Northern Spy: Surf's Up
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Northern Spy: Surf's Up

By Rick Sutcliffe

The wave of Apple's future was supposed to be a simplification of the user interface, a de-skeuomorphism of visual elements, and a unification of MacOS and iOS. The most recent version of the latter went a long way toward this mark

However, MacOS 10.9, a.k.a. Mavericks, is, on the whole, a stay-the-course mild enhancement of Mountain Lion 10.8, nothing radical. Thos who want radical change will have to wait for MacOS 11.

The important changes are in the upgrade process itself. First, it is free to anyone who has Snow Leopard or higher (i.e. can access the Apple Store). This will increase adoption rates and customer satisfaction, and give IT departments at most organizations hissy fits, because they will not be able to prevent their user base from doing independent upgrades. Second, iWork is also free--at least if you are new to the eco-system, or you have a previous version of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers installed. But even this is no obstacle, as one can easily install a demo version, then have the Apple store do a free upgrade.

Indeed, even upgrading to new versions of programs can be made automatic in the new OS. And, this upgrade went well, with installation taking about thirty minutes on a fast pipe. As with 10.8, incompatible applications are set aside, but the only one detected was Default Folder. However, the Spy had to upgrade Graphics Converter as well, as his version didn't function. Coincidentally, Firefox, Thunderbird, and NisusWriterPro got upgrades, but these were handled separately. The only not-yet-fixed incompatibility the Spy is aware of is in the Western Digital disk manager WD Drive Manager, whose users now cannot access their files from the drive. Undoubtedly a fix will come, but if the WD drive was being used as the Time Machine repository, it is temporarily out of commission.

The only glitch here was with the year-old Retina MacBookPro, which was to have a firmware upgrade as part of the process. This didn't work on the first download, as everything froze. The Spy feared his machine had been bricked, but a restart and try again apparently succeeded, and all is well. So is his late 2007 MacBook Pro seventeen inch, which is the earliest machine that can run Mavericks. In other words, the new OS runs on exactly the same set of machines as Mountain Lion--a refreshing change over the last few increments, which all saw some models left behind.

On first impression after initial boot, nothing much had changed except the wallpaper and menu bars. Yes, there are now as many finder menu bars as there are monitors, and the semantics are similar to those of application windows in that the monitor "in focus" has the active menu bar, with the other bars dimmed. A file opens on the active monitor. The docks in the various monitor windows all look and behave the same way as each other, though when opening files, they too know which monitor is in focus.

Not much is visibly different in the Finder, except that cloud connectivity is enhanced enough to make it clear where Apple is going in this respect. The Spy, however, declines to use the cloud for anything more important than routine sharing of files with no sensitive information, and this via Dropbox. He's not prepared to delegate the storage and backup of anything unique or important to the cloud--too much risk to suit him. Even the icons haven't changed--an oddity considering the detail lavished on iOS in this respect. One useful enhancement is tabbed finder windows. Press command-T to add a tab to a window and you get a tab bar including a button for more tabs. Command-W closes the current tab until only one is left, then it closes the window. Also, the window brought up by Command-I has more information, including a preview of file contents, but it doesn't always get the file-opener icons right. Finally, the old finder colour labels have been re-cast as sort-on-able tags and given more prominence--though they are still just labels, and don't do anything. The Finder is on its way to becoming a browser.

The major application enhancements are to Safari, which now has social media improvements and much better speed. Calendar, Contacts, and Notes are all facelifted, but without major new functionality. Notifications have become interactive, which is nice. Their use does grow on one. The ability to use atelevision (with AppleTV) as an external monitor seems nice in theory, but the Spy has no need for an AppleTV, and isn't sure how this plays out or could be useful.

Turning to new applications, Apple has brought iBooks and Apple Maps to the Mac, though it is hard to see much use for either. The former is a sit-in-an-easy-chair-to-read app, and the latter is for travel--both for portable devices, so perhaps OK on an Air, but not on desktops. 'Course, the Spy may soon be the only person on the planet using a desktop machine. He hasn't looked at the new iWork apps, but then, he's done little with them over the years. Pages is OK, but Scrivener-NisusWriterPro-BBEdit is a triple patty burger that satisfies even his voracious appetite for wordsmithing. Numbers is not a replacement for Excel, and he has too much legacy code in the truly awful VBA to switch. Keynote he does use, but only for one-off presentations where he needs to pack visual and verbal info into the same presentation on a high-powered basis--not for daily lectures, where he already talks and writes too fast even without electronic help.

Under the hood, battery life for portables is supposedly improved by slowing applications not in active use. The Spy hasn't tested this, but does note that in waking from sleep, scrolling, and switching apps Mavericks seems sluggish or hesitant at times. Perhaps 10.9.1 will address this, as it may address troubles with the most recent Retina MacBookPros.

Should everyone upgrade? Yes. The process appears after three times through to be relatively painless, and entirely so on the wallet. Nothing is broken, the upgrade is free, comes with definite improvements, and the cut and thrust of it is that this may be the most straightforward upgrade of the last ten or so.

The pitter patter of little feats

Under one of his other hats, the Spy runs a small commercial web hosting company. Yes, its on a nice fast server and his customers are there mainly to pay for the machinery hosting his own sites and to force him to keep up to date for his students' sake, but the job comes with all the problems and pitfalls common to any such enterprise--in this case, spammers.

Like everyone else hosting on a LAMP machine, he runs MAilScanner to control spam, and actively works the system, tagging mail as ham or spam, blacklisting the bad buys and whitelisting the good guys. He has cPanel for hosting and many associated tasks, and the Configerver front end to MailScanner to help with mail specifics. Until a week ago, this was all simple, obvious, routine.

Then the floodgates opened. Some lowlife got the bright idea of sending our email to an account on the server with the From field the same as the TO (both faked and non-existent) but the ReplyTo another faked account at gmail or google.com. Because the messages appeared to be local they weren't scanned, but when bounced went to gmail or google.com, who then blacklisted this server for sending spam, thus causing grief for all our customers who correspond with people there. As an aside, the Spy recommends that anyone with a gmail account cancel it and buy one from a reputable supplier. Their interface is good, but you get what you pay for. Google is good at automatically labelling things spam without looking into the details of what is really going on, but very poor at handling complaints about spam and abusive mail coming from their own servers. Indeed, they ignore such complaints, an attitude no one else could get away with.

Blacklisting the sending IP numbers did no good, as the spammer had a large supply --possibly also faked. Marking the messages as spam didn't help, as the system apparently thought they were local. Requiring DKIM verification did not work for the same reason. Verification was being done against a local account so of course the DKIM keys were valid.

As the traffic reached tens of thousands per day, "experts" were at first of little help, and the DC folk said they'd never seen anything like it before. Soliciting help from the mail community elicited the suggestion that he enable MCP (Message Content Protection) in MailScanner, and scan and delete on specific content. The enable was easy, but MCP has no front end, so the rules files had to be created and edited using ConfigServer Explorer, but it did work--so far.

This spam a sophisticated undertaking, and it can't have been set up to attack one account on an obscure server like this one. Moreover, it seems somehow a little pointless, as the only effect is to get the server banned by gmail, to whom the bounces go. (OK, maybe that was the whole point, but the thing has the bad flavour of either (and if there is one thing the Spy can smell it's rot):

- graffitti on a bathroom wall that just has to be painted over every time it appears

or

- a dress rehearsal for a really big bot net attack on one or more major operations.

The Spy suspects the latter, and that someone is in for big time troubles. These guys had no trouble sending 125K messages my way from dozens of IP addresses, with thousands of fake To and From and ReplyTo addresses, and dozens of slightly different text content instances. With the kind of horsepower apparently behind this, they could easily send hundreds of millions. Hang on to your surfboards, or they may get broken.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com

opundo : http://opundo.com

Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org

WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net

WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net

nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:

Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca

Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html

URLs for items mentioned in this column

Mavericks: http://www.apple.com/osx/

Configserver: http://www.configserver.com/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

How to win big in Slots Deluxe
Cheating while gambling is illegal and morally wrong, and in some parts of the world it leads to men with names like Vinnie "Six Knuckles" Manchenzo beating you to a pulp in a dark alley. [Read more] | Read more »
How to take over the world in Dictator 2
Running a country isn't easy - especially when you're a dictator who wants to take over the world and crush everyone in your path while you do it. [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a higher score in...
Tank.iois - you guessed it! - another multiplayer arena battler likeAgar.io and Slither.io. It does differentiate itself by putting you in a tiny tank though, so it's not exactly the same. To help you get that all-important high score, we've got a... | Read more »
How to unlock characters in One Tap Tenn...
As the title suggests, One Tap Tennis requires only a single tap to play its particular brand of tennis, and rewards you with a ton of unlockable characters if you perform well. Fortunately for you, we at 148Apps have got a few tips and tricks to... | Read more »
Grab it now: Game Craft’s Legend of War...
The real time strategy game is now available for you to sink your teeth into, through the App Store and Google Play. Combining elements of skill, strategy and empire building, Legend of War is a real gamers’ game. [Read more] | Read more »
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka (Gam...
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Skateboard Party is back! This third edition of the popular sports franchise features professional skater... | Read more »
Cubious (Games)
Cubious 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubious – How smart are you? How high is your IQube? Solve the impossible puzzles to find out, and help a lost little cube find his... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Waste of Space (Games)
Goat Simulator Waste of Space 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** | Read more »
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm...
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm your mind with nature sounds and illustrations 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Spending time in nature helps you to... | Read more »
Dr. Panda Racers (Education)
Dr. Panda Racers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: STEP ON THE GAS, RACE AND WIN!Fasten your seat belts and get ready to race! Speed your way to the finish line while doing... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Enterprise Workers Pick Technology Over Perks...
New Adobe study shows surprising attitudes about office jobs and where the future of work is heading. Adobe has released survey findings revealing that a surprising 70 percent of U.S. office workers... Read more
Goal Zero and OtterBox Partner to Expand iPh...
Goal Zero, specialists in portable power, have announced a partnership with OtterBox, brand smartphone case protection, to offer the Slide and Slide Plus Batteries as modules compatible with the new... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1379.99 $120 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off MSRP - 21″ 1... Read more
Kanex Introduces GoPower USB-C Rechargeable B...
Kanex has announced its GoPower USB-C portable battery for the USB-C MacBook, featuring the new industry standard connector and cable used for connectivity and power. Providing users with a new... Read more
Convertible and Detachable Devices Winning Ov...
According to the latest figures published by International Data Corporation (IDC), Western European shipments of ultraslim convertibles and detachables posted positive growth (44.7%) to account for... Read more
New MacBook Pros And Will MacBook Air Be Upgr...
With my mid-2013 13-inch MacBook Air closing on its third anniversary come November, I’m in system upgrade mode. Actually the Haswell CPU equipped Air is still doing a fine job, but my good wife is... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Project Engineer - Smart Source Inc...
SmartSource is in need of an Apple Project Engineer for a 12 month contract opportunity in Pittsburg, PA. Role: Apple Project Engineer Location: Pittsburg, PA Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
Service Assistant - *Apple* Chevrolet *App...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive, we Read more
Editor, *Apple* News - APPLE (United States...
Job Summary The Apple News team is looking for a passionate and knowledgeable editor with experience covering entertainment/pop culture and experience running social Read more
*Apple* Nissan Service Technicians - Apple A...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive , Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.