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Small-Biz Tech News and Commentary

The Latest Apple Announcements (aka the Tim Cook Dog and Pony show)
by David Farrow on 

Often, I feel strangely compelled to watch the Apple product announcement live casts.   One can get into it; watch the stream but also the play-by-play commentary from the greater community out there; several Mac enthusiast sites live-blog them and there's always Twitter.

This time I did not do so.   In fact I haven't even watched the stream, though its available on Apples' site to be sure.  What I did do was take a look at the new product introductions.

Lets start with the last one: the new Mac Pro.   Very Cool.  Very overdue.   It doesn't create a new form factor, it does not levitate on air, it isn't an orb or a cube or a work of art: it's a metal box with a whole lot of computer guts inside it.  Guts that can be tweaked and upgraded and loaded with cards.  Mind you they are not priced trivially, but they compare reasonably well with similarly bigh-end gear in the non-Apple world.

That new screen they introduced?  Gorgeous.  Cool, but over the heads of most people who don't work in a magazine print shop or pre-press proof shop.  At $5000, one might reasonably expect it to come with a leg to stand on, but no; you are to either use a 3rd-party Vesa mount (adapter, sold separately for $300, required) or buy Apples' lovely, rotating stand - for $1000.   The moment they introduced the optional $1000 stand, I'm told the presenter started to lose the audience, and social media is alive with parodies of the stand (Google it).  Long after these product introductions fade into memory, the world will remember the day Apple announced a $1000 monitor stand (for a $5000 screen you don't want to prop against a wall).   Nuff said.

Mac OS Catalina, the splitting of iTunes
We've known for a while more or less what to expect from Mac OS Catalina, the next version Mac operating system software that is expected at the end of the summer: 64 bit code will be required, improvements on dark mode and iCloud, etc.  For a developers' conference one might have thought Apple would go there more, but they presented a consumer-focussed introduction of their revised media software as the crown jewel, and any under-the-hood changes were barely mentioned. The replacement of iTunes with separate Music, TV, and Podcast apps seems a natural progression to me.   Aesthetic changes like Dark Mode are not what we tend to focus on here.   I'd like to tell you about what I think the big news will be with this release.

64 bit code required.

For those of you who have been swimming in this pool to remember the transition from Power PC to Intel chips, this will be sort of like that.   Basically, Mac OS 10.15 Catalina will break all the old programs that still somehow run on your Mac.   Office 2011.   Almost all Adobe software that isn't Creative Cloud.  Old versions of QuickTime Movie Player, Quark Xpress, old versions of iMovie and even pro apps like any number of web design programs, etc. etc.  

The key of course is to only upgrade to the new OS if you have properly vetted all your software (We help with this at Creative Goose).  Keep an old machine around to run the old programs.

More to come....

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Apple to buy Tesla?
by David Farrow on 

 Recently there are news stories out there, that Apple "tried" to buy Tesla back in 2013, and that had they done so, the first order of business would have been to dispense with Elon Musk.  The deal of course did not happen, in part because Musk made it clear he had no interest in stepping away from Tesla.  Fair enough.

Today, with Tesla in turmoil, its' stock hitting new 52-week lows by the day, rumors are swirling again that Apple might buy out Tesla (both being publicly traded companies, there would be a negotiation and a per-share price).  I think that's potentially very interesting; Apple would have a proven platform and channel to sell cars (which they have supposedly wanted to do) and the tech investments of both companies could combine for some powerful results.  Should this transpire however, I certainly hope they keep Elon Musk on.

Musk is the secret sauce behind Tesla.  Without Musk Apple has purchased little more than a brand and some plans and factories.   Moreover, Musk's brand of crazy visionary leadership has been sorely lacking at Apple since the demise of Steve Jobs; Tim Cook has done a fine job of steering the ship and beating up the suppliers, but Apple has become a sprawling behemoth, and lacks the inspired vision that got it to where it is.   I sense that there is infighting in the inner circles; the Jony Ives of the company have taken us into territory where industrial design and pretty software eclipse functionality and reliability, and the product line suffers for it; anyone else remember Gil Amelio's Apple?   Meanwhile, competing products mimic Apples' look and feel with impunity, often quite effectively.

Were Apple to start making some really "think different" moves in the marketplace, the future could be much more interesting.  Musk, more than most other corporate leaders in any industry in the U.S. today, has demonstrated just that in his manifesting not only a robust line of Tesla cars, but notable advances in space travel with SpaceX and, of all unlikely things, tunneling, with the amusingly named Boring company.

In my humble opinion, Apple should bid for Tesla, and invite Elon to the senior leadership table.  Give him the resources to take Tesla to its' full potential.  Perhaps persuade him to name replacements at SpaceX and Boring, so that he can focus his energy on Tesla and its' integration with Apple's tech; there are many areas of symbiosis to explore.  Elon might even have a trick or two that Apple can benefit from.  This would be bold leadership for Apple.

Full disclosure, I own minute amount of stock in both companies.  Both ticker symbols are down over 10% on the week as I write this post.

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Security Security Security
by David Farrow on 

Security issues continue to startle this year; from the Equifax hack on down to new and effective fake tech support scams targeting individuals, recent events have demonstrated that the Internet is still the wild west when it comes to reliable security.

This week I learned of a new and exciting development: a John Hopkins University researcher way back last year published a blog entry with a proof-of-concept web page that can fool the SSL security system into issuing a green padlock for a fake web page.   When it was originally published, most web browsers would fall for it; at this writing Apple's Safari and Chrome have both been updated -- but the current version of Firefox still falls for it to this day, more than 14 months after this dangerous hack was publicly demonstrated.   To see if your browser falls for it, click here; this is a legit proof-of-concept and is not dangerous.

As the original article quotes; "This is a serious vulnerability that can even fool those who are extremely mindful of phishing."   I will add on to that, the fact that Mozilla Firefox has still not been updated is shameful.   The linked article contains instructions on how you can manually change Firefox's settings to detect this particular hack.

Not to pile on Firefox -- I really want to like the worlds' most popular non-profit-based web browser, really I do -- but for many many many years now, Firefox has offered to store web site passwords in a VERY insecure manner: I can show my clients (who still use Firefox) how in 5 clicks I can have a list of all those passwords on-screen in clear text, without knowing ANY password.   That this goes on to this day in Firefox is shameful.   Between these two glaring flaws, I find that I can no longer recommend Firefox, and will be recommending that my clients migrate away from that browser.

In my work serving individuals and very small organizations, I have noted a recent (2nd half 2018) rise in the activity levels of bad actors: from robocalls to browser locks to malicious banner ads and back again, I've had multiple clients lose money, and many more lose time and a sense of control of their computers, to these kinds of threats.   On Macs and PCs alike, browser search sites are being redirected, ad injectors and key loggers are being installed; people are being told to buy "gift cards" to use as pay to unlock their computer screens.

For the sake of clarity, let me just say this to everyone about that -- it seems necessary in light of recent events:

NO legitimate actors will EVER lock up your screen and tell you to call a phone number to get out of it.   Nobody from any reputable company will call you up out of the blue to tell you that there is an urgent security issue: Not Apple, not Microsoft, not Google, not Yahoo, not even the IRS.   If you get such a call it is a SCAM.   If you get pop-ups "warning" you on your computer to call such a number, it is a SCAM.

Be safe out there, friends.

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Soft Launch -- First Blog Posting!
by David Farrow on 

Hello, World!

This is the maiden blog entry for Creative Goose dot com.  Because, you know, between FaceBook Twitter LinkedIn and just about every news site, we don't have enough forums for ranting on, right?

But this one is different (aren't they all?).    This blog is where I get to publish my unvarnished opinions and commentary on the technologies that affect the people that Creative Goose seeks to serve:  Sole proprietors, micro-businesses, geographically dispersed work groups.  Small Office, Home Office, Virtual Office, and the related tech trends, news, security alerts, and so forth.

No big fancy rollout or ad campaign or newsletter (yet).   Nobody here but you and me.

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