Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Mac

Troubleshooting | Basic Software | Security Notices

Macintosh information, sites, software and  user groups.

Mac Information

Mac Security | Mac News | Reference | History

macOS 11 Big Sur

macOS Big Sur includes some of the biggest changes to macOS since the release of Mac OSX. It has more of an iOS look and feel, but with features unique to macOS.

macOS Big Sur upgrades the Mac’s interface in dozens of subtle and substantial ways that make it easier and more convenient to use than ever. And new security features lock down the system even more effectively against malware. — PCMag

Apple is moving away from the Intel chip towards the new M1 ARM-based chips, reported to be very fast but you may need to install Rosetta to get apps that were designed for Intel processors to work.

Big Sur does not support either 32-bit apps nor legacy system extensions.

macOS Catalina

macOS Catalina has continued to move much iOS functionality onto the Mac, including the ability to port iPadOS apps. iTunes is gone, replaced with Music, TV and Podcasts. iOS backup in now in Finder and Sidecar turns supported iPads into a secondary monitor.

If you've got an older Mac that you're still happy with, you have some options. You can continue to run Mojave or Catalina, depending on which version you’re happiest with. Apple typically supports the previous two versions of macOS with security updates and new Safari versions, so Mojave should be supported for another year and Catalina should have two years of patches left. — Ars Technica

32-bit Apps Deprecated

Catalina is the last macOS version that will support 32-bit software.

The end of support for 32-bit apps in macOS 10.15 is probably most significant for legacy users more likely to be using 32-bit apps.

Mac hardware and macOS made the jump from 32 bits to 64 bits a long time ago, but Catalina will be the very first version of macOS that is totally unable to run 32-bit software. — iMore

Legacy System Extensions Deprecated

Catalina will be the last version of macOS to use legacy system extensions. Most active vendors have already made this change, but it may require you to pay for an upgrade. An example of the warning:

Catalina warning about the end of support for legacy extensions.

General

The Internet is the best source for help with your challenges other than Mac user groups.

Switching to a Mac

The Mac provides a stable platform for those that dislike the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows 10 or those that need to run both Windows and Mac on the same machine.

[T]here's a simple reason to buy a MacBook. They last twice as long. — ZDNet
A common misconception about Macintosh hardware is that it's more expensive than equivalent PC hardware. In fact, that's not true. If you compare spec-for-spec Mac hardware against the equivalent premiere PC hardware like the Microsoft SurfaceBook or the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you'll find that the pricing is similar. — ZDNet

High-end Mac laptops (e.g. the 15" MacBook Pro) can be quite pricey, but are aimed at those that need the extreme performance in a laptop. Apple's 2019 MacBook lineup: Which one to buy? (video)

The switch from Windows to OS X has really paid off for me from a reliability standpoint. Sure, the Mac ecosystem is far from perfect, and there are still plenty of annoyances to contend with, but I'm wasting a lot less time hand-holding systems these days. — ZDNet

The integration with iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad make it even more attractive if you run those devices. You can even run Windows on a Mac by using Boot Camp or on a virtual suite like Parallels.

Should you switch? Have a look at When replacing your Windows 7 PC: Should you switch to Windows 10 — or a Mac?

High end Windows-based ultrabooks are priced near (or even above) similarly equipped MacBooks and MacBook Pro machines. — ZDNet

There are online resources and books to help you in the transition.

Apple Resources

Other Resources

Mac Security

You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac.

The use of security software for Mac OS X should not fail due to false vanity. — AV-TEST

Macs No Longer Secure

Once of the reasons people love Macs is because of its reputation for lacking security vulnerabilities compared to Windows.

That is no longer true. Security threats to Apple devices and computers have significantly increased in the last few years.

[T]he volume of Mac threats increased by more than 400% year-on-year in 2019, outpacing Windows "threats per endpoint" by a ratio of nearly two to one. That latter number being the more important as it allows for the fact that Malwarebytes has a larger Mac userbase than Windows. — Forbes
The Malwarebytes researchers, however, concluded that what the 2019 threat landscape tells us as we move further into 2020, is that "it's time to take a good hard look at Mac security and finally get serious." — Forbes

Malware Protection Weak

Malware protection has been particularly weak and we've had proof that Macs can get ransomware since 2015. Choose an effective program that doesn't significantly slow down the system.

With Increased Popularity Comes New Threats

With the increased popularity of Macs has come a new set of security threats (see sidebar).

Don't Be Part of the Problem

Be wary of potential misleading links in emails before you click on them. Websites or sudden warnings that “you're infected” (including unexpected “tech support” phone calls) are generally attempts to scam you. Know how your security software provides protection and alerts so you don't get caught by fake warnings.

Be aware of what you're sharing on the Internet and how it could affect your security and privacy. Many people post answers to common security questions on social media.

Install Security Software

I strongly recommended that you install security protection onto your Mac.

You'll find a listing of Mac security software in the software section.

Mac News

These news sources will keep you informed about what is new and upcoming regarding the Mac.

Mac Reference

Tips & Tricks

Mac Online Communities

  • Info-Mac the original Mac online community.

Information About Older Macs

These are sites don't appear to be maintained but still contain useful information:

Mac History

Feeling nostalgic or curious about early Macs?

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Troubleshooting

Macs are very reliable, but sometimes things go wrong.

Unresponsive Programs

Apple has a Force Quit option for programs that don't respond to a normal shutdown request. This should be your last resort option.

Hardware

Storage Options

Traditionally, the only option for a hard drive was a spinning magnetic platter. Today, SSDs have changed that but you need to be aware of the risks and benefits of each choice.

Backing Up Your Mac

If your hard drive fails, you'll lose all your data and perhaps the information necessary to recover your computer. Backing up your Mac stores that information so that you can recover. You might want to read a bit about backups to fully understand the main concepts and risks.

Backing Up Your Email

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Basic Mac Software

Security | Graphics | Internet | LibreOffice | PDF Editors
HTML & Text Editors | Accounting | Utilities

This Mac software listing is not extensive but provides some basic apps. Try these resources:

Security Software

You need to be running security (antivirus) software on your Mac. The effectiveness of security programs varies. See this not all products as effective.

Many Mac OS X security products adversely affect system performance. These reviews may help you decide:

Recommended

The recommendation is mainly based upon comparing the reviews and personal experience. I'm unlikely to recommend a product that causes your system to slow down considerably or which provides poor protection, but it is a balancing act. Here's some notes from the 2018 Tom's Guide reviews:

Kaspersky Internet Security offers both the lowest system impact and some of the best malware-detection rates recorded. It even provides extra security features, including parental controls and options to lock down your webcam and stop websites from tracking your browsing activity. If you're willing to pay to protect your Mac from malware, Kaspersky Internet Security is the best option available.
Avast Free Mac Security caught 99.9 percent of all malware, packs in a password manager, barely leaves a smudge on system impact and doesn't charge a dime. If only it caught 100 percent of malware, as Kaspersky did.
Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is one of only a few solutions we tested that offers perfect malware detection. Further, its modern, streamlined interface places on-demand scans front and center. Last year's winner dropped from first place, though, because its system-impact scores didn't match the flawless marks posted by Kaspersky.
Norton Security Deluxe may offer excellent protection, but it charges more (after the first year) than its competitors do, without offering as many perks. Still, always-on-call customer support is a nice thing to have if anything ever goes awry.

Firewall

OS X's built-in firewall provides only inbound protection. There is no outbound protection and provides no additional protection if you're behind a router.

  • Little Snitch provides both incoming and outgoing firewall protection and includes a network monitor.

Photo & Graphic Design

Affinity products are extremely powerful and very reasonably priced.

  • Affinity Photo (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional photo editing software for the Mac. In the works for 5 years, it has an incredibly intuitive interface. System requirements.
  • Affinity Designer (CA$69.99, no subscription) is professional graphic design software for the Mac. Affinity Designer won the 2015 Apple Design Award, “honoring outstanding design and innovation.” System requirements.

Internet Software

Web Browsers

  • Safari Browser is the Mac OS X default web browser and supports the latest standards and features.
  • Firefox Browser is available for Mac OS X 10.2.x and later.
  • iCab Browser. This alternative browser for the Mac is highly customizable and includes image filtering, which eliminates banner ads.

Email

Free
Paid
  • Postbox (US$29.99 per year) may provide a Thunderbird alternative to those looking for something similar but with more features.
  • Spark for Teams US$7.99/month/team member adds the ability to share and discuss email with your teammates to Spark.
  • AirMail is a new mail client designed with performance and intuitive interaction in mind. Available for macOS (US$26.99) and iOS (US$4.99).
Reviews

FTP

  • FileZilla (free) is the recommended FTP client for casual users.
  • FileZilla Pro (US$19.99) is a professional FTP/S, SFTP client for Windows, Mac OS X or Debian Linux. Heavily optimized for speed, it can also connect with many cloud servers.

Accounting Software

Manager is free accounting software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • It includes modules such as cashbook, invoicing, receivables, payables, taxes and comprehensive financial reports.
  • The Desktop edition doesn't support multi-user capabilities. If you require multi-user access, you will need to sign up for Cloud edition and your data will be stored in the “cloud” rather than on your computer.

Multimedia

  • VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is Free and Open Source Software.

I strongly recommend LibreOffice because it is better maintained and more frequently updated than OpenOffice. It provides everything most people need.

This section discusses the requirements for LibreOffice on Linux. For more general information about LibreOffice, please see the Recommended Software page.

System Requirements for macOS

LibreOffice runs on macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or higher.

  • Intel or Apple silicon processor (via Rosetta - native Apple silicon support is being developed).
  • 512 MB RAM.
  • Up to 800 MB available hard disk space.
  • 1024x768 graphic device with 256 colors (higher resolution recommended).
For certain features of the software — but not most — Java is required. Java is notably required for Base.

 

Due to an issue, there are the following restrictions with Java: on macOS 10.10 and newer, JRE isn't found, JDK is required.

See Oracle's Java Downloads for All Operating Systems page for information specific to Mac OS X.

PDF Editors

  • Able2Extract Professional is a powerful professional PDF program that allows you to do almost anything with PDFs. Strongly recommended. See my review of Able2Extract Pro 12 for details and full system requirements.
    • A full license costs US$149.95.
    • A 30-day subscription costs US$34.95.
  • PDF Expert is a feature-packed PDF program that allows you to do most things that Adobe Acrobat DC can do.
    • A full license costs US$79.95.

HTML & Text Editors

HTML Editors

  • BBEdit ($49.99 USD) is an excellent HTML text editor.

Text Editors

Notes, the Mac OS X built-in editor, was improved greatly in El Capitan, but you might find one of these products better for your needs.

  • TextWrangler is now free, and considered the replacement for BBEdit Lite. There is a TextWrangler FAQ that should answer questions about the intended market for this product and the advantages of moving to the full-featured BBEdit.
  • BBEdit Lite is discontinued.

Writing

Utilities

Your Mac has utilities built in that do much of what is done by these third-party utilities, but sometimes they simplify the process.

Disk Cleanup

When deleting files, be careful to avoid system files and files related to programs as they may not run properly (or at all) if you do). Duplicate files on the system may be named the same but used for different purposes.

  • CCleaner for Mac protects your privacy and makes your Mac faster and more secure.
  • CleanMyDrive 2 is great for copying files to thumb drives including removing hidden junk files from external drives.
  • AVG Cleaner tracks down forgotten duplicate files.
  • AppCleaner can help uninstall apps that distribute many files throughout your System.

Zip Utilities

 

Security Notices

See Apple Product Security for an overview of Apple's security and Apple Security Updates for a listing of fixes.

Reports are increasingly appearing about malware and viruses infecting Apple computers (as well as the ever-more-ubiquitous hand-held devices).

  • SecureMac Computer security news. Just for Macs.

User Groups

Macintosh user groups provide a place to interact with other Mac users, to ask questions and socialize. There are often special interest groups (SIGs) that meet regularly to discuss specific topics.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.


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Updated: June 11, 2021