Computer Blog


You probably won’t be buying a Mac Pro this year


Apple’s end-to-end product vision extends from content consumption all the way to content creation and distribution, and its hardware line-up ranges from entry-level laptops to the pricey Mac Pro.

Apple has designed the Mac Pro to go places no other Mac has ever reached – but one place it won't go is into the mass market.

Apple’s best ever Mac

With a $5,999 starting price, the Mac Pro is a highly sophisticated supercomputer that’s going to sell in the thousands at the highest end of the industry (and to the world’s wealthiest Apple fans).

The people who purchase these Macs will be high-end professionals, users who aren’t always at the cutting edge of hardware or software upgrades. These are the kind of people who like to maximize the value they get out of their existing kit. Many may be avoiding upgrading to macOS Catalina because they still rely on 32-bit plug-ins. Some may use pre-subscription versions of key creative apps because they want to make money, not spend it.

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IDG Contributor Network: What is 5G today and what the future holds


If you ask the average person what they know about 5G technology, the first thing that will pop into their head will likely be something to do with cellphone technology. And if you consider the 2019 rollout of 5G thus far, perhaps that wouldn’t be too far off the mark. The average Jane or Joe would also likely recall that 5G is a faster follow-on technology to 4G LTE, and that wouldn’t be all that inaccurate either.

However, what 5G offers today, how it’s deployed and what the 5G landscape is going to look like in the next 2–3 years, will be vastly different. In fact, at the risk of using clichés, indeed 5G NR (New Radio) technology is poised to be “disruptive.” That said, this next generation of wireless network technology will also be an enabler across a myriad of industries and applications, and in all likelihood spur all-new use cases as well.

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Very interesting


One day, back in the ’80s, all the ATMs at the bank where pilot fish works suddenly refuse to dispense cash. Customers get a cryptic message about the system not being able to process requests.

When fish and his colleagues investigate, they find that the nightly batch job that prepares the files needed by the ATM software had expected to find a specific file on the mainframe that was not there. What happened to it? Ask … the mortgage department?

It seems that, some time ago, the mortgage department had requested a change in the name and format of a file containing interest rates for different types of mortgage loans. Although that change had been in effect for a while, the old, outdated file had never been deleted until someone quite recently did some system maintenance.

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Patch Tuesday problems persist: Start stops, Edge crumbles, Outlook and VMware shake


I reported two days ago that Microsoft seems to have fixed the printing bugs it introduced in the first CVE-2019-1367 Internet Explorer zero-day patch — and apparently reintroduced with the two additional CVE-2019-1367 patches. That’s the good news.

Now I have some bad news. Old bugs are back again, and some new ones seem to be crawling out of the primordial Windows ooze. Let’s take them from the most prevalent (or at least, the ones that generated the most screams of pain) to the ones that appear to infect infrequently.

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Decoding Apple’s Touch Bar philosophy


Apple has made the Touch Bar introduced in 2016 with the MacBook Pro part of every Mac user’s experience this year, making it available to anyone using an iPad and Mac combination in Sidecar mode.

Why a Touch Bar?

While there are lots of ways the Touch Bar on Macs can benefit users, the strongest use cases tend to be highly focused: media playback; video scrubbing; whizzing through track time lines; and creating and exercising Automator scripts.

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IDG Contributor Network: Is xCloud – the Xbox game streaming service – a glimpse at the future of the desktop?


 [Disclosure: The companies mentioned are clients of the author.]

We are in the early stages of moving local processing to the cloud and transitioning from the modern PC to something far closer to a terminal. This week, for example, HP launched their new Chromebox Chromebooks and added them to their DaaS (Device as a Service) plan. Chrome-based products initially anticipated a cloud future at a time when Microsoft didn’t seem that interested in the cloud.

Man, have things changed: the Windows Virtual Desktop is now the lead contender for this eventual migration.

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A network? No! It’s just sharing, over wires.


It’s the ’90s, and pilot fish is doing some work for a small law firm where the senior partner considers that newfangled internet to be nothing but trouble. And that is the root of the firm’s problem with printing, which is very slow.

The firm has a couple of large laser printers, and the IT consultant who preceded fish in this gig had rigged things with parallel port switches and extenders so that everyone could get to them. It would often take 30 seconds to a minute to print a page. It’s a kludge of a solution that baffles fish: Why would an IT professional do such a thing, especially when the printers have Jetdirect cards already installed in them?

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A Chrome security setting you shouldn't overlook


We spend tons o' time talking about Android security settings — like the added Android 10 option to limit how and when apps are able to access your location. Often lost in the shuffle, though, is the fact that the Chrome desktop browser has some significant security options of its own, and they're just as critical to consider.

In fact, Chrome has an easily overlooked setting that's somewhat similar to that new location control feature in Android. It's attached to every Chrome extension you install, as of not that long ago, and it lets you decide exactly when an extension should be able to see what you're doing on the web and be made privy to all the details (yes, even those details) of your browsing activity.

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How to use Apple’s new (and much better) Reminders app


Apple has made some excellent improvements to the Reminders application for Macs, iPhones and iPads, though it works a little differently and you need to upgrade all the devices you use with the system to get the most from it.

What's changed?

The new version of Reminders makes the software more useful for more tasks.

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IDG Contributor Network: A troubled update to critical browser patches for October Patch Tuesday


It was all going so well. We had a few months of updates that both rapidly and readily addressed security issues without many problems. This October Patch Tuesday is an important but troubled patch release from Microsoft. We have a critical, out-of-band browser update (CVE-2019-1367) that has been widely reported as causing a number of deployment issues. Our advice this month is to wait, test and stage your patch deployments. The only good news here, is that we are not all rushing around trying to extinguish another “screaming-hair-on-fire” Adobe issue. We have outlined this month’s key issues in an infographic for this October Patch Tuesday, found here.

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Throwback Thursday: Planning a long career here?


Users at this company are supposed to email the help desk so their tickets can be easily tracked, but one day this support pilot fish gets a phone call instead. It’s legit, though, he says.

“This user said she was calling because her email wasn’t working.”

The problem is that she’s gone over the storage limit, but she tells fish she has archived her older emails. Fish is a trust-but-verify kind of guy, so he checks the server, where he sees no evidence of any archiving from that user’s account.

He walks the user through the process of checking her archiving settings, and, yes, archiving is turned on.

But a little deeper into the settings, fish spots the problem: She has specified that the system should archive any emails she hasn’t read or modified in 31 years. That’s goes back a couple of decades further than the email system itself.

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Will Apple introduce AR glasses this month?


Apple may or may not hold an October Apple event – where it may or may not introduce its long-in-development augmented reality (AR) glasses. That's the current sense of the company's plans based on new claims from TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

First there’s the rumor…

 Kuo now says Apple will ship its long-awaited AR glasses during the second quarter of 2020; his report does seem to cast a little shade over expectations of another Apple event this month. That’s because he also says we shouldn’t expect new iPad Pros until Q1 2020, when Kuo also expects us to see some form of replacement for the iPhone SE.

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Patch Tuesday preliminary report: Looks like the fourth time’s a charm


All we had to do was wait. 

If you recall, on Sept. 23 Microsoft posted manual patches for the CVE-2019-1367 Internet Explorer zero-day hole, and the blogosphere went wild with warnings of imminent doom. Predictably, we haven’t seen any real-world attacks, but the bugs those patches introduced were very real. 

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Wayback Wednesday: Twice as nice


It’s the 1990s, and PCs are coming into the workplace, much to the dismay of some workers. This net admin pilot fish at a big manufacturing plant sees it all firsthand because she’s been given the extra duty of chief PC troubleshooter.

For example, the manager whose secretary calls fish to complain that his drive mappings aren’t working. Fish knows that nothing has changed in the login script, and it looks like the manager’s account isn't locked out, so she makes a deskside visit.

Where fish successfully logs on to the manager’s PC, no troubles. So the manager gives it a go. He types his username and password, then hesitantly hits the Enter key. This time the drive mappings don’t work.

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The courts have ruled: Mobile sites must be accessible. But why did enterprises ever resist?


When the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (Oct. 7) let stand a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it ended a long-lasting battle about whether mobile sites — as well as desktop sites — need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide full accessibility to those who are visually impaired. The appellate panel had ruled that mobile sites do indeed need to be fully compatible, and the Supreme Court decided to not intervene in that ruling.

Although this decision should end the debate and make it clear to companies that sites must be coded to be fully compatible — and, no, throwing in a toolbar option doesn't do it — it's astounding that companies ever resisted it. The appellate decision at issue here is Robles vs. Domino's Pizza, and Domino's was a classic resister.

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9 critical questions about Microsoft's first Android phone


Well, gang, it's finally happened: Hell has officially frozen over.

Didja hear about this? Microsoft is making its own Android phone. Let me rephrase that: Microsoft, the once-mortal-nemesis of Google, is building a phone running Google's operating system. Microsoft, the tech giant that tried and failed to claim its piece of the mobile ecosystem pie with Windows Mobile, is now staking its mobile future entirely on its competitor's platform.

Man. What a world we live in.

Now, to be fair, Microsoft's basically been building its own ecosystem within Android for a while already: After years of providing only sparse, subpar versions of its programs for Android, the MS crew started taking Android seriously a few years back. And boy howdy, was that one heck of a shift.

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Dialing for dollars


Consultant pilot fish who is contracted to handle network issues at a chain of dollar stores is called in by a branch where the VoIP phones aren’t working.

Being a network guy, he starts off by rebooting the cable modem and then the phone mux. Then he checks out the phones themselves.

One won’t power up. The other has been smashed, or possibly thrown in a fit of rage, and its screen is cracked and unreadable. Adds fish, “It also appeared to have possibly been submerged in water.”

Replacing phones isn’t part of fish’s deal, so the dollar store has just wasted several dollars on a network tech’s service call that involved no real service.

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Apple ships macOS Catalina; here's what you get


Apple today released macOS Catalina, making it available now for download.

I’ve been using it since the beta release and have written extensively in recent months about many of the new improvements and features. Here’s what you need to know:

Should I install Catalina today?

Apple’s new macOS has been extensively tested, but I don’t generally recommend any user upgrades immediately when a major OS update ships.

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As Patch Tuesday approaches, turn off Automatic Update temporarily and — especially — disengage IE


It’s hard to overstate the problems caused by Microsoft’s second, third and fourth September  cumulative updates for all Windows 10 versions. For example, Win10 version 1903, the latest and greatest, saw cumulative updates on Sept. 10 (KB 4515384), Sept. 23 (KB 4522016), Sept. 26 (KB 4517211) and Oct. 3 (KB 4524147, which some characterize as a super-early October cumulative update).

As Microsoft kept flinging buggy fixes at the zero-day problem known as CVE-2019-1367, customers kept complaining about problems with:

  • Print spooler crashes — No, they weren’t fixed with the fourth cumulative update, KB 4524147, in spite of Microsoft’s assertions. In fact, Mayank Parmar at Windows Latest documents complaints about KB 4524147 breaking PCs that were working after the third cumulative update, KB 4517211. So we have separate printer bug reports for the second, third and fourth cumulative updates. A royal printer flush.
  • Start Menu bugs — Click Start on a patched system and you get the message “Critical Error/ Your Start menu isn’t working,” which is my latest candidate for a D’oh! illuminating error message award.
  • Older JScript-based program bugs
  • Can’t type into the Cortana Search box
  • VMWare won’t start, with the warning “VMware Workstation Pro can’t run on Windows”
  • Machines won’t boot after installing the fourth cumulative update (see Lawrence Abrams’ report on BleepingComputer), or can’t install the update at all.

Microsoft hasn’t acknowledged any of those bugs, except for the printer spooler bug in the second September cumulative update. Yes, that’s the bug that is known to persist (reappear?) in the fourth cumulative update.

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Out of memory


It’s the heyday of Windows 7, and pilot fish is well familiar with the operating system’s disconcerting habit of reorganizing the desktop icons on login without warning. Sometimes users call about this phenomenon, but fish just tells them there’s nothing he can do to prevent it, and they’ll just have to live with it.

But one user in the Finance Department insists that fish has to come and help her because she cannot find the icon for the program she needs to run a financial report. When fish arrives, he sees that there are plenty of icons on the desktop, so he asks the user which program she needs. “I don’t know.” OK, what does it do when you run it? “I don’t know.” Well, what does the icon look like?

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IoT dangers demand a dedicated group


The internet of things (IoT) brings with it a wide range of IT security headaches, along with compliance nightmares — and turf wars.

Internal problem No. 1: Departments that typically have little to no interactions with IT are now directly ordering corporate IoT devices. Maybe you've got Facilities purchasing IoT door locks or Maintenance buying a ton of IoT light bulbs. Given that those departments have been purchasing door locks and light bulbs for as long as anyone can remember and have never needed IT or security's signoff, this can be a problem.

Internal problem No. 2: In many ways, IoT devices (think of devices for tracking pallets on ships or for monitoring where every fleet car is and how fast it's been driven) are very different from anything else that IT or security has dealt with. The units are capturing data that has never been tracked before — Hello, Compliance. Go away, GDPR regulator — and in different ways, such as bypassing enterprise LANs and cloud networks and using internal antennas to directly communicate.

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Apple appears to plan ARKit for the rest of us


Apple has put a lot of energy into the development of ARKit since it launched the software with iOS 11, and its confirmed purchase of little-known UK developer IKinema hints the company has plans for much more.

What Apple has done?

Apple quietly acquired IKinema, a company that develops software for motion capture, games and VR. Its solutions were already capable of creating characters that moved fluidly and could be used to create immersive environments in virtual space.

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Microsoft releases even more patches for the CVE-2019-1367 IE zero-day, and the bugs are having a field day


You may recall the Keystone Kops reenactment that goes by the code name CVE-2019-1367. In short:

Sept. 23: Microsoft released the CVE-2019-1367 bulletin, and published Win10 cumulative updates in the Microsoft Catalog for versions 1903, 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703, Server 2019 and Server 2016. It also released an IE rollup for Win7, 8.1, Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2. Those were only available by manual download from the Catalog — they didn’t go out through Windows Update, or through the Update Server. 

Sept. 24: Microsoft released “optional, non-security” cumulative updates for Win10 version 1809, 1803, 1709, 1703, 1607/Server 2016. Nothing for Win10 version 1903. We also got Monthly Rollup Previews for Win7 and 8.1. Microsoft didn’t bother to mention it, but we found that those Previews include the IE zero-day patch as well. This bunch of patches went out through normal channels — Windows Update, Update Server — but they’re “optional” and “Preview,” which means most savvy individuals and companies won’t install them until they’ve been tested.

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IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft Surface: Saving the future of PCs


[Disclosure: The companies mentioned in this article are clients of the author.]

For some time now, the PC market has been partially operating backward. Intel, who built the heart of the PC, would create a product then toss it out to the OEMs…who then had to build around it. This is analogous to having an automotive engine company building what they want – say a 16-cylinder engine – and having the car manufacturers build around it.

The way most manufacturing works is the engineers designing the product come up with a spec for a major component, and the component maker builds the part to the spec. This process is best because the OEM is closer to the customer, has the best sense of what the market needs, and is more able to set the spec than the parts vendor. When you do it backward, the tail is wagging the dog, and the product is sub-optimal.

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What ever happened with that float, anyway?


After two years working toward his computer science degree, pilot fish decides to take a summer job that has nothing to do with computers. He ends up working for the regional tourism bureau as a photographer and coordinator for a float that the bureau is building for a local city’s centennial celebration.

When it rains, the float stays in storage and fish just helps out around the office. Where he notices an old Commodore 64 in the corner. Which he decides he could just take a look at. And that’s it; he’s sucked back into the world of computers the instant he sees what is up with that ur-PC. (Where all good pilot fish belong, anyway.)

The Commodore is used to print mailing labels for the bureau’s newsletters and other mass mailings. But the program to print the labels has all the addresses hard-coded. Any additions, deletions or other changes require you to edit the program, and then search for the address or add extra lines to put in a new address.

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9 reasons there may be an October Apple event


File this in the speculation file, but during what seems to be a relative lull in Apple-related proceedings a spate of recent chatter seems to hint that a fall Apple event may be in the pipeline.

Here are some reasons why:

Apple TV+ is coming

Apple watchers won’t have missed the rapid pace of Apple TV+ show trailers emanating from the company’s busy YouTube channel. (If viewing figures are any guide, all eyes are on See, the trailer for which has so far been watched by more than 20 million people.)

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It's time to rethink the Chrome OS upgrade standard


I've never been one to shy away from calling out mobile tech injustices — especially when it comes to the realm of operating system upgrades. Well, gang, here we go again.

Now, hang on: This isn't another impassioned rant about Android upgrades. Nope; this time, we need to talk about Google's other mobile-tech platform — the one that's usually the subject of thickly ladled upgrade praise. Yes, oh yes, it's time to talk about the typically commendable Chrome OS.

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Throwback Thursday: Everybody gets an F


As the IT communications manager at this university, pilot fish is the person who sends out memos about IT policy to users. And he does just that when a phishing email starts circulating on campus.

Never send your user name and password to anyone via email, he warns them, and to give them an example of what to look out for, he pastes in the text of the phishing attempt.

Within minutes, his inbox is flooded with responses from students sending him their campus passwords, their Gmail passwords, their Yahoo passwords and more.

Sharky is looking for fish, not phish. Send me your true tales of IT life at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

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Time to install Microsoft's mainstream September patches – and avoid the dregs


How to use Voice Control in macOS Catalina


Apple’s introduction of Voice Control in macOS Catalina is life-transforming for many users, a convenience for some, and a little fun for others. Here is an introduction to using Voice Control on a Mac running macOS Catalina when it's released.

How to enable Voice Control on your Mac

Apple says Voice Control is more capable of understanding the context of what it is asked. Built on Siri’s accurate voice recognition engine, it's been tweaked for use in dictation and can be used with all your applications.

One example highlighted by Apple is when a person using Messages on their Mac dictates, “Happy Birthday tap send." Voice Control should be able to tell where the message ends and the send instruction begins – and then send the message “Happy Birthday."

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