It’s only been a week since I posted my first thoughts on Twittering on the Mac but already I need to make a correction and two additions. First to the correction, Twitterific is free, the website is just very confusing. You can use it for free but you get ads, and if you pay you don’t get ads. I gave Twitterific another go because I was quite hard on it last time. Turns out I was right the first time though, it’s not a particularly good client and it’s certainly not an inspirational piece of software. There are better clients out there for free.

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Apple’s security reputation takes another dent this week with yet another zero-day exploit in its QuickTime media player. There is now proof-of-concept code out there which uses this exploit to remotely compromise computers running both Windows and Mac OS X. The vulnerability exists in QuickTime’s handling of media streamed over the RTSP protocol. If you are a bad guy all you have to do to use this exploit to attack someone is to get them to open a specially crafted RTSP URL (a url starting with rtsp://). If the victim’s browser has JavaScript enabled you can make things even easier for yourself, you can get JavaScript to open the RTSP URL for you! What this all means is that you can now have your Mac compromised by simply visiting a web page. This is a lot worse than the Trojan that I discussed a few weeks ago where you had to actually download and install a program giving it admin access in the process in order to be compromised. I should mention that this exploit does NOT give the attacker admin access to your machine, it ‘just’ lets the attacker run any code they want as the user running QuickTime. This is not as bad as an exploit which would allow the attacker to execute any command as root/admin but it’s still very bad.

You can get more details from US-CERT. That page also gives you some guidance on protecting yourself. However, those instructions are very windows-centric.

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This is a test post from within Bleezer to give it a test run. First impressions are not good. It has messed up my categories because it doesn’t support hierarchical categories, or if it does, it’s buggy as hell with WordPress. The GUI feels typical of free software, it feels crude and un-polished. As a Mac user I’m not at all impressed.

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People didn’t seen averse to my posting links to interesting articles I’d recently read so here’s another batch to tickle your fancy. These range from serious and thought-provoking to playful and humorous.

  • We’ll start with a thought-provoking article about Linux. This is one that some of you are bound to disagree with but I think Walt Mossberg is right, Linux is getting better but it’s not yet ready for novice users – Linux’s Free System Is Now Easier to Use, But Not for Everyone
  • While we’re on the topic of technology I came across a fantastic essay by one of my hero’s Stephen Fry on smart phones. I had no idea Stephen was such a technophile! This is a very long but a very well written, thoughtful, and humorous look at why none of the supposed iPhone killers actually are iPhone killers – Device and Desires
  • Before we more on to other matters here’s one more technology article. One I find rather humorous. According to Steven Frank from Panic Software Macs make better Windows machines than regular PCs! – Macs Really Do Run Windows Better
  • Now on to a totally different subject, light pollution. I came across a fantastic article about it in the New Yourker this week. That article is long, but very well written and touches off all the issues including energy savings, the ways in which much modern ‘security’ lighting actually helps the criminals and of course the wonders of the night sky which we are depriving our selves of needlessly – The Dark Side
  • Finally, some light entertainment in the form of a fantastic parody of the last Harry Potter book – Potterdammerung

It’s not long ago that I posted about Apple not patching their SAMBA implementation for months after a patch became available. Now there is a Quick Time vulnerability in the wild that was apparently reported to Apple about a year ago. I constantly give off to Microsoft for this kind of carry-on, so, each time I catch Apple at it I’m going to highlight it too. The Mac user experience is currently fantastic but Apple’s continued complacency about security is putting that experience at serious risk. How bad will things have to get before Apple cop on to themselves?

For more details on this vulnerability (which affects Windows too) check out this Mac World article

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Just a little follow-on from to my article Genuine Disadvantage, Windows Genuine Advantage is back up. So far MS have kept quiet as to what the cause was. Anyhow, you can read all about it in Gregg Keizer’s Computer World article Massive Microsoft WGA meltdown fingers legit Vista and XP owners as pirates. The links at the end of the three page article also make good reading and I enjoyed Harry McCracken’s short opinion piece titled Windows Genuine Advantage: The Jig is Up over at PC World.

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Genuine Disadvantage

Filed Under Computers, Windows on August 25, 2007 | 4 Comments

I have never been a fan of any system that makes life MORE difficult for people who pay for software than for those who pirate it. I also detest any company that treats all it’s clients like criminals. This is why I have issues with those music and movie studios who force DRM on people, and also with MicroSoft and their insultingly named “Genuine Advantage” program. To treat people like criminals because they were good enough to pay for your software is insulting enough. But then having the gall to call the spyware they force upon their customers to continually verify their non-criminality “Genuine Advantage” is just adding insult to injury. It was the invention of Genuine Advantage that proved to be the final straw that drove me away from Windows to Linux and then to OS X. Today, I feel I can rightfully say “I told you so”. Genuine Advantage is now BROKEN. It’s not 100% down but loads of people are having their valid Windows installs marked as pirated and cripled because of a major problem with the Genuine Advantage servers. At the moment the best estimate for a time to repair is next Tuesday! Many people who were good enough to actually pay for Microsoft’s mediocre OS are now being denied service by MicroSoft. Way to reward your loyal customers Bill!

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Unless you are sure you want your system infested with useless bloat for ever more don’t install Yahoo Messenger! I did yesterday and now I’m really regretting it. For a start it wedges itself in everywhere. It runs a process to harass you into setting yahoo as your home page and as your default search. It wedges it’s tool bars into all your browsers and generally just puts itself everywhere it can. As a Mac user I’m not used to this kind of carry-on so it annoys me. However, my annoyance has only just begun. I had to install it to test something in work. My tests being over I went to un-install it today. I went to control panel->add remove programs and found it. Clicked uninstall. It warned me it would need a reboot to complete the uninstall and asked me if I was OK with that. I gave my consent and on it went. It took disturbingly little time and then my machine rebooted. Three guesses what started up on reboot all by itself without my ever asking it to. You got it, Yahoo Messenger! To make things worse, it is now gone from the control panel, and there is no uninstaller for it in it’s start menu folder. The uninstaller un-installed itself but not the program. Windows users need to stand up to this kind of rubbish software and stop using it. TBH I think this behavior would be classed as spy-ware and is probably illegal in the US. I hope someone takes these muppets to court. Enough is enough!

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Update: It gets even worse! Fresh off the presses of US-CERT we have news of a publicly available exploit for the buggering thing. Just what I need, some randomers executing arbitrary code on my machine via an app I can’t un-install!

Color OracleIf you design stuff please bear in mind that not all of us are blessed with perfect color vision. When you’re developing your color schemes please make sure they are still readable to the color bind. Don’t worry, it’s trivially easy to test this with a great free tool called Color Oracle. BTW, even if you don’t have an actual need for this tool it’s still fun to play with :)

What’s really nice about this tool is that it’s available for Mac, Linux and Windows so everyone can play! I’ve only tested the Mac version and it works like a charm. It adds a simple menu bar icon to select which kind of color blindness to simulate. When you select a scheme your screen colors change so simulate what a color blind person would see. I really like that the change is very temporary, just click the mouse of press a key and everything goes back to normal. You can also set up hot-keys so you can very quickly check your interface works for color blind people with just the press of a single button. There is no excuse now for developing an interface that color blind people can’t use!

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It’s no secret that I’m no Microsoft fan. Their business practices annoy me and the way they treat their customers like criminals makes my blood boil. I mean really, what exactly is the genuine advantage consumers like you and I get from ‘Genuine Advantage’? I’m a big fan of open source. I like the openness and the community and I think that approach leads to better software in general. Having said that I’m no Linux zealot. I do use it both at work and at home and do run it regularly as both a desktop and a server OS. However, I’m also a dedicated Mac user. One thing I do not own is a Windows machine. Linux and OS X all the way for me!

This week Microsoft provided me with yet another reason to hate them. They are now threatening to sue open source users for supposedly using their patents. Leaving aside the fact that I find software idea patents objectionable and a bad idea and that I think the American patent system is a disaster, this all strikes me as a great big load of FUD. MS are not naming the patents. They are just making threats. They are trying to use fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to scare people back to MS software.

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