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#968: Beach vs Snow; 1Password Issue; AirPods Review

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Technophiles,

I’ve decided to just leave my beach picture on Tech Tails for the remainder of the winter. Despite some spring-like temperatures here this week, it is still nowhere near as nice as a beach in Florida. I am one of the rare people here at Small Dog that doesn’t ski or snowboard, so all the snow we’ve been getting just means more that I have to shovel. On the other hand, I have been enjoying sledding with the kids, so maybe winter isn’t all that bad.

We’ve got two great articles from the team this week. The first deals with an issue that is preventing the popular password manager 1Password to not launch. The general advice here is to check with the manufacturer of an application if you are having an issue as it might be a known issue with a simple fix, as is the case here. The second is a review of Apple’s newest music device: AirPods. I personally strongly prefer wired over-ear headphones, but Ben makes a strong case for them so I just might have to try them out.

Thanks for reading!

Mike
michaeld@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Developer Signing Certificates  
   
 

As the director of IT at Small Dog, I manage a lot of accounts. It’s not feasible to remember each of the passwords and logins, so I use a piece of software called 1Password. There are iOS, macOS and Windows versions of the app and it can be added as an extension or add-on into most modern browsers.

On Monday this week, I needed to edit one of the records in my 1Password. I usually have the mini app running in my toolbar, but I noticed it wasn’t there. So I tried to launch it from my apps folder. It did a bunch of thinking, but ultimately failed to launch. I tried to launch the mini app myself. This also failed. I rebooted my machine. No luck.

As it turns out, 1Password had fallen victim to a change in developer signing certificates policy by Apple. When you create an app to run on iOS or macOS, Apple allows you to sign the app cryptographically. This signature allows the operating system to verify that the app is authentic, and hasn’t been modified maliciously before it runs on your device. Apps purchased from the app store are “pre-approved” by Apple, so there’s no need to verify them before running, but apps downloaded from the internet generally don’t have that pre-approval. That’s where the developer signing comes into play. You’ve probably encountered this before when macOS pops up a warning saying that the app cannot be launched because it comes from an unknown source. This system, built into all versions of macOS, is called “Gatekeeper”. It can be bypassed, but it’s always best to let it do its job so that you know software running on your device won’t do anything malicious.

This is what happened with 1Password. Previously, when an app was signed with a developer certificate, it was good to go…indefinitely, even if the developer certificate expired. Apple made a change to this policy though. Apps also have something else called a provisioning profile. The provisioning profile is basically a list of things that the app has been approved to do. Common things might be: accessing iCloud data, sending push notifications, or reading photos and contact data among many others. These profiles are also signed by the developer certificate, and unlike the app, when the certificate expires, the profile is no longer valid. Depending on how the app works, this could mean it would fail to launch entirely, as was the case with 1Password. The certificate that was used to sign the provisioning profile for 1Password expired over this past weekend. The 1Password team was unaware of the change that provisioning profiles could expire.

Fortunately, the fix is pretty simple if you’re using 1Password. Just go to their site and re-download the application. This will contain the newly signed provisioning profile and the app will be able to launch correctly. While all of this might seem like an unnecessary headache, these policies and procedures help to insure that no malicious software runs on your devices. They help to keep your iCloud and other personal data safe from apps that could exploit that information. So even when there are hiccups like this, ultimately it’s all about keeping you safe.

 
   
     
  PRODUCT REVIEW: Apple AirPods  
   
 

The AirPods, released in December 2016, are Apple’s newest and most high-tech iteration of their classic earbuds. I’ve had my pair for about three weeks, and I couldn’t be happier with them. I’ve used many different types of earbuds, both wired and wireless, but I was never quite satisfied with them. Every type of earbuds I tried either tended to slip out of my ears over time, or the cable was annoying and limited my movement, especially when running or working out.

The AirPods are truly wireless, with no cable connecting them to each other like some other “wireless” earbuds. Included in the box are the two earbuds, a charging case, and a Lightning to USB-A charging cable. Each earbud and the charging case have their own separate battery. To charge the AirPods, they can be inserted into the charging case. The charge will then be transferred from the battery in the charging case to the batteries in the AirPods. The charging case can be used to charge the AirPods regardless of whether it is currently connected via the Lightning cable to the main power source. The AirPods can play up to 5 hours of music on a single charge, and the charging case can store enough power to fully charge the AirPods about 5 times before the case needs to be recharged. The charging is also very quick. 15 minutes inside the case will charge the AirPods enough for 3 hours of music playback.

The feature that sold me on the AirPods is the true wireless capability, paired with the size and weight of the earbuds. The size and weight are such that if I shake my head as hard as I can, not only do the earbuds not fall out, but they do not even move. This is a revolutionary feature for me, and I have never used another pair of earbuds where this is the case. Before my AirPods arrived, I was worried about how well this feature would work for me, but I have been completely satisfied with the result. Of course, this may vary depending on the shape of your ears, but every other online review I have seen has been consistent with my experience in this regard. I have to commend Apple on this feature, as it seems that they have been able to refine the size and shape of the AirPods so that they will remain snug in a variety of ear shapes.

The AirPods are compatible with any device that supports bluetooth, but when paired with a device running iOS 10 or macOS Sierra, extra features are available. The AirPods include proximity sensors and can detect when they are in use, so when you remove one AirPod the audio you are listening to will pause, and resume when you put the Airpod back in. You can also tap an AirPod twice to skip to the next track. Both of these features are configurable in the bluetooth settings. The AirPods also feature a microphone inside each earbud, which can be used to make calls or use Siri. The sound quality on the AirPods is of course not comparable to a full-sized set of studio headphones, but for earbuds the quality is about as good as can be expected.

The only feature that I feel the AirPods are missing is the ability to change the audio volume. If I need to pause the music I remove an earbud instead of using the tap to pause feature, so in my opinion it would be ideal if tapping the left Airpod lowered the volume and tapping the right one raised it. If the software on the AirPods can be updated, perhaps Apple will consider adding this feature in the future. Overall though, I would highly recommend the AirPods to anyone looking to upgrade their earbuds, especially for use during workouts.

The AirPods are $159.99, and are unfortunately currently on backorder due to their popularity. Open this link to submit your email address and we’ll get in touch as soon as they are available!

 
   
     
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