Tag Archives: what to do

Spectre, Meltdown, Vulnerabilities in the news

You may have seen a lot of scary news stories about some vulnerabilities recently disclosed that affect just about every computing device imaginable [depending on where you get your news].

Here is a short non-technical common-sense rundown of what this is all about.

What is Spectre and Meltdown?

Basically they are newly-disclosed ways for a crafty hacker to access supposedly secret info on your device.

As CNET.com puts it:

….. the issue doesn’t result from a badly written computer code. Instead, the problem comes down to the way the chips are intentionally designed.

Processors are supposed to make the secret information easier to access as they gear up to run the next process on a computer. As the programming quip goes, this is a feature, not a bug.

Why are they called Spectre and Meltdown?

Because people like to come up with cool names for these things. It’s more interesting to call it “Spectre” than “Security Bulletin #598267”.

Am I in danger?

Immediately, no. It’s not like someone could just randomly swipe information from your device by driving by your house. A hacker would need to be fairly technically minded AND install some code on your machine.

Of course, now that “everyone” knows about it, somebody somewhere is going to try to use this information.

As Meraki.com put it:

These vulnerabilities could allow an unprivileged attacker with direct access to a computing device, in specific circumstances, to read privileged memory belonging to other processes or memory allocated to the operating system kernel.

Notice the phrases “COULD allow”,  “with direct access to a computing device” and “in specific circumstances”. That means it would take a concerted effort to compromise your machine.

Should I panic?

Absolutely not….. not about THIS, anyway. If you would LIKE to panic about something else, be our guest.

What should I do?

Two primary things you can do, BOTH of which you should already be doing:

1) UPDATE YOUR SYSTEM and SOFTWARE. If you’ve been ignoring those system update, then get it updated NOW. OK, if you MUST get some work done, start the updates as you finish for the day, and let them run all night.

Yes, it could take that long, depending on how long you’ve been putting them off!

Especially on WIndows, MDS TEch recommends checking for updates again

2) USE COMMON SENSE ONLINE. Don’t just click anything you come across – double-eyeball it to make sure it’s actually legit. If an email comes in from someone you trust, but the contents don’t match the person – triple-check it before clicking on anything.

Will the updates slow down my machine?

Technically, yes. The big question is “will you notice a difference”? Intel has stated that most users – doing average computing stuff – won’t notice a difference.

MDS Tech’s take on this is that you MIGHT notice your machine slows down a bit – if your machine is more than 3 years old.


Will the updates break my computer?

There have been a few instances where the updates that were hurredly rushed out caused some machines with certain AMD processes to quit working., or SOME software quit working. We’ve seen some articles stating that it depends on the exact processor, what antivirus you are using, and presumably what phase the moon is in when you apply the update.

Stated another way, there doesn’t seem to be an EXACT set of causes of the problem.

Where else can I learn more?

  1. Meraki.com
  2. Security Week –> Apple updates
  3. cnet.com
  4. theGuardian.com
  5. arstechnica.com – if you you’d like some deeply technical info about the various companies’ responses.

Why do people try to break into machines anyway?

Sonicwall has an interesting article on the Hacker’s motivation.



My iPad is busted. What do I do?

What to do if your iPad looks like this
What to do if your iPad looks like this

If your iPad is PHYSICALLY damaged [cracked screen, etc], then it will probably have to be replaced. Per the iPad agreement there will be a charge for the repair – that’s handled through the business office [they’ll send an invoice later].

BEFORE you turn your iPad in, make sure [IF you can!]:

  • Transfer any pictures or videos you want to keep to Drive [Drive app, upload, select the pictures, click the blue checkmark at the top of the dialog]
  • Export and save to Drive or email to yourself any other documents [iMovies, for example]
  • TRIPLE_CHECK and make sure your Notability documents have been backed up to Drive.
    • Easiest way – open up Drive, look inside the Notability folder for the last thing you created.
    • If it isn’t there, go back into Notability and check settings to make surethe backup is actually setup
    • You can force a backup by creating a new Notability document – put something in it, and then going back to the Notability Library.

Then bring your iPad by the ARC [upper school] or the Cuddy Office [middle school].

It officially takes 3-5 school days to get one back to you – I try to get it done quicker.

The Great iPad TurnIn Event: 2014 edition [Middle School]

We’ll be taking your iPads up on MONDAY, MAY19 during the school day.

This is a LONG message – please read ALL of it!


Here’s the list of what’s below:

  • WHAT to turn in:
  • WHEN:
  • WHERE:


WHAT to turn in:

  1. iPad
  2. Charger
  3. Charger Cable


  • Monday, May 19, during the school day.



  • Your teachers will know on MONDAY. They will not know before then, so DO NOT BOTHER ASKING THEM!



  • Bring it on Tuesday.



  • You could go out and buy an equivalent replacement, say from PeachMac.
  • or Your parents will be charged $30 for it.
  • You should go look again.
  • Try looking inside the couch……or under your bed……or in the doghouse.
  • I suggest you go do some extra work, or get a job.




  1. On your iPad:
  2. Go through your pictures and delete everything you don’t want to keep.
  3. Make sure your Google Drive App is setup –> Fire it up, and login if it asks you to.
  4. If you’ve never backed up your pictures:Create a new folder. Call it “2014 pix” – or whatever you like. Open it up.
  5. If you HAVE backed them up before: open up the folder you used before.
  6. See the big plus sign in the upper right corner? Click it.
  7. Click “Upload Photos or Videos”
  8. Click “Camera Roll”
  9. Click 4 or 5 rows of pictures/videos – you should see a blue checkmark show up on the picture icon.
    [If you do too many – say, 100 pictures – it will take much longer and might crash]
  10. THEN click the bigger blue checkmark at the top right corner.
  11. You should see a message {1 of 5 files uploading} show up at the bottom of the screen.
  12. Keep going until you get everything uploaded.
Click to see a bigger version


Notability notes

  1. Fire up Notability.
  2. On the opening screen, click the GEAR icon, bottom left.
  3. Click the Auto-Backup Button
  4. Click the Google Drive button.
  5. Login, YES give Notability access [it’ll ask].
  6. You should see a message stating that your notes will be backed up in PDF format. Click OK, but that is NOT what we want.
  7. Next to the Google Drive button you should see a gear icon. Click it.
  8. Change the File Format to NOTE.
    That way you’ll be able to re-import them into Notability if needed.
  9. Click back out of the settings menu.
  10. Wait a while. Make sure your notes have been backed up by switching to your Google Drive and peek inside the Notability folder.
Click to see a bigger version
Click to see a bigger version
Click to see a bigger version
Click to see a bigger version

IF YOU WOULD LIKE PDF COPIES of your notes, do this:

  1. Go back to the first/main/opening screen in Notability.
  2. Click the “All Notes” bar, at the top.
  3. Click the EXPORT button, top left. It looks like a rectangle with an arrow coming OUT of it.
  4. Click the “All Notes” bar again. All the notes should highlight and have checkmarks on them.
  5. Click the Export button again.
  6. Select where you want to send them – email or Google Drive. I suggest Google Drive!
  7. So click on Google Drive.
  8. Set the folder where you want to save them – I suggest the Notability folder.
  9. The formats: Choose PDF.
  10. Paper – YES if you want the backgrounds to match the notes. NO if you want a white background.
  11. Recordings: YES if you want the audio to be exported as well….if you have any notes with audio.
  12. Click the “SEND TO GOOGLE DRIVE” button.
  13. Wait a while. If you are at home and have a lot of notes, wait a LONG while.
Click to see a bigger version
Click to see a bigger version