Must-Read Articles

October 5, 2017 Comments off

From time-to-time, we’ll post links to articles in this file you will likely find of particular interest. Send us a link (in comments)  if there’s something you feel our readers need to know about!

KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerabilities and the Mac OS/iOS Universe

MacRumors.com

“Apple has already patched serious vulnerabilities in the WPA2 Wi-Fi standard that protects many modern Wi-Fi networks, the company told iMore’s Rene Ritchie this morning.“

Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense (Kaspersky Labs)
Wall Street Journal

The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab…

Critical Code in Millions of Macs Isn’t Getting Apple’s Updates
Wired

Researchers dug into the deep-seated, arcane code in Apple machines known as EFI, and found it’s often dangerously neglected. Read the full story

Testing Your Mac’s Hardware & RAM

October 2, 2017 Comments off

screen-shot-2017-09-30-at-10-51-28-am1.png

Photo: Public Domain via Google Search.

Updated Oct. 3, 2017 to include Micromat’s Atomic software:

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Sept. 29) We’ve been looking at ways to test computer RAM from the Macs we get donated to MacRecycleClinic.

Most of the time, we turn on the machine to see if it works. If there’s a problem (and many times there are any number of issues), we pull the memory and plug it into a new Mac of the same vintage and hope it works. Sometimes the Mac will flash it’s “on-off” light on the front to say something was not quite right (sometimes you have to insert the same memory in pairs). But how can you actually test RAM? There are three basic ways to do that – the expensive way, the 3rd party software way and the inexpensive (Apple provided) way.

    1. You can go with a hardware solution – purchasing a RAM testbed that will check out the memory chips and provide a robust report. But the solution is expensive – and requires the purchase of additional plug-in “cards” that are designed to work with the machine – each plug-in is designed for a specific kind of long, or short RAM. The costs can run upwards of $1000.00! One example: See this YouTube video about the Ramcheck LX
    2. Micromat sells a software suite called Atomic – which they bill as “The most comprehensive memory tester for the Mac.” We haven’t been able to try it out yet – so if any of you have – please give us some comments below about the program. By the way – it works with OS X 10.9 or greater, including macOS 10.12 ‘Sierra’ (and we’ll assume 10.13 – High Sierra now). Cost is $29.99 unless you are a previous Micromat customer, in which case, the cost is $19.99. NOTE: TechTool Pro 9 also includes a memory test as part of it’s software offerings.
    3. Use the Mac’s built-in software Hardware Test Suite. Macs, going back to machines from 2000 or so, have built-in hardward diagnostics that offers a more cost-effective solution (as in, free!). We MRC volunteers approve of that! 🙂

    Using the Hardware Test Suite

    Unlike Disk Utility, the hardware test is not an app per se, but requires you to restart your machine and press the “D” key during startup. In some instances, I’ve seen tutorials call for Option + D – but just “D” may be enough in most instances.

      1. Restart your Mac and at the chime, press “D” or “Option + D” and wait for your computer to boot.
      2. You’ll be presented with a screen showing a turning globe and drop-down box to select your wireless network. Go ahead and choose the network and plug in the password on the next screen. Continue.
      3. Once that’s done, the “Apple Hardware Test” screen will open. Choose your language of choice (English is highlighted by default.
      4. Move to the next panel to get to the actual test screen. You’re almost there!IMG_5773 2
      5. To perform the hardware test all you have to do is click on the “Test” button or, as the instructions indicate, press the “T” key. Be ready to wait a bit while the tests are performed. Note the box under the progress screen where your results will be displayed. If you have any RAM issues (or other hardware problems) this is where you’ll find the results.IMG_5775 2
      6. If you do have an issue with the RAM, you’ll need to replace the memory since it is not something that’s “fixable.”

    There are a number of good places to purchase memory – but be sure to ask us first as we have a robust collection of RAM that we sell inexpensively. That said, if you want new, choices range from Amazon and Best Buy to Crucial, and many others. But we usually recommend memoryx.com to our MRC Clinic visitors (we’ll help you purchase the correct RAM).

    Remember that in some cases, your Mac will need not one but two memory cards (usually matched) to work correctly. You can get help from your MRC volunteers, on the memoryx website (by computer type and year it was built) or you can use the MacTracker app on you Mac or IOS device.

    • There are many more resources on the web to help you if you’re interested in learning more about the Hardware Test Suite:CNET: How to Test the RAM on Your Mac

      YouTube
      : There are a number of great videos – click on the link and you’ll be at a search screen with a number of choices.
    • Memoryx.com also has helpful videos that explain HOW to install RAM. But if you’re uncomfortable with doing that, bring it in to the MRC most Monday nights and we’ll be happy to help.

Tips to Fix a Slow-Starting Mac

September 5, 2017 Comments off

SILVER SPRING Md. (Sept. 5) – We come across all kinds of issues with older Macs at the MacRecycleClinic. Some are easily fixed. Others want to make you pull your hair out. But as we’ve gained experience in fixing these computers, there seems to be a set of solutions that usually will take care of the problem (short of reformatting the drive and installing a new version of the OS).

So here are some great tips to help you get your Mac loading faster – and hopefully operating in a way that will let you hold on to your hair. 🙂

Let’s start with a couple of old standbys:

  • Repair permissions on your Mac. It’s pretty easy to do if you’re running OSX Yosemite or earlier (Intel):

If you’re running El Capitan (10.11) or Sierra (10.12)  it’s a little more complicated because Apple has removed that capability from Disk Utility. Apple says:

But if you must,  there’s a way around that. (Thanks OSXDaily:)

  • Reset the PRAM (NVRam) (PRAM/NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store certain settings and access them quickly.)


Still having trouble or want to try something else – try these tips from our MRC Guru Lorin Evans:

  • Has the owner added any applications or ‘things’ since receiving the computer from you? If ‘yes’, have him/her download “Malwarebytes” and run it to make sure these new applications/things do not contain questionable stuff. (Video courtesy of Malwarebytes.)

 

 

 

  • Go to Startup Disk in System Preferences.

Be sure that the HD icon is selected. Lock and/or unlock as necessary to gain access to this item.

  • Stay in System Preferences. Go to Users & Groups. Click on “Login Items.” Are there any items there that the system wants to start at “startup”? If ‘yes’, delete the icon for that item.

  • Start Disk Utility (Applications ->Utilities->Disk Utility.app). Select the HD from the left column. Now look at the S.M.A.R.T. status line. Make sure it reads: “Verified”

  • Start the computer in ‘safe’ mode. Give it a minute or two after the desktop appears; then restart normally.

Got your own tips for speeding up a slow Mac? Let us know!

Part Two: Using the Patcher Tool

February 12, 2017 Comments off

img_3975Off the top, I want to thank dosdude1.com for providing the software – and the instructions – to upgrade many older Macs to OSX Sierra. Please donate if you can!

The benefit to this update is that we are getting a number of Macs – Towers, Mini’s and iMacs – that can only go up to OS7 or OS8 and thus are increasingly out-of-date. If we can get at least some of these Macs up to OSX Sierra, we have a great chance to give them new life for a few more years. And that means we can give students, families, non-profit groups and others the ability to work with the latest OS and be as productive as they can be going forward.

The website lays out the requirements, supported (and non-supported) machines, things you’ll need and known issues (which we laid out in Part 1.)

You can use the instructions from dosdude1 to take you through the process. My intent here is to give you my take as I went through those instructions.

TAKE ONE

The instructions are clear that you need a flash drive of at least 8 GB in size. I found that you can get away with a smaller one. That said, you will need to get ahold of a copy of the Sierra installer by using a newer Mac to get it from the App store or dosdude1 gives you a link to the MEGA Unlimited site in New Zealand – but you can get instructions on how to download it from other websites as well.

You’ll also need a hard drive with an older version of the Mac OS (based on the requirements for the upgrade) or a blank drive. In either case, you’ll be installing Sierra – so it will be a “normal” install as you would with any Mac update, or a clean install on a new or blank drive.

Update: This is my main drive info. I did this upgrade on an exact copy:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 5.08.04 PM.png

NOTE – we plan to do a clean install and, with some additional software tools (like Open Office) we will plan to make a Time Machine backup to use to make clones for other Macs. (Yes there are other ways to make clones – as in using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cleaner. But I’ve found that using a Time Machine backup is actually quicker. (See note below about this.)

We’ll write about that experience in a future blog.

TAKE TWOscreen-shot-2017-02-07-at-11-04-07-pm

Download the Patcher Tool as instructed. Plug in the USB drive and format it using Disk Utilities. (That said, the Patcher Tool will format it anyway when you go to the next step.)

NOTE – I used a 6 GB partition on a large USB drive that I have with various OSX installers without a problem.

It’s time to install OSX Sierra on the USB Drive. Make sure you know where the Sierra installer app is – the patch tool will want to know.

Run the Patcher Tool and click on the Sierra icon to verify your Sierra install app. This went as planned for me. Now it’s time to install the OSX Base System on the formatted USB drive (or in my case  – partition).

Remember, this will be the boot drive from which you’ll install OSX Sierra onto the drive of your choice. 

With the USB drive selected, I clicked on “Start Operation” to begin installing the Sierra install app.

This is where I ran into some trouble – as the install would get almost all the way to the end and then give me an error message. I reformatted the USB drive and tried again. Same thing. Third time, I LEFT what had been installed on the USB partition and walked away. The install was successful this time! Not sure why but it was time to move on.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-10-36-23-pm

TAKE THREE

I keep a Time Machine backup and a SuperDuper backup of my boot drive, so I decided to use the backup as the guinea pig for this update. I rebooted the Mac from the USB drive (Apple Menu -> Restart – Press the Option key). If your USB drive only has one partition (with the Sierra install on it) you’ll see your boot drive and one that is called “OS X Base System.” THAT is what you want to boot from.

I intended to UPDATE from El Capitan (10.11), but if you want to do a clean install, you’ll need to boot into the install drive and then pull down System Utilities to format that drive (yes – you could have done this before as well).

Proceed with the installation on the disk of your choice. This will take awhile so be sure to go into System Preferences and tell your Mac (using Energy Saver) to not go to sleep or turn off your hard drives.

Once installed, your Mac will boot into the new OS. You’ll know because the background will be the Sierra Nevada mountains and “About This Mac” from the Apple Menu will confirm it all.

TAKE FOUR

I was almost done! Although it LOOKS like you’ve upgraded properly, you still need to patch the new OS. So I rebooted BACK into the USB Sierra installer partition. This time, when it booted, I found a small box had popped up with four menu items. You only care about the last one – macOS Post Install. I chose that and it asks you to choose your Mac model.

Luckily – it TELLS YOU what Mac Model you have. Choose that model from the drop down box and you will see some suggested patches pre-populated for the model Mac you have. Select the drive you installed Sierra on and press PATCH. For some reason, I had to do this twice but it did finally take.

On the bottom of the Post Install, you’ll see “Complete!” on the left and a Reboot button. Ignore “Force Cache Rebuild.”

My Mac rebooted into the backup drive with Sierra installed. It worked perfectly! I checked for any updates and only had one – Pages – to update. The patched system should allow updates as well (at least for Sierra) but there have been none so far.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-11-06-29-pm

FINALLY

That was it! I will likely go ahead and install Sierra on my original El Capitan boot drive (2 TB) as well after giving Sierra a run through on the backup.

Given that the patches are Mac-specific, I’ll likely have to run the patcher tool on each machine we update at the MacRecycleClinic. The good news is, I can boot from the USB drive and install Sierra on any Mac that is supported. From there, I just have to run the Patcher Tool and choose the right version of the machine to patch.

The other plan (as mentioned above) – to create a Mac-specific Time Machine clone may not work but we’ll give it a try and report back.

NOTE that there are still some restrictions with certain Macs – in some cases, for instance, WiFi won’t work – the website says machines ( a wide range actually) running the Broadcom BCM4321 WiFi module. The fix is to install a compatible WiFi card if one is available.

Let us know your own experiences with this patch and any suggestions you might have to make it easier.

Upgrading Older Macs to OSX Sierra: Part 1

February 3, 2017 Comments off

img_2613

My Mac Tower is finally at a point where it can’t be upgraded. At least that’s what Apple says.

The curious thing is – it can be upgraded – with a little help.

Our MacRecycleClinic guru Lorin Evans found a great website that offers a number of solutions for those of us with older Macs (within reason) that want to use Apple’s latest OS.

The website is pretty plain but has the info you need:

http://dosdude1.com/sierrapatch.html

The owner of dosdude1.com does ask for a donation if you use his tools to do the deed. But to start – here are the requirements:

Requirements:
-Early-2008 or newer Mac Pro, iMac, or MacBook Pro (MacPro 3,1 and 4,1, iMac 8,1 and 9,1, MacBook Pro 4,1, 5,1 5,2, 5,3, 5,4, and 5,5)
-Late-2008 or newer MacBook Air or Aluminum Unibody MacBook (MacBookAir 2,1, MacBook 5,1)
-Early-2009 or newer Mac Mini or white MacBook (MacMini 3,1, MacBook 5,2)
-Early-2008 or newer Xserve (Xserve 2,1)

Machines that ARE NOT supported:
-2006-2007 Mac Pros, iMacs, MacBook Pros, and Mac Minis (MacPro 1,1 and 2,1, iMac 4,1, 5,1, 5,2, 6,1 and 7,1, MacBook Pro 1,1, 2,1, and 3,1, MacMini 1,1 and 2,1)
*
The 2007 iMac 7,1 is compatible if the CPU is upgraded to a Penryn-based Core 2 Duo, such as a T9300.
-2006-2008 MacBooks (MacBook 1,1, 2,1 3,1 and 4,1)
-2008 MacBook Air (MacBookAir 1,1)

I have NOT done this upgrade YET but will give it a shot on a backup drive and let you know what happens. In the meantime – give it a try if you’re up to it and let us know how it goes.

Last Call to Download OSX El Capitan

September 10, 2016 Comments off

imageThanks to MacInTouch for this information (with minor editing):

Please note that if you (and your friends/family/clients) have not downloaded OS X 10.11 El Capitan yet I strongly advise you to do so before Sept. 20 because after this date, in line with what has happened with previous OS X upgrades, it will probably no longer be available to download from the App Store. The download is free and you do not have to install it/upgrade to it:

1. Go to Apple menu > App Store… (or Macintosh HD > Applications > App Store).

2. Click the “Purchased” tab.

3. If you need to sign in, sign in with your Apple ID.

4. In your Purchased list look for “OS X El Capitan.”

5. If it is listed, you have already downloaded it and you do not need to do anything else – quit the App Store.

6. If it is not listed click https://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/app/os-x…&at=11l7jb

7. If OS X El Capitan has a “Download” button click it to download (the installer is quite large ~6GB so may take some time to download).

8. Once it has downloaded the installer will launch.

9. At this point quit the installer – do not run through the installer.

10. In your Macintosh HD > Applications folder there will now be an “Install OS X El Capitan” application – you can leave that where it is unless you need the disk space in which case it should be safe to delete it (although it’s worthwhile to make a copy/archive of it somewhere else from your boot drive before deleting it).

11. The free purchase and download of OS X 10.11 will now be registered with your Apple ID so that if Apple remove OS X 10.11 next week from the main App Store you will have it in your Purchase history and will still be able to download it in the future should you ever need it.

Categories: Apple General

Why Is It Getting More Difficult to Recycle Macs?

June 1, 2016 Comments off

MacBooks - like these being used by student reporters at the University of Maryland - are becoming impossible to repair or refurbish.

Even older MacBooks are challenging to repair.

We have talked in the past about how much more difficult it is getting to recycle Macs, and frankly many other PC brands – especially laptops.

Now word that the upcoming MacBook will be even worse. A beautifully thin machine glued together with a battery that literally can’t be replaced. Shredding is not even an option.

This article by Huffington Post Reporter Andy Campbell tells the tale. But it reflects what we continue to see at the Clinic. We are only accepting and working on Intel machines now, so we are already having to deal with issues of machines that – for example – might only need a new hard drive, but it’s just too difficult to open up to replace. And that means it is harder for us to meet our goal of getting perfectly good machines back to folks who need them.

Frustration, thy name is increasingly Mac.

The Huffington Post article can be found here:

Apple’s Next MacBook Will Probably Be Terrible For The Planet
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/05/31/apple-new-macbook-unsustainable_n_10228840.html

 

%d bloggers like this: