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#853: Someone Spilled My Java, Monitor Your Bluetooth Devices, Blind Man's Buff

 
     
 

Hello readers,

This week seems to be shaping up to a January thaw. However, I was really enjoying a classic Vermont winter — more cold weather is headed our way, and I will certainly be keeping an eye on it.

I don’t seem to fall prey to seasonal mood swings as much as many people I know, but I have to say the ambiguity of recent winters has kept me on an uncomfortable edge.

This week we learn what we always kind of suspected: Java needs to go away. Plus, we have some tips to help you when Bluetooth goes away, which is much less desirable.

Thanks for reading.

Liam
liam@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Someone Spilled My Java  
   
 

Last Thursday, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) of Homeland Security suggested disabling Java on computers due to security vulnerabilities. Java is a web programing language that is used for interactive web apps like games, webcam integration and other tasks.

This is the latest blow to confidence in Java — it has long had a cloud of security risk hanging over it and along with the Flashback trojan that exploited a security flaw in Java to infect half a million Apple computers, this latest announcement may hit hard.

On Sunday, Jan 13, Oracle released a security update called 7u11 to fix vulnerabilities and also require the user to authorize the start of all unsigned Java applets and applications by verifying with a new Click-to-Run feature.

US-CERT and many other software security firms still suggest disabling Java in your web browser to be safe. As always, users needs to decide for themselves if they are up for the risk. You most likely will not miss Java unless you play a lot of online games or have a Java-built application for work or school. If you are jumping off the Java train you can disable it as follows:

In Safari:
In the top left hand corner click Safari > Preferences > Security and then uncheck “Enable Java”

In Chrome:
Type chrome://plugins in the address bar. Then find Java and click the blue “Disable.”

In Firefox:
Click the orange Firefox in the top left hand corner. On the left hand side click Add-ons > Plugins and then click “Disable” on the right side.

References:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/261843/time_to_give_java_the_boot_.html

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2025178/oracle-releases-java-fix-but-security-concerns-remain.html

 
   
     
  Monitor Your Bluetooth Devices  
   
 

A while ago, I let you all know how to get a deeper sense of your wireless connection and how to troubleshoot it. This week we’ll look at Bluetooth.

If you don’t know Bluetooth is a wireless technology created in 1994 by Ericsson as an alternative to the RS-232 serial data cable. It is most commonly used to connect keyboards and mice to your computer but can also be used to connect headsets and peripherals to your phone and can even be used (with the right hardware) to connect your phone to your cars computer.

A common repair problem that we deal with here in the shop are intermittent Bluetooth connections between the mouse or keyboard and the computer. Symptoms of a bad connection can be fuzzy audio or no audio in relation to headsets, or missed key presses or imprecise mouse movements in regards to the keyboard and mice.

You can monitor Bluetooth connections on your Mac, provided Bluetooth is enabled and you have a device connected, by going to the Bluetooth preference pane in System Preferences. In the lower left corner of the window you should see a gear icon. Hold down the Option key and then click the gear icon. In the drop down menu, choose Monitor Connection RSSI (received signal strength indication). Once you can see the graph, let it gather data for a bit before you panic.

When looking at the RSSI, you should keep in mind that the higher number means a better connection, but since the numbers are represented in a negative value a higher number means that -45 will be significantly stronger than -100. Here are some guidelines on connection:

  • -40 to -55 is a very strong connection
  • -70 and above is a good connection
  • -100 and below is a bad connection
  • -110 and below is pretty much unusable

So now that you know how to check the connection, what do you do about it when you have a bad connection? The most common reasons for a bad connection are dying batteries and environmental interference. The first thing you want to do is swap out the batteries with brand new batteries or fully charged ones, then rerun the graph. Narrowing down the environmental factors can be trickier. This will involve moving things around your living space to see how the graph changes.

 
   
     
  Blind Man's Buff  
   
 

As a technician, we talk to people with computer and iOS device problems all day long. One frequently asked question is, “Why did my [insert device here] fail?” Generally, we find that after we explain a little further, customers better understand why an electronic device might have issues. However, I have long thought that if people really understood how these things work, they would be amazed they actually work at all (like a lot of things, I guess)!

Modern processors and hard drives are at the cutting edge of human technological accomplishment, and they continually push that edge. They use nano-scale robotic manufacturing, quantum physics, and some of the best minds on the planet to create them. For example, chips with a billion or two transistors (really), or hard drives that get divided into billions of tiny segments are possible thanks to humanity’s best and brightest (plus thousands of years of human scientific development).

Any scientist worth his or her salt is going to admit that we only have a vague understanding of what is really going on at the quantum level. Think about it: Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman, if they were alive, would not be able to tell you exactly how or why an iPod works.

We are poking around inside a watch with a chopstick while blindfolded, so to speak, though somehow we’re able to produce an iPad from the pieces! With that being said, don’t be surprised if occasionally a support person hesitates when you ask why your Mac or iOS device doesn’t work — the answer may not be as simple as it seems!

 
   
     
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