Archive for May, 2011

Ask Different Podcast #5: MacDefender, Lodsys, Handbrake

May 31, 2011 by Kyle Cronin. 0 comments

This is the fifth episode of the Ask Different Podcast, an unofficial podcast created by members of the Ask Different community about Apple and related technologies.

Your hosts this week are Kyle CroninJason Salaz, and Nathan Greenstein.

  • We begin with a piece of errata from the last episode as Jason corrects a keyboard shortcut he misspoke. For the record, to sleep your computer’s displays and lock your machine, use the shortcut Ctrl ⌃Shift ⇧Eject ⏏.
  • With that out of the way, Kyle brings us some site news: Stack Exchange is now an OpenID provider. That means that you now have the choice to use a Google, Facebook, other OpenID provider to login, or create a traditional e-mail and password login, in order to have your OpenID hosted by Stack Exchange. We also discuss the strict requirements that Stack Exchange places on the password for an account. We debate whether or not they are necessary or reasonable, and how they compare with the practices of both other sites and users.
  • With WWDC around the corner, Kyle brings us another piece of site news: the unofficial Stack Exchange WWDC meetup. Any developers who use Stack Exchange should drop by Eddie Rickenbacker’s on June 7th. Click here for more info.
    • On a related note, as none of us can make it to WWDC, we put forth a request: We would love to have someone who goes to WWDC be present on a show to talk about their experience. If you’re interested, please send us an email at
  • Moving to news, we bring you an update about the new iMacs’ hard drive temperature sensor update. We share two apps, HDD Fan Control ($10) and smcFanControl (free) that regulate the iMac’s fan speed so that you can use a third-party hard drive without listening to constant, unnecessary fan noise.
  • We discuss the current state of Apple hardware and what refreshes should be on the horizon. For one, we expect to see Thunderbolt make its way onto many of the Apple machines that do not yet support it. predicts that the Mac Pro will be updated with a rack-mountable form factor, and we expect it to have multiple Thunderbolt ports. Will the inclusion of Mac OS X Server in Lion mean a refresh for the Mac mini server and increased server-oriented capabilities on the Mac Pro? Will the plastic MacBooks be discontinued altogether?
  • In other news, the Mac security world has been shaken up these past few weeks by a new Mac trojan called MacDefender, which is one of the first major pieces of malware written for the Mac. We talk about how one can become infected, what the malware does, and how to remove it, and we discuss Apple’s promised upcoming software update that will eliminate this particular threat. With that in mind, we discuss the state of Mac security and where it may go in the future. Will the App Store become, by default, the only way to install software on your Mac? Will Apple continue protect us from threats with software updates?
  • Apple is celebrating their 10th anniversary of the opening of Apple Retail Stores. In doing so they’ve rolled out some very significant upgrades for their stores. Almost all paper in the store is gone, replaced by a fleet of iPads. iPads are placed next to every hardware product in the store (yes, even iPads) in order to serve as an interactive kiosk for product information, and for a few personal store functions. This spurns a longer discussion on how a similar system would benefit another type of business.
  • Amazon has announced and released the Mac Download Store. Amazon’s store features many key retail titles for immediate digital download, similar to the Mac App Store. The difference is that everything takes place through in any web browser, then a tailored Amazon software downloader manages retrieving and installing the software after purchase. Amazon’s store features Microsoft Office for Mac, much of Adobe’s Creative Suite (individually packaged), and more.
  • Our main topic is the pending litigation between Lodsys, LLC, and various iOS app developers. In the past two weeks, Lodsys has sent infringement claims to iOS app developers such as James Thompson of pCalc fame, and Patrick McCarron of mobileAge, that due to their In-App Purchase system, they are legally obligated to pay 0.575% of their revenues to Lodsys. Our recommended coverage of this news comes courtesy of Nilay Patel at This Is My Next.
    • Apple has responded, stating that iOS app developers are covered, since they pay royalties for this patent, and since the applications were developed using Apple’s SDK, and leveraging Apple’s Distribution Platform and other features. We discuss responses we’ve heard in the Mac Development Community, our feelings on whether developers should pay or not, and our considerations on how this may affect iOS development down the road.
  • Our Question of the Week is Great Apple (first and third-party) Accessories or Peripherals, asked by Steve Moser on May 16. All of us pitch in our respective answers, and elaborate on advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Our App of the Week is Handbrake. HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. Handbrake is an extremely simple utility that allows you to encode H.264 Video Media in a heartbeat, from DVDs or from any other video file on your computer.

This episode was recorded on Saturday, May 28th. 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



QoTW: How safe is it to leave your computer on during a storm?

May 30, 2011 by Simon Sheehan. 2 comments

A few days ago, my area had a little storm roll in. It didn’t sound bad at first, but then I saw one big dark cloud. With a crack of thunder, I realized we were in for a thunder storm. As I sat typing away at my computer, it came to mind that there might be a power surge. Now what was I supposed to do about my computer if that happened? I took it to the friendly people at Super User, to find out:

Is it bad to leave your computer on during a thunderstorm?

Generally when I hear the crack of thunder, my PC goes off immediately. Today I’m working though, and wondered – how bad is it to leave it on? If the power goes out, will it kill it? I use a power strip – that protects it, right?

In minutes I had a response from Randolf Richardson, who explained that my poor little power bar just wouldn’t stand up to any power surge. As the thunder and lightning went on outside, I continued reading through the comments flooding in.

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Super User Recent Feature Changes

May 28, 2011 by ivoflipse. 0 comments

After BloodPhilia asked you guys what the Super User blog should be focusing on, slhck pointed out that it would be nice if we could address recent changes to Super User and the Stack Exchange network. So here’s our first overview of recent changes.

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The Alien dream of every Techie

May 27, 2011 by Simon Sheehan. 1 comments

Hardware, that single thing every techie could likely go on for hours about. Being myself, I’m a tad out of date as usual, but I did get to have a neat experience that nearly tipped my inner nerd over the edge.

I took a trip with my class to a local college, into a course called “Game Engine Development.” We were using UDK, the Unreal Development Kit for the entire day. Now at home, I had tried this before, on my computer, which is:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 @ 2.5 GHz
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • nVidia GT 220 (1GB)
  • Plain old stock coolers

We walked down an empty hall, to a plain white down. Entered a room, unlit. Then with the flick of a light switch, my mind was blown. A room, filled with monitors. Nice Dell ones, 23 inch at my guess. At first I thought we might be a little squished together, the monitors seemed close. But nope, it was dual monitors. Being stuck with just a 20 inch single monitor at home, I was instantly enthralled. I sat down at a chair, and looked around, seeing where my computer was. Under the desk, what I had originally thought was a cooler, was actually an Alienware Computer. The Area 51.

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A second look at Soluto: Add-ons and Crashes.

May 26, 2011 by Tom Wijsman. 1 comments

Remember our first review of Soluto where we took you through the installation procedure, improving your boot time and what PC Genome might be? Soluto has released two new features this week, we are going to check them out and tell you what PC Genome really is about!

Never heard of Soluto before or are you new to it? Let me give you a summary:

Soluto’s goal is to bring an end to the frustrations PC users encounter, with transparency, killer technology, and the wisdom of the crowd. Soluto’s software combines low-level technology with collective wisdom to detect PC users’ frustrations, reveal their causes, and learn which actions really eliminate them to improve user experience.

You should already know the boot feature from last review and there were only some minor changes there so in fact it means that you can now “chop” it, let’s instead see how we can “lighten” your web browser and “heal” those annoying crashes.

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NHinkle: Super User’s Super Star

May 25, 2011 by ivoflipse. 0 comments

profile for nhinkle on Stack Exchange, a network of free, community-driven Q&A sites

Welcome nhinkle, our latest Super User moderator! He has been with us for quite some time already and has always been a valued user. As you can see from his rep graph, he’s been a steady participant on Super User and finally broke 10k rep this past April.

On of the things you might know nhinkle about are his excellently formatted answers and his participation in tag-wiki’s.

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Ask Different Podcast #4: Google I/O, Ditching the Mac OS X DVD, Reeder

May 24, 2011 by Kyle Cronin. 0 comments

This is the fourth episode of the Ask Different Podcast, an unofficial podcast created by members of the Ask Different community about Apple and related technologies.

Your hosts this week are Kyle CroninJason Salaz, and Nathan Greenstein.

  • We begin with site discussion: What, exactly, is the scope of Ask Different? Are questions about Windows XP graphics drivers acceptable? What about Mac-compatible Unix distros? Kyle tells us the vision he had for the site when he proposed it, and how recent questions do and don’t fit in.
  • The recently released iMacs ship with a new feature! A new style SATA power connector replaces a thermal sensor cable. We discuss the purpose, and the positive and negative merits of this recent change.
  • We discuss the onslaught of Google I/O news, starting with Google Music. Users can upload 20,000 songs from their own computer. Google Music only works on devices supporting Flash, and Android phones.
  • Chromebooks”, based on the Cr-48 prototype, to be released next month.
    • Also announced was the Chromebook rental program. While originally announced as a flat rate $20/month rental for students, and businesses for $28/month, these prices vary depending on the exact model rented. Also, these rental programs with have a 3 year contract in tow.
    • A flat rate purchase with no contract will range from ~$350-$500 depending on vendor (ASUS / Samsung) and features (WiFi only, 3G). Currently it appears that certain models will be available from Best Buy, and all from Amazon. Engadget has all currently known details.
  • The war of attrition took another step between Facebook and Google, as we learn of Facebook’s attempt at smearing Google’s over privacy claims. An ad agency hired by Facebook promised placement in major periodicals to a independent blogger, but instead of writing articles the blogger released the correspondence between him and the ad agency.
  • Microsoft now owns Skype! And they paid approximately $8.5 billion in cash. Not equity, not stock, all cash. Skype will continue to support all current versions (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android) of it’s software. We also muse over separation of the Skype Engine from the desktop application GUI.
  • Kyle reflects on the current state of software distribution by Apple. We talk about the current trends of shipping software digitally, the shrinking physical software selection in Apple retail stores, and how you install Mac OS X on computers devoid of an optical drive. Adding to this that Xcode and the Developer Previews of Lion are distributed via the Mac App Store, we consider how Apple may distribute Lion officially, possibly announcing it this summer at WWDC.
  • Our Question of the Week is “Is There a Way to Password Protect Individual Apps”, asked by Rabskatran. This question spawned a discussion on “The XY Problem” that occurs commonly on the Stack Exchange network, what it is, and what may be the best answer to officially accept in these cases.
  • Our App of the Week is Reeder. An iOS and desktop RSS reader that requires the use of Google Reader, but provides a much more attractive, functional, and native interface. We debate the merit of single-site apps, and the contrast between pushing functionality to the web and making them into webapps via Fluid, or building a specifically tailored interface for it like Reeder.

This episode was recorded on Saturday, May 14th. 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


QotW: Filesystem Security

May 23, 2011 by mokubai. 0 comments

Ultimate Fish Battle Royale

Is NTFS really secure?

I have Mac PC, in which I have created a Windows partition and have installed Windows using Boot Camp. If I log in to the Mac OS, I can read all the files from the Windows partition from Mac. If I compare the same scenario from within Windows, Windows claims to secure a user’s private files (stored in My Documents for instance) from other users with equal or less privilege. I was expecting to see the same protection from Mac as well. I was expecting an error message in Mac to show that these files are inaccessible, if I try to see or open them. Can someone explain if my perception is right or am I missing something?

While the question specifically mentions NTFS the answer applies to almost every file system that is able to be accessed by another operating system and has not had native support for that file system built in.

The same would apply to EXT2/3/4 (Linux) support on Windows, HFS (Mac) support on Linux or any combination of file systems that are standard for one system and just barely “supported” on another.

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Gnome 3.0 is here!

May 20, 2011 by Simon Sheehan. 1 comments

Assuming everyone has already heard of Canonical’s Unity Desktop environment, which for the latest version of Ubuntu (11.04), is pushing Gnome off to the side. But fear not! Gnome is still alive and kicking!

Since last October was saw the release of Gnome 2.32.1, a stable and relatively nice desktop environment for the casual user. As of April, we saw the first release of 3.0, and at first sight all I could say was “Wow.”


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How do I plan my vacation? Geek edition

May 19, 2011 by Tom Wijsman. 2 comments

Summer is coming, did you plan your vacation yet? Looking for something else than those pre-made vacations? Read on, we’re going to look at software that helps you plan your vacation in a more productive and geeky way.

Even if you did plan your vacation or went for a pre-made one, you might get to know more about the area you are going to be in on your vacation.

Looking for your ideal location, hotel, banks, shopping, restaurants, info, beautiful places and more…

Google Earth should be your first stop to search for good weather, a location that’s close to the sea or perhaps snowy mountains. Then, you can look around the place and get to know it by watching pictures, 360° panoramas, walking routes, webcams and videos. If you like the place you can start looking into the hotels, knowing where the bank and shopping center are alongside the touristic routes and restaurants.

Be sure to know where the info points are so that you can still go and ask for something more specific; it can happen that you need to visit the local police, garage or doctor. Well, let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s better that you know how to reach those in advance…

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