Author Archives: tmayrand

Extra Bits: Wireless, macOS Sierra and You

For those of us still paying attention, its that time of year again when Apple releases its new operating systems.

For those of us upgrading in place from a system already configured for eduroam with XpressConnect you need not worry, your upgrade should be smooth sailing. For those of us that like it extra fresh and are starting with a clean install of macOS Sierra, the Cloudpath application used to connect to the eduroam network is not compatible at this time.

There does exist a workaround to get from UMASS onto eduroam. You can set this up by connecting to UMASS and waiting for the login screen to appear (If it does not: you can get to it by trying to get to Apple’s webpage or by going directly to umass.edu/it/xpressconnect). Depending on the path you take you will see one of the two following screens.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.00.08 PM
If you see this: click on the yellow eduroam button, sign in, and follow the rest of the instructions.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.00.25 PM
If you see the UMass login prompt, login with your account. Then click on run XpressConnect and follow the reset of the instructions.
Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.00.57 PM
Then accept the Terms and Conditions.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.01.07 PM
On the next page, change the highlighted box to “Apple iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch”. Then click on the Setup “Wifi box”.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.23.30 PM
On the next page enter your NetID in the box, then click continue.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.09.13 PM
A file called “phone_5869.mobileconfig” will download, if System Preferences does not launch by itself. Double-click on the file to open System Preferences and click on continue on the dialog that has appeared.

Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 1.09.39 PM
Enter your NetID password on the next page and click Install.

After installing restart the machine for good measure. After the restarting you may need to switch the network back to eduroam from UMASS.

Optionally, if the machine seems to favor the UMASS network over eduroam. You can try to correct this by reprioritizing your wireless connections order. This can be done by launching System Preferences going to the Network pane (unlocking the pane if required), select the WiFi interface from the table on the left. Go the “Advanced” tab in the lower right corner and go to the “Wi-Fi” tab on the drop-down menu that appears. Find eduroam in the table and select it. Drag eduroam to the top of the list or at least to the position above UMASS. Click “OK”, then click on “Apply”. Restart the machine once more for the changes to fully take effect.

If you have additional questions you can contact the Help Center at 545-9400, or come to LGRC A109 for support.

Welcome Back Class of 2020

First and foremost, we would like to welcome all new first-year and returning students!

As you begin to spend more time around campus and begin your first week of classes, many of you will start to become familiar with the technologies and resources available to you while at UMass Amherst.

If you are going to take anything away from this post, it is that we are here to help you succeed while at the university, and are more than willing to do whatever we can in order to help you be successful. To that end, we have a walk-in Help Center located in room A109 of the Lederle Graduate Research Center (the beige low-rise located across the street from the Northeast Residential Area) where you can bring devices or questions you need assistance with. The Help Center is open from 8:30am to 4:45pm Monday through Friday. We also have additional Consultants located at the Technical Support desk in the Learning Commons that are available for extended support outside of Help Center hours.

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Windows 10: 1 Year Later

Windows 10 was released to the public as a consumer ready operating system on July 29th, 2015. We nearly approached the end of its first year, and it has marked some changes for long-time Windows users. Reviews are still out on how it will compare to previous versions, especially how it will measure up and fill the shoes of the immensely popular Windows 7, and the seemingly universal hatred for Window 8 and just slightest love for 8.1 (Full Disclosure: I like Windows 8.1, I will however concede that Windows 8 at launch was indeed a mistake).

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What is Secure Online Storage at UMass Amherst?

Many students are not aware that they have access to UDrive, an online file storage service hosted by the university. Undergraduate students from 2013 onward have a (Google) Apps account which provides email, drive storage, and online office tools. In many ways, your Apps account doubles as an account to a superior online storage solution. This spring, UMass Amherst Information Technology has added Box to the online repertoire of students–a new service that is superior to Apps in a few ways.

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iOS 9, What To Expect

Apple announced iOS 9 this past June at it’s 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference. This year’s tagline, “A better experience with every touch” confirms the speculation that iOS 9 intends to focus on improving stability over the introduction of new features. The last two or so versions, especially iOS 7, focused heavily on features (along with iOS 8 which was expected to further refine the iOS 7 experience), but overall stability has since diminished with more recent releases. So for this release, the average user could reasonably expect improvements to speed, the ever more relevant battery life, and overall stability. iOS 9 is expected to be released autumn 2015, most likely around mid to late September following previous release trends.

iOS 9 Public Beta 1

Apple released the first public beta of iOS 9 to the masses on July 9th. It contained the following improvements to existing apps, and new features:

The News application (which may not be uninstalled) adds a native reddit styled system to iOS devices. It works based on topics a user indicates interest in, and touts its ability to condense information from multiple sources negating the need for a user to switch apps. News also focuses on “the rich and immersive design found in print with the interactivity of digital media.” (Click on photos to zoom.)

news

Similarly to the OS X 10.11 “El Capitan” beta that is running concurrently, the Notes application is seeing some rather significant function overhauls. Notes may now contain photos, maps, and URLs, and users may also include drawings and native checklists. Users will be able to add content from basically everywhere, and the previous iCloud functionality will allow Notes to be by synced to other devices.

notes

Maps will now be able to provide public transit information (Note: Public transit information is currently limited to the following select cities: Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC, internationally in London, Toronto, and Berlin). Along with enhanced nearby location searching to find points of interest.

Maps (Transit)

Passbook has received a re-brand as Wallet and now has greater integration with Apple Pay introduced in iOS 8. Wallet will have integration for store specific cards, and reward cards (Dunkin’ Donuts Perks included). Users may now double-home-click while on the lock screen to access Apple Pay.

wallet

Siri has once more received an update to find information on a widening range of subjects. Siri is now able to return results faster, along with a small GUI change. Siri can (in a limited way) interact with some apps to create reminders. Siri is also now powering a search system referred to as Proactive. Proactive appears as a new search area that can be found by scrolling through the apps screens all the way to the left beyond the home screen (Basic search is still available if you pull down on an app screen). However, when Proactive is used the system is already pre-populated with frequent contacts, nearby points-of-interest, news, and suggested apps. Proactive also permeates elsewhere within iOS 9. Plug in headphones, and the podcast you left off on will resume where you left off, email will suggest contacts that are frequently emailed together, received messages that include events will be pre-loaded into your calendar, and unknown callers whose numbers have appeared in messages will get a “Maybe: <this person>” tag. Overall a lot of small features that end up being pretty slick.

siri proactive

Performance & Security

In the context of performance, iOS 9 is expected to streamline the update process by reducing the storage footprint required to perform the update. Users installing iOS 8 on top of the latest release of iOS 7 were required to have 4.58GB of storage. Users installing iOS 9 will only require 1.3GB of free storage, and if this is not available iOS 9 will be able to uninstall and reinstall applications to create adequate space.

Apple has touted extended battery life as part of the benefits to updating to iOS 9. Settings now includes a “low power” mode to extend battery lifetime when critically low. What is unsatisfactory, so far, is that even with optimizations and this low power mode, Apple is boasting extended lifetimes of only one hour.

iOS 9’s focus on security changes the default system passcode from four to six digits, or 10,000 to 1,000,000 possible combinations. Two-factor authentication will also see greater integration regarding AppleID based services.

Users of Android devices who desire to migrate to an iPhone will be able to use a Migration App that will securely copy a user’s contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, wallpaper, and DRM-free books. It will also suggest apps based on android downloads.

Android-Iphone

Other changes include:

  • System font change from Helvetica Neue to San Francisco
  • Settings are now searchable from within the settings application
  • Keyboard capitalization is now decidedly less ambiguous
  • Battery widget
  • Apps can take greater advantage of Metal graphics APIs

iPad Productivity (Finally)

iPad-only productivity features include Split View, Slide Over, Picture in Picture, and new features to the QuickType keyboard.

iPad (certain models) will now have the ability to multitask beyond the double-home-click to quickly jump between apps. Users will be able to pin two separate apps to half the screen (Split View, only confirmed on iPad Air 2) and/or open a second application without exiting the one a user is already in (Slide Over).

splitview

Slide over works by sliding a small tab from the right edge of the screen while in landscape orientation.

slideover

Picture in Picture will allow users watching video or Face-timing with someone to be able to open other applications underneath a floating miniaturized version of the video screen.

Picture in Picture

QuickType (if you were not already aware) is the name given to the default keyboard iOS uses. The next release includes three additions to functionality: a shortcut bar, easier text selection, and keyboard shortcuts. The new shortcut bar enables easy access to functions like bold or italicize. Using two fingers while typing allows you to quickly move the cursor along text. Shortcuts will work across all keyboards (onscreen + wireless) and shortcuts will vary by app but common ones include search or app switching.

Compatibility

According to Apple iOS 9 will be available on the following mobile devices:

  • iPod Touch 5th generation
  • iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+
  • iPad 2, iPad 3rd generation, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad Air, iPad Air 2

Sources:
Apple Software Beta Program: https://goo.gl/1p2iTZ
Apple iOS Preview: http://goo.gl/NVOGpi

OS X El Capitan: A More Solid Rock?

OS X El Capitan Public Beta 1

Apple’s last major operating system release, version 10.10 or “Yosemite” focused on a design overhaul and the addition of multiple features to native applications like Mail, Contacts, and Spotlight. The next major release 10.11, called “El Capitan” was announced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event early June this year. The El Capitan release is focused on improving two distinct aspects: user experience and performance, and is expected to be released sometime autumn 2015. It is also worth noting that Apple’s shift to releasing major operating system versions with emphasis on introducing new features has taken a toll on the stability of the OS over time. Many users feel that version 10.6 or “Snow Leopard” was the last truly solid version of OS X. The returned focus on these two key aspects hopefully will resonate with users, and function as a modern “Snow Leopard” release.

Experience

The El Capitan Public Beta 1 release on July 9th, included modifications to Mail, Safari, Maps, Spotlight, Mission Control, and Notes. All new functionalities are designed to, as Apple’s website states, “take the Mac experience to new heights.” Notable improvements are as follows:

In Mail, fullscreen support has been improved to take advantage of space and provides better tools for managing multiple messages, swipe gestures like those found on iPhone and iPad, used for quickly managing messages have been implemented. The Mail application can now suggest events and contacts to add to calendar and contacts accordingly, as it detects them in newly received messages. (Click on photos to zoom.)
Mail

In Safari you are now able to pin sites to the tab bar, keeping them up to date in the background and readily accessible. AirPlay is now able to stream video from the web without showing the rest of your screen. Additionally, we are all familiar when an open tab starts to randomly play audio at an inopportune moment, now you can quickly mute a tab (or tabs) playing sound from the URL bar.

Safari

Maps can now show transit directions such as bus routes, along with more detailed walking, subway, train, and bus directions. You now are also able to send directions created while working at your Mac to iPhone, allowing for stop-by-stop directions on the go.

Maps

Spotlight is now much, much smarter. It can now pull information on stocks, weather, sports scores, schedules, and athletic information. Another massive change is the way Spotlight can now search with natural language and phrases, such as “Documents I worked on last week” or “Emails from John Smith in July,” rather than trying to remember the name of the document you worked on a week ago, or seeing every email that John Smith has sent rather than what you actually need.
Spotlight

Mission Control has been tweaked to allow easier window and desktop management across the board, and a new feature called “Split View” has been added to allow better multitasking on the same desktop space. Split View enables you to snap two programs to half the screen much like Windows 7, but builds on this further by suggesting other applications to pin to the other half of you screen, similar to Windows 10 functionality. Similarly, you can create Split View desktops by dragging applications into the workspace bar at the top of Mission Control.
SplitView

Notes has seen the largest changes in basic functionality, users can now attach content from other apps directly into a note, such as a video, website, photo, or map. And thanks to iCloud these notes can be shared easily across multiple devices, taking advantage of the same features being introduced in iOS 9. Additionally, you can now create interactive checklists within the notes application that act similarly to the Reminders application.
Notes Some smaller experience improvements include:

  • Improved Chinese and Japanese system fonts;
  • Improved Chinese and Japanese textual input systems;
  • Disk Utility has a new graphical user interface;
  • The spinning wait cursor (beach ball of death) has been “flattened” to reflect design changes first introduced in OS X Yosemite;
  • Shaking the cursor will temporarily enlarge it, making easier to locate;
  • The continued use of mDNSresponder (reintroduced in 10.10.4) over discoveryd, the latter having been attributed to widespread wireless issues in 10.10;
  • The system font is now San Francisco, rather than Helvetica Neue.

Performance

Although performance changes are less visible, Apple has focused on improving system functions across the board to make your device feel snappier and more responsive, while also running with greater efficiency. According to the announcement at WWDC users can expect up to 1.4x faster application launches, 2x faster application switching, 2x faster mail load times, and 4x faster pdf loads in preview.

One of the major overhauls to OS X El Capitan’s efficiency, is the introduction of “Metal,” an API set designed for handling graphics with improved performance. Metal was introduced on mobile devices in 2014 with the release of iOS 8, and is expected to improve performance of graphically intense programs. This better graphics performance can also be expected to apply to gameplay, along with productivity applications such as Adobe Photoshop and After Effects.

OS X El Capitan will also introduce a new feature called “System Integrity Protection,” also known as “rootless.” It offers new security by preventing users and processing from writing to system-protected folders (e.g. /System, /bin, /usr [excluding /usr/local], and /sbin). System-protected folders are secure against elevated users and the root account (this is key on systems which only have one account that is the de facto administrator). “Rootless” will come enabled by default, but can be disabled. The average user should notice no changes in day-to-day usage.

OS X El Capitan Public Beta 2

Apple released El Capitan Public Beta 2 on July 22nd. The update log does not contain any listed changes that fall under “experience” improvements, or new features. However, it is likely Beta 2 includes behind the scenes tweaks, that squash bugs, improve performance, and further refine features introduced in Public Beta 1.

Support

All Macs that are able to run OS X Yosemite will be able to run OS X El Capitan once released (Surprisingly, most Macs that are able to run OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) will be able to make it all the way to 10.11). However, some features will not be available on all models. Metal has only been confirmed to run on devices released in 2012 or later. The following models are compatible:

  • Macbook: Aluminum Late 2008; Early 2009 or later
  • Macbook Air: Late 2008 or later
  • Macbook Pro: 13-inch, Mid 2009 or later/ 15-inch, Mid 2007 or later/ 17-inch, Late 2007 or later
  • Mac Mini: Early 2009 or later
  • iMac: Mid 2007 or later
  • Mac Pro: Early 2008 or later
  • Xserve: Early 2009

Sources:
OS X Preview: http://goo.gl/cGaQGL
Ars Technica: http://goo.gl/oCsyL
Apple Beta Software Program: https://goo.gl/XfzV0f