Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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

Listen to this episode! Subscribe to the MP3 feed via iTunes

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!
Log Out

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!

Listen to this episode! Subscribe to the MP3 feed via iTunes

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)
Log Out

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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

Listen to this episode! Subscribe to the MP3 feed via iTunes

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)
Log Out