If like me, you’re using Google’s business level G Suite for personal use, you need to be aware that if you want to add any of the Google Voice options to your “organisation” – you can’t.

Tax status within Google’s G Suite billing system

Specifically, Google won’t let you because unless you have established yourself as a Business for tax purposes within G Suite billing system, the system will just throw an error. So if your account type is set to Individual and UK tax info is set to Personal, no G Suite Voice for you.

Apparently, the reason this is all happening is an internal thing to Google. It could possibly change, but I doubt that’ll happen for a long while. I’d rather hoped to make use of this so I could set-up a UK number for work – to avoid having to give out my personal mobile number to vendors.

Netflix has confirmed that it is removing AirPlay support from its iOS application due to ‘technical limitations’.

My concern with this is that it’s taking away one very useful feature – the ability to stream Netflix shows on TVs that have built-in AirPlay (and subsequently AirPlay 2) support. If you’re doing a lot of travelling – whether for business or pleasure – this can be extremely useful.

You could argue that a lot of TVs have a built-in Netflix app already? Yes, this is true. But many hotel TVs don’t. Will Netflix look to make up for potential connectivity problems by attempting to sell dongles or TVs with Netflix built to hoteliers?

I don’t want to have to provide credentials for my Netflix account to completely strange TV setups. AirPlay ensures that my credentials stay secure on my phone (though I’d use a VPN if I was on a hotel Wi-Fi – which could cause problems with Netflix’s policy of using VPNs – another problem Netflix has got to sort out because using a VPN has legitimate uses).

What next, Netflix? The ability to output content from Netflix via Lightning/USB-C to HDMI (which would enable you to hook up Netflix from an iPhone or iPad to a TV or monitor)?

Netflix is becoming awkward on the iOS platform because its app doesn’t support the interactive features that are present in the Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch. And this means other planned titles are unlikely to work either.

The Netflix app on Sky Q is becoming a big problem too. I frequently find that the app on the Sky Q box keeps crapping out, forcing me to switch over to the Apple TV 4K. The Netflix app on the Sky Q can handle interactive features but given that I consider the Sky Q app to be unstable, it’s not

Is the once durable and available everywhere Netflix app becoming a liability and non-consumer friendly? It certainly looks like it. And if Netflix continues on this path, and increases the subscription price, it will be a streaming/cable service like any other and I’m going to stop subscribing.

In the distant past, as a Mac user, I’ve been somewhat ambivalent to using anti-virus/anti-malware due to MacOS’ methods of supposedly going above and beyond to stop the user from running potentially harmful programs by accident. But as time has gone on, these methods haven’t been terribly effective and, as we have also seen, due to bugs within MacOS, it would be fairly trivial to do extensive damage to a Mac system. So it’s essential that all MacOS users have some form of anti-virus/anti-malware protection in place.

For the past few years, I’ve been running a mix of ESET Cybersecurity Pro, Bitdefender, and most recently, Sophos Home Premium. I found ESET to be painfully slow when accessing files via WebDAV or network file stores, and BitDefender’s main window keeps popping up whenever the Mac is started – which is very annoying. That said, performance wise, Bitdefender has been excellent across the network and local filesystems.

I’ve put my dad on my personal Bitdefender license (he runs Windows) because I have an unlimited device license which expires in two years time. He can manage everything easily within the application, or if I am ever needed, I can log into a central cloud based interface and take a look from there.

At work, I was tasked at finding a replacement for ESET which at the time was managed through a server application that was hosted on the Active Domain controller. I find ESET’s user interface to be a bit of a pain in the arse. So I explored a number of options, one of them being Bitdefender’s enterprise product. But I settled for Sophos Intercept-X Advanced with EDR because of its ability to drill down processes on endpoints to determine how malware gets into the network. We can enforce a number of policies relating to threat assessment, web browsing, device encryption, and along with how external devices are used. My only complaint with this system is that:

  • Device encryption is limited to OS support – so this includes Windows 10 Pro or better for BitLocker, and MacOS for FileVault. On the other hand, Sophos Central makes the management of BitLocker massively easier – including managing recovery keys and letting users set their own BitLocker passwords.
  • Firewall management is limited to Windows Group Policies. There is no support for the Mac. The system does not include any kind of third-party Sophos firewall which I feel would make it much easier to unify firewall policies across estates like ours which utilise Mac and Windows machines.

Sophos Central, the cloud based management system, makes managing all this very easy – and to keep an eye on who uses each machine and to identify any potential dodgy program or file. The endpoint client tends to keep itself maintained pretty well.

And all this has lead to Sophos Home Premium. Thanks to two beta programs I have been using a free license (which expires in February 2020) and it’s generally been pretty good. For the longest time that I can remember, Sophos never had a consumer product. Now we have something that shares a common core with its commercial brethren, including advanced ransomware protection.

Sophos Home Premium web interface is clean and elegant, yet lacking

There are a number of issues, however:

  • The Mac version of Sophos Home Premium is lacking some features from the Windows version. It’s also behind a number of point version releases.
  • The entire user interface is almost entirely controlled from a web front-end in which you’ll need internet access. You cannot add additional users to the account to allow them to manage their own machine (unlike Bitdefender).
  • Web filtering does not let you see the sites that it’ll filter – only by category. Neither can you add sites to be blocked, only exceptions.
  • Lack of options for Ransomware, along with other related functions – you can only provide exceptions to volumes and paths. Microphone and webcam blocking doesn’t allow for exceptions.
  • New activity is difficult to clear away. It gets a bit overly zealous whenever anything happens – good or bad.

Sophos Home Premium is quite pricey given the lack of control and everything being handled through the cloud (unlike the commercial version we use which has a number of offline options). While I appreciate the average consumer isn’t going to need a tonne of bells and whistles to tinker about with, having an advanced mode (online or offline) would be highly beneficial if anything needed to be whitelisted.

I’m sticking with Sophos Home Premium on my own Mac for now, and come February next year I’ll decide whether to remain with it, or move back to Bitdefender which has been my go-to anti-virus/anti-malware for the past year.

Yesterday, Hive Home suffered a major outage which prevented control of Hive systems remotely (from the app or the web site). Symptoms included being unable to log into the Hive web site and the app being able to control individual products.

Update: information on the recent outage can be found at The Register. I never received the apology email. No, it did not get sent to Spam. Checked G Suite’s email log. Nothing except the semi-regular updates which had been flowing normally since 14th March.

As you can see the Hive Home status page (which took them a while to update), it has been a rough ride. But thankfully the thermostat and the receiver continued to work manually. The lights? Not so much. Even now, the group of lights which I’ve allocated to my living room doesn’t appear in the circle view (yet they do in the list view) – but then again, I had to recreate the group because whatever is causing this problem nuked my groups.

Given the number of problems I’ve experienced with Hive Home over the past month or so, I am increasingly concerned that my decision to swap out my thermostat with the Hive system (which cost me £50 more than the quoted repair from British Gas) was a bad one.

Speaking of Centrica’s muck-ups, did I mention that I should have HomeCare with my boiler? I don’t appear to because:

  • No documentation was ever sent in the post, with the exception of confirming of cancellation of another HomeCare account which was created in error due to the circumstances of the thermostat being broken and they had to charge £99 for the call out first. It took Centrica THREE months to get that cancellation confirmation out.
  • No direct debits have been taken in respect to any HomeCare subscription, and never has any Direct Debit been established.
  • No options within my British Gas account as to any options relating to HomeCare.

The irony of all of this is that I’ve switched to a British Gas product with basic boiler and pipe protection and having had all this confirmed in emails, would suggest that HomeCare was never truly established on my account in the first place. Even worse – when the tarrif change was confirmed, the emails neglect to publish my address properly – having had previous British Gas correspondence sent to the wrong address in the not too distant past, this worries me.

In short: Centrica – sort your systems and processes out. They’re buggy, inconsistent, and horribly unstable.

In other news: I shall be shortly shouting big time at Sky who have charged me an early termination fee for Sky Broadband despite telling me by phone that I would not be charged an early termination fee for cancellation because (a) I was out of the minimum contract term and (b) I was eligible to cancel without penalty anyway because they announced price rises for their broadband.

Is it just me? As technology marches on, it gets buggier, less reliable and ultimately becomes a burden. It’s like a stupid SkyNet. Terminator 27: Stupid Day.

All of the following apply to MacOS Mojave 10.14.4, iOS 12.2 and mid-2018 MacBook Pro and late 2018 iPad Pro.

  • Facetime on the MacBook Pro. On my work Mac Mini, if I open Facetime to make a phone call via my iPhone, I can type the number directly into the Facetime app and it’ll dial it. On my MacBook Pro which I primarily use with the lid closed, I can’t – since Facetime expects the camera to be active and will stubbornly refuse to show the entry field. I have to use Contacts app instead. Additionally, Facetime tends to get the audio devices wrong, leaving me with the person I’ve called unable to hear me.
  • I have 150Gb worth of 4G data with EE across my iPhone XS Max and iPad Pro devices. If I want to download an app on the iOS app store that’s over 150Mb in size, iOS stupidly insists I connect to Wi-Fi. Let me use 4G if I want to. Don’t nanny me.
  • Wi-Fi performance needs some serious tweaking under both MacOS and iOS for modern devices. Performance is seriously underwhelming in 2018/2019.
  • Time Machine backups under MacOS when using an encrypted USB 3 disk is unbearably slow. If you backup weekly or monthly, the time it takes for Time Machine to complete backups is stupidly slow. 11 hours to backup 99Gb worth of data? Even if the throttle limit has been removed (via sysctl).
  • Remove user selection when using FileVault – stick with a username and password prompt because this has the ability to leak user info before the Mac has even booted. I understand the reason behind this, but it’s time to change things up a bit.