This week we cover Apple’s announcement of a strong fiscal Q4 for 2006, along with their admission that some iPods shipped with a Windows virus. In the software world, Parallels Desktop receives an official update, the outliner Acta is reborn as Opal, Skype 2.0 is released, and Matt Neuburg reviews the snippet keeper SlipBox. In Take Control News, we announce the release of “Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups” (based on two of our ebooks) and a print version of “Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner.” Plus, Glenn Fleishman looks at the lawsuit against the Spamhaus Project, and Adam is quoted in a New York Times article that also mentions Madonna and Bill Clinton. Really!
Shipping a record 1.61 million Macs helped Apple achieve stellar financial results for the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year 2006, which ended 30-Sep-06. Apple announced that it posted a net profit of $546 million on revenue of $4.84 billion for the quarter, compared to a net profit of $430 million on revenue of $3.68 billion in the corresponding quarter a year ago.
Key to these numbers were shipments of 1,610,000 Macintosh computers and 8,729,000 iPods during the quarter, which the company says represents a 30-percent increase in Macintosh sales and 35 percent growth in iPod sales from the same quarter a year ago. In a press release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “This strong quarter caps an extraordinary year for Apple. Selling more than 39 million iPods and 5.3 million Macs while performing an incredibly complex architecture transition is something we are all very proud of.”
Apple finishes its fiscal year with over $10 billion in cash. CFO Peter Oppenheimer says the company expects revenue of between $6 billion and $6.2 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2007, which ends on 31-Dec-06. Apple’s announcement added a warning that the results might be subject to significant adjustment “as a result of a likely restatement of historical results,” due to the current investigation of Apple’s stock option practices (see “Apple Reports on Options Backdating Problems,” 09-Oct-06). This adjustment could result in anywhere from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of retroactively lower earnings, but would require little cash expenditure unless irregularities beyond the scope reported by Apple from its internal investigation appear.
Apple announced that “a small number” of the video-capable iPods shipped since new iPod models were introduced last month (see “Apple Updates iPods, Introduces Movies, Previews iTV,” 18-Sep-06) are infected with the Windows-based RavMonE.exe virus. While this known virus can’t affect the iPod itself, or Mac OS computers, it can affect Windows computers to which the iPod is connected, potentially including copies of Windows running on Macs via Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop.
Properly updated anti-virus software running on a Windows computer should detect and remove the virus; Apple’s Web page about the infected iPods offers links to free tools to scan for and/or remove the virus. Fewer than 1 percent of fifth-generation video iPods available during the last five weeks are affected; no iPod nano or iPod shuffle models were involved.
Apple urges Windows users to scan their iPods with current anti-virus software, and then if the virus is found and removed, to use iTunes 7 to restore the original software. Apple couldn’t resist taking a shot at Microsoft while accepting their own share of the blame, saying “As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.”
eBay’s Internet telephony division released Skype 2.0 for Mac OS X today. The latest version, in testing for some months, brings video conferencing among Mac users or across supported platforms. That appears to be all that Skype is claiming for this upgrade from 1.5 to 2.0. Skype software is free, and version 2.0 is a universal binary; it’s a 23 MB download.
Skype offers free computer-to-computer calling. Skype handsets have just started to become available for the same sort of calls, including Skype cordless telephones, which use a computer running Skype as a relay, and Skype Wi-Fi phones, which can connect to any open or simply secured Wi-Fi network to which you have access. Skype’s computer software and handsets also offer fee-based calling into and out of the regular phone network, with free phone calls to the U.S. and Canada until the end of 2006.
I may not be an expert in humanitarian issues, but my commentary about the (RED) project in the Staff Roundtable section of Mark Anbinder’s news piece “New iPod nano Sees (RED)” (16-Oct-06) apparently caught the attention of journalist Michael Wines. In the Week in Review section of the 22-Oct-06 edition of the New York Times, Michael quoted me, writing: “‘Call it capitalactivism or activicapitalism, but it would seem to be a new breed of convergence,’ the technology expert Adam Engst wrote in TidBITS, a weekly Internet newsletter.”
Although I suspect this will be the first and only time I’ll be quoted in an article that leads with Madonna and talks about former president Bill Clinton, I rather like being in the Week in Review section, since it fits with my philosophy that the most important news and opinions are those that survive their initial burst of exposure to be recorded subsequently for posterity. So, thanks, Michael!
Users of Symmetry Software’s Acta outliner – which was my favorite outliner back in 1993 (see “Inspiration 4.0: Outliners and Me,” 14-Jun-93), although I never formally reviewed it – will be delighted to learn that its original developer, David Dunham, has rewritten it from the ground up as a Cocoa application and has released the result as Opal. Opal can open Acta documents, and its interface is reminiscent of Acta’s, in its look and feel as well as its simplicity and intuitiveness. (Acta itself, meanwhile, continues to run in Classic, and is available for free.)
Unlike several other current outlining programs for Mac OS X, Opal doesn’t have multiple columns, comments (notes), clones, or style sheets. What it has is outlining! You enter topics, you rearrange them, you navigate them, you collapse or expand them, and you view them in useful ways, including a “filtered view” that lets you see only those topics that contain specified text. A topic is styled text and can include multiple paragraphs, graphics, and clickable links to files on disk.
So, Opal will appeal particularly to those who want a straightforward outliner without extra bells and whistles. You might be a former Acta user. You might be a potential outlining beginner, who feels daunted by the complexity of OmniOutliner or TAO. Or you might be an experienced outline user who just wants to get work done with a minimum of fuss and barely any learning curve at all.
[Conflict of interest disclaimer: I had some paid, non-programming involvement with the development of Opal in its late stages.]
Opal requires Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, and costs $32. A full-featured 30-day demo is available as a 1.9 MB download.
Parallels has shipped a significant update to Parallels Desktop for Mac, a virtualization program that enables owners of Intel-based Macs to run Windows and other operating systems within Mac OS X. Parallels now supports any amount of RAM in Mac Pro models and Core 2 Duo iMacs; previously, users of such machines with more than 2 GB of RAM had to limit the RAM Parallels used artificially, an awkward measure that required a trip to the command line. The new version of Parallels Desktop also offers partial support for Windows Vista betas and release candidates, works with developer builds of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, supports a broader range of USB devices, has better sound and video quality, and fixes various bugs. The full list of changes details these and other improvements.
Parallels has taken the unusual stance of avoiding any reference to a version number when discussing this release; it’s not mentioned in the press release, which simply calls it the Official Update (as opposed to unofficial, or beta, updates), and the Web site lists only the current build number on the download page. For those who are curious, the application is currently at version 2.2, with a build number of 1940. The update is free for owners of any previous version and is available either from the Parallels Web site or using the program’s auto-update feature.
Spamhaus is a well-regarded registry of bad actors. The British nonprofit, along with partner organizations, tracks the IP addresses that spew most of the spam issued forth worldwide. They also use honeypots and other mechanisms to keep a dynamic list of infected computers and IP addresses that act as vectors for infection. And they owe a guy in Illinois nearly $12 million due to a default judgment issued by a U.S. District Court judge when Spamhaus failed to contest a lawsuit.
That judgment may dog Spamhaus for some time to come, regardless of their seemingly accurate assertion that, as a firm that does business in the United Kingdom, a court in Illinois lacks the jurisdiction to summon Spamhaus to court in the first place.
The suit was brought by David Linhardt, who operates e360 Insight, and who alleges that Spamhaus has misrepresented the nature of his business – opt-in mailings, he claims – and impaired his revenue. Linhardt maintains that Spamhaus does business in the jurisdiction of the Illinois court in which he filed the suit. Spamhaus has annotated a record in its Registry of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) with details of what Spamhaus states are e360’s associations with spammers and use of IP addresses controlled by spammers. They also include the colorful email received by Spamhaus from Linhardt.
Spamhaus initially responded to the lawsuit to prove that it had no business in Illinois and was not under the court’s jurisdiction. Spamhaus then withdrew, because they thought responding might constitute de facto acceptance of jurisdiction on their part. Their failure to appear led to the default judgment of $11.7 million against the organization, along with Spamhaus being required to declare positively that e360 is not a spammer and stop blocking email from the organization. (Spamhaus has a variety of documents about the trial, but one Web page is rather clear and current.)
Following the judgment, e360 submitted a proposed order to the judge that would have ordered the global Internet domain authority ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to suspend the registration of spamhaus.org, the UK group’s domain name. ICANN quickly responded that if so ordered by such a court, it lacked the authority to order a registrar to suspend a registration.
The proposed order caused an eruption around the Internet, with the notion that a U.S. court could suspend a domain name outside of the internationally accepted dispute resolution process and the quasi-extraterritoriality that ICANN and domain names enjoy. While the naming and numbering authority is federally chartered by the United States, many countries have also tacitly or explicitly ceded that authority to ICANN; others dispute its authority or accept it only grudgingly at the moment. (If you want to start a fight in a hypothetical Internet geek bar, start praising or condemning ICANN.)
The judge ultimately declined last week to issue the order, noting that it was overly broad, thus avoiding what was characterized as an Internet constitutional crisis. (Further, the registrar in question, Tucows, is based in Canada!)
Spamhaus is now appealing the judgment with the aid of pro bono services provided by the Chicago law firm Jenner and Block, which volunteered itself after being urged by clients who support Spamhaus’s efforts, and who the law firm declined to identify. Statements by Spamhaus chief Steve Linford indicate that the appeal will focus on the issue of jurisdiction.
Linford has said that stronger laws in the UK that actively prohibit spam – as opposed to U.S. laws which provide civil penalties if spammers are prosecuted – coupled with a loser-pays court system have led spammers to choose lawsuit venues merely to gain an advantage in the proceeding, a practice known informally as “forum shopping.”
Spamhaus provides a way for anyone with a mail server to use the service’s collected information to calculate the probability that an incoming message is unsolicited commercial email (UCE, or spam’s nicest euphemism) – or simply to block messages. For instance, SpamAssassin has a simple method for incorporating Spamhaus and similar monitoring databases and blacklists into its scoring system.
On its own, Spamhaus doesn’t block any email, in contrast to a service like Postini – used by TidBITS thanks to digital.forest – which operates spam and virus filters for its subscribers’ mailboxes; or, for that matter, like any ISP, including America Online, which filters out supposed UCE.
If you’re unclear about how Spamhaus operates, think of it this way: Suppose I have the Caller ID service on my phone line, and I have a large printed directory that I ordered from a firm in England of phone numbers that might be used by disreputable parties. When my phone rings, I grab the book and quickly look up the number. I may choose to answer the phone or not, but if the number is in that directory, I’m inclined not to, out of hand. Some telemarketers might maintain that they only place calls to people who asked to receive them. One of them might even want to sue the publisher who sold me the directory. But as the receiver of calls, I’m well positioned to know whether I told someone they could call me or not.
The outcome of the appeal of this case could have a fairly wide bearing, no matter what decision is rendered. An appeals court could side with Spamhaus, agreeing on the question of jurisdiction and requiring the lower court to vacate the judgment. It would be quite awkward if anyone providing information via the Internet could be sued in any jurisdiction in the world, not just those in which they happen to have locations of business or other bases on which jurisdiction is typically established. (In a contract between two parties, the contract typically states under what law and in what jurisdiction actions must take place.)
Alternatively, an appeals court might disagree with Spamhaus’s attorneys and dismiss the appeal, leaving the judgment to stand. Were that to happen, it might still prove difficult for e360 to collect on the judgment, and the judge has already proven uninterested in attempting to create worldwide disharmony by ordering a domain suspended. That could change, too. Such a judgment might prevent Steve Linford from visiting the United States again, however, as e360 could potentially have him arrested were he to arrive.
Finally, an appeals court could remand the case back down to the lower court on some basis, and Spamhaus might, at that point, choose to defend itself on the facts, rather than on the meta-facts of the case.
As long-time spam fighters, we’re rooting for a successful appeal on jurisdiction. Alleged spammers shouldn’t be denied their day in court, but they should have to sue in the appropriate court.
Back when I was writing my doctoral dissertation (and we lived in holes in the ground and had to clean the roads with our tongues on the way to school), I had a big box full of large index cards, on each of which were the notes from one book or article I’d read. These were no ordinary index cards. They were high-tech! To help me navigate the complex of their mutual associations, the cards had little holes all around the edges. On each card, using a special hand punch, I would clip a notch from the edge of the card to a hole or holes corresponding to a “keyword” or idea dealt with in that book or article. To “search” the box for cards associated with a certain keyword, I slipped a knitting needle into that hole, and lifted and shook the cards. All cards that fell off the needle onto the desk (or floor) had that keyword. To do an AND search or an OR search, I just repeated the action with the fallen cards or the cards on the needle, respectively. I was the envy – or was it the laughing-stock? – of Cornell University’s Olin Library.
Oh, how I wish I’d had Markus Guhe’s SlipBox. (And a personal computer. And electricity.)
It was probably inevitable that I’d be attracted to an application like SlipBox. In the first place, it’s a snippet keeper, a classification that always interests me and about which I’ve written extensively in TidBITS. Second, just like my own applications, it’s a simple tool that the developer originally created for his own use and to meet his own needs, and then proceeded to give away for free.
SlipBox has two distinguishing features: simplicity and “scents.” Let’s start with the simplicity. A SlipBox document is, metaphorically, a box of index cards (“slips”). On each card you can put whatever you want. There’s one big field for styled text, which can include pictures and even entire files (or links to files). There are also three non-styled fields for adding keywords, source, and type information. You can add a card, navigate between cards in order, and navigate “forward and back” among recently viewed cards as in a browser. There’s also a Search tab, in which you can search on the keyword field, the source field, or the full text; a nice touch is that you can preview a found card’s text right in the Search tab, or you can click a checkbox to “mark” it for later viewing in a separate read-only window. And that’s about it. So far, SlipBox sounds rather like iData 2 – a flat-file free-form database, a digital shoebox (see “iData Pro, Go Cocoa,” 09-Aug-04).
Now, however, we come to the “scents.” Scents are SlipBox’s distinguishing feature, and here’s how they work. When you create and populate a card, you are expected to give it some keywords. These keywords need to have some consistency from card to card (if you use the keyword “Socrates” on one card you probably wouldn’t want to spell it “Sokrates” on another). To help you with this, a drawer displays all existing keywords in alphabetical order; double-click one to add it to the list of this card’s keywords. Or, just start typing in the keywords field, and the likeliest matching keyword will be auto-completed for you. In supplying these keywords, you are expected to free-associate, but, as SlipBox’s online help charmingly advises, you should not “try to create an ontology of keywords” – that is SlipBox’s job.
So what is an “ontology of keywords,” and what’s a scent? It’s simple: a scent is the (possibly forking) path created by associations of keywords on the same card. The ontology is the complete collection of such paths.
For example, suppose one card has the keywords “line” and “bug” and another card has the keywords “formatting” and “bug”. Then the following scents are created:
That’s a ridiculously simple example, of course, but it serves to show the idea. Just keep extrapolating. (There will be a scent leading from keyword A to keyword B if A and B appear on the same card, or if they each appear on different cards along with keyword C, or if A and C appear on one card, B and D appear on another, and both C and D appear on cards along with keyword E – and so on.) The idea is that you can use scents to trace associations at a distant remove, of which you would not otherwise have been aware.
The scents themselves appear in outline form in the Keyword Scent tab of your document. So, the top level of this outline is exactly the same as what appears in the keywords drawer – it’s an alphabetical list of all keywords. But this is an outline, so you can click the triangle next to a keyword to see the keyword(s) associated with it (as in my diagram, above). If you double-click a keyword, you’re taken to the Search tab and the search is performed, so now you’re looking at a list of all cards containing that keyword.
What’s really so delightfully compelling about this whole system is that it’s stupid. SlipBox isn’t doing any data mining or linguistic analysis, so you’re spared the complexities of something like DEVONthink (see “DEVONthink Thinks, So You Don’t Have To,” 08-Mar-04), which attempts “intelligently” to divine the contents of your snippets and to associate them for you. SlipBox isn’t intelligent at all; it’s merely presenting, in outline form, the card-and-keyword pairings that you yourself have explicitly constructed by using them on the same card. And that is precisely what I would have needed when I was writing my dissertation. It would have done all that my index cards did, but it would have been even better, because in addition to doing searches, I might have learned something about how the ideas in my dissertation were connected.
SlipBox has a few additional bells and whistles. It can search a BibDesk database, it can use GraphViz to chart your keyword ontology, and you can search your SlipBox documents with Spotlight (though I happen to believe that this feature is incorrectly implemented). You can export to plain text or to RTFD, link from one index card to another, and create an index card from within another application, using Services. SlipBox suffers from one curious limitation: you can’t delete a card; I believe this is because of the way each card is assigned a number incrementally at the time of creation. But you can move a card into the Trash, which takes it out of the searchable nexus, and even more important, you can move a card from the Trash back into the normal card world and then just reuse it, emptying its fields and giving it completely new content.
What SlipBox needs now is more users and some intelligent feedback for its developer. So if you’re looking for a simple snippet keeper, please give SlipBox a try. SlipBox is a 1.3 MB download and requires Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. It’s a lot better than a box of index cards, a special hole punch, and a knitting needle. And did I mention it’s free?
“Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups” Melds Ebooks — Remember how I said we spent much of our summer working on turning our font ebooks into “Real World Mac OS X Fonts” for Peachpit Press? That wasn’t all we were up to, since we also took the opportunity to sculpt the content from Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac” and “Take Control of Mac OS X Backups” (which has now moved into second place on our best-seller list behind Joe’s groundbreaking “Take Control of Upgrading to Panther”) into another print book in Peachpit’s Real World series: “Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups.” It’s 240 pages long and contains all the text from the two ebooks, massaged to merge together into a single title. If you’re interested in reading Joe’s sage advice in print, the book is available from all your favorite booksellers, and if you buy it from Amazon for about $20, we and Joe make a few more cents per copy.
“Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X” Updated — We’ve released a minor update to Sharon Zardetto Aker’s “Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X,” the ultimate guide to font handling in the new world order of Mac OS X. The changes are mostly fixes for typos, along with a replacement screenshot for one that was accidentally botched in the first version. This 1.0.1 update is free to everyone who has purchased the 255-page ebook (click the Check for Updates button on the first page of your copy to access the free update); it’s $20 for a new copy. However, you can save 30 percent (off your entire order, in fact) if you purchase Ergonis Software’s font utility PopChar X 3.0; see the PopChar X ordering page for details. Oh, and if you were wondering, these problems were also fixed during the proofreading of “Real World Mac OS X Fonts,” which includes the content from both of Sharon’s font ebooks in a single volume.
“Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner” in Print! Joe Kissell’s book about how to coordinate and cook a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner is a complete experiment for us, so we’re trying a variety of new things with it. Since we figure that many people will want a print copy of “Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner” in the kitchen while cooking (along with a printout of the “Print Me” file that provides schedules, shopping lists, and recipes you can annotate and tape up in the kitchen while working), we’ve gone beyond what we’ve done with our print-on-demand service and are making the book available directly as a print book for $19.99 (that’s for black-and-white; the color version is $35.99).
Of course, print-on-demand is still available as well for all you farsighted people who have already purchased the ebook. Just click the Check for Updates button on the cover to access a print-on-demand purchasing link where the prices are $10 lower to account for the fact that you already own the ebook. Frankly, we think it makes the most sense to buy the ebook for instant gratification and then order the print-on-demand version if you want paper, since then you don’t have to wait to start reading and you’ll be able to get free updates if we make any changes next year. It can take at least four to six business days for the print version to arrive, which is a far cry from the several minutes it takes to order and download the ebook.
FileMaker lists — Which mailing lists does one turn to for helpful FileMaker information? (2 messages)
Project management/Timekeeping/Invoicing Software? Looking to keep track of your hours? Here are 10 programs to get you started. (4 messages)
Photomatix: A Virtual Magic Wand — Charles Maurer’s latest article brings up questions of color saturation and image composition. (4 messages)
Eudora Goes Open Source with Thunderbird — Following the news about Eudora’s future, one reader goes in a different direction and switches to Apple Mail. (1 message)
What ARE Eudora’s killer features? As Eudora migrates to an open-source project tied to Thunderbird, what features set it apart from other existing email clients? (9 messages)
Services Sub-Menus Greyed on in 10.4.8? After upgrading to Mac OS X 10.4.8, a reader’s Services menu items are all inaccessible. (2 messages)
Apple Mail and Exchange Servers — A university is switching to Exchange Servers for its email, which they say is incompatible with Mail – rubbish. But how can they be persuaded to enable the necessary IMAP feature? (8 messages)