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Your iPhone and the Pegasus spyware hack: What you need to know


iPhones have been compromised by the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. Should you be worried? That depends on who you ask.

Image: James Martin/CNET

The iPhone has always been lauded for its tight security and privacy controls, especially compared with Android devices. But that reputation took a hit this week with the revelation that a spyware program ostensibly used to hack into the phones of criminals and terrorists was abused by certain authoritarian governments to compromise the iPhones of journalists, activists and other prominent people.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)

Amnesty International just announced the results of analysis conducted by it and journalist advocacy and media group Forbidden Stories. The findings indicated that the Pegasus spyware program sold by surveillance company NSO Group was able to infect iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models through zero-click attacks in the iOS iMessage app.

Based on a data leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers, Amnesty’s Security Lab analyzed 67 smartphones and found Pegasus infections or attempted infections on 37 of them, according to The Washington Post.

Thousands of Android phone users had also been targeted, according to Amnesty. But in contrast to iOS, Google’s Android operating system doesn’t retain the usable logs needed to detect the Pegasus spyware infection. The iPhone 11 and 12 models were outfitted with the latest update, namely iOS 14.6 at the time, which was released on May 24, 2021.

Sold by NSO Group to governments, the Pegasus software is considered a form of mobile malware by security firm Lookout, and one that allows its operators to obtain GPS coordinates, text messages, photos, emails and encrypted chats from apps like WhatsApp and Signal. Pegasus is also able to record phone calls and turn on the microphone and camera without the user’s knowledge.

Since its discovery by Lookout and Citizen Lab in 2016, Pegasus has gotten smarter. The program can now run on a targeted device without requiring any interaction by the user. This means the operator of the spyware can send it directly to a phone through SMS, email, social media and certain types of apps.

Pegasus sounds like a serious threat to people who have been targeted by its operators. But how grave a danger is it to the security and privacy of the average iPhone owner?

On one side is the NSO Group, which has criticized the findings of Amnesty and Forbidden Stories. In an update on its website, the group said that the report is “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories,” adding that it denies the false allegations.

“We would like to emphasize that NSO sells its technologies solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts. NSO does not operate the system and has no visibility to the data.”

On another side is Apple, which has been put in the position of having to defend the security of its flagship phone and explain how its core messaging app could be vulnerable to this type of exploit. The following statement shared with TechRepublic and attributable to Apple Security Engineering and Architecture head Ivan Krstić walks the fine line of condemning the malicious use of Pegasus but painting the incident as one that wouldn’t affect the average person.

“Apple unequivocally condemns cyberattacks against journalists, human rights activists and others seeking to make the world a better place. For over a decade, Apple has led the industry in security innovation and, as a result, security researchers agree iPhone is the safest, most secure consumer mobile device on the market. Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”

However, Apple’s statement that it’s “constantly adding new protections” could be a sign that the company does see this as a security threat and may be working on a fix for a future update to iOS. At the very least, the company should be taking this seriously.

“It’s clear that the iOS iMessage service is a bit of a mess from a security perspective,” said Oliver Tavakoli, CTO at security firm Vectra. “Apple has added more and more functionality to it—and every piece of functionality comes with the potential for exploitable vulnerabilities. Also, the fact that iMessage does not distinguish how it handles inbound messages from known contacts versus perfect strangers opens phones up to exploitation from anywhere.”

And on yet another side are Amnesty International, Forbidden Stories and the news publications and analysts who see this as an alarming use and abuse of a specific technology but differ as to whether that tech was designed with malicious intent in mind.

“NSO Group has been suspected of selling its spyware to some of the world’s most oppressive governments and leaders,” said Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate for Comparitech. “NSO Group is in effect a weapons dealer, and there’s very few restrictions on to whom it can sell its weapons.”

But Brian Higgins, security specialist at Comparitech, believes that NSO Group does its best to control the deployment of its Pegasus software, adding that there will always be consumers who want to change the purpose of the product for their own ends.

In the meantime, mobile phone owners users sufficiently alarmed and enterprising enough can download and install a Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) created by Amnesty. Available from GitHub, MVT can analyze data from Android devices and records of backups from iPhones to look for potential signs of compromise.

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The best email client for Linux, Windows and macOS isn’t Outlook


In businesses and homes, email is still a necessity for communication. But which email client is the best to use? You might be surprised to find out that it’s not Outlook.

Image: GettyImages/photoschmidt

I rely on email. In fact, it’s my primary method of communication with the outside world. While most people are busy on Slack and other chat platforms, I still prefer email. Why? For one thing, I retain a digital trail of my communication. I can search through email threads to follow conversations with a single person (or multiple persons) with ease. Another reason is that I’ve been using email since the late ’90s, so it’s a very comfortable and familiar format. 

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

Does that mean I ignore chat and other types of communication platforms? Not at all. But for my primary method of communication with clients, editors and publishers, it’s email all the way. It’s easy, fast and always there. I don’t have to worry about whether or not a recipient is online; they’ll get the communication one way or another.

But there is a slight problem. Which email client to use? There are quite a large number of apps available on every platform, and not every app is available for every operating system. You have Apple Mail for macOS, Outlook for Windows and macOS, Evolution for Linux, and a host of other possibilities. And for the longest time, everyone just assumed MS Outlook was the single best email client on the planet. 

For anyone who’s had to troubleshoot Outlook problems, you know just how bad that client can get when it’s in a fussy mood. I’ve experienced Outlook problems so bad, the only way to solve the problem was a complete reinstall of the OS. Granted, that situation was not normal, but it is very indicative of what can go wrong with that particular email client. And although Apple Mail is a very good email application, its macOS-only limitation is problematic. I will go so far as to say if Apple Mail was available for Linux, macOS and Windows, it would probably wind up at the very top of this list.

SEE: The best browser for Linux, Windows and Mac isn’t Google Chrome in 2021 (TechRepublic)

That, however, is not the case.

With that said, is there a single email application that can claim the best email client for all three of the main desktop operating systems? There is, and it will surprise you which client has risen to the top. Why the surprise? Mostly because everyone had pretty much written this application off when the founding company looked to be jettisoning the software. That didn’t happen, and the email client enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, which led to it being one of the cleanest, most reliable email clients available. That client is Thunderbird.

Whoa! What about the cloud?

I get it, many of you opt to go the cloud or SaaS route for email. You have Gmail, Microsoft 365 and so many other cloud- or SaaS-based email services, and you’re content viewing them via a web browser. That’s the route so many people take. But it can get a bit unwieldy—especially when you’re already prone to having too many tabs open in your browser.  Good news: Thunderbird can handle the likes of Gmail and Office 365.

And that’s just one of the reasons Thunderbird gets this nod: Because of its flexibility and extendability. You see, Thunderbird isn’t just limited to POP and IMAP. With this open-source email client, you can connect to:

  • Gmail
  • Exchange
  • Office 365
  • iCloud
  • and more

Those services alone cover a very broad range. Of course, with some of the above, you do have to jump through certain hoops to make it work (such as enabling IMAP or using app passwords), but the point is, it works. And works quite well. 

But why switch?

You’re probably already heavily invested in your current email application. You’ve been using it for years and it (for the most part) serves you well. Or you mostly view your email from within a web browser. But if you’re like me, you have numerous email accounts you monitor throughout the day. I have to keep track of four primary email accounts, and the idea of having to hop between browser tabs to view them all makes me want to shut down and turn my back on communication altogether. To that end, I rely on Thunderbird to corral those email accounts into a single, easy-to-use interface.

But what about the calendar? 

One thing about Outlook is that it’s an all-in-one groupware suite. It’s email, calendar, contacts, todo, coffee maker, toothbrush and veggie crisper. But let’s be honest, the majority of people use Outlook for two things: Email and Calendar. And the majority of home users probably only use Outlook for email.

Guess what? Thunderbird has a built-in Calendar feature that can connect to your calendar of choice. Even better, Thunderbird has just about every feature you could think of:

  • Tabbed interface.
  • Built-in encryption.
  • Highly customizable.
  • Do not track and remote content blocking.
  • Powerful add-ons.
  • Themable.
  • One-click address book.
  • Attachment reminder.
  • Quick filter toolbar.
  • Powerful search.
  • Message archiving.
  • Large files management.
  • Smart folders.
  • Remote image blocking.
  • Phishing protection.
  • Automated updated.
  • Built-in junk filters.

It’s all about performance and efficiency

The two primary reasons I list Thunderbird as the best email client for all platforms boils down to performance and efficiency. Of all the email clients I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a figurative metric ton of them), Thunderbird offers the best mix of performance, efficiency and features. And given how busy life can be, performance and efficiency are key. 

The basic layout of Thunderbird brushes off any confusion and makes it incredibly simple to read, compose and manage email. There’s zero learning curve to this client, and its usage is as simple as it gets. On top of that, even with a massive amount of email in your account, Thunderbird performs incredibly well. I’ve experienced Outlook choke on what Thunderbird easily manages. My current Thunderbird client (running on both Pop!_OS and macOS) has archives dating back to 2009 and it shows no sign of slowing down or hesitancy. I cannot remember the last time I had a problem with Thunderbird.

On the contrary, the last time I had to work with Outlook, I frequently had to deal with PST and OST files. If those files weren’t cared for, fed well and burped frequently, Outlook would get fussy and refuse to do what it was told. All the while, Thunderbird keeps chugging on.

My day has become insanely busy. The tools I use must work and work well. Between web browsers and email clients, I don’t have time to deal with breakdowns and corrupt files. That’s why Thunderbird is the email client I find is best suited for Linux, macOS and Windows. It’s not perfect, but between it and the competition, selecting Thunderbird as my default is an absolute no-brainer.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.

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Apple users: Get to know these Microsoft 365 solutions to improve collaboration, productivity and more


Microsoft 365 apps and services aren’t just for Windows users. Apple users can wield the same potent tools using web-based interfaces and even a variety of Mac, iPad and iPhone apps. Here’s how.

Image: PixieMe/Shutterstock

Microsoft 365 subscription plans offer a variety of solutions to Apple users. Whether using iPadOS, iOS or macOS, a combination of locally installed and cloud-based Microsoft programs extends the reach of numerous powerful Microsoft applications including for those professionals using iPads, iPhones and Macs.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

Most Apple users are familiar with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Microsoft’s equivalent of Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote programs. Outlook, of course, is Microsoft’s answer to Apple Mail. Those productivity tools are straightforward and available to Apple users with the proper Microsoft 365 subscription, whether using a mobile Apple device or a Mac desktop or laptop. Numerous other tools, however, are also available to Apple users possessing the proper Microsoft 365 subscription. Here’s how other popular Microsoft 365 solutions—which offer an impressive and potent range of capabilities—work.


Available as a mobile iPad and iPhone app and as a web-based solution for Mac users with Premium Microsoft 365 subscriptions, Bookings assists scheduling meetings and appointments. The Microsoft 365 app enables creating a customizable web page organizations can provide customers permitting clients to reserve their own service appointments. Bookings also provides a dedicated calendar and automated reminders for customers and staff to help add efficiencies by discouraging missed appointments.


Imagine a plug-in that monitors your work patterns—including within Microsoft Outlook—to assist enhancing productivity while also increasing focus and wellbeing and guarding against unnecessary stress and burnout. That’s just what Microsoft’s MyAnalytics does whether you’re working from an iPad, iPhone or Mac, given the opportunity. The tool assists users by setting aside regular opportunities, or blocks of time, to focus and perform important work. MyAnalytics can also silence Teams and Skype for Business interruptions, shorten specific meetings and delay sending specific email messages to better match users’ working patterns. The program, available with a variety of Microsoft plans, includes different features depending upon the plan in place.

SEE: How to make fewer mistakes and work more efficiently using predictive text in Microsoft 365 (TechRepublic)


Available with Microsoft 365 subscription plans, OneDrive (as shown in Figure A) is Microsoft’s cloud-storage service. Files created within other Microsoft 365 tools—including Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word—and even other programs can easily be stored within OneDrive. Whether using an iPad, iPhone or Mac, all for which integrated OneDrive apps are available, the cloud service provides significant online file storage of up to 6TB for a Microsoft 365 Family plan and 1TB per user for business plans.


OneDrive provides secure cloud-storage capabilities and dedicated apps whether using an iPhone, iPad or Mac.


Available to Premium, Business and Educational plan members, Planner simplifies coordinating tasks between team members and updating the status of various assigned responsibilities. By providing both a web interface and a dedicated mobile app for iPhone and iPad users, Microsoft 365 extends for Apple users the same power and functionality of Planner’s Windows version. Planner’s Kanban board functionality enables creating feature-packed task cards to which users can attach files, named owners, notes, checklists, comments, due dates and more. 

Power Apps

Power Apps, by supporting the connection of numerous data sources within the Microsoft Dataverse, enables developers to create minimally coded apps possessing advanced functionality, including by using integrated artificial intelligence components. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting found organizations using Power Apps measurably reduced costs and improved efficiency. For example, Mac users can tap the Power Apps web interface, while iPad and iPhone users can use the dedicated mobile iOS and iPadOS app counterparts, to build automated processes that access, capture and present specific business information in unique ways, all with minimal coding expertise, just as Ikea Sweden did improving customer kitchen-purchasing experiences by better leveraging sales data. Power Apps is available to Microsoft 365 business plan subscribers for $10 per user per month (with a one app per user limit) or $40 per user per month (for unlimited apps per user).

Power Automate

Microsoft 365’s Power Automate helps organizations automatically complete repetitive tasks and electronic workflows. Take Coca-Cola for example, which implemented Power Automate to streamline unwieldy order and invoicing procedures. Like Power Apps, Power Automate permits using low-code tools and numerous prebuilt connectors to save time by eliminating the need for manual processes and enhancing workflows by leveraging AI capabilities. Whether using the web app with a Mac or the dedicated iOS or iPadOS counterpart, Power Automate extends to Apple users the ability to create and manage data flows and analytics. Power Automate is available to Microsoft 365 business plan subscribers for $15 per user per month (enabling the user to run unlimited workflows) or starting at $500 per month (for five flows and without the need to license each end user).

Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft 365’s self-service enterprise-grade data business analytics solution. Power BI’s software and connectors permit collecting unrelated data inputs to generate interactive results and present visually complex information and reports in thoughtful ways that generate meaningful insights. As with Power Apps and Power Automate, Apple users can access a web interface or use Microsoft’s dedicated iPad and iPhone app, as the Meijer grocery chain did using the solution’s self-service analytics to improve real-time inventory and sales reporting. Power BI is priced a little differently than some other Microsoft 365 features, as pricing is constructed per user or per capacity depending upon the plan and organization needs. More pricing information is available on Microsoft’s site.


Imagine an iPhone and iPad app and Mac web interface that permits creating, managing and publishing intranet resources teams can use to securely store and share files, provide updates, coordinate team activities and track information, which is what SharePoint (as shown in Figure B) does. Takeda Pharmaceuticals is just one example of thousands of organizations that have built SharePoint sites to connect employees, align goals and improve communication between departments. SharePoint services, themselves, are an additional cost to a Microsoft 365 subscription, with actual expenses varying depending on plan and commitment term. More SharePoint pricing information is available on Microsoft’s site.


Whether using a Mac, iPhone or iPad, Apple technology professionals can leverage a host of features and capabilities. SharePoint provides to power team communication and collaboration.


With dedicated apps for Mac, iPad and iPhone users, professionals using Apple hardware can schedule and conduct video conference calls (including with members outside their organization), create dedicated team environments for various departments, securely store files and maintain chat sessions between members using Teams. Marketed as a “team-based workspace,” Teams became a critical component for many organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing a centralized resource for users to encourage collaboration and communication among team members working from different locations, while also extending the ability to host audio and video conferences. Some Teams features, such as meeting for just one hour and having up to 10GB of file storage capacity, are available free, whereas greater participant and meeting duration limits are extended with upgraded subscription plans, details of which are available on Microsoft’s site.

SEE: Build custom Microsoft Teams apps with the new Teams Developer Portal (TechRepublic)

Microsoft 365 delivers high value for Apple professionals

Remember, while these Microsoft 365 solutions are among the most popular subscription plan offerings and deliver significant benefits, these are just some of Microsoft’s solutions, and others include Azure, Project, Sway and Yammer. With dedicated local apps—including for desktop/laptop hardware and mobile platforms—and web-based compatibility for others, depending upon the program, Apple users can take advantage of the impressive tools, features and capabilities Microsoft 365 plans provide. Taking just a few minutes to familiarize yourself with existing Microsoft 365 plans and the apps and services available can pay significant dividends far into the future and, in many cases, at no additional cost, depending upon the plans already in place.

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How to customize Siri’s voice in iOS 14.5


With iOS 14.5 and higher, Apple offers several ways to tweak Siri’s voice according to your personal preferences.

Image: Piotr Swat/Shutterstock

Those of you with iPhones likely rely on Siri to answer questions, provide information and carry out requests. You might find the voice of Apple’s voice assistant pleasing to hear, or maybe not; either way, you can customize Siri’s voice to adopt a different language, accent and gender.

SEE: Apple’s Siri: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Apple has always let you change Siri’s default language among English, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese and more; with the release of iOS 14.5, Siri was enhanced to offer voices of different accents and genders. Here’s how it works.

First, make sure you’re running iOS 14.5 or higher. Go to Settings and then General. Select Software Update. You’ll be told that iOS is up to date or prompted to download and install the latest update.

Next, go to Settings and then Siri & Search. Tap the setting for Language. Here, you can choose a different language and a different accent or region for certain languages. With Chinese, select Cantonese for mainland China or Hong Kong or Mandarin for mainland China or Hong Kong. For French, opt for French as spoken in Belgium, Canada, France or Switzerland. And for Spanish, choose the language as spoken in Chile, Mexico, Spain or the United States (Figure A).

Figure A


Let’s take English as an example. You can select English as spoken in Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. Try each region to see which accent most appeals to you. Choosing certain accents will turn off “Hey Siri” so you’ll have to reactivate it. After you’ve chosen a different language or region, ask Siri a question to hear it respond in the new language (Figure B).

Figure B


Next, you can change Siri’s accent even further after choosing a specific language. The accents available vary depending on which language you selected. Tap the setting for Siri Voice. At the top of the screen, tap one of the accents listed in the Variety section. After you tap each one, Siri speaks a word using that accent (Figure C).

Figure C


You can also modify Siri’s gender. In the Voice section, tap each of the voices listed. The number of voices accessible depend on which language you chose, ranging from two to four. Tapping each voice prompts Siri to speak a short phrase. After you’ve made your changes, ask Siri a question to hear the new accent and gender. If you’re happy with the voice, you’re all set; if not, trying experimenting with other voices (Figure D).

Figure D


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What Apple users should expect when using Microsoft 365 subscriptions


Microsoft 365 subscription plans have become industry-standard tools for PC users, but Apple users benefit, too. Here’s how Microsoft 365 tools work with iPads, iPhones and Macs.

Illustration: Lisa Hornung/TechRepublic

Microsoft offers a variety of Microsoft 365 subscription plans that include a wide range of software applications and services. For starters, there are home plans and business plans. The two home plans are Microsoft 365 Family, which costs $99.99 annually, supports up to six people and includes up to 6TB of cloud storage, whereas the Microsoft 365 Personal plan at $69.99 is designed for a single user and provides just 1TB of cloud storage.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

The business plans are, necessarily, more complex. The most basic plan, the Microsoft 365 Business Basic, is priced at $5 per user per month and includes web and mobile (iPad and iPhone) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as Teams, Exchange email, OneDrive and SharePoint.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard, at $12.95 per user per month, includes those same features but adds access to Mac desktop versions of the applications as well. In addition, the Business Standard plan adds Publisher (but only for Windows PC users) and Access (but again, only for Windows users).

The Microsoft 365 Business Premium plan at $20 per user per month adds Intune and Azure Information Protection services, advanced threat protection for email attachments and links, as well as zero-day threats and ransomware via Microsoft Defender for Office 365. Other features of the plan include the ability to remotely wipe company data from lost or stolen devices using Intune, as well as the ability to restrict copying or saving of company information using unauthorized applications and controlling who can access specific organization information using Microsoft’s Information Rights Management.

SEE: Windows 10: Lists of vocal commands for speech recognition and dictation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Premium plan targets firms particularly focused on Windows security. Other security features included with the subscription are policy enforcement capabilities providing pre-breach protection from threats on Windows 10 machines using Windows Defender Exploit Guard, as well as malware protection on Windows machines via Windows Defender. Last, unlimited Exchange Online Archiving is included, too, at this level, as is PC and mobile device management, including for iPads and iPhones. And, while automated desktop deployment features are included and provided via PC management components, the feature applies only to Windows PCs. However, mobile device management support included with this plan possesses the ability to configure security features, settings and profiles for mobile Apple devices.

There’s also an apps-focused plan. The Microsoft 365 Apps subscription, priced at $8.25 per user per month, provides web, mobile and desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Mac users, while Windows users also receive Publisher and Access. OneDrive storage is also included, but email and calendaring features are not.

Overall, Apple users receive access to most Microsoft 365 applications, with a sampling of available apps as viewed within a Microsoft Family account in Figure A.

Figure A


Microsoft 365 provides access to a variety of applications, as shown in this sample from a Microsoft Family subscription.

Either via iPad and iPhone apps, local Mac versions or web-based support, here are how Microsoft 365 apps break down across the various Apple product lineup:

Microsoft supports the following apps on iOS and iPadOS:

  • Azure
  • Bookings
  • Excel
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • Planner
  • Power Apps
  • Power Automate
  • Power BI
  • PowerPoint
  • SharePoint
  • Teams
  • To Do
  • Word
  • Yammer

The mobile Microsoft Office package, a separate app “download,” collects multiple Microsoft 365 mobile apps within a single app selection:

  • Office (Excel, PDFs, PowerPoint and Word)
  • Outlook
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote

As for macOS, the following applications can be installed locally on desktops/laptops (using the proper Microsoft 365 subscription):

  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Teams
  • Word

Another popular but not necessarily Microsoft 365-dependent app is also available locally using macOS: Microsoft Remote Desktop. A multitude of Microsoft 365 application add-ins—such as Grammarly for Microsoft Word, Zoom for Outlook and Lucidchart Diagrams for PowerPoint—are also available from the Business Apps page once logged in to a Microsoft 365 account.

All told, a broad, full-suite collection of cloud-based Microsoft 365 tools are available for macOS members, including:

  • Excel
  • Lists
  • My Analytics
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • People
  • Planner
  • Power Apps
  • Power Automate
  • Power BI
  • PowerPoint
  • Project
  • SharePoint
  • Stream
  • Sway
  • Teams
  • To Do
  • Whiteboard
  • Word
  • Yammer

While some Microsoft app versions cannot be locally installed on a Mac (or iPad or iPhone), the functionality available to Apple users shouldn’t pose any trouble. In fact, I’ve noticed many users’ tendency to use the cloud-based versions of many of these apps—particularly Power Apps, Power BI, Planner and SharePoint—regardless, so even if local install options were available, they might not be used. As long as an Internet connection is available, the cloud-based versions work quickly, provide wide-ranging collaboration capabilities and prevent lost data due to a lost, stolen or failed laptop or desktop. Better yet, the streamlined Microsoft 365 interface, as shown in Figure B, and the almost-full cloud functionality of popular tools such as Excel, as shown in Figure C, eliminate headaches and make getting to work that much easier.

Figure B


Microsoft 365’s simple interface makes navigating between applications and files quick and easy.

Figure C


Cloud-based versions of Microsoft 365 offer broad access to and near-full functionality for most every Microsoft application Apple users will require.

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How to install the macOS Monterey public beta

How to install the macOS Monterey public beta

Get your hands on all the new macOS Monterey public beta features before the general release this fall by installing the public beta now.

Image: Apple

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We’ve hit the one-month post-WWDC 2021 mark, and in that time each and every Apple operating system has had its public beta released. For Apple device owners and developers unafraid of bugs and incomplete features it’s a great time of the year: All the new software is out before its general release.

Those looking to try the latest version 12 of macOS, also known as Monterey, can install it in just a few easy steps and about an hour of waiting for the 11.73GB download to complete. A word to the wise: If there’s anything on your Mac that you don’t want to lose in case the update goes bad be sure to enable iCloud backup and ensure that important folders are included. It’s also not a bad idea to do a full Time Machine backup so you have a restore point to go back to in case something goes seriously wrong.

SEE: Research: Video conferencing tools and cloud-based solutions dominate digital workspaces; VPN and VDI less popular with SMBs (TechRepublic Premium)

The last prerequisite to cover is whether or not your Mac is compatible with macOS Monterey. If you want to install it you’ll need one of the following devices:

  • MacBook Pro (2016 or newer);
  • MacBook (2016 or newer);
  • MacBook Air (2018 or newer);
  • iMac (2017 and later);
  • iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, released in late 2015);
  • iMac Pro;
  • Mac mini (2018 or newer);
  • Mac Pro (2019).

If you’re unsure which model your Mac is, follow the steps on Apple’s model identification page to determine it. macOS Monterey is also available for several models of iPad:

  • iPad Pro;
  • iPad Air (3rd generation or newer);
  • iPad (6th generation or newer);
  • iPad mini (5th generation or newer).

How to install the macOS Monterey public beta on a Mac

Once you’ve taken care of all the prerequisites it’s time to get to installing the beta. Start by navigating to the Apple Beta Software Program website on the device you want to update. Once there, scroll down until you see the screen shown in Figure A, where you’ll see options to sign up for the beta program if you’ve never participated, or a space to log in if you have. Choose whichever is relevant, follow the onscreen steps, and you’ll end up logged in to the program.


Figure A: Logging in to the Apple Beta Software Program website.

When you’re logged in the website should automatically drop you on the page relevant to the Apple device you’re on, in this case for macOS Monterey. Scroll down until you see Get Started, where there should be some blue text saying “enroll your Mac.” Click that (Figure B).


Figure B: Enrolling your Mac in the Apple Software Beta Program.

The next screen will have a repeat of some of the instructions above (backup your Mac, etc.), and scrolling down you’ll find Step 2: Enroll Your Mac (Figure C). Here you’ll want to click on the blue button labeled Download the macOS Public Beta Access Utility, which will download a small .PKG file.


Figure C: Downloading the Public Beta Access Utility.

Opening and running the Access Utility will enroll your Mac in the beta program and should automatically open the Software Update window, as shown in Figure D. Click on Upgrade Now, then sit back and wait: As mentioned above, the download is sizable.


Figure D: Once you’ve run the Access Utility, beta updates should appear on the Software Update screen.

When complete, the Install macOS Monterey Beta application will open (Figure E). Note that you’ll need to have about 9.5 GB free, on top of the 11.73 GB needed for the download, to install the beta. Click continue, and get ready to wait again: The install utility reports it will take about an hour to complete, which I can testify to being relatively accurate on my 2018 MacBook Air.


Figure E: The macOS Monterey beta install application.

When complete, the application will prompt you to reboot (Figure F). Click Restart, let your Mac do its business, and that’s it: You’re ready to start using the macOS Monterey public beta.


Figure F: You should see this screen prompting a restart once the installation of Monterey has completed.

How to unenroll your Mac from the Apple Beta Program

There are a number of reasons you might want to get out of the public beta program: Bugs, too many updates to install or the general release of Monterey makes you want to stop getting updates until the next big release.

SEE: The future of work: Tools and strategies for the digital workplace (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Whatever the reason, getting your Mac out of the beta channel is simple. Open Settings, click on Software Update, and look on the left of the window, where you should see “This Mac is enrolled in the Apple Beta Software Program,” with “Details…” in blue below it. Click on that and you’ll see the screen shown in Figure G.


Figure G: Removing your Mac from the macOS beta update channel.

As Figure G says, clicking Restore Defaults will stop you from getting future beta updates. It doesn’t remove currently installed betas, however; you’ll need a Time Machine backup for that. If there’s a general macOS release that’s newer than the current beta you have installed you should get that update, putting you back in line with the rest of the non-beta user base.

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The best browser for Linux, Windows and Mac isn’t Google Chrome

The best browser for Linux, Windows and Mac isn’t Google Chrome

Jack Wallen has finally settled on a single web browser as his default across all platforms. Find out what browser that is and why he made the switch. The best browser for Linux, Windows and Mac.

Image: RobertAx, Getty Images/iStockphoto

A couple of months ago, I finally left Opera as my default browser on Linux. That was a hard sell because the Opera Workspaces feature was something I didn’t think I could leave behind. And yet, the load the browser placed on my machine (especially when using Google Docs) was too big an issue to ignore. I’d be working along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden Opera would bring the desktop to a grinding halt.

SEE: 20 good habits network administrators need–and 10 habits to break (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Productivity, thy name is memory leak!

At that point, I was using two different browsers as my defaults, on Linux and macOS, and I was certain Safari would remain as the go-to on the Mac side of things. But then I continued using that default browser on Linux and, day after day, grew more impressed with its performance and simplicity. And then things took a turn for the worse on Safari. Like with Opera, when working with a longer document in Google Docs, Safari would popup a warning saying that the site was using too much memory. No matter what I did with Safari, that behavior would not stop.

Finally, two days ago, I walked away from Safari to make the same browser I used on Linux my default on macOS. This was a choice I haven’t regretted for a second.

That’s not to say I found myself using only one browser. Oh, no. Would that it were so simple. You see, there are still sites I must use that, for whatever reason, were designed with Chrome in mind. And that’s a problem. Why?  Because Chrome has become unreliable on so many levels. On Linux, I’ve had Chrome lock up the desktop on too many occasions. On macOS, Chrome drains the battery faster than any other application (with the exception of Final Cut Pro, when rendering video).

This issue is complicated. Why? First and foremost, the browser is one tool everyone uses. No matter your platform, you depend on a web browser. I would go so far as to say 90% of the work and entertainment you undertake on any computing device is via a web browser. That means those ubiquitous applications have to pull a tremendous load. For the most part, they all do it fairly well. Every web browser I’ve ever used renders sites well (though some better than others). So what’s the problem? Why would anyone have an issue either selecting the browser that is truly best for their use case or migrating to a different browser altogether?

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In a word: Familiarity.

We all have our workflow. Many of us have tuned our workflow to a specific web browser’s way of doing things. Truth be told, on the surface, the differences aren’t that great. Every browser offers much of the same standard features:

  • Bookmarks
  • Tabs
  • Cookies
  • Saved data
  • Menus
  • Addons
  • Configuration options
  • Privacy features

The biggest difference is how each browser implements these features.

Of course, that’s on the surface… where the users dwell. It’s when you dig a bit deeper than you find those browsers do start to differ. Take, for instance, the fact that there are five active web browser rendering engines:

  • WebKit —Safari
  • Blink—Chrome and Chromium-based browsers (such as Microsoft Edge, Opera, Brave and Vivaldi)
  • Gecko—Firefox
  • Goanna—Pale Moon and Basilisk
  • Flow—Flow browser

Of all the browsers I’ve used, those based on the WebKit and Blink rendering engines seem to have the biggest problems with longer documents on Google Drive. And for me, that’s a big issue. I work in Google Drive about seven to nine hours a day. And that the Blink rendering engine has the biggest issue with Google Drive should come as a shock, seeing as how both were created (and are maintained) by Google.

SEE: 20 good habits network administrators need–and 10 habits to break (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

But since my switch to Firefox (on Linux and macOS), I’ve not had a single problem with memory issues. And, much to my surprise, Firefox is no longer a battery vampire on macOS. Prior to my M1 MacBook Pro, Firefox drained the very will to live from my MacBook Pro 2016 battery. When using Firefox, I was lucky to get two to three hours of battery life. With the M1 and Firefox 89, battery life is just as good as it is when using Safari.

Outside of performance, rendering and battery life, I absolutely love what Mozilla has done to the Firefox interface. Gone is the clutter and bloat. Now, Firefox is a sleek (almost minimalist) browser that outperforms every browser on my desktop and laptop. I’ve even migrated my Android default to Firefox and have found it to be just as impressive a mobile browser as it is on the desktop.

Of course, the one hiccup to my master plan is the fact that (as I mentioned earlier) there are still sites that do not function well with any browser other than Chrome. That of course, is dumbfounding. Every time I see a website refuse to function in a particular browser, I instantly assume Doc Brown has pulled up in the Delorian and has his sights set on 2001. But this is not the early 2000s, nor is it the browser wars of old. Even so, the environment does seem ripe for a headlong clash between Firefox and Chrome. And although Chrome has a massive advantage in market share (at the moment it has a 67% market share over the competition), the current state of performance doesn’t reflect that popularity. If I had to take a guess, I’d say Google is just lucky the average user either doesn’t like change or doesn’t even realize there are alternatives available. If you happen to fall into that category, I would highly suggest you install Firefox and see if you don’t find yourself setting it as the default on all of your devices and platforms.

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Test all the new iOS 15 features today by installing the public beta


Anyone who wants to brave beta bugs can try iOS 15 now with the newly available public beta. Here’s how to install it, along with the public betas for watchOS 8 and iPadOS 15.

Image: Apple

The public betas of Apple’s iOS, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8 mobile operating systems are now available and are packed with new features for Apple users to test out. 

If you’re not worried about the potential bugs that come with testing a beta OS, then now is your chance to get access to everything Apple has added to the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch before they become generally available later this fall, and it’s dead simple to do so.

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

Know that if you decide to test out the beta versions of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 or watchOS 8 you’re doing so at your own risk: There are still bugs in the software and there’s always a possibility that the OS will cause problems for your device. To ensure you can restore back to a known good point, be sure to have a full encrypted backup of your device, or at a minimum, a recent iCloud backup to safely store important files and settings. 

According to Apple, all existing Apple Watches are compatible with watchOS 8, while iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 are supported on the following devices: 

  • iPhone 7 – 12
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone XS, 11 and 12 Pro
  • iPhone XS, 11 and 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 7 and 8 Plus
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone SE (first and second generation)
  • iPod Touch (seventh generation) 
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (all generations)
  • iPad Pro 11 (all generations)
  • iPad Pro 11 (1st and 2nd gens)
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2nd gen)
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (1st gen)
  • iPad Air (2nd, 3rd and 4th gens)
  • iPad Mini (4th and 5th gens)
  • iPad (5th – 8th gens)

How to install the iOS and iPadOS 15 public betas

Installing the iOS and iPadOS 15 betas is sequentially identical. For simplicity’s sake, I’m only covering iOS here; if you’re trying to install the iPadOS 15 beta follow these steps but substitute your iPad for the iPhone in these images. 

First thing’s first: With your iPhone in hand, navigate to, or click the link if you’re viewing this article on the device you want to install the beta on. Once there you should see the screen shown in Figure A


Figure A: Logging in to the Apple Beta Software Program website.

If you’ve never installed an Apple OS beta before click on Sign Up and follow the steps to register your Apple ID with the beta program. Once that’s done, proceed to the next step, or if you’ve registered previously, click on Sign In.

Once you’re logged in you’ll see a screen with links to the different betas. By default the site should put you on the one for the device you’re using, but if not select it from the list. Scroll down until you see the screen shown in Figure B, and tap on Enroll Your iOS Device. 


Figure B: Enrolling an iOS device in the Apple Beta Software Program.

The next screen will show you steps to do a full archive backup of your device. If you haven’t done that yet, do so now to avoid any device-breaking problems that you can’t back out of. Once that’s complete, scroll down and look for 2: Install Profile, where you’ll see the Download Profile button (Figure C). Tapping on that button will open a dialog window asking you to ignore or allow the website to download the profile. Allow it, and it should download almost automatically and present a second dialog window telling you it’s been downloaded and where to find it. 


Figure C: The three screens you’ll see when installing a beta profile on an iOS, iPadOS and watchOS device.

Close your web browser and open the Settings app. You should see a button that says Profile Downloaded directly below your name. Tap it and you’ll see the screen shown on the right of Figure D. Tap Install, follow the on-screen instructions, and reboot your device when asked. 


Figure D: Where to find a downloaded iOS or iPadOS 15 beta profile, and how to install it.

Once your device has restarted, open Settings and navigate to General > Software Update, where you should see the option to download and install the iOS 15 public beta. 

How to install the watchOS 8 public beta

If you want to enroll your Apple Watch in the watchOS 8 public beta, you’re in luck: The steps aren’t much different, and now that you’re logged in to the Apple Beta Program page you’re already halfway there. 

On the iOS device your Apple Watch is linked with, double back to the screen I mentioned in Figure B, where you can see the list of devices to enroll in the beta program. Look for the list of OSes and tap on watchOS, then scroll down and look for the Download Profile button again (Figure E).


Figure E: Finding the watchOS 8 beta profile download.

When you tap the Download Profile button you’ll see the same prompts as you did with iOS. Follow those, and your iPhone should automatically jump to the Watch app once the profile is downloaded (Figure F). Tap Install, follow the on-screen instructions and reboot your Apple Watch. 


Figure F: Downloading and installing the watchOS 8 beta profile.

Once your Watch has restarted, open the Watch app and navigate to General > Software Update, where you should see the option to install the watchOS 8 beta. Please note that you may not see the option to install watchOS 8 if you haven’t yet installed the iOS 15 public beta. 

Removing Apple OS beta profiles

There are two reasons you may want to remove the beta profiles you just installed on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch: You want to stop receiving beta updates, or the final public versions have been released and you want your device out of the beta program entirely. 

If you want to remove the profile for iOS or iPadOS, open Settings, and then navigate to General > VPN & Device Management > Configuration Profile. Here, you’ll see a screen similar to when you installed the profile, with a button labeled Remove Profile on the bottom. Tap that, and follow the steps to remove it and return back to a regular public release channel device.

For the Apple Watch, open the Watch app and tap General > Profiles > watchOS Beta Software Profile. There, you’ll see a screen like the one for the iOS profile. Tap Remove Profile, and you’ll be all set. 

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iOS 15: How to enable Mail Privacy Protection


If you have access to Apple’s iOS 15 Developer Beta, learn how to use an important security feature called Mail Privacy Protection.

Image: Apple

Apple’s release of iOS 15 is only a couple of months away, and some developers are getting the chance to test it out and plan accordingly. If you’re lucky enough to have access to the iOS 15 Developer Beta, you’re probably already tinkering with all the new features, including Mail Privacy Protection. If you’re not sure what Mail Privacy Protection is, or how to enable it, you’ve come to the right place. 

What is the iOS 15 feature Mail Privacy Protection?

Mail Privacy Protection was revealed during the WWDC 2021 keynote. This feature is supposed to tackle an insidious, but increasingly common, way that some advertisers sneak trackers into emails. 

SEE: Electronic communication policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Called tracking pixels, these tiny objects (which are as small as 1×1) can be hidden in the plain white space of an email or another graphic in the body of a message and are practically undetectable to the reader. Despite appearing as absolutely nothing, tracking pixels can capture a lot of data about the email recipient, including the operating system being used, what kind of email client opened the message, screen resolution, what time the email was opened, whether any links were clicked through and the recipient’s device IP address.

It’s up for debate whether tracking pixels are ethical to use, but the fact that they’re obfuscated means that it’s often less trustworthy data brokers using them to capture data for resale. Based on data from Apple’s other tracking initiatives, it’s safe to assume that most users wouldn’t opt in to tracking pixels capturing their data when given the option. 

Enter Mail Privacy Protection. There’s not much to this iOS 15 privacy feature from the user’s perspective: Once you enable it, everything it does happens in the background–what it’s doing is fairly complex, though. Per Apple’s language in the iOS 15 Developer Beta, “Mail Privacy Protection downloads remote content in the background by default … all remote content downloaded by Mail is routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the sender from learning your IP address. As a result, email senders will only receive generic information rather than information about your behavior.” 

It’s important to note that Mail Privacy Protection is a feature of the iOS 15 Mail app. Users opting to use a third-party email application won’t be able to use this new privacy feature.

iOS 15’s Mail Privacy Protection: How to enable it

The changes we’ll be making are done in the iOS 15 Settings app. With Settings open, swipe down until you see Mail (Figure A) and tap on it. 

Figure A


Where to find Mail in the iOS 15 Settings app.

In the Mail app’s Settings screen, swipe down until you see Messages, under which are two options: Ask Before Deleting and Privacy Protection (Figure B). Tap on Privacy Protection.

Figure B


Where to find Mail Privacy Protection in the Mail screen of the iOS 15 Settings app.

In Figure C, you’ll see the Privacy Protection screen, where three options are displayed: Hide IP Address, Block All Remote Content and Protect Mail Activity–this is where you can choose the level of privacy protection you want. When toggled on, Protect Mail Activity hides the other two options because they’re enabled by default. If you want to enable one but not the other, you can choose that here as well. 

Figure C


How to enable/disable Mail Privacy Protection settings in iOS 15.

After you choose how you want to use Mail Privacy Protection, you’re all set–just let it do its thing in the background and use the Mail app free of worry about how your data is being harvested without your knowledge or consent. 

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How to secure your Safari browsing with iCloud Private Relay in iOS 15


Using iCloud Private Relay in iOS 15, you can easily obscure your internet traffic and ensure that network providers cannot spy on your activity.

Image: CNET

Apple prides itself on its commitment to privacy and safety while using its products. iOS 15 continues this mission with Safari and protecting your web browsing activity.

With any paid iCloud plan in iOS 15, you will get access to a new service called iCloud Private Relay, which routes your web traffic in Safari anonymously through Apple’s relay service, obscuring your location and IP address.

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

It’s important to note that this service is not a VPN and doesn’t protect your web traffic when using third-party apps and services. It only works to protect and obscure your traffic when using Safari or when an app from the App Store isn’t using HTTPS to encrypt traffic.

This service works by routing (or hopping) your internet traffic through two separate relays. Your data is encrypted the whole way through, making it impossible for your ISP, Wi-Fi provider or anyone snooping on a local public or private network from seeing your requests. The DNS requests are also encrypted to Apple and separated from your IP address before being forwarded along.

iCloud Private Relay isn’t for everyone and may be disabled on many managed devices, but it can make your browsing activity more private and secure. Continue reading to learn how to set up this service and configure it on your iOS devices.

SEE: Apple supplier Quanta hit with $50 million ransomware attack from REvil (TechRepublic)

How to enable iCloud Private Relay

To use iCloud Private Relay on your iOS 15 devices, perform these setup steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen, then select iCloud | Private Relay
  3. Enable the toggle for Private Relay (Figure A)

Figure A


Enabling iCloud Private Relay will ensure that network providers and Apple cannot see what websites you visit, who you are or where you’re precisely located.

If you’re not subscribed to any paid iCloud storage (or an Apple subscription plan), then you will not be able to take advantage of this relay service. Instead, you will need to upgrade to a paid iCloud account using the prompts on this screen.

SEE: Apple’s credit card gets a family plan with new Apple Card Family program (TechRepublic)

Once enabled, iCloud Private Relay works automatically in Safari to ensure that the websites you visit cannot be seen by any network providers—or even Apple—and your location and network traffic cannot be used to track you across websites.

How to set IP address location

With iCloud Private Relay, you can choose whether or not the service will relay your IP address location or not. To change this setting, perform these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen, then select iCloud | Private Relay | IP Address Location
  3. Choose “Preserve Approximate Location” or “Use Broader Location”

When you select “Preserve Approximate Location,” the service will approximate your location without allowing the website or service you’re loading to get the exact location of your device (unless they’re using Location access through GPS). When you choose broader results, it will ensure that the same geographic area is used, but will widely vary your location. This may affect the quality of content on websites that need your location to function appropriately.

This post relates to iOS 15, Apple’s announced, but not yet released version of iOS. iOS 15 is expected to be released in early Fall 2021. For more information on the release schedule and to learn how to download the betas, visit our iOS 15 Cheat Sheet.

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