The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different system preferences.

I love iCloud. iCloud connects all my Apple devices in ways that make it easy for me to work from any device . I always have the latest versions of my most important things — like documents, apps, notes, and contacts — on whatever device I am using. It lets me easily share photos, calendars, locations, and more with my friends and family. It even helps me find my iPhone if I lose it.

But what about the Mac? How does iCloud improve and extend the capabilities of OS X?

iCloud Drive is very similar to Dropbox and Google Drive. If you click Options.. you can see the list your apps that use iCloud Drive to store information. You can disable any of these apps at any time by de-selecting from the list. With iCloud Drive all your presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, and any other kind of document stored in iCloud is accessible from a special folder on your Mac. Open the Finder, click on the icon, work your way through the folders and open any document.

To upload your files to iCloud, simply drag them into the iCloud Drive on your Mac running OS X Yosemite. Or start a new document using an iCloud-enabled app on your iOS device. Then you’ll be able to use those documents appear on your Mac.

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Access iCloud Drive directly from the Finder.
Access iCloud Drive directly from the Finder.

With iCloud, you get an @icloud.com email account that’s ad-free, is up to date everywhere you check it, and includes e-mail at iCloud.com. Just select Mail in iCloud preferences and follow the onscreen instructions. Once iCloud is enabled on your Mac, you can use Mail, Calendar, and Contacts so send email, schedule your day and keep important information on your contacts.

iPhoto also has support for iCloud. You can sync photo to and from your Mac to your iPad or iPhone.

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iCloud can sync data from Apple and third-party apps.
iCloud can sync data from Apple and third-party apps.

Using iCloud Drive means you’ll always have access to the latest version of all your documents from any device. For example, you can start creating a presentation on your Mac at home, then make final edits and present it in class using your iPad. The changes you make along the way appear automatically on all your devices.

How do you enable it?

It's easy. Open System Preferences on your Mac. Click iCloud, enter your Apple ID, and select the services you’d like to enable. Boom! That's it. Feature enabled and ready to use.

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iCloud, OSX, Preferences
Select all the iCloud services you want to enable.
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The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different system preferences.

My friends and family often ask me what they can do to make their Mac more secure. They are often concerned about viruses or people spying on their computer while they are online. No computer can be considered "secure" once it's connected to a network, but a few things you can do now to make using your Mac safer.

Security & Privacy

Select Security & Privacy from the System Preferences application.

Screen shot of OS X System Preferences
System Preferences (Faded)

General

From the General tab you can choose a few items to improve your Mac's security. Having a password on your Mac protects your privacy. But if you walk away and leave your Mac unattended while logged in, anyway with physical access to the Mac can get in and access your files, email etc. To protect my privacy I set my Mac to activate the screen save 5 minutes after the screen saver starts. I then set the screen save to start when my account has been inactive for 10 minutes. With these two settings I am assured that if I walk away from my Mac the account will be automatically locked after 15 minutes of inactivity.

OSX, Privacy, Security, Preferences

Clicking the Advanced button bring up another set of options. I have set my Mac to require an administrator password to get access to any system preferences. This protect me from myself if for some bizarre reason the Mac gets hit with a virus (rare I know). It also prevents someone who may have access to my Mac from creating new account or changing system preferences to reduce the security of my Mac. If your Mac is a MacBook or in a very public area then you want to logout after a certain amount of account inactivity.

OSX, Privacy, Security, Preferences

Malicious software can be found all over the net. Users looking for a bargain are often duped into downloading illegal copies of well-known applications such as Microsoft Office. Many times this software has been modified to install key loggers etc. on to you Mac or in the worst case, hold it for ransom. To help protect users Apple has built the App Store around the similar concept at the iTunes App Store. The App Store is more like shopping in a mall as opposed to a flea market. Apple has taken steps to reduce the chance of a malware making it on to your Mac. Apps in the App Store have had security checks, and the developers have been vetted by Apple. Apps in the App Store have also been assigned a security certificate. If Apple later discovers that a particular app or developer has abused security the application can be yanked from the store.

Of course users will want to run third-party apps that are not available in the App Store. You can still do this on your Mac with two level of lowered security expectations. Some developers have chosen to have their apps signed with an Apple certificate. This means that Apple didn't do a security review of the app but did verify that the application is a legitimate application from that particular developer. This is the setting I have chosen. I think it's a good balance between the limited set of apps from the App Store and the flea market of the Internet. The least secure is the Anywhere option that allows you to install whatever you want from anywhere on the Internet. Caveat emptor!

File Vault

Truthfully, I have yet to enable this on any Mac I've owned. OS X will encrypt the entire hard drive and make it unreadable. I think it might be useful for MacBook users who have very sensitive information to protect; things like patient health information or financial records. For the general consumer, they will have to weigh the risks of losing access to their files if they lose the decryption against the risk that someone gets access to their personal information.

OSX, Privacy, Security, Preferences

Firewall

For the most paranoid or those wanting an extra layer of protecting when connected to Internet hotspots etc., I suggest blocking all incoming connections. You can turn this on an off as needed. For day to day use on a trusted network, I have enabled stealth mode and white listed the application that I want to have Internet access. To add an app or service, click Add, select the item in the list, then use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to set the limits for the app. Stealth mode prevents your Mac from responding to probing requests that can be used to show its existence. The Mac still answers requests from authorized apps, but unauthorized requests such as ICMP (ping) get no response. I have also allowed signed applications to get access to the Internet. This allows apps and services that are signed by a valid certificate authority to be automatically added to the list of allowed apps, without your authorization. For example, iTunes is signed by Apple, so it is automatically allowed to receive incoming connections through the firewall.

Screen shot of OS X Firewall Settings
OS X Firewall Settings

Privacy

The privacy settings are used to limit what information about your Mac shares between the applications and services install on your Mac. When you turn on Location Services, you allow apps and websites to use your Mac’s current location to provide information, services, and features appropriate to where you are. For example, when using Facebook I may not want to let Facebook know the location of my computer. System Services allow the location of your Mac to be used by Spotlight or Spotlight Suggestions in Safari. This presence window shows the apps that want access to your contacts, calendars, or reminders. Deselect the app if you want to prevent it from accessing this information. I may want to limit which application have access to my calendar and contact list. I may want to restrict which applications can update Facebook or Twitter.

It's a good idea to spend some time thinking about what information you want to share and what apps have access to this information. Don't rush this one.

Screenshot of Privacy Tab in Security & Privacy Section of OS X System Preferences
Privacy Tab in Security & Privacy Section of OS X System Preferences

Conclusion

Like most computer, the Mac is only as secure as you want it to be. The Internet can be a dangerous place but if you configure a few security settings you can reduce your risk.

The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different settings.

OS X has four account types – Administrator, Standard, and Managed (with Parental Controls). The Administrator account is the most important.

Managed with Parental Controls: In an account managed by parental controls the administrator can place restrictions on: inappropriate Internet content, the amount of computer use, and access to applications, email, and iChat.

Parental Controls are great for managing how your kids use the Mac. This account can be made more restrictive that the Standard account. Parents can allow use of specific apps, printers, web sites etc. The important distinction between a Standard and Managed account is that the Managed account has restricts on the time, the use of applications and the Internet.

Create a new Managed account

The first step in setting up Parental Controls is to create a new Managed account. You can do this by launching the System Preferences application and then clicking Users & Groups. You will be taken to a preferences pane that looks something like this.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.37.19

You may have to click the lock icon in the lower left of the screen to make changes.

Click the + button in the lower left corner to bring up the new account dialog. Choose Managed with Parental Controls from the drop down and enter a name for the account. Enter a password and make sure to write it down and store it somewhere safe. You will also need to give it to your child.

Local OS X Yosemite accounts can use local passwords for authentication or can be linked to an iCloud account. Once linked, the user can login to the Mac using the same password they user for their iCloud account. If your kids are too young for an email account, skip this step.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.38.36

User names like “Khürt Williams” or “Khürt” are helpful but feel free to be creative. If you children are fans of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, perhaps “Sméagol” is a good choice (Ok, not really).

Click Create User and voilà, you have a new Managed account. To customize the account, clock the image icon and choose and image from the defaults or drag one from your hard drive on to the icon to change it. The next step is to add the Parental Controls to the account.

Parental Controls

It is best to have your kids sit with your while you do this so you can explain why you are making these choices.

Select the account to be managed and click Open Parental Controls....

Apps

Apple has provided some pre-configured applications controls based on age groups. For most people these pre-configured controls will do just fine. However, a parent can customize these based on a child maturity level. Click the arrow to show the list of applications and select the ones you want to give your child access to. Your child will be limited to running only those applications that you have explicitly selected.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.39.26

Web

Parents can select from one of three choices in the Web tab. You can allow unrestricted access to website for older or more mature kids and apply a web filter to keep kids safe from adult web sites. For younger kids, parents can limit access to a specific set of web sites. With that option, children will not be able to visit any web site not explicitly allowed in that list.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.39.34

People

With this tab, a parent can limit a child's contact via email. By adding an email address to this list, OS X will only allow email exchanges between that address and your child email tool. NOTE: This only works with Apple's Mail application so it might be a good idea to prevent access (via the Apps tab) to any other email application and block access to web-based mail.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.40.31

Parents also have the option of receiving an email alert when their child receives or sends email to an unapproved email address.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.40.57

Time Limits

This is perhaps the most important setting in the Parental Controls preferences. We all know our kids spend too much time online or on the computer. We also know that the older kids needs access to the computer and to the web to complete homework assignments. So as Parents we need to balance homework computer time against hanging out online computer time. This is where you set that up. Spend some time to think about what's right for your family.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.11

Other

This one is self-explanatory. Some kids can't be responsible with a webcam, especially teenage kids with a laptop. I don't let my kids change their computer password. I want to be able to see what they are up to. Logs can help with that.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.27

Logs

I want to be able to see what they are up to. Logs can help with that. OS X will keep a log of every web site your kids successfully visited as well as which ones you blocked but they attempted to visit. You'll know if your young teenage boy has hit puberty by his sudden interest in porn sites. You'll know if your child was using study time to hangout on Facebook or Twitter. Time, date and web site address are recorded in the log.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.40

Conclusion

In my house computers and the Internet are a privilege, not a right. I teach my kids safe computer and Internet habits but a Managed Account with Parental Controls provides me with a level of comfort that my rules are being followed.