Is anybody else experiencing issues with the Mac Mini (2018) and MacOS Mojave 10.14.3? I’m using a USB Corsair mouse plugged into one of the Mini’s two USB-A ports. I’m using FileVault (naturally) and therefore need to authenticate before I’m able to boot the machine.

ALAS!

If you have multiple accounts, you’re expected to select one, then enter the account password to unlock the machine and it boots. But in this case, the Corsair mouse in the USB-A port doesn’t work. It has power going to it, but MacOS does nothing with it. The pointer sits there stationery. If I boot into recovery mode, the mouse works fine.

Update: Yes, if I use an Apple Magic Mouse 2 via Bluetooth, the mouse pointer moves during the account selection process. It suggests that Mojave 10.14.3 has a pre-boot USB bug.

But I’ve also noticed that while the mouse usually works after booting into MacOS Mojave 10.14.3, occasionally it doesn’t work unless I unplug the mouse and plug it back in again.

I struggled to use the Bluetooth keyboard (an Apple Magic Keyboard no less – 2nd generation) during this process. It’s not immediately obvious how to switch between the accounts using the keyboard alone (update: ruddy obvious, really – use the cursor keys). One account and you’re presented with a password entry box- fine.

Also fed up with MacOS switching display arrangement around. I’ve had to take measures to ensure that the displays are plugged in (when looking at the back of the machine, L = left monitor, R = right monitor in USB-C port order). Mojave does not seem to remember the order otherwise.

To remind myself when plugging in the display cables in the right order because MacOS Mojave has trouble remembering position

I’m going to try my own Apple Bluetooth mouse tomorrow to see if that makes any difference during pre-boot. But I’m convinced this is a software bug that Apple need to fix rather than it being some kind of hardware issue.

Yesterday (24th January) was the 35th birthday of the Apple Macintosh. It was a revolutionary machine which has certainly changed the way we look at computers.

A 2018 Macintosh in laptop form – the MacBook Pro

What a WIMP!

Back in 1984, personal computers were great big lumbering beasts that didn’t have much in the way of a GUI – it was practically all text based. The Macintosh changed all that and gave the user a WIMP environment (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) and presented a virtual desktop on which the user can manipulate files and programs.

It took Microsoft a good year before Windows 1.0 was released for PCs. It didn’t have the same refined look and feel as the Macintosh operating system, and even to this day, MacOS still feels like it is a far better thought out OS than Windows will ever be.

Big Mac and Chips to go!

Now there are many iterations of the Mac today. Laptops and desktops of various shapes and sizes. And as the Mac line has progressed, it’s one of the few brands that has evolved throughout its life to change its whole architecture whilst retaining the same familiar user interface. From processors made byMotorola to IBM, then to Intel, and soon.. Apple itself?

I remember having an iBook G4 (PowerPC) before transitioning to one of the first x86 Mac laptop lines. The transition was actually quite smooth, and certainly, Apple had been thinking about this for a long time. Given how powerful and successful their own silicon has been in the iPhone and iPad products, I have no doubts in my mind that Apple will move the Mac to their own design of ARM processors, providing the same or better performance than Intel.

The future of the Mac line continues to look bright. Here’s to another 35 years!

One of my all time favourite online backup services has just released version 6 of their backup client which not only increases the backup speed up to 50% through the use of threading.

But what has got me interested most with this release is the ability to create snapshots of any part of your backups – at any interval – and keep them forever. Backblaze will keep 30 days worth of versioning for each file before the older versions are deleted. In order to get around that problem, Backblaze now connects to their own cloud storage system (B2 – significantly cheaper than Amazon’s S3 and Google’s Cloud Storage) and can save restored files to it, creating a permanent copy of those files. To keep 127Gb of photos and videos forever will cost me just $0.63 per month. As Backblaze costs $5 per month per computer, I consider this a bargain. All costs are shown up front before you commit to a snapshot.

And one can download the snapshots at any point (it’ll cost about $1.27 to retrieve the whole 127Gb zip file – if you’re just restoring from the regular Backblaze backup itself, restoration costs are free), or if there is a significant amount of data to retrieve (either from the snapshot or the computer backup itself), Backblaze can ship the data to you on a hard drive (up to 8Tb). You pay for the hard drive and can get a refund if you ship it back to them.

The only other thing I’d like to see from Backblaze would be local data centres – for example, in the UK, Ireland or Amsterdam. At the moment Backblaze’s data centres are based around the West Coast of the USA.

As always, I do recommend that people back up their computer data locally to external devices as well. But having an online backup gives you that bit of extra piece of mind (providing you continue to pay them, of course).

Internet security has never been more important. We’re getting to the point where everything has to be encrypted to ensure that prying eyes are kept well away from our data.

Even so, that still doesn’t stop data leaking, with the latest leak of 773 million records containing 2,692,818,238 rows of data having been released to the internet at large. I highly recommend using Have I Been Pawned? to check to see if any details (email or passwords) have been gathered across the plethora of public leaks.

VPNs are becoming more important when on the road where public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure and dangerous.

Now, it’s unlikely that any of the leaks are the responsibility of unencrypted traffic from your computer to the server, with man-in-the-middle attacks slurping your credentials when you’re at home and using your own router and ISP. But it’s possible but unlikely (though more likely if you’re connecting to terribly insecure public Wi-Fi). Most of the time these are going to be a combination of things: malware, unpatched exploitable security holes allowing attacks to access servers and their data directly, terrible methods of storing data, stupid password policies, stupid sysadminning, and everything else in-between.

But this still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take additional measures to ensure your online safety. A VPN can help you to protect your online privacy. Data will leave your device encrypted through your ISP’s (or public Wi-Fi) connection and exit through to the internet through a dedicated server. This makes it difficult to track back traffic to your computer, tablet or phone and stops your ISP (or Wi-Fi provider and any other potential third party threat) from spying on you.

VPNs can also bypass geographical restrictions. There are many US news sites that haven’t sorted out their EU policies and just block any EU user from accessing their web sites.

NordVPN offers 5,200 endpoints across 62 countries and 6 continents for a very low monthly price based on annual payment. And they also offer dedicated IP facilities where ISPs cannot

I’ve not been a big user of VPNs until now. But there is one big advantage of using a VPN service. And not all of them offer this particular feature: a dedicated IP. In my job (and as my hobby, running this server), having a dedicated IP makes it much easier to lock down a server and access it from specific IP addresses. IPv6 doesn’t seem to be making the kind of impact it should be these days which would make it much easier for ISPs to give each user a dedicated IP. Sky, my current provider, used to do this – but they then withdrew the service by the time I came back to them from Virgin.

I picked NordVPN for my VPN service. They’ve been advertising quite a bit on UK TV, and have had some very good reviews. I tested them out a couple of times via iTunes subscription, but have now committed to three years (paid up front) for around £100 (including VAT). Their dedicated IP service costs an extra £66 a year, but it allows me to use my own OpenVPN client across any device (so it’s on my iPhone and iPad Pro as well as my Mac). So far it’s been extremely useful, and most importantly, reliable.

I can still use my regular NordVPN account with random servers (they have over 5,200 servers (or endpoints) across 6 continents and 62 countries. They provide their own VPN client which makes it very easy to select different countries (and servers within those countries) along with speciality servers such as Onion over VPN.

Support is good, with live chat available. Most problems are easily fixed through the chat. It took a couple of days to set-up the dedicated IP, but that’s to be expected.

The only problems I’ve encountered with using NordVPN overall is that some WAF/CDNs tend to flag the IPs from some of the hosting providers that NordVPN as potential troublemakers. There were a number of occasions connected via a non-dedicated IP connection where “Access denied” popped up from an Akamai hosted site, and WordFence – a popular WordPress security plugin – also seemed unhappy with the IP I was using.

The problem is that with VPN connections, they will appear to come from a dedicated hosting company rather than an established broadband ISP. This can potentially have a negative impact as, in my line of business, this can potentially be flagged up as a potential bad actor or a bad crawler/robot – hence Akamai and WordFence’s response.

9.5/10