Aussie Mac Zone ~ Episode 290

Show 290 – June 25, 2019

Run Sheet ~ Zarn & Michael


Aussie Tech Heads Domains


Our Aussie Apple Ramblings

Story 1


Apple has announced a recall for some of its MacBook Pro laptops because of problematic and potentially hazardous batteries. The batteries, according to Apple’s support page, “may overheat and pose a fire safety risk.” The recall is said to affect 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina displays sold between September 2015 and February 2017, and Apple is replacing batteries for free on eligible laptops.

The battery issues may very well only apply to a “limited number” of laptops, which is what the company almost always says when there’s a problem with its hardware. Apple sells millions of computers per year—18 million Macs were sold in 2018—so even a substantial number of impacted machines could still be considered “limited”.




Story 2

Lifehacker reports ~ It’s Been 30 Years Since Australia Connected To The Internet

When Australia joined the global internet on June 23, 1989 – via a connection made by the University of Melbourne – it was mostly used by computer scientists. Three decades later, more than 86% of Australian households are connected to the internet.

But it was a slow start. At first, network capacity was limited to very small volumes of information.

This all changed thanks to the development of vastly more powerful computers, and other technologies that have transformed our online experience.

One of those technologies is probably in front of you now: the screen.

Look at how you view the web, email and apps today: not just on large desktop screens but also handheld devices, and perhaps even an internet-connected wristwatch.

This was barely imaginable 30 years ago.

By the time Australia first connected, the internet had been developing for 20 years. The very first network had been turned on in the United States in 1969.

Australia too had networks during the 1980s, but distance and a lack of interest from commercial providers meant these were isolated from the rest of the world.

This first international link provided just 56 kilobits of national connectivity. A 20th of a megabit for the whole country! That is not even enough to play a single piece of music from a streaming service (encoded at 128kbs), and it would take a week for a movie to be transferred to Australia.

But at that time digital music, video and images were not distributed online. Nor was the internet servicing a large community. Most of the users were academics or researchers in computer science or physics.

With continuous connection came live access. The most immediate impact was that email could now be delivered immediately.


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Story 3

More on our theme of Public Awareness ~ Forbes reports ~ Warning Issued For Millions Of Microsoft Windows 10 Users

Windows 10 has enough problems to deal with right now. But Microsoft’s partners just made things a lot worse.

Picked up by Gizmodo, acclaimed Californian security company SafeBreach has revealed that software pre-installed on PCs has left “millions” of users exposed to hackers. Moreover, that estimate is conservative with the number realistically set to be hundreds of millions.

The flaw lies in PC-Doctor Toolbox, systems analysis software which is rebadged and pre-installed on PCs made by some of the world’s biggest computer retailers, including Dell, its Alienware gaming brand, Staples and Corsair. Dell alone shipped almost 60M PCs last year and the company states PC-Doctor Toolbox (which it rebrands as part of ‘SupportAssist’) was pre-installed on “most” of them.

What SafeBreach has discovered is a high-severity flaw which allows attackers to swap-out harmless DLL files loaded during Toolbox diagnostic scans with DLLs containing a malicious payload. The injection of this code impacts both Windows 10 business and home PCs and enables hackers to gain complete control of your computer.

What makes it so dangerous is PC-makers give Toolbox high-permission level access to all your computer’s hardware and software so it can be monitored. The software can even give itself new, higher permission levels as it deems necessary. So once malicious code is injected via Toolbox, it can do just about anything to your PC.

Worse still, PC makers are currently engaged in a game of Whack-A-Mole trying to make Toolbox secure. SafeBreach reports it initially found flaws in Toolbox back in April and Dell released a patch to address it, but now SafeBreach has found further vulnerabilities and it looks highly that they will not be the last.

The end result is many Windows 10 users exposed to this problem are unlikely to even know they have it because who actually uses pre-installed bloatware? As such, my advice would be to search your computer and uninstall it. Dell builds Toolbox into SupportAssist, Corsair relabels it as ‘One Diagnostics’ or just ‘Diagnostics’, Staples calls it ‘Easy Tech Diagnostics’, Tobii refers to its as ‘I-Series/Dynavox Diagnostic Tools’ and there will inevitably be more partners so do your research.


Story 4

Our Gaming Section

‘Like a dream’: Aussie developer’s game shared with the world at E3

Anthony Tan, a 20-year-old game developer from Melbourne, watched Microsoft’s pre-E3 Xbox briefing earlier this week with bated breath.

Like more than a million people around the world, he saw the company highlight 60 games over more than and hour and a half. And there, between 12 minutes and Microsoft’s own Gears 5, there was a minute-long trailer for a game about a pair of deer collecting light and avoiding wolves in a mysterious world. The game Anthony Tan has been working on for years.

“Dude it was insane for me,” he says of seeing his work on the massive screen at Microsoft Theatre in LA.

“To see, like, Keanu Reeves, Halo, Gears of War, and then just see my little deer game. It was surreal. Felt like a dream.”

Anthony’s game is WAY TO THE WOODS.

In the game, players need to collect light to illuminate certain objects and work out how to stay alive. Tan says he was inspired by the film Spirited Away, where Chihiro enters a fantastical and ancient unknown place where everything she encounters hints at the rules and stories of the world. Except in Way to the Woods, some of the artefacts encountered by the deer have been left behind by humans.

A Big Congrats from us at AMZ.


Apple is a company that is often accused of not really “getting” gaming, but that hasn’t stopped it from sliding in as the planet’s fourth-biggest gaming company.

That’s according to a new report by analysts at Newzoo which says that the App Store is helping make the iPhone one of the biggest game companies on the planet.

Throughout the Global Games Market Report, Newzoo covers the top 35 public companies whose business is gaming. Tencent, Sony, and Microsoft make up the top three spots with Apple sitting fourth. Activision Blizzard is in fifth place. Another interesting fact is that the top 35 companies make up 82% of the global games revenues for 2018 with the top five raking in 43% collectively.

Of those top five companies, Apple earned a reported $9.45 billion from gaming which is a healthy 18% up on 2017. That’s also a sum that is likely to increase in the future with Apple Arcade arriving later this year.

Apple Arcade will allow games fans to pay a monthly fee to get access to some of the best games on Apple’s platforms. Pricing hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it promises to be a big deal for developers and fans of top-notch games alike.


Another game, Marvel Hero Tales, encourages kids to develop scripts and stories for Marvel characters, which then pay off with visual and animated sequences. The young authors can see Spider-Man swing into action to stop the bad guys by selecting the right words to describe the scene.

According to Kuato Studios, the app helps develop vocabulary skills through use, visualisation, rewards and repetition, building comprehension and retention at the same time. The interactive activities position superhero characters as role models to reinforce reading as a good source of information by allowing users to find clues and other important information in newspapers, secret files and on websites.

Story 5

And sorry one more Public Awareness ~ The Washington Post reports ~

Its time to switch Browsers

Written by Geoffrey Fowler

~ You open your browser to look at the Web. Do you know who is looking back at you?

Over a recent week of Web surfing, I peered under the hood of Google Chrome and found it brought along a few thousand friends. Shopping, news and even government sites quietly tagged my browser to let ad and data companies ride shotgun while I clicked around the Web.

This was made possible by the Web’s biggest snoop of all: Google. Seen from the inside, its Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.

Lately I’ve been investigating the secret life of my data, running experiments to see what technology really gets up to under the cover of privacy policies that nobody reads. It turns out, having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular Web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop.

It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections. Switching involved less inconvenience than you might imagine.

My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

Chrome welcomed trackers even at websites you would think would be private. I watched Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google. They surreptitiously told the data giants every time I pulled up the insurance and loan service’s log-in pages.

And that’s not the half of it.

Look in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser. See a picture or a name in the circle? If so, you’re logged in to the browser, and Google might be tapping into your Web activity to target ads. Don’t recall signing in? I didn’t, either. Chrome recently started doing that automatically when you use Gmail.

Chrome is even sneakier on your phone. If you use Android, Chrome sends Google your location every time you conduct a search. (If you turn off location sharing it still sends your coordinates out, just with less accuracy.)


Story 6

9TO5Mac tells us ~ Survey finds 97% of enterprise Mac users feel more productive after switching from Windows

Vanson Bourne, a third-party market research firm, was hired by Jamf (a software company) to conduct a study to uncover key drivers of Apple in enterprise adoption and satisfaction with the Mac. Their results reveal incredible levels of employee satisfaction, productivity, creativity and collaboration for Mac users across all major types of employee groups (IT, Human Resources, Sales, and Engineering).

When asked how their work has improved as a result of using a Mac for work, the answers were very favorable for Apple in the enterprise:

97% of respondents claim increased productivity

95% claim increased creativity

94% claim self-sufficiency with technology

91% claim increased collaboration

Moreover, the vast majority of people surveyed (79%) stated that they would not be able to do their jobs as well without a Mac. I personally echo those results as I would gladly purchase my own computer over having to use a Windows machine. I’ve become accustomed to the flexibility of apps like Alfred, PDFpen, and Soulver. As an iPhone user, I also love the seamless integration between my mobile devices and my laptop.


Story 7

CNet tells us ~ Google says Apple’s new sign-in button is a good idea.

At WWDC Apple unveiled a new privacy tool called Sign in with Apple, an alternative to single sign-on services offered by Facebook and Google. Apple appeared to take a shot at its competitors by saying that even free services need to respect privacy. Google’s Mark Risher reportedly wasn’t pleased about the jab but thinks the technology will make people safer.

“There was a bunch of innuendo wrapped around the release that suggested that only one of them [the logins] is pure, and the rest of them are kind of corrupt, and obviously I don’t like that,” Risher, a director of product management at Google, told The Verge in an interview published Wednesday.

Risher said Google hasn’t properly articulated exactly what happens when a user clicks “Sign in with Google,” which could lead to misunderstandings at a time when people feel unsafe in the digital world. Overall, Risher said, using Google’s sign-on option or Sign in with Apple is better than random usernames and passwords.


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Aussie Tech Heads Domains


Story 8

The Sydney Morning Herald reports ~ Email concerns for Australian IT chiefs amid deluge of malicious spam

70% emails in Australia were spam last month. Many contain security threats.

If your email inbox has been harder to sift through than usual, this might be why: seven in ten emails in Australia were spam last month.

That’s according to security and networking equipment manufacturer Cisco, which provides services that monitor and filters corporations’ emails to weed out security threats and spam.

While some spam is caught by filters, it can still get through, and some contain security threats.

Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned that Australian businesses lost an estimated $7.2 million to email scammers last year. However, the number is likely to be much higher, as most email scams aren’t reported.

The same report from the ACCC also pointed to a 53 per cent jump in business email compromise in the same year and said that Australian consumers reported losing $107 million to agencies that monitor fraud, which include Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

Of the $107 million stolen from consumers, investment scams saws Australian consumers fleeced of some $38.8 million, while dating and romance scams saw $24.6 million pilfered. Remote access scams — where a computer is taken over by a person purporting to help you fix a supposed problem — cost $4.8 million, false billing saw $5.5 million stolen, and hacking cost Australians some $3.3 million.


Story 9

Our Good News Story ~ A teenager didn’t come home. An iPhone app led her mother to a ravine.

Macy Smith, 17, spent nearly seven hours pinned underneath her car after a crash.

As the car carrying Catrina Cramer Alexander and her family navigated the dark two-lane road that snaked through the dense forests near Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, the mother’s eyes were glued to her iPhone screen. It was late on June 7, and Alexander was searching for her daughter, Macy Smith, who had missed curfew and wasn’t answering her phone. According to the locator app on Alexander’s phone, the 17-year-old was nearby.

The small pulsating blue dot that marked Alexander’s location kept moving closer and closer to where Smith was supposed to be, when suddenly, something caught her eye: a set of tire tracks running off the road.

“That’s all I could see,” Alexander said.

But the app, Apple’s Find My Friends, wasn’t wrong. Smith was there. Hidden from view, about 25 feet down the side of a tree-covered embankment, the teenager had been trapped in the wreckage of her car for almost seven hours — and she was alive.

“Having that location, if we didn’t have that, we would have never known where to look,” Alexander told WXII. “I’m certain that that is what saved her life.”


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