TidBITS#1159/04-Feb-2013

We’re pleased to bring you our first look at cool new products from last week’s Macworld/iWorld trade show, along with Adam Engst’s thoughts about the real problems that Apple faces, which aren’t the same as those the mainstream media seems to focus on. Adam also examines what’s behind Apple’s emphasis on the professional user with the new 128 GB iPad. Lastly, Joe Kissell looks at the ioSafe Solo G3 hard drive, which is waterproof, fireproof, and theft-resistant, and even comes with free data recovery in case of damage — the question is if it’s worthwhile. Notable software releases this week include Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 12; SMC Firmware Updates for MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air; and Microsoft Office 2011 14.30.
 
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Apple Aims New 128 GB iPad at Professional Users

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst
  1 comment

With a newfound emphasis on using the iPad for work, Apple has announced a 128 GB version of the fourth-generation iPad. The new model will cost $799 for the Wi-Fi model and $929 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and will be available in all the usual places on 5 February 2013.

At the hardware level, the 128 GB iPad model is easily described, merely doubling the storage capacity of the 64 GB model. What jumped out at me from Apple’s press release, however, was the company’s emphasis on using this more-capacious model for business purposes, rather than media storage. The press release leads off with a quote from Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“With more than 120 million iPads sold, it’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and every day they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs. With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs.”

Note the position of “work” in the first list of iPad activities, and “business” in the list of customer needs. Looking back at the press releases from previous iPad announcements, I don’t see a single mention of business or professional use.

The press release continues with a paragraph pushing the business uses of the iPad and making the case that certain professional activities require significant storage space:

iPad continues to have a significant impact on business with virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploying or testing iPad. Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad. The over 10 million iWork® users, and customers who rely on other incredible apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system, or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.

To drive the point home, the press release features three paragraphs of quotes from executives from Autodesk (CAD), WaveMachine Labs (multitrack recording and editing), and Global Apptitude (football playbook software).

Obviously, Apple has previously acknowledged that the iPad could be used for work, but this is the highest profile mention of that fact — perhaps we’ll see more people signing up for Joe Kissell’s “Take Control Live: Working with Your iPad” presentations now that Apple is pushing it more.

Also interesting is that the announcement is couched largely in the context of storage space, since while there are certainly examples of professional needs that require massive file sizes (CAD, audio recording and editing, and video playback among them, of course!), there are plenty of professional areas in which the iPad has either long excelled (ease-of-use, security, stability, backups, ease of updating) or never handled well at all (text input and manipulation, true multitasking, document handling, interapplication communication, and so on). We’ll be watching closely to see if Apple starts bringing some of these key professional features to future versions of iOS.

But my real question is if Apple is going to give professional iPad users the kind of respect they deserve in terms of software updates, documentation, release notes, and tech support. Yes, people everywhere have started using the iPad for business purposes, but as we ran into recently (“Pages 4.3 vs. BBEdit 10.5: How Apple Doesn’t Respect Its Users,” 26 January 2013), just because you can get your work done on an iPad now, Charlie Brown, doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t going to pull the football away from you in the future.

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Cool Products from Macworld/iWorld 2013: Part 1

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst

My friend Ivan Drucker, a consultant in New York City, posed an interesting question at breakfast on the first day of Macworld/iWorld 2013 in San Francisco. “Would Macworld exist, if it hadn’t always existed?” he asked. The answer, we decided, while walking past the surprisingly aggressive panhandlers in Union Square, was no, that the traditional trade show is no longer the main solution to the problem of obscurity, that companies with products to bring to market can do so in many other ways today.

Two days later, Chris Bastian, another friend who heads up the MetroMac users group in New York City (I have to go to San Francisco to see New Yorkers?) noted that, in the past, Macworld served essentially three purposes: a toy store where Mac geeks could shop for the latest and greatest; an old-time revival meeting where everyone would come once a year to get the religion during Steve Jobs’s keynote; and summer camp, where you’d catch up with friends every year. And, he observed sadly, the Apple keynote is no more, fewer people return for camp each year than in the past, and the toy store is more about looking than buying.

And yet Macworld keeps plugging on, bringing together hundreds of companies and many thousands of attendees for three days of non-stop hubbub on the show floor; numerous talks, sessions, and panels; and, at least for those of us with a long history at the show, invaluable face time with far-flung colleagues, customers, and business partners. No, you don’t see IDG World Expo or other companies starting lots of new technology-related trade shows, for the most part (O’Reilly’s Maker Faires might be a counter example), but the fact is, we’ll keep having Macworld/iWorld as long as it’s profitable to put on, and it remains profitable because it still offers the most concentrated discovery experience for new Apple-related products around.

We could never cover every product exhibited at Macworld/iWorld, but here is the first set of our picks for the products that stood out for us — if you ran across others, be sure to let us know in the comments. This list doesn’t include everything we want to share, but I’m exhausted from a number of nights of interrupted sleep, so tune in later this week for more of our show picks.

Live Vicariously Through Your iPad -- It will probably be some time before the Double telepresence robot from Double Robotics becomes commonplace, but it easily took the prize for the coolest product at Macworld/iWorld. Double consists of a self-balancing driving cylinder with an extensible stalk, topped by an iPad. The idea is that you can use another iPad over the Internet to control where your Double goes and see what its iPad camera sees while displaying your face on its iPad, all in real time. You can even raise and lower the stalk to maintain face-to-face conversation whether the other people are sitting or standing. Double Robotics suggests that Double might be used for remote meetings, college tours for potential students far away, mobile kiosks for retail stores, and more — I could also imagine it being used to keep an eye on an elderly relative. Double weighs only 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and can operate all day on a single charge. It’s not cheap though, listing for $2,499 and available for pre-order for $1,999, with an early 2013 ship date.


Mouse with Mauz -- If you’ve ever accidentally put your hand down on your iPhone next to your keyboard, expecting it to be a mouse, you’ll love the Mauz, from a startup called Spicebox. Mauz is a Wi-Fi-based dongle that plugs into an iPhone’s dock connector or Lightning port and communicates with special software on the Mac to translate movements of the iPhone into movements on the Mac. With all the iPhone’s sensors, this goes well beyond simple sliding back and forth on the desk — Spicebox demonstrated turning a Mauz-equipped iPhone around in mid-air to rotate a 3D model in Blender and showed how hand swipes above the iPhone could be detected by the iPhone’s camera to move back and forward in a Web browser. The communication between the Mac and Mauz is two-way, so when the Mauz software on the Mac detects an application switch, it can display specialized controls on the iPhone screen beyond the basic buttons and scroll area. Mauz isn’t yet available; Spicebox anticipates shipping in about 6 months (and the Lightning port version may be delayed more, due to needing “Made for iPhone” approval from Apple). Pricing is set for $69.99, but you can pre-order today via Kickstarter for $45. (The Kickstarter project reportedly doesn’t have to fund for Mauz to be produced; the company is using it more to get the word out and get pre-release feedback. And what Spicebox would really like is to have Mauz acquired by a company like Logitech or Microsoft with reach into the pointing device market.)


Transporter: Dropbox You Control -- One theme of discussions we had at the show was just how comfortable different people are with cloud-based services. Our 14-year-old son Tristan is at one extreme, nearly refusing to work with local files in Pages or iTunes in favor of Google Docs and Spotify/Pandora. On the other end is an author who was so uncomfortable with cloud-based services that he bought a pair of the just-released 1 TB Transporters from Connected Data purely to maintain and sync local copies of his book in progress. The Transporter is an Ethernet-connected hard drive that can synchronize and back up files with both computers and other Transporters, thus creating what is a Dropbox-like service where all the data resides on devices you control. Files are synced transparently in the background — to as many Transporters and computers as you control — but the data is never stored in the cloud. Professionals interested in the Transporter include lawyers, who may have significant client confidentiality requirements surrounding the storage of legal documents, and doctors, who are required by the HIPAA legislation in the United States to maintain off-site backups of all records in a secure form. Connected Data sells the Transporter in 1 TB ($299) and 2 TB ($399) sizes, but you can also get an empty Transporter ($199) and add your own 2.5-inch hard disk.


Walk While You Work -- A number of us, including me and Glenn Fleishman, have switched to standing desks (although I’ve been forced back to sitting temporarily while a nasty case of plantar fasciitis resolves itself). I normally just stand, but Glenn followed the lead of our buddy Lex Friedman, now writing for Macworld, and has installed a treadmill under his desk. If that’s not feasible for you, but you still want to keep moving at your desk, check out the InMotion E1000 Elliptical Trainer from Stamina Products, which we ran across at the Anthro booth at Macworld/iWorld. It’s a compact elliptical machine with two foot pedals (no handles to get in the way of your desk) that go in both directions. A tension knob adjusts the amount of force necessary, and an electronic counter tracks number of strides per minute, total number of strides, exercise time, and calories burned. Weighing in at only 24 pounds (10.9 kg) and requiring a footprint of only 20 inches by 12 inches (50.8 cm by 30.5 cm), the InMotion Elliptical Trainer might be the perfect way to get some exercise while working in environments where a treadmill is infeasible. The range of motion isn’t large, but it’s quiet and inexpensive, listing for $199.99, and available from Amazon for $100 or less. It seemed feasible to type while using it, though we weren’t able to test that at the show. And, before you ask, no, it can’t generate electricity too.


Stand Up Straight, Young Man! -- If your posture isn’t what it should be (imagine yourself suspended from a string attached to the top of your head), you can suffer from a wide variety of maladies, ranging from back pain to knee trouble. The new LUMOback sensor and iOS app can help you learn better posture. The sensor is affixed to a belt that wraps around your waist; it vibrates gently when it detects you slouching. The free LUMO app (compatible only with the iPhone 4S and 5, the fifth-generation iPod touch, and the third- and fourth-generation iPads, due to its reliance on the Bluetooth low energy feature of Bluetooth 4.0) tracks your progress and helps you improve over time. LUMOback costs $149 and is available now in two sizes.


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Apple Doomed, According to News at 11

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst
  12 comments

The woman was young, on the short side, and exceedingly anxious. “I noticed your media badge,” she said. “Would you have five minutes for an interview about Apple?” She said she hadn’t been able to find anyone with a media badge that morning, and I got the impression that her producer had told her to come back from Macworld/iWorld with footage or not come back at all. She led me over to her cameraman and sound guy, and after she introduced them and told me what outlet they worked for — a name I lost in the hubbub of the show floor — she proceeded to ask me my opinion about the waning of Apple’s fortunes.

She didn’t put it exactly like that — I don’t remember the actual words — but the implication was clear: Apple might have come back from near irrelevance under the leadership of Steve Jobs to become the world’s most valuable company, but with Tim Cook in charge and after the last disappointing financial report, the company’s star was once again falling.

My anxious interviewer wasn’t alone — in another interview during the show I was asked much the same question, and in each case, I had to resist saying, “Are you high? What could you possibly be smoking to see $54.5 billion in quarterly revenues and $13.1 billion in profit as a sign of impending doom?” (For full details of Apple’s “disappointing” financial results, see “Apple’s $13.1 Billion Profit for Q1 2013 Dismays Analysts,” 23 January 2013.)

This was fascinating — I’m no fanboy, but I can’t see any way that Apple’s Q1 2013 financial report could be viewed as a bad thing, at least unless you’re an analyst whose reading of bird entrails caused you to predict unrealistic earnings. Don’t get me wrong — Apple is far from perfect, and even at a business level, there have been some missteps of late.

For instance, after being announced in October 2012, the latest model of the iMac didn’t ship in time for much of the holiday buying season, which seems like a glaring operational lapse. Even now, you’ll wait 2–3 weeks for a 21.5-inch iMac and 3–4 weeks for a 27-inch iMac. Of course, we (and the same is true of analysts) don’t know why this happened. Did Apple’s executives choose to pre-announce a Mac they knew they couldn’t deliver in time to prevent potential buyers from purchasing something else? Or perhaps they were taken unawares by manufacturing problems or supply shortages? The latter seems increasingly likely given the continued delays.

Similarly, Apple admitted that it hadn’t been able to make all models of the iPhone and the iPad mini fast enough during the quarter to meet demand, which had to hurt sales. Was that because Apple failed to line up enough manufacturing capacity, which seems unlikely given their experience with iPhone launches by this point? Or were the problems actually insurmountable due to parts shortages or the lack of sufficiently advanced manufacturing capabilities? (The iPhone is known to be difficult to manufacture due to its extremely tight tolerances.)

But while these operations-related problems are both surprising — Tim Cook has a reputation as an operations genius — and troubling, I believe it’s overreaching to attribute a significant corporate downturn to such issues, at least at this point. If the company continues to stumble with bringing products to market, a notable problem for Apple many years ago, there would be cause to worry, but basing anything on a single quarter’s results is silly.

Though I may never know what will eventually come of these interviews, I did appreciate the opportunity to point out that Apple does suffer from some concerning problems that haven’t gotten as much press. These worries aren’t likely to affect the stock price in the short term, but could have long term consequences. I’m talking here about the drop in software quality over the last year or two, and Apple’s capricious and draconian policies surrounding its relationship with developers and publishers.

In terms of software quality, we’ve noticed significantly more problems over the last few years, with more (and more-troubling) bugs in iOS 6 than any previous version of iOS in particular. Our articles about issues with excessive cellular data usage and battery drain continue to garner comments from people who are struggling with their iPhones, and while we hope iOS 6.1 has finally addressed them — four months after iOS 6 shipped — it’s still too early to tell (see our series “Problems with iOS 6”).

Plus, one long-time industry friend said that in some developer circles, it was generally agreed that Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was the high-water mark of stability, and that the integration of sandboxing and iCloud in 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion had caused increased flakiness. Another friend with contacts inside Apple told me that some long-time engineers had been leaving for other companies, in part because they felt their software was being shipped before it was ready.

Although no developer wanted to go on the record about this, I heard story after story of Apple’s App Store policies and behaviors causing significant headaches. One developer told me of the nightmare caused by the App Store actually removing necessary files from his approved app, such that it basically didn’t work at all, and of the trouble and reputation hit that caused when he couldn’t respond to complaining customers.

Another developer related the fascinating tale of joining forces with a programmer with an existing app — the two formed a new company and tried to update the EIN (the employer identification number that uniquely identifies a company for tax purposes in the United States) in the original programmer’s iTunes Connect account. The interface wouldn’t let them, and when they queried Apple, they were told that it’s not possible to change the EIN. To get the business details right for their new company, they were told they would have to delete the original app and resubmit from a new iTunes Connect account. Anyone familiar with the App Store sees the problem here — the 10,000-plus customers of the original app were orphaned, and the new app lost the roughly 1,000 positive reviews garnered by the original app. The only workaround was to update the original app to display an alert prompting users to download the new app for free on a particular day, but fewer than 10 percent of the customers saw that in time, generating hundreds of support requests and requiring additional free download days.

(When I asked the obvious question, I was also told that it’s not possible to transfer an app between iTunes Connect accounts, a fact that reduces the value of apps on the resale market and thus changes the economics for app developers or companies looking to be acquired.)

Apple’s refusal to allow paid upgrades also came up in conversation. Since it’s thoroughly unreasonable to expect developers to give out upgrades for free forever (sales to new users always tail off after the initial release), most have gone the route of releasing a completely new app, orphaning the users of the previous version and offering discounted “upgrade pricing” to everyone for some time after release. It’s an awkward set of hoops to jump through, and encourages many developers to release numerous new apps rather than put in effort over time to improve a given app over multiple major releases.

If I had to speculate, I’d say that Apple’s amazing success over the past five or six years has effectively blinded the company to these problems, or, to be more charitable, that the success has resulted in Apple prioritizing software quality behind hardware quality and predetermined ship dates, and in sticking with a set of App Store policies that no company in a less dominant position could ram down developers’ throats.

I’m not about to describe Apple as “beleaguered” or suggest that the company won’t be able to maintain its profitability or industry position (though its growth curve will flatten out — no company can grow at Apple’s recent rate forever). But even though pointing out these concerns is not a case of the emperor’s new clothes, ignoring them or focusing only on analyst expectations and stock price is definitely a case of failing to acknowledge the emperor’s wardrobe malfunction.

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Do Bulletproof Backups Require a Disaster-proof Drive?

  by Joe Kissell: joe@tidbits.com, @joekissell
  9 comments

A reader of “Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac” wrote to ask my opinion of ioSafe hard drives for backups. I’d been fleetingly aware of the brand but didn’t know much about it, so I went to the company’s Web site, where I learned that ioSafe specializes in fireproof, waterproof, theft-resistant hard drives — drives designed to survive just about any disaster. For this extra protection, you naturally pay a premium. For example, a 1 TB USB 3.0 ioSafe drive retails for $299.99; a quick search on Amazon turned up tons of conventional 1 TB USB 3.0 drives for well under $100. So I wrote back to give my opinion: “Meh.” For the price, I could buy two regular drives, keep one offsite to protect it from those fires and floods, and have enough left over to pay for a year’s worth of cloud storage for all my data too. The economics just didn’t make sense to me.

Then, following an article I wrote about backups for Macworld, a representative from ioSafe wrote to ask if I’d heard of the company’s products. I said as a matter of fact I had, and told him that although the drives are undoubtedly great, I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm about them because of the cost. But he asked if he could send me a drive to try out, and I said sure. Now that I’ve been using the drive for a while, I want to offer a more nuanced opinion.

The review unit I got was the 1 TB ioSafe Solo G3, which has only a USB 3.0 connection. The company makes drives with many combinations of capacity, interface, and features, so keep in mind that some of my comments apply only to this model, not to the brand as a whole.

My first impression was that this is an absolutely gigantic object. The drive weighs 15 pounds and takes up a significant amount of desk space. It can be bolted to a desk or floor (you supply the hardware) or locked with a Kensington security cable, but because the USB cable is fairly short, you don’t have much flexibility with placement. On the other hand, the drive’s size and weight alone, even without being physically fastened down, is undoubtedly a theft deterrent.

A sticker on top of the drive reminds you that you must “activate” (that is, register) it within 10 days by visiting the ioSafe Web site. The drive functions fine if you don’t do this; what you’re activating is a data recovery service warranty. If the drive is damaged (for example, by fire or flood), you can ship your drive back to ioSafe. They will attempt to recover your data (at no cost to you), and if they can’t do it, they’ll pay up to $5,000, depending on the drive model, for an outside data recovery service to try. Either way, you’ll get a replacement drive containing your recovered data.

That’s a nice warranty, but during the registration process the site urges you to “upgrade” your data recovery service warranty from the standard 1 year to 3 years (for $50) or 5 years (for $100), with 5 years being the default choice. That upsell bothered me; if I’ve already spent three times as much on a hard drive as I might have, the last thing I want to do is make that four times as much.

Those details aside, the drive works perfectly well. Since I happen to have a newer Mac with USB 3.0 ports, I was able to take advantage of the interface’s zippy transfer speeds. I didn’t perform benchmark tests, but my subjective impression was that it was extremely speedy — certainly way faster than FireWire 800 or USB 2.0. (The company doesn’t currently sell any drives with Thunderbolt connections, which would likely be yet another notch zippier.)

What I noticed most, however, was that I never heard the drive in operation — it’s freakishly quiet. Largely this is because the device has no fan, but all the insulation that protects the drive from fire and water also blocks sound, and even when it was going full-bore I practically had to put my ear on the drive to hear even a faint whirr. I appreciated that, especially when doing audio and video recording in my home office.

Tempted as I was to set the drive on fire and then drop it in a bathtub, I observed the drive’s operation only on the comfort of my desk. I therefore can’t comment from experience on its robustness in protecting my data; I’ll have to take the company’s word on that.

But therein lies the whole problem for me — the one and only reason I would buy such an expensive or physically large drive would be for its data protection features, which I most likely will never need and whose effectiveness I have no way to judge unless disaster strikes. In other words, it’s simply an expensive insurance policy. Of course, what you’re insuring isn’t the drive itself — it would be silly to spend $200 to insure a $100 device — but rather your data. You’re gambling that you might at some point find yourself in a situation where crucial data is only on that drive, the drive is physically damaged, and the data on it is worth more to you than what the insurance cost.

If you have no backups at all, then sure, an ioSafe drive is a better choice as primary storage than your Mac’s built-in drive. But my well-known viewpoint is that good backups are a must. I already have multiple local backups (on media stored in different parts of my house) as well as multiple cloud backups. If a meteorite leveled my house and I didn’t happen to have a laptop with me somewhere else, I could still get all my data back. It might take a couple of days to collect the necessary hardware and restore a complete system to approximately its previous state, but it wouldn’t fundamentally be a problem. On the other hand, if I used only an ioSafe drive and my house were destroyed, I might have to wait weeks for that data recovery service to get my data back — if indeed it even succeeded at all. Spending that extra money on a more expensive drive wouldn’t benefit me, and it might even give me a false sense of security.

The ioSafe representative told me that their target customers include people who know they should have offsite backups but are unwilling to deal with the hassle of physically rotating backups offsite on a regular basis and don’t want to use the cloud (for whatever reason). Fair enough. I can imagine people for whom a drive like this would be ideal — for example, someone who lives in an area where broadband is unavailable or unreasonably expensive, and where there’s no logical place to store backups offsite. But I think most people would be better served by a combination of inexpensive hard drives and cloud backups.

The incongruity, then, is that ioSafe hard drives may in fact be among the most reliable destinations you can buy for local backups, not to mention fast and quiet — and yet I have no interest in owning one myself and wouldn’t recommend them for most people. Your mileage, needless to say, may vary, and I look forward to reading dissenting opinions in the comments.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 4 February 2013

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 12 -- Apple has released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 12 for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which updates Java SE 6 to version 1.6.0_39 in order to secure systems from vulnerabilities reported in Java 1.6.0_37. If you haven’t installed the Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 9 or any of the subsequent releases, the update configures Web browsers to not automatically run Java and deactivates it after no app activity for an extended time. This update requires Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or Snow Leopard Server 10.6.8. It’s available via Software Update and direct download, and Apple reminds you to quit any Web browsers and Java applications before installing either one. (Free, 72.7 MB)

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SMC Firmware Updates for MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air -- Apple has released three System Management Controller (SMC) firmware updates for its MacBook lineup: MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.5 (494 KB), MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.6 (666 KB), and MacBook Air SMC Update 1.8 (982 KB). All three address a “rare issue” that caused laptops with a battery that had accumulated more than 1,000 charge cycles to shut down and possibly not boot back up again. According to this Apple support page, all MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models (as well as MacBook models from 2009 and later) have a lifetime expectancy of 1,000 charge cycles. As always with firmware updates, we recommend relying on Software Update or the App Store app to ensure you get the firmware update for your specific model, and be careful not to interrupt the update process. (Free)

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Microsoft Office 2011 14.30 -- Microsoft has updated Office 2011 to version 14.30 with a short but sweetly detailed rundown of fixes in this maintenance release. Most of the changes involve PowerPoint, including fixes for a display issue that affected collapsed sections in Slide Sorter view, an issue with hyperlinks that included hash tags not being saved correctly, a crash that occurred when using the Paste Special command, and an issue that prevented pasting of text from PowerPoint for Windows into PowerPoint for Mac. The update also fixes an issue in Outlook where invitation times from non-Exchange calendar servers were off by an hour during certain times of the year. (Free updates via the Office for Mac Web site or through Microsoft AutoUpdate, 106 MB, release notes)

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ExtraBITS for 4 February 2013

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

A quarter of a million Twitter users were affected by a data breach at the company, leading to password resets and no doubt a few headaches. In a better headspace, Adam and Tonya Engst appeared on Glenn Fleishman’s podcast The New Disruptors, which talks about ways creative people reach audiences. And if you’re feeling vindictive toward an app, we have a string of eight characters that will likely cause it to crash.

A Simple Text String that Crashes Most Mac Applications -- The Next Web’s Emil Protalinski explains the amusingly awful bug in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion that causes most Mac apps to crash when you type the string file:/// (you have to capitalize one of the letters in the word “file,” which we didn’t to avoid inadvertent crashes). The bug turns out to be in Apple’s Data Detectors code, and affects only apps that use NSTextFields. So the Finder, Safari, Messages, and TextEdit all crash, as does the Mac’s error reporter, but BBEdit and Firefox do not.

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250,000 Twitter Users Affected by Data Breach -- Twitter reset the passwords for 250,000 users last week after it became aware of numerous unauthorized access attempts. According to Twitter’s Director of Information Security Bob Lord “…attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens and encrypted/salted versions of passwords” for a quarter of a million accounts. Although it would be inconvenient to have someone else posting to your account, the greater danger is to people who reuse passwords among other services. As always, we recommend creating strong passwords, preferably using tools such as 1Password or LastPass.

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Adam and Tonya Engst on The New Disruptors -- Adam and Tonya Engst appear as guests on TidBITS editor Glenn Fleishman’s new podcast, The New Disruptors, which covers ways that creative people reach audiences. While the show is about “new” technological tools, Glenn is also interviewing people who have reinvented their work and their approach over a career.

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