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#667: Long-Awaited Java Fix, Debug That USB!, Tip of the Week: App Switcher Drag & Drop

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

Almost eleven years following the release of Mac OS 8.5, Apple will release Snow Leopard, or Mac OS X 10.6, this September. Like 8.5, 10.6 will drop support for legacy processors. Back in 1997, Apple was three years into its transition from the Motorola family of 680×0 processors to the IBM and Motorola PowerPC processors. Here we are, about three years into the transition from PowerPC to Intel, and support for the legacy hardware is again becoming limited.

While it is true that OS 8.5 would run the legacy applications in emulation (the same way that Intel hardware can run PowerPC applications under Rosetta), the new operating system would not boot on legacy hardware. As before, PowerPC variants of Mac OS X do not run on Intel hardware.

There are plenty of parallels between OS 8 and Snow Leopard, but the most notable for me is the increased efficiency. OS 8 introduced a new file system called HFS+ which reduced the minimum file size considerably and magically freed hard drive space in a time when 80MB was considered capacious. Snow Leopard is all about streamlining and improving efficiency. To this end, lots of bloat will be removed, and it’s not entirely clear whether Apple will continue to support PowerPC applications under Rosetta.

All this aside, I’m excited to install it on my own computers. Soon, soon!

Enjoy this issue, and be in touch,

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Security Vulnerability in Java Is Patched  
   
 

A few weeks ago, we posted an article about a critical security vulnerability in Java on Mac OS X. Morgan Aldridge wrote “It’s a couple of vulnerabilities that can be taken advantage of to run commands outside of the browser as the user that launched the browser.” Read the original post here.

The vulnerability was discovered in August 2008 and was patched by Sun and other developers several months ago. When Apple didn’t move on the issue, a former Apple engineer named Landon Fuller released a proof of concept exploit that could, in his words, allow “malicious code to escape the Java sandbox and run arbitrary commands” that would “result in untrusted Java applets executing arbitrary code merely by visiting a web page hosting the applet.” Read about this here.

It’s taken a month since Fuller publicized this issue, but Apple has finally released updated versions of Java for both OS X 10.5 Leopard and OS X 10.4 Tiger.

To install this update, either run Software Update (under the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac’s screen), or download the patch directly from Apple:

Click here to download the Java for Mac OS X 10.5.

Click here to download the Java for Mac OS X 10.4

Click the following links to read Apple’s related security documents for OS 10.5 Leopard and OS 10.4 Tiger

FYI, for long-term Safari web browsing security, we suggest that Safari users leave the ‘Open “safe” files after download’ option in Safari preferences permanently disabled. Other vulnerabilities could remain in Safari’s handling of “Safe” files if someone figures out how to to trick Safari’s understanding of “Safe” files. While that scenario is rather far-fetched, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 
   
     
  Debug That USB!  
   
 

For the past few months I’ve been consulting for a local company that makes some pretty cool workout gear. They use a device that records several details about each workout and then can upload the information to their website to record and compare workouts (think a high-end version of the Nike+). The issue was that sometimes their USB device began rebooting when plugged into a Mac and it was causing the device to just continually power-cycle. The thing that was even more frustrating on my end was that I was unable to reproduce the issue on literally every demo and used machine in both of our stores and warehouse.

The good news is that by comparing log files from two machines that were experiencing issues, we were able to determine that the issue was related to a HP driver conflict and the company found a way to work around the conflict and upgrade their firmware, so all is well. In my hunting around for an answer, I discovered a cool logging tool that I think other technicians out there might appreciate: IOUSBFamily Debug Kits.

The USB Debug Kits enable specific logging on USB interactions, which gives a clearer picture of what happens when a USB device is plugged in. The beauty of this is that it can help identify exactly what’s happening when USB issues arise. For example, in standard Console logs, all I saw when plugging in this company’s device was:

[0×446a600] The IOUSBFamily is having trouble enumerating a USB device that has been plugged in. It will keep
retrying. (Port 2 of hub @ location: 0×1a000000)
Jun 1 11:46:13 Macintosh-7 kernel0: USBF:
372532.758
[0×446a600] The IOUSBFamily has successfully enumerated the device.

After installing the Debug Kit that short phrase turned into:

6/5/09 4:48:17 PM kernel USBF: 119.843 [0×3e8a500] The IOUSBFamily is having trouble enumerating a USB device that has been plugged in. It will keep retrying. (Port 1 of hub location: 0x1d000000) 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.335 IOUSBDevice[0x58c6e00]: Error (0xe00002ed) getting device device descriptor 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.368 IOUSBDevice[0x58c6e00]: Error (0xe00002ed) getting device device descriptor 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.401 IOUSBDevice[0x58c6e00]: Error (0xe00002ed) getting device device descriptor 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.407 IOUSBDevice[0x58c6e00]: Error (0xe00002ed) getting device device descriptor 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.632 AppleUSBHubPort[0x3e8a500]::GetDevZeroDescriptorWithRetries - port 1 - GetDeviceZeroDescriptor returned 0xe00002ed 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.665 AppleUSBHubPort[0x3e8a500]::GetDevZeroDescriptorWithRetries - port 1 - GetDeviceZeroDescriptor returned 0xe00002ed 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.698 AppleUSBHubPort[0x3e8a500]::GetDevZeroDescriptorWithRetries - port 1 - GetDeviceZeroDescriptor returned 0xe00002ed 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.704 AppleUSBHubPort[0x3e8a500]::GetDevZeroDescriptorWithRetries - port 1 - GetDeviceZeroDescriptor returned 0xe00002ed 6/5/09 4:48:18 PM kernel USBF: 120.735 AppleUSBHubPort[0x3e8a500]::DetachDevice Port 1 of hub 0×1d000000 being detached
6/5/09 4:48:19 PM kernel USBF: 121.528 [0×3e8a500] The IOUSBFamily has successfully enumerated the device.

It also continued on to correctly name/identify the device and monitor it. While this might look like gobledigook to some, it’s incredibly helpful in determining what’s going on with the USB device’s interaction with the computer, making it a great diagnostic tool.

Now it should be mentioned that these are not intended for an average user to install. In fact, one needs to be an Apple Developer Connection member (membership is free) to download the kits. It’s also important to download the correct kit for your machine, since installing an incorrect kit can cause kernel panicking and that’s never any fun, right? To find out which kit you need, go to System Profiler (/Applications/Utilities), Select “Extensions” located under “Software” from the list on the left. Now select “IOUSBFamily”; the version number is what you’ll need to match up to the correct Debug Kit.

I hope this sheds some light for frustrated technicians out there trying to solve their own USB conundrums. If it solves any hot cases I would love to hear about it!

 
   
     
  Tip of the Week: Application Switcher Drag and Drop  
   
 

I find myself using the Application Switcher function of Mac OS X dozens of times each hour during the work day. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can view it by holding down the Command key while repeatedly pressing the Tab key.

There’s more to the Application Switcher than just switching applications. You can quit open applications by selecting the program in the Switcher and pressing the Q key. If that application is frozen, Application Switcher will instead force quit it (most of the time at least), saving you a trip to the Apple menu.

You can also drag a file to a running application in the Application Switcher. Say you have an Excel spreadsheet that you want to open in Numbers instead of Excel. Because Excel files open in Excel by default, simply double-clicking on the file will launch Excel. With Numbers running, begin dragging the document and then press Command-Tab. Drag the file to the Numbers icon and the file will open up in that program instead of Excel.

 
   
     
  Still Time To Win Higher Ground Tix!  
   
 

Higher Ground and Small Dog Electronics are teaming up to bring you ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro to the HG Showcase Lounge on Sunday, June 21.

Read about Jake here.

So… here’s where you need to pay attention: one lucky person will win a pair of tickets to the show, a 1GB iPod shuffle, and a copy of Jake’s new live album. To enter, email intern@highergroundmusic.com.

The fine print: The deadline to enter is Wednesday, June 17. One entry per person. Prize package must be claimed in person by the winning contestant the night of the show. Contest will be conducted at the discretion of HG and SD.

 
   
     
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