Our summer reading continues this week with three feature articles. Jeff Carlson leads off with a look at some of the Apollo 11 resources available online, Rich Mogull explains how the iPhone 3GS now offers security features previously available only to enterprise-class customers, and Glenn Fleishman delves into the debacle of Amazon deleting copies of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm" from its customers' Kindles. This week also brings the release of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2, complete with a new collaboration application. Other notable software releases include Firefox 3.5.1, TextExpander 2.6.3, iMovie '09 8.0.4, iTunes 8.2.1, QuicKeys 4, Quadro Mac OS X Driver Release 18.5.2, Hazel 2.3, and CheckUp 2.5.
by Doug McLean
Microsoft has released Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 (12.2.0), adding speed enhancements, customer-requested features, and stability improvements, along with a new collaboration application.Show full article
Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit has released Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 (12.2.0), adding various speed enhancements, bug fixes, and customer-requested features, along with a new collaboration application.
Microsoft Document Connection -- The most notable change the update brings is a new application called Microsoft Document Connection, which enables you to work more easily with shared files on a Microsoft SharePoint site (running on a Windows-based server) or Microsoft Office Live Workspace, which is a Web-based collaboration service.
It does this by letting you forego the use of a Web browser to connect to Office Live Workspace, and instead lets you save and open documents directly. SharePoint manages the connection to ensure that users within the same group are aware of any given document's status, including whether or not it is available, who is currently working on it, and what their document permissions are.
Simultaneous with the release of Microsoft Document Connection, Microsoft also announced that Office Live Workspace has added support for Safari 4. Microsoft Document Connection comes free with the Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 update.
Other Office Improvements -- For all other Office 2008 applications stability has been improved by fixing an issue that could cause applications to quit unexpectedly. Additionally, all the programs also have improved spell checking for the Austrian and German languages, and have new controls for aligning text on chart elements.
PowerPoint 2008 sees some of the most significant program changes with the capability to double-click a slide to add a text box, support for authoring and editing animation custom paths (or motion paths), the capability to add animated GIF files to a presentation and play them during a slide, a new preference that lets you enable or disable mirroring when switching to a different view or application during a presentation, and the capability to set your own default theme to replace the standard black and white Office theme otherwise displayed when creating a new presentation. Many bugs, crashing and otherwise, have also been addressed.
In Excel 2008 a number of smaller changes has been made, including improved reliability when working with protected workbooks, enhanced performance when opening a workbook from a network share and performing calculations, and the fixing of a number of crashing bugs (including one that occurred when entering arguments in a specific order for the XNPV function in the Formula Builder).
Word 2008 sees substantial reductions to the program's startup time and improved performance when working within Outline View. Additionally, an issue that could cause the application to crash when using mail merge with pictures has been fixed, Notebook Layout View now recovers audio notes after crashes, compatibility with Word 2007 and Spell Catcher X has been improved, and reliability has been enhanced for display redrawing and copying numbered lists.
Finally, Entourage 2008 now automatically configures MobileMe accounts, supports POP access for new Windows Live Hotmail accounts, and includes an updated junk email filtering definition file.
Downloading Details -- The Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.2.0 Update requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later, and that you have already installed the 12.1.0 update (the updater is a combo updater, meaning it contains all fixes since 12.1.0). It's a 297 MB download from Microsoft's Web site, and is also available via the Microsoft AutoUpdate utility launched by choosing Check for Updates from any Office 2008 application.
by Jeff Carlson
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th, 2009, Jeff Carlson can't help but notice a spirit of innovation shared by the engineers that took us to space and today's Apple.Show full article
July 20th, 2009, marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first human steps made on extraterrestrial soil. While a lot of attention is being paid to the three men who made the trip - and the two who left their boot prints in the surface - my inner geek is once again in awe of the scientists and the sheer volume of effort that accomplished what seemed impossible.
How does this event relate to the Mac? Comparing the space program to Apple is tenuous at best, I admit. But I've long felt that in our current Earth-bound (with very few exceptions) existence, Apple shares some of the same ambitious engineering spirit that guided the Gemini and Apollo missions.
Apple has vision, and works to achieve that vision, even when people think it's misguided. Take the current line of MacBook Pros: While other companies continue making prettier plastic enclosures, Apple engineered the unibody case design that increases the laptop's rigidity without adding weight and simplifies the number of components that make up the computer.
Or look at the iPhone, introduced at a high price point into a saturated market, seemingly without much chance for success. Apple innovated with software, shaking up people's ideas of what a mobile phone could do. Now, the iPhone is a huge success and is making established phone manufacturers reevaluate their often lackluster handsets.
I won't stretch these analogies too far. After all, Apple's software, like all commercial software, is far more brittle than the massively redundant systems required to put spacecraft into the black. But as we look back at the achievements and technologies of 40 years ago, I see not only amazing feats of engineering, but also the inspiration for today's hardware and software, created by people whose parents and colleagues put humans on the Moon and brought them safely back to Earth.
As you ponder the moon landing, visit the following resources to learn more about Apollo 11 and the universe we live in.
Space-Bound for a Penny -- To celebrate the moon landing, Carina Software is making its astronomy software available for 1 cent, only on 20-Jul-09. SkyGazer 4.5, normally $29.95, is an introductory version for casual users; Voyager 4.5, normally $99.95, is the company's advanced version. Both require Mac OS X (Windows versions are also available).
We Choose the Moon -- We Choose the Moon, a presentation of the John F. Kennedy Library, has been re-enacting the Apollo 11 mission from launch to first lunar step in real time with ground-to-spacecraft communications, animations, video from the period, photos, and more. The project has also set up three Twitter addresses reproducing the communications between Houston and Apollo 11; so if you can't afford to be glued to the Web site for several days, you can still experience via text the conversations that passed between thousands of miles of space.
Giant Apollo 11 Reference -- Jason Kottke's "The giant Apollo 11 post" collects an impressive array of online media and information about Apollo 11.
Tech Derived from Space Travel -- NASA Spinoffs is an older Web site (last updated in 2004), but it gives you a sense of some of today's technologies that owe their genesis to NASA research.
In the Shadow of the Moon -- I saw a screening of "In the Shadow of the Moon" at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2007 and highly recommend that you rent, buy (iTunes Store link), or stream it. A documentary about the Apollo 11 program, it includes previously unpublished footage and some true gems: While doing research at NASA, the director and his assistants found separate audio and video recordings of ground conversations in Houston to the spacecraft, and synced them up so you get to see and hear the people speaking the transmissions.
The movie also contains one amazing shot with an equally amazing story behind it. We've all seen footage of rocket stages separating, showing the spent fuel canister falling away toward Earth from the point of view of the spacecraft headed into space. Instead, in one 2 minute sequence, you see the two components separating, but from the viewpoint of a camera mounted inside the booster. The spacecraft zooms away, then the angle of the sunlight gradually changes as the piece starts its slow tumble back to the atmosphere. (View the clip in a segment at YouTube, starting at the 5:50 mark.)
According to director David Sington during a question-and-answer session following the screening I attended, the camera was rigged to eject itself before the booster burned up in the atmosphere (you can see a brief zoom at the end of the clip). To retrieve the camera, NASA equipped several planes with giant trailing nets that flew patterns in the areas where it was likely to descend.
by Rich Mogull
Rich Mogull explains how to configure your iPhone securely, and how to take advantage of the new hardware encryption in the iPhone 3GS.Show full article
[Update: Soon after this article came out, a technique for circumventing any iPhone encryption, including the hardware encryption of the iPhone 3GS, was published. You can read more about it over at Wired. This technique requires only moderate skills and we've confirmed its plausibility with our own limited testing. Rich is writing a followup article with more details, which we will link at the top of this article once it's available. We hope Apple will address this issue as soon as possible, but until they do, iPhone encryption should not be considered secure.]
The original iPhone was widely criticized by security professionals for lacking essential security features for the enterprise, the large corporate networks that have special needs because of huge numbers of users and the massive back-end operations to support those users.
The original iPhone was hard to lock down, had only limited secure connectivity options, and lacked both data protection and some way to destroy data remotely if you lost the phone. Those capabilities have continued to improve with every iPhone software release and, combined with the hardware improvements in the iPhone 3GS, even regular users can now enjoy security equivalent to that provided by most corporate environments.
The iPhone 3GS Hardware Advantage -- While most of the software features I describe below work on any iPhone running the iPhone OS 3.0, the 3GS model has one significant advantage that enables all of its owners to experience enterprise-class security. The iPhone 3GS includes a hardware encryption chip that uses the industry-standard AES 256 protocol (that's the Advanced Encryption Standard, with a key length of 256 bits).
Hardware encryption enables a device - a phone, a hard drive, or what have you - to be nearly instantly wiped by erasing the encryption key stored on the device. With a well-designed system, securely removing that key means all data is entirely unrecoverable, even by a government... maybe.
According to Apple, all data on the iPhone 3GS is encrypted by default. Other than Research in Motion's BlackBerry models, very few smartphones on the market encrypt all data. Considering how much personal data we tend to keep on these advanced devices, this is an incredibly important feature. Assuming you follow my other recommendations, it's highly unlikely even a knowledgeable attacker could break into a lost phone and retrieve your data.
This doesn't protect you from all attacks. As with any other encrypted computer, if the bad guy hacks the device while you are logged in, he can still access your unencrypted data. But lost phones are the most common risk we face, and default encryption (with passcode locks, which we'll get to) essentially eliminates your exposure.
Setting Passcode Locks -- One of the most basic security options on any phone is setting a passcode to lock the screen. This prevents prying eyes from gaining easy access to your email messages, phone numbers, or text messages, and it's an option on pretty much every phone on the market. To set this on your iPhone, tap Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock and enter a passcode. (Don't forget it, or you'll have to restore your phone to get back in!) This feature predates iPhone OS 3.0, and works on any model.
On the Passcode Lock settings page you also have some additional options. On any iPhone, you can choose the amount of time your phone sits idle before it requires the passcode again. I set mine for 15 minutes, which is a good balance between security and usability for those times I slip it in and out of my pocket.
On the iPhone 3GS, you can also choose to allow or disable voice control when the screen is locked. I leave this on so I don't have to enter my passcode when using voice dialing while driving, but if you are worried about someone making calls to the Antarctic when you leave your phone unattended (or listening to any potentially embarrassing iTunes song selections), you should disable it.
Erasing Your Data -- One additional feature sets the passcode lock on the iPhone apart from many other phones on the market. If you select the option to "Erase Data," the iPhone allows just 10 failed attempts at entry. After that, the operating system starts the wiping process, deleting everything on your phone. (Don't worry: if you do this by mistake you can restore from your last backup.) I've seen this feature in enterprise devices like the BlackBerry, but it's rare in a consumer phone.
On original iPhones and the iPhone 3G, wiping can take some time, as the software deletes, then overwrites, your data: Dan Frakes at Macworld got Apple to quantify that it takes 1 hour per 8 GB of data.
On the iPhone 3GS, it's faster and easier, as noted earlier. The iPhone 3GS just has to delete the encryption key that protects the data. This is known as "crypto-shredding," and is a common practice in the security world.
Remote Wipe -- With the release of the iPhone OS 2.0, corporate users gained the capability to wipe lost devices remotely using Microsoft Exchange integration. This is an important feature, since forensic investigators can often recover data off devices by connecting them to computers and performing direct analysis, rather than having to beat the passcode lock. (The 3GS is still protected, thanks to its hardware encryption.) Remote wipe sends a signal to the phone to delete all its data, assuming the phone is turned on and connected to a network to receive the signal.
As has been widely reported, iPhone OS 3.0 users with MobileMe accounts now gain the same capability, without needing a corporate server. By logging into the Find My iPhone area of MobileMe (in the Accounts screen), you can wipe your phone by selecting Remote Wipe. This is the first time we've ever seen this option in a consumer phone and service, although it does require a paid MobileMe subscription, which retails at $99 per year for a single user, or $149 for a family pack of 5 unique accounts. It also requires that you enable Find My iPhone on the phone itself; it's not turned on by default when you enter or sync your MobileMe information.
Remote Wipe on the iPhone 3GS works just like a passcode wipe; the encryption key is deleted, making it a fast and effective process.
An Unexpected Benefit -- One major thorn in the side of enterprise security teams is portable storage. Now that small storage cards, like the SD cards powering our digital cameras, can hold many gigabytes of data, they have become a common transport mechanism for the loss of sensitive information.
Many smartphones support external storage, which is rarely encrypted or otherwise protected. Enterprise security tends to require expensive software to restrict use of portable storage on remote devices and protect corporate data.
Since iPhones don't support additional storage, this is actually a benefit for the enterprise. Personally, I was more than satisfied with the 16 GB on my iPhone 3G, and haven't come close to pushing the storage limits of my 32 GB iPhone 3GS.
Additional Security Benefits... and Risks -- The inclusion of encryption hardware on the iPhone 3GS, combined with a good selection of security options, is an advantage for both enterprises and consumers. iPhones are now easy to secure in case of physical loss, but this isn't the end of the security road.
There are two other major features that aren't security-specific per se, but convey significant security benefits. The iPhone is probably the single most updated phone on the market. I don't mean our annual sojourns to the Apple store for the latest hardware, but the ongoing software updates to add features and plug security holes. Phones are small computers now, and subject to the same problems with software vulnerabilities as your Mac or PC.
While the iPhone has suffered more than its fair share of vulnerabilities (46 patched in the last update), unlike with most consumer phones, users are far more likely to update their iPhones in a timely fashion, closing the holes. In the past, for many phones you had to take your device into a retail store and make a special request to get any kind of update. With the iPhone, assuming you plug it into a Mac or PC on occasion, it's hard to avoid getting these security updates.
The second feature is the automatic backup built into iTunes. Assuming you connect your iPhone to a computer, iTunes backs up all the data on your phone, including most of your settings and all of your applications. Aside from protecting you if you trash your phone, it also means that you don't need to worry about losing your data if you make a mistake in setting any of the security features.
I can remotely wipe my iPhone to my heart's content without suffering any real loss, other than a little time to restore the backup and clean up a few settings. iTunes can also encrypt your iPhone backups (for any model running iPhone OS 3.0), which is useful for enterprises.
Secure As Can Reasonably Be -- I've focused on the most important security features for a phone, but the iPhone is also a small computer, with a variety of additional security options. You can use a VPN connection to encrypt your network communications, encrypt your email connections (without needing a VPN), and install additional security tools such as the iPhone version of the popular 1Password password management tool.
This isn't to say the iPhone is perfect. The reliance on iTunes is a serious liability in enterprises that frequently don't want such consumer software cluttering work computers. Also, as mentioned, the iPhone has experienced many software vulnerabilities, some of which could allow an attacker to take control of your phone by having you visit a malicious Web page. One security researcher recently discovered a way to hack iPhones remotely with little more than SMS text messages.
The iPhone 3.0 software includes a number of security features that place it on par with most other smartphones on the market. But with the additional encryption hardware on the iPhone 3GS, and a MobileMe subscription, consumers can now experience enterprise-class security.
When told that a publisher was distributing electronic versions of books by George Orwell without the rights, should Amazon have deleted them from Kindles without the permission of the Kindle owners? Probably not, but it's not as Orwellian as it seems at first. The company says it won't do it again.Show full article
Amazon ripped two George Orwell books, their hearts still beating, from the Kindles of its customers. Reaction to the move provoked a firestorm of opinion related to ownership and permission, and Amazon swore off deleting customers' content from the Kindle again. However, the firm also found itself in an awkward position, one that most reports seem to have ignored or glossed over.
The blast erupted from Amazon deleting two works - in a stunning bit of poetic reality, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm" - that it says a third-party Kindle content publisher lacked the rights to offer for sale. The publisher, MobileReference, sells formatted versions of public-domain works, among other titles.
Amazon certainly made the wrong move by deleting the books remotely without advance warning, taking along with them any associated bookmarks and notes. There was no question that customers purchased the books in good faith. However, the company was also certainly required to resolve a situation in which it was violating copyright.
It's worth looking at how this situation - a somewhat unusual case - arose, along with what Amazon has previously said about the rights it gives Kindle subscribers, and what this bodes for the future.
In the Public Good -- George Orwell died in 1950, which presents a spot of difficulty related to his copyright. In some countries, his works are in the public domain, but not in the United States. Generally uniform international copyright law was adopted in the 1970s, and modified in loose harmony since then.
Current U.S. law puts works published before 1923 in stark relief: they're all in the public domain. Added to this is the set of works published between 1923 and 1950, which were initially allowed a single 28-year term, and later offered a renewal term of the same duration. Works in that period that weren't renewed are now in the public domain.
All other works have been swept into a new regime that provides a super-long extension. And all works created since 1977 are covered for an author's life plus 70 years. (For a full rundown, see the section, "The Variety of Works under Discussion," in "Authors and Publishers Settle with Google Book Search," 2008-10-29, and also Peter Hirtle's "Copyright and the Public Domain in the United States.")
Orwell's works were published before his death in the United Kingdom, and a search at the U.S. Copyright Office shows that "Animal Farm" was first registered here in 1950. Ostensibly, all these valuable works had their terms renewed, too. (Initial registration isn't required, but establishes ownership and triples damages in successful lawsuits; renewal was required, however.)
Any work that was published with U.S. formalities (such as copyright notice and renewal) had its copyright extension revised to be 95 years from the initial copyright registration. "Animal Farm" is thus under copyright protection in the United States until 2040; "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is protected until 2044.
In Australia, however, changes in copyright law vary for authors who died before and after 1954, and don't take into account a work's publication date. Australia extends copyright to 50 years after death for authors who died in 1954 or earlier, and to 70 years after death for authors who passed thereafter. All of Orwell's works are available online at no cost at various Australian sites. (Project Gutenberg in Australia has a nice summary of that country's rights.)
While MobileReference hasn't yet commented publicly, the firm seems to traffic entirely in public domain works and thinly assembled reference documents (biographies of all U.S. presidents, for instance). It's likely the company made a mistake in including the works in the United States.
What Rights We Mortals Have -- When we buy a physical book in the United States, we have the right to possess it forever, pass it on to heirs as part of an estate, burn or deface it, loan it and expect its return, donate it, and resell it. The new owner has the same set of rights. (Notably, those rights weren't always crystal clear; the first-sale doctrine that allows resale, for instance, has been litigated, but upheld.)
When we purchase digital media, whether music, video, or books, we are nearly always purchasing a license, not obtaining ownership. We typically, but not always, cannot resell what we buy, because we're obtaining a perfect digital copy. That implies that a publisher or rights holder can't be sure that we've deleted a work when we pass it on, even though there are ways to ensure that in systems that restrict the right to pass works on.
Apple's iTunes Store agreement is pretty typical, in that it says we receive specific non-commercial, personal rights to playback limited by digital rights management technology. For iTunes Plus music, which is DRM-free and all that Apple now offers for music, you're asked to self-limit what you do.
But Apple's agreement has a nifty little statement in it that has long made some people wary of buying anything from the company - despite the billions of songs sold so far:
"Apple and its licensors reserve the right to change, suspend, remove, or disable access to any Products, content, or other materials comprising a part of the Service at any time without notice."
Which means: "It may seem like you bought it and it's yours, but we can remove stuff from your phone, computer, or iPod, and we don't even have to tell you why or alert you ahead of time."
DRM annoys people because of these kinds of statements. DRM has a single legitimate purpose: deterring the unpaid spread of those perfect digital copies. Its illegitimate purposes are legion, including restricting our legal rights - in the United States and elsewhere - to shift content around for personal use, among a family or on hardware we own. (There are arguments about what "personal use" means. I was once involved in a lawsuit on the side of ReplayTV to defend personal use: Newmark v. Turner.)
The RIAA and MPAA and other organizations want to allow the fewest possible rights in order to ensure that the same work is purchased the most possible times by the same people. If we could simply copy our DVDs to standard computer formats, the studios would have more trouble convincing us to buy the same movies again for Blu-ray, as we did with the jump from VHS to DVD.
DRM also lets device makers and application developers hold a sword over your head about the usage of the code and gear they provide. That's the crux of Amazon's Orwell debacle.
Amazon's contract is much fairer for the purchaser than Apple's for iTunes and similar licenses for digital "sales" of music and visual media. Amazon says:
"Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use."
Translated, this means that you're gaining something akin to ownership, in that the digital copy is yours to use forever. But it then notes, of course, that you don't really own it:
"Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party..."
Neither of the terms above say explicitly that Amazon can reach into your Kindle library (a set of book purchase records stored on its servers) or into your device and remove a book or other item you have purchased (or, more appropriately, licensed).
But there's a catch:
"Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon."
That means "We licensed you something and now have decided it is no longer licensed to you for whatever reason." That's legitimate under the contract.
In this case, Amazon was told that it was providing rights to a work that it didn't have permission to provide. Though Amazon agreed that it was in the wrong to have sold these copies of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm," its next move was a mistake, and one the company now admits.
What Amazon Wrought -- Amazon and Apple use different approaches to where your digital media purchases live. The iTunes Store agreement says you get to download stuff once and once only. Don't lose your data, and it's your problem to store it and back it up.
In contrast, Amazon built an infrastructure that supports many devices from different makers with different storage capabilities, coupled with streaming video. So Amazon creates for you an online library from which you can stream or download. If you delete purchased content or lose a device, you can re-download your content again. (Amazon does impose a limit on the number of devices to which content can be downloaded at any given time. That number is explicit for video; audio is DRM-free and thus not tracked; and books appear to have something like a six-device limit that's squishy and not mentioned in the company's terms of service.)
In the case of the two Orwell books, once Amazon agreed with the legitimate rights holder that MobileReference didn't have permission to distribute the works, Amazon had to make some kind of move.
The company clearly should have deleted the two Orwell books from its library and from all user online libraries - which it did - effectively preventing new purchases and new downloads. It also should have refunded any fees paid by customers for the books, which it also did. And it should have notified users; again, Amazon did so.
But then it seems that someone at Amazon got too excited with what's called "remote self-help technology," which allows a firm to reach out into your computer and other devices to disable hardware, software, or content. The late Ed Foster, a terrific writer and advocate for tech users, spent years inveighing against a modification to the U.S. commercial code used by most states that would allow software makers to place kill switches in code that users couldn't disable, appeal against the use of, or have reasonable grounds to prevent. Self-help rightly bothers us. (Ed won in the end.)
Because Amazon, unlike Apple, didn't specifically reserve the right of self-help, its remote deletion may both have broken laws and rendered Amazon subject to a lawsuit, although damages would likely be slight. It's understandable that Amazon wanted to remove all infringing works from all devices, but Kindles aren't per se under Amazon's control, and that's even more true of the Kindle for iPhone software.
One hopes the decision was made by someone who simply didn't understand the implications, and how much a response this action would provoke. I can't imagine that anyone in Amazon would want to pull the kill switch on "Nineteen Eighty-Four" - of all books - in this manner. Amazon was trying to avoid liability for distributing unauthorized copies of the two works, and thus took all possible actions, instead of reaching out to its readers.
Had I been forced to make this decision, I might have gone so far as to have each purchaser called directly to explain the situation - only hundreds of people were involved. I certainly would have tried to offer a substitute licensed copy, and probably would even have sent print editions of the books along with a gift certificate. And I would have asked users either to let Amazon delete the book or relied on the user to delete the title in some verifiable fashion.
That might have cost a few tens of thousands of dollars, versus the equivalent of millions of dollars in bad publicity and lost Kindle sales as people associate Amazon with the memory hole. The company, chastened in a way it rarely shows, says it won't delete books this way again.
Amazon's actions have been described as ironic, which is incorrect. Irony describes an event that is inconsonant with and contrary to the expected order of things, or words that deny their own reality. In "Nineteen Eighty-Four," slogans like "War is peace" are ironic.
No, Amazon acted with a perfect lack of irony, completely in accord with elements of "Nineteen Eighty-Four," however prosaically it aped Orwell's words. A strong echo came to me from Part 2, Chapter 10 of "Nineteen Eighty-Four," when a steely voice recites to the book's protagonist, Winston Smith, "Here comes a candle to light you to bed. And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"
Is it any wonder self-help technology freaks people out?
by Doug McLean
Notable software releases this week include Firefox 3.5.1, TextExpander 2.6.3, iMovie '09 8.0.4, iTunes 8.2.1, QuicKeys 4, Quadro Mac OS X Driver Release 18.5.2, Hazel 2.3, and CheckUp 2.5.Show full article
Firefox 3.5.1 from Mozilla is a security and stability update to the recently updated Web browser. Version 3.5.1 addresses a serious security issue that could occur when, in some cases, the Just-in-Time compiler would enter a corrupt state after a deep return from a native function (doesn't that sound fun?). Attackers could exploit this weakness to run arbitrary code. (Free update, 17.6 MB)
TextExpander 2.6.3 from SmileOnMyMac is a maintenance update to the typing shortcut utility. Changes include the added capability to sort snippets by labels, improved dead key handling that enables you to use characters with accent marks as abbreviations, and other minor fixes and improvements. Also, several unspecified changes have been made to prepare for the release of Snow Leopard. ($29.95 new, free update, 3.8 MB)
iMovie '09 8.0.4 from Apple deals with three issues: video captured on the iPhone 3GS in portrait orientation is now rotated correctly; adding multiple beat markers in some languages no longer causes instability; and using the fine-tuning editing controls beyond stabilized portions of a clip no longer freezes iMovie. Kudos to Apple for providing specific release notes; unlike earlier updates to iMovie '09, there are no other undocumented changes in this release (see "iMovie '09 8.0.3 Adds New Hidden Features," 2009-06-05). The update is available via Software Update or as a standalone download. (Free, 35 MB)
iTunes 8.2.1 from Apple issues a handful of unspecified bug fixes, and, more notably, "...addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices." Translation: Apple has made swift work of Palm Pre's hacky iTunes sync feature. The question now is when, or whether, Palm will patch the hack. (Free, 77.30 MB)
QuicKeys 4 from Startly Technologies is a major update to the long-standing automation utility. The latest version adds Abbreviations for text expansion and shortcuts, Web Actions that automate web page actions, a QuicKeys Online resource center, a new Instant Shortcut feature that enables users to create a shortcut on the spot, a forthcoming QuicKeys Anywhere remote control app for your iPhone/iPod touch, a Batch Processor that can run shortcut actions on a folder of multiple files, and the capability to find shortcuts based on a wide variety of criteria. The full list of over 60 changes is available via Startly Technologies' Web site. ($59.95 new, $29.95 upgrade from version 3, 26.4 MB)
Quadro Mac OS X Driver Release 18.5.2 from Nvidia is regarded as a critical stability update for the GeForce GTX 285 and GeForce FX 4800 graphics cards. The update is needed for preserving Mac OS X kernel compatibility for users upgrading to the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.5.8. Both cards are designed for Mac Pro systems, though only people who bought the build-to-order card will need to worry about updating. If you're not sure about your graphics card, check the PCI Cards section in System Profiler. (Free, 32.5 MB)
Hazel 2.3.1 from Noodlesoft is the latest version of the file cleanup utility. The new version adds multi-user support for App Sweep, autocompletion within fields, enhanced formatting options, syntax highlighting, support for Transmission and Opera, and an improved script editor. Overall performance has also been improved, and several bugs have been fixed, including two crashing bugs related to missing trash directories and Spotlight database schemas. The full release notes are available via Noodlesoft's Web site. ($21.95, free update, 2.6 MB)
CheckUp 2.5 from App4mac is a significant update to the multipurpose maintenance utility. Changes in version 2.5 include an updated interface, support for recent Macs, enhanced System and Font views, and improved alert management. Also, users can now export graph data, select the default application for any given document, and select any folder for the check-for-duplicates function. (19 euros, free update, 17.8 MB)
Read on for a collection of links to a few of the most interesting articles and resources that the TidBITS staff discovered on the Web this week.Show full article
Oxford English Dictionary Returns to the Mac -- After our article about Wordnik, a TidBITS reader pointed us to the newest version of the Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM, which brings the electronic version of the massive (500,000 words, 2.5 million quotations) O.E.D. back to the Mac after an absence. It costs US$295 or 169.57 pounds and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later. (Posted 2009-07-15)
App Store Sees 1.5 Billion Downloads in First Year -- Apple has announced that the iTunes App Store has topped 1.5 billion downloads in its first year of business. Given that the 1 billionth download came on 24-Apr-09, a mere 9 months after the store's launch, the store is clearly picking up steam, with over 500 million downloads in the past three months. The number of available apps also continues to grow (now over 65,000), as does the number of participating developers (now over 100,000). Quantity is good, but here's hoping the App Store does a better job of helping users discern quality in the future. (Posted 2009-07-14)
Microsoft Releases Silverlight 3 -- Microsoft has released Silverlight 3, a major update to its cross-platform multimedia software. The latest version, used for streaming video for Netflix's Watch Instantly service among much else, supports higher quality video and audio, adds loads of developer tools, and enables content to work on your desktop as opposed to only within your Web browser. (Posted 2009-07-13)
by Jeff Carlson
This week's TidBITS Talk discussions revolve heavily around the iPhone, including questionable unlocking services, securing one's data, the lack apps taking advantage of push notifications, and keeping track of accessories. Also covered this week are Google's Chrome OS, TidBITS issues being marked as spam, the return of the Oxford English Dictionary to the Mac, troubleshooting an ailing hard disk, iMac screen problems, and converting old Palm Desktop data.Show full article
Just got an iPhone 3G -- Are services offering to unlock the iPhone legitimate? (7 messages)
Google Chrome OS to Power Netbooks in 2010 -- Chrome OS will rely on Web apps, which were moderately successful on the iPhone before real applications were enabled. Will they succeed on Google's operating system? (7 messages)
TidBITS marked as spam? Why would Entourage mark a TidBITS issue as spam, when other issues have never been flagged, and there's no obvious trigger that would engage the filters? (16 messages)
Password for email on iPhone -- If you're concerned about someone breaking your four-digit passcode on the iPhone, you can enable the option to erase the memory after ten failed attempts. (3 messages)
Where's my Notifications! One would expect more iPhone apps to take advantage of push notifications, but setting them up seems to be a barrier to entry at the moment. (15 messages)
Oxford English Dictionary Returns to the Mac -- The O.E.D. is also available online with a subscription, and according to a developer who works on the site, Mac support is a high priority. (6 messages)
Ailing external hard drive -- Zeroing the data on an external hard disk seems to have fixed a glitch it was experiencing. Also discussed: where should you go to purchase computer hardware. (16 messages)
Can anyone recommend a lanyard for Apple's Bluetooth Headset? Readers suggest accessories that help prevent losing small items like Bluetooth headsets. (3 messages)
iMac screen problem -- Screen irregularities bring up the question of whether the problem can easily be traced to the screen itself, the cabling, or the graphics hardware (which would necessitate a logic board replacement). (2 messages)
Palm Desktop Conversion -- What options are available for extracting data from the aging Palm Desktop? (7 messages)