the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Category Archives: Apple

bios, baby

I know that everyone hates updates, especially that ultra-pesky 1709 Creators update for Windows 10. But you gotta do them, just like exercising, dieting, eating healthy, etc. Please remember when an update says “DO NOT POWER OFF YOUR COMPUTER” it really means it.

Currently most every “modern” computer needs to have its BIOS updated for those also-pesky chip Spectre/Meltdown vulnerabilities. Most computer manufacturers and motherboard companies have Windows software that helps you perform a BIOS update. Apple calls these firmware, and handles the updates for you via the App Store. Just remember, these updates should be done attended, so that’s more for the itjerk to do!

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dnscrypt

Domain Name Service (DNS) is the mechanism by where numeric IP addresses become readable domain names; it’s far easier for me to tell you to visit strawberrybricks.com than a bunch of numbers. When you browse the internet, then, the addresses you type or click on go through a DNS search. Typically, your ISP provides this service, or whomever you get your network connection from – however there is an implicit level of trust involved. Who’s to say that yahoo.com for example, is really yahoo.com? What is the DNS server spoofed the reply? Further, any DNS server can collect a wealth of information by recording your DNS requests. Finally, the speed of your browsing is dependent on how quickly these requests are filled.

Both Google (8.8.8.8) and OpenDNS (208.67.222.222) provide free DNS services that are fast and secure, and supposedly do not track your requests. A third service, Quad9 (9.9.9.9) was very recently launched. Your ISP has a lot of information about you. Switching your DNS to one of these providers is simple (just type them in your router, or network connection), and gives some degree of privacy. Every little bit helps?

DNSCrypt goes one further by encrypting all your DNS requests. It’s an easy enough program to install, available for PC, Mac and Linux, and for routers using DD-WRT. On my Ubuntu box, I needed to install libsodium-dev first, and then was most successful installing DNSCrypt-proxy from source by using the old “configure, make, make install” method with version 1.9.5. Then, you can run it with systemd automatically.

On the web:
DNSCrypt

apple vs doj

Apple has already helped the government retrieve data from some 70 iPhones. Cooks stance is about selling and market share, and not helping solve the heinous murders that the San Bernardino terrorists committed.

 

genius (sic)

“I tried following the instructions on that site but unfortunately I don’t really understand what they want me to do. For example I downloaded the correct version but I do not know how to run it at the command line.”

iMod

el capitan, thank you

Don’t know if it’s just me or not, but doing a clean install on an old Mac computer has been a pain, since 10.6 Snow Leopard. Back in the early days of Mac OS X, you could boot a Mac into firewire mode and copy an image over. As Apple moved away from firewire, that became more and more difficult. Doing a clean install of an operating system became even more problematic after the switch to Intel processors, as Apple made version-specific demands on installers; this disc only worked with this machine, etc. Of course a few years ago, Apple did away with optical drives all together.

Fortunately, that’s changed, and now making a bootable flash drive is easy business. To perform a clean install of 10.11 El Capitan, go to the App Store and download the free installer, it’s about >6GB and will end up in your /Applications directory. Take a big enough USB drive, format it to “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” and name it “Untitled”. Providing you keep these defaults the same, you just need to run this simple command to make your very own bootable installer:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app --nointeraction

Boot the Mac by holding down the option (Apple) key and you’ll be able to choose the USB drive as your startup device and proceed with a clean install.

Now that Apple is giving away free upgrades to their OS X, there’s really no reason to not run the latest and greatest version of OS X. (Well, maybe*). El Capitan will run on most any Mac that’s got a 64 bit processor, and you’ll have to go back a decade or so to find one that doesn’t have one – like my little Mac Mini with its core solo* that keeps chugging along after all these years!

iPad2 repair #2

iPad2 repair #2

Second time I’ve had to replace the digitizer. Didn’t bother replacing the plastic mid-frame bezel, so not worth the effort. And this time rubber bumper is being ordered before the kids get it back

steve jobs 1955-2011

No doubt you've read Richard Stallman's two cents and related comments on Steve Jobs. I point it out because the media sure did attribute an unbelievable amount of hyperbole to Jobs' achievements. His passing, like any other, was untimely and unfortunate. What then is his legacy?

In its first incarnation, Apple was a computer company with a niche. My first introduction to the Mac, way back in the mid-80s, was in the advertising department of a Very Large Corporation. It was all done on a Mac. More interestingly, all the support for those computers was always contracted out to a specialty firm – corporate IT had nothing to do with them. This was the start of the greater Apple economy. As the decade moved on, Apple created other niches for their computer, but objectively speaking, they really were just another computer company, and the Mac was just another computer. For perspective's sake, I was into spreadsheets back then: Lotus 1-2-3 on a DOS box got the job done for me better than any other (and Prodigy ran full screen).

Jobs came back to Apple in the late 90s and shortly after the new millennium started to introduce funny-colored, odd-shaped computer designs, sporting a new operating system, Mac OS X. Well pundits, it was basically Unix, with a GUI called Aqua. That's probably when Stallman's ire started to rise, as Mac OS X was (and is) mostly based on free open-source software.

Though it wasn't the first MP3 player (I remember Creative Labs), the iPod was next. I started my career in Higher Ed around this time and I can tell you, categorically, no one under the age of 30 had a Mac computer. No one. But the kids did start to buy those iPods, and then their music from iTunes. And that's exactly where Jobs meteoric rise begins – with the marriage of hardware and content as a business model. Soon enough, everyone's iPods gave way to iPhones. Next, the iPhones were outfitted with a Macbook Pro and, subsequently, iPads.

Today, Apple is the new PC.

Let it be said that Jobs was an amazing businessman – and one that just so happened to be selling computer goods. Apple products aren't better per se than any other brand. Do people really do better, more productive work on their Apple products? I know my answer. But people love them and are willing to pay both extra money and, as Stallman notes, their freedom, to get them. For better or worse, Jobs was a great capitalist and the highly profitable Apple Inc. is his legacy.

And one more thing, he really did have an eye for design.

apple without jobs

I'm surprised by the lack of articles and short sellers that believe that Jobs departure from Apple could actually be a good thing. Think what a Microsoft without Ballmer would be? Onward and upward…

iPad’s black hole

I know, so much is being said about this already… but here's the main points: 1) it's a big iPhone, with some fancier multi-touch and a better display and 2) applications are only available via the Apps store. So as I read the chatter on the pros/cons of the device, I gotta side with the naysayers. The iPad is not revolutionary and it is not a computer; it's an appliance that continues the lockdown trend at Apple of only running "approved" applications. There's little good in that, even if the vast majority of users would never consider anything but what Apple allows.

Now, if it had OS X on it, I could run server admin tools – how cool would that be!?

Update – to further the "appliance" argument, Apple will replace the device, not battery!

Update Update – Seen it, used, etc. One critique that seems to have been complete missed by the media – it's one big money sucking black hole. Pay for that 3G plan. Buy a .mac account. Buy from iTunes. Buy apps. Buy. Buy. Bye.

Something tells me we don't need electronic devices whose sole purpose is to extra money from your wallet.

On the web:
Apple iPad

hackintosh

Remember that Dell Mini 9 that I bought earlier in the year. Check it out now:


How easy was this? Very. First, I purchased a Super Talent 16GB SSD drive to replace the paltry 4GB STEC that came with the Mini (you'll need about 8-10GB for the install). SuperBiiz/eWiz had it for $49.95 delivered, with coupon. It's a fast drive (this is the FEM16GFDL), much like the Runcore drives, but less inexpensive and in stock (ordered it Sunday, had it Friday).

Then, on a tip from the great resource of MyDellMini, I found a guide at Mechdrew that details the installation process. The step-by-step instructions show how to create a bootable flash drive from your Snow Leopard DVD ($29) on a Mac computer, and then install the OS on the netbook. The magic is two-fold: First, the Dell Mini 9 has extremely compatible hardware to OS X. Secondly, NetBookMaker, a GoogleCode project, adds the appropriate extensions to make it all work.

And work it does! Trackpad, wireless, camera, sound, battery meter, software updates (10.6.1), even sleep mode. But even more impressive is how responsive Snow Leopard is on the Mini – maybe this is the SSD too? So, however much I think Apple sucks, it's testament to the fact that OS X is Unix, and Unix is good.

On the web:
MechDrew guide
Netbook-Installer software