PSA: MBA M1 vs Cisco AnyConnect

PSA is public service announcement, if anyone was wondering.

I was having many problems with my MacBook Air M1, including Mail not remembering its columns, some applications failing to close when I quit them, Time Machine failing to find its backup disks, the Search field in System Preferences going gray, the display going black for a few seconds, and I’m sure there were other issues that I don’t recall. For no reason that I could rationalize, I deleted the Cisco AnyConnect (VPN software) folder from Applications, I deleted the three Cisco Services from the Network pane of System Preferences, and I restarted for the eleventeenth time. It has only been a day, but none of my problems have appeared since.

If anyone is having problems and running Cisco AnyConnect, you might want to delete it.

And if anyone has a recommendation for a VPN service or client (including Cisco, if you think my installation was bad), please comment. And if anyone wants more gory details about the misbehavior of the MBA, just ask.

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I chose Mullvad VPN after Panzarino recommended it early on. Subsequently the Wirecutter has it as their top pick.

It’s excellent in my experience. Recommended.

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Thanks for the recommendation, @tommy. Of course, I’m in the market for a VPN now.

My first question, which I doubt anyone can answer authoritatively, is “What happened with AnyConnect?” As in, did something get corrupted on my MBA after installation? Supporting that assumption, AnyConnect had been on the MBA for months. On the other hand, I hadn’t been using it because I was at home, and once I got home from traveling, problems started.

My second question, which I hope someone can answer, is “How does having a VPN provider in Sweden affect my browsing experience?” I have read recommendations on a travel web site to use VPN in order to circumvent geographical limitations on offers. I didn’t pay much attention because the people having difficulties were overseas (usually temporarily) and trying to sign up offers limited to USA or North America, perhaps by design and perhaps by accident of programming. In any event, if I use a VPN provider in Sweden, will it appear that I am in Sweden and thus unable to sign up for an offer limited to USA? Thanks for any education.

It depends on the provider. Many VPN providers offer multiple global points of presence. You select one and all your packets appear to come from that location. So you select a location in the country you require (e.g. one whose Netflix server offers the video you want :slight_smile: )

Looking at Mullvad’s servers page, they have 766 servers in 37 countries (including 300 in the USA). So you should be OK with any US web sites as long as you select a US server.

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Cisco AnyConnect has given me grief as well and the main issue is that in order to download the latest version you must have an account with Cisco or contact your IT support (if they have an account).
Typically the latest and greatest release works, whatever it is.

I’ve been using FortiClient by Fortinet as well. Works great. It’s my fallback solution because it routes through a longer latency route but that’s just specific to the company I work for… If it wasn’t for that it would probably be my go to VPN client.

P.S. I’m on an i9 MBP. Waiting for the M2/M1x before hopping over to Apple silicone.

If you’re looking for a VPN that hides your location then “VPN Unlimited” by “Keep Solid” does a good job for a reasonable price. It offers a nice selection of countries to connect through. One account covers your laptop and mobile (and iPad too).

My use of Cisco AnyConnect and FortiClient is only for remote access to our corporate services (I WFH thousands of miles away from HQ).

My company recently told me to uninstall Cisco VPN and install the “any connect” command line utility that is part of home brew. I was a bit surprised as I would have expected that they would want a commercial software package on their systems. But I did it and was able to reconnect to the company VPN including use of the two factor authorization.

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Thanks, @Shamino. Appearing to be in the country of the VPN server is what I would have expected, but people on that travel website claimed differently.

But how would I choose a server? Chicago, for example, has 22 servers. Is it luck of the draw whether I choose a busy or an idle server? Of those 22 servers, all but one are from the same provider. Is that meaningful? Some are OpenVPN, some are WireGuard, and some are Bridge. What does that mean? I’m somewhat interested in the answers to all these questions, but would also like to be assured that there is no wrong choice.

If the VPN provider lets you select your location, then the app managing it should give you a way to pick a server or a regional pool of servers.

According to Mullvad’s help pages, their app lets you choose a country, then a region/city and then a server. I think you can make your selection at whatever level of granularity you want.

I would expect every service to do this in a different way, so if it matters to you, I strongly recommend looking for their support/help/manual pages in order to figure out if their mechanism is good for you or not.

It is exactly as David explains. Why not try it for a month? Only 5 bucks.

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If you just need to connect to an existing Cisco corporate VPN, I’ve had great success with Shimo. I suspect this was a TidBITS recommendation. I haven’t used it for a couple of years, but when I did, it was stable and much more elegant than the Cisco software. You can set it up for one-click passwordless access – probably breaks company policy but a lot easier for repeated logins :slight_smile:

As @ssteiff said, getting hold of new versions of Cisco AnyConnect is a pain and the UI is horrible.

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Thanks, @charles1 and @tommy. Too often, I fail to test a product sufficiently during a trial period. This is my fault, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I will try to exercise discipline and actually use one or both of these products in the near future. I will quibble, @tommy, about the price—it’s €5, not $5. Too many years as a starving student made me pinch pennies.

Just for the record, I’ve been on an M1 MacBook Pro since December using the Palo Alto GlobalProtect Client. That works like a charm.

Thanks for that information! That’s what my employer requires, and it’s good to know it will not be a stumbling block when I replace this aged iMac with Apple Silicon.

Just make sure that your employer provides you with at least version 5.2.6 of the GlobalProtect client. See also

https://knowledgebase.paloaltonetworks.com/KCSArticleDetail?id=kA14u000000HChXCAW&lang=en_US

I have used a VPN solution for many years. PIA VPN. I am happy with it for my use. But be prepared for services like Netflix to have blocked most commercial VPN’s. I am from Norway, but I have a story where I had great help from this VPN driving in a snowstorm in Montana. I was trying to access mdt.mt.gov and got a warning that they detected my number was from Europe and because of GDPR they had blocked me. I turned on the VPN with a US server on my iPhone and discovered that the pass I was heading for was closed. mdt.mt.gov seems to have solved their GDPR problem since. Many local newspapers have not. I get that same error when picking a random Montana newspaper now https://billingsgazette.com/
451: Unavailable due to legal reasons
We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time.

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