Ever been confused by file sharing or worried about its security implications? Our newest ebook, "Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther," tells all, and author Glenn Fleishman provides three of his best tips here. Glenn also looks at Apple’s Bluetooth 1.5 update, Adam evaluates our recent revenue experiments, and we note the pending retirement of Apple CFO Fred Anderson as well as Text Wrangler 1.5.1, Mailsmith 2.1.1, and Snapz Pro X 2.0. Plus, user groups discounts on Take Control ebook orders!
Ambrosia Releases Snapz Pro X 2.0 — Ambrosia Software has released a major update to Snapz Pro X, their utility for making screenshots and recording movies of on-screen actions under Mac OS X. Much of Ambrosia’s attention went toward improving Snapz Pro X’s video capture capabilities, which enable it to capture full-motion video, complete with digital audio and an optional microphone voiceover. For those of us who use Snapz Pro X primarily for static screenshots, Ambrosia streamlined the interface, added a live preview so you can see the results of different settings, provided a FatBits mode for close-ups, and more. On the downside, installing Snapz Pro X 2.0 seems to have had the effect of wiping out all my Startup Items, so I recommend recording your list before installing, just in case. Snapz Pro X 2.0 Movie Capture costs $70, and upgrades from Snapz Pro X 1.0 Movie Capture are $20, or $40 from Snapz Pro X 1.0 Image Capture (the version that’s not licensed for capturing video). If you don’t need movie capture, Snapz Pro X 2.0 Image Capture costs $30, and upgrades from the previous version are free (just download the demo and it should pick up your registration information; Ambrosia’s site is wildly confusing on this fact). It’s a 5.2 MB download. [ACE]
Text Wrangler 1.5.1 and Mailsmith 2.1.1 Available — Hot on the heels of last week’s release of BBEdit 7.1.2, Bare Bones Software has shipped two more maintenance upgrades. TextWrangler 1.5.1 adds Rendezvous discovery of local FTP servers, an Open Scripts Folder command, and more of those sort of niggling features and bug fixes that can make a huge difference in everyday usability. TextWrangler 1.5.1 requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later and is a 7.7 MB download. Switching to the email side of things, Mailsmith 2.1.1 adds the capability to view the source of outgoing messages and fixes a number of minor bugs. It’s a 14.9 MB download and requires Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later, with 10.2.6 or later recommended. [ACE]
Apple CFO Fred Anderson Retiring — Apple announced last week that the company’s well-respected chief financial officer Fred Anderson will retire 01-Jun-04; he will be replaced by current comptroller and finance VP Peter Oppenheimer, who has been leading many of Apple’s financial departments for some time. Apple plans to appoint Anderson to its Board of Directors once he retires; Anderson also serves on the boards of eBay and E.piphany. Anderson came to Apple from ADP in 1996 (bringing Oppenheimer along with him in 1997) and quickly found himself playing a key role in leading Apple’s day-to-day operations following the resignation of Apple CEO Gil Amelio in 1997. At that time, current CEO Steve Jobs was merely a "key advisor" who would be helping out with the so-called CEO search committee; he wouldn’t be formally crowned CEO until early 2000. Although Steve Jobs’ near-legendary vision and re-invention of the Macintosh and Apple’s product line has been central to Apple’s recovery, Anderson also played a key role in shepherding the company through some of its darkest hours, in part by keeping the company out of significant debt and preventing it from becoming a takeover target. [GD]
Take Control User Group Discount — User groups have long been one of the mainstays of the Macintosh community, which is why we’ve always encouraged user group newsletters to reprint TidBITS articles for free. Now we want to extend that support to our new Take Control series of electronic books, so we’re offering all user group members coupons that are good for 10 percent off all orders. We’re also planning to provide a free copy of each book to user groups for raffling off and/or review in the group newsletter. If you’re in a user group, ask one of the officers of your group to contact me at <[email protected]>, and I’ll put your group on our list to receive the free copies and the discount coupons. [ACE]
Apple last week released Bluetooth 1.5, which enables owners of Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth printer adapters to use them directly with their Macintosh. Bluetooth 1.5 is available via Software Update and as an 8 MB standalone download.
With the addition of the iChat AV 2.1 beta released the same day, you can use iChat with a Bluetooth wireless headset that’s normally used as a microphone and earphone for a cell phone, such as the Jabra FreeSpeak. You can also use set a headset for your microphone input and speaker output in the Sound preference pane. However, since Bluetooth headset batteries offer only two hours or so of active talk time from a full charge, more intermittent use is likely.
Bluetooth headsets are designed for poor cell phone conditions, so they typically provide superb noise and echo cancellation and incorporate high-quality microphones, which could make iChat AV audio and audio/video chats substantially clearer.
Bluetooth 1.5’s printer support lets a Mac print to output devices equipped with built-in or adapter-added Bluetooth. Although Wi-Fi is more popular for networking printers, Bluetooth requires less coordination to associate quickly with a printer.
For headset support, you need the latest firmware – version 1.0.2 – installed on your Bluetooth adapter. This firmware installs in all adapters Apple has offered directly, including its built-in and D-Link USB adapters, except the very first USB model shipped by Apple way back in April 2002. Surprisingly, some recent Macs with built-in Bluetooth – such as the 15-inch PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) – also need to be updated, so if you’re not seeing results after upgrading to Bluetooth 1.5, you may need the firmware update.
Back in September 2003, I wrote about several new revenue sources we were testing in an attempt to supplement our waning income stream. I want to report back on how well they and some other projects have performed, particularly since a number of people had inquired.
DealBITS Drawings — We’ve done five DealBITS drawings so far, and overall, I’m quite pleased. After the initial setup work, we’ve managed to streamline the process of setting up a new drawing to minimize the effort on our end, and they seem popular with readers, thanks to the chance to win a free product and the discount for entrants who don’t win. In terms of revenue, DealBITS has performed acceptably, generating roughly the same amount in a week as we’d receive from a sponsor for that week.
Two other positive aspects of DealBITS surprised us. First, the number of entrants for each drawing has been fascinating to watch, since it’s essentially a way of determining how attractive that product is to TidBITS readers. It’s not a statistically significant number, of course, since some number of people would enter a drawing to win floor lint, other people wouldn’t enter a drawing if the odds of winning something good were 1 in 2, and unrelated events (like the holidays) undoubtedly affect whether or not some readers will find the time to enter.
Second, because a particular DealBITS drawing runs for only a single week, it ends up being significantly less expensive overall than a longer-term sponsorship, which makes it more accessible to smaller companies. We’ve long been troubled by our inability to figure out ways to help small companies promote their products while not diluting the value of sponsorships, and DealBITS seems to be a good step in that direction.
Spotlighting Peachpit Books — Another thing we tried was putting tiny nano-reviews of particularly interesting Peachpit books in our sponsorship section; revenue was generated when readers purchased those books through our affiliate program. From an income standpoint, this approach was fairly dismal, generating in a month less than a tenth of what we’d earn from a sponsor in that time. As we brought more sponsors online toward the end of 2003, it became clear that the nano-reviews weren’t earning their keep in that space. The effort of selecting and writing up a book within the space constraints of our sponsorship area was more onerous than I’d expected, and the InformIT affiliate program run by Peachpit’s parent company lacked both ease-of-use and any kind of real-time reporting, making it a rather frustrating experience.
Despite its poor performance, I’m not writing this idea off entirely, because I think there are ways an affiliate-based revenue stream can prove useful both for readers and for our bottom line. If and when we try again, we’ll rejigger the approach.
Google AdSense — We had high hopes for Google’s AdSense program, which publishers like us can use to place targeted AdWords ads on their sites. AdSense uses a click-through model, so the publisher earns a few cents per click. Thus, earning any kind of real money via AdSense requires a vast number of impressions from which to generate a non-trivial number of click-throughs.
Our AdSense numbers started out promising, as visitors to our Web site were initially intrigued by the novelty and clicked through at a good clip. The click-through rates tracked our publication schedule, peaking on Tuesday with a new issue and trailing off throughout the week. Unfortunately, the numbers, even on Tuesdays, started to drop after a few weeks, and by the time we removed the AdSense ads from our pages at the end of 2003, we were down to earning, in Seattle coffee terms, roughly a latte per day. We replaced the AdSense ads with ads for our Take Control ebooks, since selling even a single ebook would buy us that latte.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been surprised at the lousy performance for Google AdSense, not through any particular failing of the AdSense program, but because our audience, though large, is relatively static. Sites that do well with AdSense, I suspect, have a very large and changing audience, so the AdSense ads remain interesting and fresh. For our loyal readers visiting the site each week, the AdSense skyscraper ads faded into the page background. As much as Google does a fairly good job matching the ads to the content of the page that contains them, we also found that we seemed to end up mainly with generic ads for Macs, which we recommend buying through our long-time sponsor Small Dog Electronics, or with ads for non-Mac products.
Take Control — Although revenue from our Take Control series of electronic books doesn’t directly support TidBITS, it’s all intertwingled, and in that regard, Take Control was our home run for 2003. Despite a bunch of wasted effort on an abortive attempt to use our own merchant account (demonstrating why most people should stick with online stores like Kagi or eSellerate), Take Control sales have been amazing. Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther" has sold more than 5,000 copies, Matt Neuburg’s "Take Control of Customizing Panther" has sold more than 3,600 copies, Kirk McElhearn’s "Take Control of Users & Accounts in Panther" has just hit 1,500 copies, and Glenn Fleishman’s "Take Control of File Sharing in Panther" is off to a promising start with over 600 copies sold in the first few days (see the excerpt elsewhere in this issue).
Although the Take Control ebooks ended up being more work than we anticipated (mostly due to the effort of living up to our own standards), they’re both financially worthwhile and tremendously rewarding, since they’re meeting our goals of being highly practical, tightly focused on specific topics, and extremely affordable. It’s great fun creating something that people really like and that actually helps put food on the table for both us and worthy authors.
PayBITS — Lastly, although it’s not a new revenue source, I wanted to report back in on our PayBITS experiment, which helps readers acknowledge the value of information in an article via direct payments to the author. So far, it’s defied coherent analysis because there are too many variables that arise when someone is deciding to pay for an article. For instance, some people see it as a way of supporting TidBITS in general, with a particular article as the impetus for making the payment. Others may pay for one article, but then not for another equally useful article because they feel that they’ve spent enough on TidBITS or on that author (particularly me, since I write so many of the articles) for a while.
Some of our outside authors have done well, with David Shayer receiving over $400 for his ultra-detailed comparison of disk repair utilities (see "Shootout at the Disk Repair Corral" in TidBITS-707). Some articles have approached $100 in PayBITS payments, but others have netted almost nothing, and we haven’t been able to identify patterns.
As a result, I’ve been working entirely on instinct with regard to when to include PayBITS blocks underneath articles. Here’s my current approach. Unless we believe that a staff-written article is likely to be particularly useful, we’re going to publish it without a PayBITS block. The problem is that PayBITS can succeed only if people don’t feel as though they’re being pinged incessantly by it. There’s nothing special about the PayBITS block text, though, so if you want to reward an author for an article that lacks an explicit PayBITS block, you can likely use that person’s email address from the byline with PayPal.
My hope is that by limiting our use of PayBITS blocks to just those articles written by outside authors (and only those who want or are allowed to accept payments) and staff-written articles that are especially worthy, we can focus enough more attention on PayBITS that the amounts per article will increase. We’ve never promised that PayBITS would provide anything more than money you wouldn’t pass by on the sidewalk, but it’s always nicer if an author can end up with $40 instead of $3 – it’s that difference between a couple of music CDs and a latte.
Eventually, when we have everything moved over to Web Crossing (see "The Web Crossing Begins" in TidBITS-711), we hope to integrate PayBITS better, and perhaps even start supporting one of the new micropayment companies, like BitPass.
The Bottom Line — Despite the varied levels of success of these different efforts, it’s clear to us that we must continue to concentrate on our corporate sponsorship program, since that’s where we can most effectively generate the funds necessary to keep TidBITS functioning, while at the same time helping worthy companies introduce their products and services to readers in ways that everyone finds helpful.
Even non-techies know about file sharing, mostly due to music that’s illegally uploaded and downloaded through peer-to-peer systems like Gnutella and Kazaa. Other types of file sharing exist, but they don’t tend to make the covers of mainstream magazines. This article is about those other types – the routine file sharing that takes place in homes and offices for tasks such as managing project files shared by individuals in a group and creating a central archive of important files.
File sharing usually engenders frustration: we only think about sharing files when it doesn’t work, or when a system we think we know acts unexpectedly. I’m fascinated by the topic, so I wrote "Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther" with the hope of taking the sting out of file sharing frustration and introducing you to time-saving techniques that will improve security, increase flexibility, and simplify file transfer. To give you an idea of what’s in the ebook and provide some useful help, here are three of my best stand-alone tips from the book.
IP over FireWire for Small Ad Hoc Groups — Mac OS X 10.3 Panther can use FireWire cabling as a networking method, just like Ethernet or AirPort. Because even FireWire 400 is a few times faster than 100 Mbps Ethernet, IP over FireWire can be a great way to hook up small networks on the fly.
You may already know about FireWire Target Disk Mode, in which you connect a laptop, for instance, to another Mac, and then power up the laptop while pressing the T key on the keyboard. When the laptop finishes booting, it shows a FireWire symbol on its screen (and nothing else) and on the other machine, the laptop’s drive appears in the Finder just like any other mounted hard disk.
IP over FireWire extends and simplifies the Target Disk Mode notion and eliminates the need to put one Mac into a special state. You can daisy chain from 2 to 63 Macs together using standard FireWire cables, or link the computers via FireWire hubs.
You enable IP over FireWire just like any other network connection:
Open System Preferences.
Click the Network preference pane.
Choose Network Port Configurations from the Show menu.
Choose Built-in FireWire from the Port pop-up menu. You might name the service "IP over FireWire".
Click OK and then click Apply Now.
Now, when you plug Macs together with FireWire cables, each computer assigns itself its own address, and the Rendezvous auto-discovery services enable each computer to see resources on other machines. You can even use Internet sharing (in the Sharing preference pane’s Internet tab) to share an Internet connection over FireWire.
Turn Off Guest Access in Personal File Sharing — There’s a fundamental problem with Panther’s built-in AppleShare server: when you enable it, a guest user – one without a user name and password – can connect and view or copy files from any user’s Public folder. This is a security hazard, and one I think Apple should offer an easy way to disable through a checkbox.
Until they do, however, you can follow this procedure for turning off default AppleShare guest access:
Find the file named
com.apple.AppleFileServer.plistand copy it to the Desktop or another folder by pressing the Option key while dragging. (You may be able to edit it in place by authenticating when saving, but it’s best to have a backup copy anyway.)
Open the file in TextEdit or any text editor, such as BBEdit.
Find the lines in the file that read:
Save the file.
Drag the original
com.apple.AppleFileServer.plistfile to the Trash or save it in a backup location elsewhere.
Move your edited version back into
If you’ve already turned on Personal File Sharing, restart it by stopping it and then starting it in the Sharing preference pane.
Restore Jaguar-like Server Browsing — Panther 10.3 through 10.3.2 creates a split in the way that you mount shared file servers compared to earlier versions of Mac OS X. Under Jaguar and previous releases of Mac OS X, all file servers were "hard mounted." A hard-mounted file server appears as an icon on the Desktop (assuming you have that option turned on in the Panther Finder’s Preferences window), and is for most purposes exactly like a local hard disk. But with hard-mounted servers, if the server becomes unavailable – your network connection goes down, the server crashes – your Finder can lock up for quite some time, even under Panther, until it decides to release the missing server.
You can still hard mount servers under Panther by choosing Connect to Server (Command-K) from the Finder’s Go menu and entering the server’s details manually, but Panther also offers an interesting, but flakey, new option for mounting servers on a local network, long available in Unix: "soft mounting." A soft-mounted server is more like a folder. Instead of it showing on the Desktop, you browse to it using the Network browser (the Network icon in the Finder’s sidebar). If the server or your network becomes unavailable, Panther doesn’t complain or pause even when you try to access the unavailable server, of course – it’s just not there any more. When the server becomes reachable once again, you can browse that folder and find the server’s contents in it.
Originally, I thought that soft mounting was an excellent alternative to servers on the Desktop because soft-mounted servers are always available without any login process. But in practical use, I continually find strange behavior: having to re-enter a password, not finding servers that I think were soft mounted, mounting servers as both hard and soft at the same time. It’s too much to manage compared with the relative ease and few disadvantages to hard mounting servers.
To avoid soft mounting entirely and to skip entering machine numbers or names in the hard-mounting dialog, you can mostly restore the Jaguar-style Connect to Server browsing dialog. My colleague Dan Frakes gave us this one-line AppleScript script which triggers a version of the old software interface.
/Applications/AppleScriptfolder, launch Script Editor.
Enter the following in the default Untitled window that opens:
open location (choose URL) with error reporting
Save the file in
/Library/Scripts/Finder Scripts/as "Old Hard Mount" or whatever you choose.
Turn on the Finder Script menubar menu by running Install Script Menu from the
While in the Finder, select the script from the Finder Scripts submenu of the Script menu, and there’s the beautiful old Jaguar network browser. This version, however, makes you select which type of server you want to browse for through a pop-up menu.
"Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther" — In addition to the tips above, the 96-page ebook covers all the built-in methods of sharing files using the Web, AppleShare, Samba, and FTP (it even gives a few pointers on NFS and several lesser-known options), while guiding you through changing configuration files and using third-party software to avoid pitfalls and problems. For example, I give steps for changing Apple’s configuration files to enable WebDAV file sharing using Panther’s Apache Web server and to use Apache to share folders other than the defaults (a useful option that I also demystify for AppleShare and Samba).
For Panther users who find themselves in mixed Mac and Windows networks, the ebook covers both how to connect to a Panther system running the built-in Windows-style Samba file server, and how to connect from a Panther machine to a Samba file server running on a Windows computer (or another Mac or Unix system, even).
In researching the ebook, I found that Panther changed the equation for many aspects of file sharing, from browsing on a local network for servers to turning servers on with the right amount of security. I addressed these problems with specific, step-by-step instructions, plus I wrote a long section detailing how to connect to Panther servers from major platforms, including Panther, Jaguar, Mac OS 9, and Windows XP. The book also covers sharing music and photos with iPhoto and iTunes, both in ways that Apple recommends and in alternative, more flexible ways. I hope you find the book helpful!
[Editor’s note: If you’ve been following our Take Control ebook series, you’ve noticed that previous books have carried a $5 price. This one costs $10, but the increase is not simple price inflation of the sort Consumer Reports loves to document ("Smaller size, bigger taste, same great price!"). At 96 pages, Glenn’s ebook is nearly twice as long as the others, was considerably more work for all of us, and will probably grow even larger when we release free updates. -Tonya]
.Mac benefits — It’s time to revisit the ongoing question: is Apple’s .Mac service worth the annual subscription? (5 messages)
Apple Releases Safari 1.2 — Panther users can take advantage of the newest Apple Web browser, though some people still report problems accessing sites such as banks. (20 messages)
Unix Hard Links in Mac OS X — Unix-inclined readers discuss methods for linking files on a Mac. (18 messages)