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#881: AirPlay for Google?, The Dangers of Third-Party Accessories, New Malware Affecting Mac Users

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday!

This Saturday, we had our 4th Annual eWaste Event here in Manchester, NH. We had a decent turnout of responsible eWasters on what turned out to be a very beautiful day. My dog Kingsley was also present and served as the Small Dog mascot and was beloved by all who turned out.

Many thanks to all of our volunteers and to Metech Recycling for unloading, hauling and ultimately, making sure these items don’t end up in the landfill.

We have a couple of great articles this week that we can all relate to. RJ touches on a new malware that has hit PCs in the past and has also shown up on Macs recently. Sherrie reports on a very interesting event that occurred in China involving third party accessories. Last but not least, Shawn V. informs us about some competition for Apple’s AirPlay audience.

As always, thanks for reading!

Barry
barry@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  AirPlay for Google?  
   
 

Google has just released a brand new streaming device. They call it the Chromecast, and it retails for $35. This very small flash drive-sized device plugs directly into any HDMI port. It works very much like the AirPlay feature on the Apple TV.

Google’s Chromecast supports a variety of Android and iOS devices including iPhone, iPad and the Chrome web browser (running on any computer). The device will allow you to stream content to a TV without even needing a remote!

In addition to streaming content from your mobile devices and computers, the Chromecast has a growing number of supported applications such as Netflix, YouTube and the Google Play Store.

Overall, it is a very neat device with a fairly low price tag. However, Google’s Chromecast is still in its infancy and has a way to go before it can be in direct competition with the Apple TV. Read more on Google’s website here.

 
   
     
  The Dangers of Third-Party Accessories  
   
 

A few weeks ago, reports surfaced that a 23-year-old Chinese woman, a flight attendant with China Southern Airlines, died by electrocution after she answered her phone. According to journalists investigating the incident, she was using a “knockoff charger” also known as an after-market or third-party adaptor.

This is definitely not common — even with “bad” chargers — but the message is clear. When it comes to power supplies for any mobile electronic device, buy it from the manufacturer. (And if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.) I’ve said this for nearly fifteen years — starting when I provided support for IBM and Dell laptops, and various notebooks at UVM, to Macs for Small Dog as I do now.

Most desktop computers (from Macs to PCs) use standard power supply cables that are all essentially identical. But laptops and smaller mobile devices use proprietary technology developed by the manufacturers specifically for that device. These accessories are manufactured to very specific standards.

I’m not a sales person and I don’t pretend to be at the counter in South Burlington, but this is one thing that I can speak to anecdotally from doing help desk support for so long — purchasing third-party power supplies to shave dollars can spell disaster. From fried mother boards to smoke filled rooms, bad power supplies can be extremely dangerous. Please pay for the real thing.

We had a young customer come in a few weeks ago with a failed power adapter for her MacBook Pro. She had AppleCare and there was no visible accidental damage; it had just stopped working. On inspection it became clear that it wasn’t a genuine Apple adapter. She and her mother were flummoxed, as they said they’d purchased no additional adapters for the machine.

I asked if she went to school (she was college-aged) and if she had ever left her computer unattended, and she said yes. I explained that if she had not purchased it herself, it could be possible that someone exchanged her original power supply with another one without her knowledge. (Some of them are so convincing that at first glance they don’t appear to be different.) It seems that was the case, and ultimately, the customers had to purchase a replacement. At $79.99 plus tax, it wasn’t a small theft, but we were glad that it wasn’t something worse.

Ed. noteTwo words of wisdom should be taken away from this interaction. The first is to always buy genuine Apple power adapters, as the cheaper third-party ones will fail sooner and more often, costing more in the long run. The second is to never leave your electronics unattended in public places(!). This customer was lucky that her entire computer wasn’t stolen if the thief had enough time to carefully swap out power adapters.

 
   
     
  New Malware Affecting Mac Users  
   
 

A new malicious website has plagued itself on some unsuspecting Mac users recently. It has been classified under the term “ransomware”, which is essentially malware that restricts access to a computer until a payment is made by the victim/user. In this case, the ransomware disguises itself as an official FBI webpage, attempting to scare the user into paying a fine for any copyright infringement they may have committed to regain access to their computer.

This particular site is inadvertently visited by the user while browsing the web. In one example from Malwarebytes Blog, the author performs a search for Taylor Swift. One of the search results returned is the aforementioned ransomware page, that (seemingly) proceeds to take his Mac hostage. The author escapes the page by going to “Reset Safari” under “Safari” in the menu bar. This action obviously will only work if the user is running Safari. Under other browsers, you can Force Quit, and then hold down the Shift key upon restarting the application to bypass the “restore from crash” function.

All in all, this website does not pose any immediate risk to your Mac; its only intention is to trick the victim into inputting credit card info/paying the “fine.” As always, the best protection against malware like this is to be aware of it. Using common sense is also always helpful — obviously, the FBI is not going to remotely take over your computer with a web page, and force you to pay a fine for copyright infringement.

Read the blog post here.

 
   
     
  Seats Still Available for Mac OS X Technical Training for IT Pros!  
   
 

Sign up for our training session at KnowledgeWave in South Burlington, Vermont — ideal for businesses and IT professionals who have an interest in what working on the Mac OS can do for you.

  • Mac OS X Technical Training For IT Professionals,
    Tuesday, August 6, 9am – 5pm

Why register? Rebecca will cover what you need to know to seamlessly integrate Macs into your business in this all-day training session.

All classes are held at KnowledgeWave, 30 Community Dr. #5 South Burlington, VT 05403.

To learn more, and to register, click here.


Meet Your Instructor!
Rebecca Kraemer is Vice President in charge of Information Technology & Development (IT&D) and Consulting for Small Dog Electronics. Rebecca began her long career with Apple products as an independent consultant before becoming a manager and then Genius with Apple, Inc. She joined Small Dog in 2008 and has been privileged to be a member of the Service, Consulting and IT departments.

Rebecca created the curriculum for the professional classes that Small Dog has offered for the past two years, and she is excited to be offering these classes to the general public for the first time at KnowledgeWave.

When she’s not surrounded by computers, Rebecca is a sole proprietor of a massage business in Morrisville, VT and she enjoys yoga, cooking, gardening, the great outdoors, and her Lab mix Toby and two cats, Lola and Miles.

If you have any questions about the curriculum or would like additional info, feel free to shoot her an email at rebeccak@smalldog.com!

 
   
     
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