Feb 20

Upgrade your Office product


A few weeks ago I urged everyone to upgrade their OS to keep them secure and the response was terrific. However, there is another hole in your security and while it is a small hole and not often probed it is definitely there and Microsoft , through necessity, has recently made it even more worse.

There are a lot of people out there that still use Office 2008 (primarily because it still works on a modern Mac) and even more still that use Office 2011. Microsoft stopped supporting Office 2008 in, well I don’t recall but it was before Game of Thrones started, and now Office 2011 has been dropped.

Now at this point I know what you are thinking… “I have never used Microsoft support so what do I care?”, and that is a fair comment. Thing is though support also means no more software bug or security fixes and this, more than most applications, can mean trouble.

While it might be true that you only write the occasional list or use Word to open the latest missive from great Aunt Joyce or open an spread sheet once every June you need to know that Office is one of the few Mac applications that can vulnerable to a virus written for a PC.

The Macro virus has been around for years, decades even, and it has been used to do all kinds of horrible things. For those that don’t know, a Macro is code that can be easily (and legitimately) added to a Word or Excel document in order to make it smarter and more useful than a normal letter from Aunt Joyce.

But like everything else, they can also be used for evil as well as nicenessness and this is where the trouble can start. Of course a Mac user has the added level of protection that once the Maco virus launches it might be looking for Windows files and structures in order to do any harm but then again, maybe not. Slim chance I know but then who thought Donald Trump would be elected president?

Fortunately the answer is relatively simple, well as simple as Microsoft ever make anything.

The best way is to go to Officeworks or JB Hi-Fi and purchase a small card with a three year licence for ($160+/-) or a life time licence for a bit more and then:

1. Take the card home, open up a browser and go to office.com/setup.

2. Grab your card and scratch off the protective coating and enter the number hidden beneath.

3. Then you’ll be asked to enter your Microsoft account user name and password (you’ll already have one of these if you use hotmail or have already subscribed to a Microsoft product). If not, you need to create a new one.

4. Once verified you’ll get to download the product (it is big so let’s hope you have a fast and generous internet).

5. Once download, open Word and enter the same username and password you created earlier.


If that sounds all too much, you can always get us to do it for you and we’ll do a health check of your mac(s) at the same time. And for those who want it done and already have regular health checks… let us know you’d like it done next visit and we’ll arrange it.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/upgrade-your-office-product/

Feb 20

Bad reporting

I have never read should rubbish in all my life

Be warned, as you read this you might think this is in no way related to your Mac and your particular setup, but I implore you to push on because it is not actually about Apple or Macs per se.

One of the driving forces behind this website has always been to read the trade papers, weed out the rubbish and present a clean and simplified version of Mac news for my clients and their friends.

If you read these trade rags long enough, and I have been doing it for 30 years now, you often see a pattern of sensationalism and half-truths in the reporting, a pattern that is no doubt repeated on subjects that I know nothing about…the car industry, the environment, and women to name but three. It is precisely because I don’t know the facts that I wont necessarily be able to spot the bull when its splattered into my eyes.
However, I have often been left wondering how one article can state, categorically, that Apple are about to cease production of the iPhone X because of its poor sales and then the very next article report how Apple sold more mobiles than any other manufacture?
Then of course there is the yearly article “Apple is doomed” and that has been appearing regularly since they really were in trouble back in 1996 but curiously haven’t stopped even when they were the biggest company in the world.

The latest dumb skullery comes in the form of an article that appeared a few months back concerning Apple’s server software. (I warned you, but don’t be put off). From the very start the reporter was negative starting in no uncertain terms that Apple’s new server software was a cope out. GONE is DNS and Mailserver. LEFTOUT is Calendar server and DHCP and Apple are all but ABANDONING VPN leaving Business customers adrift at the very time VPN was becoming a mainstream product.
Apple have given up. Apple don’t care about you or your business. What a load of crap!

Without walking into nerd rooms, sitting you down and making you listen to a lot of gobbledygook let me give you the truth. While it is true that these services are essential for a business to do, err, business the reality is even those with an Apple server never (or rarely) switch them on.

VPN is handled by most modems, as is DNS and a modem is better at DHCP and Mostyn server admins know this. The Mail server has always been difficult to set up and so most people have off site services or use a wonderful product called Kerio. One the one thing that the server does best, and will continue to do, is server files centrally at a fraction of the cost of a Windows server.
($39 for unlimited users as apposed to $501 for 25 users – I am not kidding)

And while I would be the first to admit that the Apple server is not in the same league as a Windows server it is often enough for a small business with a few employees, but did this article ever mention the reality of this…. did it hell.

So what is going on here? Well, to be honest I don’t know. Maybe they just like pointing out the negative without looking at the facts? Maybe it is the tech worlds version of only reporting on the pulp and not the juice like they do on the news every night in order to sell more articles?

If you don’t have a server and you have read this far… thank you, I hope it was worth it. And the take away from all of this?… well I guess is don’t believe everything you read… even when they are writing about something as silly as computers.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/bad-reporting/

Jan 15

POS for the rest of us

Ok, picture this. You have a small business, or you sell cakes at the bus depot markets or do anything that requires the taking of money. In the past you have been limited to cash or spending bigly (thank you Mr Trump) on renting a credit card machine from the bank. If you are running a small business this might just be worth it but you’ll have to sell a shed load of sticky buns to make it worth while. And this nothing of the numerous charity events that are forced to do everything manually.

Thing is cash is getting  a little 20th century all of a sudden. What with Android pay (20c in very dollar going to the Russian mafia), ApplePay, parking machines that don’t require change and pay wave, carrying cash is feeling as in vogue as wearing a top hat.

But there is a solution, and I am not talking about the banks.

The answer is a service called Square and it comes in two distinct parts.

The hardware

You’ll need a reader and this can be purchased from Square or, more conveniently, from somewhere like Officeworks. A small card reader (swipe) will set back about $20, the pay wave version about $60. And the best news…? This isn’t a rental… once you buy it, it’s yours with no more to pay. This is a happy day indeed considering a reader from the bank can cost an eye watering (especially if you are selling cup cakes on a tight margin) $12-$35 a month!

Your Account

Your account is the process thats takes the most time, primarily because Square needs to talk to your bank and verify your credentials. But fear not, seconds after you have started your account and the ball is rolling you can begin accepting payments via the web or your Square reader. Then, once the bank has gotten over its tweediness, the funds will roll into your account.

The end result

When it comes down to it with Square you end up with a once only payment for the reader, multiple ways of accepting payments, intelligent and engaging receipts (aka, built in feedback) and the fees are typically less than those charged by the banks. (1.9% as opposed to 2.6% in some cases) AND the money arrives in your bank account the very next day. If it sounds like I am raving, its because I am… this really is a great alternative – no replacement – for the typical merchant facilities available from the banks.

If you are thinking about taking this up you  can start your Square account here using my official invitation and buy your reader of choice later from the following places:


Bunnings (believe it or not)

Harvey Norman


Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/pos-for-the-rest-of-us/

Jan 11

Meltdown and Spectre

Another year and another round of exploits and serious ones at that.

This time it’s the fault of Intel and over curious security experts that have discovered a serious flaw in the very chip that powers almost every device on the planet.

IBM, Dell, Acer, and sadly Apple are embroiled in this very serious security risk that, aside from new hardware, has no real cure.

That said, everyone is rushing out software patches that will go someway to mitigate the threat but in the end these measures are about as significant as fitting a deadlock to a front door made of drinking straws. If the bad guys really want in they could find a way, that is until your chip has been replaced- in other words a new device. On top of this, Windows users have reported that software patches issued by Microsoft have been slowing down their devices between 5%-30%. Happily this appears not to be the case for Apple users.

The first of these nasties has the catchy moniker of Meltdown. This allows malicious code to read memory inside your Intel chip, meaning that passwords and other data is ripe for the picking.

The second is called Spectre and this can, without getting geeky, fit itself in-between application processes and force them to give up whatever data they might have on hand at the time and send it back to the scumbag at the end of the line. Eeeck! This one, Apple claims, is the hardest to patch but it is also the hardest for the bad guy to actually implement.

But as new impervious chips don’t exist yet all we can do is fit the current defences made of gossamer and hope for the best.

Mac, iOS users. 

Apple have released software updates for 10.13 for Mac and 11.2.2 for iOS as well as updates for Apple Watch and AppleTV. These should be downloaded and installed ASAP. Don’t wait. Updates for Safari have also been released but specific security patches for 10.11 and 10.12 are yet to be announced. If you are worried then updating to 10.13 is the fastest way to protect yourself, in much the same way as the recent wifi bug.

To apply an update for the Mac, click on the Apple menu, choose AppStore and then Updates.

To apply an update on your iPhone and iPad, tap on Settings, then General then Software Update.

To apply an update on the Apple Watch tap on the Watch App on your iPhone, tap on General and then Software Update.

Chrome users 

Even after you have installed these updates, Chrome  – if you use this browser – has released further protection that should be installed as soon as possible.

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. Go to chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process
  3. Then click enable on Strict Site isolation.
  4. Close and reopen Chrome

As always, these kinds of exploits rely on infected applications being installed on your Mac or you visiting dodgy websites. So if you only download and install software from trusted sources and follow these simple rules – in combination with these updates – you should be as right as rain. Until the next down pour.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/meltdown-and-spectre/

Jan 01

You want a website?



There was a time, not that long ago actually, that websites were just for the wealthy.  Just as salt in the 1700s was something only the fabulously wealthy could afford, so too was a good website in the modern era. If you were in business and you had a website people knew  you were serious because that website was the digital equivalent  of a pound of flesh.

Even after the DIY website builders like wix.com came along, it was still a choice between something put together by a plumber on the weekend or something that looked professional and cost upwards of $10,000. In no time at all the web was full of sites that made it look like the inside of a pre-schoolers art room and no one, aside from the professional website builders who were paid to fix them, were happy.

I am often asked, “do you know a good website designer” and all I can do is shrug my shoulders and divert their attention until I can slip out of the room. It was that, or refer them to the aforementioned designers and that always ended the same way.

Then comes along a business like Flat Gecko Design. I first saw their handy work when I was asked to have a look at Symmetry-IT’s website. I was impressed to say the least but immediately jumped to the conclusion that my colleague was missing a good kilo of flesh.  However, when I found out that not only was it designed and managed at a very reasonable price, I decided to look into it further. I discovered that all of the SEO tricks, Google analytics, and all the other things that make a modern website tick, were installed and up to the second sharp.

Inspired I rang and asked how they might help my website and it was then that I realised that not only are Flat Gecko good at what they do, and reasonably priced, they are also ethical. You see my particular wish was to sharpen my website and have it look more modern. However, after they looked at my website forensically ,they informed me that what I needed was coming in a free upgrade to my website theme. They also told me that fancy SEO would cost me far too much for what it would do for me and that if I kept posting articles my ranking would remain OK. In short, honest, friendly and very comprehensive advice. (They had an SEO expert call me who was equally honest and forthcoming.)

One other thing Flat Gecko has given me is an out. These days, when asked if I know who can do a good website, I no longer have to create a diversion and jump out the window… I just give them this web address.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/you-want-a-website/