2020 was a year of craziness that no one really expected. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that it seems we’re through the worst of things with covid-19 and all its impacts. We’re hoping so anyway, and things are seeming upbeat at Mac Aid and for our clients.

Mac Aid are still here and doing pretty well, and we would like to take this chance to thank you all for sticking with us this year though the ups and downs and challenges of lock down. We hope that we were able to help you deal with whatever IT curveballs 2020 threw at you.

The year of working remotely

In many ways IT support is well positioned for working remotely, and so we were still able to do much of our work, even through lockdown. Not everything is as easy or quick when done remotely, so thanks for your patience with getting things done this year.

In many ways 2020 was an interesting experiment in just how much can – or cannot – be done remotely. Like many of our clients, we’ll be making sure that shapes how we do our work in future.

Much of our work this year was about helping clients with their own sudden shift to remote working. Despite the challenges that involved, it seems to have worked well. Many of our clients are adopting remote work whole-heartedly going forward, and almost all are continuing with it to some degree.

“Zoom” became a verb

Previously a niche newcomer to video conferencing, Zoom became everyone’s new favourite – or most often used – app during 2020 as we all grappled with staying in contact through lockdown and quarantine.

Zoom themselves didn’t seem particularly ready for such mass adoption, with their app suffering from security weaknesses and odd design quirks when the rush hit in early 2020. They quickly moved to polish things up, and Mac Aid did a lot of work with clients to get Zoom working securely and dependably for them.

The rush to The Cloud

Remote working accelerated the shift that was already happening with Mac Aid clients moving to cloud based file sharing, rather than dedicated servers on premise.

We migrated a lot of clients to DropBox this year and the flexibility of that solution seems to have worked well.

Many Mac Aid clients are planning to have more staff returning to their offices in the new year. If that’s you, remember to stop and consider the process of re-consolidating all the data your people might have collected on their own devices while they were working at home. And in doing that, maybe it’s time to stop and consider your approach to file sharing and backups generally?

With everyone working from home, who was answering the phones?

Another problem that many of our clients and Mac Aid ourselves faced was how to deal with office phone systems with workers scattered to remote locations.

While there are solutions to getting remote access to your phone system, our suggestion in this case is to consider Unified Communications – that means incorporating your phone system into your computers and mobile phones.

We’re doing this using Microsoft Teams at Mac Aid and are rolling this solution out to clients as well. This is one of those changes that anyone running IT for a business will wish they’d done years ago. It incorporates your phone system into your main IT systems, so all can be managed as part of your regular IT maintenance and support.

Unified Communications makes a lot of sense for users too, with phone calls closely linked to emails and contacts on your devices. If you’d like to look at how Unified Communications and Teams Calling could work for your business, we’d be happy to talk to you about it.

Apple did some great stuff in 2020

Despite the gloom and doom, Apple was on a roll through 2020 and delivered a lot of great new stuff.

The iPhone 12s are a great redesign, which have been very popular, as has iOS 14. While not radical update, Apple Watch 6 is a nice refresh, which was well received by Apple Watch fans. And Apple Watch SE brought current generation Apple Watches down to a lower price point. And for those with a taste for “luxury audio”, Apples AirPods Max arrived just in time for Christmas.

MacOS Big Sur arrived in November. Even though we’re always cautious with advising our clients against adopting new OS releases too early, generally it has been a solid release. It’s a great new iteration of Mac OS with a fresh new look and lots of innovations under the hood.

But the most exciting Apple news this year was the release of the long-awaited Apple Silicon “M1” Macs. Many were sceptical about Apple’s bold performance claims about the new M1 based MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini, but had to eat their words when they performed beyond expectations. Apple have managed to migrate to new processors of their own design and at the same time achieve the biggest ever performance and battery life improvements ever in a single new generation of hardware.

The M1 changeover is accelerating with major software makers like Microsoft and Adobe releasing new M1 optimised versions of their apps. It will be great fun to see what new Apple Silicon Macs Apple release next year.

Christmas/new year shutdown

Mac Aid will be closing for the Christmas new year break on Wednesday 23rd of December and reopen on Monday 11 January.

Our main number 03 9428 4999 and the support@macaid.com.au email will be monitored over the break. Please leave us a message if you have any urgent enquiries and we will contact you as soon as we are available.

Out Of Office – again

In the rush to put 2020 behind us and take a well-deserved break, remember to make sure to put things in place for secure backups of your data and systems over the break, divert office phones or update messages, and set up Out Of Office messages for email. If in doubt about any of that, Mac Aid can help.

Have a great Christmas and New Year, best wishes from the team at Mac Aid

 

 

 

As expected, Apple released new Apple Silicon based Macs at a virtual event on Nov 10. While an updated MacBook Air and 13 inch MacBook Pro had been widely rumoured, Apple surprised by also releasing an Apple Silicon based Mac Mini. All are based on the new Apple “M1” SOC (System On Chip), a beefed up variant of the A14 Bionic being used in this year’s iPhone 12 and iPad Air.

https://www.apple.com/apple-events/november-2020/

All are externally identical to the existing/previous models, with all the changes internal. Apple’s stated performance specs and the battery life improvements for the M1 processor are very, very impressive. And initial reviews are showing these Macs to be every bit as powerful as Apple says they are.

Apple Silicon MacBook Air 

This model replaces the Intel version entirely – and is stated to be 3.5 x the CPU speed, with 5 x as fast graphics performance with new improved SSDs which offer twice the speed. Battery life is stated as up to 18 hours of video playback and 15 hours of wireless web, which is an unprecedented jump in one generation. The display has been upgraded to a P3 gamut panel as well, although it’s not quite as bright as the screen on the MacBook Pros.

So from that description this should be a very impressive MacBook Air. MacBook Air has moved to a fanless design in this update, which will make it a silent laptop, which is nice, but there might be some impact on performance due to throttling for heat management under sustained load. Only time and experience will tell how that will affect the over-all feel of the machine. But this sounds like a great upgrade – and the price has remained the same too.

Since the MacBook Air hit its stride in it’s second iteration in 2011, it’s been a great compact, all-purpose Mac laptop, the “perfect Mac laptop for most people”. So if this Apple Silicon M1 version is all that Apple says, and it seems that it might be, it should be the best iteration yet, and a great choice for general computing. We’ll be testing one at Mac Aid soon.

Apple Silicon 13 inch MacBook Pro

The Apple Silicon upgrade to the 13 inch MacBook Pro also sounds very solid, with the new M1 based version replacing the previous entry level model. Given the larger chassis, and the fact that the 13 inch MacBook Pro retains a fan for heat dissipation, this should be a fast, capable laptop.

The M1 processor in the 13 inch MacBook Pro is said to be 2.8 times as fast as the previous model, with graphics up to five times faster. There’s a Touch Bar, and two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. Battery life is stated as up to 20 hours, which is a vey nice upgrade indeed. Apple says that’s 10 hours longer than the previous model and the best battery life ever on a Mac.

Apple Silicon Mac Mini

The big surprise was that Apple also released an M1 version of the Mac Mini. This should be a great little Mac, with significant performance increases. And the price dropped for the M1 model too.

M1 based Mac Mini reverts to a silver finish, and boasts substantial performance improvement with up to 3× faster CPU performance and up to 6× faster graphics. It includes 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, two USB‑A ports, HDMI 2.0, Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit Ethernet.

Mac Minis are used in many and varied settings, as servers, workstations and media centres, and it sounds like this version will be a great little performer in any of those roles. The price-to-performance ratio for the Mac Mini has never been better, with the M1 version being described as “a barnburner of a miniature desktop PC”.

Running your existing applications

You’ll get the best performance on these Macs running apps built for the M1 processor. But all of your existing applications should run fine using Rosetta 2. Apple says that some applications are actually faster under emulation with Rosetta 2 than they are on the Intel processors they were programmed for, and early reports are bearing this out. Your own real world results may vary of course.

The M1 also brings the ability to use your favourite iPhone and iPad apps directly on macOS Big Sur, although reports on how well this really works are mixed. 

A great future for the Mac

These are substantially upgraded Macs, and sound very impressive, particularly given that they are all entry level models in Apple’s line-up. And so it will be interesting to see what Apple has in store for Apple Silicon versions of their higher performance models like the iMac, 16 inch MacBook Pro and Mac Pro.

As exciting as this all sounds, remember that these are a first generation product, so it might be wise to hold off for a little and let someone else road test them first. Mac Aid have an M1 Mac Mini already and are about to start putting it through its paces. We will report back once we have some real-world experience to relate. 

The necessity for so many of us to work from home during Covid shutdown highlighted to Mac Aid the need for services and products to provide safe and secure ways to connect remote workers to on premise servers and systems.

Mac Aid have been working with Fortigate to implement the FortiAP, a high security appliance which gives workers secure access to your business servers and systems from home.

The rush to provide remote access to workers from their homes meant that many were accessing company servers and systems via unsecured home internet connections. The FortiAP is a high security appliance which gives workers access to your business servers and systems from home, without compromising security.

We call it the Fortinet & Mac Aid remote worker solution.

With the FortiAP, both setup time and cost are drastically decreased compared to other solutions. All that’s needed is a FortiAP wireless access point at each staff member’s home and a FortiGate where your server sits.

And the whole solution is a zero touch deployment. The FortiAP is preconfigured at Mac Aid and then delivered to the user, who installs it in their home with remote assistance from Mac Aid.

If your systems are compatible, you can even use your office deskphone at home by plugging it into the FortiAP; very useful for workers who may be dealing with multiple calls or a high-volume of transfers. 

When the time comes that your staff are back in the office, you will be able to reuse the FortiAP to increase your wireless coverage back at the office.

Simplify the way you deploy secure network access to staff who are working from home by installing a secure wireless networking solution from Fortinet, the FortiAP, at their home – and any worker device that connects to the WiFi (or wired into the FortiAP) will gain the same level of security as though they were sitting at their desk in the office. 

Call Mac Aid to discuss how FortiAP and Fortigate can work to improve the security of remote access for your business.

Do you really need anti-malware on your Mac?

Mac users have long presumed that they were immune from computer viruses and malware, but there are a few reasons to reconsider that view these days.

A few years ago, Macs were a small minority of computers, and so generally considered to be an unrewarding target for hackers and other cybercriminals. But Macs are a lot more popular now, and while it’s great to see more Macs around, it also means they are now more a more attractive target.

And while Macs are arguably more secure, it has never been true that there weren’t any Mac viruses or malware. As far back as the 1980s there were Mac viruses propagated in those pre-internet days by rampant floppy disk swapping. These weren’t very destructive viruses, but could make systems unstable, and it wasn’t very good for your reputation to be passing them around.

Mac threat detections on the rise in 2019

Apple has your back, but don’t rely on that alone

Apple themselves put a lot of development work into keeping the Mac secure. In recent years you will have noticed more and more warning dialogs about allowing different applications to access parts of your system. Restrictions have been tightened around installing software. And Safari imposes aggressive blocking of websites it considers suspicious. Those measures are all great, but a problem is that busy people tend to just “okay” past these warnings, so they can keep doing whatever it is they’re doing. So while they’re great to have, these systems aren’t infallible.

Consider others who you might infect with computer nasties

Another thing to think about regarding viruses, malware and adware, is being a good computing citizen. No one wants to be responsible for propagating nasties to clients or friends – so even if viruses or malware might not affect your system, you might find yourself responsible for passing them to others. This has been an issue in the past with the Microsoft macro viruses that were prevalent – they didn’t affect Macs, but Macs could pass those files on to PC users, who they might have affected.

Your home office probably isn’t as secure as your work office

Adding to the vulnerability of your Mac is the fact that so many of us are working remotely these days. Your office probably has sophisticated firewalls and other filtering mechanisms in place, that keep that environment relatively secure. But your home network very likely does not. So you might be more vulnerable these days than you realise. Cybercriminals very quickly realised that remote workers were an attractive target for this reason.

So there is good reason to stop and consider whether you should be tightening up your security. Of course anti virus or anti malware is yet another software gadget to install and look after. So the best solution would be something that you install once and don’t need to think about again.

Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection

Mac Aid recommend Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection, a small application that is installed on your system, that is remotely monitored by Mac Aid. It runs scans in the background, and reports on the health of your system. We monitor our Malwarebytes endpoints daily, so if anything suspicious is noted, we’ll get in contact to discuss how you might deal with it.

So if you decide that it’s time you took some precautions to protect your devices, and your family, friends and clients from malware and viruses, talk to Mac Aid, we’ll can very quickly set you up and remotely deploy Malwarebytes. 

Remember that you shouldn’t only rely on a tool like Malwarebytes to protect your data. Make sure to keep your backups up to date (and not permanently attached to your Mac!), be wary of downloading software and files from untrusted sources, and always, always! check that emails asking for payment requests or passwords, are given a thorough look over, to make sure they are from a reputable source. If in doubt – contact the sender.

Apple released their long rumoured iPhone 12 at another of their virtual video events from Apple Headquarters this week.

All 4 iPhone 12 models feature 5G, a new A14 Bionic processor, a new industrial design with flat edges and thinner bezels, Super Retina XDR OLED displays, upgraded “Ceramic Shield” front glass, and a new 12-megapixel wide camera with wider aperture promising improved low light performance. So they were pretty much exactly as rumours had described in recent months.

MagSafe is back!

While all iPhone 12 models still have a lightning connector (with a cable supplied in the box, but no earbuds), they also introduce a new iteration of “MagSafe” for enhanced wireless charging using magnets and for attaching chargers, cases and accessories. Apple says the iPhone 12 can charge wirelessly at up to 15 watt speeds. There’s an Apple Watch-like MagSafe iPhone charger, iPhone 12 cases and a new magnetic wallet accessory that snaps on the back of the phone.

iPhone 12 Mini

Among the lineup, is a new iPhone 12 Mini with a 5.4 inch screen, bringing the full-screen/Face-ID iPhone experience to a smaller form factor for the first time. Expectations had been that this rumoured iPhone Mini might have been an entry level cheaper device, it turns out to be a fully fledged smaller version of the iPhone 12, including 5G, and OLED screen, MagSafe and the A14 Bionic processor. So those of us who have long been wanting Apple to release a premium smaller iPhone are in luck.

iPhone 12 Pro

There are also iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models, with a stainless steel body, rather than aluminium. Both feature reimagined pro camera systems including an expansive Ultra Wide camera, a Telephoto camera with an even longer focal length on iPhone 12 Pro Max, and new wide angle cameras to capture beautiful professional-quality images and video in bright and low-light environments. iPhone 12 Pro models also introduce a new LiDAR Scanner for immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences.

New colours

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini will be available in white, black, blue, green and red and iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Pro Max in graphite, silver, gold and pacific blue.

So all up the iPhone 12s seem a worthwhile upgrade, particularly for those who have been waiting for a 5G iPhone, a smaller model or updated cameras. Pre-orders for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro open on 16 October, iPhone 12 mini and iPhone Pro Max open on 7 November.