Tag Archives: Apple

Scoble Feeds The Conspiracy Theorists

Reading through the new postings to Robert Scoble‘s blog, the Scobleizer, I came across a posting that as a Mac user I found pretty funny.

The posting is on the subject of a video of the recent Longhorn RSS announcement, however due to limited bandwidth, rather than posting two versions, he had only posted a Windows Media streaming file. This had caused problems for Mac users because the Mac version always shows the lowest bandwidth stream in the file rather than the largest. To his credit he is now chasing up the relevant team at Microsoft to sort out the problem.

The reason I found the whole thing funny is that most Mac users try to avoid dealing with the Mac Windows Media Player because of the generally poor performance. Also quite apart from the performance, even the latest version won’t run all the videos that the Windows version displays, and streaming video to it is just a waste of time.

Whilst I’m not convinced, many Mac Zealots will have you believe that Microsoft deliberately put out a poorly performing version for the Mac to give the impression of cross platform support to encourage people to use the format, but then to argue that to get good performance you really need a Windows machine, as the Mac can’t cut it. Whilst there may be a myriad of reasons as to why the bug wasn’t spotted sooner, the admission on Scobleizer can only add fuel to the conspiracy theorists!

UK Hi-Tech Crime Wave and Why I Use A Mac

Last night, the BBC showed a documentary on the UK Hi-Tech Crime Wave, which even for someone pretty up to date with the selection of security threats was pretty worrying, and was probably downright terrifying for the average user without proper virus checking, firewall or spyware detectors! As Dave Oliver has also chosen to comment on Howard’s decision to get a Mac, it also seems like a good opportunity to highlight why a Mac is now my main machine rather than a PC.

Looking at the programme first, it was primarily a whistlestop tour of the various methods by which criminals are making money from the Internet. Amongst other things it included a former chair of a local Police authority who had £2000 spent on a debit card that he never lost, which led to a discussion of skimming, where shops swipe the card information on the magnetic stripe on the back of your card (and still there even on new Chip and Pin cards), and then use the numbers online. They also interviewed an online retailer who has had problems with people using such stolen card numbers to buy goods, and who says that with his current losses eating into his profit margins, he soon will be unable to afford to keep the business going.

From there, the programme looked at the more PC based threats, firstly looking at the phising scams that have hit almost every major bank worldwide. From there it moved on to the more worrying key logging, and screen logging spyware, including another small businessman whose PC got infected with such spyware that recorded all his account details. The programme also looked at how the banks are trying to avoid the keyboard loggers by using drop down menus, but that the criminals are fighting back with applications that record the contents of your screen as well.

The final part of the programme looked at how infected, broadband connected PC‘s are used, detailing an attempted extortion against an online gambling site, where a bot-net (an group of infected PC‘s remotely controlled) was used to mount a denial of service attack, and then the attack followed up with both e-mail, and telephoned threats of extortion. According to the programme, the UK is one of the largest sources of infected PC‘s, and to be honest I’m not surprised.

The programme finished by encouraging everybody to ensure that they had up to date anti-virus software, firewalls and anti-spyware software installed, and to some extent that is where a lot of the UK problems come from. There are several people I know who still maintain that they don’t need to keep up to date anti-virus software as they don’t open any suspect e-mails. However, even people who are careful still get infected. I know of two people whose brand new PC‘s were infected in the short time the new machines were connected to download the latest virus definitions!

This leads neatly on to the reasons why I mainly use our Mac rather than a PC. Firstly a bit of background. We actually have both a PC and a Mac, and I would never have considered a Mac prior to the arrival of MacOS X. In my time with the PC I’d always messed around with alternative operating systems, particularly those that were Unix-like such as Linux, and particularly BeOS. However whilst they all had advantages over Windows in terms of interface, security and so on, ultimately I still needed to come back to Windows for software compatibility, and support. Whilst it was fun to play around with the different systems, for a machine that I could reliably keep up with e-mail, write documents and browse the web, and easily fix on the occasions it went wrong, Windows could not be beaten.

Things changed somewhat with the demise of BeOS. After that, Scot Hacker a leading advocate of the BeOS platform who wrote a regular column in Byte magazine wrote an article called Tales of a BeOS Refugee detailing how he went from BeOS to MacOS X, which led to me looking a bit deeper at what the Mac had to offer.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I spotted an end of line EMac in a sale, I picked it up. Initially it was used in a similar way to BeOS, for specific tasks, with web browsing and e-mail remaining on the PC. However over time I have gradually switched. The big changes were when the e-mail was switched over, which was as a result of a couple of events. Firstly back in 2001 Beth got sent a virus through her yahoo account – which she browsed with a web browser, and the virus downloaded onto the PC, so I decided to try and set up our e-mail so she could use a calusari.demon.co.uk address, but keeping the mail separate. When it happened, all the PC solutions cost money, or required a switch to Linux, so I left it. However a while after we had got the Mac, Microsoft Outlook, which I was using for e-mail really messed up, to the point where I couldn’t send and recieve e-mail. Looking at the Mac, it included a full Sendmail server, and following a guide on O’Reilly I was able to set up our current system where Beth and myself have separate e-mail accounts. Similarly over time, one by one, things that I used to do on the PC have switched over to the Mac. Compatibility isn’t a problem either – the whole St James Parish Profile was put together using the Mac version of Office , with the other contributors using PC‘s.

Alongside the fact that I am able to do everything I need, one of the other things that keeps me on the Mac is the security. As more and more people have issues with viruses and spyware, the Mac remains largely unaffected. Whilst there are the same security issues that affect other platforms, whether due to the size of the market or whatever, the Mac isn’t affected by the volume of viruses and spyware that affect Windows. It is worth saying at this point that whilst there isn’t a problem now, technically the Mac could be attacked in the future, (have a read of this MacWorld article for some of the myths) so I still ensure I maintain up to date protection. However it is true to say that largely I don’t worry too much about it. As the US National Security Agency said in December 2004:

The system’s default configuration is one of the most important security features provided by Mac OS X. First, as stated above, the root account comes disabled in Mac OS X. Second, network services are all initially disabled. Third, the initial logging setup is consistent with good security practice.

Compare this with a Register review of Windows XP security after Service Pack 2 which was supposed to sort out the problems:

While we found that there are indeed a few minor improvements worthy of acknowledgment, in particular, some rather low-level improvements that don’t show to the admin or user, overall, SP2 did little to improve our system’s practical security, leaving too many services and networking components enabled, bungling permissions, leaving IE (Internet Explorer) and OE (Outlook Express) vulnerable to malicious scripts, and installing a packet filter that lacks a capacity for egress filtering.

Whilst it is true that I could probably do everything I do on the Mac on the PC, and it is perfectly possible to sort out the security flaws on the PC, I’m quite happy with the Mac.

Despite having worked with Dave and had him try and persuade me to switch back for years, he has failed. It is worth highlighting that his most persuasive attempt, was when he updated his PC to Windows XP SP2. Whereas my Mac Security Updates often don’t even require a reboot, SP2 left him spending the entire weekend rebuilding his PC after the update screwed up the machine.! So am I going to swap my ‘rubbish‘ Mac whose ‘setup is consistent with good security practice‘ for an OS that does ‘little to improve our system’s practical security, leaving too many services and networking components enabled, bungling permissions, leaving IE and OE vulnerable to malicious scripts‘? Of course not, I want a machine I can turn on, read my e-mail, browse the web and be done.

As to what machine I advise people to get, I don’t regard myself as a Mac Zealot, in that I don’t particularly care whether the processor is a PowerPC or Intel. However, putting aside security, if you want a machine that you can write a few letters, browse the web, send e-mail, and espcially if you want to work with digital pictures, video or music (iLife comes for free with the Mac), you owe it to yourself to take a trip to somewhere like the Apple Store, and take a look at what a Mac can do.

If you want more totally biased operating system comparisons, take a look at this article on Operating System Advocacy.

If you don’t have up to date virus protection, take a look at these:

Norton Internet Security 2005 Norton Internet Security Mac 3.0

Apple/Intel Rumours Confirmed

So it has been confirmed, that Apple are to switch from IBM chips to an Intel based architecture. The main reasons given talk about a better roadmap for the Intel architecture, but basically boil down to the problems IBM have had producing fast and cool running G5 processors, rendering a G5 based Powerbook impossible.

Interesting gems from the keynote included confirmation of what has always been rumoured, that Apple have had an Intel version of MacOS X up and running for years. In fact every major version of the OS has been compiled on an Intel platform, and Jobs gave the entire demonstration with an Intel based Mac.

However, as has been speculated, although the underlying processor will be Intel, this won’t be running MacOS X on a PC. After the presentation and Apple VP confirmed that Apple will not support running of Windows on a Mac, nor will they allow MacOS X to run on non Apple hardware – however I doubt that will stop people from trying!

Apple/Intel Rumours Again

A couple of weeks ago Reuters started off on the Apple are going to switch to Intel chips rumour mill again. As usual nobody involved would comment officially, but there were a number of “inside sources” who have confirmed it. Robert Scoble has been commenting on the story, and claims inside knowledge.

However, others are offering a different take, considering whether Apple may be going Intel for something else.

The Tao of Mac site also links to the debunking, but also offers some reasons why even if they make the switch, you won’t be seeing a dual boot Windows/MacOS X machine.

Mac Rumours has a summary of the current state of the rumours.

From my point of view, I’m not overly bothered whose chips are in the machine, as long as it works, and as long as I’m not left in a situation where large amounts of software won’t work on the new machines because of a change of underlying processor. What makes a Mac what it is is the operating system. I’m also not expecting to see a version of MacOS X that will work on a normal PC either, as with Apple’s current business model where they sell high margin hardware, it would seem to be corporate suicide to allow cheap PC clones to run the OS. Let’s not forget that Apple tried it back in 1997, and pulled the plug on the clones.

Anyway, we shouldn’t have long to wait, as Steve Jobs is due to give a keynote at the Worldwide Developer Conference next week.