2019 Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR debut

Apple’s new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are finally available for ordering today, having been announced way back in June at far more extravagent price levels than prior products. Apple had neglected both its display and modular/expandable computer product lines for years and years prior to these updates.

Stripped to its very barest, lowest minimums, the new computer/display combo costs $10,998 plus tax and shipping. Getting a stand to hold up the display costs another $999, while the screen’s special anti-glare glass treatment adds another $1000 on top of that. Moving from a tiny 256GB SSD to 2TB adds another $800 to the Mac Pro price. Wheels cost an extra $400. A Radeon Pro Vega II graphics card adds $2,400, and Apple’s Afterburner card costs an extra $2000. The top processor adds $7,000, while maximum memory adds $25,000, and a top-level package hits $59,597 plus taxes, etc.

Discussions

SSD (Solid State Drives) are a hot topic with much confusion about USB vs. Thunderbolt, related compatibility issues and performance, plus unexpected Thunderbolt disconnects, the demise of a company providing unique Apple SSD replacement parts, potential Fusion drive failure, and more.

Adobe/alternatives discussion talks about Affinity performance optimizations and scripting issues; IDMarkz/InDesign file conversion, Pagemaker/Quark history, etc.

MacInTouch Community discussions include the following topics, as well:

DriveDX

DriveDx is a hard drive and SSD diagnostic and monitoring utility from BinaryFruit. Features include monitoring of SMART data, temperature and free space with thresholds and algorithms for predicting problems, logging of data over time, email notifications of status updates, the ability to trigger self-tests, save detailed drive health reports, and more. Among other tidbits, the app provides details on sector size, which can play into compatibility issues. (External FireWire/USB monitoring is provided via the third-party SAT SMART Driver for devices that support SMART data transfer.)

DriveDx 1.9.0 is priced at $19.99 for an individual license for Mac OS X 10.6 and up with a 10-day trial period. (A $39.99 Family license supports 5 computers in a household.) The latest release brings support for a raft of new SSDs, among other updates.

Disk Inventory X

Disk Inventory X is a Mac app from Tjark Derlien for analyzing storage usage and displaying folders and files in color-coded treemaps to make it easier to quickly identify and manage files taking up the most space. You can choose volumes or folders to analyze then click on the treemap to see which files/folders are using blocks of space or vice versa.

Disk Inventory X 1.3 is freely downloadable, open-source donationware for macOS 10.13 and up, and Disk Inventory 1.0 is available to support Macs all the way back to Mac OS X 10.3.  The latest version adds support for macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Discussions

Adobe and alternatives discussion talks about Affinity Publisher and InDesign/IDML conversion with IDMarkz (including notes from the developer), along with various publishing/business issues and experiences.

Email discussion digs deeply into issues with G Suite and Gmail setups, along with alternative email providers, anti-malware and anti-phishing services, the Mail-in-a-Box server, etc.

MacInTouch Community discussions include the following current topics, among others:

  • Antivirus apps – F-Secure Safe
  • Apple Mail – junk mail processing problems
  • Apple security – stealth location tracking; Find My, U1 chip and iBeacons; GPS
  • Apple TV – Dolby Vision HDR failure; Hulu bug
  • Backups – Time Machine restore options/procedures
  • Displays – dual-layer (LMCL) vs. OLED mastering monitors
  • File systems – APFS boot issues/tests
  • Firewalls – Ubiquity EdgeRouter, Pi-Hole, Raspberry Pi notes, etc.
  • Input devices – Corsair RGB keyboard profiles
  • iOS 13 – voice control; iOS 13 bugs and update issues
  • Linux – iPad vs. Mac; distro review; laptops; dual-boot; terminal apps
  • Mac Pro (classic) – video card compatibility
  • MacBook Pro – sudden shutdown bugs; speaking popping; display ghosts; hackintoshes
  • macOS Catalina – bugs, enterprise concerns, Unix shells, etc.
  • Malware – cryptocurrency fileless Mac infection
  • Old systems – old drives, DEC systems, Televideo, Macs, motorcycles, appliances, cars…
  • Security – solar systems; X10; FBI warnings: Smart TVs and iOT
  • Storage – Thunderbolt and USB SSDs – performance, compatibility, prices, etc.
  • Thunderbolt – CalDigit TS3 Plus, OWC dock
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) – PayPal/Authy setup
  • Utilities – LiteSwitchX replacement, TechTool Pro 12
  • Vulnerabilities – VPN-busting bug

IDMarkz converts InDesign files

IDMarkz is a Mac utility from Markzware for converting InDesign files (to the IDML interchange file format, annotatable PDFs and other formats) for use in Affinity Publisher (1.8+), QuarkXPress, older Adobe InDesign versions and more, without requiring the Adobe subscription software itself. Other features include the ability to preview InDesign documents, automatic conversion and opening in your chosen app, AppleScript support, and an inspector to show document details.

IDMarkz is priced at $199 for macOS 10.12 and later. Coupon code IDMarkzLaunch provides a 50% discount through the end of the year. (A Preview app, free in return for providing an email address, allows viewing InDesign files but not exporting them.)

Smart TV security issues

Here’s a warning and advice from the FBI:

FBI Recommends Securing Your Smart TVs and IoT Devices

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recommends making sure that Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smart TVs in your home are properly configured to protect them and your other devices from potential attackers.

FBI’s recommendations come after a long stream of malicious campaigns targeting such devices [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] that usually are unsecured, to either add them to large botnets or use them as a stepping stone in multi-stage attacks aiming for other devices like smartphones and personal computers.

This advice aims to help you build a digital defense around your smart TV and IoT devices to protect your sensitive personal and financial information, seeing that they are easily reachable as they usually come with an Internet connection enabled by default.

“Unsecured devices can allow hackers a path into your router, giving the bad guy access to everything else on your home network that you thought was secure,” the FBI Portland Office says.

… The following guidelines should have you covered if you own an Internet-connected smart TV according to the FBI:

• Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.”​
• Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.​
• If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.​
• Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?​
• Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.​

Discussions

MacInTouch Community updates include the following discussions today, among others:

Asus ProArt PA32UCX, PA32UC and PA27UCX

ProArt Display PA32UCX is a new, high-end professional display from Asustek Computer Inc. that rivals Apple’s upcoming 6K display, though it puts only 4K UHD on its 32-inch panel. Connections include dual Thunderbolt 3 ports (with 60W power delivery), three HDMI 2.0b connections and DisplayPort 1.2, plus three USB 3.0 Type A “downstream” connectors. Unlike Apple’s display, the ProArt PA32UCG includes a fully adjustable stand (plus VESA compatibility). Its 10-bit IPS panel features mini-LED backlighting with 1000+ zones of local dimming, 1200 nits peak brightness, 1000:1 contrast (1,000,000:1 HDR), and “smart” HDR for multiple HDR formats and PQ curves. Color features include pre-calibration (Delta E < 1) and hardware calibrator compatibility, with profile saving, a 14-bit lookup table (LUT), and colorspace coverage of 99% DCI-P3, 99.5% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709 and 89% Rec.2020, plus a plethora of color modes and adjustments.

ProArt Display PA32UCX [Amazon] recently began shipping, list-priced at $3999.

ProArt PA32UC [Amazon] is a less expensive model with similar features, including Thunderbolt 3, list-priced at $1599.

ProArt PA27UCX is an unreleased 27-inch version with HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB Type-C ports, but no Thunderbolt 3 support.

Dell UltraSharp 27 4K PremierColor

UltraSharp 27 4K PremierColor (UP2720Q) is an upcoming 27-inch, 4K display from Dell Inc. with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports. The monitor features a built-in colorimeter, 100% Adobe RGB and 98% DCI-P3 color coverage (≤ 2 Delta E), 90W charging power, HDMI 2.0a, USB-C/DisplayPort 1.4, and USB-A ports, 10-bit IPS display, 1300:1 contrast, 178°/178° viewing angles, and a fully adjustable stand. The Dell UP2720Q is due in January at $1999.99.

Panorama X

Panorama X was a ground-up overhaul of the original Mac database software from ProVUE Development, debuting in 2017 after five years of development and testing.
  While Panorama X retains the blindingly fast, RAM-based architecture of the classic version and its rich feature set (including programmability), the rewrite brought an all-new, native Mac interface plus innovative, multi-level universal Undo, Unicode support, AES-256 encryption, distance calculations (using latitude/longitude or zip codes); OS X Notifications, JSON support, timers, background (and web page) downloads, automatic memory allocation, 64-bit code to handle very large databases, and many more improvements, including AppleScript support, charts, summary tables and crosstabs (with Summary Workshop and Crosstab Workshop “wizards”), multi-page and variable-height printing, and more. (See ProVUE’s comprehensive documentation for all the details.) The most recent version brought a few improvements, including a chart fix for macOS Mojave, but the software has been notably stable and reliable. A server version is in development.
  Panorama X 10.1.5, which runs on OS X 10.9 and up (including macOS 10.14 Mojave), uses a unique pricing model that ranges from $0 to $15/month per user, depending on usage, with free updates. Unlike Adobe’s subscription scheme, Panorama X continues to function even if you stop paying (and you can still access your data), nor are you charged if you’re not actively using the software. The system works by periodically phoning home to a ProVUE server with identification and usage data (see Panorama X FAQ).

Panorama X takes a new flexible approach to software subscriptions. Unlike a traditional subscription, you only pay for months when you actually use the software. If you don’t use it every month, you don’t pay every month. Unused credits don’t expire, so if you pre-pay for a year, and only use Panorama part time, those credits may actually last for two years or more.
… Panorama X needs to periodically contact the ProVUE server to monitor usage and maintain account security.
… Panorama will never hold your data hostage. If a payment is due, Panorama X will politely request that you make the payment. If you decline, it will keep asking periodically until the payment is made. You can continue working between requests. If you no longer wish to use Panorama X this will give you an opportunity to export your data without making any additional payment.

iWork

iWork is Apple’s app suite for macOS, iOS and iCloud, comprising Numbers, Pages and Keynote for spreadsheet, word processing and presentations, respectively. iCloud requires an Apple ID account and certain system requirements. (See also: iCloud Help and Web-only access.)
  Apple’s latest updates bring only vague “stability and performance improvements.”

macOS 10.14 and up:
  • Pages 8.2.1
  • Numbers 6.2.1
  • Keynote 9.2.1

iOS 12 and up:
  • Pages 5.2.1
  • Keynote 5.2.1
  • Numbers 5.2.1

iCloud:
  • iWork for iCloud [requires Apple ID login]

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a cross-platform, open-source office software suite from The Document Foundation that offers word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, a drawing application that does 3D, a database front-end, and file compatibility with Microsoft Office and other formats. (See LibreOffice vs. Microsoft Office feature comparison for more details.)
  The latest LibreOffice version is “a feature-rich major release of the LibreOffice 6 family with better performance, a large number of new and improved features, and enhanced interoperability with proprietary document formats.” (See also: LibreOffice security updates.)
  LibreOffice 6.3.2 is a free, donationware download for OS X 10.10 and up (with a separately installed Java Runtime Environment (JRE) required for some features, notably the database front-end, Base), and it runs on Windows and Linux, as well.
  LibreOffice 6.2.7 is a “more mature version” recommended for enterprise, corporate environments and more conservative users who don’t need all the very latest features.
  LibreOffice Online is available as a Docker image, “which provides basic collaborative editing of documents in a browser by re-using the LibreOffice core; rendering fidelity should be excellent, and interoperability match that of LibreOffice” for those willing to set up the necessary host platform.