Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Upgrading isn’t always a smooth process

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, but I’ve become so busy with real-life issues I’d allowed this to lapse. I’ll endeavor to put this at a higher priority.

Back in September my primary computer, an iMac G5, decided to call it quits. Suffice it to say that it succumbed to a problem endemic to that model. Last month I was able to replace it with an all new, just recently announced, iMac with a 2.5GHz Core i5 processor. Nice machine, even if it is the base model (considering my previous Mac, it was a big jump). I connected the old Mac’s hard drive externally so when I got to the appropriate part of the setup process, I could have it import everything. It seemed to work as I’d been able to access all the files I expected to be there.

I noticed a deficiency today. I was going to update my address book with data I’d originally put in iCal. However, the one calendar I needed for this didn’t have anything in it other than what I’d put in since I got the new Mac. Naturally, I freaked out. I thought I’d put this somewhere else and looked, but didn’t find. I pulled out the old Mac’s drive and found the calendar file and tried to import but got an error that it couldn’t be read. At this point, I’m about to pull what’s left of my hair out at this point.

Deep breath. I open the file in a text editor to find that there is readable data. I assume iCal just gave up too quickly so I try reading with other applications. I try to import the file onto my PC running Thunderbird with Lightning but it doesn’t appear to import (although no error messages are produced). I was able to import into a Google calendar, though. I take an export from that and try to import into iCal only to find that it can’t read THAT file either. I might as well shave my head at this point.

I use Google to search for references to the error message that iCal gave me. I found a discussion which basically seems to bemoan the fact of this being an issue with iCal on Snow Leopard not being able to import from a Tiger calendar. Several workarounds are mentioned with reference to at least one third-party software product. The workaround I attempted was to import the calendar onto another computer in my house running Leopard. This was successful. I then export from this and am able to successfully import onto my new computer. What a pain, but at least I can continue working.

Just so this might show up in a relevant search, the error message I got from iCal was: iCal can’t read this calendar file. No events have been added to your iCal calendar.

It’s time to protect your Mac

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

For quite some time I’ve been recommending the Macintosh for general usefulness and how it tends to have a much reduced problem with viruses and other forms of malware.  Now, however, it appears that the bad software is getting more common and they are targeting the Mac more often.

While I believe the Mac can be made much more secure than a PC more easily (and with fewer inconveniences to the user as a result), my opinion has always been that the primary security feature of the Mac is that there are fewer of them and most of the bad software targets Windows.  There have been some examples recently of malware targeting not only the Mac, but Linux as well.

Sophos has an article which details the history of malware on the Macintosh.  It’s not pretty to think how sophisticated the bad guys are getting with how they are able to target the Mac and other platforms with the same malware.  The attack vector is usually the same for all in that it tells you that you need to install some software to see a video.  The malware determines which operating system you are using and tells you to download the file which works on your computer.

I’ve recommended free antivirus software for Windows for many years.  My current favorite is Microsoft Security Essentials.  Other free antivirus is available from Avast, AVG, and Avira.  There’s also the open source ClamWin, but I don’t recommend it for most people.  Until recently, the only free option on the Mac was the open source ClamXav.  Again, I wouldn’t recommend it for most people.  Back in November, Sophos introduced a free commercial-grade antivirus for the Mac.  Like the free Windows options, it’s only available for home users for free.

Sophos is a bigger name in Europe than it is in the US.  They’ve been doing antivirus solutions for many years and I trust their product.  I’ll be putting it on my Macs at home and I recommend that you do the same with yours.

Your pictures tell where you are

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The vast majority of recent model digital cameras and phones which have cameras support tagging the images with GPS data as well as previously recorded information such as time, date, camera settings (shutter speed, f-stop, etc.), etc.  Most people don’t even know this information is recorded in the image or aren’t paying attention to it if they do.

“Bad” people can use this information to see where you are and when.  If you take enough pictures of where you are and what you are doing, these same people can use the information to know when you are likely not going to be home and then go about the business of relieving you of your possessions (you didn’t need them anyway, right?).

Why would you want this information in the picture anyway?  This information is useful for you own personal cataloging.  You can use the GPS feature (called geotagging) to document where you were when you took the picture.  You could even intentionally share this information by uploading your pictures to Panoramio, the service which provides images in Google Earth.  The camera information is useful to other photographers who are curious as to what you used to take the picture.

However, if you are uploading your pictures carelessly to Flikr or your favorite social networking site, you could be leaving yourself open to who knows what kind of stalker.  The can be especially dangerous if there is a reason you should be hiding from someone!

The good news is that you should be able to disable the geotagging feature of your phone or camera (some instructions can be found here, but you should check your device’s documentation for details).

My opinion is that the younger set are going to be least likely to be worried about this, but they should be.  They are growing up in a world with no privacy and don’t understand how important it can be to have some.  We need to teach them why its important to not share every little detail (such as where we’ve been and when) about our lives.

Eat that IE!!!!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Microsoft Internet Explorer is losing popularity in favor or Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

I’ve stated previously how I’ve generally avoided Internet Explorer (IE) through my browsing years.  Now, it looks like other people are beginning to follow suit.  It was just a few years ago when IE had well over 75% of the market.  Now it’s down to about 57%.

One of the reasons why I’ve encouraged the use of other browsers is that Microsoft has had a tendency of not following standards.  They start off kindly enough, then they say “we think you should do it our way instead.”  This creates a situation where site developers design for IE in mind and their sites are broken when you use any other browser.  For the significant portion of computer users who have a Mac, this can be a problem as IE is no longer available for the Mac (and hasn’t been for many years).

Developers finally started coding their sites against standards or making it so that their sites just continued to work when another browser viewed it.  Microsoft has taken a road toward supporting all of the common standards.  However, they take too long in doing so.  When looking at features, Microsoft took forever before they added tabbed browsing support.  Safari, Firefox, and Opera all had that before IE.

For the first time, Microsoft has lost the top spot in market share in a major market.  In Europe, Firefox is now number one with IE a close second.  It seems that Chrome has eaten away at IE while Firefox has remained fairly steady with its share.

Across the board, all browsers are getting better.  I see the future of browsers as being quite competitive for years to come.  I’m just thankful that most users are beginning to see that there are options other than the big blue E on the desktop.  It gives me hope that all browsers will continue to improve (even IE).

Bringing e-mail home

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I often recommend that people use an e-mail service separate from their internet providers so that a change of internet provider doesn’t require a change of e-mail address.  I’ve had clients maintain their AOL accounts because this is the e-mail address that everyone knows.  Since you can keep your AOL e-mail address forever for free, I count them among the many free e-mail services you could potentially use.  (As an aside, I saw a client today who continues to use AOL because she doesn’t want to change her e-mail address.  I understand this and support it, but she had a client of hers tell her to move on.)

I also recommend using a program on your computer to access your e-mail rather than using the mail provider’s web site.  This isn’t always possible or is made particularly difficult (e.g. Yahoo e-mail requires you pay a fee if you want to access your mail via POP, but I’ve found workarounds you can use without having to pay, but they aren’t easy or reliable).  Google’s GMail and AOL’s e-mail allow you to use a program on your computer to get your mail without paying a fee.  Programs you can use include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Live Mail, Apple, and Mozilla Thunderbird.  There are many more less known applications also.

One big reason to use a program on your computer is that it acts as a form of backup for your e-mail in the event that there’s a problem at your provider.  If you’re getting your e-mail for free, you can’t count on a great deal of support from the provider.  This article really points that out.  At the end of December, thousands of people using Microsoft’s Hotmail lost their mail.  While Microsoft claims to have recovered it, some have complained that they didn’t get theirs.  Not only that, it took days for it to be recovered.  If you have a business relying on access to these e-mails, it can be devastating.

The upshot is that you should have a backup of your free e-mail on your own computer.  Then you need to follow all the other advice I’ve given about backup and backup the data on your computer’s hard drive to another.  Go the extra mile and get still yet another copy located somewhere else or subscribe to a service that will backup your computer to the internet.