Archive for June, 2011
It’s been a while since I wrote about my optical bay HDD caddy experiment, but the results are finally in. I’ve been running my laptop for over a month now with a Kingston V100 SSDnow in the primary storage bay and the original hard drive in a NewmodeUS optical bay caddy, and have been quite pleased with the results. My computer boots up quickly, applications launch instantly, and there’s plenty of space to store big files for when I need them. There are a few downsides though, which I’ll go into more detail about shortly. Is it worth your while to make this upgrade? Read on to find out!
This Question of the Week raises some interesting security implications. With many high-profile sites compromised recently, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the security of your passwords. Michael McGowan asked:
Suppose a user uses a secure password at site A and a different but similar secure password at site B. Maybe something like
mySecure12#PasswordAon site A and
mySecure12#PasswordBon site B (feel free to use a different definition of “similarity” if it makes sense). Suppose then that the password for site A is somehow compromised…maybe a malicious employee of site A or a security leak. Does this mean that site B’s password has effectively been compromised as well, or is there no such thing as “password similarity” in this context? Does it make any difference whether the compromise on site A was a plain-text leak or a hashed version?
If there is one thing that almost anyone will need to do sometime in their life with any operating system is upload a file. Whether it be an funny picture they want to show a friend, or a draft of a report they want to have someone proofread. On Mac OS X, there are two small programs out there that make this task very simple. They are CloudApp and Droplr. Both are menubar apps, and both are for the same thing: uploading files to the web. Like any other piece of software, these programs have their strengths and weaknesses, all (or most) of which I will cover in this post.
This is the eighth episode of the Ask Different Podcast, a podcast about Apple and related technologies created by members of the Ask Different community.
- We begin by bringing you some podcast news: We have created an ad for the podcast (Lion-themed!) and posted it in the Community Promotions Ads meta post. In order for the ad to show up on the Ask Different homepage, we need you to vote for it! If you like the show, please take a look at the meta post and give our ad an upvote.
- The Stack Exchange Shop is now open. You can buy hoodies, shirts, beer steins, and more bearing the Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault logos. We hope to see some Ask Different merchandise soon.
- Also in Stack Exchange news: A new button! Not one that you can buy; one that you can click. All Stack Exchange sites now have, right along with Facebook and Twitter buttons, a button to share a question to your LinkedIn stream.
- Continuing on the subject of social network integration, we discuss the sinister side of Facebook’s sharing buttons. This leads us to compare other tracking services, like Google Analytics, to Facebook’s. and to an overall comparison of Facebook’s and Google’s security track records. And for those who don’t like being tracked across the Web, we recommend Ghostery, a free browser extension to notify you of such tracking, and optionally block it. Disconnect is another option for Chrome users.
- We discuss the increasing importance of a having a good password on your Apple account. As Apple begins tying more and more to this account, especially with the introduction of iCloud, it is more important than ever to have a secure password on your Apple account. We then discuss the limitations of entering strong passwords on mobile devices, and things Apple could do to make it easier to be more secure.
- Moving back to Facebook, we discuss the recently-discovered Project Spartan. With it, Facebook will be attempting to challenge Apple’s App Store with their own. Except that the Facebook app and its apps are used in Safari on your iOS device. Can Facebook’s HTML5 app store and apps take down Apple’s App Store?
- Google offers a service called Google Sync that provides push GMail, calendar, and contacts synchronization for mobile devices through the Exchange protocol. The service has been recently updated with support for searching mail on the server, accepting/declining calendar events, and sending mail from multiple addresses.
- We share the surprise news that Apple is now selling unlocked iPhone 4 handsets. We discuss the target market that would pay the high price, and whether future unlocked iPhones might offer the ability to switch between AT&T and Verizon.
- Kyle lays out his gadget history, and tells the story of his experience with a string of fragile iPhone 4’s. Jason and Nathan chime in with their own experiences about Apple hardware (including previous-gen iPhones), and we compare other brands’ durability to Apple’s.
- Our question of the week is Why do I have to drag my new apps into the Applications folder?, asked by Drew on June 4th. We talk about the way Mac OS X handles applications as a single package, and how this approach is better than the approaches Windows and Linux take, especially for non-administrative users. We also touch on whether a non-administrator can install apps from the Mac App Store.
- Our app of the week is Divvy, Jason’s and Nathan’s favorite window manager. We talk about what Divvy and similar apps are useful for, and discuss Mac OS X’s built-in window management capabilities. Divvy is available on the Mac App Store.
This episode was recorded on Sunday, June 19th. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or iTunes. If you have any feedback or questions you’d like for us to answer on air, leave a comment on this post or e-mail us at [email protected].
Anyone active on Super User has encountered the infamous shopping requests before, and you can’t really blame them for trying: They don’t know what they need, and here’s a website about computers where people understand all the latest gadgetry, standards, and most importantly, the endless acronyms.
But we’re missing the most crucial part: We don’t understand their needs.
After spending an hour or two working with several others in the Super User chatroom to help a user make heads or tails of how to translate his needs into hardware, it became clear that for all the questions about how to understand and judge performance vs. needs for individual components of a computer, they were extremely spread out over the site, which made them as a whole hard to find, especially if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
Super User needed a new community wiki. This week, the community is collectively wondering and defining How do I know what hardware to buy to meet my needs?:
- How do I find out if a given CPU will be enough for a certain game or application that I want to run?
- How do I find out if a given graphics card is powerful enough for a certain game or application?
- What is important when looking at motherboards?
- How much memory do I need?
- How do I know how much wattage I need for a power supply?
- What size case do I need?
- What relevant standards do I need to read up on and be aware of?
- What “gotchas” do I need to be on the lookout for?
All of this information should still apply regardless of whether you are buying a pre-configured system or building your own from scratch. Configuring a system online at a retailer such as Dell, Apple, or HP still has a pretty wide range of systems and configurations, so making heads or tails of the options provided there is still necessary – you’re trading wide selection for the comfort of knowing that all the parts should work well together and letting someone else assemble and configure it.
Some April morning last year I received a letter from the local police department, bureau of criminal investigation. “Whoops”, I thought. What could have happened there? Had I forgot to pay for a speeding ticket? I opened the letter. It said I was the main suspect in a case of “data destruction” and I was supposed to visit the police department as soon as possible to file a testimony.
Wait. What is “data destruction”? Well, I had to translate it, but, I am from Austria where there is a paragraph (§126a, StGB) that basically says the following: If you modify, delete or destroy data that is not yours, you may get a prison sentence of six months or a fine. There are probably similar laws in other countries.
But how could I have done that? I wasn’t aware of any situation in which I could have deleted anyone’s data. I work as a sysadmin for a small consulting company, but it seemed implausible that they would charge me with the above mentioned.
What I supposedly did wrong
So I went to the police department. I was terrified because I had absolutely no idea what I had done wrong. The police officer however was very friendly and asked me to take a seat. He wanted to know if I knew a person X from Tyrol. Of course I didn’t. That was more than 500 kilometers away. Turns out, I hacked their Facebook profile.
This is the seventh episode of the Ask Different Podcast, an unofficial podcast created by members of the Ask Different community about Apple and related technologies.
- Last week was WWDC, and keeping up with the coverage of the keynote was a very intense task. Not to mention the active discussion we had with our fellow Ask Different chatters. We discuss the act of covering the keynote, or more specifically attempting to keep up with the coverage across at least 4 or 5 websites, and keeping up with all of the details flowing continuously for over 2 hours straight. We also delve into what we expect to see as all the new features begin to release, and where we would like to see as time goes on.
- On Tuesday, Steve Jobs presented the next major architectural work by Apple to the Cupertino City Council. We discuss the so-called “Apple Mothership” building to be worked on for the next 4 years and the consideration that is sorely lacking in too many other architectural endeavors.
- We know that as part of iOS 5, Apple will make Twitter functionality a first-class citizen with pop-overs including location sharing, single sign-on functionality, and a dedicated Twitter account field in Contacts. What we have recently learned is that additional social networks will become first class citizens and be added as contact fields in the Address Book.
- Yet another iOS 5 feature has received more details: Wireless iPad 2 Mirroring via AirPlay. We discuss the possibilities of utilizing an Apple TV in a conference room in order to simplify the process of presentations, and how to immediately greatly improve the quality of presentations, notes, and interactivity.
- Continuing with the WWDC hangover, we discuss the state of launcher applications, and the possibilities after Lion’s release and official debut of Launchpad. We contrast the functionality offered by Apple, and the workflow exposed by launcher apps such as QuickSilver, Alfred, and LaunchBar.
- Our Question of the Week is Upgrade personal iPhone to iOS beta 5.0?, asked by Senseful on June 9. We discuss if they (or you!) should, or should not, and lament that we are not more involved in the Apple Development Community in order to make the leap ourselves.
- Our App of the Week is Soulver. Soulver is a new kind of calculator. Soulver is quick, smart, clear, and flexible. Instead of making a digital analog to a standard desk calculator, Soulver allows you to write calculations as a document, each calculation allowing you to represent a specific part of the entire series of calculations. Soulver is available for Desktop Macs on the Mac App Store, and for iPad and iPhone on the iTunes App Store.
This episode was recorded on Sunday, June 12th. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or iTunes. If you have any feedback or questions you’d like for us to answer on air, leave a comment on this post or e-mail us at [email protected].
There are a lot of things computers do that, in usage, seem very simple. Under the hood, though, there are a lot of parts that work together to enable basic behavior. One example is rebooting a computer. Reboot is conceptually very simple, it turns off and then turns back on again. In today’s Question of the Week, Seth Carnegie wondered how this actually happens:
This may be a really stupid question, but how can a computer restart itself? After it’s off, how does it tell itself to come back on again? What kind of software is it that can do this?
What is a package manager?
A package manager is a software tool that is used to install other software. This software is often referred to as “packages,” hence the name. Package managers exist on many Linux or UNIX-like operating systems. Before package managers existed, people were stuck with installing software from source. This presented two main problems:
- In order to update the software, you had to download the source for every program that was out of date, and then compile and install it again.
- If a program had any dependencies, you’d have to hunt down that dependency, and then that dependency’s dependencies, and so on, eventually creating something called “dependency hell.”
Package managers were created to solve these problems. With them, you can run a command to install, uninstall, search for, or update packages. Many Linux and UNIX-like operating systems have package managers built in. For instance, Ubuntu has aptitude and FreeBSD has the ports system. Mac OS X, however, does not have any built in package manager. This lack of a built in package manager has prompted people to create their own. There are two popular package mangers for OS X, Homebrew and MacPorts, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In this post, I will put each of those package mangers to the test, and let you decide which you think is better.