We’re back from our holiday hiatus with a number of festive ExtraBITS! Other World Computing has discovered that the new Mac Pro has an upgradeable CPU, Joe Kissell talked about iCloud on MacVoices, encryption can be cracked with a microphone, Walt Mossberg signed off from The Wall Street Journal, Ted Nelson wrote a touching eulogy for Douglas Engelbart, and we reveal Netflix’s hidden Apple TV diagnostic tool.
You Can Upgrade the 2013 Mac Pro CPU… For a Price — The upgrade wonks at Other World Computing have discovered that the brand-new Mac Pro has a removable CPU that can be upgraded by the user. They replaced the stock Intel E5-1650 with an Intel E5-2667 and gained a 30 percent performance boost. Don’t get too excited, since the E5-2667 retails for about $1,900, so squeezing even more performance out of the cylindrical Mac Pro won’t come cheap.
Joe Kissell Talks iCloud on MacVoices — Our own Joe Kissell joined host Chuck Joiner to discuss the just-released “Take Control of iCloud, Second Edition” — a must-have for Apple users. Joe discusses the full range of Apple’s cloud offerings, including iCloud Keychain, Contacts, Calendars, Documents in the Cloud, and even Apple TV.
Encryption Cracked by Listening to a Computer’s CPU — If this were a movie, we’d be laughing at the improbability of the premise — that encryption can be cracked by listening to the high-pitched sounds produced by a computer’s CPU as it decrypts data. But it’s real, and although it can be done at a distance of 4 meters with a parabolic microphone, the researchers (Daniel Genkin, Eran Tromer, and Adi Shamir, who is the S of the RSA cryptosystem) also showed that it could be done with a smartphone sitting next to a laptop. Upping the ante, they suggest that a microphone hidden inside a colocated server could eavesdrop on numerous nearby servers. In short, if security is paramount, both heavy-duty encryption and physical protection are necessary.
Walt Mossberg’s Last Wall Street Journal Article — After 22 years, Walt Mossberg has left The Wall Street Journal, along with his partner Kara Swisher, for a new media venture, Re/code. To wrap up his two-decade stint at the Journal, Walt rounded up twelve of the most influential tech products in that time. Many were made by Apple, but a few might surprise you.
Ted Nelson’s Moving Homage to Douglas Engelbart Takes Aim at Today’s Tech World — Ted Nelson, the man who coined the word “hypertext,” has delivered a moving eulogy for his friend and contemporary, computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart. Engelbart, who died in 2013 at age 88, first showed off such innovations as the interactive keyboard and mouse, text editing, Nelson’s hypertext, video conferencing, windowing, and much more, all in a 1968 presentation later dubbed “The Mother of All Demos.” But Nelson’s short talk at the Computer History Museum also condemns the computing establishment for relegating Engelbart to the sidelines after his breakthroughs.
Diagnose Netflix Problems on the Apple TV — Having streaming problems on your Apple TV? As TUAW reports, there’s a hidden diagnostic tool in Netflix. Search for a video called “Example Short 23.976,” and play it. The test video displays the current bitrate, resolution, and aspect ratio. If you see a low bitrate, restarting your wireless gateway and cable/DSL modem could help, although the problem may simply be too much usage in your neighborhood.