|September 2021 Newsletter
Time to download Big Sur
Apple announced a Special Event for September 14. While rumors center around iPhone 13, AppleWatch 7, and assorted iPads, there may be new Macs. macOS Monterey is coming soon, perhaps as early as this event. That means you should download the macOS 11 Big Sur installer now. It is harder to do if you wait. See the "How to upgrade to macOS Big Sur" Apple Support page
After macOS Monterey is released, Apple typically makes it more difficult to get the previous operating system. Whether it's ready or not, the latest operating system is what Apple wants you to use. (Should you? No, it's a terrible idea. Every new operating system is full of bugs.)
You do not have to install Big Sur right away; just download the installer and cancel the install process once it starts. That will let you install Big Sur when you choose.
The macOS list:
- macOS Monterey
- macOS 11 Big Sur
- macOS 10.15 Catalina
- macOS 10.14 Mojave
- macOS 10.13 High Sierra
We're going to recommend moving to Big Sur for most folks. With the release of macOS Monterey, macOS 10.14 Mojave falls off the security cliff: Apple will no longer release security updates for it. It won't be insecure overnight, but there will be a widening chasm between what is secure (Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina) and Mojave.
It is possible to hang out on Catalina (10.15) for another year if your Mac is already there. Long-time readers know that we pretty roundly hated Catalina, finding it fairly unreliable compared to what little advances it offered over Mojave. Big Sur isn't a big leap forward in reliability, but at least it has a few more features to help compensate. And coupled with one of the new M1-based Macs, it's pretty speedy, too.
Final note: If you're moving from Mojave or earlier, make sure to check for important 32-bit apps. They won't run going forward. See our Software Recommendations at the bottom of this newsletter for details.
Share files securely
Imagine you’re staring at a file or folder—perhaps confidential employee information that you need to send to your accountant. If attaching it to an email message makes you think, “That doesn’t seem like a good idea,” award yourself a gold star!
Sending sensitive files via email is a bad idea, partly because the email could be intercepted in transit, but more because the files then live in both your and your recipient’s email accounts in an unprotected form. If an attacker were to gain access to either of your email accounts, they might scan for patterns like credit card numbers, ID numbers, phone numbers, and postal addresses and find them even in attachments.
There are ways of encrypting email messages so they can be read only by the recipient and never exist in an unencrypted form other than while being created or read, but they’re difficult to set up and fussy to use. For most people, most of the time, encrypted email is overkill.
For a more straightforward solution to exchanging information securely via email, use password-protected and encrypted ZIP archives. They’re easy to create on the Mac, either using a simple command in Terminal or with a third-party utility. And better yet, any Mac user can expand them using the built-in Archive Utility simply by double-clicking and entering the necessary password.
Create Encrypted ZIP Archive Using Terminal
Although many Mac users are intimidated by using the Unix command line in Terminal, making an encrypted ZIP archive is easy enough for anyone. All it takes is typing a single command, dragging a file or folder to Terminal, and entering a password twice. Follow these steps, which make an encrypted ZIP archive on your Desktop:
Create Encrypted ZIP Archive Using Archiver
- In your Applications folder, open the Utilities folder and double-click Terminal to launch it.
- Type (or copy and paste) this command, replacing “archiveName” with whatever you want to name the ZIP file and making sure to type a space after the last letter—the “p” in “zip”. (The tilde ~ character is Shift-backtick, and it’s the key to the left of the numeral 1 key.)
zip -er ~/Desktop/archiveName.zip
- Drag the file or folder you want to protect into the Terminal window to complete the command.
- Press Return, and when prompted, enter the desired password twice—the second time is for confirmation.
If you have trouble with the command-line method or plan to create encrypted ZIP archives regularly, it’s worth using a Mac app that simplifies the process even more. There are various apps, but a particularly straightforward one for those running macOS 11 Big Sur is Archiver
($19.99, with a free trial). Download it and then follow these steps to create an encrypted ZIP archive:
Decrypting a ZIP Archive
- Launch Archiver.
- Drag a file or folder to the Archiver window and click the Archive button in the toolbar.
- Select the archive format (use ZIP), click the Encrypt checkbox, enter the password twice, and click the Archive button in the toolbar.
- Drag the ZIP archive to the Desktop or another folder and click the Done button.
As noted earlier, decrypting a password-protected ZIP archive on the Mac is as simple as double-clicking it and entering the password when prompted.
What about iOS or iPadOS? Never fear, since the Files app can also decrypt ZIP archives; just tap the archive to open it and enter the password when prompted.
A Word about Passwords
It’s important to think briefly about how you’re going to communicate the password to your recipient. Don’t send it in email or else anyone who compromises either your email account or your recipient’s account could decrypt the ZIP archive.
Instead, use what’s called an “out of band” communication channel. In other words, if you’re going to send the ZIP archive via email, communicate the password in a phone call or text message. That would keep the password safe if either of your email accounts were compromised.
If you’re sending password-protected ZIP archives to a particular person regularly (and the files don’t contain state or corporate secrets), you could agree on a system for generating passwords so you don’t have to communicate each one individually. For instance, you could combine a random word and the current month, so the password would be “cheddar9September” one month and “cheddar10October” the next.
As you can see, you can use this technique with so little extra effort that it’s worth ensuring a higher level of security whenever you need to share confidential information.
Quickly trash files or photos
Sure, you could select a file in the Finder and choose File > Move to Trash or drag it to the Trash in the Dock. Similarly, you can trash selected photos in Apple’s Photos app by choosing Image > Delete X Photos, or by pressing the Delete key, but both of those methods result in a dialog asking if you’re sure.
The easiest way of trashing a file in the Finder or a picture in Photos is to select it and press Command-Delete. Poof, it’s in the Trash (Finder) or Recently Deleted album (Photos), with no extra effort or prompts!
And if you accidentally trash the wrong thing, just press Command-Z to restore it. Keep this key combination in mind for other apps too, since they may also support it as a shortcut for “delete without prompting.”
As a company we communicate through phone calls and email.
Our main phone line (503-507-0410) is staffed during regular business hours
. Please call if you need help or information. If our main team is unavailable when you call we will return your call by the end of the next business day. Importantly, we do not offer emergency or same-day service
We also use email. If you're a client and have a question or problem, email@example.com is your friend.
This pops your email into our support ticketing system. Because we serve hundreds of clients, using this system allows us to handle incoming requests efficiently. Clients can also email with quick questions about an issue. We're happen to provide a free, quick answer if we can.
Potential new clients can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Support or information request emails to specific MacAtoZ employees are likely to delay service
. (That said if you have comments for a specific staff member that are not time-sensitive, you're absolutely welcome to email them.)
Unless otherwise instructed, please do not call or text MacAtoZ employees directly
We help people with Apple technology. Thank you for working with us to maximize our ability to do this.
macOS 11.5.2 Big Sur.
We recommend Big Sur for any Mac currently running macOS 10.15 Catalina or earlier. Any Mac already running Big Sur should be upgraded to version 11.5.2 for security reasons. Upgrade by going to System Preferences > Software Update. [Sentinel+ and Sentinel Ultra members need to click the Details link on the left side of the Software Update pane then click "Restore Defaults" to make Big Sur available.] If you are upgrading from Mojave (or earlier) to either Catalina or Big Sur, you should check that your important apps will run. (Apple apps are fine.) You may need to upgrade. You can check your apps here: https://roaringapps.com/apps?platform=osx
macOS versions before Catalina should be upgraded ASAP
unless your Mac never goes online. You can see your Mac's operating system version by going to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and choosing "About This Mac."
Any iPhone running iOS 14 should be updated to iOS 14.7.1 immediately for security reasons. If you're not sure what iOS version you have, you can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. You could also ask Siri, "Which version of iOS do I have?"
Similar to the iPhone, any iPad running iPadOS 14 should be immediately upgraded to 14.7.1.
Older versions of WatchOS acceptable if necessary; upgrade if your devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) support it. You can see your Apple Watch's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version. Generally, one does not have to worry about AppleWatch software security.
. tvOS 13.4.8 and tvOS 12 also acceptable. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do; not all channels, features, or apps will be available. You can see if there's a software update available for your Apple TV by going to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software. Generally, one does not have to worry about tvOS security.
- MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
- MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
- MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
- Note that 2016-2019 MacBook Pro models have a higher than usual keyboard failure rate. Used 2015 models, which use a different style keyboard, may be a more reliable option. The new 2019 MacBook Pro 16" model uses a new keyboard mechanism and should be fine.
- Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac (Late 2012 or later)
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
These are minimum
hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS macOS 10.15.7 Catalina). If your Mac does not meet these specifications—that is, it will not run at least Catalina—it needs to be replaced soon unless you will not be using it online. macOS 10.14 Mojave and earlier will no longer be secure as soon as macOS Monterey is released.
macOS 11 Big Sur was released in November 2020; macOS Monterey will be released in Fall of 2021. Both have their own set of system requirements.
iPhone and iPad
- iPhone 6S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 14.
- iPhone 7 models have a higher than normal failure rate over time. Given the choice, we would recommend iPhone SE (2020) model as a strong alternative to iPhone 7 models.
- iPad Air 2 or newer
- iPad mini 4 or newer
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad 5th generation or newer
The iPad line is made confusing by the multitude of model names and types (Air, mini, Pro, and just plain iPad). Generally speaking, devices introduced in October 2014 and later will run iPadOS. iPads that will not run iPadOS and should be replaced unless they will not be used on the internet.
- Apple Watch Series 4, 5, or 6 or SE highly recommended.
- All versions (Series 0 through Series 6 and SE) are secure and acceptable though Apple Watch Series 0, 1, and 2 will not run the latest version of WatchOS and therefore lack both the speed and features of later Apple Watches.
- Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV HD (4th generation) is fine as well.
- The latest version of the AppleTV Remote is available for stand-alone purchase ($59). It works with Apple TV 4k (1st and 2nd generations) and Apple TV HD. It's a lot better than previous remotes.
- Older models of Apple TV do not support tvOS and cannot run Apple TV Store apps, though we are unaware of any major security issues.
A secure operating system
See Software Recommendations for details. If you're not running a secure operating system, it will be difficult to impossible to protect your data.
We recommend using Apple's built-in whole disk encryption, FileVault. It can be turned on in System Preferences > Security & Privacy.
We recommend and use Apple's built-in Time Machine backup system. You'll need an external hard drive
so that the data is automatically saved to a second location. Off-site backup remains important in mitigating the risk of fire or theft. We use and recommend Backblaze
. At a cost of $6 a month per Mac, Backblaze will encrypt then backup an unlimited amount of data from your Mac. Data has a 30-day retention window, though longer time periods are possible for an additional couple bucks.
Sentinel, Sentinel+, Sentinel Ultra, Sentinel AM
[warning: we are tooting our own horn here]
Sentinel provides professional 24/7 oversight of the health of your Mac. We're monitoring all kinds of things (RAM, hard drive, Time Machine backups, battery, etc.)—150 different data points every hour.
Sentinel+ adds maintenance and security to Sentinel's 24/7 monitoring. Sentinel+ will handle most software updates so you don't have to and run maintenance routines to keep things tip-top. This is includes basic scanning and quarantine of malware.
Sentinel Ultra is our top-of-the-line, four-in-one service that includes everything in Sentinel and Sentinel+. Ultra blocks malicious web sites, filters objectionable content, protects against email phishing threats, and even increases the speed of your web surfing. It's proactive security. Ultra represents our best effort and the best tool in our arsenal to keep clients safe on the web.
Sentinel AM is our anti-malware offering. It's a $5/mo add-on for Sentinel+ or Sentinel Ultra services.
A secure web browser with ad blocking
with the free open source content blocker uBlock Origin
is our first choice. Safari with AdGuard
(and blocking cross-site tracking turned on) is another fine option. AdGuard is no longer free, but Safari extensions are getting enhanced in macOS 11 Big Sur, so we're hopeful that getting uBlock Origin (our favorite) back on Safari is just a matter of time.
There's really no good reason to use Google, Bing, or any of the other search engines. Not only does DuckDuckGo
return excellent search results, you can use commands in the search bar (like "!g"—that's exclamation point plus the letter g) to search Google anonymously. You can search other search engines anonymously too via DuckDuckGo, and DuckDuckGo won't track you. In the search engine preferences for either Safari or Firefox, you can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.
A Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is an encrypted tunnel between your Mac (or iPhone or iPad) and another computer run by the VPN company. It protects your internet traffic so that anyone who might want to spy on your traffic locally can't. We use PIA VPN
which covers multiple devices (Mac, iPad, iPhone) for about $75 a year.
A Password Manager
We consider password managers like 1Password
indispensible. Instead of having to remember lengthy passwords or reusing the handful that we can remember, we remember one password to unlock 1Password, and the program takes care of the rest. 1Password can be a little complex to set up, so we typically will help clients with that. Actual use isn't too bad though and is typically within the reach of even basic users.
A Spam Filter
Apple's built in Junk Mail filter works for most spam assuming your email address isn't widely dispersed on the internet. If you're swamped with spam email, though, SpamSieve
can rescue you.
Avoid Social Media
If you're posting to social media like Facebook, you're not just telling your friends something. You're telling Facebook, and Facebook is hardly keeping your information top secret. Want to say something privately to a friend? Use Apple Messages or Apple's FaceTime. Both are end-to-end encrypted, and not even Apple has the keys.