Tech Week in Review

A SirCam solution, iTools and PCs, Apple Store Chicago, good Samaritan smackdown, end of Kaleidoscope, Mac OS 9.2.1, file extensions, and the random link of the week.

SirCam, SirCam Everywhere

Looks like I'm not the only one ranting about the annoyances of SirCam. John Siracusa, however, has provided a solution, albeit for people who are technically inclined, to make sure it doesn't become a bandwidth leech. One of the nice points of John's article is the demonstration of the power of Mac OS X for tasks like this.

My own sysadmin, however, reminded me of another excellent (and simpler) solution: simply set your email program to reject any attachments over a certain size, which will catch most of the virus copies. Downside: you'll need to take this filter off if you're expecting to receive a legitimate attachment. Workaround: set up a account (or other free email account) and use that for attachments. Not being in your peecee-using friends' address books, that new account should be safe from the ravages of SirCam.

Speaking of iTools

Anyone else tried to sign up for iTools on a PC, just for kicks? I did a few weeks ago. I can't verify this at the moment, but last time I tried it, it gave an error page saying "iTools requires a Macintosh," where the word "Macintosh" was linked to the Apple Store. Cute. Good for a laugh, at least, if nothing else.

Apple Season in Chicago

The Apples are ripening early this year in the Midwest. First it was the Mall of America on 11 August. The Apple Store at Woodfield (Schaumburg, IL) is opening on Saturday. I plan to be there, along with several other noted Mac Web personalities: Michael Coyle, webmaster of ResExcellence and the staff of As the Apple Turns, that amazingly funny Apple-oriented online soap opera that we've all come to know and love in the last few years. I'll have a full report in next week's Tech Week In Review (TWIR) right here on LEM. Come to the opening and look for the guy handing out his LEM business cards. I'll probably be wearing a white Apple polo shirt of some sort, along with several hundred other die-hard fans.

If you're planning on being there too, or (if you read this after the opening) were there and missed me, drop me a line.

Good Samaritan Smacked by Feds

Remember last week when I ranted about Microsoft's total lack of responsibility to their customers? Well, sheesh, I'm glad I'm not as nice as this guy. Or you could read the Slashdot link. Lesson: don't bother to tell someone they have a security hole — unless you discover it because someone else exploited it.

Personally, I think Microsoft should be brought to criminal trial under the DMCA for producing software that allows for "circumvention of access controls." Good grief, Charlie Brown.

RIP, Kaleidoscope

Arlo Rose has made it official: Kaleidoscope will no longer be developed, either for the Classic Mac OS or for Mac OS X. I'm sure the main reason is Arlo, Greg, and Ed have moved on to better uses of their time, but I wonder: does Apple's relentless persecution of theme and theme editor developers have anything to do with it? Kaleidoscope is a great program that I never really got interested in, mostly because back in 1996 (when it first appeared), a lot of the themes were too garish or too difficult to read, and it wasn't the most stable thing, either. It has matured a lot in five years, and though I never used it much, I'll still miss it as it slowly gets pushed aside by the upgrade to OS X.

Mac OS 9.2.1 Released

Yeah, for those of you who somehow missed it, Mac OS 9.2.1 is out. (KBase article requires free registration.) The update requires Mac OS 9.1 or 9.2, which basically means you need to have 9.0.x or better. (Mac OS 9.1 was a free update from 9.0.x, and I highly recommend it to anyone running 9.0.x. It uses less RAM and is much more stable.) I'll have a quick report on how 9.2.1 compares in stability, RAM usage, and other details next week.

I downloaded the update Tuesday night, starting about 2200 hours. It was done in about four hours (it was 82 MB!) using a 56K modem. I'm quite impressed with the performance of both the modem and Apple's servers, since I was fully expecting to have to wait a few days before I could get a solid connection. Kudos to Apple for making sure their servers could handle what has to be an enormous load. And phooey on those sites who said Apple dropped the ball simply because they couldn't download it five minutes after the announcement. Downloading a major update like this — all 82 MB of it — the first evening it's out is a first since I've been downloading OSes from Apple. I still remember the two week wait I had to get 7.5 Update 2 back in early '96. That was inadequate capacity.

For those of you running a non-US Mac OS, International English, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish are all available as well.

Microsoft Is Still Evil

The QuickTime problem with Internet Explorer 5.5 (Windows only) is fixed. Microsoft didn't fix it, though — Apple did. Someone wanna explain to me why Apple had to fix a problem that Microsoft introduced? I just don't get it.

File Extensions vs. Creator Codes

Ars Technica has a great article about what "metadata" is and why you should care, also written by John Siracusa (see above). In case you hadn't noticed, Apple seems to be pushing creator codes out of the way in favor of the Windoze (and, to be fair, *nix) standard of three-letter file extensions. Creator codes are not only much more versatile, but they allow different files of the same type to be opened by different applications.

For example, if I have several saved emails — text documents, really — I would prefer those to open in my email client, Eudora. HTML files, on the other hand, are also text documents, but I'd rather have them open in BBEdit or Tex-Edit Plus. With a standard three-letter extension, you can't tell that the document is associated with a specific application; if you have more than one application that will open that type of file on a Windoze box, you must designate one of them to open that type of file by default and any time you want to open a file with another app, you must do it manually.

Then there's the whole UI issue: I should be able to name a file whatever I want, without worrying about the extension. Again, Windoze provides a great example of how not to do it: hiding the extension. When you hide extensions, you can conceivably end up with several different files (and I've seen it happen) called "name," "name," "name," "name," and "name," all with different extensions (say, for example, .gif, .jpg, .tif, .txt, .doc). This, needless to say, is bad. The problem is, Apple still doesn't quite have it right in OS X. Read Siracusa's article for more information about the problem and possible solutions.

Random Link of the Week

This thing was the latest find of b.b., the MacArchaeologist. Got you interested yet?

Guess that's about it for this week. Tune in next Friday for more 9.2.1 news and other tech stuff.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson