|April 2021 Newsletter
Has your data been compromised?
Facebook has a fairly notorious history of allowing members' data to escape. In the latest affair, some 500 million accounts' data was compromised, including that of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Will Facebook alert those members whose data was accessed? Hahaha. No.
But you can do it for yourself at a very helpful site called Have I Been Pwned
. This site tracks data breaches from various sites and companies and allows users to check if their email or phone is involved. Simply enter your email or phone number to check. If either has been "pwned" then you can take steps to change the appropriate passwords or otherwise remediate the issue.
We continue to use and recommend Agile Bits' 1Password
, but the set up can be daunting (we usually help during this part). If that's too much, Apple's built-in (and therefore free) iCloud Keychain
is a good password storage alternative. It's not nearly so full-featured as 1Password, but it does what it does well.
To turn on iCloud Keychain on the Mac, you'd go to System Preferences > iCloud and check the iCloud Keychain box. You'll be able to see what passwords are getting saved in Safari > Safari Preferences > Passwords. For iPhone/iPad, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Keychain. To see the passwords, go to Settings > Passwords.
Edit more easily with Show Invisibles
Some of the trickiest editing and proofreading problems are related to characters you can’t typically see on the screen: spaces, tabs, and returns. Just because they’re invisible doesn’t mean they don’t affect the look of a document, often in negative ways. For instance:
- An extra space can cause an awkward jump from one word to the next, or it could push punctuation away from the final word in a clause or sentence. And yes, current convention among professional publishers and typographers calls for one space after a period, not two.
- The wrong number of tabs might not be obvious until you add or remove text from the line, at which point having too many or too few tabs will suddenly mess up the formatting.
- An extra return causes a line break, something that you might overlook if the return falls naturally where the line would break on its own, but as you add or remove text, the line break could become embarrassing.
These and similar errors are easy to make or to encounter in copied and pasted text. They’re equally easy to fix, but only if you know why they’re happening. To help you identify them, most Mac word processors, page layout programs, and text editors have a command or option called something like “Show Invisibles.”
As you would expect from the name, Show Invisibles replaces previously invisible characters with something you can see. Spaces are generally replaced with a vertically centered dot, tabs with some sort of right-pointing arrow, and returns with something that’s formally known as a pilcrow but more commonly called a paragraph mark. Here’s what they look like in Pages.
Revealing invisible characters is tremendously helpful, but it can also clutter up the display and make text harder to read. So every app that lets you show invisibles also makes it easy to hide them again so you can focus on your text.
Note that even if you can see invisible characters on the screen, they will not show in a printout of the document.
Precisely where you find the Show Invisibles command—and what it’s called—varies from app to app. Here’s where to look in some popular Mac word processing, page layout, and text editing apps:
- Pages: In Apple’s Pages, you can reveal invisible characters by choosing View > Show Invisibles. To hide them, choose View > Hide Invisibles—the command changes based on whether or not they’re showing.
- Microsoft Word: In Microsoft’s near-ubiquitous word processor, the primary way you show and hide invisibles is by clicking the ¶ button in the Home toolbar. Click it once to show and again to hide. However, if you always want certain invisible characters to appear, you can select them individually in Word > Preferences > View > Show Non-Printing Characters.
- Nisus Writer Pro: In this highly capable, long-standing alternative to Microsoft Word, choose View > Show Invisibles. When selected, it gains a checkmark. Choose it again to conceal the characters and remove the checkmark.
- Scrivener: In this word processor aimed at long-form writing and screenwriting, choose View > Text Editing > Show Invisibles. Choose it again to hide them.
- Adobe InDesign: In Adobe’s market-leading page-layout app, choose Type > Show Hidden Characters. The command changes when selected. Hide them again by choosing Type > Hide Hidden Characters.
- Affinity Publisher: In this inexpensive but surprisingly full-featured competitor to InDesign, the command you’re looking for is Text > Show Special Characters. When you choose this command, it gains a checkmark. Choose it again to hide invisible characters and remove the checkmark.
- BBEdit: This text-editing powerhouse aimed at developers, bloggers, and Web designers lets you show tabs and returns, spaces, or both. Either choose the Show Invisibles and Show Spaces commands in View > Text Display or click the tiny gear icon in the upper left of the window and select the appropriate checkboxes.
Not all text-focused apps offer a way of displaying these invisible characters. For instance, we know of no way of doing this in Apple’s TextEdit. Nor is it possible in the online word processor Google Docs, although you can achieve a similar effect temporarily by choosing Edit > Find and Replace, selecting Match Using Regular Expressions, and then searching (one at a time) for a space, for \t for tabs, and for \n for returns.
Even if you’re using an app not mentioned above, our descriptions of their approaches should give a sense of what to look for in the interface or the app’s documentation. Enjoy your newfound ability to see beyond the visible!
Maybe iCloud Drive Folder Sharing?
Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive all have their place—we run a lot of our business off Dropbox, for example—but as of March 2020, Apple users no longer have to venture outside the Apple ecosystem for online folder sharing. Before then, you could share a single file in iCloud with another iCloud user, but nothing more. With iCloud Drive Folder Sharing, you can share an entire folder, complete with permissions that control what your collaborators can do with the contents of the folder.
Pros and Cons
Why use iCloud Drive Folder Sharing instead of the more established services? Cost is the main one. Say you’re already paying Apple $9.99 for 2 TB of storage so you can use iCloud Photos with a large library. Why pay one of the other services another $9.99 per month—$240 per year—when you can get the same capabilities using iCloud? (Dropbox used to be entirely usable at its free level for those who didn’t need much shared storage, but users at that tier are also limited to just three devices, rendering it problematic for anyone with an iPhone, iPad, and desktop and laptop Macs.)
The main reason not to use iCloud Drive Folder Sharing is if the people with whom you want to share documents aren’t Apple users. Such people can get a free iCloud account if they create an Apple ID and then access iCloud Drive in a Web browser. Windows users can instead install iCloud for Windows to access it in Windows Explorer. But that may be too much effort for many.
iCloud Drive Folder Sharing on the Mac
First off, make sure iCloud Drive is selected in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud. If you have plenty of storage, leave Optimize Mac Storage unchecked. It’s worthwhile only if your Mac’s internal drive is nearly full.
On the Mac, iCloud Drive creates a special folder to hold all the data mirrored to iCloud. You can access it by choosing Go > iCloud Drive in the Finder. It’s usually available in the sidebar of Finder windows too. If not, open Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and select iCloud Drive.
You’ll likely see quite a few folders in iCloud Drive already, with names and icons matching apps that synchronize their data and files via iCloud. These folders exist purely for you and your apps—you can’t share them. However, you can create and share other folders within iCloud Drive.
To share a folder you’ve created, Control- or right-click it and choose Share > Share Folder to display a Share Folder dialog. You need to do three things here:
- From the Who Can Access pop-up menu, choose between “Only people you invite” and “Anyone with the link.” With the latter, you’re opting for security only through obscurity, so avoid that option if the data in the folder is confidential or important.
- From the Permission pop-up menu, choose between “Can make changes” and “View only.” Think carefully about this choice—view-only users can still copy files out of the folder and change them locally on their computers. However, they won’t be able to change your versions of shared files or add new files to the folder.
- Despite its position at the top of the dialog, choose the manner of sending the invitation last. If you’re sharing only with people you invite, you can select a sharing method and enter their email addresses or phone numbers. For folders shared with anyone who has the link, you don’t need to enter information for specific users.
When the people with whom you’re sharing the folder receive the sharing invitation or link and open it, the shared folder is added to their iCloud Drive folder. Its icon will have silhouettes of multiple people to indicate it’s a shared folder.
What if you need to invite more people, change permissions, get the sharing link again, or stop sharing entirely? Control- or right-click and choose Share > Manage Shared Folder (there’s also a Copy Link option there). A new dialog appears.
Most of the controls here are self-explanatory, but note that you can revoke a person’s access and change their permission level by clicking the ••• button in the row next to their name.
iCloud Drive Folder Sharing in iOS/iPadOS
The process is similar in iOS and iPadOS. Follow these instructions in the Files app:
- Press and hold on the folder you want to share.
- In the sheet that appears, tap Share.
- In the Share sheet that appears, tap Share Folder in iCloud.
- On the Share Folder screen, first tap Share Options and set Who Can Access and Permission.
- Tap Back to return to the Share Folder screen, and tap the app through which you want to send your invitation (Messages below).
- Enter the name of your recipient or pick them from your contacts list.
- Enter a message to your recipient and send them the link to the shared folder.
Managing a shared folder in the Files app is similar. Once you press and hold on an already shared folder and tap Manage Shared Folder in the Share sheet, you can do the following:
- Tap Share Options to change Who Can Access and Permissions options, or to copy the link to the shared folder.
- Tap a person’s name to change their permissions or remove access entirely.
- Tap Stop Sharing to stop sharing the folder.
One final tip. Although iCloud Drive generally works well, we’ve occasionally seen it get stuck syncing on the Mac. You may see files or folders fail to sync between devices or have a file or folder permanently display the little cloud icon in the Finder that indicates iCloud Drive is updating. To resolve such problems and reset the local state of iCloud Drive, first make a copy of any critical files to the desktop, just in case. Then open System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud, deselect iCloud Drive, click Remove from Mac when prompted, and then select iCloud Drive again. Give it some time to resync with iCloud and download new copies of your files.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
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 10.14.6 Mojave
. We are not crazy about macOS 10.15.7 Catalina. It's had a lot of reliability issues and still has a Mail app bug that can cause the loss of email when a user moves a lot of messages. That said, Catalina is acceptable from a security perspective. We do not (yet) recommend macOS 11 Big Sur. If it comes on your new Mac, it's unavoidable and that's fine. Just be prepared for the glitches and bugs inherent in all new operating systems. macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra (and earlier) is no longer secure. It and earlier versions 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." Again, we DO NOT recommend macOS 11 Big Sur yet. Among other things, Big Sur has the same email bug as Catalina and issues corrupting PDFs.
Any iPhone running iOS 14 should be updated to iOS 14.4.2 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.
Similar to the iPhone, any iPad running iPadOS 14 should be immediately upgraded to 14.4.2.
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 10.14.6 Mojave or macOS 10.15.7 Catalina). If your Mac does not meet these specifications—that is, it will not run Mojave or Catalina—it needs to be replaced soon unless you will not be using it online. macOS 10.13 High Sierra is no longer secure.
macOS 11 Big Sur was released in November 2020 and has its 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.
- 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 as well as run maintenance routines to keep things running 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.