Happy New Year! Most of the staff is en route to Macworld Expo, and we have some updated appearance schedules. Also in this issue, Adam looks at what’s ahead in the computer industry for 2003, and also starts employing Habeas headers to thwart spam. Contributing Editor Mark Anbinder looks at Virtual PC 6, and we note the releases (and a few snags) of Mac OS X 10.2.3, iCal 1.0.2, and iSync 1.0. We hope to see you at Macworld!
Apple Releases Mac OS X 10.2.3 Update — Apple wrapped up 2002 with the release of Mac OS X 10.2.3, a hefty update that rolls a number of improvements and bug fixes in to Jaguar. Some changes include compatibility fixes between the Mac and certain digital cameras or external CD burners, as well as enhancements to applications such as iPhoto, iChat, Mail, Disk Utility, and Disk Copy. Mac OS X 10.2.3 also offers better iDisk performance over slow or busy network connections, updates Rendezvous networking, and makes the changes necessary for the improvements in Connectix’s Virtual PC 6. The update is available as a mammoth 51 MB download via Software Update; stand-alone installers have also been posted for updating from Mac OS X 10.2.2 or from versions 10.2 or 10.2.1 (59 MB). Prompted by discussion on TidBITS Talk and some personal experience, we recommend running Disk First Aid on your hard disk before installing the update, particularly if you’ve updated all the way from Mac OS X 10.0. [JLC]
Apple Updates iCal, iSync — Two of Apple’s flashier announcements at the July 2002 Macworld Expo have finally become more usable, just in time for the January 2003 Expo. iCal 1.0.2 brings sorely needed performance improvements to the calendar application, including speedier launch times and better importing capabilities (meaning, at least in our case, iCal now correctly imports vCal and Microsoft Entourage files). iCal 1.0.1, released earlier last week, didn’t work properly for users in time zones 10 hours or more from Greenwich Mean Time. Although the release notes for version 1.0.2 do not specifically mention this particular fix, Apple removed a notice from the iCal download page about the problem, so we assume this was a reason for releasing another update so quickly. iCal 1.0.2 is a free 10.4 MB download.
Apple also posted iSync 1.0, the release version of its synchronization utility that has been in beta since 30-Sep-02. iSync now boasts faster syncing with Palm OS devices, better Palm configuration options within iSync (you need the HotSync component of Palm Desktop 4.0), automatic synchronization with a .Mac account, .Mac Address Book synchronization, and an iSync menu bar icon. (In our testing, iSync has been remarkably slow and processor intensive.) Beginning 07-Jan-02, .Mac account holders will be able to access their Address Book information via the Web. iSync 1.0 is a 5.1 MB download. [JLC]
More Macworld Events — This is why I take my iBook with me on vacation: things happen! First Creo contacted me to renew their TidBITS sponsorship for Six Degrees, and then a flurry of email resulted in more Expo events. So, for those looking to chat with Glenn and me about The Wireless Networking Starter Kit or any other wireless networking related topic, you can drop by the DevDepot booth (#3761) at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, 08-Jan-03. They’ll be selling copies of the book that we’re happy to sign, and if you miss us there (or are just shy, even though we don’t bite), both DevDepot and the Macintosh-savvy wireless networking vendor MacWireless (booth #1646) will have signed copies of the book. Finally, for people not at the show, Glenn and I will be on the ScreenSavers show on TechTV on Friday. We’re taping from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, but I’m not sure what that means for when it will be on your cable system. Check local listings. [ACE]
The spam pandemic has grown to epic proportions. In 2002, I received over 23,000 spam messages (about 35 percent of my mail), and that’s even after employing the Mail Abuse Prevention System RBL+ realtime blackhole list and a handful of other conservative server-side spam filters on our primary mail server. There’s no question that my address is both older (it hasn’t changed since I switched away from the UUCP style <[email protected]>) and more widely published than most, but my exposure generally means I’m just ahead of the curve. If you’re not getting a lot of spam now, you’re both lucky and living on borrowed time.
Think Positive — Nevertheless, although I don’t see the amount of spam dropping for a while yet, I think we’ve turned the corner in developing the basic concepts that will eliminate most spam from our lives – at least when those concepts are intelligently combined and implemented. These concepts include so-called Bayesian filtering, which attempts to predict the likelihood that a message is spam by the frequencies with which certain words occur; whitelists, which allow mail through only when it comes from people from whom you’ve received legitimate mail in the past; and challenge/response systems, which require that new senders authenticate themselves before their mail reaches you. Also potentially useful deterrents are the various U.S. state anti-spam laws and the lawsuits against spammers they make possible; well-run blackhole lists that let mail servers refuse to accept connections from other mail servers that have been compromised by spammers; and the combination of proper default settings and network administrator education that has cut down on the number of open relays for spammers to exploit.
Note that I explicitly do not include arbitrary server-side content filtering in that list of potentially useful approaches to controlling spam. Creating server-side filters that reject mail based on the inclusion of a word or two merely because the administrator has seen those words in spam is more damaging to the overall utility of email than spam itself. Geoff Duncan brought this problem to light with "Email Filtering: Killing the Killer App" back in TidBITS-637; that article triggered widespread coverage in mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times, the Newhouse News Service, and more.
Our efforts at educating the public to the dangers of arbitrary content filters certainly don’t hurt, but the problem continues. Our recent gift issue was rejected by one mail server (which will undoubtedly do so again with this issue) because the word "cows" appeared in the text. (Ironically, it wasn’t even in relation to the worthy Heifer Project charity, but to a comment about the game Tropico.) In an effort to avoid losing subscribers when these content filter rejections trigger our bounce automation, we’ve taken to trying to switch impacted subscribers to the announcement version of TidBITS, which is much more likely to slip past content filters purely on the basis of containing many fewer words.
Cue Habeas — There’s one more new tool that we’ve just started to employ. A new company called Habeas, started by TidBITS author Dan Kohn, has come up with "sender warranted email." The idea is that, with the addition of nine specific header lines to your messages, you can warrant that your outgoing email is not spam. ISPs, email providers, spam filters, and even individual recipients can then trust that any incoming message that contains Habeas headers is legitimate.
Here’s what the Habeas headers look like.
X-Habeas-SWE-1: winter into spring
X-Habeas-SWE-2: brightly anticipated
X-Habeas-SWE-3: like Habeas SWE ™
X-Habeas-SWE-4: Copyright 2002 Habeas ™
X-Habeas-SWE-5: Sender Warranted Email (SWE) ™. The sender of this
X-Habeas-SWE-6: email in exchange for a license for this Habeas
X-Habeas-SWE-7: warrant mark warrants that this is a Habeas Compliant
X-Habeas-SWE-8: Message (HCM) and not spam. Please report use of this
X-Habeas-SWE-9: mark in spam to <http://www.habeas.com/report/>.
"But but but…," I can hear you saying. "What prevents spammers from simply adding the Habeas headers to spam as well?" Nothing. Well, except for the thousandweight of lawyers that Habeas plans to drop on anyone who does so, basing such lawsuits on both copyright and trademark law. Habeas can do this because the Habeas headers include a copyrighted three-line haiku and several trademarks. In addition, Habeas will add any infringers to a DNS-based blacklist that doesn’t suffer from some of the legal problems that have plagued other blacklists.
I’m waiting with bated breath to see how Habeas handles the first infringers. My experience with suing a spammer under the Washington State anti-spam law wasn’t great because I couldn’t expend the money, time, and effort to carry the suit through to the most satisfactory conclusion. In contrast, Habeas has venture capital and significant incentive to make examples of infringers, so they’re likely to have a better chance of running the spammers to ground and extracting financial penalties from them. By basing the protection on copyright and trademark law, Habeas avoids the many variations on state anti-spam laws and doesn’t have to wait for federal legislation that may be too little and is already too late. Plus, international copyright law offers similar protections everywhere but Afghanistan, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Oman, San Marino, Tonga, and Yemen. On the collection side, Habeas plans to turn spammers over to the collection agency Dun & Bradstreet for maximum extraction.
Although there are some high-profile spammers who are making very real money at spam (but are stupid enough to give their real names in interviews, opening themselves up to real world harassment from furious spam victims), I doubt Habeas will end up making significant money from successful lawsuits. Most spammers simply don’t have deep pockets. However, Habeas does earn money from licensing the Habeas headers to businesses. Licenses are free for individuals and ISPs that warrant that all their email is not spam; other companies pay $200 per year for a license unless their business revolves around sending verified opt-in commercial email, at which point the license is based on the number of recipients.
Practical Habeas — From a user’s standpoint, you need to know two things about Habeas: how to add Habeas headers to your email messages (remember, it’s free for individuals) and how to filter Habeas warranted messages. The details vary significantly with the software you use for email, but Habeas has developed instructions and plug-ins for many common pieces of email software (it’s just a matter of dropping a plug-in into the appropriate folder with Eudora, for instance), and they’re happy to post user-submitted instructions for additional programs. Also, many email programs hide unusual headers by default, and for those programs that don’t, Habeas also offers instructions for hiding the Habeas headers so you don’t have to look at them in every message.
What are we hoping to get out of adding Habeas headers to our mailing lists? Quite simply, less damage due to errant spam filters. Habeas is working with many of the vendors of server-side spam filters to encourage them to whitelist Habeas compliant messages, and we hope that anyone who has gone to the effort of rolling their own spam filters will do the same to reduce the incidence of false positive spam identification. I encourage everyone who’s concerned about spam to sign up for a free individual Habeas license, and for anyone working on anti-spam tools, make sure your tools whitelist Habeas compliant messages as well.
There’s no question that the use of Habeas headers will not eliminate the spam problem overnight, but when combined with the other tools and techniques that have started to appear, it should make a difference.
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On 18-Dec-02, Connectix Corporation released a new version of Virtual PC, the company’s PC emulation software. Virtual PC 6 focuses on improving the integration between Macintosh and Windows operating systems, and on boosting performance, especially under Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar.
Dockworkers Unite — Mac OS X users can take advantage of Virtual PC 6’s most obvious features: several ways of interacting with the Dock. In addition to the Virtual PC application icon itself appearing when the program’s running (like any other), icons for each Windows application you launch also appear in the Dock. Windows application icons may be kept in the Dock for ease of launching Virtual PC when it’s not running. Best of all is a separate icon for the Windows Start menu, which appears in the Dock whether or not Virtual PC is running. This icon gives you access to everything in your Start menu, such as Windows applications, documents, settings, and whatever else you’ve got in there. (And yes, you can turn these Dock integration features off.)
Our immediate thought, upon seeing the new Dock integration features, was that a future version of Virtual PC should take the next step and run individual Windows applications in their own windows, just as individual Classic applications run in their own windows with their own distinctive menu bars. (A good intermediate step would be for the Dock icons to let you change which application is frontmost within VPC’s Windows environment, which doesn’t work now.) Obviously, there are times when it makes more sense to emulate the full Windows environment, but for those Virtual PC users who use a single Windows application, it could be far more convenient to avoid using Windows entirely. Such a change would require a significant development effort from Connectix, so if you would find such a feature helpful in your use of Virtual PC, make sure to let them know.
Connectix says the overall performance of Virtual PC 6 is about 25 percent faster, thanks partly to changes Apple made in Jaguar. (The speed boost requires Mac OS X 10.2.3.)
We’re delighted to see the return of the capability to mount Virtual PC drive images in the Finder. However, it’s unfortunate that drives cannot be mounted if they are part of either an active or saved PC environment. The "save state" feature of Virtual PC, which lets you pause your Windows environment at any time and return to it later without having to wait for Windows to start up all over again, is one of its strongest capabilities – discouraging users from the habit of saving their PC’s state every time they’re ready to quit Virtual PC seems a shame. (To mount a drive image that’s part of a saved state, the user must first restore the PC from its saved state, and shut down Windows.)
TidBITS readers often remind us that, while the vast majority of new product announcements focus on Mac OS X compatibility, there’s still a large installed base of Mac OS 9 users. Such folks will be happy to note that Virtual PC still supports Mac OS 9. The capability to use the same PC configuration, drive images, and even saved states, whether you’re in Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X at any given moment, is a wonderful boon to those who often switch their computers between the two operating systems. (At least Virtual PC won’t be the application forcing you to switch!)
Lastly, Virtual PC is famous for supporting many more monitor resolutions than that of average video card drivers, including the wide-format screens of the PowerBook G4 with its 1280 by 854 LCD. Virtual PC 6 adds support for newer displays like the Apple 23-inch HD Cinema Display, at 1920 by 1200 pixels.
Buying and Upgrading — Virtual PC 6 costs $130 for the PC DOS edition, $220 for the Windows XP Home or Windows 98 editions, $250 for the Windows 2000 and Windows XP Pro editions, or $100 for an upgrade-only package (with no DOS or Windows OS included). The upgrade and DOS editions are available immediately; packages with various Windows operating systems should be starting to reach resellers soon.
Virtual PC users who purchased Virtual PC 5.0 on 01-Nov-02 or later (through 31-Mar-03) are eligible for a discounted upgrade upon faxing or mailing an eligibility form along with appropriate documentation. The upgrade costs $5 for an electronic download, $10 for physical shipment within the U.S. or Canada, or $20 for shipment to other parts of the world.
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Last year at about this time, I made a few predictions about what I thought the top stories of 2002 would be (see "Peering Into 2002’s Tea Leaves" in TidBITS-612). Overall, I did pretty well, particularly in saying that the battle over digital content would rage throughout 2002 and that wireless networking would continue its ascendence. Open for argument are whether I was right in saying that 2002 wouldn’t bring much of interest in the PDA world and whether my lukewarm prediction that broadband Internet access might recover in 2002. More interesting is the fact that I think some of last year’s top stories will continue to dominate our attention this year.
The Copyright Wars — The copyright wars continued unabated throughout all of 2002, with the Content Cartel fighting tooth and nail to preserve their existing business models against the reality that, for better or worse, sharing of digital content has become a way of life for a vast number of people. It’s safe to say that copyright and peer-to-peer file sharing will remain in the news throughout 2003. There’s no way the Content Cartel will suddenly convince millions of people to stop sharing files, but it’s equally unlikely that big media companies will admit defeat and start giving away their content online.
And as far as the legal part of the equation goes, I also don’t see major changes being applied to the DMCA and its brethren. There may be a few minor victories, such as happened recently when a jury acquitted the Russian firm Elcomsoft in one of the first cases brought under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. Also interesting reading were the comments submitted to the Library of Congress in that body’s search for possible classes of works that should be made exempt from DMCA’s prohibition on circumvention of copy-prevention technologies. But one way or another, the world of politics moves slowly.
It’s a Wireless World — Wireless networking came a long way in 2002, with precipitous price drops, progress on faster standards, and an ever-increasing number of community networks. If anything, the rate of change is going to increase in the wireless world in 2003. Right now, 802.11b is essentially just a liberating replacement for Ethernet cables, but it’s in many ways just the first step.
802.11a and 802.11g are likely to make their appearance in multi-band access points that work with any flavor of 802.11, and as the cost of chipsets comes down, we’ll start seeing wireless network access being built into less common devices. It’s easy to imagine a wireless-enabled MP3 stereo component (we’re not far off with the SliMP3 from Slim Devices), or a wireless-enabled car MP3 player that can download songs from your Mac while you’re parked in the driveway (an engineer friend patched one of these together a while back, but she has serious hardware and software hacking skills). I could also imagine wireless-enabled digital cameras that sport their own Web servers or that can upload or email pictures directly from the camera without the need for a computer (Sanyo claims they’re developing a prototype of something similar). Memory card full while you’re on vacation? Visit a wireless-enabled Internet cafe and off-load all those pictures to your server at home.
I’m looking to see Apple making some significant moves with regard to wireless in 2003. Although Apple kickstarted the wireless revolution by selling the AirPort Base Station and AirPort cards cheaply at first, Apple’s prices aren’t competitive any more, and apart from an integrated modem and support for AOL, AirPort simply no longer stands out. If Apple were to make the AirPort Base Station support both 802.11a and 802.11g (which itself is backward compatible with today’s 802.11b) simultaneously, and do the same for AirPort cards, the Mac would once again clearly be the preeminent platform for wireless networking. Apple might even benefit from upgrade revenue as existing AirPort users replace their current cards and access points in search of better performance.
Bluetooth will also be taking off in 2003 as a wireless cable replacement, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Apple building it into every Mac. Steve Jobs can’t be happy about the aesthetic mess of cables emanating from the back of every Mac (or when it trails from the bottom of the Power Mac G4 Cube), and Bluetooth support would set Apple on track for eliminating many of those messy cables.
PDAs Evolve? As much as 2002 was a ho-hum year for PDAs, 2003 could be the year that new form factors for digital devices take off. Apple’s success with the iPod, which remains one of the best-selling MP3 players despite its hefty price tag, shows that people are willing to spend money on digital devices that aren’t strictly necessary as long as the overall package is sufficiently attractive.
As far as what we’ll see in 2003, the likely products will approach from two directions – the cell phone and the tablet computer. The cell phone market has slowed as manufacturers have struggled to find compelling ways to differentiate new phones from the previous generation, but there’s no question that anyone developing a portable digital device would do well to consider adding cell phone capabilities, much as the Handspring Treo and the Danger hiptop (marketed by T-Mobile as the Sidekick) have in 2002.
Tablet PCs made their appearance in 2002, and although the reviews weren’t stellar, success will be a matter of finding the sweet spot. Apple stands a better chance at doing that than any of the PC manufacturers (with the possible exception of Sony), given Apple’s strong design sense, emphasis on digital media, and customer base that’s willing to pay more for quality hardware. The trick, I think, is that a tablet Mac must not attempt to compete with an iBook, but should be focused on playing digital media – DVD movies and MP3 music – and Web browsing (via AirPort, of course). That’s not to say it can’t have a full version of Mac OS X under the hood, with a version of the Finder that’s appropriate to whatever controller devices are available. At that point, the addition of a keyboard and trackpad via Bluetooth turns it into a perfectly useful portable computer for the relatively simple tasks most of us perform while traveling; but, the device would emphasize sitting on the couch browsing the Web while listening to MP3s over being a no-compromises laptop like the Titanium PowerBook G4.
Will some sort of Apple PDA really appear in 2003, whether it’s on the cell phone or the tablet end of the spectrum? I have no inside knowledge, but Apple is the sort of company that can grow only through constant innovation, and the iPod has proven that the company can extend its efforts to digital media devices successfully. And of course, rumors of Apple developing a PDA have been swirling since the demise of the Newton, so it could be just collective wishful thinking.
Extreme LuCiDity — Lastly, although I’m not sure it’s going to be in the news all that much in 2003, look for LCD displays to be dropping significantly in price as the year goes on. That’s not terribly interesting in itself – all technology gets cheaper – but in the case of LCD displays, I’m fascinated by some of the possibilities a cheap display presents. I started down this line of thinking a few months back when my old NEC 3FGe 15-inch utility monitor died. I didn’t want to pay much for a new monitor, and since it’s the sort of thing I use on my PCs every few months, or on servers when remote control isn’t sufficient, I decided that a svelte LCD monitor would be ideal. Thanks to dealmac, I was shocked (and gratified) to find a 14-inch LCD monitor for $150. The display quality stinks for normal use, but it’s perfect for a few hours of use every couple of weeks.
The LCD display was a necessary aspect of enabling the creation of laptop computers that let us escape the tyranny of the desk, and we may also start to see people exploiting the size and flexibility of LCDs in other ways. The concept of hanging a monitor on the wall to save desk space or enable a standing workstation is obvious, but you can go further.
With the cost dropping so low, you don’t have to be Bill Gates to buy an LCD monitor and hang it on your wall as art. Photo slide shows, screensaver patterns, iTunes visualizer displays, or even SereneScreen’s Marine Aquarium (since I never had the guts to venture beyond freshwater tropical fish) would all be welcome on my walls. I love the concept of the Ceiva digital picture frame, but it’s small, expensive, and requires a monthly service. Putting an older Mac to work running a digital picture certainly wouldn’t be cheaper than a Ceiva, but the picture could be much larger and using .Mac shared slideshows beats using Ceiva’s mind-boggingly awful Web interface.
Of course, there are far more exciting advances in display technology coming down the pike, such as massive LCD displays like Samsung’s recently announced 54 inch (137 cm) display, organic LED displays that can be laid down using inkjet printing technology, LCD paint that could turn a wall or a piece of clothing into a display, and electronic paper that could provide the tactile sensation of reading a book along with the flexibility of being a digital display device. Will any of these technologies make a difference in our lives in 2003? Probably not, but hopefully the early products using them will give us something more to look forward to in 2004.
<http://directory.google.com/Top/Computers/ Hardware/Peripherals/Displays/Flat_Panel /E-Ink/?tc=1>
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