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Master Key April 30, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Accessories, Security.
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The usually helpful people at SubRosaSoft are known for making really nice software that saves and salvages files and other lost data. They even make device-specific file recovery utilities for music and photos like iPods and digital cameras. You want your ass saved, go to SubRosaSoft.

But I think they went a bit too far with their latest product – your ass is grass if the wrong people get a hold of this nice, expensive little trinket.

It’s called MacLockPick, and it’s exactly what it implies – a lock pick for your Mac. SubRosaSoft defines it as “a valuable tool for law enforcement professionals to perform live forensics on Mac OS X systems”. The valuable data in the Apple keychain and in other password and critical data locations are apparently open for looting and rifling if you had the right tool and a running Mac for a target, even a sleeping one. By default, the keychain is left open by the OS and leaves the information it’s supposed to secure free for the taking. The data include passwords, logins, buddy lists, email details, serial numbers, bookmarks, cookies, etc.

The MacLockPick is a USB flash drive that you insert into a running Mac. Once jacked in the software runs and does the dirty deed quick. It does not write anything to the Mac, and leaves no trace it was ever there; it resets everything back to the state it was in before the pick was used. It just saves the data it gets into the drive, and disappears into the night (or a pants pocket) like the thief that it is. Included readers can access the purloined database on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X. It’s something James Bond might have on his Aston Martin’s keychain.

Scary thing, if you ask me. Cool, yes, but this goes a bit overboard, don’t you think? SubRosaSoft restricts sales of the pick to law enforcement people only. (Sure. Like the way guns are supposed to be?) Perhaps the biggest restriction for the MacLockPick is the price: US$500 for the stick.  But hey, all a pirate needs is one, and pretty soon it’s all over the damned place.

I predict the next biggest selling product will be physical locks for your USB ports. All I know is, no one’s coming near my Mac with a flash drive from now on.

Cock-eyed view April 28, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Issues.
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Was reading an opinion column on MacNewsWorld over my oatmeal this morning and was struck at how my fanboy-ism tends to tint my Apple glasses too rosy sometimes.

I wrote a post the other day about how nice Apple was to declare all updates and software feature additions for the iPhone for free, and how this makes Apple stand head and shoulders above all other companies. Crowding Jobs & Friends on a pedestal is really one of the weaknesses of sideline commentators like me with questionable objectivity, i.e. Macheads.

In “When it comes to spin-doctoring, Apple has a PhD” by Vern Seward in The Mac Observer, Mr. Seward observes that yeah, Apple is giving that stuff away for free, but look deeper, fanboy – all they’re actually saying is that they can’t finish the iPhone they way they planned, so they will release it on sked anyway, and just catch up later on by adding the stuff that should have been on it in the first place in future “updates”.

Spin doctors indeed.

I didn’t see the forest for the trees. Of course that makes sense! Why didn’t I see that? I’m disappointed in Jobs & Friends, but more in myself that I was so ready to ride the spin. Damned sycophantic fanboy. Hmph!

Gotta learn to look at things cock-eyed now and then, especially where Stevie’s concerned; he’s been known to pull a fast one. Or two. In the end, Vern pulls the punch a bit (I guess he’s a fanboy like me) but the points have been made. (Speaking of cock-eyed views, this shows Apple’s and Steve’s doctorate degree in spinning; Bill, try as he might, has nothing on the folks at Cupertino in this department. Apple wins again.)

It’s an excellent, incisive piece, with much more analysis and observations that make sense. Great read, and you can see it for yourself here.

Shows how much I got to learn.

Heresy April 28, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Microsoft, Notebooks, Operating System, The Big Experiment.

Far below us, the rims of ice edging Hell’s lakes of fire are hardening and getting thicker. The flames will dim and the damned’s breath will fog. Fur coats will be in short supply. Sometime soon, Satan will finally slip on the thick snow on his morning rounds of the cooling sulphur pits and break his neck.

Why? This rabid Mac fanboy, this former two-year Chairman of the Philippine Macintosh Users Group, this current owner of four Macs and four iPods and a Newton, this early adopter of numerous Apple first-iterations, this Bill Gates heckler, this Mac-A-Doodle blogger …is using Windows XP on an IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad T43.

Wait, there’s a backstory. In the magazine company where I’ve been working for close to two years, I have not had a computer to use. Until yesterday. I have refused the desktop Windows boxes they’ve been trying to assign me all these months, holding out vainly for an office-issued Mac. No joy; only the Art Department boys get the tricked-out Intel iMacs, and the F.A. guy is the one gets the shiny new Mac Pro.

So I’ve been using my Powerbook since, bringing it to work everyday and generally beating the heck out of the poor thing. Been feeling a little down looking at the wear and tear it’s been going through and having nothing to blame but my own stubbornness and recalcitrance. Well, the past few months I’ve been softening up and thinking about succumbing to the inevitable. What the hey, I thought, a lot of my comrades with new Macs are regularly double-booting into the Twilight Zone anyway. But somehow I couldn’t bring myself to going through with it.

Until yesterday, when they bribed me with the Thinkpad.

It’s not a big chunky beige box with a cheap monitor and plasticky mouse and keyboard. It’s sleek, jet-black and fancy with three magic letters on it that anyone, even Mac fanboys, would respect: IBM. And it’s a notebook that’ll let me work anywhere and won’t take up valuable real estate in my tiny office. Hmmm.

It’s a nice machine, despite what my gut instincts scream out. The ThinkPad T43 has been an Editor’s Choice of PC Magazine (the Philippine Edition of which I used to edit), and is considered one of the emerging classic business machines with surprising longevity. Trim, compact, stuffed to the gills with frills. From a little lamp at the top of the screen to light the keyboard in dark work areas to a biometric fingerprint reader on the deck. From dedicated keys for flipping between webpages, a rocker switch for scrolling up and down, a hard-wired blue key for model-specific support called “Access IBM”, that red little eraser-nubbin in the middle of the keyboard, to great battery life – it’s even got a surprising snappiness to it.

But still.

Anyways I’m taking the plunge and using the ThinkPad as my work machine starting today, and give my Albook a well-deserved break. I will also take this opportunity to do the big thing: live with the enemy, and see how it really is. We Mac heads scoff and mock (it’s fun, right?), but we do it from a safe and sanitary distance. In this age of detente and convergence in the OS world, I’ll see for myself how it really is, and I’ll chronicle the experience slowly, in bits and pieces, over the coming months in Mac-A-Doodle.

I got the ThinkPad up and running tonight, downloading shareware and configuring the thing, tweaking the settings, getting the wifi to run, putting up firewalls and running anti-virus software and ad-and-spyware blockers, and rebooting countless times and getting confused and mixed up – but still becoming pleasantly surprised a couple of times despite myself. I’d forgotten how fun this mess could be. Already I have a bunch of stuff I’m itching to say, but we’ll save it for the next entry in this series, which I’ll call The Big Experiment.

All I can say now is, I composed this post entirely on the newly set-up ThinkPad, and it ain’t so bad.

But we’ll see, won’t we?

iFree April 26, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Apple TV, iPhone.
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Contrary to concerns that, for the iPhone, Apple will also start collecting small payments for software upgrades, feature enabling and add-ons that used to come free (like the two bucks they charged to enable the 802.11n feature in shipped Macs), it ain’t true. You can rest easy.

All later software upgrades and feature enabling for the forthcoming iPhone will be free of charge. More importantly, “new software features and entirely new applications” will likewise be free. As if we needed another reason to buy one when it comes out. Early adopters rejoice!

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer announced this for the iPhone (and the Apple TV) during the quarterly conference call done yesterday. “We hope the result will be to surprise and delight our iPhone customers,” he said. Which is about as far as he went; in true Apple fashion, no word on what these free features and applications will actually be.

Great. So release it already, durnit!

iDols April 24, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in News, People.
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Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive are in the top ten of the shortlist for Time Magazine‘s 100 most influential people of the year. This being a Mac/Apple blog, I don’t think I need to explain who these two guys are and why they are on the list.

It’s interesting to note Ive’s influence on design globally; the man responsible, as Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, for the Apple look and feel evinced by the iPods, iMacs and the forthcoming iPhone, among other things. It’s also interesting to note that at the moment Ive is ahead of Jobs in the list, garnering an average reader rating of 89/100 in terms of importance.

Time Magazine’s annual listing creates a 200-person shortlist, and as it stands as of this writing, Ive is #7 coming right before Bono and after J.K. Rowling. Jobs is #10 after Angelina Jolie and before Warren Buffet. No. 1 is Stephen Colbert, for now.

By the time you check, though, the list will have adjusted and the positions moved. The final list is still in flux, and we’ll know the actual rankings in two weeks. In the meantime you can monitor the list and vote by going to the Time Magazine website.

Conundrum April 24, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Wala lang.
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This isn’t anything significant, or worth much of your attention, or even Mac-related. It’s just so damned Twilight Zone-ish I felt compelled to mention it here.

I’m just amazed at the inherent paradox and Escher-loop oddness of this particular torrent I found this morning on Mininova – it’s the one that says “FAKE, DO NOT DOWNLOAD”, if you can read it. Apparently this one is so fake it’s even 706mb big.

So what the heck is it supposed to be? What is it a fake version of? Do I have to download it to find out? But it clearly says do NOT download. And what could it be that it’s even over 700mb? A movie? An app? Do I let my curiosity override the obvious warning? If it’s not supposed to be downloaded then why even put up the damned torrent? Or is it some trick, some double-blind guessing game that would reward the overly curious or the overly dumb? Or is it an obvious prank or trap, something to drive someone like me who had to come to work extremely early because of the car coding ban and has nothing better to do than idly surf while waiting for the rest of the office to come in stir-crazy?

Clearly there’s already one crazy leecher getting the thing. Do I succumb too and join in? Make it a party?


And don’t get me started on the ones just below it – “VIRUS”?

Give your iChat window a facelift April 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Share/Freeware.
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If you’re sick of looking at your iChat window day-in and day-out, give it an overhaul and make it look more like iTunes with this free app called iChat Borderless. It replaces four .nib files in Resources in the iChat folder. Currently works with English OS X installs only. Doesn’t really do much, but it’s easy on the eyes. Grab it here.

Like any homebrewed app, backup your original nib files before you install this one, just in case. Once again, MacADoodle isn’t responsible for any problems you may encounter in the course of your endless tweaking; you’re on your own, kids, so be careful.

Thar’s gold in them thar iPods! April 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Accessories, iPods.
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Apparently, those who have extra disposable income can now buy gold iPods. The similarity to an actual gold ingot is incredible.

Now I’ve seen everything.

Available from Amosu. P28.8T for a 30gb iPod video, P38.4T for an 80gb.

Shuffle Love April 22, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Accessories, iPods.
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I love my shuffle. If I could afford it I’d buy one in every color. Except maybe the pink one.

My problem with it is that being such a tiny little thing, it can’t play with its regular dockable cousins’s toys; the shuffle connector uses a dock-let for charging and syncing, with a little proprietary jack sticking out, and whole thing has its own USB cord. You can’t use any of the gazillion accessories made for the dockable iPod big boys. You’re pretty much stuck with what comes in the shuffle box.

Well, it seems the nice folk over at Griffin Technology love the iPod shuffle more than I do, because they made a fantastic little thing that makes me love Griffin more than I already do. They made a Dock Adapter for the shuffle!

It’s a little plastic thing that you set into the receptacle of a regular dock-enabled accessory, then you just slot in the shuffle onto it. Simple and ingenious, really. And it features a little switch that shifts you from audio playback to charge/sync depending on your need. Now the wide, wonderful world of iPod accessories is open to shuffle users.

Imagine an Apple iPod Hi-Fi speaker fitted with this thing; the shuffle will look like an insignificant little nubbin on top of this thing as it feeds the big monster speaker with audio. Niiice.

The Dock Adapter costs $19.99 and will be available at the end of May, but you can pre-order now from the Griffin website. Methinks I’ll get one.

Mac Hacked! April 22, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Security.
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A security researcher sent instructions to a security engineer on a zero-day vulnerability in Safari and together worked for 9 hours on an exploit to hack into a Macbook at a hack-a-Mac contest the engineer had joined.

Dino Dai Zovi, a security researcher who has found flaws in Mac software in the past, fed info to Shane Macaulay, a security engineer who had joined the two-day “PWN To Own” Mac-hacking contest at the CanSecWest Security Conference at Vancouver yesterday, to win one of two MacBooks that were being given to the first people who can hack into them. The Macs were current and up-to-date with all security patches, but had no special security software on them outside of what came with OS X.

On April 20, the second day of the contest, the rules were relaxed after no one was able to do it the day before, and Macaulay was able to hack into one of the Macbooks using Dai Zovi’s help. The hack was accomplished by having a CanSecWest organizer surf to a malicious website using Safari, upon which they used the zero-day security hole in the browser, a tactic familiar to Windows hackers. Macaulay is now the proud owner of the Macbook he hacked.

This comes (coincidentally?) on the heels of the release of the new Security Update from Apple the day before the hack.