Apple recently updated the 27 inch iMac, with 10th generation Intel processors, SSD storage as standard, Radeon Pro 5300 or 5500 TX graphics cards, a 1080p HD webcam, optional nano-textured True Tone display, Apple T2 chip and a 10Gb Ethernet option.

While Covid 19 has meant that many users have moved to laptops, rather than desktop Macs, there is still a place for the serious speed and power that only comes with a well equipped desktop like an iMac or Mac Pro. This seems like a very solid upgrade to what was already a great Mac, bringing it up to date and adding all of Apple’s latest innovations in hardware design.

The optional nano texture display is an interesting upgrade, and a real game changer for work spaces with challenging lighting issues, like direct sunlight or changing lighting conditions. Unlike typical matt display coatings, the nano‑texture is etched into the glass at the nanometre level. This reduces glare while preserving contrast, for jaw‑dropping image quality. This is a great upgrade for photographers, retouchers and video editors, which was previously only available on the Apple XDR Pro Display. For demanding users with the need for a matte display this alone might might make this a very compelling iMac upgrade. 

The 10th generation Comet Lake processors in the 27 inch iMac are available as 6 or 8 core variants and can be upgraded to i9 10 core. Performance of the 10-core i9 version is stated to be 65% faster than the previous top spec iMac, which will be a huge improvement for those needing serious power for photo editing, rendering and compiling, video editing, and other processor heavy tasks.

The 27 inch iMac can now accommodate up to 128GB of RAM and comes with 512GB SSD as standard, which can be upgraded to 1, 2, 4 or even 8TB.

The 27‑inch iMac also now features a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and a studio‑quality three‑mic array. And the T2 chip acts in concert with the speakers to enable variable EQ and an enhanced bass response, so all your content can have big, balanced, high‑fidelity sound.

This is likely to be the last Intel iMac, so for those with the need for a really potent iMac now, the tons of upgrades under the hood in this version make this a very capable Mac, and a sound hardware investment.

 

Apple announced Big Sur – the next version of Mac OS at WWDC in July. Betas have been available for developers since then, and the public beta program is now open too, so brave early adopters can give Big Sur a try.

Big Sur is an interesting Mac OS update in a couple of ways. Most notably, the visual changes are quite pronounced, more so than in Apple’s recent yearly updates. Big Sur brings a much more iOS like aesthetic to the Mac, which can be a bit startling initially, but once you get used to it it’s a fun, vibrant interface to use, and generally has a clean, modern vibe.

There is a new Control Centre, much like the one in iOS, updated Notifications Centre, and updated design for Finder windows, save dialogs, menu bar and menus and the Dock.

Under the hood, Big Sur goes a lot further in allowing iOS apps to run on MacOS, and also lays further groundwork for Apples move to using their own processors, rather than Intel’s over the next couple of years. 

Safari is faster and more battery efficient than ever in Big Sur and features enhanced privacy features to give you more control of browser tracking, an editable start page, and improved tab design.

The Messages app is now a direct port of the iOS version, and that means it now has all the features it was previously missing, compared to its equivalent on iOS. The Maps app has been similarly upgraded to mirror its iOS counterpart.

https://www.apple.com/macos/big-sur-preview/features/

Note that like Catalina, the current version of Mac OS, Big Sur is 64 bit only. So if you use any older apps that are 32 bit, you might need to hold off until you find equivalent apps that will run under Big Sur.

Testing at Mac Aid has found Big Sur quite stable and most regularly used applications seems to work well. While you should never install beta software on your primary Mac, if you have a spare Mac around, and a taste for adventure, you can register for he public betas yourself and give it a try.

https://beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/

Big Sur should be released during Spring 2020.

Perhaps like many of us you’ve been using Zoom a lot more recently, but are worried about the security issues everyone has been talking about?

Zoom has been a great way for us all to stay connected in these challenging times, because it’s free (for limited personal use) and easy to use. Unfortunately that ease of use has partly come about because Zoom have historically had a rather cavalier attitude to security. 

But, things are improving, and Zoom have now made changes to deal with the worst of these issues. So you can now use Zoom reasonably safely, if you follow some sensible precautions.

 

The most important thing is to make sure you install the recent Zoom updates. If you are not using the newest version of Zoom, the Mac app itself will show an update banner across the top of its main window. Do that update. If you want to make absolutely sure you’re running the latest version, click “Check for updates” under the Zoom.us menu. Likewise, make sure you are running the most recent version of Zoom on your phone.

 

If you want to dig deeper, there are many security settings in your Zoom preferences. 

Most of these settings are in Personal/Settings in the Zoom web interface – accessed by clicking “View Advanced Features” in the Profile tab in the Zoom app preferences on your Mac. There are a lot of settings in there, but the most important are probably these:

When scheduling Zoom meetings make sure to choose to have Zoom generate a meeting ID automatically, rather than using your own Personal Meeting ID, and to require a meeting password for participants to join.

Once your Zoom meeting has started, and all of your participants are in the meeting, you can prevent anyone else from joining in. This is done in the “Security” tab, at the bottom of your meeting window on the Mac. Choose “Lock Meeting”. This will prevent others from joining even if meeting IDs or access details have been leaked.

More broadly, always be cautious what information you share in Zoom meetings (and generally). Under no circumstances should you discuss passwords, banking details or any other highly sensitive information.

 

Remember, this is a time of high security risk for all internet users, so take no chances.

Mac Aid is still here to help, just ask.

Now that we are all settled into working from home, take a minute to consider whether your security is up to scratch.

A lot of this might seem like plain common sense, and you’re probably on top of it already. But we thought that in these stressful times it might be worth stopping, taking a breath and checking the security of your remote working setup, just in case. Much of this you can tend to yourselves, but if you’re unsure, Mac Aid are still here, and happy to help you through it.

 

Mac Aid working from home security check list

Many of you are possibly accessing your employers servers and network through a VPN, or dealing with company data on a cloud service like DropBox or Google Cloud. Or perhaps you’re self-isolating at home and finding that you are more dependant on your internet connected devices than you have ever been.

Home networks are inherently less secure than corporate networks, which are generally protected with sophisticated firewalls, and so scammers and cyber-criminals see our current remote working situation as an exciting new opportunity. Make sure your home network is as safe as it can be.

So take a minute to consider the following:

 

1: Is your home internet connection as secure as it should be? 

A surprising number of people leave their home routers and wifi with the default passwords they came with. 

In the past that might have sufficed for your own personal uses (although it still isn’t ideal), but this makes your network inherently less secure. It would be good practice to change that password to a strong and unguessable one, that will be unique to your network. 

Generally configuration of your router or wifi will be via its IP address, which on a Mac you can find in your System Preferences/Network/Wifi under the advanced tab. Copy the IP address you see beside “Router” and paste into a web browser, and you should be looking at the configuration page for your router. If your router is using its default user name and password, they will most likely be printed on a sticker on its base. Make sure to keep a record of what you change your router credentials to. You will have to re-authenticate all of your devices to use your router/wifi (using it’s new password) after doing this.

 

2: Is your laptop or desktop computer properly secured?

Your laptop, computer or phone, should be set up to require an unguessable password, or to use touch-ID, to log into it or wake it from sleep. While it might be convenient to have your device set up to not require a password, this is a serious security risk if your system contains details to log into company servers or accounts and has those passwords saved. So make sure your system is set to require a password or touch ID to open. 

On a Mac, this is set up in two places in your System Preferences. In System Preferences/Users & Groups: Under Login Options, make sure that “Automatically login” is set to off. You will have to authenticate with your administrator password to change this setting. In System Preferences/Security & Privacy, make sure that “Require password” is set to a modest, yet bearable time-limit, like 15 minutes. Again, you will have to authenticate with your administrator password to change this setting. If you are using a recent era MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or MacBook, make sure that you have set up Touch ID to secure it with your fingerprint.

 

3: Are you alert to phishing attacks?

With so many of us working remotely now, the chances that someone you know will have their email account compromised are greater. If you receive emails that purport to be from people you know that ask for payments, passwords or such, firstly, stop and consider them, and then check directly with that person by phoning them, or if you are using a chat platform to communicate with co-workers, perhaps ask them there. 

Be particularly alert to emails seemingly from suppliers informing you of new payment arrangements or unpaid bills. If you’re still in doubt, ask Mac Aid to quickly look at any suspicious emails for you.

 

4: Is your system free of malware?

Your company servers and networks are likely well protected from malicious attacks, but your home network and systems might not be. By connecting your home network to your work network, you might unknowingly be creating an entry point for attacks.

As always, the most important thing you can do is to be hyper-aware, and not open any suspicious emails or attachments at all. Also be wary of installing browser plug-ins or other new software that you can’t be certain is from a reputable software company.

Ultimately if you want to be as secure as you can be, virus protection software might be the answer. But be alert that some software that purports to “clean your Mac” or otherwise scan for viruses, is in fact malware itself. Be especially wary of any virus protection software that suggests itself to you via pop up windows whilst web browsing.

Malware Bytes is a legitimate virus protection application, and are offering a two month free trial currently. You could avail yourself of that offer to ramp up your level of protection right now, and decide at a later date whether you wanted to buy into it or not. Phone the Mac Aid office to arrange your free trial.

 

Don’t let the current stressful environment cause you to make unsafe choices or take unnecessary security risks. If you receive any email or message that seems suspicious, stop, consider it, and check its authenticity before doing anything at all.

Mac Aid is still here to help, just ask.

Your business may not be located in China, and your customer base may not be Chinese, but like it or not, the economy is global, and coronavirus may already be having an impact on your business. You may have had employees away on overseas holidays, or travelling for business. Even if they haven’t been anywhere near China, they may have been exposed to Coronavirus on planes or in airports, which are filled with people coming and going to and from every part of the globe. Australian businesses are not immune to the threat caused by the virus. While we don’t yet understand the full impact the virus will have, business owners can take action now to help protect their business from the likely impacts of Coronavirus.

 

Business Continuity

 

Develop a business continuity plan

Coronavirus could have a significant impact on businesses (particularly small businesses), and could potentially cause disruptions to supply chains, drops in both customer and sales numbers, and cash flow shortages. Now is the time to set a Business Continuity Plan in place, to help prepare for the potential fallout of Coronavirus. Putting business continuity solutions in place now will give you peace of mind that your business will continue to function in the event of a disaster such as Coronavirus.

 

Start thinking about how your business will address the following questions, so that you can keep essential operations running:

 

 

Timely and honest communication with your staff, suppliers and clients is important, as all need to be made aware of any issues you may have delivering your products and services, and what contingency plans are in place.

 

Maximise employees’ ability to work from home

Businesses are in a strong position to counter the Coronavirus outbreak by allowing employees to work remotely. Obviously, this is not feasible for every business, as employees need to be physically present in certain fields, but if it’s possible for your employees (particularly those who are unwell or at risk of contracting Coronavirus) to work from home, now might be a good time to look at how you could make this happen. Use it as an opportunity to examine how productive your workers can be from home, and to strengthen your IT infrastructure to allow it to happen.

 

When creating your plan, consider the following questions:

 

Clarify your position on all of these questions and put plans in place to address any issues which arise, so that your business has the best chance of staying afloat during a difficult period.

 

General Advice

 

Look at ways your supply chain may be affected

Do you use products manufactured in or supplied from China? Does your company manufacture products there? Perhaps you use remote workers in China? Examine your supply chain in depth, and you may be surprised that your business does have contact with affected areas in some way. If so, now might be the time to seek alternative suppliers.

 

Limit unnecessary overseas business travel

Sure, you may have been looking forward to that annual conference in the US, but is it really worth the risk? If it’s not absolutely necessary to travel for work, make the decision to avoid overseas travel at the moment.

 

Encourage sick employees to stay home

Chances are the employee with a sniffle doesn’t have Coronavirus, but it’s always wisest to be on the safe side, especially if they’ve recently been overseas or had close contact with someone who has. Make it known that employees need to stay home if they’re sick. And encourage employees to keep their vaccinations up to date, as eliminating the spread of other illnesses will reduce pressure on health services by reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

Set up good hygiene practices at your workplace

 

Seek professional advice

 

If you’re unsure about any aspect of how you can maintain and update your business networks to allow employees to work remotely, contact Mac Aid for help. We can advise you on how best to manage your IT infrastructure to help prevent your business grinding to a halt, and tailor an individual solution to your unique requirements. Don’t just sit back and hope this whole crisis will disappear soon. Get your business continuity plans in place today and help shield your business – and your livelihood – from the Coronavirus fallout.