Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get the most out of their computers every day.

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Apple launches new privacy portal

Posted in General Security

Apple has today launched its new Data and Privacy website, allowing Apple users to download everything that Apple personally associates with your account, from Apple ID info, App Store activity, AppleCare history to data stored in iCloud like photos and documents. This is currently only available in European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland to comply with GDPR, but will roll out worldwide in the coming months.

The new online tools allow customers to get a copy of all data associated with an Apple ID. You can request account details and sign-in records and data such as contacts, calendars, notes, bookmarks, reminders, photos and documents. Apple also stores info like app usage statistics for Apple Music and Game Center, a purchase history of items bought from the App Store and iTunes Store, AppleCare support history and marketing records. 

Only data that is personally identifiable can be found here. This can all be downloaded with a few simple clicks on the privacy portal. To obtain a copy of your data:

1. Log in to privacy.apple.com.
2. Select the "Get started" link under the "Get a copy of your data" heading.
3. Tick the boxes of the categories of data you want to download (iCloud Photos, Mail and Drive are separated into a separate list as this data may be exceptionally large).
4. Press Continue.
5. Select what is your preferred maximum file size (Apple will split up the data into chunks, up to a maximum of 25 GB) and press Continue.

Your data request is now in progress. Data like iCloud Photos will take a long time to generate as there are potentially tens of gigabytes of files. It can take up to a week to prepare the downloads. Apple notifies you when the data is ready to download, and it is automatically deleted after 2 weeks.

Apple says it provides all data in standards-compatible formats. This means it can be used as a way to move all your data to a new cloud service, as well as transparently showing customers what data Apple keeps on you.

Whilst these features will roll out later in the year for other regions, all customers can request data corrections, deactivate or delete their account. You can do this by following the links on the main page.

Deactivation means that Apple will stop processing any data relating to your Apple ID. You will not be able to access any store purchases from iTunes, iBooks or the App Store. You will not be able to access any iCloud data, or use iCloud services like FaceTime or iMessage (see here for more conditions about account deactivation). You are literally cutting yourself off from the Apple connected world. Apple will verify all deactivation requests to prevent abuse. Apple doesn’t delete your info, it just stops anyone - including Apple - from accessing it whilst the account is deactivated. You can re-enable the account by logging back in to the privacy portal and choosing to reactivate it.

Permanent deletion takes this one step further, essentially asking Apple to remove all data they have stored on you - forever. This process is not reversible once initiated.

Monitor your Mac with Activity Monitor

There is a whole jungle of apps out there that show you the status of your computer in the menu bar, on your desktop or in the Dock, but did you know that the best tool of them all comes with macOS?

Activity Monitor is an application that allows you to monitor exactly what is going on with your computer at all times by showing you how much memory, cpu, network and disk space is currently being used. It can also show you which application is using the resources and it allows you to quickly kill a process that is going haywire or has stopped responding.

The handiest feature of all is that it can show the status in the Dock so that you can quickly see if something has gone wrong and prevent crashes. Open up Activity Monitor (in Utilities inside Applications), then select the type of information you want from the View, Dock Icon menu. To make the most of this we’d recommend setting Activity Monitor to automatically launch when you log in. This is done by right clicking the icon in the Dock and choosing Options, Open at Login.

Keeping Activity Monitor in the Dock also has all sorts of unexpected benefits, for example it is very handy if you feel that your computer is getting slow. Most Macs that are kept in good shape can live for many years and still be as fast as the day they were purchased. The key to this? Keep an eye on the memory usage.

If all the memory is being used up soon after booting up your computer macOS will start using the hard drive to give you more memory than what is physically available (this is called swapping). The catch is, swap memory is much much slower than real RAM memory so you will notice this by feeling that the computer gets much slower. The solution? Use Cocktail to purge inactive memory (System > Memory), try cleaning up the applications that run in the background or install more memory.

Activity Monitor can also help you debug other problems. Battery life is directly dependent on how much load there is on the processor so if the battery in your laptop doesn’t last as long as you expect, have a look at how the processor is being used. Generally, to get anywhere near Apple’s specified battery life you should be around 10-20% usage so if the processor is averaging more than that some process is draining your battery.

Set a firmware password on your Mac

Mac users in higher security risk situations may wish to enable an optional firmware password on their machines, which offers an advanced level of protection. In short, a firmware password is a lower level layer of security that is set on the actual Mac logic board firmware, rather than at the software layer like FileVault encryption or the standard login password.

The result of setting an firmware password is that a Mac can not be booted from an external boot volume, single user mode, or target disk mode, and it also prevents resetting of PRAM and the ability to boot into safe mode, without logging in through the firmware password first. This effectively prevents a wide variety of methods that could potentially be used to compromise a Mac, and offers exceptional security for users who require such protection.

Like any other essential password, use something memorable but complex, and do not forget a firmware password after it has been set. A lost firmware password is unrecoverable on most modern Macs without a visit to an Apple Store for service and recovery.

Setting a firmware password is rather simple.

• Start up from macOS recovery mode by holding down Command (⌘)-R immediately after turning on your Mac. Release the keys when you see the Apple logo.

• When the utilities window appears, choose Utilities > Firmware Password Utility from the menu bar. On iMac Pro, choose Startup Security Utility instead.

• Click Turn On Firmware Password.

• Enter a firmware password in the fields provided, then click Set Password.

• Quit the utility, then choose Apple () menu > Restart.

The firmware password will not appear during a regular restart or boot of the Mac, it only becomes mandatory when the Mac is attempted to boot from alternate methods. This may be in situations where a Mac is attempted to boot from an macOS installer drive, an external boot volume, recovery mode, single user mode, verbose mode, target disk mode, resetting the PRAM, or any other alternative booting approach that will summon the rather plain looking firmware password window. There are no password hints or additional details provided, only a simple lock logo and a text entry screen. An incorrectly entered firmware password does nothing and offers no indication of login failure except that the Mac won't boot as anticipated.

Save your Safari reading list for offline viewing

Posted in Safari Tips & Tricks

Safari for both macOS and iOS have a setting you may never have noticed, since we so often have Internet access. This is an easily overlooked feature that’s actually really cool. Here’s how to save your Safari reading list for offline viewing.

In Safari for macOS, choose Safari > Preferences and then click Advanced. You can then check next to the Reading List label Save Articles for Offline Reading Automatically. If that option isn't checked, you can also view the Reading List in the sidebar, right-click an item, and choose Save Offline.

With iOS Safari, you navigate to Settings > Safari and swipe down to the bottom, and then tap the switch to on for Automatically Save Offline. If you have that option disabled, which it is by default, you’re prompted the first time you choose Add to Reading List from the Sharing sheet whether or not to save items from then for offline reading automatically.

Content caching in macOS High Sierra

Content caching is a new feature available in macOS High Sierra. Content caching reduces bandwidth usage and speeds up installation on supported devices by storing software updates, apps, and other content on local computer.

Content caching is a great idea, especially if you have an always-on (or often-on) Mac in your home or office. Instead of having to download the same stuff over and over, you only do it once. Then, any other devices on your network pull their data from your Mac, instead of from Apple's servers. That's probably a boon for Apple's data bills, but for us it could make a huge difference to update speeds. When this feature is switched on, both Mac and iOS content is saved locally.

How to set up content caching in macOS High Sierra?

• Open Sharing from System Preferences.
• Unlock the pane. Click the padlock icon in the lower-left and authenticate.
• Configure the Content Caching service.

Shared content: store apps and software updates.
iCloud content: store iCloud data, such as photos and documents.
Share Internet connection: share this computer's Internet connection and cached content with iOS devices connected using USB.

• Switch it on. Click the checkbox on the left of the service name to enable it.

Keep in mind that content caching will download all content requested by any client device, so the service will consume vast quantities of storage space unless you limit the storage. You can inspect how much storage space is being used on your Mac by the caching service by clicking the Options button. You can also use Cocktail (Preferences > Caches > System > Content caches) to flush/clear content caches.