Verifying your system for Flashback.G

Nasty little Mac trojan floating around, either penetrates via old versions of Java or installs via a fake certificate message claiming to be Apple. Once installed it tries to sniff out username and passwords entered in your browser. To check and remove it:

If you suspect you’ve already been infected, you can check by launching Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/) and pasting in the code below, and pressing Return:

ls /Users/Shared/.*.so

If the response you see in Terminal includes “No such file or directory,” you’re in the clear. If you instead see a list of one or more files with a .so extension and no “no such file” declaration, you may well have fallen victim to the malware.

If you do find that you’re infected, removing the files referenced above or installing antivirus software like Intego’s should remove any traces of Flashback.

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Design in tech

A few interesting notes about design I read in John Sculley’s recent interview about Steve Jobs and Apple.

An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

While not surprising for anyone that knows Apple well, still notable in the industry. The other note I thought was interesting was around developers…

Engineers are far more important than managers at Apple — and designers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even when you look at software, the best designers like Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, were called software designers, not software engineers because they were designing in software. It wasn’t just that their code worked. It had to be beautiful code. People would go in and admire it. It’s like a writer. People would look at someone’s style. They would look at their code writing style and they were considered just beautiful geniuses at the way they wrote code or the way they designed hardware.

Again, even with engineering driven companies, I rarely hear a focus on writing beautiful code. I think that’s as cool as building great customer facing product.

The whole interview is definitely worth a read for those interested in management and product development.


New Apple laptops

As a few people have been asking me my opinion of the new Apple laptops, so I’m reposting an email note I sent out to a friend. Sums up my opinion in not too many words.

If I were buying a new laptop these days, I’d probably pick up one of the MacBook Airs. I think that’s Apple’s nicest machine. Beautiful display, light and portable. And then I’d likely connect it to an external display for home use. The new 24″ display is pretty cool.

The big problem with the new MacBook Pro is the screen. As soon as I saw the specs I knew their would be a firestorm over the lack of a matte option. Photographers and designers don’t generally like the glossy screens. I predict in the short run, the last rev of MacBook Pros will actually see a slight bump in their used value. And it will delay current Pro users from upgrading for awhile until the community figures out how to deal with it. Also somewhat worrying is the glass screen. If it cracks easier, that will be a disaster for sales. It almost seems to me that you now are required to get Applecare if you buy one of the new machines to protect yourself from a screen failure. Other than that, the track pad looks cool. I like the chicklet style keyboard better than the old one. And the asethics are great (though somewhat conservative in comparison to the Air).

As it’s a v1.0, I’d hold off on buying unless you’re really in need for a new machine.


Jobs’ brain

Yes I’m still alive. Just haven’t been much in a blogging mode. But this YouTube piece on Jobs caught my eye. Over the past year or so, Jobs has gotten a lot of praise for his brilliance as a marketer. I’ve never liked that description of him. Yes, he is great at marketing. But where I think he really excels as a strategist.

In this YouTube video, you’ll see how Job’s brain works. The video is really an internal training piece for NeXT. So, it reveals a lot more details about his thinking than one would usually see in a keynote. But if you watch closely, you’ll see how he takes a very abstract and complex marketplace, the workstation market, and tries to simplify it and turn into easily identifiable segments. From this simplification, he is able to plot a strategy and communicate it to others in a very understandable way. As you watch the piece, compare his breakdown of the workstation market to how he breaks down the consumer and pro market for Apple products. It’s very similar and most importantly, simple. MacBook Pro/MacBook. iPod/iPod Nano. Pro Tower/iMac.

In my opinion, Jobs’ brilliance is not in making us lust to buy something. Though he has great aesthetic sense. His real ability is at taking a 10,000 ft level perspective of a market, breaking into a few basic segments and then targeting those segments with simple and straight forward products.

Oh, and hindsight being 20/20, his strategy was wrong in his presentation. He should have focused on bringing workstations to the masses. His real competitor was Microsoft not Sun. This would have meant a big price cut on NeXT boxes. That many have not been feasible at the time. But it was the only way they could have won big. IMO.


Macworld 08 wrap up

Thinnovation
I have successfully returned from another Macworld. I’ve lost count exactly haw many I’ve been too but I think it’s around half a dozen. Interestingly, the first one I went to in Boston back in 1995 was by far the largest. But 2008 one was bigger than the last several.

Here’s a summary of what I was up to and products that caught my eye:

Aperture: I started out a day before the show opened with attending a two day workshop on Apple’s photo workflow software, Aperture. This was by far the highlight of the week for me. It’s really a super piece of software and the instructors, both professional photographers, were stellar. I’ll follow up on a seperate post later for details on what I learned.

Keynote: Bob and I tried to attend the Keynote about three years ago. We were foiled by being cast in an overflow room to watch on closed circuit TV. It sucked then. And yes, it sucked again. I got woken up by some Apple fan boys around 3:30am at my hotel so I figured I might as well get into line early since I was awake. I was in line by 5:30am and wasn’t even close at getting into the actual Keynote. If you’re ever interested in attending a Steve-note, make sure you’re VIP, part of the glamorati or media because otherwise, you won’t get in. Or get in line by 3-4am. Ridiculous.

iPhone supersession: I attended a conference session on iPhone tips. Yes, I don’t have one yet. But I was curious on any power features I hadn’t yet heard about. By far, the most questions from the audience were around syncing calendars and contacts–old school apps. But that’s what it looks like people are using the most on their iPhones. There’s not much out there to make syncing easy. Spanning Sync was mentioned as one app for people wanting to sync with their Google calendars. VisualHub was mentioned as a great video conversion utility. Videobox for downloading YouTube. You can get to all the slides from the session here. Oh, and my iPhone has just shipped. 🙂

MacBook Air: I had a chance to check out the big announcement at the show up close and in person. The machine really is as thin as it looks. It feels quite sturdy and LED display is very bright and easy to read. The multi-touch (pinch, swipe, zoom, etc.) is really more of a play thing than usable at all. But it’s a clearly a foreshadow of things to come in terms of multi-touch trackpads on Apple laptops. The keyboard is excellent and backlit. A few things I didn’t like about the machine: the mouse button is too narrow, processor is kind of pokey in comparison to my MacBook Pro 2.4Ghz and the hard drive small for the large media collections most people have today. This is definitely not a “pro” level machine. But I think it would make a great second machine if say you have an iMac or tower at home. Last note, I think the industrial design of the machine (curves very much like the old clamshell iBooks) is a signal of things to come for the next rev of the MacBook Pro line.

Apple TV 2.0: I saw a demo of an HD movie streaming from Apple TV to a plasma display and it was gorgeous. Alas, my prediction that the next rev of Apple TV would include a Blu-ray drive didn’t come true. Yes, it would have increased the cost of the device. But I think it would have been more attractive to consumers. Pretty much no one has Blu-ray players yet. Since no one rents movies online yet, easing people into that world with the safety net of a high definition DVD player would have been real attractive to a lot of people (I would think). But apparently, Stevo doesn’t think Blu-ray will ever go anywhere. Blu-ray probably won’t ever get as big as DVD, but it will be a sizable market nevertheless. Steve said Apple didn’t get version 1.0 right. I don’t think they got v2.0 right yet either minus Blu-ray and opening the device up to developers to extend. But they made a step in the right direction. If I were a power TiVo user, I’d probably pass on Apple TV. But since I don’t get cable, it’s a perfect device for me. Got mine on order. 🙂

Garmin: Garmin had a big booth at the show. What caught my eye was some new cycle computers they were about to release. The Edge 705 tracks your heart rate, distance cycled and maps out where you’ve been. You can also program in directions on where you want to go. It works equally well in the city or in the outback for mt. biking. You can use Garmin Connect to upload your work outs and share them with friends or you can use Garmin Training Center client for your PC/Mac. They also have some new beta software to help you map out your routes and upload them to your device. I was pretty impressed with their Mac support. The cool thing about the 605/705 is that you could use them just as easily for hiking or driving. So, it’s really a multipurpose device. There’s a good chance I’ll pick up one of these later in the year.

Lensbabies: I’ve known about Lensbabies for quite awhile but never saw one up close. They allow you to take pretty cool off focus photos with your 35mm camera. The 3G model looks like the best as it allows you to lock the lens once you get your shot set up. But it costs $350 bucks. Way too much for something you can do in Photoshop.

Time Capsule: Time Capsule is Apple’s new wireless router with built-in 500GB or 1TB drive. It’s a perfect companion for 10.5’s Time Machine. I’ll definitely be picking one up later in the year. This didn’t get much attention at the show. But it’s a very elegant solution for wirelessly backing up your machine.

Ear buds: There were several high end ear bug manufacturers at the show. Both Ultimate Ears and Shure build ear buds for professional musicians. I tried products from each and their mid range products (~$200) were pretty nice. Although, not good enough to get me to plunk down the cost of an entire iPod.

OmniFocus: If you follow David Allen’s GTD system, then you should buy OmniFocus. It’s the latest app from Seattle’s Omni Group. I picked a discounted copy at the show.

Nikon: Nikon had a big booth at the show as did Canon. I got to play around with the D300. It’s noticeably lighter than the D200 to me. The preview screen is gorgeous and has more features than I could probably ever use. I’ll be picking on up by the end of the year. But first I’ll be picking up some flash devices to start shooting with additional lighting so I can do stuff like this.

Canon: I’ve heard a lot of good things about the new G9. I’ve been casually looking around for a new compact camera. The G9 shoots RAW and it’s camera controls are very intuitive and nicely integrated with the 3″ display–far nicer than any point and shoot I’ve ever seen. The deal breaker for me will likely be it can’t go wider than 35mm. I’m a wide angle freak so I’ll keep looking.

HP Printers: The instructors in my class were raving about the HP B9180 large format photo printer. Apparently you can get them for around $500 bucks. The output is great. Although, the printer is pretty bulky being a large format device. I’ve been thinking about getting back into home printing. The HP folks said that the printer always stays perfectly accurate. So, if you make a print today and next year, they will look identical. Most importantly, inks don’t dry out so the constant buying of new ink cartridges (like in the old Epson inkjet world) shouldn’t be a problem any longer. I may get one if I find myself doing a lot of printing this year. Getting quality 11 x 14s from Ivey costs about $70 bucks per print. So, it would absolutely save me money in the long run. We’ll see.

iBank: A small software house, IGG Software, will shortly be releasing a new version (3.0) of their home banking product, iBank. It’s basically a nice version of Quicken. They require a bit too much work in categorization of all your transactions. Why can’t someone just do all that for me automatically? In any event, Quicken sucks. So, I may give it a try when it ships later in February.

Blizzard: I asked the Blizzard rep when the new version of Starcraft was going to be released. “We don’t have a ship date yet.” That’s the one thing that cracks me up about that company. It’s the only one I know who’s motto is, “we’ll ship when we’re done–no sooner, no later.” I remember asking the same question about Diablo II at a previous Macworld. And that was their exact same answer! At least they’re consistent. I actually think it’s kind of cool.

Bags: There were lots of bag manufacturers at the show. I liked stuff from XtremeMac, Booq and Crumpler. For photo bags, Crumpler had the best photo bag I’ve seen yet. Basically you take any of their standard sized messenger bags and buy a second photo back that fits in it (looks like this). That way, when you’re not lugging your photo equipment around, you have a first class messenger bag. This is a pretty hip solution.


Heading to Macworld

It’s been three years since I last when down to Macworld. So, I thought it would be good to visit a year after the iPhone launch to see how the Mac marketplace has changed. I’ll also be taking a two day Aperture workshop. Adding photography to the trip will make it double the usual fun.

Here are my predictions for new Apple announcements:

  • Sub notebook (super thin, external DVD drive, flash drive, optional dock)
  • New displays, thinner, cheaper with included iSight camera
  • AppleTV 2.0 with included BlueRay DVD drive
  • Minor iPhone hardware upgrade–16GB model still at $399 price point. iPhone 2.0 (3G + GPS) will be announced at the Apple Developers Conference in June.
  • iPhone software rev to include new Google Maps cell tower based my positioning update
  • iPhone SDK will be announced and a few partner companies will demo what they’ve built with a pre-release version. Will be made available in Februrary. Probably will require becoming and ADC member to get the SDK.
  • Processor upgrade to existing MacBook Pros to latest Intel Penryn processors
  • Leopard update (10.5.2) with stability updates plus fixing customer gripes (like turning off stacks in the dock)
  • Aperture 2.0 will be released either at Macworld or PMA (the more likely venue)
  • iTunes store will offer movie rentals. Most major studios will be on board. You’ll have up to 30 days to watch your title. Though, once you start watching, you’ll have 24 hours to finish the movie before it expires.
  • Airport Express will be upgraded to 802.11n.

Mac users quadruple on Princeton campus

Wonder if we’re starting to see a tipping point for the resurgence of the Mac. I know every time I visit an Apple Store, it’s packed solid.

Mac users quadruple on Princeton campus:
“DailyPrincetonian.com reports that just 10 percent of Princeton students had Macs in the 2003-2004 school year, but that Mac-toting students since then have rocketed up to a whopping 60 percent this year.”

(Via MacNN | The Macintosh News Network.)