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#932: Internet Security Standards, A Package Manager for your Mac, Tech Bits!

 
     
 

The dog days of summer are here! We are in the heat of summer here in Vermont and with it we have seen some pretty extreme weather conditions; even in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont we are not immune from extreme heat and torrential rains. These past few weeks it seems that if it’s not hazy, hot and humid the sky is pouring down upon us. There are still many weeks of summer ahead of us and I hope that mother nature gives us all a little rest from some of these extreme weather conditions we are all experiencing.

It seems that this time of year, no matter what the weather conditions are, we see an increase in liquid and accidental damage in our service departments. Many of us use our devices wherever we go, even our computers. All too often an unexpected accident causes stress and heartbreak to our customers over an unexpected drop or glass of lemonade across the table. At Small Dog we have recently begun selling Safeware accidental damage coverage in our stores. One of the huge benefits of Safeware is that it works in conjunction with your Applecare, customers whom buy a new computer with Applecare have the opportunity to purchase accidental damage insurance through Safeware to help ensure that no matter what life has thrown at them, their computer will be covered.

We have been working with Safeware here at Small Dog for about two years now and have been incredibly impressed with how easy the company is to work with and how smooth repairs are for our customers. We feel confident recommending it to all of our customers purchasing a new computer for that added peace of mind.

Thank you for reading!
Emily

 
   
     
  Keeping Up with Ever-changing Browser & Internet Security Standards  
   
 

Encryption is used to keep your private information safe on the Internet, whether it’s credit card numbers and contact info, your search queries, or iMessages to loved ones, by making them unreadable by anyone other than the sender and the intended recipient. The last year or so has been crazy in the realm of Internet security, with a number of vulnerabilities and weaknesses being found in various encryption methods & software. It seems to have been further snowballing lately as security professionals scrutinize all the pieces of the puzzle, but it’s all with the goal of keeping everyone’s personal information safe.

While security professionals are improving encryption methods & software, companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are working to make sure that they’re including those improvements in their operating systems and web browsers. The Payment Cardholder Industry (i.e. credit card companies) have data security standards (PCI DSS) which everyone from merchants (including us) to banks need to comply with to ensure that personal information and credit card data is handled securely from end-to-end. Other industries have similar requirements and many tech companies also strive for the greatest in security. Naturally, with the ever changing Internet security landscape, those standards are changing as well. Some of the most recent changes will mean that a lot of older computers, devices, and browsers will no longer be able to access some secure websites.

So, how can you ensure that your data is secure and that your devices will be able to connect to all the secure websites you frequent on your Macs and iOS devices?

First, it’s important to run the newest major version of OS X on your Macs and iOS on your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) that your devices will run. Fortunately, OS X 10.10 Yosemite is a free download and will run on Macs released as far back as 2009 (or earlier, depending on the model). iOS 8 is also a free download and will run on iPhones & iPads released back to 2011. Of course, it’s always best to verify your software and peripherals are compatible with the latest operating system version prior to upgrading to new major version (e.g. OS X 10.9 Mavericks to OS X 10.10 Yosemite or iOS 7 to iOS 8).

Second, make sure you’re applying the latest OS & security updates. This is relatively straightforward as the App Store on iOS & OS X (or Software Update on Mac OS X 10.6.8 and earlier) will show you available updates. In OS X 10.9 Mavericks & OS X 10.10 Yosemite you can make sure important system & security updates are installed automatically (this is best if you have high speed Internet) by checking the “Automatically check for updates”, “Download newly available updates in the background”, and “Install system data files & security updates” checkboxes in the App Store pane in System Preferences. That way, you won’t even need to remember to check. Similarly, on iOS you can automatically download updates & apps by going to Settings > iTunes & App Store and turning on the “Apps” and “Updates” switches.

Third, and most important, is to run the most modern & secure web browser you can. Apple’s own Safari browser (which is included with OS X and iOS) is fast, efficient, and has excellent integration features, but it is only kept up-to-date for the current & previous version of OS X and the current version of iOS. Fortunately, there are other good alternatives which you can run on older, and current, versions of OS X (listed below by OS X version):

OS X 10.9 Mavericks – OS X 10.10 Yosemite (Intel):

OS X 10.7 Lion – OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (Intel):

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (Intel):

Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 – Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (PowerPC G3/G4/G5):

Safari will be updated automatically along with other OS X updates, but Chrome, Firefox, and TenFourFox will need to be kept up-to-date separately. Fortunately, they each offer an option to automatically check for updates, so you’re alerted when a new version is available. By doing this, you can rest assured that you’re taking full advantage of all the hard work that the security industry is putting in to keep everyone safe.

Additionally, for those who are running an old PowerPC Mac with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard, the team behind TenFourFox have done an amazing job producing a custom version of Firefox to keep your Mac compatible with new websites and recent security improvements. Other parts of a version of Mac OS X that old are going to be inherently less secure than the latest version of OS X, but a browser can help keep your old Mac useful a little longer.

Naturally, there are still phishing attempts, insecure websites, and malicious software that you’ll want to keep an eye out for, but by keeping your OS and browser up-to-date, you’re greatly reducing risks from invisible, undetectable theft of your information.

 
   
     
  A Package Manager for Your Mac  
   
 

I’m a Mac user by way of Linux. From the time I was in college around 2008 to up until the beginning of 2015, my primary computer ran various versions of Linux. My favorite was Linux Mint. Prior to using Linux as my desktop OS I had been using it on various web servers for a few years. I love Linux. There are so many distributions to choose from, each with its own quirks, benefits and methodology.

After using Linux for so long I became accustomed to being able to do certain things quickly and easily, especially from the command line. One of the things that made me hesitate about the jump to Mac was that many of those tools and programs I loved weren’t as easily available. I was never interested in downloading source and compiling it. Most distributions of Linux come with something called a package manager. This software knows about internet-based repositories of software and can download and install them on your computer with a few simple commands. The biggest benefit of installing software this way is that if one package depends on another, you don’t have to know what the other package is. The package manager will automatically download and install any dependencies.

So in moving to a Mac, what am I to do? One of my favorite little command line programs on Linux was FFmpeg. Got a movie in this format but want it in that format? FFmpeg can do it. Want to trim some movie clip down, flip the video in the x-axis and add a watermark? FFmpeg can do it. FFmpeg can do anything, and it’s command line based, so there isn’t a lot of fluff meaning that it’s pretty fast.

Over the weekend I had shot a 10 second mpeg-4 video with my phone that I wanted to convert into an animated GIF to share with some friends. In Linux, I’d just fire up FFmpeg and get it done in a few minutes, but my Mac didn’t have FFmpeg. I didn’t want to try to compile the source myself. That would take forever. I must’ve been out of luck, right?

Wrong. See, there are other people out there like me who love the package managers in Linux, but also use Macs. To that end, they’ve created a number of package managers that work on Mac. One of the best and most well known is MacPorts. Installation of MacPorts can take some time because in addition to installing it, you’ll need to install Xcode since MacPorts relies on the C compiler that comes with Xcode. Once all that’s set up though, you’ll be a regular command line captain!

Now that I have MacPorts, how do I get my precious FFmpeg? The first thing to do is make sure that MacPorts itself is up to date and has all the latest software repositories. This is done with the “selfupdate” command. In a terminal window you’d type:

`sudo port selfupdate`

MacPorts will then run through a bunch of things to update itself. Once that’s done, you can tell it to install FFmpeg using this command:

`sudo port install ffmpeg`

It will show you all the dependencies it will need to download, compile and install in order to use FFmpeg. Once you confirm, just sit back and let it work its magic. After a few minutes, everything will be downloaded, compiled and installed. You can now use FFmpeg just as you would on Linux.

To convert my .mp4 to an animated GIF I used the following command:

`ffmpeg -i movie.mp4 -pix_fmt rgb24 animated.gif`

Voila! That command is the bare minimum to get you an animated GIF, and there are lots of other options available. For example, I needed to make the resulting GIF as small as possible, so I trimmed the clip, reduced the color space, lowered the frame rate, etc.

To see what other packages are available through MacPorts you can visit their site and browse or search through the repository. Generally speaking though, the most popular Linux packages are almost always available under the same name as their Linux counterparts. Happy porting!

 
   
     
  Tech Bits!  
   
 

Remember starting up your old mac and having every Mac user’s nightmare? That’s right, the sad mac!

This symbol was used on older Macs and iPods and would show up upon start up when the device was experiencing a severe hardware issue.

Have you ever wondered how this icon came about? This image was designed by Susan Kare, a graphic designer who was reportedly asked to create the image, but was told it would not actually be seen by the user. As many of us unfortunately know all too well, this was not the case. Susan created this and countless other icons we looked at in the early days of the mac as an original member of the Apple design team.

 
   
     
  Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on MacBook Pro Safeware Bundle  
   
 

Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on MacBook Pro Safeware Bundle

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  Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on MacBook Air Safeware Bundle  
   
 

Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on MacBook Air Safeware Bundle

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  Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on iMac Safeware Bundle  
   
 

Dog Days of Summer | Save $100 on iMac Safeware Bundle

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