Desktops (Apple)

Tim Cook Confirms the Mac Mini Isn't Dead (macrumors.com) 122

Apple has refreshed just about every Mac product within the last couple of years -- except for the Mac Mini. Naturally, this has left many analysts questioning whether or not the company would be phasing out the Mini to focus more on its mobile devices. A MacRumors reader decided to email Apple CEO Tim Cook to get an update on the Mac mini and he received a response. Cook said it was "not time to share any details," but he confirmed that the Mac mini will be an important part of the company's product lineup in the future. MacRumors reports: Cook's response echoes a similar statement from Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, who commented on the Mac mini when Apple's plans for a new Mac Pro were unveiled. "The Mac mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren't bringing it up because it's more of a mix of consumer with some pro use," he said. Positioned as a "bring your own peripherals" machine that comes without a mouse, keyboard, or display, the Mac mini is Apple's most affordable desktop machine. The current version is woefully outdated though, and continues to use Haswell processors and integrated Intel HD 5000/Intel Iris Graphics. It's not clear when Apple will introduce a new Mac mini, and aside from a single rumor hinting at a new high-end Mac mini with a redesign that "won't be so mini anymore," we've heard no rumors about work on a possible Mac mini refresh.
Security

Apple Addresses a Bug That Caused Disk Utility in macOS High Sierra To Expose Passwords of Encrypted APFS Volumes (macrumors.com) 85

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumours: Brazilian software developer Matheus Mariano appears to have discovered a significant Disk Utility bug that exposes the passwords of encrypted Apple File System volumes in plain text on macOS High Sierra. Mariano added a new encrypted APFS volume to a container, set a password and hint, and unmounted and remounted the container in order to force a password prompt for demonstration purposes. Then, he clicked the "Show Hint" button, which revealed the full password in plain text rather than the hint. [...] Apple has addressed this bug by releasing a macOS High Sierra 10.13 Supplemental Update, available from the Updates tab in the Mac App Store.
Data Storage

High Sierra's Disk Utility Does Not Recognize Unformatted Disks (tinyapps.org) 135

macOS 10.13's Disk Utility 17.0 (1626) does not recognize raw drives, reads a blog post, shared by several readers. From the post: Diskutil does recognize the drive. We'll use it to perform a quick, cursory format (e.g., diskutil eraseDisk JHFS+ NewDisk GPT disk0) to make the disk appear in Disk Utility, where further modifications can more easily be made. Plugging in an unformatted external drive produces the usual alert, "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer. Initialize... | Ignore | Eject", but clicking Initialize just opens Disk Utility without the disk appearing. There's an option in Disk Utility to view "all devices," but clicking that doesn't show raw disks, the blog post adds.
Security

Critical EFI Code in Millions of Macs Isn't Getting Apple's Updates (wired.com) 91

Andy Greenberg, writing for Wired:At today's Ekoparty security conference, security firm Duo plans to present research on how it delved into the guts of tens of thousands of computers to measure the real-world state of Apple's so-called extensible firmware interface, or EFI. This is the firmware that runs before your PC's operating system boots and has the potential to corrupt practically everything else that happens on your machine. Duo found that even Macs with perfectly updated operating systems often have much older EFI code, due to either Apple's neglecting to push out EFI updates to those machines or failing to warn users when their firmware update hits a technical glitch and silently fails. For certain models of Apple laptops and desktop computers, close to a third or half of machines have EFI versions that haven't kept pace with their operating system system updates. And for many models, Apple hasn't released new firmware updates at all, leaving a subset of Apple machines vulnerable to known years-old EFI attacks that could gain deep and persistent control of a victim's machine.
OS X

The Behind-the-Scenes Changes Found In MacOS High Sierra (arstechnica.com) 205

Apple officially announced macOS High Sierra at WWDC 2017 earlier this month. While the new OS doesn't feature a ton of user-visible improvements and is ultimately shaping up to be a low-key release, it does feature several behind-the-scenes changes that could help make it the most stable macOS update in years. Andrew Cunningham from Ars Technica has "browsed the dev docs and talked with Apple to get some more details of the update's foundational changes." Here are some excerpts from three key areas of the report: APFS
Like iOS 10.3, High Sierra will convert your boot drive to APFS when you first install it -- this will be true for all Macs that run High Sierra, regardless of whether they're equipped with an SSD, a spinning HDD, or a Fusion Drive setup. In the current beta installer, you're given an option to uncheck the APFS box (checked by default) before you start the install process, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will survive in the final version. It's also not clear at this point if there are edge cases -- third-party SSDs, for instance -- that won't automatically be converted. But assuming that most people stick with the defaults and that most people don't crack their Macs open, most Mac users who do the upgrade are going to get the new filesystem.

HEVC and HEIF
All High Sierra Macs will pick up support for HEVC, but only very recent models will support any kind of hardware acceleration. This is important because playing HEVC streams, especially at high resolutions and bitrates, is a pretty hardware-intensive operation. HEVC playback can consume most of a CPU's processor cycles, and especially on slower dual-core laptop processors, smooth playback may be impossible altogether. Dedicated HEVC encode and decode blocks in CPUs and GPUs can handle the heavy lifting more efficiently, freeing up your CPU and greatly reducing power consumption, but HEVC's newness means that dedicated hardware isn't especially prevalent yet.

Metal 2
While both macOS and iOS still nominally support open, third-party APIs like OpenGL and OpenCL, it's clear that the company sees Metal as the way forward for graphics and GPU compute on its platforms. Apple's OpenGL support in macOS and iOS hasn't changed at all in years, and there are absolutely no signs that Apple plans to support Vulkan. But the API will enable some improvements for end users, too. People with newer GPUs should expect to benefit from some performance improvements, not just in games but in macOS itself; Apple says the entire WindowServer is now using Metal, which should improve the fluidity and consistency of transitions and animations within macOS; this can be a problem on Macs when you're pushing multiple monitors or using higher Retina scaling modes on, especially if you're using integrated graphics. Metal 2 is also the go-to API for supporting VR on macOS, something Apple is pushing in a big way with its newer iMacs and its native support for external Thunderbolt 3 GPU enclosures. Apple says that every device that supports Metal should support at least some of Metal 2's new features, but the implication there is that some older GPUs won't be able to do everything the newer ones can do.

Desktops (Apple)

Apple Mac Computers Are Being Targeted By Ransomware, Spyware (bbc.com) 54

If you are a Mac user, you should be aware of new variants of malware that have been created specifically to target Apple computers; one is ransomware and the other is spyware. "The two programs were uncovered by the security firms Fortinet and AlienVault, which found a portal on the Tor 'dark web' network that acted as a shopfront for both," reports BBC. "In a blog post, Fortinet said the site claimed that the creators behind it were professional software engineers with 'extensive experience' of creating working code." From the report: Those wishing to use either of the programs had been urged to get in touch and provide details of how they wanted the malware to be set up. The malware's creators had said that payments made by ransomware victims would be split between themselves and their customers. Researchers at Fortinet contacted the ransomware writers pretending they were interested in using the product and, soon afterwards, were sent a sample of the malware. Analysis revealed that it used much less sophisticated encryption than the many variants seen targeting Windows machines, said the firm. However, they added, any files scrambled with the ransomware would be completely lost because it did a very poor job of handling the decryption keys needed to restore data. The free Macspy spyware, offered via the same site, can log which keys are pressed, take screenshots and tap into a machine's microphone. In its analysis, AlienVault researcher Peter Ewane said the malicious code in the spyware tried hard to evade many of the standard ways security programs spot and stop such programs.
Encryption

Apple To Force Users To 2FA On iOS 11, macOS High Sierra (onthewire.io) 119

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: With the upcoming releases of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra later this year, Apple is planning to force many users to adopt two-factor authentication for their accounts. The company this week sent an email to customers who have the existing two-step verification enabled for their Apple IDs, informing them that once they install the public betas of the new operating systems they will be migrated to two-factor authentication automatically. Two-step verification is an older method of account security that Apple rolled out before full two-factor authentication was available. Apple is phasing that out and will be upgrading people with eligible devices automatically. "Once updated, you'll get the same extra layer of security you enjoy with two-step verification today, but with an even better user experience. Verification codes will be displayed on your trusted devices automatically whenever you sign in, and you will no longer need to keep a printed recovery key to make sure you can reset a forgotten password," the email from Apple says.
Operating Systems

Apple To Phase Out 32-Bit Mac Apps Starting In January 2018 (macrumors.com) 249

Apple will be phasing out 32-bit apps with iOS 11, and soon the company will make the same changes on its macOS operating system. During its Platform State of the Union keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple told developers that macOS High Sierra will be the "last macOS release to support 32-bit apps without compromises." MacRumors reports: Starting in January of 2018, all new apps submitted to the Mac App Store must be 64-bit, and all apps and app updates submitted must be 64-bit by June 2018. With the next version of macOS after High Sierra, Apple will begin "aggressively" warning users about 32-bit apps before eventually phasing them out all together. In iOS 11, 32-bit apps cannot be installed or launched. Attempting to open a non-supported 32-bit app gives a message notifying users that the app needs to be updated before it can run on iOS 11. Prior to phasing out 32-bit apps on iOS 11, Apple gave both end users and developers several warnings, and the company says it will follow the same path for the macOS operating system.
Data Storage

Apple Announces Native HEVC Support In MacOS High Sierra and iOS 11 (cnet.com) 136

New submitter StreamingEagle writes: Apple massively improves the quality of photo and video experiences, including High Dynamic Range. High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) can double photo and video storage capacity, and cut the time to upload or share by half. HEVC video compression and HEIF photo compression are coming to iOS 11 and MacOS High Sierra. Sean Hollister adds via CNET: "Having used HEVC quite a bit myself, I can vouch that it takes up less space. I recently transcoded roughly a terabyte of video to HEVC on my Windows PC, and saw hundreds of gigabytes of savings."
Operating Systems

Apple Unveils What's Next For macOS Desktop OS: High Sierra (venturebeat.com) 79

Apple's next big macOS update is coming this fall, the company announced at its developer conference Monday. Apple is improving macOS Sierra, fixing bugs and making existing features and components faster and more reliable. The new version is called High Sierra. From a report: The update includes new features for Safari, with an update that stops autoplaying videos; Mail, with a new split-view mode; and Photos, with improved face detection, editing, and photo printing features. Apple is also bringing the Apple File System to Macs, after adding the technology to iOS in March. Apple is also bringing new virtual reality support to Macs with the Metal 2 framework.
Security

Chinese 'Fireball' Malware Infects Nearly 250 Million Computers Worldwide (thehackernews.com) 66

Check Point researchers have discovered a massive malware campaign, dubbed Fireball, that has already infected more than 250 million computers across the world, including Windows and Mac OS. The Fireball malware "is an adware package that takes complete control of victim's web browsers and turns them into zombies, potentially allowing attackers to spy on victim's web traffic and potentially steal their data," reports The Hacker News. From the report: Check Point researchers, who discovered this massive malware campaign, linked the operation to Rafotech, a Chinese company which claims to offer digital marketing and game apps to 300 million customers. While the company is currently using Fireball for generating revenue by injecting advertisements onto the browsers, the malware can be quickly turned into a massive destroyer to cause a significant cyber security incident worldwide. Fireball comes bundled with other free software programs that you download off of the Internet. Once installed, the malware installs browser plugins to manipulate the victim's web browser configurations to replace their default search engines and home pages with fake search engines (trotux.com). "It's important to remember that when a user installs freeware, additional malware isn't necessarily dropped at the same time," researchers said. "Furthermore, it is likely that Rafotech is using additional distribution methods, such as spreading freeware under fake names, spam, or even buying installs from threat actors."
Chrome

Should You Leave Google Chrome For the Opera Browser? (vice.com) 303

mspohr shares a report written by Jason Koebler via Motherboard who makes the case for why you should break up with Chrome and switch to the Opera browser: Over the last few years, I have grown endlessly frustrated with Chrome's resource management, especially on MacOS. Admittedly, I open too many tabs, but I'd wager that a lot of you do, too. With Chrome, my computer crawls to complete unusability multiple times a day. After one too many times of having to go into Activity Monitor to find that one single Chrome tab is using several gigs of RAM, I decided enough was enough. I switched to Opera, a browser I had previously thought was only for contrarians. This, after previous dalliances with Safari and Firefox left me frustrated. Because Opera is also based on Blink, I almost never run into a website, plugin, script, or video that doesn't work flawlessly on it. In fact, Opera works almost exactly like Chrome, except without the resource hogging that makes me want to throw my computer against a brick wall. This is exactly the point, according to Opera spokesperson Jan Standal: "What we're doing is an optimized version of Chrome," he said. "Web developers optimize most for the browser with the biggest market share, which happens to be Chrome. We benefit from the work of that optimization."

Slashdot reader mspohr adds: "I should note that this has also been my experience. I have a 2010 MacBook, which I was ready to trash since it had become essentially useless, coming to a grinding halt daily. I tried Opera and it's like I have a new computer. I never get the spinning wheel of death. (Also, the built-in ad blocker and VPN are nice.)" What has been your experience with Google Chrome and/or Opera? Do you prefer one over the other?

Security

HandBrake Urges Mac Users To Verify Recent Download, Says Mirror Server Was Compromised (handbrake.fr) 22

HandBrake team, writing on their forum: Anyone who has downloaded HandBrake on Mac between [02/May/2017 14:30 UTC] and [06/May/2017 11:00 UTC] needs to verify the SHA1 / 256 sum of the file before running it. Anyone who has installed HandBrake for Mac needs to verify their system is not infected with a Trojan. You have 50/50 chance if you've downloaded HandBrake during this period. If you see a process called "Activity_agent" in the OSX Activity Monitor application. You are infected. HandBrake is a popular, open-source video conversion tool. The team hasn't issued any advisory for Windows users.
Desktops (Apple)

Modern 'Hackintoshes' Show That Apple Should Probably Just Build a Mac Tower (arstechnica.com) 219

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by Andrew Cunningham via Ars Technica: Apple is working on new desktop Macs, including a ground-up redesign of the tiny-but-controversial 2013 Mac Pro. We're also due for some new iMacs, which Apple says will include some features that will make less-demanding pro users happy. But we don't know when they're coming, and the Mac Pro in particular is going to take at least a year to get here. Apple's reassurances are nice, but it's a small comfort to anyone who wants high-end processing power in a Mac right now. Apple hasn't put out a new desktop since it refreshed the iMacs in October of 2015, and the older, slower components in these computers keeps Apple out of new high-end fields like VR. This is a problem for people who prefer or need macOS, since Apple's operating system is only really designed to work on Apple's hardware. But for the truly adventurous and desperate, there's another place to turn: fake Macs built with standard PC components, popularly known as "Hackintoshes." They've been around for a long time, but the state of Apple's desktop lineup is making them feel newly relevant these days. So we spoke with people who currently rely on Hackintoshes to see how the computers are being used -- and what they'd like to see from Apple.
Software

Internet Archive Adds Early Macintosh OS and App Emulators (macstories.net) 66

An anonymous reader writes: The Internet Archive has added a curated collection of Mac operating system and software emulators from 1984 through 1989. The Internet Archive already hosts browser-based emulators of early video games and other operating systems, but this is its first foray into Mac software. The collection includes classic applications like MacPaint, programming tools such as MacBasic, and many games including Dark Castle. Each app can be run in an in-browser emulator and is accompanied by an article that chronicles its history. It's fun to play with the apps in the collection and realize just how far apps have come since the earliest days of the Mac. It's also remarkable how many computing conventions used today were introduced during those earliest days.
Privacy

USB Canary Sends An SMS When Someone Tinkers With Your USB Ports (bleepingcomputer.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A new tool released on GitHub last week can help paranoid sysadmins keep track of whenever someone plugs in or disconnects an USB-based device from high-value workstations. Called USB Canary, this tool is coded in Python and currently, works only on Linux (versions for Windows and Mac are in the works). The tool works by watching USB ports for any activity while the computer is locked, which generally means the owner has left his desk. If an USB device is plugged in or unplugged, USB Canary can perform one of two actions, or both. It can alert the owner by sending an SMS message via the Twilio API, or it can post a message in a Slack channel, which can be monitored by other co-workers. USB Canary can prove to be a very useful tool for large organizations that feature strict PC policies. For example, if you really want to enforce a "No USB drives" at work, this could be the tool for the job. Further, with modifications, it could be used for logging USB activity on air-gapped systems.
Patents

Apple Explores Using An iPhone, iPad To Power a Laptop (appleinsider.com) 76

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has filed a patent for an "Electronic accessory device." It describes a "thin" accessory that contains traditional laptop hardware like a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and more -- all of which is powered by an iPhone or iPad. The device powering the hardware would fit into a slot built into the accessory. AppleInsider reports: While the accessory can take many forms, the document for the most part remains limited in scope to housings that mimic laptop form factors. In some embodiments, for example, the accessory includes a port shaped to accommodate a host iPhone or iPad. Located in the base portion, this slot might also incorporate a communications interface and a means of power transfer, perhaps Lightning or a Smart Connector. Alternatively, a host device might transfer data and commands to the accessory via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol. Onboard memory modules would further extend an iOS device's capabilities. Though the document fails to delve into details, accessory memory would presumably allow an iPhone or iPad to write and read app data. In other cases, a secondary operating system or firmware might be installed to imitate a laptop environment or store laptop-ready versions of iOS apps. In addition to crunching numbers, a host device might also double as a touch input. For example, an iPhone positioned below the accessory's keyboard can serve as the unit's multitouch touchpad, complete with Force Touch input and haptic feedback. Coincidentally, the surface area of a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very similar to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple's new MacBook Pro models. Some embodiments also allow for the accessory to carry an internal GPU, helping a host device power the larger display or facilitate graphics rendering not possible on iPhone or iPad alone. Since the accessory is technically powered by iOS, its built-in display is touch-capable, an oft-requested feature for Mac. Alternatively, certain embodiments have an iPad serving as the accessory's screen, with keyboard, memory, GPU and other operating guts located in the attached base portion. This latter design resembles a beefed up version of Apple's Smart Case for iPad.
Chrome

Google Chrome Users On Apple MacOS Get Enhanced Safe Browsing Protection (betanews.com) 55

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: As more and more consumers buy Mac computers, evildoers will have increased incentive to write malware for macOS. Luckily, users of Apple's operating system that choose to use Google Chrome for web surfing will soon be safer. You see, the search giant is improving its Safe Browsing initiative to better warn macOS users of malicious websites and attempts to alter browser settings. "As part of this next step towards reducing macOS-specific malware and unwanted software, Safe Browsing is focusing on two common abuses of browsing experiences: unwanted ad injection, and manipulation of Chrome user settings, specifically the start page, home page, and default search engine. Users deserve full control of their browsing experience and Unwanted Software Policy violations hurt that experience," says Google. The search giant further explains, "The recently released Chrome Settings API for Mac gives developers the tools to make sure users stay in control of their Chrome settings. From here on, the Settings Overrides API will be the only approved path for making changes to Chrome settings on Mac OSX, like it currently is on Windows. Also, developers should know that only extensions hosted in the Chrome Web Store are allowed to make changes to Chrome settings. Starting March 31 2017, Chrome and Safe Browsing will warn users about software that attempts to modify Chrome settings without using the API."
America Online

AOL Is Cutting Off Third-Party App Access To AIM (9to5mac.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: AOL announced today that it is starting to cut off third-party app access to its Instant Messenger service. As first noticed by ArsTechnica, AOL began notifying users of at least one third-party app, Adium, that it would become obsolete starting on March 28th. At this point, it's unclear whether or not all third-party applications will be rendered useless come March 28th, but the message presented to Adium users seemed to strongly imply that: "Hello. Effective 3/28, we will no longer support connections to the AIM network via this method. If you wish to use the free consumer AIM product, we invite you to visit http://www.aim.com/ for more information." What this likely means is that AOL is shutting down the OSCAR chat protocol that is used to handle AIM messages. The service will, however, continue to be available via AOL's own chat app that is supported on macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android.
Wine

Wine 2.0 Released (softpedia.com) 202

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems. As expected, it's a massive release that includes dozens of improvements and new features, starting with support for Microsoft Office 2013 and 64-bit application support on macOS. Highlights of Wine 2.0 include the implementation of more DirectWrite features, such as drawing of underlines, font fallback support, and improvements to font metrics resolution, font embedding in PDF files, Unicode 9.0.0 support, Retina rendering mode for the macOS graphics driver, and support for gradients in GDI enhanced metafiles. Additional Shader Model 4 and 5 shader instructions have been added to Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 implementation, along with support for more graphics cards, support for Direct3D 11 feature levels, full support for the D3DX (Direct3D Extension) 9 effect framework, as well as support for the GStreamer 1.0 multimedia framework. The Gecko engine was updated to Firefox 47, IDN name resolutions are now supported out-of-the-box, and Wine can correctly handle long URLs. The included Mono engine now offers 64-bit support, as well as the debug registers. Other than that, the winebrowser, winhlp32, wineconsole, and reg components received improvements. You can read the full list of features and download Wine 2.0 from WineHQ's websiteS.

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