The Northern Spy: curmudgeonly yours
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: curmudgeonly yours

By Rick Sutcliffe

Following up on comments in this space last month, the Spy still has had none of the issues reported by others who've adopted Mavericks. Apart from the need to upgrade a handful of programs, all continues smooth. However, iTim's elves are busy at work releasing betas of the first incremental upgrade to fix issues some have seen. Of greater interest might be what they're doing with system XI.

And, the reader will recall the troubles reported here with his own hosting company's mail server (another millisecond older and deeper in spam with faked to, from, and reply-to addresses). Enabling MCP (Message Content Protection) in MailScanner to scan and delete on specific content did blue list and refuse much of the offending mail, which on that change alone declined from 80% of all arriving messages to about 20%.

But, subject, content, and other characteristics kept changing, and even adding more block lists to the scanner only went partway to a solution, so he's experimentally modified the Exim settings to reject messages with multiple "From" addresses (they usually match the "to" addresses in order to escape scanning) and to break off connections if the sending server lacks or has an improperly configured reverse DNS.

There wasn't much documentation on the net about the exact positioning of such commands in the config file, but the mail scanning does seem to be functioning, with none of the formerly blue listed material getting through. He may be able to tone down the MCP scanning--a good idea since dovecot is currently using too many resources and is bogging down. The score for today thus far is 2% high MCP and 6& high scoring spam, with 85% of messages allowed in being clean. Progress.

The Spy still cannot fathom a motive in such bombings. The targeted account cannot receive any of the mail, as the default address is set to :fail:. When the mail bounced to the wrong address, it got refused there, and piled up in the WebNameHost queue by the thousands. But making those bounces got the server blacklisted. Was that the goal? Why? Most of the messages contained viruses, so presumably the desire was to spread contagion. But on a well-set-up mail server there would at no time be any possibility that a customer would receive, much less read the junk, so why send it in the first place?

It's all juvenile bathroom wall stuff, but sufficiently annoying (and often virus laden) to be worthy of a few years computer-free meditative time-out in the crowbar hotel for the perps.

A last gasp seems the best way to describe the withdrawal of the take-private bid, and subsequent purge, er, pardon me, multiple executive departures at RIM. Making Android and iPhone devices first class citizens on the RIM network and allowing the Blackberry to die gracefully (and in some privacy) might have been a better move.

The company might then have survived as a service-provider bit player. If things continue on their present course, a very public demise appears now inevitable. This ought to be a cautionary tale for Microsoft, the company all dressed up in sales but with no idea where to go, but seems unlikely to be heeded.

Is Black Friday real or just smoke and mirror advertising hype, with genuine price reductions thin on the ground? Let's be realistic here. Assuming the retail margin on most electronics ranges from 3% to 15%, the biggest discounts are really manufacturer-ordered clearouts, for a retailer cannot take sustained losses and stay in business.

You have to hand it to the hypesters, though. Most people believe they are getting bargains even when the BF price is little different from what it was a month before, and they open their wallets willingly. They may be more savvy on Cyber Monday, bit that's harder to assess. But, if they were that willing to have a walletectomy when the offering plate was passed at church…

Oh, and BTW, a second lesson in making money: Apple can sell its mass-produced product through its own stores without having to be concerned about any wholesale markdown. Those stores are therefore one of the major reasons for the company's profitability, and are worth a considerable chunk of the share capitalization. The Spy also notes that certain "premium retailers" in markets deemed too small for a genuine Apple store have been allowed to produce near clones of the visual experience--but to do so must even use Apple produced signage. He doubts however that the wholesale discount gives them much wiggle room on profits, and knows there ins none on pricing.

Not much place for innovation, and none for competition here. iSteve and iTim have rewritten the text on how to sell product for the maximum return, and thus far no one else has come close to successfully cloning the experience. Apple owns the direct retail computing market as thoroughly as they've owned the tablet market. The time when buying up Radio Shack for the locations was a plausible idea has passed.

The future of "big iron"was once a topic of discussion around mainframes, but here the Spy's using it as a lead in to the fate of the desktop. For his own work--large writing projects, a host of lecture materials, research, correspondence, etc., he needs the real estate provided by a couple of 50cm plus monitors, a keyboard that fits his big mitts, networked laser and inkjet printers, scanner, NAS for backup, and a versatile software suite that can handle big data and documents. Most other people work only with social media, mail or messaging, and a browser, and can get by without a desktop setup. A few in between still use email and word processing, but may homes of today's teenagers do not even have computers, just phones, pads, and pods.

Here's a guess at where it could go, where the Spy has seen it making baby steps toward a merge of the two computing paradigms: A much more robust pad/pod/phone-like device that can be hauled around in a pocket or under an arm, but at the desk plugs into all the accessories and the collective system becomes the big iron. Think a CPU-enabled portable solid state storage device with a screen of modest size and on-screen keyboard for the usual on-the-fly stuff--all most people care about--but with the wattage (horsepower is so retro) to become the desktop and more for the power user.

We're a ways off, so the Spy does eagerly await the new Mac Pro, but strongly suspects that it may be the last such system Apple makes. Eventually we will get the PIEA (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliance)--the descendent of the iPod Touch with universal WiFi, with the descendent of Google Glass, with throat mikes, and ultimately with a rudimentary neural interface.

It will work wirelessly everywhere, but the term "phone" will join "typewriter", "key-punch machine", "breakout box", and "comptometer" in the dictionary graveyard. Sit down at your desk and put your PIEA on a cradle to make your interface to the global Metalibrary a desktop experience. It was all SF when the Spy first wrote about it in the early eighties, but we're most of the way there now.

But that brings up a related matter--the dumbing down of computer (and other) literacy. There was a time when the term included knowledge of the history and culture of computing as well as something of the art and science of programming. Hey, the most computer literate people on the planet are the Spy's age. Their first electronics was a crystal radio mounted on the bike handles first program was in FORTRAN (we used to spell it that way) on coding sheets handed to the keypunch operator, first personal computer was a home-built, and first commercial programs were written in Pascal, BASIC, and/or 6502 assembler. Oh, yes, and we actually used computers too--for word processing, data base access, spreadsheets, and mail.

Today's young tech addicts communicate, after a fashion and in 140-character snippets, but aren't literate in even approximately the same sense. The hotshots can build a web site, but remain innocent of programming all the while, and their documents rarely exceed a few pages except in school. All the rest is beyond their ken. So is mathematics. No wonder so few go into the STEM fields these days--they've been culturally, educationally and intellectually conditioned against them.

Now the Spy fully understands that the power of an abstraction lies in the hiding of detail, so that not everyone needs to know how to fix a car in order to drive one. Still, a rudimentary knowledge would forestall ripoffs like the one perpetrated on a friend I know who paid $800 for a simple two-wheel brake job from a store on the same weekend that another store charged the Spy $600 for a more comprehensive four-wheel brake refit.

The complete absence of computing literacy and programming courses in high schools and the not-yet-recovered-from crash in university computing science enrollments may produce inflated salaries for software developers for another generation, but it also seems a harbinger of an age when there are too few people with the technical knowledge to build and maintain the toys that have been driving the information revolution.

Look. You can't roboticize and automate everything, nor can computers maintain themselves and the big data of the Metalibrary without human intervention. "Information" is data + meaning, and notwithstanding Clarke, Asimov and Minsky machines cannot "intend" or "mean" anything. The Spy is all for making basic literacy in computing as much a requirement as in mathematics. Wait. What was that item on the news about schools removing Algebra from graduation requirements? Conic sections have already been removed from the senior course, despite that calculus requires this knowledge, and more students than ever are being funnelled into university remedial courses. Is the next generation going to end up as passengers in a technologized society with no knowledge of either their history (how they got there), up-to date technical knowledge (where they are), or the ability to contribute meaningfully to the debate on where they're going (if anywhere)? If so, they'll the more easily get taken for a ride.

Moreover, the reliance on machines to mediate our "friendships" is fundamentally dehumanizing. The Spy once had a bumper sticker that read "Have you hugged your computer today?" It was a joke then. Is it still? Will it be in the future?

BTW, and almost completely non-a propos, but in the same genre, he had one that said "Private Bumper Sticker. Please do not read." You could put the same ironic self-referentially and therefore paradoxically contradictory slogan on email, chatroom posts, and Facebook--none of which is private, and all of which will still be around as long as the Internet endures. Does anyone care?

The Spy can still usually engage fourth-year students in discussions around the big-meaning questions and issues that a Liberal Arts university is supposed to be teaching/provoking. He wonders how long this will last in the face of "meaning" being socially redefined to mundane tweets and posts between people who neither know either each other as real human beings nor the society in which they live as a living, growing organism with a history and a destiny--become too in-the-instant-minded to be contributors to the social or heavenly good. The dumbing down of computer literacy is, after all, only a manifestation of a much larger phenomenon of the same ilk--too many people tuned in, turned on, and dropped out--of everything. Have a nice day.

But on a more positive and encouraging note, have a blessed Christmas, and may you and yours have a profitable New Year, particularly spiritually.

--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/
Mailscanner: http://www.mailscanner.info/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Together 3.4.6 - Store and organize all...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop functionality,... Read more
Monosnap 3.1.0 - Versatile screenshot ut...
Monosnap lets you capture screenshots, share files, and record video and .gifs! Capture: Capture full screen, just part of the screen, or a selected window Make your crop area pixel perfect with... Read more
Cocktail 8.5.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Vienna 3.0.6 :5eaf312: - RSS and Atom ne...
Vienna is a freeware and Open-Source RSS/Atom newsreader with article storage and management via a SQLite database, written in Objective-C and Cocoa, for the OS X operating system. It provides... Read more
Kodi 15.1.rc1 - Powerful media center to...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
Bookends 12.5.8 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Chromium 44.0.2403.125 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 44.0.2403.125: This release contains a number... Read more
iMazing 1.2.2 - Complete iOS device mana...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
Audio Hijack 3.2.0 - Record and enhance...
Audio Hijack (was Audio Hijack Pro) drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio... Read more
FontExplorer X Pro 5.0.1 - Font manageme...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more

Card King: Dragon Wars - Tips, Tricks an...
[Read more] | Read more »
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX has brou...
Bandai Namco has released Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on iOS and Android, which features the classic arcade gameplay that we've all grown to love. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX can be enjoyed in much shorter bursts than the arcade versions... | Read more »
Cosmonautica (Games)
Cosmonautica 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Cast off! Are you ready for some hilarious adventures in outer space? | Read more »
Rescue humanity from a Demon horde in An...
Angel Stone is Fincon's follow up to the massively successful Hello Hero and is out now on iOS and Android. You play as a member of The Resistance, a group of mighty human warriors who have risen up in defiance of the Demon horde threatening to... | Read more »
Gallery Doctor (Photography)
Gallery Doctor 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Free up valuable iCloud and iPhone storage with Gallery Doctor, the only iPhone cleaner that automatically identifies the... | Read more »
You Against Me (Games)
You Against Me 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A simple game… You. Me. Claim, steal, lock, score, win! | Read more »
Yep, it's True - Angry Birds 2 is O...
The not exactly rumors were true and the birds are back. Angry Birds 2 has come to the App Store and the world will... well I suppose it'll still be the same, but now we have more bird-flinging options! [Read more] | Read more »
You Could Design Your Own Card for Chain...
If you've ever wanted to create your own item, weapon, trap, or even monster for Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night, this is your chance. Auroch Digital is currently holding a contest so that fans can fight to the death (not really) to see which... | Read more »
Bitcoin Billionaire is Going Back in Tim...
If you thought you managed to buy everything there is to buy in Bitcoin Billionaire and make all the money, well you though wrong. Those of you who made it far enough might remember investing in time travel - and it looks like that investment is... | Read more »
Domino Drop (Games)
Domino Drop 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Domino Drop is a delightful new puzzle game with dominos and gravity!Learn how to play it in a minute, master it day by day.Your... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $81 off MS...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2218, $81 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
Back-to-School with Tablet and Smartphone Acc...
Belkin helps you prepare for the coming school year with a wide variety of the latest mobile and tablet accessories to outfit both grade school and college students. The line-up includes charging... Read more
11-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSR...
Best Buy has 11-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: - 11″ 1.6GHz... Read more
iPad Air 2 on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
Best Buy has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $100 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online... Read more
Sale! 13-inch MacBook Pros on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has 13″ MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.5GHz/500GB MacBook Pro: $999.99 save $100 - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina... Read more
Sale! Save $100 on 13-inch MacBook Airs this...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model.... Read more
Worldwide Tablet Market Decline Continues, Ap...
The worldwide tablet market declined -7.0% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2015 (2Q15) with shipments totaling 44.7 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data... Read more
TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT Powerline Featuring Ho...
Consumer and business networking products provider TP-LINK is now shipping its TL-PA8030P KIT AV1200 3-Port Gigabit Passthrough Powerline Starter Kit that expands your home’s network over its... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available for u...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s available for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB... Read more
Updated Apple iPad Price Trackers
We’ve updated our iPad Air Price Tracker and our iPad mini Price Tracker with the latest information on prices and availability from Apple and other resellers. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Hil...
Infrastructure Engineer - Apple /Mac Job Code: 1608 # of openings: 1 Description Our fortune 500 client is looking to hire an experienced Infrastructure Engineer to join Read more
Executive Administrative Assistant, *Apple*...
…supporting presentation development for senior leadership. * User experience with Apple hardware and software is preferred. Additional Requirements The following list Read more
*Apple* Bus Company is now hirin - Apple Bus...
Apple Bus Company is now hiring school bus drivers in the Pettis County area. Class B CDL preferred. Free training provided. No nights or weekends required. Flexible Read more
*Apple* Certified Mac Technician - Updated 6...
…and friendly, hands-on technical support to customers troubleshooting and repairing Apple /Mac products with courtesy, speed and skill. Use your problem-solving skills Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.