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Apple Starts Releasing Rapid Security Responses for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac

By now, you’ve probably seen a new form of update for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS: the Rapid Security Response. Early in May, Apple released the first instances of these updates, which the company had promised for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS 13 Ventura when those operating systems were first announced. Let’s answer some of the questions we’ve been hearing.

What are Rapid Security Responses?

Rapid Security Responses are security updates that Apple wants to distribute as quickly and broadly as possible. Users often delay installing standard operating system updates because they’re huge downloads, interrupt work for a long time while installing, and occasionally cause new problems.

To address these concerns, Rapid Security Responses are much smaller, install far more quickly (sometimes without a restart), and can easily be removed if they cause problems.

What security vulnerabilities do Rapid Security Responses address?

Apple released no security notes for its first set of Rapid Security Responses, and we don’t anticipate that changing for future releases. The point of a Rapid Security Response is to block a serious vulnerability that’s likely being exploited in the wild, and Apple doesn’t describe such fixes until it has patched vulnerable operating systems, including older versions, tvOS, and watchOS, none of which can take advantage of Rapid Security Responses. If this last set of updates is any indication, Apple will identify the Rapid Security Response fixes in security notes for the next full operating system update, which will also include the same fixes.

How do I install a Rapid Security Response?

Rapid Security Responses use the same software update mechanism as Apple’s other operating system updates. You can and generally should let Rapid Security Responses install automatically. That’s the default, but check to make sure.

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates, and look at “Security Responses & System Files.”
  • macOS: Go to System Settings > General > Software Update, and click the ⓘ next to Automatic Updates. Then look at “Install Security Responses and system files.”

On recent iPhones and Macs, the installation time was quick, with the device being ready to use again within 2–4 minutes, including a restart. Older devices took longer, and future Rapid Security Responses may take more or less time.

How can I revert if a Rapid Security Response causes a problem?

Apple makes this easy in both iOS/iPadOS and macOS, with the amount of time being roughly similar to how long the Rapid Security Response took to install:

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > About > iOS/iPadOS Version, tap Remove Security Response, and confirm the action.
  • macOS: Go to System Settings > General > About, click the ⓘ next to the macOS version, click Remove & Restart, and confirm the action.

How can I tell if I’m running a Rapid Security Response?

With this first Rapid Security Response, iOS and iPadOS both posted a notification informing the user of the update; macOS did not.

More generally, devices updated with a Rapid Security Response will have a letter after their version number, such as 16.4.1 (a), and the letter will disappear with the next full update, such as iOS 16.5. To determine what version your devices are running:

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > About, and look at the iOS/iPadOS Version line.
  • macOS: Choose About This Mac from the Apple menu, and look at the macOS line.

Given what we know now, we recommend that everyone install Rapid Security Responses as soon as they’re available. If you notice a problem afterward, you can remove it. The only caveat is that if your employer manages your device, they may prefer to delay the Rapid Security Response installation until they’re comfortable with the changes.

(Featured image by iStock.com/champpixs)


Social Media: In an effort to protect users from security vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited, Apple has introduced Rapid Security Responses, which are security updates that are quick to download, quick to install, and easily removed if necessary.

Make Sure to Back Up iPhone Photos on Your Mac

If your iPhone were to be stolen or suffer an unfortunate accident, would you lose all your precious photos? Those using iCloud Photos are probably shaking their heads smugly, thinking that all those baby and vacation photos are backed up securely in iCloud. iCloud Photos does indeed store a copy of all your photos, but you shouldn’t assume that everything in it is completely protected. Although it’s extremely unlikely that Apple’s systems would fail so that you’d lose anything, the contents of your iCloud account aren’t as safe as would be ideal.

An Aside to Explain Why iCloud Isn’t Perfectly Secure

Recently, Wall Street Journal reporters Joanna Stern and Nicole Nguyen covered a troubling form of crime aimed at iPhone users in an article (paywalled) and accompanying video. Thieves hang out in bars, looking for users who tap in their passcodes instead of using Face ID or Touch ID. Once they’ve learned someone’s passcode with surreptitious shoulder surfing, they grab the iPhone and run. As soon as they’re clear, they use the passcode to change the user’s Apple ID password and enable or reset a recovery key, which prevents the user from employing Find My to locate and lock the iPhone. Worse, with the passcode, they can make purchases with Apple Pay, access all passwords in iCloud Keychain, and use other information on the iPhone to facilitate identity theft. It’s a disaster.

But it gets worse, as the reporters detail in a new Wall Street Journal article (paywalled) and video. By enabling a recovery key, the thief disables Apple’s normal account recovery process for resetting the Apple ID password. In other words, if this were to happen to you, along with all the financial losses and headaches, you would lose access to your iCloud account, possibly forever, and with it, all your photos in iCloud. With luck, Apple will block this attack soon.

For now, follow this commonsense advice to reduce the chances of being victimized:

  • Pay attention to your iPhone’s physical security in public.
  • Always use Face ID or Touch ID in public.
  • If you must enter your passcode in public, conceal it from anyone nearby.
  • Never share your passcode beyond highly trusted family members.

Backing Up Your iPhone Photos

As with so many other modern ills, good backups go a long way toward minimizing the pain of problems. They won’t prevent someone from stealing your iPhone or locking you out of your account, but if that were to happen, at least you won’t lose all your photos!

There are two possible backup scenarios. Using iCloud Photos and downloading originals to your Mac is easiest but requires that you pay Apple for more storage if you have more than a handful of photos. If you don’t use iCloud Photos, you can just back up your iPhone to your Mac or, better yet, import images into Photos on the Mac and then sync them back. It’s more work and fussier, but doesn’t cost anything.

  • iCloud Photos: When using iCloud Photos, the trick to protecting your pictures is to sync the originals with your Mac. In Photos > Settings/Preferences > iCloud, select Download Originals to this Mac. The only downside of this approach is that you need enough disk space on your Mac to hold them all; if that’s not the case, you may need to move your system Photos Library to an external hard drive.
  • iPhone-only photos: If you aren’t using iCloud Photos, the best approach is to connect your iPhone to your Mac using a USB-to-Lightning cable or Wi-Fi and then import new snapshots into Photos on your Mac manually (select the iPhone in the Photos sidebar). It’s helpful to remove the original photos from the iPhone with the Delete Items checkbox after importing so you can manage them solely on the Mac.

    Then you can sync all the photos (or just desired ones, if your iPhone is low on space) back to your iPhone using the Finder. First, select the iPhone in a Finder window’s sidebar. Then click Photos in the button bar at the top, and select “Sync photos to your device from Photos” along with “All photos and albums” and “Include videos” in the options below. Finally, click Apply or Sync.

    Technically speaking, backing up your iPhone to your Mac without syncing to Photos also backs up your photos, but the only way to get them back is to restore a backup onto an iPhone. It’s much better to have all the photos accessible in Photos too.

Either way, once the photos are on your Mac, you should back up all your data using Time Machine, an Internet service like Backblaze, or a third-party app like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper. If you’re concerned about the quality of your backups for preserving photos, contact us for advice.

(Featured image by iStock.com/metamorworks)


Social Media: With new reports of iPhone theft victims being locked out of their iCloud accounts, it’s all the more important that you copy your iPhone photos to a Mac and then back up that Mac.

How Often Should Macs Be Replaced?

It’s a question as old as the personal computer. When should you replace your current Mac with a new model that’s faster and more capable? If money were no object, the answer would be easy—whenever you feel like it. For the rest of us, and particularly for organizations with multiple Macs and limited budgets, the question is harder to answer. But answer it we must because most of us can’t do our jobs without a Mac.

Let’s first look at some of the things that might encourage you to upgrade:

  • Performance and resale value: Many companies and large organizations swap out their Macs every 3 to 5 years. That’s considered the sweet spot where performance starts to decline, but resale value remains relatively high. Plus, Macs of that age start to have more problems that may require repair, resulting in lost productivity due to downtime.
  • Hardware limitations: At some point, you might feel your Mac is too slow—you’re seeing the spinning beachball frequently, or tasks are taking too long to complete. Another common concern crops up when you frequently have to shuffle files around to deal with low disk space on the startup drive. Or perhaps the battery life of a Mac laptop isn’t always sufficient for your needs—losing hours of productivity while on an airplane without seat power can be problematic.
  • macOS support: Although there’s no requirement that you run the latest version of macOS, being unable to upgrade is a hint that your Mac is getting older. Apple provides security updates for the two versions of macOS before the current one, so if your Mac can’t stay within that update circle, it will become more vulnerable to security exploits.
  • Physical damage: Macs are fairly durable, which often keeps them running even when the screen is cracked, a key sticks sometimes, or the case has been dented. The more damage your Mac has, the more likely it is that something else will go wrong, potentially at an inconvenient time.
  • General flakiness: It’s hard to quantify this, but an older Mac might start to feel slow, crash more often, or act weirdly. Sometimes those problems can be resolved by reinstalling macOS and apps from scratch, but that’s a lot of work and far from guaranteed.
  • Repair support: Apple guarantees that it will provide parts and service for all products within 5 years of when Apple last distributed them for sale. After that, Apple considers the products “vintage” for the next 2 years and will repair them subject to parts availability. Apple considers products pulled from the market more than 7 years before to be “obsolete” and won’t repair them apart from Mac laptops that are eligible for an additional battery-only repair period.
  • Shiny new Mac: Sometimes, it’s easy to delay a new Mac purchase because none of the Macs seem quite right. At other times, however, the exact Mac you want will be released just when you need it, making for an easy decision.

With those variables in mind, let us offer recommendations for different audiences:

  • Large-fleet organizations: It’s probably not worth the time to consider the needs of every employee in the context of what Mac they have. Instead, create a policy for replacing Macs on a 3- to-5-year schedule you can build into your annual budget. When it’s time to replace a particular Mac, swap it out for a comparable new model and send the old one to a resale organization.
  • Small-fleet organizations: For companies and nonprofits with a smaller number of Macs and a smaller budget, stick with the same 3- to 5-year schedule, but instead of automatically replacing each Mac as its number comes up, use it as an opportunity to evaluate the user’s needs and then either replace the Mac or set the next evaluation date. You may end up replacing Macs slightly less often, perhaps every 4 to 6 years. It’s also more likely that old Macs will be handed down rather than resold.
  • Creatives and freelancers: If you live and die by the work you can accomplish on your Mac, pay regular attention to whether your Mac is meeting your needs. You’ll probably start to notice issues in 3 to 5 years, and as soon as you do, start watching Apple’s releases to see what new Mac might be the best replacement. Also, consider saving a small amount per month with the idea that you’ll have enough to buy your new Mac about the time the old one noticeably starts to cut into your productivity.
  • Home users: As long as the Mac meets your needs and can run a version of macOS that’s receiving security updates, there’s no harm in continuing to use it for 8 years or more. However, if it starts to need hardware repairs and repeated consultant visits, that’s an indication that you should spend the money on a new Mac instead. Once it can no longer run a supported version of macOS, it’s time for a replacement.
  • Fixed budgets: We get it—sometimes there’s no money for a new Mac. Assuming you can accomplish what you need to do and avoid sketchy parts of the Internet, go ahead and run your current Mac into the ground. It could last 10 years or more. And when it comes time to replace it, there’s no shame in looking to the used market—all those Macs that others are replacing often come up for sale at bargain prices.

We hope this has given you some structure for thinking about replacing Macs, whether you’re worried about the Mac on your desk or all those in the entire design department. And, of course, feel free to contact us for help putting together a replacement schedule.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Prykhodov)


Social Media: When should you replace the Mac on your desk—or your organization’s Macs? There is no single answer, but we run down some variables that play into the decision and make recommendations for different use cases.

Is Your Wi-Fi Network a Security Risk?

With Wi-Fi security, it’s easy to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” trap. Your Wi-Fi router probably lives in a corner or closet, and of course, Wi-Fi’s radio waves are invisible. But the ease of connecting your devices to your Wi-Fi network means it’s equally as easy for a hacker to connect to your network and eavesdrop on your traffic. Or rather, it’s easy unless you take advantage of the security options available in every Wi-Fi router.

Before looking at those options, let’s discuss the importance of securing your wireless network. The fact is, we all send sensitive data over Wi-Fi and onto the Internet. That data includes passwords, financial information, and personal details, all of which could be used for identity or outright theft. For those who work at home, it may also include important corporate credentials and information. In addition, if your Wi-Fi network is open for everyone and has a bandwidth cap, you could be throttled or incur additional charges due to extra usage from someone using your network without your knowledge. Worse, someone could engage in illegal activity from your network, potentially putting you at legal risk.

Here are six ways you should secure your Wi-Fi network, plus another that’s usually not worth the effort. Exactly how you go about these tasks varies depending on your Wi-Fi router, but they should all be easy to accomplish.

1. Change Your Wi-Fi Router’s Default Password

Every Wi-Fi router has an app- or Web-based administrative interface where you can adjust settings, including security options. The first thing you should do when setting up a new Wi-Fi router is change the password for accessing that admin interface. (And if you didn’t do that when you set up your current Wi-Fi router, go do it now. Immediately. We’ll wait.) The default passwords are well known to hackers, who can use them to take over routers and turn off all the other security settings.

2. Change the Default Network Name (SSID)

Every Wi-Fi network has a name—technically an SSID, or Service Set Identifier. There’s no security benefit in changing it to anything in particular, but you should change it from the default name. That’s because default names often identify the router’s manufacturer, such as “Netgear” or “Linksys,” and some routers have known vulnerabilities or password styles that make it easier to break in. Of course, the main advantage of changing the network name is that it makes it easier to pick out from any other nearby networks.

3. Update Your Wi-Fi Router’s Firmware

Wi-Fi router manufacturers frequently fix security vulnerabilities and release new firmware versions. Check to make sure your Wi-Fi router has the latest firmware available, and if there’s an option for it to update its firmware automatically, turn that on.

4. Disable WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) If Possible

When you connect a new device to your Wi-Fi network, you need to enter your Wi-Fi password. That’s entirely reasonable, and Apple devices automatically offer to share that password with your other Apple devices and other people in your Contacts. More generally, a technology called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) was designed to enable connecting without typing the Wi-Fi password, either by entering an 8-digit PIN or pressing a button on the router. The button is fine—no one can connect without physical access to the router. But the PIN is horribly insecure and can be brute forced with readily available cracking software. If your router supports WPS—not all do, happily—turn it off entirely.

5. Create a Guest Network

You’ll probably want to give visitors access to your Wi-Fi network so they can get to the Internet. The best way to do that is to create a guest network—a feature in nearly all Wi-Fi routers—separate from your main Wi-Fi network. It has a different name and password, and its traffic is isolated from yours, ensuring that even if a hacker were to access it, they wouldn’t be able to eavesdrop on your communications. It can have a simpler password since all it’s protecting is your bandwidth. One additional tip—put “Internet of Things” devices like smart appliances, video game consoles, and the like on your guest network to ensure they don’t provide access to your main network’s traffic if they’re hacked. You probably won’t want to do that with HomeKit devices, which will work better on the same network as your Apple devices.

6. Use Strong WPA2 or WPA3 Encryption

After changing the default admin password, this is the second-most important piece of Wi-Fi security advice. All traffic on a Wi-Fi network can (and should) be encrypted so hackers can’t eavesdrop with impunity. The first wireless security protocol was WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), which was commonly used from the late 1990s through 2004. Unfortunately, WEP is so easily broken today that it’s no longer considered secure. If you still use WEP, immediately switch to WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). There’s also WPA3, which is even more secure but is available only in hardware sold in the last few years.

Don’t Bother Hiding Your SSID

Finally, you may see suggestions that you should hide your Wi-Fi SSID, which prevents nearby devices from displaying it when they list available networks. That might seem like it would improve security, but all it does is prevent the sort of people who aren’t a threat anyway from seeing it. Anyone with the necessary software and skills to break into an unprotected or weakly protected Wi-Fi network can still detect and access a hidden network. They might even be more interested in what’s there, given that the network owner took the trouble to hide it. As long as you follow all the other advice in this article, there’s no benefit in hiding the SSID as well.

Bonus Advice: Use a VPN When on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Ensuring the security of your Wi-Fi network is essential, but what about public Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, hotels, and airports? Because they’re open to anyone within range, they’re insecure by definition, and anyone on the network could theoretically see any other user’s traffic. Don’t panic. Most Web connections now use HTTPS, which encrypts traffic between you and the destination site (look for https at the start of URLs or a lock icon in the address bar of your Web browser). To ensure that all traffic is protected from prying eyes, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which creates an encrypted pipe from your computer to a VPN server elsewhere. Many organizations provide or even require VPN use so that traveling or remote employees can’t inadvertently use unencrypted connections. If your organization doesn’t have a VPN now but would like to set one up, contact us.

(Featured image by iStock.com/CASEZY)


Social Media: As more personal and work information passes through Wi-Fi networks, it becomes increasingly important that you follow this advice to secure your network.

You Can Now Upgrade to macOS 13 Ventura When You’re Ready

When upgrading to a new version of macOS, we err on the side of caution, at least in our recommendations. (We’ve been using macOS 13 Ventura for some time now and often install beta releases on secondary machines for testing purposes.) Upgrading is easy, but if you upgrade too soon, the new macOS version could make key apps inoperable, create workflow interruptions, or cause other negative consequences. On the other hand, waiting too long can cause problems—it’s important to stay in sight of the cutting edge for security reasons and to take advantage of Apple’s advances. Upgrading is not an if question; it’s a when question.

That when could be now. There’s no reason you must upgrade to macOS 13 Ventura right away, but if you want to, you should now be able to do so without undue interruptions. Ventura has been quite stable and has received only three updates since its initial release in October 2022:

  • macOS 13.0.1 provided just unspecified bug fixes and two security fixes.
  • macOS 13.1 introduced the Freeform digital whiteboard app, Advanced Data Protection for iCloud, improved searching for photos in Messages, participant cursors for shared notes in Notes, and the option to play sounds in the Find My app. There were also a couple of bug fixes and important security fixes.
  • macOS 13.2 added support for Security Keys for Apple ID for those who need the utmost security, fixed a few bugs, and blocked more security vulnerabilities.

Apple may have another feature or two up its sleeve for Ventura, and we’ll undoubtedly see more updates to address bugs and newfound security vulnerabilities, but there’s no significant reason to wait any longer.

That said, you can continue to delay as long as you’re running macOS 11 Big Sur or macOS 12 Monterey and are staying up to date with Apple’s security releases. (Both have received important updates recently.) Earlier versions of macOS no longer receive security fixes, rendering them more vulnerable to attack. Reasons to delay include:

  • You’re too busy. The upgrade process will take a few hours, and it may take additional time to configure everything properly afterward. When you are ready to upgrade, aim for when a little downtime will be convenient.
  • You’re still using incompatible software. The jump from Big Sur or Monterey to Ventura isn’t a big one, so most modern apps should have been updated to ensure compatibility with Monterey by now. But if you’re still running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier with 32-bit apps, you’ll lose access to them if you upgrade. (That first happened with macOS 10.15 Catalina in 2019.) With Mojave no longer receiving security updates, you need to find replacements for those apps and upgrade soon.
  • You need consistent versions for workflow reasons. We’re unaware of any examples here, but it’s not inconceivable that a coworker could be stuck on an older version of macOS and thus older versions of shared productivity apps. If your upgrade would force you to update those apps and introduce compatibility issues when collaborating with that coworker, you may have to wait until your coworker can upgrade as well.

Ventura won’t upend your experience of using a Mac, but it has numerous useful features, large and small. Along with the features mentioned above that shipped in updates, the new iCloud Shared Photo Library enables you to share photos and videos with up to five family members in a separate shared library. Stage Manager provides a new paradigm for window management. Messages lets you edit messages, undo sending, and mark conversations as unread. Similarly, Mail lets you undo sending, schedule messages to send later, and get follow-up reminders for replying. For better videoconferencing quality, Continuity Camera enables you to use your iPhone as a webcam, complete with Desk View for showing what’s on your desk during a call. The Mac finally gets its own Weather app. Perhaps even more important, Ventura shares some of these features with Apple’s other operating systems: iOS 16, iPadOS 16, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16. To take full advantage of those features across all your Apple devices, your Mac must be running Ventura.

However, we want to be upfront about one downside to upgrading to Ventura. Apple replaced System Preferences with System Settings. While we wouldn’t have described System Preferences as having a stellar user interface, it was at least familiar after decades of use. The new System Settings, which tries to mimic the Settings app in iOS and iPadOS, moves numerous settings around and makes some odd and unfortunate design decisions. You may find yourself relying heavily on its search field to find commonly used options.

Before You Upgrade

Once you’ve decided to upgrade to Ventura, you have three main tasks:

  • Update apps: Make sure all your apps are as up-to-date as possible. If you regularly put off updates, now’s the time to let them complete so you have Ventura-compatible versions.
  • Clear space: Ventura needs about 25 GB of free space to upgrade, and the Ventura installer itself is about 12 GB, so we recommend making sure you have at least 37 GB free. Don’t cut this close—you should always have at least 10–20% free space for virtual memory, cache files, and breathing room. Check by choosing About This Mac from the Apple menu and then clicking Storage.
  • Make a backup: Never, ever install an update to macOS without ensuring that you have at least one current backup first. In an ideal world, you’d have an updated Time Machine backup, a bootable duplicate, and an Internet backup. That way, if something goes wrong, you can easily restore.

Upgrading

After completing the above-listed tasks, ensure you don’t need your Mac for a few hours. There’s no telling exactly how long the upgrade will take, so never start an upgrade if you need the Mac soon.

Initiating the upgrade is just a matter of opening System Preferences > Software Update, clicking the Upgrade Now button, and following the instructions. If you’d like more handholding, check out Joe Kissell’s ebook Take Control of Ventura.

After You Upgrade

Part of the reason to set aside plenty of time for your Ventura upgrade is that there are usually cleanup tasks afterward. We can’t predict precisely what you’ll run into, depending on what version of macOS you’re running now and what apps you use, but here are a few situations we’ve noticed in the past:

  • macOS may need to update its authentication situation by asking for your Apple ID password, your Mac’s password, and if you have another Mac, its password too. Don’t worry that your Mac has been compromised by malware—it’s fine.
  • Some apps may have to ask for various permissions even though you previously granted them. Again, that’s fine and won’t happen again.
  • If you use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and apps (and you should, it’s great!), you may need to re-enable that in System Settings > Touch ID & Password (it’s an example of something that moved; previously, it was in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General).
  • If you use Gmail, Google Calendar, or other Google services, you may need to log in to your Google account again.
  • Websites that usually remember your login state may require that you log in again. If you’re using a password manager like 1Password, that’s easy.
  • You may have to re-enable text message forwarding to your Mac. You do this on your iPhone in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.

With all that housekeeping done, it’s time to check out all the new features in Ventura!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Should you upgrade to macOS 13 Ventura? There’s no need to install it today, but we think it’s now safe for those who want to take advantage of the new features and integration with Apple’s other operating systems. Details here:

Apple Powers Mac mini and MacBook Pro with New M2 Chips, Releases New HomePod

With a handful of press releases buttressed by a 19-minute video, Apple pulled back the curtains on its new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced updated Mac mini and MacBook Pro models that rely on the new chips. There are no significant design or feature changes with these updated models, just faster performance, enhanced external display support, and support for the latest wireless connectivity standards. The new Mac mini and MacBook Pro models are available to order now, with units in stores and orders starting to arrive on January 24th.

Then, in another surprise announcement, Apple announced the second-generation HomePod, which updates the full-size smart speaker with a few new features and likely makes it more cost-effective to produce.

New M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac Broaden the Appeal

For many years, the Mac mini has been popular for its small size, low price, and decent performance, bolstered in 2020 by a move from Intel CPUs to Apple’s M1 chip. Apple has now increased the Mac mini’s power even more by letting users choose between the M2 and the new M2 Pro. How much more? It depends greatly on what you’re doing, and Apple offers some comparisons. The improvements will likely be noticeable with the M2 and obvious with the M2 Pro.

The M2 Mac mini starts at $599—$100 less than the starting price for the M1 Mac mini—and provides an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU with unified memory configurations of 8 GB, 16 GB (add $200), or 24 GB ($400). In terms of storage, the base level is 256 GB, but you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800). It provides only two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1299 for a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, but you can bump that up to an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU for $300. You also get 16 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of storage for that base price. 32 GB of memory costs $400 more, and storage upgrades are 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400). It offers more connectivity with four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Note that as you configure a powerful M2 Mac mini, you’ll be straying into Mac Studio territory in terms of both price and performance.

Both Mac mini models boast enhanced external display support. Read the tech specs for full details, but in essence, along with multiple monitor support over Thunderbolt, the HDMI port on an M2 Pro Mac mini supports either an 8K display or a 4K display running at a faster refresh rate, which might be a boon in video-focused fields. Other improvements that may be welcome in specific setups include the option to add 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100, support for Wi-Fi 6E (which can improve throughput over short distances with a new router), and Bluetooth 5.3.

The updated Mac mini replaces both the M1 Mac mini and the Intel-based Mac mini that Apple had left in the lineup until now.

It probably won’t be long before Apple releases an M2 24-inch iMac, too. We know that some are pining for a 27-inch iMac with Apple silicon, and we’ll just have to wait to see if Apple returns to that form factor with either an iMac or iMac Pro. We can also expect M2 versions of the Mac Studio at some point, but we’ll have to wait for Apple to come out with an M2 Ultra chip if it’s to maintain the same lineup as today’s M1 family.

M2 Pro and M2 Max Speed Up 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro

Since their October 2021 release, Apple’s professional laptops, the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, have provided impressive processing power thanks to their M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Apple has now switched to the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and the company says that both offer 20% more CPU performance, 30% more GPU performance, and 40% more Neural Engine performance than their predecessors. As with the Mac mini, the updated MacBook Pro models also feature enhanced external display support (see the tech specs for full details), Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. Finally, Apple estimates they’ll have an hour more battery life.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 for an M2 Pro with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/19-core (CPU/GPU) M2 Pro ($300), the 12/30 M2 Max ($500), and the 12/38 M2 Max ($700). With memory, the M2 Pro configurations can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), whereas the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

The 16-inch MacBook Pro costs $2499 for an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/30 M2 Max ($200) and the 12/38 M2 Max ($400). Memory is the same as with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so the M2 Pro configuration can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), and the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

Given that these new MacBook Pro models provide more performance and battery life for the same prices as before, their release is entirely positive. If you were waiting for an M2 Pro or M2 Max laptop, now’s the time to place an order.

Apple Brings Back the Full-Size HomePod

Apple released the original HomePod in 2018, but even after dropping the price from $349 to $299, sales weren’t strong enough thanks to competition from much cheaper smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Apple discontinued the HomePod in 2021 and focused on the $99 HomePod mini. Now Apple has brought the full-size HomePod back, introducing a second-generation HomePod with a few extra features and the same $299 price. You can order it now in white or midnight, which replaces space gray, and it ships on February 3rd.

The new HomePod supports spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for music and video, which should enhance the listening experience. For those getting into home automation, it includes a sensor for temperature and humidity, and you’ll be able to use the Home app to create automations to control blinds, fans, and thermostats. It also supports the new Matter home automation standard. Finally, Apple says that a software update in a few months will add Sound Recognition, which will let the HomePod alert you if it hears smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Wouldn’t you like to know if an alarm is going off while you’re away from home?

One note. You can use two HomePods to create a stereo pair, but both HomePods must be the same model. So you can’t pair an original HomePod with a second-generation HomePod or mix an HomePod mini with either one.

The main question, which we won’t be able to answer until the second-generation HomePod ships, is if it sounds as good as the original HomePod and hears Siri commands as well. That’s a question because Apple redesigned the HomePod’s audio hardware to use fewer tweeters and microphones. Plus, it relies on the S7 chip that powers the Apple Watch Series 7, as opposed to the A8 that first appeared in the iPhone 6. In short, it seems that Apple has worked to cut costs to enable the necessary profit margins. Given that Amazon’s hardware division reportedly lost $10 billion in 2022 by selling Echo smart speakers at cost, Apple’s move seems sensible, at least as long as it doesn’t hurt the HomePod user experience.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has unveiled the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced the M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac mini, plus the M2 Pro and M2 Max models of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Oh, and a new HomePod! Read all about it at:

Copy Gigabytes of Data Between Macs with Target Disk Mode

Apple makes it easy to move data between Macs. You can send files via AirDrop, attach them to an email message, put them in a Messages conversation, turn on and connect via File Sharing, or use a file-sharing service like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive as an intermediary, to name just a few of the more obvious approaches.

But what if you have a lot of data—say tens or even hundreds of gigabytes—to transfer from one Mac to another? The techniques listed above might work, but we wouldn’t bet on it. If you had an external drive with sufficient free space handy, you could copy all the data to it from one Mac and then copy the data from it to another Mac. To cut the copy time in half, try Target Disk Mode instead. You may even be able to use Target Disk Mode on an older Mac to transfer an account with Migration Assistant when setting up a new Mac.

What Is Target Disk Mode?

Target Disk Mode is a special boot mode for Intel-based Macs and an option in macOS Recovery on Macs with Apple silicon that enables one Mac to behave like an external drive for another Mac. Target Disk Mode is nearly universal, easy to set up, and one of the fastest methods of moving files between Macs. Let’s unpack that statement:

  • Nearly universal: Every Mac sold in the last decade supports Target Disk Mode, so you can be sure it will work with any modern Mac. That’s true of both Intel-based Macs and Macs with Apple silicon.
  • Easy setup: Because Apple has baked Target Disk Mode into the Mac firmware, the version of macOS is irrelevant beyond the Thunderbolt cable requirement discussed below. There’s no software to configure nor any permissions to worry about. Putting a Mac into Target Disk Mode is particularly simple on Intel-based Macs, but it’s also easy on Macs with Apple silicon.
  • Speed: Because you’re connecting one Mac directly to another using Thunderbolt, you’ll get the fastest transfer speeds available.

If either Mac has macOS 11 Big Sur or later installed, you’ll need to connect them with a Thunderbolt cable—it’s fine to use Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter for connecting newer and older Thunderbolt-capable Macs. If both Macs are running an earlier version of macOS, you can use Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire, depending on the available ports. (Note that the Apple USB-C Charge Cable that comes with the Apple power adapter doesn’t support Target Disk Mode, so if that’s the cable you were planning to use, sorry, but you’ll need to buy a real Thunderbolt cable.)

Step-by-Step Instructions for Intel-based Macs

To put an Intel-based Mac into Target Disk Mode for copying data, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac with an appropriate cable.
  2. On the source Mac, either:
    • Restart the Mac, and once it starts booting, hold down the T key until you see the Target Disk Mode screen with a bouncing Thunderbolt logo.
    • Open System Settings/Preferences > Startup Disk, click Target Disk Mode, and then click Restart.
  3. The source Mac’s data and applications volume appears on the destination Mac’s Desktop like an external drive; if the source Mac is encrypted with FileVault, give it a minute to appear on the destination Mac, after which you’ll need to enter its password.
  4. Transfer the files as you would normally.
  5. When you’re done, unmount the source Mac’s drive by dragging it to the Trash in the Dock. Then press and hold the power button on the source Mac for a few seconds to shut it down.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Macs with Apple Silicon

The process is somewhat more involved for Macs with Apple silicon, where the shared drive or volume appears like a network volume:

  1. Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac with an appropriate cable.
  2. On the Mac with Apple silicon, choose Shut Down from the Apple menu to turn it off.
  3. Press and hold the power button until “Loading startup options” appears.
  4. Click Options, and then click Continue to enter macOS Recovery.
  5. Select a user, click Next, enter the user’s password, and click Continue.
  6. Choose Utilities > Share Disk.
  7. Select the drive or volume you want to share, and click Start Sharing. (If the drive is encrypted using FileVault, click Unlock and enter the FileVault password first.)
  8. On the destination Mac, open a Finder window and click Network (under Locations) at the bottom of the sidebar.
  9. In the Network window, double-click the Mac with the shared drive or volume, click Connect As, select Guest in the Connect As window, and then click Connect. The shared drive or volume becomes available like any other external hard drive.
  10. Transfer the files as you would normally.
  11. When you’re done, unmount the shared drive or volume by dragging it to the Trash, then click Stop Sharing on the source Mac.

Although it’s not something you’ll use every day, Target Disk Mode is one of the unsung innovations that has made Macs easier to use for decades, and it’s well worth keeping in mind whenever you need to move lots of data between machines.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Social Media: If you have to move tens or hundreds of gigabytes of data between Macs, give Target Disk Mode a try. It’s fast, easy, and reliable. Details here:

Practice with the Emergency SOS via Satellite Demo, Just in Case

In mid-November, Apple launched its new Emergency SOS via satellite feature for the iPhone 14 lineup. If you have an iPhone 14 and find yourself in an emergency situation in the US or Canada without cellular or Wi-Fi service, you can still contact emergency services. Apple says the service will expand to France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK in December 2022. The service is free for 2 years, and Apple hasn’t said what it will cost after that.

The challenge we users face with Emergency SOS via satellite is that it works only when you have no cellular or Wi-Fi service, and nearly all the time when you’re in such a situation, there’s no emergency. So if something bad does happen when you’re far from civilization, you may not be in the best state of mind to use Emergency SOS for the first time.

Apple has thought of that and provides two ways to get some experience talking to a satellite. One is the Emergency SOS via satellite demo, which you can try anytime. Or, for a real-world test of the system when you have no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage, you can try sharing your location via satellite using the Find My app. Once you’re outside with a clear view of the sky, here’s what to do.

Emergency SOS via Satellite Demo

To get started with the Emergency SOS via satellite demo, go to Settings > Emergency SOS, scroll down, and tap Try Demo. First, the iPhone walks you through several screens that turn off cellular, explain how the system works, and tell you that in a real emergency, you’ll answer a series of standard questions to help the dispatcher send the help you need.

Next, the demo teaches you how to find and connect to a satellite. Along with asking you to turn left or right—follow the arrows on the locator until it turns green—the demo may tell you that you have to wait for a few minutes until another satellite comes into range.

You won’t run through the same questionnaire you would in a real emergency, though. Instead, you get canned texts that mimic the conversation you might have with a real dispatcher. You can reply however you want, but it won’t change the responses. When you finish, tap End Demo.

Remember, in a real emergency, you’d dial 911 or invoke Emergency SOS by holding the side button and either volume button until the Emergency SOS slider appears. The call won’t work, but you’ll be able to start the Emergency SOS via satellite process for real.

Share Your Location with Find My via Satellite

As welcome as Emergency SOS via satellite will be if you ever need it, Find My via satellite may have more real-world utility right now. It enables you to share your location manually via the Find My app, regardless of the situation. Once you complete the process, anyone with whom you share your location generally will be able to see the updated-via-satellite location.

To get started in your cellular-free location, open the Find My app, tap Me in the toolbar, and tap Send My Location.

Find My will then start directing you to turn left and right, holding your iPhone up to the sky and pointing it at the satellite. A circular direction-finder shows which way to go and when you’re pointing in the right direction. If it fails (as it did in the lower-left message below), you’ll be directed to get a clear view of the horizon. If you’re in a deep valley, climbing higher may solve the problem, as it did in our test. The process isn’t quick, but the constant feedback and progress bar ensures that you feel like it’s doing something the entire time.

It’s important to realize that no one will be notified of your location, and you have no other way to communicate with people via satellite. So you’ll want to make plans with a friend or family member before you go into a situation where you could need help without having cellular service. Have a conversation beforehand so they know to look for you in Find My if you don’t get in touch by a predetermined time.

It would be nice if you could notify family or friends of your location for situations where you’d like help but don’t need emergency services. In the future, Apple could use the Send My Current Location option in Messages, but that doesn’t work via satellite now. Regardless, Emergency SOS and Find My via satellite are tremendously impressive, and we expect Apple to enhance the iPhone’s satellite communication capabilities in future iPhones and versions of iOS.

(Featured image by iStock.com/AntonioFrancois)


Social Media: For iPhone 14 owners, the future is here today with Emergency SOS and Find My via satellite, which let you contact emergency services and share your location by talking to a communications satellite. Learn how to try it here:

Apple Is Driving the iPhone to eSIM: Here’s What You Need to Know

Perhaps the most surprising change in the iPhone 14 line, at least in the United States, was the shift from using removable SIM cards to eSIM.

SIM cards—SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module—have been a fixture in the mobile phone world for many years because they provide the unique identification necessary to connect a subscriber and a plan with a phone. Because SIM cards are removable, you can use them to transfer an existing plan to a new phone, switch carriers, or enable temporary service while traveling—all by inserting the appropriate SIM card.

But SIM cards are small, fussy, and require physical interaction, so the industry came up with eSIM, or embedded SIM, where a programmable SIM is integrated into the circuitry of the phone. With eSIM, you can also activate a plan, transfer a plan to a new phone, or change carriers, typically without interacting with customer service. You also don’t have to acquire a physical SIM, figure out how to open your phone’s SIM tray, or insert the tiny SIM card in the correct orientation without dropping or damaging it. Plus, without a SIM slot and tray, iPhones have one less spot where water could get in and one less moving part that could break, and Apple doesn’t have to provide a SIM tool that you’ll likely lose (and replace with a paperclip).

Apple’s eSIM Transition

eSIM support is widespread among US carriers but less so internationally, which is why models of the iPhone 14 sold outside the US retain the SIM tray. The main place where lack of eSIM support is likely to be an issue—at least for the near future—is international travel. Historically, it was easy to purchase a pre-paid SIM card for a local carrier in the airport upon arriving, but that will no longer work for a US iPhone 14. The iPhone is sufficiently popular that international carriers are adding eSIM support, but it’s still possible to travel to a country where you can’t get local service with an iPhone 14 due to the lack of a SIM tray. Apple maintains a list of international carriers that support eSIM in various ways, including with pre-paid plans for travelers, and offers advice on how to use eSIM when traveling. (eSIM isn’t available at all in mainland China, but Apple’s list includes worldwide service providers that sell pre-paid data plans you can use when traveling in China and other countries without eSIM support.)

Apple has been moving toward eSIM for several years, starting with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR in 2018. Those iPhones—and every model up to the iPhone 14—had both a SIM tray and eSIM, which enabled the use of two separate cellular plans, each with its own phone number. With the iPhone 13, Apple enabled Dual SIM support with eSIM alone, and some carriers started giving customers the option to activate their primary service with eSIM, leaving the SIM tray or the second eSIM available for a second plan. Apple says you can store and switch among up to eight or more eSIMs, two of which can be active at any time, but it’s unclear how that works—an update to iOS might be necessary.

Cellular-capable iPads have had eSIM support since the seventh-generation iPad, fifth-generation iPad mini, third-generation iPad Air, first-generation 11-inch iPad Pro, and third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

How to Activate an eSIM

Precisely how you activate an account with eSIM varies by carrier and your situation, but Apple describes three basic options:

  • eSIM Carrier Activation: Some carriers can assign a new eSIM to your iPhone, making it easy to switch to a new iPhone or enable an eSIM-based plan after setup. eSIM Carrier Activation involves following a few simple onscreen instructions where you basically acknowledge that activation is happening. Make sure you can place a phone call afterward, and if you’re switching from a SIM card, remove it and restart your iPhone.
  • eSIM Quick Transfer: If you’re transferring a SIM or eSIM from an old iPhone to a new one and you have both at hand, you may be able to use eSIM Quick Transfer. It will provide instructions during setup, or you can initiate it after setup with Settings > Cellular > Add Cellular Plan and either selecting a plan from a list or tapping Transfer From Another Device. You can also convert a physical SIM to an eSIM on the same phone if your carrier supports eSIM Quick Transfer; check to see if Settings > Cellular has a Convert to eSIM option. If so, tap it and follow the instructions.
  • Scan a QR code or use a carrier app: Carriers that don’t support eSIM Carrier Activation or eSIM Quick Transfer initiate setup by providing either a QR code you can scan—during setup or afterward—or a custom app. Either way, follow the iPhone’s instructions to complete the setup.

Although we’ve become accustomed to swapping SIM cards in and out of our iPhones such that eSIM feels new and confusing, it should be a better overall solution that’s easier to set up, less error-prone, and more secure. There may be some short-term annoyance for US iPhone 14 owners who travel internationally, but we anticipate that will dissipate over time as international carriers start supporting eSIM.

(Featured image by iStock.com/fz750)


Social Media: Apple has gone all-in on eSIM, eliminating the SIM tray from iPhone 14 models sold in the US. What’s eSIM? Glad you asked—read on for the details of the technology and why it’s better than SIM cards.

Apple Releases New iPad, iPad Pro, and Apple TV

In a series of press releases—no big video event this time—Apple has announced upgrades to the iPad, iPad Pro, and Apple TV. The new models are largely evolutionary, with changes that are welcome but unlikely to change your iPad or Apple TV experience. All are available to order now, with the new iPads arriving on October 26th and the new Apple TV hitting stores on November 4th.

One other note. iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura ship on October 24th. iPadOS 16 is probably safe to install soon, given the extent to which it’s similar to iOS 16, though the Stage Manager window management feature still has rough edges. Do not upgrade to Ventura until we’ve had a chance to evaluate its stability and compatibility.

New Tenth-Generation iPad Has iPad Air-like Design, Higher Price

The product receiving the most significant changes is the iPad, now in its tenth generation. Apple redesigned it to look and work more like the iPad Air, with squared-off sides, an all-screen design, a 10.9-inch display, USB-C instead of Lightning, and Touch ID in the top button. Also like the iPad Air, the iPad now has a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and features Wi-Fi 6 plus 5G support in the cellular models for faster connectivity. Perhaps most interestingly, Apple finally repositioned the front-facing 12-megapixel camera along the landscape (long) edge of the iPad so you’ll be looking into the camera for video calls. Oddly, the new iPad Pro models didn’t also receive this improvement.

Despite the similarities, the iPad Air retains its technical superiority (and justifies its higher price) in two big ways. First, the tenth-generation iPad relies on the A14 Bionic chip that’s faster than the ninth-generation iPad’s older A13 Bionic but slower than the iPad Air’s higher-performance M1 chip. Second, the tenth-generation iPad remains compatible only with the first-generation Apple Pencil, presumably because Apple left the wireless charging hardware out to cut costs. Since the new iPad switches from Lightning to USB-C, you’ll need a $9 USB-C to Lightning adapter to pair and charge the Lightning-based Apple Pencil—that’s awkward.

Apple also introduced a new keyboard exclusively for the tenth-generation iPad, the Magic Keyboard Folio. It features full-size keys, a large trackpad, and a 14-key function row. The two-piece design separates the keyboard from the back cover, so you can fold the keyboard behind the iPad or detach it entirely when you’re not using it. The back cover has an adjustable stand for positioning the iPad at several angles. It’s available only in white.

The only problem is that all these changes come at a cost. Historically, the iPad has been Apple’s best value, with the ninth-generation iPad’s price starting at just $329. The new tenth-generation iPad now starts at $449 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model. Add $150 if you prefer 256 GB of storage, and another $150 if you want cellular capabilities too. You can choose from blue, pink, yellow, and silver finishes.

So now, when pondering a full-size iPad, you have three options. The ninth-generation iPad remains available at $329 for those looking to pay the least. The tenth-generation iPad is now the middle choice at $449. And for those who want a better Apple Pencil experience, faster performance, and slightly better specs, the iPad Air starts at $599.

New iPad Pro Offers M2 Chip, Faster Wi-Fi, and Apple Pencil Hover

Apple has also updated the iPad Pro, but with fewer changes. Foremost among them is Apple’s M2 chip, which provides the iPad Pro with the ultimate in performance. The M2 enables users to capture ProRes video for the first time and to transcode ProRes video up to three times faster than before.

That said, only those already pushing the limits on the previous iPad Pro models should consider upgrading from the previous M1 models since the difference isn’t likely to be that noticeable for less demanding workflows. Similarly rarified is the move to Wi-Fi 6E, which supports wireless networking at up to 2.4 Gbps, or twice as fast as the previous generation. Apple also expanded the 5G networking for the cellular-capable models to support more 5G networks around the world.

The new iPad Pro can also detect when the second-generation Apple Pencil is hovering up to 12 millimeters above the screen, displaying a circle that helps you position the tip of the Apple Pencil more precisely.

The new iPad Pro retains the same pricing, with the 11-inch model starting at $799 and the 12.9-inch model starting at $1099.

Increasingly, Apple is targeting the iPad Pro at video, audio, and graphics professionals interested in iPad-focused workflows. If that’s you, the new iPad Pro is worthwhile; those just looking for a high-performance iPad would be more economically served by the M1 iPad Air, which is $200 less expensive.

Third-generation Apple TV 4K Boasts Better Specs for Lower Prices

Along with the new iPads, Apple also refreshed its Apple TV lineup, introducing the third-generation Apple TV 4K and dropping the old Apple TV HD. The design remains essentially the same, with the big change being an upgrade from the previous model’s A12 Bionic chip to the faster A15 Bionic for faster performance and more fluid gameplay. Apple also doubled the storage and added support for HDR10+ to provide the best possible video quality across more TVs. Finally, the Siri Remote now charges via USB-C instead of Lightning.

The new Apple TV 4K comes in two models, much like previous generations, but this time there are differences beyond storage, which is important only for apps and games. The $129 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) provides 64 GB of storage and supports only wireless networking, whereas the $149 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) comes with 128 GB of storage, includes a Gigabit Ethernet port for faster wired connectivity, and supports the Thread mesh networking protocol for smart home accessories.

Those prices are $50 lower than the previous generation’s. For those who aren’t interested in Apple TV games, home automation, and wired networking, the $129 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) is significantly more compelling than last year’s more expensive model.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has released a redesigned tenth-generation iPad with the new Magic Keyboard Folio, new M2 iPad Pro models, and a lower-cost Apple TV 4K with a faster processor and twice the storage. Read on for details: