Converting from iPhone to Google Android

About a year ago, one of our cats decided to take a drink of water. She did this from a glass that was on my desk, and in so doing she tipped it over and gave my iPhone a bit of a bath. Thankfully, the water was shallow and my phone wasn’t destroyed, but it was damaged and the home button hasn’t worked right since.

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Are Apple’s Lawsuits Legitimate?

Re: http://gizmodo.com/5483689/the-apple-patents-cockpunching-all-smart-phones-an-illustrated-guide/

From a discussion on Google Buzz:

I don’t know the details, but from looking at the patent pictures, it looks like the patents are of implementation rather than idea. They couldn’t sue, for instance, if another company had an interface where you slid your finger across the screen to accept a call. But they CAN sue if the box that pops up to notify about the call is very similar, and the slider is in the same place, and is the same width, etc.

I’m pretty anti-patent in the vast majority of cases, but I wanted to offer an opposing viewpoint: Apple puts a TON of R&D into UX, particular when it comes to things like distance and resistance, so I can understand their being upset when they develop a product/implementation based on that research, patent the implementation, and then a company copies the implementation wholesale.

Apple is pretty anti-competition, and they’re pissed that Google and HTC are getting so chummy, so I don’t doubt that the legitimacy of the suit is questionable. But just looking at the pictures, I don’t think it’s quite so black and white yet.

Severe Java Vulnerability in Mac OS X

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a huge hole in Mac OS X’s security in regards to Java that has been there for some time and remains unpatched. This Java exploit is proven to work 100% of the time on all browsers and operating systems that are unpatched, but both Linux and Microsoft Windows are patched. Apple, as yet, remains open and vulnerable.

After learning of this, I quickly wrote some directions on how to disable Java in your web browser on OS X (we’ll be adding more operating systems and browsers later) and how to install both Firefox and NoScript to protect yourself in case you do need to use Java on occasion.

I’ll be honest here, OS X really isn’t that secure. If you use a Mac, be sure to disable Java or at least install NoScript. Otherwise you’re just leaving yourself open to attack.

As for me, I’ve now got Ubuntu 9.04 installed in a virtual machine running a second firewall, NoScript in Firefox, and a few other security hardening measures. Nevertheless, I still worry about this stuff.

How to lock the screen in Mac OS X

One of the things I missed when I switched to this MacBook was the easy ability to lock my screen. When I leave my desk at work, I desperately do not want some hooligan sitting down to write the president of our university an email, asking for a pony while using my account. Gnome, the user interface I prefer with Linux, has screen locking available from the logout window pretty easily, and in Windows I just have to perform the three-finger-salute (alt+ctrl+del) to get a Lock Screen button. But there was nothing obvious in OS X to mimic this functionality.

Rob at work showed me how to lock the screen on OS X server, though, which is identical to OS X for the desktop, so I thought I’d share.

Step 1: Opening the Keychain Access utility

Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.
Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.

First, open up the Utilities folder. You can get to this by either hitting Command+Shift+U with the desktop (Finder) selected, or by opening Finder, browsing to the Applications folder, then double clicking on the Utilities folder.

Step 2: Opening the Keychain Access Preferences

Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.
Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.

Once you have Keychain Access opened up, you’ll see the Keychain Access window on your screen. You can ignore this, because what we really want to get into are the Keychain Access preferences. To reach these preferences, click on the words Keychain Access at the top left of your screen and then select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Modify Keychain Access Preferences

Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.
Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.

All we need to do in this window is check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar. Once completed, go ahead and hit the red button (X) at the top left of this window to close it. You can also close the main Keychain Access window.

Step 4: Lock Screen (if so desired)

You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.
You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.

You can now lock your screen by using the padlock icon at the top right of you screen, located on the menu bar to the left of the clock and other icons.

How to modify System Preferences in OS X

System Preferences

Apple’s OS X operating system has a centralized system preferences window akin to the Control Panel in Microsoft Windows, and while it can be easier to navigate and use (after you get used to it), saving those preferences is a little less obvious. There are no “Save” or “Apply” buttons, and there often isn’t any indication that your changes have been saved. The key is to know how it works and, like all things Apple, just drink the Kool-Aid and trust.

Essentially, preference changes are made as you click the button and make your modifications, but they don’t take effect immediately. Instead, you need to back out; often, closing the window isn’t sufficient.

So, the steps go something like this:

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple logo at the top left of your screen.
  2. Pick whatever it is you would like to change (Sharing properties, your dock, accounts for password change, etc.)
  3. Make the changes.
  4. Hit the Show All or Back button at the top left of the System Preferences window.

Now your changes have actually been saved and you can continue with your day. Congratulations!

Genius Review — iTunes Automagic Playlist Generator

It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.
It's like Pandora, but with music you already know you like.

Having recently purchased an Apple Macbook, I thought I’d give iTunes another shot. The last time I had used iTunes was about three years ago following my first iPod purchase. Beholding the shinyness that all the cool kids had been using for years, I poked around, marveled at the quick downloads of podcasts and music, and generally enjoyed the experience. There are, of course, some things about iTunes that absolutely infuriate me (DRM, poor file management, duplication of tracks, etc.), but it’s obvious that this product demands you drink the Kool-Aid, and if you do, it’ll be a wonderful, magical ride.

Part of my impetus for purchasing an Apple computer was because I want an iPhone sometime in the future, and if I’m going to drop that much cash on a portable device/phone, I want to get all the functionality I can out of it. Therefore, I transferred my 12+ gb of music to the Macbook and imported it into iTunes to see how it worked, as well as to prepare for iPhone syncage when that glorious day comes.

Immediately following import, I decided I wanted all the cover art for my discs, so I told it to pull those down. Of course, iTunes demanded I register an account with the iTunes store (requiring my address, credit card number, and a vial of blood from our first born), but then happily opened its vault of artwork to me. It then asked me if I’d like to turn Genius on.

Genius is a relatively new feature in iTunes that looks at your music collection and compares it to the collections and playlists of other people. This means that you have to send information about your music library to Apple, which made me a little nervous (though I do not pirate music, or anything else as a general rule), but I went ahead and agreed to the ToS so I could find out what this thing does. Like any proper geek, my curiousity grabbed me by the throat and drug me along.

Overall, it’s been an extremely pleasant experience. When listening to a song, you can hit the Genius button (located in the track information pane at the top or at the bottom right of iTunes) and iTunes will instantly generate a playlist for you of songs similar to the one you were listening to when you hit the button. These playlists are usually about an hour and a half; I’m not sure if that’s because there’s a preference somewhere that dictates the length of the list or because I don’t have much music, but it’s sufficient for my purposes. If you like the playlist Genius produces, you can listen away, or you can run it again and again to generate slightly different lists.

Mix, match, and re-arrange, and you can also save these as permanent playlists. Of course, Apple also displays the Genius sidebar with recommendations of other albums similar to those you’re currently listening to in a bid to get you to buy some music. But it’s not really in my face, doesn’t pop out or anything, and all-in-all, I’m liking Genius. It’s like Pandora, but with only music I already know I like.

Genius doesn’t supplant Pandora, and I don’t view them as being in competition. Pandora allows me to listen to a lot of bands I either haven’t heard of or wouldn’t otherwise hear, and I’ve bought a few albums through Pandora of bands I just fell in love with after hearing a few of their songs. But Genius is a wonderful compliment to Pandora, and the fact that it’s local (requiring no Internet connection) and isn’t streaming (so there’s no buffering) is really nice.

No, iTunes isn’t the greatest music player ever (it’s probably not even in the top 5-10), but Genius is a great feature that will keep me opening it time after time.

Why I bought an Apple Macbook

macosxdesktopsmall

Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so anti-Mac once upon a time.

Oh wait, yes I am. Because they were expensive, not as functional, and didn’t bring enough to the table to justify the investment.

Enter the new Macbook

When I saw the video detailing the changes and updates in the body and design of the new Macbook, I salivated. The way they put the laptop together was very cool, and between hardware changes and the standard integration of OS X, it looked like it ran very well indeed. “If only it was around $1200 instead of $1800,” I said. “Then maybe I could justify such an extravagant piece of machinery.”

Then I looked at the page on Apple’s site and discovered that the base Book was sitting at $1299. That was almost reasonable, I thought, and I began considering it more seriously. I’ve been thinking about getting a new laptop for around two years now, and my old lappy was originally purchased in late 2003 or early 2004. It weighs around 6.8 pounds and currently gets around 30 minutes of battery life, so you might consider it more of a desktop replacement than a true mobile computer. I didn’t use it much anymore because it just wasn’t that useful for my purposes.

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