Tag: mac

Apple’s PC business bites the fruit of doom

poison-appleThe fruity cargo cult Apple has managed to ward off the downturn in the PC market for a while now – thanks mostly to its fanboys refusing to buy anything without an Apple logo.  However, all that has suddenly changed.

Apple shipped eight percent fewer Mac computers during the second quarter of 2016, compared with a year earlier, according to new estimates from two research firms.

What should be worrying Jobs’ Mob is that some of its bigger rivals managed to find growth in the PC business. So the concept that Apple will always have a market for its products is proving groundless.

Analysts estimate Apple shipped 4.4 million to 4.6 million Macs in the quarter ending June 30. True, they had a higher margin than other PCs in the market, but if a couple of fanboys refuse to buy a Mac then the figures take a bigger kicking.

The Tame Apple Press is doing its best, saying that that the whole of the PC market is suffering and it was wonderful that Apple saw off the inevitable for so long. However.

But HP, Dell and ASUS all increased their shipments during the last quarter, and benefited from a healthy US market. This is a bit weird given that is the same market which Apple is supposed to be doing well in.

Some of the problem is that Apple has basically ignored the Mac and not bothered to upgrade its MacBook Pro. Instead the company has been promoting its Surface Book clone so that it probably only has itself to blame.

 

Apple Macs stuffed-up by old Git

oldguyAnother bombshell has dropped on the Fruity Cargo Cult Apple’s poor security in its expensive Macs.

Jobs’ Mob’s software genii have apparently not bothered to upgrade the version of Git which comes bundled with OS X versions.

Git allows developers to manage source code repositories, keeping track of code changes from version to version. But the version in El Capitan is so old it exposes users to two possible attacks.

Security expert Rachel Kroll discovered that El Capitan comes bundled with Git 2.6.4. and the vulnerablities were found in  all Git versions before 2.7.3.

The two vulnerabilities are heap-based buffer overflows, allow attackers to execute malicious code on the machine. The attacker can use the malicious code hidden in the repo to launch an attack on the Mac, compromise the system, and take control of the user’s device and all the Mac user’s Coldplay collection and pictures of their mum and cats will be vulnerable.

There is no way to fix it either. The bundled Git version can’t be updated without breaking Git support.

Writing in her bog Kroll wrote: “If you rely on machines like this, I am truly sorry. I feel for you. I wrote this post in an attempt to goad them [Apple] into action because this is affecting lots of people who are important to me. They are basically screwed until Apple deigns to deliver a patched git unto them.”

Parallels intros new version of Mac software

Old Apple logo - Wikimedia CommonsSoftware firm Parallels, which makes software that lets you run Windows and Android operating systems on a Mac, said it has introduced version 11 today.

It claims that the software has speed improvements of up to 50 percent, support for Windows 10, compatibility with OS X El Capitan when its released, and other features.

The software also includes a version for developers and power users called Parallels Desktop for Mac Pro Edition and includes a business version too.

The company said that it lets users also run Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana for both Windows and for OSX.

Parallels Desktop 11 has better battery life by going into travel mode when the power isn’t connected, with a claimed saving of battery life by as much as 25 percent.

The business version has administration and management capabilities, 24 hours a day support, and USB devices policy management.

Researchers revamp MPC to keep spies out of your data centre

Now that it has been revealed that the NSA has the keys to your data centre, analysts are working out new methods to shut them out.

One of the plans is to develop corporate datacentres that encrypt data beyond the ability of the NSA to crack it.

The idea is to use a new encryption technique that allows data to be stored, transported and even used by applications without giving away any secrets.

The concept was presented by security researchers from Denmark and the UK to the European Symposium on Research in Computer Security.

It looks at a long-discussed encryption concept called Multi-Party Computation (MPC).

MPC allows two parties who have to collaborate on an analysis or computation to do so without revealing their own data to the other party.

The idea has been kicking around since 1982. Ways to accomplish it with more than two parties, or with standardised protocols and procedures was considered impractical.

The Danish/British team have revamped an MPC protocol nicknamed SPDZ, which uses secret, securely generated keys to distribute a second set of keys that can be used for MPC encryptions.

This allows parties on one end of a transaction to verify that they know a piece of information such as a password by offering a different piece of information that could be known only to the other party.

The technique could allow secure password-enabled login without requiring users to type in a password or send it across the internet.

SPDZ was rejected too slow and cumbersome to be practical, but the revamped version seems to work a lot better.

Nigel Smart, professor of cryptology at the University of Bristol streamlined SPDZ by reducing the number of times global MAC keys had to be calculated in order to create pairs of public and private keys for other uses.

By cutting down on repetitive tasks, the whole process becomes much faster. It also keeps global MAC keys secret and makes the faster process more secure.

According to Slashdot the University of Bristol is already working out ways to commercialise the technique. 

Kaspersky puts untouchable Apple myth to bed

Kaspersky has seen the number of malicious programs detected rise massively during 2012, up from 125,000 a day to 200,000 over the course of the year, including those targeting Apple devices – which can put to bed the theory that the company’s kit is untouchable.

With the IT landscape changing for consumers and businesses as new devices and different operating systems become more commonplace, Kaspersky says that criminals are increasingly looking to capitalise on weaknesses.

In total Kaspersky Lab detected and blocked over 1.5 billion web based attacks during 2012, as well as catching more than 3 billion infected files, according to the firm’s Security Bulletin.

“What 2012 has shown is the strong inclination of cybercriminals to steal data from all devices used by consumers and businesses, be it a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet,” commented Costin Raiu, Director of Global Research & Analysis Team, Kaspersky. “This is one of the most important trends of 2012.” 

He added: “We are also observing a strong increase in the overall number of threats, affecting all popular software environments.”

One of the key findings of the report is the “significant” growth of Mac-specific malware, as well as an “explosion” of threats aimed at the Android platform.      

This has helped push the UK to the ‘high risk group’ category, Kaspersky said, based on the number of web attacks and malicious files.

The Flashback botnet was cited as one of the main incidents of the year, made up of 700,000 infected Apple computers, which Kaspersky said put the nail in the coffin of the perception of the Mac OS X platform as being invulnerable to exploitation.   

Meanwhile Android devices saw an increased security threat, despite Google attempting to protect its users with its own anti-malware technology.   According to the report, there was rapid growth in Android malware, with 99 percent of all newly discovered mobile malware being targeted at the handsets using Google’s operating system.

In terms of browser based attacks, 4 million were detected a day during 2012, with cyber criminals looking to exploit vulnerabilities in programs and applications.   Java was the most frequently attacked, accounting for 50 percent of attacks, with Adobe Reader in second place, with 28 percent.

Mozilla runs weird gear at its data centre

Mozilla is playing with all sorts of weird gear at its data centre.

Apparently it is running two SeaMicro SM10000 servers which do not get an airing anywhere else. The server is a fat box about the size of an air conditioner which is stuffed with 64 Xeon processors.

Wired reports Mozilla has the new low powered SM10000′s in its Santa Clara data centre, which went online in February.

The big idea is to move lighter web-serving loads to low-power systems, and to free up the bigger hard drive capacity, memory, and CPU power on the organisation’s blade server so that they can run databases.

Matthew Zeier, Mozilla’s director of IT operations has flipped the normal use of servers on its head by sticking web traffic onto the SeaMicro which would normally be called a database server. 

Zeier wanted to consolidate his three Bay Area operations into one. It was costing so much in power he thought it might be time to move from retail to a wholesale data centre.

He asked around to find out how he could do it and got some of his open source friends to lend a hand and come up with some novel ideas.

The data centre uses about a half-megawatt of power, but by the year’s end, as Mozilla adds more and more servers, its power consumption will double, he says.

But Zeier admits his data centre is pretty weird. For a start there are the SeaMicro servers and then there is a rack of 500 Mac Mini computers, consumer systems that you almost never see in a data centre. These are used as part of Mozilla’s browser test-bed. 

Mac users urged to wake up from faith based security dream

A security expert is shouting at Apple Mac users to wake up from trusting their faith-based security systems – and telling them that they are just as vulnerable to finding themselves on the wrong end of a cyber attack as Windows users.

Traditionally, Windows has been the target of choice for malicious hackers and cyber criminals. Primarily, this has been because Windows is used so much more widely than the traditional underdog that was once Apple. But times are changing, and even if they weren’t, so many cyber attacks are the fault of the user.

Graham Cluley at Sophos told Macworld UK – which also details other threats, full report here – that Windows users are much more likely to have their antivirus programs up to date, whereas Mac users are slipping into complacency and don’t have that “valuable safety net”.

Adding to those comments, he told TechEye that although the overwhelming majority of malware – at over 100,000 new samples every day – are designed to infect Windows, there are a handful of new Mac malware samples and variants each week.

“The increase in popularity of Apple products, combined with the typical Apple user’s ‘head in the sand’ approach to security, has meant that they are looking like an increasingly attractive target,” he said.

Cluley pointed out that Apple user don’t tend to recognise most Windows malware doesn’t rely on software exploits, rather, they take advantage of social engineering. This could be clicking on a bogus attachment, surfing a dangerous link, or installing dodgy software.

Sophos saw “a flood of Mac malware activity” hitting users in mid-2011. They were mostly fake anti-virus programs, and there has been a steady stream of new malware attacks since.

The marketing experts at Apple who spread the rumour that the Mac is an impenetrable fortress may have kept up Cupertino’s bottom line, but that message still persists and is doing more harm than good.

“It’s foolhardy not to protect your Mac with anti-virus software and to keep it updated,” Cluley said. “Especially as there are free Mac anti-virus options available – you really have nothing to lose”.

Apple considers snapping up AMD

An industry watcher, who wishes to remain anonymous, has plucked a rumour from the dark mill where they tend to be spawned about Apple, Intel and AMD.

A crazy theory, our source begins, but plausible nonetheless. Apple and Intel are secretly on the warpath with each other – and that’s what the Ultrabook is all about. 2005 saw an exclusivity agreement struck between the two. Our source suggests Apple traded that five years in exclusivity for a seamless transition to x86.

As a result, Apple is an x86 company. That gives it decent interoperability with Wintel, and it means Apple doesn’t have to hang about waiting for ARM to conjure up a chip that will provide the sort of beefcake power Apple needs at the higher end. 

Who else runs on X86? When Apple’s five year agreement allegedly came to an end, Apple was rumoured to be tinkering with AMD processors inside its Macbook Air. Jobs was always a fan of Intel, but he does say in his biography that, while Intel chips are excellent, the company has a rough time in innovating quickly. 

The good ship Intel runs very slow on innovation, and Apple has never been too keen to help. Apple worried that if it started giving Intel ideas, Intel would probably go ahead and share those with its other partners. The first Ultrabooks, with their uncanny resemblance to Macbooks, are the proof. 

Apple wants its own ego-system to triumph. And that means leaving Intel behind – because of its close ties to Microsoft. The Wintel alliance is in full swing again, meaning Chipzilla gets the best of both worlds. If Apple partnered with, or even acquired AMD, it would leave Wintel behind. Not to mention the IP and patent portfolio it would inherit and the freedom to add or modify different functions to its own x86 designs.

Crucially, if Apple was interested, the regulators probably wouldn’t get too excited. Neither Apple nor AMD holds enough of the market for the antitrust watchdogs to gnash their teeth. At the same time, it would bolster competition against convicted monopolist Intel.

The signs, the industry watcher says, are all there. New CEO Rory Read has slashed staff by ten percent, and top execs have had the boot, too. Could Read be opening AMD’s kimono to Apple?

PaloAlto's Cubik speakers reviewed

Here we have PaloAlto’s new laptop speakers which are arguably aimed at the Apple crowd. Compatible with both PC and Mac, PaloAlto says the Cubik speakers are a high end system that offers sound which is unmatched by other speakers in its class. 

The first thing you’ll probably notice about Palo Alto’s speakers is the design – a cube but at a weird angle – which makes fitting them on your desk kind of a pain if you live among clutter. I do.

But once you’ve figured out how to screw the base on (not hard) and plugged the things in, they complement a stylish laptop but look very out of place with a desktop. That was the idea. PaloAlto says that the way they are designed means you can place them anywhere in a room and get the same quality of sound – which you do. 

Unfortunately they are not particularly portable, so one assumes they are intended for the user with a desktop replacement laptop. Fortunately for Palo Alto there are a lot of those out there, and they’re available to buy on the Apple store, which shouldn’t hurt revenues. Again, the portability is testing for someone who moves around a lot but doesn’t like the  generally tinny sounds that come out of, say, a netbook. Headphones are still the best bet on that front. Especially because you’re going to need a power supply – these aren’t some flouncey USB powered speakers, they need proper juice.

Impressively, they handled Skream’s dub island and you could still hear the beats over the top. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eWnp_RwKCU It struggled about half-way through, but a worn out or elderly sub can give you the kind of wobble you don’t want to hear. The Cubiks have long-vent advanced enclosure, which is the technology that enables the rich sound and bass from a small system. 

A problem was the controls. They’re on the speaker itself, which is fine, but the way the individual speaker is designed and sits on your desk means you’ve got to reach around to turn the volume up or down. The buttons were not particularly clearly marked, so if you’re a forever alone basement dweller they will be no good for 2am bouts of Starcraft with the lights off. 

You can tell why when you switch them on. The design is incredibly clever. It manages to deliver a respectable amount of bass without totally muddying the music. Of course, it won’t compare to a real sub-woofer or high end gear, but in a touch, they’re an OK buy for what they can do. 

PaloAlto claims that the Cubiks are of a comparable quality to BOSE PC speakers and for half the price, at £179.49. Admittedly, there are similar options in the same class that cost a lot more – but we would still recommend a full set up for sound buffs regardless. Those are upgradeable. I have to say that my six year old Creative I-Trigue speakers, which have been used an awful, awful lot, still deliver clearer clarity and overall sound quality, with a fuller experience. Personally, the price tag seems a little high for the product you get. Although it is undoubtedly a smart design with impressive quality for what they are, music buffs will still probably prefer a more serious, fuller option.

We had a dubstep DJ and music producer give the speakers a run through. He was impressed with the punch they pack for the size and set-up, but ultimately, said in a pinch they wouldn’t do for basic sound engineering or, in his opinion, listening. But he still liked them, because they are a likeable product.

Seagate ships 4TB HDD

Seagate claims it’s shipping the highest capacity hard drive in the entire industry, the four terabyte GoFlex Desk.

The high capacity 3.5 inch hard drive is out for the PC with a price tag of $249.99. An Apple equivalent, the GoFlex Desk for Mac, which has FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 but not Thunderbolt will make an appearance later this month, Seagate says. The GoFlex on Windows works with USB 3.0 and is encrypted automatically.

It’ll also ship with back up software.

Seagate is saying it wants to keep a close eye on USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, and is considering products for both over the next few months. 

Despite the entire world’s obsession with the cloud, Seagate hopes people still want their physical storage in a hard drive next to the desktop. As file sizes and traffic increases further and further, Seagate believes there is a place for its products. In a statement, it quotes IDC figures saying there is a demand for personal storage thanks to all the videos, photos and music people are downloading.

Judging from the reviews on Seagate’s own website, which it links to in a press statement, previous iterations of the product have not gone down too well on the Mac. One customer says it’s “most likely the last Seagate I’ll ever buy” because it crashes during file exports, and another claims the 3TB Firewire doesn’t work with Lion.

Older OS’ are not supported, Seagate says, as one user finds it was worthless trying to transfer kit over from Server 2008, while another complains that a Seagate GoFlex wiped out 60GB of data completely.