The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

OS X Raves

Don’t leave the Windows open

Macworld logoI’ve been running Windows on my Intel Macs for quite a while now–I have Parallels, VMWare Fusion, CrossOver, and Boot Camp installed on two machines. Across all those installations, I’ve never done anything to protect my Windows installs from viruses and malware, other than using Windows XP Pro’s built-in tools: the malicious software removal tool and the firewall. I wanted to see if Windows really was as susceptible to attack as everyone was claiming it was.

pwned

Yes, it was. I wrote about what happened for Macworld, as it was a most eye-opening experience for me–this particular Windows install hadn’t done anything more “risky” than surf to a few well-known download sites, looking for some iPhoto-type applications for the PC. If this is the risk a Windows user faces every day if their machine isn’t fully armored against outside attacks, I must ask…why do people choose to use this OS on a regular basis? It also made me quite thankful I’ve never worried about such things in all my years of Mac usage.

Don’t try this at home…or do!

tiger imageI’m working on an article for Macworld that requires installing and removing a number of programs on my Mac–programs that include kernel extensions, frameworks, etc. Since I prefer to keep my core OS X install relatively clean, I created a new 10.4.6 installation on a FireWire drive, and I’ve been using that for all the software testing.

To make things even easier on myself, I did this all on the PowerBook, so I could continue working on the G5 while the PowerBook was involved in the testing process. When I put the PowerBook to sleep, the FireWire drive stays powered up–since the FirewWire port gets power even when the PowerBook is sleeping. Since the drive makes a bit of noise, and leaving it powered up bothers me, I’ve taken to unplugging it when the PowerBook is sleeping.

This morning, I woke the PowerBook as usual…but completely forgot it was booted off the FireWire drive, which was peacefully resting next to the PowerBook, unplugged. Uh oh. As soon as I realized what I’d done, I was ready for instant death in OS X. But no such thing happened. Of course, nothing much else happened, either–mouse clicks seemed to be ignored, Command-Tab didn’t work, etc. In short, the machine was effectively locked up, though I could move the cursor. This makes sense, given that the system was sitting there without any way to access its operating system.

Since I was sure I was in deep trouble at this point already, I did the only logical thing–I plugged in the FireWire drive and crossed my fingers. Amazingly, it just worked–even the mouse clicks I’d made were ‘remembered’ and all activated as soon as the drive came back online, and everything was fine from then on.

This may be old news to many of you, but I was pretty impressed that I didn’t immediately kill my PowerBook when I woke it up without a boot drive attached.

Ten things I like about Tiger (10.4)

tiger boxOS X 10.4 (Tiger) has been officially available since April 29th. I’ve been lucky enough, thanks to a developer seed, to have been testing various builds for a couple of months. In that time, there are a number of things I’ve grown to love about Tiger (and a number I dislike, though those will come in a future write-up). With over 200 new features, I thought I’d try to pick out the 10 that I’ve liked the best so far.

Note that these are observations about OS X 10.4 only. Sometime I’ll write a longer story discussing OS X in general, both what I like and dislike. But for now, here are my ten favorite 10.4 features…

  1. Apple’s much-improved Mail program. From the toolbar buttons (yes, I like the jellybean shape behind the buttons, too) to the subtly colored mailbox panel to Smart Folders to the speedy Spotlight searching, the new Mail’s a winner.
  2. System Profiler. In previous OS X releases, this tool was good, but not great. Now it’s great. Information on just about everything to do with your system is but a couple of mouse clicks away. From graphics cards to displays to FireWire to USB devices to memory to PCI cards to printers to networking gear; even programs, extensions, fonts, and logs are detailed here. Very well done, and very useful when you want to know something about your machine.
  3. The free Developer Tools. No, I didn’t suddenly become a programmer overnight. But some of the pre-compiled sample toys tools they provide are amazing. To name just a few that are fun to play with (on machines with better video cards), check out Core Image Fun House, Quartz Composer, and Quartz Debug, which will let you enable Quartz 2D Extreme (a way to accelerate drawing of 2D windows by using a 3D graphics card). Also, even non-programmers can use Interface Builder to tweak some elements of certain applications.
  4. Core Image and Core Video. It may be a while before we really see the benefits of these features in OS X, but it will be worth the wait. Giving programmers an easy way to utilize newer 3D graphics cards will eventually lead to some amazing applications. See previous entry for one example of what can be done (Core Image Fun House).
  5. H.264. This QuickTime 7 codec (also available in 10.3) does amazing things for video compression. Jeff Harrell’s Shape of Days blog has a couple of demonstrations (1, 2) of H.264 encoding, and the results are pretty impressive. In a nutshell, H.264 gives much higher quality (and/or size) at similar or lower bit rates than does MPEG4.

(more…)

The Robservatory © 2018 • Privacy Policy Built from the Frontier theme