Intego Mac Security Podcast

Apple Watch Ban, Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts, and Use Dictation and Predictive Text on Macs – Intego Mac Podcast Episode 323

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Two Apple Watch models are no longer for sale in the US. We’ll tell you why. macOS and iOS got fixes in some fast updates this week. A quick how-to on removing your posts from social media services, and some tips on dictation and Predictive Text, both of which have been improved in the latest Apple operating systems.

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Transcript of Intego Mac Podcast episode 323

Voice Over 0:00
This is the Intego Mac podcast—the voice of Mac security—for Thursday, December 21 2023.

This week’s Intego Mac podcast security headlines include: Two Apple Watch models are no longer for sale in the US. We’ll tell you why. macOS and iOS got fixes in some fast updates this week. A quick how-to on removing your posts from social media services, and some tips on dictation and Predictive Text, both of which have been improved in the latest Apple operating systems. Now, here are the hosts of the Intego Mac Podcast. Veteran Mac journalist, Kirk McElhearn, and Intego’s. Chief Security Analyst, Josh Long.

Kirk McElhearn 0:47
Good morning, Josh, how are you today?

Josh Long 0:50
I’m doing well. How are you, Kirk?

Kirk McElhearn 0:51
I’m doing okay. This is our last episode before Christmas. And our next to last, our penultimate episode before the end of the year.

Josh Long 0:59
Yeah, hard to believe that we’re just about to enter 2024. That’s a big year for the Mac. Because we’re coming up on the 40th anniversary of the Mac, it’s hard to believe the Macintosh has been around that long.

Why does Apple have to stop selling Apple Watches in the United States?

Kirk McElhearn 1:11
We will come back to talk about the 40th anniversary of the Mac. January 24, I believe is the actual date. But today we’re talking about the Apple Watch, because apparently the Apple Watch may be banned for sale in the United States from well from today, when this podcast is released Thursday, the 21st will be the last day that Apple will be selling the Apple Watch for now.

Josh Long 1:34
Yeah, this is sort of a weird story. But this all really revolves around a patent dispute specifically about the pulse oximetry. So this is the oxygen saturation level of your blood that recent models of Apple Watch have been able to do. It started with the Apple Watch Series 6 if I’m not mistaken, and it goes all the way through the current models. So the ones that Apple is currently selling are the Series 9 and the Ultra 2, these models have the capability of at least ostensibly, of checking your oxygen level your blood oxygen level. Now Kirk will tell you that it’s not very accurate for him, because when he checks with a legit pulse oximeter, it comes up with a much higher number than what his Apple Watch gives them.

Kirk McElhearn 2:20
I’m looking at the health app right now. And this week, I have measurements from 86 to 97% of my blood oxygen. Now I have a pulse oximeter because I have asthma not too serious. But when I was first diagnosed, the doctor said you might want to get this and find out if you’re under like 97 or 96%, then you should start worrying. And sometimes I get like 80% on the watch. And it just doesn’t make sense. Now this is not what is called an FDA “approved” feature, it’s FDA “cleared”. So FDA approved would mean that it can be used for medical purposes, right? for diagnostic purposes. FDA cleared just means kind of, yeah, we’ll let you use it. But don’t tell anyone. It’s serious, right? It’s the same for the ECG feature on the Apple Watch. And this has always bothered me that Apple added features that people don’t need, and they’re trying to sell them. And they’re not necessarily accurate. I remember the very first Apple Watch, when I got my first Apple Watch, I was planning to review it and I went out for a walk in the village I live in. And I was checking the heart rate every now and then. And I was walking relatively quickly. So I had a heart rate around 100. And all of a sudden I see a heart rate of like 180. And then I see a half hour later it was down to like 50. And what was happening is it was either doubling or halving the actual heart rate. And I saw this quite often with the first few Apple watches. I’m in a Facebook group about Apple Watch. And people do mention this occasionally, I think it’s more reliable now. But giving this feature to people who don’t need it is problematic because they think it’s realistic. And then they might get worried if they see something wrong. Right? Again, the heart rate sensor is a lot more accurate. And tons of devices have heart rate sensors. Now, you know, smartwatches all do this. You could do this before it came out on the Apple Watch. There were apps for the iPhone, that would detect your heart rate, it would turn the flash on on the back of your iPhone, and it would detect your heart rate through the lens and the flash right it would see the I guess the differences in the color of blood in your capillaries. So in any case, the thing about this one is this company called Massimo, which is a very serious medical company. And they have a whole bunch of patents about pulse oximetry. And they’re claiming that Apple is violated those patents and that they’re using them, well, technically illegally.

Josh Long 4:41
So quoting from an Engadget article that we’ll link to in the show notes, it says that Apple reportedly discussed acquiring the company in 2013 and hiring the founder of the company to work on the medical features of the Apple Watch, but that deal never went through they say instead Kiani claimed that Apple hired more than 20 of his engineers, and doubled some of their salaries by the way, and made them develop the same kind of medical technology that they had been working on at this medical company. Now developing those things at Apple. So the allegation is this is not an accidental infringement. This is a deliberate taking of our intellectual property.

Kirk McElhearn 5:21
Worth noting that Apple discussed acquiring the company in 2013. The first Apple Watch came out in 2015. And the blood oxygen feature was only added in 2020. So this is a long time between the initial foray into exploring this feature, and releasing it on the Watch. So the company Massimo sued Apple in 2021. This is not a lawsuit that just happened this year. It’s not specifically just before Christmas that this is happening. This is going through the courts and arbitration and it’s falling. Now, what’s really interesting is that instead of Apple, that there have been some rumors that Apple is working on a software solution, which could be basically disabling the feature. Now, if they disabled the feature, someone who bought the Watch, wanting that feature can go back to Apple and say, Hey, this feature doesn’t work. I want my money back. So that’s a problem. Can they fix the feature using software to not infringe on the patents? That gets highly technical.

Josh Long 6:18
Right. Well, I guess it depends on the specific patents and how exactly, you know, Apple’s allegedly violating those patents. Maybe there’s something they could do to tweak the software so that they’re not actually infringing on the particular patents in question. But I don’t I don’t know, I don’t know enough about the patents that we’re talking about here to be able to answer that.

Kirk McElhearn 6:39
It’s worth noting that this is a company who specializes in pulse oximetry. So they probably have lots of patents. It’s also worth noting that this ban is only in the US now, we don’t know much about patents, we did some research, it looks like there can be a compulsory patent license in some countries. And since this company seems to be mostly selling its products in the US, maybe they don’t care about other countries. So Apple can continue to sell the Apple Watch in other countries under a compulsory patent license. And that’s why this is only affecting us sales worth learning, while Apple can no longer sell it from the 21st. Anyone who has stuck can continue to sell it. So if you do want an Apple watch, and the last days before Christmas, you check on Amazon or BestBuy or wherever you get your Apple goods.

Josh Long 7:27
If I’m not mistaken, the ban itself actually begins Christmas Day, which is why other retailers are still going to be able to sell their stock beyond Christmas, maybe other retailers might not be allowed to although I’m sure you could probably still find third parties like maybe on eBay, you might still be able to buy Apple Watches, right? Because those are individuals, not companies necessarily who were selling those products there.

Kirk McElhearn 7:51
And we’re in no way suggesting that you go out and buy a bunch of Apple Watches now. So you can sell them after Christmas on eBay. Right?

Josh Long 7:57
Probably not the best idea. Although I’m sure there will be people who will try to do that. I don’t really think that’s the best approach either because you know what, if you wanted an Apple watch, you probably got one already.

What was fixed in Apple’s latest operating systems updates?

Kirk McElhearn 8:11
Okay. Apple released a new security update. Yesterday, there was one security fix in macOS Sonoma, there was an update to iOS 17, but not iPadOS 17. It was an update to iOS and iPadOS 16.7 for Safari 17 point 2.1. Nothing for the Apple Watch nothing for the Apple TV. This is actually an interesting security update, however, right?

Josh Long 8:34
This doesn’t happen very often where Apple only patches one vulnerability. And that’s it. It doesn’t sound like it’s super serious. At least it’s not like an arbitrary code execution vulnerability. It’s not a real, you know, remote remote code execution where somebody can attack your device from far away or something. No, this is a vulnerability where a user may share their screen and unintentionally share the incorrect content. They say that they fix this issue by improving session tracking whatever exactly that means. But Craig Hockenberry is the one who reported this to Apple who is famous for developing the Twitterrific app. It sounds like what this vulnerability implies is that if in certain scenarios, you might be trying to share your screen and then share maybe the wrong window or the wrong screen. And well, there could be something potentially embarrassing or incriminating, or maybe you’ve even got your passwords visible on your other screen, which could be a security problem.

Kirk McElhearn 9:36
Right now, we’re not talking about screen sharing from Mac to Mac, which uses a screen sharing app. I think what this is, is so we did a test earlier in Zoom. If you click Share Screen, you have a choice to share your entire screen or individual windows or individual apps, etc. And my guess is that, I don’t know, the example is you’re in a meeting negotiating with a client and you want to share a screen For, I don’t know, a PDF with specs of your product, but you don’t want to share the screen with all your negotiation notes that say you know how high you’re willing to go. And all that. And maybe the wrong window gets shared that sort of thing. But as you say, it could also be a screen with your passwords, or other confidential information. So it’s technically a security fix, but it’s a security slash privacy fix.

Josh Long 10:21
Right. So that was the only security issue at least that Apple has disclosed so far, that was fixed in just Sonoma, by the way, not for macOS Ventura or Monterey, there were no Safari related vulnerabilities fixed. Apple says on their security page, that there were no published CVE entries for all of these other things that they updated the iOS 17. By the way, that’s a really weird one, that it’s, it’s very rare that Apple only releases an update for iOS 17, but not iPadOS 17. At the same time, very unusual for Apple to do that. There’s not a lot of information about what exactly might have been fixed in terms of just general bug fixes. But in the Japanese release notes for iOS 17 point 2.1. They specify this update addresses an issue where the battery may drain quickly under certain conditions. Now, it doesn’t say that in the English release notes. So take whatever you will out of that.

What vulnerability is affecting SSH (secure shell)?

Kirk McElhearn 11:22
My speculation is that Chinese and Japanese use characters where the fonts have a lot of characters, they have 1000s of characters, right? Chinese characters, or what’s called kanji in Japanese, which are the equivalent Chinese characters. But Japanese also has a phonetic set of characters. And maybe it has something to do with when these fonts are loaded, they use more battery or something. It’s the only thing I can think that will be specific to Chinese and Japanese versions of the operating system. We have one more vulnerability and this is really interesting Well, it’s not interesting to you know, a handful of people, but we thought it was really interesting. The SSH the Secure Shell protocol is really important for connecting to not just computers remotely, but also individual devices. Is this the first major vulnerability it’s had since 1995.

Josh Long 12:09
Well, that’s what people are claiming they’re like, this is the biggest thing that’s happened decades in to SSH security, this is probably not something that the average person needs to worry too much about. But at least SSH is a little bit weaker for the time being unless it’s fully patched. This is actually built into macOS, and Apple calls it remote login. If you enable that, that means that anyone else who is on your local network can connect to your Mac using your administrator username and password via the command line. And then they can run commands on your computer through their terminal. So that’s basically one of the things that can be done with SSH. So Apple has open SSH as part of the operating system. If you run a command in the terminal, you can find out what version of open SSH is installed. And so you type SSH space hyphen, and a capital V is in version. And it’ll tell you that it’s open SSH 9.4 P 1. And it also uses Libre SSL 3.3 point six. Now that version of open SSH came out four months ago. So open SSH is vulnerable to this new thing that’s been discovered, but also that Libre SSL that’s 21 months old, I believe at this point. And it includes some pretty severe vulnerabilities including a couple of 9.8 out of 10, severity level vulnerabilities. And we actually talked about this back in November. Remember when we first talked about the curl vulnerabilities, and I discovered that actually, it has a lot of dependencies that are also out of date. Well Libre SSL still to this day has not been patched. It’s still a near nearly a year old at this point, which is kind of concerning.

Kirk McElhearn 13:59
Okay, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about how to get rid of some of your old Facebook posts and your tweets or receipts or sheets or whatever they’re called these days.

Voice Over 14:11
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Tips on how to remove posts from your social media accounts.

Kirk McElhearn 15:28
So we all use social media, almost everyone use social media. Interestingly, my son, he’s 33 years old, he doesn’t use social media at all. He’s only ever used Facebook for a while when he was in university. He doesn’t use social media, he doesn’t listen to this podcast. But we all use social media. And we’ve got stuff that we put on social media that we kind of think like, you wake up after that last weekend, you realize you shouldn’t have posted those photos or those comments on Facebook or those, whatever you want to call them on Twitter, whatever. So sometimes you want to go back and get rid of some of this stuff. Now, it used to be really difficult. I updated an article I wrote a few years ago for the Mac security blog, how to easily remove old Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, which we’re calling ex slash Twitter. Back in the day, you had to install a sort of third party extension to delete things. And it had a way of pretending to scroll through a list and checking items and clicking buttons is kind of clever, but it took forever. Facebook has simplified this an awful lot over the years. And now you can go into your activity log. And you can, you can easily delete everything, you do have to select a lot. And you have to go through a whole lot of different posts and characteristics and, and dates and all this but you can delete stuff more easily. I wonder if this was some sort of government regulator that required Facebook to do this at some point, the original article wrote was maybe five years ago. So over time, Facebook has made this a lot simpler. Now there used to be some automated tools. Other than just these extensions. There’s an app that I mentioned in my article that says you can delete things on all sorts of social media platforms. And it’s never worked for me, it has never worked. They keep selling this app. I won’t mention it here you can see in the article, but it’s never worked for me either on Facebook or Twitter or anything else. Josh, do you use Facebook a lot? I don’t even know if I’m friended if I friended you on Facebook.

Josh Long 17:23
I don’t use Facebook all that much. It’s not my favorite social network in terms of like where I have the most connections. It’s Twitter slash X, number one, followed by LinkedIn, and then Facebook, something like that.

Kirk McElhearn 17:36
I actually use Facebook quite a bit for Facebook Groups. I gave up posting on Facebook years ago, I haven’t literally haven’t posted anything in years. I unfollowed. I’m sorry, if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, I unfollowed you because I just couldn’t stand all the things that people were posting, especially during COVID. It was just too much. So I don’t follow anyone. But I do use Groups. I have Groups for camera stuff photography group about my car, I have Groups about food about other things I’m interested in, I find Facebook Groups really good. So when I go to Facebook, I don’t have any posts to clean out anymore. I’ve done this years ago. But you can also get rid of items that you posted in Groups. And maybe you posted that picture with a screenshot of a game you were playing. And you realize it wasn’t that important. And you don’t want that trace of your life in the history. And obviously, it’s different in a group than what you posted individually. Because only group members for most Groups only group members can see them. People can’t go to your timeline and see what you posted in Groups. But you remember back in the day, people used to post on Facebook, everything they did. And it just got tiring. I mean, I’m all for cat photos and recipes and stuff. But too much of this stuff just turned into comment wars and all that Twitter’s different. Now I’ve always felt that Twitter was like a water cooler being someone who works from home independent, you know, I want to chat with people during the day. And Twitter’s really good for that. Well, X or whatever they’re calling it now, I used to use a tool called Tweet Delete, which would automatically delete my tweets every two weeks. Because I’ve always felt that Twitter was for immediacy, not for archives. Now, yes, it could be for archives for politicians, or, you know, important people, but not for the kind of stuff that I would just, you know, randomly spew out during the day. Now,Tweet Delete still works. And it can delete your entire archive, it’s no longer a free app. It’s a different process than it used to be. You can’t set it to do it automatically. The same way. It’s a lot more complicated, but I talked about that in the article. The other option to delete tweets is to go through your timeline and manually delete each one one at a time. And if you’ve got a lot of tweets, that can take a long time, right?

Josh Long 19:48
If you’re somebody who doesn’t post on a daily basis, or even weekly or monthly, then maybe that won’t take so long for you. It really depends on how much you’ve used the platform or How much you have used it in the past? By the way, if you’re wondering why we’re even bringing this up, why why is it such a big deal to have old posts on social media? Well, in some cases, maybe you’re applying for a job. And well, maybe you posted something 5, 10 years ago that maybe you’re not so proud of anymore, maybe you don’t want a potential employer coming across that, you know, maybe it was something you wrote in the middle of the night and you weren’t thinking clearly, maybe you become somewhat of a public figure. And now, you know, you’ve got the paparazzi or whoever like they’re scrolling through your your feed and trying to find something that they can get you on, right, they can cancel you for. So maybe these might be some reasons that you might want to go through your old posts and delete things that maybe you’d no longer agree with or don’t really fit your current views.

Kirk McElhearn 20:49
Or you might want to delete photos of you and your ex or photos of you in a particular job or a particular car that you owned, or in a particular home. Or you might want to go through and delete any kind of tweet or photo or Facebook posts that could identify where you live. And that’s really important. Maybe you took photos right in front of your house in the house, the house number right in front of it and the street name on the sign and you don’t want people knowing exactly where you live. This sort of information can be useful for people who are trying to take over your identity for example.

Josh Long 21:18
Right, right. Another thing that people often don’t think about is you know, they get a new car and they take a picture in front of their car with their license plate number and I don’t I don’t know if that’s something you necessarily want to be putting out there for the public.

Apple’s Dictation and Predicative Text are more reliable on the latest operating systems.

Kirk McElhearn 21:31
Okay, so another recent article is called “Save Time Typing With Dictation and Predictive Text in macOS Sonoma iOS 17 and iPadOS 17”. If you’re a regular listener to this podcast, you have certainly heard me talk about dictation. I’ve been using dictation for more than 20 years, I don’t use it all the time. But I’m using it more and more. You know, I write a lot I write all day long. I write articles, I write emails, I write all sorts of things. And dictation can save a huge amount of time. I explained in the article that for a long time, dictation was only through third party software, and Apple’s built in dictation feature came along and but with MacOS Sonoma, it’s improved a great deal. One of the things it lets you do is dictate and type at the same time. So that sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? Why would you dictate and type at the same time. But there are a couple of reasons for doing this. If when you’re dictating a mistake comes up might be quicker to correct it right away. Because unlike some of the dictation specific software, you can’t save corrections, the macOS number does not learn from your corrections. It’s a good idea to correct voice-os, that’s the voice equivalent of typos when you see them. The other reason is sometimes typing special characters can be a hassle. So whenever I’m writing an article, and I’m telling you to to say choose File, Print, right choose Print from the File menu file greater than symbol print those symbols, they don’t always come out, right. So I’ll say choose file. And then I’ll type the greater than or I’ll even do the whole thing file greater than print because it’s got to be capitalized. So those kinds of things like that, that depending on what you’re typing, it might be more efficient to type, but still keep the dictation going. None of this is 100% accurate. But more and more, I can dictate a paragraph or two with only a few mistakes when I’m working on my Mac.

Josh Long 23:28
Voice-os is that that’s a new term for me. I’ve never heard that one before, instead of typos. Now, I’ve always primarily used the speech to text functionality, this voice dictation functionality on my iPhone, I do sometimes use this on the Mac. But by default, I don’t know, I feel like if I’ve got a full keyboard in front of me, most of the time I prefer to just type it out. It’s it’s on the iPhone where I don’t have a full physical keyboard. And I’m just typing with two thumbs where I feel like voice dictation makes a lot more sense for me. I do sometimes do voice dictation on my Apple Watch as well. But it’s much more difficult to correct voice-os on the Apple Watch than it is on the phone.

Kirk McElhearn 24:14
Interestingly, the dictate and type feature came out on iOS and iPadOS first with iOS 16, iPadOS 16. And then it came out on the Mac, I dictate on my phone all the time, whether it’s emails or messages because I just can’t deal with that keyboard. And as I mentioned in the past, I use it for that keyboard layout on the Mac. Even though I’m using a QWERTY keyboard, I know you’re looking at me that you don’t understand this and it’s a QWERTY keyboard on the phone. So I have to I’m typing with different keys on the phone from where I’m used to typing on the Mac. And just tap that little microphone and speak and it’s so much easier. It’s so much quicker. So if you haven’t tried dictation, read this article and check it out. It’s really useful. The second feature is Predictive Text. And we’ve always had that on the iPhone where you would type Have a word and you would see the three possible words below where you’re typing. And you could tap the next word. But the Predictive Text now goes even further, it can predict even phrases. So I give two examples in my article on economic security blog. If you need to type the word antidisestablishmentarianism, which we all know that we were lied to that it was the longest word in the English language, there is one actually longer I can’t remember what it is. But if you need to type that, first of all, you probably don’t remember how to spell it. And second of all, it’s a lot of letters. It’s like 28 letters. So if you start typing it, I have a screenshot showing, the Mac is going to continue that word, it’s going to be in a gray instead of black. And if you press space, it completes the word. But it’s even better than that. The next example I have is, let’s say you want to type kill two birds with one stone. Well, you type kill two B-I-R out, and you press space, and it completes it. This is most useful with long words, it kind of suggests words based on the context, but it doesn’t read your mind, right? You get into a habit with long words that you want to type often, that you’ll only need a few letters, and you can press the spacebar is really good if you’re typing. I don’t know, if you’re writing about engineering, or chemistry or something like that, we’ve got lots of long words, you can save a lot of time with this.

Josh Long 26:20
The only problem that I have with Predictive Text, which is you can kind of look at it as like auto completion, but you have to take action in order for it to autocomplete for you. So that’s why it’s called Predictive Texas a little bit different. The problem that I always have with this is I always forget which button to press. I know it’s spacebar because you’ve got that in your article. But I always want to hit tab for some reason. I’m like, is it tab? Is it spacebar? I don’t know, I don’t remember. So the other thing that you can do, you can click on it on the rest of that word as it’s predicting what you’re going to be writing, you can click on it too, that’s another way to do it. But of course, it takes a lot longer. It takes you out of your typing flow if you do that. But it is another way that you can finish that prediction of what you’re going to say.

Kirk McElhearn 27:06
There are a number of options for this such as correcting spelling automatically capitalizing words automatically. This is assuming that the Mac is thinking you want to capitalize a word and it’s never the one that I want capitalized unless it’s the beginning of a sentence. You can also turn on a setting to add a period with a double space, which you’ve been able to do on the iPhone for donkey’s years. And that’s really practical, because it’s easier to get to the spacebar than to get to where the period is, at least on a divorce keyboard is the E key and the spacebar you do with your thumb. So you get that rhythm of double tapping with your thumb for periods. And if you’re used to it on the iPhone as well.

Josh Long 27:43
By the way, a little known fact, it used to be once upon a time that you put two spaces after a period and and it seems like all the style guides now have changed. So they recommend not putting two spaces after a period anymore. So now you know.

Kirk McElhearn 27:58
It used to be for a long time, it’s not a little known fact, wars have been fought over the double space for a period. I’ve recently read a book that I believe was printed in the 1970s. It’s still had double spaces after a period. I’ll see if I can find a link to an article by Glenn Fleishman, who is a grammar and text nerd who’s written about this, who’s gone back and looked at old books. The reason for double spacing after a period or after any punctuation was in order to easily kern the line to have the right spaces between words in a line when you were dealing with mechanical type, right. I remember back in the I’m thinking my early jobs where people were typing on typewriters, they were still doing double spaces. And it works better with a monospace font. But anyway, if I can find a link to one of Glenn’s articles, you might find it interesting. Otherwise, we do want to wish you happy holidays if you celebrate Christmas or any other end of the year holiday. And until next week, Josh stay secure.

Josh Long 29:00
All right, stay secure.

Voice Over 29:03
Thanks for listening to the Intego Mac podcast, the voice of Mac security with your host, Kirk McElhearn, and Josh long. To get every weekly episode, be sure to follow us on Apple podcasts, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app. And, if you can, leave a rating, a like or review. Links to topics and information mentioned in the podcast can be found in the show notes for the episode at The Intego website is also where to find details on the full line of Intego security and utility software.

About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Apple products and more on his blog Kirkville. He is co-host of the Intego Mac Podcast, as well as several other podcasts, and is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications. Kirk has written more than two dozen books, including Take Control books about Apple's media apps, Scrivener, and LaunchBar. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →