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#882: Adequate Protection, AirPort Options, MacBook Troubleshooting Tips

 
     
 

Welcome to the month of August!

It’s scary that we are already in August, which means that summer is soon coming to a close. This morning was one of the colder days I have experienced in a while, and it made me realize that I need to do as many outdoor activities as I can before the cold front comes in.

Of course, there are good things about the fall: fairs, football and new product announcements are some of my favorites, as well as the movie releases. So don’t fret yet; there is still a bit more time to summer for us, and some good things that come with a change of season.

Shawn V. has noticed an increase of new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule sales and he writes of some key features that are fueling these purchases. Kyle goes through some MacBook troubleshooting tips to help you out of minor jams and RJ reveals ways to make sure your hard drives are fully protected from threats.

As always, have a great week everyone!

Barry
barry@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  New AirPort Extreme + AirPort Time Capsule Options  
   
 

I have been a long-time fan of Apple’s AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule and I have configured hundreds of them for clients over the years. When the new models came out, I decided to upgrade my own network and backup system at home and purchased a 3TB AirPort Time Capsule.

The setup was straightforward and the same as previous models, but I found a few new things while checking it out via AirPort Utility. First, there is a new Summary page which offers status information, including detailed statistics about connected clients that I haven’t seen before.

The next item I noticed is on the Network tab under Network Options, and is a checkbox to “Enable IGMP Snooping.” This is a way to regulate multicast data and limit it to interested clients, and may be designed to improve performance with streaming video and audio. One of my colleagues speculates that this goes hand-in-hand with the new beamforming antenna array technology, so specific clients can be targeted with just the data they need to see.

I haven’t found any documentation at Apple for this, but I found an interesting article about multicast:

Read more about it here.

I’m really loving my new AirPort Time Capsule. The speed is great, the unit is quiet, and the tower design is cool.

Check them out here.

 
   
     
  MacBook Troubleshooting Tips  
   
 

Troubleshooting your Mac when it acts up can be kind of daunting, but hang in there; I can give you a couple of steps to try before bringing the machine into us or Apple. These troubleshooting steps are the first things we try as technicians in order to fix an issue or make the system work.

If your machine is unresponsive, and pushing the power button doesn’t do anything, the first thing you want to do is an SMC reset. This is different for all machines, but you can Google the correct method for your Mac using the AppleCare name of your machine (the size, kind and generation it was made, e.g. Macbook Pro 13-inch Mid-2012).

For unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros, press and hold the Shift+Option+Command keys, then press the power button (holding all four down for about ten seconds or so) and release all four buttons at the same time to do the SMC reset. Then try to start the machine. If it doesn’t work, you will need to bring the machine in to see us.

If your machine is having start-up troubles, won’t boot, or you get the gray screen, you can try what’s called a PRAM reset. This little trick is step number two that we try in the back. Just after hitting the power button on your machine, press and hold Option+Command+P+R keys. Hold all four keys down, and the machine will chime, then shut off, and start up again with another chime. It will continue to reboot itself until you let go of the keys (which you typically want to do on the third chime). This resets all of the startup settings which may have become corrupted or set incorrectly. If your computer starts, then you should be all set; otherwise you will need to bring the machine in for us to do more extensive diagnostics.

If you have issues after logging in, then the troubleshooting is a completely different animal — we now have to figure out where the problem lies. If you always have a program running when the problem occurs, try and reinstall the program or run software updates. A lot of the time, software updates will install bug fixes and solve minor problems.

Along the way, if you have seen error messages pop up or prompt you to send information to Apple, be sure to capture that info as it can be helpful for us to have if you need to bring your machine in for service. Between those and telling the check-in person what you have done to troubleshoot the issue, we’re much better prepared to repair your machine quickly!

 
   
     
  Are You Using Adequate Protection?  
   
 

Do you wonder if the data on your hard drive is truly protected from technological intruders? Apple has produced a variety of resources that can protect your files from unwanted hard drive peepers. However, just how secure are these methods of file protection?

First, let’s look at the most common form of user file protection: the administrator password. Created when Mac OS is initially installed, this password prevents unauthorized users from accessing the files on your account… or does it? A simple click in the Reset Password Utility after booting from the Mac OS DVD proves otherwise. As long as the DVD is the correct version of Mac OS, it can boot any system with that corresponding OS.

Resetting the password only requires entering a new password, which becomes the new administrator password. So basically, all anyone would need to access an account that is simply password protected is the correct version of Mac OS installation DVD (this can also be accomplished using a string of commands in Single User mode — no DVD needed!). One thing to note is that the Keychain Access utility will not be viewable with this new password.

Here’s where the extra-protected Mac users say “Hah! everyone knows that. That’s why all my files are heavily protected by a firmware password.” In this case, the intruder could pull out one stick of RAM and boot the computer, bypassing the firmware password.

So now, the real heavy hitters come out. FileVault is a file encrypting tool that works on the corresponding user’s home folder, encrypting it when the user is logged out. Nothing is foolproof, but as far as the research I have done, FileVault is basically un-hackable. Knowing this, if you decide to use FileVault on your account, you had better remember that password.

So, are you using adequate protection? The first question I asked myself while trying to accurately answer this was: “Do I really care if someone could potentially have access to my files?” The answer is no. So in short, am I protected from potential technological intruders? Nope, not really; my information may be easily hacked into. However, is my protection adequate enough for the sensitivity of the files on my hard drive? Totally.

Still not satisfied? Well, if you truly believe the data on your hard drive is sensitive enough to warrant it, then FileVault it up!

 
   
     
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