eXtra Notes

Blue Apple

Graham K. Rogers

Unpublished ideas that are not going to make it into print

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In the last xnotes, I was critical of Synmantec and others who apparently jumped on the bandwagon of the non-existent "Mac virus" problem. I do not retract that at all. I still believe that Symantec were pushing out an unnecessary message of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) with the expectation that this would be taken up by the main media who have little knowledge of how various operating systems work, and really do not care. Their job is not to sell OSX or Windows: theirs is to sell newspapers and advertising space. The more people who read, the greater the circulation (or number of viewers) and the higher the advertising rates can be eased. I have no delusions here: the Bangkok Post pays me for the occasional columns not from the number of copies they sell -- and certainly not from the visitors to their web site -- but from the advertising income. (Perhaps this is why some advertisers have been exercising political muscle.)

In a well-argued text (of course I am writing this on the eMac and the bookmark is on the PowerBook downstairs) John C. Welch suggests that Symantec is not as black as some of the commentaries have made out, and that Jack Cambell is really the villain of the Peace. What John Welch does point out is this: Symantec has a job to do, they sell security, like newspapers sell advertising; Symantec's comments on OSX were buried deep inside the security report (which I might add is buried deep inside the Symantec site); the report highlighted the plethora of security problems on all systems, not just the virus/trojan problem; and the news organisations were rather selective in the quotes they pulled from the report. John Welch is particularly emphatic on that matter and he is right. Removal of a strategic sentence can have a devastating effect.

John also has criticism for Jack Cambell in that (he alleges) there is an element of the self-publicist at work here. That may be, but I certainly like the idea of someone standing up and confronting a threat with a challenge. Whether Campbell is "a great honking prat" is not for me to decide, although I must admit to liking that comment as much as Cambell's misguided dare.

There has been a lot of updating this week. It started out on Friday (Bangkok time) for me with iDVD (5.0.1), iMovie (5.0.2) and iPhoto (5.0.2), and then early Saturday in the Land of Smiles, we found the most recent update for Panther (10.3.9). We cannot get any higher than that, and in any case, 10.4 Tiger, was announced this week too.

As ever, the forums have their usual level of cris de coeur as systems break, internet links are lost, Airport cuts, and the machines fail to start. It is on both of my home machines (eMac and PowerBook) operating faultlessly. As I asked another forum denizen this week, "What am I doing wrong?" I refuse to lay claim to magic, or "guru" status (one local user always refers to me as that -- I hate this) and, on anything I hate the label of "expert". Anyone who introduces themself as such immediately goes in my "suspect persons" book.

I would lay claim to being careful. I would say that I run maintenance software regularly. I would insist on never shutting down using the Power Button, and that if anything untoward happens, that I take pains to check and make sure that the operating system is not bruised by running the system utilities and Disk Warrior. I would admit to running Disk Warrior and the Disk Utility when unnecessary -- in the same way that I would change the oil on my old motorcycles a couple of thousand kilometres before it was really necessary.

I would also admit to a degree of confidence that the unlimited power supply (UPS) has saved me no end of forced shutdowns while also delivering a less-fluctuating voltage to the eMac. My old Power PC, using system 8, went through a couple of hard disks and countless system reinstalls following the severe power outages that my house still suffers from time to time. All in all, I do not revere, but I do respect the machinery at my disposal. Like motorcycles, these things are man made (and programmed) and as such they can break; but they can also be fixed.

Let me add that I do not turn my machines off. The eMac has been on for over 6 months now, and the PowerBook for about a month. That includes taking it out and about in a back-pack. All I do is put the system to sleep (eMac and PB). This does, of course, make it pretty swift if I want to work. I add to that rapidity by never quitting most of the applications I use regularly. The only time the computers are ever off, is when an update requires a restart.

Let me remind folks who are tempted with the 10.3.9 update (and you should be). I check to see if there is anything while I am online, and then prepare for the download. My approach is to shut down all programs that are running and, again in my case, switch to the Admin. account -- I do my day to day work on the PowerBook in an account with basic privileges only. In the Admin account, I start up Disk Utility and check the disk S.M.A.R.T. status (always "verified" so far), then run "Repair Permissions."

S.M.A.R.T. status

tiger box While that is running, you can see all manner of information about special permissions: situation normal. At the same time, having started Software Update, the new package begins to download. Sometimes, I may just click the button and let the software get on with it. Sometimes, I will use the menu system and keep the download. A combo, for example, may come in handy for someone else's disk. I also turn off Energy Saver and Screen Saver. I do not want the disk to shut down while I am downloading, and I want to keep watching just in case. . . .

Software Update will download, unpack, write the files then go through a process shown as "Optimization". This is also known as pre-binding and, as the name suggests, makes those necessary links: OS to files and applications. Optimization will take several minutes: time to make the tea. At the end of it all, it will show that the system needs to restart in order to complete the installation. At the restart, I watch carefully and check the timing. I noticed, for example, that the reboot seemed slower on the eMac than on the PowerBook. It may be something to think about should anything untoward happen later.

tiger box Boooted up and back into the Admin account, I again repair permissions. Some users also like to run the First Aid or a utility like Disk Warrior at this stage too, but as I am doing this from time to time (and when I deem necessary) this should not be necessary. If you have not been doing it, perhaps at this time, after an update, is not the right time. Before may be wiser.

I just noticed that a load of links reappeared on my Safari bookmarks bar: Apple, eBay, Yahoo and .Mac. I removed all of these when it was first installed and the Apple one became a folder that has the regular bookmarks that I want to access at Apple. As Safari is now version 1.3 (v312), does that mean that with the 10.3.9 update there was a sneaky update od Safari too. I guess so as some folks on the discussions forums seem a bit happier today.

tiger box A couple of days before 10.3.9, the rumours about Tiger's release finally crystallised with the announcement that 10.4 is to be released at 6pm on Friday 29 April, although no one is saying 6pm where. If it is 6pm here, we will have the draw on all those trendies from La-La Land and even those so-Kool New Yorkers. I speculate that it will be 6pm in California, or maybe the east coast of the USA, so that the entire country is covered through the (extended) working day. That would mean 6am on Saturday here, so we are really talking 1030 am by the time Phantip Plaza has shrugged off the early morning blues.

Price? I asked around yesterday (16 April) and there was no local information, which was hardly surprising considering the three-day public holiday then weekend that we are in the middle of. My own guess -- and it is just a guess -- is that we will be facing the same initial price as for Panther, which was 5243 baht, or 4900 before taxes. I noted then (5 Nov 2003) that the price here was actually lower than in the US (unlike stuff from the Beast of Redmond).

The forums were seething with people seething about the 10.4 release. Although we have known that it was imminent for months, those who recently purchased computers are suddenly horrified that theirs did not come with Tiger, and want "APPLE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. . . . (sic)." . . . Apple have and state on the release notes that anyone who bought a new computer on or after 12 April is entitled to an update. I take the attitude that the moment I have bought a computer (indeed, in my case, often before) it is out of date. I lose no sleep at night. Even on a Thai-based salary I have bee able to buy a couple of computers this year, although accident compensation did ease the burden. I knew Tiger was coming and missed the US cut-off date for upgrades by about 2 weeks. I will be down there early Saturday with my credit card, ready to roll.

The pages that have information on Tiger are interesting if you want a look at just how radically different the surface is to be. Underneath it looks like we have the same OSX + Darwin + Unix + everything else that have been with us for a while. Several of the interfacing technologies -- how it reacts to us -- are changed or new. Spotlight for example is supposed to give better searching for data on the disk. Dashboard adds new operations and flexibility with widgets -- small applications written in HTML, Javascript and CSS (web-based technology). There is a dictionary (useful), but the phone book looks like it is for US-based zip codes. I wonder who I will find when I enter the code for work in Nakhon Pathom province, 73170?

One of the intriguing updates is QuickTime 7. There has been a lot of work going on with this behind the scenes over the last months, and Neo of Macsimum News (Neo is Macsimum NewsĠ international man of mystery. If we told you more, weĠd have to kill you) has an excellent hypothesis of just what it may be leading to with a look at the developments. If right, Apple's market share could be on the brink of considerable expansion, including in areas which are not traditionally computer centric.

End Note: You might want to read that 5 Nov 2003 article in terms of what I wrote above about updating 10.3.9. A couple of other items need to be taken care of. Panther went on beautifully, and so had Jaguar (mercifully we are to be spared a Jaguar-style stripy colour scheme for Tiger and the box is a svelte black).

All materials ©copyright G.K. Rogers. Free for individual use.

Other links:

Bangkok Post, Database
Mac Center: Thailand
OSX Faq Mac Dr Smoke's X Lab Site George Mann
Applelinks MacNightOwl MacNightOwl

Phuket Mac User Group

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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