Archive for the ‘Apple & Macintosh’ Category

Two weeks ago, we took delivery of a brand-new, ARM-powered Macbook Pro. Nothing fancy, just the basic configuration with (only) 8GB of RAM. It felt a bit weird when I started it up for the first time: why would Apple think that we speak German here in Flanders?

But after using it for a couple of days we – my wife and I – were pleasantly surprised by a couple of things:

  • For a Pro, the body is sleek and yet not as light as you might expect. Feels… professional.
  • That machine is fast – not only when compared the (very old) Macs we have been using so far, but also compared to more modern machines.
  • Battery life is more than good: I did a Zoom session lasting a bit longer than an hour and a half, and the battery went from 100% to… 90%. That’s more than pleasant, it’s fantastic!
  • The “function key bar” (Touch Bar) takes a bit of getting used to, but so far I like it. I’m not capable of typing blind, even after all these years, and I’m not good at remembering what button does what. Having an extra “touch screen” is not that bad at all.

The only minus I have found so far, except for the missing ports, is that the keyboard is easily stained when your fingers are a bit greasier than average. But that problem is easily solved, luckily.

This machine is going to be with us for a long time, just like its predecessors. Now I just have to remember where I have stored the USB-C plus HDMI hub I bought a year ago, in preparation of computers like this M1 beauty.

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We live in an era of rapidly increasing digitalisation. Hence it’s no surprise that digital systems, however complex they may be, are the subject of increasingly sophisticated attacks. If you want proof of that, take a few hours and read “An iOS zero-click radio proximity exploit odyssey” by Google engineer Ian Beer. He explains how he discovered – and “exploited” – a vulnerability in Apple’s iOS that made it possible to take over an iOS device remotely without the user knowing what happened.

If you like programming, like me, you’ll find the story lacking in code but rich, very rich, in debugging techniques. Plus a lot of detective work and experimenting – in soft- and hardware. That’s what “hacking” is about, of course, and this story is a good illustration of just how devious you have to be!

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My setup has been the same since quite a few years now: I have a Keepass file on Dropbox, and I use several different applications and apps on multiple devices to access and update that file. Which applications, you ask?

On my Macs as well as on my Xubuntu machines I will use Keeweb. Despite its name, it gives you a desktop application that natively accesses (and syncs) files on Dropbox. This is the application I go to for when I want or need to reorganise the Keepass file, e.g. to rearrange groups or import lots of account data.

I would use Keeweb on a Windows PC as well – if I had one. At work, we have no free choice of which application to use to store passwords, but luckily we do have the “official” Keepass Password Safe at our disposal.

On Android my favourite Keepass app is called Keepass2Android. I will admit that I made that choice a few years ago, and haven’t checked on its competitors recently (are there competitors of note, by the way?). But it does what I need it to do; it accepts Dropbox as cloud storage and it will even merge changes from the local version and the Dropbox version when it detects differences between the two during the synchronisation process. That last one is a killer feature, and it hasn’t failed me a single time in the years I have been using it.

On iOS the situation is a little more complicated – at least, that how it feels to me. I wrote earlier about KeePassium, and that is still my app of choice. I like the interface, and it does all I need when I look for account info (you can store more than just passwords there!).

But in order to sync my central file on Dropbox, on iOS the app has to go through the “Files” app from Apple. Files-the-app is capable of showing files of all kinds on the iOS device, as well as the files on several cloud file systems, like Dropbox. What is less clear to me, however, is how quickly “Files” notices changes on Dropbox and picks up the latest version of my central KeePass file. I also have had trouble getting the latest version of my file (as changed on Android, for example) onto my iPhone. Although I must admit that the last few weeks fared better: I haven’t noticed anymore missing syncs lately. What I can’t say is whether the issue was/is with Files rather than KeePassium or even my internet connection…

Anyway, when it comes to passwords I want to be sure that I’m not missing any information – or worse: I don’t want to overwrite my updated central file with an older version on iPhone! That’s why I currently always check the “last updated on” date of my Dropbox file in Files before opening the file again. Of course my Dropbox account is protected with a password, but I don’t think that is what Andrei Popleteev means when he’s writing about “How to sync KeePassium with Dropbox“.

Manually checking the file date on iOS is not an ideal situation, I know, but to me that check is a small price to pay for the greater good of having my account data available on all the platforms I use! And for me, KeePassium is still the way to go on iOS.

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No, I’m not going to gut my Macintosh SE/30 to use it as an iPad stand.

But yes, this is a cute mod !

Photo by ‘mtietje’ on Imgur – Click on the picture to see the rest of the gallery.

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I have written about my tribulations with the Xerox Phaser 3260 laser printer earlier this year. All in all, I’m happy with the machine: it’s probably not the cheapest option but it worked without fail for many years now, mainly helping my children with their homework and their university courses.

The trouble I wrote about earlier was in fact solely due to the appearance of Mac OS “Catalina”: this version of Mac OS requires 64-bit drivers, which were unavailable from Xerox for a very long time. During the whole process of trying out how best to work with different versions of Mac OS and the corresponding drivers I also turned on AirPrint in the printer settings. I did not hope to solve our problems that way, but in house full of iPhones and iPads AirPrint comes in handy. And turning it on for the Xerox is just a matter of clicking once:

As it turns out, this is actually the easiest way to get any Mac to print to the Phaser – even without any printer driver software. So here’s my tip of the day: if you are the owner of one or more Mac’s or iOS devices, make sure your printer understands AirPrint and turn it on! As long as you don’t need any fancy features of your printer, say for printing photos, this is the easiest and quickest way to get your printer working for you.

If I ever need to buy another printer, I’ll make sure it understands AirPrint ;-)

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Printing from MAC OS X Catalina is hard, when your printer is a Xerox 3260. Somehow the procedures I described a few days ago no longer work (and yes, they did work when I wrote them up). As far as I can remember there were no OS X updates, no printer driver updates, etc. to explain the fact that my measures no longer work… Perhaps there is interference from the old Xerox driver, which is probably still hiding somewhere on the hard disk.

My conclusion remains, however: Xerox has to come up with a solution!


UPDATE: just as I published this post, I noticed that Xerox (finally) published a driver update: the Phaser 3260 Mac 10.15 Driver v1.08 is out since yesterday, March 5. I haven’t tested it yet, but I’ll be doing that tomorrow!

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In November 2019 or thereabout my youngest daughter upgraded her MacBook to Mac OS X 10.15 (Catalina). Ever since she has had trouble when trying to print to the family’s Xerox Phaser 3260 laser printer: sometimes it would work, if only for one or two pages, and mostly it failed. And when I upgraded my Macbook Pro, I encoutered the same problems, of course. Luckily there’s the old and faithful Mac Mini, still on 10.12 and perfectly capable of printing with a 32-bit printer driver from Xerox…

The cause of the printing problem is not hard to find: Xerox so far has failed to deliver a 64-bit printer driver for many models, including the Phaser 3260. Which is unforgivable, since they are still selling that printer model without a clear warning that it won’t work on the latest Mac OS X version!

For those of you having the same issue I can offer two workarounds that so far seem to work without limitations when it comes to simple print jobs.

The first is to go into the Phaser 3260 settings and enable (and configure) AirPrint in the “Network Settings”. If you also own an iPad and/or iPhone you may already have done so, since it allows those mobile devices to use the printer directly as well. To use this protocol from your Mac as well, you have to go into the “System Settings” of your Mac, and define a new printer using the “AirPrint” driver. That should do the trick.

There is a second way to print from your 10.15 Mac, but it isn’t supported wholeheartedly by Xerox (although it is referenced in the Xerox support forums): you just have to install the “Xerox macOS Common Print Driver from a closely related product”… The hardest part of this solution is figuring out which printers are already supported by this driver. I have been clicking around and had success with the Phaser 3330:

(Click on the image to go to the download page)

The installation of the driver is pretty standard stuff, and once you define a new printer in the “System Settings” of your Mac you will be able to select any of the supported Xerox printers as the driver for your 3260 model. I tried the 3330 model, and so far have not encountered any problems with the printing of PDF’s and HTML pages. Am I just lucky? I hope not!

Having workarounds is nice, but Xerox should wake up and do the right thing: adapt the driver software (and their support website) to accept the 3260 and any other printer still on sale into the Mac OS X 10.15 driver package!

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A couple of months ago I started my search for a good iOS app to replace MiniKeePass; I even wrote about it briefly on November 15th. The situation became very urgent when I switched iPhones two weeks ago: everything moved swiftly from iPhone One to iPhone Two – except MiniKeePass, which had disappeared completely from the App Store!

It took me a couple of hours to read up on the current state of KeePass affairs in the iOS world (thank you, reddit!), and a few more to test and re-test a few candidates. Since my wife will also be using the application, and we both also have an iPad, syncing with the iCloud was a must-have feature.

In the end, KeePassium turned out to be a winner after all. This time (and ever since!) it does open our .kbdx files without issues, and is well integrated with iOS and Face ID. That’s all we need at the moment. Thanks, Andrei!

PS. It must be happening more and more these days: apps that are no longer compatible with current OS versions, or that are no longer actively maintained by their developers. But I feel it might be worthwhile to keep a trace of them in the App Store (and similar repositories), if only when you search for them by name. I’ll give bonus points for a small explanation as to why they disappeared from current search results…

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This (my!) Macbook Pro from 2012 is still in a fine condition, and very usable, e.g. to maintain this blog. It may be 7 years old, but is by no means too old to be productive. I have no trouble keeping it up to date, at least until now: it is running Mac OS Catalina.
About window of the Macbook Pro

Since I took the screenshot Catalina has been updated to version 10.15.1.

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For those of you who want to know more about the cameras in the iPhone 11 (and the iPhone 11 Pro), DPReview has a deep dive into the cameras and their performance: “DPReview TV: iPhone 11 Pro – what photographers may have missed“.

DPReview TV: iPhone 11 Pro – what photographers may have missed

(Click on the image to go to the DPReview TV episode)

They also recorded the whole video on an iPhone, so it’s not just photo talk! Well worth 14 minutes of your time, if you care about the iPhone 11.

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Yeah, I cracked under Apple’s marketing and ordered an iPhone 11 to replace the iPhone 7 I was using since January. My excuse? My eldest daughter was exasperated with the old Samsung J5 I gave her a long time ago, so I promised her an iPhone 7 to replace that ;-)

I was not looking for a pocketable camera – I have two of those, thank you. But Austin Mann says that the 11 might well replace them in daily use…

Here’s a sample from yesterday, unedited: a view of the rooftops of Antwerp, seen from the top of the Vleeshuis museum.

Unedited picture of the Antwerp roof top, seen from the museum Vleeshuis. Click on the image to see the full-size version.

I’m not blown away by the sharpness of this picture, but the conditions were not ideal. I will admit that the photos I took inside the building are much better than expected given the dim lighting in the museum rooms – thank you, Night mode!

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Since a few months I have been using Cloudflare’s “ Internet” app on my iPad. I like the idea of having more privacy while surfing the Web, even though it’s hard for me to verify what the app is doing exactly. At least I never had the impression that the iPad got slower because of the app – but your mileage may vary, of course.

Icon of the app

Anyway, what I wanted to mention is that the upgrade to iPadOS 13.1 posed a problem for the network connection on the iPad. Some applications, Safari included, had no problem accessing the internet, but my main banking app continued to report “You have no internet connection – please try again later’. Puzzling and frustrating, since a second banking app (for a different bank, of course) had no problems whatsoever. I’ll leave it to the specialists/hackers to figure out what that means about the safety of that second app ;-)

In the end I removed the app completely, and reinstalled it from the App Store. This did the trick: the application installed its VPN Configuration and hey presto, all my applications found the way to the web without any trouble. So even if you have configured your iPad to update all apps automatically, I recommend having a look at the app directly after upgrading to iOS, sorry: iPadOS 13. If it has trouble establishing a VPN connection, just remove it from the device and reinstall it – that should do the trick.

Now I’ll take some time this weekend to read up on Cloudflare’s extension of the app, called Warp. I was already intrigued by earlier articles about the WireGuard protocol, and Warp seems to give us a possibility to try it out without costs. I might well do so; if I do, I’ll report on it later.

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For many years now, I have stored my “approved” pictures on Flickr – straight from Apple Photos on my Mac. About two weeks ago, that suddenly wasn’t possible any more. Sharing a picture did bring up the dialog to set a title etc. for the picture, but no list of albums appeared – only an ominous message saying “ShareKit is not authorized to share files“. Excuse me? Why not?

Well, I still don’t have an answer to that question. Through DuckDuckGo I found an Apple Forum thread on the subject: “Can not publish via Flickr“. Sadly however, none of the suggestions worked. In fact, for the moment I am incapable of adding a Flickr account to the Internet Accounts section of the Mac’s System Preferences… Trying to do so with the correct data (!) the only reply I get is this:

And now the question becomes: is this problem caused by Yahoo, by Flickr, or by Apple’s OSX ? All ideas or help are welcome!

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Just like in 2017, my iPad Mini crashed yesterday. When I picked it up, wanting to catch up my personal email, all I saw was the Apple Logo – for several minutes. I tried shutting it down, but that wasn’t easy. Any attempt to resulted in a new boot cycle. In the end, I succeeded, but it took me more than hour to finally turn it off and launch DFU mode.

From there on, it’s a simple matter to have iTunes massage the machine back into working order. And then you can restore the backup you made – you do make backups from time to time, don’t you? One important tip: if you want to encrypt your backup on your local hard disk, don’t forget to write down the password you use ;-) Otherwise you can spend another hour trying all the passwords you might have invented when taking the backup!

When all that is in the past, the Mini is back as it was – I’m relieved. But I do wonder: iOS may be a reasonably stable operating system, but why does it go bonkers from time to time? The Mini did not fall, did not get bent, did not lie in the sun nor in a freezer, it just lay untouched on my desk the whole day, connected to a charger…

For the record, these are, in my opinion, the best instructions about entering DFU mode: “DFU Mode” on the iPhone Wiki. Thanks for helping me out!

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BoingBoing told me all about it: the “History of Mac startup chimes“.

For the impatient among you, here are the links mentioned over there:

And there are more videos like that, each with a few machines missing, or a few extras. The weird part of this story is that I never noticed the differences, although I have owned many Macs. Probably because I heard that startup sound so often that my brain no longer actively listened to it…

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