I’m surprised that I do not see maple sugar buckets already. After one of the warmest Januaries on record it sure looks like February is following suit. It has rained so much that our neighbor, John Osgood, walked in this morning and declared us as the new Seattle. Skiers and snowmobilers are hoping that some of this precipitation turns to snow to salvage the season.
I’ve been in Vermont for over 35 years and notice a steady warming trend. There were years that it seldom got above zero in January and the low temperatures hit -40. How’s it been in your neck of the woods? It was a statement like this, where I added the off hand comment “I guess global warming is real”, that launched the soapbox portion of Kibbles & Bytes as I received hundreds of emails.
I hope that you have taken the time to download our latest podcast, the Small Dog Electronics Dog Food for Thought Paw Cast (or the podcast with the really long name) is a lot of fun and we hope to get better and better at it. We are interviewing Small Dog employees now but I’d love to interview some Small Dog customers to learn about how you use the Mac. If you would like to be considered for a podcast interview, please send an email to podcast @ smalldog.com.
Kama Sutra Worm Erases Windows Files, Macs Immune
Windows users rushed to install patches and run virus eradication software as the worm, also known as “CME-24,” “BlackWorm,” or “Mywife.E,” could corrupt documents using the most common file types, including “.doc,” “.pdf,” and “.zip.” While it appears that the damage seems to be pretty limited, it was considered the most active computer virus in the world with an estimated 300,000 machines infected with the worm that erases files on the 3rd of each month.
Oh, by the way, yet again Macs are immune. You could be a “carrier” if you were to forward a virus-laden email to a Windows friend, however. The Mac OS protects us again!
I was at a doctor’s office yesterday and was chatting with the nurse while waiting for the doctor. Her kids have iBooks (that they bought from Small Dog!) and she has one of those other laptops. She told me that her ThinkPad was basically unusable because of viruses and spyware and that she doesn’t even use it any more but uses her kids’ iBooks. She was sold on the Mac easily. The doc came in and we chatted about computers for a while and I learned he was also a customer and would move his whole practice to the Mac if there were good software choices for medical billing and records.
I think that is the real key to Apple’s success in the business market, the encouragement of vertical market software. There is a lot of work being done in that area and some very interesting pieces of software are being introduced for vertical markets such as point of sale systems, scheduling, hospitality, legal and of course in Apple’s strong market areas of science, education, design, video and music.
The most common objection I hear when talking to professionals about making the move to Mac is that they have a particular piece of software that is vital to their business that requires Windows to run. The more that Apple and 3rd party developers can create elegant, Mac solutions that provide a better user experience in terms of performance, ease of use and security, the more likely it is that Apple will continue to make in roads into business markets.
Why the Mac is More Secure than Windows – Security by Design Part 1
More and more customers are coming into our store and telling us horror stories about how their Windows machines fell victim to viruses, worms, spyware and adware. They are surprised when I tell them that there are no viruses for Mac OS X and that I don’t even use anti-virus software. Kibbles & Bytes readers know this already but I thought it would be good to review some of the features of Mac OS X that result in security by design.
Security by Default
This seems to be what we call a “no-brainer” around here. A computer’s default state should be safe-mode. This is not the case on many PCs but on the Mac, when you take it out of the box and plug it into a DSL or Cable modem or your dial-up connection, you do not have to be a security expert to set it up. Mac OS X ships with all communications ports fully secured – many Windows systems do not. These communication ports enable your Mac to communicate with other systems on the network via file, web or printer sharing.
If you leave these ports open or insecure you are giving hackers a doorway. Mac OS X requires you as the administrator to open these ports as needed. Once opened to allow communications between computers, the sharing services in Mac OS X are highly secure, benefiting from years of review by security experts in the open source community.
E-mail attachments are the source of much of the havoc on PCs. On the Mac, files sent to you through mail or other programs (such as iChat) are not automatically opened as they may contain harmful code. This helps you to make sure that only the programs that you want are running on your Mac. When you download files (the second most frequent security hole) whether in Mail, Safari or iChat, Mac OS X automatically analyzes that file and determines whether it contains an application. If it is an application, you are asked to confirm whether to continue the download. This will allow you to cancel those downloads for unknown applications that may contain dangerous applications.
Further, if you are opening an application for the first time, Mac OS X asks you if you are sure you want to do that. This protects you from launching an inadvertently installed application by double clicking on a document or URL. You are given the choice of canceling this launch if you do not know the application. Once you have allowed the application to run once, it is considered trusted. Of course, the stock applications that come with your Mac are automatically considered trustworthy.
There is a lot of benefit to open source software and Mac OS X gains its secure user model from the open source UNIX core. Apple has further refined this security model by disabling the root account by default or running with the least privileges. By running its code with the minimum level of privileges, Mac OS X protects the system from intentional or inadvertent damage.
There are three types of accounts in Mac OS X:
1) The User account is the least privileged account. It allows a user to modify settings for their own account but not for others and they cannot modify the universal settings. For multiple users of a single system you can further limit user accounts to prevent them from changing system preferences, removing items from the Dock, changing passwords, burning CDs or DVDs or using some installed applications.
2) The Admin account can perform most of the operations normally associated with the root user. The only thing that an Admin account is prevented from doing is to add, modify or delete files in the system folder, except by using the Installer or Software Update applications.
3) The Root user is a superuser, which has full permissions for anything. Root users can execute any file and can access, read, modify or delete any file in any directory. Unlike most UNIX systems this superuser Root access is turned off by default and most Mac users will never have to access Root. This protects your Mac from those that might do damage by acting as a root user.
Architecture for Security
The open source UNIX foundation provides for UNIX user-based file permissions and Common Data Security Architecture(CDSA). Mac OS X security features are built on the CDSA with support for cryptography, certificate management, trust policy management and key recovery. This security infrastructure makes it easy for developers to integrate leading-edge security features such as authentication and encryption into their applications.
Junk Mail Privacy
Many spammers use HTML messages to snag your email address. When your email application downloads an image from an HTML message, it tells the sender that your address is valid and you are ready for them to fill up your email in-box with more spam or sell your address to others. To protect yourself from these losers you can change the OS X Mail settings in the “Viewing” panel of Mail preferences to not “Display remote Images in HTML messages”. You will still receive the HTML mail messages but will have to click on “Load Images” to load the images from the HTML messages that meet your approval.
Managing Security Uses System Preferences
Mac OS X puts all of the security settings in one location, the Security System Preference. Here you can activate FileVault, require a password to wake the Mac from sleep or a screen saver, lock or unlock System Preferences and set your login and logout preferences.
Authentication is perhaps the most important element of computer security. It is the process of verifying the identity of a local or network user. Mac OS X has industry-leading authentication methods. Passwords can be required at login, to wake from sleep, to install applications or to change system preferences. In addition, Mac OS X supports the latest advances in technology for authentication such as Smart Cards and biometric readers (fingerprint readers). Other authentication protocols supported by Mac OS X include offline authentication, Open Directory, Kerberos, Active Directory and NTLMv2.
Gaining your Confidence
Mac OS X protects the confidentiality of your data whether it is stored in your home directory, traveling across the ether or shared locally. FileVault uses 128-bit AES encryption to make all the information in your home directory private and encrypted. By logging in and authenticating, you provide yourself with access to these encrypted files. They are decrypted on the fly as you use them and are re-encrypted when you save them again.
Using the Disk Utility tool that is included in Mac OS X, you can also create an encrypted disk image using the same 128-bit encoding as FileVault. This will allow you to send an encrypted password protected file or files over the internet.
I’ve talked many times about Keychain and its usefulness. Keychain is also an important security feature of Mac OS X because you can store more than just your passwords in your Keychain. You can store your credit card numbers, PINs, notes and have them all encrypted and protected by your password.
Secure Trash Man
Mac OS X has a “Secure Empty Trash” command that removes all traces of your deleted files from your hard drive. With normal trash emptying the file name and location is deleted from the directory. This is what happens on most PCs and with the Mac in normal trash emptying. In these cases the original file is still there until the space it occupies on the hard drive is needed for another file. To help you recover from accidental erasure of files, there are several utilities that will “undelete” files by finding them and replacing them in the directory. Useful for you and perhaps useful to someone who you do not want looking at those files.
The secure empty trash command uses a seven-step process to permanently erase the file. It overwrites the file with a single character, overwrites it with zeroes, overwrites the file with random characters and then repeats that again.
There is much more to talk about regarding Mac OS X security and next week, in part II we’ll talk about secure network communications, network security and other Mac OS X security features.
When we talk to people about security on the Mac the common response is that the Mac is secure because Apple has such a small market share and that it is not worth the bother of the crooks to try to create problems for such a small segment of the market. While the market size is small, Apple is a very high profile company and it is not lack of interest that is protecting Macs from viruses, spyware and other malicious security threats but it is the very design of Mac OS X and the inherent security features of the integrated hardware and software solutions.
Otaku Software has released TopDesk for Windows PCs that appears to be a direct copy of Apple’s Expose features right down to hotspots and function key access. Check out the latest for Mac user wannabes at:
Wikipedia Bans Congressional Access
Perhaps you saw links to the Wikipedia, Request for Comment, regarding the banning of several IP addresses for violating the rules of the Wikipedia community. Nothing new there, except these IP addresses originate from the US Congress.
The Wikipedia, in case you didn’t know, is a collaborative environment of collecting information about any topic that anyone cares to document. Say for example, think of the old fashioned bound encyclopedia that you may have used as a grade-school student. The section on chimpanzees had a nice picture and some information. Then Jane Goodall found the article and added her most recent information to the chimpanzee entry which was followed by a student of Goodall’s, then another entry by Dr. Chimpanzee added her most recent research and so on until what was originally a short article in the encyclopedia becomes a living and breathing document.
The beauty of the Wikipedia community is not unlike the beauty of a free democratic society. The power of people is what makes the Wikipedia work. The community itself is self-policing and there is a set of “rules” as to how one can behave in the community. If someone breaks the rules, there is a set course for conflict resolution where upon the first step is trying to resolve the problem directly with the person involved and then it moves up through the community from there. The Request For Comment (RFC) can be found here which includes the policy violations, IPs and all kinds of additional information:
The SE/30 lives!
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) noted a posting on a Japanese web site where an enterprising person took a Mac mini, SE/30 case and a CRT and combined the three. If you can speak Japanese, you may get more from the site then just a cool look at the pictures but the pictures are worth the visit!
Sticky Notes can use Tables
I found this cool trick (MacOS X Hints) if you need to put a table within a Sticky Note. If you paste a table from Word, Excel, TextEdit into a sticky note, you’ll get access to the Table contextual menu (a contextual menu consists of menu items that appear when you Control- click on an item or application). Once a table is inserted, you can select the number of columns, rows, and add info into cells.
I’m not sure why you would want to do this in Sticky Notes, but now you can!
How-to Convert Tapes or LPs to CD by Ed Shepard(Ed @ smalldog.com)
Back in 1992, I bought an old Jimi Hendrix tape called “Rare Hendrix,” from a pawn shop in Rapid City, South Dakota. It contains some of the best Hendrix I’ve ever heard. That tape has permanently influenced my taste in music. However, the songs on the tape really are rare – the only other place I’ve seen the songs listed were on rare and expensive British import LPs. I’ve always been worried about the tape breaking again (it already broke once) or losing it forever. I finally decided to digitize the tape and convert it into a CD.
We get many questions about how to do this (and it was our most requested demo in our store), so I will outline the process.
First, you need a combination of hardware and software to perform the transfer. The hardware is used to interface the stereo with the computer, and the software is used to record and process the digitized audio on the computer. Here is the equipment I used:
– Stereo with tape deck
– Belkin 3.5mm Stereo Y Adapter – two RCA plugs on one end, one 1/8″ headphone jack on the other. http://www.smalldog.com/product/40465/atkibbles
– Griffin iMic 2 http://www.smalldog.com/product/39237/atkibbles
– 12″ Powerbook (any computer running OS 10.2 or higher with USB ports will work)
– Soundtrack Pro (though other programs can be used to digitize audio, which I discuss)
My stereo has a pair of RCA outputs. These are very common – most televisions, receivers, phonographs, and boom boxes have them. RCA outputs are the two round ports on the back of the stereo, generally color-coded red and white. I plugged the Belkin Y-audio cable into the RCA ports, and then plugged the 1/8″ headphone jack on the other end of the cable into the iMic. The iMic then plugs into the computer’s USB port.
I don’t recommend plugging a cable from the stereo directly into your computers mic jack, because the straight connection does not have enough power to deliver a quality signal. The iMic resolves this issue.
Once the iMic is plugged in, you’ll want to turn on your computer and then launch System Preferences. Find the System Preferences as the fourth option under the blue Apple in the upper left corner of your computer screen. Click on Sound, then select the Input menu. Under Input, you should select “iMic,” and then make sure the input volume is turned 3/4 of the way up. If the iMic is not listed under sound input, restart your computer and repeat.
Once the iMic is set up as your audio input, you’ll need to launch the software application that will be recording the music. The iMic comes with a handy program called “Final Vinyl 2.0” that makes recording the audio very easy. I recommend using this program to record your tapes and records to your computer’s hard drive. You can also record the audio into Garageband, Quicktime Pro, etc. For “Rare Hendrix” I chose to record into Soundtrack Pro, which is very fast and responsive.
Here’s how to set up your favorite audio app for digitizing your tapes and records. First, in the audio application’s Preferences, make sure the iMic is set as the audio input. You already did this in the computer’s system preferences, but it’s important to make sure the application you’re working in recognizes the iMic.
Now, do a test. With everything connected, press “play” on the tape player, or put the needle on the record. You should be able to see and hear the audio playing through your audio application. You may have to turn the volume on the stereo up or down to make sure the audio is not inaudible, or distorted. Once you are satisfied with the audio levels, you can click “record” on the computer, to begin digitizing your audio files. Again, if you are using Final Vinyl, you only have to click one button to begin recording.
I let the computer capture side one and side two of “Rare Hendrix,” before going back and manually cutting and dividing the tracks. I then exported each track as an AIFF file. The exported AIFF files will be dragged & dropped into iTunes, where they’ll be burned to CD. Now, I have digital copies of my favorite tape.
This can take a while – it all records in real time. Final Vinyl makes the recording very easy. There are a number of excellent programs to help with the digitizing and naming of the audio. The best is CD Spin Doctor, part of the Roxio Toast and Boom Box software packages. See this here:
Roxio Boom Box http://www.smalldog.com/product/35527/atkibbles
Roxio Toast 7 Titanium CDR Software http://www.smalldog.com/product/36037/atkibbles
It works great. Now I’ve got Rare Hendrix is playing out of my iPod, and if the iPod is lost, I’ll have it backed up in digital perfection on the computer’s hard drive.
Have fun digitizing your tapes and LPs!
Everything that you need in a bundle!
Bundle with 15-inch PowerBook G4: PowerBook 15in G4/1.5GHz 512/80/combo/AP/BT with iMic, Boom Box and Cable – $1469
Bundle without the computer: Griffin iMic, Roxio Boom Box and Belkin cable – $79
More iPod Newbie Tips By Holly Buttura(Holly @ smalldog.com)
When I take my iPod with me it’s usually a sure bet I want to use it to listen to music. However I’ve also used it as a “watch” since you can have the time display at the head of the display. Pretty big “watch” to carry around sure, but considering what other kind of handy information you can have on it, I’d say it’s actually rather small! This week I set out to import my Address Book contents and iCal appointments.
I tried to follow along with the instructions provided in the manual (http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/iPod_User_Guide_ (color_display).pdf) that came with the iPod but they didn’t work. When I opened iSync and choose Sync Devices, then Add Devices, iSync failed to recognize my iPod, which was plugged in correctly because it showed up perfectly in iTunes. Each time I tried to Scan for Devices, I continually got the message “No Device Found”. So much for those instructions so I set out to Apple’s website and looked at the Support pages. I found the following article: “Mac OS X 10.4: Use iTunes 4.8 or later for iPod syncing.” http://docs.info.apple.com/ article.html?artnum=301374
It looked promising so I gave it a try starting with importing my Contacts. First thing to do, if it’s not obvious, is connect your iPod to your computer! Then in iTunes main menu, choose preferences and then choose the iPod button. When I selected “Synchronize all contacts” the only thing that showed up were two groups; none of the individual contacts showed up. That was a problem, and now I really wanted my contacts on my iPod because how convenient would that be?! I mean, I’m out and about and want or need to get in touch with someone? Now, all I have to do is use my iPod! Forget the big clumsy day-planner! (Which I’m not putting down. I have one at home, but I don’t want to carry it around when I’m out either!) I checked with a co-worker who said I probably had to create a separate group. To me, that kind of went against what I was seeing in the Preference Pane, but what the hell. If I had to do this, AND it worked, I would probably be helping a lot of people with my Newbie Article! Did it work? You bet! Adding your calendars works pretty much the same.
To verify that the contacts and calendars were imported, first dismount your iPod from iTunes. Then click on the Center Button of the iPod and scroll down to see if Contacts and Calendars appear. Don’t freak out if you don’t see them. You just may not have them set to appear in the Main Menu listing. Scroll to Settings, Choose Main Menu and then scroll down to Extras. Underneath Extras you should see several listings, Contacts and Calendar should two of the selections. If you see the word “Off” next to them, they aren’t set to appear in the menu. Highlight them, one at a time, and click the Center Button once. It should change “Off” to “On”. Then just choose Menu from the Click Wheel until you’re back at the iPod’s Main Menu. Okay, we’re almost there!
Scroll down and if you see Contacts and Calendars, the import has been a success! Congratulations! It’s pretty self-explanatory to click on a person’s name and then see their information but when you look at your Calendars first you’ll need to choose which one you want to look at. Once you decide which calendar you want to view, choose it, and then the current month will appear. And appointments/events you have will show up as a red flag on the day of the appointment. If you want to know more about the event, scroll to the date using the Click Wheel and press the Center Button once. You’ll see the name of the event, for more details click the event and whatever information you’ve entered appears!
To move to another month, whether forward or back, choose the Forward or Back button on the Click Wheel. Then use the Click Wheel again to scroll to the actual date. One thing to remember is that if you have multiple calendars is that you’re only seeing one at a time!
Until next week, have fun with your iPod!!
Circus Ponies Notebook 2.0 – $43 Photos, e-mails, graphics, documents. Who knows what else you’ve got hidden away? NoteBook helps you keep track. It’s a combination outliner and free-form database that lets you clip, annotate, and share unstructured information.
Kensington Noise Cancellation Headphones – $33 Take the noise out of noisy planes and accommodations with the Kensington Noise Canceling Headphones. These comfortable and compact headphones let mobile professionals travel in peace and quiet. A built-in microprocessor analyzes background noises and creates an inverse sound wave that cancels the offending sound. Engines, fans, snoring, and other low frequency annoyances virtually disappear, leaving the traveler free to work, sleep, or listen to music in blissful silence.
Kensington Entertainment Dock 500 for iPod w/remote – $79 The Entertainment Dock 500 isn’t just for music anymore. Using the video out ports (RCA or S-video) you can also share videos and photos from your iPod through your TV. With a touch of the wireless RF remote you can listen to music through your stereo or play a soundtrack while you view your favorite photos. Simultaneously charges iPod in the cradle.
Kensington Pico iPod FM Transmitter – $49.50 What’s smaller than nano? The ultra-thin, ultra sleek Kensington Pico FM Transmitter for iPod nano. It uses the bright iPod screen for easy viewing of station information. Just tune your car or home stereo to a clear radio station, select the same station on your iPod and press play.
Marware CEO Card Wallet for iPod Nano, Tan – $21 An elegant, full-grain leather case designed for use in a jacket pocket, the CEO Card Wallet holds the nano and your business cards securely in one place. (Not recommended for use in pant pockets.)
Sony Cybershot DSC-S60 6.0 Megapixel Digital Camera – $195 Get superior battery life with the powerful Cyber-shot DSC-S60 digital camera from Sony. Featuring Stamina technology, it provides up to 110 shots with the supplied alkaline batteries and up to 550 shots with optional NiHM rechargeable batteries. Other highlights include an amazingly detailed 4.1 Megapixel image capture, 3X optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, 32 Megabytes of built-in memory, and a huge 2-inch LCD monitor. It also includes Sony’s own Real Imaging Processor for fast start-up, fast shutter speeds, and maximized battery performance.
Logitech Cordless Rumblepad Gamepad controller USB – $36 Logitech developed 2.4 GHz Cordless Freedom technology specifically for gaming – 30 feet of freedom with no lag! With its two vibration feedback motors, you’ll experience every turn, bump, dip, and crash. And it feels great in your hands with its familiar button layout and all the controls you need to dominate.
iSkin Duo for iPod Nano – $25 The iSkin Duo for iPod nano looks great, feels great and works great. In a class of its own, the patent pending dual layer design creates beautiful color combinations that make every iPod nano as unique as you are. The iSkin Duo for iPod nano comes in eight awesome color combinations that include glow-in-the-dark.
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