January 2009

iTunes Plus goes À La Carte

iTunes Plus, the new "standard" for Apple's iTunes store, uses 56-Kbps AAC encoding but it's DRM free. That means there are no limits to how many times you can "burn" copies, and it means that the file will play on a lot more devices, including Mac and Windows computers, and many more portable digital music players than iPods.

In early January, Apple announced that they were switching to iTunes Plus, and that you could "upgrade" previously purchased songs for a fee (30 cents a song, 60 cents a video, 30% of the price for most albums). The problem was that you had to upgrade 'em all in one fell swoop—which could be pretty pricey for lots of us. Plus, there are songs that, to me, just weren't worth it.

Pirate iWork 09 with Trojan

Symantec, along with anti-virus software producer Intego announced a Mac OS X Leopard Trojan embedded in illegal copies of iWork 09. The illegal copies are circulating on BitTorrent and similar services that carry pirated software.

Someone (presumably) opposed to piracy hacked the iWorks 09 installer, installed the Trojan, (technically it's a root kit) then uploaded it; it began spreading almost immediately as thousands of pirated, illegal copies were downloaded. The Trojan, OSX.Iservic, is rated by Symantec as a low-level threat, it is still a threat to be taken seriously.

The illegal iWorks installer is uses the filename iWork09.zip and is approximately 450MB in size. The legitimate installer bears the filename iWork09.zip and is approximately 450MB in size, and is freely, legally available as a thirty day demo directly from Apple at http://www.apple.com/iwork/.

Steve Jobs' Health: Take II

Apple's Steve Jobs announced yesterday that he will be taking a leave of absence until June. Apple will be under the leadership of Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer since 2005. Jobs will remain as CEO, and will be involved in major strategic decisions while Cook will oversee day-to-day operations, as he has been doing for years. Cook was hired by Jobs in 1998, and has a long history with the industry, and with Apple. Cook is likely most familiar because of his participation in the quarterly conference calls held for the benefit of investors.

Potential Security Issue with Safari under Leopard

Brian Mastenbrook reports a potentially serious security problem with Safari under Leopard, one that he says is confirmed by Apple. Mastenbrook recommends a workaround.

According to Mastenbrook—who has discovered previous security problems, and is known in the Macintosh community—

Apple's Safari browser is vulnerable to an attack that allows a malicious web site to read files on a user's hard drive without user intervention.

Once the malicious user has access, a variety of files might be read, including cookies, with password data, email, passwords, etc. allowing a thief to then use the user's private information to log on to that user's accounts on Web sites. Apple has acknowledged the problem, says Mastebrook.

All users of OS X 10.5 Leopard who have not changed their RSS or feed reader application Preference in Safari from the Mac OS X default are potentially affected, whether or not they use RSS feeds, or use a different Web browser. Users of Safari on Windows are also potentially affected if they use Safari for browsing.

The Best Laid Plans...

I amâ??or wasâ??the proud owner of an iBook G4.  I still have the thing sitting on my dresser gathering dust, a little lighter from a serious gutting.  My anger over the whole situation that Iâ??m about to lay out for you is still fresh and strong, and I have yet to truly think of the MacBook Iâ??ve bought to replace my iBook as my ownâ?¦my preciousssss.  Perhaps itâ??s because of the fact that Iâ??ve already had to take it in once because of a malfunctioning hard drive.  But I get ahead of myself.  Please travel back with me to the year 2005. My Dell took a nosedive that blissful summer.  I still have it in the closet next to my collectible Army of Darkness figurine that my wife will (smartly) not allow me to display in the house, and I really don’t know why I have not yet thrown it away.  Perhaps it’s because in the back of my mind I need a little reminder every once in a while that, as low-cost as Dell computers are, you’ll pay for your purchase in time wasted restarting programs that crash because you decided to open them and customer service that makes you want to slit your eyeballs open with even more ferocity than most customer service support lines.  And that’s saying

Apple Announces Price Changes for iTunes

At MacWorld Apple announced a new pricing model for iTunes:

  • The iTunes store is moving unilaterally to "iTunes Plus." That means higher-quality 256 Kbps DRM-free AAC files.

  • All four major labels have already agreed to the change, and independents are signing on. Apple says 8 million tracks are ready now, and the remaining 2 million or so will all be converted by the end of the first quarter of 2008.

  • You can upgrade previously purchased tunes for 30 cents each, 60 cents for videos, and albums can be upgraded for 30% of the purchase price. The catch: Right now it's an all-or-nothing upgrade; you either upgrade all your tunes to Plus, or you buy new versions. Smart buyers are waiting, until all their purchases are available, or in hopes of a better future upgrade option.

The DRM-free means you can burn the files, and play them on a lot more devices, including iTunes for Windows, many non-iPod players, as well as on Macs, Apple TV, iPods, and iPhones, Sony's newer Walkman players, Microsoft's Zune and the next version of Windows Media Player.

Public Speculation About Steve Jobs' Health

I'm hardly a Steve Jobs apologist; I've been known to be a bit critical of him, more than once. But the public obsession with his health, before, during and after his pancreatic cancer crisis, has gone beyond all bounds.

Yes, I know, Steve Jobs is a CEO. But if you look at the team he's assembled, you can see that while Jobs' critical eye and creative vision are key, they aren't the only things driving Apple. Yes, they're vital, and yes, they'd be deeply missed, but the company won't spontaneously implode if Jobs has a private life (or even death, frankly).