How to Use Accessibility Features on Apple iOS Devices

On iOS, as on the Mac, Apple offers a wide range of accessibility features to make the devices easier to read, hear, and work with for people with limitations. While many of these features are useful to people with limitations, some can make using an iOS device better for everyone. Here are a few accessibility features that you might want to try out.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

macOS Mojave: New Interface Options, Under the Hood Refinements

Apple announced the next version of its desktop operating system at this week’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC): macOS Mojave. Due out in the fall, Mojave doesn’t bring a lot of new features, but some of the changes will be very visible.

Much of the work on macOS Mojave is under the hood, bringing refinements to the guts of the operating system. Gone are the days when Apple could tout 100 or more new features in an OS update; instead, now they focus on a half-dozen marquee features, while still tweaking the operating system in lots of little ways.

The biggest change you’re likely to notice in Mojave is dark mode. You may already have some apps that offer this option; this will become an OS-wide setting, turning everything from light to dark.

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Use Your Mac More Efficiently with Accessibility Options

Apple has long made its operating systems compatible for the largest possible number of people, providing options and tools for those with assistive needs. Accessibility options can help not only those who need to adjust their computing devices for certain limitations, but some of these options can make computing easier for everyone.

Last year, we covered five accessibility features; and now, here are some more options that can help you use your Mac more efficiently.

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Understanding Compressed Files and Apple’s Archive Utility

Compressed files and archives are very common. You certainly see these files often–they bear the .zip extension, and contain one or more files that have been shrunk to save space. Archives also allow you to store a number of files in a single file, making them easier to move around or send to others. (For instance, if you sent a hundred text files to someone by email without compressing them, it would be very annoying to receive that many attachments.)

Apple’s macOS uses Archive Utility, a small app hidden away in an obscure folder and used to create and decompress .zip files. The Archive Utility app has some options that may make working with archives easier. In this article, you’ll learn about compressed files and Archive Utility, and we’ll show you some options you can adjust that will make working with compressed files easier.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Turn On Server Services in macOS

Earlier this week, I discussed the future of macOS Server. Apple is deprecating a number of services, “To focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network.” Many of the services that will be deprecated–hidden from the Server app, but still available via the command line–are not very useful for those not running an enterprise-type solution, but macOS High Sierra already provides access to a number of Server services that small businesses, and even home users, may want to use.

In this article, I’m going to discuss the most commonly used services of macOS Server and how you can turn on the same features with a standard Mac running macOS High Sierra. This guide is an overview about using macOS High Sierra with three basic services: file sharing, Time Machine, and content caching.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

The Future of macOS Server

If you use an iMac or a MacBook Pro, you may not realize that, with some additional software, you could turn that computer into a server, a computer that can share files, host websites, run a virtual private network, and much more.

Apple’s macOS and its predecessor Mac OS X have long been able to work as servers with the installation of a single $20 app. The Server app, available from the Mac App Store, provides an easy-to-use interface to configure and manage services that are built into macOS. You could run all these services without the Server app, if you know the right commands to turn them on and manage them from the command line, using Terminal, but the Server app makes it easy so almost anyone can do it.

Apple says that “macOS Server is perfect for a small studio, business, or school,” and points out that “it’s so easy to use, you don’t need your own IT department.” This was very useful some years ago, but now, as most of these tasks are entrusted to the cloud–email, shared contacts and calendars, websites, and more–most people don’t need to run a server. If they do, it’s much easier to rent a server; this could be a dedicated server, where you rent your own computer located in a data center, or a virtual server, where you rent space on a cloud server.

Because of this, Apple has said that they are “deprecating” certain services in macOS Server. They won’t be killing them off completely, but they are changing this software “to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network.”

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The Latest macOS Update Does This, and It’s Not a Good Idea

I just install the latest macOS update on my iMac. After it restarted, it showed me this:

Icloud files

While this is a useful feature for some people, it can be problematic, because it’s not clear which files are in the cloud and which are local. It’s very easy to accidentally delete files with this feature.

In addition, I only have 1 Mbps upload, so sending those 9 GB to iCloud would cripple my internet for a couple of days. And I recall when I accidentally turned this feature on when it was released, it was very difficult to turn it off without losing my files.

It’s a very bad idea to present this feature to users with the option checked by default. This should be an opt-in feature, not an opt-out feature. I predict that many users will run into problems with their files because they see this dialog, and click Continue without really thinking about it. They’ll see the bit about saving space, without understanding the consequences. If you haven’t updated, I recommend you don’t turn on this feature, at least not until you better understand how it works. Here’s an article I wrote when this feature was introduced.

If I were really cynical, I’d say that Apple is doing this to get people to spend more on iCloud storage…

Note: a commenter pointed out that he didn’t get this dialog when updating his Macs. I just updated my MacBook Pro and didn’t see the dialog. But it is a computer I don’t use much, and there’s not a lot of files on it. My guess is that the dialog appears if you have less than a certain amount of free space. On my iMac, with a 256 GB SSD, there’s 92 GB free (though, from day to day, for reasons I don’t understand, it oscillates from about 45 GB free to now over 90 GB). On the MacBook Pro, also with a 256 GB SSD, there’s 136 GB free.

Mac and iOS Keychain Tutorial: How Apple’s iCloud Keychain Works

Your need passwords to log into websites and services, and it’s hard to remember them. Since it’s a bad idea to use the same password for each different website — because if one site is compromised, hackers will have an email address and password that they can try on other sites — you need to ensure that your passwords are different, and hard to crack. (A recent episode of the Intego Mac Podcast talks about password strategies.)

Your Macs and iOS devices have a “keychain,” which is an encrypted file that stores your passwords and some other information. This file syncs via iCloud, so you can use the same passwords on all your devices. Here’s how Apple’s iCloud keychain works.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Serious macOS Bug Allows Anyone to Get Full Access to Your Mac

A serious vulnerability in macOS High Sierra as disclosed yesterday. It allows anyone with physical access to your Mac to log in as the “root” user, without entering a password. The root user is the super-user, the one that can do anything on your Mac. Root has more power than an administrator, and can view all the files of all users.

For some reason, macOS High Sierra seems to have a root account set up with an empty password; so you just log in with “root” as user name and leave the password field blank. You may need to try this several times, but lots of people have tested and shown that it works in most cases. The exception is if you have FileVault enabled, since that requires a different password to unlock a disk. However, if your disk is already unlocked, then the root vulnerability can be exploited. (Note that this doesn’t affect older versions of macOS.)

As Adam Engst wrote on TidBITS, “The reason this shouldn’t work is that the root user isn’t supposed to be enabled.” By default, this account is not set up; or shouldn’t be. Adam’s article explains how you can protect yourself from this vulnerability; you simply have to enable the root account and add a password.

This vulnerability only affects your Mac if someone has physical access, or if they can connect via Screen Sharing (which you would need to activating in the Sharing pane of System Preferences).

One note about the way this was disclosed. A developer shared this on Twitter, effectively making it a zero-day vulnerability which people need to defend. Instead of reporting it to Apple, he chose to go public, which, for this type of bug, is harmful. Since he is a developer, he could certainly have figured out how to report it responsibly (it’s not hard to find Apple’s Contact Apple About Security Issues page and the product-security@apple.com address. The developer might have been frustrated by Apple’s impractical bug reporter, but that’s no excuse. You simply don’t go public with vulnerabilities this serious.

12 Ways to Open Files on a Mac

You open files every time you work on your Mac, most often, probably, by double-clicking them. But did you know that there are lots of different ways to open files? You can use your mouse, your trackpad, or even your keyboard. You can open files in windows, from menus, and from dialogs. Here are a dozen ways you can open files on a Mac.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.