Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tech Pulse 20071108: Does Mac Security Suck?

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Josh and Big-O discuss Google's Android phone platform announcement and the new Mac OS X Trojan spreading through porn sites, and talk at length about the pros and cons of Mac OS X vs. Windows security.

Notes and links related to this episode:

Opening Thoughts
  • The iBride and iGroom have posted details about how they met and how they planned crashing the Apple Store
Tech News
  • Google's mobile phone platform announcement: the Open Handset Alliance and "Android"
    • Google is not (yet) building its own cell phone hardware
    • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pooh-poohed Google's efforts, calling the Open Handset Alliance "just some words on paper right now" and boasting that Microsoft has "many, many millions of customers" who use Windows Mobile on their phones
    • The open, Linux-based nature of Android contrasts sharply with the closed software platform of the iPhone (at least until February when Apple plans to release an iPhone SDK)
    • If Google chooses to make it an ad-supported platform, how invasive will it be to the user's privacy?
  • New Mac Trojan horse (eloquently dubbed "OSX.RSPlug.A") is in the wild and being distributed through porn sites
    • Trojan horses do not self-propagate or spread themselves automatically over a network
Special Feature: Does Mac Security Suck?
  • Similarities between Leopard and Vista security:
  • Cons of Mac Security:
    • the Leopard firewall is off by default vs. Windows XP SP2 and Vista's firewalls being on by default
      • being off by default makes Macs running any kind of networking services much more vulnerable to remote attacks and exploits
      • plus, the Leopard firewall has been criticized as allegedly not working as well as it should
    • lack of anti-phishing in Safari and Apple Mail vs. anti-phishing built into IE7 and Windows Mail
    • the Status Bar is still turned off by default in Safari 3 in Leopard; this leaves users completely unaware of where any link will take them, which can make it easier for people to fall into traps such as phishing scams
  • Pros of Mac Security:
    • Leopard uses a proven BSD-based networking stack vs. Vista's virgin stack
    • real-world numbers of viruses and spyware for Mac compared to Windows: Sophos reports that by the end of 2006 there were over 207,000 known malware threats (PDF link), and so far there have been fewer than 5 known Mac OS X Trojans in the wild; Windows is still by far the biggest target
    • Mac OS X comes with a Web filter (as part of its Parental Controls, for non-admin accounts only) vs. Vista includes no Web filter
    • Mac OS X knows when to (and more importantly, when NOT to) prompt the user for administrator approval, "without bugging the crap out of you" and "going overboard" like Vista does; Vista users can get so desensitized to these prompts that they simply dismiss them out of habit without paying attention to what's going on
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tech Pulse 20071026: Special Edition: Mac OS X Leopard Launch

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Tech Pulse Special Edition Leopard LogoJosh covers the launch of Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard, talking to several people in the line (including Victor Cajiao of the Typical Mac User podcast), giving his first hands-on impressions of Leopard, and doing exclusive coverage of the wedding-day Apple Store crashers!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Leopard Launch
  • Josh attended the Leopard Launch at the Apple Store, Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, California
  • Standing in the line:
    • Josh met Victor Cajiao of the Typical Mac User podcast, who commented that Steve Webb from the Lifespring! podcast was also standing in line
    • Victor gave his initial impressions of Leopard (which he installed that morning) and usage tips
    • Josh spoke with several other people standing in line
  • Inside the store:
    • It was very loud (hence the distorted audio on the podcast, which I cleaned up the best I could, and hence the extensive notes here for those who can't figure out what I was saying)
    • Leopard (Mac OS X v10.5 Build 9A581) was installed on all the Macs in the store
    • Josh tried out Leopard on a new 24-inch iMac
    • On the iMac, the Dock was on the left side of the screen, and Josh noted that the Dock's backdrop wasn't shiny like when placed at the bottom of the screen; it looks more like the Tiger Dock, but with a black tint rather than a white one. This was changed in a near-final build of Leopard after users suggested that it just didn't look right, partly because it looked like the icons should slide right off the 3D Dock
    • Safari 3.0.4 is included with Leopard. Josh noted that this version apparently still doesn't have the Status Bar turned on by default. The much bigger disappointment, however, is that Apple apparently never finished developing the anti-phishing features that were included in developer builds as little as a year ago, thus making Safari the ONLY major Web browser that doesn't have phishing protection built in. So much for Apple providing the safest online user experience! (Users can always add their own anti-phishing, e.g. through OpenDNS, but the users who are most likely to fall for phishing scams are most likely to use the default configuration of the default browser)
    • In Leopard, Safari includes a Web Clip button, which makes it super easy to take any part of any Web page and make it into a Dashboard widget
      • Just click the button, select the part of the Web page you want on your Dashboard, and it will open your new widget in the Dashboard instantly
    • When you double-click on Macintosh HD, you'll have a list of shared computers in the sidebar, under which several of the Macs and PCs on your LAN appear. All the Macs in this particular Apple Retail Store were named ars094.01 and up. Of course there were no PCs on the LAN so I was unable to confirm whether they show up with a Blue Screen of Death icon as had been the case in pre-release builds of Leopard, nor were there any old Macs on the LAN to see, for example, whether a Blue & White G3 or a Mirrored Drive Door G4 would appear with its own unique icon.
    • As an aside, Josh noted that the wired model of new Apple keyboards has 19 function keys at the top (whereas the MacBook Pro, the new Apple wireless keyboard, and many others only have F1-F12, this new USB keyboard includes F13 all the way up through F19). The extra keys isn't quite as good as it sounds because several of the keys do NOT act as a function key by default, but instead perform operations such as invoking Dashboard or controlling the volume; you have to hold the "fn" key in order to use many of the F-keys as actual F-keys.
    • Spotlight searches now include results from the contents of Web pages you've visited recently in Safari. For example, I had pulled up techpulsepodcast.com and closed it, and a few minutes later when I did a search for Leopard the site came up in the Spotlight menu! Dictionary definitions also show up in the Spotlight menu if the search keyword is a word in the dictionary.
    • The buttons in the top-left corner of each window (red, yellow, and green) look a little different in Leopard, perhaps a bit brighter
    • Cover Flow in the Finder is pretty cool, especially for those accustomed to it in iTunes or on the iPhone or iPod touch. A couple caveats: even on the fast, brand new iMac demo unit, the Finder had to quickly cache the icons of files inside the Documents folder... twice. The first time it happened, it really didn't surprise me, but when it happened again after returning to the same folder just a few minutes later, I was a bit perplexed to find that the icon previews hadn't been saved in the cache for even that very brief amount of time. Until the icons are cached (or re-cached), a generic icon shows up in their place, which seems a bit tacky
    • Cover Flow even shows previews of Microsoft Office 2007 files (e.g. xlsx, docx, etc.). Microsoft hasn't released yet released Office 2008 for Mac with support for these formats, but Apple already supports those formats in iWork and apparently in Cover Flow and Quick Look (although it was unclear whether the latter is true only when iWork '08 is installed)
    • The first time that you run an application that was downloaded from the Internet (or at least with Safari), it says, for example "[Invisibility Toggler] is an application which was downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it? Safari downloaded this file [today at 6:42 PM]." Safari 2 would warn you when you attempted to download a file that could contain an application, while in Leopard the Finder warns you when you first try to run an application that was downloaded using Safari 3. The new Leopard way of doing things is similar to the way Windows warns users about running applications for the first time
    • When you run an application from an disk image, it gives the aforementioned "was downloaded from the Internet warning" and then says, for example "[EasyFind] is on the disk image [EasyFind.dmg]. Safari downloaded this disk image [today...]" and then there's a checkbox "Don't warn me when opening applications on this disk image".
    • Josh's freeware utility Invisibility Toggler works with Leopard, as expected
    • The new purple Aurora desktop is located at "Macintosh HD/Library/Desktop Pictures/Nature/Aurora.jpg"
    • Another new Safari feature: When you go to the Safari menu and select Reset Safari, the new dialog box says "Are you sure you want to reset Safari? Select the items you want to reset, then click Reset. You cannot undo this operation." It then gives a full list of each item that can be reset, and each item can be toggled off or on by a checkbox. The items (which are all checked by default, but can be unchecked) as desired are as follows: Clear history, Empty the cache, Clear the Downloads window, Remove all cookies, Remove all website icons, Remove saved names and passwords, Remove other AutoFill form text, Clear Google searches, and Close all Safari windows
    • Safari for Leopard doesn't include the option to switch from Google to Yahoo! for the search bar, even though this feature is available in Safari for Windows. However, the second link in the Bookmarks Bar is to Yahoo!
    • Quick Look lets you click on a document in the Finder and press the space bar to preview it instantly in a large window, which you can make full-screen (opening high-res photos this way looks awesome on the 24-inch iMac display!)
    • If you open Time Machine without having configured it yet, you'll get a dialog box that says "The storage location for Time Machine backups can't be found" and gives the options Cancel or Set up Time Machine (the latter requires authentication)
    • Time Machine apparently does NOT work with network attached storage according to this MacRumors forum thread
    • (Now the part you've all been waiting for!) A little after 7:00, a couple who had just gotten married came running through the middle of the Apple Store wearing their full wedding attire (and also a pair of black caps with white Apple logos) followed by a crew of professional photographers! The couple apparently didn't want to miss the Leopard launch even on their Big Day, so they came to grab a copy of Leopard and a pair of t-shirts and have pictures taken in front of the Genius Bar
      • If I heard correctly, the groom told one of the Apple Store employees that he met his bride while working at the Apple Store, Manhattan Village in Manhattan Beach, California. The Rancho Cucamonga store employee said he knew someone who worked at the Manhattan Beach store around the same time they worked there
      • UPDATE: The bride has posted details of how they met in the comments section of this post!
      • UPDATE: The groom has also posted in the comments section with details about how the event was planned.
      • Josh snapped some photos of the couple with his Treo—hence the paparazzi/Bigfoot style photographs. (Boy, the darn Treo couldn't get the audio OR the photos right! Darn you, Palm!!! [Or, said in the voice of Captain Kirk (skip to 3:04): "PAAALM!!!"]) The groom gave Josh permission to post these photographs on Tech Pulse:
    • Within an hour and a half, the store had given away almost all of their 500 free Leopard t-shirts—meaning that by the time the end of the night, well over 500 people had come to that particular Apple Store for the Leopard launch!
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leopard Launch Special Edition - Coming Soon!

Josh covered the launch of Mac OS X Leopard last night at the Apple Store in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Check back soon for some fun and informative content, including interviews with folks standing in line (among them Victor Cajiao from the Typical Mac User podcast!), some first impressions and notes about the new OS, and exclusive photos of a couple that got married and then went running through the Apple Store—no joke! Stay tuned...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tech Pulse 20071018: Amazon.com DRM-free MP3s, eBay Hacked, Zune Adds Podcast Support, and more!

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Lots of news including the Amazon.com DRM-free MP3 store, eBay was recently hacked leading to stolen credit card information, iPhones were unlocked then bricked then unlocked again, Zune adds podcast support, Bungie might split from Microsoft, Mac OS X Leopard is coming, and more!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
    • Apple seems to have responded to market pressure by dropping the price of iTunes Plus tracks (which are also DRM-free but come in the less ubiquitous AAC format) to 99 cents, the same price as DRM-encumbered iTunes tracks, and down from $1.29
  • Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" is nearing release: Friday, October 26th (get $20 off for a limited time through this link!)
Tech Tips
  • Task Manager tricks for Windows
    • What happened to my Task Manager?? If your task manager's tabs and buttons seem to have mysteriously vanished, don't worry—you probably just accidentally double-clicked somewhere in the window. This is a feature, not a bug. Double-click in a blank area of the window to restore the default view.
    • Can I go straight to the Task Manager in Vista? Yep; the keystroke Ctrl+Shift+Esc instantly brings up the Task Manager in Windows Vista, without going to a list of options first. The same command also works for Windows XP/2000 PCs, which bypasses the option list screen if the PC is on a domain (of course, if your Windows XP or 2000 PC is not on a domain, then the command does the same thing as Ctrl+Alt+Del).
  • On newer Macs, if you have the volume muted and then plug in headphones, the Mac will automatically unmute so you can hear through the headphones. Then if you unplug your headphones, the Mac will mute again instantly!
  • On Macs with volume keys on the keyboard: Hold Shift while pressing a volume key to temporarily disable the volume-change sound effect)
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070906: Drobo Review, iPhone Price Cuts, iPod Touch, HandBrake, and more!

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A guest review of Drobo, plus tons of iPhone- and iPod-related news, details about recent Monster.com and Mobipocket server hacks, Josh offers security tips, Josh picks the multi-OS free DVD ripper HandBrake, Kyle discusses iWork and iLife 08, and more!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
  • New Apple stuff:
    • iPod Touch, 160 GB iPod Classic, new iPod nano with video, new colors (no more white iPods of any kind, which along with the no-longer-white iMac makes Kyle wonder if Apple will drop the white MacBook design soon)
    • $200 iPhone price cut, which led to Steve Jobs' open letter to all iPhone customers and a $100 store credit for early purchasers
    • You can now purchase iPhone ringtones via the iTunes Music Store for 99 cents—but only after you purchase the full-length song for another 99 cents first
      • While it's annoying to have to pay for it twice, it's still cheaper than most ringtones for other phones, plus iTMS allows you to select the specific part of the song that you want to use as your ringtone
    • iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store for iPod Touch and iPhone
    • Apple and Starbucks are beginning to roll out a system to allow consumers to purchase the currently-playing song in Starbucks from their iPod Touch or iPhone
  • Follow-up on last episode's "Monster.com Hacked" story
    • From an e-mail sent to Monster users: "As you may be aware, the Monster resume database was recently the target of malicious activity that involved the illegal downloading of information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for some of our job seekers with resumes posted on Monster sites. Monster responded to this specific incident by conducting a comprehensive review of internal processes and procedures, notified those job seekers that their contact records had been downloaded illegally, and shut down a rogue server that was hosting these records. The Company has determined that this incident is not the first time Monster's database has been the target of criminal activity. Due to the significant amount of uncertainty in determining which individual job seekers may have been impacted, Monster felt that it was in your best interest to take the precautionary steps of reaching out to you and all Monster job seekers regarding this issue. Monster believes illegally downloaded contact information may be used to lure job seekers into opening a "phishing" email that attempts to acquire financial information or lure job seekers into fraudulent financial transactions. This has been the case in similar attacks on other websites"
      • Apparently, no passwords were stolen in this heist, although this is not specifically stated one way or another
    • More related problems have cropped up since, including Monster.com servers hosting malware
  • Mobipocket Account Passwords Possibly Stolen
    • Mobipocket is a very popular document reader application for Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs
    • From an e-mail send to Mobipocket.com customers: "We reset your password because we recently learned of an attempt to gain access to a Mobipocket server. Files containing name, account name, password, address and e-mail address for some Mobipocket customers were kept on this server. Although we have no evidence that these files were accessed, we changed your password and are notifying you out of abundance of caution."
    • This is a very good reason to use unique passwords for each of your Web site accounts! Ideally, use an encrypted password database unless you're skilled enough to memorize all your passwords
      • Palm OS: Strip (freeware, open-source) is an excellent encrypted password vault
      • Mac OS X: you can create an encrypted disk image using Disk Utility and store passwords in a file on that disk image, or use 1Password (shareware, U.S. $29.95)
      • Windows XP Professional: if you're using a secure password for your Windows account and you don't share the account with others, and if your file system is NTFS, you can encrypt a file containing passwords from the file's Properties screen (Windows Vista users must have the Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate edition to encrypt files)
  • Impressive new technology: content-aware image resizing using "seam carving" technology
    • stretch out or compact an image on-the-fly while preserving important parts of the photograph
    • it can be used to edit people out of photographs!
    • watch a video demonstration on YouTube
Special Segment
  • Review of Drobo by Ken Leslie
    • Drobo is a "data storage robot," basically a very intelligent, incredibly easy alternative to RAID
    • Overall Ken had very positive experience; Data Robotics provided great tech support, and the Drobo product works great as long as long as you make sure to test your hard drives before initially setting it up
    • (Listen to the podcast for the full review, including an explanation of what Drobo is, what it does, why it's useful, and more)
Tech Tips
  • Show all file extensions, even for known file types
    • Glaring security hole in Mac OS and Windows: you can give anything a custom icon, and by default "known" file types do not show their filename extensions. Example of why this is a problem: a file that appears to be an innocuous plain-text file may actually be a Trojan horse application with a custom icon
    • You can know what type of file it really is by manually enabling a feature in Mac OS X or Windows
      • Mac OS X: Click on the desktop, click on the Finder menu, click on Preferences..., click on Advanced, put a check next to "Show all file extensions"
      • Windows: Click on Start, Control Panel (or in some cases Start, Settings, Control Panel), then open the Folder Options panel, remove the check next to "Hide file extensions for known file types" (or "Hide MS-DOS file extensions for file types that are registered"), then click OK
    • Mac OS 9.2.2 and earlier doesn't necessarily use filename extensions, and instead uses four-character "type" and "creator" codes to determine what kind of file it is and how to open it. Thus, leaving a file without a filename extension (or by adding a false extension), it's even easier for malicious users to spoof file types. I'm unaware of any workaround that prevents file type spoofing in Mac OS 9.2.2 or earlier
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • HandBrake - Simple yet powerful DVD ripping software for Mac, Windows, and Linux, with presets for iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, PSP, etc.
    • Oh, and did I mention it's free (as in both money and source code)?
    • It does NOT convert files from one video format to another. iTunes can do this for some file types, but not all. If you, dear reader, know of any good video converter apps for Mac or Windows, please e-mail us at josh at techpulsepodcast dot com, or bookmark the application's homepage on del.icio.us with the tag "techpulseideas"
  • iWork '08
    • Keynote is pretty much the same
    • Numbers rocks by being an attractive alternative to Excel
    • Pages got some much-needed upgrades
  • iLife '08
    • GarageBand - seems like the wave of coolness is over for it; the new features didn't impress me
    • iDVD - is it really needed anymore?
    • iMovie - bleh... I wasn't impressed by the overhauled design and loss of certain functionality, but certain new things like the cursor-rollover previews are cool
    • iPhoto - finally decent Web albums (requires .Mac, though - thumbs down)
    • iWeb - Google AdSense and maps, Web snippet widget thingys, usable with my own domain name! (FINALLY!)
      • Josh discusses the possibility of unethical people creating illegitimate Apple Web Widgets for use in phishing scams
  • New Apple keyboard
  • Zune!!! (just kidding)
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070823: Monster.com Hacked, 700 MHz and Google, Open Letter to Palm, and more!

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Josh talks about Monster.com user data being stolen, Google preparing to bid on the 700 MHz spectrum, Engadget's open letter to Palm: get with the times, full screen mode in QuickTime Player without 7.2 or Pro, and the Mac browser Camino!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
Tech Tips
  • How to get QuickTime to display movies in full-screen without QuickTime 7.2 (or buying the Pro version)
    • tell application "QuickTime Player"
      present front movie scale screen
      end tell

      Save the above script as an application (you can do this with either Script Editor or Automator). The next time you open a video file in QuickTime Player, just run the AppleScript, and violĂ ! Full-screen mode.

    • useful for systems that can't upgrade to 7.2, or when using restricted accounts without installation privileges
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • Camino browser for Mac OS X
    • uses the same engine as Firefox (Gecko)
    • built-in ad blocking and Flash blocking options (which are two of my favorite Add-ons for Firefox anyway)
    • built using Apple's Cocoa API rather than Carbon (i.e. it's a more modern-style Mac app under the hood)
    • seems to be more stable than Firefox in my very limited testing (more stable, at least, than Firefox with a few third-party Add-ons installed such as Adblock and Flashblock)
    • cons: not as extensible as Firefox, and fewer choices in Preferences
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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070809: Netflix Hacked, Uninterruptible Power, Sweet Firefox Add-ons, and more!

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Josh talks about Apple's new iMac and other product upgrades, Netflix getting hacked, future huge-capacity notebook drives, the safety of using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), Firefox add-ons to block ads and increase Internet safety, and more!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
  • Apple's Tuesday event stuff:
    • New iMac, redesigned to look more like the iPhone with a glass screen, and a new, much flatter keyboard
    • iLife '08 with new automatic "Events" in iPhoto, redesigned iMovie, and more
    • iWork '08, now with Numbers (Apple's answer to Microsoft Excel), simpler word processing with Pages, and more
    • .Mac now has 10x the storage and bandwidth (increased to 10 GB storage and 100 GB/month bandwidth)
  • Netflix's streaming movie service (which relies on Microsoft DRM) has been hacked
  • Fujitsu developing 1.2 TB notebook HDs
Tech Tips
  • Hacking Safari 3.0.3 Beta to work on Mac OS X 10.3.9
    • Josh couldn't get it to work. =(
  • Consider getting an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for your desktop PC
    • What should you plug into the battery backup outlets? (Anything that might cause data loss if power is lost unexpectedly)
      • Desktop PC
      • External hard drives, NAS
      • Networking equipment (router, modem, and/or switch)
    • What only needs surge protection?
      • Monitor (would suck a lot of power from the UPS, and you can set up your PC to shut down automatically when UPS power is running low)
      • Printer
      • Speakers
      • Laptop (has its own battery backup!)
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • Favorite Firefox Add-ons (aka extensions):
    • Make the Web enjoyable
  • Add-ons that are useful to install and train people to use after cleaning up spyware infections:
    • McAfee SiteAdvisor
      • *FAR* from foolproof, but can be useful to identify many harmful sites
      • Shows its ratings next to sites in search results
    • Netcraft Anti-Phishing Toolbar
      • The same people who get a lot of spyware are often likely to click on phishing links as well. Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 have anti-phishing features built in, but it doesn't hurt to add another layer of protection
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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070802: Google Galore, Apple Profits and Patches, USB vs. FireWire, IPv6, and more!

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Josh, Anthony, and Kyle chat about Apple news, Google Phone rumors, Google apps, securing VNC, multi-service IM clients, USB vs. FireWire, Intel Core 2 Quad price drops, IPv6, the annoyance of required reboots, and more!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
Tech Tips
  • Follow-up on the previous VNC tip: How to do it securely via SSL
    • VNC is not secure by default; entering passwords and transmitting data insecurely over an open wireless network, or any untrusted network for that matter, is unsafe and can potentially leave your passwords and data exposed to hackers, identity thieves, etc.
    • How-to for Mac OS X
      • easy instructions can be found here
      • no third-party software required; Mac OS X has SSH server and client functionality built in
    • How-to for Windows
      • SSH server software: OpenSSH via Cygwin (instructions can be found here)
    • Again, I recommend configuring your router to accept SSH connections through an IANA Unassigned port, since hackers may potentially look for open SSH ports (TCP port 22) to try to break into systems
  • (Waiting for iWork '08 before doing his tip.)
  • Things you didn't know Google could offer you
    • Google Docs & Spreadsheets
    • 1-800-GOOG-411
      • Josh mentioned another phone-based service (not from Google): TellMe (1-800-555-TELL) which has news (including tech news), sports, driving directions, movie descriptions and tickets, blackjack, and more—all for free
    • Google Notebook - make notes and Web clippings while browsing in Firefox
    • Google SketchUp - 3D modeling/CAD-type software
    • Kyle recommends avoiding Google Web Accelerator because it can cause problems with some sites (not to mention the privacy issues)
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • Adium - multi-service IM client for Mac
    • There is some disagreement even within the Adium development team on how Adium should be pronounced, although it's pronounced like the word "stadium" in the videos on the official site
    • Adium supports numerous services (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN/Live Chat, Google Talk, Jabber, ICQ, Gadu Gadu, and many more), is highly customizable and very Mac-like, with an intelligent Dock icon, Growl integration, and much more
  • Trillian - multi-service IM client for Windows
    • doesn't support as many IM services as Adium and Pidgin, but has a nice interface and has video support
    • also: Pidgin (formerly known as Gaim) - for Windows and Linux, uses the same engine that powers Adium
  • USB 2.0 vs Firewire 400 hard drives enclosures: Which one should I get? Which is faster?
    • FireWire 400, according to tests—in spite of the fact that the USB 2.0 specification of 480 Mbps indicates that USB should be faster
  • Best deal for speedsters: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, 2.4 GHz, 2x 4 MB cache, LGA775 socket, recently priced at $289 on zipzoomfly
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, 2.4 GHz, 4 MB shared cache, LGA775, recently $223 on zipzoomfly
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ Windsor, 3.0 GHz, 2x 1 MB cache, AM2 socket, recently $169 on mwave
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160, 1.8 GHz, 1 MB cache, LGA775, recently $96 on newegg
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Windsor, 2.0 GHz, 2x 512 KB, AM2, recently $68 on zipzoomfly
Listener Questions
What is IPv6, and how does it differ from IPv4?
  • IPv6 is the next version of the Internet Protocol, and is already supported by major operating systems
  • One of the main advantages over IPv4 is the huge number of addresses IPv6 supports: an estimated 5,000 IP addresses per square micrometer of Earth's surface (far more than necessary for the foreseeable future, thus providing a lot of room for growth)
  • IPv4 addresses are much shorter and much easier to memorize, so it's much more practical to use it for LANs
  • See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_address and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv6 for more information
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Is there any way to disable the annoying nag message in Windows XP that incessantly prompts the user to restart after installing critical updates?
  • Yes, although of course it's recommended to restart since the security provided by the updates may not take full effect until after rebooting
  • If you want to disable it anyway, you can try Auto Reboot Remover from IntelliAdmin or these manual instructions
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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Join Us LIVE on Thursday Nights!

Starting this week, our regular recording schedule will be Thursday nights at 8 PM Pacific / 11 PM Eastern. There will likely be some weeks when we do not record an episode, and our schedule may change again; the best way to keep track of our recording schedule is to let us know that you're interested, and we'll e-mail you to let you know whenever there's an upcoming episode.

To listen live, go to talkshoe.com while we're recording and look for Tech Pulse. If you don't see us on the main page during our recording time, try the "SEE MORE" link next to "Live Now and Featured Podcasts."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070718: New "Mac Worm," Connect to Your PC or Mac for Free, Batch Image Resizers, TextWrangler, and more!

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Josh and Big-O discuss the alleged new "Mac worm" and Mac security in general, how to remotely connect to your PC or Mac for free using VNC, batch photo resizing freeware apps for Windows and Mac, TextWrangler, and more!

Notes and links related to this episode:

Opening Thoughts
We have a regular recording schedule for the time being! You can listen LIVE on Wednesdays* at 8 PM Pacific / 11 PM Eastern (except July 25th). Just look for us on talkshoe.com during the hours when we're recording. *UPDATE, 1 August 2007: We've decided to change our regular podcast schedule to Thursday nights instead.

Tech News

  • Alleged Mac worm by Information Security Sell Out
    • allegedly there's an unreleased exploit that has been tested in private—this is the so-called worm
    • so far, this is no more a real threat than "Inqtana," another proof-of-concept "worm" for Mac OS X that was never in the wild
    • there's no real evidence that it even exists; the original source is just a Blogger page that claims there's a new Mac worm
    • even if it exists, it's allegedly based on a previous hole in Bonjour that Apple already patched, so Apple would simply have to release another security patch to fix it
    • even though this thing isn't even in the wild, people are already suggesting ways in which you could prevent this from spreading to your computer
      • If you're really paranoid, turn off AirPort when in public
      • If you're really paranoid but you need to use a shared or public network, go to Apple menu, System Preferences, Sharing (then if desired, take note of your settings under the Services and Firewall tabs so you can restore them later). Uncheck everything under the Services and Firewall tabs, and under the Firewall tab make sure it says "Firewall On"
      • See the comments on Slashdot and Ars Technica for more technical ideas (but try them at your own risk—especially if they involve changing system file ownership or permissions)
  • Sony releases YouTube wannabe called Crackle
Tech Tips
  • Connect to your home computer from anywhere in the world for free using VNC
    • Why pay for commercial software when you can do it for free?
    • Software:
      • UltraVNC (server and client apps for Windows)
      • Vine Server (server app for Mac OS X, and a minimal version for Mac OS 9)
    • Choose a custom port (for security through obscurity)
      • Prevents casual would-be hackers from identifying that you have VNC running on your computer
    • Choose a strong password
    • Configure your software, set up port forwarding in your router, open the port in your software firewall
    • Test and troubleshoot while you're at home to make sure it's working properly
  • Getting magnets out of hard drives
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • Freeware batch image resizer apps - handy if you e-mail a lot of photos
    • Resize! for Mac OS X and Mac OS Classic, by K Studio - very simple interface, works great for basic batch resizing needs
      • works on Windows, too, but...
    • BIMP Lite for Windows, by Cerebral Synergy - totally awesome, TONS of features
      • batch convert between image formats (BMP, PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF, etc.)
      • batch resize, rotate, rename, output to FTP, and lots more
  • Big-O's related pick: Paint .NET for Windows
    • great replacement for Microsoft's Paint app
    • free as in money and source code
  • TextWrangler from Bare Bones Software
    • freeware text editor for Mac OS X with lots of nice features
    • advanced search and replace features
    • great for HTML, XML, Perl, etc. coders because it automatically color-codes for many programming languages
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070711: iPhone Nano Rumors, E3, OpenOffice.org, Quicksilver and Launchy, GeekHosting.com, and more!

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Josh, Anthony, and Big-O discuss rumors about an iPhone Nano and share some E3 highlights, tech tips, and picks including OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice, Growl, Quicksilver and Launchy, and GeekHosting.com.

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
Discuss some interesting recent news in the tech industry

  • iPhone Nano rumors are discussed - when might one be released? Around the end of the year, perhaps around the holiday season?
  • Highlights from the E3 electronic entertainment expo
    • Nintendo is bringing back the light gun: the Wii Zapper
Tech Tips
  • In Mac OS X, you can Force Quit an application from the Dock using the contextual menu
    • Right-click (or Control-click) on the application in the Dock and hold the Option key, and Quit will change into Force Quit
    • Josh and Big-O discuss ways to force an application to quit via the Terminal
      • Use the command top to find out the process ID number of the crashing application, then use kill -9 processid
      • Alternatively, killall applicationname (case sensitive, e.g. "Finder", not "finder")
  • iPod setup and maintenance
    • Enabling disk mode for PC and Mac
      • Format it on a Windows PC, then you can use it on both
    • Improving performance
      • You can defrag the iPod hard drive (not recommended by Apple)
      • Alternatively, you can reformat and reload all songs
Software/Hardware/Site etc. Picks
  • OpenOffice.org (Windows/Linux) / NeoOffice (Mac)
    • free and open source Microsoft Office replacements/supplements
    • support opening Microsoft Office, Microsoft Works, WordPerfect, and several other document formats
    • NeoOffice can open and save documents in the new Microsoft Office 2007 file formats (e.g. ".docx")
    • The OpenOffice.org team is working on their own official port for Mac OS X
    • Big-O warns that NeoOffice is slow on all but the newest hardware
  • Growl system alerts utility for Mac OS X
    • adds visual effects to system alerts, application notifications, etc. on your Mac

  • Quicksilver application launcher for Mac OS X
    • quick application launcher - faster than Spotlight on Tiger
  • Launchy for Windows mentioned by Josh
    • alt+spacebar brings it up, very much like Command+spacebar to bring up Spotlight on the Mac
  • GeekHosting.com
    • Host your own Web site through this service, which has lots of great features at a reasonable price
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Friday, July 6, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070703: iPhone Hands-on Review!

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Anthony King (MacMod.com) and special guests Quinn McHenry (Tech-Recipes.com) and Jeff Phillips (MacTechEdu.com) share their personal experiences with the iPhone, tips about instant messaging and secret button combos, and more! Also discussed are the iPhone's unique headphone jack, the final word on Opera Mini 4 Beta vs. Safari on the iPhone... and why Josh is ticked at MySpace.

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tech Pulse 20070627: Opera Mini 4 Beta vs. iPhone, Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware Tips

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Opera Mini 4 Beta launches a preemptive strike against the iPhone, but can it possibly hold a candle to the iPhone's Safari browser? Josh and Kyle also discuss anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions for Windows.

Notes and links related to this episode:

Tech News
  • Opera Mini 4 beta tries to take on the iPhone—and fails, based on Josh's testing compared with the iPhone demo videos
    • it's fairly glitchy on Josh's Treo 680, but it is still a beta
Tech Tips
  • Scan with Trend Micro HouseCall before installing anything
    • You can also scan with Panda ActiveScan (removes viruses, but only tells you where spyware is so you can manually remove it) and/or X-Cleaner Micro Edition (the latter is very fast and only removes spyware)
  • Kyle suggests that NOD32 is the best anti-virus available ($30, but he feels like he's donating rather than buying)
    • NOD32 is the best at detecting unknown threats with the least false positives, according to http://www.av-comparatives.org/ (as an aside, the worst overall according to the site is Microsoft OneCare)
    • AVG Free (free for personal home use) is Josh's recommendation
    • ClamWin (free and open-source)
      • Lacks on-access scanning
      • Low footprint, good for people who only need an occasional scan
  • Products to Avoid
    • McAfee products
      • except VirusScan Enterprise, which is actually pretty decent in Josh's experience, but definitely stay away from the consumer/home version as it's notorious for slowing down PCs
    • Norton anti-virus products
      • same thing for Norton as McAfee: enterprise version may be good, but avoid the home edition
  • Kyle mentioned that he reformats and reinstalls Windows ever couple months, and that slipstreaming comes in handy. You can learn more about slipstreaming at these sites:
  • Kyle also mentioned the Apple commercial "Security," in which the PC is bothered incessantly by Vista's built-in security notifications. You can watch it online here.
  • How to avoid spyware infections on your Windows PC
    • Immunize your PC with SpywareBlaster and Spybot-Search & Destroy (both are freeware)
    • Josh explains how to set up Spybot to automatically download updates and re-immunize whenever you manually open Spybot
    • Josh recommends using a browser other than Internet Explorer (e.g. Firefox) and setting it as the default
    • Kyle suggests that on-demand scanners may not be enough for everyone, and he recommends using real-time scanners such as AVG Anti-Spyware Pro or Microsoft's free Windows Defender
    • Kyle also suggests trying Arovax AntiSpyware
  • Josh also mentions that new releases of Safari 3 Beta apparently need to be downloaded manually—don't expect the beta version to auto-update!