Apple Releases OS X El Capitan 10.11.3

The latest version of Apple’s desktop operating system is out

This past week has been a busy one for Apple. Not only did they release a new version of iOS 9 – iOS 9.2.1 – but they also released a new version of OS X El Capitan. Version 10.11.3 is now readily available for download from the Mac App Store, and can be installed by all El Capitan users as of this writing.

os x el capitan

During the beta testing period, no notable defects were identified. The update, which is largely a bug fix and stability release, doesn’t contain anything of note according to Apple’s release notes on the operating system. According to them,

The OS X El Capitan 10.11.3 update improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac.

This update contains bug fixes and security updates, including
Fixes an issue that may prevent some Mac computers from waking from sleep when connected to certain 4K displays.
Third-party .pkg file receipts stored in /var/db/receipts are now retained when upgrading from OS X Yosemite.

The next version of OS X El Capitan, version 10.11.4 is currently in testing. Also marked as a stability and bug fix release, OS X 10.11.4 won’t introduce any new features or functionality. The release is likely targeted for mid to late Spring 2016 and is rumored to be released along side iOS 9.3.

If you’re running OS X 10.11, you should check the Mac App Store for the update and install it at your earliest convenience. I’ve been running the update for the past few days, and it seems stable.

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Anyone Can Pick Up Malware

The past few weeks have been hellacious at Casa de la Spera…

I’ve been in computing since 1984. I have written more than I can remember without actually reviewing the stuff I’ve written. This includes seven years of columns on CompuServe’s Computing Pro forum as well as approximately 10,000 tips for Windows (95, 98, 98SE, NT, ME, 2000, and Windows 7), Internet Explorer, Office (95/97/2000/2007) and Windows-based Hardware, for WUGNET (The Windows User’s Group Network). I’ve written COUNTLESS software reviews for both Mac and Windows platforms; and I was nominated for Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile at least twice between 2004 and 2007.

Yeah… I’m giving you the resume more for ME than for anyone else right now.

malwareOver the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with some hacked email accounts over here; and quite honestly, it’s been very aggravating.

It started during the middle of October. I started seeing bounce notices hit my account, and I wasn’t certain why. Not all of them, or the delivery delay notices I got had the body of the original email with them. Some did. When I was able to look at what that was, it was clear that my Google Apps based email account had been compromised.

I immediately changed my password.

However, that didn’t resolve everything.

Gmail has a few different tools to help you protect your account if you think it’s been compromised, including signing out all web sessions. I did that and then changed my password – AGAIN – and signed back in. However, by that time, the damage had been done and Google had suspended my SMTP permissions. I couldn’t send any email. According to Google, I had sent over 5000 emails in the course of a 24 hour period.

At that point, I also noticed that my contact list had been increased by over 1500 entries, as well. Many of these were simply a strange looking address and nothing more. For example:

Atrix6969@don’t-stop.fr
fruit83@bandaid.co
sukey.pangu@legoland.co.uk

Many of the entries had either just the full email address as the contact name or firstname<dot>lastname as the contact name. Those were easy to spot and eliminate, though I had to go through my contact list at least 3-4 times. I didn’t get all of them, and somehow, they got repopulated (with different entries) a couple times. (I’m still pulling crap out of my contacts list…)

After upgrading my Google Apps instance from a grandfathered, less than 50 member free edition to a paid subscription, AND speaking with Google on this for over an hour, I submitted a ticket to get the account reinstated. It took them about two hours, but they put me back in business, and I was able to file a couple of articles with Soft32.

Things quieted down for about a week, and then it kicked in again, though this time, I was able to go through the process again, very quickly and then cut things off before I had sent 5000 emails. This went on – this back and forth – for about another week or so, then things just stopped.

Last weekend (the weekend of 2015-11-08), it started up again, and I got more bounce notices and some forwards back from a couple of people that my account had been hacked again.

That’s when I enabled two factor authentication on my Google Apps account and domain. Two factor authentication is where access to an online account requires not only the account user name and password, but also a validation token or code, usually sent to a mobile or smartphone. The validation token can also be sent via an authentication app.

At this point, I think I have control of the account again.

The bigger problems that remain –

  1. How was the account compromised more than once?
  2. How was it compromised after implementing a 13+ character (multi-chase, letters, numbers, and special character) password?
  3. What significance did the 1500+ additional address book entries play?
  4. Was there any hidden XML payload associated with any of the additional address book entries?
  5. When I deleted them, did I get them all?
  6. Would that even make a difference
  7. Did I pick up a key logger?

Yeah…

A key logger…

The answer at this point is, I don’t know. I’ve ordered a FixMeStick; and while that arrived and scans a mac running OS X 10.11, it currently can’t read a Mac boot drive running El Capitan.

In fact, the boot drive isn’t even visible to the FixMeStick. Thankfully, the vendor is aware of the issue and they’re working on a resolution. FixMeStick owners will have their sticks updated automatically once the solution is published.

My other saving grace is that Time Machine apparently doesn’t have the same security measures placed on its drive as the boot drive on a Mac running the OS. FixMeStick has scanned my Time Machine backup drive and hasn’t found any malware.

The big point that everyone needs to understand, however, is that anyone and everyone can get malware from just about anywhere on the internet. Ad networks are a huge problem. Malware can flow through those and can infect your computer even from a site you know and trust. Products like FixMeStick are helpful ; but you’ve got to be careful, especially right now.

Both Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan are new operating systems. Existing anti-malware products may not work correctly on these operating systems as of this writing. They may need some updates.

You may also have issues with anti-malware products that run while your computer is running from its boot drive. It’s very possible that malware on your PC may hide from your scanner – no matter how good it is – and it either may not be detected, or may not be removable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t like the 1990’s. Getting malware today can be devastating and life altering, if not life ruining. Phishing attacks and other data breaches can lead to identity theft, and some of the damage related to it, may be difficult to come back from.

The lessons learned here should be multi-fold:

  1. Mind where you surf
  2. Have some kind of malware scanner running, regardless of platform, and keep its definitions current
  3. Invest in some sort of offline, self-booting anti-malware solution so that stubborn threats can be removed without being activated

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Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

NEXT PAGE

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Release-a-palooza – Apple Releases Multiple OS Updates

Today Apple released updates to watchOS, iOS and OS X.

update banner

I knew things were close to being done for all three of these releases, but I wasn’t certain when Apple would greenlight changes to watchOS 2.0.1, iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1.  Today, Apple released all three of these updates to a much awaiting public.  The big news (as far as the OS carrousel, though) is the fact nearly no one saw the release of watchOS 2.0.1 coming. Apple didn’t announce or release it to its Developer Community at all.

I’m going to run down all of the changes for each and then I’ll have a bit to say on the changes overall, before I wrap it all up.

watchOS 2.0.1

watchOS 2.0.1 is now available to download via the official Apple Watch app on iPhone. It weighs in between  62.8 to 68.4 megabytes.
watchOS 2.0.1Apple’s new watchOS update features support for the latest emoji characters also found in iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1. They include unicorn, taco, burrito, and middle finger emoji’s.
Changes from Apple in watchOS 2.0.1 include:

  • A fix for an issue that could cause software updates to stall
  • A fix for issues that were impacting battery life and performance
  • A fix that resolves an issue that prevented a managed iPhone from synching iOS Calendar events to Apple Watch
  • A fix that Addresses an issue that could prevent location information from properly updating
  • A fix for an issue that could cause Digital Touch to send from an email address instead of from a phone number
  • A fix that addresses an issue that could cause instability when using a Live Photo as a watch face
  • A fix that resolves an issue that allows a sensor to stay on indefinitely, when using Siri to measure your heart rate

Additional information and details can be found here.

IOS 9.1

iOS 9.1 is now available for download for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch either over the air (OTA) or through iTunes on a Mac or PC. According to Apple, the update includes new features, improvements and bug fixes.

Changes from Apple in iOS 9.1 include:

  • A fix to Live Photos so they now intelligently sense when you raise or lower your iPhone, so that Live Photos will automatically not record those movements
  • Over 150 new emoji characters will full support for Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 emoji’s
  • Support for the 4th generation Apple TV
  • Support for the iPad Pro
  • An update to the iOS virtual keyboard that improved the shift key icon, making it easier to see when the shift key has been pressed, or double tapped (for CAPS Lock).
  • New device wallpapers of Mars, Jupiter and Neptune

Emoji’s seem to be the order of the day. All three of the updates noted in this article have huge emoji updates in them.  Like watchOS 2.0.1, iOS 9.1 includes new emoji’s for a taco, burrito, hot dog, cheese, popping champagne bottle, ice hockey, ping pong, archery, and even a middle finger.

The big thing to note in iOS 9.1 is that this is the version that is required for the iPad Pro.  The biggest change here for it, has to do with multi-tasking and the Apple Pencil; but that’s old news, and I’m not going to go into the virtues or lack thereof, of the iPad Pro.

Release notes for iOS 9.1 can be found here.

OS X 10.11.1

OS X 10.11.1 is now available as a free download on the Mac App Store. In the release notes, Apple states that the update improves the stability, compatibility, and security of a user’s Mac.

Specific changes made in OS X 10.11.1, according to Apple, include:

  • Improves installer reliability when upgrading to OS X El Capitan
  • Improves compatibility with Microsoft Office 2016
  • Fixes an issue where outgoing server information may be missing from Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevented display of messages and mailboxes in Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevents certain Audio Unit plug-ins from functioning properly
  • Improves Voice Over reliability
  • Adds over 150 new emoji characters with full Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 support

The big item of note here is Office 2016 compatibility. I’ve held off updating any of the Macs in the house until Microsoft and Apple got their respective acts together as it relates to Office 2016.  I use Office 2016 for all of my writing and other productivity tasks, and so do my daughter and her husband. They need it for all of their school work.  Without this, any move to El Capitan would have been very premature on our parts.  Now that this is resolved, we should be good to go.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this, I updated my MacBook Pro to El Capitan, and the Office 2016 apps that I use (Word, Excel and PowerPoint… Outlook is still – and will continue to be – a train wreck until they get a better handle on some of its data store issues.  It’s also NOT a feature parity with Outlook for Windows and I can’t help but wonder WHY at this point…but that’s another story entirely and I don’t really need to get started on that here…)

Release notes for OS X 10.11.1 can be found here.

There’s a lot here. If you’re an Apple user on any level, today was a day of updates for you.  I’ve updated nearly all of my gear, including my Apple Watch (that’s a link to Part 4 of my four part review.  It’s got links to the other three parts, in case you haven’t seen it).

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Apple Releases iOS 9.0.2

Apple continues to swat at bugs with its latest iOS release

ios9

Wednesday 2015-09-30 saw the release of iOS 9.0.2, Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system.  Released a week after iOS 9.0.1, this latest update comes just two weeks after the initial release of iOS 9.

IOS 9.0.2 is another minor update – a bug fix, really – and also addresses other performance enhancements.  The following were called out in the release notes for this update:

  • Fixes a screen lock vulnerability that allowed Siri to be used to bypass the lock screen to access photos and contacts on a locked device
  • Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage
  • Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users
  • Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup
  • Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications
  • Improves the stability of Podcasts

IOS 9 focuses on productivity and performance, with some major updates to both Siri and Spotlight.  Notable among its new productivity enhancing features is a split-screen multi-tasking view that allows more modern devices, like the iPad Pro, to share and pass information back and forth between apps (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other productivity apps)  iOS 9.1, also due later this year, and anticipated during the month of November with the general availability release of the iPad Pro, is meant to focus on productivity for the new enterprise capable tablet and the AppleTV.

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Apple releases OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Apple’s latest desktop operating system has officially hit the streets on 2015-09-30

Apple released the latest version of their desktop operating system OS X 10.11, Code named El Capitán, to the public Wednesday afternoon, 2015-09-30. This latest iteration of OS X features enhancements to Safari and Spotlight, as well as bring optimization and performance enhancements to the platform.

El Capitán

This latest round of system wide updates includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Metal is perhaps the largest improvement to El Capitán. It provides superior performance improvements to games and other graphic intensive applications, compared to previous versions of OS X.
  • Safari supports pinned tabs, playing web video via AirPlay and muting of audio on specific web tabs, all via the Smart Search field. Users can also search for specific locations in Maps and then push navigation to their iPhone.
  • Mail has been reimagined to allow users to use it full screen, much like its iOS-based cousin. It also includes swipe-based gestures for marking items as read or to delete them. You can also quickly add Contact or Calendar based events to their respective apps based on a message’s content.
  • Notes now supports check lists, attaching both video and stills, as well as URL and map locations. The app is now a true system component, as users can, for example, share web pages from Safari, as a Note to anyone with an Apple ID.
  • Spotlight has been enhanced to support searching via natural language. You can get information on weather conditions, stock performance, public transit schedules, etc. just by asking a natural language-based question.
  • Photos can now make use of third-party extensions and plug-ins, giving you more advanced control over retouching of your pictures. You also get more advanced options for sorting albums as well as tagging people and places
  • Other system-wide features include a Split View fullscreen mode, a more streamlined Mission Control, and a series of upgrades to Chinese and Japanese language support, such as new fonts and better keyboard and trackpad input.

El Capitán is a free update and is available now to all Macs and users currently running Yosemite via the Mac App Store desktop app. Those Mac users running Yosemite who wish to wait on updating to OS X 10.11 can also obtain an update to Safari 9, though it doesn’t have support for pinned tabs.

Will you be updating your Mac to El Capitán? Will you wait until OS X 10.11.1 is released, instead? I’ve got a review of El Cap that I’m working on and hope to have up in the next few days. In the mean time, why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on this latest development?

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