Friday, November 24, 2006

Serious Safari and Firefox Security Flaw Discovered

I have always refrained from using the Safari and Firefox password storage features. Both Web browsers sport the ability to store and auto-fill passwords used to log in to secure Web pages. This feature has been pulling at me to use it because of the considerable convenience it offers.

As mentioned previously, I have been using the Mac application Wallet for storing all my passwords in encrypted form separate from my browsers. When shopping online or logged into a forum, I would look up passwords in Wallet. I never stored passwords in Safari or Firefox. A vague inclination not to trust my passwords outside of Wallet prevailed.

Now we all have a concrete reason not to use the password storage capabilities of these browsers. As reported by Newsfactor and Heise Security, both Safari and Firefox are subject to password hacking. Malicious Web sites can easily extract passwords stored in the auto-fill features found in both browsers.

Heise Security created an online dummy demonstration of how passwords stored in your browser can be easily extracted for nefarious purposes.

The take-home lesson for today is, do not use the auto-fill feature of any Web browser to store your online passwords. Bad idea.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Assault on Credulity and Battery Beware

Earlier this year, Apple recalled a vast quantity of MacBook Pro batteries as part of a larger international Sony laptop battery recall.

As a professional Mac consultant searching for genuine bargains on Craigslist, I have spotted several instances of defective, recalled MacBook Pro batteries offered for sale as new at a price far below market value.

Apparently, the unscrupulous sellers are repackaging old, defective batteries in the packaging used by Apple to ship free replacement batteries, then putting them up for sale. That is, I've seen ads falsely advertising "new" MacBook Pro batteries as "in the original packaging." That sounds convincing at first glance, but it's an easy scam to perpetrate.

Computer bargains are out there. Don't be discouraged in your search for that one gem, but use caution. When shopping for a MacBook Pro battery, ask for the battery model number and serial number from anyone selling MacBook Pro batteries. Every Mac battery has such information printed on it. Compare those numbers with the authentic Apple list of serial numbers for defective units located at this Apple Web site-- MacBook Pro 15-inch Battery Exchange.

Buyer Beware. Based on my own unscientific perusal of MacBook Pro battery ads on CraigsList, most are bogus. When I asked why a certain MacBook Pro battery was up for sale, I was told that the battery was no longer needed because it was acquired by a Google employee to be used only for brief testing.

Now I have heard everything. Recall the old adage that something for sale at a price too good to be true, probably isn't. Do your homework, or contact me to obtain a purchase consultation before buying computer equipment from unknown sources.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on Computer Recycling

Recycling computers, though a lofty and laudable goal, currently falls far short of desired results. Something of a misnomer, few personal computer components can be returned to the manufacturing resource stream. According to various reports, computers ostensibly intended for re-use in foreign countries such as Africa may in fact end up going straight from the shipping docks into open-pit dumps.

California now levies a tax on each new computer purchase to foster recycling programs, and Apple Computer will accept a discarded Mac at any Apple Store upon purchase of a new computer.

Expensive, prized electronic equipment is transformed into dangerous toxic waste when it's discarded. More on this crucial environmental concern is offered by Computer Take Back.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To Zune or Not To Zune

Zune, the Microsoft MP3 player and wannabe iPod killer, goes on sale today. Should you run out and buy one? Check out this CNN review of the Zune, then you decide what's cool, and what's not.

Monday, November 13, 2006

FIOS Fetches Faster Internet

Few high-speed Internet options are available for the SOHO (small office/home office) setting, thus my exuberance cannot be quelled regarding Verizon's new FIOS Internet service. Small businesses are limited primarily to DSL and fractional T1 lines for Internet access, offered by telephone companies. Although Comcast cable offers Comcast Workplace, this service has been difficult to obtain for my clients.

Although currently restricted geographically to selected southern California cities, FIOS promises Internet access over very fast fiber optic lines. About three times faster than current cable service at a lower price, FIOS is poised to take the SOHO market from DSL.

DSL is ubiquitous but lacking in sufficient speed to provide acceptable service to busy households and small businesses. I think of it as the modern equivalent of dial-up service. It's there if you must use it but cable Internet is faster and more reliable. Cable Internet suffers from lack of availability in small-business commercial buildings leaving a conspicuous gap in service. DSL may be acceptable for one or two users but the limited bandwidth becomes apparent quickly in small offices.

When FIOS will be available in northern California, and how cable service responds to FIOS competition, will be well worth watching in the coming months.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

MacBooks Get Core 2 Duo Processor

Apple announced immediate availability of revised MacBooks. The new models use the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and some models have larger-capacity hard drives and enhanced DVD drives. In my opinion, this is one excellent laptop choice for students and others.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rumor Has It — Core 2 Duo MacBooks

The other Mac shoe may drop next week.

Following in the footsteps of the recent MacBook Pro upgrade, the industry is abuzz about the possibility that MacBook laptops may soon get an upgraded Core 2 Duo processor. If you're shopping for a MacBook, waiting until November 13th may be rewarded with a faster model.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Back Pedaling on Apple Backup

Straight to the point, I'm now back-pedaling on Apple Backup.

In theory, and for some people, Apple's DotMac backup application Backup could be an acceptable solution for backing up computer files. A successful backup strategy is demanding, requiring a high level of confidence and reliability. Human factors are equally as important as the backup application itself.

I currently discourage use of DotMac for backing up Mac files for the following reasons:
I no longer recommend Apple Backup, but if you do use Backup I recommend these steps:
Backing up data is a huge bother and expense but don't drive your Mac without one.

The pro's use Retrospect Express (or Retrospect Backup) backup software from EMC/Dantz. Retrospect is not free and it's difficult to configure but it's the most reliable solution, in my view of the world. Other acceptable applications include SuperDuper! and Deja Vu. The former is very easy to use but does not offer incremental backup. The latter offers incremental and network backups.

No topic is more difficult for me to address with clients than backing up data. I hate to do it as much as anyone else, and to do so with any confidence will take much more than DotMac.

Create multiple backup copies.
Do not rely solely on Internet backups. More desirable are data backups to DVD's, hard drives, tapes, and file servers.
Store backups in at least two different street locations.
Purchase commercial backup software to automate the backup process.

All computer hard drives fail. Those that don't fail, get corrupted or stolen. The only factor that I cannot predict in regards to the loss of data storage is when, not if.

If you have files on your Mac which you'd rather not have vanish, back them up. Nothing is more important to busy people than keeping the backup simple. To achieve this goal, backup the entire contents of your hard drive on an external hard drive or file server.

This isn't cheap. Not everyone needs all the bells and whistles. Your backup solution should meet your own individual backup needs. If you have a few dozen word processing files that can fit on a single CD, then burning a single 650 MB CD once a week might work for you. Few of us will get off so conveniently or inexpensively, though. DVD's hold 4.7 GB's of data and cost more. Hard drives hold more yet and cost more yet.

Design and implement your own backup system based on an analysis of:
The former is number crunching; the latter is a personal cost/benefit analysis.

At this time, I do not see a positive cost/benefit for Apple's DotMac Backup. Look elsewhere.

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