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#902: Does your Mac Need Anti-Virus Software?, Software Conflicts, iPhone's Mysterious "Other" Data



Among rumors that the iPhone 5c isn’t doing so well, there seems to be something new to the lineup coming. Cupertino is looking to boost its middle child by launching an 8GB version that will retail for less than the current 16GB model.

What does this spell for the “bottom tier” iPhone 4S, which is currently offered to customers for free on two-year deals? Do we finally see this phone cycling out of the picture?

We have some great articles for you today. Everyone enjoy their week!


  Does your Mac Need Anti-Virus Software?  
  malware virus trojan

Customers ask us regularly to recommend anti-virus software for their Mac. Many of these are converts from the PC world and are accustomed to needing it. There are several reasons why it’s largely unnecessary.

Since OS X 10.6.8 Apple has included anti-malware that is built into the OS. There was a lighter version in 10.4 and 10.5 called File Quarantine that confirmed with the user that files and applications downloaded from the Internet were intentional and approved. In 10.6.8 File Quarantine was enhanced to include actually checking downloaded files against a list of known malware and malware types/signatures. Again, this is built in.

Apple has also established that many anti-virus programs interfere with Apple updates which is part of their argument for advising against them.

The last two large reasons are the main difference between PCs and Macs and are probably the most important. The Mac OS uses compartmentalization, or ‘sand-boxing’. This means that applications are limited and isolated to the resources they need to access. This is very different from Windows operating systems where this isolation doesn’t exist and malware can attack system and other resources, although as of Windows 7 this is improving.

Lastly, the argument most commonly given is that Macs have a smaller footprint in the market and are less appealing to hackers who must invest great resources in the development robust malware and viruses. This is diminishing somewhat as Macs become more popular, but it’s still true.

Apple still tows the line that anti-virus software for modern Macs is unnecessary. I was a PC tech for fifteen years and dealt with at least one virus for a customer a week. In the year I’ve been working on Macs, I haven’t seen a single one.

So, rest assured that your Mac is safe and installing anti-virus software has the risk of doing more harm than good.

  Software Conflicts  

In South Burlington, we troubleshoot many software and hardware problems. Software in particular is usually a sure thing to resolve, even given that it’s likely that someone has had the exact issue in the past — all it would take is some online research to determine the best course of action, right?

However, because software is all programming by human hands, it is never perfect. Couple this with the fact that software acts on each other in peculiar ways, and sometimes it can be quite a mess to resolve.

This past week, I had a worst case scenario for software conflicts. The machine was suffering occasional memory error tones (which virtually never occurs during actual operation, but only on startup). We had tested this machine’s hardware thoroughly beforehand, finding no issues. As it turns out, computers running 10.6.8 (FYI: Now unsupported by Apple) have a conflict with Google’s cloud syncing service Google Drive, and this is a common problem.

There were two solutions for the customer: Stop using Google Drive, or update to 10.9. The customer opted for the latter of the two, and I updated the computer to 10.9.

Immediately after updating, the computer was powering off and rebooting immediately after startup. I figured the update didn’t resolve the issue, and it had grown worse, or could have been a memory issue still. I replaced the RAM with brand new modules, and this did not resolve the problem.

When I checked the for shutdown causes, it appeared related to McAfee Internet Security. As I did more research, I found that this is a common problem — something that occurs after upgrading to OS 10.8 or 10.9. It did, however, take more effort to determine how to remove it without any information on what exact version it was, as it had been previously uninstalled.

After removing the problematic folder from the System Library, the random shutdown issue was resolved. Now I was able to run it long enough to confirm the error tone problem was also gone.

Having multiple software conflicts at a time can be difficult or confusing to work with. The best thing one can do is remain objective and think carefully, determining what changes have been made since the problem started occurring, and research solutions online using as specific words as one can.

  iPhone's Mysterious "Other" Data  

If you’ve ever filled your iPhone to capacity, you may have suddenly noticed a gray section of stored data titled “Other” in iTunes. What could this mysterious data be?

Well, there could be a couple things that could be contributing to it, but the most likely culprits are your apps. More specifically: iMessage. You’re probably not aware of this, but every time you send or receive a file within an iMessage — whether it’s photos or various documents — your iPhone stores that data. If you are like millions of other users who enjoy sending silly photos to your friends and family (or inappropriate ones if you’re into that sort of thing), that data can accumulate very quickly over time.

On rare occasions, restoring the iOS on your iPhone can resolve this issue, but the less invasive solution is to locate problematic apps on your phone that could be taking up space.

To free up that space, follow these instructions:

  1. Make sure your phone and apps are synced in iTunes.
  2. If possible, make sure you have backed up or copied off any documents or data you might need, as you will lose it. A lot of apps allow you to email documents and data.
  3. On the phone, go to Settings/General/Usage. You should find a list of all the apps.
  4. On the right hand side is a list of the total storage space each app is using, including the app itself. The list is also handily listed in descending order of size. If you tap on on one of the apps on the list, it shows you how much space is being used by documents and data. You also have the option to delete the app.
  5. To delete the app, simply tap on Delete App. The app is deleted, and so is the data which is stored in the ‘other’ area. Repeat for other apps if necessary.
  6. To re-install the app(s), plug it in to your iTunes and re-sync your phone. The app(s) are re-installed with no data taken up in the ‘Other’ area.

If you want a visual representation of your data, the third party app iExplorer is very easy to use and available as a temporary demo. You can also purchase it if you choose.

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