MacTLC: Tip of the week

Update AirPort Express Base Stations to Add AirPlay 2

Apple may have discontinued its AirPort Wi-Fi base stations, but in a surprise parting gift, the company has released a firmware update to the AirPort Express that gives it AirPlay 2 capabilities like multi-room audio. If you have an AirPort Express connected to speakers through its audio jack, first use AirPort Utility on the Mac or iPhone to update its firmware to version 7.8. Once you do that, you’ll be able to play audio simultaneously through the AirPort Express and to other AirPlay 2–enabled devices, such as the HomePod and Apple TV.

AirPort-Utility-Mac-firmware

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers.

This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services.

This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacypage, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”

Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen—in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of dataon hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch!

Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.

Siri and Dictation

The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work,Siri-icon
thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.

Touch ID and Face ID

When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry Touch-ID-iconabout that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures.

And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.

Health and Fitness

People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a Health-iconpotential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.

App Store Guidelines

A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app <cough>Facebook<cough> to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service.

In the end, only you can decide how much information you App-Store-iconwant to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.

Apple Is Discontinuing Its Photo Printing Services—Here Are 7 Alternatives

Sad news: Apple is discontinuing its photo printing services, which enabled you to create and order physical prints, cards, calendars, and books from within Photos on the Mac. If you’re building such a project right now, be sure to place your order before September 30th, 2018. After that, Apple is directing users to download a Photos Project Extension from the Mac App Store. You’ll see this dialog whenever you click a project in Photos.

Print-projects-dialog

When you click the Open App Store button, Photos opens the App Store app and shows available Photos Project Extensions. (If you need to open this Mac App Store screen manually, search on appex:com.apple.photo-project.) Most of these extensions are free, since they’ll make their money when you order projects.

Print-projects-App-Store

These extensions aren’t exact replacements for Apple’s projects, so let’s look briefly at what they provide.

Mimeo Photos

The extension that comes closest to providing the same products and features as Apple’s print projects is Mimeo Photos, which can create cards, calendars, and books. It offers a wide array of themes.

Print-projects-Mimeo

Motif

Motiflooks quite similar to Mimeo Photos, also enabling you to create cards, calendars, and books with selected photos, and it comes from RR Donnelley, the company that was previously Apple’s partner for print projects. It doesn’t offer as many themes or options as Mimeo Photos, but it has a better interface.

Print-projects-Motif

Shutterfly

Even though the popular Shutterflyphoto service’s Web site lets you go beyond the basics to put your photos on a vast number of objects, such as pillows, candles, and trivets, the company’s Photos extension is limited to photo books. Happily, it provides quite a few different sizes and bindings, and numerous themes for each.

Print-projects-Shutterfly

Fujifilm Prints & Gifts

The Fujifilm Prints & Giftsextension lets you order prints, cards, wall art, mugs and drinkware, magnets, T-shirts, puzzles, iPhone cases, and much more. However, it has a non-standard interface (basically the company’s Web site), and every time we switched out of the extension, it crashed and forgot which photo we’d had selected.

Print-projects-Fujfilm

Mpix

Although Mpixseems to focus on prints, if you scroll down in the project list, the final option is Browse Mpix, which provides more possibilities, including photo books, calendars, collages, foil art prints, posters, keychains, magnets, playing cards, and business cards. Confusingly, with some of these items, Photos acts as nothing more than a window onto Mpix’s Web site, with no awareness of the photos you’ve selected.

Print-projects-Mpix

WhiteWall

WhiteWallfocuses entirely on prints, with high-end choices for exotic papers and options for mounting and framing. Supported sizes range from 8″ x 6″ up to 48″ x 36″. Unfortunately, the WhiteWall prices seemed high (a framed photo was between $130 and $530, depending on size), and once you select a particular paper or frame choice, there is no way to try another with the same photo without starting another project.

Print-projects-WhiteWall

Wix

Unlike all the others, the Wix extension doesn’t put photos on physical products at all. Instead, it’s designed to create on-screen photo albums for Web sites designed with the Wixservice. As such, it’s potentially extremely useful for Wix users, but not at all for everyone else.

Print-projects-Wix

It’s too bad that Apple is getting out of the print project business since the interfaces from these extensions tend not to be as good as what we’re used to from Apple. But if you like making yourself a calendar every year, you’ll probably do fine with Mimeo Photos or Motif, and the rest of the extensions do extend Photos’ printing capabilities in a big way.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking: 13 Essential Trackpad Tricks for Mac Users

A trackpad is not a mouse. In some ways, that’s obvious—you swipe your fingers on it, rather than dragging it around. Less obvious, however, are the many gestures that make using a trackpad on your Mac faster and more fun. These gestures aren’t limited to laptop users, thanks to Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2, which brings gesturing goodness to any desktop Mac. Here’s how to put your fingers to work.

Four Fingers on the Trackpad

The four-fingers-down gestures are dramatic and an easy way to appreciate the power of trackpad gestures, so we’ll start with them.

Say you have a lot of windows open, and you want to move them all aside quickly so you can open a file on the Desktop. Place your thumb and three fingers together on your trackpad and then spread them outward. Your windows scurry to the edges of the screen. To bring the windows back, reverse the gesture, pinching your fingers in toward your palm.

Trackpad-Tricks-Desktop

If you haven’t moved windows aside, pinching your thumb and three fingers together instead opens Launchpad, which shows icons for installed apps. Click an icon to open that app, or use the spreading four-fingered gesture to exit Launchpad.

Three Fingers on the Trackpad

Move three fingers horizontally on your trackpad and either nothing will happen, or you’ll switch to a different “desktop space.” This state of affairs is most easily seen by making an app full-screen. For instance, open Safari and click the green full-screen button at the upper left of the window. Safari takes over the entire screen, including the menu bar (to put it back, hover the pointer at the very top of the screen to see and click the green button again).

Now swipe left and right horizontally to switch in and out of the Safari space. As you make more apps full-screen, they’ll each create their own space. (If you’ve enabled Apple’s Dashboard, you may see it at the far left.)

What if you swipe vertically with three fingers? Swipe up to enter the All Windows view of Mission Control, which shows all open windows as thumbnails, plus desktop spaces in the top bar. Click any thumbnail to switch to it, or jump to any space by clicking it. You can also click the plus button at the upper right or drag any window into the top bar to create a new space. To move a space’s apps back to the current space, hover over a space on the top bar and click the close close-space-button-inline button that appears. To exit All Windows view, swipe down with three fingers.

Trackpad-Tricks-All-Windows

If you haven’t invoked All Windows view, swiping down with three fingers instead invokes App Exposé view, which displays thumbnails of all open windows in the current app. Click any one to switch to it. Swipe right or left with three fingers while in App Exposé to switch between apps.

Finally, on older MacBooks that don’t have Force Touch-capable trackpads, tap with three fingers on words to look them up, on files to preview them with Quick Look, and more. With newer MacBooks, if you have “Force Click and haptic feedback” enabled in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click, you can instead “force click” with one finger for these features. That involves clicking on something and then pressing firmly without letting up.

Two Fingers on the Trackpad

The two-fingered gestures are easy to get your head around:

  • In Safari, swipe left on a page to go back in that tab’s page history or right to go forward.
  • Also in Safari, tap two fingers on the trackpad to zoom in on the content. Another two-fingered tap zooms back out.
  • In Photos, and some graphics apps, zoom in and out by pinching with two fingers, and rotate selected objects by putting two fingers on the trackpad and turning them. A two-finger pinch also zooms the page in Safari.
  • To open Notification Center quickly, swipe left from off the right-hand edge of your trackpad. Swipe back to the right to close Notification Center.

Changing Your Preferences

If you need a refresher on all these gestures, open System Preferences > Trackpad. Look in the Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom, and More Gestures panes to see a video for each gesture. You can also adjust which ones are active and how many fingers they require.

Trackpad-Tricks-new-preferences

With so many gestures on offer, it’s worth your time to explore everything you can do with your trackpad.

Here’s Why You Should Always Keep the Find My iPhone Feature Enabled

On the face of it, Apple’s Find My iPhone feature does what it says. If you lose your iPhone, you can identify its last known location by looking in the Find iPhone app or on the iCloud Web site, and you can make it play a sound. It’s great for tracking down a missing iPhone, whether you misplaced it in the house or left it behind at a restaurant.

But Find My iPhone does much more! For starters, it works with nearly any Apple device. You can use it to locate a missing Mac, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and even AirPods. Find My iPhone also helps protect your data if a device is stolen. It even works with Family Sharing to locate devices owned by anyone in your family—a boon to any parent with a forgetful teenager.

You must turn on Find My iPhone beforeyour device goes missing!

  • In iOS, tap Settings > Your Name> iCloud > Find My iPhone and enable Find My iPhone. (On the iPad, it’s called Find My iPad.) Also on that screen, turn on Send Last Location. Finally, go back to the main level of Settings, tap Privacy > Location Services, and make sure Location Services is turned on.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and select the Find My Mac checkbox—if you see a Details button beside Find My Mac, click it and follow its instructions for setting necessary preferences.

Be sure to practice viewing where your devices are located and playing tones on them so you’ll know what to do if a device goes missing.

Find-My-iPhone-AirPods

Find My iPhone has a few tricks up its sleeve for when you want a device to show a message or if you think it was stolen:

  • Lost Mode:When invoking this mode for an iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll be asked to enter a phone number where you can be reached and a message. After that, Lost Mode will kick in as soon as the device is awake and has an Internet connection. Anyone who tries to use the device will see your message along with a place to enter the device’s passcode. If you get it back, you can enter the passcode to dismiss the message and use it normally.

Find-My-iPhone-Lost-Mode

  • Lock:Available only for the Mac, the Lock feature enables you to protect an entire Mac with a 4-digit custom passcode. You can also enter a message that will appear on the Lock screen. This is a good choice if you think you’ll get your Mac back but would prefer that nobody mess with it in the meantime. Note that if you lock a Mac, you can’t erase it, as discussed next, so lock it only if you think it can be recovered.

Find-My-iPhone-Mac

  • Erase:Even if your device has an excellent passcode or password, you might worry that a thief will access your data. Fortunately, you can erase your device. Erasing a device makes it impossible for you to see its location in Find My iPhone, so it’s a last-ditch effort.
  • Activation Lock:If the stolen device is an iOS device or an Apple Watch, when you turn on Find My iPhone, you also enable Activation Lock. This feature prevents someone who has your passcode but doesn’t know your Apple ID and password from turning off Find My iPhone, erasing the device, or setting it up for a new user. In other words, Activation Lock makes it so there’s little reason to steal an iOS device or Apple Watch, since the stolen device can’t ever be used by anyone else. If you get the device back, you can restore your backup—you do have a backup, right?

Find My iPhone works only while the device has power, so if you think you’ve mislaid a device, try locating it right away, before the battery runs out. But even if you are unable to retrieve a lost device, you can prevent others from accessing your data or taking over the device.

What’s the Deal with Apple’s New Messages in iCloud Feature?

When Apple first announced macOS 10.13 High Sierra and iOS 11, one of the promised features was Messages in iCloud, a way of syncing your conversations in Messages via your iCloud account. Despite the fact that Messages already tries to sync its conversations between your devices, this feature proved difficult for Apple to deliver, and it didn’t appear until the recently released macOS 10.3.5 and iOS 11.4.

The idea behind Messages in iCloud is that it, as the name suggests, stores your conversations and their attachments in your iCloud account, rather than on each device individually. That’s a win because it can offload non-trivial amounts of data to iCloud, freeing up more space on that 16 GB iPhone.

Because the primary source of Messages data is in iCloud, the conversations should also sync perfectly and more quickly than in the past, something that was often frustrating when conversations didn’t quite match up across device. (iOS 11.4 also fixes a bug that could cause some messages to appear out of order.) Even better, deleting a conversation or attachment on one of your devices deletes it from all of them.

The main thing to be aware of before enabling Messages in iCloud is that it does count against your iCloud storage space. That said, if you back up your iOS devices to iCloud, removing Messages data from each device—such as your iPad and iPhone—and storing a single copy in iCloud should result in less overall iCloud usage. (And, realistically, if Messages in iCloud would make you need a higher tier of iCloud storage, you were probably going to need to upgrade soon for other reasons anyway.)

Enabling Messages in iCloud is simple.

  • On the Mac, open Messages > Preferences > Accounts and select the Enable Messages in iCloud checkbox.Messages-iCloud-Mac
  • In iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud, and turn on Messages.

There are three quirks to be aware of:

  • You won’t be able to enable Messages in iCloud unless you’ve enabled two-factor authentication for the Apple ID associated with your iCloud account. It’s a good idea for security reasons anyway!
  • On the Mac, in the Messages account preferences, there’s a Sync Now button you can click if, for some reason, Messages hasn’t synced automatically. We don’t yet know if or when that will be necessary.
  • When you first enable Messages in iCloud in iOS, you may see a note at the bottom of the screen saying that uploading to iCloud requires the device to be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. That’s necessary only for the first big upload.
    Messages-iCloud-paused

Should you wish to turn off Messages in iCloud, be aware that it may take some time for each device to download all the messages.

For most people, Messages in iCloud is a no-brainer. Its syncing works the way you’d expect, complete with quick updates and universal removal of deleted conversations. The main reason you might not want to enable the feature is if you have only the free 5 GB of iCloud storage and aren’t interested in paying for more space.

 

Invoke Special Views and Features on the Mac with a Flick of Your Wrist

Most Macs are busy places, with oodles of open windows cluttering the screen. If you want to look at the Desktop or do something different, you may find yourself clicking around or using keyboard shortcuts, but did you know that you can access many of the Mac’s special views with just a flick of your wrist?

A little-known feature called Hot Corners makes this possible. The key to unlocking Hot Corners is in System Preferences, in either the Desktop & Screen Saver pane or the Mission Control pane. In either pane, click the Hot Corners button to set up your hot corners.

Hot-Corners-screensaver

The Hot Corners dialog displays a pop-up menu for each of the four corners of your screen. Choose an action in one of those menus, and that’s what happens when you move your pointer to that corner. A hyphen, the default, means nothing happens. Here’s the scoop on each action.

Hot-Corners-dialog

Start Screen Saver

With today’s flat-panel LCD screens, a screen saver isn’t needed to prevent image burn-in, but it does hide the contents of your screen and personalize your Mac. The Start Screen Saver hot corner shows the screen saver immediately, overriding the setting for how long the Mac must sit idle before the screen saver turns on (in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver, in the Start After pop-up menu).

Disable Screen Saver

If you normally have your screen saver set to turn on automatically, it may come on when you would prefer it didn’t, such as when you are thinking about what to write in a tough email. To prevent the screen saver from coming on temporarily, use a Disable Screen Saver hot corner.

Mission Control

Once you’re in this bird’s-eye view of all your Mac’s open windows, you can switch to any window by clicking it. You can also set up spaces in Mission Control—a space is a view that contains only windows from the apps that are assigned to that space. Click the plus sign in the top-right corner and then drag windows up into the new space. Switch to a space by clicking it in the top bar.

Hot-Corners-Mission-Control

Application Windows

For an overview of all open windows for a particular app, use a hot corner to invoke Application Windows. This view displays thumbnails of all open windows in the current app. For some apps, you’ll also see thumbnails of recently opened documents at the bottom of the view. Click any thumbnail to switch to it.

Hot Corners-App-Windows

Desktop

If you like storing documents for in-progress projects on your Desktop, you’ll love the hot corner that invokes Desktop view. It moves all open windows aside, letting you focus on the icons on the Desktop. The windows return when you switch to an app.

Dashboard

Dashboard contains a few rudimentary widgets, like a clock and a calculator. Apple hasn’t updated Dashboard in years, and developers don’t create Dashboard widgets anymore, so it’s not worth learning—or using via a hot corner—if you don’t already rely on it.

Notification Center

Since you can so easily click the Notification Center icon in the far right of your menu bar, it’s seldom worth wasting a hot corner on it. Notification Center has two views: Today and Notifications. Today shows status information and is easily customized; click the Edit button at its bottom. To display an app’s notifications in Notifications, go to System Preferences > Notifications, select the app, and then select the Show in Notification Center checkbox.

Launchpad

If you like using iOS, giving Launchpad a hot corner might make opening apps on your Mac easier. It’s designed to look and work like the Home screen on an iPad or iPhone—just click an app to launch it. To see more apps, scroll horizontally—with a trackpad, swipe with two fingers; with a Magic Mouse, scroll by swiping with one finger on the mouse surface.

Put Display to Sleep

Those who are concerned about energy usage might appreciate this option. Toss your pointer in the associated hot corner, and your screen goes to sleep immediately, consuming less power than a screen saver. It lets you override the “Turn display off after” slider in System Preferences > Energy Saver.

To exit these special views, switch to another app, press the Escape key, put the pointer back in the hot corner again, or just move the mouse.

If you find yourself triggering a hot corner accidentally, try adding a modifier key so its action activates only when the pointer is in the corner and the key is pressed. To set this up, open the Hot Corners dialog, open the corner’s pop-up menu, and press a key (Shift, Control, Option, or Command). The key’s symbol appears in the menu. Keep the key down and choose the desired action.

Hot-Corners-Control-with-callout

The best way to set up your hot corners depends on how you use your Mac, of course. Our favorites are Start Screen Saver because it’s a quick override of the screen saver settings and Desktop because it removes screen clutter that gets in the way of using the Desktop.

Have Your Online Passwords Been Stolen? Here’s How to Find Out.

 

Data breaches have become commonplace, with online thieves constantly breaking into corporate and government servers and making off with millions—or even hundreds of millions!—of email addresses, often along with other personal information like names, physical address, and passwords.

Pwned-Breach-list

It would be nice to think that all companies properly encrypt their password databases, but the sad reality is that many have poor data security practices. As a result, passwords gathered in a breach are often easily cracked, enabling the bad guys to log in to your accounts. That may not seem like a big deal—who cares if someone reads the local newspaper under your name? But since many people reuse passwords across multiple sites, once one password associated with an email address is known, attackers use automated software to test that combination against many other sites.

This is why we keep beating the drum for password managers like 1Passwordand LastPass. They make it easy to create and enter a different random password for every Web site, which protects you in two ways.

  • Because password managers can create passwords of any length, you don’t have to rely on short passwords that you can remember and type easily. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. A password of 16–20 characters is generally considered safe; never use anything shorter than 13 characters.
  • Even if one of your passwords was compromised, having a different password for every site ensures that the attackers can’t break into any of your other accounts.

But password security hasn’t always been a big deal on the Internet, and many people reused passwords regularly in the past.Wouldn’t it be nice to know if any of your information was included in a data breach, so you’d know which passwords to change?

A free service called Have I Been Pwneddoes just this (“pwned” is hacker-speak for “owned” or “dominated by”—it rhymes with “owned”). Run by Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned gathers the email addresses associated with data breaches and lets you search to see if your address was stolen in any of the archived data breaches. Even better, you can subscribe to have the service notify you if your address shows up in any future breaches.

Pwned-list

Needless to say, you’ll want to change your password on any site that has suffered a data breach, and if you reused that password on any other sites, give them new, unique passwords as well. That may seem like a daunting task, and we won’t pretend that it isn’t a fair amount of work, but both 1Password and LastPass offer features to help.

In 1Password, look in the sidebar for Watchtower, which provides several lists, including accounts where the password may have been compromised in a known breach, passwords that are known to have been compromised, passwords that you reused across sites, and weak passwords.

Pwned-1Password-Watchtower

LastPass provide essentially the same information through its Security Challenge and rates your overall security in comparison with other LastPass users. It suggests a series of steps for improving your passwords; the only problem is that you need to restart the Security Challenge if you don’t have time to fix all the passwords at once.

Pwned-LastPass-Security-Challenge

Regardless of which password manager you use, take some time to check for and update compromised, vulnerable, and weak passwords. Start with more important sites, and, as time permits, move on to accounts that don’t contain confidential information.

New MacBook Pros Provide More Speed and RAM, plus a Quieter Keyboard and Hey Siri

As students prepare to head off to college, Apple has updated the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro line to provide even more powerful options for students and professionals alike. The changes are primarily under the hood, focusing on faster performance, more RAM, and larger SSD-based storage, but there are a few modest physical changes too, including a quieter keyboard and a True Tone display.

MacBook-Pro-2018-13-15

Despite these improvements, pricing remains the same as for last year’s models.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro that has function keys instead of a Touch Bar remains the same, as do the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air.

Performance Boosts

The new MacBook Pros move to Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7 and Core i9 processors. Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro used dual-core CPUs, but they now get quad-core chips. And the 15-inch models jump from quad-core chips to processors sporting 6 cores. More cores are better because more tasks can be split up between them, preventing one processor-intensive task from bogging down others.

MacBook-Pro-2018-performance

Processing power is just one aspect of overall performance. If your Mac doesn’t have enough RAM for the apps you’re using, it has to fall back on much slower virtual memory. For those who use memory-intensive apps, the new 15-inch MacBook can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, up from a maximum of 16 GB. RAM in the 15-inch models is also DDR4, which is faster and uses less power than the DDR3 RAM used before.

Finally, if you don’t have enough fast SSD storage in a MacBook Pro, you may be forced to store large items like your Photos library and Parallels Desktop virtual machines on a slow external hard disk. The new MacBook Pros can have a lot more built-in SSD storage, but it’s pricey. The 13-inch models max out at 2 TB, which will add $1400 to your bill, and the 15-inch models can go to 4 TB, assuming you have $3400 to spare. The 512 GB ($200) and 1 TB ($600) upgrades are more reasonably priced.

Physical Changes

Apple continues to tweak the controversial butterfly-switch keyboard. Some people haven’t liked the shallow key travel and how much noise it makes, and its keys have a tendency to stick. The new MacBook Pros feature a keyboard that’s quieter and hopefully more reliable.

You’ll also notice the new Retina displays with True Tone. First introduced with the iPad Pro and added to the iPhone in 2017, True Tone adjusts the white balance of the screen based on ambient light to make the screen more comfortable to view. It should be particularly appreciated by students working late into the night.

MacBook-Pro-2018-True-Tone

Other Improvements

You know how you can issue commands to Apple’s virtual assistant on your iPhone or iPad by saying “Hey Siri”? That’s possible in the new MacBook Pros also, thanks to the inclusion of Apple’s new T2 chip. The T2 also manages the Touch Bar, facilitates a secure boot feature, and encrypts files on the fly to increase security.

These MacBook Pros are the first to support Bluetooth 5.0, which is backward compatible with Bluetooth 4.2. As Bluetooth 5.0 peripherals become more widespread, they’ll be able to communicate with the MacBook Pro at higher data rates and longer ranges—think of Bluetooth working across your entire house, rather than being limited to a single room.

Price and Availability

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1799, and the 15-inch model at $2399. With both models, you can choose between silver and space gray, and they’re available now.

Our take is that, like most of Apple’s speed-bump upgrades, these new MacBook Pros are simply better than the previous models—who turns down better performance for the same price? The True Tone display is also welcome, as is the quieter keyboard. And it’s nice that we can finally talk to Siri without having to hold down a key or click a button.

What OS Version Are You Running? Here’s How to Find Out.

In Troubleshooting 101, one of the first questions is always, “What version of the operating system are you running?” There’s a big difference between Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the solution to any particular problem will likely revolve around knowing what operating system is in play.

The same is true of Apple’s other operating systems: iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And, although they aren’t quite in the same category, Apple’s AirPods and HomePod both have system software that can be updated as well.

For the next time you’re experiencing a problem, here’s how to find the version of each of Apple’s operating systems.

macOS

On the Mac, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. A window opens, displaying the name (macOS High Sierra shown here) and version (10.13.4) of the running version of macOS.

Which-OS-Mac

Every now and then, it can be important to learn the build number too—it’s one step more specific than the version number. A new Mac may have a different build number of the same version of macOS, for instance, or Apple may push out a silent security update that changes the build number. To find the build number, simply click the version number—the six-character build number (17E202) appears in parentheses, as above.

 

iOS

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you find the version number in Settings > General > About. Scan down the screen until you see the Version line, which tells you both the version of iOS and the build number.

Which-OS-iPhone

watchOS

There are two ways to find the version of watchOS running on an Apple Watch:

  • On the watch, open the Settings app, scroll down to and tap General, tap About, and then scroll down until you see Version.

Which-OS-Apple-Watch

  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and make sure My Watch is selected in the bottom button bar. Then go to General > About to see a screen that displays much the same information as the Settings app on the watch, including the version number.

 

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tvOS

By now, you can probably guess that on an Apple TV you go to Settings > General > About to find the tvOS version. Apple is nicely consistent in this regard. That said, only the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K run tvOS. The obsolete second- and third-generation Apple TVs are instead based on a stripped-down version of iOS, and the first-generation Apple TV is an entirely different beast yet, with its large white case and internal hard drive.

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AirPods

You’re unlikely to need to check the version of your AirPods, but if it ever comes up, make sure the AirPods are either connected to their host iOS device or in their case with the top open. Then, on the host iOS device, go to Settings > General > About > AirPods and look for the Firmware Version line.

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HomePod

Although the HomePod shipped only recently, Apple has promised software updates that will allow two HomePods in a room to provide true stereo sound and support multi-room audio if you’ve sprinkled HomePods around your house. To check the version of the HomePod software, open Apple’s Home app, make sure Home is selected in the bottom toolbar, and then press and hold on the HomePod’s tile until it opens. Then tap the Details button in the lower right and scroll down until you see the Version line.

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