Only three more days until the highly anticipated announcement. Get a taste of what’s to come with what just might be the best tech review ever…

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It’s official! Apple has scheduled a press event for January 27 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco where it is widely expected that they will announce the upcoming release of a much anticipated portable tablet device. There has been considerable speculation about the device, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the device will likely be a wifi-enabled 10-11 inch touch-screen tablet geared towards music, movies, photos & e-books. A more recent report, however, indicated the possibility of of a 22-inch touch-screen all-in-one device. Apple’s purchase of the domain islate.com has led to speculation that the device may be named iSlate or iTablet, although at this point, such rumors are purely speculation.

Analysts & fans alike have high hopes for the device, with rumors swirling that Jobs himself may have been in charge of product development. Jobs has long been known to have held a desire to bring Apple’s design sensibilities to the mobile market, going as far back as Apple’s early – & ill-fated – experiment with the Apple Newton.

This time, however, it looks like all of the necessary pieces could be in place for yet another coup by Apple in the world of consumer electronics. While many companies have been rushing tablet devices out to market in an attempt to grab an early lead, few can lay claim to a highly developed & widely adopted mobile ecosystem such as that possessed by Apple. With thousands of mobile applications, billions of downloads from iTunes, & the seamless integration of iTunes for media management, Apple is well placed to launch a device to dominate the market for tablet computing. Add to this the critical & consumer success of recent products like the iPod & iPhone, & the speculative hype behind the announcement of a virtually unknown product becomes a little easier to understand.

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Apple released Mac OS X 10.6.2 updates yesterday, fixing a number of issues, including the Guest Account bug posted earlier that could potentially delete a user’s home directory.

Other fixes include native support for Apple’s new, multi-touch Magic Mouse, mobile account creation for Active Directory users, file sync for portable home directories, a fix for Mail crashes during Exchange setup, & an issue with graphics distortion in Safari Top Sites, among others.

Updates are available via software update or directly from Apple. Download the 10.6.2 combo update for servers or the 10.6.2 combo update for clients.

As always, make sure you have a current backup before applying any software updates. Read on for the full list of features/fixes.

What’s included?

General operating system fixes provided for:
• an issue that caused data to be deleted when using a guest account
• an issue that might cause your system to logout unexpectedly
• Spotlight search results not showing Exchange contacts
• the reliability of menu extras
• an issue in Dictionary when using Hebrew as the primary language
• shutter-click sound effect when taking a screenshot
• an issue with the four-finger swipe gesture
• an issue adding images to contacts in Address Book
• an issue in Front Row that could cause sluggish or slow frame rates while watching videos
• creation of mobile accounts for Active Directory users
• reliability and duration of VPN connections
• general reliability improvements for iWork, iLife, Aperture, Final Cut Studio, MobileMe, and iDisk
• overall improvements to VoiceOver performance
• this update addresses video playback and performance issues for iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2009) and iMac (27-inch, Late 2009) computers that may occur in some situations while AirPort is turned on

Fonts fixes provided for:
• an issue with font spacing
• an issue in which some Fonts are missing
• font duplication issues
• an issue with some PostScript Type 1 fonts not working properly

Graphics fixes provided for:
• an issue when connecting monitors to DVI and Mini DisplayPort adapters
• an issue in which the brightness setting may not be remembered on restart
• addresses functionality with specific display models
• general reliability and performance improvements when using some applications

Mail fixes provided for:
• a situation in which Mail’s unread count may not update properly as messages are read on another computer
• an issue in which deleted RSS feeds may return
• an issue in which Mail cannot preview or Quick Look attachments when composing a new message
• an issue that can cause Address Book and/or Mail to stop responding when opened
• an issue in which email messages received from an Exchange Server are not formatted correctly
• an issue in which Mail reports “Account exceeded bandwidth limits” for some Gmail accounts

MobileMe fixes provided for:
• performance when accessing files from iDisk via the Finder and syncing iDisk files
• an issue in which syncing iDisk files does not proceed beyond “checking items”
• reliability and performance when syncing contacts, calendars, and bookmarks with MobileMe (syncing with iTunes and iSync are also improved)
• an issue that prevents some users from logging into MobileMe via the MobileMe System Preference pane

Network file systems fixes provided for:
• compatibility with third-party AFP servers
• file synchronization for portable home directories

Printing and faxing fixes provided for:
• automatic printer updates improvements
• Print dialog allowing you to enter and send to more than one fax recipient

Safari fixes provided for:
• a graphics distortion issue in Safari Top Sites
• Safari plug-in reliability

iphone_homeApple’s recently released iPhone OS 3.1 has caused headaches & more than a little confusion for some users with Microsoft Exchange accounts. While the OS 3.1 update improves security policy adherence for iPhones when connecting to Exchange Servers, it also has the unfortunate side effect of breaking security compatibility with pre-3GS iPhones & all but the most recent iPod touches. The end result: many iPhone users who upgraded to OS 3.1 suddenly fond they could no longer sync with any Exchange Servers!

Fortunately, the synchronization issue is limited to Exchange 2007 Servers running SP1 & above, & there is a work-around to re-enable synchronization. Unfortunately, the work-around requires either convincing Exchange administrators to create a security policy exception or rolling back to OS3.0 on the iPhone.

In order to re-enable Exchange syncing with pre-3GS iPhones, Exchange administrators will need to create an EAS policy exception that will allow connections to mobile devices that do not support device encryption (either globally or on a per-user basis).

If the creation of policy exceptions is not an option (& that will likely be the case more often than not) there are 2 options: 1) upgrade to iPhone 3GS or one of the latest 32GB or 64GB iPod touch models, or 2) rollback to OS 3.0 (what will undoubtedly be the most popular solution).

The easiest way to rollback to OS 3.0 is obviously to restore the phone from a recent backup using iTunes (you did create a backup before you upgraded your phone, didn’t you???). Apple has a support article detailing how to backup, update, & restore iPhones & iPods. In case of emergency (ie: no recent backups!) you can go to this site to download firmware for iPhones & iPods. [NOTE: This site is NOT supported by Apple in ANY way!!!)

Finally, Apple has also updated it’s Enterprise Deployment Guide for iPhones. If you’re a sys-admin involved in the deployment & management of iPhones &/or iPods in an enterprise environment, this doc is a must-read.

Snow Leopard Cheat-sheet

August 31, 2009

SnowLeopardLast Friday, Apple released OS X 10.6, “Snow Leopard” to the general public. There’s been quite a bit of excitement building around it’s release, although unlike the media & PR hype surrounding the release of Leopard, this time around the buzz seems a little more organic, building more through blogs, consultants, techs, & users instead of corporate PR departments.

While I haven’t yet done extensive testing of Snow Leopard’s newest features & enhancements (I spent the days following it’s release in the mountains of Garibaldi Provincial Park), I did make some time to put together a quick ‘cheat-sheet’ of key features, enhancements, & system requirements for the new OS. Be sure to stay-tuned, however. There’s sure to be more Snow Leopard posts to follow…

Snow Leopard Cheat-Sheet

$35 Upgrades!!!:

Thats correct. Apple is offering a $35 (US$30) upgrade disc for users who have OS 10.5 (Leopard). What Apple has not announced is that this upgrade disc will also upgrade your OS X 10.4 (Tiger) systems as well!  Thank you Apple for the cheapest OS upgrade in history…

Snow Leopard System Requirements:

  • Intel processor with 1GB of memory
  • 5GB of free hard drive space
  • DVD drive (for installation)

Key Features:

  • Speed – the first thing everyone is noticing is how much of a performance boost Snow Leopard is over pervious versions of the OS
  • Mail – support for Microsoft Exchange!!!
  • Cisco VPN support – Finally!!!
  • Ejecting volumes – no more “unable to unmount <NAME> because the disk is in use” errors
  • Customizable spotlight searching
  • Automatic print driver updates – boring but practical!
  • HFS+ read support for Boot Camp – access your OS X files while booted to Windows

iPhone SMS Security Patch

August 10, 2009

iphone_homeThe iPhone OS 3.0.1 that was released on July 31 patched a security flaw that could have allowed hackers to remotely control iPhones by launching a text-message attack. Security researchers publicized the exploit at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference and Apple posted the security patch the following day.

While Apple moved quickly, Chris Miller, one of the researchers who publicized the exploit noted that he notified Apple about the flaw nearly a month earlier and that it was first discovered in OS 2.0. It may have taken a public exposure to jump start the release.

Read more about the SMS exploit at Wired.com.

iphone_homeOn of my personal favorite features in version 3.0 of the iPhone OS is the internet tethering. My internet recently went down & it was a day or two before a tech was out to fix it (that’s service, isn’t it?). With several deadlines looming, tethering my laptop to my phone meant not having to spend two days working out of a coffee shop. Unfortunately, the deadlines also meant that I didn’t think to check Rogers’ policy (& pricing!) on tethering beforehand.

Turns out it’s not so bad. From the iPhone Smartphone Plans page on the Rogers website:

Tethering Policy
Tethering is the use of your phone as a wireless modem to connect to the Internet from your computer. For a limited time, if you subscribe to a data plan which includes at least 1GB of data transmission between June 8, 2009 and December 31, 2009, and if you have a compatible device, you may use tethering as part of the volume of data included in your plan at no additional charge. Tethering cannot be used with data plans of less than 1 GB.

For the time being, at least, data is data as far as Rogers is concerned. What will happen as of January 1st, 2010 is anyone’s guess, but for now as long as you have subscribed to a data plan of 1GB or more, there are no additional charges for data transfers using tethering.

X1Zero also wrote an excellent article for iPhone in Canada on the tethering policy for Rogers & Fido.

Follow this link for Apple’s System requirements for internet tethering.

Happy tethering!

apple-mail-iconI recently started experiencing an issue with Apple’s Mail application – every time I would select an email with an attachment, Mail would freeze for a few seconds before shutting down with the standard “unexpected quit” error dialog. I originally suspected corrupt emails, thinking back to issues with corrupt emails crashing Entourage if the Preview pane was enabled. Except that this time Mail would crash on EVERY email with an attachment – & there was no way that every email coming in was getting corrupted.

I cleared caches, rebuilt the mail index, removed Mail’s plist, even repaired permissions – all for nothing.

I finally stumbled onto a thread on the Apple Discussions forum suggesting that Mail might not be the correct version for the OS that I was running (10.5.7) & that the 10.5.7 combo updater should be re-installed.

Sure enough, here’s the version I was running when Mail was crashing:

Mailv3

And here’s the version that SHOULD be running under 10.5.7:

Mailv3.6How does this happen?

I had recently performed an archive & install on my laptop & being my overly cautious self, I hadn’t deleted the old System files (the Previous System folder). Turns out that when I ran the 10.5.7 combo updater after doing the archive & install, the combo updater actually updated the files in the previous System folder, not the newly installed System files!!!

The fix? Move the Previous System folder to the trash & re-run the 10.5.7 combo updater. Suddenly Mail is v3.6 & everything runs flawlessly again!

Thanks to Ernie Stamper on the Apple Discussions board for identifying this deceptive (& peculiar) bug!

iphone_homeI recently ran into some serious issues getting a client’s Shaw email account configured on their new iPhone. Using the settings copies from Mail, sending or receiving email on the phone would hang, sometimes taking the better part of 15 minutes & sometimes never sending at all. Often the the entire send/receive process would hang, requiring a reboot of the phone.

A bit of research (& a call to Shaw tech support for confirmation) revealed that Shaw has particular settings for use with mobile devices and that the standard settings used with desktop email applications will not work. More importantly, using Shaw’s own SMTP servers is not recommended by Shaw – for best performance, Shaw recommends using the SMTP server provided by Rogers or Fido.

What is frustrating about this arrangement, however, is that my experience has shown that even when using the SMTP server from Fido or Rogers, if wifi is enabled & connected to a wireless network, sending mail still takes so long as to be virtually unusable. In fact, in a thread posted on eh-mac.ca, a user states that Shaw tech support recommended disabling wifi when sending email – something which I confirmed provides a dramatic improvement in performance sending email.

Sigh.

On that note, the following are the settings to be used for setting up Shaw email on your iPhone. Please be aware – if you lan to configure a Shaw email account on your iPhone it is HIGHLY recommended that you disable wifi before sending email!

Setup Shaw email on the iPhone:

  1. Touch Settings
  2. Touch Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Touch Add Account
  4. Touch Other
  5. Acount & Password are your Shaw email account & password
  6. Select select the POP tab
  7. Username is the part of your email before @shaw.ca
    1. ie: for name@shaw.ca would be name
  8. Host: pop.shaw.ca
  9. Outgoing Mail Server: gprs.fido.ca (Fido) or smtp.rogerswirelessdata.com (Rogers)

Remember! If you have trouble sending email over wifi, turn your wifi OFF & resend!

Shaw’s Residential Email Service Details (external link)

wgmCreating network home folders for users in Open Directory is typically a fairly painless task using OS X Server. What can be a little more painful is trying to figure out how to create a clean, locally cached home folder on a client workstation. The only obvious options for home folders in Workgroup Manager are None & the creation of an AFP or NFS share that’s stored on the server.

While leaving the settings in WGM set to None does result in the home folder getting cached on the local machine, it’s a less than perfect solution. For starters, the profiles get cached in the root of the drive, under a directory labelled 99. Plus the home folders it creates doesn’t have the usual directory structure – they only contain a Desktop and a Library folder. Not quite what we’re looking for. Ideally, the home folder would get created in the /Users directory, using the standard home folder template just like a local machine account is.

The fix to this is to make sure the NFSHomeFolder attribute is set for all your network accounts. That’s what happens when you select an AFP or NFS share – the path to the network share is written to the NFSHomeFolder attribute in the LDAP directory. When you leave the home folder setting at None, the default value is assigned to NFSHomeFolder – a value which happens to be 99 (hence the 99 directory that appears in the root directory on client machines whenever a user without a specified home folder logs in).

Set Network Account Home Folders to the Local Users Directory (/Users):

  1. Launch WGM & login to your Open Directory server
  2. If the Inspector tab in WGM isn’t visible, enable it in the Preferences
    1. Check the box next to “Show ‘All Records’ tab and inspector
  3. Select a network user account & click the Inspector tab
  4. Locate the NFSHomeDirectory attribute – it should read 99 – & change this value to ‘/Users/username‘ where username is the shortname of the user.
  5. Save your changes.