In this issue: Folding@home; What Phase 1 means to us; How to ask for tech support help; Software recommendations; Hardware recommendations.
June 2020 Newsletter


Scientists need your help in fighting the virus. Time to be a hero.

Proteins are long chains of amino acids that perform a vast array of functions within organisms. They differ from one another primarily in the sequence of their amino acids. These sequences typically fold into specific three dimensional structures that determine what the proteins do. 

Viruses, including everybody’s new favorite, have proteins that suppress the immune system, help reproduce themselves, and so forth. Determining exactly how these proteins work is important in creating therapeutic treatments.

Vexingly, the proteins do not stand still. So what we get are snapshots—still images—of what a viral protein is up to. Imagine looking at a picture of players lined up on a soccer field at the start of the game. That might tell you a little bit about what’s going on, but it in no way captures the complexity of the game that’s to follow. 

Folding@home uses computer simulations to understand proteins’ moving parts. This is akin to getting to watch the whole soccer game. Doing this gives scientists a chance to find weaknesses in the virus—places where we might be able use drugs to disrupt the viral proteins. Cool, right?

Now the problem: These computer simulations take massive computing power. How much computing power? It would take a single MacBook Pro about 500 years to plow through all the calculations necessary to run a computer simulation for a protein. It would be helpful, scientifically speaking, to have results sooner than that. 

Folding@home is a distributed computing project to help run the calculations for protein simulations, including that weaselly, COVID-19-causing coronavirus. If you’re willing to let the Folding@home software run in the background on your computer, it will chow through a few of the calculations. If we all run Folding@home on these calculations, well, you end up with the fastest supercomputer in the world. (How fast? Over 1 exaflop as of March 25—the only computer in the world that can hit 1 exaflop and about 6x faster than the world’s fastest traditional supercomputer.) 

At MacAtoZ, we’ve got all our office machines running Folding@home with their spare processing cycles. What good is that? They’re contributing to research fighting COVID-19, specifically Project 13840:

NSP14, also known as ExoN, helps the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus replicate its genome accurately while evading the host’s immune system. The protein performs two functions once the virus is inside of the host cell. First, it functions as an exonuclease, digesting RNA back into individual nucleotides. NSP14 is thought to use this activity to remove incorrect nucleotides when the protein copying the coronavirus’s RNA genome makes an error, ensuring that the copy is accurate. NSP14 can also add chemical tags known as methyl groups to the viral RNA, mimicking the tags found on normal cellular RNA. It is believed that this helps to camouflage the viral RNA from the host cell’s detection mechanisms, weakening or delaying the immune response to infection. Modeling the protein helps us better understand the role that its structural dynamics play in performing these functions. It also allows us to search for sites where antiviral drugs could bind to alter the protein’s structure and thereby inhibit its functioning. For more information....

Now, I don’t know what any of that means. But I don’t have to, and you don’t either. Scientists need our help to fight COVID-19, what they need is computing power, and my God I’ve got that in spades. If you’re reading this, you probably do too.

So if you’d like to contribute, here’s what you do:

  1. Go to
  2. Watch the video if you wish, then click the Start Folding button
  3. Download the appropriate Folding@home software (it should auto detect which type of computer you’re using)
  4. Install the software
  5. You can either run the software anonymously or set up a name. If you set up a name, you’ll be able to more easily track your contributions.
  6. If you want, you can join a team. My company is on Team: SMUG (255355), which is the local Salem Macintosh Users Group. Neither a name nor a team is required to participate.

Once you have the software installed, it will automatically take you to the web control panel at You can use this control panel to see details of your efforts, specify which disease you’re fighting (in addition to COVID-19 there’s Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s), adjust how much computing power you’re donating, and stop Folding if you need to. 

I hope you’ll join me in the fight.

What Phase 1 means to us

Marion and Polk counties are in a Phase 1 reopening with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in Oregon. That means some businesses that were closed have a little more leeway in reopening to the general public. 

Like with operating system updates, we're inclined to be much more cautious. For now, we continue to be "remote only"—no onsite visits—and we will reevaluate after we see how things are going for others. 

As much as we miss seeing everyone—which is to say a lot—we're not in a mad dash. We are very content to with a situation in which we and our clients are slightly inconvenienced, but everyone remains healthy and safe. Many of our residential clients are in high risk categories, and we would not dream of jeopardizing their well-being. 

As a reminder, during this time we offer the following free services for Sentinel and Sentinel+ clients:
  • Set up or troubleshooting of video conferencing software (like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc.)
  • If you're having email issues and you've waited a bit and rebooted the Mac, we'll do a free remote support session to fix that that too.  
Additionally, I would note with the weather turning nicer, getting outside is marvelous. A few minutes of sunshine around noon will load you up with Vitamin D—a deficiency of which is problematic with respiratory viruses—and as long as you maintain a bit of distance from others, the being outdoors is especially low-risk.

Masking is important in shared respiratory spaces (like, say, grocery stores), but outside you don't even really need a mask if your distancing is good. Wear one or not; the open air should diffuse the virus sufficiently that the risk of transmission is low. That said, if masking up makes you feel more comfortable, there's nothing wrong with wearing one outside too. 

How to ask for tech support help

Need help with something? On occasion, we all need tech support. Speaking as the people who are sometimes on the other end of those requests for help, we have some suggestions on how to get the support you need as quickly as possible.

Here’s a simple set of steps you can use to get to the heart of a troubleshooting problem whenever you’re communicating with tech support.
  1. Describe your setup as it relates to the problem. Whenever possible, be specific about what apps you’re using and include screenshots or videos. For example, this might involve saying, “I back up with Time Machine to an external hard drive. It has been working fine, but now I’m getting this error.” (Obviously, if you’re talking on the phone, it might not be possible to share a screenshot, but you can read it to the support rep.)
  2. Next, explain how you’ve tried to resolve the problem so tech support doesn’t automatically tell you to repeat the same actions. (We may anyway, just to confirm that you did everything properly, but it’s still a help.) You might say, “I clicked OK and let Time Machine try again, but I got the error on the next backup too. Then I launched Disk Utility, selected my Time Machine drive, and clicked First Aid.”
  3. Finally, explain what happened (or failed to happen) when you took the actions in the previous step. For instance, “First Aid also reported an error.”
  4. At this point, you may need to repeat Step 2 and 3 for each thing you tried, but you’ve given the support person enough for them to start recommending other courses of action. (In this case, we’d have you erase the drive using Disk Utility and see if that eliminated the error. Even if it did, we’d recommend that you get a new backup drive since you don’t want to depend on a potentially flaky drive for important backup data.)
The steps are a little different if you’re trying and failing to figure out how to accomplish some task. Try this script:
  1. I want to _____. State what you’re trying to achieve, and as before, make sure to say what apps you’re using. For instance, “I’m using Preview to read a PDF, and I want to print it with four pages per sheet of paper to avoid wasting hundreds of pieces of paper.”
  2. I tried ____. As before, explain what you’ve already attempted, as in: “In Preview’s Print dialog, I tried choosing 4 from the Copies Per Page menu.”
  3. What happened was _____. Finally, explain what happened after what you tried, and why it was wrong. “That caused me to get four copies of the same page in the preview, rather than four different pages.”
  4. Again, you may need to repeat Steps 2 and 3 for everything you tried, but in this case, we have all we need to explain that you need to click the Preview menu in the middle of the Print dialog, choose Layout, and then choose 4 from the Pages Per Sheet menu.
One last thing. It’s always important to explain your overall goal, rather than just ask a specific question. In the example above, for instance, saying that your goal was to reduce paper usage was helpful because we could then suggest that you select the Two-Sided checkbox near the top to print on both sides of the paper, cutting your paper usage in half. 

So next time you need to contact us for tech support at (503) 507-0410 or, make sure to use these tips. We want to help you to the best of our ability and to resolve your issue as quickly as we can.  

Software Recommendations

macOS 10.14.6 Mojave. macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra is acceptable. Earlier versions should be upgraded ASAP. 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." Don't even think about macOS 10.15 Catalina yet.

iOS 13.5.1. iOS 12.4.1 (or 12.4.2 for some models) acceptable. Any device that can run iOS 11 should be upgraded to 12.4.2. You can see your iPhone or iPad's operating system version by going to Settings > General > About > Version.

iPadOS 13.5.1. iPadOS 12.4.1 (12.4.2 for some models) also acceptable. 

watchOS 6.2.6. 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. 

tvOS 13.4.6. 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.

Third-Party Software
Backblaze. 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. 

Private Internet Access. A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN company's computers. From there, you surf the internet as you regularly do. Using a VPN means that anyone who might be spying on your at the hotel, Starbucks, etc. won't be able to see what you're doing. All they'll see if encrypted internet traffic. Private Internet Access (PIA) costs about $75 a year—a cost that covers 5 or 6 devices including Mac, iPhone, and iPad. 

Hardware Recommendations

  • iMac: iMac10,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • Mac mini: Macmini4,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • Mac Pro: MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • MacBook: MacBook6,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • MacBook Air: MacBookAir3,1 (Late 2010) or newer
  • MacBook Pro: MacBookPro7,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
    • 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.
These are minimum hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system (macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra). 

The following are the macOS 10.14 Mojave/10.15 Catalina system requirements. If your Mac does not meet these specifications, it will need to be replaced by fall of 2020, when High Sierra will no longer be secure.

macOS 10.14 Mojave/10.15 Catalina system requirements
  • MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
macOS 10.15 Catalina was released in October 2019 and has the same system requirements as Mojave. 

iPhone and iPad
  • iPhone 6S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 13. 
    • 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 will be needed for the new iPadOS coming this fall
  • iPad mini 4 or newer will be needed for the new iPadOS coming this fall
  • 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
  • Apple Watch Series 5 is highly recommended.
  • All versions are secure and acceptable though Apple Watch Series 0 will not run the latest version of WatchOS and therefore lacks both the speed and features of later Apple Watches.  
Apple TV
  • Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV (4th generation) is fine as well.
  • 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. 


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Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, and remote support services for Apple products like Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

Ty Davison and Dyneé Medlock, our Apple technicians, are the only Apple-certified, Apple Consultants Network members serving both residential and small business clients in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley.

MacAtoZ has been providing computer services for clients in the Salem area since 2006 (and since 1999 as Our technicians are certified by Apple and carry $1 million in business liability insurance. We frequently present and are well-known at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). You can count on us.

Our Sentinel and Sentinel+ services offer home users 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, and security. Join today!

Quick Links

MacAtoZ LLC: The main company web site. You can find information about products and services as well as advice here.

Amazon via MacAtoZ: Shop at Amazon via our referral link. Help us to help you. 

Offsite Backup: You should have one, and we recommend Backblaze. Only $5 a month for unlimited data. Get your 15-day free trial here. 

Salem Mac Users Group: Salem, Oregon-area Macintosh and Apple gear enthusiasts. Meets monthly. Visitors welcome! (Temporarily on hiatus.)

Apple Consultants Network: If you need help, entrust your computer and your data to professionals. 
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