example – click a single word in a document and Office will web search that term (via Bing) within the window, allowing instant research.

Cleverly, Office 2016 will even infer from the context of the surrounding paragraph the exact meaning of the word being searched for, preventing irrelevant homonyms clouding your search results. A neat trick certainly, but also an important one for certain sectors – for instance helping children do school work with protection against loading inappropriate search results based on words with double-meanings.

It is a similar case with 2016’s new ‘Tell me’ function. Gone are the clunky help menus or cartoon paperclips – ‘Tell’ Word for a tool like ‘mail merge’ or ‘footnotes’ and the Office 2016 apps will not load search results, but immediately take you to the exact menu and function needed.

The latest version allows for collaborative working (finally catching up with rival Google Drive) with multiple users able to edit documents in real time with a visible tracked changes function, from remote locations if needed. As an added bonus, Office is integrated with Skype, aimed at making the process of collaborative working more easily communicated.

Part of productivity is personal though, so Office 2016 also introduces ‘Office 365 Planner’, an app aimed at time and project management. Even Outlook will attempt to shave a few minutes off your day by linking attachments from cloud-based OneDrive and introducing ‘Clutter’, an automated email filtering service which avoids distractions by pushing less relevant emails into a separate folder, helping you to best utilise your time. Office 2016 knows that time is worth money, and for some may be a very smart investment indeed.

 

Need advice on software for your business, or help migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services? Lineal can help – contact us today: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and iPad Pro Release: Apple stays ahead of the pack

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This week saw the hotly anticipated release of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Apple Inc’s flagship smartphone announced in their annual product release that has become as inevitable as the tides.

With the iPhone now accounting for something close to 70% of Apple’s revenue, the 6S and 6S Plus were the main attraction. The new design fixes old durability problems with a stronger case and tougher screen, but added features include the obligatory faster processor, a new rose gold colour choice, and an upgraded 12MP camera – all aimed at keeping ahead of the competition, at least when it comes to performance.

‘3D Touch’ is Apple’s newest technical innovation, making the screen of the company’s newest devices pressure sensitive. This gives users the illusion of screen depth by accurately judging the strength of the screen press, allowing for new capabilities like a ‘peek’ at an app with a gentle touch, and giving Apple another technical edge with which to play the long game.

Not that Apple’s thinking hasn’t been questioned: commercial clients may find the power to shoot high resolution 4k video enticing, but will likely be sceptical at how practical it is to save such high-quality video files on a smartphone.

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iPadPro_Pencil_Lifestyle2-PRINTIndeed, for a company whose founder’s dislike of the stylus is well documented, releasing a large tablet with a stylus appears an open invitation for criticism. Nevertheless this is exactly what Apple have now done, introducing the new iPad Pro, a 12.9 inch tablet, ostensibly optimised for creative use by designers, illustrators and other editors needing a larger screen.

The demonstration of the iPad Pro included the new $99 (£65) stylus, the Apple ‘Pencil’ effortlessly photoshopping a woman’s smile on screen, an illustrative but perhaps ill-chosen example that somehow made it through Apple’s press office without ringing media alarm bells. Appropriate use aside, the technology is nevertheless impressive: the Apple pencil combined with 3D Touch allows pressure sensitive brush strokes on screen drawn with great precision.

This year’s releases represent Apple maturing a little, yet still relying on groundbreaking technical features to stay ahead of the curve.  Apple Inc. shares actually slid two percent to close lower on Wednesday, with investors holding their breath to see whether the new products were enough to really ‘impress’ customers. The tech giant has arguably sacrificed some of the flamboyance of previous years’ releases to concentrate on the innovation needed to outpace rivals, and open more important doors for its own future, including in the form of its renewed invasion into our living rooms with the new Apple TV and tvOS complete with the long heralded AppStore.

Lineal has over 20 years of business experience with Apple Mac, including connecting your mobile devices for working on the move – why not get in touch with us today? http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/