Please Watch This Video

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As the title of this blog says, “along with a few personal posts from time to time.”

I was so moved by this speech, I feel compelled to share it on this blog, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with IT.  It’s message is far more important.

This is Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, United States Air Force Academy. This man is a Leader! This man is a Hero! This man gives me hope for our nation.

Please watch this video.

Two Important Apple OS Update Items

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On Monday, I released an alert related to iOS 11.  Yesterday, Apple released an update to address the specific issue noted in my alert.  iOS 11.0.1 is now available and should be installed.  If you don’t see the prompt to install it, simply go into Settings, then General and then Software Update and it will show as available for installation.

HighSierraAnother important upgrade issue is Apple’s release of Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra.  Unfortunately, High Sierra was released with a Zero Day Vulnerability that could allow hackers to steal usernames and passwords from users who upgrade.  As a result of this and other concerns, Mac users should not upgrade to High Sierra until these vulnerabilities are addressed.

Another concern with the High Sierra update is that it introduces a new file system for the first time in decades.  The concern here is that this will prevent you from reverting to a prior install once you make the update.  There are also reports that some 3rd party applications are not compatible with the new OS update.

I’m sure Apple will release an update, specifically to address the Zero Day Vulnerability.  In the meantime, play it safe and don’t upgrade until they do.

Another Major Hack – Breaking

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News is circulating this morning of a major email hack at big four accounting powerhouse Deloitte.deloitte

If you are not familiar with Deloitte, it is a $37 billion multi-national firm that provides accounting and consulting services to a range of clients from private industry to government.  It’s clients are household names, among others.  In a statement from the company, the hack is reported to impact “a very few clients.”

That said, this is notable, especially on the heels of the Equifax hack.  Deloitte and firms like it, hold sensitive information about their clients businesses and strategy.  Hacking a company like this, potentially uncovers a treasure trove of information related to untold number of businesses and individuals.

What is also notable about this hack is that it is reported to have happened in the United States and targeted the firms global email system.  Some reports suggest that the hack was achieved by using an administrative account to gain privileged and presumably unrestricted access to the email system.  This critical account is reported to have only required a password, not any form of two factor authentication to protect such an important account.

If true, simply having implemented two factor authentication could have prevented this breach.  This is one of the reasons I am such a vocal proponent for two factor authentication.  I use it on every account that supports it.  Do you?

2 Excellent iOS 11 Features to Enable

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If you have an iPhone, there are two very compelling new features in iOS 11 that make the operating system update worth installing.

Do Not Disturb While Driving and Emergency SOS are the two features I strongly recommend you enable.  Why?  Safety, both yours and others.

First, let’s look at Do Not Disturb While Driving.  This is a LONG overdue feature on the iPhone.  There have been third party apps for this for years on the Android platform.  Apple is really well behind in bringing this to the iPhone, but fortunately, it’s finally here.

What does it do?  Simple, temporarily disables all your notifications while you are driving.  Perhaps more importantly, it also sends an auto-reply to anyone who sends you a text message to let them know you are driving and won’t see the notification that you received a new text.  Uniquely, it also includes instructions on how to resend your text and force it through as “urgent”, bypassing the Do Not Disturb in the event of an emergency.

To enable this feature, go to your Settings app on your iPhone and then scroll down until you see Do Not Disturb.iOS11DND

Once there, scroll down until you see the options for setting up Do Not DisturbDNDOptions While Driving.  I have mine set to enable when my iPhone connects to my car’s Bluetooth.  You can also have it enable itself automatically based on sensing motion from your iPhone’s accelerometer.  This setting will enable it whenever you are in a moving vehicle, whether you are the driver or not.

I recommend setting it to auto-reply to all contacts and I set a custom message, to let anyone know who texts me that I’m driving and won’t see their message.

Apple included a unique emergency feature that informs the sender of the text message that if they reply to the auto-reply message they receive with the word “urgent”, it will push the message through, delivering a notification and your original text, so that your message will get through.

In state’s like New Hampshire, where I live, holding your phone to even look at it is illegal, let alone actually use it.  This feature should really help drive the point home about distracted driving.  I still see far too many people texting or looking at their phones.  If you can’t get the alert that you have a new text message, his should go a long way to discouraging people from looking at their phones and becoming distracted.  I try really hard not to be distracted by my phone, yet I know that I still do at times.  I enabled this immediately and won’t go back.  You should too.

iOS11SOSThe other feature I highly recommend enabling is called Emergency SOS.  It is also found in the Settings app.

SOSOptionsThis feature enables an emergency calling feature, activated by rapidly pressing the sleep/wake button five times to initiate the call.  You can set it to Auto Call when activated and you may also set a countdown tone if you want to know that you have activated the feature.  I think this audible indicator is a good idea.  If you have an Apple Watch, you may be familiar with this emergency calling feature.  It’s activated by default on the watch and I accidentally triggered it while skiing in Colorado last winter.  It caused undue panic for my wife as I was not alerted that I activated it.  I received a call from the local emergency dispatch center asking if I was alright, followed by a frantic call from my wife, as she is designated as my emergency contact and was texted my accidental SOS along with my location on a map.

All that said, if you were in a dangerous situation involving hostilities, the ability to trigger the emergency call without calling attention to yourself could be a good thing.  So decide what is best for you.

Be sure you setup your emergency contacts in the Health app if you enable Emergency SOS.  Hopefully you will never need to use it.

iOS 11 Upgrade Alert

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11MailIf you use the native Apple Mail app on an iPhone or iPad and you are using Outlook.com, Office 365 or Microsoft Exchange 2016 for your email service, hold off on upgrading your device to iOS 11.

Apple has acknowledged an issue with their native email app and these mail services.  If you have already upgraded and are having a problem with email, you can download the Outlook app for iOS, which is not impacted.

Apple and Microsoft are working together to fix this issue as quickly as possible.

Per Apple:

“If your email account is hosted by Microsoft on Outlook.com or Office 365, or an Exchange Server 2016 running on Windows Server 2016, you might see this error message when you try to send an email with iOS 11: “Cannot Send Mail. The message was rejected by the server.”

“Apple is working closely with Microsoft to resolve the issue and will release a fix soon in an upcoming software update.”

Here is the link to their support article, if you want to keep tabs on this issue.

If you use the native email app, wait until you are prompted for an iOS 11 update that resolves this issue before you upgrade.

Are You In on iPhone X?

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The following post also appeared in today’s Seacoast Sunday and Foster’s.

This week, Apple introduced its new lineup of iPhone smartphones, as well as some other product updates. This has become an annual tradition this time of year, to get a jump on the upcoming holiday shopping season.

iPhoneXThis year is the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone, so there has been widespread speculation that Apple would do something dramatic to mark the occasion. Reaction to this week’s announcements has been mixed, at best. Stalwart Apple fans are applauding the launch and longstanding Apple detractors are calling it less than exciting. So let’s dig in and see what you think.

The major announcement was of the iPhone X, as in iPhone 10, not the letter X. To date, I’ve heard no one refer to it as iPhone 10, only X. Apple’s got a branding issue on their hands with this. I suspect the marketing team is less than pleased.

Regardless of what you call it, the iPhone X is a rather significant development in terms of hardware and capability. In addition to the iPhone X, Apple also introduced the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. These are what I would call incremental updates to the iPhone 7 that premiered a year ago, so let’s first look at the iPhone X.

The major design change you will notice is a large 5.8-inch edge to edge super high-definition screen. Gone are the strips of casing above and below the iPhone screen as well as the slight edge on the left and right. The entire phone is the screen. The circular home button, which also serves as the finger print reader is also gone. In its place, Apple has introduced Face ID facial recognition using a series of innovative cameras and sensors across the top and center of the phone. Face ID replaces your fingerprint as the biometric to unlock your phone, make payments with Apple Pay, etc.

Some have raised privacy concerns about Face ID, wondering how the facial recognition data will be safeguarded from nefarious actors. Apple insists the technology is safe. Apple claims it is nearly 1 million times safer than a fingerprint. Time will certainly tell.
Size-wise, the iPhone X is slightly larger than an iPhone but not as large as an iPhone Plus.

The camera has been redesigned on the iPhone X, using a vertical orientation for the dual cameras, whereas the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus retain the horizontal configuration. Apple has made several enhancements to the camera, including some impressive lighting capabilities when using portrait mode.

Under the covers is where the major enhancements have occurred. Apple has introduced a new processor called the A11 Bionic. It’s the most powerful processor ever in a smartphone and outperforms all existing models of iPhones and iPads. It really is a powerhouse computer in your pocket. In addition to the processor, an enhanced graphics engine will support intense gaming graphics and augmented reality features in the new version of the operating system.

When it comes to battery power and charging, here too Apple has made some significant improvements. Apple claims longer battery life in all of the new iPhones, but we won’t know for certain until real world performance benchmarks are tallied. The biggest change when it comes to power is how these iPhones will charge; wirelessly. Apple has moved to a glass back on the iPhones to support wireless charging, something several Android phones have offered for some time now. Apple believes the wireless technology they have chosen will begin to show up in public spaces, like coffee shops, hotels, airports and others, allowing you to place your iPhone on a public charging mat to grab a quick charge wherever you may be.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are not terribly different from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The main difference is the wireless charging and the A11 Bionic chip. Aside from those features and some camera enhancements, the 8s look nearly identical to the 7s.

Price may be the determining factor whether you decide to upgrade or not. The iPhone 8 starts at $699 for the smallest version at 64 GB. The iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799 for the same capacity. Here’s where you may really get sticker shock, the iPhone X. It starts at $999 for the 64 GB version or $1,149 for the 256 GB version. Those are hefty price tags. We will see if any of the carriers offer incentives to upgrade, though it doesn’t seem likely in the near term. Almost every carrier has moved to monthly installment payments over a two-year period for a new phone, so it will be interesting to see how well these new models sell.

There are not enough column inches to give a more thorough review of the new model in this column. Hopefully I have provided enough information to help you decide if an upgrade is in your future. I’m sure we will see the iPhone X in people’s hands soon. Just maybe not as many hands as Apple hopes. Time will tell.

Kaspersky, Lenovo, Should You Be Worried?

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BannedThere has been a lot of press this week about the US government’s decision to formally ban the use of software from Kaspersky Lab.  The ban arises from concerns that the company may have ties to the Russian government, specifically the intelligence services.  Concerns that Kaspersky denies.

These concerns don’t just involve the government.  Also this week, Best Buy removed Kaspersky products from their shelves, saying they will no longer sell the software due to these concerns.

This is reminiscent of concerns about Lenovo, the Chinese-owned computer company that purchased IBM‘s personal computer business back in 2005.  Several government agencies, both in the United States as well as some other countries, issued warnings or outright bans on Lenovo computers out of concern that the Chinese government may have placed “bugs” in the computers for intelligence or industrial espionage purposes.

With the number of high tech firms based in foreign countries, the landscape has certainly changed.  It’s not practical to think that you can only use hardware and software that is manufactured entirely in the United States.  In fact, it is extremely difficult to find a piece of computer hardware that does not have at least a part of it made in China these days.  Even if you purchase as US brand, like Dell or HP, you are almost certainly buying a computer that was made in China, at least partially.

Based on that, it’s tough to consider these bans as able to be effective.  The fact is that so much of our technology is, in one way or another, flowing through countries with whom the United States may have concerns about.  The very nature of technology in today’s interconnected world, also makes it nearly impossible to guarantee that a state actor does not or could not have the capability to infiltrate those systems, be they hardware or software.

This does not even touch on the fact that many companies, in the United States and abroad, rely on foreign workers to fill open technology jobs that far exceed the available workforce in these countries.  These individuals could pose insider threats to the companies they are brought in to work for.

At the end of the day, technology is a truly global industry.  No one country can truly control the source and methods of production for every piece of technology in use within their borders.  This extends to the human capital involved in designing, manufacturing, implementing, maintaining and supporting this same technology.

I’m not saying I think these bans or concerns are fool hardy.  Quite the contrary.  They reflect reality and are a real concern, especially within government circles.  I’m simply concerned that banning certain manufacturers may lull businesses and individuals into a false sense of security by not having those products in their environments.