The everyday ramblings of an everyday geek.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Spyware Problem

Spyware is a huge problem. It seems that if you own a windows computer, you own your fair share of spyware. Spyware is software that is designed to grab your data and send it back to the company that wrote it. This information can range from your browsing habits, to passwords and credit card companies. Another function of spyware is to turn your computer into a drone, a computer that can be used remotely to hide the nefarious doings of dark side of the internet. There are remedies, and they are free, but the problem is that their not easy.

The first is to change your browser. Using the web means using Internet Explorer, right? Wrong. Get off Internet Explorer as fast as you can. It is specifically targeted by all but a handful of spyware programs because of its market share and its security holes. Changing to another free browser like www.getfirefox.com will be a good place to start. You may experience some problems. Firefox is may not be supported by your bank, or tax office and some pages may look strange. This is a problem with Internet Explorer not Firefox. The internet is comprised of standard which dictate how pages and security should be handled. Internet Explorer flaunts them all, but because of its market share, most web designers try to make their pages work with IE. Another problem is start up time. Internet Explorer is inexplicitly linked directly to the core of windows. This massively improves its start up time , but makes it a huge security nightmare.

The next thing to do is change your browsing habits. The internet is not a safe place for the uninitiated, just like cities are not a safe place. You have to think before you click. Pressing just one OK, when you should have pressed Cancel can mean that your internet connection is sent via a premium rate number, or that a piece of spyware is installed. Read every message, and ask yourself if it sounds safe. In general anything that asks you to make that page your homepage, asks you to vote, or offers to fix your computer is going to break your computer. In general, click cancel not OK, it probably safer.

Find a surfing buddy. Because of the security problems, you have to learn how to surf the net and if you have no interest in becoming a geek, the best thing to do is find one who will get you through your first few sessions. This will probably save you a fortune in the long run, both in time and maintenance.

Finally get yourself some anti-spyware software. This is the last line of defence, similar in operation to anti-virus software (you do have anti-virus software don't you). This goes against my previous statement, you have to download and install some software. Consider this the exception to the rule. www.safer-networking.org is the home of Spybot. It might not be the best, but it does work and it is free.

But why am I writing this on a Mac page? If you've got this far you probably have a spyware problem and are looking for a fix. The best fix for spyware, that means you don't have to worry about any of these problems is to buy a Mac, or get Linux. In fact get anything but Windows. The chances are that if you are thinking about using Linux you probably know all of this already. If this was new to you, get a Mac.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Two macs and one iPod

I'm in the fortunate position of owning two macs, a PowerBook G4 and a iMac G5. When I bought my G5 i used the migration assistant to sync my two macs. This was great except for a few things:

I couldn't remove the Airport Express signal strength bar
I couldn't remove the battery level indicator
My iPod was constantly being synced with both macs.

The first two were remedied by upgrading the OS to Tiger (I think just running a reinstall would have done it). The last one annoyed me. I didn't realise it was happening until I wiped all of my music from my PowerBook to save hard disk space. The problem was that iPods are linked to specific iTunes libraries. Using the migration wizard had meant that both Macs had the same id for the libraries, so the iPod tried to sync with both. I didn't want to remove iTunes, I still keep a few songs on here, and more often than not, I'll rip CDs to my PowerBook the minute I buy them.

I remedied the situation by closing iTunes, deleting the entire iTunes folder in my Music folder and restarting iTunes. This forced iTunes to rebuild its library and generate a new library id.



Monday, May 23, 2005

My Mac Post

I had my first Mac experience in 1998 whilst working for a BT Shop in London. I'd just completed the first (and last) year of my Chemistry and Molecular Physics Degree and was trying working and Living in London. As the new geek, and a fair sales pedigree behind me it was my job to sell Apple... I failed miserably. It wasn't just my fault, nobody in the store knew anything about Macs and I only really had PC experience. All I could see was a pretty box that didn't run any of the programs that I owned and had a user interface that I couldn't see any advantage of. This combined with a difficult finance package made selling Macs twice as hard as a PC.

About a year later (after changing my major, to Computer Science) I was reintroduced to the Mac platform when I sat a class that included watching a keynote by Steve Jobs. I was awestruck. I had no idea how much extra functionality a Mac provided then I looked at the price tag and was immediately put off it again. But that was enough to get me interested enough to continue following the Macs development.

I bought my first Mac, a 12", 1Ghz, PowerBook in October 2003. I was in the market for a laptop and although it wasn't the cheapest, or the most powerful laptop on the market it was one of the smallest - a big factor. I'm not going to say that separating myself from the £2000 (as I had to buy all the software again) was an easy step. In fact is was down right irresponsible, but I'd become increasingly aware that I was spending more
time working on my x86 hardware than on the work I actually got paid for - it was time to find out if the 'it just works' marketing line was true. It was, and 2 years down the line the only way you'd get me to leave the platform is by prying my PowerBook from my cold, dead hands.

This blog will focus on all my adventures as a Mac owner, from getting my iPod to work with two Macs, coding in Core Data, to musings on whether Apple should release a new video iPod... to name but a few things that are already on my mind.

Hope you enjoy