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Home Archive for category "Troubleshooting"

iOS 6.1 Passcode Exploit Allows Users To Bypass Lock Screen

As if the “cellular performance and reliability” and Exchange server issues weren’t enough for users of iOS 6.1, there’s now word of an exploit that allows anyone with physical access to your hardware to access your phone app, listen to your voicemails, view or edit contacts and even look through photos.  A video detailing the process for bypassing a user’s 4-digit lock code was posted at the end of January by YouTube user videosdebarraquito. It was then picked up by The Verge, which posted its own cleaned-up version of the video.

PC Mag showed both videos on its site, but reported that they were unable to duplicate the exploit after multiple attempts.  It’s worth noting that each video showed an iPhone that appeared to be using a non-US carrier/network, as evidenced by the use of “112” as an emergency number.  It’s unclear to me whether this exploit will work on iPhones in the US.  That said, it appears to be similar to an exploit that showed up in iOS 4.1 a couple of years ago, and was patched in iOS 4.2

Apple has acknowledged the exploit in a statement to CNET: “Apple takes user security very seriously. We are aware of this issue, and will deliver a fix in a future software update.” The company has also published an article to its knowledge base about the Exchange activity issue, advising users how to avoid it until a software update can be pushed out. However, it is unknown when such a software patch will be available, or how users can secure their devices beyond the standard lock screen.  As always, best practice is to make sure that your phone is only in the physical possession of people you know and trust – or better yet, just your own possession, until such time as this bug has been squashed for good.

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The Mayan Apocalypse, be sure your data survives – or at least catastrophic hardware failure

I learned many things in the time I spent supporting Macs professionally; one of the most important was about how to protect (often irreplaceable) data.  I also learned that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who’ve already lost data, and those who haven’t lost data yet.  So today, in honor of the Mayan Apocalypse (which could still totally happen, we don’t know!) we’re going to take a look at some of the best ways to back up all of your important stuff.  Every good data backup/recovery plan should include both local and off-site storage; you never know when fire, flood or zombie horde is going to destroy either end of that chain.

The first, most basic backup option is an app that’s totally free and baked right into Mac OS X – Time Machine. This is Apple’s own backup utility, and it’s been included in every OS X release since Leopard (10.5).  Time Machine’s initial backup is essentially a snapshot of your internal hard drive at that given moment, with the exception of anything you’ve told it to ignore as well as the Time Machine volume itself, and ideally saved to an external hard drive.  Once this snapshot is completed, then Time Machine continues to make incremental backups of any changes to data on the drive it’s backing up.  This happens hourly; then the hourlies get compressed into dailies, dailies into weeklies, weeklies into monthlies and so on, until you run out of space on the external drive.  The very best thing, hands-down, about Time Machine is that it’s Apple software and as such is fully supported by AppleCare technicians.  This means that when (notice I didn’t say “if”) you experience Mayan Apocalypse-level data loss, your friendly neighborhood Apple techs can walk you through restoring from your Time Machine backup.

Apple also has one more backup method available, as part of its iCloud service. It requires Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), as well as iOS 5 or later for iPhone 3GS and up, 3rd-gen iPod touch and up, and iPad. It’s a little more a la carte, in the sense that it doesn’t start with the snapshot of your whole hard drive that Time Machine does.  According to Apple’s support article about purchasing more iCloud storage, “iCloud customers are provided with 5 GB of free cloud storage. Purchased music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books, as well as photos in your Photo Stream don’t count against your 5 GB of free storage.”  This is really important information to have, especially when you consider that most of the money people spend with Apple is in the form of media content that Apple won’t replace if you lose it. (“Some iTunes Products, including but not limited to Content rentals, may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason. It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage iTunes Products once downloaded, and you may wish to back them up.”) Potential iCloud customers should also note that its storage tops out at a measly extra 50GB of space for $100/year, which you have to keep paying if you want to retain access to stuff you’ve put in Apple’s cloud.

Other companies offer backup services for Mac users, and lots of them are in the cloud.  We’ve all gone digital these days, it seems, and hard copies of anything just seem kind of passé.  One you can’t avoid hearing about if you listen to any kind of commercial radio is Carbonite.  The company offers unlimited, encrypted online backup of a single Mac for $59/year.  However, if you’re looking to back up more than one Mac in your home, you’ll be looking at spending a minimum of $229/year for a business package.

One company that seems to combine the best of both cloud storage and easy-peasy Time Machine usage is DollyDrive. You’re literally able to purchase space from the company that then functions as a virtual external hard drive that you can point Time Machine at, set it like a Crock Pot and just forget it.  And that 50GB top end for iCloud?  That’s the entry level with DollyDrive, and even paying them month-to-month will only set you back $60 over the course of a year for it.  Their prices drop pretty respectably when you start paying for multiple months in advance.  You can also back up multiple Macs at no extra charge (just make sure you pick a plan with enough room) and for $100 they’ll even ship you a specially-prepared physical hard drive so that you can get your data safe in the cloud before the apocalypse happens.  I mean, come on, what’s not to love about a company that uses the Mayan Apocalypse (or lack thereof) as a selling point for its services?

Last but certainly not least, understand that there is a difference between backups and archives.  An archive is a static collection of data that isn’t going to change anymore, and needs to be able to last for a long time.  A backup is a collection of data that is subject to change, such as pictures being added to a camera roll, emails from your creepy ex being deleted, or spandy-new Justin Bieber songs being added to your iTunes library.  So even if you have a backup you trust, it’s also a good idea to have an off-site archive of your most important information, so that you don’t lose it and so that it can be easily accessed for a long time to come. I found an excellent ZDNet article about how to archive data for the long haul; it’s definitely worth a read.  The long and short of it is that your (often-irrepleaceable) data is valuable but storage is cheap, so buy lots and keep it in a safe place away from your home.  CDs and DVDs in a bank safe deposit box are a good start.  Make sure to choose open source formats wherever possible.  For documents, good-quality hard copies are also a good backup to your backup.

If you employ even some of the suggestions listed here, your data should safe from just about anything except the Mayan Apocalypse.

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iTunes $50 gift card at Walmart for only $40!

$50 iTunes card for only $40If you are still trying to find a great gift for that Apple fan or want to get a discount on iTunes for yourself, Walmart is offering the $50 iTunes gift card for only $40.  That’s 20% off, its rare you get discounts off of iTunes.  Walmart is only having a “Sale” on the $50 cards, all the other amounts are at full retail price.

Get your now before they take the offer away.  There was no expiration date on the website, so that means they can pull the deal anytime.   I think last month Best Buy had a deal on the $100 iTunes gift cards, they were selling for $85.  That $85 Best Buy deal lasted only a day though and it was only 15% off.  For those of you who plan on purchasing it… once you do the purchase  Walmart will send you an initial confirmation e-mail and then a second e-mail with access to a PIN. Once you get this PIN, you can then give the card as a gift to that Apple Fan.

Click here to see the deal – Get Deal




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App review – Mactracker



Mactracker (free)

Seller – Ian Page

Rated 4+

Version(s) reviewed: 2.2 (mobile); 7.0.1 (desktop)

Requirements:  iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; iOS 5.0 or later (mobile); OS X 10.7 or later (desktop via Mac App Store); OS X 10.6.8 or later (desktop via direct download from http://www.mactracker.ca)

I used to support Apple products for a living; I’m also a bit of an obsessive completist when it comes to Apple history. As such, I wanted and needed a complete, accurate list of Apple’s hardware and software. Mactracker provides just that sort of list with a fast, intuitive, truly exhaustive enumeration of every Macintosh ever made.  It begins with the 128k Mac and ends with Apple’s present product lineup.

For both the mobile and desktop versions, Ian has laid the information out in several broad classifications, including Desktops, Notebooks, Devices and Software.  Inside those classifications are finer details. For instance, Devices includes Apple TV, Displays, Printers and the Newton, amongst many others.

Tap a category on the mobile app for a list of all the products in that category — as well as beautifully-done icons for each. Tap on an individual product to see a spec sheet that includes details about hardware, software, release dates, support status and just about any other important bit of trivia you might ever need to know about, say, Great-aunt Myrtle’s Bondi Blue iMac.  The same information is present in the desktop, but the interaction is (of course) more point-and-click.  It’s also possible to have spec sheets open for multiple products in the desktop app, and each has its own window.  The mobile app is optimized for iPad, so the tablet layout looks more like the desktop app.

All this information is fascinating and valuable, but ultimately available online for free from all the same resources that Ian has used.  The thing that would have persuaded me to pay actual money for this app — beyond its sheer usefulness — is the fact that the hardware spec sheets include the startup chime for each and every product that had one.  Making a grown-up fangirl remember how she took her first sip of the Kool-Aid is a happy thing indeed.

This app is a godsend for anyone who supports (especially older) Macs or their owners, either professionally or on a “my niece is the Mac expert in the family” basis.

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iPhone 5 Screen Flicker Annoys Users

In what will undoubtedly be used as a grandstanding “told ya so” example for iPhone and Apple haters, a recent bug in Apple’s own App Store app creates a screen flicker, not unlike digital television signal interference.

I experienced the issue yesterday and this morning, but only in one very specific case — when entering my password for downloading a new app in the App Store. Apple’s Support Communities have seen a spike in users seeing the same bug, which apparently is relegated to the iPhone 5, only the App Store app, and only when entering your password.

So, is this a reason to freak out if you’re an iPhone user? No. This is a software issue that is likely inside the app, not iOS 6. Is this a reason to jump on Facebook or Twitter or the closest Apple-related blog and make a snarky comment like, “but if Apple stuff is supposed to ‘just work’ then why does the screen flicker on its newest product,” if you are an iPhone or Apple hater? No. Unless you are a moron.

If you think that a little screen flicker or distortion when entering your password in the App Store is enough of an issue to be worried about, you can try restoring your iPhone to factory settings — remember that will delete all your data, so be careful if you decide to do it. Otherwise, just be patient and know that in all likelihood Apple is aware of the issue and the next update to iOS 6 (which will update the App Store app) will take care of the issue.

Have you seen this happen? Let me know in the comments!

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