Update Rundown for April 14th, 2014

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 15th, 2014, 08:31
Category: Apps, Mac, Microsoft, Software

software-updateEvery so often we like to post info on updates of some of our favorite software along with some high profile apps that are pretty essential to anyone on a Mac. This information is brought to you by updates I get from developers, but mostly by MacUpdate, although not officially, because that is what I use to keep all my apps up to date. I also like to add some value by throwing in some extra notes from my experiences. So let’s get to it!

TaskTime4 5.1.5

This app for tracking your time and printing invoices has been my goto for my freelance work for years. It’s inexpensive ($20) and the developer is very responsive.

  • Interface tweaks
  • improved functioning of Category popup menu
  • fixed sorting project reports by clients
  • fixed pause button size problem with autopause enabled
  • fixed stop button issue (moved timing buttons to toolbar)
  • fixed reports bug

 

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Macworld/iWorld 2014 Expo Hall wrap-up

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014, 09:01
Category: Apple, conference, Developer, iPhone, Mac, Software

2014-expo-floorLast week was a bit of a whirlwind as Macworld/iWorld took over a large portion of my week. Now that I’ve had some time to put together some of the things I saw, I thought I’d provide a brief recap. This year, the convention was held in Moscone Center’s North Hall. The first day, Thursday, was my traditional walk around the show floor which I always do on the first day so I can make some mental notes about what I want to go back and see later. This makes it easier to go straight to the important stuff when you only have about 45 minutes between talks and demos. There wasn’t much that was unique about the Expo Hall this year, except for possibly the two live stages (I only recall one in the past).

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Critical update for Flash released

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 6th, 2014, 09:56
Category: Hack, Mac, Malware, News, security, Software, Windows

adobe-flash-playerEarlier it was Java, now it has been discovered that Adobe’s Flash software also has a vulnerability that gives complete control over compromised systems to hackers. This vulnerability, fixed in the just released version 12.0.0.44, affects Adobe Flash Player 12.0.0.43 and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh and Adobe Flash Player 11.2.202.335 and earlier versions for Linux, although Linux was listed as having a lower priority rating. Adobe has detailed the problem in a security bulletin. All users are recommended to update Flash on their computers, as well as Google’s Chrome browser which has it’s own Flash component. The version of Chrome that includes this fix is 32.0.1700.107 and should update this automatically, but you may have to restart the browser for the correct version to register in the “About Google Chrome” window. If you want to check which version you are running before going through the update process, you can go to this page on Adobe’s site. You can download OS specific installers from here. Windows users who browse the Web with anything other than Internet Explorer will need to apply two Flash updates, one for IE and one for any alternative browsers (Firefox, Opera, e.g.). Both updaters can be found on the download page. On a Mac, if you already have Flash installed, you can also go to the Flash Player settings in System Preferences and click on the Check for Updates button in the Advanced tab. Our friends at Kaspersky Labs make another appearance in the Acknowledgements of the security bulletin where Adobe thanks them for discovering the vulnerability;

“Adobe would like to thank the following individuals for reporting the relevant issues and for working with Adobe to help protect our customers:

Alexander Polyakov and Anton Ivanov of Kaspersky Labs (CVE-2014-0497)”

So if you’ve got the time now, and you probably should make the time, get those updaters downloaded and installed. Almost makes you want to remove both Java and Flash doesn’t it?

Happy 30th Birthday Mac! My history with the game changing computer

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 27th, 2014, 09:04
Category: Apple, Article, Consumer Electronics, Desktop Mac, Mac, Software

retouchphoto_apple_macintosh_1984_high_res_clean1-580x386So, Friday was the 30th anniversary of the day Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh. That iconic “hello” ushered in the era of the personal computer. I knew I’d have to do the ubiquitous anniversary article, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be, and how many hours I’d loose strolling down memory lane on Google. Where to even begin?! When the Macintosh was introduced on January 24th, 1984, I was in the second half of my junior year at high school (well great, now I’ve dated myself). I had experience with only two computers in my life at that time, the Apple IIe at school, and my own Commodore 64. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Apple or the fact that there was an event occurring that would end up determining much of the course of my life. The first time I was able to get my hands on a Mac was during my second year of college. Ironically, the lab there had a number of NeXT computers and one lonely Mac (SE I think) in the corner. I remember sitting down at it to see what it was all about and leaving shortly thereafter unimpressed. I still lived in the text-based computing world where the majority of college workstations were running UNIX. At that time, all I knew about was Elm (email), piping, directories, FTP, bulletin boards, 300 baud modems, and word processing (and using language similar to HTML within my text documents to tell the dot-matrix printer to print the word in bold). The Mac didn’t appear to offer me anything I needed. It seemed like a toy, a very expensive $2,495 toy at that.

Then it happened. In 1992, my sixth year in college (don’t judge, I had trouble picking a major), I participated in a one year study abroad program in England, and THAT is when I really “met” the Macintosh. This was the first time I had seen a lab devoted entirely to Macs, and among them was a Macintosh IIfx, which was the 2013 Mac Pro of its day. This Mac was a graphics workhorse running at 40 MHz (that was freaking fast in 1992), with internal codenames like Stealth, Blackbird, and F-16; and had a starting price of $9,900. I’ll let that sink in…ok. Calculating inflation, that works out to be around $16,000 today. Ok, I’ll let that sink in too……..alright. It was also running the brand new System 7 operating system!

By the way, as a side note, a Mac IIfx was used by Industrial Light + Magic’s “Rebel Mac” team (put together by John Knoll, who with his brother Thomas created Photoshop) to computer render the feather that falls and then later blows away in the movie Forrest Gump. Yep, that feather is completely CGI. The chocolate was real.

Adobe-Photoshop-2

Let’s speed this up…so everyone in the design school was using the Macs for every aspect of their projects. Engineering drawings were done in ClarisCAD, project briefs were done in Word (before it was all bloaty), concept photos were done with Photoshop 1.0, and 3D modeling and animating was done with StrataVision 3D (if I remember correctly). Suffice to say, I was blown away. I didn’t know computers could do all that! Once I got back home and started my last year, first thing I did was save up to buy a Mac IIci, which was the predecessor of the IIfx (so I got it cheaper -wink-) but still pretty powerful. Thus began my personal love affair with the Mac. As it happens, the IIci is almost the only one of my former computers that I’ve, regrettably, sold off. However I did so to buy my first laptop (used of course), the Macintosh Powerbook 180c, the first Mac laptop to have a color screen…a whopping 256 colors! I had that as my sole machine, hooked up to an external monitor, for a couple of years (wish I’d known the Duo was coming) until I bought my Macintosh 7500. This was during Apple’s “beige” period and also when their stock plummeted to around $15 a share (god oh god why didn’t I buy 100 shares >.<) and they were going through CEOs like used socks. That was another model that because of its expandability, lasted me a few years, even acting as my only television by using an A/V tuner card.

It was now 1993 and I had just graduated college, and began looking for a job in my field of industrial design. While looking, I took on some part-time jobs to pay the bills, one of which was for a small art studio. This was probably the turning point in what would become my career for the next 15+ years. The art studio sold made-to-order vinyl signs. The machine that cut out all the letters for the sign was controlled by a Mac. As it happened, they began having problems and asked if anyone knew anything about computers. Naturally I volunteered to have a look at it, which was essentially my first technical support job. As the world was pretty much computer illiterate at this time, knowing how a computer worked was a hot commodity I discovered, so I began selling my support services and have been doing so ever since. There was no getting away from the Mac now.

So, by this point, it’s somewhere around 1995 for me, and the Macintosh is on its 11th year in the computer world. The World Wide Web, as it was being called, was still mostly text based and not terribly interesting, possibly because nobody was sure what to do with it. Apple innovates again by creating eWorld, a graphical interface for accessing online services. The service was launched in June of 1994 and the WWW was about to get interesting. While eWorld, as short lived as it was, would make a lasting impact, a game changer was being introduced at the same time that would transform the online world forever, NCSA Mosaic, the first web browser. Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which as it happens is my alma mater. Development of Mosaic began the year I was in England and was discovering the Mac. Spooky eh? More trivia…the computer HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey “became operational” in Urbana, IL in 1992, the same year development on Mosaic began. While not stated, it is assumed HALs systems were created at the NCSA.

eWorld_Apple

Unfortunately eWorld was shut down in 1996 after only 2 years of operation, but it helped move the Web away from a text-based interface to a graphical one, along with America Online. It also may have been the first instance in the computer world of the now common practice of capitalizing the second letter in a name rather than the first. If I recall correctly, I had tried eWorld (I still have the disks), but could not afford the relatively high monthly cost, so instead I used a dial-in connection provided by the University of Illinois which “technically” I was not supposed to be able to use. Because of that, however, I had full access to the web using Mosaic and began getting curious about how web pages were built, thus I began learning HTML and constructing web pages.

After moving to San Francisco, my next Mac would be a used Mac Cube and 17″ Studio Display. Say what you will about the Cube, but it looked awesome! There were actually some unauthorized upgrades you could do, so I eeked out as much life as I could out of it. More trivia…if you’re a Star Trek fan, you may be interested to know that for the series Star Trek: Enterprise, most of the display screens you saw on set were run by 16 Mac Cubes. And let’s not forget when Scotty used an early Macintosh Plus to sort out the formula for Transparent Aluminum.

 Enterprise_G4_Cubes copy

ScottyTalksToMac copy

MacintoshPlus copy

Ok, so we need to pick up the pace, we’re only up to 2001! I’ll tell you what, why don’t I just list out the rest of the products I’ve used or collected from Apple;

  • Mac TV – the only black Macintosh ever made and sold in the US, and you could hook up your VCR to it. I just HAD to have a black Mac.
  • 20th Anniversary Mac, or TAM for short – believe it or not Jony Ive designed this little work of art way before the iMac. Mine sits out kind of like a sculpture. I bought it cheap from a coworker that didn’t have room for it anymore. Lucky me!
  • Powerbook Duo and dock station – super versatile, all the benefits of a laptop and a desktop. Not sure why it didn’t do that well. I believe one model of the Duo was the first Powerbook to sport a trackpad instead of a trackball. Personally, I still prefer the trackball, but hard to get one of those in a Macbook Air.
  • Several other Powerbooks, MacBooks (the toilet seat), titanium, aluminum, you name it. Currently I’m sporting an 11″ MacBook Air.
  • A G5 tower, the “cheese grater” – worst computer in the world if you were in IT. REALLY heavy and the handles cut into your hands. Frankly, I’m glad the behemoth is retired.
  • Newton 130 – I never really got to use the Newton. Apple was phasing it out and there was this hot new thing called a Palm Pilot, and that became my first serious PDA. My first smartphone would be a Palm Treo.
  • Newton 2000 – I still love the Newton. Sorry Steve.
  • QuickTake 200 digital camera – took really low resolution photos, but it was my first digital camera.
  • Mac mini – used it to learn how to run OS X Server
  • Apple TV, both the original and the current “hockey puck”. Hobby? Give us a break Apple.
  • Personal laser printer – YES, Apple used to make printers! Go figure.
  • Studio Display, Cinema Display
  • …aaaaaaand a few iMacs
  • iPhone – I’ve owned every model of iPhone except the iPhone 3G. Two of them were stolen prompting premature upgrades. I originally didn’t think I would go the iPhone route, but eventually the Apple fanboy in me and the coolness factor won me over.
  • iPad 2
  • Retina iPad mini

I’m sure I missed something, but here is a couple of pictures of part of my motley crew.

Newtons copy

Maccollection1 copy

 

So there you have it, my life as seen through my relationship with my Apple products from the last 30 years…well, a big chunk of it anyway. In your many, or few, years using Apple products, which was your favorite or most unique? I’m not sure I can pick, but I might lean towards the G4 Cube. Relate a story of you and your Mac history in the comments.

 

 

Security firms weigh in on Adobe breach, cite 38 million+ user IDs stolen

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, October 30th, 2013, 10:56
Category: Hack, News, security

adobelogo

You’re probably going to want to change your Adobe login and password.

Per Macworld and Krebs on Security, the security breach reported earlier this month at Adobe is turning out to be much more widespread than the company first let on. At least 38 million users have been affected by the early October incident.

When Adobe announced the breach on October 3, it said that attackers stole user names and encrypted passwords for an undisclosed numbers of users, along with encrypted credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates for 2.9 million customers. Krebs on Security has reported on the full extent of the attack, confirming the 38 million figure with Adobe.

The total damage could go beyond 38 million users. According to the article, the 3.8GB file includes more than 150 million usernames and hashed passwords, all taken from Adobe. The same file also apparently turned up on a server with the other stolen Adobe data.

Adobe says that 38 million active users users were affected, whereas the other usernames and passwords could include inactive IDs, test accounts and IDs with invalid passwords. However, Adobe is still investigating, and given the tendency of users to repeat the same usernames and passwords across multiple Web services, inactive account holders could still face a security risk. Adobe is trying to notify inactive users of the breach, and has already reset passwords for active users who were affected.

To make matters worse, Krebs on Security and Hold Security both claim that the hackers stole source code for flagship products such as Photoshop, Acrobat, and Reader. Adobe acknowledged that at least some Photoshop source code was stolen; the company is trying to get the data taken down.

In a blog post, Hold Security suggested that the source code theft could have far-reaching security implications. “While we are not aware of specific use of data from the source code, we fear that disclosure of encryption algorithms, other security schemes, and software vulnerabilities can be used to bypass protections for individual and corporate data,” the firm wrote. “Effectively, this breach may have opened a gateway for new generation of viruses, malware, and exploits.”

Active Adobe users affected by the breach should have received a notification from the company by now, prompting them to change passwords. As always, users can employ several strategies to keep their data safe, such as setting different passwords on each site or setting up a password manager.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Adobe sandbox Flash Player development for OS X versions

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, October 24th, 2013, 22:00
Category: News, security, Software

When in doubt, sandbox the sucker.

Per Mac|Life, Adobe announced on Wednesday that the latest version of the Safari web browser included with OS X Mavericks now features app sandboxing for Flash Player, following similar moves with browsers from Google, Microsoft and Mozilla.

Although Flash Player has been sandboxed for some time, for whatever reason Apple didn’t get on board with Safari until version 7.0, which is included with this week’s update to OS X Mavericks.

“For the technically minded, this means that there is a specific com.macromedia.Flash Player.plugin.sb file defining the security permissions for Flash Player when it runs within the sandboxed plugin process,” explains Adobe Platform Security Strategist Peleus Uhley.

“As you might expect, Flash Player’s capabilities to read and write files will be limited to only those locations it needs to function properly. The sandbox also limits Flash Player’s local connections to device resources and inter-process communication (IPC) channels. Finally, the sandbox limits Flash Player’s networking privileges to prevent unnecessary connection capabilities.”

The bottom line is that viewing Flash Player content will now be safer and more secure for Safari users on OS X Mavericks, thanks to the combined work of Adobe and Apple, who not so long ago were on opposite sides of the track when it came to Flash technology.

If it makes it more secure, then godspeed…

Adobe Flash Player updated to 11.9.900.117

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, October 9th, 2013, 06:06
Category: News, Software

This one’s fairly substantial.

On Tuesday, Adobe released Flash Player 11.9.900.117 for Mac OS X, an 18 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version adds the following fixes and changes:
- Mobile Workers (concurrency) – Android: Workers APIs are now supported for Android. This will work only with swf-version 22 (namespace 3.9) or later. The feature is in development and there are a few known issues.

- Support for background execution in Direct render mode – iOS and Android: Presently AIR on iOS and Android does not support background execution when render mode direct is set. Due to this restriction, Stage3D based apps are not able to execute background tasks like audio playback, location updates, network upload/download etc. iOS does not allow OpenGLES/rendering calls in the background. Applications which attempt to make OpenGL calls in the background are terminated by the iOS. Android does not restrict applications from either making OpenGLES in the background or other background task (like audio playback). With this feature, we would be allowing AIR mobile apps to execute in background when renderMode direct is set. AIR iOS runtime will throw an error if OpenGLES calls are made in background. However no error will be thrown on Android, as Android native apps are allowed to make OpenGLES calls in background. It’s recommended to not make rendering calls while app is executing in background as its important to utilize the mobile resources judicially. List of Stage APIs which may throw the error 3768 – The Stage3D API may not be used during background execution”.

- XXHDPI (144×144) Icon Support – Android: With this feature we have added support for beautiful, high resolution icons on devices such as the Nexus 10.

- Mac OS X 10.9 Support: We have tested against the latest developer releases of OS X 10.9 and are ensuring that Flash Player continues to perform as expected.

- Mac .pkg Installation Support: Deploying Flash Player and keeping it up to date is a critical task for system administrators worldwide. We’re introducing a new .pkg installer format for our distribution partners so we can reduce their workload by allowing them to deploy Flash Player for Mac using their current tools and environments.

Adobe Flash Player 11.9.900.117 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new Flash Player and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Adobe announces security breach, says 2.9 million customer accounts, encrypted credit and debit card data stolen

Posted by:
Date: Friday, October 4th, 2013, 07:43
Category: News, security

adobelogo

You might want to check in with Adobe on this…

Per AppleInsider, Adobe on Thursday confirmed that malicious parties had compromised its networks and potentially gleaned credit card and other personal information from the accounts of nearly three million users.

The company revealed the breach in a post to its official blog. Adobe’s security team recently discovered a number of “sophisticated attacks” on its network, with some of those attacks targeting customer information and source code for several Adobe products.

In all, the attackers are believed to have stolen information on 2.9 million Adobe account holders. That data includes customer names, encrypted credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and other customer order information. Adobe does not believe that decrypted credit or debit card numbers were removed from the network.

Adobe has contacted federal law enforcement for help in the investigation and is resetting passwords for affected accounts in order to prevent further unauthorized access. Owners of affected Adobe ID accounts will receive an email notification from Adobe with information on how to change their passwords.

The company also recommends that account holders affected by the attack change their passwords on any website where they may have signed up with the same login credentials.

On its end, Adobe has spread news of the breach to banks that process its payments, and is coordinating with payment card companies and card-issuing institutions to help protect customers’ accounts. In addition, the company is extending a free one-year credit monitoring membership to those customers whose information was compromised.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Photoshop Elements 12.0

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, September 24th, 2013, 07:37
Category: News, Software

pe23icon

You can’t knock a new version of Photoshop Elements.

On Tuesday, graphics giant Adobe announced the released of its Photoshop Elements 12 consumer image editing suite, the new version, a 1.55 gigabyte download with a 30 day demo available, adds the following features and changes:
New:
- Take your photos and videos with you wherever you go: Easily view, relive, and share your Elements photos on your smartphone and tablet. And finally–unlock the photos from your mobile device, and see them in your Elements albums back at home.

- Easily move objects: Move objects in a photo and have the background automatically filled in with Content-Aware Move.

- Pet-Eye Correction: Remove green, yellow, and other “pet eye” discolorations as easily as you remove red eye in photos of people.

- Share from Editor: Sharing options previously only available in the Organizer are now available in the Editor.

- Add your personal touch, instantly: Use a variety of one-touch Frames, Effects, and Textures to add depth to your snapshots.

Enhanced:
- Discover a friendly and intuitive environment: Organize, edit, create, and share more quickly and easily thanks to big, bold icons; a helpful Action bar; and the ability to choose from Quick, Guided, and Expert editing modes to fit your needs.

- Go from flawed to phenomenal in seconds: Get the photo fixes you’re looking for with one-step shortcuts that whiten teeth or make skies a vibrant blue. Make unwanted photo elements vanish with one stroke of the Spot Healing Brush, and use Auto Smart Tone for intelligent photo corrections.

- Fix photos the easy way: Easily straighten a photo and fill in any missing background with Content-Aware Fill for the Straighten tool. Available in Expert mode.

- Share photos: Quickly post your photos on Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, and more. Now, easily share your Elements photos in shared albums, and view them on your smartphone or tablet.

- Print using integrated online offerings: Order prints, cards, and photo books online to bring your creations to life. Print folded cards to your local printer. (Services vary worldwide.)

- Learn as you use: It’s fun to produce professional effects using one of more than 25 Guided Edits. New effects include Zoom Burst, which brings dramatic action to your photos; Photo Puzzle, which gives a fun puzzle effect; and Old Photo Restore, which helps you fix an old or worn photo.

- Count on step-by-step assistance: Get the results you want with Guided Edits. New options include Zoom Burst, Photo Puzzle, and Old Photo Restore.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 retails for US$99.99 for the full version and US$79.99 for the upgrade version and requires Mac OS X 10.7 and an Intel multi-core processor to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new Photoshop Elements and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments or feedback.

Adobe releases Lightroom 5.2 update

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, September 17th, 2013, 07:32
Category: News, Software

lightroomlogo

A helpful update’s a helpful update.

Adobe on Tuesday announced the availability of the latest version of its prosumer photo editing software, Lightroom 5.2. The new version, a 475.7 megabyte download via MacUpdate, offers the following fixes and changes:
- A color noise reduction slider in the Detail panel and a feather adjustment slider for the Spot Heal tool.

- Bug fixes, new lens profiles, and support for 16 new cameras, including the Canon EOS 70D, Fujifilm X-M1, and Sony A3000.

Lightroom 5.2 is available for both Mac and PC platforms. Mac users will need a multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support, running OS X 10.7 or later along with at least 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended) 2GB of available HDD space, and a 1024×768 resolution to install and run.

The software is available from Adobe’s website for US$79 when upgrading from an earlier version, or US$149 for new users. Those already subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service will find that the new software is included in their memberships.

If you’ve tried Lightroom 5 and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.